A Dog Post.

Many years ago, I had a “survival job” that was actually a very good one. As I was building my acting career, I worked with very cool creative types who were way too talented to have to have a second job, but that’s often the way it goes with creative types. One of my co-workers was this immensely talented film editor, and he and his wife and a little French bulldog puppy. I can’t remember this dog’s name, but I do remember how cute it was and how much they loved it, especially, my friend’s wife. I’m sure I’m getting some of the details mixed up, but from what I can remember, my friend and his wife were going to have a really long work day, and asked a downstairs neighbor to check in on the pup and walk him at least once. It was way too long for the little guy not to relieve himself, and it was one of those kick you in the ass hot summer days, when your apartment feels so oppressive and baked, that being outside in the heat is an actual reprieve to the heat madness. Well, this neighbor flaked in a big a way, and if you have a sensitive spirit, you may want to stop reading right now.

It turns out, that in wanting to protect their little guy from overheating during the hottest summer weeks, his very loving parents would leave the air-conditioner running all day – without it, the upper floor apartment would be unbearable and unsafe. This would have been perfect, except by accident, the fan button was hit and instead of cold air circulating, very very hot air from the outside was aggressively being pumped in, heating up an already hot NYC apartment. This was bad enough, but the neighbor fulling f&*king flaked and forgot to walk the dog. Forgot to the do the one thing she promised to do to qualify as “low-maintenance helpful neighbor.” Okay, maybe you can’t imagine what this little guy went through, but I assure you that it was more awful than your mind will let you go to. French Bulldogs already have a difficult time breathing in the heat because of their squished up faces (that people manufactured because it’s cute), but this little guy suffered beyond imagination. When my friend and his wife came home, they found their beloved pup up against the front door, having tried to claw his way out, laying dead next to piles of vomit. The heat killed this little guy, and he probably had no idea what was even going on.

Needless to say, my friend and his wife were inconsolable and beyond devastated – she especially so. This puppy was her baby, and the thought of his suffering put her in such a grief that she could hardly leave her bed. A couple of weeks later, my friend visited us at the office, and in recounting the story, with tears in his eyes, said that he believed his wife would have rathered it had been one of them. I was shocked and (silently) outraged that a person could make someone she loved feel that way. It was sad, but, it was just a dog. Get a grip, lady. Years later, now knowing and truly loving my own dog, I shudder that I could have ever let my heart go to such an uncaring and callous place.

I forgot your name, now ex-wife of my old friend, but I am so sorry that I could dismiss your pain, even for a moment.

If you know me, you know that my dog is the most important relationship I have, and all I can hope for him is that I provide him a good life, he grows to be very old and many many many years from now, he goes to sleep with me by his side, and he peacefully crosses over The Rainbow Bridge. I can say with absolute certainty that I would rather be stuck in a boiling hot room, impervious to how much pain that would cause my own parents, just to make sure that my dog never felt tortured, scared, confused and alone in his last moments. I love my dog more than anything, and when I see this mutual connection between people and their animal family, I am moved to tears.

Yesterday, my friend and I were killing time before going to dinner, and we walked by a homeless man, no more than 22 years old, and his beautiful dog. I am not uncharitable, but I am, by no means, a model of endless giving. I often walk by people who are in need and are simply asking for a small amount help. That said, it’s really impossible for me to walk away from someone with a dog. The innocence of the dog sitting lovingly next to his or her companion, no matter that they sleep outside and may only get to eat scraps…if you can’t be moved by that image of true friendship, then I just don’t understand. I bent down to place a dollar in this man’s paper cup, and I saw that his dog was a beautiful tan mutt, with not one single rib poking thru his or her skin. This dog was well-fed and cared for. An hour later, after chatting in the local park and receiving our call from the restaurant that our table was ready, we walked by the man and his dog again. This time, the pup wasn’t on the sidewalk, but instead, cradled in the man’s arms, with its eyes tightly closed. The man leaned over the dog in his arms, and buried his face in its fur. The man wasn’t sleeping, but maybe the dog was – whatever the case, the dog seemed peaceful, not on guard and totally at ease. I don’t care if I had a rare steak and a promise of shelter, toys and a warm doggie bed at home, this dog was where it wanted to be – in the arms of its most loving owner. In spite of being in such desperate circumstances, this homeless man had a dog who was free of obvious health conditions and a spirit which seemed relaxed and at peace – a spirit that could be so, because there was deep love between the two of them. That isn’t the case for many dogs, even those who have well-to-do owners, and so this image left me in tears and will remain in my mind for years to come.

After dinner, I wanted to see this man and offer to buy him dinner and a bag of food for his dog. My friend immediately pointed out a pizza place across the street and so we set off. Sadly, he and his dog were gone, and I noticed that they had left a bully stick behind. Those things aren’t cheap, but somehow this man treated his dog to something my own pet never gets. LOVE. My friend suggested we walk down several blocks to look for them, and I was touched by her desire to help these two – she isn’t a dog parent, but is a dog aunt to my little guy, and it is clear that dogs (or at least my dog) live in her heart in a deep way. We never found this man and his dog, but I will always keep an eye out for them.

