Hello 2018

I actually stayed awake to ring in the New Year. Tula Hot Yoga Denver offered a silent 10:45 p.m. hot yoga class to celebrate the new year. Candles were set up around the perimeter of the studio, but otherwise the practice was essentially warm, quiet, dark, and peaceful. About 20 of us chose the start the new year this way. After the practice finished, we each wrote down our wishes and intentions for 2018 and burned them. As the paper got near the end, the ashes would fly into the air before gracefully falling back down to the earth. I made a comment that I hoped mine came true, and the teacher said “they take hard work!” to which I replied “most things do.”

Burning my goals and intentions for 2018

Burning my goals and intentions for 2018

My friend Clay set up a 30 day “contemplation challenge” for 2018. I don’t know if it’s too late to start. I think you can still sign up here. Every day for the first 30 days of 2018 a short email will arrive in your inbox with something to consider, some thought experiment that might shift your perspective, some idea that might hit you at just the right moment. I received my first one today. Chewy thoughts about those things that we can control and those we cannot.

I set goals each year. While I write up an annual review (e.g. 2017, 2016)  I don’t generally post my specific goals publicly. They are typically set in categories – work related, health/fitness related, travel (what amazing vista will be checked off my list next?), relationships (e.g. call my mom more – yes, I seriously make goals about this (hi mom!), and other things), continuing education, financial (mostly save, save, save, and consolidate 401(k)s, etc.) and other. But one of my public goals for this year is to write enough to be able to have one of those year end posts about my “top 10 posts of 2018.” Almost every blog I follow put together not only a list of the most popular (page views or comments) posts but also the most important to them as writers.

If you don’t follow these blogs, you should. But if you want to see whether they’d be a good fit, start with these.

  • Art of Manliness – (and I ask this always, where oh where is the female version of this majestic offering?) – Best of the Art of Manliness 2017. Let’s be clear, as a female, not 100% of their content appeals to me, but the quality and research dedicated to each article is amazing. The brand cohesion is spot on.  I am not a podcast person, but they also list their top podcasts. And they launched a strenuous life immersion. I love this. And where is this for women?! If I was bold this would be my goal for 2018 and beyond. Make this for women because it is timeless and amazing. Anyone want to do this with me? Not joking. I would make time for this.
  • Financial Samurai – I am new to this blog – but again, like the art of manliness – the research and quality of writing is top notch. Here are the best posts of 2017.
  • Budgets are Sexy (Jmoney) – I am also new to this blog – but I like it – here are the best posts of 2017.
  • 1500 days – because dinosaurs & he’s a Colorado guy – no best of, but here’s the archive. His goal was to become financially independent in 1500 days. He did. And he’s funny in a quirky way that I appreciate.
  • I am hooked on Aadam. Irreverent fitness advice. Best fitness post ever. This must be the fifth time I’ve posted this. But seriously read it again. Everything you need to know is here.
  • The angels sing when James Clear writes new things. I don’t even know where to tell you to begin. Actually watch this.
  • And read everything. I learned two new words this week: Akrasia and Enkrateia. Is there a heart singing emoji? His words make my heart sing. I love how he takes concepts from ancients scholars and translates them to today. I aspire to be this erudite one day.
  • In this vein, Mark Manson, is another god. 20 articles to change your life. Or just buy his book. He is a master of taking the obscure and applying it to today. I love this. And his reading list aligns with some of the works recommended in my PN Level 2 Coaching class. We had a lesson today referencing the self compassion work by Kristin Neff.

What else should I be reading? Where do you find your inspiration?

Hello 2018. I am looking forward to the mysteries that you will unveil.

 

2017 in Review

I started my annual holiday card this year with “2017 had some big changes.

2017 Holiday Card

The most personal of those changes was the ending of an 8.5 year relationship over Thanksgiving week.

