Stumbling Round the Learning Curve


Can’t even see the blue roof from here!

I had intended to write on the grieving process, as November 27th is the 42nd anniversary of my brother’s death in an airplane crash. I even started a post about meaningful/momentous days and may get back to it, but I’m not feeling it right now. I thought I sounded melodramatic when I tried to write about what his death has meant to me, so instead I’m taking a break and will share about the inherent frustrations and rewards in learning something new.

A few years back, likely due to a mid-life resolve to prove that I’m not dead yet, I decided to do the Presque Isle Bay Swim. As you know, swimming is not new for me. Swimming is decidedly within my wheelhouse, but open water swimming is not. My husband’s favorite quip about me is that I meet my thrill quotient staring at the bottom of a pool. But I thought the mile open water swim should be easily accomplished given that I could swim a mile in the pool with my eyes closed, so to speak.

The day came, the water looked a bit choppy, there were tons of people (to the mind of this swimmer who doesn’t even like sharing a lane), and that blue roof we were aiming for appeared very much in the distance. I began to get nervous, but too late! I’m committed to doing this thing. fullsizerender-1

About halfway across the bay, I had a panic attack. “Calm down, calm down,” I told myself, between chastisements for whatever mid-life crisis got me in the bay in the first place (resolve has turned to crisis by this point). What the hell were you thinking? Where are the lane lines? They said the bay was clean now? I rolled over on my back and stared up into the blue sky and took some deep breaths before resuming my swim. As I began again, I’m looking around thinking, do we have to swim there and back? Then someone shouted to me, “You’re going the wrong way!” Just then a volunteer in a kayak came alongside and asked, “Do you need help?”

“No!” I barked and turned around. Two heads of white hair were bobbing along in front of me, which provided just the right motivation. Oh, hell no! I cannot let them get there before me.

When I climbed out of the water to receive my bright orange Bay Swim towel, I felt an elation that carried me through the week. I also vowed to never do that again. The same summer I completed a tri-athalon. The 1/3 mile swim felt like child’s play after the mile open water.


Will I get a towel?

The point of my story is that once again I feel like I’m jumping into open waters hoping to make it to the finish line. I submitted my proposal for cooking therapy, Food is Medicine, Cooking is Therapy, to a social innovation competition called the UpPrize, a Forbes Fund challenge to support entrepreneurs with ideas that serve the city and surrounding counties of greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The categories are technology and food innovation with the aim of serving under-represented populations. My proposal has been accepted in the open submission phase for food. See Please check out the site, sign in, and click the heart icon on my page to like before November 30th.

I am not working out of my wheelhouse here. I’m a great ideas person. This competition is making me get focused, concrete, clear, organized, and nervous. The closer I get to the blue roof of this finish line the more pressure to perform. Am I up to the task? I hope so, but I worry with each new learning curve that I’ll hear, “You’re going the wrong way!” as I stumble forward. First stumble–I’m pretty new to social media. In fact, this blog was my first foray into social media. I needed help from a much younger person to set up the framework for the blog in the first place (Thanks Courtney!). I’m also new to Instagram, and I’ve never had a Facebook page.

A highly suggested recommendation for the UpPrize challenge is to include a video. Yikes!! I spent the better part of last weekend trying to make a video out of still shots to promote my idea. I may have mentioned before that I’m pretty certain I have ADHD. I’m not great at directions. I downloaded a movie-making app for my Iphone only to realize I need it in a YouTube format. YouTube requires a gmail account, which I did not have. I do now.

I figured out, after a “gentle nudge” from husband to look up the directions, that I can make the movie and share with YouTube, but, as luck would have it, the upload failed multiple times because I was in “project” mode not “theater“ mode. AAARGH!

Then all of a sudden the download worked! Hallelujah! I copied and pasted the link from YouTube and entered the link to my proposal. Please watch and please don’t laugh because I was very proud of myself! Again, I felt a sense of elation for having tried and finished a task outside of my comfort zone.


Feels Great!

The foundation of cooking therapy is what is called behavioral activation. The act of doing a task, exercise, group activity, cooking, you name it, even and sometimes especially when we feel unmotivated or scared, is the very thing that will help lift us out of our depression, grief, anxiety or social isolation. I very much believe in talk therapy, but therapy is not always an option. Not only that, but talk therapy is typically one hour/week at best. I believe it is essential to help clients find strategies they can implement throughout the week in order to alleviate symptoms. Cooking therapy gives participants a chance to activate behaviors that can be built upon and lead around the next learning curve.

Please check out Food is Medicine, Cooking is Therapy for more information at and hit the heart!

Speaking of new ideas. Lately, I’ve discovered new takes on chocolate frosting. Here’s my adaptation for School party sheet cake with Sweet Potato Frosting from Genevieve Ko found on Food 52 Talk about a genius idea!! Who knew?!! And it’s delicious!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Spray a 9 X 13 pyrex baking dish with cooking spray.

1 lb. zucchini and yellow squash (I used what I had from leftover garden produce).

Grate squashes on large holes of box grater over at least 2 layers of paper towel then cover with more to press out excess moisture.

Then sift the following dry ingredients into large bowl.

310 grams (2 C) white whole wheat

48 grams (1/2 C) cocao powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

Then add (don’t sift):

50 grams (1/2 C) of almond flour

Next whisk together the following ingredients:

1/4 C date sugar

1/4 coconut sugar

1 C granulated sugar

1 C plain Kefir at room temperature (again it’s what I had in the fridge, Genevieve used buttermilk).

1/2 C coconut oil or neutral oil

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 t vanilla extract.

Make a well in the dry ingredients.  Whisk in wet ingredients until just smooth. Then fold in squashes and:

1/2 C bittersweet chocolate chips

Spread batter into pan and bake until toothpick comes out clean approximately 40-45 minutes.  Whole grain flours can be drying so keep an eye on the cake. Let cool completely.

While cake is baking peel and chop:

2 small – medium sweet potatoes

Cover with water, bring to boil and let simmer until mash tender about 15 minutes.

Using the cooking water puree sweet potatoes in blender and return to saucepan.

Melt 10 oz. of 60% cocoa chips on high in microwave stirring at 30 second intervals until mostly melted.

Heat up sweet potato mixture to a simmer, stirring so it doesn’t stick.  Remove from heat and stir in melted chocolate.  As mixture cools continue to stir occasionally until frosting consistency.  Voila! No added sugar.  And it is delicious.  Frost the cake as per usual.  I had plenty leftover, which I will use on the eclairs my husband has requested for his birthday.img_2451




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