Food on the brain

Say the word "food" and a cloud of thoughts and emotions and ideals and wishes that look like this may take over your brain. It has taken over my brain, but maybe not in the way you think.

With a goal as vague as "eat well", I knew that I would have to find a way to define what eat well means for me and for our family. And it is not easy. It is not easy because I know too much. I know what I ought to be eating, what I should be buying, what I can't possibly go near and what is a down right an abomination. The problem is reconciling the list of what I know and what I can realistically do, or what I realistically want to do. So as always, it is that sweet spot in the middle, between extremes, somewhere balanced between McDonald's and fresh from my garden.

In the past week, in stead of making drastic changes that had no chance of becoming actual habit changers, I have focused instead on paying attention to what I eat. Just paying attention. Its hard but in it is the greatest gift - for what one can begin to see if that the what that you eat is as equally important as the how you eat. And for me, though there are some significant whats that I can and will change, the brutal reality that I had to literally swallow this week was the state of how I eat and how far away from mindful it actually is.

It goes something like this: make food for toddler, feed toddler, make food for us (if its different from the toddler fare), empty dishwasher at the same time, serve food, eat cold food if toddler is still awake, and so on and so on.

The worst part for me is how totally cliche this is. How cliche it is that this mom is sitting and eating the left overs of an almond butter and jelly sand which. How cliche it is that this mom just shoves whatever food she can in her mouth as she runs out the door. How cliche it is that the mom's plate of warm food stands alone only to get cold as she is dealing with some sort of toddler something. How cliche it is that this mom taking care of everyone else before she takes care of herself.

So with food on the brain, I spent the week watching and mentally recording my habits, in the hope of making a few minor adjustments. And though I want to make a major overhaul, major overhauls don't work. Instead, I will keep it simple and I will keep it short and I will keep it doable:

1. Until February 14, I make a smoothie for breakfast every morning choosing from one of the options in the book Spent. I drink that smoothie sitting down without doing another activity.

2. Until February 14, I drink 3 large mason jars of water a day

3. Until February 14, on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, dinner is 90% ready to serve before I pick up the nugget from daycare

Feels like Valentine's Day is the perfect target for this refresher in taking care of myself so that I can take care of the people I love the most.


A simple goal for 2011: eat well

I hate to cook. There I said it.

I hate to cook. And I hate the word hate. I rarely use it. Have you ever had a conversation with someone in which the word hate appears as often as um or so? I know someone who hates everything – or at least she says she does. It’s awful to talk to her.So now its me – using that word and now that I have used it, it seems a bit too strong a word for my relationship with cooking.

I dislike cooking. How does that feel? That feels okay but it still doesn't capture my whole multilayered relationship.

I am not fond of cooking. That feels right. I am not fond of it, in fact I would rather not. I would rather set the table or do the dishes. I am rather fond of doing the dishes, for the result of one's labor lasts much longer than the 20 minutes of food consumption that tends to happen at my house.

I would prefer not to cook. Yes, I would prefer not to. I really would.

I love when someone else cooks. Yes, that is absolutely it.

I think I just needed permission to say that I hate it. Or that I am allowed to hate to it. That as a woman I am allowed to hate it and that now as a mother I am allowed to hate it as well. So now that I have given myself permission, where do I go from here?

Well, I learn how to cook. 

I have spent the last 5 years pretending to grasp this cooking thing. The outrageous irony is that my famous maiden name in foodie circles has done nothing for my ability to throw together something with whatever is in the pantry. My brother can do that I am insanely jealous. I need time and a recipe and undisturbed silence and the right measuring cups and no pressure. Then and only then, can I actually create something that I can actually be proud of. A hungry husband, no recipe and a toddler aching for attention all add up to a mama meltdown in front of the open refrigerator door right around a quarter to six..
So, instead of carrying on any further and wishing that I had a husband who loved nothing more than whipping up a Boeuf Bourginon, I have one simple goal for 2011: Eat well.

