Combating Stress and an Army of Ants

cinnamonants
Cinnamon Ants

For some reason every time I’m at a peak point of feeling somewhat stressed, I always seem to encounter an army of ants or insects.  This morning, I woke up and wanted banana pancakes and coffee for breakfast. When I went to the kitchen, I was greeted by an army of ants trying to take over.  Apparently the ant traps tucked away in private corners of my house aren’t quite working.  I thus removed everything from the counters and engaged in a vinegar spray battle trying to kill as many as I could see on site.  I placed a little container of sugar and cinnamon in a corner, as well as sprinkled a line of cinnamon on their trail.  The trail was clearly visible and I could see exactly where they came from (a tiny hole in the wall of my dining room).

A few things from this scenario stuck out at me.  First of all, when I woke up this morning, I was already stressed out.  Why? The realization hit that I will be starting graduate school in exactly one month.  Am I ready for this?  Is this the right decision?  How am I going to afford it?  A million questions were racing in my mind.  Second of all, I was out of coffee (probably something I shouldn’t be drinking everyday anyway, nonetheless when anxious).  Third of all, there is an entire army of ants invading my space when all I wanted was a nice, clean area to make a few fluffy pancakes.

After I calmed down, stole some coffee from my roommate and addressed the ant invasion scenario, I finally had space to do what I originally wanted (make pancakes).  What’s significant about all this is not that I finally got what I wanted in the end, but why did I let myself get so upset in the first place? Often times, situations happen in our lives that we have no control over.  We thus have to problem solve and address what is being presented to us.  Also, waking up with anxiety about what is going or not going to happen a month from now is kind of ridiculous.  I should have woken up over-joyed to be alive and that a sunshine-filled day awaits.  However, the reality is you can’t always feel sunny and sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for the present moment, when a self-created “to-do” list has piled up in your head.  Everything happens in due time and is something I have to constantly remind myself of.

Yesterday, I went kayaking.  It was so much fun and something I hadn’t done in a while.  The sun was blazing, the water was glistening and I was in good company.  As we were out there in the water, we had to decide where to go, when to paddle and when to coast.  The simplicity of spending a nice summer day in the water is actually synonymous to everyday decisions (aka what should I have for breakfast?), as well as bigger life choices (should I spend thousands of dollars of money I don’t have and plunge myself into debt in order to go back to school hoping I’ll be further skilled to serve and that there will be an investment at the end?)  When do you paddle as hard as you can in order to avoid a big ship coming your way and when do you chill out and wade in the water?  In church, we learn that everything has already been taken care of in the name of Jesus, and all we have to do is relax into His arms, into His grace.  That sounds all gravy.. but is that really real life?  Jesus may have opened some doors for me, but I still need to decide whether to walk through them.  Should I be praying for $50,000 of tuition money to magically land in my lap?  Isn’t that selfish?  I have a roof over my head, food on the table, a loving family, friends and a job.  Do I really need more?  No.  Do I want more?  Yes.  And is wanting more okay?  I think so.

Instead of twirling in my head about whether I’m “prepared” to take a plunge, whether I have the practical means to turn ideas into reality, and being a slave to my own self-imposed worries, maybe it’s time to take a deep breath, sprinkle some cinnamon on my troubles, and just wade in the water…

——–
by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2014

How to make Cucumber Kimchi

Gluten & Dairy Free

Kimchi was a staple in my household growing up and though there are a bunch of different kinds, cucumber kimchi is one of my top favorites. Here’s a simple recipe… perfect and refreshing for a hot summer day!

cucumberkimchi

Ingredients:
english cucumber or small pickling cucumbers
green onion (chopped)
gochugaru (Korean red pepper)
minced garlic
rice vinegar
white sugar
sea salt

