Comfort food

25 Oct

Today I have been scrolling through an all-time favorite blog of mine that I have lost touch with in recent years. I used to be a good blog reader – I used my Google Reader and set up all my favorites and religiously read through every single new post every day or two. I don’t entirely blame Google Reader going the way of the dinosaur, but I do a little blame that for my drop in blog-following. I tried Feedly for awhile and, if you can believe it, it was too fancy for me. Google Reader was utilitarian, where Feedly had too many bells and whistles for my tastes.

I think I also started getting all my non-news news from Facebook – instead of following particular blogs that interest me, I’ve moved to liking their Facebook page or just clicking on interesting links as they are shared by friends or otherwise pop up on my feed.

There are still sites I regularly visit, but those are almost universally sites with a strong Facebook or Instagram presence that I’ve clicked through from. It’s a little scary when you think I used to go out and get all that info and now I am only seeing what comes right to me – it’s a definite sea-change.

Anyway. Where was I?

Right. Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia’s blog just screams fall and winter to me – even in spring and summer. “Cozy” is the operative word and it really comes through. She takes amazing photos that make you just want to go cuddle up under a blanket (preferably in her beautiful home, preferably while she’s cooking a hearty stew or baking a beautiful cake). What I love most about her blog is that, even though everything looks so perfect and you wonder how she does it with a 4-year-old in tow, it also looks and feels very lived-in, very real. She seems down-to-earth.

Today, particularly, with the gloomy, gray day and my lack of tasks at work I am longing to be home, with something simmering on the stove, reading a book by the window with the cat at my feet.

I am on a “diet” (read: lifestyle change) to improve my health and lose weight. I got a diagnosis of pre-diabetes earlier this year, which has since been downgraded to, like, pre-pre-diabetes. Basically, we’re still watching it, but I’ve done a good enough job backing away from the cliff that they’re easing up a bit on calling it pre-diabetes. I joined a medical weight loss program and it has been eye-opening. The great part about the medical aspect is I have labs and regular follow-ups and have been given a ton of information about my body and the particular (and sometimes peculiar) ways it works. It is all very personalized and that has been super helpful, but at times also super discouraging in that when you find out the way your body processes sugars is basically fucked or the way your thyroid works is fucked – that can feel a bit insurmountable. And then it makes you feel like some level of poor health is inevitable. And then you just want to eat an entire chicken pot pie. Or whatever.

But Fall itself has also make me want to eat chicken pot pie. And potatoes. And cookies. And lasagna. Basically, all the high-carb stuff I’m not supposed to have too often. When I first started eating this new way, I was excited to see all the delicious fats I am still allowed to have – juicy steaks and hunks of cheese and greasy bacon. But I miss pasta, and rice. Mostly, though, what I miss is the mindlessness. I miss being in the mood for a food and just having it. I miss ordering whatever whenever wherever.

I have been cooking a ton, but reading Alicia’s blog today made me miss the peculiar thrill of getting a bee in your bonnet about trying some dish and then just going home and cooking it that very night – which is an urge that almost exclusively comes over me in Fall & Winter,and almost exclusively involves comfort food. I’ve found some good recipes, but I’ve yet to find a low-carb recipe that gets me that kind of excited –  Fall-cooking excited. I’ve yet to find what I would call comfort-food in this low-carb universe.

I always hit this point when trying to eat better where I just think, “what’s the point?” What’s the point if I’m going to miss out on these spontaneous moments? If I’m going to miss out on Fall Cooking? If I’m going to miss out on the whatever, whenever, wherever joy of life? I think there must be an achievable balance, but I’m having trouble finding it right now. And these pictures of homemade baked mac n cheese aren’t helping.


Hobbies & Passions

21 Oct

Today I was reading a post over on The Billfold about hobbies – how much they cost and the value they hold even if you don’t keep up with them. It got me thinking about my own list of spottily-attended-to hobbies and crafts.