And what that looks like for me, is to start simple, stay organized, plan ahead, do my best and allow the occasional Pizza Margharita from Tony's down the street to save dinner on a Friday night. I laid it all on the table yesterday and went from this...

to this...

One almost perfetly organized menu book that makes me smile.

There are three parts to my eat well goal:

1. To roast a chicken

2. To try every recipe in my book

3. To keep our grocery bill at or below $500 a month

I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, tips and recipes (if they have less than 10 ingredients). And if anyone else wants to do this with me, there is always room in the kitchen for one more.


Getting reacquainted

If we were at a cocktail party, it would go something like this:

Alex meet your meditation pillow.

Meditation pillow meet Alex.

"You look familiar to me. Have we met somewhere before?"

And then we would start the list of past jobs, favorite coffee shops and potential mutual friends, in the hopes of discovering that tie that binds.

And then we would either find it and spend the next three hours at the bar, reminiscing  and figuring out how to better stay in touch or we grow impatient, chalk it up to a case of "you must look like someone I know" and then graciously part ways.

To insure that this encounter ends up at reminiscing and then staying connected past the party, I just committed to (by paying for) a 5 day retreat at Spirit Rock at the end of April.

That ought to do it.


Here's something to chew on...

Have you read it? You know, the article in the Wall Street Journal that everyone is talking about.

I stumbled upon it yesterday on my own, which is already a good sign, as I have been terribly removed from news sources outside of diapers.com. So then, my husband eagerly emailed it to me, curious how I would feel about it, I knew I had to read it as soon as I could.

And now I have.

And mostly, I am intrigued. I am intrigued because it is oh so very different from my own childhood experience, an experience with oh so many sleepovers, school plays and the occasional Mary Poppins marathon.And I am intrigued in the same way that I am intrigued by the Waldorf and Montessori schools of thought. I am intrigued because before me lies an unknown path of parenting that holds room for so much possibility. For I have learned something very important in the these first two years of motherhood and that is never to say never.

As for the article, I am put off by her use of the word superior and the extreme generalizations in which she speaks about both Western and Chinese mothers - leaving little room to find some profound and positive middle ground between two very different styles of parenting. But I am not as flabbergasted as I imagined I would be. I am more curious. Curious to know how the grown children of Chinese mothers feel. Curious how other Chinese mothers feel. Curious how Western fathers married to Chinese mothers feel. So curious, that I may just have to get the book.

I think one of the reasons I am more curious that caustic is that I have a deep respect for Eastern thought and practice. Through our travels and time in a Buddhist retreat, I have come to appreciate practice and discipline and truthfulness and commitment and determination in a way that my "follow your bliss" upbringing was not able to do. I was especially interested in these two statements Ms. Chua made:

1.They {Chinese parents }assume strength, not fragility {in their children}.
2. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that I as soon as I finish the two books on my nightstand, I know what is next in line.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is available on Amazon


Non attachment

I always knew this day would come, when someone I love breaks something I love.

And so it happened. And, it was totally okay.

I have looked at the breakable things that I own since having a baby boy and slowly and intentionally have let them just be stuff. Perhaps it has come with having a boy and seeing even the plush soccer ball fly across the room, unintentionally. Or maybe it has come because I grew up with two younger brothers. Or maybe it has come because I remember how distraught my mom was when accidentally her Christmas angels when sailing into the brick fireplace below and lay shattered in irreparable shards. Or maybe it came from being away from all of my "stuff" for months and not ever really missing it.

Or maybe it's just realizing that the someone is always more important than the something. Always.


Its that time of year again...

...when we look back and we look forward. When we dream, when we reminisce. When we celebrate our accomplishments and try to learn from our failures. When we pause, in hopes of starting new and starting again.

I can't remember when I started this list. It probably started as a wish list one rainy Sunday afternoon when I was barely old enough to legally buy alcohol. Since then it has grown into this - a random list of things that I think I would like to do and that I think would bring me joy. Some are quite vain, others will require a lifelong of learning and are not easily quantifiable. Others are within my grasp while most may be years and years away.

This list in not a set of goals or even to-dos. Instead it helps me to plot a course, for the new year and the years to come.

