Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ultimate Guide To Embracing Fall

I LOVE summer.  After approximately 74 months of winter...give or take...I embrace summer something fierce.  Every bead of sweat is met with me saying things like I'll never complain about being hot after being so cold and so gloomy for so long.  And I mean it!  I love the sunshine and long days and the sunshine and warm air and the sunshine and hours in the garden and the sunshine.  Also...I love the sunshine!




Fall is fine.  Sometimes even nice, though here in Upstate NY it is often wet and gloomy.  But overall, the season itself is fine.  My issue is that fall is the prelude to winter, winter, and then the season others call spring but up here is known as April winter.






So I offer up the ultimate guide to accepting the end of your beloved summer and the beginning of winter's prelude...er...I mean fall.




Step #1:  Get yourself some freakishly warm fall weather.  In fact, get yourself some weather that is warmer than most of your not warm enough summer.  {I never promised anything in this guide was actually attainable}




Step #2:  Get yourself outside as much as possible because you know that this freakishly warm {thanks global warming} weather won't last forever.  Get up early and walk.  Garden at lunchtime.  Take longer than normal weekend walks through your town.  Eat dinner outside, even if that means you sit on your steps or a park bench.  






Step #3:  Post photos of your outside time at least once a day to Instagram.  To remember that you did in fact have outside time come winter.  But also...let's be honest...if you don't post it, did it really happen?  We'll never know because who is going to be willing to take such a chance?!






Step #4:  Make all kinds of bargains with Mother Nature {or whatever it is you believe in} to not have winter this year.  We've had a lot of lot with winter over the past several years.  It's good to just sit one out every now and then.  






Happy fall, my friends!  I hope your autumn has been as lovely and warm as mine has so far.  I hope that if the weather changed for you this week, as it did for me in Upstate NY, you were able to embrace it a little better because you got outside and soaked up every last ray of sunshine you could find this summer.

Cheers to a long fall and a not terrible winter {I'm a realist on this one}!

XOKK


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Losing Hope and Feeling Scared

It's so specific.  My mind immediately and easily goes directly to that imagery.  I gasp over and over as one doesn't even need to close their eyes to envision a person hanging from a tree simply because the moral majority dislikes the existence of others.

Nothing about the President making a joke that the Vice President wants to hang all the gays is subtle. It's not a general we wish gay people didn't exist hateful statement.  It's also not a general we don't believe people are really gay twisted belief.  Or the current favorite mentality that my religious beliefs prevent me from selling you, a gay person or a black person or a Jewish person or a something different than me person, a slice of pizza.




It's specifically wishing human beings to be violently killed.  And then thinking that's a funny one liner.

It's disgusting and has left me feeling nauseous for the past day and a half.  It feels personal because it was intended to feel personal.  It's at best, wishful thinking on the part of our President and Vice President.  And at worst, it is a rallying cry that will no doubt trickle down, with more weight than ever before as it started at the very top of the pyramid.

It's wrong.  It's sickening.  But it's not at all a surprise.

These two men have shown this behavior over and over again towards not just LGBTQ+ people, but also towards women, black and brown people, poor people, disabled people, immigrant people, and everyone in between.  It's their jam.  It's their joy.  It's their goal.  And it replays itself every day in a new and more horrifying way.

That image though, is just rocking me to my core right now.  I can feel the tightening in my throat and around my neck, and imagine the terror rushing through a person as they are tortured and tied up.  Of all the rational and irrational fears running through my head, never ever has hanging been one of them. Until now.  

Everything about it is evil and pure hate.

I wish so badly I could conjure up a little Glennon or Brene or Jen wisdom right now.  I wish I could tell you how I have learned to be a better or more active person in the past 24 hours from marinating on this news story.  I wish I could offer up a profound call to action to help make the world kinder and more welcoming.

