Category Archives: party

Letting Go for the NEW New Year

Did you know that the Romans celebrated their New Year on March 1?

Mars, the God of War, oversaw the start of their calendar. Makes sense, because ROMANS.

terminalis statue wikipedia

As part of their ritual, they celebrated Terminalis, the God of Borders, Transitions, and Neighbors

I came across these facts randomly several years ago, and had the bright idea to use a random holiday as an excuse for a party.

It was great in DC, so I repeated it in Portland, as a way to meet my neighbors in the rather cold, anonymous apartment complex where I live. It worked out okay a couple years ago, but was less pagan-ritual and more corporate-ice-breaker vibe…

cheesy corporate icebreaker trust fall

So this year, in line with my intention to be more open to the mysteries, I deliberately invoked the pagan side of the holiday in my invitation.

I invited people I thought would be into rational discussion of neighbors. Borders. What being a good neighbor meant. What having a border meant.

My definition of neighbor expanded to include those within a few miles, since the people I’d met two years ago had moved on. We talked about the definition of neighbor.


I got 4 No’s and 2 Yes’s and 5 Lack of Responses. Portland.

My two Yes’s showed up and we had baked goods, wine, tea, and enlivening, enheartening conversation. It was brilliant. More evidence that quality over quantity is what counts.

It also affirmed my intention to Let Go of the effects of my generosity this year. For 2017, one of my intentions is to offer what I can, without the expectation of returns. This means not holding onto disappointment when no one comes on an outing, not seething with resentment when someone says they’ll come then blithely doesn’t show, not refusing to offer my generosity because I don’t get the feeling I desire.

It’s hard, but I’m learning. And my two Yes’s helped that little monster in my brain relearn the importance of a few deep connections, rather than the buzz of a crowd or the validation of popularity.

What borders around you need tending? What neighbors could you invite to your (metaphorical) hearth?


Images via Wikipedia, Expert Beacon, and property of Margaret Pinard

When in Doubt, Part 8: Invite people over to eat exotic things

This is the 8th and final piece of the “When In Doubt, Do Everything At Once” series on Taste Life Twice. See Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7

This series of “When In Doubt” posts deals specifically with how to get happy when you feel like you’re drowning in more questions than answers. I have frequently been in dips like this, as you can see from many of my posts. Sometimes I work out a problem on the blog here with you, but often it is expressed in activity in another sphere. Here is where I’m showcasing those other activities, and how I deal with uncertainty every day.

Here’s an easy riddle for those of you who have read this blog for a while:
What has NOT yet made it into this series, but used to form the backbone of the site?
Ah, yes: FOOD!

Sicilian Croccante from the May 2012 Southern Italian class

The Taste Life Twice Cooking School

If you’ve been paying particularly close attention, you’d remember that I ran a market trial of a travel-cum-cooking school out of my house last summer. This was the first ‘product’ to ever come out of Taste Life Twice, and I still think it’s got promise, so I will be reviving it after I move, and actually marketing it beyond word-of-mouth. It will showcase just the type of exotic exciting foods I find in places where I’ve traveled.

Why exotic foods? And what constitutes ‘exotic?’ are good questions to ask in a town that has a restaurant for every type of cuisine in the world, overlaid on a landscape of precious fusion techniques and showmanship. Washington, D.C. is indeed a hard town in which to impress the foodie set, just ask Dan O’Brien, whose recent fame came only after years of building and crafting and honing his skill (You’re sorry you missed his fried chicken, too!).

Exotic foods here then are those that are overlooked, unknown, or underappreciated. These pique my interest and I want to learn about them… then I want to share the results!

Romanesco Cauliflower, via Dreaming of the Country blog

Overlooked, Unknown, Underappreciated

I especially like highlighting home foods from different cultures. This is the sort of food that people take for granted that their mother or grandfather cooked, but which they don’t find in a trendy restaurant: Sauerbraten. Pupusas. Soft-boiled eggs. Oxtail stew. Sauteed greens. Dates in almost anything. Chermoula. Purslane. Short Ribs. Gremolata. So many things to discover!

What remains unknown in globalized times like ours? The kind of food that takes a long time, that’s what. Slow-roasted. Sauteed, then in the oven. Takes forever to peel. Requires a finicky water-bath. All these things I have looked at and thought, “Are they really necessary?” And the answer, if you want to experience the real deal, is yes.

I’ve seen several vegetables (think kale) and even organ meats (headcheese!) have their day in the sun recently, but you’d be surprised at the number of still-more unappreciated plain foods that can be wonderful: cabbage. Fennel. Barley. Parsnips. Orzo. And for the love of God: sweet potatoes!

Photo by Domino Postiglione

So where’s the ‘Get Happy’ part of all this?

The reason that finding these exotic foods is so happy-making is that you get to share them with others! You don’t need a cooking school to do it. Invite some friends for an Evening of Discovery and introduce them to The Elegant Kohlrabi, or The Mighty Eggplant.

