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It’s time friends. It took 9 months of coordination, planning, excessive emailing and general indecisiveness to get to this point, but I’m happy to unveil an updated blog design.

Two years ago I began this blog as a means to share my love of food with a broader audience. Though I put many hours of work into the concept behind the site, selecting the original design took several minutes.

I’d hired a freelancer to help me through some nagging technical and design issues, and he offered a quick solution: buy a pre-made theme. Genius.

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But I had one other suggestion for my friend the programmer: find a theme that hides the photography.

Hide it ….Bury it….Make it invisible.

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I can name three foods that my kids unanimously adore: spaghetti, avocados, and chickpeas. Occasionally chicken will find its way onto the short list, although lately we’ve had poultry battles reminiscent of The Cold War. I finally had to ask what was going on because everyone was silently pushing their chicken around their plates. Apparently I make it too often.

I have a love/hate relationship with spaghetti. On the one hand, I’m Italian and feeding my kids noodles for dinner is part of my job description. On the other, it’s a starch with little dietary value. Not the end of the world, an “absence of” is still better than foods that are “full of” [trans fats, preservatives, artificial colors, etc]. But I’d prefer to give them something that packs more nutritional heat.

Chickpeas are my hero food because although they look deceptively simple, they’re still full of the good stuff, namely protein and fiber.

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I’m making my kids sound pickier than they are – they do love many healthy foods. They like their tomatoes raw, their broccoli salted and their corn on the cob. Lauren starts most days with a slice of toast, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Carrots are a favorite snack. Runny eggs are religion.

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Yoga: A 5,000-year-old practice, beloved by millions the world throughout. Beloved, possibly, by everyone but me. Or so was the case until a few months ago.

My gripe with yoga had nothing to do with the practice itself; my fundamental lack of skill was to blame.

Yogis everywhere are shaking their heads right now. I understand that it’s called “practice” for a reason. It’s not called “yoga perfect”, there are no yoga champions; people don’t travel across the US to participate in timed yoga trials. Slap each other on the back after sweating it out through a particularly grueling yoga marathon. Yoga is not a competitive thing.

However, I recognized the purported health benefits and felt that I should give it some time. I tried my hand at Hatha, breathed my way through Vinyasa. I learned to salute the sun, mimic a warrior, pose like a tree, a frog, and a fish. I even experimented with Bikram (hot yoga) before realizing that any athletic activity that requires a mid-afternoon nap isn’t sustainable.

But I couldn’t get past one issue: I have the natural flexibility of a yardstick, and I just felt so completely incompetent.

So I dropped the practice, gave away my yoga mat, burned my pre-Lululemon bootcut stretch pants. I figured that I’d still have tennis for my later years. Maybe join a bowling league. But yoga wouldn’t factor, that I knew.

Fast-track 10 years and I was at the dentist, complaining of some jaw pain. A recent experience with a glazed donut suggested that my mouth would no longer open more than a crack without pain. I expected the worst: root canal, immediate tooth extraction, perhaps some invasive laser head surgery.

The diagnosis surprised me: TMJ.

“Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”

Er, I’m living out my dream of working with food and getting to spend time with my three lovely children…So I suppose that my answer would be no? How stress-derived TMJ was the culprit is still beyond me. But it was there. And it needed attention. Hiring a personal masseuse, however dreamlike, wouldn’t fit my budget. And talk about not getting to the root of the problem.

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I was reading a biography at the time where the subject – at one time hooked on drugs and married to a dysfunctional Hollywood actor – found her salvation through yoga and meditation. And I realized that my old friend yoga might have the answer for me as well.

This time….things could be different. After all, I’m more mature, with a slew of folding elbow wrinkles to match. Being the least flexible person in the room wouldn’t be the worst of my problems.

I searched for yoga studios in my neighborhood that would emphasize the meditative aspect of the practice. I wanted to relax, focus less on strength, channel my energy towards mindfulness and inner peace.

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A tale, as excerpted from “The Buried Life”:

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’”

I am the professor.

The jar is my fridge.

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A kindly yogurt company delivered the golf balls last week in the form of probiotic yogurt drinks, yogurt squeezers, and 10,000 containers of yogurt.

The pebbles are now the milk, fruit, meat, and other items that called this (formerly spacious) receptacle home. They have been displaced.

Plastic boxes of cherry tomatoes, jewel-like jars of anchovies, preserved lemons, sandwich bread, all pushed, prodded, wedged, and jammed until virtually no negative space remains. The fridge light has gone dim, covered by sprawling leek greens.

There is no room for sand.

While I’m grateful to my friend the yogurt company for this bountiful gift of dairy, I can’t make enough smoothies to free up the kind of space that I need back. The kind of space that wouldn’t require that I shift five items in order to replace a package of ham. The kind of space that prevents bread from molding because “look!” there’s some bread on that middle shelf. The kind of space doesn’t make me curse.

When putting the smoothie machine into overdrive isn’t the answer, you turn to tried and true methods: the leftover meal. Now here’s a trustworthy guy. He’s accepting of all friends – no matter the color, shape or state of disrepair. The wilting mushroom; the forgotten bundle of asparagus; the piece of cheese who’s sweating it out, racing towards his expiration date.

Leftover dishes are aplenty – I’ve made soups, lasagnas, and you should all know by now that I’ll throw anything into a skillet with soy sauce and call it fried rice.

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Recently I complained to Rodney about the lack of office space in our neighborhood. “Office” meaning any place other than my apartment; “Space” meaning anything bigger than a 12” Starbucks pedestal table.

Rodney mentioned that a new bar had just opened on 8th avenue – according to him, a great spot, good food, nice and quiet, wireless access.

This… was innovation on a new dimension. Work at a bar? With craft beer? And duck poutine on the menu? So long Starbucks, there’s a new kid in town.

Working at a bar seems like a practical idea until you’re 50 sips deep into an English IPA and no longer have the clarity to write a grammatically-correct sentence, never mind a sentence that sparkles with creativity and wit.

And you feel guilty for having your light-spewing laptop open in a bar with limited windows, leather banquettes, and acres of dark wood.

Rodney doesn’t feel guilty about that kind of thing. Low on quarters to do laundry in our building, he’ll amble into the neighborhood laundromat to raid the quarter machine. The one with the full-width sign taped to the front stating “FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY”.

Which is why I usually send him out to do my dirty work. Guilt. Plagues. Me.

I feel guilty for the laptop. Guilty for ordering a beer and no food. Guilty that I’ve hired a babysitter to help with afterschool pickup so that I can get some work done, and here I am swilling brewskis. I’m sure that you could psychoanalyze the hell out of this. Show me a Rorschach and I’d see Atlas with the world on his shoulders and a pint in both hands.

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This bar, though a happy place for Rodney to get work done on the occasional weekend, would not be my solution.

I dragged my tipsy self back to Starbucks, back to the pedestal table. I reserved my spot with a scarf and a notebook. No laptop, no valuables, I know the routine. I ordered my coffee. I returned to my seat. I gazed into the wall mirror at someone two tables down who looked remarkably like my Dad. I re-focused, took a sip of my coffee and got back to business. Because long-lost family members or not, Starbucks is where I’m most productive.

What I need to do – rather than find a new place to work – is to re-train myself on all of the positive benefits of working at Starbucks. Accessible bathrooms that aren’t often clean, but sometimes are! Baristas who write my name on my cup so that I’ll always know that it’s mine! And most important, I won’t get drunk when I’m working.

You see? That wasn’t that hard. I just needed to shift my perspective. I needed to walk down the street to greener pastures and find out that hey! They were sort of a muddy green after all.

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