I’ve always felt a bit of disappointment when a new hobby doesn’t reveal a hitherto-unknown talent. I keep thinking (hoping) that there has to be something I’m really good at that I just don’t know about yet. I flit from vague interest to slight curiosity and each time am disappointed when I am:

a. not immediately amazing – “my secret, hidden talent is finally revealed!”


b. not enraptured with this new hobby – “finally, I have found my passion!”

Like I just need one or the other. I don’t demand of my hobbies and interests that they all be stuff I’m good at – but just once I’d like to find something I just can’t get enough of. Yet nothing seems to be able to hold my attention. Up til now I’ve always taken that as a failure of sorts. But the post mentioned above helped me to re-frame these investments of time, energy, and actual cash money as valuable in and of themselves, regardless of outcome.

It is valuable to have something that helps you kill an hour here or there, even if you’re not particularly good at it, even if you don’t want to do it all the time.

It’s valuable to have something to do that isn’t watching TV – something to do that pushes you out of your comfort zone and works creative muscles that are otherwise threatening to atrophy.

It’s valuable, even, to give your mind the room to wander while you attend to something with your hands that isn’t particularly demanding.

For all the times I have wished for a hobby or interest that was all-consuming, I now find myself content with those that have consumed me for even 30 minutes at a time.

Passion has always been a tricky beast for me. I’ve lamented not seeming to have it in any area of my life while I watched my peers consumed and compelled by their own. I have amazing friends and acquaintances who are, among other things, professional filmmakers, ceramists, actors, musicians, activists, stylists. I have an even greater number of friends who are social workers, teachers, baristas, administrative assistants – but who doggedly pursue outside interests in their time away from their “day jobs”.

Part of it is perception, right? Like maybe what I am taking to be this huge passion for another person is just something they do often. I cook all the time and I do like to cook, but I would never say that cooking is a passion of mine. There’s a distinction for me between “stuff I enjoy” or “stuff I do a lot” and “stuff I feel passionate about”. I think what I’m learning is that it’s okay to just have stuff you enjoy doing that fills the time. Not having a passion doesn’t equal not being interesting or worthy, in much the same way that having a passion doesn’t necessarily make you interesting or worthy  – it just means you’re obsessed.

I guess I’ve always longed to be obsessed, consumed, enraptured, engrossed, immersed – by something, anything. But I’ve landed in a place where I think it’s okay to just be occupied, engaged, distracted, and amused instead.

Now if I only I could translate the same kind of thinking that I’ve managed to do about my hobbies to my professional life…


Unsolicited Advice, Part I

11 Oct

Welcome to a new feature I am starting called Unsolicited Advice. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but briefly: this is where I give you advice you neither asked for or may even want. Today’s is about what to do with yourself at the end of a relationship. Enjoy!

One of my favorite writers/website publishers/internet personas Ariel Meadow Stallings, of the Offbeat Empire, recently shared this piece she wrote for The Guardian about her divorce. You should really read the article, but I’m going to reproduce the list of 7 things she wished she knew before her divorce –

1. Trip out on grief – it’s a hallucinogen

2. Choose Healing

3. Shift attention away from your former partner

4. Grab reinvention by the balls

5. Try all the things

6. Talk to all the people

7. Know that it gets better (even if you absolutely don’t believe it)

It was spot-on for me in many ways, but I especially related to the “Choose Healing” bullet point.

2. Choose Healing.

In the first weeks of the separation, I desperately tried to hold the space for two parallel realities: on the one hand, I wanted to hold out hope for the salvage of my marriage. On the other, I recognized that I was traumatized and broken – and that I needed to heal. A month in, I had a panic attack that made it clear to me that it was beyond my capacity to hold both “healing” and “hope”. So abandon hope all ye who enter here. Choose healing, instead.

I chose healing, as well. It’s always kind of been my m.o. that I am loyal to a fault, devoted to a fault, I’m with you all the way – until I’m not. There seems to be a line in the sand – I’ll endure a lot, I’ll try hard, but once I cross that line I don’t look back. I’ve felt that certain very few times in my life. When I finally ended it for good with my notoriously bad college boyfriend, I felt that certainty – I was so done. I wrestled with the decision to quit my first “real” job out of college but it was emotionally and financially draining  – it remains the only job I have ever quit that wasn’t because of a move. It was the right decision.

