gwen learns

I finally found it.

Posted in gwen learns by gwenlearns on March 10, 2013

Well it finally happened.

And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel like I thought it would feel.

I thought it would feel like being cured from blindness. A perpetual high. And that bubbling over with joy and rainbows sort of feeling… all the time.

But it’s not like that at all.

I just feel content. Grateful. In tune. In stride.  Fewer thrills and chills. More peace and centeredness.

I finally found what I love to do. Three months ago, I walked into a room full of people like me.  Creators, perfectionists, dreamers, difference-makers.  And a good dose of introverts!  Yay. And then someone handed each of us a set of knives.  And we learned how to cut mirepoix without losing fingers. Eventually that mirepoix went into a pot, and we learned how to cook.

And… a couple months from now, people will call us chefs.

And I’m loving it.

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 12.15.54 AMI’m still trying to sort out how I got here. Slowly discovering foreshadows in my story, but it still feels a bit random. I wish I could draw a map everyone could follow to this kind of contentment.

and i couldn’t have guessed.

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on October 26, 2012

a prayer i wrote back in february.

A Closed Book?

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on August 9, 2012

It usually happens around a table.  Your friends have had their turn, they’ve shared some crazy story from their job or their latest Oprah-esque “aha” moment.  You’ve been mesmerized by their ability to compose a narrative on the fly, with all the right exaggerations and details and comedic timing.  But eventually, if the group is the right size and the occasion is long enough, you start to feel the pressure rising… your turn is coming up soon.

It’s not that you don’t have anything to say… your mind is full, you just aren’t sure where to start.  And once you do start, you aren’t the type to offer a lot of opinions or conclusions, and you feel like that’s what people want to hear.  But if you exist in this tension long enough without delivering, without speaking up, you start feeling like a closed book.

I started feeling this way about a year ago.  Not only was I in daily contact with two of the most open books I’ve ever met (my roommate and my boss), but I went on a few dates with yet another open book.  Talk about an intimidating table.  I would share a story, a piece of my world with him, and he wanted the whole universe… or at least that’s how it felt.    I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me.    I wondered if I had made my heart “impenetrable”, hiding it in the “casket of [my] selfishness”…

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.  – C.S. Lewis

I’m grateful to have a father who understands me.  He said I am a closed book and I need to own that.  I probably won’t share everything with any one person, but I do give pieces of it away to different people.  “Closed book” probably isn’t the right metaphor, but honestly, it is how I feel around extroverts (at least those who aren’t self-centered and expect me to reciprocate).

So where does someone like me feel most open?  Usually in places where there’s a lot of nonverbal activity and not all the pressure is on a conversation.  When I’m immersed in raw nature, on a hike or a walk on the beach. Playing cards or board games.  Listening to music.  Making music.  Driving and listening to music.  Dancing.  Cooking with friends.  All of these are valid conversations in my world.  All of these are my book wide open.  I’m counting on you to not miss out on that, both for my sake and for others like me. :)


Posted in gwen learns by gwenlearns on May 8, 2012

Tonight I write in a quiet apartment. I can hear the sounds of the AC unit and the fridge’s cooling system, and the occasional car with a messed-up exhaust. As much as I love sitting with the sounds of a good folk song or an acapella choir, nothing can match silence for me. Even in the car… lately I’ve not wanted to turn my car into a karaoke machine or even have the windows down. I don’t feel free. I feel trapped, and my way to survive is to just drive and think.

Yesterday I was in another world. The world of kids yelling and laughing and tumbling. The world of a million questions directed to me. I had a three-day glimpse into the world of motherhood. And I loved it. Even though I broke down to tears in a Target aisle as kids bolted off in all directions. Even though I didn’t have silence, or much thinking time, or time to figure out who I was.

I am a mother. It’s one of my destinies, whether if its with children of my own or not. One of my callings is to be a mother. I am sure of that now.

Sweet Potato Flatbread with Chive Cashew Cheese, Fig, and Arugula

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 29, 2012

Inspired by my favorite sandwich, a pinterest find, and a cashew cheese I’ve been wanting to find a good use for… sometimes everything just comes together for the win!  I just wish I could take prettier pictures… camera phones are just too accessible.

