Desperately Seeking Beauty in Everything

“Even posi people get sad”, a friend once said when I expressed that sadness feels like failure when your default mode is optimistic.

I don’t often use the internet to complain or express when things get hard, despite my strive to always be authentic. I am aware that, by deliberate omission, I am a part of the “everyone seems like they are doing better than they really are” illusion. I don’t find comfort in public commiseration, and most of the time, would rather shift my focus to something good than to rehash a problem every time I get a Facebook notification.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. And lately I feel a sticky lump of guilt lodge itself in my throat every time someone mentions how happy I am all the time. Listening to a recent podcast interview (we recorded over two months ago), I hear myself sound like a self-help book I need to read.

Last week, after months of deliberation and despite that it’s existed for over two years, I made my instagram account public. I had listened to enough podcasts and read enough articles to know that for creative work, networking and gaining business, it’s smart to have one. I never used instagram for it’s intended purpose (to share!) because I don’t like the “life is perfect inside this tiny flat square” false reality. I don’t want to be a part of that, and I don’t want to be affected by that.

instagram:  @SavetheKales

instagram: @SavetheKales

And yet, I spent hours deleting, editing, and curating my account. I got rid of 500 hundred pictures (shifted them to a new private account), some of which are my proudest moments of the last two years, because I don’t want to “brag”. I don’t want to be perceived as having things figured out more than I do. Is that a pathetic downplay of my accomplishments and most wonderful moments? If everyone else is using the internet to make themselves and their work sound AMAZING all the time, shouldn’t I? Is the rejection of that a noble attempt to bring some normalcy and honesty to the LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME culture that surrounds us all. the. time.? (Does it even matter?)

The truth is, anxiety and depression have been part of my everyday life once again, especially since the concussion. Emotional and mental health aside, my injury means I physically can’t do everything every time I want to do it. I need to rest, I need quiet, I can’t be on the phone too long without a migraine so intense that it makes me sick, sometimes I can’t stay awake past 9:30pm. People get frustrated and angry and call my involvement and enthusiasm into question. Then I feel worse.

The injury and lack of work (and money) from that has been stressful. There is the jumble of things it’s not my place to talk about publicly. And everyone is dying.

My immediate family has had five deaths in the last several months. When I called people to reschedule meetings, request extensions or explain I’d be out of town this week, I realized the phrase “I have to cancel, there has been a death in my family” has become commonplace in my correspondence. (More on this soon.)

A hard year. All around, a very hard year.

I think our capacity for loving is infinite, but our hearts and minds have a limit for pain and I have had enough for now.

In December, I wrote pages and pages of plans, projects and new ideas. “This will be my YEAR!” I triumphantly told myself, as I crafted a timeline of creative dreams and professional goals. This would be the year I got out of my own way and finally fucking made things happen. I thought so many more of them would be checked off by now. I’m disappointed in myself and frustrated by circumstances. Every time I get my footing there is another tragedy that  knocks me out emotionally and/or physically and, while I don’t like to sink into feelings of “why me?” and victimhood, my god it’s hard not to think that way.

 

wordoftheyear2014

And all this time to myself has been a balance of anxiety – knowing I can’t do things as well as I want to and living with the shame and embarrassment of that – and distracting myself so I don’t have to think so much. For this I have books and walks in the park. Trying to help my friends through their stuff.  Venturing in public for a few hours to be present and experience actual life. Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

While organizing my book collection I rediscovered a copy of The Writer’s Market from 2008, gifted to me by someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Now it’s years old, but the symbolism of that is too powerful and I can’t bring myself to add it to the “donate” pile. Maybe this is part of healing, getting past the blinding hurt so you can get to a place of sincere and simple thankfulness.

A lesson learned too late is still a lesson learned.

And I thought about the expectations we set up for ourselves, what we should have done by now, and the pressure we create where there was none.

Writer Cheryl Strayed said her whole life she had a book inside of her that she never got quite right. She was 32 when her mother died and with her grief grew “a second beating heart”, a book, that she could finally purge out of herself. It was published when she was 35.

I have to believe through intense life experiences (not always tragic, but often enough they are) can come our own second heartbeats. They force us to face ourselves and maybe maybe maybe, when we start to breathe again, we can finally create what has been there all along.

View of the Market St. Bridge in Wilkes-Barre

A few nights ago, my mother and I were having coffee in her backyard, and I admitted its very hard to see the point in anything right now. She said, “I think there is a point, and I guess we’re just supposed to keep going until we figure it out.”

