Posted in The Live Now List

Live Now List Challenge #37: Conquer Your Biggest Fear

Fear. We all experience it. It’s the one emotion that triggers to our very basic innate senses. Otherwise known as “fight or flight” in the brain, when we are in sudden fear our body does a number of instant reactions to protect itself. When you stop and think about it, the human body is an amazing, and complex thing. How fortunate we are to be able to have one! Some people are more prone to stress and fear then others. We may call these people “worriers” or even “hypochondriacs” but in truth, these people are simply more inclined to higher levels of stress and concern.

I am one of those people. Perhaps I wasn’t always this way, but I certainly am now. I try and think ahead, and think about all the possible scenarios. I don’t like to live life recklessly, and I often double check my work to try and reach near perfection. I know that most of my stress is self-induced, but it is a pattern that is certainly hard to break.

When I sat down to write my Live Now List I wanted to put something down that would give me butterflies just thinking about it, let alone actually completing it. ” #37: Conquer Your biggest Fear”. Well, to be honest, I have many fears. Most I have control over. Some come from watching one-too-many action movies, and others are fears from my childhood. I wasn’t sure when or how I would complete this task. It’s not like I go out of my way to throw myself into a scary situation. I live a quiet, private, and humble life. Putting myself in a fearful situation isn’t really “my cup of tea”. But somehow I knew the right moment would come along.

But before I dive into my reflection post (and yes the moment really did happen!) let me share with you some of my fears. Perhaps you can relate? Let’s start with the 3 S’s: snakes, spiders, and sharks. I know, I am bigger, stronger, blah blah blah. But are we? I mean, I respect Mother Nature to the fullest. I absolutely love being by the ocean. But as humans we are not the top of the food chain once we go into the water. Shark attacks happen at random along the coast. It comes with the territory. People often say, “Oh but it’s so random for that to happen…” or “Sharks don’t really want to eat you. They mistake you for a sea lion!”. Okay…. but they still bite you! I don’t care if they think I’m a sea lion or not, I don’t want to get bit!

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Now you’re probably wondering, did I just watch one too many “Jaws” movies and suddenly have this fear of sharks? I wish it was that easy, but no. It was 1992 in Mantoloking, N.J. I was almost 8 years old when my family went on a trip to the beach with another close family-friends of ours. They had a beach house out there and we decided to all stay for a week in this bungalow and have some fun in the sun. As a child, it was magical. An entire week of waking up, having a huge breakfast, and heading out to the beach. Life was awesome! One morning my older brother and I went to the beach with everyone else. My brother wanted to boogie board, and I, of course, wanted to tag along. Wave after wave we caught, still relatively close to shore, and sailed gracefully back onto the beach. I was only a few yards in front of my brother as I caught my wave. I saw him go for the same one too. As I landed on the beach I looked back and my brother was under the water. His boogie board shot straight up, and then I saw blood. My dad had already been watching and was racing into the water. As my brother popped back up out of the ocean and began kicking and thrashing towards the shore I could see tears rolling down his cheeks. It was terrifying. “It’s a barracuda!” he was crying. My mom was racing towards my brother moments later.

Off to the hospital they went and I was whisked home. Hours later my brother came home and I saw his foot and ankle all bandaged up. He had to get plenty of stitches but Thank G-d it didn’t take anything off. It was only in the hospital that the doctor recognized the pattern of the bite and matched it with a sand shark. Still to this day my brother and I don’t venture far into ocean waters now.

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Snakes. Growing up in the South it was common knowledge: don’t go in the woods and if you do, keep your eyes open… a lot. In the water, watch out for moccasins. I still shudder thinking of them. Black as night, they often get mistaken for a stick in the water. My grandparents lived on a lake and from an early age my Papa taught my brother and I to never go near the bank of the lake. I never did. Thankfully I have been able to avoid many snake encounters. However, that was all about to change. Read on in my reflection post….

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Posted in The Live Now List

Live Now List Reflection #29: Make a Homemade Meal for Your Loved Ones

I love it when my daughter adores a well-cooked meal I’ve made. But you know what I love even more? Getting her involved and then she really loves the dish! Such was the case tonight with my “Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette” created by Michelin-star Chef Eric Ripert. But before we get into all the Oo-ing and Ahh-ing over how the dish actually tasted, let me back up and share with you the little adventure I had prior to even tossing the salad!

