Brown Sugar Oatmeal & Pecan Muffins

When you say you love me, know I love you more.

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Life can be such a challenge somedays. I barely remember the troubles I had as a teen, much less as a kid, and now problems seem to weigh down on me like the weight of the world.

It will be six months this month since I said I do and agreed to share my life with the most amazing man I know. I’ve always thought I was such a young bride, such a young wife. Even today, I caught myself sulking over something trivial like a spoiled child. In so many ways, I’m still a child at heart. If I had it my way, I never wanted to grow up.

But I’m so thankful and blessed to be married to the person I am with now. We stayed up this past weekend sharing a beer and a cigarette on the balcony of our townhouse. It was almost 3 in the morning and it was so cold but there was something calming about the still of the night.

When the cold was too much to bear, we stepped inside. I sat on the edge of the bed with him across from me. We were troubled and worried but most of all, scared. With no plans or ideas or means even, we stayed awake and stared at the ceiling like it was the sky, both lost in our thoughts. When I did decide to speak, I said it in whispers, afraid to break the quiet, as I laid next to him.

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I’ve had times when I was alone, afraid of the future because it was like treading into the unknown. This time, however, I knew I had someone else by my side. I knew those vows would manifest themselves someday and this was it. At least one of it. For better or for worse. I’ve promised this man my heart and my life and I have to honor that. 

I remember hearing his soft breaths as he succumbed to his tiredness. We have a future ahead of us but no idea where we’re headed and that’s ok. Instead of taking adventures on my own, I have Mark to share them with now. I feel like I’ve been beating myself up over the predicament we’re in these past couple of days but there’s always a silver lining to every situation.

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Today however, I was feeling blue and a little mopey, so I tried turning to the kitchen and oven for some warmth. Or maybe I was just looking for something to occupy my time with. Either way, these look absolutely comforting and I’m sure Mark wouldn’t have any complaints of how I utilized my time today.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal & Pecan Muffins
Yields 12

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup oatmeal, cooked and at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line muffin pan with 12 muffin or cupcake liners.

In a bowl, whisk eggs, oatmeal, canola oil and vanilla extract together until well-combined. In a large mixing bowl, measure flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder together. Mix well.

Fold in wet ingredients into mixing bowl and incorporate everything until evenly mixed. Using two spoons or an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into each muffin cup, about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for about 20 minutes. You’ll know that muffins are done when you prick one with a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let cool and rest for 10 minutes before taking them out of the pan.

Classic Chili

I decided to make dinner in my pajamas today. Not because I was lazy and had been wearing them all day, but because I chose to slip into them right after my shower because they were so warm. And comfy. Primarily comfy.

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Winter is definitely upon us now, even here by the beach and today was another snowy day. Well more like a rain and snow mix kind of day, which is really gross and super dangerous to drive in. I chose to stay home all day with Mark and took the time to get out of bed (as usual). Eventually, I wandered downstairs to find him and we lazed on the couch before making lunch together.

Cold days often mean lazy days for me. I thought this was also true for Mark as I found him comfortably falling back asleep on the couch right after lunch. Honestly, I cannot wait for spring and the luscious vegetation it will bring, especially in our region. I’m anticipating a lot of colorful produce in my kitchen for the next couple of months and can’t wait to try recipes with it.

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I’ve been spending less time on the Internet now, which I think is a bit healthier and instead finding more time for myself. Currently, I’m reading a book by author Kazuo Ishiguro, titled Never Let Me Go, that is part of my reading list. The first couple of pages were a little difficult to get through, just because I hadn’t read a book in a while but now I can’t seem to put it down. I’m hoping it will be a good read.

Since it’s cold again today, we decided to turn to comfort food for dinner and nothing spells w-a-rmth like a good bowl of chili. I’ve alwaaays liked chili because it’s so hearty and you get all your necessary food groups in one bowl. Carb, protein, fiber, vitamins… Not to mention it’s absolutely delicious and just bursting with flavor.

