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Write every day: 2 ways to give help and 2 ways to get help

Screen Shot 2020-04-04 at 8.24.43 AMThis morning here are two easy ways to give help and two ways to get help if you need it:

Give help:
1.) Buy and donate cookies from the Girl Scouts for yourself, loved ones, and our brave healthcare workers!

This year the Girl Scouts had to cancel all of their in-person cookie drives which go to fund a lot of their activities and help girls around the world. So they moved the whole operation online with delivery. Online you can buy cookies for yourself, send cookies to others, or donate them to our brave healthcare workers!

Link: https://www.girlscouts.org/en/cookie-care.html

2.) #Chalk4Joy
Share JOY on the Sidewalks of the World today! A global chalk painting celebration for you to do at home. Share what JOY looks like to YOU by:
– Doing a chalk drawing on your sidewalk outside (at a safe social distance from others) or on paper at home with anything you have.
– Share photos of your work on social media with the hashtags #ChalkTheWalk #Chalk4Joy
– Send pictures of your art to chalk4peace@gmail.com

Get help:
1.) Free food for all New Yorkers in need
If you or anyone you know in NYC needs food, 3 free meals will be available for ALL New Yorkers at more than 400 Meal Hubs, Monday – Friday: http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals. No questions asked. Please help spread the world about this.

2.) Call your financial institutions if you need help
A lot of people are struggling financially right now and that’s causing a tremendous amount of stress. Many banks and financial institutions like Bank of America (which has been my bank for many years) have stepped up to say that they will work with customers, cancel certain fees, and offer extra assistance. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to call them to ask for help. They have the means and they want to help you get through this. Call the toll-free number on the back of your card or contact them via their website to explore your options. Please tell your neighbors, friends, and family about this.

Joy today: Research for my next novel in NYC’s Little Italy

This week I went down to Little Italy to revel in the joy and desserts of my ancestors, and to do some research for my next novel that will be set there in the early 1900s. The San Gennaro Festival runs through this weekend and it’s an absolute delight. If you’re in New York City, wonder down to Mulberry Street where you’re sure to find some characters and cannolis.

In the pause: Opining on pizza and why I love New York City in the New York Times today

I had the chance to talk about 2 of my favorite subjects in the New York Times: pizza and my love for New York City.

“I would take a New York City slice, served piping hot out of the oven onto a generic white paper plate as I walk around the city, over any other slice anywhere in the world. It’s not just the pizza, it’s the spirit of the city embedded in it that makes all the difference. We all have our preferences. And for me, New York is the place for pizza, and for life.”

Check out the full piece at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/nyregion/new-york-today-chicago-pizza-vs-the-new-york-slice.html?_r=0.

In the pause: Join Day of Dinners on June 25th to support equality and dialogue

I’m so excited to spread the word about Day of Dinners on Sunday, June 25th.

“On June 25th, thousands of people all over the U.S. will open their hearts and homes to start a new conversation about the country we want and the future we’re working for. The Women’s March network is unique because you are committed to digging deeper, having daring discussions and listening to each other in new ways. Day of Dinners is a chance for thousands of us – families, neighbors and strangers – to come together, share good food, and get real about building deeper, stronger communities. We want you to take part!

On June 25th, let’s remind ourselves that gathering around a table over food is an act of community.”

I hope you’ll visit the website and sign up to attend one of these dinners as we open hearts and minds to a brighter future.

In the pause: Food, books, and the spirit

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered [people] have torn down, [people] other-centered can build up.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I heard this quote yesterday at the Capital Area Food Bank’s Hunger and Health Summit. The excellent panel of nonprofit leaders and doctors explained that we may be on the doorstep of realizing as a society that healthy food is the most critical social determinant of health, that food is to our health what books are to our minds, what freedom is to our spirit. In these past weeks, I have been thinking about what I can do with the Breaking Bread Podcast to bring together my passions for food (particularly in terms of providing healthy food for those who are challenged with food insecurity), books, and meaningful conversation. If I toss all of that into the blender, there’s something there. I’m not sure exactly what it is just yet, but it’s starting to become clearer. I’m open to ideas and suggestions so if you’ve got ’em, fire away.

 

In the pause: Honor your mother on Mother’s Day with a gift to the Capital Area Food Bank

This Mother’s Day, honor an amazing mom, or someone who is like a mom to you, by giving the gift of food and hope to mothers who are working hard to feed their kids with the help of the Capital Area Food Bank. It’s one of my favorite charities because they support over 700,000 D.C. area residents every year who battle food insecurity. They’ve set up a special fundraising effort for us to honor mothers by helping mothers and families who are less fortunate: https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/mothers-day/.

I honored my mom with a donation to CAFB this year and I hope you’ll join me! And if you need a first-hand account of all of the incredible work CAFB does, read this story by CAFB team member Christel Hair:

“IN HONOR OF MY STRONG SINGLE MOM

Everything is a struggle when you’re a single mom with kids. I know this first hand.

After losing my father, my mom was a single woman in the 70s with two girls to raise. It wasn’t always easy, but she was smart, hard-working, and tough. Sometimes we ate whatever was on hand – Hamburger Helper, toast, applesauce, a vegetable. But she served up everything with love, and we felt comfortable and safe.

I followed her example when, years later, my husband passed away and I was raising two little boys on my own. I was fortunate to have a job and the support of my family, but there were still times when getting dinner on the table after a long day at work was a challenge.

