Love Has No Boundary

It's been a while since my last #hotteainspiration, so I got a good one for ya that struck me deeply: "Love has no boundary." 💛 It's true, it doesn't. It really doesn't; although it often feels like it does. We seem to create our own boundaries out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Of being vulnerable, hurt, taken advantage of, mistreated, led astray, disillusioned, disappointed, taken for granted, and on and on and on. We love with conditions, and we often show our love only when others show theirs, like it's some sort of commodity to be traded & bartered for... or when we somehow *think* we have a guarantee that we'll receive it in return, or there won't be any danger in us expressing it.

For an amazing species of risk takers, sometimes the fragility of the human heart overpowers any courage or gumption we can muster. We don't want to look or feel like we care more. We don't want to be left high and dry. We don't want to ever feel rejected or have our love unrequited... god forbid. So we either abandon or deny what we feel in our hearts, in the name of self-protection and preservation; or we simply feel our love quietly, with restraint, sacrifice, loads of composure, and even abject politeness, all the while carefully calculating when and if we should or will show our cards... show ourselves, our true feelings, our raw, deep, humble, pure, unabashed, bold, awe inspiring, soul opening, heart filling LOVE.

It's all so overwhelming... and exhausting; hence, the restraint, the denial, the walls, the numbing, the isolation, the distraction... all self-imposed boundaries in an array of forms.

But we don't really need these boundaries. We can live without them if we are able to find our way to love without fear. Love without expectation, pretense, self interest, judgement, ego or attachment. It sounds near impossible, I know; and it is for many. Ego has a strong hold on most of us, even the most sensitive of souls; and finding our way to loving authentically, and seeing love as a gift to give without need or want of reciprocation or reward, is our greatest challenge to surmount. But it is well worth the endeavor.

#hotteainspiration #lovewithoutfear

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

No Longer the Kids at the Thanksgiving Table

From the month I turned four years old until the month after I turned thirty-seven years old, my grandmother lived down the street from my childhood home in my hometown. Thirty-three years in the same house - in the same kitchen - cooking meals and hosting holidays for her family, she and that house were the rare constants in my life.

And, for the first thirty of those years, my mother was right there with her... hosting, preparing, arguing about who was going to make what, and laughing about who let the bread in the oven burn this time.

 Me In gram's kitchen with the master herself, Thanksgiving 1996

Me In gram's kitchen with the master herself, Thanksgiving 1996

 me and mom in gram's kitchen, thanksgiving 1998

me and mom in gram's kitchen, thanksgiving 1998

Although my mom and grandma are not physically in my life now, what they mean to me endures. Memories of gathering at Gram's house for so many years to celebrate, give thanks, and take comfort in the love and support found there, will live on in my heart forever. Yes, they argued, nit-picked, and bickered at each other; yet, despite the imperfections and family dysfunction, there was laughter, loyalty, commitment, resilience and love.

After our family's Thanksgiving gathering last year, I wrote the following in honor of them.

 

No Longer the Kids at the Thanksgiving Table

Originally published December 5, 2014

This year, my sister and her husband hosted Thanksgiving. It was an extra special occasion, not only because of the long awaited and beautiful new setting - their newly built home - but also because my siblings and I haven't spent many Thanksgivings together in the last few years, all more often attending our respective spouses' family gatherings.

As we sat down, the eleven of us held hands - my older sister, her husband and son, my older brother, his wife, son and daughter, and me, my husband, daughter and son. When my brother began the blessing, expressing his gratitude for this family, this day, this meal, I looked around at each face there and found my eyes welling up with tears. The overwhelming rush of emotion I felt caught me by surprise, and I found myself at a loss for words; which for me, is rare.

Tears of joy, tears of sorrow... I wasn't exactly sure at first, but I think it was a potent mix of both.

