Email marketing is not going away, and I don't want to spend time deleting the junk, I want to be inspired and excited...these are the letters that make my A-List.Read More
As much as it was painful, watching Making a Murder was fully engaging. I found myself (like many others, I’ve read) yelling at the TV, cursing the smug prosecution team, and eventually, shedding tears.Read More
Making scratch dinners in a rush can be stressful. I’ve got a few standards up my sleeve that seem to please the man-boys in my life. By popular demand (you know who you are), here are my answers to: “What are your go-to dinners?”Read More
Under a sky full of stars and a bright crescent moon they gathered on the beach after dusk, stoked the fire and shared their stories. Trials, heartache, lessons. Was it the lunar cycle or their age? No matter, it’s obvious these women are in the thick of it.Read More
Research (and common sense) shows that unemployment brings on substance abuse, eating disorders, depression and anxiety. At its worst, that leads to divorce and even suicide. Is everything really going to be okay?Read More
I got the most amazing piece of advice from a friend's mother. Judy is a mom to four beautiful, strong daughters, she's a grandmother, a community leader and she has a great sense of humor and a deep husky voice. I asked her how she turned out such lovely women and kept her family so close. Her answer?
"I said yes, as often as possible."Read More
I've always enjoyed cooking. Baking especially. From my mid 20s into my mid thirties it was a heavy rotation on Martha Stewart and Cooking Light. Then I made baby food from scratch and took a weird turn into working parent survival mode with "dino" nuggets, broccoli and quesadillas. That was fairly short lived as we were determined to get back to the basics—whole foods and family dinners. So I was stoked when the Family Dinner "movement" came along and brought with it cookbooks geared to families trying to cook fast, healthy meals for grown ups and kids.
I first bought Time for Dinner (from former Cookie editors) and the The Family Dinner (from Laurie David, champion of the "Family Dinner Project". Because as much as I love Martha, it was only her FOOD publication that hit the mark. Anyway, I've since expanded my collection to include GP's My Father's Daughter, NYT fave Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Heidi Swanson's Supernatural Cooking and Supernatural Everyday, and Andrew Weil's True Food. Even if I'm not following the recipes strict, I refer to them all the time. I also hit up the Dinner A Love Story blog and 101 Cookbooks. And last but not least, Pinterest.
Note: We're omnivores that fricking love bacon, homemade pancakes, and roasted veggies. That, and I'm 80/20 Paleo. So modification here is KEY.
In addition to cookbooks and blogs for meal inspiration, we use Table Topics Family Edition to spark conversation at the table. If you like that, you can find smart, probing, age appropriate questions posted via the Family Dinner Project. I also started a garden in our backyard, and the boys like to help me harvest the bounty--they eat most of it.
At the end of the day though, it's simply about getting a decent meal on the table and having a meaningful connection with the people we love. Don't aim for perfection, good is enough.
How do you do family dinners?
P.S. Stay tuned for my Top 5 Go-To Recipes in upcoming posts.
Or, How to Organize Your Own Turkey Trot
Over the years, the boys and I have run a few Turkey Trots together... up at the crack of dawn, well over $100 later and sporting ill-fitting, ugly t-shirts we launch ourselves into a crowded sea of strangers for a 3.1 mile run for the homeless/hungry/you-name-the-cause. And we love it. But this year, it just seemed a bit excessive. We can't justify the expense regardless how worthy the cause, and the logistics also seemed less desirable when I factored in Thanksgiving prep and party time.
So we went rogue.
To replace the traditional "Thank You" run, we came up with the Mahalo 5k, a 3.1 mile run loosely organized for our friends and family. It was aptly named by one of my twins, as mahalo means "thank you" in Hawaiian. More than that, it's a sacred word that conveys the essence of gratitude, respect, and esteem. The island spirit has definitely influenced our family-- Kauai is like kin to us and long ago we adopted "mahalo" as our simple mealtime blessing.
1. The Concept: Invite friends and family of all ages to join us for a 5k run/walk. The course would begin and end at our house, and avoid major intersections. Everyone brings their own water to drink, as well as canned goods for the San Diego Food Bank.
2.The Identity: Because I treat every event I host as an opportunity to play with my graphic design hackery, I had to create an identity for the race. Even if we didn't get t-shirts, I wanted to convey the cheerful spirit of our race, our community and our geography. On request though, I gave the local shirt shop our design and invited participants to print shirts on their own.
