Posts Tagged marriage

The Benefits of Marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty enjoy the sunset on their first day of marriage

As you’ve been watching various tax forms appear in your mailbox, perhaps the marriage penalty has come to mind. But even this half empty thinker knows there are some benefits to marriage!

One of those benefits is sharing food. (Of course it’s not the only or best benefit, but stick with me…)

I don’t cook. Of course, I could cook. But I don’t enjoy it. Perhaps it has to do with my affinity for order and cleanliness. Cooking seems awfully messy for my taste!

gourmet foods paper

It looks like I learned something about cooking at some point in the 90s.

That isn’t to say that I never cooked. In high school, I got an A in Gourmet Foods. (I got A’s in everything, but that’s not the point!) We cooked and baked all sorts of things that I would never dream of making now. We made pumpkin pies from real pumpkins with crusts from scratch…ridiculous!

We even separated whole chickens. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a whole chicken in my life. I realize it’s cheaper, but it seems impractical for a single person, especially one who doesn’t like dark meat.

Recipe binder title

Mr. HalfFull’s mockery of my high school Gourmet Foods binder

I’m lucky to have found a partner who enjoys cooking and grocery shopping. Knowing my dislike for the kitchen, he finds it terribly amusing that I still have my Gourmet Foods recipe binder from high school. He even made a label for the binder reading, “Ms. HalfEmpty’s A+ Recipe Binder, Circa 1995” and constantly ribs me for my scores over 100% inside.

binder tab

The first tab of my “A+ Recipe Binder” for Quick Breads showcases my more than perfect score. Ha!

Last weekend, Mr. HalfFull commented that I’m becoming quite the “microwave chef.” You may think that’s an oxymoron, but my usual microwave cooking involves a bag or a box that goes in the microwave, followed by me pushing a few buttons. Sometimes I even have to uncover and stir in the middle of cooking. What a process!

But when I was lauded as a microwave chef, it was far more complex and a creation of my own. Mr. HalfFull bought a plastic egg cooking container for the microwave. Some of you (like my mother) may be freaking out about plastic leaching chemicals in the microwave. But most of my self-prepared meals are in far less sturdy plastic containers, so it doesn’t phase me.

Microwave Egg Cooker

Don’t worry, I cracked the egg before I cooked it!

The egg container allows me to cook a fresh egg without additional oil or butter and without creating splatter on the stove! After cooking the egg with spices, I added it to bread and various cheeses, and stuck the concoction in the panini machine. Thus, earning the title microwave chef (even though I used two kitchen appliances)! Yes, it was delicious.

Since my cooking skills and desire are in the low to non-existent range, Mr. HalfFull and I enjoy eating out. This gives us the opportunity experience a benefit of marriage — being cute and sharing meals. It also affords us the chance to take more risks when ordering because we know we’ll have a fallback. When done correctly, it can also help us save money and eat appropriately sized portions (instead of restaurant-size portions) with variety.

But sometimes, we go all out. Like on New Year’s Eve, we went to one of our favorite local restaurants and each ordered the prix fixe tasting menu with a small plate, main plate, and sweet plate for each of us. So instead of a 3-course meal, we each got a 6-mini-course meal!

If you’re thinking about eating healthier and have a partner (married or not) to split with, check out the ideas in my meal sharing post for Northern Virginia Magazine.

  • Do you enjoy cooking? Did you always or did you grow into or out of it?
  • Does cooking an egg in the microwave make one a chef? =)
  • Do you share meals?

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Engagement, Wedding, Anniversary, and Happily Ever After

Last week was Obama’s 20th wedding anniversary, and this week is my 3rd.  Mr. HalfFull and I celebrated last night with dinner at the restaurant where we celebrated our engagement in 2008.

Tidal Basin

Ms. HalfEmpty and Mr. HalfFull at the Cherry Blossom Festival on the evening of their engagement. Does Mr. HalfFull look nervous?  He’s about to propose!

Our actual engagement occurred the night before while watching the fireworks at the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC.  Mr. HalfFull told me that he didn’t want to make a dinner reservation because he was sure that would be dead giveaway.  Instead, he opted for a brunch reservation the next morning.

I was led to believe that this brunch would be just for the two of us to revel in our engaged bliss.  So I suggested that we stop at my parents’ house on the way to show them my ring.  Mr. HalfFull, who usually loves to visit my parents, kept throwing out reasons why the timing wouldn’t work.  It seemed strange, but I went with it.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I saw a car that looked just like my dad’s parked out front.  Mr. HalfFull assured me that lots of people had Lincoln Town Cars, but I was pretty sure it was my father’s license plate.