But damnit, I am not those writer heroes of mine.  Right now I have no more wisdom than to tell you I feel scared.  On a personal level but more than that, for everyone who falls into an other category.  I am nervous for the others in small communities, as well as in big corporations.  I'm sitting here wondering where this will impact society the most and when people will finally start caring that fellow humans are being harmed.  

Killing people, attempting to kill people, fantasizing about killing people, and joking about killing people should never be acceptable.  Condemnation should be neither political nor religious.  But it seems we have gone so far back in time {presumably this is the great part we heard so much about} that few even bat an eyelash these days at our President and Vice President wishing all non straight people to be hanged to death.  I became complacent and assumed we would never in my lifetime have people serving in the two highest offices in the land promoting murder.  But I was wrong.  In my 39th year of life, I was dead wrong.

For as inspired as I have been over the past nine months watching the uprising of peaceful warriors not just chant, but take positive action on #BlackLivesMatter and #MyBodyMyBusiness and #HeathcareIsAHumanRight and #ScienceIsReal and #OneLove and #ImmigrantsMakeAmericaGreat and #TakeAKnee and #MeToo...I'm still scared every single day that the next shoe is about to drop.  We're not even a full year into this madness.  And we're all exhausted.  But there's no time to sleep on the job of keeping humanity afloat!

I wish I knew action items to take on to feel like I was contributing towards positive changes.  But I spin my wheels and don't know where to turn. I'm losing hope.  And without hope...what exactly do we have left?

XOKK

Friday, October 13, 2017

Best Brownie Banana Bread Recipe

Y'all...this recipe is insane.  It's the best of banana bread and a fudge brownie.  It's delicious.  And so easy to make.

Pin this or save it or share it with a friend.  Trust me...it's one you want to bake up!  




Brownie Banana Bread

Ingredients:
* 1 box of chocolate brownies
* 3 eggs
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup mashed up, very ripe bananas
* 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup chocolate chips


Directions:
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.




* Mix together the dry brownie mix, eggs, oil, bananas, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.




* Line loaf pan with parchment paper.  Spritz with cooking spray.

* Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.




* Bake at 350 degrees for 60-80 minutes.  It took me 80 minutes to get my knife to come out clean-ish from the center.  But start checking yours at 55 minutes and gauge from there.

* Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.  Then remove from pan using parchment paper and cool on rack for at least an hour.  {but let's be honest...no one is ever going to do that without taking a little nibble!}

Let me know if you try this!  It's not a health food, despite having about three bananas in it.  But we all need treats in life.  Enjoy!!

XOKK


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

National Coming Out Day: Proud To Be Bisexual

It's 2017 and time to stop allowing people I'll never meet and beliefs to which I do not subscribe to play a role in my personal life.  They no longer get to factor into my self worth or my ability to feel comfortable living truthfully.  It's exhausting and humiliating and demoralizing to try to pretend for the sake of strangers.  And as one woman once upon a grainy camera phone so eloquently put it, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

I've written and re-written this post at least 20 times over the past several years.  In the end though, I deleted every last word.  For a million rational and irrational reasons, it just never felt right.

I've also recorded several videos for Instagram and YouTube, thinking that might be a better fit.  Which it definitely wasn't.  So those never saw the light of day.

I'm honestly not sure if now feels right either.  The world has taken a dark turn over the past year.  Hate is rampant and rights are fading away.

But I am out in my normal life and it just feels all kinds of wrong to be in on this blog.  I hate that I feel like I have to hide.  I hate that I feel like I am not good enough.  I don't want to feel like I have to filter myself.

Many moons ago, this blog was well read, but these days, it's more of a tight-knit community.  So if that's the case, let's cozy up on the sofa, shoes off, beverage of choice in hand, phones down.  Let's really get intimate and honest.  Let's drop the facade and be vulnerable. 

I'm definitely not straight.

I'm also definitely not gay.

I'm in the giant pool of fabulous humans somewhere in between the two.  On a spectrum.  

