2/20/2022

I have recently learned about thought distortions as part of a paid subscription to Noom, a weight loss program that uses daily lessons and a support group. When I was participating, it was very easy to use the ideas as it was fresh in my mind and I found myself able to regularly reinforce best practices by sharing experiences with other people in the group. What I found so helpful was the learning and social structure that this program provides, and it has been my experience that under these circumstances, it is easy to lose weight, under those highly structured learning environments.

Keeping these habits longterm by myself without Noom’s structure is difficult, but I choose to see self-improvement as lifelong and I am worth it to invest in that difficult work to achieve. These are good reminders for me, as I struggle with thought distortions, and I believe everyone does to some extent. I may have forgotten some of these principles since having cancelled my membership a few months back, so I write this down now so that I do not forget them again.

Thought distortions are logical fallacies as a result of flawed thinking which may act as barriers throughout our lives in many different spaces. Sizing up thought distortions has been helpful for me in areas other than weight loss, but also in long-term goal setting. It helps to size up and identify those thought distortions instead of believing them.

Fortune telling is predicting the future. You cannot predict the future! Example: I will never get this right. I knew this would happen.

Overgeneralization is failure/success at accomplishing one task will predict an endless pattern of defeat/success in all tasks. Example: I didn’t know the answer to one question at trivia, so I am generally bad at trivia. I aced my first test. The rest of this year’s test will be a breeze because I’m so good at taking tests.

All or nothing thinking: if I eat this slice of cake, it will all go wrong. If I fail this test, my life is ruined. Alternately, I was able to eat salads all weekend, so I will always be able to eat salads for every meal.

What helps me is to be a blank slate, to not attach meaning to behavior. In the process this builds frustration tolerance.

Frustration tolerance is the work I do to be OK with frustration. So the more comfortable I am with frustration, the easier it is to stay on track. Planning how I respond to frustration and becoming used to frustration or setbacks can prevent sabotage or the feelings of guilt and shame that can lead to overeating or giving up on achieving goals.

What helps me is the oh well statement. This is a statement that I create to build tolerance to frustration. Oh well, the meal I just ate will not undo the months I have spent losing weight. Another oh well statement I like is: I can control only so much and thankfully never everything.

Reframing: after challenging a thought distortion, I can decide to redo my way of thinking by reframing. Reframing helps me to think positively in a way that helps me feel empowered and good about myself and makes it easier to achieve goals.

Reframe using the oh well statement: if I eat this slice of cake, it will not ruin the months I have spent and all the work I do each day to make good decisions. If I fail this test, it will not be the end of the world. I still have another opportunity to make it up, and I normally do very well when I study for tests.

Removing labels helps me. Especially with food, instead of saying oh, that’s so fattening, or that’s really healthy for you, I’ll say, this salad has low caloric density. This bag of chips has high caloric density.

Low caloric density foods tend to have more water and fewer calories and include:

spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, apples, most fruits and vegetables

High caloric density foods tend to have more calories per serving and include:

highly processed and fried foods, chips, cheeseburgers, fast food

Reframe: Instead of saying, this food is so bad for me, I will say, this bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is a true treat, or this ice cream is an indulgence

Why it matters: being able to feel and identify feelings fully and head on helps me feel more in control. It can also be a way to be mindful of how I feel so that I can take a step back and run through different strategies and approaches to help me become more successful and competent in navigating my decisions. I enjoy the following quote:

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote helps me to not take life so seriously, but rather encourages me to a very casual and enjoyable approach to living through life as a series of iterations or trial runs that a person may fail or succeed at, but the important takeaway from these tests are the data it renders, similar to how a scientist runs through trial testing, without even formulating a hypothesis on how it may end up, but rather moving through life nearly unattached to expectation of success or failure. This makes living more improvised and exciting, and I feel so thankful for this. The idea that we have free will makes me happy, that I am not bound by what other people expect me to do. I have the choice to make a choice, reflect on that decision, and do something different after that process of reflection renders new data that inspires a new way to operate. That capacity for transformation is real. If there is ever a time when someone is feeling sad, unsuccessful, or believing that they are not doing well in life, there is the opportunity to make a different choice, a new choice at any time.

This idea brings about the fixed vs. growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that people do not grow and change throughout their lives. The growth mindset is the idea that people grow and change many times throughout their lives and have the capacity for learning new skills and new habits by way of their own reflection and thought process. I believe strongly that people are able to grow and change and have many different careers or make a divergent set of decisions in their lives. This is something that gives me hope about the future and I believe in the ability for people to improve at any time in their lives.

