How to Cook Your Life

Remember my dear friend Katie? Last time I saw her, she loaned me a DVD titled "How to Cook Your Life."  It is neither a DVD with recipes (go here for a related cookbook) or cooking techniques (read this if you want to learn about cooking), nor a didactic tutorial about how to live your life (go here or here if you want to hear some great dharma talks), but somewhere in between.  The content of the movie was not mindblowing, but some of the videos of his teacher were adorable.

The movie's main subject is Zen master and chef Edward Espé Brown ("EEB") views on how to inject mindfulness into the act of cooking and to a lesser degree, the cultivation of food and the eating of it.

If you haven't been introduced to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, it's really easy.  I always think of the movie Spaceballs in this scene.  It's about being at now.  We've let go of the past, we're not thinking about the future.  We align our thoughts and our actions to the present moment.   It's also about being and feeling connected to the life around us. 

EEB's main critique of how we cook and eat is that we've surrendered our participation in nourishing our body and spirit in favor of simply feeding our stomach.  EEB contends that cooking is a perfect opportunity to practice the dharma (both the path and things we know to be true in our own lives) and to practice mindfulness.  When participate in cooking for ourselves and others, we're able to connect to the ingredients that make up a dish in a meaningful way (to clean it, to prepare it) that isn't available when we toss a pre-made factory-created abomination in the microwave.  The repetitive motions of chopping or kneading can be soothing and peaceful if we allow ourselves the time and space to take joy in the preparation.  When we cook mindfully, we respect and care for the ingredient as much as we respect and care for the intended recipient of the dish.

On some level you know this to be true.  How many times has someone said that the secret ingredient in the dish the recipe you're dying to know is "love"?  Why do you think Irma Rombauer named her book "The Joy of Cooking"?  I think deep down we all know that cooking is more than just cramming preparing calories for our bodies.  It's more than just taking raw ingredients and making something of them.  It how we connect with the goodness of the universe (to the sun [photosynthesis], to the earth, to other animals) and how we connect with our community/family/friends ("sangha").  Mindful cooking is our loving and doting grandmother singing while making peach pancakes in the morning with peaches that grew on a tree outside the kitchen window.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was the running theme of not wasting food because it looks imperfect (Disclaimer:  Rotten food is gross and I'm not advocating dumpster diving.), being able to laugh at ourselves in the kitchen (see Julia Child at work if you need permission to laugh), and forgiving ourselves when a dish doesn't come out perfectly.  Like Joni Mitchell sang, "Hey, farmer, farmer, put away that D.D.T., now! Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees."  In our effort for perfect-looking food, we have willingly ingested poisons. We have allowed corporations to tell us what food should look, smell, and taste like.  But I could rant about this all day long.  The point EEB makes is about being creative and resourceful in the kitchen.

So.... doot da do.... In sum:
  • If you want to know more about mindful eating, check out Thich Nhat Hahn's book, Savor or The Center for Mindful Eating's Web site.
  • Chew 20 times before swallowing.
  • Our bodies are paradise.  And we should treat it as such by nourishing it in every moment, in every movement.  Don't reduce cooking and eating to some chemistry equation with a straw in it.  Do not abdicate your duty to your whole self.  You don't need to be Buddhist to believe that (heck, almost every major religion has pointers on how to care for your body, the physical manifestation of [chosen deity]'s love for you). 
  • And as Shunryu Suzuki said,  "Take care of things, and they will take care of you."

Up, Down & All Around

I know it's trite to compare life to a rollercoaster—with its ups, downs, twists and turns.
It just so turns out that though it's trite, the metaphor is particularly true for me this week.

I'm also a fan of the dharma wheel (a reminder of the Noble Eightfold Path) and the related wheel of life (a reminder of the cyclical nature of life, death, karma (samsara)).

Life has beat the crap out of me in the span of 3 days.
Despite all the good stuff (like having a kick ass softball game in both my batting and having the game-ending catch (we won!)), the bad stuff dominated.

I am having a whole bunch of feelings and emotions.  And some bad habits are sneaking in -- e.g., my anxiety/stress-induced OCD and letting the bad stuff be a rationalization for drinking with a bit of abandon on Thursday night.   (Side Note:  was totally able to follow New Rule #8 while at the bar.  Some girl was in the bathroom crying because some dude said something lame and stupid to her.  I got her laughing and seeing the truth of the situation.)  But I'm trying to be present and admit that those emotions exist.