It was early afternoon and I headed out to Costco to stock up on produce. I figured that somewhere in the vast warehouse of supplies, surely they would have butter/bibb lettuce. Unfortunately, after fighting the Sunday crowds I walked away empty handed. So off we went to the grocery store. Gathering my supplies I remembered that I needed Tarragon leaves. Now keep in mind, I keep a very well-stocked spice rack. I know the smells of dry spices fairly well. But when it comes to the fresh, living plant…. not so much. As I peered in my organic produce section I almost panicked. Basil…. Lemongrass… Chives… Cilantro… Mint…. where was the Tarragon? Tarragon? Anyone? Nope. Not one plant or herb bundle in sight. I looked at my husband with panicked eyes. “Let’s check the organic, health store” he suggested and off we went again.

Rounding the corner into the parking lot all the lights were off. My fate to find fresh Tarragon had been sealed. It just wasn’t going to happen. “Okay…” I told myself calmly, “Perhaps there is a substitute”. As I walked through the door I scrambled to my computer and began googling. Fun fact: French cooking often revolves around fines herbes. Don’t know what that is? Neither did I. Apparently French cooking is well-known for gathering fresh herbs from the garden and tying them up into a tiny satchel and letting them infuse their aromatic scent and taste into sauces, roasts, etc. One of the many ingredients in this tiny satchel is Tarragon! By the way, have I mentioned that Chef Ripert is French? Like… from-the-motherland French. Anyway, Tarragon has a very strong, aromatic scent so it isn’t surprising that Eric Ripert added it into his recipe. But I, was not so lucky on finding this mysterious herb.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette Dressing and Broiled Salmon
Butter Lettuce Salad with Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette Dressing and Broiled Salmon

 

So I began making the salad dressing. Much to my luck and surprise, this recipe calls for Tarragon leaves to be tossed throughout the Bibb lettuce. I didn’t need it in the salad dressing at all! I did a silent happy dance in the kitchen and kept cooking. My daughter stood between me and the kitchen counter and our hands moved synchronously as we juiced a lemon, and then a lime. She grinned as she smelled the difference in the citrus. Next we added a bit of Dijon mustard and honey and whisked it together. Salt and pepper were added for taste and balance before slowly adding in several tablespoons of canola oil. As the salmon finished broiling, (you can find the recipe for the salmon here), we drizzled the vinaigrette over the salad and tossed it, evenly coating the lettuce.

Plates were served and I silently watched my family dig into their meal. For a long minute silent passed. I raised an eyebrow. Silence is usually a good sign. Finally I asked my daughter how she liked it. Through a mouth full of lettuce and salmon she grinned, “It’s awesome Mom!”. My husband chimed in as he lapped up his food. Mission accomplished! The tangy dressing was the prefect compliment to the sweet, silky lettuce and the salmon added a savory element to the plate. Everything was fantastic. But the best part was seeing my family so happy. Cooking a meal for your loved ones is truly another expression of love. Have a great evening everyone! ❤

Posted in The Live Now List

Live Now List Challenge #29: Make a Homemade Meal for Your Loved Ones

I have a confession to make: I am a cookbook addict. No, seriously, I have two very fast-growing shelves of cookbooks. I love all types of cookbooks. From every type of cuisine to my favorite cooking shows, I try and collect them all. Often I can be seen walking around my house with a cookbook pressed to my face as I devour new recipes and then put them to good use in the kitchen. My family is especially happy when they try new foods.

Last night as I laid in bed I began pondering what I would make today for my Live Now List meal. The possibilities were endless. Thinking aloud I began brainstorming with my husband. He, like many men, is a carnivore at heart. I think he would be most content with a good steak and fresh vegetables. As luck would have it, he married a vegetarian, so his days of red meat are pretty much over.

“What about Thai food?” I asked him quietly, “Should I cook curry tomorrow night?”. I knew that it really didn’t matter to him what I made, but it mattered to me. In Filipino culture there is a phrase, ilaw ng tahanan, which means “the light of the home”. It is what my husband often calls me. As the homemaker I am responsible for what goes into my family’s stomach. As such, I make it a priority to cook fresh, and cook clean. So last night I made the decision: for my Live Now List meal I am cooking salad. “Salad?!” my family said, and looked at me flabbergasted, “You don’t cook salad!”.

I beg to differ. Salad is one of the most under-appreciated types of dishes. Vibrant in color and taste, the humble salad can be eaten all year-round and in a variety of ways. One of my secret, but not-so-secret celebrity crushes is Eric Ripert. The chef/co-owner of Le Bernardin, French Chef Eric Ripert is known for being a master at seafood. He is also known for taking simple ingredients and making a minimal, but phenomenal dish. Naturally I had to purchase his cookbook, “Avec Eric”. If you haven’t seen his cooking show, “Avec Eric” on Hulu (from which the cookbook is derived) then I encourage you to do so. He is so incredibly humble, calming, and he moves like a dancer in the kitchen. Unlike Chef Gordon Ramsey (who I also adore) who is often loud, and boisterous, Chef Ripert is known for having a laid back but meticulous attitude in the kitchen.

