Be nice. To everyone.

Do you like reading pop psychology? I found a new favorite website for you! Here is: You Are Not So Smart.

I love pop psychology, it makes me feel like I've just learned a secret way to solve the entire world, when I should really take it like this website shells it out: Sorry dumbass, you can't do anything because your brain got in the way.

The life lesson I learned today was from the post titled "The Benjamin Franklin Effect." The jist of it is this: You think that you are nice to people you like and mean to people you hate because you are a reasoning creature with a brain. Cause and effect, etc., etc. Problem is, cause and effect probably aren't what you think they are, because your brain is this weird black box that makes you do things you don't think you do. Instead of being nice being the effect of liking someone, sometimes liking someone is the effect of being nice to them. It's the result of "cognitive dissonance" which means the short circuit happening in your brain when you do something that you don't believe in. Your brain can't handle the incongruity of action and belief, so it changes the belief. So you do something nice for someone, and then you convince yourself that you must like them, because you only do nice things for people you like. 

Moral of the story: Be nice to everyone. Life is much easier when you don't have anyone to dislike.


Childhood Is Rough

This post got me thinking. Go there first and read the first couple paragraphs (at least), then come back. (Wow, that sounded bossy.)

I really am not one of those people that think childhood is so idyllic. Innocent, yes. Idyllic? Do you remember your childhood? Not just the highlights, do you actually remember how it felt to be 5, 8, 11 years old? Take a minute if you must.

Don't you remember being confused by certain "grown-up" things? Don't you remember desperately longing to be just one year older? Don't you remember being so frustrated when grown-ups would tell you "You'll understand later," or "Because I said so," or various other phrases used when you don't know how to explain the world to someone with no experience? Don't you remember how much work it was just to figure out how the world works?

I think most individuals have forgotten exactly how it felt to be a child by the time they have children themselves, which isn't anyone's fault. You don't have the same brain that you did back then. However, I think that it is very important to try to remember how difficult growing up is when you are raising your own children; it brings a dimension of empathy to the process. It makes it a little easier to be patient and kind and understanding when you remember your own frustrations and fears and joys as a child. Rather than thinking, "You don't know how easy you have it, you don't have any stress or anything to worry about," take a minute and remember your own silly (now they seem silly) fears and anxieties as a child. Life is never easy. Not even when you are two years old.


Choco-Pom Oatmeal Cookies

All it took to get me experimenting was a mention about a remembered cookie from Trader Joe's by a friend. The mythical cookies were chocolate-covered pomegranate oatmeal cookies. Considering I had a pomegranate and dark chocolate chips in the pantry.... They are delicious.

I was just reflecting that over the past two months my cooking has improved remarkably. Which isn't to say that I was a bad cook previously, I was just inconsistent. My husband would come home, see what was for dinner, and say "Ex-peeer-iment!" (Proper pronunciation requires a falsetto/vibratto on "-peeer-")

Hint: that was never a compliment.

So what changed? I haven't stopped experimenting and trying new recipes. My problem previously was a focus on an end product, without concentrating on the intervening steps. When you just want something done, but you aren't focusing or enjoying the process, you aren't going enjoy the result, either. That is your deep thought for the day.

So, do you want to know how to make your own fabulous Choco-Pom Oatmeal Cookies?


Choco-Pom Oatmeal Cookies

makes 40 cookies

1 pomegranate
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups old fashioned oats

Separate the seeds of your pomegranate. Melt the chocolate, and stir the pomegranate seeds into the chocolate, coating each seed. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let the chocolate set. This works best if you spread the chocolate coated seeds as thin as possible. Once the chocolate is set, break into the smallest clusters possible.
Heat the oven to 350F.
Beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs and almond extract and beat well. 
Combine flour, soda and salt; add to the egg mixture and mix well.
Stir in the oats, followed by the choco-pomegranate seeds and the pecans.
Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of batter onto a baking sheet. Bake for 12(ish) minutes until the cookies are a nice golden brown.


Macaron Madness!

I have never bought and consumed a macaron, but they are everywhere on the internet (or were 6 months ago, whatev) and I decided I needed to know if they tasted good or if they were just cute. Especially after BraveTart convinced me that anyone could make a macaron. Well, my first try a few months ago tasted great, but definitely weren't the cute, fussy confection everyone takes pictures of. "Ah well," I thought to myself, "I guess I'm just not the fussy baker type." And then I read "Macarons are for eating."

