Why Rhi Rhi is wrong about Work, work, work

19 Aug


I, like Rihanna, am addicted to being productive. Her lyrics suggest she’s in it for the output (cash money), whereas I’m more in it for the thrill. Check-marking ‘to do’ list items makes me giddy. I should consider a flashier addiction, say dirt biking or surfing. Even corn hole might be better. Instead, I remain bound to mundane task completion. Does my posture of busyness actually make me more productive? Does my brain function as well when I’m constantly rehearsing the items I have yet to finish? Or am I in fact preventing creative thought, and avoiding, well, living?

The failure of my notebook organization confirms that the checklist, hyper-organized mindset is not sustainable. I want each notebook to have a specific, undeviating purpose. Nevertheless, my lab notebook is sprinkled with sketches and grocery list add ons. My prayer journal includes workout routines, a pitch for why processed foods aren’t so bad, and a Matlab tutorial. As much as I would like to neatly focus different categories of my life, it can’t be done. Thoughts and ideas get interrupted. I am distraction-prone. Perhaps, like my notebooks, my brain needs diversions, and space to wander. Last October, journalist Bethany McLean confessed in a Linkedin article: “I am not productive. In fact, some times I waste entire days…I read things that have nothing to do with my work. I day dream. A lot.”

It’s true. Some days, being productive is impossible. Some days you’re just trying to figure out what to do next, and other days the task at hand is too large, too scary, or too full of unknowns. Yet instead of worrying about wasting time or being permanently stymied, what if we rested? What if we were OK with loose ends and unfolded laundry? My, and America’s, “culture of busy” is soul-damaging. “[People are] busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” said Tim Kreider in his 2012 NY Times article, The Busy Trap

When I was a kid, I had a silly idea that whenever I got bored, twirling around in circles would keep me entertained. Now, I’m spinning in circles and afraid to stop. If I can’t come to terms with doing less, or nothing at all, I’m defining myself based on my output, which is absurd. Recognizing this tendency is a good first step.

Call it ironic, but today’s recipe will actually fuel your productivity, hehe. It’s two varieties of a simple protein smoothie, perfect for before, during, or after an intense workout.

BANANA CHOCOLATE PROTEIN SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

15 g Optimum Nutrition double rich chocolate chocolate whey protein powder (or whatever brand of chocolate protein powder you have)

1/2 banana

1/2-1 Tbs. cocoa powder

3-4 ice cubes

1/2-1 cup water

1/2 cup 1% milk

dash of salt

dash of vanilla

 

CALORIES: 160

PEACH VANILLA PROTEIN SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

15 g Optimum Nutrition vanilla ice cream whey protein powder

1 peach, skinned and sliced

3-4 ice cubes

1/2-1 cup water

1/2 cup 1% milk

1/2 cup 1% milk

dash cinnamon

dash salt

CALORIES: 170

DIRECTIONS: For both smoothies types, place all ingredients in blender. Blend until combined. Place in freezer for 15-30 min. if desire colder smoothie.

image

 

Advertisements

Ask the Pretty Girl Out

25 May

image

I’ve sampled the online dating realm. Multiple times. Thank you, array of iPhone apps, for the glorious social experiment. OkCupid fixed me up with a swell Harvard law graduate, and Match sat me down to coffee with a gorgeous fireman, apparently too gorgeous. I should have taken a step back when Tinder had me driving from Jackson to Birmingham to meet the guy from Chattanooga halfway. But I kept trucking along, determined to swipe right until something worked out. Bumble, the feminist version of Tinder in which girls have to make the first move, did finally make me slow down, and I didn’t make it past a little blasé cyber chatter. Which brings me to my point: guys should be asking girls out. In person. Period.