So, I'm trying to follow some of my own best advice and trying to allow for the emotions I'm having, but at the same time being compassionate (not judgmental) and rational.  I don't need to "be the strong one" or "put up a brave front."  Sometimes shitty things happen without reason, and even when you've followed all the rules.  Sometimes all you can do is say "let me receive it gently."  Whatever "it" may be.

So yeah the wheel stuff....I think the tricksy part about the wheel is that you can't always control or predict the direction it is moving it.  Wednesday started out good, then got terrible, then had kind of a high.  I thought that the high was the relief of acceptance and knowing that things would be okay.  Then Thursday turned that feeling on its head, kicked it a few times, and left it out to rot in the mid-day sun, all the while trying to be mature and compassionate.  Today (Friday) was non-stop work at the computer all-day long.  I was too busy to process or decompress.  I just have to keep on steering in the direction I want to go, being careful not to over-correct and send myself into a tailspin.

In this moment I'm just really thankful to have great friends that I can lean on and two kitties that have been glued to my side for the past 3 days.

All is not lost.
I am not alone.

Rapid Fire

Remember me? The person that used to post multiple times a day just last year? Hah! Not anymore!

What follows is a mish-mosh of things going on in my life and in my head.

1.  So remember this post about the blue dress?  Well, I wore it to my cousin's wedding this past weekend.  Apparently between the dress and my hair, I was unrecognizable to a few family members.  More than a few people wondered who I was, couldn't recognize me, or thought my dad had brought some hot date.  **falls over giggling** But best of all was my grandpa.  When I walked over to say hi to him, he said to me "Well here comes danger."  Hah!

2. Every time I get tea from the break room, I always think about my mom.  I learned to drink tea the Irish way with her -- three sugars and milk.  Years of three sugars and milk.  Even my coworkers at the Irish bar where I used to work made tea the same way.  Emily made tea the same way for me once.  It was a bit of a shock to see people drink tea with one spoonful of sugar or honey, and no milk or with lemon.  You know, kids learn what they live (both healthy and unhealthy habits) -- and sometimes as an adult we have to un-learn the bad habits.

3.  I like this article -- and especially this quote:  The action has to come first. You have to take the action before you know where it's going to lead you without knowing the outcome and irrespective of your mind-set or how you feel at the time. ~Rich Roll  I think it's very much like how Buddhists believe that control creates suffering -- if you're focused on an outcome, you stop seeing possibilities. And then there's the whole idea of "fake it til you make it" -- that sometimes the momentum of action leads to a change in behavior.

4.  #GoTheDist Stuff!! 
So many of you have been freaking out about the numbers.  Not just like "Eh, I don't think I'll hit 100%, but ZOMG!! IF I DON'T HIT 100% IT WILL BE ALL FOR NAUGHT!"  Crazypants people. Absolutely crazypants.  

First, how about a healthy dose of perspective -- how much would you be doing if not for the challenge?  How much were you doing this time last year?  Where's the line (in your mind) between success and failure?  It's not the numbers you need to freak out about, it's about how you choose to approach this.  You can either let it overwhelm you, or you can just say "you know what? I'm going to CHOOSE to do what I can, and I'm going to CHOOSE to be proud of what I do."   That applies whether you've completed 1% of your goal, 10% of your goal, 50% of your goal, 80% of your goal or 100% or more of your goal. 

Secondly, I want to talk numbers with you and I'd love to get some feedback.
How did you come up with your yearly goal, your quarterly goals and your monthly breakdowns? 

I looked at my mileage from last year (I calculated from October 2010-October 2011, or 254 miles), factored in my neck injury (I'd need some time in the beginning of the year to rehab), added a bit to make it a bit of a challenge and I came up with 800 miles.  To allow for rehab, I broke down my mileage into two halves -- the first half would be 350 miles, and the second half would be 450 miles.  I thought 300/500 would have been too lopsided of a split.  To do 350 miles in the first 26 weeks, I'd need to average a very manageable 13.5 miles a week on the elliptical.  Because I was unable to run in January, February, and half of March, I knew I had to haul ass during the second quarter (April, May, June).  The second half of the year works out to be about 17 miles a week.  Even with my injuries, I know 17 miles is doable.  If I come up short, I'll know that I did what I could.  If I end up going over that goal, I'll be okay with it because I know I afforded my body the time to rehab. 