12/06/2020

When I watched the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving parade this year, I teared up a little. Was it the slightly off-color jokes that you’d catch Al Roker make at butter if you caught them, or the nostalgia I feel now more than ever for tradition in a time when we are abandoning them for the sake of our own lives? Understanding my enjoyment is still complicated, but I embrace it.

This is not the parade we deserve, but it’s the parade we need.

Al Roker

If I had told you this time last year that I would be actually crying at that idea, I would not have believed you. There was a wonderful blooper that happened on the first float. It was not necessarily a blooper but rather something the camera caught after the float singer finished the song. The camera panned away just before commercial and the wind blew this sizable confetti chunk which completely occluded the singer. You saw a large black rectangle in place of where she was standing. This made me so happy. At the time I did not know why, but I do love blooper reels of my favorite TV shows, I love watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Was that why I enjoyed this bit of unscripted TV so much? There were no words, but I still laughed.

As the parade wore on I enjoyed the floats that I would otherwise have had no opinion on: Blues Clues, Wimpy Kid, Paw Patrol. These are not part of my childhood canon of memories. There was video footage showing the parade in decades gone, and an explanation of what they used to do with the floats. They would untie the balloons and if you were lucky enough to retrieve one of them after they landed to Earth, you could return it back to Macy’s and get a prize. A year ago today I would have shamed old bygone days for their backwards ways, but this time I was so happy for them.

Of the things I do not miss but probably should are scheduled TV events. Last night, I watched the Alabama vs. LSU game, which decided who would play Florida in the December 19th SEC title game. The first Nor’easter hit New England last night, and my dad let our family group text know 10 minutes before game time that since his house had lost power for 30 minutes, they would likely miss watching the game. Our watch parties are by text and involve some kind of frustration when there is a delay. Don’t spill the beans! I haven’t seen that play yet. Last night it was me saying: Oh neat! The announcers’ audio cut out and someone else cut in with an explanation and feeble attempt at narrating the plays! My aunt explained that they had already come back from the drop out, so I refreshed the feed. Earlier on in the game we had rewound the footage which was poking fun of a college football player’s name and why he was called Mac, not James McKorkle. That Irish Urkle was splendor for them.

11/21/2020

Last night a friend came over for a get together. It was a relief to get to visit for a bit. This was the second time we’ve seen each other during covid times and the first time we’d seen each other since our birthdays. Earlier on in the day I was feeling bakeful so I put together a lasagna in three layers:

  1. Instead of pasta I sliced thin steaks of cabbage
  2. a layer of pasta sauce mixed with the rest of the mushrooms sliced with a few chopped cloves of garlic
  3. the layer of cheese is a container of ricotta and a bag of three cheese blend: parmigiana Reggiani, asiago, and parmesean (usually I’d add an egg, but did not have any)

Cooked in a pyrex casserole dish on 350 degrees F for an hour covered with tin foil.

After the hour, I uncovered the dish and sprinkled some thin slivers of asiago and cooked it for 15 a final minutes to let the cheese melt and get crusty over the top

When my friend came over, we had parm crisps (zero carb cheese chips), green olives, dill pickles, caramelized figs, cheese roll, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto. We packed up the food and she microwaved a poblano bowl that she brought with her. After that, I offered her the lasagna. I was not expecting her to try it, but was so pleased when she cleaned her plate, which is high praise.

This morning, I opened the card that my friend left me. I opened it not expecting much. I had been standing with her in the parking lot of my place as she penned it before she got in her car to leave.

Earlier on that night we had been talking about advanced directives and death, and how hard it is for people to talk about death. Two summers ago when my aunts and uncles came to visit, I sobbed trying to explain how I wouldn’t want a funeral, wouldn’t want to be buried. How can you feel so bold but then not be able to say it out loud?

My friend would want a Viking funeral, and she laughed as she spoke it. “Send me out to the ocean.” And we’d shoot a burning arrow, and then you’d burn. In the instance she wouldn’t be able to enjoy life or live without medical assistance, she would want to go. She is an only child with no family and no children of her own, so she does not owe anyone anything. I spoke up and said she owes me something, and she would owe her friends something. Yea this would be if something changed and I wasn’t able to live life the way I wanted. She said she has always lived her life as a heathen, as she has made different choices in her life than others.

On the envelope she drew a fake stamp, fake postal markings with a future year on it.

