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Believing…is Seeing

Blog note: I’ve decided to change the focus of this blog. You’ll notice I’m writing more about positive living and maybe a bit less about restaurants, foodie stuff, etc). I’m trying something out. Bear with me, let me know if you like it, as I try to focus the content and try something new!

I wonder how many athletes out there practice visualization? It’s been a while since I raced competitively  (in a boat or on land in a road race or triathlon) but I can recall a few instances where I visualized with intent before a big race. A coach helped us to visualize rowing well during my first year rowing in college. We listened to a mix tape (for those too young to remember, oh, well forget it – try wikipedia) with various Enya songs and envisioned different stages of the race and our race strategy being dictated as we visualized how it would culminate. That was a pretty cool experience, and we continued to practice our winning the race right up until before we jumped into the boat for the event. As I recall, we did pretty well.

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, mainly because I’m interested to see how much it really works. I think there’s certainly something to it, and I’m trying to incorporate it more into my own life. It’s an easy thing that doesn’t take a lot of time, hardly any resources except a quiet place and quiet mind, and is something that is worth trying before not just a big race, but also before a test, big work presentation, a sales pitch, or even something to try before you get yourself out of bed in the morning. How do you want your day to unfold today, and how will imagine taking on the new day? It’s worth a shot – give it a try.

© Universal Press Syndicate

They say that cancer patients do so much better with it and I have a friend who is living proof. Kids need it the first 18 years of life, and then as we grown into adults we rely on it to get by, too. I’m talking about Support – support from friends, family, mentors, and those who have walked in your shoes before. I believe it’s imperative to success, and necessary to get through new territory.

I recently had a chance to reflect on my college days. Going away to college is a major rite of passage. It can be a great time, with opportunities to create new friendships, explore new subjects in classes and experiences around campus, and  for most of us it was a time when we got our first true sense of the independence that is associated with living away from the folks that raised us the first 18 years of our lives.

When I think back about what I learned in college, one of the most meaningful lessons was the importance of building a support network. I recently told this story to a group of young collegiate athletes. I went to college a mere month after losing my father to a two-year battle with cancer. My mom, brother and I were all devistated, as you would expect. There are no words to explain the pain of losing someone close to you (my dad and I had a very good father-daughter relationship to boot). Although you eventually reach a ‘new normal’, it takes lots of time to heal. I went away and started a new life in a sense. My mom tells me she and my brother didn’t have the same luxury to get away and start over like I did. Maybe that’s partially true. But a luxury it was not. Newness abounded. I made friends, I went to classes, socialized, and joined the rowing team.  Still there was deep pain and a loneliness that, although I tried to hide, persisted.

An avid athlete in high school, I knew I wanted to join the competitive club rowing team in college. So I did, and I liked it ok. A slew of us ‘novice’ rowers (and yes, you’re actually called novices, for the entire first year in fact) would run 2 miles to and from the ‘boathouse’ which was really an out of use hockey rink, to learn to row on an erg, and eventually in a boat and we learned to row on the water.  I wouldn’t exactly say I was instantly hooked. But, soon I got to know some of my teammates, and as the numbers of girls on the team dwindled (after we learned practice would be switching to 5:30 am) I got closer to my teammates. At the same time, about 2-3 weeks into the semester, I went down the hall and talked to my RA, and told her what was going on. Lucky for me, I got a great one. She listened empathetically and supportively encouraged me to tell my coach too. I should say, I was resistant to tell anyone what I was going through because I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or giving me special attention. I can laugh at that now, but that attitude could have closed me off if I didn’t eventually tell someone. Because I did reach out, I garnered support I needed to get through this difficult time. My coach was also incredibly supportive and took the time to tell me his personal story about losing his dad. And, I knew he’d probably understand when I wasn’t 100% there mentally, or got teary in between intervals (which I did).  It was like there were a few mentors or adults looking out for me when I really needed it. Sure, a lot of people say when you’re 18 you are an adult, but really, so much of my wisdom came from the years 18-25, a time when you’re on your own but inexperienced in many aspects of life. Unless you have very involved parents or older siblings, there’s a lot of learning by trial that goes on during that time.