This is the clarion call to all bakers afraid of fussiness. I got so worked up and inspired reading this that:

Yep. I made macarons this morning. And just to show to any doubters that you too can successfully make macarons (maybe they won't be perfect the first time, but hey...) I would like to show you that I added two more degrees of difficulty to the whole process by 1) not using a stand mixer (I'm actually not sure that I get points for this, since I don't have a stand mixer, and didn't even have a choice in the matter) and 2) allowing my 18-month-old son to "help." Evidence? Sure:

This time, the macarons are a success on all counts. Just moments after taking my artful phone camera photo of the results, I had an incident with a poacher:

Lesson? Go for it. And if it doesn't work, do it again. 


NY Protest

I've been away for so long, and now I actually have something to make me trendy on the interwebs. Maybe.

My 1 1/2 day trip to NYC included a trek to the Brooklyn bridge, where I got stuck for 10 minutes while protesters swept past. So I have breaking news. Except there is no news since I have no idea what's going on. Although I'm sitting a block away in a Starbucks and just watched 6 motorcycle cops and a couple police trucks speed past, so I guess I'll read about it later.

Oh, and this is the first time I'm phone blogging. Enjoy some protest signs!


Random pieces

Since I am lame-o and had no plan to keep my creative mind going while I moved across town and then went on vacation for two weeks, here is a meager linkful post to keep things going.

Basically, these are the first few posts that are starred in my Google Reader.

Hmmm. via mlkshk.com


I really want to make a few of these bracelets.

And Alejandra always makes my mouth water, while teaching me some new culinary tidbit. Really want some of this.

I really want to try Birchbox, but I can't until I get rid of all the bits and pieces of beauty products I have left in my bathroom cabinets. Linley allows you to enjoy vicariously.


Monkeys are awful. (For clarification, they aren't doing anything gross. Click away without fear.)

Erin has the same excite-o-meter as me.

Sand is amazing at 250X magnification.

3D printer. The cartoon is almost not funny because it's too close to the truth.



I am eternally grateful to the blogs I read for giving me a new perspective on my body.

Bodies are strange. So many outside influences and ideas are imposed on what is, essentially, a totally functional, utilitarian object. Who you are is not the same as your body, but your body is part of what makes you who you are. Your body is completely a functional tool, but society is also constantly bombarding you with outside pressure on your body’s appearance. It makes the most intelligent, strong, amazing, beautiful people intensely insecure about things that most of the time they really can’t do a damn about. Strange, isn’t it?

Unless you spend very much time reading “body-positive” blogs, most of you don’t even realize how much your dissatisfaction or small irritations with your body can affect your mental outlook. You don’t even realize how insidious the societal pressure for a “perfect” body is. Think about this, ladies: 
  1. When was the last time you ate a dessert in public and were completely unapologetic about it?
  2. When was the last time you internally scolded yourself when you looked in the mirror?
  3. When was the last time you had a discussion with your girlfriends about your body that didn't revolve around weight, but on something like how strong you were feeling, or how great you felt in your own skin?
For most of us, the answers are:  
  1. Not since I was 10.
  2. This morning.
  3. Not since I was 10.

Reflect on that for a minute, and realize how truly sad that is.

My answers would be:
  1. Sunday
  2. This morning
  3.  Last week sometime

Slightly better, I think.

So, here is a challenge for any of you that have never really thought much about how you look at your body:

Spend this next week paying attention about how you think about yourself physically. 

Try really hard to not judge your own thoughts. Just pay attention. I’ll continue this thread next week.


Blog of the Day: Chic and Charming

Rather than just roll out a mile-long list of my favorite blogs to put on the sidebar, I thought I would gradually make a mile-long list of my favorites and introduce them formally.

The place of honor for this list should definitely go to Chic and Charming.

I actually met Sophia Charming (her blog name) about 5 years ago, and we became friends through our mutual love of style and silliness. She started a blog a few months later, and I have been a loyal reader ever since. In fact, she is pretty much directly responsible for introducing me to my favorite blogs and my love of blogging in general. Wondering why I blog myself? She is (indirectly) responsible!

Some of my favorite posts are her nostalgia for American Girl dolls (also note: the url shows the page title "this is a sad story about dolls." Yes!!!) because I definitely had that phase myself, and her comparison of the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series. In fact, she is also responsible for getting me started reading the True Blood books. And then watching the show. I can no longer feel superior for never reading/watching Twilight.

Go over and say hi!


Brief Hiatus

Moving sucks. If I were a good little blogger, you guys would never have noticed, but since I jumped in when I got the chance, I haven't had the chance to build up a catalog of posts waiting in the wings. 
I might get one more post in on Saturday, but normal routine should begin again on Monday. Stick around! I'm not in a bathtub missing a kidney!


