Category Archives: Essay

On Friday Night Pizza

Once upon a time in a far off land I did not have a child. It seems like a dream that at some point in my life I slept in on weekends and just went and did things like shopping at the mall without giving anyone any notice.

In that far off time before The Sprout Friday night was often sushi night. My husband and I would text each other and determine we would meet up at our normal sushi place at a specific time. Or sometimes I would head to his workplace (which was close to said sushi place) and we would roll with some of other equally carefree childfree people for sushi. Mmmm sushi! It was a great way to herald in the weekend. No cooking, no dishes, full of good food as we went to bed, ready to have an awesome weekend.

Those days ended shortly after The Sprout. We took The Sprout to our sushi place a time or two. He enjoyed rice and nori. It was good times. Then our sushi place moved to a much smaller location, where we could not stake out a small table in the back away from the carefree childfree folk. And Friday Night Sushi was no more.

I love cooking. I do. Friday night I never want to cook. I don’t even want to exert the tiny amount of brain power to figure out what I would cook if I wanted to cook. I just want to shove food in my mouth and celebrate that for 2 blissful days I do not have to explain what a deposition is to anyone.

After Friday night sushi was no more we floundered (pun intended). We would try going out, but Friday nights at restaurants with a kid is one of Dante’s levels of hell (the 5th one with all the sullen people & crazies fighting each other). It was not relaxing and did not make me feel excited for the weekend. It made me wish I was back in my quiet office alone. Then we tried delivery of various iterations. This was the best solution but delivery on Friday night seems to take eternity (1st level of the inferno  in limbo hanging with Homer). Plus it never failed that something I had ordered specifically for myself it ALWAYS what got left out of our order. I apparently have some sort of bad delivery karma. Plus the Mister and I would spend an HOUR (this may be an exaggeration) trying to agree on where to get delivery from. And then was there something The Sprout would eat. The Sprout has high standards when it comes to food, like most three year olds. So we would finally eat dinner at 9pm. I am not European or something, I do not believe in dinner at 9pm. 9pm is for watching your DVR.

Finally (it only took me three years) I solved the problem. Fridays are Pizza night. All three of us like pizza. There are about a million ways to have pizza. There is relatively little clean up from pizza. Problem solved! I highly recommend making your Friday night Pizza night or whatever easy meal you and your family love that doesn’t require lots of time or energy. It has made Fridays awesome. We all look forward to pizza. We eat at a normal time. I don’t end up with lots of dishes and I again feel excited and energized to start the weekend.

One of the many pizzas we have eaten are English Muffin Pizzas, which The Sprout loved helping make.

On Technology That Makes My Life Better

I can be a bit of a bit of luddite at times. I feel like sometimes people use technology when in reality something no tech or low tech would do. I despise technology for technology’s sake. But that does not mean I would rather be living in a tent with no electricity or computers (or running water!)

Here is some technology that I feel, has made my life generally better:

  1. Jawbone Headset: I live in Los Angeles, so I am in my car A LOT. While I enjoy listening to music or sifting through my thoughts during my various drives, it is so nice to also use the time in a productive way. The jawbone allows me to comply with the law (must use hands free) and be heard. I talk to my mom the most in my drives around town and before the jawbone she was constantly having difficulty hearing me and vice versa. And it is far more comfortable than the lame headset that comes with an iPhone that start to feel like you are being stabbed in the ear.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite: I didn’t even KNOW I needed or wanted this but my husband knows me better than I know myself and got this for me as a gift. It’s not as popular as the “you can do a million other things than read” kindles but I already have an iPad. I like the paperwhite because it is backlit so those nights when my toddler is refusing to go to sleep, I can sit in the dark of his room waiting him out and getting some reading in. Yet even with the light, it is not as tiring on your eyes as a computer/tablet. It’s much more like a book, in my luddite opinion and I resisted having an e-reader. I have read so much more since I got my Kindle. The only danger is I can so easily buy books. It can be too easy for someone who loves books and reading .
  3. Evernote: The Evernote app has changed my life. I have been a list maker for…a long long time. I don’t remember a time before I made lists. The problem is if you make a paper list or a list on your desktop you might be someplace and NOT have your list. I have Evernote on all my electronics (work computer, home computer, iPad, iPhone.) and my lists sync between ALL of them. So now I am never without my lists.
  4. Crockpot: I don’t think it even matters what brand crockpot I have, we recently upgraded only because we could (with credit card points) but really a good ceramic crockpot isn’t expensive or hard to find. A crockpot is like having your own cook. You just dump a bunch of stuff in and when you get home from work, there is deviousness waiting for you. When I was a kid, I teased my mom about her crockpot use. Who knows why? But now, I totally get it. I love my crockpot!

