Running With Gratitude

Or, How to Organize Your Own Turkey Trot

Our Turkey Trot, the Mahalo 5k

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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

BIG MAHALO.

Lust for Life: All In

image (1) 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.

Into the Wild + Quinoa Johnny Cakes

IMG_5213 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.

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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.

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Quinoa Johnny Cakes

My go-to dessert dish when I brunch at True Food Kitchen with my lady gals. Barely adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil's True Food Cookbook

Recipe:

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

orange zest

1/2 tsp olive oil

pat of butter

Toppings:

ripe banana, apples, or blueberries

Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

maple syrup

Method:

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.

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Forever Young: The Queen Bee Turns 90

Marcy90_0005The 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.

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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.

Watch Less, Do More: Cutting Cable TV

Aardvark Manifesto 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

  1. Better Health. Early to bed, early to rise. My goal is to get up early to meditate, blog, or workout.
  2. Less mindless munch time. Studies show, this goes hand in hand with watching TV. Boo.
  3. More quality time. To spend with my kids, with the Mister, or alone.
  4. 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!

Menu Planning in 4 Easy Steps

menuplan-1 One thing I love about Saturdays is Menu Planning. It's a household chore, sure. But I get to sit down and pour over cookbooks, cruise my favorite cooking sites, sip a strong cuppa java, and plan out the next week of meals. Running an efficient household while raising two boys, staying (happily) married and working full-time is no small task. This single strategic step makes everything flow just a little bit easier...here's how:

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1. SUPPLIES

Get organized. One side of our fridge is still magnet friendly, so that's our information hub. Create a spot like this in your kitchen's high traffic zone. Make it PUBLIC so your family (ahem, in my case, the Mister) can add to the shopping list, as well as read up on the week's menu. This avoids the whole "well I already had fish tacos for lunch" issue.

Basics: Paper, Pencil, magnet or tape Advanced: MENU worksheet with grocery list, pencil, magnetic list pad, clipboard, highlighters, Spot-On! Magnetic Hook

2. PREP WORK

A. Maintain a Shopping List. Track your household needs on an as-you-go basis. Out of oats? Write it down. Low on canola oil? Jot that note as SOON as you realize it. It's a total pain in the boot to take pantry inventory or waste time conjuring up the "oh-yeah-I-used-up-the-last-of-the-fill-in-the-blank"  from the past week.

B. Keep a Family Calendar. In this stage of planning I review the coming week...Are we home every night? Anyone out-of-town? Does the Mister have plans? Do I have a work event? Who has what sports and how late? I want to make sure I don't plan to roast a chicken on a night when I'm working late, or have soccer pick up. I need this plan to WORK for me. Not be a source of frustration. If there is a night I have to work late, I map out something the Mister can easily execute, like Corn Dogs + applesauce + steamed broccoli. (My healthy fast version of Corn Dogs =  hot dogs wrapped in corn tortillas).

3. INSPIRATION

Before you get too excited, consider the following:

1. How much time will I need/have? By reviewing your calendar in advance you should be able to set realistic expectations. Clue #1? Save the intermediate level recipes or the "baste-every-hour" roasts for a weekend day. Duh! 2. What new ingredients will this require? Are you willing to source out the ingredients required in that new Indian dish? If so, awesome! Make it an adventure. If not, don't commit to it, and therefore set yourself up for failure or disappointment. 3. Are there any special requests from the family? Make sure to give your kids/hubs a voice, if they would like to contribute.

There are PLENTY of recipe resources out there, but I recommend selecting a few "go-to's" each week (fave cookbooks, mags or websites), and one or two newbies so that you don't get stuck in the inspiration stage. Remember, you still have to implement. Your goal at this point is to have an idea of the kind of

Ask  friends for their  favorites, look at family recipes, mull over magazines. I love looking through cookbooks. Now that I plan my menus, it's much easier to justify the expense of glossy new food porn. Gorge. I always throw a few tried-and-trues into the line up, as I'm not trying to run a test kitchen. That said, I like to pick (at least) one new recipe each week, depending on the busy factor.

My Current Go-To's: Supernatural Everyday (101 Cookbooks Blog) Dinner: A Love Story (Blog) Bon Appetit has a great website. So does Food & Wine and America's Test Kitchen (Heads up: some content is only for paid subscribers). I'm also liking Vegetarian Times, Whole Living...oh! and Cooking Light has made such nice design leaps since I was a newlywed subscriber, that I recommend picking up a hard copy every now and then. Finally, check out Mark Bittman's site, and fittingly, the New York Times Dining & Wine section.