So how did you set your goals? Did you look at what you've done in the past as a way to inform what you want to do in the future, or did you pull the number out of thin air?  I'm not trying to be judgey.  Your number is your own, but if you're not hitting your goals (or even if you're surpassing it by too much) are you being honest with yourself, your actions, your abilities, and your focus?

I'll repeat a phrase I love saying (regarding just about anything) DO THE MATH.
Don't pick goals out of thin air.
Don't pick daily calorie intake restrictions out of thin air.
Don't pick workout goals out of thin air.
Don't pick a random number of lbs to lose before you feel victorious.

5.  I've been thinking a lot about @KCLAnderson's post "Choose Your Easy" and my own reaction to it.   She was talking about the photo to the right -- "choose your hard."

It reminded me of the Buddhist aphorism:
Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.
It also reminds me of the idea of the Second Arrow as well -- because the picture to the right isn't just about the physical aspects, now is it?  The subtext, in my opinion, is that choosing to lose weight and address the psychological issues behind it is hard (not just the physical act of dropping lbs).  Choosing to change all of your behaviors for the rest of your life is a hard choice to make (not just finding the time to get to the gym or reading every nutritional label). 

The picture suggest that while losing weight is hard, that staying fat is harder.  I don't think so.  I think the climb up from rock bottom is the hardest.  Being in a body that you have not treated with reverence and love is absolutely crushing some days.

I think that choosing to let go of the judgments that have prevented our actions is what's really hard.

If you've had "The Epiphany" you know I'm partially right.  While I think it's easier for someone to say they decided to lose weight because they were "tired of being fat," I suspect that the real reason was because they realized that fat or not that they were worth the air they breathed and the space they occupied in this world.  It's about New Rule 4b:  I am on this journey because of the courage I had when I took the first step.  Every step after that first one has been full of joy regardless of how my body aches or how much sweat is forming a river down my back. 

Most of us have chosen to end one way we've been suffering (our poor health) and take up the temporary pains that will ultimately liberate us from that suffering.  In regards to the second arrow -- we deliberately choose the pain to which we expose ourselves.  Sore muscles.  Blisters on our feet.  Callouses on our hands.  Early mornings.  Passing up the ice cream sundae.  But we have also learned to not judge ourselves or others for it.  There's no more second arrow when we say "That's okay, I'm going to do what's right for me."  I don't know about you, but I felt so unburdened the first time I stood in a bar and told a friend "You know what? I'd rather be in the gym" and she said "Well, go do it then!"

I think that when we decide to step out of our own way, we begin to be believe that nothing is hard (and thus not worth exploring).   Sure, some days are a challenge.  Some hills are steeper.  Some choices are more plan than impulse.  But when we choose to believe in our own self  we both broaden our knowledge of what is and is not possible and deepen our ability to trust ourselves.

But when you step out of your own way, you discard any judgement of hard or easy. 
All that's left is "This is what I need to do.  This is where I need to be.   This is who I am.  This is right for me."  You are not swimming against the current (hard), being swept up by the current (easy); you are the current.

No judgment.  No fear.  Just one day at a time.  One foot in front of the other.

Don't "Choose Your Hard"
Just choose yourself.
Choose your journey.

6.  Don't you hate it when you try to write a short entry and this happens?


It has come to my attention that I am intimidating -- both on my OKCupid dating profile (though I recently toned it down) and in person.  This has been related to me both by men I've been on dates with as well as friends.

I've been called intimidating before, but I thought it was a good thing (my intelligence and my quick wit, or just my larger-than-life presence).  But more recently it's taken on a slightly more negative tone -- that I was overpowering people in the same way as an earthy Bordeaux (lovely to a connoisseur, offensive to the masses).

That, coupled with one guy telling me that I was basically self-centered/vain, has been a bit of a wake-up call.

Let me explain...

A friend succinctly put it "you over-share and over-communicate."
Damn.  She nailed it.  Guilty as charged.

As BoobsBaconBourbon's Suzie put it, "[bloggers] have emotions and damn it, we want to express them."  (Thank goodness for this rebuttal.)  When I first started blogging (yes, on LiveJournal back in 2000), I consciously made the decision to put myself out there for one reason -- I thought that if I was self-aware that no one could hurt me by trying to tell me what I was or was not (the Cyrano school of thought).  That's all fine and good when it comes to blogging -- but as it has been pointed out to me that when it comes to dating, you can be self-aware all you want, but keep the iceberg to yourself and only reveal an ice cube at a time (or as a friend said to me, "but sometimes you need to restrain yourself from divulging too much").  One must to allow the other person the thrill of unraveling a mystery.  Just like Rule #1 in Creative Writing -- "Show.  Don't tell" -- I need to be patient and let the relationship develop naturally with a guy and not provide all the exposition.  (N.b.: I know enough to not show or tell a guy I'm interested about my blogs, though some are pretty crafty when it comes to finding such things.)