Knowing where foods originated, what they are most often paired with in different cultures, how they got to be a staple, who made them famous, (this is what I do at the TLT Cooking School!) all this detail enriches our knowledge while enhancing our enjoyment of the food. And hopefully when all that is done, you have time for some helpless giggles at some of your own ‘exotic’ creations! It’s the start of a beautiful community.

How have you challenged yourself on the food front? How have you shared your knowledge with the world?

When in Doubt, Part 4: Organize a Local Inspirational Support Group

Part 4 of the “When In Doubt, Do Everything At Once” series on Taste Life Twice. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

This series of “When In Doubt” posts will deal specifically with how to get happy when you feel like you’re drowning in more questions than answers. I have frequently been in dips like this, as you can see from many of my posts. Sometimes I work out a problem on the blog here with you, but often it is expressed in activity in another sphere. Here is where I’m showcasing those other activities, and how I deal with uncertainty every day.

baby book club

I bet a lot of you have tried joining a book club. It’s kind of a thing. Or it was.

I joined a great one in 2009, with about 10 women who alternated coming to the meetings, so no one person’s apartment was ever completely overrun. And it was great- we voted on books, we hosted everyone by turn, almost everyone read the book each time, and we had really enlightened discussions, like an honors English class would in high school.

Then we were sort of colonized by two loudmouths– one obnoxious and one well-meaning. That’s when I determined that it was more stressful to bear witness to the boasting and attention-seeking than it was not to go, and I made my excuses. That was unfortunate, but it did make room for me to start my own group. And it’s not a book club. I call it SMIAL:

Support/ Motivation/ Inspiration/ Accountability/ Listening

Plus, I pronounce it ‘SMILE,’ which always lifts my mood instantly. So how did this come about? And what are the benefits of doing such a thing? Well, it’s in the name.

The book club was great for social connection and reflection on some of the mysteries of life, but it really fell down when it came down to listening. Also, I read on my own, so it wasn’t fulfilling a need that was going unmet. I wanted to start a creativity or writing club to do that. And hand-pick people who were good listeners and would work well together. So I polled some of my friends and opened it to acquaintances, and we had a first, exploratory meeting, where I outlined my ideas, and the people who showed up got to decide the direction of the group. We drew a little from the Mastermind tradition, and a little from Barbara Sher’s Barn-raising Group idea, and tailored it to fit the 4 of us who would be sticking to it.

The focus is on Creativity. Living in DC, with many of my friends occupying high-responsibility positions, life can get very serious and very stressful. But in creative people, there is always that spark of a flame that wants nourishing. This forum gives that little flame some oxygen by coaxing, encouraging, and urging its host to express his or her creativity.

SMIAL carves out a Space. While everyone tends to be busy these days, I am determined to make this a space where people can reserve time for themselves. Focus. Introspect. Listen without judging.

Tomorrow will be the fifth meeting of SMIAL, and here have been some of the benefits:


One of the members wants to write a ‘memoir cookbook,’ a truly fabulous idea. So she put out a call for similar type cookbooks, and we all contributed what we thought would help out of our libraries. Another member is embarking on a writing adventure, so I passed on Twitter resources from writer and publisher websites. We support each other with our knowledge and connections.


Just like with exercise, creative muscles need practice to grow strong. And just like with exercise, we might find ourselves cozy in bed of a morning arguing with a voice in our head about whether we should get up to start writing/ cooking/ practicing music/ whatever other activity. The answer is yes. But sometimes you need a nudge to push back those covers and get going. Hopefully hearing others’ stories of accomplishment gives that nudge, but there’s also another type of nudge…


…the fact that 4 pairs of eyes will be looking at you, waiting to hear what progress you’ve made on your goals since the last meeting! This is a very old, oft-cited piece of advice: if you want to accomplish something, tell other people that you’re trying for it. Not only will you have the external pressure of people asking how your project is coming along, you will also have some amount of internal pressure from not wanting to be seen as giving up on something important.


One of the most underestimated gifts you can give and receive, as I found out in my book club. If you have a tiny germ of an idea, this is where you’ll be able to air it. If you have a giant, secret worry, this is where you can air that. We want to listen because we realize 1) that you need and are asking for support and 2) that we can learn and profit from hearing abut your process and struggle. Win-win. Plus, real listening helps set the tone for a trusting, respectful space and that is where true progress happens!


I know, it’s out of order and now it spells out “SMALI” which sort of sounds like Somali. Nevermind. This is my favorite part. This is the genius of the small group. It’s not about getting ideas you can copy, since we’re all working on different creative arts. The inspiration comes from feeling the electric excitement of a friend who is doing something he or she loves doing. It’s catching, so then you get totally jazzed to work on that thing you’ve been wanting to do but hadn’t realized. That feeling is called passion, and it’s what I started this group to find.

Are you missing your passion? Do you have a group that can call forth its flame? If not, why not start one?


Cartoon via Amandaonwriting