Fitness

Each year, I set health and fitness goals. I am still working with my Precision Nutrition Coach (18 months now). I added a squat rack to my home gym, and keep getting new plates for my Olympic bar. I’m pretty much at my goal weight and body fat percentage, so I am currently working on getting stronger, improving my running cadence, increasing how many pull-ups I can do, and finding a way to make my fitness as sustainable as possible. My current training schedule, which has been stable for the last 6 months or so, is:

  • Weight training (AM) – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Evening Hot Yoga (PM)- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Run (AM) – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Daily – slow walking to hit my daily average of about 5 miles a day. 100% of my TV/movie watching this year was from my treadmill.

2017 by the numbers:

  • Distance Walked and Run: 4,100,173 steps or 1,886.7 miles. Average: 5.1 miles per day.
  • Hot Yoga Classes at Tula Hot Yoga Denver: 157 classes (235.5 hours!). Average about 3x a week.
  • Weight Lifting Sessions: 156

Continuing Education

I like learning new things, and several of my professional certifications require continuing education. This year I over-committed educationally but got it all done.

Icarus-Rising Nutrition Consulting

Logo for Icarus RisingMy big side project this fall has been turning my old business consulting LLC and website into a platform for nutrition coaching. It’s still a work in progress, but I think the new site is ready to be unveiled. Icarus-Rising.com. Constructive criticism is welcome! I’ve licensed the platform that my own coach uses to support me. Some wonderful women have volunteered to give me critical feedback on my skills as a nutrition coach over the next year. Thank you! I  have room for 1 or 2 more people (men too, if interested), if you’d like to jump start your New Year’s Resolutions.

Travel

I am still working on my travel related bucket list. This year’s big trip was to Singapore, but I had a few other smaller journeys.

Work Travel

  • Cambridge, Massachusetts – Harvard Program on Negotiation Course mentioned above.
  • Breckenridge, Colorado – Board Retreat

Fun Travel

  • Sweden – I literally went to Sweden in March for dinner, well two dinners. One was at Faviken. The restaurant and lodge is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fixed menu – about 30 courses (see review from 2014). By far, this is the largest tasting menu meal I have ever experienced. I think we ate and drank for 4 or 5 hours. The second dinner was in Stockholm at Mathias Dahlgren with an a la carte menu and some amazing wine. Both meals were unique and outstanding in different ways.

Pretty Wines from Mathias Dahlgren

  • Maine – Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park – quick trip with friends where I started to learn to rock climb.
  • New Jersey – a short weekend visit with my mom, my cousins, and their families. It was great to meet my cousin Rick’s fiancée Kerry.
  • Roadtrip – Denver to Los Angeles
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida – I had a compelling need for the Atlantic and the sound of the sea, so I went for a weekend in November. The beaches were deserted and I enjoyed long quiet runs each day. Bliss.

 Fort Lauderdale Beach

  • Singapore – For personal reasons, the trip did not go as I anticipated, but the city was everything I’d hoped it would be. I’m glad I finally was able to experience it in person. Days 1 & 2; Days 3 to 5

While it’s not quite finished, overall 2017 was a very good year.

Holiday Traditions

I don’t have many holiday traditions, but I watch the Sound of Music every year around Christmas time. One of my earliest childhood memories is watching it with my mom. While this YouTube clip doesn’t have the Rodgers and Hammerstein music, it does visually capture most of my very favorite scenes.

Enjoy.

My hot yoga studio (Tula Hot Yoga Denver) has a few holiday traditions of their own. Every year they hold classes on Christmas and New Year’s day. I love this and attend anytime I’m in town. This year, I participated in another of their traditions – 108 Sun Salutations (video link if you haven’t done one) in honor of the Winter Solstice (they held it a few days early) to welcome back the sun. I’m ready for the days to start getting longer again. I hadn’t done a Sun Salutation in years, but this was fantastic. Definitely a new holiday tradition for me.

What are yours?

Jump Start your New Year’s Resolutions

Take Getting in Shape off of your New Year’s Resolution list once and for all.

I am looking for 5 to 10 people who’d like to help me become an amazing nutrition coach.


I am a few months into my Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification, a year long program. I’ve written extensively about my own experience with Precision Nutrition. I have licensed the Precision Nutrition Procoach Platform, which is the same tool that my coach uses to support my nutrition and fitness goals. If you’ve been curious about the program, but haven’t felt ready to make the financial commitment to sign up with Precision Nutrition (they start new cohorts in January and July – presale link), I’m offering you the opportunity to experience the program at no cost.

