This is us, for now

Last night, while schlepping my toddler from house to house in the dark , I heard a kid tell a group of trick or treaters about a friend who, upon returning to his burned out house during the Santa Rosa wildfire, found the family dog, burned but alive and waiting for him where their front porch used to be.

I don’t know how true this story is and I lack the journalistic integrity to do any sort of fact checking. But for once, this isn’t a story about truth. It’s a story about where we are right now.

Right now, we are going through the motions; doing what we are expected to do, doing what is normal. But our minds are on the fire. Our minds are on the future. No one is here right now. Not really.

We are a community in mourning. Telling and retelling our stories about the fire. Waiting for the time when we tell the story about the fire that was long ago, and how it changed us for the better.

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Be stronger

You can count on me to completely lose my shit twice a year; once in September and once in January. I call it, taking a ride on the crazy train. I know I have arrived at Breakdown Station when every little thing starts to piss me off. When my perspective turns bitter because it seems there is always something more to do and it is all my responsibility. When my usually positive and sunny outlook goes dark.

I mention this now because it is nearly September and that means the Crazy Train is approaching the station.

The September freakout occurs when summer exhaustion meets a new school year and then combines with the fact that my company is about to enter the fourth quarter of our fiscal year and I’m not sure how I’ll accomplish all the goals I set for myself by 12/31/–. These three factors converge to create a complete derailment featuring anxiety induced frustration and rage.

The January derailment occurs when holiday exhaustion meets the second half of the school year and then combines with the fact that my company just entered the first quarter of our fiscal year and I only have 12 months to accomplish all the projects we scoped.

Looking at them now, September and January seem to be two very dangerous and obvious kinks in the the railroad track. However, for the first time since embarking on my career and becoming a parent, I see and understand this pattern. More and more, I see that keeping the trains running on time, for me, is about two things:

#1–Recognizing when I need to calm the fuck down

#2–Knowing what it takes to calm the fuck down

During practice this morning, my yoga teacher said

“Notice if every little thing is pissing you off; then get stronger.”–Anna McLawhorn, Three Dog Yoga

Granted, she said this within the context of Warrior 2 (Virabhadra) which we had been holding for what felt like 3 hours, and we were all a little pissed off. But I heard it within the context of my own life and my own mental state.

“Every little thing IS pissing me off and I DO need to get stronger.” I need to get my shit together and take back the things that make my life work, like yoga and writing and sleep. Those are always the first things to go when schedules fall apart and life gets hectic. I need to calm the fuck down. I need to get grounded. I need to stay on track.

 

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

Tom Brady’s Black Bean Brownies Taste Just Fine

Many years ago, I saw an interview with super model Gisele Bundchen. She was explaining to the interviewer that she ate mostly steak and french fries and did things like heli-skiing to stay fit for the Victoria’s Secret runway.

Okay, well now she is pushing 40 and has had two kids. And, according to her Instagram, instead of steak and fries on the regular, she and her super hero husband eat like this:


Source: Would You Survive For A Day On Tom Brady’s Diet – BuzzFeed News

 

I mention this because:

  1. it helps to know that even super humans battle against the march of time and
  2. after the Super Bowl, there was a lot of buzz about Tom Brady’s recipe for success AND his black bean brownie recipe. In actuality, the buzz was around Tom and Gisele’s personal chef’s black bean brownie recipe.

Obviously, I was going to have to try those brownies because if they are good enough for a super model or a super bowl champion, then they are certainly good enough for me.

Unfortunately, Chef Campbell doesn’t divulge his recipes, so I had to come up with what I think is a pretty close approximation, based on the ingredients he claims to use: black beans, flaxseed meal, coconut oil, cacao (NOT COCOA FOR GOD’S SAKE, CACAO!!!), and agave nectar.

The key takeaways:

  1. If you are a regular person who can eat a regular brownie instead of something posing as a brownie, then you absolutely should do so.
  2. If you have celiac disease,are a vegan, are trying to cut out refined sugars in your diet, or you are a killjoy, then these are the “brownies” for you.

