Tag Archives: the Bride

A morning run finished, a milestone awaits

Several years ago, I ran my first half marathon on Easter Sunday, the last day of a long six-month slog through rehab. Next week, I’ll run my fourth half marathon but the first with The Bride. Back then we often dreamed of running together and celebrating health and happiness and sobriety. I ran endless loops around the track envisioning someday when we would run across the Golden Gate Bridge in celebration of God’s redemptive work in my life.

Next Sunday, I’ll realize that goal.

So this Easter Saturday, The Bride and I decided on a fun run as a final day of training.

We hit T minus 7 for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in San Franciso. We needed a final run just to make sure we were ready for what will surely be a windy, hilly, challenging, trek over the Golden Gate Bridge and into city center next week.

For our final long training run, we wanted to get out early because the damn race starts at 6:30 a.m. The Bride and I run early most morning, but not that early. We need our first cup of coffee and general waking up time before we lace up the shoes. This practice became a key point of emphasis, much to my dismay.

We also wanted to keep moving past as much different terrain as possible. Coit Tower’s Filbert Steps, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf and back up into the center of town. In a word: challenging.

We also wanted it to be fun. So we set the finish line at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in the Tenderloin, for its famous Cruffins.

A Cruffin at the end of miles through the beautiful city of San Francisco was meant to be a reward.  This might have been the only flaw in otherwise beautiful Saturday morning plan. I felt regret in my gut as we ran by Mama’s in North Beach early on. That should have been the finishing line.

At Mr. Holmes, the wait was long, the cruffin itself a poor proxy for the trend- and taste-setting expertise of the cronut and the unnecessary calories a week before a huge run combined to take the luster off the visit. But hey, at least we can say, “we’ve been there” for whatever that’s worth.

And next week, we will truly cross a landmark off the bucket list. I’ve been sober almost seven years. This run is a highlight of just how unexpectedly wonderful this second chapter of my life has been.


An Empty Nest weekend 30 years in the making

I was young when I became a parent. Barely an adult myself. For the last thirty years, kids–first mine, then my friends’, then my niece and nephew came along– have dotted our social landscape.

So it was a bit surprising when I considered that a recent weekend with my brother and sister-in-law and The Bride was the first time we ever did anything simply as couples.

We kept an easy, fun agenda. We shopped a bit, drank coffee, ate well. We wandered around Ketchum, Idaho and Sun Valley, a beautiful place in Idaho where Dr. Rev and his wife chose as a vacation getaway. We hunted down Ernest Hemingway’s memorial and graveyard and considered both his literary genuis and failure to evolve into a different season of life as an older, more frail man.

It was a different kind of getaway, one the four of us haven’t experienced before, but I suspect, something we’ll do again.

I’ve never really understood why so many fear Empty Nest. Things change. I miss my kids every day. But, life has its moments in every season. This one seems to be worth checking out.

Why must we so often live up to our stereotypes?

The Bride, the Youngest One and I didn’t hesitate when an acquaintance named Craig asked for volunteers to help cook a meal for about 120 food insecure neighbors, especially when he stressed we could simply eat with them rather than serve them.

The community meal is hosted once a month by an iconic San Francisco church. I didn’t know anything about the church, but I knew I wanted to cook for that many people and I wanted to hang out with them. The chef had attended the month before and took feedback what they’d like for a meal. Almost all said hot, filling and plentiful. He decided gumbo over rice would be perfect.

We arrived at 3:30 p.m. and started prepping huge boxes of peppers, squash, onions, celery, chicken, sausage, and bacon.

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A gorgeous light-chocolate-colored roux simmered while the aroma of meats and spices filled the kitchen. Our crew of six worked well together. Along with Craig, the others in our group were seminary students. Being a seminary dropout, I found much to chat about. I soon was moved to onions being one of the few who don’t cry when I chop them.

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The youngest one was on rice duty, feeding 120 cups of rice into two massive rice cookers. She started to get a little stressed when the fuses of the old church kept blowing and precious cooking time drifted away.

Unlike so many type A chefs, Craig simply encouraged and took it all in stride. He helped get the rice going again. I was enlisted to haul the heavy pots to different outlets. The church host went off the fix blown fuses. The Youngest One pulled me over.

