being all things, to everyone, all the time.

Recently, I came across an article about loving yourself while you’re losing weight. I shared it with some friends and found that it resonated with several of them.

In a society that’s obsessed with beauty and youth, even just the attempt to lose weight can stir up all kinds of emotions relating to vulnerability, self-worth, and fear.

For me, this has been especially true because my weight gain started during a period of time when my life essentially felt like it was imploding. It seemed like I was experiencing all of the major life changes at once, from moving to changes in my career, friendships, priorities. My relationship was becoming increasingly miserable and on top of that I was running into difficulties with several family members.

I was depressed and not coping in the most positive or healthy ways.

Of course, I’m not exactly the type to just lie down and give up. It’s been a hard, long road, but as I started facing a lot of those issues, I was able to pick up healthier ways to deal with life’s hardships which, in turn, allowed me the time, resources and emotional fortitude to start taking care of myself again.

Dropping the extra weight (20 pounds down, another 20 to go) has been nothing short of an exercise in letting go of whatever no longer suits me. Which turns out, is a lot of things.

There’s the obvious things, like stress-eating every carbohydrate on the planet when I’ve had a hard day. That’s out the window now. Alcohol is gone. As is candy (I will miss you, gummy bears) and any processed food I bought out of either convenience or comfort.

Those things have been replaced with morning runs in the park, yoga, spa water, relaxing with friends, crafts and meditation. I’m an exciting person, I know.

The biggest thing I had to give up, however, is people-pleasing. That addiction, that need to be all things, to everyone, all the time. I have damn near depleted myself trying to be there for everyone else whilst essentially ignoring all of my own needs. Not a habit that’s exactly conducive to mental or physical well-being.

Now, instead of putting myself last, I am committed to being the best friend, the best girlfriend, the best daughter, sister, dog-mom, what-have-you…while still walking in my truth, going after what I want in life and putting myself first.

I don’t know if it’s normal to be this reflective while losing a few pounds, but I’m glad that I’m working through this. As I continue this healthy journey, what else do I need to let go of? What might I pick up in it’s place? What else do I need to become my happiest, healthiest self? Considering the fact that I woke up in the middle of the night and ending up writing this post, I’m guessing there’s a lot more work to be done.

Stay tuned.

Take care of yourself,

-C

on suicide.

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When I first started this blog, I very distinctly remember sharing my reservations about this project with my friend D.C.  On the one hand, I yearned to express myself through this medium, openly and honestly.  On the other, I had this nagging feeling that such expression was somehow “wrong” or in poor taste.  What if I upset someone? What if I offended someone?  What if I over-shared and thus tarnish my reputation?

Honestly, as of today, I no longer care.

This week has been an odd one for news.  Other than the ongoing calamity that is now the norm in politics in this country, we saw two celebrity death, both suicides. First, fashion designer Kate Spade and then, earlier today, chef Anthony Bourdain.

As I peruse the social media comments and attain a general sense of the public’s reaction to these events, I see something hopeful.  When Robin Williams died of suicide just shy of four years ago, I noticed the conversation circled around questions like “How could he be so selfish?” and “What does he have to be depressed about?”.  As if someone funny and successful people can’t have struggles or mental illness.  This week, and especially today, I have seen a multitude of questions like “How do we stop this?” and “What is happening?”.

People are starting to wake up, albeit, slowly.

Story time.

I’ve referenced on here, a few times, the importance of taking time for yourself, self-care and cutting negative people/situations out of your life (i.e. “protecting your energy” as we hippie folk say).  This isn’t something I just decided to do one day.  This came from a series of very key moments in my life.  Moments that left an indelible mark on my soul.

Not so very long ago, I found myself in an incredibly dark place.  A place so dark it was kind of scary.  I was at this place in my life where on the outside, things probably looked alright, but inside I was slowly disappearing.  No area of my life seemed to be going right.  I was hitting road blocks.  I felt like a failure.  Even worse than that, I was starting to feel worthless.  I was not okay.

And yet, even in the midst of that, I did the thing they say you’re supposed to do.  Reach out to someone.  So I did.

I called someone who I thought would be there for me.  At the very least to listen.  Maybe offer some advice. Something.

Instead, I got an earful about how I was selfish, spoiled, a cry-baby, weak, whining, and ungrateful.  I was sobbing over the phone.  They didn’t care.