And now, Tom Brady’s Vegan, Gluten-free Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients
• 1 15 oz. (425 g) can (~ 1 3/4 cups) black beans, well rinsed and drained
• 2 large flax eggs (2 heaping Tbsp (~16 g) flaxseed meal + 6 Tbsp (90 ml) water)
• 3 Tbsp (45 g) coconut oil, melted (or sub other oil of choice)
• 3/4 cup (72 g) cacao (if you don’t know, this is chocolate with NO sugar)
• 1/4 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1/3-1/2 cup agave nectar (adjust to taste)
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• Optional toppings: crush walnuts or pecans (if you are splurging).
Oven temperature: 350°F

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First, this is cacao. Chop 2.5-3 ounces into small pieces.
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Combine your coconut oil and the cacao in a microwave-safe vessel and nuke it until it is smooth and melty. Cacao, and cocoa for that matter, doesn’t melt well without a fat to help it out.
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Next, make your flaxseed “egg” (this must be a vegan thing). Combine your flaxseed meal and the water and let it rest until it gels.
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Okay, NOW, you can dump everything, except for the nuts, into the food processor. Process until it is well mixed and smooth.
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Evenly distribute the batter into 12 well greased muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with nuts if that is what you are in to. Then bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. FYI, mine took the full 25 minutes.
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When the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the muffin tin and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a few brownies comes out clean, you’ll know they are ready. Pull them from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 25-30 minutes before you try to remove them. Even when cool, these seem to want to fall apart.

This article originally published on GroundingUp.

Science says a leopard can indeed change its spots (if it lives long enough).

Growing up, I often heard the proverb, ” A leopard cannot change its spots,” a line always used to confirm the fact that, like a leopard’s spots, a person cannot become good if their nature is bad. This is from the old testament and goes like this:

Jeremiah 13:23
“Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”

But, for decades, scientists have been looking for ways to prove or disprove Jeremiah’s theory about the spots and the people (because they are scientists and they had some left over grant money I guess).

And as it turns out, Jeremiah was probably incorrect. A recent study published in Psychology and Aging (2016 Vol. 31. No 8, 862-874) determined that your personality and the content of your character at age 77 bear no resemblance to that of your 14 year-old self.

“We hypothesized that we would find evidence of personality stability over an even longer period of 63 years, but our correlations did not support the hypothesis.” Harris, Brett, Johnson, and Deary, study authors.

This is all really great news because I was a self-absorbed a**hole at 14 and I like to believe that I won’t always be one. So what’s the catch?

THE CATCH:

You have to live long enough to experience a change in your personality. Their data indicates that as expected, our personalities change incrementally over time based on the life experiences we have and how we process them. This is the first time a study included anyone old enough to demonstrate a significant change in personality. So plan on living into your 80’s if you want to be fully self-actualized.

WHAT IS SCIENCE MISSING?

There are so many limitations to this study that I feel bad even pretending this data is legitimate.

There were only 171 of the original 1,208 study participants still alive at age 77 for the researchers to even talk to and collect data from. And, there is no mention of a personal motivation to change our spots over time, which arguably is the only way we can.

We must change our spots ourselves.  We must want to go on a journey, we must recognize that journey for what it is, and we must be willing to be changed by it.

Science cannot do that for us.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

White People Discover #Ube

A sweet potato knows it has finally hit the “white people radar” when it gets a feature in GQ Magazine. And that is exactly what happened to purple yams when the magazine ran the article, “What You Need to Know About Ube, the Filipino Ingredient Invading the Dessert World”.

A more accurate title for this article would have been “The Filipino Ingredient Invading the White Dessert World,” because this beautiful potato has been a staple ingredient in asian cuisine and desserts forever. White people did not “discover this potato” into existence, that was America. Duh!

But anyway, as a white girl reading GQ Magazine, I decided I was going to mess around with this “new to me” ingredient in my test kitchen.

And like with all things foreign, I was going to work with only my feeble knowledge and broad assumptions–what could go wrong?

First, I had to find some purple yams. I grabbed a few at my local grocery store, but many of the recipes I found called for rehydrated ube, which required a visit to amazon.com for some powdered purple yam.

With my ingredients in hand, I settled on cupcakes and muffins, both of which I managed to screw up, but still produce edible final products.

For the cupcakes, I used fresh shredded ube and a recipe I grabbed from the blog of a woman in Australia. I failed to steam the ube before adding it to the cupcakes, which gave them a decidedly chewy texture.