“The rice isn’t cooking at all,” she said, the stress mounting.

Ah kitchen stress. It’s a unique kind of thing, sort of cool and sort of nasty at the same time. Craig and I decided our plan to run the rice cookers through twice wasn’t going to work so we started another massive pot on the crowded stove.

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The Bride joined the stirring duty of big pots, including one vegetarian gumbo in the back.

It was a blast.

Until the host servers came in.

Suddenly the old worn cliché came true: too many cooks suddenly spoiled the broth of our pleasant afternoon. A bevy of biting complaints followed from people who didn’t even take the time to introduce themselves.

“This rice isn’t done,” said one self-appointed food inspector who didn’t actually sample the rice, but saw the excess water that simply needed to be drained off because of the intemperate fuses. She had someone else haul the rice back into the kitchen.

“Since the rice isn’t done are we not going to have two serving lines” the designated host snarked to Craig. Craig pleasantly said they could do that or wait another five minutes for the rice.

Soon I overheard the host talking to a server. “Well I guess the vegetables aren’t done so as you serve tell our guests the vegetables are coming in just a few minutes.”

The vegetables in a gumbo are in it. The pot this lookey loo had seen was “extra” squash and onions and peppers we cooked up to bolster the gumbo when seconds were served. Craig had saved $60 from the budget and provided enough food for everyone to have two helpings. Nobody bothered to ask him what was his plan.

The youngest and I checked the rice, saw it was more than done and she helped me drain the excess water off. We carried it back out. Less than a minute later the pot had returned back to the kitchen with another lady saying the rice wasn’t done.

“Scotty can we go home now?” she asked. “I’m done with these people.”

“Let’s just finish our job,” I said. “We aren’t doing this for these folks.”

She agreed.

I simply hauled the heavy rice pot right back out to where it went. As I put it in place one woman asked, “Where’s the sauce. Shouldn’t there be sauce?”

Sauce. On Gumbo. This was the same woman who kept sending food back. A thousand reactions flashed through my mind. I simply walked away.

As the servers started plating food, the host came in and talked to Craig. “Well, I see a problem. Folks are just getting broth and a few vegetables because I guess the meat is at the bottom.”

Craig looked stymied. “Uh… The servers just have dig into it to serve it up,” he said.

“Well, instructions weren’t given. Now some are going to have more meat,” he said.

He left.

Craig was genuinely confused.

“Craig, these people have absolutely no idea what gumbo is,” I said.

The thought struck him as both true and amazing. He’s from the south. How could you not know what gumbo is?

Craig looked at me and shrugged. “We are here to serve God and his people, not be praised.”

“Thank God for that then,” I said.

As we cleaned up yet another lady came in and started asking us where we had put the compost bucket.

“We filled it twice,” Craig said. “I’m not sure.”

“But compost items are in the trash,” she said, with an accusatory point. I had been cleaning food out of the sinks to start the dishes and had put the food waste in the trash can.

Craig started to explain again that we were simply in the clean up stages now.

“I guess it can’t be helped now,” she said, walking off.

Someone else came in with a plate of food and handed it to one of our team, I guess to eat standing in the kitchen. She tried to hand one to Craig.

“No thank you. I’m not really hungry,” he said.

He handed it to me.

“Craig, thanks. This looks and smells awesome,” I said.

Then I walked outside of the kitchen into the hall and sat at a table of strangers. The Bride and The Youngest One soon joined us. Within minutes we were sharing stories about ourselves. I met a young woman named Tess who was sitting with an older man.

“He told me he hadn’t seen steam coming off food in a long time,” Tess told me. “It was great.”

“Yeah, so great, I just want some more,” the old guy said.

“You get seconds,” The Bride said.

The youngest one hopped up. “I’ll get them for you.”

He said thank you many times. Then The Youngest One came back.

“They said no seconds until after they serve dessert,” she said apologetically.

He brushed it off. “That’s ok. I can wait. I surely do want seconds.”

“Please finish mine,” The Bride said. “I’m done.”