When I came home, I cried a bunch (my Dad thinks I am too sensitive and maybe I am), and then I found a website called Pets of the Homeless. It’s a charity that helps provide health care and support for the beloved pets of owners who have so little. I read stories of people who made sure their dogs ate before they did, some whose dogs were the reason they got clean and sober, some who would rather live on the streets, than give up their dogs because homeless shelters don’t allow pets, some who sold the little they owned just to make sure they didn’t lose their canine best friends…and unlike years ago when my heart was so closed to the experience of the love and pain which comes with a truly connected relationship, I now totally get it. I would sell everything for my little Bajji. I would eat less than or not at all, if it meant he had food in his belly. I know that I could find comfort in his fur, no matter how hard things got. I would sit on the street and beg for money and if no one can by, I would walk away with him in tow and set off to somewhere else, just as long as we could be together. I heard from someone once that dogs will always break your heart – that when they go, they will leave an empty space inside of you. I know that’s true, and I fear the day when I have to say goodbye to my best friend. Still, without him, I am not sure my heart would be so open and available to see beyond my own nose. Loving him helps me feel love for others around me, and if feeling the pain at the end of this is what I have to do to feel this much love, then that makes it all worth the trip.

Bajji Sleeping



Pistachio Nut Milk Pudding

Pistachio Nut Pudding

Well, damn. I just don’t write on this thing like I should these days. My new job (I sell wine, y’all!!!), is taking up most of my brainpower, so much so, that I dream about accounts and orders. Needless to say, that ain’t healthy, but I am inspired by my work and that is a true gift. This all said, I do miss writing, cooking and sharing my food and thoughts with those of you who land on this site and so here I am, ready to share a new creation.

Given my new job is in the wine industry, there is no shortage of wonderful things to eat and drink, every single damn day. Even so, I am committed to staying gut and liver healthy, and moderate all of my “bad” intake by balancing with loads of good. Enter chia seeds. Full of nutrients, low in calories, high in fiber, antioxidants, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and more, chia seeds are on the most super-est of foods, and I have been pimping them onto my friends and family for a long while now. Aside from being sogood for you, chia seeds have this magic quality: when soaked in liquid, they form a natural (animal-free) gelatin that feels like pudding. And now enter pistachio milk.

So, I’m not sure what to make of the almond backlash (because the Good Lord knows that I love me an almond), but instead of potentially adding to the drought pain out west, I decided to head to a pile of pistachios for my homemade milk. Made with dates and cardamom, this nut milk is so easy and free of additives, extra sugar and preservatives – there is simply no reason to buy the boxed stuff at the market. Homemade milk takes a day of soaking, but other than that, it is way easier than pie (making pie is really hard), and a magical experience to drink. Add it to your coffee or drink it chilled…and definitely use it to make this pudding.

Pistachio Nut Milk Pudding

  • 1 Cup of Pistachio Nuts (raw, unsalted and shelled)
  • 5-6 Medjool Dates (remove the pits)
  • 4 Cardamom Pods – finely crushed
  • Splash of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup of Chia Seeds
  • To Garnish:
    • Dried Sour Cherries
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Maple Syrup
    • Coconut Butter
    • Sea Salt
    • …or anything you like!

Place the nuts and dates in a large bowl and cover with water by several inches. Soak and store in the fridge overnight.

The next day, drain the nuts and dates from the water and add to your blender (I use my Vitamix). Add 1 cup of water and blend till you have a fine puree. Add 2 cups of water and blend on high, until the consistency is very smooth. Add the crushed cardamom and vanilla extract and blend for several more seconds.

Place a fine sieve (or cheese cloth) over a bowl or large jar and strain the nut milk, pressing down to ensure you separate the liquid from the extra pulp (with my Vitamix, there was almost no nut pulp remaining).

In a glass container, add the chia seeds and about 2 cups of the pistachio nut milk. If you want a thinner pudding, add more nut milk; if you want a thicker pudding, add less. Make sure to combine the seeds and nut milk very well, as the seeds have a tendency to clump together. Let this sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, mix the seeds and nut milk again (be sure to scrape the bottom). Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Serve garnished with dried sour cherries, pumpkin seeds, coconut butter (not oil…try it, it’s delicious!), a drizzle of really good maple syrup and sea salt. Enjoy!

Pistachio Nut Pudding



Cheesy Apple Oatmeal

Cheesy Apple Oatmeal

I have been away for too long.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of time management and sleeping like a log and the end of a long day, and if all goes as I hope, 2015 will knock the crap out of craptastic 2014. New beginnings, new adventures, new possibilities. Long story short: I quit my old job and started a new one, and this time, I am thrilled, excited and determined to start a new path. The learning curve has been immense and there has hardly been time to breathe, but I think in a couple of months, when all of the dust really begins to settle (a few months, perhaps?), I will be more in a groove and more ready to cook, write and reflect again. In the meantime, I want to share a recipe that was inspired by my friend in Seattle who eats well and encourages me to take good care of my belly, so when my heart feels wary, my belly can kick right in and start the healing. Forget about the cereal or the eggs tomorrow morning – this cheesy apple oatmeal will warm you up and start your day on the most loving and comforting foot. Enjoy!

Cheesy Apple Oatmeal

  • 1 Cup of Steel Cut Oatmeal
  • 3 Cups of Water (you can add more if you like your oatmeal thinner)
  • 1 Apple – Chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese – Shredded
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup of Almonds – Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Olive Oil for Garnish

In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the water and bring to a boil. Add the oatmeal and butter. Lower to medium, and stir the oatmeal occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the oatmeal begins to soften. Add the chopped apples and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until you reach your preferred consistency of the oatmeal and apple (add more water if need) and the turn off the flame. Add the cheese and mix until melted thru. Add salt to taste a nice amount of black pepper. Stir in the chopped nuts and serve in a bowl, topped with olive oil. Enjoy!!