Needless to say, that person is no longer a major player in my life and will be kept at an arm’s length in perpetuity.

What followed was several more months of darkness for me, eventually subsiding as I tackled issues, one by one.  It was hard, but I am truly happy and proud to be on the other side.

While I didn’t get the help I needed in that moment, I’m learning that more and more people are willing to be that listening ear.

As suicide continues to skyrocket in our country, and more people battle mental illness, I truly believe the old attitudes (“We don’t speak of such things”, “Mental illness is a sign of weakness”, “What would the neighbors think?”) is being replaced with something that is not only more compassionate but also actionable (“How do I help a friend who is struggling?”, “How do we improve mental health care?”, “What resources are available?”).

As we grapple with these issues, my hope is that more of us lean into the hard conversations.  Difficult topics like this bring up all kinds of uncomfortable emotions, but we have to find healthy ways to navigate that if we’re going to start healing each other.

1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

-C

impromptu rotisserie chicken and garlicky golden mashed potatoes.

So, about this Instant Pot situation. I’m a bit hooked:

The beau came home with a beautiful 6 lb chicken and a bag of golden potatoes, so of course I had to see what this beautiful appliance could do.

Rotisserie Chicken

Ingredients:

-1 6-lb. chicken

-1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for drizzling

-1.5 tablespoons smoked paprika

-1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

-1 tablespoon garlic powder

-1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

-1-2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-1/4 teaspoon black pepper

-1 small onion

-3 tablespoons parsley

-3 carrots, chopped in quarters

-1 celery stock, chopped

-2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

-3 cups water

– 1-2 tablespoons parsley

Directions:

1. Wash and dry your chicken, making sure to remove and giblet packets.

2. Make rotisserie rub by combining olive oil through black pepper. Rub chicken with olive oil mixture, placing some under skin and inside cavity.

4. Place half of the carrots, celery, parsley and garlic inside chicken cavity.

5. Place the other half of the chopped vegetables in the bottom of Instany Pot with water.

6. Put stuffed chicken on steam rack, lower into Instant Pot. Seal cooker, pressure cook on high for 25 minutes. Do a natural release.

7. Place cooked chicken in a greased pan and drizzle with some olive oil. (You can also add extra smoked paprika, ancho chili powder and salt).

8. Put under broiler on high for about 2-4 minutes. Watch closely as skin crisps up quickly!

9. Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

Garlicky Golden Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

-2.5 lbs golden potatoes, washed and chopped in half, skin on

-1/4 yellow onion, chopped fine

-2 cloves garlic, smashed

-2 c. water

-3 tablespoons butter

-1/2 cup whole milk

-1/4 cup cream cheese

-salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Place 2 cups water in instant pot. Followed by steam rack. Place potatoes, onions and garlic on rack.

2. Seal Instant Pot, Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Do a natural release.

3. Unseal Pot, drain potatoes, onions and garlic and place in large bowl.

4. Using a hand mixture, whip potatoes, garlic and onions with butter, whole milk, cream cheese to desired thickness.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

spicy garlic beef ramen.

One of my fondest memories from college was getting together with my friends and cooking all day. We would throw on some music, maybe a movie in the background and pull together some concoction, part-gourmet-part-we’re-broke-part-oh-dear-god-this-is-actually-delicious.

We would all meet at Kendrick’s apartment down the street from school and use a combination of cheap ingredients we bought from the store and the amazingly tasty dumplings and buns that Kendrick’s mother made and dropped off earlier in the week.

***

Recently, my beau’s family blessed us with a brand new Instant Pot AND Crock Pot for Christmas. Please know, when I say that my life is forever changed, that is not hyperbole. I am a new creation. My culinary powers grow by the day.

Thus, in honor of old traditions and new appliances, today’s culinary experiment is:

Spicy Garlic Beef Ramen.

(Recipe below)

I started off by making a little Spicy Garlic Chili Oil that we’ll use as an optional garnish for the ramen at the end.