“Oh No…” he said. “I won’t take food off your plate, not with your man sitting right there. That ain’t right.”

“It’s perfectly fine,” I said. “I knew she wouldn’t eat much of it anyway. Please, enjoy.”

“Nope, nuh uh,” he said. “My morals won’t allow it.”

We went on to other conversation. A man came over passing out candy bars. He offered one to The Youngest One.

“No thank you,” she said.

He started to insist. Another man seated next to her who had been talking with his friend about the Id, Ego and Super Ego said, “I’ll take hers.”

“Yes, that’s great,” the youngest one said. “What kind would you like?”

The server cut her off. “We don’t do that here,” he scolded. “I’m not kidding.”

The man started to apologize, the youngest scowled. The Bride looked at me fuming. I shook my head. Let it go. Let it go.

Eventually they rolled out seconds and the youngest went up to get the older man his plate. She refused to be delayed any further.

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While getting it, the same man that had passed out candy bars chided her for not taking one.

“I don’t need to take a candy bar from these people,” she said. “I’m not homeless.”

“So you think homeless is bad thing,” he said. Her face turned red. She walked away, but made sure she brought our new friend a plate of food.

As we ate the church host came over.

“I heard from Craig that you all in the kitchen felt unappreciated,” he said. “I am sorry. You did an amazing job…”

“It’s fine,” I said. “We are fine. We are glad to help.”

I noticed those we were eating with exchanging glances, like those awkward looks when you really aren’t privy to a conversation happening right in front of you like you weren’t here. He tried again to apologize.

“Thank you,” I said. “I appreciate that. We can let it drop.”

Thankfully he moved on.

We finished, said our goodbyes and went back to find Craig. He ate out of a paper bowl with his friends around him. They all looked a bit sad. The host found Craig and again tried to apologize. I considered asking him what exactly he was apologizing for but in the end decided to let it go. This wasn’t our place, our meal, our scene. We were just helping out. We wouldn’t return.

One of the people eating food wandered into the area where we all sat.

“Man, that food was delicious,” she said.

Craig glowed.

“Finally,” he said.

It’s amazing what a sincere thank you can do.

Craig asked The Bride if she had fun. She said mostly. He asked her if she’d do it again.

“I’d love to do it in another neighborhood sometime,” he said.

“We’d cook with you again in a heartbeat,” she said. “But maybe not here.”

On the way home we all had a lot of talk about. We processed the events of the night. I sincerely worried that the youngest one’s enthusiasm for community and service would be doused. I shouldn’t have worried. She loved the cooking and loved the eating, she said, which more than made up for the brief middle ground of those who made her feel stressed out and insecure.

We compared the attitudes we saw among the servers to the attitudes of those being served. The cliché of liberal elitism had rang so true. I hoped it wasn’t so. In theory these were my people: liberal Christians determined to be genuine light and salt in the world by their actions instead of soapbox preachers and ardent evangelicals.  But in practice we were something very different. We saw things and people differently. Perhaps back in the day, back before the sobriety and the scandals and the failures changed the lens from which I view life, I wouldn’t have noticed these differences.

We talked a lot about stereotypes. About the labels. About the actions of people from all sorts of “groups” who infuse harmful stereotypes with energy simply because they act in a way that reinforces them.

I felt myself letting it all go. An attitude of gratitude, of honoring people no matter who they are, of forgiving those who don’t even know they need to be forgiven, and of service for the sake of simply serving goes a long way to fixing the mental images that make a good work seem bad.

Because of the generosity of those same tiresome people who didn’t even realize how offensive they can be, more than 100 people received a massive plate of delicious gumbo, including The Bride, the Youngest One and me. Most even got seconds.

The rest was just noise.

P.S. Thank you Craig. It was delicious.

Sourdough wheat pizza blends delicate, rustic flavor

I am reasonably sure I’ll never find “the dough” for me.  Of course, I used to say that about soul mates until The Bride came along, so I’ve learned never to say never, at least with much conviction. Hence, “reasonably sure” sounds more accurate.

More than once we’ve eaten our Friday night “make in” Pizza and The Bride’s spoken with a bite still in her mouth, her hand at her chin to catch stray cheese and her mouth in a bit of an Ah shape to guard against the heat all while saying, “This is Effin good.”

