Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Hip Bucket List

While recently perusing the Twitterverse, I came across a woman who posted a picture of her 14 year old-daughter's "2012 Summer Bucket List." Most of the items were what you'd expect to see from a girl that age: go on a date, kiss a boy, spend one day a week at the beach, etc. This tweeted photo really got me thinking, and has since become the inspiration for what is about to follow.

The term "bucket list" is sort of strange, when you think about it. I don't recall when/where I first heard it, but I'm thinking about a young child hearing it and thinking about it in literal terms. A list of buckets? A list written on a bucket? But no, it's a list of things to do before you "kick the bucket," a euphemism from a rather large list of euphemisms for dying. Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of morbid? Not the concept really, but the term. Alas, it's ubiquitous. Enter "bucket list" into Google and there are 35.8 million results, the very first of which is a whole website dedicated to the concept. You can create and track you very own bucket list on that site! I'm also quite certain "there's [at least one] app for that." There's even a movie about it, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. I watched it. I cried a lot. Great movie. And I suspect it stirred a lot of peoples' creative bucket list juices.

Possibly one of the saddest movie ever. IMDB

Some people create one bucket list, THE bucket list, which encompasses every possible thing imaginable they'd like to accomplish in their lifetime (seems like a bit of a daunting task to me). But, like the teenager above, some people make seasonal bucket lists, or chronological bucket lists (Bucket List to accomplish before turning 30, 40, etc) and I've even seen competitive bucket lists comprised of insane/ridiculous things and who can do the most, etc. People have taken the concept and really run with it. It makes me wonder; what makes an item/event bucket list worthy? Many lists include things like sky diving, bungee jumping, swimming with dolphins, etc. Does something have to be dangerous/exciting/adrenaline packed to make the list? Would someone with a list of things such as try something new, dance in public, be vegetarian for a week, go a movie alone, be considered "boring" or "square?" I suspect a bucket list is what best fits the individual and/or situation.

This has nothing to do with a bucket list but I think it's HILARIOUS

The "seasonal" bucket list throws me a little, like the list made by the 14 year old girl. Surely, she is not expecting to kick the bucket by the end of the summer, so then isn't her list really a list of goals to accomplish, or things desired? Are lists of goals actually different from a bucket list? Perhaps they are, depending on how seriously one takes the "kicking the bucket" part of the list-making. I have goals to accomplish at work, and in the next few years, and in general. I don't think, however, some of these would make it to my bucket list. If I'm going to make a true "things I want to do before I die" list (because really, why sugar coat it?) I'd want it to really be serious. Perhaps nixing the euphemism and calling it what it is would inspire me to do all of those things. Or maybe not. And that begs the question, doesn't such a list evolve, and furthermore, if it evolves, is it truly a bucket list? A bucket list I might have made as a pre-teen or teenager would certainly look different than a list I'd make today, and surely different than a list 5 or 10 years from now. Some things might stay the same, but things would be added and removed or completed as life goes on.

For myself, things I think would take a long time to accomplish, or are things I'd have to save a lot of money for, or stuff that's difficult or somewhat dangerous would end up on my list of things to do before I die. I don't feel like "have babies, buy a house, get a promotion, plant a garden" need to be on my bucket list because they are things I'm already planning for. The idea of actually making a true bucket list is somewhat daunting and it makes me wonder, would I be setting myself up for disappointment? What happens if I'm on my deathbed and I realize I haven't done all the things on the list? I don't want to live life with too many regrets, so if I made a bucket list and didn't do every single thing on it, would I spend the last hours of my life regretting what I didn't do? I'd like to think, and hope, that I'd spend my time reminiscing the things I did do with the people I love. Maybe, then, it's better to not to make a list. Why not live life to just live life to the fullest?

Tentative Bucket List Items*
(because you might be curious by now, and if I were to make one, here are some things that might be on it)

-Write and publish a book
-Bungee jump
-Sky Dive
-Take an extended trip to Europe
-Take my kids to Hungary
-Work on the campaign for the first woman to run for President
-Be a spectator at the Olympics
-Not get too caught up in my bucket list

*These items may not be very hip. Some are contingent upon society (the female president thing, for example) and some may not seem so out of reach for others, but are a dream for me.

In any case, I think the concept can work well for people. If calling your goals a "bucket list" will better motivate you to accomplish them, then go for it! And I'd love to hear what all of you think: goals vs bucket list, what would be on yours, do you think the whole concept is crazy? Sound off in the comments. -MKM

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why I Don't Run, and Other [food] Musings

A disclaimer: I have many friends who are runners, whom I love dearly and find ever so inspiring. Please, do not take this with anything but a grain of salt, and please, do not take offense!

Given that this blog started out as a chronicle of my bad joints and hip surgery, the reason I don't run seems obvious. It is, in fact, clear that while my shoes may have been made for walking, my bones/joints are not. For me, running is wildly painful, and, if done for prolonged time periods, detrimental to my already damaged joints. I know that if I had to run, I could; if, for example, I were being chased by zombies or bad guys or some sort of scary animal and had to get away, I could/would run for my life and probably manage to escape. I'm sure I'd be propelled by adrenaline in such a situation, but I merely seek to illustrate the point that I am able to run, but that I don't  and shouldn't. 

These toes are not made for running. But aren't they cute?

