Category Archives: Stuff

The Hard Way

Happy new year, friends.  I don’t know about you, but I have a good feeling about 2014.  2013 will be hard to top, but for whatever reason I feel more energized and determined this year than I have in years past.  I’m going with the feeling…
So, what’s been happening with me as of late?  Well, as of my last content (not giveaway) post I have been just taking a page from Frank Sinatra’s book (or Sid Vicious, if that suits your fancy more than Old Blue Eyes) and doing it my way.  The holidays have come and gone and this year my family had a much more subdued celebration than usual.  Truth be told, I appreciated it even more.  I love my extended family, but the quiet, slow-paced days from Christmas Eve until yesterday were great.
Unlike in year’s past, I’m going to to do a Goals Project and I’m not going to make a list of resolutions.  Instead, I’m going to stick with my previously mentioned theme of doing things at my pace and in my way.  And this, of course, got me to thinking.  Let me tell you a little story….
A few days after Christmas I was cruising Facebook and there was a status update from a casual friend of mine.  She’s a great person, mom of three little ones, full-time job, and I’m sure very very busy from day to day.  She made some apologies before Christmas about not sending cards out.  Now, my opinion on holiday cards is this: If you send them, great. If you don’t send them, great.  Either way, own it.  Personally I do send cards.
So anyway, this status update was asking for recommendations for Christmas card services that will print the cards, envelopes, apply postage, and mail them for you.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed.  I’m not surprised that it does, but I hadn’t ever heard of such a service.
In response to this post there were a bunch of recommendations and advice about putting all of her addresses into Excel, doing a mail merge, printing out labels, etc.  A few were bragging about how they did 250 cards in 20 minutes or something like that.
This bothered me.
Like I said above, it doesn’t matter to me if you send cards or not, but isn’t the reason we send cards at the holiday season because we want to stay in touch with those we care most about?  I didn’t think it was about just doing it to do it or to see what astronomical number of cards we can send to anyone we’ve ever met. I wrote a comment that encouraged my friend to just own the fact that with a full-time job and three little children who are all active in sports and activities she doesn’t have time for cards.  No shame in that!  Or if she really wants to send some cards to those closest to her, take the time to write out a few to those very special people.
Quality over quantity.
Sure it’s a bit more labor intensive to hand write holiday cards, envelopes, and manually apply stamps, but isn’t it so much more personal and meaningful than a pre-printed card and envelope that someone was proud to stuff in less than a few seconds or a machine mailed for them?
Well, I don’t know if she took my advice or listened to my opinions, but the whole incident gave me an idea for a theme for 2014.
I’m going to do things the hard way.
Think of how much more delicious and special and soulful everything is if it’s done with care and with effort.  Think of how much better a thoughtfully prepared meal is than manufactured junk from a fast food place.  Think of how much more meaningful a personalized letter or card is.  You wouldn’t quickly pan-fry a pork shoulder, would you?!  Low and slow, baby.
So if I can come up with a theme for the year, it’s that.  2014 is going to be about taking the time and effort to do things well.
I can’t wait to see what we all discover together in the coming months!  As usual, don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and on Pinterest.  I’m developing a difficult relationship with Facebook, but I’m still over there posting so don’t forget to mark First Comes Health with “Show in News Feed”!  That crazy Mark Zuckerburg doesn’t want you see my posts!  Boo.
Happy 2014!

Self Imposed Staycation

Hi everyone.
I owe you all an apology.  I’ve been falling down on my duties as blogger, teacher, and communicator. I just looked at this site for the first time in a while and it turns out I have neglected it and I’ve neglected YOU!  So so sorry.
During the past few weeks I’ve been sporadically busy and sporadically not busy.  I’ve been doing my best to do my best by Fermented.  I’ve been doing signings, book fairs, etc.  I officiated the wedding ceremony of my friends Hayley and Bill and I got to hang out with a bunch of the Paleo world superstars.
I’ve also been doing a bit of nothing.
It turns out, writing Fermented took it’s toll on me.  I’m not saying this for a whiny pity party woe-is-me-I-wrote-a-book kind of thing.  I’m telling you that my emotional health has suffered a bit.  It turns out a year of high anxiety, sleepless nights, wacky diet, worry, and anticipation will turn in to a bit of a crash when it’s all over.
Lately I’ve been getting up and feeling a sense of dread when I think about fermenting, Facebooking, Instagramming, blogging, etc.  So I decided not to do it for a week or two.  I mean, I have been around, but wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want to do for a few days.  And it was the right thing to do.
I used to scoff at people when they said things like “I NEEEEEEEEED a vacation!”  Who in the world NEEDS a vacation? I am eating those words now.  I needed a vacation. So I took a staycation.  Dude and I aren’t going anywhere for vacation for another few months so I decided to just to check out and watch The Office on Netflix and take a few naps.
And it was awesome.
So why am I telling you all this?  Because I think I owe it to you to be honest.  Nobody’s perfect and we all struggle.  Different things cause us all to check out and need a break from time to time.
Now I’m back and I have a few things planned.
First and foremost, is the long-ago promised giveaway for reaching 3000 Facebook fans.  That’s coming tomorrow.
Second is some regular recipe posting.  I have some good ideas coming up.
Third is more fermentation content.  I’m working on something really basic, easy, but extremely tasty.  Can’t wait to share.
So, that’s about all I have to report.  Thanks for understanding.  More soon. 🙂