My younger sister was not able to join us that day, and I wished I could have seen her face amongst us at that table. That was most definitely the sorrow. But being there with everyone else, all of us sitting there together... the joy. And as strong as both of these emotions were, they were compounded still with another distinct feeling. One of a shift taking place, a changing of the guards, of sorts, in which my grandmother and mother were symbolically passing the matriarchal torch of our family down to my sister and me. Even though these women both passed away over six and eight years ago respectively, I had not felt the deep void they had each left as profoundly as I did in that moment.

As the ones who orchestrated to bring our three new, young families together that day, my sister and I were now the newly crowned matriarchs, no matter how strange it felt. Strange because it was the first time in a very long time that we "kids" (at least three of the four of us) sat at the same table on this holiday, just as we'd done for many years past, alongside our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The difference was, on this day, none of our elders were there with us.

Thanksgiving 2014.png

No longer the kids at the Thanksgiving table, WE were now the elders holding up this family tradition. We were the ones bringing our spouses and children together to eat, share, laugh, visit, love, and create lasting memories; and now it was the time for our kids to sit with their parents, uncles, aunts and cousins to create their own memories of home, family, comfort and security. It was surreal to see our five beautiful children sitting there - happy, healthy, and smiling - just soaking it up... all the joy, all the love, all the togetherness. All so blissfully unaware of how tough life can be, and will be, at times for them; and unable to fully comprehend the fragility and transitory nature of life or the impermanence of time and loved ones.

I know that their memories of this Thanksgiving, and others like it - laughing, playing and enjoying each other - will stay with them, shape them, comfort them, and carry them through the years, just as it did for us, until that one day arrives, that one moment, when the torch is passed to them.

Jamie Oliver is a Revolution

Since he first appeared on his debut televised cooking show, "The Naked Chef," I have adored Jamie Oliver. His infectious enthusiasm for food and his no fuss, simple to make recipes defined his appeal; while his unique food lingo and one-of-a-kind food prep demonstrations kept both me, and the world, wanting more.

Fifteen years later, he is that same guy. Nothing has changed... nothing except now Jamie Oliver is a one man, global juggernaut of restaurants, cookbooks, websites, food awareness, food advocacy, and food education... a FOOD REVOLUTION.

Today is Food Revolution Day, an annual campaign founded by Oliver in 2002. This global event provides a special opportunity for people around the world to ignite change in food awareness and food education throughout their own communities and a mobilized world community via the internet.

This year, the campaign includes Jamie's petition on change.org to enlist millions of people to fight for food education by creating a movement so powerful that all G20 governments will be forced to take action. The concept is to inspire government to do the right thing and mandate compulsory practical food education in schools worldwide - education that could make a huge difference in the lives and health of our kids and that of future generations.

People around the world are joining in and spreading the word, urging their family, friends and co-workers to sign and share the petition through hand written signs - literally, signs written on their hands. I too am showing my support and advocating Jamie's petition here on my website and through social media, and decided to create my SIGN IT, SHARE IT pics while my four-year-old was playing in the bath last night. I hadn't yet closed the Photo Booth app on my computer before he appeared at my side... wet, naked and wearing his hooded towel, curious why I had words on my fingers and anxious to pose in some of his own pics. While I pressed the trigger a few times, he proceeded to basically run amuck and pose for his shots. The result? See for yourself...

sign it share it blog image.jpg

Juxtaposed with my originals, it's funny how my son so obviously took over and consumed the former blank space to my right. A perfect visual metaphor for how kids fill up our lives with fun, laughter and chaos. It is also absolutely fitting that he appear in these photos because, after all, this campaign, this petition, this DAY, is a revolution that was started to also benefit his future - in food, health, and happiness.

Thank you, Jamie, for being the revolution you are.

For more information on Food Revolution Day, to get involved, or most importantly, to SIGN and SHARE the petition, please visit foodrevolutionday.com.

Malibu Cook's Tour Offers Quintessential View of Malibu

After living in Malibu for almost thirteen years, I have not heard of or experienced a local event more representative of what Malibu truly is than the Malibu Cook's Tour.

