Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: Part II

Having rehashed last year's resolutions it is time to move on to resolutions for the coming year. And I chose some biggies. I've always been big on the resolution making mainly because it is an opportunity for self-reflection and it gives us free-spirits a definite timeline.

Let me begin by saying that I've, thankfully, just read "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth, which has helped me figure how I'm going to go about accomplishing this year's resolutions. The book is really about weight loss, but I found that her approach can be applied to just about anything a person may abuse in their lives be it food, drugs, TV, fb, etc.

The first resolution is to cut meat out of my diet. There are many reasons for this, the top being that it is difficult and expensive to find sustainably raised meat and fish, especially here in Hawaii. Having watched movies like "End of the Line," and "The Cove," and reading about the impact meat production has on the environment, particularly our oceans, I just can't do it anymore. It is highly unrealistic to think I can be an overnight vegetarian, even though meat is not something that appears on my plate every night, so I'm gonna take it day by day and not beat myself up over wanting a piece of chicken every once in awhile. And if I can get fish that's been locally caught, that's fine, but fish, especially has got to go. This is my humble plea to those of you who read this, to at least consider your fish consumption, watch the films I mentioned above and decide for yourselves.

Moving on to the second resolution, concerning drinking alcohol. Oh, crap, do I really have to deal with this? It's something that's been on the agenda for many years, but also a habit that has been difficult to give up. This is where Roth's approach comes in. She asks us to be mindful about what we are putting into our bodies and to look at the reasons why we are doing what we're doing. So my goal is to stop and think before choosing to imbibe, and really consider, is this something I really want right now, or am I trying to cover something else up? And if the answer is to cover something up, she asks us to go ahead and feel what it is we don't want to feel and face it without using whatever it is to numb it out. That's as far into as I'll go for now, we'll check back in on that next year.

So here's to a wonderful New Year to us all! May we discover ourselves.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: Part I

It's time again for New Year's Resolutions. I personally like the practice because it gives me at least one chance throughout the year to do some serious self-reflection. In 2010 I resolved to define love and to become a better friend.

The first resolution was born out of a New Year's Eve extravaganza trip to New York City where I fell back in love with two of my best friends, the city itself, and well, life in general. With all the craziness the holidays have brought this year, it was great to reflect via the ole blog. How soon we forget our revelations and resolutions, although over the past year  I did manage to define love as unconditional, infinite, unexplainable. So, although it was an impossible task, love was semi-defined. Check. And also, uncheck because this love quest is definitely not over people. More on that later.

The resolution to become a better friend has happily been a huge success and a major personal triumph. On the same New York trip last year I realized how many wonderful friends have blessed my life, but that I seldom kept in touch with because life gets busy and you let it slide. Considering today's technology, there's no reason you can't maintain friendships even if you are oceans apart. Over the past year I discovered that my childhood best friend and I have become more alike than either of us could have imagined, a college friend who I thought had abandoned me had actually suffered a major loss, that making new friends is not as hard as I was making it out to be, that a psychic connection exists with a friend who lives precisely on the other side of the world, that I have a soul sister, that real friends never judge, and that the love you give and get out of friendships is absolutely necessary.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gotta Try This: Homemade Eggnog

The only eggnog I'd ever had was the overly sweet store-bought goo. Until this Christmas when my sister's boyfriend (who's blog is this anyway?) decided to whip up a batch of the good stuff. Double Electrified Warning: this batch could easily serve a dozen people, it took us three days to finish it between three people. If you are not serving it at a party, maybe halve the recipe so you can finish it in a reasonable amount of time. Not only that, but one glass is plenty, more will probably give you a tummy-ache because it's so rich.

From "Joy of Cooking"

12 eggs (separated)
1 lb confectioner's sugar
4-8 cups dark rum, brandy, bourbon or rye (we used Bacardi Gold)
2 quarts whipping cream
ground or grated nutmeg

Separate eggs and beat yolks until light in color. Gradually beat in confectioner's sugar. Add very slowly 2 cups rum (or other liquor).Let stand one hour to dispel the "eggy" taste and destroy possibility of salmonella. Add, beating constantly, 2-4 cups more of liquor (we ended up with 6 cups total liquor in our batch) and 2 qts whipping cream. Refrigerate 3 hours (we refrigerated our overnight at this stage).

Beat 8-12 egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into mixture. Serve sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg.