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

 

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FELL DOWN + BROKE HER CROWN: Living with a Concussion

One month ago (wow, it’s been that long), I went to the doctor to discuss sciatica pain and some annoying neck/shoulder tension in the hopes of getting a referral for some physical therapy. I was given four shots in my back + shoulder to relieve some of the pain immediately.  I was asked to sit on a stool with wheels, no back and no arms, and after the shots the doctors left the room and – woopsies!- I had a reaction, passed out, and hit my head on the floor. I was told they only knew I passed out because they heard the sound it made when I fell. Cringe-worthy, right?

All this to say, I’ve been living with a concussion for the last four weeks and have spent as little time on the internet as I’ve probably ever spent since since my Mom first got AOL dial-up when I was thirteen. (Backlit screens and florescent lights are still the worst symptom offenders.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 10.02.14 AM

Concussion Chic. Thankfully I got this summer hat and a bunch of sunglasses a week before this happened. Now I can grocery shop with protection + unwashed hair, but give the illusion of being pulled together. Smoke and mirrors!

The doctor said: “Don’t use the computer. Don’t text or be on the phone very much. Don’t watch TV or movies. And don’t read. (!!!) They cause eye strain.” I’m not an overly-gadgety person, but it was a wake-up call to see how much I rely on each of these activities throughout the course of a day.

Ya’ll know I love my books… So, no reading? NO READING! I became this guy from the most heart-wrenching of all Twilight Zone episodes, Time Enough At Last:

twilight zone time enough at last

 

The first week was a doozy, physically and, eventually, emotionally and mentally. All that time to myself without aid of my usual distractions was enlightening and terrifying. I felt free. I felt trapped. I felt unconstrained of obligations and sank into relaxation. I felt agitated that I had to cancel my work and responsibilities and worried everything would fall apart and everyone would resent me. I questioned the meaning of life a hundred times a day. Occasionally I found it while watching the rain from my front porch.

You worry that people are going to be angry because you have to miss deadlines, postpone interviews, not show up. You worry your absence will make everything else come to a screeching halt and the guilt of that is oppressive and lodges heavy in your guts. Then, when life goes on and the rest of the world continues to work and exist without you, you are left with the feeling that you don’t actually matter that much. A relief, a poison, in equal doses.

I’ve been dealing with the guilt of canceling appointments and having to bail out of obligations, projects and work. Getting rest is the only thing that will help, and while that’s how I’ve been spending most of my time, I’ve been able to take advantage of a few social events that have maintained my sanity. When you get most energized by spending time connecting to people in person, isolation is loneliness emphasized.

Fatigue sets in after only two or three hours, but I have been trying to find the silver lining, tarnished as it has been some days, and am grateful for:

Stumbling across one of my favorite book sales and getting 30+ titles (for about $10 bucks and all money went to charity!), including some truly exceptional gems that still make me feel smugly proud of myself, like: titles by Sylvia Plath, Richard Brautigan and Lorrie Moore I didn’t previously own; a first edition of Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love, one of my favorite books ever ever ever;  an extravaganza of queer authors like Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters and Oscar Wilde; an astrology book from the 1960’s with dreamy illustrations.  I was able to read again after the first week, thank goodness.

Get lost in the stars.

Get lost in the stars.

 

Mornings spent on my cozy front porch, working through The Artists Way, getting uncomfortable and vulnerable and angry and then inspired, focused, driven. Salads for breakfast. Tiny pieces of paper tucked into my Chinese takeout that make me feel hopeful.

Avocados on everything, morning pages, sunshine.

Avocados on everything, morning pages, sunshine.

A Mother’s Day surprise from Chubby and Pierogi (my dog and cat) left on the kitchen table, discovered when I woke up to make coffee. I’ve been told they must have stolen the car with Pierogi at the wheel, Chubby at the gas + brakes (his arms are too short to operate the wheel) and took themselves shopping. What sweet angels.

Typewriter necklace and a handwritten (paw-written) card from the cat and dog. They are so talented!

Typewriter necklace and a handwritten (paw-written) card from the cat and dog. They are so talented!

I went to the Spiritual + Holistic Expo which was like a warehouse full of healers, luscious self-help books, massive jewelry pieces, and hundreds of things I’ve never seen and still don’t entirely understand. I ran into friends, the kinds of friends who give meaningful hugs and words of support and encouragement. There’s another expo in September and I’m already excited.

Healing energy in crystals, or at the very least, beautiful things for your eyes to see and hands to touch.