Upon visiting the event's website, a slideshow greets you with the following descriptors:

Four Mansions, Four Malibu Chefs, One Awesome Day
Explore Magnificent Malibu Homes
Taste the Best of Malibu's Finest Chefs
Enjoy a Unique Site of the 'Bu
And Do Good!

In its 29th year, the Malibu Cook's Tour, an annual fundraiser hosted by the Malibu Methodist Nursery School, offers attendees passports to explore the grounds and expansive homes of four Malibu residents while sampling the latest culinary offerings of local chefs and restaurants. Sounds like an exclusively restricted and sophisticated event, one that most would expect to take place in this perceived paradise by the sea. And although it is as exclusive and sophisticated as you would imagine, it is also as inclusive, widely accessible, and sweetly innocent as you may not expect.

Tickets for the tour are available for purchase online by anyone interested, and a 300 ticket limit is only imposed to keep things moving and to not overcrowd the event. The volunteer docents that guide passport holders around the estates are the parents, teachers, friends, family and fellow community members of children that attend the nursery school, and the many extravagant gift baskets available for purchase (of all shapes, sizes and themes) are filled with items generously donated by those same parents, friends and community members, with all proceeds going to the school's scholarship program.

So the glamorous mystique of what lies behind the gates of these private estates is juxtaposed by the humble reality that this event is merely a tried and true, down home, philanthropic event to benefit families in financial need who want their kids to attend this unique and special little nursery school... a quaint and magical place where children learn, grow and discover just steps from the sand.

I believe the Malibu Cook's Tour perfectly conveys what is most special about Malibu... a small community of members, utilizing both the gifts bestowed upon them and the natural beauty they are humbled to enjoy, generously sharing the bounty of all they have with anyone wanting to donate to the cause and partake in this fun and unforgettable experience.

In the spirit of sharing my gifts to help those in need, I am honored to be donating a yoga-themed gift basket to this year's event, full of yoga gear and a personalized yoga session for four... I look forward to meeting whomever buys it!

For your trip through delicious tastes, friendly faces and beautiful places, please visit malibucookstour.org. This year's tour will take place this Saturday, May 9, 2015 from 11am-3pm.

Fun with Hubs in the Pack-En-Dub

Quick trivia lesson: The Pacific Northwest (the region comprised of the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, along with the province of British Columbia) is sometimes abbreviated to simply "Pac NW" and pronounced "Pack- En-Dub". Maybe you already knew this, but I just learned of it because my husband and I recently returned from a trip up there. Our ten year wedding anniversary is this month, so we decided we were going to take a trip somewhere to commemorate the occasion. We first thought of going on a cool couples adventure retreat, where we could mountain bike, trail run, do yoga and eat organic meals for days on end. We also considered taking a spa getaway somewhere secluded to indulge a bit and rekindle our romance.

Then reality hit us. Realizing we had to fit a trip in during the kids' spring break three weeks before our actual anniversary and accepting that we better do it somewhere close so we didn't waste too much time on travel, we resolved to stay on the west coast. And who are we kidding, our youngest is still only four and I wasn't jazzed at the thought of being too far from him for too many days in a row. Mama has separation issues, I admit.

So we settled on the "pack en dub" and dropped the kids at the grandparents' house in central California before heading up for a short six day jaunt. Not the grand anniversary trip I had pictured in my head months before, but it was time away nevertheless. Any break from the norm is therapeutic, and spending time essentially masquerading around as a carefree, autonomous couple, one unhindered by school schedules or bath and bedtime rituals, was a pleasant departure. We galavanted around cities we had never seen and explored places we had never been with the freedom and abandon of teens without a curfew... or at least that's what I envisioned we were doing. In reality, it probably didn't look quite like that. 

    

To start, I had a terrible cough, so bad that we seriously considered canceling the trip just a few days before we left. Although it seemed to get progressively better as the days rolled on, it still put a damper on enjoying an anniversary trip during which your husband apprehensively kissed you between hacking coughs for fear of catching it himself. Wildly romantic, I know.