Directions

  • Cut off the ends of the cucumber, slice lengthwise into two halves, and cut into wedges (or moon-shapes).
  • Place in bowl and sprinkle approximately 2 tablespoons of sea salt.  Toss together.
  • Let sit overnight or for at least 4 hours.  This causes water to be drawn out of the cucumbers.
  • Add minced garlic, chopped green onions, and approximately 2 tablespoons of gochugaru (can add less or more depending on how spicy you want it).
  • Add approximately 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar and a sprinkle of white sugar.  Toss together with gloved hands. Can add more salt, sugar or gochugaru to taste.
  • Let cool in refrigerator for a few hours.
  • Serve cold with steamed rice and kim (roasted seaweed) or as banchan (Korean side dish) with your main entree.  Very crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day!

How to make Kong-namul (Soybean sprout)

Gluten & Dairy Free

Kongnamul (pronounced “koong-nah-mool”) is a traditional Korean side dish (banchan) that is typically served alongside your main entree.  It is simple to make and adds a nice, refreshing crisp to your palette.

beansprouts

Ingredients:
One package of soybean sprouts (available at your local Asian market or local grocer’s produce section).
green onion (chopped)
garlic (minced)
tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
sesame oil
sesame seeds
salt
gochugaru (Korean chili powder)

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Add soybean sprouts and one tbsp of salt to the water. Reduce heat, continue boiling and stir for approximately 3-5 minutes (you want the sprouts to soften a bit, yet still remain firm, not mushy).
  • Remove sprouts from heat, place in colander and rinse thoroughly or plunge in cold water (this technique is also known as blanching).
  • In a separate bowl, add approximately 2 tbsp of sesame oil, 1 tbsp of tamari, 1 tbsp of minced garlic, 2 stalks of chopped green onion, and a pinch of gochugaru (this is not a spicy dish, you just want a tiny hint of speckled red).
  • Add the bean sprouts and stir together by hand.  Add salt to taste.
  • Finally add a sprinkle of sesame seeds for extra flavor and texture.
  • Serve immediately or store in fridge to be eaten at a later time with your main course.  :)

Spicy Beef w/ Kimchi & Roasted Seaweed

Gluten & Dairy Free

Here’s a really simple Korean-inspired recipe packed with spiciness, protein and pro-biotics. To turn this into a truly Korean dish, I would have used gochujang (traditional Korean red pepper paste). However, sriracha does the trick in this case and adds a small touch of sweet to balance out the spice and salt of the kimchi and seaweed.

spicybeef

Ingredients
beef tenderloin
onion (white)
garlic (minced)
sriracha
tamari (or soy sauce)
olive oil
sesame oil
black pepper
saeng-che (radish kimchi)
roasted seaweed (available at local Asian market or Trader Joe’s)
brown (or white) rice

Directions

  1. Slice beef into thin slices.
  2. Mince garlic and chop white onions.
  3. In stove-top pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and chopped onions. Simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Add sriracha (add less or more depending on desired spice level).
  5. Add tamari (add more or less depending on desired salt level).
  6. Stir everything together (this is your flavor base).
  7. Add beef. Continue stirring and simmering on medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Do not overcook, otherwise your beef will be dry.  You want a moist, tender consistency (a little pink is okay).
  8. Add a drizzle of sesame oil and black pepper.
  9. Serve hot with side of brown rice, kimchi and roasted seaweed!

spicybeefbite

Top 5 Songs of the Week (theme: resurrection, hope & prayer)

I’m trying something new and venturing into the blogging world of posting music videos. Here are my top 5 songs of the week. They all carry underlying themes of resurrection, hope and prayer.

First Aid Kit – Silver Lining
One of my favorite female duos. This is from their latest album.

The Band – Atlantic City
An oldie but a goodie.

Billie Joe & Norah Jones – Oh So Many Years
I love Norah Jones and the fact that she paired with the guy from Green Day to do a country/americana album is pretty rad. These are renditions of classics from the Everly Brothers.

The Secret Sisters – River Jordan
Another great female duo whose latest album just got released.