And then prepared and set aside a few ramen garnishes for later:

Then I decided to make a quick marinade for my sirloin tip steak with a little beef broth, rice vinegar, ginger and soy sauce:

*At this point, I’m nervously sweating and hoping to god that I know what I’m doing. But I’m brave. So I forge on.*

For the broth, I spiced up some standard beef stock with a little sriracha, soy sauce, garlic and ginger and placed all that yummy goodness in the Instant Pot, with the beef sexily laid across the vegetable tray:

Finally, as I anxiously wait for my beef to cook, I made a couple soft boiled eggs to place on top:

Can’t forget the ramen either…

And somehow…some way… in the end, dinner was not ruined!:

Spicy Garlic Beef Ramen Recipe

Makes 4 servings

Marinade:

1.5 lb sirloin tip steak

1 c. Beef stock

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/4-1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Broth:

32 oz. Beef stock

2 c. water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, loosely chopped

1-2 teaspoons Sriracha

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Ramen garnish:

1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley

2 carrots, shredded

Fresh broccoli, lightly steamed

1 bell pepper, sliced thinly

2 soft/medium boiled eggs

Ramen:

4-5 packages of your favorite ramen noodles (cooked accordingly, without seasoning packets)

Directions:

1. For the marinade, combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag, removing all air and sealing tightly. Marinade at least an hour.

2. Place all broth ingredients in Instant Pot, then lay beef on steamer tray and lower into the broth. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. After cooking, do a natural release.

3. Serve broth, ramen, and beef with soft boiled eggs, ramen garnishes. Season to taste with extra sriracha, white pepper and soy sauce.

Enjoy!

Night terrors.

Night terrors.

For a lot of people, this phrase means absolutely nothing. For me, it’s been a plague to my well-being and health for several years.

For the first time in a long time, I had the unfortunate experience of waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of intense dread – sweating, crying, fearing that I was in peril and thinking that I was in danger of dying.

This routine is so familiar to me.  Checking every door and window, ensuring that my domicile is secure.  Making sure that I am safe.

My last horrible dream prompted me to go to the gun range to learn how to defend myself.  I considered buying a rifle.  These nightmares are no joke, I promise you.

I sat up last night, listening for the attacker that wasn’t there, trying, in vain, to coddle myself, reminding myself that he doesn’t know where I live.  Telling myself that he can’t find me.

Thank the Universe.

Safety is an often forgotten luxury.  In these moments of intense anxiety, trying desperately to remember that I now have a family of loved ones who will work to protect me, I have to tell myself that these nightmares are fleeting.  Strength comes from overcoming this darkness and fighting the fear that sometimes plagues my mind.

One day, I hope these nightmares will go away.  I didn’t ask to be on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, but I know that every time I share my story, I weaken his hold over my life.  I strengthen a woman who is experiencing something similar. I know that my words have power and meaning, and that I can bring positive change, even in my darkest moments.

This morning, I am thankful for this night terror.  I am thankful for this opportunity to share my darkest secret with you all.  If I can rise from the most horrible and haunting experience of my life, I know you can too.

Your eternal friend,
-c

resurrection.

This weekend, I have the pleasure of taking a short vacation to our nation’s capital with my family for Easter.  Going to Washington DC for Easter has been a tradition for my family for several years.  When my mother asked me a few weeks back if I would like to come to DC again this year for the holiday, I jumped at the opportunity.

Whatever your personal feelings are on Easter, it’s hard to escape the overt symbolism of the holiday.  Renewal, rebirth and resurrection are woven throughout the Christian Easter story, but I like to think that these themes are also woven throughout our lives as well.

For me, my resurrection came not long ago in an extremely profound way.  Recently, I finally found a doctor who was able to properly diagnose and treat a chronic illness that has been plaguing me for a very long time.  Being able to breathe again (literally but, of course, figuratively as well) has felt nothing short of miraculous.

Exercising is easier.  Meditating is simpler.  Even walking is better.  My insomnia has started slipping away.  My body has been feeling better every day.  This transformation has been so powerful that I cried for three days straight out of sheer gratitude and relief.

Most of the time, change is incremental, at best.  But every once in awhile we are fortunate enough to experience a rebirth so sudden and unexpected that it propels us forward in an extremely powerful and meaningful way.

Yesterday there was darkness.  Today there is light.  Sometimes the path between those two is long and winding and sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye.  How have you been resurrected?

an ode to worrying.

My brain is weird.

At any given moment, even if I’m already performing a task during the day, I’m always thinking ahead to something else.  Usually, this means I have a perpetually running checklist of things that need to be done that day and a strategy to complete them in the most time-effective way possible.  Efficiency is kind of my thing.