2014…You Sucked.


imageWhen I am old and grey, and I intend on getting really old since quite a few of my family members have easily contended with ages 90-100+, I will not look back on 2014 as one of my stellar

years. Sure, it was filled with lots of change, so much growing up (can I please get a break from all of this spiritual soul searching?) and I do feel a whole lot tougher and even a touch wiser, but REALLY. This year was seriously the pits, the PITS, literally from the very first day.

I started 2014, very sick with a virus that took my poor body (and face, for that matter), by terrifying storm. It was heinous and wrecked havoc on me for a full month. The thing is, I don’t get sick very often and so while I was doing all that I could to fight the crazy that was happening to my immune system, I knew exactly why I was ailing so badly and so suddenly early in 2014: because my intuition knew that I was about to be broken-hearted. When bad things happen, my body gets really sick. It’s a scary thing, seeing heartbreak in the near distance, so I think my body broke down to alert me of the danger ahead. Look, girl. You never get sick, so I am going to beat this right over your head to make sure you are prepped for what’s about to happen. That man is going to steady CRUSH YOU. Now, drink your fluids, get into bed and take lots of rest, because you will need your strength. And, for those of you who read this little blog, you know good and well and just how crushed flat I got. Because life has a sense of humor, my world collided several times over the course of 2014 with this guy, and for every time I felt like I had my s&*t together, he went and crushed me again. Finally, FINALLY, he went crush crazy, and I saw him for the almost man that he really is. Good luck, good will, good riddance. Done.

The beauty of being crushed by a man, are all of the women who come out of the woodwork to help you up. I am blessed with some real love in my life, and I felt the We Are Women/We Are Love early on in 2014…and then in time, the love went away. By late spring/early summer, a few women, (not all, I still have my Ride or Die Crew) who had lots of access to me and my secrets started to turn very cold. It was slow and almost imperceptible at first, but they began to disappear from my life and the loss began to take its toll on me. Actually, I wish they had just disappeared, but peppered in with the gradually increasing coldness was good old fashioned meanness and gossip. Truth told, I am pretty sure these ladies, who are thoughtful and bright (hell, I loved being around them once upon a time), think I was/am the issue – and since relationships go both ways, I realize that I had to be at least part of the problem. I can dig that, since it’s not like I’m an angel, but I can’t attest to many details because prior to exiting, they gave me no notice. I am not trying to play the innocent (people are way too complicated to be all right or all wrong), but since I wasn’t clued in on what I may/may not have done, I had little chance to apologize to try to make things better. And truth told, if my friendship actually meant anything of value to them, they would have come to me to hash out whatever was going on. Ultimately, after months of feeling confused and hurt, I see that some friendships are just meant to come and go, and that’s okay. I send out an apology into the ether for any harm that I caused to these people, and I offer forgiveness for the hurt I definitely felt because of them. That said and even though I no longer miss these folks in my life, it serves as another mark of the sucky factor of 2014.

In the middle of the year, I left my job of almost 5 years and quickly transitioned into a new career path…which then quickly proved to be the wrong fit. I got to know some pretty incredible people, but to spend all day doing something you feel you’re no good at and is no good for you – it was bad and I started to hit a crisis. How did I get here? How do I not know what I can do with my life? I did great in high school. I got a boatloads of 5’s on my AP tests, went to a good college, read a lot…and now I am 37 years old and I no longer know what I want to be when I grow up? What the freak happened? It all came to head in the fall when, of all times, during a work trip, my dog was lost in DC (and found by a stranger, thankfully). Still, by September, I was already exhausted, 2014 was kicking my ass to the ground and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

Stepping away from the self-focussed angst, things have been desperately sad for the world this year. Beyond the long list of pain that is consistently being felt all over the place, as a New Yorker, it’s a really tough and devastating time. With so many people pushing their own agenda and creating tremendous divide, it feels like the city hasn’t been this fractured in decades – and there doesn’t seem to be an immediate end or solution. Having marched in civil disobedience against police brutality, I felt invigorated and hopeful, only to be devastated by the violent killing of two cops by a crazy person…and the aftermath of anger, vitriol and hate is compounding the collective pain. You can see it on people’s faces and so many people have uttered to me that they just can’t wait for 2015. I can’t wait.

With all of this complaining (whining?)…reflecting…things, on a personal level, at least, feel more hopeful. I gave my notice to my job, and my boss and the staff were nothing short of gracious, kind and generous to me as I bid them farewell. In the time when my career crisis was hitting me hard, I started to take pause to marinate on what I was actually good at – really good at – and then seek some help to cultivate it. Sure, I wish I wasn’t such a slow burn and embarking on a second career – wouldn’t it be great for me to be at the top of my game in my first career?…but this is the path I need to be on. I get that. I couldn’t be here, if I hadn’t done and experienced everything else. So, I reached out and enlisted the guidance of a couple of old contacts. Maybe they were paying a favor forward, but to say that these people took me under their wing is an absolute understatement. Meetings became brainstorming sessions which led to more meetings which led to introductions and then connections and then more meetings, and as the branches expanded, my hope gave me renewed energy. And I was offered a job. A wonderful new job which feels like exactly what I should be doing.