“Really?” I ask.

She’d swallow and say, “Yeah, this is the best you’ve made. Don’t change a thing.”

Then I go and change it. So instead of asking her now if she likes it, I say, “But is it as good as Tony’s?”


It never is. It’s almost an unfair question because I’m not sure anyone will ever be as good as Tony’s.  Case in point:


This thing is SOO MUCH better than it looks. And when you write a beautiful, definitive, perhaps THE ONLY pizza cookbook a person needs like this:



…you got it going on. So it’s no shame not to be better than @tonyspizza415, and it gives me license to keep experimenting with doughs in search of ms. right.

All of which leads me to … my sourdough wheat pizza crust. In it, I used many of the tricks I have tried other times, including:

  • working some seminola into the dough for that complex texture and durability it provides,
  • using an egg (which I normally only use in pasta dough) because I’m told it adds a bit of bite to the crust along with some lightness to counteract the heaviness of the wheat,
  • a sourdough starter I made from 50 percent whole white wheat and 50 percent bread flour,
  • and my usual dashes of salt garlic and olive oil.
  • After about five minutes of kneading the grittier dough started to mesh with the lighter ingredients to become a sturdy, yet silky ball in my hands. I felt a great deal of promise lay in the bowl as I oiled it and set it for a good few hours of rise.

Note: I normally don’t do a lot of kneading or excessive rising for my pizza doughs. The simplicity of it is part of the beauty. Pizza doughs are easy to make decent, yet crucially delicate and complex to get that perfect snap and al dente mix that makes a crust like Tony’s so… Tonyish. This one, because of the wheat and because of the egg I decided to both knead more and let more time to rise, yet another experiment.

Finally, I did add a teaspoon of yeast, which I really don’t think is necessary. The sourdough starter has plenty enough activity after nine days of feeding, stirring and living, but with the density of the wheat and the texture of seminola, I wanted some backup.

And the results?

The crust was a nice blend of rustic texture from the seminola and wheat but delicacy that made it better than a slice of cardboard. The sourdough gave it a complex flavor I really love. The lift was good too. One complaint was it was a tad crumbly. In short…

I love it, but …

it’s still not Tony’s.

Sourdough Wheat Pizza Crust


  • 1 1/2 cup white wheat sourdough starter (here’s a good recipe, by Nourished Kitchen… mostly I stress a high quality starter and a good doughs to feed it. I got mine from Italy).
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup white wheat, 1/2 cup seminola from Butte Creek Mill.
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl honey
  • 1 egg
  • splashes of salt, crushed garlic or dry
  • 1/4 cup luke warm water with 1 tsp of yeast


  1. Mix yeast and water and let stand.
  2. Sift doughs together and make a well. In the well crack the egg and pour in olive oil, garlic and salt. Stir with a fork outward until mostly blended.
  3. Add in sourdough starter and water and begin mixing with your hands. Add white wheat flour as needed until it’s not sticky.
  4. Knead for five minutes.
  5. Place in oiled bowl and cover for three hours. Punch down once or twice as needed.
  6. Roll out the crust into your best pizza shape and let stand for a few minutes (or more) covered with a towel (this really helps the slide-ability of the dough. If you want a crisp, extra thin crust skip this step because it does rise a bit).
  7. Sauce, cheese, toppings and slide into a 500-degree oven for 9-11 minutes.
  8. Top with dried red peppers, parmesan cheese. Let stand for five minutes, slice and serve.

Sick and tired: A plan to tame the bear and get our mojo back

Have you ever stood face-to-face with a bear? I haven’t either. I’m from the city for godsakes. But, I suspect, it would be a memorable encounter. I suspect it might have been the thing that gave birth to the term “scared shitless.”

I saw my own bear recently. Right there in the mirror. I felt scared shitless.

As a former fatty, I can’t write about food, recovery, health and fitness without being ever mindful of the inner fatty that still lurks within. And frankly, it’s lurking without rather than just within more and more each day. The love handles are filling into kettle balls lately. I had to admit, I’ve had enough of the slow creep of weight gain and waist gain.