If you were sitting in front of me, I would tell you I am Bisexual.  Because that gets me to the end of the always awkward and nerve wracking conversation faster.  

If you were a bit more versed on LGBTQ+ topics, I would tell you that I am Pansexual.  Because if I do have to pick a label, that one feels like it fits the best.

But because we are shoes off and two glasses of bourbon into this conversation, I'll be honest and say none of those feel right.  I'm just me.  Gender isn't a deciding factor in attraction for me.  Many, many of other things are.  Because just like you, regardless of how you identify, I have plenty of preferences.  I'm definitely not attracted to every single person I meet.  What a ridiculous notion!  My specific likes and dislikes just don't include any specific gender.  That's not on my list.  If it's on yours, great.  For me though, I can have an attraction to more than one gender.  




It took me a long time to come to terms with who I am though.

I've read story after story and watched video after video of people who knew at very young age that they were different.  But I never knew that.  Or who felt an attraction to a best friend in their teen years. But I never did.  Or felt tortured as a teen trying to force something that wasn't there.  But I never experienced that either.  My only real clue that I brushed off as meaningless has been my few and far between dream life.  I've not had many dreams about being married but since I was young, every dream I have had of that nature {maybe a single handful}, has been me marrying a woman. 

I never struggled to understand being gay because for me, it was the same as being straight in that you were attracted to a specific gender.  This always made sense to me as a kid.  I knew though, that I wasn't gay.  Because I had attractions to the opposite gender.  

I was in college before I learned that one could be bisexual.  And I will be honest that it took a while to grasp that it wasn't a...wait for it...choice.  It has nothing to do with picking a side.  We don't choose to feel attracted.  There's nothing to be chosen.  It is just as valid and real as any other sexuality.  Attraction is about so much more than any single aspect of a human. 

That said, it still took me most of my 20's to figure out who I was and how any of this applied to me.  And then painfully, slowly, one by one, I found the courage to come out to friends and family.

Every time I look back on coming out talks, which will happen forever until I die so it's a good thing I am a lot less fussy about it these days, I am so relieved.  To date, not a single important person in my life has walked away from me.  Not one.  I've surprised 100% of the people I've told, but every single one has given me nothing but love.

Can you believe that?  

I don't want to casually come out without acknowledging the heavy role this played in my life for an incredibly long time.  It was an enormous struggle to accept myself when I lived in fear of losing everything around me.  It was a tough road and a long process.  And then another huge struggle to feel safe enough to come out, especially living here in a rather conservative land.  When I transferred from the DC chapter of the JL to the one I joined up here, I was told that I couldn't participate in things because I lived in the wrong town, wasn't married, didn't have kids, and was too old.  I was told point blank by the person who took over for me after I walked away that there was no room for gay people in that chapter and the one suspected member should keep quiet or quit.  All the while, I knew I was nothing but wrong according to this organization.  It ate at me and played the biggest role in me keeping my secret longer.

Fear of being hated is real and rational.  All you have to do is watch the news to see it play out every single day in large and small ways.  And that fear turns into an internal toxic muck.  It eats at a human who is trying so hard to be right on the outside while hiding what they are told by society is wrong on the inside.

I carry a lot of shame for not knowing sooner.  I carry a lot of shame for not coming out sooner.  I carry a lot shame that I could feel so free to vocalize my general support of the LGBTQ+ community but didn't include myself in that dialogue.  

Today though, that ends.  I'm the B.  I'm part of the bigger picture.  I'm on team rainbow.  And it's pretty awesome!  




So if you're wondering how this will change my blog...it probably won't.  Because I'm the same KK who has been rambling on and on for over a decade.  But I might be more gender specific with dating stories.  Or not.  Hard to say as I am pretty proud at how good I've become over the years at using gender neutral pronouns without anyone noticing.  

I wanted to grow my blog up and this was exactly what I had in mind.  If we're going to be friends, we need to be real friends.  And real friends know that I've dated both men and women.  Real friends know that and don't love me anyway, rather they just love me.  As I love them.  

