◊ Halfway Where


Dear Mom,

I’m done with my first year of my second round of grad school. “Halfway there!” and high-fives all around.

This year, I shot and edited video, produced an audio story, published long narratives and quick-turnaround pieces, sort of coded things, made a web site, learned some Arabic. I ran a half-marathon, moved (twice), saw waterfalls, played mah jong, built friendships, brewed Kombucha and made a lot of snacks. I worked on projects that made me cry. I left class with goose bumps and almost threw my computer on the floor more than once. I was overwhelmed with gratitude by the generosity and depth of guidance offered to me by mentors. I was humbled and inspired by the kindness and brilliance of my classmates.

This is what my computer screen looks like before I almost throw it on the flow. those red boxes... editing failure.

This is what my computer screen looks like before I almost throw it on the flow. Those red boxes … oy vey.

Now, at the end of this very full year, I’m halfway there. I feel no sense of accomplishment or relief. All of the things that happened this year inched the bar higher and higher so that each step I take toward there pushes there farther and farther away.

I’m scared that my whole life will be like this.

In your last letter, you said that life is “a series of intentional meanderings and instinctive pursuits of ever-evolving targets.” Do you mean that life’s a calculated chase? Do we ever make a catch? And what happens if we do?

I know how to celebrate the small victories and to live in the moment and blablabla be here now. Like, in my brain, I get it. And I AM grateful for finding a path to follow, surrounding myself with inspiring people, dumping my energy into meaningful stories. But I never feel full. I just keep pouring gasoline onto the fire under my ass until it burns so strong that I can’t think about where or why or how I’ll run. I just run and run and run like a lab rat on a treadmill toward what? You know?

my favorite running spot in Berkeley

my favorite running spot in Berkeley

Don’t tell me I need yoga.




The recipe I’m sending you is ambitious. It’s for a true adventurer. And (gluten free, paleo, vegan, grain-free) it’s oh so Berkeley.

I went through pounds and pounds of broccoli and several versions of this recipe to get these weird savory vegetable strips. At first I was going for crackers and was unsatisfied with the chewy outcome (the internet says that it’s possible to toast broccoli mush into a crisp, but I’m weary). The outcome of my labor was not successful until I reframed my expectations —  it sounds gross, but… JERKY!

Broccoli Jerky (or Chewy Broccoli Crackers)

  • 2 large heads of broccoli, steamed (4-5 cups chopped)
  • 5 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2- 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tbs flax meal
  • 2/3 C pumpkin seeds
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (12-15 leaves)
  • 1 tbs mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon (about a tsp)
  • dash of cayenne powder, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • plenty of cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs flax seeds
  • 1/4 C sun dried tomatoes, chopped


Set oven to lowest possible temperature. (A dehydrator is ideal for this recipe. I don’t have one, so I set my oven to its lowest temp – 200 degrees.)

Once steamed, chop broccoli (including stem) into 2 inch pieces. Add broccoli with remaining ingredients (except for the flax seeds and sun dried tomatoes) into food processor. Pulse for 2 -5 minutes until all ingredients are combined into a thick paste. If needed, add a tsp of apple cider vinegar. Once the ingredients form a thick puree with a consistency similar to a dough, stir in sun dried tomatoes and flax seeds. Get creative here! You can also add other seeds – think chia, sesame and hemp seeds.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or your other favorite non-stick baking tool. Spread broccoli “dough” in a thin layer across entire baking sheet. Start with your hands and then switch to a spatula to make sure all area of the dough are spread to the same thinness. Insert into oven and leave for 1 – 2 hours (but check frequently to make sure nothing is burning!) until the dough has dried – the corners of the baking sheet may be dry or crisp at this point. Remove from oven and score into squares with a sharp knife immediately. Allow to cool and remove from pan. Store in air-tight container. For a more crispy version, place in oven or toaster oven at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes before serving.

♦ Comings and Goings

Dear Shaina,

Please let Naomi know how much I enjoyed her guest post. Bubbe would be so proud! Bubbe’s immortality is clearly evident in both of you. Sharing the gifts of food, family and fun wrapped in love are surely the path to immortality for all of us.

Speaking of fun (again), Shaina, certainly you know that it’s not the quality of alcohol, nor the quantity, that makes the fun! Fun is in your DNA. It’s about your spirit and desire to taste the many flavors of experience that life has to offer. It is about the ability to enjoy what is pleasurable and to endure what is challenging and to not run from either. You have mastered that ability so well that you have a tendency to gorge on the massive array of offerings at life’s all-inclusive buffet.

I know you’re exhausted. You set yourself up for an all-the-time, on-the-go, pressure-packed last few months in Israel. I am not surprised by any of it. I have to remind myself not to worry. I know that you will manage it, as you always do. You will let go of those things that matter less. You will successfully accomplish your goals and you will be sad to leave it all. After a brief break in the home-nest, you will regain your equilibrium, go off to Berkeley and start all over again. We all have our coming and going and being patterns. I am impressed that you recognize them at such a young age. I look forward to the day when you are in one place for more than one year. Maybe even long enough for us to gather all your stuff currently scattered from coast to coast and deliver it to a place that you might consider home, for at least awhile.