Online dating doesn’t make much sense. At 7 pm, you’re excited about grabbing drinks with Ryan, who sends the wittiest text messages and seems pretty cute in the motorcycle picture. By 10 pm, you’ve realized he wasn’t trying to be funny in those text messages, and the motorcycle picture was an optical illusion. And, to top it off, you’ve inherited his habit of responding to texts with ‘lolololol’ and just can’t quit. So you kick him to the curb, find someone else, get your hopes up again, and are back at disappointed and analyzing whether you overshared on a Wednesday night.

I don’t care if everyone else is doing it; online dating is the pits, and it must come to an end. Dudes, get off the couch and take some initiative. Put the Doritos down, skip the obscure Turkish soccer match, and venture into the world. Maybe even risk asking the pretty girl out, cuz she’ll probably buy you a drink just for having some moxie. As Philip Wegmann notes in his article Women Lose When Men Bumble, “cute girls will always be intimidating.” But what’s the worst thing that could happen? She says no thanks, your head remains unbitten off, and your manhood is intact. I think y’all male types can manage that, especially since the best thing that could happen is she says yes, and it’s all gravy from there.

And ladies, if you’re still wading through the online bros who love travel, the gym, and (drum roll please) adventure, as perhaps yours truly is, don’t give lazy guys a chance. If he doesn’t even attempt to start the online conversation, please ‘unmatch’ him and move on.

No man-hating session would be complete without chocolate. My cousin visited a couple of weekends ago, and to complement a Netflix binge we concocted a low cal chocolate pudding parfait. So instead of throwing your phone across the room when six-pack Nick hasn’t responded for 24 hours, channel that frustration into eating this:

CHOCOLATE PUDDING, BERRY, and GRAHAM CRACKER PARFAIT

(Servings: 2)

PUDDING:

Make 1 box of sugar-free, fat free instant chocolate pudding according to the instructions, with 1% milk. Use 1 cup of pudding in parfaits, and store the remaining cup for later use.

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS:

Ground up two full graham cracker sheets in a food processor. Add 1/2 Tbs. of melted butter.

FRUIT:

Slice 1 cup of strawberries.

ASSEMBLY:

In two glass cups, layer pudding, graham cracker crumbs (use all of them), and whipped cream twice. Top with strawberries.

CALORIES per serving: (contingent on a sparing use of whipped cream!) 260

image

Mexico, Spring Breakers, and Faux Mojitos

21 Mar

image

With our hat vendor, Pepe

My sister Katie and I spent last week honeymooning beachside at the Park Royal in Cancun, Mexico. We enjoyed a string of lazy days sunbathing, getting our read on, and sipping gin and tonics. Despite being a relatively mellow trip, we feel resort life merits commenting on, especially the week of most colleges’ spring break So, we hope the following survival tips will come in handy if you’re an all-inclusive vacay newbie, or just happen to be over 25 amidst a throng of rowdy, skin-baring, Margarita-sloshing not-quite-adults:

Resist the deep, deep temptation to strangle a sorority girl on your flight who absolutely wants to get along with her roommate, if only she wasn’t so horrible. I mean, who does this roommate chick think she is, trying to be sorority lady’s best friend?! Unbelievable. As American Airlines Flight 2422 progressed, said-sorority chica and her two sorority sisters widened their circle of dislike to envelop pretty much everyone, frequently prefacing their statements with the disclaimer, “I’m not complaining, BUT…” whilst Katie and I coined a term in their honor, “I’m not complaining, but I hate you, and I’m going to kill you.”

Drink the questionably liquored mojitos. That Sprite-induced sugar buzz is merry and imagebright. The resort bartenders will run out of mint leaves come 3 pm, so do like an experienced frat boy and recycle yours.

There’s no such thing as a free dance party. The resort provided minimal nighttime entertainment, exempting one brief, pirate-themed  soirée, because they had relationships with local clubs. Fit a hip shake or toe tap in when you can, unless it’s worth $45 to be immobilized alongside 7,000 Mexicanos at La Ciudad. According to our sources (two Daytonian male college students), the human blockade surrounding your table is no biggie, as long as your bladder’s empty, you’re OK with sharing a bottle of wine, and DJ Marshmello is front and center. Ok, ok, we reluctantly admit that Deej Marsh sounds like the real deal – listen to his remix of ‘Where are U Now’ here – but as we all know I can’t be barred from bathroom access for more than twenty minutes.