Strikes and Gutters

The past week has been one of ups and downs.  Extreme highs and low low lows.
Last Thursday my mom and I went to San Francisco for my cousin Suzanne’s wedding.  If you’re following me on Instagram and Facebook you got a very small sampling of my trip including a shot of a really super tasty prosciutto cone I had courtesy of Boccalone.  I got to spend time in a city I’ve never visited before with some of my very favorite people in the whole world.  Plus, my beautiful cousin married a truly wonderful man, Austin (of the 2013 Goals Project fame!), and we are honored to officially count him as a member of our family.
When I got home very early on Monday morning, I got word that my grandma was not doing well and was probably in her final days.  At 97, she got pneumonia and was not strong enough to fight it off.  She died Monday night.
When you are almost 40 years old and your grandmother is 97 (just a few months shy of 98!), her death isn’t that much of a shock.  I assumed (hopefully wished?) that she would make it to 100, but once I knew that she had pneumonia I was realistic about how this would weaken her.  Getting the phone call from my mom on Monday night didn’t completely surprise me.  I was planning to go say my final goodbyes to her on Tuesday and she just didn’t make it.
My grandma, Concetta Latagliata Ciciarelli, had a huge impact on my life.  She was the embodiment of what I hope to be – strong and soft, pragmatic, adventurous in the kitchen, traditional, witty, fun-loving, a great wife, accomplished knitter, savvy investor, and someone who just loved her family.  I think the biggest loss in her passing is that there will be no more lessons from her.  She taught me so much and now I won’t have another opportunity to learn anything more.
So, if I’m not around the blog or social media for the next few days, and if you’re missing the 2013 Goals Project post it’s because I’m saying my final goodbyes to my dear sweet grandmother.  I’ll be back over the weekend and next week.

Boston - a reaction

Boston Marathon logo 2015

Friends, by now we have had the chance to try and digest what happened yesterday in Boston during the marathon.  Two bombs went off at the finish line killing three and injuring dozens others, many critically.  A horrific act perpetrated upon innocence and I hope and pray that those responsible will swiftly be brought to justice for their awful crimes. I also hope and pray that those affected both physically and emotionally are able to one day find a way to deal with the events and ultimately find peace.
Like any normal person, I’m repelled by terrible things like this – bombs, mass shootings, violence of any kind.  But this one hit a little close to home for me. I don’t have any connection to Boston.  I didn’t personally know anyone who was running yesterday. I don’t even ever see myself being a strong enough runner to ever qualify for Boston.  However, if you’ve ever run a race – be it a 5k fun run or a world-class event like the Boston Marathon – you know why I feel this was a shot close to home.  It was an assault on the running community.  Whether or not these bombs were meant to target the running community or to assail the government, peace, or the city of Boston, is a moot point.  The running community was hit.
Road races are an everyperson’s opportunity to triumph over their own obstacles.  Running is a sport of fitness of course, but more so it is a challenge of the mind, at least for me.  I originally started running shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh and watched those participating in The Great Race cross the finish which was just a few yards from my front door.  I was in awe.  So impressed by the frontrunners who seemed to sail over the finish with unimaginable speed and grace.  So inspired by the average Jane or Joe who just wanted to finish and do well regardless of age, weight, or how in shape they were.  There were celebrations and tears and hugs and victory for each person who crossed the finish.  This is what running is.  Overcoming whatever stands in your way to achieve something great regardless of speed or distance.  It was THIS kind of community that got me started with running.  It is THIS phenomenon that keeps me running no matter how much it hurts or how slow I go.  This is what keeps me running.
So yesterday, when someone (singular or plural) purposefully sought to ruin this triumph of the human spirit, to kill, maim, and terrify those who were celebrating some of the best we humans can do, I cannot help but to be sickened and disappointed, and revolted to an extra degree.  Violence against anyone disgusts me, but it is especially difficult to comprehend violence against those who are trying to overcome enormous obstacles.  It is especially shameful when it is perpetrated upon those who are most vulnerable.
In light of all this, I admit to being quite confused about what to do next.  I’m not sure how to directly help those affected by yesterday’s blasts other than to give to the Red Cross and other organizations that reputably help victims in times of crisis.  But what I do know is what I can do to keep the best of the human spirit alive and well.  I’m going to keep running and keep doing my best to overcome my own obstacles.  I will try each day to better serve my fellow man.  I’m going to endure and stay out there on the road, putting one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish.
If you run, I hope you’ll join me and keep running.  Keep the special warmth that can only be felt on race day alive and well.  If you don’t run, I hope you can somehow become a part of the running community by volunteering at a race or supporting those of us who choose to chase pavement.  Regardless if you run or not, please put kindness first and keep peace in your heart.  Love one another.