Over time, I made great lifelong friends in college, and they supported me too. But having those more experienced adult figures in my life made so much difference. My varsity college coach (the next 3 years of my rowing career) was also a huge support. As were the leaders of a service trip I took my junior year.  Ted, Monet, Dave, Kevin and Trina – thank you all for being there for me, and for being a big part of my support system when I needed you most. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. In my case these individuals will be remembered for making me feel supported.

The need for a support network never goes away. Often times family can be the basis of support, but sometimes that’s not the case, because we need support in an area where they may not be well versed (ie such as in business or athletics). It’s so important to seek out not just friends, but also mentors and those who are willing and able to support us because they care and/or they’ve walked in our shoes before. I believe it’s human nature to help each other – we just don’t always know when others need us most, so speak up. Ask for help, confide in those you trust, and know that by doing so you’ll be in a better position to be your best self. And, if you can be of support to someone less experienced than you, take the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on that person’s life.

juliachildI saw this film several weeks ago. I really enjoyed the film, but not just because I love to cook and eat authenticaly cooked food. I loved that the movie really struck a chord with me as a female entrepreneur who is following a dream, and that it’s inspiring and uplifting, and a reminder to live life to the fullest. For those who haven’t seen it, Julie is a young cube-worker-bee with what seems to be a dead-end job while what she really wants to do is write and cook – both of which she does around her 9-5 job as she cooks and blogs her way through one of Julia Child’s cookbooks.

What Julie and Julia Can Teach Us About How to Live

  • Zest for life
  • Questioning life
  • Unconditional love (Julia shows toward her husband and sister)
  • Unabashedly expressing emotion – coming into ones own skin and being who you really are
  • Follow passion – even if it’s not popular
  • Balancing life. All women I know strive for balance but it’s momentary, and more important than always trying to achieve balance may be relishing those moments when things ARE balanced

When I went to see this film, I expected two things. That I would learn more about and have greater respect for Julia Child, the chef, and that I would relish in the experience Julie has teaching herself how to cook from Julia’s recipes over the course of a year. I’m always delighted when a film touches me deeper than I expected (usually a tell tale sign of a great film). This one did, many times over.

Much more than we learn about her cookery, we learn a great deal about Julia’s zest for life, which translates into her culinary success, to most who know of her. But Julia’s zest for life transpired her cooking and we get a good glimpse of that throughout the movie. She ably switched gears and could ‘go with the flow’ wherever life took her. While her husband’s job took the two to various locales without much notice, she was quick to embrace new cultures, learn, and take advantage of the bounty available to her. Her passion for life was present both inside and outside of the kitchen.

Along with this passion for life, Julia regularly questioned ‘the norm’. She questioned her role as a housewife, and why women weren’t enrolled in top culinary schools. When she found there was no good reason for this, she persisted, and got herself into the famed Le Cordon Blue, being the first woman ever to do so. She pushed herself out of that comfort zone and grew because of it.

By now it’s not surprising to learn that Julia’s love was unconditional. She (or at least Meryl Streep portrays her as) deeply cares for her husband and her sister and is supportive of each, but we particularly see this with her relationship with her husband. Watching it will make you want to be a better person! I loved that this movie transcended the too common pettiness commonly portrayed by many female roles on TV and in film today. Even while one of Julia’s friends didn’t pull her weight in the venture they started with a third woman, the other two didn’t sit around and gripe about the third. Julia, instead, thought more to deal with it head on and then move on.

Julia is not shy. She is comfortable in her own skin, even though we can imagine as we watch her six-foot (maybe more!) frame hobble around sometimes that it might not have been easy for her. I love that she doesn’t care what other people think. She just is, her zestful self. And in that, she is content.

Although it’s not typical, a surefire way to make friends, or even fun at first, Julia follows her passion and does what she believes she really wants to do. She is fearless, enters classes full of men who have been cooking for years, and does her best to keep up, to learn as much as possible, all because she has a passion and believes this is what will make her the best chef she can be. There were plenty of easier roads to becoming a better chef, but Julia’s passion and persistence led her to get the best training possible.

