Sunday, December 19, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I love gifts. I love getting them and I especially love giving them. I like to think that I've been on fire this year with my (online) shopping. I also happened to pick up some things for myself along the way. (Did you put yourself on your shopping list this year?) Here are some of my favorite purchases I've recently made:

Sorel Boots
In the last post I mentioned this crazy blizzard we had last week and my three treacherous walks with the dogs. Well, besides the sideways-blowing snow, the 45 MPH winds, and the ice-encrusted sidewalks, what made my walks so treacherous were my gosh darn Ugg boots. As anyone who has ever tried to stay vertical while wearing these in a snowstorm knows, they're so slippery! So I jumped online last weekend and ordered myself a pair of Sorels. They arrived this week and I am OBSESSED! If you need boots that are super light, super non-slip, super cute, and super warm you’ve got to get yourself a pair of these bad boys. Oh, and unlike when we were five and they were purely functional, they're stylish now to boot (hehe). Check out the adorable pair that I'm sporting now:
Starbucks Christmas Blend
I used to be a Starbucks girl (Venti nonfat misto, please!) But lately, I prefer making my own at home. During a recent stop into my local joint, I asked the friendly barista what kind of bean he recommends for someone who likes a nutty flavor. He suggested the Christmas Blend. Whether he gets bonus points (or dollars) for encouraging me to shell out for a seasonal bean is of no consequence to me--his recommendation was spot on. It's rich (but not too bitter), smooth, and, yes, nutty. I'm thinking about stocking up on the blend to last me through the other 40 weeks of the year.

Brendan James
A Facebook friend recently posted a video by this singer and I was immediately hooked. His lyrics are packed with emotion, he's a mean piano player, and he's really cute. What more could you ask for? So I promptly bought all of his albums on iTunes. Check out the new video on his website and you may just do the same:

Three Soups Coming At Ya!

Hey guys!

Sorry it has been a little while since I last posted. What can I say? It’s the holidays. Life is full. What I’m loving so much right now is how my friends have been putting in just a little extra effort to get together when we can. It’s awesome. We’re all going to be away or with our families over the holidays, so my friends and I have been making sure that we see each other before we scatter.

Anyway, I thought I’d jump on and post some of my recent soup/stew experiments, all of which have been great successes. A few weeks ago I started to second guess whether posting these recipes was a stupid idea. Who am I, a total cooking newbie, to be posting recipes? And who the heck is going to make them besides, well, me? But then I got an e-mail from my Great Aunt in Delaware. (Aunt Jackie, I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here—it made my day!)


I just wanted to tell you, I finally found your Blog page. I enjoyed reading your page. You come across as a very down to earth writer. I could understand what you were saying. The first page I read gave a recipe for Minestrone soup with collards. My first thought was, "What on earth does a little Jewish girl born and bred in New York know about collards and beans?” As it turns out, quite a bit. I made the soup yesterday and it was delicious. Aunt Kit and Cathy tried it, my neighbors and Uncle Bob all said keep that recipe. I just wanted you to know we try to keep up with you and Leah and your careers. Your Grammy must be smiling down on you, especially when you are in the kitchen. Keep me up on your latest recipe.

How cool is that? Best e-mail ever. I sure hope Grammy’s watching! She was an unbelievable cook. So it’s with this in mind that I’d love to continue posting my soup/stew successes. I’ll go in reverse order, starting with what I whipped up this week:

Veggie-Packed Turkey Chili

I had been craving chili since I started this endeavor. But I wanted to wait until it was true chili weather. I got my wish last Sunday during a Chicago blizzard that kept me inside all day long—except for three semi-treacherous trips outside with the pups. I knew that I wanted to make chili with turkey instead of red meat since I’d be having it every night. I also knew that I wanted a chili that packed as many veggies into it as possible—especially corn. So after a little Internet search, I started with this Rachael Ray recipe as my guide. Then, I called my sister to discuss the recipe. (Actually we discussed it over Google video chat.) I needed to talk through it because a) I had never made chili before and b) I knew I wanted to change that RR recipe A LOT. (Um, it didn’t have beans. How can a chili not have beans!? I ended up adding two cans. Score!) Enough of my blathering, let’s get to this fantabulous recipe that is seriously the best chili I’ve ever had. Yep, even better than the famous turkey chili at Deer Valley, which I believed was the best chili on the planet…until I had my own. Yep, I said it. Sorry, DV, you’ve got nothing on me.

