On being a loser, comfortably

[What I ate for breakfast today: an egg, jasmine rice, beet greens--and a little bit of crisp-fried chicken skin, which, you guys, is so underrated.]

Kamal has been really into winning races: to the car, to his bedroom, to the chicken coop. It's been fun, and we've maybe exploited it a little (OK, a lot) to get him to hustle while we're getting from point A to point B. But yesterday he cried when Adam's truck was in the driveway when we pulled in, because it meant Daddy had "won" and we'd "lost." And we reflected: maybe we don't want to reinforce this particular thing.

So last night, while he played in his bubble bath, I heard myself saying to Kamal: "You know, the way races work, there's always one winner. Everybody else who doesn't win loses the race. That means there's lots of losers, and just one winner. So it's okay to be a loser, because you'll have lots of company."

I stand by this--it is okay to lose, and it better be, because nobody wins every race--but it's not exactly the message I'm hoping to deliver. What I want Kamal to know is that in real life there are no races. There's no finish line, except death, which isn't a thing to rush towards. I want him to understand that real life is not binary--you don't win or lose. You don't succeed or fail. You don't get a happy ending or a sad ending, because there are no endings, not really. All we get is the moment we're in, and the only true competition is whether our best selves can make the best of this moment, over and over again. 

I want him to know this kind of continuum of happiness, that it's part and parcel of heartache, that it's not a cause nor an effect so much as a rich and subjective network. I want him to know money is a tool, not a goal. I want him to be happy, and even more essentially, I want him to know he's happy. 

And all the other big things parents want for their child: finding meaning, being present, being loved, building community, doing good work and good works--of course I want those for him. But I want them because they will inform his happiness. 

And you know, I think he already gets it, on some level. Because about a year ago, Adam and I figured we'd introduce him to the concept of money, and we offered him one shiny penny for every ten weeds he pulled in the garden. His face lit up at the word "shiny," and he toddled off and returned a few minutes later with a bunched handful of approximately ten plant fragments. As promised, he received a shiny penny for these efforts. 

"Now," we told him, "pull another ten weeds, and you'll get another! You can have as many pennies as you want--just keep up the good work."

Kamal considered. He beamed at his penny. Then he carefully stuck it in his pocket, said, "No thanks," and wandered off.  All he wanted was the single penny. Having got it, he was done working. (Not a capitalist, then, I figure.)

 I don't know what it all means for who he's going to grow up to be--maybe he'll be a marathon racer; maybe he'll be a labyrinth pacer. Maybe he'll reinvent astronomy or busk in a train station or vote for a Republican candidate. It's too soon to tell. What I do know is none of it matters more than whether or not he's happy.  And I feel like he will be, as long as somewhere in his adult self there remains that toddler that pockets his one shiny penny and then turns away into the sunshine, trusting in the sure and easy feeling of enough. 



boy+fig.* *There are no actual pockets in this photo. 

Eating for Pleasure, in Real Life

 [What I had for breakfast today: so-so scrambled eggs and potatoes at a very early breakfast meeting. After which I felt...not ill, at all, but just not as great as I usually feel after breakfast. So after the meeting I came home and fixed--you guessed it--an egg and rice and beet greens. And then I ate it and felt MUCH, much better.]

Breakfast of this champion

When I tell patients my Healthy Hedonism philosophy, it usually begins with talking about food. I'll encourage the patient to eat exclusively for pleasure, and suggest they never eat anything unless it feels good. This is almost always met with incredulity: Just eat for pleasure? But...you mean, like, German chocolate cake? Baked brie on fresh sourdough? Holy smokes, biscuits and gravy?

Well, yeah. You should eat things you like. But (shoot, says the patient's expression here, I knew there'd be a "but") when I talk about pleasure and feeling good, I mean all over, and all day. German chocolate cake, for example--it brings my tastebuds pleasure. It zings little happy neurotransmitters all over my brain. But ten minutes after eating it, my brain gets sluggish and a little morose. My digestion slows down, which makes me feel bloated, which means I feel physically uncomfortable.  While eating the cake and for those first ten minutes, I felt good. Great, even. But after that short interval, I feel bad. I don't feel as glowy and healthy and happy as I'm accustomed to feeling. What I am feeling is definitely not pleasure. 