11/08/2020

When NIN was inducted into the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Iggy Pop cited French novelist Michel Houellebecq in saying the simplest thing you can do that contributes to success is to tell the truth. The memories I have when I listen to those old songs are beautiful and they remind me how enjoyable life can be despite the bad experiences you were going through at the time: teenage angst, bad boyfriend/girlfriend times, depression; it brings fresh excitement to your own limited world. Listening to records is a screen that has painted an existential mesh on top of the present moment that blends how you lived then into now, however flawed and incorrect it inevitably may be. Sometimes that feeling is so intoxicating because it was true for you once, and in a way it will always be true.

Iggy Pop said the first time he saw Trent Reznor he said he seemed to come from 15th Century Spain:

“If he’d been alive at the right time, I think he could have been painted by Velasquez or El Greco, and his portrait would probably hang in the Prado today.”

(Iggy Pop, 2020)

When I was a teenager, I went to Spain with my aunt to visit our family who lives there. One of my favorite artists is El Greco, a Spanish artist whose art hangs in museums. When we were in Toledo in 1997, there was a converted museum that used to be a hospital. El Greco would paint the faces of patients in mental institutions because Greco said their eyes could see God. Sometimes mental illness disqualifies you from being valid or seen, but Greco validated them through his creative renditions. Many of his paintings include self-portraits of himself, and I believe he felt he was one of the common people, in painting himself among those people, and that he was doing the will of the people in performing his art and giving it to the world.

Rick and Morty, Season 4 Episode 4 – Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty

I was just watching an episode of Rick and Morty where there’s this talking cat and Rick is vexed by it and where it came from. The cat posits: can’t we not know where I came from and just have fun?

And Rick says these things should not be mutually exclusive, so Rick scans the cat and discovers the truth, something so awful that he ends up memory wiping his travel companion’s mind of any knowledge of the cat’s origin story.

And Jerry blinks and says did we find out where the cat came from? Rick says he’s from space. Jerry laughs and says it’s a mind f***. And that cat is allowed to roam freely, afforded an opportunity to soul bond with a dragon. I find that there is some kind of connection I draw between that war crimes cat and U.S. politics.

Initially, I thought that Jerry was the U.S. electorate, the memory wipe is the collective forgetfulness we have of past horrors, and the cat is the President. After some reflection, though, I realize that the cat is us, the U.S. electorate. We are allowed to vote into office the worst, most vomit-inducing candidates, in the name of blowing up the system. We are afforded a generosity of sorts, when we forget how bad things were, any time we forge on through this denial and proceed with dignity to future opportunities.

And really, when we move on to future elections, we are afforded a blank slate, where we might create something better. It does not diminish where we’re from and who we’ve voted for in the past, but we’re hoping the past is washed away or just blithely disregarded, and it is, in a way; we are exonerated of what was and march on.

Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids

I feel music and our own focus, extant to interest in the sound of songs, is akin to how when we dream we tell other people about them. People have fallen asleep to the droning on of how I was turning into an aphid, simultaneously developing Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting that I was ever actually human. And that museum I walked into turned into a mausoleum where I was doomed to inhabit for eternity.

Hell is other people, says Jean Paul Sartre. Maybe this is how we can advertise how good something is and yet have it fall on deaf ears. I think about how nicely existentialism aligns the constellation-al shape of this idea. Pull a stencil over the night sky and as you peer through the lace the light of a hundred years ago blinks back.

Sometimes I think about the mud and who has walked here before. The footprint of our ancestors trekked over these tracks a million billion times, and then maybe I think we know what is around us because we are afforded the animation of our own bodies. But maybe we are all dinosaurs and we have no idea we are extinct yet. Our little T-rex arms extending to reach out. Our minds, thoughts, habits, these outgrowths are extensions of the infinite permutations of evolutionary experience that may or may not serve us, but have not yet fallen away. We are still reaching out.

Christmas dinner lunch

 

 

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Clockwise from top: Roasted cauliflower with toasted quinoa, Vegetarian summer rolls, Vegetarian Thai Curry with quinoa, Bacon-wrapped scallops

I feel like the holidays should come with some kind of overarching theme, like caveat emptor, a Latin law term meaning buyer beware.  I consider it for a moment as an expanding world view of mine in the face of holiday stress that comes with the glee that results in over gifting, cooking too much, sleeping too little, and maybe thinking too much into the spirit of Christmas to realize that my candle is burning too low. The wick disappears on its own, dissolving into liquid wax. Wicks to wax, dust to dust, as they say, or perhaps that’s not a thing at all, but I still feel comfortable with caveat emptor.