Understand the nuances of ‘all-inclusive.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘all good.’ The buffet gets old fast. Pack some nice and dry snack foods, such as pretzels and popcorn, to balance out the buffet’s wet food vibe. The exercise room was an additional $6 per day, but beach walks are still free. There’s cable, but the shows are dubbed in Spanish. Charlotte and Chloe on Geordie Shore taught me some new vocab, but it’s mostly no bueno. Incorporating ‘maldito!’ and ‘rayos!’ into my Spanglish may not prove feasible. We still aren’t sure what 11 am Insanity is all about, but according to the resort’s daily activities board, it’s a regular party:

image

I probably wouldn’t go back to the Park Royal, but I would go back on vacation with Katie in a heartbeat. Sister time is something beautiful.

Now that we are again stateside, it’s time to eliminate vacation chub-a-lub. Yesterday, my mom and I spent the afternoon cooking. I got to experiment with her gift to me, the Vegetti, to make my slightly modified version of Ambitious Kitchen’s Thai Chicken and Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry, found here. Sweet potato noodles are only 25 calories per ounce versus 100 calories per ounce in dry spaghetti. My version of the recipe is below. So that it could be eaten throughout the week, I only prepared the chicken, sauce, and noodles. I am going to add frozen vegetables (broccoli, mixed peppers, etc.) with each serving. Disfrutala!

THAI CHICKEN AND SWEET POTATO NOODLE STIR FRY

(Servings: 4)

SWEET POTATO NOODLES:

-2 to  3 small sweet potatoes (want 12 oz., after removing skin) image

CHICKEN:

-1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

-Seasoning: salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin

-Squirt of lemon or lime juice

SAUCE:

-2 Tbs. peanut butter

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce

-1/2 Tbs. honey

-1 tsp. crushed garlic

-1 Tbs. chopped ginger

– 1/2 cup 1% milk

DIRECTIONS:

1. Sweet potato noodles: Remove skins from sweet potatoes.. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften. Use spiralizer to make noodles. Set aside for now.

2. Chicken: Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Squirt with lemon juice to better coat chicken with seasonings. Spray cooking pan with PAM or lightly coat with olive oil. Cook chicken in pan until completely done. Remove from heat and place in bowl. Put sweet potato noodles into cooking pan, and cook on low heat for several minutes.

3. Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients.

4. Compile: Add sauce to cooking pan. Cook noodles in sauce, on low heat, until soft, for about another five minutes. Next, add chicken. Remove from heat, and place into storage container for use throughout the week.

CALORIES per serving: 265

image

Rewind, Restart

2 Jan

image

Each holiday season, Christmas passes in an innocuous haze of cozy cheer, yet New Year’s increasingly presents an uncomfortable obstacle. The past year must be reckoned with, justified, reflected on. Time flew and staggered. Goals were met and missed. I soared, I sunk. I quit my job in one state and started graduate school in another. I re-adjusted. I settled into new routines. At times I let the past cloud the present, yet now and again I planned a marvelous future.

The passage of time is difficult to wrap our heads around. “For what is imagetime? Who can readily and briefly explain this? Who can even in thought  comprehend it, so as to utter a word about it?” queried St. Augustine in his Confessions. And, “But we measure times as they are passing, by perceiving them; but past, which now are not, or the future, which are not yet, who can measure?” He didn’t solve the riddle, and neither have we. The past is certainly important, yet no longer. How, then, can we best apply past experience to the future, to this new 2016?

