butternut squash pasta + exciting blog update

At the very beginning of 2010, I started "blogging."

And by blogging,  I mean signing up for a free account from google and feeling fancy afterward.
(My very first post; ironic that it's about "food," because I was way more into "fashion" at that point. Also, air quotes for days because...because teenager).

I was barely 18, and can remember feeling "behind" in the blogging world even then.

The blogs I followed at the time had already been around for a couple years, and were pretty, and the people running them were older, with more experiences to share, with more ideas, and more...so on and so forth.
This feeling would follow me until just a few months ago, when I realized that every blogger who can call themselves, legitimately, a BLOGGER, started where I did.

They started with a free account because they felt like they had something to say, something to share, or something to make. Among many other possibilities.

They didn't start because they thought they'd be getting paid for it 5 years later. No no no. They didn't start because they predicted gaining thousands of followers, comprised of people they didn't know and most likely never will. They didn't start with the idea that every post had to be perfect—every picture, font, and sidebar flawlessly placed. Not even close.

They started because they loved it.

That, and that only.
Bloggers began blogging because it was a creative space that was entirely THEIRS and no one else's. They could choose whatever they wanted for content, and had the say for when and where and how they would do it.

And even that might be assuming too much. Mostly, they did it because they wanted to and took the time to.

Their voices, their stories, and their consistency is what got them to where they are now; with books, and networks, and readerships, and pay.
In June, I discovered a blogger who's been around since 2009 and is a pretty household name in the blogging world, yet whom I had never heard of: The Sprouted Kitchen. (Sara and her husband, Hugh, both contribute. She's the chef/writer and he's the photographer).

I pored through the archives, reading every post (I've never read EVERY POST of a blogger's before, although I've come close) and as I did, it suddenly hit me: if I wanted to blog, it was going to require hard work and way more commitment than I'd been willing to give.

And most of all, I needed to reassess why I wanted to blog: because I wanted people to read it? Well, yes, of course, but that couldn't be the determining factor; it couldn't be the starting point. What about because I wanted to call it my job one day? Well yes, of course, but that wasn't going to happen magically. Because I loved it?

Bingo.
I needed to STOP thinking my blog should look this way or that way, stop thinking I was behind, stop thinking that in order to write about food AND faith/emotions/general life-processing that I had to choose one or the other, and START thinking that this blog needed to be the truest reflection of ME that I could give, which means totally disregarding everything else. Period.

Sounds like a pretty standard revelation, I know. But seriously, this concept hit me like a ton of bricks and I was really grateful for its metaphorical bruise.
After all these thoughts, I did something else I never do: I actually e-mailed Sara. It wasn't even an option to NOT at that point. I felt like if I didn't tell her how encouraged I was by what she wrote and shared, I would explode. And so I told her, look, I never do this and it feels silly: but what you do has had a profound impact on me and you should know, and please never stop.

I fervently wrote the e-mail at 10 o'clock at night and didn't even bother reading through it again before sending it. Once I did, I felt assured that I said what I needed to, and didn't expect much else after.
A couple weeks later, Sara sent me the nicest, most encouraging e-mail back, and I was unabashedly over the moon. It was the final push I needed to hop on the blogging train and say see ya later to avoidance and insecurity and fear.

SO.

All that to say,  I've been working really hard on a new platform for Plain Grain. I made the switch to Squarespace because for people who don't know web stuff or can't afford to pay for help (ME ME ME), it's a dream come true.

I plan on letting you guys see it soon, and I don't plan on having it be perfect, because like this journey, like life, like myself, it's a work in progress and always will be.

Abrupt transition ready go: this pasta! This pasta is from The Sprouted Kitchen (did you expect anything else?), and not only should you make it because it's fall-appropriate (unlike Pasadena, STILL), but you should also visit her site and be inspired by all that I was.

The most surprising part of this recipe was the pistachio pesto: it was creamy and herby but cheesy and had a little tang. I loved it and had no problem licking the leftovers off the spatula.
(The extra pictures down below are Sara's dark chocolate pb cups that turned out deeeeelicious, and a shot of Pasadena's gorgeous City Hall at night. My roomie and I went to an outdoor symphony a couple weekends ago and it was really fun. The one time I was MAYBE glad it wasn't too cold out yet. Maybe).

transitions + tomato soup

I'm trying my best to focus this post, but it's hard knowing which voice to use and which writing style to choose.

And now I'm unintentionally rhyming.

Yikes.

Basically, it's been a week of transitions. I am now earning my status as an Angeleno by commuting to and from work, and whoof. LA freeways never stop.

We packed up the Itzhakians' little apartment last weekend, and although I was just as ready for a new space as they were, life-changes are never one-dimensional.