On Thirteen Years

I don’t usually like to mark anniversaries of sad events, especially deaths because it is better to celebrate a person’s life than remember their exit. But today, on my way home from work I had a sudden need to listen to Pearl Jam’s Release. Since my marriage into the Jamily, this song has been one that really touched me and reminded me of my dad’s passing. As Eddie started toward the crescendo of the song, my thoughts went to the date. Was it December 4th? Yes, it had to be because I dated a letter today with the 4th. And as Eddie’s voice ached with “Oh dear dad/Can you see me now/I am myself/Like you somehow.” I ugly cried in my car because I realized it had been 13 years since my father left this world.

I don’t really recall December 4, 2000 well. It started sometime in the middle of the night when the hospital called to tell us my father had passed away. I did not want to go into his room and “say good bye” because I had a belief that if I saw my father’s body, it would erase all my memories of his life. I don’t believe I cried that night. We returned home in the early morning hours and my uncle who had been staying with us instructed us all to try and get some sleep. Honestly, most of the following days are a blur with brief snippets of remembrance of consoling hugs, gentle reminders to “eat something” and comments about how loved my father was.

I only remember the date now as a marker. My life changed after December 4, 2000. There is the life I had when my father was alive and there is the life that has happened since my father passed. After December 4, 2000, I moved to Los Angeles. I graduated from law school. I married my husband. I had my son, who is named after my dad. I would have loved to see how my dad would have been as a grandparent. I imagine he would have handled my son much as he talked to me as child, which was the same amount of respect he spoke to adults. Taking seriously my son’s concerns even if they involve concerns about volcanos in the middle of Los Angeles.

I think I am most sad that we never got to have a chance to know each other as adults. I was only 21 when he passed away; too young to see him as anything but my dad. Too young for him to see me as a grown woman. In the last 13 years my relationship with my mom has grown and matured. We talk about parenthood now and the issues with getting anything done with a toddler under foot. I would love to compare parenthood tales with my dad and get his thoughts on my work life as an attorney. It is his fault after all that I went to law school (“What’s the worst that can happen?” he said).

Though today I feel sadness. I also feel my dad watching over me and it was him tugging at me to listen to Release (even though I am pretty sure my dad didn’t know who Pearl Jam was) letting me know he is there if I need to talk to him. “Meet me on the other side

Love you, Dad.

On Conflicted Feelings

My parents originally met when they both lived in Chicago. By the time I was two, they lived in the suburbs in Ohio. They would tell stories about their lives in Chicago, taking trains to work and watching the building of the Sears Tower from skyscrapers. The manicured lawns of suburbia seemed dull in comparison. I often daydreamed what my life would have been like had my parents decided to stay in Chicago instead of where they ended up. Even though they had told me the schools were dangerous and there was nowhere for kids to play, I imagined walking past interesting stores and learning to hail cabs.

As I got older, the more I longed for the life I never had. I wanted to go somewhere urban. I wanted to go to a big city. I wanted to get the heck out of Ohio. I looked at college brochures for out of state colleges but the reality was my family couldn’t afford for me to go out of state so I settled for going two hours away. I loved my undergrad and was happy with my choice. But I still hoped to one day escape the borders of Ohio.

