are you itchy?

Do you feel content? Most likely, each of us would answer that question differently given our present life circumstances and our state of mind at the time.  

If Ollie, our 3 year old labradoodle, were asked, I am pretty certain he would give a rapid-fire bark response.  ”Yes, (bark, bark, bark! as he announces his answer to the world, head held high ) there is contentment in this world.  If I’ve had enough activity, contentment is resting after running and playing!”   

For Ollie, contentment doesn’t come easily.  He is an intense pup. A good hour’s run will take the edge off, as it did the day I took the picture posted above.  After a satisfactory run,  he’ll rest comfortably during the day, albeit mostly awake and alert, always at the ready for his next adventure.  God bless him.  A good 2 1/2 hour romp including lots of running and play is really more his style.

For most of us, much like Ollie, contentment does not come easily.  I think each of us knows, subconsciously or consciously, contentment does not come from external sources.  Our actions, however, indicate otherwise.  How many of us when feeling bored, irritable, or disconcerted reach for a bag of chips or head to the mall for so-called retail therapy?  As a society, we welcome distractions.

There are times in my life when I think distractions, if used well, are healthy.  If distractions are used as purely escapist behaviors, then a problem is simply being avoided.  And, most likely, nothing is being solved or addressed.  

Let me give you an example.  There is an obsessive side to me.  I know it.  It is there.  It will most likely always be there.  If I am obsessing about something, I can do one of three things.  1)  I can continue to obsess about it.  2)  I can sit with it in meditation and try to look beyond the obsession and dissect the emotional layers underneath.  3)  Or, I can set it aside, choose a healthy outlet for my energy, and move on.  

This is where contentment and distraction intersect.  In the example above, the problem arises if I choose to continually avoid the feeling or thought that is bothering me by using an escapist behavior.  If I continue to avoid the feeling or thought by distracting myself, the problem will not be addressed; and, in all likelihood, it will get worse until it manifests itself in some way that demands attention.  In this scenario, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  I am seeking contentment externally, outside of myself.  

Whereas, if I take the time to simply acknowledge the feeling or thought, and accept it, if that is comfortable, and then remain with that thought or feeling by sitting quietly, I begin to address the issue.  I have addressed the issue by not running from it, by acknowledging it, and maybe accepting it.  I have taken a step toward well-being and contentment.    If I choose to not acknowledge this part of me, distract myself, and run from the problem continually,  I’ve then used distractions as escapist behavior. And, I have not moved toward well-being and contentment.  

There are a myriad of distractions in this world leading to momentary hits of pleasure, (plug your favorite in here… from retail therapy to gambling.)  Daily distractions can and do continually rub up against our ability to be content like a persistently itchy mosquito bite demanding attention.  So, what is the big deal? Why not scratch that darn bite?  Seeking pleasure and happiness from external sources may bring us to a brief state of contentment, but it is not long-lasting.    

So, what is one to do to combat everyday life?  Try resting in your own space without needing to do anything, just being.  If you are game, try it for a few minutes each day.  Sit comfortably in a quiet space. Listen to yourself breathe.  See if it changes your perspective, or slightly, subtly, buoys your sense of well-being and contentment.  

Is it a cure-all? Will you stop wanting to scratch that mosquito bite?  I don’t know.  But, you may find you are a little less itchy, and more content.    



I really enjoy simple, vegetarian meals.  But, to my mind, they’ve got to be substantial and full of flavor. Thanks to Molly at Remedial Eating, I now have another good, simple vegetarian meal to tuck into the back of my mind.  No recipe required.  

I have long been a fan of roasted vegetables.  A few of my favorites I put in the oven are parsnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  But, I tend to roast my favorites again and again.  Another good thing about Molly’s idea for a meal?  This vegetarian dish incorporates eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, and green beans. Vegetables I don’t reach for often enough.  I am glad to have an excuse to roast something different.

The basic components are roasted vegetables served over brown rice, a fried egg on top, and feta crumbled over the whole.  More specifically, I put on each plate a bed of brown rice, added a bit of soy sauce, placed the roasted vegetables on top of the rice,  crumbled feta over the vegetables and topped it with one or two fried eggs. Cannelini or garbanzo beans could be incorporated for a bigger dose of protein and fiber.  

For those of you who prefer a recipe, below are loose guidelines to create this meal.  Cheers.  

Roasted Vegetables and Eggs                                Serves 3   

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice, make according to package directions, set aside

1 medium eggplant, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

2- 3 summer squash or zucchini, rinsed, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 large handfuls fresh green beans, rinsed, cut off ends, cut in half

1 – 2 eggs per person

feta cheese 

soy sauce to drizzle over rice  

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the brown rice and let cook while the vegetables roast.  
  2. On a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, place prepared vegetables.  Salt and pepper the vegetables.  Drizzle olive oil, two to three T., over the entire batch.  Toss to coat. Spread evenly on cookie sheet.  Roast 35 – 45 minutes until vegetables are fork tender and begin to carmelize.  Check after 35 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium size frying pan.  As soon as veg is done, fry the eggs in a little butter and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  
  4. While the eggs are frying, place rice on each plate, drizzle with soy sauce, add veg., grate cheese over veg and rice, top with fried egg.   Serve immediately.   