Cleaning Out

Cleaning Out

Your pictures from Israel are beautiful and comforting to me. They provide a small window into your life so far away. They are reassuring, affirming and ease my worry a bit. I am cleaning out our bedroom in preparation for our master bath renovation (it begins Monday!) and encountering mountains of old pictures. It’s getting easier to get rid of clothes and stuff than I ever thought imaginable.

The Many Faces of Shaina

The Many Faces of Shaina

But the pictures have a deep hold on me…and there are so many of them. There is nothing in my life that is so tangible and yet inextricably intertwined with intangible feelings and memories than these pictures. It feels sacrilegious to throw any picture away. They warm my heart with joy and love and raise new doubts and questions. Was I a good mother? Did I neglect my family? Do you ever really know what’s going on behind a smiling face? I found high school pictures of me and baby pictures of you. How can so many picture-years accumulate in such a short time? I can’t let them go. So back into the boxes. Someday, they’ll be your problem.


Despite your stress, you seem happy and healthy and very active. I hope your final papers and exam cramming will slow you down in these last months. I seem to worry less when you move more slowly. Slower is always better for enjoying the moment and keeping you from smashing into boulders. I hope Naomi’s head is healed and that she is moving at a more moderate pace also. I am sending prayers and angels to watch over your every move especially on those across-the-country hikes and jogging escapades.


P.S. Thanks for getting Dad a Fitbit. After years of trying to get him to go for a walk with me, now he’s asking me to go for a walk with him because he hasn’t met his Fitbit goal. It’s amazing how an inanimate digital object can so quickly and easily direct a human being’s habits. I am reminded of the tamagotchi of your childhood.


Almond Fig Fruit and Nut Bars
Any kind of fruit…any kind of nut!

I was cleaning out the freezers and came upon some frozen fresh figs which had been there for longer than I care to recall. I remember your dad picking them and how delicious they were fresh off the tree. I decided to defrost them and cook them and see if I could make something out of them. Once I started, there was no stopping me. I found leftover bits of weird flours, dried fruits and organic nuts (remnants of your visit) in the freezer. I decided to make some kind of fig bar and committed to try and use up as many little bits of leftover stuff I could find. The results were a pretty tasty and healthy Almond Fig Fruit and Nut Bar. Really almost any fruit will do and certainly any kind of nut, so feel free to experiment.


Fruit Filling

  • 1 gallon bag of fresh frozen figs (this could be made with fresh figs)
  • 1 cup of dried fruit, any kind (apricots, prunes, raisins, dates or a mixture of all)
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • lightly sweeten to taste with agave, honey, Splenda or sugar (optional)

Bring fruit, juice and zest to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cook over a low flame, stirring periodically, until mixture has reduced and thickened.

Add spices, extracts and sweetener if desired. Adjust to taste. Continue cooking until mixture is thickened but can still be poured. Any leftover fresh fruits you have around can be thrown in; bananas, peaches, grapes, etc. More lemon or orange juice can be added based on your taste preferences.


  • 1 1/2 cups of any flour or mixture of flours
  • 1 1/2 cups regular oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar or Splenda (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup kefir, plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 cups crushed nuts, any kind


Combine the first seven ingredients and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles a course meal.
Add 1 1/4 cup of the chopped nuts to the flour-butter mixture, reserving 3/4 cup nuts for the topping.

Divide the mixture in half and set aside half for the topping. Do not mix with the extra nuts.

Add the kefir or yogurt or any kind of sour milk to the remaining flour-butter mixture and mix thoroughly until it takes on a doughy texture. Add more milk or yogurt if it is still too crumbly.

Press doughy mixture into a greased 9” x 13” baking dish covering the bottom of the baking dish.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20-30 minutes or until bottom crust is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and spread fig-nut mixture thickly covering the entire bottom crust.

Top with remaining crumbly dough mixture and sprinkle remaining nuts over dough crumbles.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon over the top if desired.

Continue baking in a 350° oven until the top has browned and the filling is bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool and cut into bars. To cut in diamond shapes, start at the upper right corner and cut from the top to the side on an angle, making your first piece a triangle. Cut the remaining pieces on the same angle all the way down the length of the pan. Then go back to the top of the pan and begin making horizontal cuts across the pan starting about an inch and a half from the top and continue making horizontal cuts all the way down the pan. Hope this makes sense.


This makes a great pre or post exercise energy bar and an easy nutritious breakfast bar, not to mention all the added fiber benefits.


Another variation…

This recipe comes from one of my yoga teachers who also happens to be a fabulous cook. It’s a South African recipe called Farfel Cake, although I am not sure why. It doesn’t have all the energy boosting nuts and healthy oats and flours, but makes a delicious dessert nonetheless. I made the dough with Splenda and used the same fig/fruit mixture as above and added some sliced almonds to the top instead of powdered sugar. It is beautiful and absolutely delicious when made just as the recipe describes.

IMG_1907Farfel Cake

  • 10 tablespoons of butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • smooth apricot jam

Method (I use a food processor for making dough)
Cream butter, sugar and oil. Add unbeaten egg and process. Add flour and rest of ingredients (except jam) to mixture. Make a firm dough. Grate half of
the mixture into a well-buttered pie dish or springform pan. Put a layer
of jam over it – I use most of a small bottle; then grate rest of dough over the jam and bake at 350° for about one hour. When cool, sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Cut and serve.