Once we entered the restaurant, I saw a big round table with my parents, brothers, Mr. HalfFull’s sister from Pennsylvania, and her son.  Everyone was in on the plan, except me!

Engagement Brunch

Surprise brunch with our families the morning after our engagement

But I was right about one thing:  it was my dad’s Lincoln Town Car!  I guess Mr. HalfFull didn’t specify that they should park around the corner, or at least not in the most prominent spot.  Way to be secretive, Dad!

Isn’t it interesting how proposals are all about half-truths, lies, and secrets?  That’s how a brilliant, surprising proposal is crafted.  But those behaviors spell disaster for a marriage!

Fortunately, we got some better marriage advice over the summer when we visited my aunt and uncle in North Carolina on our drive home from the beach.  We were lucky enough to join them for dinner along with another couple; the dinner conversation was delightful.

Aunt & Uncle

My aunt and uncle spontaneously started dancing during dinner on my wedding day.  Must be love!

During dinner, each couple explained how they met and started dating.  My aunt didn’t seem to be very interested in my uncle when they first met, but he made sure to tell us about her “cute butt.”  He reiterated that comment several times to our amusement and embarrassment.

The other couple met in high school where they both played violin in the orchestra.  He was a 17-year-old 1st chair violinist, while she was only 14.  When she accidentally knocked over the bridge on her violin, the teacher instructed him to help her fix it.  She was so enamored with him after the first fix, that she decided to purposefully knock over her bridge so he would have to come back again.

Both couples have been married for over 40 years, and still seem quite in love.  Interestingly, they both gave the same marriage advice: rely on each other.  They stressed the importance of resolving problems together, rather than outside the marriage.

I think Mr. HalfFull and I have relied on each other for years, and hopefully will for years to come.

  • How do you feel about the secrets that led to your proposal?  Does the end justify the means?
  • Do you enjoy hearing how couples met?
  • Do you look to older couples for advice?
  • What marriage advice has resonated with you?

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Into Africa (Sort Of)

Getting to Mauritius, an African island nation off the coast of Madagascar, was an ordeal that started back in Australia. Mr. HalfFull researched airport transportation and discovered a direct bus to the airport with a pickup location near our hotel. This seemed like a great option until we learned that our hotel offered an airport shuttle for less than the bus. What a great deal – no walking with luggage AND a lower price!

But as we’ve learned time and again on the 30/40 World Tour – you get what you pay for!

The shuttle did, in fact, pick us up at our hotel on time. But this was not a direct shot to the airport. Instead, the shuttle was also transporting a family from the airport to their hotel. So we dropped them off and thought, “Okay, we’re off to the airport now!”

Not so fast.

Melbourne

Skyline in Melbourne

The shuttle proceeded to make more stops to pick up passengers heading to the airport. During this circuitous journey, we passed by our hotel AGAIN! Then we stopped at a hostel to pick up two young girls who weren’t ready. With each stop, we got more nervous that we wouldn’t make our flight on time, despite having left our hotel with plenty of time.

Mr. HalfFull was livid on the shuttle ride, especially when he noticed that we were heading away from the airport. He almost blew his lid when we passed by our hotel the second time. But it was me, Ms. HalfEmpty, who tried to help him see the bright side of things! I pointed out that we were getting a nice drive-by tour of Melbourne – parts we had not seen – enroute to the airport. How’s that for role reversal?

After the most circuitous shuttle ride, I endured the longest plane ride of my life (almost 12 hours)!  I didn’t think a long flight would be a problem for me, but I was so ready to disembark after the first 8 hours. Also, this flight was during the day. Even though I’m an expert napper, you can really only sleep for so long before it’s no longer a nap.

When we arrived in Mauritius, it wasn’t very late in the evening, but it was already starting to get dark since it was the winter season in the southern hemisphere. We knew we had about an hour ride from the airport to our 4.5 star hotel (50% discount in the off-season!) on the beach. This turned out to be another crazy drive.

It was too late for a shuttle, so we grabbed a taxi; a harrowing ride ensued! Our driver had no qualms about passing vehicles with oncoming traffic on narrow roads. He also spoke on his cell phone for much of the ride, and was often not in his lane. Plus, we were moving fast!