Michelin-star Chef Eric Ripert
Michelin-star Chef Eric Ripert

 

Diving through his cookbook I began searching for salad recipes. As most people know, the French have amazingly refined palates. This can be attributed in part to the way French culture is designed. From an early age the French government and private households push children to expand their taste buds. Elementary cafeterias serve homemade Pumpkin Soup with salad for youngsters. Adults have access to an array of vegetables and low-and-slow cooked dishes. French cooking is an art form all on its own. Which brings me back to the salad. Eric Ripert has a salad recipe: “Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette”. Heads of fresh butter/bibb lettuce is tossed with a dressing consisting of honey, lemon, lime, Dijon mustard, canola oil, and fresh tarragon leaves. This is the recipe that I will be making today for my family. I will also be grilling a piece of salmon to accompany the salad for a bit of protein.

There is a part of me that is insanely excited to finally be cooking something from my Avec Eric Cookbook. It has been a long time coming. There is another part of me that is thrilled to be making salad and eating so light and fresh. It is Spring time. Let’s all embrace everything this amazing season gives. Have a wonderful day everyone! I’ll be posting pictures and my reflection this evening. Thank you for coming along with me in my Live Now List Journey. ❤

Posted in The Live Now List

Live Now List Reflection #41: Go on a Picnic

Do you remember that song, “Over the River and Through the Woods”? I experienced that today. Only it wasn’t going to my grandmothers house. It was going to the beach. This morning the whole family woke with a sense of excitement. Not only were we going on a picnic…. we were going to a completely new park! How fun! What we didn’t expect, was the drive would take us through a landscape that would have us wow-ing long before we made it to the beach.

I live in an agricultural area. My tiny town is surrounded by fields upon fields of lush, green vegetables. My daughter enjoys looking out the window and shouting, “Lettuce!” or “Strawberries!”. She is always so amazed at the variety of vegetables grown here. I love that she knows so many different types of healthy foods. I’ll pat myself on the back for that one. So as we headed into the middle of town we made a sharp left turn and headed away from our usual route. My daughter grinned knowing that today our drive would be different. As we passed the large, industrial plants she marveled at the crates upon crates of strawberries. “They look so good, Mom” she said, her tiny face glued to the window. “Yes they do”, I replied and we kept on driving.

The tall grass reminded me of home...
The tall grass reminded me of home…

The fields of lettuce heads slowly turned to rolling hills of wildflowers and marshy lowlands. I knew we were getting close. As we drove down a single lane road my mind drifted back to the South. I remember taking long, lazy Sunday drives when I was younger. The rolling hills of the Appalachian Mountains were beautiful no matter what time of year. The tall grass that covered the shoulder put Georgia on my mind. This particular park that we were going to is actually a nature preserve. Park rangers were out and about checking the wildlife and tending to the grounds. As we slowed to a crawl we all gasped as eagles flew overhead. Small birds chirped from the trees and flowers of every color mixed into the high grass. It truly felt like Spring.

Rounding a corner it was as if we were transported again. Still in the nature preserve but nearing the coast the dry grass suddenly faded away and there were large sand dunes as far as the eye could see. My family and I stared in shock. Dunes that towered on each side of the road had us feeling like we were driving through mini-valleys. The sun shone brightly against the warm sand and only sparse driftwood poked out here and there from the sand. “It feels other-worldly”, my husband said softly. And he was right. Moments ago we were in a dry, forest and now we were in a desert. This place was magical! Fences lined each side of the road and prevented people from encroaching on the wildlife within. We strained our eyes to get a peek at what critters were crawling and flying around.

Then the road turned into a desert...
Then the road turned into a desert…

No sooner had we adjusted to the sandy dunes did we come over a large hill and see the small parking lot that lay just before the beginning of the beach. Such a tiny, secluded beach is truly a gem. For ages this park has been here and we never knew it! Stepping out into the coastal wind I pulled my coat closer to my body. We gathered our beach chairs and headed down into the sand. Even the sand here was different. While some beaches feel “powder-y”, this sand felt more grain-y. No rocks or sharp debris littered the beach. Just pristine, soft, warm, glowing sand. It was breath-taking. Walking across the sand I smiled to myself. This would be a fabulous picnic. I relaxed in my chair and watched my child dig into the sand. “Mama look!” she called and pointed proudly at her sand castle. I grinned at her and gave her a thumbs up. Sea gulls flew overhead and I smiled remembering all the times we fed bread to them.