Note to self: next time, cook the ube first.

Next up were the ube muffins. Here is the recipe.

This recipe was kludged together from other recipes and what I know, generally, about making muffins.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cub rehydrated ube
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup yogurt
1/2 tsp lavender food coloring

Procedure:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin trays with baking cups.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until very light in colour and fluffy.
4. Beat in egg, ube, and lavender food coloring.
5. Switch to a spoon to stir (these are muffins so don’t over mix) In three additions, alternately add in flour mixture and yogurt, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape bowl as needed to ensure that everything is incorporated well.
6. Fill each baking cup with the cupcake batter about 3/4 full.
7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Transfer each cupcake immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: My Filipino friends were a bit surprised that my cupcakes didn’t involve coconut, so for authenticity, I gave the muffins a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut on the top before they went into the oven.

Another Note: For some reason, these muffins fell, which made them look sad, even though they were delicious and we’ll be making them again. And thanks to my Filipino friends for the coconut tip.

For more on ube, you can follow it on Instagram and Facebook.

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Here comes the sun–for a minute

We’ve had record rainfall this winter in Sonoma County, which is more than welcome after years of drought, but I can honestly say that we are all ready for a bit of a break from the wet weather. The sun was out for a bit today so we all ran outside to play (and catnap).

Wheel pose (Chakrasana or Urdva Dhanurasana) by Jes. Cat pose (not actually cat pose) by Doug The Cat.

 

Wine Cake and Sonoma County Real Estate

Trying to find a house to buy in this country is no joke. Trying to buy a house in Sonoma County is basically impossible. As it turns out, all of the houses already have people living in them and there are no one plans to move or build any new ones anytime soon because:

  1. the housing bust of 2008 dried up all the new construction
  2. developers are building multi-family units because rents are really high but they aren’t building any new single family homes
  3. there are still a lot of homeowners underwater on their mortgages
  4. there isn’t enough inventory for those who are above water on their mortgages and who want to move.

Somehow, we can build a 2,000 mile wall between the US and Mexico, but we can’t agree on a plan to build more housing for the people who live here.

There are no houses to buy and when one becomes available, you better have your shit together or you will miss your chance. Sometimes, you may have to ask around, try to get some info on the down low, make an offer on a house that’s not even on the market.

You may find yourself trying to convince a sweet octogenarian, who happens to be the current owner of your dream house, to sell it to you when he or she feels ready to do so–no rush, you’ll just be right over here, pre-approved for a mortgage and keeping your checkbook warm.

I’m not saying this is me, but I am saying that if I WERE working that angle, I would bring that sweet octogenarian some baked goods; because they like that sort of thing and THAT is the kind of person I am.

You may have heard that a certain sweet octogenarian you would like to bake for has a bad heart, so obviously, you bake them something healthy and vegan from ThugKitchen because you really do care about their health, but you are NOT fucking around.

And, because this is a Sonoma County real estate deal you are working, you bring that sweet man some wine cake from ThugKitchen.

ThugKithen Wine Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sweet Sugar Glaze Ingredients
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup wine (whatever you used for the cake)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Warm up the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a standard Bundt pan.
2. Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, coconut milk, wine, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Gently stir the dry mixture into the wet, then mix that shit up until there aren’t any more huge dry spots. Don’t overmix this though, just chill.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick stuck into it comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then stick a plate on top of that motherfucker and flip it over to get it out of the pan and onto the plate to cool.
4. Once the cake has cooled, you can add the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, wine, lemon juice, and vanilla until there aren’t any clumps. Drizzle over the cooled cake and slice that sweet son of a bitch up.

I have a few notes to make about this recipe after trying it. First, I don’t know what is going on with the recipe for the glaze, but it needs some work. There is way too much liquid. I would say you could reduce the amount of wine in it, but that suggestion makes me sad. So, try a different glaze recipe if you have one. Second, as you can see from the photo, I made this cake into cupcakes and ate them on my Mom’s wedding china because octogenarians make you feel fancy and old-school.

Thanks to ThugKitchen for the recipe. We didn’t technically ask them for permission to publish it, but they can just fucking get over it.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com