Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

When I was younger, I dreamed of being on Broadway. I would hold a hairbrush microphone in my hand and pretend I was Sarah Brightman in The Phantom of the Opera while Michael Crawford sang along with me in the background (They were all the rage when I was younger. I think I saw Crawford at Blossom. I was SO cool). When I became a teenager, I took my act to the stage and performed around Cleveland in community theater production and school shows honing my craft. It was then that the dreams of Broadway waned a bit. Reality started to sink in… there are a lot of talented people out there! We were told around every turn that Broadway wasn’t the path most of us would end up taking, that less than one percent of us would actually make it to that grand stage.

This past June, I watched the Tony Awards with extra excitement. Years prior, I had forced my husband to spend the night listening to me emote about to all my fond memories from the stage, but this year was different. My friend and fellow teenage Broadway dreamer, Rory O’Malley, was nominated for his hilarious role in The Book of Mormon. I couldn’t have been more proud seeing him sit in the audience looking calm, cool, and collected when I was sitting at home ready to puke. He dreamed the same dream I did growing up and against the odds, he made his come true.

Last summer, I started on a new dream. I sat down in front of my computer and began writing my first novel. In the beginning, it was just a hobby I tried to do when the kids were napping, but slowly it grew. I got attached to fictional characters who would walk around my brain as I cooked dinner or folded clothes. In March, I finished the book. It was like standing in the wings waiting to go on stage. After months of practice, I was finally ready for my debut. It’s quite a horrifying experience. What do you do after the writing is done? In my case, you query a bunch of agents and see if they like it.

It ends up that 15 agents liked what I had to say. They requested parts of the novel or the entire manuscript for their review. The first request I got I was standing in a consignment store in Chicago and started crying. The store clerk thought I was crazy. Fast forward five months and a handful of those agents changed their minds… my story wasn’t for them. A few others asked me to revise and resubmit. The rest… the jury is still out.

What’s the point??? Too many times in life we are told the odds are not in our favor, that taking a different path is the more reasonable, responsible way to go. It ends up Rory isn’t the first person I know to be on Broadway. To date, five people I’ve been lucky to have in my life have graced that stage. How did they get there?? Hard work. I don’t expect my first novel to be a best seller, I’ll be shocked if it get published at all, but I have learned more about myself from writing it, querying it, reading rejections, editing, reading more rejections, editing, finding hope, and editing.

My sister, Anna, started painting a few years back. She was inspired by a trip to my dad’s art studio, so she picked up a paint brush and got after it. Three weeks ago, she was featured in an LA Times article. Two weeks ago, she received her first commission from a man in LA who loved what he saw. How did she do it?? She painted and painted again. She took her heart and put it on the canvas all while her daughter napped. At times she wondered what she was doing, was she really an artist? It’s the struggle we all face. Is what we feel in our hearts really what people see? Well, if you don’t put it out there, you’ll never know. I’m not a writer because I’m published. I’m a writer because I write, I love it, and I work hard at it.

When my kids are older, I’ll show them a copy of my book, either on a Kindle or on my computer. Either way, I wrote it. I took a dream I had, worked hard, and accomplished my goal. I no longer wish to sing on Broadway and maybe in a few years, I’ll be done with writing, but I’ll find another dream. After all, what is life without a little dreaming?

Monday, April 18, 2011


It seems like everything is a debate today. Last week a friend of mine sent me an article about the absurdity of organic meat. I will attach it to this blog, so you can check it out if you want. While I didn’t fully agree with the article, it made a hearty argument. That same week, I picked up my Health magazine and read an article about the ten things to buy organic. What was number one??? Beef. It got me thinking… are there ever any concrete answers??

Lately, I have been concerned about BPA. I can’t seem to get a handle on the issue, but it doesn’t look good. One of the interesting aspects to the article I read about the top organic things to buy was that half of the list wasn’t food related. Household cleaners, food storage containers, and water bottles were all on the list. Why??? For most, it is the threat of BPA.

BPA, or bispherol A, is an endocrine disruptor. What the hell is that?? In women, it can pose an increased risk in breast cancer. In men, it can lower sperm count. And that is just what we know right now. How do you catch it? You don’t catch it…. you intake it. Found in plastic, it can leach into your food, your water, I even read today that it can be found on receipts printed from the store.

SHIT. Look around your house, how many plastic things to you own? How many plastic bags have you used to pack your kids lunch? Just today, I put a PB&J in a plastic bag for Drew. And a few weeks ago, I bought a bunch of food containers to store my dried good… all plastic. Money well wasted!

So what are we to do??? Throw it all out? That isn’t good for the environment either. And what happens in a year when the experts change their minds and all of a sudden BPA is a thing of the past? How can you safeguard your family without breaking the bank and going too extreme?