Love Letter to NPR

Thank you NPR for introducing me to:

The Caesars (Old news, still a great song)

The Arctic Monkeys (And yeah, I learned of my favorite rock band through NPR.)

Gaby Moreno

Connie Willis (and her time traveling historians)


The Book of the Dead

The first book that I read for my Western Canon reading project was The Book of the Dead by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge. I think it is important to note here that for much of the first half of the reading list, I am getting whatever version of the work is available on Project Gutenberg . Also, the first things I am reading are all the religious texts. I thought reading them all together would be interesting.

So, back to the book. This is the Egyptian “Book of the Dead.” Before I cracked this open and actually read it, I had some wonderful anticipation that I knew was going to get crushed. I love anything having to do with ancient history. Anything from the rise of civilization in Ur, Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome up to the fall automatically gets a little rush of excitement going through me. The problem with Egypt is that reading about it is actually a little anticlimactic after my wild imaginings. Egypt is remarkable in the fact that it found something culturally that it liked, and just stuck with it. For 2000 years.

The Book of the Dead is actually a latter-day compilation of spells and texts that were called “Chapters of the Coming Forth into the Day.” They get the name “Book of the Dead” by grave robbers calling the scrolls of papyri they found with mummies “dead man’s books.” Because it isn’t necessarily a cohesive, standard religious text (although I believe it does get standardized at one point), it is possible to trace an evolution in burial rituals based on which version of the text was left in the tomb, and how it is presented.
The texts were believed to be written by Thoth for the benefit of the dead, and were basically a formula to make sure the deceased would get through the underworld. A “get into heaven free” card, if you will. Thoth, in Egyptian mythology, is the arbitrator in the battle between good and evil- the great mediator.

The scrolls provide a guide through the underworld. They provide the hymns that must be recited at certain times, the magical names of the door-parts that you must recite to gain entrance to come before Thoth, the answer to the riddle Thoth will pose to you before you can come before Osiris and the gods to be judged. This part of the mythology may sound familiar: in order to obtain your immortality, your heart will be weighed against a feather, and if you are found lacking, Ammit, the Devourer of Souls, will eat your heart and your soul will be restless forever.

The heart was considered” the seat of all will, emotion, feeling, reason and intelligence” and the feather is symbolic of truth and righteousness. The interesting point here is that you weren’t expected to “kick the beam” of the balance, you only had to counterbalance Truth. You didn’t have to be especially good, you just couldn’t be evil. In fact, you got through if Thoth’s pronouncement was “He hath done no evil.”

These religious beliefs are interesting to muse about today, when religion is much more metaphysical. Egyptians believed that the afterlife intersected this life. Part of your soul came back to your body each day to rest. The land of the dead was a physical place you could point to on a map. You lived an eternal existence with your loved ones in paradise. (Wait a minute…)

So, while my wild imaginings of reading a book of magic weren’t necessarily fulfilled, I did get a dollop of mythology (my favorite!) and some food for thought on what humans expect to happen when we die.



Perfection is totally ruining my life. Or rather my overwhelming desire for it is. 

Perfectionism isn’t generally something we complain about in ourselves. It’s usually something we say about other people, as they drive us up the wall with their unreasonable demands and expectations. Well, I make myself crazy. (I’m not discounting the reality that I make everyone around me crazy too- I love you dear husband!)

I almost feel kind of silly writing this post also, because my mind is telling me “Perfectionist? Hah! Look at your kitchen! Do you have any idea what you are making for dinner? Your bed isn’t made! You didn’t call about that thing! And look at your writing- is that really as good as it gets?”

And this is exactly the problem with being a perfectionist- nothing could ever be good enough in your life, because life is never perfect. I blame a lot of my high-strung mentality on my perfectionism:

Inflexibility, because life can’t possibly turn out perfect if I haven’t had enough advance warning to think through and plan out every detail of any move I make.

Irritability, because if anything goes against my internal rubric of perfection, usually small things, (background noise, things out of place, turns of phrase, on and on) I can’t help but fixate on the small imperfection until I snap over another ridiculously small annoyance.

Indecision. I cannot allow myself to attempt or to start something until I have convinced myself that it will have the exact outcome I expect. Usually things as small as calling the cable company. (I did that today, honey!)

And I just realized that I totally unconsciously made a list of the three I’s of my worst personality traits.  


Are you a perfectionist? What is your personal neurosis?