FYI: This recipe makes about 10 servings – I froze half.


1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 bell pepper, one red and one green, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (FYI, I’m not a spicy person so I just used a tiny sliver of the jalapeno for flavor. But if you like spicy, knock yourself out and use the whole thing.)

1 bottle Corona or other kind of beer

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

2 pounds light meat turkey

1.5 cans (28 ounces each) San Marzano tomatoes (if you can’t find this brand any kind will do. These will just take your chili experience to a whole new glorious level.)

Bag (16 oz) frozen corn kernels

1 can (15 oz) kidney beans

1 can (15 oz) black beans


In a deep pot, heat EVOO over medium high heat. Once hot, add the onion, jalapeno, and a little S&P. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers. Cook, stirring, until tender. Add the spices. They’ll start to toast on the bottom of the pan and become fragrant and make your apartment/house smell delicious. Once this occurs (within a few mins of cooking) add about half the bottle of beer and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Add the meat and the rest of the beer. Unless you already drank it. Oops. Let everything cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour. Then add the beans and corn. Continue simmering for at least 15 minutes or as long as an additional hour. Serve with brown rice and a side of roasted kale. At least that’s what I did and it was perfect! YUM!

Red Lentil with Collard Greens Soup

This recipe comes from my friend Ali in Vermont. She’s one of my best friends there and is a genius in the kitchen (last time I was there she made a pumpkin risotto with dried cranberries that would knock your socks off.) Ali’s a vegetarian, so any time I want to know how to cook a new vegetable (I swear, she’s tried them all!) she’s my go-to gal. She sent me this recipe a few weeks ago and I made it that same week. I changed up her recipe a bit (I used chicken stock instead of veggie because that’s what I had on hand) and whereas she used spinach as the green, I used collards because I already had them in my fridge. This recipe is also great for sneaking in tons of veggies. The lentils create a smooth consistency, so adding tons of carrots and celery adds a little chunkiness. (Btw, no worries if you’ve never cooked red lentils before—I hadn’t cooked or eaten them prior to this and they were super easy to make and totally delicious to chow.) Here it goes:

[Makes 4-5 servings]



Medium-sized onion, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 leek, chopped

8 cups chicken broth

2 bunches of collard greens, stems removed and leaves cut into small pieces (no collards? No prob. Ali used 4 cups frozen spinach.)

2 cups dried red lentils (find them in the bulk bin at WF)


In a big pot, heat EVOO over medium-high heat. Add onion, s&p, and sauté. Add carrots, celery, and leek. Cook until veggies soften. Add garlic. Sauté for a few more minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add lentils and lower heat to a simmer. About an hour into cooking, add the collard greens. Once they cook down, it’s ready to eat. Or you can keep cooking for another hour or so. Add s&p to taste and dig in!

White Bean, Kale and Chicken Sausage Meatball Soup

You guys, this is a killer recipe. You’re going to love it. I basically combine two of my faves: This one that I invented a few weeks ago and a Barefoot Contessa classic, Italian Wedding soup. Check it out:



1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 leek, cleaned (cut it down the middle and rinse out the grit that’s inside) and chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes

6 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth

1-2 cups dried Great Northern Beans

2 bunches kale, stems removed and cut into small pieces

1 pound chicken sausage out of the casings

salt & pepper


Heat EVOO. Add onion, sprinkle with s&p and sauté. Once onion is translucent (a few minutes) add carrots, celery, and leeks. Cook, stirring, until carrots soften. Add garlic. Add tomato paste. Add the tomatoes with juice, the broth, and bring to a boil. Add the beans. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.

About an hour into simmering the soup, make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350˚. Cover two baking sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray (the meatballs stick big time if you don’t take these precautions.) Taking about a Tablespoon of the meat at a time, roll in your hands, creating cute little meatballs. Place them on baking sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned. (Don’t overcook. They’ll dry out. I’m speaking from experience here.) When they’re done, set aside

Once the soup has been cooking for about two hours, add the kale and the meatballs. Cook until the kale cooks down and then it’s ready to eat. Bon appetit!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew Part Two

After my week-long Thanksgiving in Vermont that involved a total of about 33 hours of driving (15 hours there, 15 hours back, and 3 hours from Burlington to Mount Snow in the middle) I resumed The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew this week. I spent the holiday, as I often do when I’m with my family, picking my sister’s brain for cooking tips.

