MOTIVATION MONDAY:

Happy New Year!!!  Can you believe it?  The first Monday, of the first week, of a brand new year.  Feels kind of like a shiny new car that we're all ready to take out for a spin.  The trick is to keep that feeling of excitement and purpose everyday.  We may not need much motivation on this, the first Monday of a new year, but a little zetz never hurt.  Go get em girl!      


          

GRIEF AND JOY ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE:

Happy New Year!  I decided to pop in one more time for 2021.  I was inspired by this picture I took last week driving along the PCH before the winter rains set in.  I have enjoyed so many incredible coast sunsets in 2021.

Now it's winter in the west with trees down, mud slides and flooding.  But I do love wearing boots and scarves and toasting marshmallows in our fireplace. 

2021 was, in many ways, an extremely tough year for a lot of people, including me.  But in other ways, (for me), it was joyful and dotted with sprinkles.  I hope you have had those moments as well.  Write them down, look through your calendar or phone at the last 12 months and you may be surprised at all you have accomplished.  So often we focus on what we didn't do as opposed to what we did.  Notice what you have learned and/or grown through.

This year I've learned that grief and joy are not mutually exclusive.  

I'm ready for an amazing 2022 and I wish the same for you.  Thank you for reading my blog posts this year.  It means the world to me.  


                       Happy New Year!



CHANGING COURSE OVER THE HOLIDAYS:

I've been thinking a lot about what the holidays mean to me this year.  And I've come to realize that although we all have different traditions we follow, every year can be different too.  And I think that's a good thing.  Not to say annual rituals and traditions aren't great, but when you come to a fork in the road, and you need to change it up, it's all about how you can choose to look at it.  You can be sad that everything's changing, or you can take the opportunity to be creative and work with what you've got.  So after years of big beautifully decorated trees, here is our Christmas tree this year, a little Charlie Brownish for sure.

You see, we always had a tradition of going to a particular Christmas Tree Farm.  Mike would pull out his ancient (disgusting), plaid flannel pullover, I'd make a thermos of hot cocoa, and we'd go cut down a tree. And by "we" I mean "he".  This was very important to him.  No fake trees.  I was on the fence.  I'm Jewish so it's all just fun and festive decorating to me.  Anyway, in 2020, due to Covid, we bought our first fake tree.  And let me tell you it has its perks.  It was pre-lite, for once thing!  

My husband was only picky about two things in life, where we'd park in the football stadium for tailgating, (he'd move the car at least 5x before he found the "perfect" spot), and which Christmas tree to choose at the farm.  He'd change his mind 10x until we found the "perfect" tree.  And then he'd saw it down.  It was tradition, it was a ritual, it was fun for all those years, I have great memories, and now it's over.  Time to change it up.

This year, due to Mike's loss of cognitive function, he has no idea it's even Christmas.  I'll keep telling him, but honestly, if I didn't decorate he wouldn't notice.  And he can no longer follow directions like "get down the holiday boxes".  When I went into the garage to get them myself, I was very grateful the Hanukkah box was on a shelf I could reach.  But then I realized that he had put the Christmas tree, the stand, and most of the decoration boxes on the very top shelf.  The boxes are heavy and big, and the garage ceiling is high so when I say top shelf I mean higher then my 5'2 self on a ladder can reach.  I cried for a minute.  Then I decided it wasn't worth killing myself on a ladder for.  I found a box I could reach, and in it were the things I love to put on the mantle.  I found some lights and some ornaments.  We have so much that I just could not see buying new things.  So I put the lights around my living room and used what I found.

Do I miss the tree?  Yes, but it looks pretty this way too.  I hung the ornaments I found on my rubber tree, (said Charlie Brown's mother, probably).  And I decorated our mantle.  I'm happy with it.  And believe me, I'm not deprived.  This week I decorated our 12ft Christmas tree at work.  In my collage days I got extra credits volunteering to decorate holiday windows in NYC, (a la Rhoda Morgenstern), and that was so much fun. 