How it works: This is not a quick 12-week transformation. This is not a “diet.” There are no restricted foods. This is a  year-long habit based program that will change your relationship with food and physical activity. Each day you will receive a lesson, a habit to focus on, and a workout. You will need to commit 45 to 60 minutes a day to your health and wellness for optimal success. At the end of the year-long program, you will have created your personal “owner’s manual” outlining your individualized approach to fitness and nutrition. I will be there for the year to support your efforts.

Next year, you can take “getting in shape” off of your New Year’s resolution list. 

Master Meal Prep

What’s the catch? Why is this free?

I have mixed feelings about offering this for no cost. I think people value their experiences more when they pay for them, but, I need to begin coaching as part of my own training. I want your honest feedback about how well I am supporting your efforts. I can’t become great without practice and critical feedback. If I do a fantastic job, and help you change your life, I want glowing testimonials from you for this service.

Contact me if you’re interested in volunteering. Start today!

Day 3: Harvard PON – Negotiation & Leadership

Program on Negotiation Certificate

Last week I attended the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation (PON) 3 day course – Negotiation and Leadership – Dealing with Difficult People and ProblemsI’ve already written up a summary of Days 1 & 2: Harvard PON – Negotiation & Leadership.

The goal of Day 3 seemed to be to tie the concepts from Day 1 and Day 2 together.

Day 3: Organizational Obstacles and other Complicating Factors

Speaker: Brian Mandell (bio)

We started with a review of what constitutes a “Good Negotiation Outcome”

  • Is better than our BATNA
  • Satisfies interests – ours, theirs, others’
  • Is the best of many options
  • Is based on legitimate criteria (e.g. 3rd party tested, Kelly Blue book, etc.)
  • Includes realistic, well-planned commitments
  • Is reached efficiently through effective communication
  • Helps build a good working relationship

We were reminded of the importance of preparation (“hope is not a strategy!”), especially in terms of focusing on the decisions the other side needs to make. If we were them, would we accept the proposal? What are our blind-spots? Are we aware of the behaviors we make that annoy or break trust in a negotiation?

In every negotiation preparation should involve looking at the (1) structure (scope), (2) context (circumstances), and (3) people (relationships) in terms of (1) diagnosing, (2) managing and (3) shaping the overall negotiation. Easier to say than to do.

A mutual gains approach (seems like a fancy way to say “win – win”) was recommended that involved many of the themes we explored on Days 1 and 2 – using empathy, problem solving and fact finding together, accepting responsibility, admitting mistakes, sharing power, being trustworthy, and building long term relationships.

There were two case studies/role playing exercises. The first involved an internal negotiation around a budget increase for a departmental unit that deviated from the proposed norms. For this exercise we used a “Quick Negotiation Preparation Sheet” – a single sided 8.5 x 11 abbreviated version of the tool we’d used on Day 2. These tools are perhaps some of the best takeaways from the program in terms of the general applicability to disparate situations. I’ve already generated my own version of this one to use at work. They are intuitive, straightforward to use, and remind you to not neglect key interests and goals of the various parties.

The second exercise was harder, as it involved 3 people, disparate power positions where coalitions could form between any two parties, and variable rewards depending how an agreement was negotiated. Every part of the negotiation had to be open to all parties, even when two parties were colluding together. There were about 60 groups doing the exercise, and we probably came up with 20+ different outcomes for this very simply exercise. It really dug into personal perceptions of fairness and the numerical differences between EQUAL and EQUITABLE.

Day 3: Negotiation and Leadership: Putting it all Together

Speaker: Guhan Subramanian (bio)

I think we were all exhausted at this point. The role playing exercises stopped (whew!), but we worked through two case studies, including the 26 page Case Study we were given the night before.

First of all, I learned a new word – Negotiauctions – which is part of his book title “Dealmaking: The New Strategy of Negotiauctions.

He defines Negotiations in this short video.

He did a fantastic job of tying everything together and keeping us engaged for the final few hours of the program.

