This week holds two of my favorite days of celebration: Valentines Day (Wednesday the 14th) and Lunar New Year! (Friday the 16th.)
Love is one of my favorite subjects and Valentine’s Day is the time I do an inventory of my heart and how I’m showing up in my loving relationships. And the Lunar New Year is an opportunity to check in with myself before the calendar year gets away from me. I started off 2018 with goals, intentions, visions of success - how am I doing? What’s working? What needs more attention? It’s like a little reset. (I don’t know about you, but my 2018 is in desperate need of a reset.)
Over the holidays in my gift roundup I shared Scott Stabile’s book Big Love: The Power Of Living With A Wide-Open Heart. Scott is a friend of my dear friends, Andy and Jason. Before they gave me Scott's book, I already felt connected to him so I couldn’t wait to dig in.
If you’re looking for a sweet little Valentine gift or a Lunar New Year present, this is the one. And with the magic of Amazon, it’ll arrive in time for both of those days.
Scott has gone through unspeakable tragedy and what could be perceived as heartbreaking failure. By tapping into his need to spread big love and kindness, he’s found a voice to share his personal story and the lessons that surfaced as he moved through those terrible experiences.
How does one spread big love? (Or even little love?)
Scott says, “We can all be love spreaders if we choose to be. You don’t even need to quit your day job. Every time we act with kindness or acceptance, we spread love. Every time we choose compassion over condemnation, we spread love. Every time we find the courage to forgive, we spread love.”
I check in with my heart and how my year is going and, at first glance, the first things I see are not that great. I’m alone and unlovable in a romantic sense. I’m so far away from my goals. I’m making bad choices...and on and on.
Scott’s book reminds me, “We are not our struggles or our heart break. We are not the actions we’ve taken or the assaults we’ve endured. Yes, our experience influences how we grow and who we grow into. But ultimately who we are is who we decide to be because of and despite everything we’ve been through. Our power lies in choice.”
What do we all want? To be loved. How will that make us feel? Happy. So by not being loved, does that take happiness off the table? I mean, I can’t CHOOSE happiness. No matter how many self-help books we read or how many meditation apps we download on our phones, happiness is not guaranteed or on the menu to wake up and choose each day.
Scott’s book tells me that what I CAN choose every single day is self-care!
“Self-care tends to lead us to greater happiness, or at least more frequent bouts of it. Unlike happiness, which is a feeling, and not a choice, self-care mandates choosing again and again to be good to ourselves. We hold the power to improve our lives by making choices that serve our well being.”
He goes on, “If we’re not making choices that reflect self-care, we’re likely making choices that don’t. We’re saying energetically, that we don’t matter enough to take care of ourselves. We don’t love ourselves enough. But we can find our way to self-love, however, through relentless self-care.”
I think this applies to whether we’ve found love in a companion or not. We need to be our OWN Valentine before we can show up for our partners or even dream of calling-in someone to love us and receive what we have to give.
So how do we do that? Check in with the basics: am I eating properly for my body’s needs, drinking enough water, getting plenty of sleep? And if I am already doing those things, how can I upgrade those? Buy the cozy pajamas or high thread count sheets, put lemon or Emergen-C packets in my water, try a new recipe or a new ingredient or a new restaurant!
Scott talks about easy fixes in self care. Replace your old toothbrush. Throw out the ratty underwear. And the notsoeasy fixes: communicate boundaries, be honest, apologize, forgive...
He says, “Love is our most important business, and any love we give ourselves is love that serves us all... Peace comes in bits and pieces, in intentional habits, in the choices we make that support the belief that we’re worthy, and in the moments we decide, no matter what, to take care of ourselves. And then we do.”
There are so many gold pieces in Scott’s book. As much as all of the love spreading and self care lessons spoke to me, there are valuable observations and lessons around kindness, forgiveness, and even failure. But there’s a chapter called The Cracked Pot that I think should be required reading for everyone on the planet. I swear that chapter is worth the whole price of the book. Here’s a taste:
“Whatever we consciously repress only oppresses us in return. We can hide ourselves because of our perceived flaws. Or we can embrace the flaws. We can choose to see the ways in which our cracks add beauty to the world around us and the ways in which they enhance our own lives. We can choose to recognize that whatever makes us who we are is something to celebrate, not repress. Without needing them to define us, we can let our cracks give us a bit more definition.”
Gold pieces, right?
May the year of the Dog bring you abundance - gold pieces in all forms - may it open your heart for the rest of 2018. And may you be your own Valentine this year. Love yourself the way you want to be loved. Show up for yourself the way you’d like someone to show up for you.
I love chocolate chip cookies like I love no other food. So I treated myself to a recipe that’s been populating Instagram and all the food blogs lately. I already have a winner of a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I’m kinda famous for - lovingly adapted from my old friend Kristen Lake - but I didn’t want to be left out of this cookie party that’s taken the internet by storm. The recipe was developed by Alison Roman for her cookbook, “Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes.” It does NOT disappoint!
Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/255 grams total (2¼ sticks) salted butter, cold (room temperature if you're using a handheld mixer), cut into ½-inch pieces (see note)
- ½ cup/101 grams granulated sugar
- ¼ cup/55 grams light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups/326 grams all-purpose flour (see note)
- 6 ounces/170 grams semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (not too fine, you want chunks, not little shards)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Demerara sugar, for rolling
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it’s super light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6 to 8 for a hand mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth and feel like Play-Doh with no pockets of flour.
- Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. (Don't be afraid to make them compact. Shortbread is supposed to be dense. That's part of why it's so good.) You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but plastic wrap is easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2¼-inches in diameter. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious, crisp edges).
- Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each log into ½-inch-thick rounds (if you hit a chocolate chunk, slowly saw back and forth through the chocolate). If the cookies break or fall apart, just press them back together – the dough is very forgiving. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much). Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.