I have come up with a few things:
1) Buy glass food storage containers (think glass Tupperware). BPA free and durable, they are a great addition to your kitchen and won’t break the bank. I found a set at Costco two years ago and love them.
2) Ditch the plastic water bottles and get a reusable metal one (or any reusable water bottle that is BPA free. It will say it on the label). Not only are plastic water bottles trashing the environment (pun intended), but they aren’t good for you. Leaching BPA all over those things.
3) Watch the number of canned goods you consume in a week. What is this about? Some cans, like tomatoes (crushed, diced, sauce, etc), are lined in plastic = BPA.
4) When you can buy in bulk, do it. Use a paper reusable bag (they offer them at Whole Foods) in the bulk section and store your food in glass container. Avoid buying stuff packaged in plastic. When you get your produce, don’t wrap it in the plastic bag they offer at the grocery store (if you can). I am not 100% if these bags have BPA, but the environment doesn’t like them. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
5) Relax. You do the best you can with what you got. Little things go a long way.

I can’t tell you that in ten years everyone who ditched all their plastic and restocked with kitchen with cast iron will live longer lives. Who the hell knows? But if the rule of thumb is to live like your great-grandmother did, glass containers and cast iron is moving in the right direction. Bottom line, eat fresh, eat green (environmentally and actual green things), reduce your waste.

Which leads me to another topic… HAPPY EARTH DAY (a few days early). I love this planet. Last summer, I was sitting out on a deck in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at midnight just staring up into the sky. It was pure awesomeness. I could have stayed their all night. If you haven’t taken time to look around at the beauty this earth has to offer, do it this week. Then ask yourself how you can help from deteriorating. Small things can go a long way. Here are a few to get you started:
1) Drop your paper towels: WHAT?? I am a mom with dirty kids and messy floors. I can’t do that! Yes you can. A year and a half ago, I had an addiction… to paper towels. I used them for everything. One day, I looked into my garbage and was appalled. Most of my garbage was paper towels, so I put a stop to it and haven’t bought a roll since. In fact, I dumped all paper products. No paper towels, no paper napkins, no paper plates (we use toilet paper and tissues). I bought reusable rags, reusable napkins, and did the dishes when all my plates were dirty (luckily, I don’t entertain huge groups often). I don’t miss them one bit… okay, on occasion I miss them, but it isn’t often enough to tempt me back.
2) If you don’t recycle… please start. Approximately 85% of what we use daily is recyclable. Put an extra garbage can under your sink and separate your trash. My 83 year old grandma recycles. You can.
3) Turn off your lights and water and unplug appliances when you aren’t using them. It drives me crazy when I hear Drew in the bathroom running the water and playing in it. What a waste! There are two saying we have in our house: don’t be a litter bug and turn off the damn water! My husband has a home office, which sucks a lot of energy. I read today that we should hook all his equipment into one power chord so we can turn it off all at once. Sounds good to me! And easy. Take a look around and see what you can turn off or unplug. Do you leave your cell phone charger just plugged into the wall? Is your coffee maker always plugged in?
4) Ditch your common household cleaners and get natural. But they don’t work as well! Yes they do and they won’t pollute the air or your kids’ lungs with harmful chemical.
5) Compost… I have two goals for this coming year: cut down on all the crap in my house and reduce the amount of waste we produce and compost. I have tried for a year to get Kyle to buy me a composter. Now that we are going to have a yard and the space to put a tub for our scraps, game on!

Okay, I think five things is a good place to start.

There will always be opposing views and confusing information. I struggle with the “right” way to live and raise my kids all the time, but one thing holds true. If we don’t love our Earth, our kids and their kids will have a diminished lifestyle. If we teach our kids to love each other, we need to teach them to love the planet that sustains them. Call me a tree hugger, call me a foodie, call me a mom with a cause. This year, I’m going to sit on the top of a mountain once again and look up at the stars and know I am doing something to make this world more beautiful. Happy Earth Day everyone!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter weather has given me too much time to think... beware: sharp opinion below.

Last week, Mark Bittman, a food columnist for the New York Times, wrote a brilliant article entitled “A Food Manifesto for the Future”. Did you read it? If you didn’t, Google the article, read it, and start your education on food in the United States.

Approximately a week earlier, President Obama made his State of the Union address and told the people of the United States that our food is safe. It was a quick remark made to remind us how lucky we are as compared to third world countries where disease traveled through food ravages areas and causes death, but it sat with me. It still sits with me. Why? Because I don’t fully agree with him. How can our food be safe when the obesity rate in this country is over 20%? How can our food be safe when the runoff from our crops is polluting the Gulf of Mexico to a worse extent than the oil spill? How can our food be safe when we have an overload of corn that we scientifically alter to put in processed food because we have no other use for it (other than to give it to cows, which by the way don’t naturally have the ability to digest grains… they are ruminants. Meaning, they eat grass)?

We are at a food crossroads in this country. If we continue down the path we are currently on, obesity rates will continue to climb, farmers will continue to struggle surviving on government subsidies, and most importantly, our environment will continue down the path of utter destruction (and I mean utter, what do we have if we don’t preserve our planet?).

How do we change our ways? First of all, educate yourself. Know where your food is coming from. Know what it is made of. If you want to eat meat, know the process an animal goes through from birth to death. Read of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen or watch the documentary Food Inc. Heck, read the article I mentioned at the top of this blog… it isn’t long.