One of the most meaningful bands of my life, Modest Mouse, played a mile from my home in front of the iconic Bethlehem steel mills and I felt every feeling from the tenth grade to present day in one hour and forty minutes. They played Trailer Trash three songs in, and my soul hovered out of my body and into the crowd. It reminded me of my past and how far I have come. In those minutes I intensely missed everyone I have ever loved. I wondered what they are doing now, and felt such peace that I have moved passed the point of hurt and anger to sincerely wishing them well. I wonder if they felt it, wherever they are.

"Eating snowflakes with plastic forks And a paper plate, of course You think of everything"

“Eating snowflakes with plastic forks
And a paper plate, of course
You think of everything”

 

I traveled to upstate New York to see my beautiful cousin get married in front of a magnificent waterfall, followed by a reception at summer camp site (!!!) where I get to reconnect with my family and celebrate a beautiful day. It was one of the cutest weddings I have ever seen, and I’m so proud of her.

The beautiful Ellwoods, such a great rock'n'roll last name.

The beautiful Ellwoods, such a great rock’n’roll last name.

My Mom has come to visit, and seeing her always makes me feel better, too. After the deaths of my Gram and my Stepdad just four months apart, I feel a new sort of connection to my Mother. And this is my Babchi (“Bob-she”), my Dad’s mother, who is over 80 years old. She has survived seven children, a seemingly infinite number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and cancer. Even after her cancer treatments when she lost all her hair, it grew back thick and full. She doesn’t color it. Now you know where I get it from.

Babchi is Polish for "Grandmother".

Babchi is Polish for “Grandmother”.

I went to an art show in Easton that was so spectacular, so well-attended, I felt like I was in a big city. Everyone there was uniquely beautiful and friendly, the quality of the art was of such a high caliber, my heart swelled with pride for the Lehigh Valley. There is something to be said for sticking around to see your community step into it’s fabulous self. Even better if you can participate in some way, even if that way is to stand with your mouth agape looking at a painting that makes you feel something deeply, and telling people about it, especially the artist. Thank you.

 

BOOM art show in Easton, PA. This quiet cityscape is by Bill Hudders.

BOOM art show in Easton, PA. This quiet cityscape is by Bill Hudders.

 

… Each day I’m working on finding the balance between doing my best to be productive without pushing myself to the point of physical pain. Healing is immensely important as it is already taking longer than expected. When I think about the concussion, this stupid and preventable accident, I get so angry, but anger has never helped anyone to feel better. So while I figure out how to go about my days until I can be normal Jaime K again, I have my books, some really wonderful friends, couch naps while the sun streams in, lavender tea and guacamole, podcasts and shoulder-warming walks in the sun.

And along with a mental and physical overhaul, Save the Kales! is getting one as well, from the inside and eventually out. This hasn’t been simply a “food blog” since the beginning, but going forward I will write about non-food issues with even more intent. It is our stories that connect us.

xo Jaime K

 

Coconut Almond Crusted Cauliflower with Red Pepper Curry Sauce

You can see all segments from this episode of Save the Kales! on our YouTube Channel.

I was thinking about writing some quips and anecdotes to entice you to make this recipe, but seriously? IT’S SO GOOD. And super easy, as you can see. So gather the ingredients (many are simple pantry staples) and preheat your oven. This is a good one to share with friends, as pieces can be cut smaller for snack-size bites. This is vegan, soy-free, and can be made gluten-free.

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COCONUT ALMOND CRUSTED CAULIFLOWER

  • 1 cup flour (*use a gluten-free flour if needed)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (NO sugar added)
  • 1 head of cauliflower

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Add first five ingredients to a bowl and whisk together to make a batter.

In a food processor, grind almonds to small crumbles and put in a bowl. Add coconut to the almond crumbles. Put the mixture on a flate plate or tray for easy coating.

Slice cauliflower as you would slice bread, into large but thin slices. (See video above)

Dip cauliflower into the batter, shake off excess, then place in the almond and coconut mixture on both sides to cover. Lay slices on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

RED PEPPER CURRY DIPPING SAUCE

  • 2 whole roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 clove garlic
  • TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • pinch of salt

Blend everything in a food processor until smooth.

coconut almond cauliflower

You can find more Save the Kales! online: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | YouTube

And don’t miss Fresh Perspectives with Jaime K, my bi-monthly column in Lehigh Valley Style magazine

Orange and Fennel Salad with Avocado

The past several weeks have seemed like the weather-equivalent of Eeyore: sad and gray.