Second, as we have such different ideas of what constitutes fun these days, we were hard pressed to find activities we both were equally excited to participate in. While I am the art museum type of tourist, a seeker of local culture and historical landmarks, curious and excited to explore the sights, sounds, eats, and haunts a locale is known for; my husband likes to exist on the fringes, be the anti-tourist, and runs in the opposite direction of the traps that attract most visitors, looking to forge a new trail off the beaten path, usually somewhere in nature and outdoors, with no plan or idea if the direction he is going will be worth the effort or will be a complete waste of time. The planner in me found this very unsettling, and the adventurer in him felt my desire to stay in the city and not explore the unknown (and risk wasting any of the limited time we had on this trip!) was confining and made him very restless.

We went to Seattle first, and both loved it more than expected. We arrived there early in the morning, like 8am early, after waking at 4am to catch our plane, and our first stop was inevitably Pike Place Market where we happily discovered The Crumpet Shop, proceeding to stand in a crazy long line out the door for a well worth it breakfast. Walking the market was amazing, with all its levels and hollows, and impossible to explore in its entirety. We strolled by the original Starbucks and found the sidewalk in front of it was so crowded with lookie-loos and the inside of it was so packed with tourists that we both agreed (yay!) that that was one place we could live without experiencing. Instead, we got coffee at Storyville Coffee Pike Place - a cozy nook we loved so much that we went there twice in our short two days in Seattle. Yes, the coffee was yum, but what sold us was sinking into the comfy, cognac leather chairs in front of a warm fireplace while sipping it. Heaven. I also met up with a dear college friend of mine at Storyville, whom I hadn't seen for over twenty years, for a coffee, a sweet, and an hour long chat. That lovely hour was nowhere near long enough for us to fully catch up, but seeing her was a wonderful perk to the trip.

At night, the market emptied out and the streets were wet and glistening after being hosed down from a day full of visitors, fresh fish and floral sales. It was peacefully quiet when we finally wandered into Matt's in the Market for a late dinner and were the last to be seated for the night. Looking out the restaurant's huge arched windows at the looming Public Market Center clock and sign lit up in bright red neon, we thoroughly enjoyed this quaint yet classy eatery, dining on the most incredible halibut and sea scallops we had ever tasted.

The final attraction of this first city in our two-city romp was the Space Needle, despite his trepidation and resistance to visiting it. Once we were at the top, watching the sun set over the water and looking out at that spectacular view, he was slow to admit that I was right and it may have just been worth the trouble of behaving like a tourist and waiting in a line to experience it.

We then took a three hour train ride from Seattle down to Portland and stayed in the Southwest section of the city, smack in the middle of the bustling downtown. Walking around amidst intermittent rain showers, where I swear no one carries an umbrella, we gazed up from below the colossal Portlandia statue, stood in the long line of hipsters and vagrants at VooDoo Donuts to sample pastries covered in Oreos and Butterfingers, witnessed the fire and flair of a theatrical Spanish Coffee order at Huber's Cafe, and enjoyed an extravagant Peruvian dinner at Andina in the hip Pearl District. But above all, one of the greatest treats during our three days in Portland was visiting with two of my oldest and dearest childhood friends who have both lived there for over twenty five years. They were kind enough to give us the grand tour of their city, and we were grateful they took the time out of their daily schedules to be such gracious hosts.

Most unexpectedly, we next found ourselves bearing the freezing cold temps (i.e. freezing cold to this wimpy So. Cal. girl) and spraying mist of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We had to rent a car and drive thirty miles outside the city of Portland to do this, and that took some convincing on his part to get me to agree to it. As we're in the car so much at home, I was looking forward to a week solely on foot and not having to ride in a car at all, other than an Uber lift from the airport. But despite the bit of driving, it was now my turn to concede that his detour out of the city - with its fresh air and lush green scenery - was a welcome reprieve from the grit and noise of the downtown cityscape.