Not by living in the past. That won’t do. Instead, here’s at least what I’m continuing on in 2016:

For the Stretching of my Mind: Reading. Because, as Pinterest discovered for me: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” (George RR Martin) I’m bursting my own buttons over the fact that I read 22 books last year. Loosely following Clifton Fadiman’s lifetime reading list, I worked my way through Machiavelli’s The Prince, Trollope’s The Warden, and have made a considerable dent in St. Augustine’s Confessions. I also read faith-based books, biographies and autobiographies, a collection of poems and one of essays, more fiction, and even a book on economics. I hope to read even more books in 2016, and encourage you to join me in this venture!

For my Physical and Emotional Well Being: Lifting weights. My brother, Ian, completely uprooted a cardio heavy exercise schedule about this time last year. I admittedly am too embarrassed to show out at University of Maryland’s gym, what with all the jacked 2o year old meat heads and frat boys lurking about, but I did come up with an at-home solution, 50 lb adjustable weights. Adhering in part to Ian’s regiment, I have a legs day, a shoulders and abs day, and a back day. I feel stronger, can actually do a decent number of push ups, and noticeably have definition in my upper back and shoulders. It’s nice to know I might just be stronger than the octogenarians on toast and tea diets.

For my Professional Development: Receiving constructive criticism. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had outgrown an easy going, uncritical violin teacher, and reluctantly switched to an intense, nit picky one. My persistent desire to receive positive feedback from Devon, my new teacher, drove me to practice insane amounts. Finally, when he sensed that I was frustrated, he explained:”I’m not getting paid to give you compliments. I’m getting paid to make you a better player.” In retrospect, I appreciate that he picked me apart. The best teachers don’t applaud; they correct. Similarly, those who want to learn will respond objectively to constructive feedback.

2015 wasn’t wholly constructive, mainly because of my own misinformed thought patterns. In 2016, I plan to work on not:

Having expectations. Google “expectations and gratitude,” and you’ll find a whole slew of articles suggesting an inverse relationship between the two. In his collection of essays God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis gives the following scenario: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable…The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic.”

imageMaking assumptions about others. Do you ever create a plausible back story for someone you just met? I do, and mine are almost always off-base. I thought a guy from Venezuela I play tennis with, based on his calm demeanor, was a rich kid with a nice life. Turns out he and a group of friends were kidnapped and held ransom by several men with machine guns, until their parents shelled out $1000 each. Or take my friend from Bible study, who I assumed to come from a loving Christian home based on her rigid lifestyle. Nope; she was raised atheist, has little to no contact with her parents, and is completely on her own financially.

Doubting myself. Self-sabotage is senseless. Channeling Pinterest vibes once more, “Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your own two ears.” Oh, and this one’s good too: “You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.”

And now for my food resolutions: DO continue eating oatmeal; DON’T eat the instant variety. Instead, I have already begun eating rolled oats, which are less processed and can be flavored as you please. Thus far, I’ve made peanut butter & jelly, peanut butter & banana, and brown sugar & honey oats.

The base for each recipe is the same: microwave 1/3 cup oats and 2/3 to 1 cup water until cooked (1.5-2 minutes). Next, for:

PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY OATS

ADD: image

1/2 Tbs. peanut butter

1 Tbs. jelly (grape or raspberry)

CALORIES: 200

PEANUT BUTTER & BANANA OATS

ADD:

1/2 banana, sliced

1/2 Tbs. peanut butter

CALORIES: 200

BROWN SUGAR & HONEY OATS image

ADD:

1 Tbs. brown sugar (unpacked)

1 Tbs. honey

CALORIES: 200 

 

 

 

Dear Soul, Straighten up and Fly Right

12 Nov

image

I’m not as bad as Mr. Hyde, in that I don’t get my kicks from spazzing out on the neighbors when night falls. But when night falls, I definitely grow darker. Feelings of loneliness heighten, and I start to feel anxious and upset. My internal freak outs run the gamut, from how to deal with being 27 and perfectly single to fear of nuclear attack from Iran; from the three pimples on my chin that are more resilient than a Twinkie to how our nation will ever recover if Hillary Clinton is elected president; from feeling like a loser with no friends to pondering the eternal state of my soul. Yes, I’m an utterly unbearable emotional diva between 11 pm and when I fall asleep, but the fact remains that I struggle with feeling restless and discontent.