If you need a burst of fresh, sunny brightness, try this orange and fennel salad. Juicy citrus and crunchy raw fennel will, at least for the moment, transport you to an afternoon of running through spinklers and strolling through Farmer’s Markets.

 

Orange and Fennel Salad

Vegetables

  • 2 raw fennel bulbs, sliced very thin (use mandolin if you have one)
  • 6 navel oranges, all but one peeled and sliced into chunks
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 avocado, cubed
*Note: A mandolin is not necessary, but it’s a great time to use one if you have it. If not, carefully slice veggies as thin as you can with a knife.
Add all but one navel orange to a large bowl. Put one orange aside to use for the dressing.
Dressing 
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Whisk in small bowl, pour over vegetables, and mix.
orange and fennel salad

Watch more episodes of Save the Kales! online (click here)

That Clean Bright White

Pennsylvania has been smacked over and over again with winter storms, an almost abusive relationship. Neighbors help each other shovel, I boil water and sample nearly every kind of tea in kitchen cabinet that needs another coat of paint. One day the snow came down continuously, the world stopped and still, the view from the living room windows the same at 10am and 3pm and 5pm, the natural light glowing from within and constant. There are books and journals scattered everywhere.

chubby dog on moravian college campus

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Save the Kales TV: One Year Passed… and a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Last week we taped the cooking segments of our thirteenth episode, the first episode of the second year for the Save the Kales! TV show.

Wow.

With impeccable timing, Vance Lehmkuhl (writer of V for Veg column for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com) called to interview me for an article about Vegan TV shows. I love that the column is about multiple shows – plural, thankyouverymuch – because that many exist now (!!!), and it’s an absolute honor to be included among the much-anticipated Vegan Mashup, shows by Christina Pirello, and The Vegan Black Metal Chef (who, by the way, is the nicest guy ever, and before STK! aired it’s very first show he somehow found out about it and and found me online and wrote, “Just make it whatever YOU want it to be, and it will be a success”.)

You can read the article here: TV Dinners, the Vegan Way

And STK! has some exciting news, and since it’s officially in print I can finally share it:

stk-seattle-animation

It has been so hard to keep this a secret!

IT’S TRUE. Save the Kales! episodes will start to air in Seattle & parts of Canada, to a potential audience of over two million households. That number typed out looks like this: 2,000,000. *gulp*

I’ll give more info as everything unfolds, but if you live there or have any friends in Seattle, put in a good word for us, will you? I’m excited about it airing in Canada since I already sort of have the accent, eh?

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Our show, the Little Show That Could, has come a long way in the first year. I’ve had some chuckles with the crew about that first episode (parts of it cringe-worthy), the way creating each DIY episode completely on our own has been such a wonderful lesson in getting more comfortable talking on camera, slowing down, tightening the editing, bringing in more cameras, utilizing help of assistants and interns… and I’ve made some very, very good friends.

There's his name in the credits! Yay, Matt!

There’s his name in the credits! Yay, Matt!

Matt is my right-hand-man, and without his help the show would not exist. He’s a co-producer, the main camera man, the director, and editor. It’s a shame you don’t get to see him in every episode because he puts a tremendous amount of time and work into every single one.

A few days ago, I received this email from Matt (shared with permission):

“This past Wednesday I was reflecting on the fact that the STK! show was a year old.  I was thinking of how the quality keeps getting better, how it seems to be growing in popularity and all the positive things that have come out of it.   Then I realized something that came out of the show I hadn’t considered…it’s been slowly changing me too.
 
Obviously, since my daughter came along eight months ago, my whole role in life has been re-evaluated, re-organized and restructured.  All though it has all been wonderful it hasn’t always been easy.  Somehow, Save the Kales! became this goal…something positive, something that I felt needed to get out to the world…something that would make people more empowered about themselves and happy about who they are (or in my case, happy about who I was becoming).
 
I’m a pretty sure I’m a different person than I was a year ago.  I know a big part of that is my daughter, but I know it wouldn’t have been such a positive, empowering change if it wasn’t for Save the Kales!  My transition into fatherhood has been eased a little bit and I’m not as afraid moving forward….and I’m also finding myself eating a lot healthier then I did a year ago 🙂
 
So, as I was saying, this past Wednesday I was reflecting on all of that and and then suddenly the universe threw me a surprise, as it does from time to time.  The blog you wrote at the 10th anniversary of your father’s passing popped up on Facebook somewhere.  I only knew what you had told my wife and I in the past, but I had never read the post.  I was reminded of a lot of things…emotionally and spiritually…and was very touched.  It also reminded me of why we started the show in the first place.  You’re a very good, honest person that exudes positivity and somehow makes people comfortable with themselves at the same time.  I know we saw that spark in you and thought, “other people need to experience this.”
 
