I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: New Year’s Resolutions

Tart Cranberry Marmalade


No Sugar-Coating Allowed

Did you resolve to quit sugar? Has your resolve devolved into stress eating? Do you worry that it doesn’t matter what you eat anymore because the end of the world is nigh?


As I was taking this photo this morning, my husband asked what I was doing. I told him that the only topic I could imagine writing about was food. I am overwhelmed with the politics of the day, of the week, so I am reverting to my comfort/discomfort zone.


Maybe if I control what I eat, I will feel some semblance of control over my world. This myth fueling my disordered eating still lingers.

The World Health Organization now recommends that we limit our intake of sugar to no more than 5% of calories. That works out to about 100 calories, or about 6 teaspoons. Yup. That’s it. That is not very much.

Sugar is in tomato sauce, breakfast cereal, bread, salad dressing, yogurt, granola, nutrition bars, low fat snacks. Oh, and soda. It is easier to limit sugar if you cook for yourself instead of buying prepared foods. I  find that you can get used to less and less sugar over time. As you phase out sugar, you will discover that foods you used to like now taste too sweet and that the flavor is diluted with sweetness, not pure.

This month, I have craved bitter and intense foods to match my mood, eliminating more and more sugar. I have replaced my granola with walnuts. I have started eating more eggs instead of cereal for breakfast. And I have replaced my strawberry jam and orange marmalade with homemade cranberry sauce. It’s not for the faint of heart. But then, neither is living.

Tart Cranberry Marmalade

Austere. Sharp. Perfect for these bitter bitter times.

  • ½ 12 oz bag of cranberries (freeze the other half)
  • ¼ cup of orange juice (or pomegranate juice)

Heat cranberries and juice in a saucepan until gently boiling. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let cool. Refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup and lasts for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Use as you would jam or marmalade. I like it with whole wheat toast/bagel and goat cheese. I make peanut butter or almond butter or walnut butter sandwiches with it.

You’ve been warned. It is not sweet.

Choosing Peace



I am at peace with my not being at peace. This sums up how I feel this New Year’s.

Gradually, year over year over year, I have moved away from setting ambitious goals and resolutions and moved toward setting intentions – to choose to be more happy and open to love, to listen to my heart more than to my ego, to see what is good – not what is lacking.

Of course, I still want to have more money, achieve more success, eliminate meat and sugar, be a better citizen of the world, read more books, stop picking my cuticles, throw away stuff, get organized already, be a better mother, and so on. And on. And on.

I am familiar with these goals and make mild progress on them from time to time. Really though, it is exhausting. Bordering on boring.

But when you really stop and ask: what do we want from life? Isn’t it: To feel joy, experience love, reduce suffering.

Peace. Inner peace, if not world peace.

B.K.S. Iyengar says that Uttanasana is “a boon to people who get excited quickly, as it soothes the brain cells. After finishing the pose, one feels calm and cool, the eyes start to glow and the mind feels at peace.” Indeed.

When, at the height of my mid-life anxiety, I would do forward folds in yoga class, I would weep. Turning inward, calming down from my busy busy busy pursuit of not feeling, I would feel. My hamstrings. My breath. My sadness. Of time passing. Of rejections. Of goals not achieved. Yoga class was the only place I would let myself be still, still enough to feel.

Folding forward is private. You can be with your self. Feeling your body, your breath. Just feeling. Just being.

Now, on the other side of my mid-life anxiety, Uttanasana is a pause. A transition. A comforting place to breathe and reflect. Kind of like New Year’s. When I look back on the last year (or years), I see a woman who is happier, more open, more grateful, more able to laugh, more loving.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, can we focus on what we do have? What is good, not what is bad.

As this year has ended with great uncertainty about what our world will be like under President-elect Trump, I have to fight against anxiety, anger, panic, despair. It is easy to succumb to the swirl of anxiety.

I will not contribute to negative energy. I resolve to be a force for love, compassion, and positive change.

I will choose peace.

More Meatless This Year


Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole

Every year, I eat less meat. I find it increasingly difficult to stomach the thought of eating animals. Moreover, the positive impact of eating less meat on the environment is staggering.

My vegan daughter inspires me. When she is home, it is fun to find new recipes that we will enjoy and the meat-eaters will tolerate.

For our extended family dinner on Christmas, I made this dish from Martha Rose Shulman. It doubles easily. Make it one day ahead as it improves with time.

Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole (by Martha Rose Shulman)

  • 1 Eggplant (1 ½ pounds), peeled, sliced length-wise, then in ¼” slices
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin across the grain
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas
  • Fresh Basil and Fresh Parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle the foil with olive oil. Place the eggplant slices on the foil, sprinkle with salt and drizzle lightly with oil. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and carefully fold the foil in half over the eggplant. Crimp the edges together, so that the eggplant is sealed inside the foil and will continue to steam and soften. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and golden brown, about 5-10 minutes, and add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon, to taste. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered, until the sauce is thick and fragrant. Stir in the drained chickpeas. Mix in the eggplant slices.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. Spoon eggplant, tomato and chickpea mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake 30 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Or for a full day ahead. Sprinkle on the basil and parsley before serving.

Serves 6-8. Delicious with bread, naan, rice, or even over pasta.

Image: Very bad photo taken by me at the Christmas buffet table. I was rushing because of the hungry and impatient people behind me – it doesn’t do the dish justice!



May I Be Open

Thank God Christmas is over! Too much food, too many people, too much to do. The austerity of cold and bracing January beckons. Hunker down and resolve to achieve. After all, disciplined effort is where I excel.

Funny though, how all those years of new year’s resolutions haven’t made me happier. I am still the same person at my core. Intense, curious, anxious, becoming happier, more relaxed, more generous and loving and confident. My cuticle-picking has improved slightly. (Good God, I remember resolving to not pick my nails back in college. I’m DONE with that resolution!) I don’t need to lose weight (disciplined effort is where I excel), and I’ve cut out all the meat I’m going to cut out.

So, what’s on deck for 2016? Goals? Teach more yoga! Become a Reiki Master! Take my blog to the next level! Meditate, every day! Learn to sing a new song every month! Write more thank you notes! Yes, good goals. I will work towards them. But they are still outward-facing, achievement-oriented goals with tasks attached.

What if, instead of deprivational lifestyle changes or ambitious goals that imply I am not good enough or have not achieved enough, I started with the premise that I am good enough? Just as I am? Perfect in my imperfection? What would I do?

What if you are good enough, just as you are? What would you do?

Maybe I would smile more. Laugh more. Be more open and inviting to other people. Worry and complain less. Judge less. Compete less. Say Thank You more. Forgive.

Maybe I wouldn’t need to gossip or provoke other people to gossip in order to feel good about myself. Maybe I could simply accept other people for who they are and where they are on their journey, right now, instead of wishing they were different or would change. Because maybe they are good enough just as they are. Imperfectly perfect.

What a relief!

There is a fragile moment of choice before acting. It’s a choice between being open and shutting down. Making eye contact or looking straight ahead. Saying yes or saying no. Choosing to scorn with judgment or empathize with compassion. We rely on habitual patterns of behavior and thought and expectations of what we should do or should think. But what if, at that moment of choice before acting, I checked in with my heart and gut and listened. Choosing compassion, honesty, joy, love. To decide to do the right thing, for me, not the expected thing.

There is a girl. She is painfully introverted and socially awkward. I see her walking in her bubble with her earbuds. She’s odd. Perhaps her parents are odd. It’s easy to judge, to laugh, to scorn. I’ve been that girl. With the odd parents. Afraid to make eye contact. Hoping no one notices me. They will think I’m weird! Maybe they are dangerous! How much happier I would have been if I had worried less, feared less, and smiled more, greeting my fellow humans with openness. When I put myself in her shoes, I want to smile and wave, somehow convey to her that she is okay. But she looks down and I keep my safe distance.

There is a yoga concept, Sankalpa. It means to make a promise to yourself. To resolve to act. Act on your most innermost desire, according to your life purpose. It honors that you are imperfectly perfect just as you are. That you will make mistakes. Like meditation and yoga, you will come back to the breath and try again. While it might involve breaking a negative habit, like nail-picking, or creating a new habit, like meditating daily, it comes from a deeper place of resolve from within, to love and be your best you. You need to be very still and listen to your soul to determine your sankalpa.

So, this year, instead of wishing I were something other than I am, I will pause in that fragile moment. Remember that I have a choice. I will listen to me, not what I think others expect. I will reach out to others more and worry about myself less.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is as simple as what my friend posted about what she has learned from her dog. (Thank you Kirsten.)

Life Lessons from Beau

Wake up each morning convinced it’s going to be the best day EVER. Become giddy with excitement each time someone you love enters the room. Go for as many walks as possible. But don’t growl at the cat, because that’s not nice.

Oh, and when I forget, I will be kind. Kind to myself, kind to others, kind to my family. (It’s so easy to forget to be kind to one’s family – when really, we should greet them with giddy excitement every time we see them, like Beau.) And when I forget, I will try again.

Credit:  Heart of Gold 2, by Shannon Grissom

How Much Time Do We Have?


Time Is Passing

If this new year were the last year of your life, what would you do?

Would you quit your job? Would you launch yourself on some grand adventure, sailing around the world or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Would you start some passionate love affair? Would you play the musical instrument you wish you had always mastered?

