Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 10: Optimism

Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge is winding down, can you believe it? Tomorrow is June 30th! Last night, I had this thought, actually it was more like a mental beating with a baseball bat - I realized there were still four more topics to go in the challenge and it wasn't looking like I would be able to finish all four topics. I started to talk negatively. Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Why can't you finish what you started? Okay, you get the gist of where I'm headed with this.

The truth is I should feel optimistic - I actually started a challenge and I did finish it. I wrote ten entries, ten topics, ten posts all about me. I have always wanted to participate in something like this - I easily get inspired by these challenges and then I also get defeated before I've even given the challenge a chance. Thoughts like "Nobody cares what you have to write about besides food", "Nobody will read these entries", "Nobody cares" and the truth is maybe some people haven't enjoyed my participation in this challenge, but I didn't participate for anyone else, but me.

Yes, when it comes to my writing, I'm very passionate about food, the culinary arts, recipes, restaurants, etc. but I'm also beginning to get optimistic and passionate about me. There's more to this girl than a foodie blog and I guess I wanted to explore that here at Madame Munchies. This blog is much more than an extracurricular activity, it's a part of me that I share with you out there in cyberland. So instead of choosing negative thoughts, I'm choosing positive thoughts instead. I did what Dian Reid invited us to take part of:

"I’m engaging my community (that’s you!) because these thirteen topics can change the world. They can change the world, but not just if I write about them; only if we write about them."

I hope in some small way my contribution changed the world.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 9: Truth.

Continuing this week with Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge (only 4 more topics to go before the end of June) and today's topic is truth. So here's what I came up with:
Transformational: Truth can be transform you. It often can be a hard pill to swallow, some of us even turn a blind eye or deaf ear because we don't really want to hear/see the truth. If we acknowledge truth, then we can't hide from it any longer.
Reality: Truth is real. There are no half-truths and I don't buy into the "truth is relative" bit either. If truth is relative then it's easy to shrug it off and most will not take responsibility for their part.
Understanding: Truth requires understanding, it requires us taking the time and energy to assess, evaluate and reflect upon what is true.
Treasured: Often times truth can be rare and valuable jewel. It's something to be treasured.
Humbling: Truth can also be humbling, whether we are receiving it and giving it.
I want to embody truth and honesty. it's not always easy, but I would definitely like to strive for it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 8: Fairness.

For today's Authenticity Blog challenge, the topic is fairness. I've been staring at this topic and nothing has inspired me or sparked my inner writer until this morning. I visited a church in Downtown LA called New City Church. They are studying the book of Ephesians and today's, message focused on Ephesians 4:31-32; the subject - forgiveness. So you may scratching your head, sipping your second or third cup of coffee and asking, "What the heck does forgiveness have to do with fairness?".
No matter what your spiritual inclinations lean toward or away from, one of the basic tenants of Jesus' teachings was forgiveness. There's that old adage, you can forgive but you'll never forget. It's almost become "PC" to forgive but not forget. We have this built-in system that seeks justice, vengeance and fairness. But today I'm challenged. Forgiveness is an extension of grace and there isn't a prerequisite or a post-requisite for forgiveness. It's a decision first, not necessarily a feeling first. If we waited to feel like forgiving, let's be honest, it more than likely would not occur. And in all "fairness", we would all be walking around bitter, angry and probably alone. Now is that fairness???
I guess I'm evaluating where I'm at - in fact, I'll admit forgiveness is not something I extend gracefully, no pun intended. I too get sucked into the cycle of, this isn't fair! I've been wronged! It's not my fault! And in some cases, that may be true, but in most situations, I've played a part. Knowingly or unknowingly. But the truth is I'm not innocent, I''m just as screwed up as the next and as much grace as I think I deserve, so does everyone else.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Blissful Marriage of Eggplant and Cheese.