After college I managed to break free of the gravity of Ohio. Off I went to Los Angeles. At the time I did not know how long I would be in LA. I didn’t know if I could “make it.” 12 years later, I don’t think about “making it” My life is my life and it takes place on the backdrop of Los Angeles. It is hard to imagine it being any other way than it is today.

Except recently I traveled back to Ohio to visit family and friends with my husband and son. It was a little like the movie Sliding Doors. We hung out with friends on the lawn enjoying the unseasonably cool evening while the kids frolicked as I once had done. And I saw the life I might have lived had I remained. I noticed my husband, also a Midwestern ex-pat, looking wistful. We both love living in Los Angeles but that doesn’t mean we are blind the advantages of our Midwestern roots (pronounced ruts). We likely could have a comfortable multi-bedroom home with basement in the Midwest for what we pay for our two-bedroom apartment. We could be closer to our family, which would mean help with child rearing.

It’s a conflict in my mind that I just have to live with. LA is home now. When we landed back at LAX, I felt that release of tension that arriving at your heart’s home brings. Today, our first full day back in Los Angeles was wonderful and restful. We had fun on vacation but there is just something about home, right? My feelings about LA don’t stop the “What ifs?” though.

Some of us spend so much of our life trying to get away from where we grew up; only to wonder what would have been had we never left.

On My Month As a Vegetarian

Prior my husband moving in with me a few thousand years ago (or 10 but who’s counting) I had become a vegetarian; except when I went out to eat. This was for two reasons 1) handling raw meat kind of gives me the icks (also known as the heebie jeebies) 2) I was pretty broke.

When he moved in he demanded three things change 1) we have a TV 2) we have furniture over three feet tall* 3) we have meat available to eat. As the ever accommodating partner that I am (or stubborn strong willed. You say potato…) I only grudgingly gave into these things including having meat on the regular.

I continued to be kind of indifferent to meat. Yes, I have my days when I crave a hamburger or other meaty option but just as often I have a hankering for a veggie burger. As any good couple, my husband and I rubbed off on each other.  I got him to eat more vegetarian meals and he got me to eat meat more often.

Now we fast-forward to June of this year. My husband and I tried not to eat meat for every single meal. We would do vegetarian Indian dishes one night and hamburgers the next. We had discussed the vegetarian diet numerous times but my husband felt he liked meat too much to give it up. Still it intrigued both us. We kept saying “sometime we should just try being vegetarian for a month.” Toward the end of June, we volunteered to bring food to our good friends who were having their second child and the woman is vegetarian. I was pulling up all my favorite vegetarian recipes trying to choose what I wanted to make. I causally said we should pick July to try to be vegetarian for a month and my husband agreed. And so it began.

The Pros of the Month:

1)   It forced us to shake up our dinners: We had kind of been in a dinner doldrums. We had a lot of go to meals we made every week because they were easy and we couldn’t think of what else to fix. When we couldn’t have hamburgers or spaghetti with meat sauce, we had to shake things up. We tried a lot of new meals which were amazing.

Carrot & Garbanzo Bean Salad (cannot find actual recipe; was similar to this one)

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

We also realized Rao’s Roasted Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce was AMAZING with tofu instead of ground beef or ground turkey.

2)   We discovered some new restaurants and food options out that we might have passed over if meat had been an option.

Doomies Home Cooking was great (though not super healthy)

True Food Kitchen was stupendous and much healthier and also had meat options.

3)   We were mindful of the things we were eating in general. If you have any kind of restriction to your options, it makes you think about what you are going eat for sure.

The Cons of this Month

1)   We discovered fast food is very geared toward meat eaters. I am not saying there aren’t fast vegetarian options but it is much easier to find fast food hamburgers.