They were mentioning the phrase today on NPR while discussing how to bottle and mass produce resveratrol, a chemical found on the skin of grapes and also in wine. Diane Rehm was exasperated, baffled, perhaps, at why as humans we cannot consume so much of seemingly life-saving panaceas in food, and if not, where one would be able to buy such a thing. Although I cannot quite put my finger on it, I feel like I can relate with the interviewer’s sentiment.

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Source:

 

 

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-06-29/anti-aging-research

Vegetarian summer rolls

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This dish falls at the midpoint between boiled and raw green bean.

Summer rolls are super fun to make if you like working with your hands. I made these recently several times over for some Christmas get togethers and once by myself, and I can say while this dish takes minimal exertion, it is painstakingly slow.

If you are about to eat with a group of hungry and/or hangry folks, make rolls ahead of time. I have considered this a great solo dish to eat alone or in the presence of gracious guests.

General prep note: Make up to two hours ahead of time. If not served immediately, rice paper gets sticky and dries out.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Cucumber julienned

2 medium carrots (equivalent to 5-7 baby rainbow carrots) julienned

1 avocado

1 bush basil

2-4 ounces rice vermicelli

6-8 rice papers

Equipment:

butcher knife

1 medium sized bowl filled halfway with warm water

1 plate

1 medium pot filled with boiling water

cutting board

vegetable peeler

strainer

Directions:

Cook vermicelli rice noodles 5 minutes in rolling boil water.

Dump noodles into strainer and let sit.

Chop cucumber, carrots, and basil. Set aside.

Place a sheet of rice paper into warm bowl of water for ten seconds.

Then place on plate.

Place small clump of cucumber, carrot, basil, and noodle onto the center of the rice paper. Slice a pat or two of avocado on top.

Fold top and bottom of rice paper over filling. Wrap sides over like a burrito roll.

Upside down mushroom tartlet

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The beauty of cooking is not unlike pioneering. You have to test outside the unset boundaries and trust yourself that you are doing the right thing. Unlike discovering new worlds, exploring food stuffs is mostly harmless. That being said, I enjoy giving myself a bit of lead time on food experiments.

I had a hard time finding the mushrooms for this recipe, so I used a pound of mixed oyster, cremini, and shitake. Although I tend to recommend changing ingredients to accommodate varietals, I have made thyme and gruyere scones before and the combination of cheese and herb is one that is best preserved.

The challenge with this recipe was the instructions. I am still in process, so the next rendition might include using the pastry dough differently. Next time I might use the dough as a purse so that the final product reads  like a stuffed muffin.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Here is a clip of the major steps.

Equipment:

1 butcher knife

1 cookie sheet

1 ice cream scooper

1 medium bowl

1 vegetable strainer

1 10″ saute pan

1 cheese grater

1 small bowl

1 muffin pan

1 3″ diameter glass jar

1 pairing knife

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 pound cremini mushrooms

1 shallot

3/4 cup gruyere cheese

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 frozen pastry puff sheet

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º  Fahrenheit.

Take pastry puff sheet out of freezer. Defrost by letting dough sit out at room temperature for an hour. After one hour, unfold the dough. Using the mouth of the drinking glass, trace six 3″ circles in the dough with the pairing knife. Set six dough circles on cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator.

Lightly coat with olive oil the bottom and sides of six muffin pan cups.

Wash 1 pound mushrooms in strainer. Chop stems and slice mushrooms.

Grate 3/4 cup gruyere cheese.

Turn on heat under sauté pan. Add one tablespoon olive oil.

Dice shallot.

Prepare thyme: Pinch the tiny, soft, live green thyme leaves from the stems. Collect the green leaves in the small bowl. Discard stems.

Cook shallot on medium high heat for 7 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add mushrooms. Stir mushrooms ten-12 minutes on medium high heat.

Stir in thyme. Remove pan from heat. Pour mushroom mixture into medium bowl.

With the ice scream scooper, divide mushroom filling into six muffin cups. Evenly sprinkle cheese on top of six muffin cups.

Lay one dough circle on top of each filled muffin cup.

Cook for 25 minutes at 375º Fahrenheit or until pastry tops are golden brown.

Remove from pan.

Let sit for five minutes

To remove muffins from pan, invert pan over cookie sheet. Tartlets should land with the pastry side down and mushroom side up.

Source:

http://www.marthastewart.com/319487/upside-down-mushroom-tartlets