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I think it was 2009 when I first started honing my homemade pizza skills. I was home for the weekend (an environment that always triggers exploration in the kitchen), and I decided not only was I going to make pizza from scratch, I was going to grill it. Suffice it to say most of the dough ended up in between the coals, and my pizza more so resembled a cut-out of the state of Florida rather than a round pie. But despite its shape and the lightened load of toppings, it was still good. Really good.

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I trudged onward, attempting homemade pizza back in my own kitchen in an oven. The dough got better but the pie was largely raw, due to the fact that I hadn’t preheated my oven properly. Again though, it was still pretty good. Not perfection, but progress.

I had a handful more experiences of this kind. I wrestled with dough, unsuccessfully transferred my pie to the oven countless times, produced pies that were burned on the top and raw on the bottom (and vice versa), and so forth. But there was something about the process that was still enjoyable.  At the onset, I remember quietly thinking to myself that the pizza I made at home was probably not going to be good….for a while. But that the only way to get over the hump of it not being good was to practice. A lot. Instead of focusing on the failure, I focused on the small improvements that were made with each pie, recognizing there was simply no way around them. That doesn’t mean I didn’t spend a good portion of those attempts cursing the dough recipe, yelling at whoever was nearby to help (apologies to those involved), and angrily throwing yet another pizza away in a fit of rage. That definitely all still happened. But somehow, I was driven to keep trying, to the point where homemade pizza now falls into the category of simple weeknight meals for me. The pies aren’t always in the shape of a circle, but you guys, they are really freaking good. #patsselfonback

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This realization around my pizza making journey was triggered a few weeks back when my therapist challenged me to think about failure. She specifically wanted me to think about the areas of my life where I easily accept failure as part of the learning process, and others where I leave zero room for it. Pizza dough, and cooking in general, is one of the areas I leave room, as is yoga. And not only do I leave room, but I still really enjoy the process of honing my skills in these areas – even when I’ve failed countless times.

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Yoga presents an interesting comparison as well. I got back into my practice this September. Having danced a lot growing up, I’m naturally pretty flexible, but I’ve always struggled with any strength based balancing poses. So I decided I’d just start with crow pose as a goal, figuring of all the balancing poses, that was the easiest one. During each class when my instructor would encourage everyone to attempt handstands, headstands, etc. I’d focus solely on getting into crow pose. And then a few months in, while in a completely different sequence, my body somehow found its way into flying pigeon. Albeit, not as good as that photo, but still. I was in shock.  And yet somehow, it felt so natural. It was like everything suddenly clicked. The very nature of consistent practice allowed the progress to happen organically. Rather than being forced, my body found its way into the position on its own.

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From a physical perspective, the same thing happened with homemade pizza. The reason it’s now easier is because my hands are more familiar with the process,  regardless of whether I’m getting the dough to rise, kneading it, morphing it into a pie-esuqe shape, adding just the right amount of toppings, and so forth. I was reminded of how everything had already clicked when I succeeded in making this pie last weekend. It’s been over a year since I’ve made pizza from scratch (more on that later), and yet it was like riding a bike. My hands knew exactly what to do. The meal was divine.

But then back to failure. No, I’m not ready to throw my hands up and readily welcome failure in all forms. But I am more inclined to trust in the process, and accept that failure is an inevitable part of that process. And for those areas where I’ve left zero room for it, I’ve also realized I’ve left zero room for growth. Ironic how that plays out. xx Clara

Click through for the recipe… Read more »

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If 2014 was the year of change, then 2015 will be the year of sifting through all that change and working to truly understand it. In the first few days of this New Year, I feel much more inclined to look back– not for fear of moving forward, though. Rather,  in order to be sure I gather up all those bits of knowledge and insight, and pack them deep inside my brain. And probably my heart, too.

On a flight back to the city last week week, I began to jot down the little bits. Bits turned to fuller thoughts, then actual ideas, and finally, lessons.  After about an hour of scribbling, the following 10 stood out:

1. Perfectionism is a freaking plague. It holds us back in so many ways. I personally have to fight against it constantly in order to just be myself. My paralyzingly desire to have others think I’ve always got it all together does far more detriment than good. Not to mention it’s an outright lie.

2. People are not inherently malicious or mean spirited. Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can (or know how to). Go easy on others. Forgive relentlessly.