And after having eaten German chocolate cake several (*coughcoughHUNDRED*) times and consistently getting the same result, German chocolate cakes don't look as appealing to me as it used to. This isn't to say I'll never eat it again, because that sounds really sad. But I know it's not going to make me feel good, and I know it's not going to bring me pleasure beyond a tiny short-term fix, so it's not that hard to opt instead for things that will. 

The foods that do make you feel good don't have to be on anybody's list of "healthy" foods. I mean, white rice, along with a protein and a vegetable, is what makes me feel good. It's a refined grain and a simple carbohydrate, which from an objective nutritional standpoint is not so great--but I know I feel pleasure when I eat it, and I know I feel good all day when I eat it, so I keep eating it and feeling good.  (For a more in-depth defense of white rice, read my article here.)

Everyone's right foods are different, and nobody but you can tell you what yours are. I haven't met anyone who can honestly put German chocolate cake on their own list of right foods, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised to learn that such a person exists. Jealous, for sure, but not surprised. 

At the top of Kamal's list is definitely fruit. Any and all kinds of fruit. 

So here's how you can find your right foods: Pay attention. 

It really is that simple. Eat a thing. Notice how you feel while you're eating it. Are you feeling pleasure? Great. Check. You're halfway there. 

After eating the thing, notice how you feel. Do you feel content? Do you feel energetic? Could you go for a walk right now? Is your mind clear and focused? How do you feel about heading in to the rest of your day--are you looking forward to it? Or: Are you sleepy? Do you feel too full? Do you have a headache? Do you feel more overwhelmed about the rest of your to-do list for today?

Notice how you feel ten minutes after eating, then thirty minutes, then an hour, then a few hours, then the next day, even. Because you're going to be eating a bunch of different things over the course of 24 hours, you might not know which foods you ate the day before that cause you to feel good or not-so-good--so it's okay if this practice of noticing takes a while. It should take a while--but it could also be helpful to look back over your history and notice things that have never agreed with you. 

Lots of people come to see me saying "I know I'm supposed to eat salad, but every time I eat it I get indigestion." It's astounding, how many people eat salad even though it makes them feel bad, especially when there's a world of sauteed greens and vegetable stir-fries and all sorts of things as healthy as a salad that are much easier to digest. If something makes you feel bad, don't eat it.

And if something makes you feel good--and you're really honest with yourself about what "feels good" means, both in the short and long term--do eat it. 

And if you want to talk more about this, you know you can ask me anything. I love talking about what you eat, and what I eat, and how we can all feel way, way better, starting right now, by eating delicious things all the time. 

Three bizarrely simple things you can do to feel better quick

[What I had for breakfast today: again, beet greens, jasmine rice, an egg and sriracha. I'm still not sick of it, but I will admit to looking forward to the day the cabbage, mustard greens and broccoli that we planted this season are big enough to eat. A little vegetable variety might be welcome soon.]


Healthy choices aren't complicated, ever. You already know that you'll probably feel better if you opt for the oatmeal instead of the glazed donut, or the hike instead of the happy hour. Healthy choices are simple--but, well, they aren't necessarily easy. (Just typing "glazed donut" has me considering one, a little.) 

Here are three healthy choices that actually are really easy. They're not choosing one thing over another, they don't take a lot of time, and they don't disrupt your day. In fact, I recommend doing them every day. I promise that if you do each of these things every day, you'll feel noticeably better within a week. 

1. Stretch a little, first thing in the morning. Just for five minutes. Set a timer, if it helps, or create a routine for yourself. 

Indoors or out, get your stretch on.

I have a short, Vinyasa-based yoga practice that I move through nearly every morning, for the last, oh, fifteen or twenty years. The days that I miss it I notice--I'm creakier, slower, and less focused. It's like my body still hasn't woken up yet. Moving my joints and muscles out of sleep in a gradual, encouraging way prepares me to stay connected to my physical body throughout the day--meaning it's easier for me to choose healthful exercise and food, quicker to bend down and peek under the couch to recover Kamal's toy racecars and Legos, and less likely to injure myself through inattention. 

2. Drink enough water. "Enough" means different things for different people. I'm a moderately active person, and I drink about a gallon of water per day. If that sounds like an obscene amount of water, try aiming for a half-gallon to start. That's just 64 ounces--you can do it!  

 (If you only weigh 30 pounds, though, you do not need 64 ounces of water per day.)

