Thursday, June 28, 2012

8 Lessons Learned (the marriage edition)

When it comes to relationships, I'm certainly no expert; all I can do is share what I've learned and hope I don't keep making the same mistakes. It's been more than a year since my marriage ended, and, well, hindsight is 20/20. Here are some valuable lessons and suggestions for a strong relationship:

1. Love. Don't underestimate love. It's everything. Without it, you don't have a relationship. You'll lose respect for each other and you'll stop caring what happens, so you have to take care of it.

2. Act. Love looks different on each of us, but however you do it, do it. Love as an emotion feels wonderful for the person who feels it, but that doesn't do much for the other person. Love is an action.

3. Read. Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a fantastic book on marriage and relationships in general. I realize that a recommendation from someone whose marriage didn't work out might not mean much, but I promise, it's insightful and will have an impact on you. And it has games!

4. Share. If your goal is to share your life with someone, then share it. Some couples value their individuality, and leading somewhat separate lives doesn't bother them. But at some point, even the most independent person must share feelings, physical space, or activities with his/her partner. Otherwise, why bother being together? Keeping feelings secret, in particular, is a great way to breed resentment, fear, and distrust. Be curious about the other person's thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Recipe Pho You

There's a great little Vietnamese restaurant that my friend introduced me to about a year ago, and I've been hooked ever since. I had not, in fact, eaten Vietnamese food before that day, and I did not know what I was missing. It's great! We have since discovered a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant that is now known as The Best Restaurant Ever. 

Anyway, as an almost-vegetarian, I really like vegetarian pho. I finally decided to try making it a little while back. I started with this recipe, and then simplified it, considering the ingredients I'm likely to have on hand and the energy level I'm likely to have to have on hand as well.

Vegetarian Pho
Basically, I sauté some onion and garlic for a few minutes along with tofu if I have it. Then I add about equal parts vegetable broth and water, then the soy sauce, anise, coriander, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Then I add whatever vegetables I have handy and some kind of Asian noodles. If I don't have any noodles on hand, I'll put quinoa in (which probably isn't Vietnamese but is healthy and filling). If I actually plan to make this soup, then I'll have lime juice, basil, and jalapeños as garnishes, but it's still good without the garnishes if I'm in a hurry. It's customizable for your taste. What I think makes it pho is the flavor of the broth. 

Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

8 Things I'd Like to Buy for You

There are some products/services that are so great that I'd like to share them with the world. Normally, I'm all "To each her own," but, damn it, there are some things that I think should come standard with every household because they're good for everyone (but, you know, to each her own). 

1. Some kind of vertical garden apparatus. Like this. That one was an early birthday present, thanks to Mom and Dad. People are making vertical gardens from old wooden pallets and shoe organizers. I just can't get over how happy the concept of vertical gardening makes me--I'll let you know how my own adventures turn out. 

2. Massages. Yes, it takes time to find a massage therapist or a type of massage that works for you, and maybe you don't even need to seek out a professional, but caring, human touch is therapeutic. Everyone deserves a good rub down, even if it's only a foot massage or a hand massage (hand massages are awesome, especially for someone who knits and grades papers). I have a membership to Massage Envy, and it's quite affordable and totally worth it. 

3. Chalkboard paint. I am obsessed with it. I can't paint because I live in a rented apartment, but someday ... In the meantime, I want everyone else to be using it. 

4. Reusable shopping bags and produce bags. Here's a tip for all of you who say, "I always forget to bring them with me." Buy some that fold up so you can keep them in your purse or glove compartment. You just have to commit to it, friends. But once you do, you'll never go back.

5. A Trader Joe's store (for those who don't have one nearby). Not just the products--oh no. I'm talking the entire store. It's more than the sum of its parts. It's not flawless, but it's pretty close. I love that I can't get lost staring at half a dozen varieties of red kidney beans. They have one kind, and it's good quality. That pretty much describes the entire store. If I can't buy the entire store, I'll at least buy everyone a box of their rosemary and raisin crackers. 

6. Netflix. You mean you don't have Netflix? Netflix isn't as cool as it used to be, but it's still great, and it's an inexpensive alternative to cable TV if you're thinking of giving that up.

7. Minimalist shoes. I'd like for everyone to at least give them a try. By the way, I get tons of compliments on my New Balance Minimus cross trainers, and I've had someone in my Zumba class buy a pair after seeing mine.

8. A memory foam mattress. I was skeptical about how great a Tempur-Pedic could be, but it really lives up to the hype. No back pain, and I did fall asleep quickly, which is something I've always had problems with. I didn't keep the Tempur-Pedic in the divorce, but I bought an inexpensive Serta memory foam mattress from Overstock.com, and it's still a great mattress.

It's your turn now. What are some really great products or services that you'd like to share with the world?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Have I mentioned that I love cake?

My previous post about cooking is actually related to my theme for this month: Better Eating Habits (the capitalization is for dramatic effect).

Let me explain a little bit about my philosophy when it comes to eating. I do not diet. I do not deny myself things that I truly want. I enjoy what I eat.

Friday, June 8, 2012

8 Ways to Be a Better Cook

I've heard about people who "can't cook," and I have to say that I'm perplexed by this idea. Cooking is a skill. It can be learned. I can cook now, but it wasn't always that way. I had to practice, and I am very much still learning. If you're embarrassed that you are of a certain age and you still don't know how to cook, I imagine it's because you haven't practiced it much over the years. You will not wake up one day knowing how to cook. And like anything else, you can't expect to master something the first few times you try.

If you simply don't want to cook, that's okay; there are other cooks in the world. But I find cooking to be quite rewarding, so I think everyone should give it a shot. Here are the cooking lessons I've learned over the last 10 years:

1. Start cooking. Duh. You can't win if you don't play. If you want to get better at it, you can't avoid it. Get in the kitchen and get to work. Practice, practice, practice.

2. Make a list of your favorite dishes or ingredients and prepare meals that incorporate your favorite stuff. Don't just go for the easiest recipes out there. Make sure that what you're making is something that you'll likely think is tasty when it's done. There's something to be said for putting your heart into a meal.

3. Do follow recipes. I started off making meals that came from boxes (and I don't recommend this, but it is one way to start off easy) where the ingredients were minimal and everything was spelled out pretty clearly. Even a package of rice or pasta will have cooking directions on them. Almost everything I make started off with a recipe that I've memorized or modified over the years.After a short time, you'll begin to see recurring themes in the recipes, and soon you'll be on to #4.

4. Okay, you've mastered your favorites, and you've started following recipes. Now it's time to experiment. Visiting a farmers market or signing up for a CSA is one way to encounter different ingredients that you can get creative with. I've found that going through my pantry and fridge is a good way to inspire creativity as well--what can I make with what I already have? Lately, I've also been inspired by some of Trader Joe's pre-made meals. I buy them, eat them, and then recreate them in my own kitchen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gleaning

Sexiest woman alive right here. 
Ag Against Hunger, an organization that works to connect our  local agriculture industry with food assistance programs, organizes vegetable gleaning events in which volunteers go out to a designated field to harvest produce. These vegetables are either donated by the farm or would otherwise be left in the field to be tilled back in to the soil. This morning I participated in gleaning romaine lettuce at Boggiatto Produce.

Although getting up at 7:00 on a Saturday doesn't sound like much fun, I'm so glad I did it.