NEED. WANT. CRAVE. THE HAPPY/ S.A.D. EDITION

When the excitement of Fall begins to give way to the business of prepping for the Holidays and the dark, dank months of Winter ahead, anyone that has lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than one of the notorious cold seasons knows to begin preparing for combat.

The enemy is silent. Perhaps the most devious enemy of all; Our own brains!!

You may know that it rains a bit here, but what you may not know is that because of all the clouds and greyness, Vitamin D deficiency is a real thing here which means that Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.) is real, too.

Most people I know feel it somewhere on the lower end of the sliding scale that goes from laziness all the way up to thoughts of suicide.

I know, right? You can blame your laziness on the rain! Everybody does it… I actually blame everything on the rain because it lasts until July 5th. You know, long enough to have us all wearing jackets on the 4th and then the next day, BAM! Sunny gorgeousness! We have a love/ hate relationship with weather. We’re kinda famous for it. We are willing to put up with so. Very. Much. In return for our legendary summers.

Sigh.

So anyhoo, I would like to first offer my combat strategy for the ninja attack that S.A.D. can be:

  • Exercise. Since I have lived in Oregon, I have had to get serious about exercise because it is numero uno in my line of defense.
  • Go Outside. Exercise is very helpful with this.
  • Take your vitamins. I do Vit. D and Iron (as prescribed by my Doc), but find Vit. B complex and fish oil helpful, too.
  • Happy light. You are hilariously naïve if you think that you are going to get all the light you need naturally in these months. In fact, I giggle at you…But really, try it for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • This is self-care season. If there is any better way to combat the forces of depression, it’s focusing on yourself. I love a mid-winter steam and massage. Literally feel your bones warm up. Take care of yourself.
  • Creature comforts. Eating well, tea, cozy winter slippers, warm and festive gatherings with friends and family, a fire, a steam (I can really not recommend that enough), a glorious, glorious pampering foot spa, whatever. Spoil yourself. Now is the time and like the Wu-Tang Clan, your mental health ain’t nothin’ to f*ck wit.

So now for those creature comforts. For happiness this week, I need:

1. THIS AMERICAN LIFE. I do data entry for a living and if I don’t have music or Ira Glass, I will loose it all over this cube.  This_american_life

2. SURFER SALVE. It’s amazing, it’s Hawaiian and you can put it on anything. I use it for everything from bug bites and burns to my dog’s dry skin. There are other salves out there, sure, but none are Surfer Salve.

Surfer-Salve-Tubes.4

*PROTIP; buy it in bulk and have it on hand like I do, or give it away as gifts like I do. Either way, buy enough to make the price of shipping from Hawaii worth it.

3. BRAISED SHORT RIB RAGU. Because DERR! That’s why. Holy Mole!

Braised Short Rib Ragu on Polenta with Gremolata 2 500

COURTESY; CLOSET COOKING

4. SUPERFEET INSOLES. Don’t you judge me. Old people are SO not lying to you when they tell you that you will ache as you get older. At 34, I have chronic back pain. 3 things help me to mitigate this; acupuncture, exercise and these insoles.

WHEN YOUR GIVE-A-DAMN’S BUSTED.

dolly, bitches.

As I enter the mid 30’s, I have learned stuff. I have been empowered by the ability to put names on feelings that up until now, have been cloudy half-thought-feelings in my head. I have been doing adult-ish things for some time now and while I may never fully feel like a card-carrying adult, one thing is for certain; the older I get, the more I feel like…Myself.

Even more to the point, I am growing into my communication style. It evolves, you know; as a kid, you have to ask for everything. You hear “No” a lot. You are made to tolerate situations and people that you don’t want to. Most people treat you like a kid and don’t take you seriously. That sticks with a person.

It takes a long time to really get over feeling like you need permission and to just plow forward without it. Asking is harder for some to learn than others. Telling them might as well be a quantum leap.

But something changed in my 30’s and perhaps the best explanation is this Jo De Messina quote:

my “Give A Damn’s Busted.”

I don’t really know anything about the woman or her music, or even where I heard the song, but she nailed it and that’s the real take away here.

