Who’s always with you, never leaves your side, is inextricably linked to you wherever you go, however you feel, like it or not? Your body. It is your faithful dog, waiting on your every move and whim to do your bidding. So why is it so many of us have such a fraught/abusive relationship with this devoted and obedient spacesuit? Lately I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of pain in my severely compromised neck and back and I become irate with it, as if it has betrayed me, or is holding me back from having fun. Or I look in the mirror and am aghast at the bits and pieces that are looking older and losing the taughtness of youth. My body is doing the best it can to serve me, has kept me alive and well for many many years now, and has been especially patient with my outrageous demands. So what can I do to show my gratitude instead of acting like an entitled child who can’t accept limits? Well, for starters I could be compassionate towards her and appreciate being carried this far. She has given me my beloved child, and has won the DWTS mirrorball for me, she happily climbs up the pole at my behest, and provides me with enough endorphins to beat any high made by a pharmacist. Since having my child, I often think “Would I treat my daughter the way I treat myself? Would I criticize her body parts, mercilessly holding them up to some impossible standard?” Never. So why not model for her a little self acceptance and be kind to myself, and my body. One of the reasons I am so crazy about my S Factor class is that there are no mirrors, it is dimly lit and I give my body permission to play and move however she needs to without expectations or judgement. There is just music, and a bunch of women I don’t know outside of class but who’s feminine energy comes in every shape size and are all equally divine, scantily clad crawling on the floor, sliding up and down poles, and for those two hours I am amazed at the abundance of joy my body/soul can produce, and my neck has forgotten that it hurts.
Elisabet Spaulding, one of my go-to food friends, rocked my world last night when she introduced me to 101 Cookbook’s “Magic Sauce.” The moment it touched my lips, I was hard pressed to think of one thing I wouldn’t put it on. They call it Magic Sauce, “because it makes everything it touches shimmer with deliciousness…You’re best off making a double or triple batch. This is the sort of stuff you burn through in minutes. Not exaggerating. I cook eggs in it - scrambled, omelette, frittata, you name it. I drizzle it on soups. I can attest it’s the sort of thing that makes baked potatoes even better than usual. And salads welcome it as well - particularly shaved salads, or ones made from spicy greens. You can use it to marinate or slather ingredients before grilling or roasting. And its the sort of dressing that turns a bowl full of farro or quinoa or soba noodles into something close to a full meal - just toss in another favorite seasonal ingredient or two.” -101 CookBooks
Before I did Dancing With The Stars, I had developed a pretty intense case of stage fright that was making any kind of live performance something I actively avoided. But, as with lots of kinds of anxiety, it was gradually and insidiously making my world smaller. Even though I had always loved dancing, I hadn’t done it for 20 years, so my fear of a live show was never going to allow me to say yes to something as harrowing as DWTS. It was just not an option for me. But because I’m devoted to experiencing as much joy as I possibly can in this life, while also trying to model doing something in spite of fear for my young daughter, I really had no choice but to take some action.
The hypnotist Caroline Conger designed a recording customized for me. She also has some “off the rack” hypnosis that creates deep relaxation in the body and therefore the mind. I listen to this link, in addition to my own version, to take a nap or go to sleep. I use it when I feel anxious or overwhelmed, and it has afforded me deep and lasting results. It’s great to listen to on an airplane (download it onto your iTunes) or sometimes I even go places 20 minutes early so I can reboot midday. I just pull over in my car, lock my doors, put my seat back and chill.
You won’t be squawking like a chicken, but please for God’s sake do not listen to it while you’re driving. Hypnosis is most effective when you’re not completely unconscious, but rather when you’re in an alpha state. ”The alpha state is a light hypnotic state—relaxed, yet focused and receptive. In this state of consciousness, a person is calm, able to absorb new information and become more resourceful and open to new possibilities.” C’mon…Who doesn’t want that?
In this TED Talk Esther Perel talks about desire and longing in committed longterm relationships.