During my time at the food bank, I’ve met so many women who are working and raising children like I was, but doing it without enough food. And as hard as it was for me, I know it can be much harder.

This Mother’s Day, honor an amazing mom – or someone like a mom – in your own life by giving the gift of food and hope to mothers who are working hard to feed their kids. Moms make sacrifices all the time. With your help, food doesn’t have to be one of them.

And to my own mom: thank you for showing me how to lead and love my family with strength and pride.”

In the pause: Philly’s Rooster Soup Co. is doing everything right in the food world

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Check out Rooster Soup Co at http://www.roostersoupcompany.com/

I have to give a big shout out to Philly’s Rooster Soup Co. Recognized today as one of the best restaurants in the U.S. by Food & Wine Magazine, this tasty place produces zero waste and donates 100% of its profits to charity to help vulnerable Philadelphians live a better life. This is the kind of business we need to celebrate – good product and service, good for the planet, and good for the community. This is a triple bottom line we can all believe in and support.

In the pause: A love affair begins, and then I meet Roy Choi.

You never forget your first time. Picture this. The year is 2007. A young Italian woman makes her way to the lower east side of Manhattan onto a small, dark, and empty street. She meets a man who leads her through a flimsy, unmarked door into a small, steamy room. Immediately, she’s intoxicated by the wild activity, the joyful chattering, and the slurping.

And so began my love affair with ramen. That woman was me. The man was my friend, Michael. The door led to Minca, still my very favorite ramen I’ve ever had. The steam and wild activity came from the open kitchen, if you can even call it that. It really felt more like a giant stove with gargantuan metal pots of bubbling broth, and that was just fine with me. The slurping emanated from the giddy guests packed into a tiny dining area, and grateful just to have a place to take in the goodness from their piping hot bowls.

Since then, Michael and I have had many bowls of ramen together. He’s my ramen guru, alerting me to the latest and greatest on the art of ramen scene. He and his wonderful wife, Min, are two of my favorite dining companions. They’ve introduced me to all kinds of new foods, mostly Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, and I have happily taken it all in. I keep threatening to go visit them in China, and eventually I’m going to make good on that. I plan to eat my way through that country and enjoy every second of it!

I will admit that when Michael first asked if I wanted to go have ramen, I started laughing. “You mean those 25 cent packets of crunchy noodles with a salty flavor packet wrapped in cellophane?” I asked. Michael laughed. He said something akin to “you don’t know what you’re missing.” And he was right.

That bowl of ramen at Minca was heavenly. I was struck by the number of hours it takes just to prepare that rich and flavorful broth. I learned to appreciate the just right chewy bite of the noodles cooked perfectly to the second. And then there are all the toppings. I could go on and on, but I’d never do it justice with words. Ramen must be experienced to fully appreciate its value. To slurp it is to love it. It’s the most comforting of comfort foods.

I wrinkled by nose on Sunday when I read in the New York Times Cooking section about how to make the perfect bowl of instant ramen. “Instant ramen?” I croaked. Phineas looked over at me from his bed with an equally disapproving expression. “Look, it’s bone broth or nothing,” I said to him. He nodded approvingly and went back to snoozing. But, was I missing something? I mean, if Chef Roy Choi tells me how to make perfect instant ramen in the New York Times, then who am I to tell him he’s wrong without at least trying it?

I was at the grocery store yesterday to pick up a couple of items, and I passed by those sad-looking instant ramen packets. I picked one up, chuckled to myself the way one does when they think they know better, and put it back. Instant ramen. Ha! No way. I got to the checkout lane and at the last second doubled back. I just kept thinking about that instant ramen. Maybe it was worth a try. So I picked up the package again and decided to put Roy Choi to the test.

I’m gad I did. I used his simple recipe with a poached egg and butter. I further doctored mine using pepper jack cheese instead of American, a few dashes of hot sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and topped it with a little thyme and tarragon. The result was something far different from the instant ramen I grabbed off the shelf of my grocery store. It was transformed into something delicious and satisfying that far exceeded my expectations. Not anything like Minca but certainly a fine lunch. And Phineas, my little sous chef, concurred so it must be true. Roy Choi, you win. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016583-perfect-instant-ramen

 

 

 

In the pause: Balance the two kinds of happiness

There are two kinds of happiness: the one that comes from instant gratification and the one that comes from the slow slog toward a desired goal. The first makes us happy in the here and now, but it usually doesn’t last long. The second makes us happy when viewed through the arc of life but in the here and now can be difficult and uncomfortable. I’ve found that I need a good balance of both to truly feel good about life.

Art, music, good food, time with my friends, my dog, and working out are all things that make me immediately happy. Writing, working on my entrepreneurial ideas, and learning something new that I’m not yet particularly good at fall into that second bucket. It’s not that I don’t get any joy from them in the near-term; it’s just that to feel truly happy about them I need to look at them through a longer lens and with a goal in mind.

Knowing about this balance helps me figure out how to allocate my time, effort, and energy to be happy at this moment and to ensure I’m happy down the line, too.

In the pause: Supporting refugee businesses

Entrepreneurial-minded friends, I read this story about Syrian refugees in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn who started an online bakery out of their small kitchen. If you are considering starting a business, I hope their bravery, resilience, and love for their work will inspire you and wipe away any sense of fear or doubt that you may have. That’s certainly what it did for me. I also just placed an order on their website at http://www.sweetrefuge.com. I feel that supporting their business is one of the best ways to help! I hope you’ll join me in supporting this new chapter in their lives.

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