Presence of the Every-Day Warrior

The Every-Day Warrior asks not how many are the enemy, but where they are present.

For so many of us, these days have become shadowy and murky,  though the spirit of  others’ light and  joy seems to be everywhere but within us.  A vast gulf separates what we see apart from ourselves and what lies within us.  We know where the enemy resides in the frontless battles being waged in our minds and we ask ourselves  How is it that though we promise ourselves to be uplifted by the spirit of the days, there comes a moment when we buckle and find ourselves in retreat?

Take heart.  Take a moment.  Be Mindful and Present.

For in the end, as Every-Day Warriors  . . .

We have learned that in returning and  rest we are  comforted and safe.

In quietness and confidence we are replenished and strengthened.

And when we allow ourselves to be lifted unto the presence of our Creator we can be still, and know.

Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

A Treasured Memory

Interesting that I would think of this story, actually a metaphor, at Christmastime, because, except for giblet gravy, liver was not a part of our family tradition and neither was Eggplant, for that matter.  It’s just, well, about power and our struggle to create some illusion that we have it.  In the day before yesterday’s posting, it was about challenging traditions, roles, expectations, and what meaning we can create and celebrate from our own experiences.  Rejecting the physiologically repugnant on the one hand, and opening our minds to the process of acquired tastes.

The recipe in this posting is really quite wonderful and I invite you to either have a go at making your own or at least acquiring a jar at a specialty store.

The Difference Between Liver and Eggplant.

 From “The Jelly Chronicles”, 2011.
I read an article about liver.  Do you know that when it comes to the number one detested food around Liver is right up there at the top.  There are also various reasons why people don’t like liver.  Usually it’s because liver makes your stomach turn.  One bite makes you gag and if you are forced to swallow because your mom threatened to make you eat it for breakfast, it becomes a  lethal projectile.

My mom fried liver and onions like this.  Dredge in flour, fry it in bacon grease along with a bunch of onions and serve it up with broccoli.   We lived in Baldwin Park the first time Mom served up liver.  It was the mother of all power struggles as I recall.  When I gagged  up the first bite my mom’s face got all red and screwed up. I knew I was in for a rough night.  Take another bite, toss it up, how many times, I just don’t know.  She stood over me.  Arms crossed, a scowl.   Waiting.  Foot tapping. I think I won that round because  Mom told me that if I didn’t eat my liver I could jolly well see how I’d like it for breakfast. Win by default, for a minute. At breakfast everyone else had oatmeal.  The liver standoff between my mother and me entered round 2.  I got my stubborn streak from my mother.  No mas.

Now, the first time my mother served eggplant was when we lived in the old Rhinacle Place out near the rifle range and west of Wonacott’s Dairy.  Dad had plowed the area behind the house and created a garden for Mom.  I know she grew lots of vegetables that year and in a sense that garden was her refuge and salvation.  Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, eggplant.    Eggplant.  What a curiosity for a young girl.  That mysterious and murkey color, the shape.  The way it stood out to my eye compared to the rest.  

Actually, it wasn’t bad. Mom had dredged it in flour and fried it in bacon grease just like chicken, cube steak, and liver.  Salt and pepper. For a 3rd grader it was up there with green beans, broccoli, and brussles sprouts in the take it, hide it, or leave it category.  

Liver.  Never developed a liking to it.  Over the years it became even more revolting to me.  All I had to do was just imagine sitting down to a plate of it and my stomach would do back flips.  It was the apex of martyrdom each time I would prepare liver and onions for my first husband.  Oh what leverage I could reap from that.  Those who like liver don’t get it in the same way that I don’t get it that anyone could eat that stuff.  One time a liver loving family member thought she would experiment with this theory and she snuck chunks of  it into what would have been a lovely shared family meal.  Guess what. 

So.  Eggplant.  Ever constant.  A seductive presence in Gordon Headly’s produce section of Safeway.  Fast forward.  An Italian feast.  Maybe my late 20s.  And there, right there, Eggplant Parmagian.  Synapses firing, a never consumated love rekindled in that moment.  Each slice wrapped in its own, deep purple eloquence, whispering from beneath that marinara and mozzerella.  Dredged in bread crumbs and egg, fried in Olive Oil.   