La Palmeraie at Night

Nighttime view of the overflowing pool at La Palmeraie

Thankfully, we survived the taxi ride, although that fate seemed uncertain several times on the ride. We arrived at a beautiful Moroccan-inspired resort – La Palmeraie Boutique Hotel. I felt under-dressed and yucky from the plane ride. Plus, this wasn’t really a hotel where the normal clientele carried duffel bags.

Room @ La Palmeraie

Flower petals and a letter on our bed at La Palmeraie

As soon as we arrived, they greeted us with a refreshing local drink and chatted with us in the lobby. Despite our attire, our money was still green (or multicolored, as the case may be). I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in our room and found flower petals on the bed, a personalized letter from the director of the hotel, and flowers in a vase. The little touches made us feel extra special.

We were gearing up for a relaxing week on a continent (Africa) and an ocean (Indian Ocean) new to both of us. After weeks of being on the move, I was looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for 7 consecutive nights! Check back to hear about our experiences in Mauritius.

  • In your experience, do shuttle drivers do a good job of scheduling pickups to create a direct route to the airport?
  • Do you and your spouse ever switch roles?
  • How long was your longest flight?
  • Describe your most harrowing taxi ride.
  • Have you been impressed with a hotel experience?

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Stumbling Out of the Gate

We landed at Fiji’s Nadi (pronounced “nahn-dee”) International Airport before sunrise. Mr. HalfFull booked the first week of our trip in the South Pacific, so I expected him to know every detail, or at least the next step that would get his booty from Air Pacific’s airplane to the beach hammock he’d been raving about during his last week at work. He was fairly certain that we could walk to the marina from the airport, but he grabbed a map at a rental car counter just to be sure.

I waited outside for Mr. HalfFull, who reported that the woman at the rental car desk said it was a half hour to the marina. I asked if he was sure she understood that we were walking and not driving, since she worked for a rental car company. He was convinced that she understood.

Mr. HalfFull also asked her if it was safe to walk along the main road. He meant safe for pedestrians, with a sidewalk or at least distance from traffic. Interestingly, she assured him it was safe due to the abundance of military personnel in town. Hmm…

Nadi Landscape

View of the Nadi landscape as we walked away from the airport

We exited the airport on foot and saw a couple of the armed military men she mentioned. It felt great to walk after being on an airplane for so long, and Fiji’s lush mountainous landscape was gorgeous in the morning sun. We found ourselves in Nadi’s rush hour, with lots of decrepit vehicles and many pedestrians including children in school uniforms.  Smiling people greeted us on the sidewalk with a cheerful “bula!”

After we passed our first traffic circle, a Fijian man started walking with us. We definitely stood out as pasty white people walking along the busy street lugging our backpacks. He asked us where we were going, telling us he was on his way to work as a local pilot who flew between Fijian islands. We told him a bit about our trip, and he replied that it was nice to see a father and daughter traveling together. Hello!?! I quickly responded that we were married and showed him my ring, and we soon parted ways.  Mr. HalfFull must have been looking pretty haggard after 27 hours of flights and layovers!

We continued our walk and were soon joined by another Fijian man. This guy was much older with a full graying beard and gruff demeanor. I thought he wanted to pass us on the sidewalk, but he started walking in step with us and asked where we were going.  I was a bit scared at this point because the new guy did not appear to be as friendly as the pilot.  But we told him we were headed to Denarau Marina, which he said was a long way. We replied that it was okay because we needed a good walk after flying, and the woman at the airport said it was thirty minute walk. “Bullshit!” he exclaimed. According to him, it was a two hour walk from the airport. I knew she meant driving time, Mr. HalfFull!

We further explain our destination to John, the gruff man on the street, and he informed us that our boat doesn’t even leave from Denarau Marina! What? How could Mr. HalfFull be so utterly wrong? He claims that we need to drive an hour south to Likuri Harbor. (We later learn that our second accommodation was scheduled to leave from Denarau Marina, and Mr. HalfFull mistakenly thought that both left from the same harbor. This poses an even bigger issue because now we are not sure we will be able to catch our second early morning boat four days later, since we will be an hour away.)

John guides us to a taxi in front of a nearby hotel and instructs him to drive us to a hotel with bus transfers to Likuri Harbor. We are very uneasy at this point. Where are we going? Why did John help us? Did he have our interests in mind, or was he in cahoots with the taxi driver? How could we have gotten into this mess? What is it going to cost?