And when Trevor and I decided to get divorced I was stuck in this weird limbo for about three weeks – that space Ariel talks about where you’re trying, impossibly, to hold both healing and hope – and then a flip just switched and I was done. And I think just how done I was surprised both of us, after nearly 5 years of marriage and 6+ years together.

It felt abrupt when in reality it had been slow building for at least a year. We had become more and more disconnected – we didn’t enjoy each other the way we once had anymore – I was spending increasing amounts of time out of the house, with other friends and family members while he doubled down and hunkered in, spending all of his free time at his computer, on one of the gaming consoles, or painting. When we looked for comfort we no longer looked to one another, we needed comfort about one another, about our relationship.

By the time we finally said the “D” word, all of this had been playing out for around 2 years. I briefly panicked at the finality of it all and even asked him to reconsider, maybe we could try counseling? But in the end he had the presence of mind to know me better than I know myself and to stick to his guns, he said no. And I’m so grateful he did. A week later, I was, finally, done.

And that is when I made the conscious choice to choose healing – I chose joy and optimism. I chose new beginnings. I chose falling in love again. And I encourage everyone exiting a relationship, especially if it is a difficult exit, to:

a.) Allow yourself to be. Be a puddle or be a whirlwind of activity. Distract yourself or wallow in it. Be sad or be overjoyed. Feel pain or feel relief – feel both at once! Do whatever feels right at that moment and don’t let anyone tell you to how to feel or respond – own your reactions and responses. Be.

b.) Talk to others. Definitely talk to your single friends and talk to your married friends – but mostly talk to your divorced friends and your recently-broke-up friends. If you don’t have divorced friends, make some. They will make you feel less alone, less crazy, less unlovable. They will make you feel normal again.

c.) Be alone. This sounds rich coming from me, the lady who started dating her current partner 2 months after separating from her ex. I love my partner, I hope we get married, I want to have a family with this man, and I wouldn’t change a thing about how we came together. But I wish I could somehow also have had alone time because without it I did all my processing and grieving and working through issues with my old relationship while I was starting my new relationship. It was hard on me, it was hard on him – it might have spelled doom if we hadn’t just been head-over-heels for one another. Love will save you, but as Joy Division so aptly said, “love will tear you apart”, too. I could’ve used some more put-the-pieces-back-together time on my own before embarking on a new relationship. We have been lucky (and my partner has been infinitely patient and kind), but I wouldn’t recommend it – some things are best done alone, and I’d count getting over your ex and all the baggage that comes with that as one of them.



I’m with HER

10 Oct

I remember an early conversation with my brother when we were still talking politics (we’ve since ceased doing so to maintain our relationship) wherein he expressed his belief that I and many women were going to vote for Hillary not solely but largely because she was a woman. At the time I recall bringing up many different reasons I would be voting for her and saying that, while that was a factor, it wasn’t a determining factor.


That’s changed for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was always excited by the idea of the first woman president. I have said before that no matter who wins this election, I will be crying – tears of joy and relief if it is Hillary and bitter tears of fear and anger if it is Trump. I tear up just *thinking* about a woman president – that it’s Hillary was, at one time, almost a disappointment for me. Do I still wish she was a more perfect candidate? Yes. I still wish she was less robotic and more broadly appealing. I still wish her (amazing, brilliant, nuanced, smart) responses were snappier, that she was more charismatic. I wish she would hit back harder, instead of simply treating the outrageous claims made against her as below her, not even worthy of response. I wish she hadn’t used that private email server or at the least had been upfront and forthright about it from the very beginning. I wish she wasn’t so hawkish. I wish she wasn’t so cozy with Wall Street, and Israel. I wish she wasn’t so “establishment”. Honestly, I wish she wasn’t a Clinton. It’s the same reason Jeb Bush’s candidacy was problematic to me – I don’t want the same two families running the country for decades.