A couple of weekends ago, a girlfriend and I went to see a matinee of Sex and the City II. Guilty pleasure you could call it (I loved the series). Anyway, prior to the show we grabbed some grub to go from Buca di Beppo. I happen to think they do a fantastic eggplant parmesan and I thought to myself, "Self, have you ever made eggplant parmesan before?". I couldn't recall if I had taken on that challenge, so this week I took it on. The eggplant, cheese, tomatoes and I duked it out in the culinary ring, so to speak.

I did a little research online and pulled up a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan from Epicurious. With a rating of 4 forks, I had to give it a go. Mind you, I did not cook for 8 people, I cut the recipe in half and managed to put away several servings in my freezer. Not too sure how well it will hold up but I will find out soon friends.

All I can say about this recipe is LABOR INTENSIVE. This is not a recipe you just pull out of your hat on a weeknight (of course I made it on a weeknight, but that doesn't mean everyone will want to make this on a weeknight). It definitely required patience and time, but it was well worth the hard work and the wait! The eggplant slices were battered with a 3 step process: flour, egg and panko bread crumbs (which were seasoned with a little grated parmesan). I think the panko bread crumbs really took it a whole other level too. The sauce was simple - peeled and pureed roma tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, red chile pepper flakes and torn up fresh basil - simmered for about half an hour. The only downside was that I should've made the entire batch of sauce instead of only making half a batch. There just wasn't enough sauce for my liking. Lesson learned. Next time, if there's plenty of leftover sauce, I'll just freeze it for pasta or another dish. Regardless this recipe is fantastic and is a great dish for entertaining, especially if you have any vegetarians over for dinner. I would serve it with a simple green salad and maybe some roasted garlic bread.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 7: Intention.

Haven't we all heard the phrase, "I had the best of intentions" at one point or another?

Several years ago, my mom turned me on to the idea of creating/making intentions for one's life instead of resolutions or goals. The idea being that we rarely ever make good on those resolutions, they usually end up becoming a revolving door of resolutions instead of concrete change.

At the end of 2009, I made a list of things I was letting go of in 2010. Most of these were negative issues/things/relationships in my life and to commerate that "letting go" ritual I burned the list on my dad's front porch on December 31, 2009.

And of course, I made a list of intentions for 2010. I recently took a peek back at that list to see what, if anything, I had accomplished or at least set the wheels in motion on. To my surprise there were several intentions I was able to cross off my list:

  • Locate and move into a fabulous vintage apartment in SilverLake or Los Feliz.
  • Obtain a permament paralegal position.
  • Continue writing my food blog on a weekly basis.

It also afforded me the time to check in with myself and see where I stood with respect to other intentions that may have been put on the back burner. I find myself asking if these intentions are something I still want to pursue? Is it realisitic? Do any of these intentions take precedent over others? I guess you could say I'm re-evaluating my intentions. That's the beauty of this list - nothing is set in stone, priorities do change, life happens, and we can modify, delete or start fresh any time we want or see fit. Kinda like a recipe, it's always good to try it as written, but there is such a thing as a "bad" recipe and sometimes it requires tweeking or creativity, just like life.

This also reminds me of the fact that I'm human, I possess no super power and I am only one person. Perhaps I won't "finish" every intention I have made for the year, but perhaps I will begin the process one way or another. Which brings me to another thought - I'm not perfect. Not even remotely close. I'm not ever going to be either, just in case you thought otherwise. In fact, I need to stop, breathe and pat myself on the back for what I have accomplished, not beat myself up for what's "lacking". Am I preaching to the choir or what?!? I hope you are able to take the time, have a spot of tea (or coffee or wine) an reflect, re-write or write new intentions.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 6: Vision.

