Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coffee Cup Meditation

When I got up this morning, I had to boot up my laptop. Then it told me that Office needed an update. Sigh. Six minutes to wait. My husband handed me a cup of coffee.

And at that moment, I remembered something about a meditation practice involving coffee. Must have read that article years ago, but this was the perfect moment to give it a try.

You might be thinking coffee and meditation do not go together. While meditation is calming, coffee is stimulating. And yet, the two mesh perfectly into one peaceful morning ritual.

Here's how you do it: Sit on the front edge of your chair with your feet planted flat on the floor. (Alternately, you could sit on the floor on a cushion.) Make sure your spine is erect.

Pick up your coffee cup. (You need a fresh, hot, steaming cup of coffee for the best effect.) Hold your cup in two hands directly under your nose. Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders.

Breathe. Inhale the moist, coffee-scented steam. Allow your thoughts to settle. Focus on your senses.

Take a sip of coffee. Enjoy the sensation of warm liquid sliding down your throat. Taste the flavor of your brew. If your mind begins to stray, simply draw it back to the present moment.

Continue breathing in the aroma and sipping your beverage mindfully for at least 5 minutes. Maybe even 10. Take your time finishing your beverage. Then open your eyes, set down your cup, and begin your day.

Coffee cup meditation will allow you to get into the habit of meditating by hitching your new practice to an old habit. If you already drink a cup of coffee every morning, adding a brief meditation will be a piece of cake! It's like killing two birds with one stoneware mug!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Enjoy: A New Definition

I woke up this morning pondering the word "enjoy." En-joy... And the true meaning of the word suddenly hit me. It was a revelation!

En-joy: to infuse joy into whatever you are doing.

This seemed like a profound shift to me. A shift from passive to active. A shift from maybe receiving enjoyment to ensuring enjoyment. I realized if I am going to enjoy something, it means I am going to CREATE enjoyment. Not search for it, perhaps dejectedly, without any real hope of finding any. No! I'm going to enter into the situation already planning to inject joy.

Think about this.

I normally abhor housework. This is clearly because I do not en-joy it. But if I decide to create a joyful experience of wiping my countertops, or dusting the paintings, or scrubbing the floor, I will then en-joy it!

When a waiter sets your meal down in front of you and says "Enjoy!" now you know what he means. Be sure to make your meal joy-full.

As a control freak, this new concept of enjoyment is right up my alley. After all, who wants to go into a situation (a concert, a restaurant, a movie, a party) not knowing whether or not you will enjoy it? Of course all the variables are still unknown as you step through the door, but if you enter with a PLAN to en-joy the evening, you will certainly find something to smile about. Maybe many somethings.

Is there a limit to the situations you can en-joy? Perhaps. But I watched a documentary made about a famous pianist who was imprisoned in a death camp during the Holocaust. She had her young son with her so she made sure to infuse every moment they had together with laughter and joy. It sounded impossible to me when I heard this. I can't imagine the strength it must have taken for her to do this. But it does reinforce my concept: it is up to you to choose joy. And even in the most horrific of circumstances, it is still possible.

Yesterday I attended a short ceremony at my daughter's high school. She has been selected as the first violinist for the school's string quartet. (Yes, there is only one quartet for the entire school!) For a violinist, there is no higher honor. She led the quartet yesterday with precision and heart, infusing each piece with resonance and clarity. I could not have been prouder. There were tears in my eyes as I witnessed their premiere. This was a situation that was impossible NOT to en-joy!

As you go through your day today, I hope this new definition of enjoyment will continue to resonate with you. Whatever you happen to be doing, I hope you can find a way to en-joy!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vanilla Rhubarb Snack Cake (Paleo and Grain-free!)

This past week, I picked some rhubarb from my garden. If you don't already grow rhubarb, you might want to give it a try. It's my kind of plant: pretty hard to kill. It's a perennial, meaning it comes back every year without you having to do anything. Every few years, you should probably divide it and share some with your friends.

I love the taste of rhubarb, but then again, I really dig sour flavors. Sour cherries and black currants are also high on my list of yummy fruits. Strawberry and rhubarb are the classic combination, but rhubarb also goes great with raspberries, apples, oranges, lemon, ginger, or cinnamon. However, you do need to add some kind of sweetener. Otherwise you're going to have something pretty darn tart on your hands.