Sadly, the word vomit happens early on -- whether by email or in person -- I am the human version of "shock & awe" and not in a good way.  I thought that if I told people about myself, that I was creating emotional intimacy.  If there was emotional intimacy, a guy could look past my imperfect body and see me for who I am underneath all the body fat.  (I was also selling guys short, thinking either it was the only way they could see me, or that they were blind.)   But it doesn't work that way, now does it?  I need to ask more questions and listen more to create emotional and intellectual intimacy.  Like my friend said:  more dialogue and less monologue.  Only then will a guy choose to look into me, not just at me.

Another concession is that I should stop trying to orchestrate relationships with men.  As Patti Stanger wrote in her book, "Become Your Own Matchmaker," a woman's job in the first few dates is to let a man take the lead -- it is his job to plan the date, ask questions and volunteer information, to prove he's worthy.  Patti then says a woman should basically, sit pretty, smell good, and take notes.  I almost prefer Patti's version to people telling me that I should be coy or "play the game."  I mean, it's all saying the same thing, but Patti's version seems more like an active, shrewd gatherer of information as opposed to a passive giver of furtive glances and shy giggles.  Me pretending to be demure would come off as faker than Snooki's tan.  But I can be a gracious investigator.

I know there are many more pieces to this puzzle, but that's half of what I've discovered tonight.  The other half has to do with how I grew up -- from being a bit of a tomboy to a woman deeply distrustful of a man's intentions.  So, how do one go from being in the company of men, seeing how they think and play, and being invited to their inner sanctum of backyard football games to someone that is constantly wondering why a guy chooses to be around her?  I think much of this has to do with my father's job as a prosecutor.

As you all know, my mom died when I was fairly young (I had just turned 13).  She was a stay-at-home mom while my dad worked in the big city, doing his part to put bad people in jail.  My dad was senior enough in his office that they gave him the tough cases to put before a jury -- domestic violence, sex crimes, homicide.  When I was 16 my father even took me to a conference about date rape drugs and internet sex crimes.   The overwhelming majority of these crimes were committed by men.  The unintentional message that I received was that men would try to take a piece of me if I let them.  Dad wanted me to know what I was up against.

And so I became assertive with men.
Full of bravado.
An interrogator instead of an investigator.

Instead of letting them take something from me, I forced way too much of myself on them.  Part of me wonders if I'm oversharing as a way of pushing guys away -- a litmus test to see if they're really interested in *ahem* all of me:  the good, the bad, the ugly, the scarred, the flawed.  I want that question answered zomgrightaway.  I don't want to risk getting involved with a guy, falling for him, and finding out that he can't handle all of me.  But that's an onerous burden to place on a first date.  The first date should be much more fun and lighthearted, no? I should be more fun and lighthearted.

I learned to be wary of men, but not how to trust them.  Sometimes being wary is warranted, but not all men are dickwads that want to hurt me. Some men actually want to give a piece of themselves to me.  For that to happen, guys need to know that I'm present in that moment, and not looking to put up a fight or to run for the hills. Some men are trustworthy.  Some men are good.  But I scare them away.

In short, I lead with the intimidation factor to see who can handle me.  I've been telling myself that "I shouldn't need to hide who I am for the right guy."  But as another (guy) friend said to me "new guys might be a little intimidated, but [I] also know tons about you etc...."  In other words, with time/patience guys see me as who I really am -- vulnerable, sincere, caring, imperfect, and wonderful.

Princes climb towers to rescue the princess from the dragon.
Princes do not like climbing towers to find out that the princess is the dragon.

That, dear readers, is an ambush.

Can't spell believe without....

If you know me, you know I don't make any effort to hide the fact that I love the NY Giants

Always have.
Always will.

More than just my father raising me to be a fan, I've grown to love the NY Giants as a bit of a blue collar team: a family-run organization with a bunch of regular guys that work hard to achieve what they have; that have ups and downs; and that have had to work through some pretty spectacular failures to understand how delicious victory tastes.