Eggplant and tomatoes are members of the same family.   First cousins.   In Europe the tomato was once thought to be poisonous and eggplant was once known as “Mad Apple” all because of a superstitious belief that eggplant made you crazy.  I guess I might have drawn the same conclusion knowing that eggplant is associated with the Deadly Nightshade family. Belladonna is of the Deadly Nightshade family. The English are responsible for the name Eggplant because  the variety grown in that  region was eggshaped.  The original name is Abergine.  That’s what the French call it, while the Italians refer to eggplant as Melanzana.  We thank the Spanish for introducing tomatoes and eggplant to the Americas.

I love eggplant.  It’s truly one of those acquired tastes that either comes on gradually or, as in my case, suddenly and thoroughly.  There’s a bajillian ways to prepare and serve eggplant and I love them all.  Rattatouille, Stuffed Eggplant (with ricotta filling), Eggplant Pizza (North End, Boston).  Eggplant Chutney. 

Liver.  You love it or hate it.  Never an acquired taste.  It’s ugly and slithery.  It comes from the family of organ meat.  A bad neighborhood at best.  No matter how you cook it, it’s still liver.  You can alienate family members if you sneak it in a perfectly wholesome stew. Fool me once.

Eggplant.  A romance of history, comes from a reputable family with a distinguished pedigree.  Eggplant invites you to expand your culinary world.  Even if you do not care for Eggplant, it is still such a pretty enhancement in your garden or in the bounty of market produce. 

And so.  Challenge your imagination and try this recipe for Eggplant Chutney.  You just might fall in love!

Eggplant Chutney

1 Eggplant cut into 1″ cubes.  Do NOT peel.
1/2 cup diced sundried tomatoes.
2 tsp kosher salt.
1TBS. Herbs Provence.
1 TBS cloves.
1 TBS mustard.
1 TSP mustard seed.
3 Cups Granulated Sugar.
1 3/4 Cups red wine.
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar.

Fire up your canner to a rolling boil.
Sterilize your 1/2 pint jars in the canner.

Put all your ingredients in a large stainless steel pot.
Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat.
Boil gently uncovered about 25 minutes.

Remove hot jars from the canner and ladle chutney into them to within 1/2 inch of the top.
Seal with sterile lids and secure the rings.

Process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes, depending on the elevation.

When the process is finished, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner.

Allow the jars to remain in the canner for an additional 5 minutes.
Lift jars out of the canner and transfer to a towel covered surface.

Allow jars to cool, undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Check the seals.  The lids should curve down.

Serve with beef or lamb.  OR, over warm brie. 


Mind Your Good Tidings

According to my kids’ Christmas lists, they think this parenting gig pays pretty well.   SarcasticMommy@sarcasticmommy4

Whoa.  The energy and momentum pushing toward THE day that lies ahead are gaining strength, aren’t they?

At this point, if we take our eye off the ball, Good Tidings of Joy could morph into a Joyless, emotions driven Tidal Wave of Overwhelming Proportions.

Just a few reminders, ok?

Take it easy.  Do a mindful moment to center yourself.

No good decisions or the best of gestures ever arose out of a cluttered or stressed mindset.

Be alert to emotions driven pressure to spend beyond the budget.

Guilt is the biggest culprit in driving overreach, overdoing, overspending, or overindulging.  It comes in the form of internal messages that convince you that unless you buy the $200.00 sneakers or the latest x-box gadgets  for your kid, you will forever be fallen from favor.

Hold fast!  You can do this.  Think ahead to January 15th when the credit card bills arrive.  Ask yourself, “Is overspending, overdoing, and overindulging the example I want to set for my children?”

Keep moving but not overly so.  Tend to traditions, and not to the extent that you are a slave to them.

Enjoy this day.  See you tomorrow.