There is 1 day left of 2014, and while I feel tired having run this marathon for the past 364 days, I can happily see the finish line. My health is good, my family and tried and true friends love me, my heart is full and open to love, I’m smiling at people I don’t know, my dog is happy and is in almost constant contact with me, my home is warm and my upcoming year is a promise of adventure. I have no illusions of the challenges that await, but in the same way that Friday mornings are hopeful, even with a full day’s worth of work ahead, I feel that there is love and light to come. There is good to be had and I am truly ready. I hope you are ready and do know, that I am cheering you on. xx



Fast Weekday Grub

Turkey w BBQ Sauce

Lately, I have been having long days which end with me running home to relieve my pup and then maybe running back out for a meeting or seeing friends or doing some work. It’s been draining and leaving me wishing for a 4-day work week and feeling unmotivated to cook during the week. In lieu of this, I often set aside Sunday night to listen to some music, chop a ton of veggies, slow cook them with some rice and meat and have lunch and some dinners ready to go for the next few days. Well, this week, even that was too much and so I cheated…with some BBQ sauce.

This dish is super easy and fast and the great thing about it is, it isn’t a recipe. I just chucked a bunch of what I had in the fridge (in my case, I had some veggies and spicy turkey sausage from the farmers market), added 1/2 a bottle of really good quality BBQ sauce (I used Bone Suckin’ Sauce and it was perfect) and then baked it all for about 20 minutes to get all of the flavors together. The tomato and vinegar from the sauce softened the kale and it also pumped up the heat on my already spicy turkey. A little sweet, a little smoky, a little heat served up with buttered sour dough, and dinner is ready to go with a sure fire quickness.

Spicy Turkey Sausage with Kale & BBQ Sauce

  • 1 lb of Spicy Turkey Sausage – Out of the Casing
  • 1 Bunch of Kale – Chopped (I left the stems on since the acid the BBQ sauce tenderized them, but feel free to de-stem)
  • 1 Large Carrot – Chopped
  • 1 Medium Onion – Chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic – Slice
  • 1 Cup of High Quality & Natural BBQ Sauce (You want to make sure that you use a good for you sauce that isn’t loaded with extra sugar and bunk – this may be a fast meal, but it’s still clean eating)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Crusty Bread to Serve

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil (if you don’t have a dutch oven, just use a pot that can safely go in the oven). Sauté your onions and garlic until fragrant and the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Add some salt and pepper (I like to season in steps to ensure an even and vibrant flavor throughout the dish). Add the spicy turkey sausage and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Add salt and pepper and cook the meat until browned. Add the kale (stems and all) and incorporate with the meat. Pour the BBQ into the pot and mix until it fully coats the meat and veggies. Add about 1/2 cup of water and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot with a lid and shift it to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes. Uncover the pot and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Serve your turkey and veggies with crusty buttered bread – either piping hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!


I’m a Pancake Hater

Buckwheat Pancakes

I don’t understand sweets for breakfast.

I mean, I get them on a fantastical level (yay for chocolate-covered, custard-filled, fruit-doused, carbohydrate-laden, sugar-tastic plates of goodness to start my day…huzzah!). But on the real deal tip, all I ever want for breakfast is a plate of soft-cooked eggs, some greens (in the form of collards, kale and/or avocado), a small piece of cheese, good sour dough bread and a healthy sprinkle of salt and red pepper flake. Day in and day out – this is the only plate that I want to curb my appetite until lunch. This is why I am dumbfounded, surprised, shocked, even, that I suddenly had a hankering for some pancakes. Maybe it was the extra servings of Thanksgiving stuffing and potatoes that got my brain fiending for some extra happy-feeling carbs, but my mind was made: pancakes were a must.

This all said, I was not going to go down the sugar rabbit hole, because not matter a craving, I cannot stomach the thought of all of that sweetness, first thing in the morning. Also, being mostly gluten-free (hell, I’ll cheat for some Roberta’s pizza or some ramen from my new favorite spot, Chuko, but not cheat for boring old pancakes…I mean, honestly), I decided to veer in the direction of earthy goodness versus sweet madness and lovingly embrace some buckwheat cakes. Buckwheat is actually somewhat of a misnomer because since it isn’t a grass, it’s not wheat at all – it is actually related to rhubarb, sorrel and knotweed. Buckwheat is delicious and wholesome, has a low glycemic index, is easy to digest, high in protein and it’s gluten-free.

Pancake salvation came in the form of a recipe from an adorable blog called Cookie + Kate, and aside from my choice of berries and deviation from traditional buttermilk, I followed the recipe pretty closely. The texture is light and airy versus the typically heavy pancake mass that rests in your belly for hours post meal, and the flavor is savory and almost mushroom-y. Topped with salted butter, blueberries, high quality maple syrup and some sea salt, this was the perfect Sunday treat and one that energized me into writing this blog, versus lulling me to a sugar-induced crash and burn. I’ll definitely be whipping these up again and maybe next time, serve them with sour cream, capers and smoked salmon. Enjoy!

Buckwheat Pancakes with Roasted Blueberries

  • 1 Cup of Buckwheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Buttermilk (this is what the original recipe called for, but instead, I used 3/4 Cups of Greek yogurt mixed with 1/2 Cups of Water – you may need to use less yogurt or more water to get the right consistency with the batter)
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Bag of Frozen Blueberries
  • Butter
  • Maple Syrup for Serving
  • Sea Salt for Serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, add the blueberries and toss them with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. Roast the berries for 30 minutes and then remove from the oven. Set aside both the berries and the juice to cool slightly.