I have never shared it before but in the spirit of asking and accepting and listening and allowing, I figured, it couldn't hurt.


1. Speak Spanish, fluently and completely
2. Write in German as well as I speak
3. Finish a Masters Degree
4. Read a whole German novel
5. Travel to Africa
6. Travel to Croatia
7. Give birth at home
8. Travel to Galapagos
9. Get married in my mom's wedding dress
10. Do work that makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning
11. Wear my old jeans again
12. Have really toned arms
13. Ride the Siberian Express from Moscow to China
14. Live in a house with a wraparound porch
15. Live in Europe
16. Attend a live taping of the Oprah show {missed this chance}
17. Design one picture book per country from our 10 month trip
18. Dance the Lindy Hop, well
19. Own 2 pigmy goats
20. Earn my worth
21. Return to Hoi An (Vietnam) and have a whole new wardrobe made
22. Learn to play tennis, again
23. Attend Karen Mazen Miller’s Mother’s Plunge
24. Transform my relationship with money {working on it}
25. Learn to swim freestyle, properly
26. Take a furniture re-upholstery class
27. Have my teeth whitened
28. Own my own business
29. Open an Etsy store
30. Go to NYC with my husband for a long weekend
31. Go to the Flea Market every month without limitation
32. Cook a Thanksgiving turkey
33. Start a blog
34. Walk the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu
35. Travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina
36. Bake a Red Velvet Cake
37. Travel for an extended amount of time, again, kid(s) included
38. Have a website about my work that I love
39. Work for Anthropologie
40. Be published in a magazine
41. Learn to scuba dive
42. Ask for what I need {working on it}
43. Live in New York City
44. Own a bicycle I love
45. Attend a 10 Day Silent Retreat
46. Finish the things that I start {working on this too!}
47. For 30 days in a row, sit in meditation for 30 minutes a day
48. Attend Oktoberfest
49. Own a vintage Airstream
50. Travel across the US with my family in an RV
51. Write a book
52. Be written about in 5 blogs
53. Live in Ubud, Bali for an extended amount of time
54. See Madonna Live in concert
55. Read Anna Karenina
56. Live in Germany
57. Find a country bar and learn to line dance
58. Love my body, just the way it is
59. Travel the North and South Island of New Zealand in a camper
60. Master Quicken and file our taxes in January (in progress)
61. Rent a villa in Italy with our families, for vacation
62. Continue the work my dad did on our family genealogy
63. Have a book published
64. Travel to Cyprus, with my husband and his parents
65. Convert all of my photos to digital and organize {sept 2011}
66. Go on a weeklong yoga retreat in Mexico, by myself
67. Return to Koh Toa, Thailand
68. Take my mom and mother-in-law to Bali
69. Do another 10 day silent retreat
70. Own a record player
71. Visit Alaska
72. Eat well, somehow
73. Own a pair of Ray Ban Aviators
74. Camp at Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon
75. Sail in the Mediterranean, on a catamaran
76. Be on TV
77. Go to ClubMed and indulge in the all-inclusiveness of it all
78. Plant a garden and tend to it
79. Stop grinding my teeth
80. Have an amazing craft room
81. Fly first class, on purpose this time
82. Roast a chicken
83. Have a second baby
84. Own a fixer-upper and project manage the renovation {Sept 2011}
85. Make a Halloween costume, from scratch
86. Travel the ancient path of the Samurai in Japan, with my husband
87. Pay off my student loans by age 40
88. Learn and appreciate the act of financial investing
89. Host an HGTV show
90. Visit Canada
91. Learn to use my sewing machine
92. Attend a writing retreat
93. Find a movement practice that I can stick with
94. Visit New Orleans
95. Sell my Puppet Theatres at Renegade in 2011
96. Learn to cook and like it {working on it}
97. Open my heart, a little bit more {working on it}
98. Go Apple, all the way
99. Bake Christmas cookies, from scratch, just once

And 100 – Be present enough to really soak in every moment of the last 99

May 2011 be full of possibilities and wonder.