The taxi driver was very engaging and wanted to tell us all about Fiji and the sites we passed. He even played a burned Bob Marley Legend CD in the car, which he offered to us for FJ$2.  Needless to say, we didn’t invest in dead pirated technology.

He said he could drive us directly to the harbor instead of the hotel. At that point, we had no idea what we were supposed to do, so we went all in and agreed to let him drive us directly to the jetty.

Hindu Temple

Largest Hindu temple in the Southern hemisphere

Along the drive, he stopped at a Hindu temple so we could take a photo. I did not get out of the car for fear that he would drive off with our luggage. He stopped again at his friend’s souvenir store so he could get coffee and we could spend money. This was rather awkward since we were at the start of our journey and traveling light, not wanting to carry extraneous items. He asked if I wanted coffee, so of course I said yes. After some commotion, the shop owner presented us with a glass of Coke, saying his coffee machine was broken, but this was just like coffee. Ha!

Finally, we arrived at a clearing next to a wooded river in the middle of nowhere. There was no town, no houses, no boats — just a small, rickety, wooden dock with an old shack nearby. There wasn’t even a sign to inform us that we were in the correct location. Suffice it to say, I was nervous and not happy with Mr. HalfFull.

Fisherwomen

A haggard Mr. HalfFull with Fijian fisherwomen

There were a few sturdy Fijian ladies at the dock and we asked them if they were going to Likuri Island, but they were going fishing. They explained that the powdery black substance on their faces was natural sunscreen. I guess a mud mask can be sunscreen, but it looked reminiscent of blackface and made me uncomfortable until they explained the purpose.  We bid the ladies farewell as they boarded their canoe and paddled away; we were left alone at the dock.

Fisherwomen Float Away

Fisherwomen floating down the river

We still had no confirmation that we were in the correct location or if a boat was ever coming. Thankfully about fifteen minutes later, a van showed up with another passenger heading to Likuri Island. We had been in Fiji two hours and this was the first independent confirmation that we were in the right place!

Ms. HalfEmpty meets Ms. Holland

Ms. HalfEmpty & Ms. Holland watch the boat arrive

The girl who arrived (dubbed Ms. Holland), was traveling the world alone after graduating from university. We were relieved to find her and became good friends on the island over the next few days. She was almost done with her five month trip, which included some of the same places we planned to visit, but in the opposite direction around the world. So we were able to glean a few tips and insights from her experience. We chatted for a long while before the boat arrived.

After another half hour, a car pulled in with an older Australian couple driving and a Fijian guy with a Robinson Crusoe Island t-shirt in the backseat. After a few hours lost in the fog of travel, things were finally starting to look promising! About fifteen minutes later, two boats pulled up to the wooden dock, and we grabbed our luggage in preparation to board. But the Aussies informed us that we were waiting for two more buses full of people. Apparently, there was a schedule, we just had none of the details, which drives me crazy. It’s not like I’m a control freak; I’m just a realist. After all, I had allowed Mr. HalfFull to plan this segment of the trip. (Note to self: always check fine print after he books anything!)

Eventually, we boarded the second boat and arrived on the island to singing and guitars. Of course, I did not arrive in a state of relaxation. That sneaked up on me the next day, when Mr. HalfFull was relieved of his travel implementation duties. More details of our (mis)adventures in Fiji and the start of our trip to New Zealand will be published on September 12th as a guest post on theprofessionalhobo.com.

  • Have you experienced travel (mis)adventures?
  • Have you ever departed an international airport on foot?
  • How detailed are you when planning a trip? Is winging it part of the fun?
  • Are you fearful of strangers in foreign countries?
  • How long does it take you to relax on vacation?

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Lean Meatballs

Meatball

A great meatball doesn’t crumble when you slice into it with a fork…delizioso!

In this second installment of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with an easy recipe loosely based on my Italian grandmother’s meatballs, as further clarified by my “meatballer” little sister.  This version has an improved nutritional profile for today’s carnivorous HalfEmpty wife.  Buon Apetito!