Wow! This stuff is amazing! If you've never tried homemade eggnog, you must give it a go.We paired our nog with a brined and butter-basted turkey, roasted garlic sour dough stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted Kabocha squash. Yum! And to think, I did nothing but brine that turkey (more on that later). My husband took care of the stuffing, bird, and squash, and my sister made the potatoes. What a family, thanks everyone, it turned out to be one of the best meals ever. 

Please note: consuming raw eggs may be hazardous to your health! A reader wrote in (see the comment below) and pointed out that using pasteurized shelled eggs is a better option. I think the addition of massive amounts of alcohol should keep you on the safe side, but please consider your own health when making these choices. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Autobio Playlist

The moment you've all been waiting for has finally arrived: the release of my 2010 Autobio Playlist, of course.

1. "Hurricane" by John Cruz

John Cruz is an amazing artist from Oahu. I've been fortunate enough to see him live a few times. This song in particular, really speaks to me.

2. "The Climb" by Hannah Montana, err Miley Cyrus

It's hard to work in an elementary school and not like some Hannah Montana. Plus, it's a great song!

3. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by the Rolling Stones

Because you can't.

4. "Beat It," by Michael Jackson

For my amazing little talent show kids!

5. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey

At the top of my lungs in the car (alone).

6. "Tiny Dancer," by Elton John

Because what's a mix without my favorite song?

7. "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw

Love this song! What would you do if you knew you were dying soon?

8. "Beautiful Boy," by John Lennon
For my beautiful nephews.

9. "You Really Got a Hold On Me," by She & Him

Gotta watch the live performance! Zooey Deschanel is amazing and this song is so true and great, a classic cover.

10. "You've Got a Friend in Me," by Randy Newman

For my little man, who I miss dearly. You've always got a friend in me JK!

11. "Edge of Seventeen," by Stevie Nicks

If I could be any rocker, it'd be her.

12. "Auld Lang Syne," by James Taylor

Here's to a great 2011!

Thanks to Becky for turning me on to this idea, what fun!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Practice in Visualization

We've decided to take everything off the walls in our house and replace them with art work that represents all the goals we're striving to accomplish. Here are a few of the top picks from Etsy.

A cute and simple reminder.


This print represents our dream of a road trip USA in some sort of recreational vehicle.


Someday, we'll be sailing around the world,

And Dustin will whiz by at 200 miles per hour!


While I take a leisurely bicycle ride through the French countryside.


Then we will be whisked away on a hot air balloon ride,


Only to be found plummeting off a bridge the next minute.


We'll try not to forget to tend the chickens.


Then I'll stroll on in to a fancy restaurant and order the best red wine.


However, the best cappuccinos will only be found at my very own coffee shop,


Where I'll begin working on the Great American novel.


It will not be a rare occasion when we sleep under the stars,


or pass time at our home in Greece.


It's never too late to become an emerging artist in New York City,


or skate on a frozen lake,


or eat your heart out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Zen Cookies

After getting an electric mixer for an early Christmas present, I realized the cookies I made with only a fork and a bowl the other day may be my last batch of completely Zen Cookies. Meaning, my last batch of cookies made entirely by hand, with nothing electric (ok, except the oven).

On second thought though, molding each peanut butter cookie into a perfect sphere, then stamping them with the back of a fork, and cutting an entire cup of dried cherries in half, was actually a really good time. Nothing compares to the joy of perfectly shaped cookies and feeling the ingredients come together between your fingers. What I'd previously loathed about baking was feeling rushed, trying to stamp out three dozen cookies in an hour is miserable for anyone. Since I had all day to play with cookie dough it became a very pleasant, relaxing task. No wonder I'd loved baking so much in childhood, there's no concept of time when you're eight.

May your Christmas cookies be enlightened.

"When you can do nothing, what can you do?" Zen Koan

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things That Make You Go Awe

This month there was an article in "O Magazine" about places and things that are awe-inspiring. In fact, the theme this month of the magazine centered around unexplained events and things that happen in nature or in our lives which fill us with awe.

This got me thinking about awe itself. It's an emotion totally unique to any other, when you are filled with wonder at something that just blew your mind. And if you think about it, we are always seeking ways to feel awe. When we plan a vacation, for instance, we look for destinations that will fill us with awe (which are hopefully awe-full not awful - sorry for that, couldn't help it). When you are looking out over the Grand Canyon, experiencing awe, what exactly is happening? Are we getting a little glimpse of heaven? Or maybe experiencing the divine? I really don't know, but here are some things that are awesome, and I wanted to share.