Happy National Coming Out Day!  This day shall set me free!

XOKK

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tundra Besties: Five Years and Counting

Five years ago today, you walked into a chaotic, poorly run {as they all were} meeting.  I immediately spotted you, waved you over, and invited you to sit next to me.  I knew you were coming to the meeting but we had never before met.  Something told me we would get along well.

You were very pregnant with my soon to be baby bestie, H, and wearing a cute orange blanket scarf.  I'm not a clothing person so the fact that I remember as much is a bit amusing to me.

We skipped all the awkward bits and went straight to dear friendship.  

Exactly as it should be.




Yesterday I mentioned that I often know when a friendship moves from casual to life-long.  And while I don't know the date {I could probably look it up...but that seems tedious}, I do know you called me as we were both in our cars driving home from yet another insane meeting.  I'm not a big phone talker so your call took me by surprise.  But in minutes, we spilled our guts on that evening and then in short order, everything else.  For me, that was the moment when we moved into Tundra Bestie phase.  

You trusted me with your newborn baby {in great part, likely, because I am a baby thief and just took him out of your arms and got fussy when anyone else had the nerve to do as much...he was my baby bestie H from day one} and made me part of your family.  

As it would turn out, we had mutual friends and experiences and organizations in common from our DC days.  We spoke the same language and rolled our eyes at the same nonsense.  We became allies and rocks during hard times and sources of levity and giggles during harder times.  

I can't believe it's been five full years since we sat together in that meeting.  Actually...as long as we are talking about what we can't believe....I can't believe we are both still here.  I can't believe everything that has happened over the half decade that we've been friends.  And I can't believe my stroke of luck in meeting my tundra bestie under all those insane circumstances.  The universe put us together for a reason and I am ever so grateful!

Happy five year friend-iversary, District!  And a big thank you to Mr.District for moving you here against your will.  I mean, I know that was torture.  But I'm a fun friend so it hasn't been all bad...right?!

XOKK 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lessons In Beautiful Moments: Anxiety, NYC, and Hamilton.

For my entire life, I've heard that I should learn from my mistakes in order to have a more positive life.  And while I don't deny the validity in that statement, I think there are other ways to learn and grow as a human.  There are lessons in bright, beautiful moments, too.




I often describe myself as a nervous human.  Anxiety has been the headline in my life for as long as I can remember, even though I didn't realize that's what that was until I was in my 30's.  

I am an intensely positive and genuine cheerleader for everyone in my inner circle.  To my core, I believe in my people.  My people are the very best people!  But I second guess my own grocery store purchases or one line texts or birthday presents.  I dissect ever word I say, facial expression I make, and breath I take in the presence of others and cringe for years sometimes at my potential awkwardness.  As a result, I hold back a lot in my own life, an extremely sad amount, because I am so scared I will fail or upset someone.  

It takes a lot to get me out of my own suffocating personal box.  It takes even more for me to begin letting people in.




No one is more surprised and delighted than me that a single {terrible} event lead to a renewed friendship with Hamilton.  Because for some unknown reason, it just felt like the right door to open.  And even though I worried that I was being too awkward or too forward or too everything, I still felt like this was a direction I needed to head.  I just knew that I needed to say hello and then say more.  




It's funny because for as much as I doubt everything I do, I also have moments of complete clarity and confidence when it comes to particular friendships.  I can describe the moment I knew people were bound to become my tribe in so many instances.  When you know, you know.  Even when you're nervous and wrapped in an itchy blanket of anxiety.  




Now, just because I knew it was right for me to open that door, I never imagined where it would lead.  I had no idea that first hello would lead to daily conversations and hugs and weekends and endless giggles.  No one could have predicted the giggles!




I needed this friendship in my life.  I didn't know it at the time, but it's incredibly clear to me now how very much I needed a daily dose of Hamilton.  She's a rockstar friend and all around amazing human!