It’s my bear. In a sense, I’ve been fighting it or fearing it my entire life. I’ve had to watch what I eat my entire life.

I’m not a fan of diets. They don’t usually build in long-lasting change even if they may strip the fat off for a bit. Suffering will do that.  Abstinence helps too. But neither are generally sustainable — voluntarily that is — so the things that strip the weight off will not be around to keep it off. Predictably, the weight comes back with a fury.

But on a recent long run preparing for an upcoming half-marathon, I couldn’t get past how I just didn’t feel right. I later looked into the mirror and sure enough, I was carrying to much weight. I just don’t look trim any more.

A feeling came over me that was as strong as a tornado ripping through a Kansas farm town. I felt pissed. Betrayed (by myself). Infuriated. I worked way, way, way, way too hard to lose weight and get fit. But because I’m still fit, I lost sight of the first part. I am getting heavier, which means sooner or later the fit part will erode too.

I had to make a change.

Turns out The Bride was right there with me. She’s become something of an Insanity groupie recently, enduring 40 minutes of nastiness and enough jumping to join a Kangaroo club. She’s all in. Each morning she’s red-faced and sweaty, checking her heart rate with no idea what she’s checking despite finger dutifully pressed to her throat amid gasping breath. Each morning she jumps and twists, and jogs and kicks and pops pain killers to quiet her rebellious Achilles tendon and cusses Shawn T and then goes on to teambeachbody.com to join her fellow masochists. She is really, really into the Insanity craze.

But you know what? She still isn’t losing the belly flab either, she says (Lord knows I’d never say such a thing… these are her words!). She’s fit too. Stronger than she’s ever been. Great condition, but the weight just isn’t coming off like she wants. She doesn’t want to hear that at 47 she can’t have a beach body still.

beach body

Turns out she felt just like I do, that she was staring at the bear and pretty freaked out. My Tornado of Ire quickly became hers as well.

We decided we needed a plan. An EATING plan to be exact. Something a good deal like a… diet, God forbid.

But if there’s one thing I won’t change is this: I won’t do things to lose weight that aren’t sustainable. I won’t drink diet shakes or fast or buy Jenny Craig or count points. If I can’t live the eating plan I won’t do it.  So we had to find something, some plan to better coordinate our eating and get some weight off in a way that would be sustainable.

After some hunting we found such a plan, the BuzzFeed Clean Eating Challenge. It’s not a diet as much a re-calibration of the type of eating The Bride and I strive to do all the time. It’s focus on lean proteins, absence of processed food and balanced meals fit with our goals.

The plan is wonderfully prepared with shopping list, menus, recipes, photos, printouts and everything you need to just dive in and do it. Just do it. That’s language I can live with it.

We stopped fearing and got busy with the plan. It’s day one. We are off. We’ll keep you posted here in the next two weeks to come with a honest review of this plan’s effectiveness.

Hopefully we’ll tame the bear. I’ve been at this too long to know I can’t kill it, but if I can tame it again, let it hibernate, I can recapture the balance I’ve enjoyed the past few years. That, like my bear, I can live with.


Powered up with produce

The Bride decided enough was enough and she wanted to lose ten pounds. So I went on a diet.

Well that’s not entirely true, but I simply won’t do diets. I don’t believe in them. I know them to be counter to healthy weight loss, something I know a little about having lost 100 pounds a few years back and kept (most) it off. But since I cook around here and since The Bride’s obsession with the scale grated my nerves more than the promos for “Two Broke Girls” I decided to go along with a more intensive eating plan focused on weight loss.

In effect I decided to ramp up our nutrition game, which is why you haven’t seen any decadent chocolate post from the Test Kitchen as of late (I know, I miss them too). Part of keeping my weight off is calibrating now and again when the scale starts to creep up. It hasn’t been creeping since Christmas, but hasn’t been sliding either. Thus, I’m game with The Bride on this one (not that I had a choice).

As I’ve said before there is only one thing you can do to lose weight: eat right and exercise. (Well, that’s two things, but you have to do both, so it’s like two things that are one thing like Iced tea because you can’t have one, uh…never mind). But the variable is how “right” do you want to eat. We are simply eating “righter” these days.