Your body getting enough water means you'll be far more energetic. Your joints will be healthier, your organs will function better, your skin will be lovelier, and your mind will be clearer. Yes, you'll have to pee all the time, but eventually your body adjusts so that you're running to the restroom less frequently. If water feels really boring to you, check out this post for ideas on how to make it more interesting. 

3. Practice gratitude. This one is really important. The definition of success, at least my definition, is wanting what you have. 

So every morning, before you've even gotten out of bed, think of three things that you are grateful for--things that exist in your life that help make it good. They can be the same things every day or different things; they can be huge or tiny, or both. For example, maybe you're grateful for that orchid you coaxed to rebloom against all odds, and for the fact that you haven't caught that cold that everyone you know seems to have, and for the presence in your life of your amazing child. 

Do each of these things every day. You'll feel better, happier, more present in your life--and the world will be better because of the gift of the happier, more present you.

New Old Planters

 [What I had for breakfast today: jasmine rice, an egg, sautéed beet greens and sriracha. Yes, again, and boy did I miss it yesterday. I don't think I'll ever get tired of this breakfast.]

Bermuda grass is always, increasingly, encroaching upon our vegetable garden. This year, we're fighting back by planting it all in tillage radish as a cover crop. The idea is that radishes grow faster than most weeds, and if you plant them close together, their broad leaves block sunshine to the ground, so new weed sprouts don't have much of a chance. It's organic weed management via strategic outcompetition.

This, however, leaves us limited room to grow our food--which in turn creates the opportunity for us to get a lot more comfortable with container gardening. We dug up our happy parsley plants from the garden and put them in our cheery new planters, which Adam made by covering five-gallon buckets with rice sacks we'd saved. The parsley seems seem pretty happy in its new home, right?   


Banana bread jones

[What I had for breakfast today: a delicious chicken tamale from a cart on Sebastopol Road]

Every so often I get fixated on banana bread and have to make it right away. 

I don't entirely understand why; banana bread is not something that would ever make it onto a list of my favorite foods. There's just some undefinable nostalgia attached to it, something linked to those very first few times I baked anything at all. I would have been in high school, probably, and I remember feeling giddy with the way I could turn flour and a few other things into something that would feed people and make them happy. (Baking things would also reliably get my high-school boyfriend to come over, and I would be a big liar if I told you that didn't result in my being a more practiced baker.)

Today I was jonesing for banana bread again. Kamal and I made banana nut muffins, following the recipe linked to in this article. I'm usually pretty loosey-goosey about following a recipe, but after reading about this one I didn't dare experiment--it sounded like messing with perfection. Other than using a muffin tin (it made twelve lovely muffins) instead of a loaf pan, which meant my baking time was more like 25 minutes instead of 65, I didn't change a thing. 

Kamal was a tremendous help, especially when it came to the important task of cleaning the mixer paddle.  

These hit the spot, absolutely. I would have taken a photo of them for you, but I was too excited to eat them. We shared them with friends and every banana-y bite is gone. 

The Healthiest Food You've Never Heard Of

[What I had for breakfast this morning: jasmine rice, an egg, sriracha, shoyu and bittermelon. What's bittermelon? Read up!] 

Isn't it pretty? 

Like a work of art, right? 

Bittermelon, a member of the cucumber family, is not very well known in the United States. But all over Asia, as well as South and Central America, it's a popular ingredient in stir-fries, soups, stews, curries and teas. 

The list of health benefits attributed to bittermelon is almost too long to type here. Probably the most researched benefit is the way that bittermelon can improve insulin resistance and thereby blood glucose levels, making it a terrific whole-food tool for people with diabetes. Other benefits include clearer skin, improved weight management (connected to that blood sugar balancing!), better digestion, and even fewer kidney stones. The only people that can't benefit from adding some bittermelon to their diets are pregnant women--bittermelon is contraindicated in pregnancy, as it can induce contractions. 

As its name indicates, it's incredibly bitter. More bitter, probably, than almost anything you've ever eaten. A lot of people don't like it for that reason--which is understandable. 

Consider, however, that in Chinese nutritional therapy and the Chinese culinary arts, each meal should present a balance of the five flavors: bland (or mildly sweet, as in rice or carrots), sour, salty, pungent, and bitter. The traditional Western diet features those first four flavors pretty regularly, but bitter? Not so much. 

We have coffee, and that's bitter. We have, well, bitters, and Campari, at every well-stocked bar. There's certainly a degree of bitterness in some dark leafy greens, like dandelion greens and older kale, but not a whole lot of it. 