Half Full Mug

 

Lean Meatballs

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 30-45 min (ovens vary, ensure meatballs are brown)

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs extra lean (95% or more) fresh Ground Sirloin —  this is usually the smallest package found at grocery stores
  • 6 slices of soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread, grated into bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Skim Milk just enough to keep mixture moist
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped Parsley (fresh) — since fresh parsley comes in bushels, chop it all and freeze extra for later
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Oregano & Basil (dried, to taste)
  • Crushed Red Pepper if you like to kick things up a bit

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixture is consistent (not dry)
  • Hand roll meatballs gently to avoid packing them too densely

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  • Place meatballs on rack in a pan and bake until brown

Ms. HalfEmpty loves these meatballs because in addition to tasting delizioso, they allow her to control her protein portions.  When this Italian soul food is paired with a small portion of fresh whole wheat pasta and leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, she easily gets her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.

I enjoy the almost Zen-like ritual of creating a batch of meatballs on a leisurely Sunday with football on TV in the background.  [Aside from Ms. HalfEmpty:  cooking made Mr. HalfFull somewhat useful on football Sundays.  I don’t know if NFL Sundays will continue this fall, but I know he’ll still make meatballs and I may not be a football widow…win/win!]

Meatballs in sauce

Meatballs need to simmer in sauce

Once baked, I can put a few in a small pot of “basic tomato gravy” (a possible future “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” recipe) to simmer all day, and then freeze the remainder.  A great meatball (even the lean ones) should be tender and moist with absorbed tomato sauce, ensuring a light texture that doesn’t crumble when sliced with a fork.

Freeze Meatballs

Freeze meatballs so Ms. HalfEmpty can sustain herself when I’m away…happy wife, happy life!

One of my favorite ways to utilize leftovers is to fill a panini with thinly sliced meatballs, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, and arugula.  Likewise, if you have pizza dough on hand, lean meatball slices are a perfect topping!

Finally, it’s important to consider Lemony Snicket‘s words of wisdom:  “Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

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Is the Half Empty Mind Too Full?

Mr. HalfFull and I recently attended our first meditation class together, meeting over six weeks for an hour every Friday after work.  I thought this would be a fun activity for us to do as couple, perhaps becoming a habit for our 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion.  After all, shouldn’t a heroine’s journey involve a bit of serious contemplation?

I’m not sure what we were expecting, but when our first class began with the instructor introducing herself by her given yogi name, it became apparent we were along for a trip onboard her granola cart.  Her furry white rug and specialized meditation pillow (shaped like a butt!) added to the ambiance.  To top it off, before each class she would don a vibrantly colored headscarf to complete her transformation from ordinary person to mediation master.  The only thing missing was the scent of patchouli; all we got was a hint chlorine and sweat, compliments of our local rec center.  Lesson learned:  you get what you pay for.

Meditation

I can win at this!

For the longest time, I thought that meditation was focused thought — thinking really hard about a problem.  If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s over thinking!  I can totally win at meditation.  I love to win.

Full disclosure:  I took Mr. HalfFull to a mindfulness session a few years ago.  It didn’t go well.  As we walked out, I said to Mr. HalfFull, “I’m terrible at meditation.”  He thought I missed the whole point, giggling at my half emptiness.  In hindsight, the mindfulness session was filled with skilled meditation practitioners, not newbies like us.  Perhaps a class would help me learn how to win at meditation!

I’ve learned that meditation is more about emptying your mind, as opposed to thinking hard.  I should be awesome at this; I’m already halfway there.  But how do I keep control with an empty mind?  I have lists to make and issues to ponder.  Who has time to sit around emptying his mind?  How is that helpful?

Intellectually, I grasp the benefits of meditation.  While taking the class, I was also reading a novel that summed it up nicely:

…in meditation what’s peeling away are your own thought patterns.  Worries, anxieties, clichés, bright ideas, ambitions, plans, mental and emotional hangups, all that half-conscious brain litter.  You strip the layers away, one by one, until the images grow fainter and fainter and the noise grows quieter and quieter, and bing! you arrive at the core, which is naked emptiness, a kind of exhilarating vacuum.

That sounds kinda neat, but I’m not exactly the prime candidate for meditation.  I have an over active mind that is not prone to silence.  On the other hand, I figured this whole Zen thing would be right in Mr. HalfFull’s wheel house.  But after the first class, I was surprised to learn that he was even more skeptical than me!  He had a hard time taking the instructor seriously, especially in the strange classroom located adjacent to the rec center bathrooms and their amazingly squeaky doors.