If this new year were the last year of life for someone you love, what would you do?

Would you help them realize a lifelong dream? Would you tell them everything you’ve held back, good and bad? Would you spend the time in anger and fear, resentful of the shortened time together or would you spend the time by giving love, helping to create the best day possible?

In Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, he shares some research by Laura Carstensen about perspective. How we choose to spend our time depends on how much time we think we have. When you think you have decades, it’s easier to delay gratification and plug away, grind away, at daily life. But when you only have a short period of time, your focus shifts to right here, right now, and being with the people you love.

Time is passing.

This was the refrain my father muttered over and over again as we sifted through the chores left for those who remain after a loved one dies.

Time is passing.

He meant it in reference to the chores.  We were woefully unproductive.  But it resonated more deeply.

Time is passing.

The day is over. The vacation is over. The year is over and a new one has begun. Time feels precious and short. The face in the mirror looks older, both sadder and calmer. Old enough to know that new year’s resolutions just lead to guilt and anxiety and self-hatred.   Old enough to know that time is passing and life is short. Old enough to know that changing habits is hard, but a few strategic goals and intentions can be a guiding light, a focus for incremental change and constructive personal growth.

So this year I will try. I will try to live each day as if it were a precious gift, one that I might not get tomorrow. I will tell the people that I love that I love them. I will try to create the best day possible, whatever that means, because it changes every day. And since I tend not to be spontaneous nor impulsive (and I have a mortgage), I won’t be quitting my job or launching myself on a grand adventure (at least probably not, or not right now). I will keep moving deeper into the activities I find meaningful and speaking with honesty to the people I love. I will look people in the eye – and smile – and say the words that facilitate connection: Please, Thank You, I Love You – so grateful for my friends and family and so aware of how much I need them and how much they help me.

Of course, I will fail. I will look at the Christmas tree forlornly on the street, feeling sad that I am sad. I will be anxious about returning to work. I will be annoyed at the annoying people on the train. I will begin missing my daughter even though she hasn’t left for school yet. I will be jealous and angry at all the people who seem to manage life with more grace and ease than me.

And then I will remember to try. To do something different. Because my anxiety and sadness are habits. And that everyone struggles with their challenges, their demons.

And then I will reflect on the last year, with pride and gratitude, and remember that I haven’t quite mastered last year’s goal yet, to choose laughter. So, I’ll just keep trying.

And I’ll add this year’s intention for this new year:

Choose love.

Choosing Laughter


Choosing to be Happy

I embrace the austere clarity and hope that is January.  I long ago gave up impossible-to-achieve, all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions (Stop picking cuticles!  Ashtanga every day!  No meat!  and my annual favorite:  Stop procrastinating!)  in favor of gentler incremental changes working towards unmasking my true self and living authentically.  My disciplined, achievement-oriented self finds it impossible to refrain from setting goals.  Indeed, goals and dreams are valuable for staying focused on what matters to you and not getting side-tracked by what matters to someone else.  As I reflected on last year’s goals and my genuine progress towards realizing them, I deliberated on where to focus my heart this year.  Last year’s list still resonates – how shall I deepen it?  After trying on several goals, I settled on one guiding intention for my year:  choose laughter.

At first, it was “laugh more.”  But this seemed vague and not really representative of my intention, and so I added the word “choose.”  To choose to laugh means to pause before reacting in order to decide to respond with thought and purpose.  It is a habit for me to complain, to worry, to be tired, to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  The mind can choose to be happy.  Can I break out of my old patterns and choose to laugh and be happy?

When heavy snow arrives, preventing my obligatory on-site presence in the office, can I choose to be grateful for the day at home with my family instead of worrying that I “should” be in the office?  My children are thrilled with the surprise of nature and laugh joyfully.  How can I learn from them?

When a colleague shows up at my office door, can I choose to smile at them welcomingly instead of scowling at them with how busy I am? 

When it’s time to undecorate from Christmas, can I choose to reflect on what a warm and relaxing holiday it was instead of feeling burdened by the work of cleaning up and depressed about the work of returning to work?

When several newbie yoga students show up to class in January, as part of their new year’s resolutions, can I make them feel comfortable instead of worrying about whether I can modify my class properly for a larger group?

When my children suggest an activity, can I say “Yes!” instead of “Not now, I need to do the laundry.”

My inclination toward laughter and delight has been suppressed all my life.  By a mother who hovered and worried, pegging me as sensitive and shy.  By a father who judged and withheld love and praise in favor of intellect and duty.  Resulting in an anxious perfectionist who chose solitary achievement over social laughter.

No more.