Case study one was based on real data from a famous workplace tragedy that was transformed to be relevant to a related but different industry. Because of how the data (and stories of the various stakeholders) was presented in small bits over time, versus having all of the data at once, people became very entrenched in their initial albeit mostly wrong points of view. At the core this was a “go” or “no go” decision. A good 90% of our group kept locked to a “go” decision. A handful of us were less risk tolerant, and recommended “no go” based on the data, even at a known significant financial risk. As more data was revealed, those of us who were less risk tolerant, became more confident in our “no go” positions whereas only a handful of the “go” group switched to our point of view. And then the underlying case, the real life example, was revealed. This was a very powerful lesson. And frankly real life is filled big life changing decisions that need to be made with incomplete data, and no time to get more details.

Case study two was another real life example of negotiating decisions made by a CEO during a very complex negotiation – Fairstar Heavy Transport. Summary from the link provided: In 2009, the small heavy marine transport company Fairstar entered into bidding on one of the largest contracts in the history of the industry. The case chronicles the company’s year-long tendering process, leading up to a final make-or-break meeting. This case was fascinating given the various interests of the different parties (e.g. investors, the negotiating companies, individuals, industry competitors, etc.) and the now known real-life outcomes for the various stakeholders.

I could not be more enthusiastic about recommending this program. The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation (PON) 3 day course – Negotiation and Leadership – Dealing with Difficult People and Problems will be offered again in 2018 in April (16-18), May (14-16) and June (18-20).

You should go!

Days 1 & 2: Harvard PON – Negotiation & Leadership

Harvard Program on Negotiation

Last week I attended the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation (PON) 3 day course – Negotiation and Leadership – Dealing with Difficult People and Problems. PON is a consortium formed by faculty from Harvard, Tufts and MIT, but this program was exclusively taught by Harvard faculty. I have done an extensive amount of continuing & executive education. This program is the best I’ve ever attended in terms of overall organization, quality of material, quality of presentations, and applicability of content.

Each day we had two 4 hour sessions, and a lunch for all attendees. There were about 180 of us attending, and we were literally from all over the globe. I am not going to summarize the entire program, but will try to give a taste of some of the key concepts and ideas that resonated for me. Almost all sessions had one or more case studies, and one or more role playing negotiation exercises. For each negotiation(generally done in pairs) we’d talk about what percentage of the group was able to come to an agreement, what the specific terms were (any trends?), and what the most “fair” outcome would have been. It was stunning to see the disparity among negotiation outcomes.

Day 1: Managing the Tension between Creating and Distributing Value

Presenter: James Sebenius (bio)

He laid the foundation for the foundation for the rest of the program outlining a negotiation into three key components: the setup, design, and tactics. The key here is preparation before you get to the table. He also introduced core vocabulary such as BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and ZOPA (zone of possible agreement). The key to a successful negotiation is understanding the BATNA and interests for each party. Importantly, this might have nothing to do with deal structure or deal terms. It might be more about respect, reputation, affiliations, power, or influence. This guidance set the tone for everything else that followed. We played with non-verbal cues such as mirroring, and setting up a negotiation side-by-side (to solve a problem together) vs. across the table (as adversaries). We had many case studies and role playing exercises to probe positions and interests to dig into what was really important for a given negotiation.

Day 1: Difficult Tactics and How to Deal with Them

Presenter: Gabriella Blum (bio)

Gabriella presented the various toxic ways people may negotiate with you – haggling, take it or leave it, personal insults, bluffing, threats, deadlines, and “no authority.”

She stress the importance of knowing your own triggers – what sets you off so that you can be prepared, stay calm and take a break if needed. The strategies to employ here included active listening to change the game. Active listening can be used to gain information, to resolve issues, and to change the dynamic. It’s critical to resist the urge to judge, defend (argue!), or give advice.

We broke into groups of three (coach, speaker, listener) to practice the three major components of active listening on “hot topics”:

  • Paraphrase to help void misunderstanding. This helps keep the focus on core issues and creates anchors
  • Inquiry to improve understanding, resolves confirmation bias, minimizes projection (attribution errors)
  • Acknowledgement to be respectful of the other person’s feelings (even if you think they are dumb and wrong)

We each played all of the roles. As the “listener”, it’s really hard to use all three strategies and to not be dismissive of the other person’s point of view.