A Recipe for A Saucy Holiday

The Season of Light

What a wonderful time of year we have before us. As we welcomed family and friends to share a Thanksgiving feast we have before us the days of preparation, anticipation, and expectation. Nostalgia for past warm and lovely holiday experiences raise within us a sense of comfort and connectedness as ancient traditions are upheld and new practices are adopted to enhance our fulfillment of joy and light

A Sweet and Tart Holiday

How often have you promised yourself that “this year will be different”? With all that Joy and Expectation, the downside is that in spite of our best of intentions, strong emotions and desire to please with perfection often get the better of us. We spend too much, consume too much, and get sucked into friction and tension when expectations go unmet. By January 5th we are exhausted, broke, a few pounds heavier, and kicking ourselves for falling victim to unrealistic expectations.

This year, be daring. Think outside the giftwrapping. Be saucy, as in the Cranberry sort. Be Tart, as in setting limits and holding to them. Be Sweet, as in how you are among family and friends, just so to balance your newly found saucy side. Be a bit Nutty. I add walnuts to my Cranberry Sauce, just because I like them. I make the pieces large enough so that if you don’t like them you can just eat around them. Add your apples, limes, lemons, and oranges. Bring out the bitter-sweetness of Holidays Past. Be spicy. Cloves, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg contain properties that can relieve stress, support digestive functioning, and may improve ability to focus and enhance creativity. Take a mindful moment to absorb, reflect, and relax in the presence of these olfactory delights. And finally, when you go shopping for the ingredients for your saucy feast, go ahead an park your car farther away than normally from the entrance to the market. Get a hitch in your step as you walk into the store and parade up and down the aisles.  Active muscles and exercise help to keep the holiday boogey man away.

It’s the Season of Light: Lighten Up!

  • Play the music that arouses your spirits.
  • Dance in the Kitchen.
  • Decorate at will…or Not!
  • Allow for dust.
  • So your best serving dish is chipped. Big deal.
  • Wear jeans to dinner.
  • Invite positive elements into your gatherings!

Enjoy the Days Ahead

May Peace be a Welcome Guest in Your Home.

Cranberry Sauce

The humble Cranberry is one of the most powerfully beneficial enhancement to our diet, provided you aren’t allergic.  Good for the digestive tract, urinary tract, and contain copious amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.  Inflammation contributes to crankiness, and who needs more crankiness this time of year?

All you have to do is follow the directions on the fresh Cranberry package. Then add the following:

Whole Small Lemon

Whole Lime

Half Orange

Half Granny Smith Apple

Chop the fruit, skin and all.

Half cup chopped nuts 




Simmer a couple of minutes. 

Chill. No, really, Chill!

It’s a good idea to make this the night before.


A Handy Guide for Managing the Holidays


I love the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Oh the scents, the sounds, the tastes, textures, and scenes, and how these bring back dear times shared with family and friends. At the onset of Thanksgiving, images of holidays past place themselves right in the middle of our present and  we set our course to do those things that upheld the comfort of ancient traditions:

Recipes.  Servings.  Placements.  Schedules.   Who does what.  Who brings what.  And so on.   The mind does a very good job in pulling us into holidays past. We anticipate, we expect, and we believe.  There is hope.

Where the Mind Falls Short

Nostalgia for Holidays past is an abundant presence as Thanksgiving nears.  Why,  this very weekend many of us are fast at work making advance preparations for the kickoff event that ushers in the “Holiday Season”.

Not quite so present, if at all present, are the darker memories of unmet expectations in holidays past.

  • The guilt, anger, and disappointment around not pulling off the greatest feast ever.
  • The let-down that you failed to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
  • That, once again, no matter how hard you tried, how much you (over) spent for what you thought were the perfect gifts, it wasn’t good enough. Nothing you did was, for that matter.

Maybe you or someone else drank too much and unfiltered words were broadcast with unbridled toxicity at dinner.  Your or your spouse’s broken promise to behave was par for the course.

You missed the mark, again, and again, and again.

And what is the reward for all your best of intentions?

January 15th.

Reality hits with a big thud. The credit card bills, the New Year’s resolution that went up in smoke. The relentless inner scolding that, once again, you got sucked into the belief that maybe, just maybe, it will be different this year.  But it wasn’t different.  Same old crap, just a year later.

This, too, is a holiday tradition, a tradition that is ever present, yet stealth and patient.  Absent are all hope and faith in the idea of a perfect holiday.  Let’s call it the Annual Holiday Emotional Hangover.  A.H.E.H.  January lingers like an unwelcome intruder.  February offers a bit of a reprieve that perhaps winter will be over before 6 weeks.  Groundhog’s Day.