3. The Course(s): Since a number of my friends rock the road with their kids in tow I created an alternate Stroller Course that sticks to the sidewalks. For the rest of us, I mapped a mixed terrain course with a tough climb near the end. I printed a copy of each course and slipped them into plastic sleeves for day-of viewing.
3. The Invites: I really dislike Evite and think that emails with PDFs don't get opened as quickly, so I caved in and used Facebook events and invited only a smallish number of close friends. I wanted to keep it manageable, and it worked like a charm.
4. The Logistics: The race was free, and we just asked that everyone bring donations for the food bank. An RSVP was requested, but I didn't turn down any last minute joiners. We identified key points along the route that may need signage to keep everyone on track and the night before the race I took the boys on a stealth mission with headlamps, flashlights, tape, signage, a bucket of a chalk and a deadblow hammer. We graffitied the sidewalks with arrows and messages like ""Let's Do This" or "I'm thankful for__________" and "Don't Give Up!". That morning we did a quick tour of the course to make sure the signs were still up and visible. My man had the role of race official and gave us the offical countdown to start, followed by some race recon via mountain bike.
BONUS? Local runners got to see our handiwork and maybe, just maybe, felt an extra spring in their step that morning.
5. The Refreshments: At the last minute I decided to offer some post race fare, so that morning I cut up a bag of oranges into wedges and bananas into halves, and brewed a couple pots of coffee into thermos carafes. We had one big water jug on hand, and our friends ended up bringing bagels, lox, cream cheese and donuts. There was much debate on Facebook as to whether this would defeat the purpose of the run, but I didn't hear anyone complaining...
6. The Impact: We took a baby step into social activism. I was able to rope my kids into the organizing and planning of the event, and in the process they learned about community, connection, event logistics, and hunger relief. 10 familes with 20 kids and two canines gathered to run/walk 3.1 miles for a healthy, fun start to Thanksgiving weekend. On the run we actually took our own cue and shared a few things we were grateful for--humor, chocolate, stargazing, a sense of smell, ocean views, friends and each other. We gathered bags of groceries for the local food bank and cheered each other on during what turned out to be a scorching, hot day in San Diego. After the race, the boys and I dropped off the donations and discussed all the good things that came from our little 5k.
Earlier this year I went to the funeral of a 71-year old man who was tragically killed in a car crash. He was an iconic figure in the creative community, ebullient and spirited with a cult-like following of both socialites and artists, chefs and gardeners. Though I was just one of his many admirers, I felt the heartbreak of his passing deeply. After the service, in the thick of their lush and wondrous garden, his children shared stories of his passionate approach to life. He was unabashedly charming, witty, bright, always late, creative, generous, adventurous. He loved good food and beauty and music and travel and family. His passion for living practically burst from him, you could FEEL it. It was infectious and lovely. Essentially, he was all in.
Yes! All in. I took on that mantra and it's been with me ever since. So why bring it up now? I read an op/ed piece from the NYT yesterday titled "Our 'Mommy' Problem" that used "all in", as the aggregate term for the turgid phrases smattered throughout every other Op/Ed piece related to a woman's quest for happiness and fulfillment (Lean In/Have it All/Do it All/Be it All). Aaaack! No! That's not what I'm talking about. This is distinctly not THAT conversation.
All in is about having a lust for life. The insistent chorus of Iggy Pop and David Bowie's ecstatic heroin induced anthem sums it up. I got a lust for life. BEING in the moment, fully. It's about vulnerability, and risk. It's about celebrating the small stuff and embracing the shit that life deals you head on. FEEL the pain of a friend's betrayal. PLAY with your kids, instead of instructing them how to play. LOVE your partner for all of his kinks and quirks. Love YOURSELF for all of your kinks and quirks. Say yes to family time and dirty floors and mismatched stemware. I'm not promoting hedonism or stupidity, I'm talking about really, profoundly experiencing your life.
Being all in touches on mindfulness, too. Eckhart Tolle speaks of it in "How to 'Be' While Doing" and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh expressed it perfectly in an essay on "washing the dishes, to wash the dishes". I have progressed in my experiences of Being, but I realized that I can be so caught up in these moments that I've forgetten to look at the big picture as well. Does my work make me happy? Does it sustain my family or serve our greater goals? Have we even thought about our greater goals? What are we gaining from living in this particular house, with all of these lovely things, if we're working too hard to enjoy it? Let's ask these questions. Let's dive deep! I got a lust for life and I'm ALL IN.