Fig preserves I used are from Loveless Cafe in Nashville, TN, only has 4 ingredients (figs, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice), and can be purchased online here.  And this is the pizza dough I used.

Broccoli and “Cheese” Soup

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 25, 2012

Broccoli and “Cheese” Soup: Add 1 cup steamed broccoli and some additional water to the blender after making a double-batch of the sauce in this recipe. Blend, then add 2 cups of small steamed broccoli florets and serve. Makes 3-4 bowls of soup.

Fool them all: Vegan Mac and Cheese

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 23, 2012

I usually don’t like vegan recipes that imitate non-vegan recipes.  First, because they contain fake, heavily processed ingredients like soy curls or TVP (ick!).  Second, because they never seem to match up to the original… “it tastes so much like it!”  just doesn’t cut it for me (think The Polar Express and its uncanny valley issues).  Except when it comes to this mac and cheese sauce.

leftovers: my favorite mac and cheese with brown rice rotini


(based on this recipe from VegNews)


Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 20, 2012

Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli…

Dr. McDougall (who I kinda see as the “grandfather” of the plant-based diet) has been known to say that if you really want to make things simple, just eat sweet potatoes and broccoli for a while.  You wouldn’t believe how much nutrition you can cover with these two veggies!

I just started using cronometer this week… it’s this food diary on steroids.  I love how you can make it fit your diet, unlike other food tracking sites that have built in recommendations that I don’t agree with!   But following the USDA recommendations, I inputed five sweet potatoes and four cups of broccoli, both cooked, and here’s what you get:

5 sweet potatoes + 4 cups broccoli

Do you realize how amazing this is!??!  I wish I could take this space to show you what olive oil, milk, and chicken look like… you just can’t get the same nutrition from concentrated oils or animal foods!

Anyway… off my soapbox now.

So here’s something to dip, pour, or smother over your SP&B:

(based on this recipe)

(chili paste is at safeway or here)

(okay! one more: I like to drizzle this sauce cold over hot food. When sauce thickens the next day, thin it out a bit with some more hot water so you aren’t caking on the heavy sauce)

the perfect smoothie.

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 17, 2012

I am a big fan of the smoothie.  I love how you can just throw in whatever you’ve got on hand and it almost always seems to work out.  I’m not a big fan of smoothie recipes though… the thought of measuring anything first thing in the morning is just not my thing.  But this morning, I measured my ingredients for your benefit.  So here is generally what I do:

Some tips:

- Freeze almost all your ingredients so you don’t have to worry about things going bad.

- To save money, chop up your own greens and freeze in zip-lock bags.  I find a mixture of 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch spinach, and 1 bunch collards can last you 3-4 months of smoothies if you chop them all in one day. If that’s too much work, buy pre-chopped frozen greens.

- For more creaminess:  add a frozen banana, use soy milk or other milks with higher fat content instead of water, and avoid berries that have seeds that get stuck in your teeth (raspberries and blackberries).

- To save money on berries, buy in season when there’s a surplus, wash ‘em up, dry on a towel, and freeze.

- To make it sweeter: Use fruit juice as your liquid, but realize this will spike your blood sugar.  I have a big sweet tooth and I’ve found this isn’t necessary for me!

- For more nutrients: Use vegetable juice as your liquid!  Save your juicing scraps in a zip lock in your freezer to make broth another day.  It’s more clean-up but you get a ton of additional nutrients!

- About flax and chia: I’ve heard flaxseeds must be ground for you to absorb them.   Since they can go rancid once they’re ground up, store them in the freezer pre-ground up.  This step is not necessary with chia seeds.

- Rinse your blender and cup right away.  Saves a lot of scrubbing later.

Cowgirl cookies

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on March 8, 2012

A particular vegan restaurant in town serves a version of these cookies and I had to try to make them at home… so here’s my version, based off of Dreena Burton’s homestyle choc. chip cookies.  I made these last fall and just haven’t gotten around to posting… so here they are:


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