The third session convinced me that Mr. HalfFull was not as Zen as I suspected.  We were listening to a recording of a guy who sounded eerily similar to Antonio Banderas.  Don’t get me started on our instructor’s abuse of her iPod.  She’s never heard of playlists, and watching her fumble through the iPod menus was not conducive to my meditation.  I channeled all of my Chi to subdue the control freak in me who wanted to scream and rip the iPod out of that hippie’s fingers.  So I was off to a calm start.

But I digress; back to the recording with Sr. Banderas.  We were instructed to visualize his journey while lying on a mat with our eyes closed.  Antonio’s narration starts off in a grassy park in the center of town where he meets with his teacher.  The teacher tells him to go in search of peace and then mysteriously disappears.

So the student gets up and starts walking around town.  First he comes across a bookstore and thinks that will be a great place to look for peace.  He goes in and looks at lots of books and enjoys himself, but hasn’t really found true peace.  The sultry Latino voice states, “Theez iz not trrrue peeze.”  So he goes next door to the café.  He sips coffee at a table outside, talks to lots of friends, and has a wonderful time.  But he soon realizes theez iz not trrrue peeze.  So he walks further down the block and comes to a music store.  As a lover of music, he thinks this might be the spot where he finds peace.  He listens to various recordings and enjoys himself, but again theez iz not trrrue peeze.  He goes back outside in search of another location where he might find peace.  This time he finds a yoga studio and goes inside to take a class.  Afterward he feels amazing and is calmer, but still theez iz not trrrue peeze.

If you feel like you’ve been reading this forever, imagine listening for over 10 minutes.  Like us, Sr. Banderas is a bit frustrated and decides to go back to the grassy park to sit down.  Now the background music of the recording is building, and we sense that there will be a big revelation.  So we are all listening intently gearing up for the climax after this long journey.  The voice says, “I rrrealized that trrrue peeze iz…”  At that moment, you can hear the PA system of the rec center click on to announce, “Julie, to the front desk.”

Dalai Lama laughing

At this point, my calm, focused, Zen husband bursts into laughter.  His laugh is so funny and so inappropriate for the setting, that I start laughing at his ridiculousness.  The rest of the class is silent.  What kind of hobos laugh in meditation class?

Weeks later, Mr. HalfFull suggested that laughing can be quite Zen:

I know laughter opens the doors to perception, and it allows a thought to get in, because you’re completely unguarded and Zen-like when you’re laughing.

Laughing Buddha

Mr. HalfFull's beloved premarital artifact: the Laughing Buddha

We have this wooden Laughing Buddha statue in our foyer.  It was a decoration that Mr. HalfFull brought from his bachelor pad to our home.  I never liked it, and he’s not even Buddhist.  He originally displayed it on top of the TV cabinet, and I would move it to a hidden shelf reserved for his artifacts.  But that’s a story for another day.

I never noticed that the Buddha was laughing until Mr. HalfFull pointed it out to me as we were editing this post.  I just thought he was a fat guy with an open mouth (the Buddha, not my husband).  Maybe Mr. HalfFull is actually Zen:

Zen Buddhism embraces humor as an instructional tool and mode of expressing enlightenment, or satori. The Rinzai school of Zen teachings, the oldest Zen school in Japan, teaches that enlightenment cannot be attained through rigorous, logical thought, but only in a sudden, transcendent understanding of the universe. In this way, achieving Zen enlightenment is something like understanding a joke.

After the laughing incident, my rigorous, logical, half empty mind thought Mr. HalfFull was just inappropriate and lacked serious mental concentration.  But now it seems possible that he found a sudden, transcendent understanding of the universe!  I never knew he was so deep.  Perhaps he is my key to becoming enlightened and half full (or completely empty?).

Julie Nametag

Look for her at your local rec center!

For the rest of our meditation classes, instead of saying we were going to class, we would tell each other that we were going to find Julie at the desk.  We haven’t found her yet, but I look forward to making her acquaintance one day.

  • Do you meditate?
  • Have you laughed at inopportune moments?
  • Does Antonio Banderas’ voice make you randy?
  • Is there a special place for your spouse’s premarital artifacts?
  • Will we ever find Julie at the front desk?  Will you?

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Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full: Healthy Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie Slice

Healthy Zucchini Pie slice -- delicious!