Mix the buckwheat flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In another bowl, mix the buttermilk (or in my case, the yogurt with water), egg and vanilla extract. Gently, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and incorporate fully, making sure not to overwork the batter and also to leave small to medium lumps (this batter should not be totally smooth). If you find the batter too thick, add some water and/or milk a little at a time to thin it out.

Heat a heavy skillet over a medium flame and add an ample pat of butter. Using a measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, add some batter to the hot skillet (the first pancake is always the worst, but will be happily devoured by a canine companion – The Baj will attest to that). Cook for a few minutes and once the edges start to crisp and bubbles form, flip the cakes over. Cook on the other side for a few minutes and then transfer the cakes to a plate or if you are prepping a bunch of pancakes and want to keep them warm, slide them to a baking sheet and store them in an oven set at 200 degrees. Continue cooking the leftover batter and add butter to the pan in between each batch.

Serve the buckwheat pancakes with the roasted blueberries and sauce, some good butter, syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt. Enjoy!

Dinner for One

photo 1

I’m really good at feeling sorry myself.

Last night, after braving the rain on a night which I categorically hate (Halloween), my pup and I were on the last leg of our evening and on our way home. Our beloved and often elusive B38 bus was approaching, and so I gathered Bajji up in my arms and started to run. Before I could even board, the bus driver shook his head and said I wasn’t allowed on with Bajji. I told him that I had a legal dog carrier, but I just wanted to board before he left and that I would get my pup inside his bag immediately. The driver literally shut the bus down and said that he would not drive unless I got off. I pleaded with him and stated the obvious: it was after 12:30am, cold and raining and I just wanted to get home. He refused. A kind man told me to just stay on the bus – clearly everyone else was confused/appalled by this pathetic display of control and power – but not wanting to delay everyone else from getting home, I got off. And cursed the bus driver out. And presented my middle finger. And then started to cry. I felt pitiful, sad and cold and the sole caretaker of my little pup who seemed perfectly content to now be in his bag and in my arms, just the two of us.

Last night led me into a dark place today, which was proved to be even colder and more rain-filled, and I indulged my blue feelings with sad songs on repeat (listen to Jessie Ware’s “Say You Love Me” over and over, and I defy you not to sit in a puddle of your own tears). I started to lament my last heartbreak which, much to mother’s dismay, I have written about a bunch on this blog. Truth told, that last one crushed a piece of me and even though I put on a brave face and make jokes, I am not sure when I will get all of that piece back. I miss him. It’s taken me a while to realize that I don’t actually miss the real him, but I miss the him I had thought and hoped he was. The dream him. I fell in love and then I fell down. I spent a good deal of today wet from the rain, cold from my resistance to turning on my heat just yet and very puffy in the face from those sad songs and feeling that they were written just for me. And then I decided to go and get some ramen.

The sudden temperature change inspired a desperate need for hot soup, and even though none of my food-loving friends were available, I committed myself to skipping lunch, grabbing a book and heading over to Chuko in Prospect Heights for some gyoza and ramen. I got there just before it opened at 5:30pm and there was a thick crowd forming at the door, some couples and some families with loud-ass kids (why are the kids in Brooklyn so loud? When did the art of the cold parental stare warning of a spanking die?). I nudged my way up to the front as there was no way in hell that I wasn’t getting sat. I was dining solo; I wasn’t also going to wait outside in the wet cold praying for a table to open up. I am single, and while I might not ever get a plus one to weddings or any respect from my uncles, aunts and their judgmental Indian friends, you better be damn sure that I am getting sat straight away at the bar of the place I want to dine at. Period. Soon enough, I grabbed a perfect corner of the bar, ordered my beer, gyoza and kimchi pork ramen and got ready to throw down.

photo 2

I relaxed into my stool, opened up my book and suddenly felt okay. I could do this. Maybe not 5 years ago. Maybe not even 3 years ago – but today, I could do this. I could eat alone – during dinner time on a SATURDAY NIGHT – and feel good. My gyoza arrived and the crispy wrapper around the perfectly seasoned pork, dipped in the thin and salty sauce…holy s&*t. The fattiness of the pork mixed with the cold acidity of my beer was damn near perfection and I felt angry that the five dumplings ended as quickly as they did. Then came the ramen. Hot damn.

photo 3

The broth is a spicy, but not kick you in the face spicy, red miso that has an almost creamy without-the-cream quality to it. Floating among the succulent noodles were big pieces of kimchi, tender ground pork and the most custardy soft egg imaginable. The yolk added even more silkiness to the lush broth and the pork was a perfect rich texture addition to the bowl. It lacked a touch of salt and so I asked for a bit, and a small dish of beige salt was given to me. I had no idea what I was in for with this salt – yuzu zest mixed in with finely ground salt gave the ramen at soft brightness which wasn’t overpowering, but had a gentle undercurrent of citrus. I could have devoured my bowl, but I knew that I would literally NEED more tomorrow, and so I demonstrated some restraint and packed half to go.