“Desire comes with the ability to stay connected to one’s self in the presence of another. If you are dead inside, the other person can do a lot of things for Valentine’s. It won’t make a dent. So it is about: “I turn myself off when…” and “I turn myself on when…”, in stead of “You..” or “What..”.
The paradox between love and desire is that the very ingredients that nurture love are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire. Basically most of us will get turned on at night by the very same things that we will demonstrate against during the day. The erotic mind is not very politically correct.
What creates feelings of desire obviously varies from woman to woman, but I believe that the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey is an indication of how starved women are, in particular, for those feelings. In 50 Shades, the protagonist is a 20 something year old virgin (a time free of emotional baggage coupled with raging hormones urging us on to procreate) who has her first sexual experiences, doing things she had never even imagined, with a powerful, emotionally damaged/dangerous and gorgeous man. 50 Shades might actually be the worst book ever written, but what is inherently powerful in this story is the sexual tension that seems to be what women everywhere crave. The unknown, the unpredictable, the threat of possible humiliation (gasp!) and the constant striving for something always just beyond reach, is what I gleaned from the chapters I could muster reading. That tension is the secret sauce starkly missing from the monotony of a stable, monogamous marriage. But isn’t the notion of “security” really an illusion anyway when you really think about it? There is another alternative to depressing, poorly written Mommy Porn…
Esther Perel says:
“I look at this person and I momentarily get a shift in perception, and I stay open to the mysteries that are living right next to me.”
“When I get back in touch with my ability to imagine myself with my partner, rooting it in absence and in longing, which is a major component of desire.”
“When I look at my partner, radiant and confident, from a comfortable distance, where this person that is already so familiar, so known, is momentarily once again somewhat mysterious, somewhat elusive.”
“When there is novelty. Novelty is not about a repertoire of techniques, but about what parts of yourself you bring out and how you express them. It’s a language with it’s poetics.”
“Looking at this as an intelligence, it’s something that you cultivate, with the central agent called the imagination.”
I have to admit, beef is the last thing I think of eating these days, but somehow, Oscar night begs for chili (not to mention my family). This recipe will win any chili cook-off you’ll ever enter. The condiments are key (diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese). I turn my kitchen counter into a little chili bar with all the fixins’ so people can help themselves. Throw in a basket of hot Jiffy cornbread, and you’re golden. The chili improves with age, so make it a day ahead and reheat before serving. Oscar day, all you’ll have to do is chop your condiments and, after the arrivals, throw your cornbread in the oven and place your bets. Do you smell what I’m cookin’?
Women’s sexuality has often been linked to romance and flowers, and I don’t believe for one minute that flowers have ever increased a woman’s appetite for sex (unless maybe she were a botanist). For women, I believe connection is the key to gain “entry,” and not the spoken variety necessarily, as words sometimes take us up into our heads, when where we really need to go is down…to our roots. Our animal bodies.
As men’s biology might suggest, their experience is external. For women, it is almost like conjuring an energy, like a slumbering animal in your womb. What if we took the onus off of men and took responsibility for the care and feeding of this mysterious and enigmatic feminine energy?Would you ever show up at a dinner party empty handed? I want to come to the party with a pot I have been simmering on the stove all day. Or if it’s an impromptu get together, I should be able to grab a quick snack to add to the meal.
Men are expected to be safe-crackers, Houdinis, able to unlock an impossible safe. It really is not their job. Women can love sex as much as any man, but they haven’t been educated as to how to access that part of their own mind/body connection. What music activates you? It might be different than the music you listen to in the car. What makes you feel alive in your body? A hot bath, silky pajamas, sexy lingerie, a flannel shirt? It is our job to know so that we’re never arriving at the party empty handed.