We were running errands and ended up at the mall to pick up some contacts I had ordered at Lenscrafters and were all hungry (including our almost 2 year old. In case you don’t know toddlers do not handle hunger well!) We figured the food court had to have something. It turned out the pickings were slim! We settled on Frida Taco  My husband and I got Calabasas Tacos, which were made with zucchini. I took our son to get a table and my husband waited for the tacos. When he eventually made it to the table I asked what took so long and he said they had to make the zucchini. Apparently we were the first people to order that option ever.

2)   The Hollywood Bowl does not have a lot of vegetarian options.

My job had an event at the Hollywood Bowl, which included dinner. There were 6 meals options and only one was vegetarian.  And I am not going to lie, it sucked. It didn’t taste bad but it was a sad pasta dish with some pathetic mushrooms and wilted spinach. Meanwhile my coworkers were noshing on amazing looking roasted chicken and thick cut pork chops. The only thing that saved our meal was a huge piece of cheesecake at the end.

3)   People are very concerned when you decide to go vegetarian.

I didn’t mind the conversations it prompted but the initial reaction could be a bit off putting. “A whole month!” was something I heard often. There were definitely time that I didn’t feel like having an extended conversation about what I was eating.

4)   I did not lose any weight.

I had hoped a side benefit of this experiment would be that I would lose weight. I did not. It turns out my favorite junk foods are vegetarian so it didn’t slow me down from some between meal snacking. That is something I just need to work on.

Overall it was a great experiment. The outcome has been that my husband and I have decided to become flexiterian. Basically keep eating mostly vegetarian  and throw in meat but only very high quality meat on occasion. We both realized we don’t really need meat to get through the day and we like the idea of challenging ourselves to eat healthier and more sustainably.

As of today the challenge is over. I have an awful cold so I haven’t left the house or felt very hungry and therefore not eaten any meat yet. My husband ate sushi for lunch to break his meat fast but indicated it was not as amazing as he expected and he was happy to continue on without much meat in his diet.


* I am 5’3” so when I was living by myself, I outfitted my apartment in furniture that I could easily maintain/reach the top of. Apparently it made my 6’ tall husband feel like he had moved into Lilliput.

On The Little Things

I was watching an episode of Iconoclasts with Sir Richard Branson and Desmond Tutu. My husband and I watched this episode randomly once and both became obsessed with Desmond Tutu. I have to admit, though I had heard his name before, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of who he was. The episode seemingly focused on Branson, who is interesting in his own right. But there is something that drew me to Tutu. In re-watching the episode my husband and I discussed why Tutu seemed so amazing and determined it was joy. Desmond Tutu, despite all the awful things he has seen, despite all he has gone through, he is full of joy.  My husband said something like “he clearly appreciates the little things.”

And I said, “but are the little things really little?” Of course we have big amazing events in our life, the day we marry our soul mate, the day our child in born, the day we get our dream job. These are the things that are easy to appreciate. But the non-monumental events are just as amazing. Its amazing you exist (however you think we got here, God, explosion, aliens) the fact that you take breath at any moment is amazing.

If you watch Desmond Tutu, he has joy that seems to come from a place of awe.  He seems to understand that every moment is amazing. That is the only thing I can think that allows someone who has struggled through things like apartheid and still laugh.

In one interview I saw with him, someone asked if he was an optimist and he said no but that he is a prisoner of hope. He is hopeful.

If we could all find such awe and hope. If we could be amazed by our lives on a constant basis, we’d all be a little happier (if you’re not already happy). I know I need to do this. It’s easy to get angry. Its easy to total up the wrongs small and large we feel and just be mad. It’s easy to feel lonely and small. It’s hard to say, “I woke up this morning, I am thankful.” It’s hard to appreciate the people in our lives because there is days they have let us down and we don’t know if we can forgive.

But if you could think about how amazingly rare things like friendship, love, life are. We all have struggles, some bigger than others. But if the good things can amaze us, the bad may seem a little smaller. If we could laugh like Desmond Tutu on a regular basis and see the little things as big things. As huge things in fact, we’d probably share his joy.