I've been thinking a lot this week about how grateful I am that I have this little squirrel in my life again.  Hamilton and her wife, Eliza, are the best of the best!  

More than that though, I've been thinking about how overwhelmingly positive it has been to fight through my all day, every day anxieties to open up more.  

The thought of letting people in, even a little, makes all of my body parts sweat.  The fear of judgment and rejection envelopes me.  The pain of being found out to be someone less than desirable is crushing.

So I avoid it.  I avoid the pain and fear.  By isolating myself.  By being sweet and quiet and sitting still.  By saying nothing and and participating rarely.

And then I'm fucking miserable.

But that's been my coping mechanism for as long as I can remember and it's my subconscious go-to when I feel that fear in my chest.  




I'm still me.  This isn't a grand story about how I am magically better.  I still worry about things that never cross the mind of most friends.  I am still slow to peel away my layers and let people in, both physically and emotionally.  I am guarded.  

But I am fighting those fears.  I am fighting my instincts to not participate in life because every single time I do join in on living, I find joy.  I never regret saying yes, even though I spend shocking amounts of time thinking of ways to say no.




Which brings me to these bouncy boobs.  At the Museum of Sex.  It's an exhibit called Jump For Joy and it's basically the best way to spend two minutes of your life.  A bouncy castle but with giant tatas.  Everything about it is giggle inducing.  Nothing bonds a friendship like bouncing on boobs!  Even now, I am laughing just thinking about it.




Look at these lovies!  I would never know the joy of their friendship if I hadn't opened up.  I would never learn to make Eliza eggs or perfect my bob and weave.  I'd never share inside jokes or in depth discussions on favorite musicians.  I'd never know how powerful it is to feel understood in a way that others are unable to understand me.  




I am so unbelievably lucky.  And damn, it is so clear to me that fighting through those worries pays off in big ways!  It's worth sitting in those feelings to get to the brighter, lighter side.  Friendship and laughter and love and great conversations are worth the journey through the anxiety.  They are worth getting up and dealing with some pain, instead of hiding from it.  Joy is worth the jump!




So last weekend, I went down to smother Hamilton and Eliza with my presence.  I taught them everything they never wanted to know about cheese and they taught me everything I did want to know about the city.  

We walked just a few steps shy of 11 miles on Saturday between a giant walk through Central Park, all over the Upper East Side, the Flat Iron District for gelato, to Brooklyn {a first for me, I think} for amazing tapas, and then to see James Blunt and Ed Sheeran play the most incredible show.




I was giddy all day because I was just so comfortable and happy.  And because I fight hard to get to a place of feeling comfortable.  I want to be open and vulnerable, but it's an internal battle.  So when I have days that easily allow for that magical combination of vulnerability and silly, I make sure I appreciate every moment.  

I also want to make sure I learn from happiness that taking chances, being vulnerable, and trying new things is worth fighting for.




The entire weekend was perfect.  Two of my favorite people were kind enough to share their little world with me and I felt so blissfully loved.




Every inch of last weekend was joy rising!




Thank you for sharing your bubble with me, Hamilton and Eliza.  The most glorious days in the best city with the greatest people made for a weekend beyond compare!  




As the song goes...thank you for being a friend!

XOKK

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Day In The Hudson Valley: Walkway Over The Hudson

After touring the Hudson Valley Seed Company farm, that included touring the farm, buying new seeds, and having a picnic on the stunning property, my dad and I decided to take advantage over the beautiful day.  So we headed over to Poughkeepsie to enjoy their beautiful Walkway Over The Hudson.

If you've not familiar, they took a very old and inefficient bridge and closed it to trains and cars.  Poured a ton of funds into redoing the bridge, and now it's a breathtaking way to spend an hour.  You are able to walk over the Hudson River and enjoy incredible views.




I've actually been on the Walkway several times but my sweet father had never experienced the fun.  And it was a treat to see it through his eyes as my dad has a love of Upstate NY, rivers, and trains like no one I've ever met.  