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Chili’s also one of those dishes that you can make to suit your taste. I found this easy recipe while browsing one day and decided to make it again because it was so good. I think you could easily customize and add to or subtract from it as you please.

Classic Chili
Recipe adapted from The Turqoise Home

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef (or meat of choice)
1 can Pinto beans
1 can diced or petite diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

In pot, saute garlic, onions and green pepper until onions turn translucent. Brown beef and drain grease. Stir mixture back to pot and add cumin, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Cover with water and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

Add can of tomatoes and salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and heat to the pot.Serve with cheese, sour cream, corn chips and garnish with cilantro if you like.

Udon Noodles with Meat Sauce and Green Onions

Sometimes the heart loves hating and sometimes the heart hates loving, but more than anything, the heart just wants to feel. 

The past couple of weeks have involved numerous road trips, which meant long hours in the car, on interstates that seem to go on forever and favorite songs on the car player that eventually became background noise.

Driving always makes me think. For some reason, I get lost in my own thoughts and they wander. My drive home after spending a couple of days in Washington D.C. was exhausting. The bitter cold didn’t help and the fact that I was missing home and Mark made it worse.

But there was always something so comforting about stepping through my front door and into his arms. It’s all I could think about as I drove across state lines and past every exit and some days I still wonder how we wound up here. I caught myself thinking about it out loud as we were waiting on a couple of friends to head out for dinner last night.

At one point, I glanced to look at Mark who was right beside me, took a deep breath and contently accepted that this was my life now.

Sometimes it is so easy for me to cower away and doubt all that we share. Sometimes I beg for honest conversations with him, wanting to hear him tell me me that love can be concrete and not flailing only because I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing something as beautiful as this.

I remember falling asleep on the couch that Friday night while he stayed up watching movies on Netflix. Every so often, I’d awake only to sleepily catch him watching me. It surprised me. I think it still scares me to the core to be in love and to love somebody like this.

Meeting my best friend from home who bravely battled the cold in the Northeast just to spend some time with me was exciting. One, we haven’t seen each other in nearly three years and if anybody knows anything living abroad, you’d agree that trying to keep in touch all the time is sometimes easier said than done.

But getting the chance to see her and catch up was nice. It felt as if no time has passed but we’ve both grown up a little bit more. She was thoughtful enough to bring me some snacks from home and I was elated. We drank wine, exchanged stories and gave each other advice.

Watching her cross the doors into the airport at the terminal made me wish I was the one going home for once. Just for a little while.

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So while I am still homesick, I naturally gravitate towards anything that would come close to remind me of home and one of my favorite things from home is the abundance and variety of noodles. Even if you didn’t like noodles, you would end up finding something you like.

I made this super easy meat sauce with green onions and udon noodles a couple of weeks ago. It’s so yummy, I think I could eat it every day. If you have vegetables like zucchini, cucumbers, carrots or anything at all lying around, feel free to add to it for texture and color.

I think I’m about to go make some right now!

Udon Noodles with Meat Sauce and Green Onions 

Ingredients:
Udon noodles
1/2 pound ground beef (any type of ground meat would be fine)
3 stalks green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (adjust to heat preference)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring water to boil and cook udon noodles

Brown meat in a pan and drain grease. Add sauces to pan and mix well. Add a little bit of water if you want a saucier consistency.

Pour sauce over cooked noodles and garnish with chopped green onions. Mix noodles with noodles until even coated.

Banana Granola Muffins

I’ve been approaching life with the same negative outlook for as long as I can remember.

I remember the growing pains that came as a low-esteemed 14-year-old. The angst I had as a confused 17-year-old and then the depression in my late teens and early 20s. Unwillingly, I had carried some of the pain throughout the years into adulthood and today, I’ve decided to get rid as much of it as possible.

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Somehow, someway, I must have done something right to have met a man who loves me for who I am. And though it is still taking me time and effort to accept this fact, I can say today that I am the best I have been in a long while.