    

My nagging cough be damned, I was determined to get in at least one yoga class while in each place, and before we left home, I had already picked the very studios I wanted to visit. In Seattle, hubs and I took a power flow class with Chandra at Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio that originated in New York City and has expanded to Seattle, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The class was full and Chandra was a kind, effective instructor. After class, our appetites guided us to look for food right away, and we were fortunate to find a fantastic lunch at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe. Then in PortIand, I alone took a power yoga class at Yoga on Yamhill, a small, donation-based studio in the heart of downtown, right next to the MAX Blue Line light rail. Studio owner Paul Terrell and I have a common bond as students of Bryan Kest, and it was lovely to attend his class and enjoy the familiarity of a kindred yoga practitioner.

All in all, it was a short, yet fun, excursion; and being able to recapture a bit of that pre-kiddo vibe and enjoy a somewhat carefree vacation was well worth the weeks of pre-planning and incessantly hacking and coughing my way through the Pac NW. Truth be told, it was not a trip free of conflict, as we had a few arguments that I could have done without. Nevertheless, we put forth our best efforts to make it special, and to celebrate still being married after ten years of, well, marriage. It seems six days in two bustling cities full of attractions and distractions was inevitably not going to be a magic pill that transformed us back into the starry-eyed newlyweds we were on our ten day honeymoon. It was, however, a welcome reprieve from the whirlwind that is parenthood - of PTA meetings, little league games, spelling tests, toddler potty mishaps and early morning wake ups.

It was also a lovely introduction to the Pacific Northwest, and what I know is only the tip of the iceberg as far as seeing this beautiful region. We can't wait for our next trip up there and take the opportunity to explore the Oregon coast, Washington's Orcas/San Juan Islands, and maybe even the Canadian cities of Victoria and Vancouver. Now that will be a trip the kids won't want to miss.

Milk & Cookies

(My guest post on Veggies Don't Bite)

When you have children, feeding them is one of the most important matters you face from the moment you discover you're pregnant. In utero, what you eat, they eat. And then when they are born, the same responsibility remains, starting with the decision to either nurse or bottle feed them.

I breastfed both my children the first year of their lives, give or take a month for each of them. It was an easy choice for me to make prenatally, even though there was nothing easy about actually doing it once that baby came out and needed to eat. 

Yes, there were those magical, life affirming moments with both of my kids in which I felt intimacy, comfort and satisfaction as I nourished their little bodies with mine; but those moments were rare and fleeting. For me, from the standpoint of the *post-partum, hormonally-imbalanced, sleep-deprived, and geographically-isolated newborn mother that I was, twice, the whole endeavor was mostly just, HARD.

It was exactly like trying to feed my kids real food now. Well, not exactly. Now, it's harder.

Healthily feeding my non-infant children in this world, in this country, in this day, in this age… it's a daunting prospect for me, as I suspect it is for most parents. Since the food supply in the U.S. is riddled with genetically-modified, chemically-processed, hormonally-pumped, and pesticide- & toxin-laden Franken-food (wow, it has more hyphenates than me!), due diligence is required to navigate the sea of potential poison disguised as consumable food in today's grocery stores and restaurants. 

If you have any inclination to provide your kids with a regular diet of clean, nutrient-rich, whole foods, ones free from artificial preservatives, synthetic pesticides, ripening agents, growth hormones, irradiation, etc., then AWESOME! You're already one step in the right direction. Continue on by educating yourself, ignoring what the FDA deems "safe", and accepting that what most advertisers tout as "all natural" really is not at all. (For more on this, watch Only Organic's funny and enlightening video "The Natural Effect")

As a firm advocate of the saying (that I am just making up right now), "What you bring into the home is a reflection of your beliefs", I recognize that my children see how I shop and eat what I buy; and in doing so, they are ultimately learning from me what foods are healthy to eat.

No pressure there.