Let's cut to the chase. Since turning 40 (or maybe even let's say 41) I've had a great number of "aha moments." Yeah, I'm pretty much Oprah level by now. Or at least Gayle. I even considered naming this post "What I Know For Sure." I don't know why self discovery comes more quickly at this stage in the game, but it's kind of cool.
Here are a few nuggets:
1. A great paycheck and rock star benefits do not feed your soul. Doing what you love and are good at, with people you like, feeds your soul. Flexibility helps too. Until pushed, I was accepting the status quo of a career I fell into. Don't wait for the ax to fall, honor your true gifts and passion and the rest will follow. I've read this a million times over, but it's really true. Woo woo!
2. Tequila, club soda and lime will not give you a hangover. But wine, too many IPA's, limoncello, or cocktails with sugar will definitely mess you up. QUICKLY.
3. Anyone can run a marathon. You just have to train for it. And long distance running is a sham. Okay, not really a sham but more like something-that-takes-a-lot-of-time-and-energy-and-doesn't-provide-the-amazing-physical-results-you-might-expect. I ran a marathon before my 40th birthday and sustained a regular schedule of half marathon distance runs for the following year and a half to "keep my momentum." I gained endurance and proved my perseverance, but I lost a total of 8 pounds in those two years and I was in a position to lose A LOT more. I still run, but not to an extreme. CrossFit and a paleo "inspired" menu have made a huge impact on my wellness (and weight).
4. Treat yo self. If you are not healthy and happy, your hubs, partner, colleagues, kids, won't be happy either. If you need to spend $200 on your haircuts and color, do it. Because trust me, I tried to do my hair myself and it was horrible. If you love CrossFit (or Pilates or Yoga) and it keeps you lean and off meds, then it's money well spent. If being happy means you demand an infinite supply of fresh ground coffee and dark chocolate, then so be it.
5. You be you. Other people don't think about you as much as you think they think about you. In other words, by focusing on what other people think, you're not focused on being you. So just be you. It's easier.
A Clean Slate: New Year Resolutions
I think the New Year can be a real mixed bag. On the one hand, as you near the end of the year you are celebrating and pushing every excess you might dare, knowing that January 1 offers you a clean slate. You feel invincible, and that anything you've done to yourself and others can be erased with a swish of a calendar page. On the other hand, you're coming down from extraordinary high times...time off work, time with loved ones, time alone, party time! Creating a balance, and a way to ease into the New Year is a challenge. I used to spend lots of time setting my "Goals" for each new January. Then I realized that I NEVER GO BACK AND REVIEW THEM. And they sit quietly, patiently waiting for me, in the lovely red journal I bought for myself more than five years ago. What's different this year? I'm limiting myself to this post, and 10 minutes to jot down a few manageables. We don't have time to belabor this, do we? I want to make shit happen.
Make Your Magic
I've broken it down to a few categories that provide plenty of room for multiple resolutions. Three's a crowd? Just pick one or two. Rules? Keep it simple and direct. Active not passive.
"Oh, so I'm going to be more healthy." "I'm packing healthy snacks to bring to work everyday."
1. Micro-Resolution: Pick something tiny! I strongly believe it's the little things that make a difference. My husband made a mid-year resolution to make the bed everyday. He's done it, kept to it, and receives uber satisfaction from the practice. Gretchen Rubin gives this little change A LOT of attention in The Happiness Project, which is essentially a year of resolutions. I consider her an expert on the subject.
2. Health Resolution: Who hasn't picked something health-related as a new year resolve? Go for it! If you have a list of desired changes, try setting and achieving them quarterly instead of tackling them all right out of the gate. Set the goal, establish the habit for three months, then hit up another. Bam!
3. Personal/Professional/Parental Resolution: Sure, you can establish one for each of your personas. OR just focus on ONE area that needs extra attention: "I'm saying 'yes' to my kids as often as possible." or "I'm only going to swear at work if it's an actual emergency." or "I'm going to increase my sociability and engage with the other soccer moms instead of playing Words With Friends on my iPhone."
4. Maintenance Resolution: Say Yes to Success! What's one thing you have accomplished or felt great success from in 2013? Will you vow to keep it going? Maintaining is almost MORE critical than creating the habit. Plus, it's nice to have a leg up on one of your resolutions. Consider it an easy win.