Finally, despite throwing herself into her passion, Julia seems to have good friends, that great relationship with her husband, and a well roundedness about her that is almost enviable. I know, it’s a movie, but still. The reality seems to be that she probably didn’t have a lot of balance all the time, particularly when writing an ginormous cookbook, and taking intensive culinary classes. Butcha know what? Balance is fleeting. It’s a give and take, a constant tipping back and forth of the scales and sometimes if we’re lucky everything evens out. Worrying about it, spending energy and time trying to achieve it, is only likely to remind us how much we have to juggle. The point is to enjoy it all, and sometimes you simply cannot enjoy it all at once, but that’s ok.

earth_picRecently I revisited a TED talk by John Doerr which had really moved me several months back, entitled ‘Not Enough’. I was sharing it with some family members who were interested to learn what TED was all about (frankly, they might have been more interested in Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on the creative forces behind Eat, Pray, Love). This talk reminded me of what a powerful message Doerr shares in regard to the magnitude of the climate crisis, and how so many large-scale efforts to remedy this problem are still ‘not enough’. This really resonates with me; most often so when I consider future generations of my family, namely my children and my children’s children. Partner at mega VC firm Kleiner Perkins, Doerr is extremely accomplished and highly respected among leaders at top tech firms like Google; his ventures are ultimately responsible for 150,000 jobs. His speech at TED emphasizes why and how we must focus a large number of new ventures in the field of green, clean technology, referencing a touching conversation with his daughter in which she put the pressure on him and ‘his generation’ to solve much of the crisis because they were the ones to create it (I imagine referencing taking advantage of rapidly developing technologies and advances in science without taking into account their environmental impact). 

If you’re looking for inspiration for starting a green movement, idea, business, or to influence others who may be cynical, this is a great place to start…

‘Not Enough’

“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” John Doerr proclaims, in an emotional talk about climate change and investment. Spurred on by his daughter, who demanded he fix the mess the world is heading for, he and his partners.

bucatini

Bucatini

Finally, finally I got over to 10 Tables in JP. It was a mixed celebration of summer, the end of a hectic rowing season for my husband, and our upcoming anniversary. Given the last cause, the wine dinner theme of Italy was appropriate as it’s where we honeymooned and enjoyed many a memorable meal. 

Not only was the meal fantastic, but sitting at the small bar they call the Chef’s Table was, as well. We got to share recipes, meals, and favorite restaurants with the quiet but genuine Dave Punch and his assistant. We found we’re all big fans of Franklin Cafe, and got a few new ideas for places we must try soon, including Toro in the South End. Stanislas Hilbert was our waiter and thoughtfully picked all of the wines we enjoyed on this evening. Each of the four was unique and enjoyable, with just a little reservation on the very sweet dessert wine, a 2004 Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. But I’m not a fan of real sweet wines, so that probably explains that. My husband enjoyed it greatly.

Dinner began with a fresh, cool salad of shaved zucchini, crimini and fennel, and ricotta salata. We will no doubt be trying the ricotta salata, a dried and salted ricotta, at home this summer. It’s excellent on salad. The next course was probably my favorite – bucatini alla matriciana. Oh, heaven. Very fresh pasta of Abbruzi (via Formaggio Kitchen) covered in a rich tomato sauce with onions, garlic, evoo, fresh herbs and most important, pancetta, that had simmered for hours. Served with the 2004 Salice Salentino Rivera, it was a perfect coupling. Feeling like I could eat this dish all night long, not to mention my hesitation to move onto the next wine because the Rivera was so complex, rich, and delicious, we did, and rest assured we more than survived the tuscan style steak course. It was amazing – marinated yet not overly flavored with anything besides its natural goodness, it was a fair portion served with a few nice light greens and wonderful oven roasted potatoes that melted in your mouth. Hints of truffle oil and Sabo were on the plate. It was well paired with a 2005 Cannonau Reserva, Sella & Mosca from Sardenia. Almost as good as the Rivera. I will definitely look for both. We finished things off with a caradamom scented arborio rice pudding with pistachio and coconut. Not a big rice pudding fan myself, I still enjoyed dessert especially given the luscious crunchy topping, and shared my portion with my husband, the biggest rice pudding fan I know.

10 Tables, you are small but what’s the saying – good things come in small packages. I look forward to another fantastic Tuesday night regional wine dinner later in the summer.  

Ten Tables 

srcafe1Tucked away is an understatement. This special restaurant commands you stray from the mainstream and venture to the back roads of northeastern Connecticut. An hour and a quarter from Boston and probably forty-five minutes from Hartford, the scenic drive from I-84 puts you in the mood for what waits in this quaint restored barn in Eastford, CT. A former Connecticut resident myself, I’d never heard of the town, but once off the interstate I recognized the territory as I drove through part of Bigelow Hollow State Park, a swimming and canoeing oasis I have fond memories of from childhood days gone by.