Fortunately, I have a sister whose advice I tend to take to heart. She visited me here in College Park a couple of months ago, and we experienced a ghastly contemporary Christian service together. My takeaway: sitting at home staring at the wall would have brought me closer to God. Hers: at least there was an emphasis on Scripture memorization. And so, I decided to get to memorizing. First, James 1; next Isaiah 53; then Psalm 42; now Romans 8. But back-up to Psalm 42. King David’s mantra therein stuck with me:

“Why are you downcast, O my Soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

David is reasoning with his own soul. It’s a perplexing concept, to imagine a person using logic to straighten out his one immaterial (though immortal) aspect. Despite his pleas, David remains emotionally shipwrecked. He isn’t alone, either. Martin Luther referred to periods of feeling forsaken by God as Anfechtung, and Mother Teresa spent nearly half a century feeling disconnected from God.

Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, opines that “half, two thirds, maybe three quarters of the depression that we experience as Christians is depression over our depression. We’re sad that we’re sad. We’re surprised that we’re surprised. We’re upset that we’re upset. And if [we] weren’t so upset about being upset, [we] wouldn’t be as upset.” Isn’t that the root of anxiety, deciding to focus on that which we cannot fix ourselves?

Life stings. It aches. It frustrates. It’s unsatisfying. But if we truly believe in David’s mantra, from start to finish, ultimately our temporary discomforts, pain, and anguish will fade away. Until then, after night is a new morning. There’s comfort food to keep you going, too, even in healthy varieties. Like this recipe from Julia’s Album, a mock alfredo sauce with cauliflower replacing the butter and heavy cream. I’ve tested it out and Julia knows what’s up, though I wouldn’t recommend the nutmeg addition.

CAULIFLOWER ALFREDO SAUCE: http://juliasalbum.com/2015/01/cauliflower-alfredo-sauce-recipe/

image

CALORIES (per 1/2 cup serving): 70

Keep Calm and Go Terps

3 Oct

image

As a neophyte graduate student, I am still quite unused to college life, and that hideously divergent motto in this post’s title, which I’ve seen displayed across a number of students’ tees. Perhaps four years in the real world was too long, or perhaps all graduate students experience this bewilderment prior to re-assimilation? I’m hoping to reach a more definite conclusion by the end of the semester. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts to share that have been be-bopping around in my sub-conscious these last several weeks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m loving the cultural explosion, personal maturity, adjustments, and even inconveniences grad school has provided. And they are worth mentioning, so here goes:

I should have learned Chinese instead of Spanish in high school. Seriously, the Chinese have exponentially crowded my research environment, housing situation, and social network.

Why bother shaving, except when the prickly feeling becomes unbearable? I work in a lab; no one sees my legs.

Grocery shopping, and all other grown-up-errands, have become massive, daunting tasks. I need a personal assistant, stat!

I feel so alone in abiding by the ‘stay to the right’ rule. College students move diagonally, on the left, directly towards you, and on bicycles, skateboards, or scooters, but rarely on the right. The girl hugging the curb is not letting go, but at least the New York Times’ has got my back on this one.

So stressful

So stressful

I’ve re-entered the Starbucks vortex, and see no escape anytime soon.

I shamelessly reverted to elementary school, since ironically I’m too old to be cool, and wield a purple lunch box (it clips to my backpack).

I am one half ecstatic when mistaken for a 20-yr.-old undergrad. Yet the other half is terrified this accidental compliment has less flattering implications . Am I too Valley High girl? Slouching? Not pulling off the worn down and overburdened graduate student look well enough?

Am I the only one still rocking colored pants? No wait, I’m the only one wearing pants.