New Year's Magic: An article published yesterday in The Atlantic, sparked my curiosity about the parallels of religion and New Year's traditions (excess, celebration, coming clean).
We returned yesterday from a sweet weekend getaway to the mountain town of Julian, CA. Lucky to have acres to roam and a Quonset hut to nest, these family escapes are more rare now as we are scheduled to the stars with sports and other commitments. The property is not ours per se, but belongs to my family, and we have been adventuring there for nearly 10 years now.
I'll be honest. We're not exactly roughing it. I packed our SUV to the gills with the following... paint, glue, yarn, scissors, markers, paper, leather Motorola radios ("walkie talkies") pink ski vest + Uggs books + magazines my camera big straw hat scooters + helmuts cooler, dry goods, sparkling water, spices Bose sound dock a bottle of pinot plastic eggs + chocolate + goofy glasses
As I closed the back of the truck, I thought it might be possible that I've simply outgrown camping.
I let go of email and running, and turned instead to hiking, cooking, reading, gathering, making. We crafted swords and slingshots, I collected feathers and daffodils. We ate True Food Kitchen's quinoa Johnny Cakes and I baked Spanish chicken with onion, potatoes and spicy sausage. We dyed eggs with beets, red onions and turmeric, and huddled together on a loveseat in front of the tiniest TV screen for a Friday night movie. I was up at daybreak each morning, and heard the call of the turkeys as I hid eggs on Easter Sunday. Later that day we packed up the truck and gave a heavy sigh, with the promise to return soon.
Quinoa Johnny Cakes
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups whole wheat pasty flour
1/4 cup sugar (evaporated cane or white)
2 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp olive oil
pat of butter
ripe banana, apples, or blueberries
Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
1. Make quinoa. (HOT TIP: If like me, you normally add some savory "better than bouillon" flavor to your quinoa, skip it if you plan to use leftovers for these Johnny Cakes).
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. In another large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and oil and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until just combined. Fold in the cooked quinoa taking care not to overmix. Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour.
3. Lightly brush the cooking surface of a nonstick pan or griddle with butter. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Drop banana slices, thin apple slices, or 8 to 10 blueberries on top of each pancake. When bubbles form in the batter, flip and cook on the other side until
lightly browned. Continue with the remaining batter and choice of fruit.
Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt and maple syrup on the side.
The MatriarchLovin’ on my gram isn’t always easy. She’s a feisty red head, at heart, in her youth and now via bottle. Still, Marcella is the Matriarch of our tight knit family and we love her Madly. She has a brood of 4, plus 5 grands and 4 greats. Married to the “Chief” for more than 50 years, our family has a strong foundation and sticks together through it all. The in-laws are IN, and they accept our eccentricities. Through marriage and divorce, sickness and health, we all come together. While the Chief left us a few years back, Marcella Jean (or “Maxy”) turned 90 today, and this is how we celebrated.
Home Movie I know there must be some 8mm clips, recorded somewhere. But I don’t have them, so I created a simple scrapbook-style movie of fave family moments and images from Grandma Marcy’s life. While In the Mood by Glenn Miller nearly me drove me out of my gourd (longest 3:26 of my life), I had some fun with Herb Albert’s Tijuana Taxi, the bubble gum popper I’m into Something Good by The Bird and the Bee, and finally, the heartfelt yet peppy version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It came in under 15 minutes, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for everyone to giggle, sigh, and regret some awesome haircuts (did someone say perm? or um, mullet?).
Storytelling I am big on thought here, short on action. I think it’s fantastic to have recorded stories of our family’s history. Have I done anything to make this happen? No. StoryCorps does this all over the country, and I love to hear the vignettes on NPR. In the spirit of StoryCorps we had everyone share a memory of the Birthday Girl. I video-recorded each one with my iPhone. It’s a start. My M opened the series with a reading of Invitation, by Shel Silverstein, and B drew her a picture of a bird. Which he promptly left at home. My nieces sang “You Are My Sunshine” with a little help from their Oma. The stories were funny, soulful, and grateful. Meticulously planned and lovingly spontaneous. I saw the origin of (many of) my beliefs and quirks through the eyes of my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins.