Today I've had this word on my mind and I don't think it's any coincidence that it's one of the topics Dian Reid has chosen for her Blog Challenge. Vision, it's a word that carries weight for most of us. When you have vision, you have grand ideas of your future and your plans for your life. Vision requires seeing the big picture, the overall scheme of things and sometimes I feel like my "vision" is skewed, fuzzy. I even feel blinded by the light and that's where I'm at today. There are so many things I want to do, so many projects, so many "work-on-myself" things I want to accomplish, behaviorial changes I want to make that I freeze. Stone cold frozen in my tracks. I'm one of those people who easily gets overwhelmed by alot of things at once and in the past I've allowed that overwhelming feeling to paralyze me. Stop me in my tracks from moving forward in the direction I want to pursue. I don't have the answers and I don't know where to begin, but I have vision, I have dreams and desires and I do want to pursue them to the fullest. That much I know is true.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blog Challenge No.5: Compassion and Cupcakes.

How do you pour out compassion? Does it ooze out of you naturally or do you find yourself scrounging for compassion crumbs to dole out? By now you've figured out I love food, cooking, and everything associated or affiliated with it. One of the ways I show compassion is through baking for others - on a somewhat regular basis, if I'm going over to someone's house or a gathering of friends, I'm the foodie nerd bringing some sort of treat.

This week I haphazardly stumbled upon Shauna Sever's blog, Piece of Cake. What drew me to her blog was a random link I found for a cupcake recipe entitle Nutella Cupcakes. How could I resist? I mean, hello, who doesn't L-O-V-E Nutella?!?!? Who wouldn't want to soak in a bathtub of the golden spread?!? Okay, I'm getting a lil' off topic, but this chocolate hazelnut spread could become the next butter in your household, don't say I didn't warn you!

So today these Nutella Cupcakes are my small contribution to the world, my small token of compassion. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 4: Self Awareness

I hate to admit this, there are areas of my "self" which I am present and "aware", but there are many others that I am completely unaware (mostly out of choice). The topic of self awareness presented by Dian Reid's Self Evidence + Authenticity Blog Challenge isn't one I'm running to grab hold of. And I have to stop and ask myself, "Why?".

Truth be told - I think there's an underlying current of personal shame when it comes to self awareness. Well, what does it mean to be "aware"? I took the time to look it up on dictionary.com and here's what it defines aware as:
1. having knowledge; conscious; cognizant
2. informed; alert; sophisticated.

One area I'm trying to become self aware is how am I taking care of myself? How am I abusing myself? Hurting myself? Keeping myself distant from growth or new experience? Why is it, that I am better at caring for others but stink at caring for myself? I'm scratching my head on this one. I'm still scratching too. And no, I haven't had figured it out, not even close. I'm just finally accepting the fact that I haven't always been nor am I currently totally self aware. But I wanna move in that direction, I want to own it, the good, the bad and the ugly. And as far I'm concerned, it's not pretty.

I've been reading Geneen Roth's, Women Food and God, slowly. In fact, it's probably something I will read at least once year because one of Geneen's principles revolves around self awareness with respect to what you're eating, what you're not eating and whether or not you trust yourself. Man, that resonates with me. Do I trust myself? Am I even aware of whether or not I trust myself? I'm hoping that as continue to write, read and investigate myself, I'll be able to start answering these tough questions. Of course, the ultimate goal is to take action, to take better care of myself, to constantly check in with "me" and see where I'm at, what my needs are, my heart's desires, etc.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 3: Laughter.

Laughter is like a rare jewel, isn't it? I chose laughter as the next topic of Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge, because over the course of the past two weeks I have laughed. In fact, I have laughed a lot and that is a GOOD thing. One of my dear friends, Monica (who moved to London for love and to finish her collegiate studies) came to visit us (along with her Prince Charming, James). I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with her while she was here. Along with some of other close friends, we went out for many meals, cocktails and even a lil' dancing. And over the weekend, I got together with some friends for a game night, which is an automatic ticket for laughter.