This instructor and several others stressed that the most difficult negotiations may be with one’s own team. You need to be able to negotiate along table (with your team), across table (with others), and behind table (with your CEO or board, etc).

Day 2: Managing the Tension between Empathy and Assertiveness

Presenter: Robert Mnookin (bio)

Book: Beyond Winning: negotiating to create value in deals and disputes

Robert’s lecture had many helpful lists and ideas.

In any negotiation there are three tensions that need to be balanced:

  1. Create value & expand the pie vs. distributing value (dividing the pie)
  2. Empathy & Assertiveness (the main focus of this session)
  3. Principals & Agents (each have their own interests)

Successful negotiations focus on three things:

  1. Substance (deal points)
  2. Process (how will negotiation be conducted)
  3. Relationships

Side note: I’ve been in countless contract negotiations in my job. I’ve focused 99% of my time on only the substance (deal points). The latter two items may actually be more important that the substance of the negotiation. 

Let’s not forget difficult negotiations which might have:

  1. Difficult people
  2. Difficult tactics
  3. Difficult structure of situation

We did a self-assessment of our tendencies in the face of conflict. There are 5 major conflict styles:

  1. problem solving (high assertion, high empathy)
  2. compromise (moderate empathy, moderate assertion)
  3. winning (high assertion) – competitor
  4. avoiding conflict (hide all emotions) – avoider
  5. good relationships (high empathy) – accommodator

While problem solving is perhaps the “best” style, we all also have a primary underlying motivation tied to winning, avoiding conflict or maintaining the relationship. I was stunned to learn that my primary motivation was tied to maintaining the relationship (high empathy). Who knew?! We split into our various groups and spent some time outlining the strengths and weaknesses of each style. Humorously, the instructor made the “winners” go last!

Perhaps one of the best parts of the case study exercise (negotiation over distribution rights in a turbulent middle eastern nation) was a Negotiation Preparation Form (2 sided, 11 x 17) to help us identify our interests, their interests, our resources, their resources, value-creating options, my BATNA, their BATNA, what’s important to me, what’s important to them, people issues on each side, the proposed negotiation process, important norms and criteria, conflict styles, etc.

This was a very content and emotion heavy session. Key takeaways included:

  1. Prepare
  2. Focus on interests not positions
  3. Be creative & generate options
  4. Use objective criteria and marshal the power of fairness
  5. Listen well and assert effectively

Day 2: Building Successful Relationships

Presenter: Sheila Heen (bio)

Books: Difficult Conversations – How to discuss what matters mostThanks for the Feedback – the science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it’s off base, unfair, poorly delivered and frankly you’re not in the mood).

Let me start by saying that Sheila was hilarious.

We spent a lot of time discussing emotional interests – i.e. what’s underneath that might make a negotiation blow up. These were largely taken from her colleagues’ book Beyond Reason – Using Emotions as You Negotiate.

These core emotional interests include:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Affiliation
  3. Appreciation
  4. Role
  5. Status
  6. (fairness) – not in the book but Sheila thinks it’s just as important.

If a negative emotional response is triggered – adrenalin and cortisol surge – hearing and listening ability decrease, but the visual cortex takes a snapshot of the episode. So you might remember the exact moment (the image is literally burned in your brain), the tone, feeling, and body language but not the actual words. And it can take a good 10 to 20 minutes for this fight or flight hormonal surge to calm down.

Her recommendation was to practice moving to active listening as soon as possible. The best plan is to simply “do no harm” during the refractory period. And if you can take a break, do so.

She also presented some interesting research on mirror neuron activation and its role in empathy. See e.g. Mirror neuron system involvement in empathy: a critical look at the evidence. And of course we discussed how to trigger oxytocin to promote bonding and trust. And yes, it’s been aerosolized as a (weapon) negotiation tool.