Weekly Menu

4. IMPLEMENTATION

Yay! It's time to map it all out. I made myself a Menu Plan Worksheet that divides the paper into two major sections...Left side, MENU items, Right side, GROCERY LIST. Do it however works best for you. Or download mine here: Weekly Menu.

A. Before you start filling it in, there are some key considerations: Is it well Balanced? Omnivores at heart, we are focused on creating more meatless meals. Got Fish? Let's hear it for lean protein and omega 3s! Special Events? Am I on the hook to bring a dessert to Bunco? School Snacks? Are we low on granola bars?

B. MAKE YOUR PLAN I usually write in the main dish and the side(s) so I don't have to think about it. Write down any special ingredients you'll need onto the grocery list section.

C. Transfer any current "to buy" items from your ongoing fridge list to the grocery list (menu planner sheet).

D. Go shopping and make great food!

CONGRATULATIONS! You've just made the coming week SO MUCH easier. And true confessions...this stuff changes, you know? So if you get invited over to your neighbor's house for brats, you go with it. And ax the plan for that night, or sub it for another night. It's way easier to have too much scheduled than nothing at all.

Mahalo!

A Vote of Confidence (Or Shut Up, I Think You Are Gorgeous)

ShutUp One of the things that makes us all human is the need for approval, reassurance, respect, perhaps even a little adoration. The craving for this can ebb and flow, dependent upon our own ego-boosting magic and our susceptibility to the critics (both real and imaginary).

HEY, YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY Today I ate lunch at my desk, plowed through some documents and took off for a run mid-work day to ease off leftover leg cramps from Sunday's half marathon. I only half baked this idea, since I was too lazy to get up at 6 and do it before work, which means I didn't really pack a full change of clothes (read: underwear) and there is NO way to shower. And I still had an important meeting to attend. Gross. I know. Anywhoooo...after a quick change and a perfume spritz I made a pit stop at the coffee cart to fuel up pre-summit. And guess how I was greeted? "Hey pretty lady! What would you like?" Okay, I do see these guys a few days a week. Do they always greet me like this? No. Actually, never. But today it came at the right time. Right place. I felt GOOD. It made me happy. It gave me a little boost. And who couldn't use a boost?

On the flip side, I've seen some slouching shoulders and heavy heads lately...kids and grown ups alike. It can be a few missed goals on the soccer field, a condescending colleague, a warped work culture. I've seen some (sick) people thrive on tapping this vulnerability in others. Hell, we sometimes perpetuate it ourselves. Seeing this happen so close to home really touches a nerve, and I'm committed to being more conscious of it. Try these on...

CONFIDENCE BOOSTERS (ie. Be the change you want to see in the world.)

• Each day give out one to two (genuine) compliments. Make one be to a complete stranger (those really carry a heavy weight!).

• At the dinner table, instead of highs and lows take turns saying one thing you really admire about the person next to you.

• "Surprise text" a friend or loved one when you think of something special/cool/amazing that REMINDS you of them. Confidence by association!

• Let your kids wear clothes that make them feel good. Even if the combination horrifies you, and you are truly embarrassed by this expression of poor taste, they need to learn for themselves what is accepted or unaccepted by peers, then decide if they want to conform. I said, IF they want to conform.

• Being acknowledged for your appearance may feel FANtastic when you've just celebrated a post-40 birthday. But do young girls (or boys) need this kind of weary praise? Let's give kudos for kindness, or applause for acumen instead.

The other day I was in a building I rarely visit and in the ladies room there was a framed sign that read: "You look particularly great today." And damned if it didn't make me stand a little taller, and think to myself, 'Yes, yes you do.'

Mahalo Mondays: Grateful for a Holiday

ImageI'm not going to lie and tell you I watched the President's second inauguration this morning. Or that I took time to educate my boys on the historical impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (though the day is not over, and I still have an opportunity during tonight's "Table Topics"). Let me tell you that I spent a portion of this day being totally self indulgent. Yes, today was a FREE DAY as we call it in our house, and Free Days are golden. Now Saturday and Sunday are Free Days, of course, but these bonus weekday holidays are more like platinum. Usually we don't have sports scheduled at this time. No doctor or dentist appointments, no mandatory family gatherings, and in theory, we've already done our chores. In theory. Last night the boys slept over at my parents, giving me a head start on this freebie by going to a movie with my girlfriend (Silver Linings Playbook). This morning, the Mister took off for work, and left me in bed, dozey and crampy. I laid around a bit, made coffee, got a bowl of dried cereal and hopped back into bed with both to promptly watch three episodes of The Mindy Project on my iPad. SIDE NOTE: Do you not LOVE Mindy Kaling? This show is like Sex and the City meets Mary Tyler Moore meets The Office with a hint of Grey's Anatomy. Just enough clever, quirky, smart, sexy, charming. FUNNY.