 

you are on the right path, baby

The past few months I’ve been thinking, it is just me or are the mosquitoes as bad as they seem to be?  As it turns out, it is the worst mosquito season in history, or so I am told.

To be outside means you have to either keep moving or don long sleeves and long pants because within less than a minute, five to six mosquitoes will be on one limb of your body.   Well, ok.  I can handle that.  But, I want my two pups to be able to play outside without seeing them covered in mosquitoes.   Solution?  Bat house!

Then, my thoughts immediately trip to…quick, Kelly, run to the house!  Order online two bat houses!  (Why two, I have no idea, when one would be plenty.)  Request that your husband go to the hardware store and immediately buy two posts to put the bat houses on!  (Never mind the bat houses will probably take at least 3 – 5 days for delivery.)

Problem solved or an example of impulsivity?  Maybe both.  But, I’ve found there are very few moments in life that demand an immediate reaction.  Mosquitoes and bat houses should not be one of them.

More typically than not, forethought and a period of time stands a person in better stead than reacting.  I’ve learned how to keep my impulsivity in check.  Now, that desire to react immediately rarely comes up.  (However, when I am in a certain frame of mind, I am much more vulnerable to it.)

In learning to keep impulsivity in check, did I develop a different neural pathway?  I think so.

Each person’s neural pathways are created over time.  Our cells talk to each other. They send electrochemical messages to each other endlessly.  Over time, we tend to develop well worn neural pathways. The more the same cells talk to each other, the more the others do not experience as much activity or no activity, the inactive cells essentially become useless and eventually die off.  The active cells keep sending the same messages between them, traveling the same path.

Dr. Gene Van Tassell describes the pathways as, “the more often a pathway is used, the more sensitive the pathway becomes and the more developed that pathway becomes in the individual brain.”

Ok, so we’ve developed many well worn pathways in our brain.  Big deal?  Maybe yes, maybe no.   It is a big deal if those pathways lead us away from healthy behavior.  If those pathways find us repeating behaviors that are destructive or counterproductive. It is then that someone should call a time-out on the playing field.

Time-out’s are good.  They can help keep things in check.  If life is far off base, sure it can be tough to get things headed in the right direction.  But, you’ll get there.  Take the steady approach, thumb your nose at impulsivity, and while you are at it, bake a quiche. Why?  Why not.

For dinner, I pair it with a simple green salad and bread with olive oil.

I’ve played around with a number of different types of quiches and different crusts.  A quiche that I want to eat does not have a crust and relies on something other than cheese for the big flavor component.  So, I stir in 2  1/2 cups of roasted vegetables.  The flavor of the vegetables marries well with the eggs and cheese.  If the roasted vegetables are prepared in advance, this can be a quick weeknight meal.  Leftovers are good for breakfast as well, cold or hot.

Farmhouse Crustless Quiche

4  eggs

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. ricotta or mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 c. mixture of shredded cheeses, pecorino, cheddar, asiago, mozzarella, your choice

2 1/2 c. roasted vegetables, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, onions (recipe below)

1 T. oregano

salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional condiments:  sour cream and salsa

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a deep dish 9″ pie plate.  Place pie plate on a baking sheet to avoid spillage in the oven.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk eggs and milk together.  Whisk in cheeses, both shredded and ricotta or mascarpone.  Whisk until yolks are broken and mixture is incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add oregano.  Whisk to combine.

3.  Fold the vegetable mixture into the cheese mixture.  Stir to combine.

4.  Pour the mixture into the pie plate.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a golden brown crust forms on the top and the middle of the quiche barely moves when jiggled a bit.

Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve topped with sour cream or salsa, if desired.

Roasted Vegetables

Yield 3 cups +
Cooks Note:  The mixture of the vegetables is up to you.  Use what you have on hand.  I’ve found carrots, parsnips and onions add great flavor.   Add  a green vegetable such as broccoli or asparagus for color and additional nutrients.  Bell peppers would work well, any color.  The trick is to cut the vegetables into similar sizes so they roast evenly.

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 carrots, rinsed and chopped

3 – 4 parsnips, rinsed and chopped

2 c.  broccoli florets, rinsed

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Pile your vegetables on two large rimmed baking sheets, evenly divided.  Drizzle olive oil over the top, maybe 2 – 3 T. over each pile of vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, toss the vegetables to incorporate the oil, salt and pepper.

2.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer on each sheet.  Check for doneness after 30 minutes of baking.  Roast 30 – 45 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown and are fork tender.