The exercises and case studies for this session were highly emotional. What triggers us? What triggers people who are important to us? How did that last big blow up go? What did you learn from it in terms of the triggers and a better approach? How should you divide sentimental items bequeathed in a will with complex terms and conditions?

Of course this session ended with them giving us a massive document with background information that we’d be discussing on Day 3.

Just do it again

Nike Slogan: Just do it then do it again

Nike slogan that seemed appropriate

My Precision Nutrition (PN) coach asked me if I would be willing to write a few sentences that speak to my experience doing the PN Coaching program for a second time. Why did I sign up again? What do I value most about my second year so far?

It got me thinking, that repeating the PN coaching program is a lot like repeating a grade in school. I really didn’t think I was that kind of person. I skipped second grade, and senior year of high school. I took human pathology at Emory Medical School without having taken the prerequisites of human anatomy, histology and physiology. I like to leap ahead, skip foundations and just dive in over my head until I figure it out. Why was I getting PN Coaching again when I’d succeeded at it the first time?

And, repeating PN Coaching is truly like repeating a grade. It’s exactly the same material the second time around.

  • 50 weeks of daily lessons that are 100% the same.
  • 24 habits – a new one is introduced every two weeks in the same order
  • 12 phases of workouts – each month you start a new phase
  • 13 workshops that dive deeply into the material

And, I can still access the prior program’s material in my PN Coaching portal. It’s all there – every habit, every lesson, every workshop, all my answers, and every workout. I can even still select variations of those old workouts if I want to. I did that in June while I was waiting for my second year of PN coaching to start.

From talking with the women in my group from last year, some people repeat the program because they didn’t fully commit to the program and didn’t meet their goals. I had a great year, and met or exceeded my fitness goals.  I did 95% of the lessons. I nailed the consistency of my habits. And I knew from my month of waiting for the next cohort to start, that I could continue the program successfully on my own.

So why did I pay for a second year?

  • I love the structure of the PN Coaching (ProCoach) program – with the lesson, habit, and workout of the day. It makes it easy to stay on track, and provides a visual record of my overall consistency. I’m trying to automate my fitness and make sustaining my current level of fitness as effortless as remembering to brush and floss each day. The PN Coaching program makes it easy.
  • I trust and respect my coach, and knew that I could continue to receive her guidance by signing up for another year. While I hit my fitness goals last year, I wanted a safe environment to continue to experiment with my exercise and nutrition programming to continue to change my body composition. I will especially need her support if I decide to mass to add more muscle (and fat) to my physique before leaning out again. I know what to do, but I will fear less scared knowing she’s monitoring things, as she’s done it before.
  • I knew that there were different workout profiles built into the platform, so I changed my fitness goals this cycle to access new programming.

What do I value most about my second year so far?

  • My coach. She keeps me honest about the trade-offs of some of my conflicting goals. If I want to mass, I will likely need to give up some of my running. Am I willing to do that? Would I be I be willing to try it? What would that look like?
  • I love the new workout program this year that is much more focused on building strength (vs. weight loss). I wouldn’t have been ready for it last year, but it’s been consistently the right difficulty this year – hard but fun. I have DOMS all of the time.
  • It’s interesting to see how my answers to some of the lessons have changed this year. So, the program is the same, but I am not. Since my perspective has shifted, how each lesson impacts me is slightly different.
  • I am also discovering new insights from the lessons. With a new lesson each day, it’s hard to click through to  explore every single book, video, or article that’s referenced, so I’m always finding something new (to me) within the content.
  • I am finally discovering the value of focusing on the process and consistent daily actions vs. being fixated on the outcomes and the ever changing finish line I have in my mind.

Singapore – Days 3 to 5

Christmas is apparently a big deal in Singapore. The decorations go on for miles.

Singapore Christmas Decorations

On Day 3, the person I was travelling with changed flights and flew home early. Definitely a life experience that I’d prefer not to repeat. I cancelled several upcoming reservations for two. I did not want to do any of the activities solo that we’d talked about doing together. I read Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It was suitable reading for my mood, and not actually about *not* caring. It’s more about focusing on values that matter. It’s worth a second read when I can give it my full attention. Another workout was done in the amazing Four Seasons fitness center. I spent an hour by the pool during a brief appearance of the sun from behind the clouds. I found a grocery store, some protein bars, and a bottle of red wine. I slept for 12 hours.