Finally we were at the beach!
Finally we were at the beach!

Eventually the wind had kissed our cheeks and noses until they were bright red, and it was time to go home. “Awww” my daughter moaned and kicked her big toe into the sand. I hugged her and reminded her that we would definitely be coming back to that beach. As I scratch off my first item from my Live Now List I am amazed at the power, and joy that something so simple gave me. Today I went someplace new. I had a picnic with my family and savored the beauty of time. Life is truly beautiful. Have a wonderful day everyone! ❤

Life is beautiful
Life is beautiful

 

Posted in The Live Now List

Live Now List Challenge #41: Go on a Picnic

I grew up in the Barbecue mecca of the United States. As Spring and Summer time rolled in, so too did the mosquitoes, heat, and humidity. My parents enjoyed a good cookout with friends but we always ate inside. Reflecting on my youth I cannot remember many times when we ate outside simply because it was so hot all the time!

Now that I live in a more temperate climate that is all about to change. I put going on a picnic on my Live Now List for several reasons. First, I have rarely been on a picnic in my life. I enjoy the outdoors but eating outside would combine my passion for cooking and food, with my love of outdoors. It only makes sense. Secondly, it creates a memory for my family that will last a  lifetime.

But most importantly, it reminds me that I can enjoy a celebration, or a party and still be in control of my eating. Let me explain. About a year ago I underwent Gastric Bypass Surgery. It was a life-changing operation that gave me a whole new lease on life. At my heaviest weight I was 326 pounds and feeling tired all the time! So I decided to make a change. Having struggled with my weight all of my life, I knew that if I wanted to live a long, healthy life and see my beautiful child grow I needed to do something drastic. Many people think that the surgery is a “miracle pill”. Other people think it is the lazy way out. In truth, it is neither of those things.

Yes, I lost a lot of weight after the surgery. Yes, losing the weight rapidly helped me to feel better faster and get moving more easily. But then after 6 months the weight loss begins to slow down. That is when the “true test” is put into place: are you committed to a healthy lifestyle? Are you really ready to make the changes? In short, yes… I was and still am! Gastric Bypass Surgery is a commitment you make to yourself to nurture and love yourself enough to change your eating habits and to get moving more. One of the hardest changes was realizing that I could no longer eat the things I used to. I used to love meat. Growing up in the Deep South meatloaf was a staple in my parents’ home. Burgers were a quick, easy, and cheap meal. Post-surgery I am unable to digest meat. For several months I felt frustrated as I struggled to find new recipes that tasted delicious, but were healthy too.

The #1 item in my refrigerator these days.
The #1 item in my refrigerator these days.

 

The holidays came and went and with it I began to realize that perhaps instead of trying to find a path similar to my “old ways” I should adopt new habits. So I began to shift to a vegetarian diet. I chose Vegan and Vegetarian recipes. I incorporated tofu into lots of my meals. I learned what tempeh and barley tasted like. Slowly over time my grocery cart consisted primarily of produce, legumes, and grains. Now… it’s simply second nature.

This picnic is much more then a picnic for me. It is my moment to say, “Yes, I can enjoy a cookout with my family and still eat healthy.” Yes! I am in control of my eating. Yes! I love my family so much that I am going to cook healthy food for them too! And yes… I am ready to live a long, long time. So tomorrow we are heading out to a brand new park in town. One that is known for its pristine sand dunes and solitude beach shores. One that is filled with nature bustling right along the coast. There we will be eating Baked Falafel Burgers courtesy of The Minimalist Baker and topping the veggie wraps with Guy Fieri’s Yogurt Sauce. If we are still hungry there will be pieces of fruit for everyone to snack on. What a beautiful thing life is. I cannot wait to share pictures with you tomorrow. Have a wonderful Friday everyone!

Posted in The Live Now List

My 2015 Live Now List

Several days ago I discussed creating a Live Now List to boost not only my happiness, but my mindfulness with life. In other words, I want to embrace life to the fullest and really live. As I complete each task I will write 2 posts on this blog: 1 post will be my challenge or pre-item post. There I will express my fears, excitement, and general feelings towards the task at hand. Then I will do a reflection post afterward with how my bucket list item impacted my life. I have no doubt these items will shape, mold, and change my thinking along the way.