Desmond Tutu Laughing

On Microtasking

For me, having a kid totally changed my ability to get things done. My weekends before a child went something like this:

Saturday morning:



Clean Entire Apartment

Rest of weekend:

Whatever the heck I want!

And I am not even exaggerating. Usually by noon on Saturday I had accomplished all major chores and errands and all that was left was whatever projects I wanted to tackled. Looking at that list now makes me want to build a time machine and go back and smack myself. Sometimes I wouldn’t do anything else in the weekend. I would nap, watch movies, read a book, who knows. Other times I would tackle big projects like cleaning out and reorganizing all the closets. ALL THE CLOSETS.

Now with a little tornado at my heels my weekends generally look like this:


7a to 11a: Play and care for small tornado

11a to 1p: Rush around trying to make apartment clean enough that it is not condemned and try getting myself clean enough not to be mistaken for a homeless person

1p to 7p: Play and care for small tornado

7p to 10p: Try to get anything I can done including bill paying, laundry, etc.


Rinse repeat, except add going to the grocery store with small tornado

I began to get really frustrated due to my new limitations. I know my prior schedule was a bit manic. And my projects were a bit ridiculous. But that was who I was. I realize a lot of people even without kids are not as spastic as I once was.

At first, when my son was much younger, I attempted to continue with my manic ways. I could never get things as clean as I expected and never could complete the huge tasks I set for myself because the baby would cry or need changed or I would be exhausted from having a newborn. I was getting frustrated and depressed.

I decided (with help from people in my life) that I couldn’t change the amount of hours in the day or the time I had available. Instead, I needed to reframe how I looked at the tasks I needed to get done and how I went about achieving them.

The first thing I did was let go…a lot. My apartment may look perfectly acceptable to other people. To me, its pretty messy but I have learned to accept it. If there are Cheerios in ever corner, fine, eventually my son will locate and eat them. So long as we are not living filth, we are okay. Sometimes I get antsy about the mess I see around but I know I cannot handle it while watching a small child, and I just have to deal with the mess.

Related to letting go, is setting reasonable expectations. Instead of believing that in just 48 hours I can do 100 things with a toddler in tow, I give myself a reasonable amount of tasks to complete. The two things I must do every weekend are laundry and grocery shopping. After I have scheduled those in my brain, I pick up to 4 other things to do. Sure, I have a list of a million things that eventually need to get done, but thinking I can get even half a million things done in a weekend isn’t going to happen. By setting realistic expectations for my time, I actually get everything done. I feel accomplished and even have time to get one additional thing done.

And finally, I have started to do is micro tasking. Instead of trying to take on huge tasks that I can’t possibly accomplish during naptime or even before bed, I break all big tasks into micro tasks, tasks that will take at most 15 minutes. If I want to clean out the closet, I break it down to tasks like “go through shoes” or “reorganize left upper shelf.” It sounds counter intuitive but I get a lot more done this way. The reason, I actually start on projects and complete them.

Initially, when my son was born, I would either try to wait for some perfect time to tackle a project, which never came. Or I would start a project and then have to stop and then restart. With microtasks, I move the ball a short distance down the field each time. In addition to actually eventually getting a big project done, I feel accomplished at the end of a weekend.

After my son was born, I would often get to the end of a weekend and realize all I had gotten done was buy groceries and do laundry. Meanwhile a million tasks and projects were staking up. It was depressing and daunting. Now, though its not some huge project I can think “I got all the micro tasks I set out to do done” which goes a long way to helping me feel less like a slacker and means I actually get things done.