It's good to remind ourselves that we are the Caption of our ship and we can change course whenever necessary.  Don't fight against the current, you could drown!  For the future, I dream of traveling through the Christmas Markets of Europe over the holidays.  As for this year, I'll be happy with a roaring fire, a cozy blanket, and a big cup of hot cocoa :)

From Our Home To Yours, Happy Holidays!

HEALTHY, FAST AND EASY: RECIPES

Who wants to cook between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  I'm thinking no one.  We've finished all our TG leftovers and some of us overloaded on potato latkes (guilty).  And some of you are probably gearing up to make big Christmas and/or New Years feast.  So I thought this was a good time to share my favorite quick, EZ and healthy recipes.  Or, as I like to call them, throw together meals.  The only downside is that because they are convenient they come in plastic containers.  I try to be anti-plastic since plastic is forever and an environmental killer.  So these fall under the 20% of the 80/20 rule for being good. 

First up is Mirepoix.  Have you heard of this sauce?  I absolutely love it!  Which makes it so weird that I had completely forgotten about it for years.  You see, once upon a time, in another life, I was married to a big Italian family.  When the aunts found out that I used marinara sauce from a jar, well, it was the equivalent of an international incident.  They literally showed up on our doorstep, ingredients in hand, to teach me how to make sauce.  One of those sauces was Mirepoix.  It had disappeared from my memory until I was watching Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.  If you are a fan of food and travel, especially Italy, watch this show.  Well, Stanley went to visit his parents, and his mother was making Mirepoix!  I nearly jumped through the TV.

Now, Mirepoix involves some prep, cutting onions, celery and carrots, not that that's a bad thing, but if you don't have time, it's nice to know that the foodies at Traders Joe's have done all the work for us. 

You can find the Mirepoix mix in the produce section.    

  • Dump the contents of the container in a pan and sauté in olive oil. It smells amazing.
  • Cook until the carrots get soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Add a can of chopped tomatoes (regular or fire roasted) and a can of tomato sauce.  Only use the canned ones because they are not spiced like the jar sauce.  You don't want any other spices competing with the Mirepoix flavors.
  • Then add in coconut sugar.  I love this sugar, it's a healthy alternative, and tastes great.  I use about a 1/2 cup.  This sauce is supposed to be a little sweet, I like it a lot sweet, so keep tasting to get your desired sweetness.  
  • Stir and cook about 10 more minutes and that's it!
  • And while that's cooking you can boil some water for the pasta.  I use TJ's gluten free brown rice quinoa spaghetti or brown rice penne, topped with some Parmesan and basil.  
  • I've also been known to eat this sauce sans pasta, it's that good!
Shout out to Stanley Tucci's Mom!

From Italian to Asian with Asian Style Vegetable Stir Fry.  Another container from Trader Joe's, healthy veggies ready to cook.  You can pour this over rice, quinoa or have it plain.  I like to add chicken, but it's also a great meatless meal.

 
  •  Stir fry veggies in a wok or frying pan with olive oil.
  •  Add some sesame oil to taste.  Once you put the sesame oil in, the veggies immediately take on an Asian flavor.  
  • Optional - I add a little bit of Gochujang which is a fermented chili paste.  I got it online.  You can also find it if you have an Asian market near you.  It's hot, so how much you use depends on your taste buds.  Fermented foods are good for your gut, so although this dish is good without it too, this gives it an added health kick.
  • The veggies cook quickly, about 10 minutes.
  • When the veggies are done I like to add chicken, raw cashews and toasted sesame dressing.  So good!
Meatless burgers.  What could be easier than a (plant based) burger and salad?  Impossible Burgers are so close to tasting like the real thing they even fooled my husband, (before he was sick).  He's from the midwest, where they eat meat with a side of meat!   So if he liked them, just saying, it's a good testimonial.   This small package makes 4 burgers.  I'd literally cut the square twice and we'd have square burgers.  Yes, I'm that lazy, or just a rebel.  Now they have them in ready made patties.  A little more expensive but I think it's worth it, you know, so we can have round burgers, haha.  Gluten free rolls and an arugula and sprouted green salad.  Another dinner served in 10 minutes!


Happy Eating!