If all this sounds way familiar, it could strike you that in the big picture, you are not alone in what happens during the Holidays. How emotions and irrational thinking sucks us into doing things that in the end, are self-defeating.

A Few Handy Tips to Lessen A.H.E.H.

Be sure to review The Every-Day Warrior page on this blog.

Be mindful of Principle # 1 in the Handy Guide for the Every Day Warrior.

The Past is Always Present

Think Ahead.  Plan for stress  the same way  you would plan your Thanksgiving or other Holiday Feast.  Know and acknowledge the emotional ingredients that go into the recipe for the delusion, disappointment, and disparity of  the Mid January AHEH.

  • When you are beginning  to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, worry, or fear of making the wrong choice, stop.
    • Take a mindful moment.
    • Breathe in, breathe out.  Repeat times 10 times 3 times.
    • Sit with the emotions and feel them.
    • What in your past is being represented here?
    • Notice your immediate surroundings.
      • The feel of your feet on the floor.
      • The scents.
      • The tastes.
      • Sounds.
      • Touch
      • What you see.
      • Continue breathing.  1o times 3 times.
      • The emotions will ease up after about 3 minutes or so.

If you are  craving alcohol or another drug:

  • Your cravings are nothing more than memories of past pleasures.  These are quite powerful and hard to resist.
    • Having Fun.
    • Being yourself.
    • Saying what you really feel.
    • Feeling loved and accepted by others.
  • Your cravings fail to take you to the consequences of your drinking or using.
    • Fights or confrontations.
    • Passing out before dinner.
    • Puking at dinner.
    • Puking after dinner.
    • The world being pissed off at you.
    • Feelings of guilt and shame that once again, you messed up.
  • Know what your cravings are about.
    • Sit with them.
    • Observe them.
    • Maybe have a conversation with them.
    • Breathe in breathe out.
    • Notice the details of the present.
    • After about 3 minutes or so, the craving generally will pass.
  • If you are tempted to overspend.  The same tips apply.
    • Take a mindful moment.

This is how we apply Principle # 2 and 3 in our Handy Guide.

             The Past is subject to change.

            We see things not as they are, but as WE are.

  • In doing these things, we can actually change the past, or, to put it better, to change the way we see the past.
    • Rethink whom you are trying to please.
    • Does it HAVE to be a certain way?
    • Do you REALLY need to spend beyond your means so that at least for one moment you can feel appreciated?
    • Can you rethink and rework expectations for the holidays?
  • By taking a mindful moment, you can begin to see the holidays for what they are, not as what YOU think they should be.

Lighten up.  Take measures to resist guilt or anger-driven choices.

Be sure to get some exercise.  A 20 minute walk each day can work wonders and clear your head.  Active muscles do much to ward off negative thoughts.

Have a little something handy to help distract you.  Put a favorite scent such as lavender, vanilla, mint, or rose, on a cotton ball.  This can coax you back to the present  and calm your mind.  Keep it in your pocket or at least within close reach.

Listen to music you can sing and or move to.  Rhythmic movement is quite soothing, not to mention effective in uplifting the spirits.

Doing these things will not guarantee a happy, stress free Holiday, but doing things that will ensure your sense of centeredness will not hurt.

15 mindful minutes.






Sidestepping Holiday Stress, continued.


We are moving closer to the days.  Menus are being either solidified or liquefied and new tasks are being needlessly added to your list of to do’s.  Logically, our heads know we “should” say “no”, spend less, be ok with being imperfect, keep fit, and eat healthy.   The story seems as old as the Nativity…..this year it will be different.  And then the old message elbows its way into our stream of consciousness that we must bow and bend to our internal demands to deliver perfection despite the emotional costs and damage to our sense of having a say.

Here is a list of reassurances that when you set limits, all will be ok.

Resist the urge to spend beyond your means.  Think ahead about how you plan to cope when the credit card bill shows up in mid January.  Your children are going to survive if they don’t get that pair of sneakers with the $200. price tag, the X Box, or whatever.  Demonstrate by your example the importance of living within limits and realistic expectations.  Be aware that feelings of guilt can be powerful and can drive us to overcompensate in ways that get in the way of feeling good about the Holidays.