On top of the normal checklist, I also have a steady background noise in my head that is dedicated to looking into the near and distant future.  “If I make career move A versus career move B, how will that affect my earning potential in 20 years?”.  “If I start saving now, I can probably take a trip to Japan next year”.  That sort of thing.

As you might imagine, this kind of thinking is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, this trait has served me well in certain areas of my life.  Being able to think ahead and predict how a project could get derailed and then be able to come up with a litany of contingency plans to resolve those potential issues has, oddly enough, proven helpful in my career as a project manager.  Additionally, worrying about potential danger has most likely kept me safe in a variety of situations, especially on the days and nights I was by myself, working in New York City.

However, in my younger, more anxious days (mainly high school), this kind of thinking caused a great deal of distress.  Looking back, I realize that it was my mother, the World Champion of Worrying, who set the example for me.  As I got a little older and a little more independent, I started to realize that not everything is a crisis.  Some things simply don’t need or deserve the same expenditure of emotional energy.  Many times it’s necessary to not give even one single fuck about certain things.

As bad as worrying can be, and it can definitely be very, very bad, I’m still thankful for this little defect.  If I wasn’t prone to worrying, I probably would have never discovered meditation, yoga or even the simple joy of walking through the woods to clear my mind.  Essentially, worrying has taught me to how to relax.  And while I’m still not always the best at it (many thanks to my loved ones who remind me to live in the moment), I now see Worrying, not as an enemy, but as a somewhat annoying, lifelong friend.

Chill,
-C

vegan wings & the big game


Back in my vegan days, one of my favorite past-times was learning how to make vegan versions of some of my favorite foods.  Sundays, however, always presented a problem, as most game day foods usually didn’t lend themselves easily to vegan cooking.  A good friend sent me this recipe a few years ago for Vegan Cauliflower Wings, and ever since I’ve been trying my own variations on this very easy dish.

Somehow, I was able to muster enough strength to cook up a batch today, as to not show up at my sister’s place empty-handed.

It must be a “Big Game” miracle.  Here’s today’s version of Vegan Wings:

Gluten-Free, Vegan Wings

  • 1 cup flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Flour)
  • 1 cup milk (Unsweetened Original Almond Milk)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • Hot Sauce (Cholula, or use your favorite)
  • Vegetable oil or vegan butter

Wash and cut up your caulifower into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Mix up your batter (flour through ground pepper) and then toss the cauliflower pieces in the batter to coat.  Bake at 450 on a greased baking sheet, for about 15 minutes, then put under the broiler for another 5 minutes.  Toss the wings in your hot sauce (slightly thinned with vegetable oil or vegan butter).

Vegan Wing Dip

  • 3/4 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s)
  • ~2-3 Tablespoons Almond Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 pinches Himalayan sea salt, if needed

Combine all ingredients and serve.

Go Falcons! (Just for today),

-C

the importance of doing “nothing”

Most people who have known me for more than two seconds, know that I’m one of those “doers”.  Whether it’s my career, a hobby, a new topic I want to explore or some new project I decided I need to conquer, I’m always doing something.  I don’t tend to sit still, which can present a pretty significant problem – one that I run into fairly often.

I work hard.  I challenge myself. I try to reach new goals. I achieve many of them. But then, I get burnt out and I start to get sick.  That’s where I am today: sitting on my couch, drinking tea and trying to nurse myself back to health.

Lately, I’ve been funneling a lot of emotional energy (read: stress) and time into some of my life goals, namely:

  • Adopt a dog and train her to provide therapy for my hospice patients
  • Lose some weight/get back into shape
  • Work on my career goals/network
  • Save up for a trip to Italy
  • Learn self-defense
  • Bake more

While these are all good things to work on, they’re all for naught if I don’t take care of myself.  It’s almost as if the Universe is trying to tell me something:

“Pace yourself. Breathe. Slow down. Relax.”

Having a strong work-ethic is a virtue, but so is self-care.  Looking to the future is good, but so is living in the moment.  Wanting to grow is admirable, but so is appreciating what you have right now.  Maybe drinking tea and watching funny videos on YouTube is important and vital to me being able to achieve all of the wonderful things I want to do.  Maybe kicking my feet up and doing “nothing” is not only acceptable, but necessary.

Lesson learned, Universe. (for now)

Peace and Love,
-C

P.S. Adorable mini cupcakes coming soon…