Leah told me that she’d been making soups with dried beans and found that doing so made the broth a little thicker. I decided to put her advice to the test this week. The result is a recipe that’s similar to my first soup post, but is a total upgrade.

She was spot on about the dried beans. I’m never going back to the canned ones. (Goodbye BPA!) I also added dried lentils because I still had some left from the salmon and lentil recipe I made a while back. If you’re a little hesitant about dried beans like I was, don’t be. You don’t need to soak them or do anything fancy when using them in soup. You just dump them into the pot, simmer for several hours (about three), and they’ll soften and plump up. And, whenever possible, scoop up dried beans/lentils from bulk bins. You get exactly the amount that you need, save money, and you'll cut down on packaging (remember to reuse the plastic bag).

The new veggie this week? Leeks! I had never cooked them before, but Leah suggested adding leeks along with the carrots and celery and I dutifully obeyed. They’re definitely going to be a regular staple in my soups as well. They’re like delicate oniony-flavored ribbons.

Week After Thanksgiving Detox Soup (aka white bean, lentil, and kale soup--hello fiber!)



1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 leek, cleaned (cut it down the middle and rinse out the grit that’s inside) and chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings because that’s what I had on hand and it added great flavor—I barely added any s&p)

6 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth

1-2 cups dried Great Northern Beans (I used 1 cup, Leah recommends 2)

¼ cup dried lentils (any amount is fine, this is what I had left)

2 bunches kale, stems removed and cut into small pieces

Salt & pepper


1. Heat EVOO. Add onion, sprinkle with s&p and sauté.

2. Once onion is translucent (a few minutes) add carrots, celery, and leeks. Cook, stirring, until carrots soften.

3. Add garlic.

4. Add tomato paste. Stir, but also let it toast a little in the pan. Leah informs me that it brings out the flavor and she’s right.

5. Add the tomatoes with juice, the broth, and bring to a boil.

6. Add the beans and lentils. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.

7. If needed, turn off the stove and take your dog to the vet because he hurt his foot while running through the woods while you were home. If your dog doesn’t need to go to the vet, continue simmering.

8. About two hours into cooking, add the kale.

9. Simmer for an additional hour (not crucial—it’s ready to eat once the kale has cooked down, but the longer everything simmers the yummier it gets)

10. Thank your awesome sister for great cooking advice.

Small Changes. Big Results?

This time of year life is so robust. Yet I’ve been thinking about the small stuff. In this quest for achieving and maintaining a balanced life, I’ve discovered that it’s about constant refinement. Once you nail down the healthy habits that make you feel good, you continue making miniscule adjustments so that those habits become even easier to sustain. Here’s a look at some of the little shifts I’ve recently made.

Seltzer Oh how I adore those frisky little bubbles! A couple of months ago I started buying seltzer very regularly. By very regularly I mean that I can down a liter in two days. (I go for the plain Jane fizzy water and sometimes add a squeeze of lemon.) Early on, I blogged about what was likely the very worst thing in my diet: Diet Coke. It wasn’t until several weeks into my new carbonated habit that I realized I hadn’t had a DC in, well, several weeks. I hadn’t even wanted one and still haven't had one since. The cold, crisp bubbly water completely satisfies whatever it was that DC seemed to achieve, but without any of the fake sugar, fake dye, and caffeine. This is why a seltzer maker is at the top of my holiday wish list. Although I recycle the bottles, it seems like such a waste when I could whittle my usage down to a single reusable bottle. Come December 25, I hope to be sipping homemade seltzer out of one of these bad boys:

Vitamins This is by far the simplest change of them all. But before I clue you in, let me give you the low down (at least my low down) on vitamins. (Specifically the ones that I’ve decided to take: a daily multi, calcium + vitamin D, and omega-3.)

Will popping supplements like Tic Tacs prevent disease, help you live longer, make you smarter, and ward off wrinkles? I have no stinking idea. But I will tell you that in every article I’ve written about cancer prevention, sources emphasize taking a daily multivitamin. It’s not a panacea for a crappy diet, but if you already eat reasonably well it can help fill in any nutritional gaps. There’s also no question that getting enough calcium and vitamin D daily is crucial for bone health and much more. I’m not sure I buy the science saying that we should pump ourselves full of D, the vitamin du jour, (especially in light of recent research), but getting at least enough if not just a little more than the RDA (which is based on preventing some old-school disease called rickets) won’t hurt. And finally, take omega-3. It’s good for your heart, your brain, your mood, and the list goes on.