What the bitter flavor does in a traditional Chinese medical context is tonify and clear heat from the heart and drain dampness from the entire system. The patient that would benefit from eating more bitter foods might manifest some of the following symptoms: anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, trouble losing weight, a chronically stuffy or runny nose, and water retention.  Because of its strongly bitter flavor, bittermelon excels at treating all of those symptoms. 

So where can you get this miraculous food? Well, typically Asian markets will carry it year-round. Like cucumbers, bittermelons are harvested in the summer months, so if you have a local farm stand, you might want to ask in the early spring if the farmer could grow it. Or you could grow it yourself, if you have garden space for a vigorous, vining plant. I've had a hard time getting it started in the garden, but I know people who have grown it with no trouble at all.

The farmer that we buy our strawberries from in the summer grows bittermelon, so I buy a bunch in summer, pith and slice them, and freeze them in sealed packets to eat all year.  

Cooking bittermelon is a pretty simple process, very much like cooking a bell pepper: you slice the bittermelon in half lengthwise, scoop out the pith and seeds with a spoon, slice the remaining outer shell into lovely scalloped little half-moons, and sautee them till they're tender. I like to scramble them with eggs, soy sauce and sriracha. I've also appreciated them stuffed with pork and served in a gingery broth. 

sauteed bittermelon, egg, rice and sriracha


Below is one of my favorite-ever bittermelon recipes. (Note for those of you who avoid gluten: If you make it with tamari instead of soy sauce, it's gluten-free.) I hope you enjoy it. 

3 large bittermelons
1.5 lbs eye of round beef steak, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, sliced
1 to 2 tbsp, or to taste, soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 nests mung bean threads (also called glass noodles or cellophane noodles)

Put the mung bean thread nests in a bowl of water to soak. 

Wash and slice the bitter melon in half lengthways. Scoop out all the seeds and membranes with a spoon and discard.

-(optional step: to draw out some of the bitterness, coat the hollowed-out bittermelon halves with salt. Leave for 15 minutes, then thoroughly rinse off salt. I do think removing some of the bitter flavor negatively impacts the medicinal value, so skip this step if the bitterness doesn't bother you.)

-Slice the bittermelon thinly and set aside.

-Heat a heavy pan or wok on high, then place 1 tbsp of oil in the wok. When the oil gets hot, add beef and saute for one minute--it should sizzle. Remove the beef from the hot pan and set aside.

-Add 1 more tbsp of oil in the wok and briefly fry the garlic and then add the onions and continue frying for about 2 minutes.

-Add the beef back in the wok. Keep stirring for 1 minute.

-Add the bitter melon, stir fry for 2 minutes, then add the tamari and stir.

-Add water from the to cover about half an inch up the pan (approx 1/3 cup depending on the size of the pan or wok).

-When the liquid is simmering, make a little well in the mixture. Remove the mung bean threads from the water they've been soaking in and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring continuously, till the threads are soft and translucent.

I like to add a dash of sesame oil to my own serving. This what I call comfort food.


[What I had for breakfast today: again, egg, rice, beet greens and a little leftover roast chicken.]

My mother used to take off one earring while she was working in her home office, so that it wouldn't click against the phone receiver as she made calls. Then she'd forget, and leave the house with only one earring on. 

Today I walked out of my office after returning a bunch of calls with just one earring on, too. It was nice to feel connected to her that way, one working mama to another, one of us ageless in memory, one of us aging busily and feeling blessed for it.

One kind of first step

[what i had for breakfast today: rice and a fresh egg cooked in homemade chicken stock]

(the following originally published at http://lorellesaxena.tumblr.com/)

I think we all secretly hope, when we meet a new healthcare practitioner or spiritual leader or life coach or whatever, that that person will be the person who will take us in, look us over and say: "Oh, look. I see you. You are a good person. You have good intentions, you are trying, and sometimes you fall short, but that's understandable because you're human, because you have your own specific wounds, and because sometimes you're just tired. It's okay. You are a chosen, golden, beautiful person, with gifts that only you have, many of which you haven't begun to realize. Whether or not you reach your fullest potential, regardless of your shortcomings and regrets, I see without a doubt that you are extraordinary."

So here's the thing. You can just be that person for yourself. Tell yourself. You know it's the truth.


Remember: everyone is fragile. You are, too. Be gentle with yourself.