He loved it!












We had the best day walking, eating ice cream, and enjoying all that the Hudson Valley has to offer!






Fun fact is that I will be back on the Walkway this month.  So stay tuned for a possible repeat post.  Which I'm all kinds of excited about!  Day trips are one of my favorite parts about living here in the Northeast!

Have you ever been to the Walkway Over the Hudson or to Poughkeepsie, NY?  What are your favorite things to do in that area?

XOKK


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Touring An Heirloom Seed Farm In The Hudson Valley

For the second year in a row, I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the summer tour of the Hudson Valley Seed Company {formerly Hudson Valley Seed Library}. This is a summer highlight for me as it's such a thrill to see where my seeds start and hear stories of how they have thrived for generations before me.




Hudson Valley Seed Company began as the first true seed library.  Which is exactly as it sounds.  But instead of books, they would lend out seeds.  The purpose was to keep alive seed varieties and the surrounding cultures.

Did you know that approximately 94% of the planet's seed varieties are now extinct?  Gone.  Forever.

Seeds are life.  Literally and figuratively.  






Literally because they contain everything needed to being a life.  A plant, a tree, a crop, all begin with a single seed.

And figuratively because seeds are stories.  They are culture.  More than just a meal, they are the rituals and songs and seasons around that meal.  Seeds are signs of hope for a good harvest, security that food will keep communities fed, and flavors unique to specific regions.

Small companies that center around saving the remaining seeds have a special place in my heart.  They know that even the nicest grocery stores stock nothing based on flavor.  Your stores stock products based on aesthetics and shelf life.  But home gardeners and small scale farmers are willing to risk growing an ugly tomato or an unusual squash or a rare bean because the flavors are beyond compare to anything available in a grocery store.  And because when those old, rare varieties because part of our daily lives, the new layers of culture and stories build.






On top of getting a great tour again from Ken and Doug, they added in a new layer this year.  Rowan White, an Indigenous Seed Steward and member of the Mohawk tribe, joined the tour.  She shared rich and powerful stories of seeds that added the most beautiful new layer to the experience.  I felt so inspired listening to Ken, Doug, and Rowan share their various perspectives of seed farming!






Seed farming is so fascinating in that you're not farming for food.  While they do taste the fruits and veggies during the years of trials to get the best product possible, in the end, they are farming for seeds.  And most people don't realize that seeds {with a few exceptions} are taken from what we would classify as over-ripe fruit.  Fruits that are beyond the eating stage because they are too big and too everything to be tasty and tender.  




Years of growing trials take place with each new seed that the company tries out.  Years spent looking for consistency in color and flavor and shape and durability.  It can take five, 10, or more years before a seed is ready to reach the mass market in some cases.


















Hudson Valley Seed Company does such a spectacular job of incorporating their farm into the land.  They honor and respect the surrounding natural landscape and the life that lives there.  It's refreshing to see a farm that is able to work within an existing ecosystem instead of claiming all of the land purely for themselves.


















Another fun part of the tour is getting to see three methods of see collecting.  A wet method of collecting tomato seeds.  Which are collected, fermented, and dried.






A very simple method of collecting lettuce seeds that is nothing more than thrashing or stepping on seed pods to release the seeds within.








And a third method that involves a DIY project and a shop vac.  All very easy to scale up or down for the home gardener.




We also met an artist who uses medical tools to carve into tiny seeds.  I can't imagine picking such a tiny medium to focus your art on.  But it was really touching when someone asked if he signs his work and he firmly said NO.  Seeds should not be signed or patented or claimed by one person or group.  They are life-giving and for the world to share in.  














Another beautiful day spent down in the Hudson Valley talking about growing plants and eating food and admiring the lush landscape!














Thank you for the hospitality and lessons, Hudson Valley Seed Company!  Can't wait to see your farm again next summer!

XOKK

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