I also relate to a few of the players on a personal level.  Former NY Giant fullback Madison Hedgecock also has degenerative disc disease.  Current NY Giant outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka also had a cervical disc herniate ("Kiwi" is also going the non-surgical route (to the best of my knowledge) and you'll often hear me say "if Kiwi can do it, so can I").  These guys know what it's like to rehab a spinal injury.

This past Friday, the New York Giants were invited to the White House for a tour and to meet with President Obama.  Unfortunately, I didn't know someone who knew someone who could get me a ticket to the event.  So my only chance of seeing them would be from afar.   All morning at work, I was excited and slugging through my tasks so I could take a long lunch hour to go down to the White House to catch a glimpse of my G-Men. 

I had only walked a block away from work when I realized that the Giants were out on the South Lawn, not inside.  This was my chance to see them, but I had to hightail it.  So in flip-flops and a dress, I ran from my office to the White House.

I'll say that again, slower:

I (the elliptical queen) ran (on hard ground) from (near) my office to the White House (about .75 mile).  

I am not going to become a pavement runner any time soon -- but it meant something for me.
I ran towards my heroes.
I wouldn't have been able to do this the last time they won the Super Bowl

And so while I didn't get to meet or see the NY Giants on Friday (the Secret Service cleared the south lawn visiting area completely, though a bike SS member was a NYG fan (and a hottie) and said he wished he could let us stay), I feel like I walked home having show that I have the heart of a NY Giant.

Devil in a Blue Dress


You don't just wake up knowing how to rock a blue dress.  You have to learn it from someone.

Not For the Faint of Heart or the Faint of Calorie

Barring the chance that you were raised by wolves, you probably had someone (mom/grandma/Dear Abby) tell you to "never show up at a party empty handed."

What if that party comes with an intimidatingly bold title? 

A few weeks ago, I attended (at the suggestion of a friend) a happy hour for a group called Boobs Bacon Bourbon.  Not only is their blog hilarious, but the people are splendid examples of humanity (it also turned out that a friend of mine from HS was a part of the group as well). 

This past weekend, said HS friend invited many of the BBB Social Club (as I am calling them) to a Sunday Funday, and I thought it would be the perfect time to unleash a recipe I've only dreamed about and only now had the courage to share with the world. 


Though initially inspired by the Salty Oat Cookies at Teasim, I cribbed the basic recipe from the Kitchen Ninja, doubled it (original recipe below makes 15 cookies, double made 30) and then made a few changes:


6-7 ounces thick-cut bacon slices 1/2 lb maple-cured bacon (applewood smoked could also work), cooked and crumbled (reserve some of the delicious bacon fat) (Side note:  I get my bacon at a farmer's market from a local producer, Cibola Farms.  Trust me, happy pigs make delicious bacon) (and yes, I've also done this recipe using a whole pound of bacon).
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar (dark is best)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup raisins
8-10 oz dark chocolate bits


Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer, beat the sugars and the butter until blended.  Add the vanilla 1tbsp of the cooled bacon fat and beat the mixer until light and fluffy (this took about 3-4 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix well. In a separate bowl, coat the cooled bacon in ground cinnamon. Add bacon, oats and raisins chocolate and mix thoroughly.

Let the dough chill in the fridge for a bit before proceeding to baking.

Form the dough into balls using a 1.5 oz disher (yes, this is a BIG dough ball) and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges begin to brown but the centers are still a bit soft, about 20 minutes in my oven or 14-16 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.  If you want to, sprinkle a bit more of that delicious kosher salt on top before serving.

I packed these delicious cookies up and brought them to Cantina Marina and made some new friends.  One such new friend (Ken) said that they tasted "like god's vagina."  Others wondered why I was just giving them away.  I believe in food diplomacy.  I think the easiest way to make a new friend is to give them something delicious to eat.  These cookies definitely fit the bill.

At a whopping 360 calories per cookie (estimated), I wouldn't necessarily put them in the category of cookie, but I'd consider them a more delicious form of/in the same caloric category as a scone.   Many of my new friends chose to split the cookie a few ways and share over beer.  The diplomat in me could not be more pleased.

I could health them up a bit (I did consider adding Granny Smith apples at one point) or health them down (i did consider marinating the bacon in Jack Daniels), but seriously, why?

I say that if you're willing to put the time and effort in to making a cookie like this, you should be able to eat one guilt-free.  After that, you're on your own.  Now you know why I only make these when I know they'll be shared.

And yes, gents, I'm single.