Making water less boring

[what I had for breakfast today: jasmine rice, beet greens, scrambled egg, and leftover roast chicken]

I drink about a gallon of water each day, and I have for a long time--it makes me feel clearer-headed and less fatigued, it helps my skin stay bright and glowy, and it keeps my joints in better working order. 

I recommend aiming for half a gallon of water per day to patients who aren't in a water-drinking habit. Sometimes, though, patients will balk--"But water is so BORING!" they protest. 

Well, it doesn't have to be. And I don't think you should drink anything that bores you. Here are some ways to make water more interesting: 

My water glass is a quart Mason jar. Four of these=one gallon.

-Bring water to a boil and pour it over your favorite fruits or spices, let steep for five to twenty minutes, remove fruits and drink when cool enough. As an example, think about putting half a sliced pear and a little bit of minced ginger in the bottom of a quart jar and then pouring hot water to fill the jar. Dried blueberries and orange peel could be another tasty option.    

-Bubbly water still counts as water! I put a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and about a teaspoon of maple syrup in a pint jar and fill that with bubbly water. A little rice vinegar and a thinly-sliced cucumber would be delicious as well, as would balsamic vinegar and a couple of sliced strawberries.

-All kinds of herbal teas count towards your water intake--chrysanthemum, mint, rooibos, chamomile. One you may not have heard of before is barley tea, which is common in East Asian countries but not so much here. It's made by toasting raw barley in a heavy pan for just a couple of minutes till it's nuttily fragrant, then simmering it for ten to twenty minutes in water. I'd do maybe a heaping tablespoon of barley to a quart of water. 


[what I ate for breakfast today: one egg, beet greens, jasmine rice, sriracha...also known as "the usual."]

That's how many degrees it was today. Eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit! In the very middle of February.


So warm Kamal decided he'd eat his orange outside. In his underpants.

We finished planting our earth boxes, shoveled some compost for our garlic beds, and let our chickens out to hunt bugs. They're ruthless predators, chickens. 

The mint figures it must be June and is growing up in every little patch of dirt it can claim. One of my favorite summer drinks is iced mint tea. Nothing is so straightforwardly refreshing after a long, hot day of gardening. Even if that day is February 15.

Conventional wisdom cautions that you should always plant your mint in a pot; otherwise, it will take over your garden the way it has ours. I don't mind it so much, though.

Here's the recipe. Couldn't be simpler! 

1) Get a great big stockpot. 

2) Pick and wash an armload of fresh mint.

3) Put your armload of mint in the stockpot and then fill it with water.

4) Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer for about twenty minutes. You'll want to stir every few minutes and make sure all the mint stems and leaves are submerged. 

5) Add about a half cup of sugar or honey for a large stockpot. The tea should taste barely sweet.

6)  Turn off the heat. Strain out leaves. Chill and drink. 


 [what I had for breakfast today: jasmine rice, an egg scrambled with beet greens, sriracha, nutritional yeast]

We visited with good friends this morning, on this sunny Valentine's Day that feels like spring. 

The daffodils are sure it's spring.

Later we planted our EarthBoxes with mustard seedlings that I'd started from seed months ago. I realized the mustard leaves looked a lot like the leaves on the echinachea seedlings I'd been painstakingly transplanting into bushel baskets and nursery planters all winter. Ruh-roh. 

A Google image search revealed that the bushel baskets and nursery planters were, indeed, full of mustard greens. I must have mislabeled a planter or somehow mistaken one pile of beigeish teeny-tiny seeds for another pile of beigeish teeny-tiny seeds.

It's not a catastrophe. I love mustard greens, especially lactofermented, the way Adam preserves them. But I feel pretty silly. 

You're not who I thought you were. 

Need a little help falling asleep?

[what I had for breakfast today: a hard-boiled egg, jasmine rice, sauerkraut and nutritional yeast.]

Sometimes it's just really, really hard to turn your mind off and drift into a deep, restful sleep. Here are some easy-to-follow breathing and acupressure recommendations that I make to patients struggling with insomnia. 

First of all, you should do a breathing exercise while pressing these points. I'd suggest 4-7-8 breathing--inhaling for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 7, and exhaling for a count of 8. If this feels difficult, try speeding up the count. The speed isn't important; keeping the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If it's still difficult, switch to just inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 8, skipping holding your breath.

Hold each of these three points on each side of the body, in the order written here, for one to two minutes while doing the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. 