My dearestest friend, who is 50 (and 32 according to Buzzfeed’s “How Old are You Actually?” quiz–I got 48…) confirmed this by telling me some years ago that I “tolerate too much. That will go away.”

She was right. If only I had known.

I got tired of ambiguity and indecision. I got tired of tolerating things that took up too much energy. We spend too much hard-earned mental energy speculating about possible outcomes. When you know where you are going, you have forward momentum, a little control. You are Captain of your sexy little ship. You can steer that bastard into port or float it on down the coast looking for dolphins and breaching whales. It’s up to you.

The problem is that people are assholes don’t always want to give you an answer. Often, you are given the wrong answer. Now, I am in no way advocating bad behavior. I am a staunch believer in diplomacy and the efficacy of good, direct communication. As an East Coaster living on the West Coast, I am a natural; Over the years, my wise-assery has been tempered with logic.

I may be seen as “direct” to some and “abrasive” to the electric company, but sometimes, that is what it takes.

In the immortal words of Dalton in the timeless classic movie Roadhouse,

Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.”

Even then, stay cool.

Here are some hard-learned, long-fought lessons on reigning in this new found freedom:


Be nice. Human interaction and dignity is lacking these days. Put yourself out there a little, be open and a little vulnerable. Charming and friendly. Keep your sense of humor intact. Chat up the cashier. My bus driver, Janet will tell you that they may even be able to give you a discount. But you never know unless you ask. Most people don’t even realize that you can or should ask. She’s right, too; Amanda Palmer has a whole spiel on it (ignore the eyebrows); The Art of Asking.

Unless it’s time to be mean. And by “mean,” I mean pointed. Go over heads, keep asking, send emails and letters. Be logical and don’t loose your cool. Your cool is the most effective tool in your kit. Think about it; would you listen to the raving lunatic or to the rational human being?

Don’t take any shit. Or at least, present that way when occasion calls for it. You may need to let someone know that you mean business. BUT know thyself; what you can you live with? If it means doing some dirty work, if it means having an awkward conversation or asking the tough questions to get the answers you need to sleep at night, it’s worth it. If it means backing down to avoid escalation, it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to call a situation or person “DONE” so that you can edit them from your life. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt. Just don’t embarrass yourself.

Know your priorities. Life will tempt you into straying from them. Give life the fanger (that’s Southern for “finger”) and stick to your guns. As you get older, time passes SO FAST. Knowing that time is the most valued commodity in the world and that your supply is limited will help you loose any remaining inhibitions around asking for things and getting right to the point.

Don’t expect anything from anyone, you are not entitled to anything. This teaches us to go forth and get things for ourselves. It’s called Tenacity and when used for good, it’s an excellent quality to have.

A little inspirational take-away:

Meryl

WHAT ARE YOU EATING? CHILLY. CHILI.

So this Polar Vortex thing…Crazy, right?

I for one am glad we got a little taste so early on. It has pushed me, full-on, with both hands, into soup and chili season. There is nothing more soothing than a soup pot full of stock bubbling on the stove while I hunker down, Baby Boom playing in the background, a glass of wine, warm footwear and maybe some warm blankets in the laundry. MMMmmmm…

This recipe is so easy that it’s a little shameful, but after weeks of braising and babysitting, it is nice to have chili make itself.

Sure, it’s a lot of beans. It’s a lot of cans. It’s not the most from scratch version ever, but it is Hubb’s favorite so no one cares. We are not about food shame here.

Chili is all about personal preference. Sometimes, I omit a certain bean and add another can of something else depending on what I have on hand. I never add salt; between the chorizo and the canned stuff, it is just not necessary. This recipe started out vegetarian, but friends, dearest loves, honeybabylambs…Just do it, k? Eat the chorizo. I know what I’m talking about.

ALL THE BEANS Crock Pot Chorizo Chili:

  • 1 14oz can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 14oz can piquinto beans NOT rinsed
  • 1 14oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14oz can chili beans IN chili sauce
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can green chiles of desired spiciness
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • Several garlic cloves, minced (I use 4-6). You can trust me, I am definitely not a vampire…
  • 1 lb Mexican Chorizo- I usually do pork.
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Plug in crock pot. Set on low. Dump in above ingredients. Let cook overnight or High about 4 hours-as long as chorizo is cooked.