Speaking of bottoms, I’ve been partially mooned by a number of undergrads who can’t seem to find shorts long enough to cover their full posteriors, and I feel violated for them. I should probably start an advocacy group for vulnerable and exposed derrières.

I thought I outgrew headphones in public…except when everyone else is doing it.

I didn’t outgrow walking and using my phone, though. But now that I’m a big kid, I like to do important stuff, like mark my calendar and jot down notes and check the weather, not text or Facebook or Instagram.

Pulling an all-nighter is now a too painfully obvious admission of poor time management. Better to subtly interrupt an REM sleep cycle now and then.

I used to think science was difficult to understand, but now I’m convinced it’s actually just the scientists who market it this way. Why do we need chemical, biological, enzymatic, and microbial methods to measure protein nutritional value, and why do I need to have two extra terms for water vapor pressure in food, water activity and relative equilibrium humidity? I think we should cut the fat and adapt a go lean approach to food science jargon.

In my junior year of college, I got an electric purple slide phone that only required charging a couple times a week. Now I have an iPhone and compulsively charge it beside my bed, in my car, and at my work computer, because when the battery life hits 67% and I don’t have a charger, ‘what if my phone dies’ panic heightens to ‘I’ll probably end up helpless in a ditch without it’ proportions.

Getting back into recycling after recklessly pitching soda cans in the garbage for two years (blame it on Jackson!) has been tough. Especially doing so Maryland style, where even paper towels are composted. I fear arrest by a swarm of waiting and watching environmentalists if I accidentally discard my coffee cup lid or a perfectly recyclable napkin.

Stream of conscious thoughts should pair well with a random jumble of quick vegetable fixes, don’t you think? My roommate doesn’t believe I actually eat all the vegetables I buy each week, but he’s wrong, and here’s how it’s done:

OVEN FRIES (Servings: 1)

INGREDIENTS:

1 small red potato

Seasoning: salt, oregano, red pepper flakes image

PAM

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 400 F. Meanwhile, cut the potato in half, then cut the two halves into wedges. Lightly spray 13×9 with PAM and sprinkle with salt. Array potato wedges on pan. Sprinkle with more salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Bake 10-15 min., flip over, then bake another 10-15 min. Eat with ketchup (a must!)

CALORIES: 100 for a 4 oz. potato

ROASTED BROCCOLI & CAULIFLOWER (Servings: 3)

INGREDIENTS:

Raw broccoli, 2 stalks

Raw cauliflower, 1 head

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

Seasoning: salt, chili powder, onion salt or powder

PAM

1-2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: Heat the oven to 400 F. Cut the cauliflower and broccoli into small florets, trimming off and discarding the stems. Lightly spray 13×9 with PAM and sprinkle with salt. Arrange broccoli and cauliflower on pan. Sprinkle with minced garlic, more salt, chili powder, and onion salt or powder. Roast in oven, 25-30 min. Total. Stir up vegetables with spatula halfway through cooking. Sprinkle parmesan 10 minutes before removing vegetables from oven.

CALORIES (per serving): 100

SPINACH SAUTÉE (1 serving)

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 cups raw spinach

1 clove garlic image

Salt, to taste

2 Tbs. milk low fat milk

DIRECTIONS: Heat pan over stovetop at medium heat. Add spinach and enough water to cook it down. Once cooked down, drain excess water and add salt and garlic. Finally, add milk.