Just before the holidays I made a pilgrimage to a desert oasis. Alone. A desperately needed interruption in my routine. (I’d only done this once before in the past 12 years, for three days last spring.) The landscape, beautiful in its stark eeriness. Nothing to do. Nothing to eat. Nothing to decide, but should I walk or should I meditate? Should I take a nap, or should I soak in the hot spring? No one to take care of but myself. So strange. Being. Just being. Feeling the gradual return to myself. The self that is always lying patiently waiting for me to attend to it. Always last on my list after my jobs, myriad tasks, unending list of errands, my Sisyphean busy-ness. My addiction to “doing.”
The juice fast/detox is a literal respite for one’s digestive system in tandem with daily colonics, flushing out all those hard-to-reach areas. (Just relax, stay with me, man up. I get it. I promise you, it’s awesome!) Revealing a pearly pink intestine relieved of years of toxins and abuse. There’s the subliminal promise that if somehow your body can release whatever no longer serves it, you can release whatever is holding you back. Reboot, redux.
The opaque grey tarnish begins to fade and there is a lightening…a luminous glow from within and without, and then gradually brightening into a shine, having waited so patiently for me to take the time to remember my shiny self.
My friend, Julianna Strickland, has a web series called Cinema & Spice (check out her tumblr here). She made up this irresistible concoction when my daughter came home from school, and mayhem ensued. Taste and you’ll see why.
Generous spoonful of almond butter (any more than that is not encouraged in one sitting…)
Unsweetened almond or soy milk
Dried unsweetened coconut (not pictured here, but highly recommended)
Sliced tart apples (I like Fuji or Honeycrisp)
In a small bowl, combine almond butter with a little bit of the milk, about a teaspoon of honey, a splash of vanilla extract, and a generous pinch of salt. Stir like a madwoman (or man) until it is creamy and easy to dip into. Sprinkle coconut on top. You can make it the consistency to suit your mood, but I like it about as thick as caramel sauce. Taste with an apple slice to make sure the dip is just the right salty-sweet to drive you around the bend.
You’ve all been asking for it…here it is. How to make the kale that no one can believe is palatable so yummy and addicting that everybody will beg for more. My good friend Mary McCann taught me this recipe that disappears with children and adults alike.
Good olive oil
Kosher/Sea salt to taste
Lots of fresh lemon juice
1-2 shallots, finely minced
1 bunch of curly kale
Optional: dried cranberries, marcona almonds, caramelized pecans, grated parmesan, sliced avocado, flax seeds
Clean kale well and separate leaves from the center ribs (the bitter part). Rip the leaves into bite-sized pieces. In the bottom of the salad bowl, whisk the oil, salt, lemon juice and shallots. Fool around with this combination until you find something that tastes just right to you. I wish I could be more specific, but I fucking can’t. This is how I cook.
So this is the key piece. When your secret sauce tastes indescribably delicious, pour it over your greens and massage them ‘til there’s no leaf left behind. Don’t be shy—manhandle those greens, cause they can take it. Kale needs a firm but groovy mistress. Knead it in your fists as if you’re washing your lingerie in the sink. Let it sit in the fridge for anywhere between half an hour and overnight.
The salt and lemon virtually break down the kale, leaving it begging to be eaten. Sprinkle any or all of the above toppings. The avocado makes it more of a filling meal.
My “diet” is to only put things in my mouth that I find most delicious. For the most part, they’re healthy. I’m not wheat-free and I’m not sugar-free, but healthier food makes me feel better. I love this banana bread which uses only canola oil and feels like a “healthier” treat. When you need to bring a cake for someone in the hospital, a new neighbor, etc., it’s something you can whip up in no time. I got this recipe from my friend and brilliant ceramist Moye Thompson.
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas, smooshed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the sugars, oil, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Next, mix the wet and dry ingredients until combined and stir in the bananas.
Pour the mixture into a buttered bundt pan. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes until the top is brown and crusty and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool and then top with sprinkled confectioners sugar. The bundt pan leaves a beautiful space that seems made to hold a couple of cut blossoms/mint.