They're always accompanied by different expectations and different routines, most of which are completely foggy and honestly, a little scary.

I didn't realize how significant this change would be until it happened, and on Tuesday night when I walked into my apartment after a 90-minute drive home, I felt totally spent.

The day had been a great one, too—I took Ayden swimming with my previous-swim-instructor-hat on, and watching her fearlessly put her little lips to the water to blow bubbles almost made my heart burst.

We sang songs and bounced up and down, up and down, and when I'd throw her in the air like a rocket, she'd squeal and show her toothy smile, all while screaming, "MO MO! MO MO!" (MORE MORE, MORE MORE!)

She took the ever-coveted 3-hour-nap that day, and while she did I got to work on my blog (oh, I should tell you more about that!) and finish listening to a podcast from my morning drive.

To have such a wonderful day, and get glimpses of how this move would provide so many new options for me and Ayden, but then get home and feel so drained was...sad. I felt sad because this simple, frustrating, 90-minute drive had overshadowed every other positive experience from the day.

BUT. As I was sitting on the couch, snuggling up to a mug of stress-relief tea, Ashley called me and said Hey. I want this to be as easy as possible for you. I don't want you sitting in traffic because I know how awful that is. We care about you. Here's my suggestion for making it better.

And instantly, truly instantly, I was re-energized. I felt taken care of. I felt thought of. I didn't feel alone in the chaos of change. (We also learned, you cried yesterday? I cried yesterday too! A lot? A LOT!)

The next two days, I drove to Ashley's work, where I left my truck and swapped cars with her. Having her car meant adventures for the babe and I, and we seriously had so much fun. We went to a Starbucks in this huge, outdoor shopping center where there are koi ponds and turtles and fountains and so much more.

Ayden and I shared an english muffin with turkey-sausage and egg, and while we sat on the rocks near the water, Ayden would get a bite, then -Lyssa would get a bite, Ayden get a bite, -Lyssa get a bite.

Watching her in the world is one of my favorite things right now. It's so different that just hanging out one-on-one throughout the day.

Yesterday we happened to be at the Barnes and Noble in that shopping center when Storytime was starting, so we went up the escalator and listened to Miss Jennifer reading books about changing leaves and new seasons....and I thought, ohhhh how metaphorical.

As I continue adjusting to the transitions (because the biggest one is still coming—Ashley's second baby is due in just a couple of weeks), I hope I can manage my moments better. I know each moment is destined to affect the next, but the goal is to learn how to intersect them a little more.

And speaking of transitions, the one transition that HASN'T occurred yet is the one where LA stops being a million-freaking-degrees every day and starts being, you know, FALL.

A couple weeks ago I made this homemade, roasted tomato soup from The First Mess (and cookies from How Sweet Eats) in hopes of seducing my favorite season to Southern California, but it didn't work...because it'll be 100 all weekend.

So enjoy this super easy and delicious recipe, cold-weather friends. I won't be able to for another couple of months (BOOOOOO).

roasted chicken

This week I've been in a weird mood, which has been both a good and bad thing. The good part manifested itself in the form of wanting to cook up a storm, the bad part manifested itself in just...feeling weird! Which you can't shake sometimes...which is the worst.

Maybe my normally-extroverted self needed some alone time...or maybe I've had too much alone time (and enjoyed it), so being around people felt..off.

Who knows. But whatever it is, it's equalled a huge thirst for creativity in the kitchen, and I've loved every minute of it.

After picking up carrots, potatoes, and onions at the farmer's market on Tuesday, I decided it was time to learn how to make my favorite cold-weather meal: roasted chicken.

Raw meat (much less an entire raw chicken!!) is intimidating. Slimy and intimidating. But I wanted to try it so badly...so I said YOLO, bought myself a bird, and prepared the sucker.

I looked at some fellow food blogger's tips on how to prepare a chicken, and then I went for it. (Confession: I bought a chicken without giblets, which at the time I didn't really understand, but then I figured it out, and then I felt like a fake because I didn't actually have to stick my hand inside the chicken. That's a big first step, and I just avoided it altogether. Unintentionally, but still avoided. Oh well. Next time).

It was either luck or skill (probably more the former), but everything turned out perfectly. The flavors were there, the juices stayed in-tact despite the 425° heat, and I was left unscarred in the process. (Oh wait...not entirely true. Definitely gave my finger a good slice while quartering the potatoes. But I had heavy-duty lifeguard band-aids, so I wrapped it 'till it turned blue and all was well).

There will be plenty of chicken-roasting in my future, and I'm proud to say I can check that off the list. Any suggestions for another meal every beginner should make?