I know life isn’t always easy and we still have a ways to go with the show, but you should be very proud of yourself…you can and ARE changing peoples lives for the better.  There is far too little good in the world that gets exposed and I feel it is our mission to get more good out there to the public.
 
With that all being said…thank you, thank you, thank you.  I’m glad there are people like you in the world and I’m very excited that we’re working with you to make it better.
 
  Happy 1 year STK!TV”
Me, Sarah and Matt thee Christmases ago because I can't find a more recent photo of the three of us together (!). THEY MAKE DREAMS HAPPEN.

Me, Sarah and Matt three Christmases ago because I can’t find a more recent photo of the three of us together (!). THEY MAKE DREAMS HAPPEN.

And it’s true. We make this show because we believe in it. 
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Listen, if I was a painter, I’d paint. If I was a musician, I’d make music. Or draw, or sculpt, or create whatever it is my abilities lent themselves to in order to do the work that expresses our mission: be kind to yourself, animals, and each other.
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…As it is, we have equipment and an outlet to make a show on TV and we do our best to make it welcoming and informative while being friendly and inclusive. We make a show because that’s what we can do. We recently got a new sponsor who reached out to us because “the show isn’t pretentious, and [they] like that”. What a compliment!
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At the end of the day, this isn’t about me, or Matt, or our crew. It really is about wanting to make some positive difference, in whatever way we can, however big or small that turns out to be. Doing something is better than doing nothing. And when I run into people at the supermarket who say “Excuse me, do you host that Kales show?” or get emails from people who are, at the very least, incorporating more vegan meals into their cooking, it’s proof that what we do matters. (“We”, as in, all of us. You too.)
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On the set of our third episode, performing the ritual of clearing kitties out of the kitchen.

On the set of our third episode, performing the ritual of clearing kitties out of the kitchen.

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Thank you for watching or reading or supporting Save the Kales! in your own way, and supporting what we stand for. Matt said, There is far too little good in the world that gets exposed, and I feel it is our mission to get more good out there to the public.” Yes, yes, a thousand times YES.
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We’re so happy to continue to do just that.  Cheers to Season Two and heading to the west coast! xo
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… and this outtake video of our second episode, because it makes me laugh every time I see it, and who couldn’t use a good, contagious laugh?

 

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HOT ROASTED CABBAGE WEDGE SALAD: Healthful Vegan Winter-Inspired Twist on a Wedge Salad

Here’s our latest video, produced exclusively for VegNews TV via Vegnews Magazine. I love those guys.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cabbage, cut into wedges through the core
  • 1 yam or sweet potato
  • 1 apple (honeycrisp is the BEST!)
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper
DRESSING:
  • 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup (the real kind!)

TEMPEH BACON:

  • 1 block tempeh, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. tamari
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 liquid smoke
CANDIED SEEDS/NUTS:
  • vegan butter melted in a pan, about 2 Tbsp.
  • enough brown sugar to make a carmelized paste
  •  about 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds (or nuts of choice)
  • a dash of allspice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the cabbage wedges on the sheet, then lightly brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until starting to brown, about 25 minutes.

Cut the yam and apple into small dices. You can leave the peels on. Put them in a bowl with a small amount of olive oil to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and add it to the oven with the cabbage when you have 15 minutes left of cook time. (Both should get done at the same time.)

To make tempeh bacon, dd the tempeh to a shallow dish with a lid, and whisk all marinade ingredients together. Pour over the tempeh, and marinate in the fridge while veggies finished roasting (or overnight if you want to make this ahead of time.) When ready, pan fry until crispy.

For the candied seeds, melt the vegan butter in a pan on low heat. Add brown sugar and mix until it’s thick and caramelized. Add seeds and stir to coat – add more seeds if mixture is still really wet. Add a dash of allspice, and spread mixture out on a sheet of wax or parchment paper to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk the mustard, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup together in a small bowl.

When all components are ready, plate by putting the cabbage on the bottom then topped with the tempeh bacon, then the apple and yam mix. Finish by drizzling some dressing over the dish and top with the candied seeds.

Save the Kales! Vegan Cabbage Wedge Salad

There you go! This makes an awful lot of food, and would be a great addition to a Holiday meal or potluck. Enjoy!