Friday, February 28, 2014

Mashed "Faux-tato" Casserole

I discovered this recipe the other day on, and MAN OH MAN am I glad I did!
Aside from the fact that this dish is definitely in my low-carb arena, I'd go as far to say that it's almost better than actual loaded mashed potatoes. Plus, it couldn't be any simpler to make.
First off, place 6-8 strips of uncooked bacon on a baking pan covered with tin foil. Place it in a cold oven, heat the oven to 400* and set a timer for 20 minutes. (P.S. this is the easiest, cleanest way I've found to cook bacon.. and it comes out perfectly cooked.)
While the bacon cooks, go ahead and combine into a large mixing bowl  2 1/2 cups of shredded or grated cauliflower (for this recipe, it's best to use a food processor so that the cauliflower has a more potato-like consistency) with 1 cup of sour cream (I used a little bit more than that) and half a package of shredded cheddar cheese. If you like, you can also add chives to the mix.

Once the bacon has cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, go ahead and shred up half of the bacon into small pieces and add them into the mixture, stirring everything together really well. Once that's done, you can pour the mixture out into a greased baking pan. Go ahead and pour the rest of the package of shredded cheese and crumble the rest of the bacon to add on the top of the casserole.

Cook at 350* for about 20-25 minutes until it looks done.

And voilĂ . There you have it. Delicious loaded mashed faux-tato casserole.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Astrology Game

Last night I met some friends out for a drink, and in doing so was able to catch up with an old acquaintance, "Kay", whom I hadn't seen in a while.

Kay and I have several friends in common, and we always have a great time chatting every time we see each other. She's a very bubbly, upbeat person -- exactly the type of person I enjoy hanging out with, because her positive attitude is so infectious.

One of Kay's favorite things to talk about is astrology -- she's very interested in the types of different personalities and traits of those around her. She insists that in understanding someone's astrology sign, she's able to better understand and appreciate their own individual characteristics.

Now, I've never really spent much time studying astrology, so it's interesting to hear what Kay has to say about the whole thing. She's incredibly knowledgeable about all the signs, so she's able to pinpoint the quirks and tendencies of other people she barely knows. If you believe in the whole astrology game, Kay's approach to life is kind of genius. She can walk into a room full of strangers, knowing only their astrological signs, and be able to gage their personalities right off the bat.

While we were talking last night, she asked me when my birthday was.

"September 15th," I answered.

She nodded. "I thought so. You're a textbook Virgo."

Of course, upon hearing this, I asked her to elaborate.

"Virgos are overly analytical. They tend to be perfectionists, and often need things done in a specific way. When they feel like their needs aren't being met, they can take on a controlling type of personality. Basically, they're the 'my way or the highway' type of people."

I laughed. "So basically, Virgos have all the negative traits."

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I don't see any of that as being bad. Virgos know what they want, and they know how to get it. They always have a strategy for success and an attention to detail."

Her description of me was dead-on. It made me think maybe there was something to this astrology game after all.

"Overall, how would you sum up the Virgo personality?" I asked her.

"Well, here's the bad news. It's nearly impossible for anyone to make a Virgo happy. Virgos are never satisfied with the outside world because their expectations are set too high. That being said, they need to learn to make themselves happy."

All night I kept thinking about what Kay had told me. So this morning, before I left for work, I looked up some more information on my astrological sign online.

What I found was almost uncanny. Everything I read describing the characteristics of the typical Virgo sounded as though the author knew me personally.

On the outside I appear to be calm and collected, while on the inside my mind is usually constantly at work. I'm often sensible, critical, and meticulous. I'm often skeptical of the motives of others, and I'm quick to sense when someone or something is "off". I take my outward appearance very seriously --while I appear to be a clean and tidy, I typically have a messy closet behind closed doors. I don't do well with displays of emotion, which makes me seem "cold" and "detached". I'm quiet and observant, usually finding ways to keep myself busy without engaging in interaction with others. In relationships I don't do well with PDA, and I need someone upbeat and positive who doesn't mind my constant nit-picking. More than anything, I need intellectual stimulation. Decision-making is incredibly difficult for me, because I constantly question my choices. I can be almost too analytical logic-oriented, which often gets in the way of my ability to relax and enjoy the moment. I crave stability and structure in my day-to-day life.

More than anything, I think reading these descriptions helped me better understand why I am the way I am. Too often I'm harsh on myself and tend to be a constant worrier. By understanding that these traits apply to a specific personality trait, it's easier for me to pinpoint the areas I really need to work on.

What is your astrological sign? Do your characteristics match up to it?

I'd really love to know -- I'm starting to think there might be "something" to this astrology game.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Fear of Success

I stumbled across an article yesterday titled Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.

If you have a minute (or are busy procrastinating), this is a really good read.

The author delves into the psyche of the typical writer in a way that I'd never imagined. It was almost as though she was speaking directly to me. Always one for a new theory on psychological or sociological matters, this one really hit me.

Growing up, I always excelled at reading and writing. Much like the hypothetical children in the article, I had a strong love for literature and spent my childhood emerged in books that were far past the reading level for children my age.