If you haven't laughed lately or if you haven't laughed enough, you forget the importance of laughter. You forget the painstaking aches it can cause in your belly. You forget how a good laugh can practically make you cry. You forget how a good out loud laugh can turn into a silent, mouth gaping open laugh. And you may forget that you're even capable of laughing in spite of present circumstances. This is why those moments are precious and rare. It's not mistake that often laughter is born in a circle of friends, and in my case, laughter is also surrounded by good food and drink. I want to laugh more often and I want to laugh more deeply. I'd like to think that laughter weeds out certain roots in our souls - like, fear, pain, hurt, sadness, self loathing, self pity, and doubt. Most important of all, I hope you have people in your life who make you genuinely laugh.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 2: Courage.

For the next round of Dian Reid's Authenticity Blog Challenge, I chose the topic of courage. For me, this one is definitely personal and while I'm going to attempt to correlate my love of food with the various topics, this one is on a whole other level.

Courage takes shape in one of the greatest unknowns - moving across country for love. In the fall of 2005, I fell in love. Smack dab across the concrete of love, I fell hard. I pursued a long distance relationship with a fellow in the Midwest and subsequently, one year later, I made the ultimate transition and relocated to be with him. Now that takes courage - guts and a lil' glory too. To step out of my confort zones, uproot my life and plant a new one in totally unchartered territory.

And while moving across country for love takes courage, there's an even greater of level of courage that birthed in me. That form of courage played out in the decision to end the relationship and move back home to California. It was tumultuous, grueling, and even when I stepped back onto California soil, I still wrestled with my decision. Did I make the right decision? Could we have made it work? Would I be happy? Would I be true to my heart's desires?

Today marks 10 months since I left the Midwest and while there is still a bittersweet sorrow that looms, I can honestly say it was the most courageous decision I've made to date. By far, I'm not perfect and I wouldn't admit to having it all together, let alone being completely healed and whole from the closure of that relationship, but I chose courage over hardship. Courage over complacency. The courage to accept who I am and what I am not cut out for. The courage to love and let go. The courage to be me wholeheartedly. I think what ultimately steered me in the right decision, was the fear of not exercising that courage. The fear of not being true to myself.

How has courage played a part in your past or your present? Or how has not exercising courage kept you from your true self?
** photo taken on my road trip heading back to LA, August 2009. This one was taken in Utah at a scenic stop.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blog Challenge No. 1: Love.

Karen Caterson, of Square-Peg Reflections, recently forwarded a blog challenge to her blog readers, which stems from Dian Reid's recent post entitled "Authenticity Blog Challenge". While this isn't necessarily "foodie" related, it sparked my interest and so I've decided to join the challenge during the month of June. Yes, dear readers, we have reached the halfway mark of 2010. Hard to believe really.

Dian Reid challenges bloggers to "share your thoughts, images, creative juices around one or all of the thirteen topics" - these topics include:

Compassion Intention Self-Awareness Courage Love Fairness Laughter Optimism Truth Vision Wilderness Wisdom Authenticity

So in no apparent order, I chose LOVE as today's topic. There are two people in my life, who I know without, a shadow of a doubt, love me. And while their "styles" may vary when it comes to showing how much they love me, I still know it to be true. Let the record show Exhibit "A" - my mom. If you haven't visited Bada-Bling, then you are missing out on the artistic and authentic journey my mom is sharing with all of you in cyberland. She's come a long way, heck, I'd say the last ten years alone have been transformational for her in various ways.

Exhibit "B" - my dad. He's an enigma, no doubt about that. He has a good heart and truly wants the best for me and my brother, Benjamin. And while he may not vocalize it all the time, it's real. In the photo above, my pops is pictured on the left.

There's no doubt, that I am oh so lucky to have them both as my parents. I've got the best of both worlds in many respects and it's fair (and I think accurate) to say that I've got a good mix of both of them (good and bad). And the older I get, I find out more and more, how much I resemble them both. I know alot of people out there can't say too many nice things about their parents, hell, some don't even have relationship with their parents. But I do. And I truly am grateful for them both. A parent's love is priceless. I only hope, that if I have a child of my own one day, I can pass on all of the love that's been bestowed upon me, to him/her. Every child deserves and is worthy of love.