3. And on that note, forgiveness is freedom.

4. “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” This quote weighs so heavily on me. Say what you truly mean in the moment. You’ll be much better off in the long run.

5. It’s very important to spend a little time doing absolutely nothing every.single.week.

6. It benefits no one to feel guilty when asking for help. Ask for the help you need and accept it graciously. Then focus on ways you can help others.

7. Take the time. Take the time to really listen to others, to treat the people that deserve it most, to send that sweet text to an old friend, to tell people what a freaking good job their doing, to say thank you to your Mom a million bazillion times….the list goes on.

8. Accept the damn compliment.

9. Learn to go through, rather than around, the discomfort. It’s the real work, but that’s where the good stuff lies.

10. Self love might be he hardest thing. Ever. But we (I) must, must keep trying.

I’d consider it a huge feat if I could master even just two or three of these this year. But I’m gonna shoot for all 10, because as I also learned numerous times over in 2014 – you’ve gotta start somewhere.  xx Clara

Image via College Vintage, Source TFS

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When I put blogging on hold back in August, I thought the next step would be the “goodbye” post. For weeks I felt this pressure to get some sort of explanation up as to why I wasn’t blogging anymore. And despite not being much of a procrastinator, the weeks went on and I never wrote it. Then, around late September, it hit me. I shouldn’t write the post. I couldn’t. In the back of my mind I had this small inkling that some day I would return to this space. And beyond that inkling, I also had a feeling I’d know exactly when that time had arrived. In late November things started to percolate.

2014 was just plain hard. My personal life was turned on its head. I moved out of an apartment and neighborhood I absolutely loved into an apartment and neighborhood I never thought I could love. Working alone and living alone really started to weigh on me. I felt a pull back towards the stability of a corporate job but a huge amount of shame and guilt around pursing that shift because of everything I’d built. I thought people would think I’d given up, that I’d failed. And then on top of that, the pressure to continue producing beautiful content that conveyed this near perfect life (as lifestyle blogs tend to do) – it was all just too much.

There was so much for me to process personally, there simply wasn’t room for blogging. I’d even go so far as to say that blogging was detrimental to that effort. I got tired of taking these unplanned breaks where I’d disappear for a week or two, then scurry to pick things back up, full of promises that “I’d be back” or “things would be better.” None of that happened, and the whole pattern only resulted in poorly written posts which still attempted to wrap my life up in a perfect little bow (again, as lifestyle blogs tend to do), when really my life was the farthest thing from a pretty package.

So in July, when my “exploration” of transitioning back to a company became a reality, I had to stop. Mentally, I couldn’t continue in both spaces. I began interviewing intensely for jobs and wrapping up my freelance work. July and August were the hardest months of this year. Reeling emotionally from all that had happened in the previous 6 months and dealing with so much uncertainty…. I barely had the energy to do anything but work, sleep, and eat. I closed myself off from a lot and essentially went into a survival mode.

As hard as it was, there were great outcomes to that period, the main one being my position at SELF. At the beginning of September, I stepped in as their Social Media Editor. There is much to be said about that shift – my decision to transition back into the corporate environment, the job application process, the specific reasons I selected the magazine, and so on.  I will get to all of that, I promise! I’m really excited to talk about it. But in an effort to keep this post from becoming a novel, I’ll save that for another day.

As bleak as this year was, there’s been so much growth and progress. It’s brought to light one of my favorite books, Elizabeth Lesser’s memoir Broken Open. In it, Lesser shares stories of people, including herself, who have been through incredibly trying times – heartbreak, deep loss, disease, and so forth. But what’s unique about these stories is that instead of the person being broken down and defeated by their hardship, they’re broken open and transformed. It’s a beautiful piece, and the learnings could not ring more true for the last 12 months of my life. I’ve literally been ripped to shreds, and, candidly, continue to be on a daily basis. I’ve been forced to truly face all those personal demons I’d consistently told myself I’d “solved” years ago. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I’m so thankful it’s happening.

So. Where does that leave us? Well, food is still my heart. It’s the thing that heals and calms me. It’s where this blog began 4 years ago and where I’d like to return first. I simply can’t create the volume of posts I was doing before, so for now it will be once per week (fingers crossed!). Maybe that will change in the future, maybe it won’t. I’m working on reveling in the uncertainty of it all.