Plan ahead for stressful times with family or friends.  Be prepared to have some kind of “escape” plan so that you can avoid conflict.  Be mindful of how much alcohol you are consuming or plan to consume.  While the initial effect of a shot of the good stuff might buttress your confidence, remember that alcohol is a depressant and has the ability to exacerbate stress.  Drinking excessively makes us behave in ways that undercut the way we feel about ourselves.  We might think we are enlightening the party with our insight,  while in fact, we are being surly, arrogant, and generally pissing people off.  If you are hosting a party, be mindful of how much your guests are drinking and be prepared to cut them off.

Enjoy Holiday Food.  Web MD posted the following regarding the relationship between Holiday food consumption and stress management.

How Blood Sugar Alters Your Mood

The best way to cope with holiday stress and obligations is to keep your mood and energy stable. You’ll not only feel better, but will be much less likely to overeat.

“Choosing foods that your body absorbs slowly keeps blood sugar steady, maintaining your feelings on an even keel,” says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Food & Mood. Slow-digesting foods include whole-grain cereal with milk, brown rice with salmon or chicken breast, a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread, or a spinach salad and half a turkey sandwich with milk. You want to eat either quality carbohydrates or carbohydrates mixed with protein, she says.

Foods that absorb quickly, such as sugar, white bread, or anything refined, spike blood sugar high; then cause it to suddenly crash. After a crash, you’ll feel crabby and hungry, and end up grabbing chocolate bars or candy — setting yourself up for yet another blood sugar dive, Somer says.

Boost Your Mood With Feel-Good Serotonin

High-protein diets may help you drop pounds, but they won’t do much to raise your spirits. That’s because your body craves serotonin, the feel-good chemical found in foods that boost your mood.

“Carbohydrates are essential for moving tryptophan (the amino acid that makes up serotonin) across the brain,” says Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, RD, co-author of The Good Mood Diet. When your blood sugar drops, less carbohydrate is available in the bloodstream; less tryptophan moves across into the brain and your mood can plummet.

In fact, researchers at Arizona State University found that after just two weeks, a very low-carb diet increased fatigue and reduced the desire of overweight adults to exercise.

Serotonin fights holiday weight gain, too. “It tells you when you’ve had enough by causing satiety (a feeling of fullness) and reducing your appetite,” says Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet.

And a Final Word:

Be aware of powerful emotions that drive us to sabotage our sense of pride, self, and peace over the next few weeks.

GUILT:  Recognize and then work around this emotion.  Take a mental health moment and collect your thoughts and assess the irrationality of this feeling.

FEELINGS of Inadequacy:  Be alert for signs that your head is telling you that you don’t measure up.  Again.  Be aware that these feelings could be triggered by family in-laws or others whose sole purpose is to enhance their own self-esteem, AT YOUR EXPENSE.  Resist the urge to compensate by overspending, over-saying, or over drinking.  They are feelings, not facts.

Finally….be mindful of the joy and happiness you are creating simply by being you.  Work to your strengths and let others work to theirs.  Pace yourself.

And don’t forget to take time for you!



Navigating the Path Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s

The message in music, what we see, what we smell, what we touch, resounds with peace, love, and harmony.  And yet, in the midst of our busy-ness, what we think and what we feel are not in line with the season’s ruminations.   

They are just about here.  You have seen the displays in Walmart and other department and craft stores since October.  The “holidays”.  You were probably thinking, can’t they just wait at least until November?

And now, a certain unsettledness takes place, and if you are paying attention, perhaps what you are feeling is a nudge from a familiar old  adversary; that being unpleasant memories of holidays past.

The holidays can bring out the absolute worst in the perfectionist in each of us who desires to fulfill expectations of magic, light, and pure, unconditional loving relationships with family and among friends.

The message in music, what we see, what we smell, what we touch, resounds with peace, love, and harmony.

And yet, in the midst of our busy-ness, what we think and what we feel are not in line with the season’s ruminations.

On the other hand these days can bring out the best of our creativity in meal planning, decoration, parties, gift giving, and worship.