I walked down the street to pick up a sweet product to bring home (hipster donuts for $3.50 each or a big old slice of pound cake from the old school soul food joint that’s managed to stay in business in spite of the obnoxious gentrification of the hood?…obvious choice was the pound cake, thank you), and I suddenly embraced the rain and cold. My t-shirt + cardigan + hoodie + jacket + self-knit scarf combo and my perfectly full belly made me feel invigorated and alive, and the weather which felt defeating the night before felt comforting and even blissful. I felt like I was a part of something – even if it was just being a part of those folks who left their warm homes to stand outside of Chuko for some ramen – and, for the first time all day, I didn’t feel so alone. Here’s the thing: I am all too familiar with the special kind of pain and loneliness which exists inside of a bad or dysfunctional relationship. The separate togetherness and the mutual fear of ending what is obviously over – I’ve lived in that world over and over and with different people. Now in my life, however, for the first time maybe ever, I am beginning to feel the true sense of contentedness while still being alone. It’s true that I don’t have dates on Sundays, I never come home to someone cooking for me, I have no one to introduce my friends or family to, I sometimes cry over my lost love while listening to songs on repeat and I don’t have anyone to miss in the way that feels good – but I also don’t have someone who takes me for granted, who makes promises he can’t keep, who wishes I weren’t there or worse, who just ignores me. I am alone in this world, but I am not lonely. I have me, my dog, my friends, my city and my time which is all my own – and today, I filled it with dumplings, a bowl of hot broth and noodles, a delicious beer and a corner seat from which as I was leaving, I spotted another lady sitting down at the bar, getting ready to dine solo and looking just as pleased with herself as I was.

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The Baj’s Misadventure



Yeah, so my dog got lost. That’s now checked off the list.

Midday on October 10, 2012, after a long and curvy drive from NYC to outer NJ, my dear friend and I met Bajji (who was then called by his shelter “Puck”). I took one look at him and I started to panic. I took another look at him, really took him, and I thought, “Nope. This isn’t my dog. He’s wearing a diaper.” Puny with an oversized head, he donned a blue strap slash belt thing around his waist with an unseen maxi pad soaking up all of his pee – a force that my carpets and I would soon get to know all too well. He was erratic and hectic and worst of all, wanted to have nothing to do with me. He had clearly bonded with his foster mother and the 22 other dogs in her care, not to mention her 3 adopted completely biologically-related children, all under the age of 3 years old…forget Super Mom. The woman is Super Human. He didn’t even care to look at me. Pressured to seem like I was feeling the joy among the crazy with the dogs, crying children and maxi-pad wearing mutt that was supposed to be all mine, I feigned excitement and put him on my lap to try to engage him. No success. My heart was racing and as what always happens when I go into Fight/Flight mode, I started to wonder about the state of the bathroom, because I might need to handle some business with a quickness. The panic started to increase when I looked at my friend who smiled and whispered, “Anitha, this is your dog. He’s your dog.” Oh, sh*t.

The next couple of days were filled with puddles of pee, piles of poop, crying, FB status updates begging for advice, not much eating, nights sleeping upright with Bajji cradled in my arms and a general sense that even with a living creature next to me, I was all alone in the world. For the non-dog people out there, this may seem extreme, but let’s be clear: dogs can put the fear of God in you and not because they bite. With all of their canine cuteness, you think it’s all good because at least they aren’t babies, but still, they might destroy your house, bark till the neighbors want you evicted  and then choke to death on something sharp that you left out and it will all be your fault. The eternal innocence of a dog is a beautiful and scary thing and I was freaked out. My fear made me feel responsible for Bajji, but also completely disconnected. I didn’t like this new addition to my life.

A few days later, my friend took us to a pet store to trick Bajji out with things he would eventually destroy with his power-chewing (for all of his bladder weakness, my dog’s jaw grip has ripped apart a toy made out of a tire. Yes, a tire.). Stepping outside to take a phone call, I heard the saddest whimpering in the whole world and it took me a minute to realize that it was Bajji staring at me from inside the store. Ears pressed down and his eyes full of fear, whatever ambivalence I felt from and towards him for the past few days seemed to disappear as he was desperate to have me back. When I returned, I picked him up and for a second, my fear subsided as I felt my heart warming up a bit for this guy. I was getting there, but not fully.

A week later during a session with his trainer, Bajji grabbed a chicken bone and for fear of losing it, swallowed it whole. A cooked chicken bone is hollow and brittle and can splinter a dog’s GI track which can prove painful and deadly. I was a basket case. I called in sick and overfed him rice and potatoes in hopes that whatever passed, it would have plenty of cushion to do so safely. I sat down, with him tightly held in my arms, and cried louder and uglier than I had in years. I prayed for the first time in years (sorry, Mom). I literally begged that he not die because I couldn’t imagine losing this little poop factory. I have no idea when the love grenade landed on me, but it seemed to detonate the very minute I thought Bajji could be gone so miserably. My fear of losing him was way bigger than the urine storm which he dropped on the daily, and that was the minute I fell hard for my dog We have been madly in love ever since.

Shoot forward to 2 weeks ago. I was working in downtown Baltimore when I received a hard to decipher message from an unknown number. Delete…no, wait. Let me listen to that again. Still can’t hear it…delete – wait. Did I hear the word “pause?” Listen again…can’t hear much…”white paws…” White paws? I called the number back and I could still hardly hear, but what I could get is that a woman had found my dog and she was just about to call Animal Control, but he was safe and sound. For a second, I felt that fear from the day with the chicken bone, but it quickly subsided and I raced out of the convention, GPS’ed her address and hit the road. My hands tightly on 2 and 10 o’clock, driving 85 MPH and 90 minutes later, I picked up Bajji from a kind woman in Arlington, VA. Earlier in the day in DC, where my sweet boy was being cared for, he got spooked before being walked and bolted out of the house, down the street and out of sight. He’s clearly smarter than I even know and ran to a park that we visit when in DC, sat down next to a car and waited until someone came to get him. It seems that with a calm but scared face and trembling back leg, he eventually approached the kind woman who had the good sense to coax him to her and then relaxed into her car relieved that his misadventure was somewhat over (apparently, the minute he was in her backseat, he was very happy).