On Cooking and Connection

I am going to admit something; I am judgmental sometimes because it makes me feel better about my own flaws. I realize this is a horrible flaw in and of itself but there it is. This plays into my feelings about cooking. You see I have a lot of flaws when it comes to food. While I have friends who adhere to amazingly restrictive diets, some for health reasons, others because of strict moral code, I do not. In fact, my favorite meal is spaghetti with meat sauce, which 90 percent of my friends cannot eat for one reason or another. So how can I feel superior? I cook a majority of the meals I eat. I eat out for sure, and have lunches out with coworkers on occasion but for the most part, my husband or I make the majority of what I eat.

For a long time I made assumptions about why other people didn’t cook for themselves. Because I was up in my ivory tower of cooking feeling like I was awesome, I didn’t bother to ask anyone I knew why they weren’t cooking more. I just made assumptions. I decided recently I wanted to see what the deal was, so I posted on my twitter and Facebook the following: “If you are someone who does not regularly cook your own meals, why not? Truly curious.”

Some responses I got made me feel rather guilty for my feelings of superiority.

One friend who lives in New York City said he would like to cook more but lives in a place with a kitchen too small to store much food. This is not surprising since from what I have heard people live in closets in New York City. If he wants to cook he first had to go to the grocery store, adding an hour of preparation time to any meal.  Even though I love going to the grocery, I could see how doing it daily would start to wear on your desire to cook. His comments seemed tinged with sadness, that made me regret how I take for granted my huge kitchen with tons of cabinets

Another friend talked about her busy life and child. While I am busy and have a child, I feel very lucky; my employer has allowed me to have an alternative schedule. I am at the office early but leave by 5 p.m. most days, in time to spend time with my family and prepare a normal dinner. My friend works on several projects, as does her husband. When I added up the number of hours she works, I am doubtful she even gets a reasonable amount of sleep, little alone time to prepare a meal. When you add a child to the mix like that, she is probably lucky if she eats three meals a day regardless of where they come from. In addition, she is vegan so its not like spaghetti and meat sauce are an option for her.

Another friend posted a link to an article about a man who created a drink that could sustain an adult without the need for eating.

Though my friend pointed out that it was similar to having a smoothie or shake, the idea of giving up eating was depressing to me.  I understand the concept but to me it seems like going one step closer to treating myself like a machine versus an animal. As much as I love technology, I am not ready to be assimilated. I found the concept rather depressing because it basically seems to stem from a lack of time to eat a proper meal.

My antidotal sample seemed to point to a lack of time to cook, which isn’t a huge surprise to me. I think what surprised me is that the people who didn’t have time wished they did have time to cook. I guess, while busy feeling superior, I assumed people were content to eat out and it turns out to be untrue.

There are a million articles about work/life balance and I am not sure I am any more knowledge to add. In fact, it is something I have struggled with for a long time and will likely continue to struggle with for the foreseeable future. It seems cooking for ourselves is another causality of that battle. Another thing we have to delegate out. I think there is more emotion tied up in losing that ability than other tasks. I don’t think for example people mourn sending their laundry out versus doing it themselves (though I could totally be wrong on that, I know I feel nothing but joy for not having to do my own laundry from time to time when I choose to send it out.)

I think no matter what there are always emotions in eating. I am not just talking about  “eating your feelings.” I am talking about a connection. When you cook for yourself, you are creating a direct link between the raw ingredients and the final product that goes in your mouth. No matter how healthy you eat, when it is made by some unknown person like at a restaurant you lose a little of the connection. And the ability to prepare a meal for the people you love also creates connection. By having the delegate this aspect of our lives we are losing the connection to our food and ourselves and I think we all realize it. That is why my friends who don’t have time to cook aren’t joyful that they can let someone else cook for them all the time. They know they are missing out on a connection. They don’t get to see a raw mushroom that looks kind of weird transform into part of a delicious stir-fry. And they miss out on making something that their partner or child thinks is delicious and getting to enjoy that happiness.  They are missing the simple pleasure of satisfying your own hunger.