And yet. There are many other reasons I do support her. First and foremost, she is our best option now. Like it or not, one of these two candidates – Trump or Hillary – is going to be our next president. One option is insane, the other is, well, not ideal. I’ll take “not ideal” over “insane” any day. But beyond that first, obvious, reason: no one can argue that she isn’t qualified. She has worked in law since her 20’s, and in government as a senator and then secretary of state since 2001. Some of the reasons so many on the left despise her (she’s establishment, she’s been there forever) are also the same reasons she is perfect for the job – this isn’t her first rodeo. She is famous for reaching out across the aisle and getting it done. She has always put women and children first and devoted years of service to uplift our causes. She is pro-choice. She is tough and can stand up to criticism. She is polished and professional. And yes, she is a woman.


The reason that is now one of the deciding factors for me has been because I have been watching during this election season and during these debates especially. I have always known that we need more women in power, we need more representation to make sure our needs are met and our causes are championed. There are many attacks you can make on Hillary that are grounded in her past actions, her policy proposals, prior statements, etc. But too many of the attacks that I have seen made on her and comments about her this election cycle have been misogynistic, sexist, and ignorant. The false equivalency of the two candidates alone stinks of sexism. It is the classic case of the underqualified man being held up as equal to the qualified and capable woman.


Many women have watched these last two debates, nodding our heads with recognition as Hillary is talked over and cut off, as she plays by the rules of engagement and Trump flouts them. We’ve heard the comments made about her smile and her power suits and her heels and her hair and her voice and her stamina. We’ve seen her slight smirks and shimmies as resistance, as protest – often these kinds of actions are all women are left when faced with having to treat as an equal a man below you in every way – uneducated and unqualified to even speak on the same issues, yet afforded the same status by the simple fact of his gender. In Trump’s case, he’s been afforded this status by the sliver of the electorate that actually came out to vote in the Republican primaries, not simply because he is a man – although certainly if a woman ran an identical campaign she would be laughed out of the race. But most women relate to this experience in general.


It’s been said before in terms of “can you imagine if Hillary had 5 children by 3 different men?” but really the question should be: “can you imagine if it was Daisy Trump, not Donald?” If Daisy Trump had 5 children by 3 different men, if Daisy Trump mocked disabled reporters, called Mexicans rapists, was caught on tape saying she can get away with groping men because she’s famous and that she goes after married men regularly? Not even Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann have said or done anything half so ridiculous or hateful and, while both have been successful local politicians, they have been summarily laughed off the national political stage. I’m not saying I want a Daisy Trump or a more hateful Sarah Palin – I’m just saying they aren’t allowed to find the same kind of success as candidates that Donald Trump has. His brash, “no-bullshit”, “non-pc” style? Unattractive and unappealing when coming from a woman. This is one of the numerous ways sexism, misogyny and even rape-culture have been the underpinning of this election cycle.


Now I will vote Hillary because she’s a woman. Because we need more women in power, because she has proven time and again an able champion for women’s rights. And because I see her now. I recognize the woman on the stage and I want her, I want all of us, to rise above this moment in our history – this moment when women, apparently free and empowered, are still so woefully under-represented in the halls of power, when our presence in this arena is an aberration, an irregularity. Hillary Clinton is not a perfect woman, or a perfect person, or a perfect candidate, but she’s my candidate, now more than ever.


Please, if you are thinking about abstaining from voting or voting third party, reconsider. If you are a Trump supporter, I know I won’t reach you (it’s unlikely you’d be reading this blog post anyway) – but, especially if you’re in a swing state, please consider voting for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is one of the worst human beings, let alone presidential candidates, that I’ve ever known of – don’t let your disappointment in our political system  or your own fortunes allow him to become leader of the free world.

It’s still zucchini

3 Oct

I’ve been cooking a ton lately (as in, yesterday I cooked no less than 5 recipes). I’ve been trying to meal-prep as much as possible since I changed my diet to low-carb. I’ve also been trying to trick myself as much as possible.

Some of the reason diets have always been a challenge for me in the past is that I don’t like much – I’m a picky eater and food is very important to me. In addition to being picky, I use food as reward or to wallow in (don’t worry – not literally). So what I eat is a BIG DEAL.

In the past I would try to change what I ate completely and try to force myself to eat stuff that was way healthier for me but that I just didn’t like – this was not ever sustainable.