But since you can't monitor every morsel that passes their lips without acting like a crazy person or scarring their psyches for life, I wouldn't recommend even trying. Instead, try to live by the 80/20 rule: feed them organic, non-GMO, clean, whole foods 80% of the time (at home, in markets such as Whole Foods and Erewhon, and at farm-to-table restaurants) and let the chips of the other 20% fall where they may (at birthday parties, during playdates, and at summer BBQ's).

And then relish the small wins… like when my kids consider yummy indulgences to be an organic banana or apple slathered with organic peanut butter (with no added sugar or hydrogenated oils) or a bowl of whole milk plain greek yogurt with local raw honey and Qi'a Superfood on top.  

Shifting our kids' perspectives from the norm of today's flawed social structure is a strategy available to all parents - the key is to find ways to be creative and innovative in your approach. After all, we are the ones they have looked to since infancy for sustenance, nurturing, comfort and guidance. And since all children are susceptible to be equally brainwashed by Disney movies and cartoon character food packaging, it stands to reckon that they can just as easily (and arguably more so) be conditioned by us, their parents, in ways that will positively impact them, their bodies, their minds and overall health, for life.

And if that's not more vital and important than you and your kids being able to belt out all the songs on the Frozen soundtrack, than I don't know what is.

~

Below are two of my most popular sweet ideas for treats that my kids love and ask for often. They are sweetened only by fruit sugar and contain a few simple ingredients, all of which I get organic. 

This first recipe is one I found online a while back, although I don't remember where. There are many variations on it, some less healthy than others that include added sugar, flour and butter. The version I make has no refined sugar, and is also dairy-free and potentially gluten-free, if need be...

Applesauce Cookies

 These cookies will be fine left out at room temperature the day you bake them and  maybe  one day after.  If they haven't been gobbled up by then, you best put them in the fridge to maintain freshness… no preservatives!

These cookies will be fine left out at room temperature the day you bake them and maybe one day after.  If they haven't been gobbled up by then, you best put them in the fridge to maintain freshness… no preservatives!

Ingredients:

  • 3 RIPE bananas
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free or not, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional, but a yummy, sweet addition!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Put three ripe bananas in a bowl. Mash them with a fork until somewhat pureed.
  2. Add the apple sauce, rolled oats, and almond milk to the mashed bananas and mix with a spatula until well blended.
  3. Stir in the raisins, vanilla and cinnamon until combined.
  4. Place tablespoon sized dollops of the mixture on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  5. Shape and flatten cookies to your preference, as they won't move or change form during baking.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen (24) cookies.

~

I experimented and came up with this next treat one night about a year ago when I was searching for something to feed my kids that would satisfy their sweet tooth but not pump their blood streams up with refined white sugar. I was inspired by my memory of years ago, single and kid-less, when I would put Medjool Dates and soaked raw almonds in my food processor to whip up a naturally sweet and healthy puree-type snack for myself to eat with a spoon after a long run or as a late night treat. Slight modifications to that original concoction make these "bites" much more palatable and more fun to eat for kids...

Date Almond Bites

  My son and I love them rolled in coconut, but my daughter doesn't; so I split the dough and roll a portion in almond meal and the rest in coconut... everybody's happy.

My son and I love them rolled in coconut, but my daughter doesn't; so I split the dough and roll a portion in almond meal and the rest in coconut... everybody's happy.

Ingredients:

  • 5 dozen (60) small Deglet Noor Dates, or about 20 large Medjool Dates, if preferred
  • 1 cup and 1/4 cup Almond Meal (divided)
  • 1/3 cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place the dates in your food processor (removing the pits if using Medjool).
  2. Pulse until they form a paste.
  3. Gradually add the 1 cup of almond meal until combined. 
  4. Do a taste test. Adjust the date to almond meal ratio to get the consistency you like. The paste should be sticky and not too crumbly.
  5. Form into 1" balls.
  6. Roll the balls in either the remaining 1/4 cup of almond meal or 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or a combination of both to fit your family's individual tastes.

Makes 4 dozen (48) 1" balls.

*For more on the "new mom" hyphenates I described above, check out my post Booby Prize.