Getting Out Of My Own Way

To say that I have a low tolerance for risk taking would be an understatement on par with claiming it is a little chilly in Antarctica. I am big on safety belts, looking both ways before crossing the street, and contingency plans. I plan for every possible series of events, interruptions, or problems. I calculate distances, travel times, and the amount of food and drink that will be needed for trips, even though, as my husband has pointed out more than once, we could literally get in the car with nothing more than a credit card and be just fine. The point is, I like to be prepared so that I will be able to avoid (nasty) surprises. And yet, despite this, life has still managed to throw me some major curve balls. I have been run over, in a church parking lot no less. I have experienced an earthquake in a major theme park. I have even been held at gunpoint by the police, because someone made a prank call involving my license plate number and an expected narcotics deal.

I need to take more risks.

But I am afraid.

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Fifty-One and Fifty-Two

Holidays, wonderful though they are, can also be stressful, especially if you are a catastrophizing anxious empath who sets impossible standards for holidays in an attempt to make them perfect for everyone celebrating. As a result, it may have been gently suggested to me that I might need to take a few deep breaths and find some quiet. Not surprisingly, this led to my choosing to read. This, in combination with a bout of insomnia, is how I managed to squeeze in two more books to 2022.

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Loud, But Not Angry, Even When it Could Be…

It is pretty unusual that I feel compelled to recommend a book, and even more rare that such a book is a work of nonfiction. Now this is not to say that I will not bend your ear and recommend half a dozen books given the opportunity, or that I don’t occasionally gush about something I really loved here on this site. Rather more that I don’t often feel the need to put a book in someone’s hands and say, “you need to read this,” and even less often that that book isn’t a work of masterful fiction. The last time I felt this driven to harass others to read a book was with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk. I love this book and have literally bought over a dozen copies of this book over the years, because I keep giving my copy away in a coercive attempt to get others to read it. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it, it is fantastic, especially if you are looking for the perfect story to read out loud to a child under the age of about 10. It lends itself well to funny voices and is just an all-around good time.) But when it comes to nonfiction reading, I tend to shy away from such recommendations, mostly because my tastes are not everyone’s cup of tea. I may find the history of folklore, fabric, or female roles endlessly fascinating, but some of the books can be a bit lengthy and even dry at times; not something I am going to press into your hands and beg most of you to read. Gush about, yes, but not push. So it is with this in mind that I am now imploring all of you to read Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.

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What I Read this Year, 2022 a Year End Review

*Updated on 28th December, 2022

This year I tried to stretch myself by reading more nonfiction as well as by starting to read more of the books I had been wanting to read “someday” but never seemed to get to. Much to my surprise, I was able to read 52 books, liked most of them and ended the year with an even 50/50 split between fiction and nonfiction.

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Zombies, Mad Scientists, and Spiders

I am not, by nature, a very competitive person. It is not that I don’t like to win, I do. However, I have found that I have a better time, am more present, and am more relaxed when I play games for fun rather than to win. Likewise, I long ago abandoned entering contests, because I don’t like the tension and anxiety that go with voluntarily putting one’s fate in the hands of someone else. I know that sounds somewhat ironic given how much I hate making decisions. But, as I described in my past post, Don’t Let Perfect Get in the Way of Good Enough, I also struggle with inaction. So recently, when the HUB, our community center, decided to hold a Zombie Apocalypse Story contest, I figured it was a good way to motivate myself to write.

It took me a few weeks of driving past the center and dithering to decide, but about a week before the deadline I finally decided, why not?

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Don’t Let Perfect Get in The Way of Good Enough.

I hate making decisions. All of them, big choices, little choices, I hate them all. From choosing what to make for dinner, to finding a place to live, or even which pen I was going to use to write in my journal this morning, I really dislike choosing anything. Knowing that my time and resources are limited, I want to make sure that I am making the most of both. I want to pick the best thing for dinner, the show I am going to enjoy most, the greatest gift for a loved one, the most comfortable shoes, the most flattering outfit…. 

In short, I am a perfectionist. 

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Canless Chicken Casserole

With the first chilly nights of fall, and the promise of grey days to come, not to mention midterms, deadlines, and the occasional drama that always seems to accompany both, the desire for comfort food is on the rise around here.

Something warm inside, while it storms outside, always seems to make things just a bit better. In other words, it is time to find and dust off my recipes for rich soups and “Crockpot dinners,” of which I have a few. However, the one dish that has always remained illusive is the “All American Casserole.” Despite having been born and raised in this country, both my parents are imports from the UK, and as such were not something that I grew up with. Casseroles, vanilla pudding with slices of banana and Nilla wafers, and the strange tendency to put carrots in Jello are all things that were as foreign to me as baba ghanoush or hákarl. However, for my husband, they were a staple of cold weather cuisine. So when we married and I took over the cooking responsibilities, he asked me every fall like clock work to make them. 

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Eat Your Heart Out Coco Chanel White Sauce 

A basic white sauce is a like the perfect accessory. It finishes the dish, makes even the simplest meal seem a little more upscale, and can provide the element that brings everything together. However, when half your family is lactose intolerant, it can feel as unobtainable, as a Coco Channel handbag on a tight budget. But rest assured, with a little effort and good quality ingredients, it is possible.

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A Taste Explosion: Chicken Rice

In the ongoing struggle to find a way to bring flavor into our diet, our most recent victory has been a rather rough interpretation of Hainanese chicken rice.

As is the case with most traditional foods, there is no one definitive recipe that is agreed upon by all, or even most. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are almost as many recipes for this dish as there are cooks preparing it; each one guided by their own instincts, preferences, and family traditions. 

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Little Black Dress Chicken

The roasted chicken is the little black dress of the culinary world. It is the perfect simple food. Inexpensive and delicious, it can be dressed up or down, goes with almost everything, and almost everyone likes it. However, as anyone who cooks from scratch, either by choice or necessity, will tell you, the biggest drawback to this culinary little black dress is the length time required to cook it. Meaning that it can be a challenge to prepare during the work week, and down right impractical to attempt during the summer months.

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