-Nei Guan: Make a fist and locate the two parallel tendons that pop up on the underside (palm side) of your wrist. Relax your hand, and locate the point between those two tendons, two fingers' width below the wrist crease. Here's an image

-San Yin Jiao: Find the tip of your ankle bone on the inside aspect of your leg. Locate the point three fingers' width above the tip of the ankle bone, just behind the tibia (shin bone). Here's an image. 

-Yong Quan: On the very bottom of your foot, this point is at the deepest point of the "cup" your foot makes when you point your toes. Here's an image

Now go to sleep, already.
Now go to sleep, already.


[what I had for breakfast today: a cup of miso soup, then jasmine rice, over-medium egg, a bit of fried chicken skin, and a pile of sauerkraut]

I've always preferred sitting on the floor to sitting in a chair. If it were socially acceptable, I'd probably eat all my meals, do all my consults and take all my meetings cross-legged on the ground. When I was in high school I briefly campaigned to be permitted to sit on the floor during classes, with unbrilliant arguments like, "Who does it hurt?" and "Look, you can't fall off the floor."

All I knew at the time was that I was more comfortable on the floor than in a chair. Nowadays, if you Google "healthy sitting" or "chairs and health" you'll find a multitude of reasons to park your booty on the baseboards every chance you get. (I wish I'd had them when I was making my case to my Modern European History teacher.) Here are just a few: it's better for your hips, your back, your neck, and your internal organs. Eating while sitting on the floor benefits your digestion. Working on the floor enhances your productivity. 

And it's a good practice if your goal is to maintain mobility over the long term: consider that (warning: rant impending!) chairs are basically a rest stop for your body halfway between standing up and sitting on the floor. They're there because we're too tired, or achy, or whatever, to get all the way down to the floor and then all the way back up. They should be reserved for people who actually cannot get up from the floor.  They inherently condone laziness. And believe me, I'm all for laziness here and there--but if I am trying to be lazy, I'm much happier lounging on the floor. 

Whenever I'm at the office and not consulting with a patient--doing administration stuff, checking emails, researching, writing--I take the opportunity to take the floor. This afternoon I was  doing some reading on Chinese herbal interactions before prescribing a formula to a patient, and it just made sense to spread out. Books, computer, coffee and me got cozy. I was definitely a lot more productive, and both my brain and body felt happy and healthy. 

Today's Bread

 [what I had for breakfast today: the company of a lovely friend and her magical baby and Kamal, who "read" the baby a book; griddled soda bread with ricotta, farmer's cheese, sauteed beet greens and an over-easy egg.]

I've been loving making this sunflower seed bread from the King Arthur website. I've made just a few adjustments--using part whole-wheat flour, increasing the salt very slightly, and using molasses instead of sugar because both Kamal and I are crazy about the flavor of molasses in our breads. 

Oh, and I doubled the recipe, too. Not only because the bread is so delicious you'll regret only making one loaf the moment you take the first bite, but also because this bread freezes well and makes the BEST toast. 

2 and 2/3 cup white flour
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons chia seeds (or you could do 6 tablespoons of sesame seeds; I like doing half black sesame seeds and half white)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups warm water (should feel like comfortable bath temperature)

Mix all ingredients (with either a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed) till cohesive and coming off the sides of the bowl. Let sit five minutes. Then oil your hands and knead (or mix in mixer) five to ten minutes, just until the when you gently poke the dough, it feels like the adhesive on a post-it note when you touch it--like it starts to stick to you but lets go really easily without leaving any residue. 

Having a good baker's helper makes all the difference in the world.

Lightly oil a big clean bowl and a sheet of plastic wrap. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with the wrap. Let rise till puffy. It's taken about 90 minutes in my kitchen on these cool February days. 

Grease (I use coconut oil, and it works perfectly) two glass loaf pans. Divide dough into two equal portions--a scale is helpful for this step. Gently pat each piece of dough into a log that fits in the loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees F till golden brown and an thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 190 degrees F or higher. 


the plan: healthy and happy

[what i had for breakfast today: hard-boiled egg,  jasmine rice, beet greens, sriracha]

I look forward to going to work every day, and then I look forward every day to going home to Adam and Kamal. So if you see a somebody grinning like a fool as she cycles east in the morning and west in the evening, that's me. I know I'm lucky. I'm grateful. And I want this kind of happiness to feel reachable to everyone.

Even when it's raining. 