In doing so, I was made to believe I was smart and/or hard-working. I earned praise from my parents and my teachers for engaging and excelling at all things literature-based.

However, as this article points out, there was a Catch-22 of sorts to this type of praise I was receiving. I was not over-extending myself. I was not trying to better myself. I just had a natural inclination towards reading and writing. And yet, I was still praised for being smart.

This, in turn, led me to associate intelligence and success with natural ability.

They say the events of your childhood are the strongest indicators of who you become. And this was no exception. To this day, I've never really put a great deal of effort towards anything. I've put too much stock in my natural abilities and have never made a conscious effort to expand them.

Much like the teenager who refuses to study, and then aces the exam anyway (that would be me, in a nutshell.. I'm not sure I've ever really "studied" for much of anything), there's a natural high in placing yourself above the system, and still coming out on top. I never really consciously understood this until I read this article.

I may not have been a straight-A student all my life (far from it, in fact), but I always managed to squeak by. I always managed to 'squeak by' through my academic courses with very little effort. I used to think I was just a very lazy, bare-minimum type of person by nature. Now, after reading this article, I'm thinking there's a much deeper issue present.

I'm terrified of failure. And that fear of failure is even greater than the desire to succeed.

After all, why would I have a desire to succeed when I've been handed things my entire life? My proclivity towards literature and writing has kept me afloat for 27 years. To attempt something new and challenging would be foolish.

And if I'm being honest here, this is the primary reason why law school has never and will never be an option for me. I don't have the academic drive to survive three years of intensive studying (like I said, I was never taught how to study), all the while scrambling to avoid the looming, very real probability of failure.

To subject yourself to law school is to toss yourself out to sea during a storm, held together by nothing but a tattered life jacket. Is there a possibility you could make it out alive, fight the current and eventually drift back to shore in one piece? Sure. There's always a chance. But it's not likely.

As far as writing goes, I think I now understand why I have an unfinished novel gathering dust in the corner of my mind. All that's missing is the final chapter.

Perhaps I'll write it one day.

But for now, I'm content in knowing that delaying the effort also delays my vulnerability to failure.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Best Valentine

Ah, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
I didn't have to go into work today until noon (due to the vast amounts of snow left over from the snowpocalypse), so I fixed myself a delightful little Valentine's breakfast.
Low-carb pancakes with butter and sugar-free syrup. And coffee with cream.
I can't think of a way to start this cold Valentine's morning! :)
(Don't worry, I'll post the recipe for low-carb pancakes soon for you guys.. )

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Deep Listening

I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to be heard.

Everyone wants the same thing- to be able to speak to someone and have their words, ideas, and opinions received and understood by the person to whom they're speaking.

It seems simple enough, but I'd like to point out that these types of exchanges have become more and more uncommon in our society.

Sure, we'll meet a friend for a drink and sit there listening while they drone on and on about their boyfriend problems or the new co-worker they can't stand. But are we really listening? Do we really hear what this person is saying? Or are we sitting there, pretending to give them our attention, while our minds are lost in thought?

I'd argue that more often than not, it's the latter.

I found several fantastic articles online regarding this concept-- in the psychology world, it's referred to as "Deep Listening". Most of these priciples are taught with a Buddhist mindset.

In The Art of Deep Listening, the writer describes the opposite of deep listening as "hasty listening", which is sometimes the only way we were taught to listen. He writes:
"Let’s start with the opposite of deep listening, which I call hasty listening. How often do you find yourself listening to someone else, or even your own thoughts and feelings, only to get to a point of action? You see humans have a voracious appetite for doing. We always need to be doing something. Otherwise, many of us hold the skewed belief that we are passive, not useful, and perhaps even invisible. I’ve seen and been in too many conversations wherein both parties are engaged in hasty listening, meaning the one is only listening to the other so that they can have their turn to be heard. Hasty listening is volatile and reactive. Often we latch onto one word, idea, or tone of voice that doesn’t sit well with us and immediately we must chime in. We must be heard. When we engage in hasty listening, the problem is not that we are not hearing the other person, it’s that we are not hearing ourselves."

In this article, Dr. Tara Brach gives a great example of how the absence of listening caused a rift in a family that was only able to be repaired once the family members learned to truly listen to each other and understand the unspoken motivation behind each other's words.
This article provides a practical approach to changing the way we listen to other people. In it, the author cautions against using the following tactics during a conversation in order to truly hear what someone else is saying:
  • Seeking to look good by asking clever questions, giving impressive facts, recalling times when you did something better and bigger!
  • Giving the other person ideas, suggestions or solutions to the subject that you are discussing. Bear in mind that if you do, then they will be your solutions, not theirs!
  • Attempting to control the conversation in any way.
  • Referring to any of your own experiences or feelings.
It seems like such a simple fix, doesn't it? All these things are common sense ways to truly shift your focus towards listening.

But we've become to accustomed to diverting the conversation back to our own experiences and beliefs that we do so subconsciously.

In the future, I'm going to make a true effort to institute deep listening into my conversations with other people. This is a sure way to not only improve your relationships with others, but to understand the world from a view unlike your own.

It's definitely something worth (deep) thinking about.