So this time with this not-a-diet “lifestyle change” prompted more by health concerns than aesthetics, I’m really prioritizing experimentation to try to find foods that are both healthy for me AND delicious. The good news is: it IS possible! The bad news is sometimes you spend an hour on a recipe and then you take a taste and guess what? It’s still zucchini, no matter how much Parmesan you bake it with.

A few nuggets of wisdom from my first few weeks of trying to trick myself into eating better food:

  1. I just don’t like zucchini that much, or cauliflower. Sometimes a recipe that has a ton of cheese or seasonings might pass muster (I made zucchini tots that I genuinely loved) -but, generally speaking, they’re both kind of a pain to work with when you’re asked to grate or shred them and I’m usually not happy with the outcome. So those much-pinned cauliflower pizza crusts and mashed potato substitutes are not the saviors I once hoped they would be.
  2. Almond meal/almond flour has never worked out great for me. I once made a biscuits and gravy recipe using almond flour in the biscuits and that was really good….because it was covered in gravy. The biscuits themselves? Meh. The pancakes I made yesterday? Meh.
  3. I have more success when I just take things I know I like and try new preparations to keep them interesting. Chicken 3 days a week gets pretty boring, but less so when one day is curried and another day is chicken salad and the third day is pan-fried.
  4. It’s kind of cruel how many of the foods I I like and have in the past considered healthier choices are kind of bad carb choices: butternut squash, carrots, etc. But I still incorporate them, I just try to use them less than greens and other veggies.
  5. Calorie counts are secondary. I had a “bad day” last week wherein I ate really well all day and still went over my allotted calories for the day. It was super frustrating – it made me feel like I would never be successful if even when eating well – and eating stuff I actually liked, too – I was going above my calorie goal. But I spoke to my doctor shortly thereafter and we both concluded that, while it’s important not to bust through my calorie goals every day or by a huge margin, the calories are secondary to making sure I am keeping my carbs down and my protein up.We both chalked that once-disappointing day up as a success because I had, after all, eaten healthy, whole foods that I actually enjoyed eating and that met all my protein goals for the day.

Here are a few of this past week’s success stories:


  1. Low-carb taco shells. These are made of cheese, people! I did my own filling and it was rather saucy. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to do a drier filling, probably shredded seasoned chicken instead of beef. These were easier and quicker than I thought they would be and they tasted decadent without the carbs to match.
  2. White lazy lasagna. There’s something about the name “White Lazy” that makes me laugh every time, but this recipe worked out great. I did use a homemade marinara sauce instead of the canned alfredo (so I guess it’s technically more of a Red Lazy Lasagna). This was another one that turned out tasting really rich while still being acceptable for me to eat – it’s a good thing my new way of eating doesn’t limit fat as much or I’d really be in trouble! Cheese has been my savior.
  3. Spaghetti squash “spaghetti” with meat sauce. Kendall made this one and we just used a canned meat sauce we like (not gonna lie, it’s Ragu Meat Sauce). We prepared some Italian sausages to go with as well. I liked it so much I asked him if he would make it again this week. I’m a pasta fiend so that has been the hardest thing to give up. When I find substitutions I actually like, such as the “lasagna” and this “spaghetti” it makes me really happy!


Women Get Shit Done

23 Sep

Beyond the illogic of being mad about a man kneeling in protest and not mad (or not as mad) about the black men and women dying on the streets by police hands day in and day out, I am equally mesmerized/baffled by calls to boycott the NFL because of Colin’s protest and the organization’s “non-reaction” to it. Where were the calls to boycott the NFL the hundreds of times before this when athletes beat their wives, raped women, abused their children, etc and the NFL has completely failed to react in any real way? The majority of white american men are batshit-crazy-backwards on all this. Fucking get it together losers!

Also, while I’m sort of hovering around the subject: Let me say first that any and all officers/state actors who unjustifiably kill people should be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, so don’t get what I’m about to say twisted. But it’s just funny to me that we can very quickly charge and arrest female officers, and Asian officers, but white men appear to be some special class that we give the benefit of the doubt to at all times.