My dining companion who arrived before I was seated on the sunny side porch with a book the owners wrote about the restaurants of St. Bart’s. It was a glorious spring day, the kind that restores hope after a long cold New England winter.

Once inside, the old converted barn shined with warm spring sunlight on rustic old beams and clean white walls amidst a simple and rustic, yet elegant interior.  The menu looked fresh, robust with just enough choices, and customized for the latest local harvest.

I’d hoped to begin with the Blue Hill Mussels, but sadly they were sold out this Sunday brunch. So instead, I was satiated by a hearty serving of the North Ashford Farm Salad – healthy, fresh, and light with baby greens, toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved fennel and goat cheese feta, which I am slowing learning to enjoy (goat cheese, that is). My companion enjoyed an even more tasty Farm Beat salad, which was gorgeously plated and shined with earthy red and golden beats and a mellow local goat cheese.

Next, I moved onto the Kobe Beef Carpaccio. Wow. These ‘dumplings’ were packed with a beefy, bacony flavor and had a melt in your mouth texture, complimented by baby arugula and Parmesan shavings. My guest enjoyed the Tasting of Scallops – scallops with a scallop jus and another with a hazelnut crust. I preferred the former, which were perfectly cooked with most complimentary jus, however both were worthy of ordering again.

We wrapped up brunch with a fun experiment in chocolate that included homemade chocolates (the caramel with sea salt was the best I’ve ever had – I wanted to take a box home), a simple but rich mouse, and brownie-like bites of cake. It was the perfect ending to a special brunch, all of which overlooked a serene rural setting that my city soul savored. Still River is a winner in my book, and even with the distance,  I’ll be back. 

Still River Cafe Website

I’m back. This time, with a recipe for my favorite homemade pizza. It is so easy. So easy, that we’ve incorporated it into our weekly dinner menus here at homepizza-dough. This is a great way to satisfy your and yours’ stomachs sans meat (a la Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman whose views I subscribe to). And that’s better for the environment of course. 

Here’s what you need: 

1/2 c warm water

1 envelope (2 1/4 t) active dry yeast

1 1/4 c water – room temperature

2 T EVOO

4 c bread flour (up to 2c whole wheat recommended. If no bread flour, don’t sweat it – regular unbleached is ok too)

1 t sugar

1 1/2 t salt

1) Fill 2-cup measuring cup with warm water and add yeast.  Let sit for 5 min. Add room temp water and EVOO. 

2) Mix flour, salt, and sugar loosely with wooden spoon in the bowl of your stand-up mixer. 

3) Add liquid ingredients and mix with paddle attachment until a cohesive ball of dough forms, then replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic ~5 min. Form dough into ball and place in a deep oiled bowl. Cover with clean dish towel. 

4) Let it rise. Should take at least an hour, but if you leave it for longer (I’ve gone up to 3-4 hours) it should be fine. 

Now you’re ready to make your ‘za!  Heat the oven to 450F. I like to divide the dough into 3 equal balls. Each will make a good sized pizza for 2-3. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, spread it out, nice and thin. Place the rolled dough over the bottom side of a professional baking cookie sheet. Bake the dough for 4-5 minutes. 

Now for the SAUCE. This is SO easy:

 

1 28-oz can of ORGANIC crushed tomatoes (organic really makes a difference here)

2 T EVOO

3 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

 

Simply mix these together, and you’ve got your sauce. Don’t pre-cook it – the oven will do it justice.  Mmmm. Bostonians – this sauce is reminiscent of Upper Crust’s…

Assembly:

Spread the sauce liberally over the dough which you’ve removed from the oven (it will have just started to cook). You should have just enough sauce for all three pizzas (you can save the sauce and dough separately in the fridge for a day or two if you don’t want to make all 3 pizzas at once). Next, top with fresh mozzarella cheese slices, and your choice of any other toppings. My personal favorite – caramelized onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the pizzas in the oven for about 8-12 minutes (you have to watch – it really depends on your oven). Remove when the cheese has spread but before it browns. Wha-lah. That, my friends, is the ultimate home-made pizza.