Here's what we all have in common: limited time in this life. Limited chances to enjoy the pleasures of being a human being on this good earth, a finite number of deep and joyful breaths. My goal is to make the most of each moment, and to help you do the same thing. 

I've been writing about my philosophy of Healthy Hedonism on Tumblr. Here's a link to a post that introduces the concept, in case you're curious about how easy just feeling good can be. 


 [what i had for breakfast today: just like yesterday, a scrambled egg and beet greens with a jasmine rice--but today I poured a cup of miso soup over it all.]

Today Kamal and I had an unexpected day off, and we took the opportunity to have a picnic in a forest, because what could be better? 

The spread: Irish soda bread and farmer's cheese, both made fresh this morning. Apricot jam and strawberry jam, which Adam put up last summer. Eggs kindly provided by our chickens this week. Salami and K's favorite clementines.

It was grand. 

crumby happy people

A note--if you've never made fresh cheese, it's so easy you will not believe it. Here's a terrific tutorial from Serious Eats, a blog that's become an important resource to our kitchen. If, like us, you don't have a microwave, just heat the milk to the indicated temperature on your stove in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring frequently to prevent the milk burning or boiling over.


Adjusting expectations

[what i had for breakfast today: pan-fried jasmine rice with sauteed beet greens and fresh egg] 


So we had a fun-filled morning planned--going go the garden store to check out bare-root stock on Superbowl Sunday has become tradition for our family, because it's the least crowded day there of the entire bare-root season (um, in case you didn't already know, we are dorks). Kamal woke us up at FIVE. AM. and I got up almost cheerfully because of how much I look forward to this day. The possibility! The sheer number of varieties of mulberries, sour cherries, peaches. The frantic surreptitious Googling on our  phones of the that one variety of blood orange that we've never heard of but looks so beautiful in the picture on the tab. The pollination question. And just last year, Kamal's little voice squeaking in, every time we read a fruit name aloud: "I yike dat one!"

So I was fixing breakfast for Kamal, all expectant and happy, when Adam found out he has to go in to the office.

And I was so bummed. I knew Adam didn't want to go in either, and I was bummed for him. But mostly, selfishly, I was bummed for me, for what felt like a huge letdown of my glowy expectations.

I dealt with it. I sat down with my coffee and breakfast, next to my charming son, and then read him a book, let him play a quick counting game on my tablet while I got in a few minutes of writing (he rested his little hand on my wrist the whole time and nodded emphatically when I mused, "We're both working really hard, aren't we?"), got him dressed, brought him outside, played a little baseball with him, and transplanted, with his help, a bunch of echinachea seedlings in the greenhouse. In other words, we had a great time. Then Adam came home from work, we were all happy, Kamal asked for a banana, and as he started in on one, it broke in half--and he cried. So hard.

He wanted a new banana, but I couldn't justify it. Not just because of the relatively enormous carbon footprint of a banana purchased and consumed in Northern California, but because it's important that he learn to deal with things not going as planned. 

And I realized his disappointment and mine were not very different at all. We both had an expectation of an experience; we both had to cope with those experiences being different from out expectations. And two incredibly sweet things came from that broken banana--one, he cried himself into a nice, deep nap in my arms, where he lay flushed and dreaming for two solid hours, and two, when he woke up, Adam presented him with a banana-and-clementine fruit salad, which he ate with relish while reading a favorite book.



As for me and my shifted expectations, my lesson is learned. Kamal and I had a beautiful morning, and we all made it to the garden store fifteen minutes before they closed. And then we went home and shoveled compost, which is one of my favorite gardening tasks (again: dork).  And theb we cleaned up and grabbed dinner at a familiar and beloved restaurant. 

And at the garden store, we did all the same things we always do-- "Did you know there's such a thing as a weeping mulberry? That sounds pretty," and "Smith Blood Valencia orange. Wait, is that a blood or a Valencia orange, then? Will it fruit in winter or in the spring? Quick, let's Google it!" and "I yike apricots! I yike plums!"

And then, as we do every year, we decided we needed to go home and do more research before choosing trees. We'll do some of it this year, and forget some of it entirely, or get caught up on other stuff. I know this because it's what we do every year. But if we actually figured out exactly which trees we wanted and bought them all, how will we justify having this wonderful day next Superbowl Sunday, and the next, and the next?


Cleaned up from our day of gardening and tree shopping and ready to go out to dinner