Huge thanks if you’ve made it this far, and even more so if you’ve hung with me these past few months. Aren’t you excited for 2015? I so am. Let’s do it up right! xoxo Clara

Image Via Unknown

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My friend Brooke is one of the wisest people I know. Eight years my senior, her general life advice and “what matters and doesn’t matter” meter is spot on (read: way stronger than mine). So when she asked if I wanted to do the Whole30 program with her in September, it gave me pause. And then also have a mild panic attack because I’d have to give up cookies. Twenty eight going on eight right here.

In certain ways, a program like Whole30 aligns perfectly with the way I view food and diet. In other ways, it goes one hundred percent against my philosophies. A few years back I did a vegan diet for a month (that, naturally, was also inspired by Brooke). I did it mostly for health reasons, but also to prove I actually could do it. I was able to do it and I did feel healthier, but here was the unexpected result- it had a really eye opening impact on the way I cook, and the way I think about food.

It makes sense. When you’re limited by your ingredients and forced to find different methods, it naturally pushes you outside of your comfort zone. But the benefits of that time are still very strongly with me. I learned to prepare tofu really, really well (case in point). My appreciation for beans, just straight up beans, grew by leaps and bounds. I experimented with all kinds of tahini based dressings, discovered the magic that is pickled red onions, and then some.

So in terms of pushing myself to explore new methods of cooking and cozying up to different ingredients, yes, Whole30 totally aligns with my food philosophies. But when it comes to the joy of dining out and sharing food with others, it goes deeply against. This program is strict ya’ll. Another thing I remember about being a vegan? I barely ate out or with others. I was in a relationship, we did it together, and for the most part holed ourselves up for the month. Relationship or not, I really missed the social aspect of dining. Maybe that just means I should be less strict? But then does it really work??? I’m torn.

I’m really curious… have you guys done it? Did you feel eons better? Did it change the way you cook for the good? Did you have to customize every meal you ordered at a restaurant? Not sure I can bring myself to do that last one. Do tell!  xx Clara

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It’s Monday. Friday is far away. Let’s talk about some good food, shall we? Instead of rounding up my five favorite things for the month of August, I’ve rounded up five tantalizing recipes from my five favorite food bloggers as of late. In no particular order…

1. Not Without Salt  I would literally fly to Seattle to have Ashley make me dinner. Not creepy at all. I envision her warmly opening the door, handing me a crisp glass of white, and bringing me into her kitchen that would be filled with the most amazing smells. There’d be a really classy appetizer, like thinly sliced radishes and butter waiting on the table, and we’d chat and gab until dinner was ready.  Could we please eat these Plank Grilled Salmon sandwiches?

2. Love & Lemons Whenever I feel like the presence of vegetables in my life has been lacking and I need to jumpstart my inspiration, I head to Jeanine’s site. Literally since viewing this peach salad with mint and pistachios, I cannot stop putting peaches and fresh herbs into every salad I make. I’ve yet to make her mint pistachio combo, but doesn’t it sound incredible? I think it would also be really good all chopped up and served on top of grilled fish or lamb. Mmmm dreamy.

3. Minimalist Baker Holy food porn. I’m literally having DREAMS about Dana’s No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecakes. She describes them as sexy. I have to totally agree. They’re also vegan, which for looking so decadent, is wildly impressive. Side note: I also really loved Dana’s podcast with Jess Lively where she talks about her minimalist lifestyle beyond food. I sort of thought I was somewhat of a minimalist prior to hearing Dana speak. HA! So not the case! But it’s still really interesting to learn more about it, and made me want to adopt some of her tips.

4. A House in the Hills Sarah’s eating clean for the month of August. I am not. But I’m still following along on her gorgeous journey and selectively garnering inspiration, while consuming things like ice cream and burgers. One dish on my must make list- this Overnight Buckwheat and Cashew Parfait, topped with BEE POLLEN. First I have to find bee pollen. Can anyone tell me where to buy that?

5. Honestly YUM  The color of these blueberry muffins literally blows my mind. Aren’t they stunning? Must must make these babies. The only thing they’re missing (in my mind) is some sort of citrus. I love a little lemon zest in coffee cakes and muffins. I’m also just generally into the Honestly YUM site. Their cocktails are so creative and they have a recipe for Bacon Granola. Yep, you read right. That’s also on the must make list.

Have a great week, friends! And if you’re dragging a little this morning, I love this quote Grace posted last night. xx Clara