I know that sounds like a lot, but you can handle it, trust me.

We haven’t even discussed the best part; Toppings. I do:

  • Cilantro and/or shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Tortilla chips– ¡VIVA NACHOS!

This week though, I am trying a new recipe; White Bean Chicken Chili by Giada.

Courtesy; Food Network

Courtesy; Food Network

Anything that you can make into nachos, right?? Plus, it has swiss chard in it, so technically, it’s a salad. AmIright?

ALL IN: HALLOWEEN

It’s time we got serious about something, my lovelies. Something that is very near and dear to my heart; Halloween.

The cynical say that it’s for kids and well, that’s malarkey.

Is Vincent Price for kids? Night of the Living Dead? Dead Man’s Bones?

Sure, it’s fun to take the kids to the Pumpkin Spectacular and dress them up and watch them play a character for the night but you know something? All the kids I know play dress up and act like their favorite superheroes all year long. As adults, we get Halloween. That’s it. That’s why I do not understand why there are so few of us who really go all in.

Have you ever not seen a situation made a thousand times better where the people involved were in costume? Halloween elevates your normal spousal disagreement into a mermaid and a Ghostbuster yelling about where to go for dinner. Hilarious. So, uhm…YES.

In a controversial move that surprises many, I don’t discriminate against big kids-as long as they are in costume-and don’t just show up with some fake blood on their face and a pillow case full of candy. Anyone who takes the time to dress up for real and is in any way creative about it, gets my respect.

The sexy outfits are another matter all together. Believe it or not, I don’t care for them because they are a costume cop-out, not because they are showy or inappropriate for the cold weather. Cosplay is proof that sexy can be inventive.

I went through my “sexy phase” and you know why mine were different and better? Because I made every single one of them: Mary who had a little lamb, Mary Quite Contrary, Miss A-Mary-Ca, Mother Mary, Mary Lynn Monroe, every last one from scratch.

But then I graduated from my 20’s and along with my feelings on almost everything, Halloween changed for me, too. I wanted to be the very best character I could be. If I was going to dress up, I was going ALL IN.

bride of frankenstein1

Bride of Frankenstein, bitches. My real hair.

miss argentina

Miss Argentina from Beetlejuice. Painting yourself blue takes commitment.

beetlejuice

ALL. IN.

poison Ivy

Poison Ivy. Also see; Bane and Spiderman.

Worth it. Every single time. The glue in the eyebrows, the bottle of conditioner, tracking canned hair dye all over the house, safety pins, blue arm pits for a week.

In this day and age where we seek to explain everything with science and technology (even ghosts), the unknown barely even exists anymore. Thank goodness for Halloween or we might forget it all together.

Nowadays, I dress up to take the kid trick-or-treating. Nowadays, he is getting tired of it so we end up looking for an event to attend but even that is difficult; We aren’t really the club type, the bars wait until the very last minute to announce their Halloween plans and even then, where’s the spooky music? It’s clear that with very few exceptions, no one is taking Halloween seriously anymore.

Before we lived in such a tiny home in such a shitty neighborhood, I would light a fire and play old movies, dress up and decorate and make a fabulous dinner. We would drink pumpkin beer and pass out candy and giggle at the kiddos.

Now, we are looking for a Proper Halloween. Anyone else in this boat? I have been asking around and have found some interest in a party that you could plan ahead for, a mandatory costume event, possibly in an old building with some interest, with properly designed decorations and a theme. I know I would be willing to pay extra to ensure that it was done proper.

Who’s with me?!

NEED. WANT. CRAVE.

I don’t know about you, but what I need changes all the time. When I am dragging or having an “off” day, I will ask myself “what do you need to turn this day around?”

And then I make it happen.

Here’s what I am needing this week:

1. Affogato from Spella Caffe. Gelato (I adore the chocolate chip- or “stracciatella”) with espresso poured over. It’s stunning. The smoky bitterness of the coffee mixes with the creamy sweetness of the gelato and it is the best pick-me-up ever invented.

spella affogato

Courtesy Jeff G, Yelp

2. Martha Stewart’s Butternut Sage Lasagna. Do you love sage? Well? DO YOU? I love it. I especially love it in this recipe because it’s the main flavor point with the richness of the cheese…Forget it.