Ohana Family. It’s in the way we lead that children are cultivated and grown. Relationships nurtured. Parenting is not so much about following rules. The rules are inherent in the WAY we are raised and HOW we guide and inspire our own children. Not in a list of do's and don'ts. I know not everyone is as lucky to have family near by, or willing to travel the distance for these milestone moments. But making the effort means so much--and teaches the next generation that connecting really does MATTER. Family first.
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."-Gloria Steinem
This quote, featured on the home page of the International Women's Day website, says so much to me about feminism. When I was younger, and studying for my Women's Studies major, I may not have articulated this very well. But with age comes wisdom (!) and the ability to use other people's words to validate your own. I have so much more to say lately on the topic of "women's issues" and worklifebalance and feminism and havingitall but for now, I'll let Gloria's quote settle. I thank all of the amazing women today, and throughout history, who have fought for my rights and choices, who have inspired women like Steinem and Stanton and Friedan, and who continue to fulfill and inspire me daily. You know who you are. xoxo
I got super lucky this week and landed a small stash of blood oranges from a neighbor. This happened to coincide with a craving for roasted beets, which I had already planned to make. Tired of my usual beet-goatcheese-pepita-oliveoil salad, I decided to merge these two heartbreakers into one bloody beet bowl. This is how it went down...
IN ADVANCE: I roasted the beets coated in a bit of olive oil and salt in a 350 oven for nearly an hour. This is sketchy, because I was cooking other things at the same time, on and off. It's an art. Not a science. Once out and cooled I slipped their dirty skins off. That sounds mildly sexual. Oh well. Then I cut them into 1" chunks a tossed them into a jar in the fridge for later.
NEXT: I prepped two small blood oranges by cutting the peel off with a serrated knife. I usually take the tiny pith core out too. I cut these into bite sized chunks.
AND THEN: I combined the orange pieces with 3/4 to 1 cup of the beets in a bowl, and grated (~ 2 teaspoons to 1 Tablespoon of) fresh ginger root right on top. Then a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of salt to bring out the full flavors.
Done! I think you could still safely add goat cheese, if you so desire. Or perhaps go super savory and do garlic instead of honey, and toss in some finely sliced red onion or shallots...
Beets produce the most perfect shade of magenta ever.
PS >>>>>>---------> Forgive my iPhonography, I was documenting on the fly!
We cut the cord. I thought it would be much more painful than this. We didn’t so much KILL our TV as WOUND it. Though if you tell friends in certain circles that you are giving up cable, you might as well have said that you’ve lost a limb. “But what about sports?” moaned our guy friends, and “What about the news?” cried others. On the flip side, some of my closest pals met this announcement with detailed questions and nods of approval. Essentially, we want to Watch Less, Do More.
It’s been fun to engage people on the topic. “Losing sports” is not an issue. We’d like to be participants, instead of just spectators. Our kids are on a constant run from practices to games, soccer to baseball and more, I run and do yoga, we hike, and maybe the Mister and I will take up tennis. Not to mention, top athletes continue to disappoint, far from the role models our culture suggests they portray. Instead, we have he has been taking the boys to games at the local high school, where they can watch real athletes play the sports they love. As for news? I never really watched it. I listen to NPR, and read a variety of news online.
LIVE YOUR LIFE.
The point is to re prioritize our time. With cable I could easily mindmeld into Top Chef, Law and Order, Fashion Police, No Reservations, and a heap of other guilty pleasures. You could flip from soccer to football to vintage basketball, but couldn’t avoid the screaming pundits! Later, when I reflect on how I spent my (life)time, I don’t want this to be the chart of accounts. Everything is more intentional now. If I want my Downtown Abbey, I can pay for it on iTunes or wait for it on Netflix. We make a date to watch The Following together. For now, we forgo the indie faves like Girls and Game of Thrones, while movies are a welcome weekend treat. For everything else? Well, we have Hulu+, Netflix streaming, a DVD player and Apple TV. I told you! We just cut cable. I may make my own granola, but I didn't go TOTAL hippie on this one.
Hopeful Side Effects of Mindful Consumption
- Better Health. Early to bed, early to rise. My goal is to get up early to meditate, blog, or workout.
- Less mindless munch time. Studies show, this goes hand in hand with watching TV. Boo.
- More quality time. To spend with my kids, with the Mister, or alone.
- More money. For saving. For debt. For braces. For vacations.
And, yes, until I’ve completely weaned myself from pop culture’s delicious pill, I’ll probably be inviting myself over for the major red carpet moments. Keep some bubbles on ice!