Day 4 was another quiet day. I did another workout in the spectacular fitness center. I supported the local economy exploring the countless shopping malls on Orchard Road. I had lunch at the Four Seasons as my main meal for the day. You know you’re dining at the hotel restaurant too often when the servers start calling you by name. The also brought me the gluten-free menu without my asking.

By Day 5, I finally pulled myself together. I’d wanted to visit Singapore for years and had just one day left. Another workout was done. First stop, lunch at Whitegrass, an Australian inspired farm to table Michelin one star restaurant. I went with the 5 course tasting menu with wine pairings.

  • Raw shaved Japanese yellowtail, white vereduna beetroot, land caviar, smoked organic soy (w/ sake)
  • Red braised Challans duck, eggplant cream, kanten noodles, water chestnut, Chinese jelly mushrooms (w/ a rose pinot noir)
  • Gently poached Fremantle octopus, garlic custard, fresh almonds, heirloom radishes, roast chicken and saffron broth (w/ semillon)
  • South Australian organic grass-fed beef, fermented black beans, raw mushrooms, ice plant, veal broth (w/ cabernet sauvignon)
  • Single origin Peruvian chocolate, wood roasted coffee, Pedro Ximenez prunes, shaved macadamia nuts, frozen chocolate (w/ port)

Images of food from Whitegrass

The food was great. This was the second restaurant in Singapore to serve Sake in a wine glass. I loved how they put flowers in almost every course, or made the food shaped like a flower. I was the only solo diner, and had at least 4 people attending to my every whim. One nice touch I hadn’t seen before – while I was technically at a table for two – they’d removed the second chair so it looked like I was meant to be dining solo. Every table in the room was set with the exact number of chairs needed for each party.

After lunch I walked down to the Singapore Flyer – a very large Ferris wheel that takes about 30 minutes to make a single loop. It was Black Friday – everyone must have been shopping – so, I was allowed to have an entire car (must seat  25+ people) to myself. Of course I bought the kitschy tourist photo. There were no fireworks; it was day; and yes, they told me to spread my arms like wings!

Singapore Flyer

Even with the foggy haze, the views of the city were inspiring.

Views of Singapore from the Singapore Flyer

I walked back to the Four Seasons in the pouring rain. This was not the trip I imagined in my mind, but it was a good one overall.

Thanksgiving | Gratitude

Five Things You Can't Recover

I don’t often celebrate holidays. Instead, I use them to travel, as I am now. But, I still find myself pondering gratitude on Thanksgiving. This year I am especially grateful for the opportunities that I have had, my health, the work I do, and the relationships I cherish.

This week, a good friend sent me a list of five things you can’t recover in life:

  1. A stone after it’s thrown
  2. A word after it’s said
  3. An occasion after it’s missed
  4. Time after it’s gone
  5. Trust after it’s lost

Her message was timely. I can’t find the original source to credit with these words. Without having seen this list before, I had been acutely aware of #2 and #4.

I often strive to say nothing, since words cannot be unsaid. Frequently I have the wrong words to say. I don’t always succeed at saying nothing. And sometimes whether I say nothing or the wrong thing, the outcome is equally bad.

I am acutely aware that time may be the most precious commodity we have. It’s a finite resource. Each of us only gets a certain number of hours, days, or years, to spend on this earth. I am always grateful when people share their time with me. And I am incredibly selective, especially as I get older, about how I spend mine. As part of a class I’m taking, they had us log and analyze how we spend our time each day. With my regular work-week daily commitments (sleep, workout, shower, commute, work, prep meals, eat, do course lessons, etc.), I have between 0 and 5 “free” hours per day to play with if I don’t want to be chronically sleep deprived (sleep is my typical loser). So if I have made time for something or someone not on the schedule, or bumped one of my core activities off of the schedule, it was critically important to me. This exercise also made it crystal clear that if I want to add anything else to my schedule regularly – e.g. learn a language, write more frequently, start a side business – something else must be given up.