In short, I follow the advice Michael Pollan sets out in In Defense of Food (if you haven’t read it, run—don’t walk—to the bookstore now): “Be the kind of person who takes supplements.” Why? The jury is out on whether vitamins will do all the fabulous things we hope it will. However, studies have found that in general people who take supplements are healthier than those who don’t. One reason may be because they live an overall healthier lifestyle and believe that taking supplements is part of that—whether or not vitamins actually have any direct impact on their healthiness. I get that. So, in order to be the kind of person who takes supplements, I thought it would be good to take supplements. At worst (within recommended doses) they’ll have absolutely no effect. At best, they’ll offer a leg up on an already healthy lifestyle.

Finally, here’s where the change comes in: Instead of storing my supps in the back of a cabinet where I forget to take them on a daily basis, I moved them to my kitchen counter. There’s a caveat: I’ve reported on how leaving your vitamins in a humid place, like your bathroom can decrease their potency. So I’ve been careful to place them in a location where they are not exposed to much humidity. Plus, my kitchen has pretty good circulation and doesn’t exactly feel like Miami in July, so I think I’m in the clear. Ever since moving those suckers to the counter, I’ve remembered to take them every single day. I don’t even have to think about them—I see those fat bottles and toss my daily dose down the hatch.

Oatmeal As we all know, I’ve struggled with breakfast options in the past. It started off with the granola fiasco, followed by eggs, which didn’t crack it for me, and then on to yogurt (good in summer, not hearty enough in winter). But I think (hope?) I’ve finally found my solution in the humble oat. When I mentioned to a friend and habitual oatmeal eater (the lovely and talented Leslie Goldman) that I feel hungry five seconds after eating a bowl of oatmeal, she offered this sage advice: “Eat more.” What a difference more has made. For the past few months I’ve been chowing on a bowl of oatmeal every morning made with either 1 cup of instant oats or ½ cup of steel cut oats (if I have time to make it, I prefer the latter thanks to its thicker texture and nuttier flavor). I cook it on the stove (I cannot properly work a microwave to save my life) and then drizzle raw agave, mix in about 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed (for fiber and additional omega-3’s), add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg and I’m good to go until lunchtime.

So what, exactly, are the payoffs of these little changes? Only time will tell. Fortunately, I'm willing to wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mmm Mmm Good

I am officially declaring this The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew. You heard it here first. Thrilling, right? Thought so. If I make a big pot of something at the beginning of the week, I am set with dinner for the next four days—five if I can still stand whatever I made by the fifth day. Why the soupy shift? Well, trying to make something different every night hasn't been working for me. I get home from yoga by 8 or 8:30pm. After taking the dogs for a lap around the block and whipping up dinner, it’s often 9:30 pm by the time I’m chowing. No bueno.

But make a big pot of grub on Sunday afternoon/evening, heat it up on weeknights, and I’ll be doing dishes before I’d normally be sitting down to dine. Problem solved.

I might not be the very first person to come up with the cook-once-eat-all-week idea. And I might not be the very first person to eat soup when it’s cold outside. But I am determined to make The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew work for me. As simple as that sounds, there are a few hurdles recipes must overcome in order to qualify for The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew:

· It has to taste good. Obvs. For me, that means it needs to be cheese-free (if you haven’t noticed by now I hate cheese. More than anything on the planet. Unless it’s on pizza. I have no explanation for that.)

· It needs to have a protein source. Beans, lean meats, protein-packed whole grains--yes please!

· Here’s the tricky one: It must have lots of veggies. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like such a challenge when we’re talking soups and stews, but consider this: The nutritional downside of eating the same thing every night for a week is that I could cheat myself out of variety. For instance, cream of broccoli soup might not make the cut because I’d be having, well, broccoli every single night. But if the broccoli soup contained carrots, potatoes, onions, and other goodies then we can talk. Another reason why variety is crucial: I’ll be less likely to get bored by the second day if there’s a whole lot going on in every bite.

· It can’t be minestrone soup—one of the most veggie-packed soups—every single week. I’d go crazy and abandon this mission faster than you can say "soup’s on." This is going to require a little creativity and a more adventuresome palate on my part.