I’m pretty sure our wedding vows include my promise to be Ms. HalfEmpty’s personal chef.  When we first started dating, she lived nearby and would walk over for home-cooked meals in what she called my café.  Now that I think about it, it’s unclear if she was ever formally invited!  Regardless, since then I’ve perfected a few tried and true recipes she loves, and it seems like a fun idea to share them with her readers.  In this first post of my “Keeping Ms. HalfEmpty Full” series, I present you with a recipe loosely based on my Armenian grandmother’s Zucchini Pie, with a bit of nutritional improvement inspired by Ms. HalfEmpty’s healthier eating style.  Bon Appétit!

Half Full Mug

 

Healthy Zucchini Pie

From the kitchen café of Mr. HalfFull

Oven temp: 350°
Cook time: 45 min – 1 hr (ovens vary, use tooth pick test to make sure pie is fully baked)
Ingredients

Simple ingredients make preparation easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 small Zucchini, diced
  • 1 large Sweet Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 large Red Pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Heart Smart Bisquick
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Garlic (fresh minced or powder, to taste)
  • Sea Salt & fresh ground Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter (for greasing 9″ glass pie plate)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until zucchini is coated
  • Lightly grease a 9” glass pie plate with real butter (Ms. Butter would approve)
  • Spoon bowlful of ingredients into pie plate, and bake until golden
Finished Pie

A golden Healthy Zucchini Pie hot out of the oven

Besides the simplicity of my grandmother’s recipe, what I really love is the versatility.  You can serve a slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie in the morning with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, at lunch with leafy greens tossed in a vinaigrette, or even at the dinner table as the hearty side to a bowl of fire-roasted tomato bisque.  Ms. HalfEmpty is particular about getting her proper ratio of vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein at each meal, and one slice of Healthy Zucchini Pie does the trick.

I have been known to kick things up a notch on occasion (Emeril Lagasse would approve), and over time I have used this Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe as the canvas for using up any left over sundries in our fridge, such as sun dried tomato pesto, shredded Mexican cheeses, or even the remnants of a salsa jar after a leisurely Sunday watching football on TV.

And don’t get me started on how good bacon tastes when sprinkled into this (suddenly not so) Healthy Zucchini Pie recipe.  But as Oscar Wilde said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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First Lady or President’s Wife?

Mr. HalfFull and I went to a show at the Kennedy Center.  While we were sitting in the audience flipping through the playbill, Mr. HalfFull pointed out something interesting.  The Kennedy Center lists all the First Ladies since Gerald Ford as Honorary Chairs of their Board of Trustees.  But there is a difference between the most recent three and the first four.

Kennedy Center Honorary Chairs

Excerpt from Kennedy Center playbill showing the Honorary Chairs of the Board of Trustees

It was a subtle contrast in the boring black and white pages unrelated to the show; I usually flip through those quickly.  Kudos to Mr. HalfFull for pointing it out to me!

First Ladies Obama, Bush, and Clinton are all listed with their own first names (and Clinton with her current official title of Secretary).  I wonder if this was something Hillary Clinton requested during her husband’s presidency.  Perhaps she wanted Rodham as part of her printed name, so they had to use her first name instead of Bill’s.  Or was this just part of the times and new protocol?  I have no idea, but I like the new trend.

Presidents and First Ladies

Presidents & First Ladies, or are they just wives? (Credits: Downling/Reuters)

I’ve always thought of Laura Bush as very traditional, so I would think she would prefer Mrs. George Bush.  But they already had Mrs. George Bush for her mother-in-law Barbara (a Smithie by the way…Gloria Steinem would not approve), so maybe that’s why Laura is used.

I don’t necessarily identify myself as a feminist, but I suppose I do have some feminist tendencies.  [Head nod from Mr. HalfFull.]  I don’t think a woman should give up her complete identity upon marriage.  I know there are a lot of viewpoints for and against taking your husband’s surname after marriage.  I did change my name, opting to use my maiden name as a middle name.  That way when I write out my whole name, people who knew me personally and professionally before marriage would still recognize my name, while realizing that I’m now married and part of a new family unit.

But on this blog, we each get to keep our own name and identity.  He can be HalfFull and I can stay HalfEmpty, despite his continued attempts to recruit me away from the dark side.  I admit that I find it hilarious when junk mail arrives for his first name and my last name!  Are they trying to tell him something???  Or are advertisers just changing with the times?

To change your last name and not even get to keep your first name, as in Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, is simply giving up too much.  She has a name too.  She’s not just the lady behind the man.

  • Which naming convention do you prefer?
  • Why do you think the Kennedy Center started changing the name format?
  • Should women change their last name after marriage?

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