My day today comfortably ended with a cup of chamomile tea and a pleasurable bite into one fresh banana granola muffin. It’s nice how certain foods bring you that sense of familiarity even in a sea of change. Banana muffins have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods and being able to make it from scratch in my very own kitchen makes it that much more satisfying.


Life has been mundane but not mediocre for me lately. I left my job a month ago and moved to live with Mark in Havelock, NC — a small military town right outside of a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. He found a cozy townhouse where he works in and right now, it’s just me and him. I have yet to get a job here but am actively looking for one. There is still what seems to be a mountain of paperwork I have yet to complete but I’m doing the best I can and hopefully, I will have it all filed before the end of the year.

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Other than that, living with my significant other has been a challenging yet exciting adjustment that I’ve made. Before this, Mark and I were in, what I would call, a “short” long-distance relationship. Long enough that we didn’t get to see each other as frequently as we would like, but short enough that we could make it to each within a day’s drive.

We lived three hours apart and got to see each other only over the weekends, so our relationship consisted of a lot of texting and FaceTime dates. We took turns visiting each other over, which got old (and expensive!) really fast.

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I would be lying if I told you that the transition went smoothly. I think it has been harder for me simply because I was moving again to a new town, losing my income and friends but I’ve been coping. Mark has been incredibly supportive of my needs and I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before I feel at home again.

Today, I tried my hands at some baking and the results were pretty satisfactory. Mark isn’t that much of a picky eater, so I’m lucky I get to try out recipes without wasting any food either. I might make some adjustments to the recipe in the future but I’m glad I have these banana granola muffins to look forward to for breakfast this week.

Banana Granola Muffins
Recipe adapted from Kelly Senyei, from Just A Taste.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup granola of choice
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup vanilla non-fat yogurt
6 tbsp butter or margarine, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking soda. Then mix granola. In a separate bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, eggs, butter, yogurt, vanilla.

Slowly fold in the wet mixture to the dry mixture, adding in batches until both mixtures are combined.

Scoop batter into the muffin pan, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the muffins comes out clean.

Tire

It’s just another warm Tuesday afternoon in my small town of Lumberton.

I am sitting cross-legged on an old couch in a fairly clean laundromat on the north side of town. The 5 o’clock news and the steady hum of the dryer serves as background noise.

The place is empty.

The Mexican lady and her kids who were running around earlier have left. It is almost time for dinner and soon, when autumn comes, it will get darker sooner too.

It’s weird how I find solace in odd places like these. The laundromat. A coffee shop. An airport terminal. I found myself thinking, as I separated the whites from the blacks and colors, about my day. What I’d eaten. Pizza. Yuck. Could’ve done better there.

Jeans. Tank tops. New underwear. My boyfriend’s t-shirts.

Interesting how my life has come to this.

Just about an hour ago I was taking pictures of an intersection in town that may or may not be getting new stop signs installed. Then I find myself washing the shirts he left behind after his weekend excursion with me, which, since then, I have barely heard from him at all.

I seem to transition seamlessly from work to dealing with my precarious emotions. I find myself craving a conversation. I used to wake up to texts from him that were sent at 5 a.m. Now, I’m lucky if I even got one before 5 p.m.

I hate to sound like I’m complaining. The past few months have been blissful. From bouquets of roses to candle light dinners, whispers of sweet phrases to honest confessions, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I felt sad for girls who are alone, amazing women who deserved love more than anything else, but had no one. I finally had him, and we were in love.

When he said he loved me, we were half-drunk of a red wine and a bottle of whiskey. The room was dim and a really cheesy R&B love song played in the background. Yet, I said it back without being sure why, only knowing that it felt like it was the right thing to do and once I had said it, I wanted to say it over and over again to him.

I don’t know what love is but I know I’ve been in love.

I know I was in love with B when I stayed with him for a year and then longed for him even more for another year after that. I know I loved A when I convinced myself that I was still special despite all the other girls he had. They were love, in a mutilated way. It was the only kind of love I knew and inevitably, it hurt.