Got out of bed after 9AM (SHOCK! AWE!) and got my running duds on just in time for the boys to come home. Off to basketball (them) and a run (me). Later we went the thrift store, grocery shopping and treated ourselves to frozen yogurt and coffee (me, not them). I ignored a bunch of could do, should do, need to do chores, and sat down to write this up. Me blogging, them iTouching.

Indulgent yes, irresponsible, not really. The joy of being lazy is so rich, and so worth it.

The Impact of Parenthood

IMG_2752 All week I've been in a funk. Blame it on the full moon, lunar eclipse, post-holiday blues, WHATever. It's a funk, and I don't mean in a good 70's James Brown sort of way. When asked by the hubs what my problem was, I listed the following: I'm working just to get a paycheck, I haven't exercised all week, I'm not doing anything creative, and I'm tired. His reply? "That's called Parenthood."

The whole reason I re-started my blog was to be explore and appreciate life's daily drill, and to remind myself that really, THIS is enough. But is it? I got teary at Thanksgiving when the Mister gave thanks for our two boys. Yeah, humble brag, I think they are awesome, and smart, and athletic and (mostly polite) if not a little quirky. I actually LOVE being a parent. I feel totally devoted to being a parent to these two little charmers, and together we have made this our top priority. But with some sacrifices too. We both work 9-5s (with flexibility) and we carefully juggle all of the school and sport responsibilities like so many other families out there. But are all you parents fulfilled by this? If you work outside the home, do you LOVE your job as much as you LOVE being a parent? If not, then what? How do you MAKE the time for the other parts of your life that need to be nourished? It's hella hard, and I'm taking it one day at a time.

Wish List

One of my favorite keepsakes each year is the completed Wish List from each of my boys. First, they needed to be old enough to write. Now they are of the age where they like to "research" products online.  I especially like such request as "pillow," "shirts" and "pears and apples," as it lends credibility that at times my children appear as Dickensian orphans: shirtless, bedheaded, hungry. Let us take special note of the detail in "Candy Canes (10)" or the vagueness, in a wish for a "surprise."  Either way, such lists represent a time capsule of our lives, their dreams, this moment.

This year, I created a printable PDF for you to download. Click here for your own WishListTemplate.

Mahalo Mondays: Kauai

I missed the boat on the whole daily gratitude phenomenon that often happens in the month of November. It's a great idea, sure. But I'm not that disciplined. That's why I'm launching Mahalo Mondays-- a weekly post to chronicle my thankfulness. Mahalo means more than just 'thank you'. At its core Mahalo is a divine blessing of gratitude and thanksgiving. When used, it calls for authenticity and thoughtfulness. I'm grateful to have experienced Mahalo, thanks to a family member who provides us a place to stay on the island of Kauai.

This tropical isle has given us sunwashed salty memories--fresh fish, warm sand, easyrelaxation. After our first trip we adopted a simple "Mahalo" as our family dinner blessing. It's heartfelt simplicity suits us, and even if we've hollered our way to the table, serves as a gentle reminder of our best times together.

This Thanksgiving we'll add our island toast to the family blessing, and maybe sneak in Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by IZ.

Apple of My Eye

On genetics and sportsmanship...

I swear there is a genetic trait for competitiveness. I've not been able to confirm this, and only if my twins had been separated at birth and raised by monkeys would I actually be able to prove this on my own. So, I'm going on instinct. Hear me out.

Case in Point

APPLE:

Beck competes with his twin brother Max (and 100+ other 3d grade boys) at their first cross country track meet. M places 7th, B places 10th. B cries his little eyeballs out after making it through the chute. Why? Not because his brother beat him, but because he placed LAST in the top 10. Really? Yes, really. It took about an hour to convince him that it was indeed a stellar performance and yes, there is always room for improvement. Next year he can strive to do better.  Where did such high expectations come from? We were just thrilled that he finished.