So what happens when I reach all 100 items? I will write another Live Now List! 🙂 Life doesn’t stop turning simply because I’ve reached the end of my list. These are simply the first 100 things I wish to do to better enrich my life and that of my family’s life too. So here is my Live Now List! I hope you draw inspiration for your own Live Now List and begin diving into life in a new, creative way today.

My Live Now List

  1. Travel outside of the country
  2. Learn a new language
  3. Achieve your ideal weight
  4. Run a marathon
  5. Take up a new sport
  6. Dance in the rain
  7. Go scuba diving or snorkeling
  8. Learn a strategy game
  9. Watch the sunrise
  10. Let someone know how much he/she means to you
  11. Give a heartfelt surprise to someone
  12. Perform a kind deed for a stranger
  13. Start your business
  14. Do volunteer work
  15. Get a drink for a stranger
  16. Run barefoot
  17. Witness a solar eclipse
  18. Go stargazing
  19. Plant a seed and watch it grow
  20. Get a pet
  21. Publish a book
  22. Give your child an amazing birthday
  23. Get a complete makeover
  24. Further your education
  25. Play a new musical instrument
  26. Play the lottery
  27. Go on a road trip
  28. Knit a scarf
  29. Make a homemade meal for your loved ones
  30. Bake a cake for someone special
  31. Go deep into the heart of Mother Nature
  32. Fly a kite
  33. Fall asleep outside
  34. Try Veganism for 21 days
  35. Try Raw Veganism for 21 days
  36. Fold 1,000 origami cranes
  37. Conquer your biggest fear
  38. Meditate in a quiet spot
  39. Experience an out-of-body experience
  40. Join a movement you believe in.
  41. Go on a picnic
  42. Get closure on any past unhappiness
  43. Visit a volcano
  44. Ride a roller coaster
  45. Go on a scenic drive
  46. Fall in love
  47. Be in a conscious, fulfilling relationship
  48. Eat bibimbap out of a hot stone bowl
  49. Do a somersault
  50. Change the world
  51. Help someone in need
  52. Learn sign language
  53. Eat at a 5-star restaurant
  54. Go camping
  55. Kiss someone in the rain
  56. Tell someone the story of your life
  57. Build a time capsule
  58. Send a message in a bottle
  59. Solve a Rubik’s cube
  60. Go to a holi festival
  61. Help teach my child to sew
  62. Go sailing
  63. Attend a mardi grais festival
  64. See The Nutcracker Ballet
  65. Go zorbing
  66. Start drinking green tea on a regular basis
  67. Learn to read sheet music
  68. Sing karaoke
  69. Attend a baseball game
  70. Create a source of passive income
  71. Create a family tree
  72. Take up mindfulness meditation
  73. Try Escargot
  74. Try raw oysters
  75. Try Ethiopian Cuisine
  76. Cook with black truffles
  77. Eat Peking Duck
  78. Try Fondue
  79. Get a tattoo
  80. Ride in a cable car in San Francisco
  81. Attend Chinese New Years Festival
  82. Make a clay pot
  83. Eat frog legs, gumbo, and shrimp
  84. Go geocaching
  85. Meet a new friend
  86. Attend a Scottish Highland Gathering
  87. Finish a corn maze
  88. Make a family scrapbook
  89. Start a family Hanukkah tradition
  90. Write a song or movie
  91. Ride in a surrey
  92. Make a tie dye shirt
  93. Break open a pinata
  94. Get a pair of white canvas shoes and draw on them
  95. Make a family mural drawing on butchers paper.
  96. Learn to use chopsticks properly.
  97. Take my daughter on a mother-daughter “date”
  98. Go to a summer concert
  99. Make pasta from scratch
  100. Renew my wedding vows
Posted in The Live Now List

The Live Now List

I am deviating from my usual Jewish-themed posts and writing about a project I am doing in my life called, “The Live Now List”. I have always been fascinated with a Bucket List. Deriving from “kicking the bucket”, tons of people have written down lists of things they want to do before they die. But why wait until we are old, frail, and in retirement before we start embracing life and really living? Why don’t we start today?

So I wrote down 100 things I want to experience ASAP and I am calling it my “Live Now” list. I will be writing posts over each point as I complete it, (pictures included I’m sure), and sharing with you all of the joy and exhilaration they bring. I challenge you to write down 100 things that you want to experience in life right now. Don’t wait until it is too late to enjoy life. As a parent, my hope is that my child will be inspired to live her own life to the fullest and to savor every moment. Time is too precious to waste.

So come along with me and I hope you get inspired by my list to make your own “Live Now List”. Have a wonderful Tuesday Everyone!

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