Choosing laughter means changing habitual behavior that no longer serves me.  Choosing to embrace what is and not wishing for it to be different.  Choosing a lighter response over a darker heavier, more judgmental emotion.  Choosing to be social.  After all, you need other people to really laugh out loud. 

My family has rallied behind this “resolution” with great zeal.  We’ve decided to have family joke night at our family dinner on Sundays where each person tells a joke.  I love this because I realize that women historically have not been encouraged to be joke-tellers resulting in the stereotype of the woman who can’t remember the punchline or tell a joke well.  I will pick one joke a week that makes me laugh out loud (no judgment!) and share it with my family (and tweet it that evening).

When my daughter cracks up uncontrollably, she closes her eyes and is overcome with the funniness.  She’s been sharing this side of herself more and nothing makes me happier than seeing her laugh.  Perhaps if I laugh more, she will too.

The Year of the Crab


New Year’s Hopes

I love New Year’s Resolutions!  The hopeful promise that this year is the year I will achieve my goals!  New Year’s Resolutions play right to my ocd strengths as a disciplined rule-follower determined to succeed.  I will fill-in-the-blank every day!  While virtuously and successfully achieving all my goals, I will simultaneously stop all my bad habits, cold turkey, January 1!  I will be a perfect person!  (How annoying would that be?)

We all know how this turns out.

This year, instead of resolving, willfully, to stop picking at my skin in anxious rumination; instead of resolving, determinedly, to take 3 yoga classes every week (or more!); instead of resolving, impetuously, to throw away all the clutter in my house – I will refine and build on several goals, hopes, wishes and dreams I started last year that are bringing me more peace, joy, and love in my life.  In 2013, I wish to:

  • Speak my truth.  I know what I think, I just don’t say it in my effort to be liked, or to be right, or to avoid conflict.  It takes a lot of listening to my gut, to my intuition, but my truth is there.  Say it out loud.  Say what I need to say.
  • Listen.  Listen to the people I love.  Let them be themselves, not who I want them to be.  Let them speak their truth.  Encourage them to find their joy.
  • Make eye contact.  It is impossible to hide when you look the other person in the eye.
  • Continue to teach yoga.  Being a teacher brings me joy; connects me to others; encourages me to dig deeper – (and makes me a better student).
  • Continue to practice yoga.  Being a student brings me joy; connects me to others; encourages me to dig deeper – (and makes me a better teacher).
  • Begin to bring meditation into my life, making space for what is meaningful.  Allowing for time to sit still seems symbolic of letting go of the schedule, of the busy-ness.
  • Continue to write.  For now, my writing is where I speak my truth.
  • Be a grown-up.  Do all the financial things that need doing:  will, life insurance, college savings, retirement savings, mortgage.
  • Devote more time to the causes I believe in and have worked hard to develop personal connections with:
    • Gibney Dance, a modern dance company that brings movement training to victims of domestic violence – allowing these women to speak their truth.
    • Give Back Yoga, a nonprofit that brings yoga to PTSD trauma sufferers.
  • Nurture my deepening friendships.  They are more rewarding than my busy busy busy pursuit of my goals.
  • Do and share things with my family.  Let everyone take turns choosing an activity.  Time seems heartbreakingly fleeting.  Get out of myself and reach out to them.
  • Let go of the schedule, the chores, the clutter.  Let in the possibility of more fun.
  • Laugh more.

Food-wise, sigh, too many rules here.  I wish to enjoy my food more and not worry so much about my weight.  I will honor my commitment to my New Year’s Goals with Crab Pasta.  I make this dish frequently, because it is easy, delicious (and a bit indulgent).  Sitting down to crab pasta with my family once a month can be a reminder that my goal for 2013 is to live my life with meaning, true to myself, with love and compassion for the people in my life.  The symbolism of the crab resonates.  Hiding under its shell, ready to shed its shell, is a rich soul.


Crab Pasta

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 Tablespoons jalapeno slices (Mt. Olive brand is not too spicy and adds nice tang)
  • 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any shards of shell
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 pound pasta (Garofalo brand, Calamarata shape – is my favorite for when I am indulging in “regular” pasta instead of healthier whole wheat pasta)
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped fine, to sprinkle on top when serving
  • Bring water to boil and prepare pasta according to package directions, careful not to overcook.
  • While pasta is boiling, prepare the crab.
  • Heat olive oil.  Saute gently on medium-low heat the garlic, jalapeno, pine nuts, and crushed red pepper until garlic and pine nuts are golden, about 5 minutes.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Add crab.  Heat together another 5 minutes.  When pasta is done, add to crab and stir together.  Add some of the pasta cooking water (up to ½ cup) if the mixture seems dry.
  • Sprinkle parsley on top to serve.

Serves 4.  (Skeptical children can have butter pasta without the crab, leaving more crab for the grown-ups.)

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