Vol I: 5 things that made me happy this week

As an homage to my “friends” at Pop Culture Happy Hour (oh, how I wish we were friends in real life!), I’m going to try and do a series of blog posts reflecting on aspects of my previous week that made me happy.

My friend Liza mentioned that one of her goals for 2016 was to “celebrate accomplishments in a more meaningful way.” What a brilliant idea! Most of us focus solely on our failures and mistakes and brush off accomplishments nonchalantly.

While “what is making me happy” may not fall under the definition of accomplishments, I hope it will serve as a positive reminder for me – and maybe you – that so much in our lives can and does bring us joy. Sometimes, we just forget about it.

  1. Old School Hip Hop jams

This actually started the night of New Year’s Day. In previous posts, I had noted that Aaron and I used to have some epic dance parties. Unfortunately, those had fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years. Then, 2016 happened. And, after some wine and a game of Scrabble, we threw down thanks to the power of YouTube bringing us some classic videos like these:

and:

The beats of ole kept on rolling this week thanks to a Spotify playlist (and the fact that my co-worker was 100% on board) on our trip back from the coast.

2. The return to public transit

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Driving was once one of my favorite activities. In the last few years, it has become a dreaded routine, and, some days feeling like survival of the fittest. With free WiFi and relative peace of mind, I was able to hop on one of GoTriangle’s regional transit buses both Thursday and Friday this week, giving me an extra hour where I could choose what to do: work, read, not have to worry that the driver next to me glued to their iPhone won’t nudge me into the guardrail.

3. Curling, eh?

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Yes, the Triangle has its own curling club (appropriately named the Triangle Curling Club). On Friday night, the group held an open house, offering some hands-on introduction to the sport of curling.

Note: it is MUCH harder than it looks. The power comes from that back leg pushing off a starting block. But, then you have to transfer all of your weight into your other leg, kept in a perfect 90 degree angle. Oh, and then you have to get this 44lb stone closest to the “shot rock” at the other end.

From the initial taste, we are hooked. We will be back, especially since it is just a hop, skip, and jump away from our home.

4.Reminder that some politicians are human

Not that I have doubted President Obama’s sense of compassion, but his speech this past week on taking executive action on curbing gun violence in our nation moved me immensely.

All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  They had rights, too.

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

And, the response to critics of President Obama’s emotional response during his speech from the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was spot on:

5. To Read: Little Bee

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I finished Chris Cleave’s 2008 novel to start off the new year, and it was achingly beautiful and painful. It tells the story of two people, brought together by tragic circumstances, and how they unpack the history that led to their connection, and also how they move forward together…or not. Could I be more generic in the description? Probably. I don’t want to give anything away about Little Bee and her struggles and triumphs in this incredibly well-written story.

So, what’s making you happy this week?

Day 25 of vegan recipe challenge: everyday I’m Brusselin’

Starting this post on a slight homage to Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks led by resident good-guy Russell Wilson. Still with the bitter taste of defeat on my tongue, I’ll still root for the Hawks since cheering for New England is not an option.

After the previous Sunday’s long run of 14 miles causing quite the mental consternation for me, I am happy to report yesterday’s 15-miler proved quite the opposite. Breaking my vow of no headphones, I donned a pair for the 2.5 hour journey, listening to two NPR Ted Radio Hour shows and one Pop Culture Happy Hour. Two things I learned:

1) Japanese bakeries in the United States actually invented the fortune cookie. During World War II when fear-monger and hate from the rest of the country led to Japanese internment camps, the Chinese ended up picking up the cookie market, forever cementing in the short-sighted minds of Americans that these treats were part of the traditional Chinese food experience.

2) The story of David and Goliath isn’t as epic as first told (or, repeatedly told). David was a skilled slinger, and the stones found in the particular region were much denser than traditional rock. Based on calculations, the force of the rock coming from David’s slingshot was likely equivalent to a .45mm bullet. Additionally, there is evidence Goliath had acromegaly, a form of giantism caused by the growth of a bengiun tumor on one’s pituatory gland.

Andre the Giant had acromegaly

Shifting from giantism to giantly good eats, I was surprised to find a recipe in the January/February 2015 Health magazine that: 1) was vegan; and 2) was simple. I have seen a shift to include more recipes in publications that are plant-based, which is great. I also received the latest Cooking Light in the mail:

It might be time for us to part ways, CL. It’s not you; it’s me.

So, Health magazine earns a win on this Brussels Sprouts salad. The instructions call fr you to break the sprouts up into thin ribbons. You may certainly do that. I got out the ol’ food processor and shredded away. Or, if you’re really short on time, you can purchase Brussels Sprouts pre-shredded from stores like Trader Joe’s.

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Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Mustard Seeds
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup raw pecans
16 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar (I substituted red wine)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. honey (I substituted agave nectar)
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. brown mustard seeds (I used mustard seeds)
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet-tart red apple such as Braeburn or Pink Lady, cored and diced

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast, shaking pan once or twice, until golden brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a cutting board for 5 minutes and then coarsely chop.

2) Thinly slice Brussels sprouts crosswise in 1/4 inch rounds. Remove any woody stems that remain and using your fingers, break up Brussels sprouts into thin ribbons. (Or, use your food processor to shred away).

3) Make dressing: whisk cider vinegar, honey, mustard seeds, shallot, salt and pepper to taste.

4) In a large skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add shredded Brussels sprouts: saute, stirring, until soft but still retaining some crunch, about 5 minutes. Add dressing and cook, stirring to combine for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Toss apples and pecans with sprouts. Serve immediately.

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Oh yes, this is a warm salad. Great texture, tang, and crunch. I really cannot get enough B. sprouts in my life, and this will be a go-to, especially to complement a heartier protein or grain dish. Like this:

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The vegan Hoppin’ John recipe to come. Until then, reflect on the reason why many of us have today off: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his historic contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. I have Selma on my must see movie list. After watching 42 and 12 Years a Slave already this weekend, I still can never claim to have a full understanding or even comprehension of what transpired (what still transpires) in our world. But, I must stay present in it, must continue to learn, and then must continue to do what I can to transform the institutions and cultural norms that feed this vicious cycle of powerlessness, of fear, and of hate.