I wish I could wrap this up with an easy solution and make this less of a bummer. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution to making time in your life and figuring out how to use that time to feed yourself. In a world where people work 100 hours a week outside the home, finding time to squeeze in cooking is like playing a complicated version of Tetris. I think it is important to figure it out for all the ideas about connection that I discussed (and some I didn’t). Even if you aren’t cooking most of your meals, perhaps just making Sunday Supper a priority or Friday Pizza Night would be a start.  But like I said, it could be far more complicated for some than others to make the time.

Also, I am not going to feel all high and mighty anymore about my ability to cook most of my own meals. Instead, I am going to feel lucky and appreciative that I have the luxury of time to do so.

On Searching for a New Magazine

In the past ten years I have had 2 magazine subscriptions. One to Newsweek, which I have had since I was in college. And one to Real Simple, which I have had for probably 7 years now.

Newsweek gives me a sense of what is going on in the world around me and helps me feel not completely out of touch with the news. I know most people in the modern era get their news from the Internet, but I am not really one of them. I get my news from Newsweek and NPR.

Real Simple on the other hand is a lifestyle magazine. It has beautiful photographs and home and food ideas. The day it arrived in the mail was always like getting an unexpected gift. I would immediately flip through it and then spend another few days actually reading the articles and examining the recipes. Its still a great magazine. However, I’ve apparently reached the 7 year itch with the magazine. I just don’t feel the excitement when it arrives.

I do want to get a magazine other than Newsweek. Despite one of my friend’s suggestions to “read the entire Internet every month,” I’m old school. I like to disconnect from the hive mind on occasion without digging into the stack books I’ve been ignoring since my son was born.

First, I posed the question to The Collective (Facebook & Twitter) to see what they were reading. The suggestions I received were: Self, Cook’s Illustrated, GQ, and  Dwell.

Second, I went to my local Barnes & Noble and wandered their magazine section. I picked up some of the suggestions (I forgot about GQ and couldn’t find Cook’s Illustrated) and then a few others that looked interesting.

I got Gastronomica, Self, Dwell, Whole Living, Saveur & Cleaning Eating.

Gastronomica looks really interesting and smart. The most interesting looking article (which I have gotten half way through) is about the selling of lion meat. But I have to be honest, when I am in a magazine mood, I am not in a long article mood. And Gastronomica is wordy. Its New Yorker wordy. That is just not going to suit my purposes. Other strikes against it are that its foodcentric. Though I love food I want a magazine subscription with a little wider range. Lastly, a subscription for FOUR issues is $42.50.

Self is closer to what I want in a magazine. It covers lots of different areas like fitness, food, and fashion. The most interesting section was about the importance of breakfast and the best ratios of carbs/fat/protein to have for breakfast. But its a little too far in the other direction from Gastronomica. A little too glossy and fluffy. I can see myself picking up other issues, especially on vacation but I think I’d get bored with it pretty quick. Plus the issue I picked up had Bethenny from reality television fame on the cover, deducted points before I even opened it.

Dwell is interesting but I feel like I am not hip enough to have a subscription to it. Even the ads make me feel uncool. The most interesting article was about co-working loft spaces. But again let’s face it, I am not cool enough to need to worry about co-working lofts. The pictures are beautiful and it would be a great magazine to pick up if I was decorating a house (and had an unlimited budget). Again the subject matter is a bit limited. I think after an issue or two I would feel bored of looking at design.

Clean Eating, I picked up this magazine because my husband and I have been trying to get more into clean eating. My version of clean eating is eating more whole foods versus processed and knowing what I am eating. The cover has tacos on it. Who doesn’t want healthy tacos? Answer: No One! My husband seems more enthusiastic about a subscription to Cleaning Eating than I am. Again, its a very limited subject matter and so I think I’d be bored with it after an issue or two. The recipes look awesome though. It’ll probably be better for an occasional bookstore pick up, rather than subscription worthy.

