coffee nostalgia, pumpkins, and the art of being

I was in the middle of scrubbing coffee mugs this morning at work, when I found myself wishing I was the one sitting down and drinking the stuff instead of the one cleaning up afterwards. About half a second later, I realized that no, that's not quite right. I want to be drinking cafe con leche. Preferably in Bolivia. Preferably with Jille, Lucas and Laura. Preferably off the beaten path.

I realize that I might come across as a "snob" when I say this, but I must. There is something magical about drinking coffee in a cafe in a different country. For me, this was true in South Africa and Bolivia, and I am sure that if I would've liked coffee at that point in my life, it would've been magical in Palestine too.

I always seem to have deep nostalgic moments when I am doing the dishes.  That seems pretty fitting to me. It is symbolic for the fact that I often don't appreciate my current life until a particular stage of it has passed. When I am in the middle of the mundane, I often don't see it. After all, there is nothing magical about doing the dishes.

Take last fall for example. After I volunteered in Chicago, I had no real leads as to what to do next. So, I moved downstate and slept on a futon in my brother's basement. Emotionally, it was a pretty hard transitioning time. Chicago had been so great and I had no further plan after it.

But now that I am removed from it, I find myself missing specific things about Morton life. Of course I miss seeing my family every day and being a part of my sister-in-law's store, but I miss the random little things. I miss spending all my time at Eli's Coffee Shop. I miss the evening chill. (We are getting there here in Kansas, but it is a little different). I miss how Morton, Illinois literally smells like fall because of the combination of the falling leaves and the smell of cooking pumpkin from the plant that constantly fills the air. When I think back to last fall, my heart fills with all these good memories. True, they all happened, but I tend to forget all the emotional torment I put myself through. (You can go through my posts from last year at this same time if you want proof. Yikes).

Even though I am staying in Kansas, my life is about ready to transition again. I am pretty excited about these transitions, but know that I will find myself nostalgic for my current situations soon enough. Crazy, but true.

I try to keep this is mind now because something I want to work on is being. Simply being. I have a really hard time being and enjoying exactly where I am in life (both literally and figuratively).

Thankfully, today was not one of those days. Although I did not get to have cafe con leche with my friends in La Paz, I was able to have coffee with my sister (and Scooter) on the front porch and that is equally as good. I love living in the same town as her. Since I know that won't always be the case, it is such a gift.

Not only that, but I went somewhere "off the beaten path" as well. This evening, my friend, Annali, and I had a late supper at this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place called El Jarrito. It was so awesome and maybe my new favorite place in Newton. I am also so grateful for my "weekend friend" who's joy for life challenges me to be less cynical more open to the idea that Kansas can be a magical place too.

Sure my coffee does not come with the side option of a small empanada de queso and the air here does not smell like cooking pumpkins, but it is okay. The art of being is hard to master, but in this moment, I am grateful. Being here is good.

(Sidebar, I think I must be having an argument with my camera or something because I have been refusing to take pictures of things recently. It makes blogging very


Speaking of all this pumpkin and fall, I must share another recipe. I discovered this one last fall and love using my own roasted pumpkin puree for it. So good. I made it for the first time this season on Friday and am looking forward to enjoying the leftovers all week long.

Black Bean Pumpkin Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups veggie or chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2-1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey*
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15oz can)
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, sauté the onion, yellow pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes so the seasonings have a chance to do their thing.

*I typically make this recipe vegetarian. Often I just replace the meat with an extra can or two of beans. This time I used a soy replacement. If you opt to go the soy route, I would suggest adding a little more salt.

Adapted from Taste of Home


  1. Dear Anna,

    I like your words, your pictures, and your soul. I want to sit down and have a conversation with you over coffee in a magical foreign place, chatting about fall, transitions, good books, and the art of being.

    Strangely enough, one of the strongest images I have of my life in Germany is me doing dishes in a little kitchen, looking out the window at the neighboring soccer field, and having "nostalgic moments" about life and home. Thanks for taking me back there with this post.


Post a Comment