Plus, it’s butternut squash season!

butternut-sage-lasagna-5

Courtesy Sweet Peas and Saffron

3. Warm footwear. They are not for every day, they are not for work, they are a treat for when I get home and take those shoes off. They are my signal to the world that says “not now, I am in comfort mode. I am being glamorously lazy right now.” They are a very personal choice, I only wish they were more outlandish.

mukluk

Courtesy, Amazon

4. Timed taper candles in a blue-tinted mason jar. They work great for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Super cozy and on a timer so you don’t even have to remember/ forget to turn them on and off.

Courtesy, Apple Hill Homestead

Courtesy, Apple Hill Homestead

5. Eggwhite Soap. Gentle now that the weather has changed. Keeps my combo skin moisturized. Been using it for years and still can’t get enough of the clean scent.

eggwhite soap

WHERE ON EARTH ARE YOU CONTENT?

pATTERNS

Courtesy; Fancypants

I had the most bizarre realization several years ago at 30,000 feet flying over upstate New York and heading toward Providence; “I am comfortable here. This is where I belong.” Adding to this thought was the fact that I had been doing some genealogical research and discovered that my brother and I are the first generation in many-like five-to not have been born in upstate New York. I felt like it was uniquely mine and that I was a part of it.  Something I was not used to feeling.

We had spent holidays with relatives who lived in remote areas in the hills, quaint little farm towns with “just a stop sign,” my dad would boast. Playing in the snow and being allowed to wander freely. Unbeknownst to me, it made an impression that I didn’t discover for years to come.

But that undeniable feeling at that moment and when I landed in Providence; relaxed, alive, content, had been there each time-I just never listened enough to recognize it.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s remarkable.

On the day-to-day, it doesn’t make a huge impact. It feels like low-lying anxiety and you know something? I didn’t even know it was there until that day on that plane ride when it dissolved.

I have gotten used to feeling “a bit off” and it’s not until that feeling went away that I discovered what a difference it makes for me to physically be somewhere that makes me feel this way. It’s not something I think about everyday (I’ve been in Oregon for 14 years), but you know that feeling when you feel connected to the world around you? That bad things may happen, but at least you have your town? You feel like it knows you and you know it? Unmistakable.

The thing is, I wasn’t born back East. I was born in SW Washington. I do not feel that way in Washington. I feel disoriented there. We were a military family growing up, so we were told that “home is where we are together.” No emphasis was put on where we were physically, so this feeling of peace is how I imagine what “home” feels like to people who were born and raised in their hometown.

My body, my heart, has apparently chosen Rhode Island as my home.

I feel this draw to certain places above others. For instance, I love the desert. LOVE it. I had never even been there until I was 18 and even then, I had no idea why it seemed to relax me. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I will be the first one to tell you how amazing the Eastern sides of Oregon and Washington are. Quiet and serene, dramatic.  A completely different universe than the Western side.

east oregon windmills

Eastern Oregon Hill country. Courtesy, Fancypants.

painted hills

Painted Hills Courtesy, Fancy pants.

I also felt something like this on Kauai, but who hasn’t? Kauai is amazing. It’s my home of a different kind; the kind where your body-your skin and your hair improve. It’s health home.

So what does this all mean? For me, it means I will be moving East one day. More importantly, it goes in my Instruction Manual as “a truth.” Life will change. Everything about life changes, every single thing, and the more truths I can learn about myself, the inalienable ones that are true on the most primitive level, need the most focus.

These are the very fabric of who we are. Knowing more about myself and my identity helps me to evolve and move forward, move closer to peace.

Where do you feel connected?

THIS WEEK IN FANCYPANTS

A visual diary of sorts.

carnival ride

Old Carnival graphics                                                                                                                             Courtesy: Fancypants

Imperial

Architectural Details          Fancypants 2014

walkens welcome

But….what if you aren’t a Walken?                                     Fancypants 2014

Mr T Lightbright

You’re welcome.                                                                                                                                  Fancypants 2014