Category Archives: victories

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.

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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.

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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

Cooking Challenge the First

Following up on that Portland foodie post, I wanted to show you that I’ve been making efforts in the kitchen myself as well. Not back to cooking lesson territory yet, for various reasons, but still having a walloping good time experimenting.

There are two recent projects that I’m proud of tackling, since they are a stretch for me.

The first concerns a food that I’m not particularly fond of: lamb. I had plenty of it while living in Turkey (now there’s irony), but didn’t particularly like the taste and always thought if I didn’t like it enough, I shouldn’t be patronizing the meat industry, factory farming being what it is today.

But avoiding the whole area nagged at me. Wasn’t there some way I could come to appreciate lamb? It’s one of the most common meats to find at the local, organic farmers’ markets that abound here in Stumptown. I decided to give it a chance, and bought a small piece of osso buco-cut lamb from one of the vendors at the PSU Farmers’ Market.

Weeks later, I finally found a recipe and room to roam in the kitchen, so I defrosted that premium cut from Deck Farms.

lamb cut osso buco

The recipe was from Melissa Clark’s latest cookbook, In the Kitchen with an Appetite: Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Buttered Almonds (found on NYT here).

As always, I had to make do with a lot of substitutions:

no saffron, kalamata instead of green olives, pine nuts instead of almonds, and, it almost goes without saying, no garnish. I also scaled down 4:1 as it was just for me.

prep tagine ingredients

My ingredients chopped and ready to go…

lamb tagine

…and the same ingredients after being sweated, simmered, and braised for almost an hour, over basmati rice, another stand-in. It may not come out in the picture, but the succulence was amazing. The meat was buttery rich and everything had a nice savory-creamy-richness to it that lasted for the 3 meals it took to finish. I credit mostly the cut of the meat, since there weren’t any other big players in the lineup. Well done, Deck Farms!

So there you have it, a confrontation with one of my cooking bugaboos, and with a recipe from a book I’ve been dying to try, we are off to a running start with lamb!

For the second challenge, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next post! 😉

What about you guys? I know there are a couple blogs out there who have made a feature of a particularly troublesome ingredient each month and then had a round-robin discussion of how far people got with it, which sounds fun.

But barring that motivation (and space not permitting at the moment), let’s start with the question: what do you avoid touching with a 10-foot-pole in your kitchen? And WHY is THAT?

 

 

WDS: In the Moment, and In Retrospect

So there’s this thing called the World Domination Summit.

For readers who are subscribers to my newsletter, you’ve heard me mention it before. For WDSers who are just coming to my blog for the first time, you know what I’m talking about. For anyone else, here’s the most succinct description I can give:

WDS is a conference for unconventional creatives and entrepreneurs to gather and be inspired, network and form connections, and share their journeys and be vulnerable.

The 3rd annual WDS took place over the July 4th weekend, and since then I’ve been grappling with my takeaways and how to explain them to you here on Taste Life Twice. (Also, many WDS participants are bloggers who write up their own fab experiences and then search out others’ posts to read, so, ya know, no pressure).

So for both audiences, WDSers and TLTers, here’s what I gained by attending this ‘conference.’ (WDSers, the framing below comes from the quote that named my blog, which you can read about here)

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In the Moment

During the days of the conference and during the meet-ups that sprung forth before and after the official activities, the most important thing I could do was be in the moment. This meant minimizing other life concerns such as chores, errands, this blog, my novel. It meant maximizing the exposure I had to people whose interests aligned with mine somehow, whether through travel hacking, foodie passion, or writing their arses off.

It meant putting myself out there as much as I could stand.

Like practicing yoga, I tried to tune out all the other voices in my head as I listened to speakers wringing out their life stories for us on stage. I shut the beak of the ‘counter-mind’ (i.e. negative script) that said it would be lame to start dancing too early, and jumped into the action at the Zoo on opening night. I pushed past the thin red line of polite attention to engage with a few people on a deep level,  and was rewarded with the glint of recognition in the other person’s eye: “Yes, you’re in my Tribe!

I also had a ton of fun.

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In Retrospect

As any introverts out there might imagine, it took a while for me to recover. Just like the various flushes of tea leaves being harvested, I wrote, and I reflected, wrote, and reflected. Except, contrary to tea flushes, which decrease in quality the later in the season, my epiphanies got better.

Finally, I am able to boil down (tea! metaphors!) my takeaways into three zingers:

FEAR

Darren Rowse’s talk highlighted ‘getting the dreams out of your head,’ and Jia Jiang’s story hammered home the need to get over the fear of rejection. On Saturday night, when I had taken all I could and needed a retreat, I made a list of dreams that I had allowed to wither on the vine for fear of rejection. Then I made a list of dreams that I had pursued, despite resistance.

The withered-dreams list was just a little longer than the pursued-dreams list.

But I noticed that the timing of these activities hopped back and forth: grade school: withered, high school: pursued, college: withered, post-grad job: pursued, etc. So who’s winning, me or The Fear?

As long as I keep adding to that Pursued Dreams list, which I took a mighty step toward in radically changing my life direction, I win.

The Selfishness SHOULD

The second realization that hit was that I was having an internal battle about what role service should play in my dreams and creative career aspirations. Chris placed it in the core values of WDS, so it’s obviously important. But I’ve been on a denial-tear of refusing to volunteer for either large, lofty causes or direct-action campaigns since college.

Sure, I’ll work for Americorps for a year, but I’m not going to a soup kitchen.

Of course, I’ll donate to friends fighting for education reform, clean water provision, and cancer research, but no way you’re getting me to fundraise.

What was up with this?

There’s been a sort of shadow over my life, extending all the way back to JFK’s call for Peace Corps volunteers (which my mother did), and reinforced by years of Catholic school extolling the virtues of Jesuit missionaries. There was a weight of ‘Should-i-ness’ in all this.

It said, “Do something great with your life.” “Go big or go home.” “You are so fortunate; it’s your duty to share that fortune with others.”

“Your creative dreams aren’t enough.”

And so, not understanding the shadow, I rebelled against it. No religion. No volunteering. No fundraising. No lip service to lofty humanitarian goals.

But in my own way, I supported people with whom I had connections, whose missions I admired. Maybe, just maybe, there was a way to serve without the Shadow of Should.

Maybe, just maybe, going my own way and exploring my dreams and chasing happiness was OKAY.

That brings me to lesson #3.

RADICAL ACCEPTANCE & TRUST

To conquer fear, to beat back whatever shadow looms over your life, you need to trust yourself. You need to accept yourself. You need to finally write the words I did this morning:

I know better than any other what I should do with my life.

The Radical Journey

Realizing this (off and on, as my record of dream-pursuing shows) in the past year and a half has put me on a radical journey.

  • I’m publishing my first novel next month.
  • I’m structuring my days in order to learn and grow and achieve goals I set myself.
  • I’m meeting amazing folks.
  • I’m taking responsibility for my life.

And in pursuing these dreams, I experience moments of such intense happiness that I literally feel like I’ll explode, or float away, or cry.

Something tells me that is the path of dreams pursued… and that both Taste Life Twice and WDS have something to do with it being a sunny path, instead of a shadowed one.

Onward!

When was the last time you were able to reflect on your dreams? When you were able to have a vulnerable conversation with a near-stranger about fear? When you last considered why you are where you are?

Join the conversation, folks. (Comment below!)

 

Photo credits: Armosa Studios