I am still chewing on the other items on the list. Is anything missing?

Singapore – Day 1 and 2

Singapore has been on my wish list of places to visit for years. Scheduling my trip during the rainy season was perhaps not my best decision. They say you can be paralyzed by choice. In the case of Singapore the number of high end hotels is staggering. I finally settled on the Four Seasons. I’d never stayed in a Four Seasons before but so far I’m impressed. It’s going to be hard to go back to my normal Hilton Garden Inn type of hotel. While their website says that they don’t really do early check in (they recommend reserving one more night if you want to check in early), they let me check in at 7:30 a.m. They have the most impressive hotel gym I’ve ever used.

Gym at the Four Seasons Singapore

So far, the thoughtfulness of the service is surprising. Example, I’d been using a magazine as a mouse pad, so the room attendant left me a kind note and a mouse pad for my use. I love the attention to details!

Day 1 was sweltering (90 degrees, high humidity, real feel of 104). After my workout, the rain cleared, so I walked from the Four Seasons down through numerous shopping areas along Orchard Road, down to Robertson Quay, and along the river walk before heading past numerous government buildings & the National Gallery before making it to the historic Raffles hotel to have my first Singapore Sling.

Day 1 Meals: Lunch at one of the numerous Thai restaurants along the River Walk; Dinner –  I had a protein bar and an Asian pear from the hotel room. It was a sleep deprived travel day. I wanted sleep more than a real dinner.

Day 2 was cooler and rainy. I toured two exhibits of the Gardens by the Bay: the Cloud Forest  and the Flower Dome. The diversity of plants and colorful displays were spectacular.

Orchids and other flowers

The Cloud Forest is based on a rain forest, complete with man made waterfall, and, as you might imagine was filled with all kinds of Orchids and other colorful tropical plants. Also I wished I had a jacket as the exhibit areas were very cold. I had goosebumps for most of the day.

Inside the Cloud Forest Singapore

The Flower Dome had exhibits from various climates – desert, Mediterranean, California, and endless holiday displays (poinsettias and Christmas trees everywhere). Interspersed among the plants were various art exhibits. My favorites were crafted from the roots of trees.

Art made from tree roots

Day 2 Meals: Breakfast buffet at the Four Seasons – great selection of foods from around the world. Dinner at Waku Ghin, a Michelin 2 star restaurant.

The Waku Ghin meals starts by having your chef show you where your dinner is going to come from. At least one of the lobsters was still moving.

Waku Ghin Chef with Fish

The sake I selected was delicious and based on their recommendation: Isojiman Daiginjo 2015.

Dinner

  • Canadian Oyster with ginger, rice vinegar, and finger lime
  • Carpaccio of Leather Jacket (a kind of fish) with Bitter Salad
  • Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar
  • Pan-Seared Tachiuo with Foie Gras
  • Tasmanian Abalone with Aonori
  • Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon
  • Charcoal Grilled Southern Australia Grass Fed Tenderloin Beff with Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard
  • Japanese Ohmi Wagyu from Shiga Prefecture with Wasabi and Citrus Soy
  • Steamed Rice with Snapper, Consomme
  • Gyokuro (very strong green tea)

Dessert

  • Japanese Musk Melon with Contreau Granita and Fromage Blanc Sorbet
  • Rice Pudding with Mango
  • Petit Four

Waku Ghin Courses

They made the menu gluten free for me, so my preparations were slightly different than what the honeymooning couple sharing the room had, but the main protein sources were the same. My mango rice pudding replaced the amazing looking Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla and Macadamia. The Abalone preparation for others had Fregola and Tomato (looked delicious, Mediterranean style) vs. my very Japanese version with lots of seaweed. While some courses were prepared in the back, the majority were prepared on the cooking top to the right of the chef in the photo. The shrimp, sea urchin & caviar dish is apparently their “signature dish.” I’m not typically a huge Uni fan, but this preparation was fantastic. I also don’t typically love Foie Gras, but they’d grilled it which changed everything in an amazing way. The broth on the lobster course had both butter and olive oil. Delicious. Both preparations of meat were melt in your mouth good.

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