When I picked him up, I finally let myself cry and basically promised this woman all of my organs, both of my eyes, lots of money and the deed to my home (ultimately, I sent her a bouquet of flowers). While I was thrilled to see him, Bajji seemed nonplussed and completely uninterested in me. As we walked away, Bajji’s eyes opened up wildly and he stared after the woman – it was clear that he was distressed to see her go. He didn’t want me – he wanted her. Like the day when I first met him, he was completely uninterested in me and shut me out. It was only after we pulled up to my friend’s house that he bolted into her home and then became attached to either her or my lap for the rest of the day. He fell asleep almost immediately and whatever wits and bravery this 3 year old had in him, it left him exhausted, drained and needing some extra care.

Later that evening, I thought about how Bajji seemed to replace me for the nice lady who saved him  and then cleaned up his pee in her elevator (you can take Bajji out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the pee out of Bajji…you don’t need to take it, he’ll give it to you freely), and I felt pretty okay with it. I don’t like to take second place in the love game, but this time, I felt differently. I figured that if anything should ever happen and Bajji and I were no longer together, as long as fate put him with someone kind, he’d be okay. He might even forget all about me and that would be fine – in fact, it would be what I’d hope for. Now, let me be clear: I am not deep. I am petty, narrow-minded, cold at times, bitchy at other times, catty and judgmental (if you don’t believe me, I can give you some references who will gladly attest to this claim). I want to win just like anyone else and competitive doesn’t even begin to describe how I roll. That all said, acknowledged and dutifully being dealt with in meditation and therapy, I didn’t feel that way towards Bajji. I don’t want my little guy to feel a moment of loss, and if that meant he forgot all about me and loved someone else, that’s exactly right.  I guess, maybe I’ve never loved anyone like I love him. All I want is for him to be happy and to grow up to be an old man whose very last days are filled with cheeseburgers, vanilla ice cream and belly rubs. This might be a sad testament to my life, but I don’t think anyone has loved me with such unadulterated commitment than my dog does – and you know what? I’ll take it. Feeling that kind of love, even if from an animal, is life-affirming and makes every day a worthwhile one.

A couple of weeks before Bajji got lost and found, he and I chased after a runaway dog for 20 minutes. Through the hood, then the park and then back in the hood, this dog proved to be way too fast for me, and as a team, we eventually lost him. I sent out a message to the universe: if ever Bajji was in trouble, please let someone take pause to help him out. Maybe it was that little thing, but all I can say is that if my debt is even given my heartfelt, but failed prior attempt, I am still going to be paying it forward for a long while to come. Someone saved Bajji and I owe the universe a debt. Bajji and I are back in Brooklyn, back in the flow and back in love. It’s all good.

Vegetable Mash

Vegetable Mash

NYC is a place where you can be great friends with someone for years and years and still never visit where he or she lives. Outings at the park, restaurants, free concerts, the bar, another bar, the beach, the bar again – NY’ers bathe and sleep at home but do most else, well, elsewhere. Being out of the house to socialize typically leads to the one thing most NY’ers cannot imagine congregating without: booze. We don’t do this healthy west coast thing of meeting up for a green juice or a green tea or green smoothie…yes, we will chat over a coffee, but that’s before 4pm after which rose (in the summer time) and red (in the every other time) or beer (in tall glass) or bourbon (in an Old Fashioned) become the inspiration for staying away from a Netflix-fueled marathon of Friday Night Lights and living out in the actual world. If it’s green and in our vicinity, it’s because it’s guacamole next to our tequila (in a spicy margarita). That’s where the green ends for social hour in NYC.

All of this imbibing can make a closer to 40 years old than 30 years old person feel less than awesome. I love a drink or 4, but my body just cannot handle all of that poison like it used to and after a heavy session, it and my mood just don’t feel right at all. My solution is to live in regret, make some unrealistic promises to go a couple of weeks without drinking (that’s impossible, because I’ve finished Friday Night Lights), hydrate on tons of room temperature water and eat as cleanly as I possibly can. Sadly, I sort of think salads are so lame that I can’t bear it. Of late, my fix has been to get my oven really hot, cover a bunch of vegetables in healthy fats and seasoning, throw them in all at once and forget about them for 35-40 minutes. Once done, the veggies go directly into my Vitamix with some stock and a few pulses later, I have a rich and savory mash – okay, grown-up baby food – which I can Tupperware away and throw down to clean it all out (and trust, this will CLEAN IT OUT).

This mash is lovely in that you can use almost any hearty vegetable you have on hand which takes to roasting. It’s gluten-free and vegan (if using veggie stock) and packs in so many vegetables, it’ll kick your salad to the curb. Below is the recipe I used for the mash in the above picture, but note that I also love using roasted broccoli, potatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, squash, herbs and whatever else I gather from the farmers market. As long as you can roast it, you can throw it in.