I found this cake recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. It was originally devised for cupcakes, and made only 10, so I thought it would work well for making just a thin layer of vanilla cake to hold the chunks of rhubarb. The batter calls for coconut flour which is great for Paleo people and those who cannot tolerate gluten. (Do not substitute any other type of flour!) I also used coconut sugar which is less refined than white sugar and imparts a gorgeous caramel color and flavor to the batter. I purchased both these products from Trader Joe's.


Butter or oil for the pan
About 12 stalks fresh rhubarb, chopped
About 2-3 TB honey

1/2 cup avocado or coconut oil (or grass fed butter)
2/3 cup coconut sugar
6 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup coconut flour (do not substitute any other flour!)
1 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle rhubarb pieces into dish. Drizzle honey over rhubarb.

Beat eggs and combine with oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add flour and baking powder. Stir to combine. Pour batter over rhubarb and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top and cake pulls away from pan at the edges. Use toothpick to test for doneness. Remove cake from oven and let cool before slicing.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Easy Fruit Smoothie

Before I teach my evening classes, I no longer eat a meal. I prefer to have something very light that won't weigh me down during an hour of intense aerobic dancing. I've tried a cup of soup, or bone broth, or just an apple, but now that the weather has warmed up, I'm enjoying a cold smoothie.

As far as I'm concerned, the key to an awesome smoothie is a frozen banana. Of course other types of frozen fruit are also delicious, but a frozen banana adds a thickness due to the starch content that you will be missing with most other fruits. A blended frozen banana gives your smoothie body and silkiness, too. (Now I sound like a hair product commercial!)

I've written recipes before for smoothies that incorporate veggies like kale. Yes, these may be all the rage, but how delicious can a kale smoothie really be? I'll answer that question: not very. Sorry! I love kale sauteed in olive oil with garlic and pine nuts. Or even tossed in a salad. Or layered on a turkey sandwich. But in a smoothie? No. I don't love that.

But I do love this combination of fruit in a smoothie:

1/2 frozen banana (peel and freeze when ripe but not overripe)
1 whole (small) seedless orange (peeled, of course!)
a handful of ripe, red strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup of coconut milk (Trader Joe's sells this in a box as a beverage.)

Add all ingredients to your blender cup and process until smooth. Drink immediately!

If you have a favorite combination of fruits, or even veggies, that you enjoy blended into a drink, please share your discoveries in the comment section! Thanks!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Survived a 30-Minute LIVE Interview!

It was touch and go. Anything could have happened.

Before the interview began, I had fantasies of needing to use the "facilities" while on air. I imagined everyone listening in while I took care of "business." I pictured myself taking a sip of water and choking, our interview then consisting of several minutes of very loud coughing and sputtering followed by a 9-1-1 call.

Luckily, I managed to talk, drink water, respond to questions, share information, and not need resuscitation. So, overall, I'd say things went well.

In case you missed my earlier blog, I was interviewed yesterday by Dan Windheim on his Internet radio program: Dialogues with Dan. Never mind if you missed the live interview; Dan's programs are recorded and archived. To listen anytime, 24/7, simply go to and search for Dialogues with Dan, Tuesday (May 12, 2015).

What did we discuss, you ask?

Dan invited me onto his show to talk about my short story FACEBOOK CAN BE FATAL which I've entered in an online contest. I'm hoping to win $15,000 to donate to Big East Akita Rescue and Rakki Inu Akita Rescue. The story receiving the most (FREE!) downloads by June 4 will win the top cash prize. To download, click here: One download per IP address will count toward my total. Please be sure to click on "ereader" or "kindle" or "pdf" as LIKES do not count! (Likes are nice, for sure, but will not count as a vote!)

During the interview, I discuss the problem of millions of animals ending up in shelters every year. Many are held for only a short time before being euthanized. The role of the rescue organizations is crucial in saving these adoptable animals. I've seen the long hours rescue volunteers put in, pulling animals from shelters, evaluating their temperaments, driving them to vets, fostering them while they wait for a permanent home. Beautiful, loving animals are dumped each and every day at shelters around the U.S. I know I want to do my part to put an end to their suffering.