We get excited, we anticipate, we build images of joyous moments where we are surrounded by love, and we hear expressions of deep, sincere gratitude that we have prepared the perfect meal, provided the longed for gift, and that we have achieved our desire to have fun, to be loved and accepted, and to feel safe and secure within the elements of home and family.

Alas, it is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that we become over-invested, other-focused, and under-served.  We grow resentments, get cranky, eat too much, drink too much, and in the end, wish like hell the holidays would just be over and done with.

And then, reality.

It is mid-January.  We have over-spent.  We have over-attended.  We have over-estimated.

We have over-expected.  We are over-whelmed.

That New Year’s resolution went down in flames 5 days into it.

And then, depression knocks on the door and enters with an insidious presence.

Anxiety becomes a co-conspirator.  Sleep has left the room.   Comfort is now a stranger.

How to pay the bills and how to maybe reel back those words you cast without thinking.

Worries and agonizing of how to repair whatever damage that was created in the heat of unmet expectations are full-time residents in our heads.

These do not respond to edicts to evict.

If this scenario does not fit your experience of “The Holidays”, well done!  You are adept at setting and keeping boundaries, your expectations of yourself and others are realistic, and you are ok that others might not appreciate your efforts.  What a great achievement!

On the other hand, if you have found that your experience with “The Holidays” resonates all too well with what you have read, and you would rather not go through the agony of another “Holiday Episode”, there is help through the development of mindfulness skills that can help you to navigate your way around the effects of these situations and, perhaps, roll in to January with a sense of pride in how you were able to handle the stressors of “The Holidays”.

With a little preparation you can learn to be alert to personal vulnerabilities that could drive you to spend more money than you would like, say things you would regret, or drink/eat to excess.  Here are a few hints to get a jumpstart on managing holiday stress.

Exercise, stretch, keep hydrated, and SMILE!

Learn to take at least 3 “Mental Health Moments”© throughout your day.

A Mental Health Moment is a simple task and consists of 3 elements.

Take a seat and sit upright, feet on the floor, hands rest comfortably on thighs or chair arms.

  1. Breathing: Slowly inhale through your nostrils to the count of 5, exhale through slightly pursed lips to the count of 6. Repeat during this exercise.
  2. Mindfulness: While you are breathing, notice and experience your breath: The rise and fall of your chest and abdomen, the sound of each inhale and exhale. Feel supported by the floor or ground beneath your feet. Allow your shoulders and neck to relax and notice the difference.  Smile.
  3. Engage your 5 Senses:
  • What do you see? Eyes open yet relaxed, find an object upon which to focus, i.e. spot on the carpet or picture on the wall, just a little something to look at.
  • What do you hear? Your breath, background noise, sounds of traffic outside, just notice and acknowledge.
  • Feel and notice textures: Upholstery, chair arms, some people hold on to an object and notice how it feels to touch.
  • What do you smell? Some find it helpful to carry a special scent such as lavender with them just to help trigger calm and peacefulness.  What aroma would help you to relax and enjoy your Mental Health Moment?
  • What can you taste?
    • Can you connect with the memory of something you really love to taste? Coffee?  A  Mint? Apple Pie? Mulled Apple Cider?
    • Allow your salivary glands to produce saliva. Anxiety and stress cause Dry Mouth and so, by purposely creating saliva we can better direct our minds to engage in this Mental Health Moment.

    Now, practice putting all the elements together.  Be purposeful in learning and applying these steps several times a day, beginning today.  Wear a smile.

    “Sometimes our Happiness is the source of our Smile and sometimes our Smile is the source of our Happiness“.

Rehearse during times that are stress free and do not wait until you are stressed to start learning.  Be prepared, be purposeful, be persistent in using this little tool to help you slow down when you need it.

Press Pause and take a breath.

Once you have it down, it shouldn’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes out of your schedule.

Remember, there are no easy fixes to reducing Holiday anxiety and stress.  Learn to take a moment and imagine yourself moving through the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s being ok with who you are.  Relish your time, nourish your nostalgic moments, and savor the comfort that comes from keeping right with yourself.

For more information about Mindfulness plug into this website.

Or this one.

Remember and apply the wisdom of planning ahead and being prepared to manage your holiday stress.