Second of all, love the environment. I know organic is expensive and local food is even more expensive than organic, but costs don’t come down unless people buy. We spend less money on food today than our grandparents did. Why? Because we are buying cheap processed crap that can be mass produced and we refuse to demand better. Make an effort to say no to pesticides and hormones. Buy local so that carbon dumping vehicles don’t have to travel cross country to deliver strawberries in winter to your local Kroger in Ohio, furthermore killing the environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Lastly, feed your kids the good stuff. I don’t have to go into the studies done on the connection between the hormones we put in our animals and food that are linked to girls getting their periods at earlier ages or the fact that approximately 15% of children in this country are obese. Make an effort to make dinner, have your kids pack their lunches from healthy stuff found in your kitchen, make every Monday vegetarian. Little things to make a big impact.

Okay, I have spoken my piece. I don't claim to be perfect (I love Peapod and I am pretty sure their delivery trucks aren't hybrids), but I am trying my best to do what IS best. I said it before in an earlier blog… It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and make a change. Need some help doing it? Check out these healthy, winter vegetable heavy meals that are good for the environment and you.

Root Vegetable Hash with Poached Eggs and Parsley Pesto

2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 small garlic clove, peeled

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 1/2 cups Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups turnips , peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, sliced

4 large eggs

Blend all ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, bell pepper, and olive oil on prepared sheet; spread in single layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring and turning occasionally, about 45 minutes. Stir in garlic; roast 5 minutes longer. Mix in green onions. Fill large skillet halfway with generously salted water; bring to boil. Reduce heat to maintain steady simmer. Crack eggs, 1 at a time, into custard cup, then slide eggs into simmering water. Poach eggs until softly set, about 3 minutes.
Divide hash among 4 plates. Using slotted spoon, top each serving with 1 poached egg. Drizzle with pesto.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

French Lentils with Roasted Roots, Caramelized Onions, and Thyme
Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40-60 minutes

1 rutabaga/turnip, peeled and diced small
1 celeriac (celery root) peeled and diced small
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup dry French lentils
3 cups vegetable stock or water (I used my own roasted veg broth)
Sea salt
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 large red onion, diced
4 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (I didn’t have any, so I used about 1 cup reconstituted dry wild mushrooms & am saving the cooking liquid for another time)
1 tbsp mirin (I used Shaoxing cooking wine)
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Garnish: fresh Italian/flat leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanups).

2. In a large bowl, toss the rutabaga & celeriac with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet(s) – don’t crowd them or they’ll just steam. Better to use two pans. Roast for 20 minutes and toss. Return to oven and roast until tender (anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how small the dice). Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. While the vegetables are roasting, rinse the lentils and place in a pot of vegetable broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and drain well. Toss with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp lemon juice and set aside.
4. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the remaining oil until they start to brown (5-7 minutes). Add the mushrooms and mirin and continue to sauté. Add the remaining lemon juice, 1 tbsp at a time to deglaze the pan and caramelize the vegetables. Add thyme and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

5. Fold in the lentils and roasted vegetables and sauté just long enough to heat through. Season to taste and toss with parsley.

Carrot Soup
4 Cups vegetable) broth
4 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into half-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
dash of Tobasco
salt & pepper to taste
diced apples for garnish

Place broth, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes, or until carrots are very tender. Cool slightly. Blend in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Add nutmeg, Tobasco, salt and pepper. Serve garnished with diced apple.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolutions... let's cut THAT crap.

Happy 2011! Okay, let's level... did you start a diet you don't plan to keep because it's a new year? Did you go to the gym this past Monday because you ate too many Christmas cookies? Or maybe you haven't smoked a butt in three days and you swear this is the year you are going to quit.

I hate New Year's resolutions. Okay, hate is strong. I normally reserve that word for Nazis and salmon (I hate salmon... gross!). I amend, I don't like New Year's resolutions. Why? Because all they do is set you up for failure and that is no way to start a new year.

I propose a change in attitude: Instead of looking at this next year of your life as 52 weeks of Lent where you're forced to give up something you love and pine away for it all year long, inevitably breaking at some point and giving up, let's take it one day at a time. Why must we place all this pressure on the New Year, when we should look at every day as a New Day.

I wrote a blog a while back about making choices. Everyday we are forced to make multiple choices. What should I wear? Can I hit the snooze button one more time? Should I have another glass of wine (read this sentence slurring)? You get my point. Our choices create who we are from what we wear to how we eat to how much we weigh. Let's make a plan to make better choices one day at a time. Instead of looking at your week and dreading the three days you know you have to go to the gym, look at the day in front of you and decide how you can make it better. Maybe that is by going to the gym. Maybe it's by playing with your kids more. Maybe it's by practicing a hobby you have long forgotten. Ask yourself, what are the right choices for you TODAY. Not this week or this year, but today.

That's my non-resolution: do what will make me happy today. I think you might find that on occasion the gym will make you happy. I can guarantee that eating healthy will make you happy, that is a proven fact. But maybe you will tap into something that you didn't know would make you happy like painting, knitting, or for me, writing. Wouldn't that be a great adventure for 2011...