Vegetable Mash

  • A Bunch of Golden Beets
  • A Handful of Multi-colored Carrots – Peeled and Roughly Chopped
  • A Handful of String Beans
  • 1/2 Cup of Stock (I used chicken, but if you use veggie, this will be a vegan dish)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place your carrots and beans on a lined baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Rinse of the beets in cold water and chop off the rough ends. Tightly wrap and enclose the beets in one big piece of aluminum foil and then place directly on the rack to roast in the oven until tender (depending on the size of your beets, 35-45 minutes). While the beets roast, the carrots and beans can cook in the oven as well, but they may cook faster (20-30 minutes). Once the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and let them to cool. Wait until the beets have fully cooled so you can handle them with your hands. The skins should peel off easily, but use a knife if you are struggling. Add all of your cooked vegetables to your Vitamix, blender or food processor and add the stock to get the blade going. Puree until you have a rough consistency and check for seasoning – salt and pepper as needed. This puree should last in the fridge for 3-5 days and serve either warm or at room temperature with a touch of olive oil drizzled on top. Enjoy!

Clean Out Your Closet…and Drink Your Salad

Green JuiceI tend to rely too much on having fun and in doing so, I often let the wrong ones in. Actually, letting the wrong ones in became a finely-tuned habit of mine this past year and I found myself feeling beat down and worn out by several toxic relationships in the recent months. Here’s the thing: I’m an only child who grew up with over-worked parents and fairly apathetic after-school caretakers and so, I spent lots of time alone. My parents moving me from a very kid-friendly neighborhood to an isolated cul-de-sac block didn’t help matters. I guess I could have turned out to be a shy but quietly brilliant person, capable of making some great change in the world because of all of the time I spent reading and developing my intellect – but instead, I became someone who knows a little about a lot, who talks to anyone and everyone and makes friends quickly – way too quickly. I was marinating over this perspective to a friend (a dear trusted friend) last night over (of course) drinks, and she told me that there’s this theory that if you believe that most people are truly good and have honest intentions, this is actually a part of our instinctual survival. If we feared others and never took risks, then we’d be stuck in our caves and could never progress. She assured me that how I go about meeting people is, even while often backfiring, an instinct to survive on the most basic level. That said and done, with so much toxicity I’ve felt for the past several months, of late, I have been much happier hiding in my cave with my pup.

I think we are all so terrified and insecure and just want to be a part of something, and so we collect friends like coupons – the more the better. In this past year of making and letting go of relationships, I’ve learned that just because I have common interests with someone, it doesn’t mean we have common values. Sure, you may live in my zip code, have a dog, love coffee with brown sugar syrup, have a loose schedule that allows you lots of time to overthink, enjoy going out to eat and then recapping about the meal the next day, like nice clothes and talking trash about love and what comes with it…BUT, is that a friendship make? I often think about my oldest friend who grew up a few houses away on that cul-de-sac block and I think we’d both agree that if we met one another today, we’d never be friends. Honestly, I can’t imagine a situation or circumstance when we’d meet. We don’t share the same politics, music, speaking volumes (no shock, I am much louder), table manners (no shock, hers are much better), clothes, lifestyles, neighborhoods or hobbies. When my newer friends see us together, they are often surprised because we are just so very different – but still, she is one of my most tried and true friends and without a doubt, if I called her at 3am to ask her to fly out to the middle of nowhere to come get me because I was in trouble, she would – no questions asked. She listens to me without judgment and accepts me for who I am, and I do the same for her. Our commitment to one another is beyond how we spend our time – it’s a part of who we are.

So, a little over a year after I started to become “good” friends with just about anyone who intersected my daily schedule, I’ve been thinking about my desire to be seen and heard. I know it comes from a place of feeling lonely and left out, of wanting to be liked by many (if not loved by few) and the feeling of wanting attachment and acceptance, but looking for it from the wrong people. Just as I had my heart broken by a man earlier this year, I realize that my heart’s been broken by a few women whom I trusted when I shouldn’t have – and ultimately, it’s okay. All of these people were just being who they were, being true to their own realities and I had hoped for something else that couldn’t really be. For all I know, I broke a bunch of hearts myself. Since coming to grips with all of this extra clutter in my life and having spent ample solo time in my cave, I’ve done a lot of cleaning out and have taken many steps back. I’m feeling less needy and desperate and, instead, more patient and at ease. I’m filling my days with people who are honest and true, who will call me out when I need to be and who love me through it all. People who know how to hurt me and in knowing that, won’t ever try to do it.

Because my body is so deeply connected to how I’m doing emotionally, I’ve also been doing some internal cleaning out by eating as naturally and healthfully as I can (even my wine being natural and unadulterated).  Every Saturday, my eyes open up wide to take in the gorgeous produce that fills the farmers market, and I often buy way too much. I just can’t help myself. When I don’t have time to cook all of these goodies, I turn to my blender and make a juice that makes me feel clean and nourished and loved from the inside. The better I feel the better I am to face disappointments, see them for the lessons they are and get healthier. With a clear head and belly, I truly do feel happy.

Green Juice Your Salad

  • Several Stalks of Celery w Leaves
  • Several Romaine Lettuce Leaves
  • 1/2 of an Apple
  • 1/2 of a Zucchini
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Handful of Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon of Flax Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon of Honey
  • 2 Cups of Filtered Water

Place all of your ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and blend until very smooth and thin. Add more water if you need to get the consistency you like. If I’m feeling brave, I will keep the fiber in, but this can be very tough on my digestion – it depends on how cleanly I’ve been eating. I much prefer to strain out the pulp using a sieve or a cheese cloth (and maybe leaving just a bit of pulp for the fantastic fiber benefit – no immediate road trips if you take this option). Pour over ice and enjoy.

*This recipe is very flexible and isn’t really a recipe in that I just use whatever I have in the fridge from my trip to the farmers market. Other things to add are: kale, bell pepper, carrots, beets, mint and/or chia seeds.