TREE:

Running has been a sporadic exercise outlet in my adult life, and I've run an array of races over the past 20 years. That said, I've probably never run the same one twice, and I couldn't tell you what time I finished a 10k in at age 25. NOW, I seem to be obsessed by my data, stats and figures, totally nerding out on the details of my workouts. Last weekend I ran a half marathon for the second year in a row. And I had a GOAL. I wanted to beat my time from last year (2:09). I ran my ass off, and tracked it via Runkeeper on my iPhone. The whole time I was averaging a 9:30ish pace, so upon reading the results that I came in at 2:07 (instead of 2:06) I had a FIT. Like a tantrum fit. My dad and hubs were like, "it's only a 1% difference! what's the big deal?" and then--uh oh, "what is your problem? you're acting like Beck".

Unfortunately, my little apple does not fall far from this tree. As much as we try to model an ideal set of behaviors, and communicate realistic expectations we simply cannot expect our children to do as we say and not as we do. I recognize that these patterns lie deep within us, carried from one generation to the next. Can they be changed? As gentle as we treated Beck that day, expressing our great love and support, perhaps I need to do the same for myself. Oh, and for the record...I read the results wrong. I DID finish in 2:06.

Milestones

WooHoo! Not since the twins' first birthday have I had such a true sense of relief, accomplishment and happiness. WE MADE IT NINE YEARS! We've been celebrating for about five solid days now, and I can honestly say I've probably had more joy and thrill for this one, than my new nine-year olds have.It's been our tradition to throw theme bashes each year, excepting one in which we hit up Legoland to fulfill the fantasy of two six-year old boys. From Hoe Downs to Luaus, Fiestas to  Pirate Parties, we have enjoyed sharing this celebration with more than the half pints.

After all, it really DOES take a village to raise these knuckleheads and other parents I know have surely helped us along the way. Not to mention, it slyly increases the ratio of parents to kids in a way that makes everything a bit smoother. To lure them in, I always make sure to have plenty of cold beer, delicious nosh, and a signature cocktail to lure in the grown ups. I don't have any shame in sharing the glory. And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to steal the show. I just love marking the milestones with a handful of friends, and a nice cold beverage. I've been on a run of experiments with beer cocktails, and this is the latest crowd pleaser, The Shandy. Cheers!

Sarah's Summer Shandy

one part sparkling lemonade one part low brow lager (PBR me ASAP) one glass of ice

<<< Entertaining a smaller crowd? Up the ante with one part homemade lemonade, one part seltzer, two parts micro brew pale ale, and a skinny slice of lemon over ice >>>

Meatless Monday: Gary's T-Night Tacos

We did it again! Continuing on the New Year track we vowed to stay meatless on Mondays--even the Mister, who planned his lunch around Fresh-n-Easy offerings, and snuck in a chicken thigh at 11-something last night.

Tonight's recipe was awesome, and direct from Laurie David's Family Dinner cookbook. We are a taco-lovin, bean eating bunch so Gary's T-Night Tacos seemed a perfect match. Using two onions (Shhh!), black beans and the secret ingredients of maple syrup and tamari, this hearty filling made fantastic tacos (and burritos for the boys).

For toppings we used thinly sliced cabbage, fresh avocado, chopped tomato and cucumber, Greek yogurt and shredded cheese. Instead of the dressing suggested for cucumber salsa, I used a lime cilantro dressing I had already made for another recipe. The boys ate theirs without the dressing, but with most of the other toppings.

Max ate about 2/3 of his, Beck finished his off, and, well, the pan is now empty. I consider it a success!

Oh, and after dinner we got all cuddly and weepy watching this awesome cover (from some locals) of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home". Then, this great studio clip of the real deal...

Meatless Monday: Lettuce Wraps

I usually greet January with a long list of goals and measurable objectives--the same type of parameters that I resent being judged by in my 9-5. This year I've put nothing in writing...yet. That said, when creating this week's menu plan and grocery list, I decided to make my first 2011 resolution: Meatless Monday. Last fall I had the desire to cultivate our family dinner time, and perfectly coinciding with this was the release of The Family Dinner, by Laurie David and Time for Dinner, by former Cookie editors, Pilar Guzman, Jenny Rosenstrach and Alanna Stang. I've been exploring these two new fabulous cookbooks, and as a result I have embraced a new level of domestic enthusiasm and organization. While I can save my book reviews and lady adoration for another day, I will share that it was Laurie David's book that made me aware of the Meatless Monday movement. Seriously, it sounded familiar but I just wasn't tuned in.