As I try as hard as possible not to fall into the labyrinth of love this time, I find myself holding back so much of myself to this person who deserves so much more than just part of me. But despite knowing that, I don’t know if I can chip away the walls that I’ve spent so long building.

My clothes are sitting in the dryer and I’m holding back tears in an empty laundromat as dusk approaches.

I cry when I think about the day he no longer wakes up and looks forward to talking to me. Or when our conversations turn into routine. When he already knows every inch and nook and cranny of my imperfect body and is tired with me.

I mostly cry when I think about the day when he realizes how mediocre I am, will always be.

Present

They say timing is everything.

Maybe in another time, place or space, we would be perfect. If only I was the girl you met in that bar two years ago. Or the girl you meet in coffee shop five years from now. Maybe we wouldn’t be faced with this.

I sit alone again tonight with words as my company, thinking of the last time I held your hand, wondering of the next time I will feel them again. Afraid of the possibility that I will never be in the same room with you again.

Life is unfair like that and God hurls tests like these towards us.

I don’t know why I said hello, or agreed to have dinner by the river with you that Friday night, but I never did regret it.

I never regretted the time I drove six hours just to hear your voice. Or the time I stayed up with you driving across state lines to get to your house. I never regretted that one more shot of tequila with you. Or the time I had to tuck you into bed — I would do it all over again.

I don’t know how it’s going to be when I have to say goodbye permanently. I already hate it when we say goodbye on Sundays, but if it’s inevitable then I would say it, even if it kills me.

Odds are you will meet somebody else someday and it will break my heart when you do, but if you were standing in pictures and at the altar with her, feeling fully happy, then I will find it in me to share that with you.

I promise I will always remember you.

Fear

And tonight was the first time I’d cried because of him.

But nothing was wrong. The weekend was perfect. He greeted me with a smile and a kiss. We laid in bed until noon, ate cereal and watched tons of television. There were walks on the beach, digging our toes in the sand and felt the salty breeze on our skin as we sat on the swings.

The sky was stained a deep pink as dusk came. The waves crashed and met us at the shore. It felt like my world had shrunk and in that moment, it was just me and him.

There were short kisses, long kisses, deep kisses and light kisses. I’ve memorized the way his fingers feel when they’re laced with mine. And the way he quietly looks at me. The way he presses his lips on the top of my head. And the way the sides of his eyes creases when he smiles.

It’s funny how in just a couple of months, this stranger has turned into someone I think about every day now.

I laid against his chest one night in a dark room with the television playing idly in the background. It was one of those moments you wished time would freeze for you. I had forgotten how comforting it felt to hear another person’s heartbeat. Mine was racing as I thought of a way to tell him how much he meant to me now.

But of course, words can only say so much and I swallowed hard when he didn’t respond.

I don’t know why he decided to take a chance on me. If only he knew how broken and imperfect I am, I wonder if he would still want me the same? Sometimes, I get really scared. What if I find myself crying on the floor for days again? What if my heart gets broken into a million different pieces again?

I don’t know if I could pick them up and move on like I did.

It’s close to midnight and I’m pouring myself out to a million other strangers that I don’t know. Are you scared of love? Because I’ve just realized that I am terrified. And I’m afraid that I can’t learn how to love again.

What I Miss About You

What I miss about A was unpredictability. I would never know when I would hear from him next, or again at all. My phone would ring at 3 a.m. and, foggy with sleep, I would carry out a muffled conversation with him into the early hours of the morning. That was the first time I’d fallen in love. I was 18. He could never make up his mind, whether he wanted me or not. But I held on to him for two whole years, all the while on an emotional roller coaster ride, swearing him off every two weeks, only to find myself sneaking him out in the morning from my room two weeks later. In a small way, I liked having that. He kept me on my toes and although at times it drove me crazy, he was like adrenaline. Besides sharing times sitting in his car and listening to obscure indie bands play through his radio, he indulged me in my childish banters, habits and confessions. At times I could be me, but there where other times, where I absolutely could not.