As I have clued you in by the title,  there are other reasons I don't run. I dare say, if I did not have such a poorly designed skeleton, and were able to run like many of my super-sprinting friends, I don't think I would. Because there are so many other ways to keep physically fit out there that I find enjoyable, I wouldn't need to run for exercise. And if I may ask, who the hell determined that running for miles and miles, to the potential (inevitable?) detriment to your joints and ligaments, was such a good idea that there are competitions surrounding it? The same could be said, I'm sure, for lots of other sports, but running is the one that alludes me the most. Some people say it's the time where they can clear their head; while running they are in tune with their body, with the surroundings through which they run. Forgive me, but if where you're running is on the street, is that peaceful? I know I'd be in a constant state of fear of a) being hit by a car, b) passing out and being hit by a car, or c) tripping, falling, and being hit by a car. I also have a rather poor sense of direction, so running for miles would also make me afraid of getting lost. Runner friends, feel free to comment and tell me your stories, yell at me for talking about something I admit I don't really know about, or chide me for snarkiness. Either way, what clears my head and relaxes me is not hitting the pavement.

While I choose not to run (and have a wildly good, documented excuse not to), I am a huge fan of walking. I feel I can achieve the same sense of peace, clear-headedness and achievement taking a nice long walk. Ethan and  I have taken to walking a mile at least two times a week (if it ever stops raining, we'll go more often) at Fort Williams Park or Evergreen Cemetery. It is always my favorite part of the day. Soaking up the ocean air, the breeze keeping beautiful kites in the sky, walking and talking (or not talking) with Ethan about whatever it is we talk about. And speaking of talking, I think that's an element you lose when running. I'm trying to imagine "going for a run" with Ethan or a friend and trying to have a conversation. I'd be too winded from running to be able to talk, and therefore, we'd just be running together in silence. Bo-ring. And doesn't the scenery go by in a blur? There's no time/way to look around and drink it all in when you're running, I'd imagine.
Ft. Williams Park. How could you just run past this?

Lately, where I've been finding my greatest sense of relaxation and adventure is in the kitchen. People have asked me what's different about married life for us. The answer is nothing really, except my name, but it does seem like we've been cooking more. We received a bunch of great kitchen gadgets for our engagement party and lately, we've decided it's time to put them to use.

Look how pretty!
For those of you who don't know, this is a Tangine pot.  It's a North African pot for slow-cooking meat, fish, and veggies. It is a beautiful addition to our other cookware, but we recently decided to pull out the little recipe book and make something with it. It was gifted to us by our dear French neighbor Jean-Phillipe who swears by its awesome powers. Thankfully, it's farmer's market season (yay Deering Oaks) so I am able to get all sorts of yummy, organic things to fill our pot with. I went with dad last weekend and got kale, spinach, parsley to plant, scallions and potatoes for $20! WIN. I've been making/am now sort of obsessed with kale chips, but more on that later. Much of what was included in the recipe book for this pot was olives, fresh ginger, and things that resembled curry which I am not crazy about. Still, Ethan and I have adventurous palates, so we're willing to try anything, and the olives were left whole, so I could pick them out if I chose to do so. Let me tell you, what we created in this pot cured me of my aforementioned food aversions.

The first thing we cooked was Beef Tangine with Olives  and it fantastic! The spice profile was new to me but also warm and inviting. The raw beef marinading in the ginger/garlic/cinnamon/paprika chile paste smelled good enough to eat as is.  It was fun prepping this dish because it reminded me of my crock-pot beef stew. The potatoes, beef, carrots and tomatoes rang familiar, while the spices and olives were a flavorful kick in the pants. I ate up all the olives without blinking. Ethan could not be reached for comment other than "MmmMmmmOmiGodThisIsAwesomeNomNom" because his mouth was constantly full. It felt like we were eating a restaurant quality meal at home that we cooked ourselves. I almost felt bad that we were eating it alone and depriving our friends of such deliciousness. The sense of adventure, satisfaction (both for my taste buds and with the success of the dish) and pride for a self-proclaimed foodie like me could not have been attained by, say, running.

Beef w/ olives. YUM

Love potato, from Farmer's Market

Last night, we made [Monkfish] With Chermoula and Vegetables. We used halibut because it was a fair substitute, easier to find and less expensive than monkfish. This one included red onion, zucchini, lemon zest & juice, and once again, olives. This one was just as delicious as the beef dish, though the jury is still out on which is better over all. From the Tangine booklet: "Chermoula is a spicy marinade used for a variety of North African recipes." The recipe included a de-seeded red chili, which made me nervous because I don't love things that are too spicy, but the it resulted in just the hint of heat so as to be flavorful and robust, but not over-bearing.

Now that I have teased your taste-buds, please consider this an open invitation to dinner! The only thing missing now from my kitchen is my always-desired Kitchen Aid mixer so I can bake yummy treats (right now, I mix by hand, because I'm old school). I almost have enough gift cards to make a dent in its price. Just wait for the posts then! I love entertaining, and am okay with the fact that what most often brings people together is food. I love food, and good company. Marathons and 5-ks may have lots of people, but I guarantee those people aren't as happy as they would be sitting around a table eating slow-cooked Moroccan food. Just sayin.' 

Since this blog has gone from a tangent on running to food-porn, I'm now going to take us out of this entry with something else totally unrelated: cat love. I must say, Ophelia coming back into my life was easily one of the best things that has happened, and she is an endless source of joy and entertainment for Ethan and I. To boot, she has also helped me to make some new Twitter friends (follow me @maria_k_MacD) who are fellow cat ladies/lovers. My most often used hash tag is #CatChat. 85% of the photos in my iPhone are pictures of Ophelia and the other 15% are a mix of Ethan, food, and pretty scenery. I'm sure this will remain the ratio until we have babies. Don't be surprised if there is a post following this one that's dedicated to cats (and probably more about food).

World's cutest kitty Ophelia Penelope MacDougal