Meatless Monday actually started in World War I and was incredibly effective at changing the nation's eating habits. Somewhere between June Cleaver and the Great Bacon Explosion we seem to have lost our way. While I'm a proud omnivore and my boys drool at the word STEAK, we love all kinds of food and don't feel it's necessary to include a meat/fish/poultry product at every meal. The Mister is on board with my meatlessness and the boys are pretty good sports too. Any random night we might have tofu stir fry or a veggie spaghetti. So why make a big deal about it? Well, I like the idea of a habit, a ritual, a conscious decision.  I like the challenge of trying new recipes, and the boys are at a great age to explore new foods and ideas.

For our first official Meatless Monday we used the recipe for Vegetarian Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps (without the dipping sauce) courtesy of Leslie's Home Gourmet. I doubled it and adapted it a bit, so maybe follow her link for the real deal! The leftovers are perfect with chopped Romaine for a salad, or over rice warmed up. We served it with steamed broccoli and couscous just in case it didn't go over as well as hoped. For the record, the Mister gave it a thumbs up, Max ate nearly both of his wraps before deciding he didn't like them, and Beck ate everything on his plate, plus applesauce, and a second meal of pears, rice crackers and dried apricots. Hungry much?

Lettuce Wraps

2 packages firm tofu crumbled 1/2 medium onion, diced 1 cup shredded cabbage 2 carrots, grated 2/3 cup (plus a little more to taste) of your favorite soy marinade (Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki) 1 tsp. fresh lemongrass, minced (Thanks KKJ!) 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 tbs. sweet chili garlic sauce Sprinkle of salt to taste 4 tbs. canola oil 2 tsp. sesame oil 1 medium head of Boston/Butter lettuce, washed and leaves separated

In a skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic until it begins to soften. Season with a touch of salt. Add cabbage and carrot. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and lemongrass, marinade, sesame oil, and chili sauce. Cook another 5-10 minutes (until it thickens a bit), stirring often. Serve warm inside cool lettuce leaves.

Good Morning Granola

When trying to come up with this year's (okay, now last year's)  handmade holiday gift the boys expressed a VERY strong preference for cooking, versus crafting. Cool. In order to guarantee the "handmade"part of the deal, I came up with granola. Easy enough for kids to measure, stir, and add their own creative ingredients (and mine). Two factors came in to play on this recipe...ONE, I wanted a granola that I could eat without feeling guilty. TWO, it absolutely had to be inspired by the granola at my favorite bakery--Bread & Cie.

Martha Stewart FOOD helped with requirement number ONE. As for inspiration from Bread & Cie.? That's where the Corn Pops came in. It's not even that I had this cereal as a kid (I didn't) or that I crave it as an adult (I don't). It's just that Corn Pops bring a bit of whimsy and surprise to an otherwise quiet concoction.

GOOD MORNING GRANOLA makes 8 delicious cups

ingredients 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats 1 cup toasted wheat gern 1/2 cup flax seed 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds 1/2 cup pepita seeds 1 cup chopped walnuts 1 1/2 cups Corn Pops 1/2 cup dried berries 5 tablespoons robust molasses 3 tablespoons maple syrup 1/3 cup olive oil 1/3 cup water

directions 1. Heat oven to 300 degrees with rack in center. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, wheat germ, flax seed, cinnamon, ginger, seeds, and walnuts. In a small bowl, combine molasses, oil, and 1/3 cup water and pour over the oat mixture. Stir well until well coated. Spread evenly in two baking pans

2. Bake, stirring every 20 minutes or so for even cooking until dry and lightly browned--about 45 minutes. Let granola cool to room temperature, add Corn Pops and berries then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

The boys were liberal with the cinnamon, and added dried cranberries. I threw in the pepita seeds for extra nutrients and crunch. We used olive oil instead of the recommended canola oil, and we added maple syrup because we had just watched Elf, and Elf puts maple syrup on everything....

In the end, we thought it was a huge hit. I even used it as a topping with Greek yogurt and our Orange Challah French Toast!

Mother Magpie's

I am super happy for my mom, she is starting her own business called Mother Magpie's--it's a funky mix of her vintage treasures and DIY handiwork. I got the fabulous job of designing her logo, business cards and signage. We did a large rubber stamp that she can use on manila shipping tags, and the next item up for design is a banner.When searching for the perfect shipping tag image I came across this gorgeous site! It's called Olive Manna - Textiles & Paper Goods. I think I'm in love...go check it out yourself.