By that we’ve made two adjustments: We cut out virtually all deserts (which hurts me nearly as much as cutting out alcohol, because to be honest, I’m really done with denying myself after giving that one up) and we are absolutely loading up on veggies.


We creeped toward these changes for the better part of the month but when The Bride made her pronouncement two weeks ago, we went in whole hog (minus the hog).  I basically started loading a wide spectrum of vegetables and some fruits into everything we ate. Lunch became a cut up apple with Effin Artist Peanut Butter, surrounding by raw vegetables and Effin Artist Humus. Breakfast became oatmeal with protein powder and apples or bananas or cranberries one day, and an omelet stuffed to the gills with slightly seared vegetables. Dinner became a massive vegetable main dish, with a small helping of whatever use to be the main.

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As I’ve sought to learn more about vegetables and their restorative powers through various articles and documentaries (expect a Wheat and Chaff article very soon) I caught on to a simple, brilliant thought. We need so many vegetables in our diet and they are so good for us, that most of what we do to make them tasty is comparatively better than when we don’t eat enough. So vegetable loaded burritos (on homemade wheat tortillas) can still have sour cream and a bit of meat, because it’s loaded with veggies and home cooked black beans.

Eating vegetables in large quantities make you healthier and give you more freedom.

Next, I borrowed my father-in-law’s juicer and made some zany vegetable drinks.

These are just power-packed with nutrients and can be easily swirled into smoothies with plain yogurt and a frozen banana. You’d think beet, kale and carrot juice would not go well with bananas and chocolate protein powder, but you’d be (mostly) wrong.


The exercise part is already going well, but having agreed to a half-marathon trail run with my triathlete brother this fall, I have amped up the training ever so slightly.

So eating righter and exercising is just pulling the weight off our bodies right?

Nope. I haven’t lost anything. The Bride did lose three pounds.


So nothing. It’s perfect. Rapid weight loss means rapid weight gain later. We both feel  great and The Bride’s tone is already better. Her energy is much better, her attitude sparkly. I am losing the cravings for chocolate. Most importantly, the food is delicious. Your taste buds don’t even know what’s good if you spend too much time in the terrible whites (sugar, flour, rice and potatoes). Just like the Earth, which is an unending celebration of diversity, our diets need to be the same. When they are we simply feel better.

Those ten pounds? They’ll come off. In time. We’re not worried about it (mostly). The gains are already very, very apparent.

Honoring the verb to be

As a writer I’ve been taught a relentless hatred for the verb to be. It is flabby, weak, uninspiring and dull. Yet, like crabgrass that refuses to yield, the verb to be is an arduous foe, constantly cropping up in my articles as it already has several times in these sentences. God I hate the verb to be.

So imagine how counter I find the yogic teaching to simply “be.” No active verbs, full of tension, drama and angst needed on the yoga mat, I’ve been told. Nor in life for that matter. Just be. (Even as I write this I stop and reconsider my first graph, nagging at letting those is-es stay for artistic effect… I’m twitchy over it I tell you…)


Be? BE what?

And therein lies the secret I’ve spent three years, several times a week quietly, fluidly, clumsily, breathlessly battling with the chatter in my mind to find what it means to be.

I get it mostly even as I admit I really don’t. The present moment is a restless embrace. It doesn’t last long. It refuses to easily allow being savored. But I’ve had enough moments to know where I’m headed even if its a fuzzy, muddled conception at best. Or was anyway, until the other day when suddenly the fuzz cleared and the crackling blur gave way to high-def clarity, even if for a mere moment.

I stood in Warrior One. I always strain a bit more than necessary in Warrior One. I’m a Warrior Two guy. That hip barks at the twist of Warrior One. So there I stood, struggling along when I noticed The Bride. She looked radiant on her mat beside me, effortlessly holding the pose, arms up, leg back like a photo in Yoga Journal.

As she mentioned she’s relatively new to yoga. She stubbornly held to the happy clappy bouncy flouncy mantra of fictional targeted fat burns and more-is-more exercise videos while I went about my yoga practice alone.

It took everything I had to let her be.