Even if you don't have time to listen to the interview, I hope you'll take a few seconds to download my short story. It's easy, very quick (two clicks!) and FREE! Each download is a vote for keeping animals out of shelters and getting them into loving homes.

And if you'd like to help even more, please share this blog with your friends. Your support means so much! Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bacon-wrapped Venison Tenderloins

It has been quite a while since I've posted a recipe. Maybe you thought I'd stopped eating and cooking? Almost! But not quite.

I made myself this meal last night--yup, all for me!--and when I looked down at my plate, I thought: here's a dinner I should share. Not literally, of course. (I snarfed that whole plate!) Just visually.
The complete entree included bacon-wrapped venison tenderloins, pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, and shitake mushrooms. Believe it or not, this was a very easy, quick dinner to throw together. And if you're attempting to go Paleo or even on Whole 30, this meal is compliant. (Just check to make sure your bacon is sugar-free.)

We are so lucky to have a friend who hunts on our land and shares his bounty in return. This venison was about as local as you can get! The tenderloins are pretty small--hence my ability to eat two of them!--and extremely lean. The bacon adds much needed fat as well as flavor. The only other ingredients I used were a pinch of salt on the veggies and a sprinkle of black pepper over everything.

Start with a heavy, cast iron skillet. Heat the pan over a medium flame. Wrap the the venison tenderloins each in one slice of bacon and lay them into the hot pan. Let them sizzle for a few minutes, until the fat begins to render from the bacon. Swirl the fat around to cover the pan, then add the brussells sprouts and shitakes around the meat. When the first side is golden brown, flip the meat over. Shake the pan to move the veggies around so they also brown on several sides. Cover the pan for a couple of minutes to help retain the heat and allow the veggies to steam just a bit.

The meat does not take long at all to cook, and you do not want to overcook venison! You want the interior to be pink and moist. So poke the tenderloins gently with a finger every minute or so. They should NOT feel too firm. I cooked mine a little bit over 5 minutes, but less than 10. Remove the meat from the pan and place on a plate to rest. Resting the meat allows the juices to be reabsorbed. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Poke a fork into the largest brussells sprout to make sure it has cooked all the way through. If so, remove your veggies from the pan and serve dinner.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tune In: Tuesday, May 12! Hear Me LIVE!

On Tuesday, May 12, I'll be interviewed live by my friend of almost 50 years, Dan Windheim. Dan has a weekly show from 6:30-7pm on Rockland World Radio, an internet radio station. You can tune in and hear the interview as it happens, or you can access the recorded interview any time after the fact. Simply go to

Dan and I will be discussing my short story Facebook Can Be Fatal and the online contest I've entered in order to win some big bucks (up to $15,000 for first prize!) to donate to the two akita rescue groups where my family adopted our two dogs. As you might remember, we recently lost our sweet female Ginny and I hope to make a large donation in her memory. If you haven't had a chance to download my story yet (for FREE!) please take a moment to do that today. The contest ends June 4 and I need to receive LOTS more downloads daily to have a shot at the cash! To find my story, go here: and be sure to click on "ereader," "kindle" or "pdf" in order to download. And if you could spread the word, share this information with as many others as possible, I would greatly appreciate the support!

I thought you might also like to know a little bit about Dan. He is a very special guy.

We grew up together in Nyack, New York, attended the same elementary school through high school, shared the same group of friends. Danny was handsome, kind, athletic, funny, and very popular. An all-around great guy. Then tragedy struck. Dan was in a serious car accident. He received a severe head injury and was in a coma for months. When he finally woke up, everything in his life has changed forever.

Dan has lived for more than thirty years with TBI-- traumatic brain injury-- a condition that has affected everything. He had to struggle fiercely to learn how to walk, talk, and basically function all over again. But Dan is no quitter. And the things he has accomplished, despite his struggles, are no less than amazing. In addition to his weekly radio program, Dan has created a website for people living with TBI. (Check it out here: He has written and published three books, all of which are available for purchase on his website. He writes poetry, works at the library, and can even drive a car now.

Beyond all this, Dan continues to be a kind and generous person, always reaching out to others to do what he can to help them. Now he's helping me spread the word about animal rescue. And hopefully, thanks to Dan and his radio program, I'll be reaching many more supporters and saving more dogs.

I hope you'll tune in on Tuesday, May 12 and meet Dan!