Shovels & Rope – Birmingham
A band I just recently discovered.

Envy, connection and the world of social media

How the desire for complete connection can turn into total detachment.
A revised version of this article has been published on Psych Central.

thumbsdown
Image borrowed from Borrowed Light.

This week I decided to delete my Facebook profile. Spring cleaning is in the air and social media is on the list of things I want to decrease out of my life. I’ve had a personal Facebook account for several years and last year I worked a contract job where I managed a business Facebook and Twitter page. While I learned a lot participating in the online media realm, I’ve realized that it isn’t quite for me (except for this blog of course).

I love the fact that the Internet and social media allows us to communicate and connect with one another. The fact that we can reach someone on the opposite side of the world is pretty darn amazing. Technology, science, and engineers have created systems that almost at times seem impossible. Yet data is being transmitted constantly, information is traveling at lightening speeds and online communities are continuously being built at every moment. It is often overwhelming to try and keep up with all that is happening!

I personally thrive in community-building and love developing authentic relationships with others. However, something about constantly being behind a screen doesn’t feel quite right. A barrier is created between you and the person or group of people you are trying to connect with. Of course if your family, friends or colleagues are out of town, the Internet provides an extraordinary vehicle for correspondence. However, when does the barrier become too divisive? When does the very thing you are trying to achieve (complete connection) turn into the direct opposite (total detachment)?

During my time on Facebook, I checked the news feed several times a day and probably posted on average 3 times a week. I considered myself an “average” user (nothing too “over-the-top”). However, over the past few months, I started noticing the complete attachment I had to this website. On my spare time, I would be on there wandering aimlessly and even in my non-spare moments when I “should” have been working on something else, I would again be perusing through endless pages, links and profiles. I also found myself admiring my own profile, continuously looking through pictures that brought up happy memories, and reviewing posts on my timeline. I felt proud of all the things I announced and shared with the world. People’s personalities really shine through on their timeline. I was the type that of course only boasted about all the great things going on in my life, or whatever witty one-liner attempt I could try and come up with, hoping someone out there would “like” my subtle, direct and at times sarcastic style.

I also started noticing that constantly watching the lives of others was starting to make me feel bad about my own life. Every time I saw joyful photos of people in relationships, with their kids, or going on epic world travel journeys, it made me wish I could be doing the same thing.  Every time someone made an announcement about their engagement, anniversary or birth of a child, I found myself conjuring up feelings of envy and jealousy. I’m not the mean-spirited type and am usually happy for others when good things happen in their lives, however, I couldn’t shake off the comparison blues. Read here for more about the “comparison trap.”  I became fixated, self-absorbed, angry, and was often drowning in a hole of despair.  Negative self-talk and thoughts permeated. Why does person A, B and C get to have X, Y and Z and not me? I’m a hard worker, an honest person, and a faithful woman that doesn’t screw over other people, so why does it seem like my dreams have been completely crushed while everyone else is thriving? That’s when I realized.. it’s all a facade.

First of all, what people portray to the online world isn’t necessarily a reflection of what’s really going on behind the scenes. Second of all, if I’m spending so much time worrying about why other people’s lives are working out and mine isn’t.. then I’m not really living. Third of all, I’m really not that great of a person and actually don’t deserve to have a bunch of great things happen at the wave of my command.  Perhaps there is a reason that A, B and C isn’t happening right now and X, Y and Z is.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, maybe I should start being thankful for what I do have.  And even though my dreams seem so far in the distance, impossible or unrealistic at times, maybe there is still a glimmer of hope out there.  There’s probably a bigger dream to be had beyond what I could even imagine.  So instead of trying to control my life through a profile on my computer screen or phone app, desperately trying to “connect,” and being envious of everyone else, I’ve decided to step away, leave the phone at home and go for a walk.  I invite you to take a break and go for a walk as well.

—–
by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2014