Lastly, I’m going to just say it. Women are generally better at this shit (notwithstanding the Betty Shelbys of the world) – better at compassion and belief and support and doing the hard work. Better at self-reflection and change. I, for one, am more excited than I have ever been that we may soon have a female president – hopefully it will help lead to more women in leadership positions across the political and social spectrum. Because women GET IT DONE. We listen, we hear, we respond – we are the leaders our country needs at this tumultuous time.

I’m not saying men can’t be valuable (and indeed, necessary) allies or that men don’t get shit done in their own right. But too often they are all might and power and force with no ears for listening or hearts for hearing, especially about anything outside of their own lived experience, and I am so sick of it and ready for something different. I understand that in a million ways Hillary is more of the same – but in this one, key way she is altogether different and I am so excited to see what she can do. More importantly, I’m excited to see what WE can do, together.

Two years

29 Jul

I came to write a blog post today and was hit with an “it’s been two years since your last post” automated message. Two years?! This is incredible to me, shocking and yet not really that surprising once I think about it for a moment. Turns out it’s really only been a year and a half and apparently WordPress likes to round, but it has also been two+ years since my divorce, two years split between four different home situations, two+ years working two jobs, two years building a new relationship, two+ years with a nephew and more family obligations….the list goes on. I know that life goes fast for everyone, everyone is busy with all their own stuff, everyone has their own concerns and motivations – I am not unique. And yet just lately I have felt so drowned in all of it.

I stumbled upon this post today while searching for something else and it called out to me so clearly. I think we all read these things hoping somehow to find THE ANSWER there and it never is there (because how could it be?) but sometimes what you find is helpful, which was the case for me today.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about this issue – having two jobs, seemingly for all eternity, and the attendant sapping of my time and energy that comes with it. I recently made the decision to sign another six month lease at the salon. Although I’ve talked about the possibility of winding down my salon work in the near future, when the time came to make a definitive decision I didn’t feel ready to walk away just yet.

There’s so much tied up in the work we do – at least for some of us. I know there are people who just do the job and go home and if the job kinda sucks, oh well – it’s not an identifying feature of their life. But that has never been me. I’ve quit jobs that weren’t the right fit and I’ve gone back to school to try to jump-start a new career path. My feeling is I spend so much time at work, at the very least I want to like it, best case scenario: it’s fulfilling.

I used to be of the mind that it HAD to be fulfilling. The realities of adulthood have tempered that a little. I’m coming around to being the kind of person who looks for fulfillment in many areas of my life, not just work, not just my relationship. It’s hard, but it does free me up to care just that little bit less about what I am doing with my work day.

However, I still tie a lot of my identity to the work I do. I have identified for a long time now as someone who isn’t conventional, who eschews the cubicle – someone who does better with odd hours and odd people. But that hasn’t been my day-to-day for a while now (two years!) and I think I’m happier here. I’m certainly more comfortable – I make more money, I spend less time on my feet (although more in a chair, which is unhealthy in a different way), I have more control over my schedule – all good things.

There’s a lot about unconventional work that I don’t miss. It’s more that it had been a piece of who I was and now I can’t claim it anymore. I have this fear of being normal, this fear of being conventional that in practice is actually kind of a hindrance because it might stop me from living my best life.

But I also have this love of creature comforts, this desire for a beautiful home and free time and travel and the best food and drink – that I also fear could stop me from living my best life. This sounds ridiculous on the surface – like “isn’t that you living your best life?” But it makes me wonder if I could find something more fulfilling if only I had the courage to sacrifice for a while. Would it be worth it?

I have a growing sense that the older I get the better I get and the better life gets. I have a tendency to look at what’s happening to me right now and assume it’ll just be the same moving forward – that it’s relatively static. But I can look back only two years to a time when I was in a polite, but unhappy marriage; when I was managing a shop full of people who hated the shop where we all worked; when I was less self-assured than I am now; when I had fewer friends, fewer plans, and very few family obligations. I may be busier now and more stressed, I may feel like I am overworked and understimulated – but I like to believe my life is richer now, too.