· Whenever possible, the recipe should contain at least one food that’s new to me. Cooking is an ongoing learning process. Prepping and cooking new ingredients is one of the best ways for me to learn. This week, for instance, my soup contained collard greens (recipe below), a newbie in my repertoire. Loved it.

Eventually, I’d like to try some flavors that I am less familiar with such as curries, miso, and others. And I’d like to give slow cooking a try, although that would require a slow cooker (Santa, are you reading?)

As much as possible and without boring you to death, I will keep you updated on the soup and stew successes. I’ll spare you the failures. (I, however, won’t be so fortunate.) And please feel free to post links to your favorite soup and stew recipes here or on my Facebook page--I need all the help I can get.

Let’s kick off The Fall/Winter of the Soup/Stew with last night’s stellar Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans. (It’s minestrone. I know.) The original recipe comes from the almighty Martha, but I tweaked it to up the flavor and veggie content.


1 tablespoon EVOO

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped (hey folks, did you know that Whole Foods will let you take however many stalks you need off of the bunch of celery without buying the whole shebang? You’re welcome.)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 bunches of collard greens (it’ll look like A LOT of greens, but they cook down)

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp red-pepper flakes (this was in the original recipe, but I omitted it because I don’t do spicy)

2 cans white beans (such as Great Northern)

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in juice

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup dried pasta (I used orecchiette because I friggin' love it)


1. Prep your veggies. I like to do all of the slicing and dicing before I start cooking. Maybe it’s because I learned how to cook by watching the Food Network. Never cooked collards before? Neither had I. I prepped them the same way that I do kale and it worked like a charm. Here’s how: Fill your sink with water and place the greens in there to rinse away any sand/dirt/whatever collects on greens. Taking one giant leaf (they’re huge!) at a time, use a paring knife and remove the tough stalk that runs through the middle. The leaf will now be in two sections. Roll up one half at a time into a tight burrito-like thing and then cut it horizontally into thin strips. This process might feel like it takes a while because it does. That’s what Sunday afternoons and Taylor Swift are for.

2. Rinse the beans. Place ¼ of beans in a bowl, and mash them with the back of a fork or spoon (this will help thicken the soup. Plus it's kind of fun. I'm sure that's what Martha had in mind.)

3. Get cooking: In a large saucepan or medium-sized red Le Creuset French oven (Still reading, Santa?) heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; season with S & P. Cook, stirring, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook until carrots soften.

4. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until veggies are coated, about 30 seconds.

5. Add collard greens, thyme, and red-pepper flakes if you’re into that. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, about 2 to 4 minutes. Add all of the beans. You’ll have a heavy glob of veggies. You’ll think you did something wrong, but you’ll check the recipe and find out you didn’t.

6. Add the can of tomatoes with juice and the chicken stock. Give it a nice stir, maybe more S & P. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes, add the pasta (you can leave it out if you're carb phobic.)

7. Ladle soup into bowl. Wait for soup to cool slightly before eating. Apparently some people still need to learn this. Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Plugging In

If you asked me exactly a week ago whether I thought I was living an authentic life I would have answered with a resounding yes. Or maybe a “duh.” I have a job that I love, live in a city that I choose to live in, have friends and family that I adore, am happy and grateful. What more could there possibly be?

Hm…well…a lot. For starters.

I spent the last five days in the first part of the Anusara yoga immersion. In other words, I spent the last five days plugging in to who I am and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. What I discovered on the other end of this experience is that when I tune into who I am, everything I thought to be true gets flipped on its head.

Although I had wanted to do these immersions for several years, I put them off. I even registered for one last spring and I put it off. I put them off because I was afraid that if I jumped off the fancy treadmill I’ve established in my life, even for just a few days, everything would fall apart. Sure, I was afraid I’d fall behind in work. But more importantly, I was afraid that by taking the time to turn inward—to pursue something that requires a great deal of awareness and self-study—I wouldn’t be able to jump back on the treadmill with the same gusto. I was afraid that I’d notice some cracks in my life that I’d rather keep speeding past.

You know what? I was right. Each and every one of those fears was realized. But you know what else? I’m so glad they were. I learned from this experience that if I really examine those cracks closely, they’re only spaces for light to shine though. They’re opportunities waiting for me to acknowledge them so I can grow and improve with them.