Monasteries at Meteora, Greece
We were lucky enough to visit Meteora in 2006. The monasteries sit atop these giant rock formations. It's amazing to think how they built them.

Swimming with Manta Rays
Mantas feed at night, so you gotta brave the dark water to swim with them.

New York City
I was awe-struck at everything about this place. Yes, there are many neat things to see and do here, but it was the vibe of the city, the feeling it gave you, that really gave me the mind-meld.

Riding a Motorcycle
Whether on the back, on my own, or even cruising on a scooter, getting out of the car and in the open air is like nothing else. You notice things and experience the road in a whole new way when riding.

Feel free to leave comments on what fills you with awe. May you experience it often.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mediterranean Nachos

This was actually put together by my sister's boyfriend, but I helped in the brainstorming process. It started out as a way to clear out some leftovers and turned out really yummy!

Mediterranean Nachos

Tortilla chips

2 cups artichoke cheese dip OR 1 cup artichoke hearts and 1 cup cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, or feta)

1 can garbanzo beans or 1 cup hummus

small bunch basil

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tomato (or more if you like)

1/2 pound (or more) of shrimp

10 or more whole garlic cloves (unpeeled)

Handful of kalamata olives (split)

The amounts listed above are vague estimates, it really depends how much toppings you like on your nachos and how many people you need to feed.

Pre-heat oven to 400. Place tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Blend garbanzo beans in a blender or food processor with basil and spoon over chips, or if you are using hummus, spoon hummus over chips. Sprinkle onion, shrimp, and garlic over all (leave casings on garlic to achieve roasted garlic flavor). Spoon artichoke dip over all, or if using hearts and cheese, spread these over all. Sprinkle with olives, tomato, and remaining basil. Place in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melty, shrimp is pink, and ingredients are heating through.

Substitutions: chicken for shrimp, parsley for basil, white or great northern beans for garbanzos, any olives you like for kalamata, pita chips for tortilla chips, chopped garlic for roasted...

Additions: spinach, extra cheese, bell pepper, red chili flakes, capers...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sacrifice in the name of Love

A tiny snippet of a little film called "Paper Heart," got me thinking, over many months, about the sacrifices we make for love. First of all, Netflix directed me to this movie after it noticed everything starring Michael Cera in my queue. The movie is about Charlyne Yi, a young comedian, who sets out to make a documentary about love. And just to clarify, it's not really a documentary, but a movie about making a documentary, so the actors are actors and not "real people" (ha! that made no sense, but maybe you get the gist). Anyway, in one particular scene, Charlyne interviews a romance novelist who suggests that any real love story must have the element of sacrifice, that the lead character must sacrifice something huge as a way to demonstrate his or her love.

So I thought about all my favorite love stories: Dirty Dancing (rich girl sacrifices social status), Gone with the Wind (boy sacrifices awesome bachelor lifestyle and pride), Romeo and Juliet (girl sacrifices her life, then so does boy), The Wedding Singer (girl sacrifices prior marriage proposal), Serendipity (both boy and girl sacrifice existing relationships), and this is not even close to an exhaustive list. Turns out sacrifice is a very common thread in many, many love stories throughout pop and not-so-pop culture.

In my own relationships I seemed to have unwittingly chosen this guideline to establish if the love is "real" or not. So does that mean then, that in order for it to be real, true love one person must make a sacrifice? And what if the opportunity to make a sacrifice for your one true love never comes along? Maybe that's why we get married, to show your partner you are willing to sacrifice the rest of your life to them to prove your love. Ha.

But let's turn this around a bit. The point is not to define love based on sacrifice, but whether or not we expect sacrifice from someone we love, or closer yet, we require sacrifice to be a component of love. So again, and less sarcastically this time, what of the drama-free relationship in which the closest thing to sacrifice is giving up on your hopes for Chinese take-out for dinner? Does that mean, because there is no heart-wrenching sacrifice, the love is somehow less valid? My head says of course not, but my life reads just like a romance novel.

It's difficult to think you may have been influenced so strongly by movies, books, and urban legends and I know my marriage has much more to do with love than sacrifice, but let me tell you, this idea of sacrifice being a love requirement has made me think twice when advising friends on the eternal question, "does he love me?"


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