I nudged now and again. I glanced her way, eyes provocatively (so I thought) luring her to the mat. I couldn’t hide my annoyance at Jillian Roberts or Michaels or Go Daddy whoever she is. But mostly I let The Bride be.

Eventually she dabbled. I held back my enthusiasm. I even joined her bouncing around — “Come on girls…” notwithstanding — to show my solidarity and openness to change. It took a long time, and still, somehow, I let her be.

Finally, I could recognize her ah-ha moment. She started joining me in yoga practice. First, once a week. Then recently it began to change. She started to adjust her workout to fit mine. She started asking to do yoga. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. Still… somehow… I let her be.

Her first poses were less than beautiful. She had never really been taught. I wanted to spend just a few sessions working with her, showing her the proper poses and helping her find the energy of her inner self shining through. We’d do our practices and I found myself glancing over at her — something I really never do with anyone else in other settings — to see how she was doing. The saggy leg or the sloppy sun salutations twitched my nerves just a bit, yet somehow, strangely, I let her be.

Then came the other day as I struggled with my Warrior One I looked her way and saw what she had become, all by herself, in her own way and her own time. In that moment she was radiant.

I smiled and returned to me… present to myself for the first time in awhile in our practices because of my preoccupation with The Bride. A few moments later I heard her voice, quiet yet clear ask me, “how does this look?”

I saw the energy in her pose. I recognized the purposefulness yet less-is-more signature of a budding yogi.

“Beautiful,” I said. “Really beautiful.”

That’s what it’s like to simply be and it was wonderful, demanding a pause, to be in the present and honor it. I do so, even allowing the to-be verbs run amok in this post, welcome, for today only I hope, to simply honor the wisdom of the verb to be.

Oscar menu set for four small plate courses

The bride does not like to cook. She used to pretend to like to cook because when she’d get home from work and I’d be cooking. I’d have an open bottle of wine. So she’d come sit across the bar and drink wine and snack on my latest appetizers and even chop a few things at times to put up a good appearance. But then we got sober and the wine went away. So did the Bride at dinner time.

To be fair, the bride cleans up. She doesn’t mind this at all and virtually never blasts me for all the pans I may have used. She cranks the ’80s hair bands and spends about three times as long as I would cleaning. Doddering, I call it. Only I don’t have to clean, so I don’t call it that out loud. I only say, “Wonderful! Thanks baby.”

But, despite her lack of interest in cooking, the Bride does very much like to eat what I cook — and can be a little finicky at times as well — so she does take a big interest in planning what we will eat, especially on big events.

When it comes to big events, Oscar Night is right up there. So while I was thinking of making my grandmother’s famous Big-4 Inn ravioli and apple rings, five emails with various food ideas magically appeared in my email inbox.

The ravioli will wait.

I began preparation last night, baking bread and cookies, making homemade pesto, biking to the store for produce… all the usual stuff. Because not only do I have to prepare the four-course, small-plate menu the Bride dreamed up, but I have to be her guest, as our party is being attended by two. If I’m busy in the kitchen, well, I think two is necessary for a party (to be honest, I’m not sure the Bride agrees. She will be enraptured with the Oscars. I’m ancillary. I can accept that one night a year…. still I’d rather watch too).  So I need to get everything prepped early.

Anyway, if you need some last-minute ideas for your party, here’s my menu. Photos to come later.

Course one: 3 p.m. when the Bride gets serious about “who are you wearing” and I can be out of the room all I want.

  • Baked Baby Portobellos with pesto and avocado stuffing.
  • Toasted and roasted: Toasted Pomegranate Italian Bread (an Effin Artist original, see photo above) topped with roasted tomatoes.

Course two: 4 p.m.

  • Eggplant Pizzas
  • Toasted Ravioli

Course three: 5:30 p.m. as Ellen dances on the stage.

  • Steak and Pepper Skewers
  • Sweet Potato Fries

Course four: 7:30 p.m. as the big winners hit the stage

  • Homemade Mint Ice-Cream Sandwiches. (both ice cream and cookies made from scratch… bring the A game).

Enjoy the big night. Check back for pictures of the menu and updates on the ballot contest.