What I miss about C was childishness. I would know that an evening with him would start off with eating absolute junk food and playing video games. Or watching one of his favorite movies, like Superbad or some dorky sci-fi movie. My favorite way of spending time with him was to challenge him to a game of Guitar Hero, despite knowing I would lose. He loved a challenge. A date with him meant the movies and the pet store. He was a little kid that loved his movies. He was never afraid to make a complete fool out of himself and he would always let me be the DJ in his car. We ate gummy bears in bed together, drank Mike’s Hard and played with fireworks on the Fourth of July. Distance tore us apart and three years later now, I still wonder what he’s up to.

What I miss about B was stability. I would always know what he would say when he IM’ed me on Facebook chat. He was always good with his words and once things started to smoothen out, having my toothbrush at his place and his towel at mine seemed nice. I liked making dinner with him and his enthusiasm for always trying new food was a definite plus point. He was comfortable. We knew each other so well. I knew how spicy he liked his noodles and he knew how picky I was with mayonnaise. He never showered me with gifts on holidays but he showed his commitment by driving me to Macy’s when I was in desperate need of a new dress. And then taking me on a completely unplanned camping trip. And sitting me down in the middle of campus, looking me in the eye, and promising to be there no matter how hard things get. What he didn’t know was that two weeks later, he broke that promise on the same spot on campus.

What I miss about J was safety. I don’t remember the first time I’d met J. Literally. It was during one of our house parties and I woke up the next day to my roommate telling me I’d met J. He added me on Facebook a couple of days later and I accepted without thinking much of it. We became friends a few months later when I gave him my number after a short Facebook conversation. I would hear from him sporadically and it was during winter break of my junior year that I realized how much I wanted to know him. The chemistry between us was unmistakable. I could always expect him to be there in the morning when I woke up and although I’d always pretend that I cared less, I knew inside that it wasn’t the case. We would talk for hours in bed and although he always sounded a little more reserved, I always knew he was honest. We shared past hurt, and somewhere in between the words and his bright blue eyes, I fell for him. I banked on him being my safest choice yet, so I walked the line without a safety net. But I fell midway and the fall was more painful than I thought it would be.

I don’t know what inspired me to write this post. I feel like the days are moving so much faster than they’re supposed to, and I can’t keep up. I think of how many people I’ve met and how many moments I’ve shared with different people. In class, at the bus stop, in the grocery store, at the bar. With graduation looming, I wonder where life will take me after this and how many more relationships I will form and break. How many more people I’ll miss.

And how many more loves I’ll lose.

Lessons

You break my heart in a blink of an eye.

My digital clock read 7:30 a.m. when I was abruptly awoken by the incessant alarms on my phone. I groaned and flipped over, wishing time would subtract itself and I had more time to sleep in.

I’d decided to miss class, seeing as I would obviously already be late, and taking into account that I barely had any sleep the night before, a law class bright and early just sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.

I shut my eyes and all I could think about was the unsettling dream I had of my ex boyfriend. I hadn’t dreamt of or even thought about him for a while but there he was. So vivid and so alive in my head. It was a troubling and confusing dream that I won’t bother to go into details.

The one thing it did however was brought out feelings that I’d carefully and painstakingly learned how to forget and lock up in some corner of my heart. And head.

I groaned again and muttered a simple ‘why’. I thought I’d learned how to stop dialing his number on impulse, learned how to stop reminiscing, because I’d definitely learned how to stop loving him.

I wonder how many friends and lovers I’ll learn how to love. And then forget. There’s already a handful in my life so far and it’s sad.

I went to dinner with a couple of mutual friends that we had and of course, talking about him was inevitable. They didn’t really know how he was doing either. I was a little disappointed.

Maybe you really do just write off the people you choose to leave behind. I still find it surreal and almost unbelievable that you’re capable of making the person you once loved…a complete and total stranger.

Realization

“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me.” –– Leigh Bardugo