CALORIES: 60

Homeward Heartstrings

16 Aug

pgh bridge

I am in-between. I quit my job as a process engineer and skipped out of Jackson, MS, in mid-June. I am now stationed at my parents’ house in Pittsburgh, PA, until I move to College Park, MD, to start a Master’s Program in Food Science at the University of Maryland. Living at home has been wonderful. No rent or bills, a sprawling bedroom, free food. Shopping at ALDI and cooking side by side with my mom, using a combination of her Pinterest finds and my Martha Stewart ones; rigorous, and sometimes explosive due to my poor sportsmanship, tennis matches with my brother; giggling and being straight-up weird with my sister (case in point: she strongly believes touching my right boob cures me of a bad mood); playing beautiful violin-piano arrangements with their author and my dad (or El Maestro, as I’m now fond of calling him in response to his, ‘That was good, but you’re a little flat on the C sharp and the notes need to be played more crisply in measure three.’) And then there’s the two little dogs, family dinners rarely excluding dessert, endless watermelon, insideJane Austen quote_home jokes, Netflix series-watching (waiting for season three of Peaky Blinders with bated breath), and just an extravagant amount of togetherness. So yes, I’m pretty happy, but I’m pretty sad too, because I can’t help but be homesick come August 22. On the one hand, I’m anxious for school to start. But on the other, I am too emotionally attached to four people and two dogs to truly want to leave them, ever. I feel burdened by how transient, and how transitional, life can be. The physical aspects of moving, though taxing, are easily forgotten once settled into the new home. But the emotional aspects, specifically being away from people we care about, linger on.

Why is home so important? The answer to this question likely varies from person to person, but I hope some can relate to mine. It’s because home is where I am loved most. Since my family has always lived in Pittsburgh, there is a certain tangible steadfastness attached to my sense of home. Yet the true comfort of being home, which would continue should my parents move to New Delhi tomorrow, is in the relationships I have with my family. They know me best, tease me the most, challenge my insecurities, point out my foibles, and affirm their unwavering faith in me. Jane Austen wrote, ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort,’ and I heartily agree.

IMG_0065

Oto (left) and Bailey on a diagonal.

In Maryland, I won’t be able to change the setting on my panicked mom’s newly acquired Facebook from ‘Romanian’ (yet presumed to be Spanish) to Icelandic, then finally English. I won’t find two eight-pound fur balls clattering to greet me every morning. I won’t be able to lie on my sister’s bed, and within three minutes be talked into sporting a temporary ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo on my right arm. I won’t have my brother strongly suggesting I read more classic ancient literature, and likewise take more measures to achieve a Greek God physique. And I won’t get to watch my dad playing with dogs Oto and Bailey, lying on the foyer rug to tickle them.

Is the anticipated nostalgia I’m feeling all bad? Will it prevent me from embracing adventures that lie ahead? I think not, if handled appropriately. In The Odyssey, Odysseus used memories of his son and wife, and of his kingdom, to motivate himself to endure the return trip from the Trojan War. My journey through graduate school will not be quite so epic, but certainly knowing how loved and supported I am by family will help to spur me on. Besides, how long can I really wallow over how loved I am, and how lovely my beloved are?

The following recipe for Thai butter sauce is a true tweak, and a Dolan household treasure. Unable to find a sufficient replacement recipe after losing a Williams Sonoma one, my sister and I have been concocting our own version of this sauce for years. It’s like quirky soul food, and therefore an apt metaphor for my family. We pair it with grilled chicken, rice, and a green vegetable, i.e. broccoli or sugar snap peas.

IMG_0627

THAI PEANUT BUTTER SAUCE

(Servings: ~10)

INGREDIENTS:

-1/2 white onion, finely choppedIMG_0630

-Handful cilantro, finely chopped

-1 Tbs. brown sugar

-1 Tbs. fish sauce

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. lime juice

-1 tsp. ginger

-1 tsp. curry powder

-1 tsp. Penzey satay sauce (Pittsburgh store; if not available, omit)

-1 tsp. chili powder

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-1/2 cup peanut butter

-1 can lite coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

Combine chopped onion and 1/3 the can of coconut milk in a skillet. Turn on the heat to medium-low and let sit for several minutes, to cook the onions. Add remainder of milk, then subsequently add the rest of the ingredients minus the cilantro, stirring to combine. Remove from heat once thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

CALORIES per 1/4 cup serving: 106