Let me take a moment to come back down to earth and provide a concrete example of what I’m blathering about. All of those gifts that I listed up top—awesome job, great city, fantastic family, happiness—are true. Even so, what the heck did I ever do with them? When I’d walk into Whole Foods, did I ever really take the time to acknowledge the check out person? Sure, I might have engaged in how’s-your-day-did-you-find-everything-you-needed-that’s-an-interesting-tattoo small talk. But that was somewhere amidst shoving my reusable bags onto the conveyor belt while making sure my Bartlett and Anjou pears didn’t get mixed up while checking my e-mail on my BlackBerry. Even if I back up and think about how I’d walk to the store, did I ever actually see the other people walking on the street with me? Or did I get frustrated at the slow pokes and hurriedly buzz by them because this annoying errand was just a blip in my uber important life and these people were in my freakin’ way? Um. Yeah. If I back up even more, I wish someone had recorded one of the many conversations I had on the phone with my mom while buzzing past the people on the street on my way to being a snob at Whole Foods. I’d love to hear it now. It would have read like a laundry list of anxiety and conceit. (Thank you, Mom, for putting up with me. I’m sorry. You're a saint and you deserve better.)

But things have shifted. And I really hope that I can keep everything in its new place from now on. Learning about and diving deeply into the practice of yoga lit a spark within me. It helped me to recognize my own brightness. (Interestingly enough, my intention, or sankalpa, for the past six months has been a single word—“shiny”—and I didn’t even know why or what it meant or what it felt like until now.) I couldn’t even sleep past 6 a.m. each morning last week—although my body ached for more—because I couldn’t wait to continue stoking the fire, to see what else could be revealed. When I was truly aligned with life, everything in me and around me came to life, too.

When I arrived at the airport yesterday evening after the last day of the workshop, I hesitated to enter the building. I was scared that everyone else would look like zombies to me—the same way I must have appeared trucking down Halstead—and they’d quickly bring me back down to earth. Lights on. Game over. The end. What I found, however, was exactly the opposite. Everyone else seemed lighter and brighter to me, too. I didn’t see all the stuff they were hauling with them inside and out. Instead, I saw that they were folks just like me engaging in this dance we call life, even while balancing our 10-pound backpacks. In other words, recognizing my own light enabled me to notice the very same beacon in others.

So when I sit back down at my desk this morning, am I going to toss my iMac out the 10th story window? Heck no! I can’t wait to get back to work! Because now, I hope I can approach it—and everything else—with the real zeal that powers me from within instead of relying on an imaginary piece of machinery for momentum.

And that, I hope, is living an authentic life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Again.

Several weeks ago, I blogged about a weekend I spent mostly solo. I honored the power it had at the time, but I could have never imagined the impact it would have from that point on. But last weekend while talking with a friend, I heard words spill out of my mouth that only a few months ago I would have never expected to hear. “I really enjoy my own company.” It completely took me by surprise, but the truth had been brewing for a while.

Over the past three and a half years, I found myself living in some really interesting places (Utah and Vermont). The downside to choosing to move to places where I knew few, if any, people was that I often found myself alone and it was rarely by choice. I couldn’t call someone at a moment’s notice and see if they wanted to grab a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a few ski runs, a movie, or dinner. Sometimes, but not always. Instead of being comforted by my own company I was often annoyed. I'd think, You again?

It was largely for this reason that I chose to move to Chicago earlier this year. Although my job allows me to live pretty much anywhere with cell phone reception and an Internet connection (which, these days, is pretty much anywhere) I chose to move where my friends were. At the time, I barely considered all of the great things I’d get to enjoy by living in Chicago. I would have moved to the North Pole if that were where my friends were. (Visit in January and you may think that’s exactly what I did.)

Without an ounce of hesitation, I can say that I made the best move of my life. I know that I can pick up the phone or shuttle off an e-mail and within moments have plans to eat sushi or go for a walk or even take a yoga class with some of my favorite people on the planet. But what has surprised me most is that sometimes I decide not to. Sometimes, all I want to do is cook a nice meal, snuggle into my couch, and read a book or watch a DVD. Alone. Although the order of events would have been identical in any of those other places, I actually enjoy it now. Because if I don't want to do it, I don't have to do it. Because it’s a choice. Because I have options.

Now it’s, You again!

I write a lot here about finding balance on my plate and in my body. But the reality is that there’s balance to be found in every corner of my life. Even my social one.