Saveur, is another food magazine. I love food and cooking ,so that’s probably why I ended up with a couple food focused magazines but in the end its food. How much can I stand to read about it every month. The cover article on artisan breads caught my eye, since my husband has become an amateur bread baker. Saveur is a fancy version of Bon Appetit. Both are good magazines but I only need to know so much about food on a monthly basis.

Whole Living, is the winner. It’s a Martha Stewart publication and hits on a lot of different topics. As I described it to my husband, its like a more hippy version of Real Simple. Articles in this months issue include: 3-Day Detox, Spring-Clean Your Life, and Walk it Off! Our Favorite Outdoor Workout. This sounds like my pace, with enough variety to at least keep me interested through a subscription run. Who knows if I’ll keep it for years and years like Real Simple but we’ll give it a try.

End Note: My last Real Simple came and it didn’t seem as repetitive as prior issues. It had some great articles like How to Be More Confident and a recipe for Kale Pesto. It almost made me regret my lapsed subscription.

On Cooking as Meditation

I love cooking. I know several people who are perplexed by this idea. To them cooking is a means to an end and nothing more. If they can avoid the process all together they would. I enjoy the process, sometimes more than the food that comes of it. Cooking allows me space to focus my thoughts on a singular task. It helps me quiet my monkey brain and be present in the moment.

I didn’t connect that this was a form of meditation until I watched the movie How to Cook Your Life, about the Zen priest and chef, Edward Espe Brown. (I highly recommend the movie even if you aren’t interested in cooking. The lessons are applicable even if you prefer take out.)

Before watching the movie, I thought of meditation as sitting quietly and counting breaths, which I also do but am not necessarily great at. In reality, meditation is anything that allows you to clear your mind so you can clearly see things and reflect in a calm manner. Anything that can allow you to come to the present and focus on what is here and now can be meditation. I like the idea of the tea meditation (which could just as easily be coffee, if you so desire).

Cooking is meditation for me. I try to focus on the task I am doing. I do each step in a deliberate and thoughtful way. I focus on the ingredients I am using and how to make them into the final product. As it is said in How to Cook Your Life, I treat the food as precious and important because it is. As the cliche goes, we are what we eat. I prefer to be thoughtfully prepared food instead of potato chips.  I prefer to give the people I love food prepared in joy because food prepared with joy, tastes better.

For an additional level of meditation, I enjoy trying to make vegan recipes. I am not vegan but making vegan recipes is an added step that requires even more focus on what you are putting into the food. In vegan cooking, nothing can be an animal product, this includes eggs and milk which is in almost any recipe.

Recently, I was baking vegan muffins in preparation for a brunch I was hosting. At the same time I was making non-vegan food. Though the people I was preparing the muffins for probably would not cross examine me about the preparation of the muffins, I was careful not to cross-contaminate the muffins with items that I was baking. If I used a bowl, I made sure it had no residue of animal products. This additional layer of thought made the process even more of a meditative process. I had to be present in the moment to ensure all went smoothly. If I had let my mind wander or run amok in a million different ways, I could have mistakenly dipped a spoon that had stirred eggs into the vegan muffin batter, ruining it. This thoughtfulness brought me calm because I had to be deliberate in the way I cooked.

The beauty of using cooking as meditation is, most of us have to cook at least once during the day, so it opens you to an opportunity to meditate without having to set aside an additional period of time that you may not have.

As I said, I realize not everyone enjoys the process and if that is the case, cooking as meditation likely isn’t for you. However, even if you think you don’t enjoy cooking, doing it deliberately and in a meditative state may allow you to find the joy in the process.

If you want to try and use cooking as meditation, you can start with a simple recipe. Be mindful of the ingredients you are using. If you are doing something like chopping vegetables, focus all of your thoughts on the chopping, on the sensations, sounds and smells as you chop. By focusing you will settle your mind and clear it of all the random thoughts that tend to roam about normally. Continue this with each step of cooking. By the the time you are done preparing the meal, you will likely feel more relaxed and lighter, just like many people feel after doing sitting meditation.