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Outside the comfort zone | NaBloPoMo day 13

In many ways, I'm pretty adventurous. I will always order the one thing on a menu I've never had, or don't even know what it is. Launch a site? Explore a new destination? Meet a new person? I'm in. It's served me very well over the years. 

But it wasn't always so. I used to be moderately shy, and while I had a curious spirit, I struggled to break out of my shell. It never stopped me from making friends or trying new things, but it was a struggle, at least at first. 

Nearly 15 years ago, dpaul and I were considering moving away from the Bay Area. When the dot-com bubble burst, maybe half of our friends ended up moving hither and yon. While we remained employed, we felt that maybe it was a natural inflection point, a chance to begin a new chapter. 

In the end, obviously, we did not choose that path. After serious consideration, we decided to stay. It was coincidentally then that we saw the call for training for San Francisco City Guides. This was an opportunity for us to reinvest our energy in the city we loved. But I had an ulterior motive as well. I wanted to be stronger and more confident in front of people. 

The first time I led a tour—not even a public one, but a test run with friends to bust my tour guiding cherry—I stood stiffly in front of my group. I stammered. My voice quavered. I stumbled over my material. But I made it through. My friends even politely complimented me on it. 

Most importantly, the deed was done. From that point on, it could only get easier. I led a public tour, then another, and another. To date, between City Guides, Edible Excursions, and my own tours to Italy, I've led hundreds of tours. 

Because of that confidence, I have also spoken on and moderated panels. I've taught classes. I would have never done any of these things if I hadn't pushed myself, 15 years ago, to do something that was outside my comfort zone. 

After my Italy tour last month, I took the train down to Rome to visit family. On my full day there, my cousin Federico wanted to take me around Rome, a ritual that happens every time I'm there. This time was different. 

"We'll take my scooter," he said. "Okay," I stammered, letting the vowel drawl a little too long on the second syllable. 

I don't even ride a bike, much less a bike in an urban environment, much less a motorized bike in an urban environment, much less on the back seat of a motorized bike in an urban environment, much less on the back seat of a motorized bike in an urban environment where the occupants of cars and scooters drive like Romans. Outside my comfort zone? A lot. 

In our first visit to Italy in the '90s, while visiting a winery, Federico's mother suggested I try the salame sitting on a cutting board, noting they made it in house. I had been vegetarian for more than a decade. In that moment, I thought to myself that I did not fly more than 6,000 miles not to try it. I did. It began a lengthy process of learning to eat meat again, and even to make my own salumi. It changed my life.

I did not fly more than 6,000 miles not to ride through the chaotic streets of Rome on the back of a scooter. 

From his home in Trionfale, north of the Vatican, we zipped down the Lungotevere. Federico pushed ever forward, squeezing between moving vehicles so closely I thought my knees would scrape. I clutched the grips behind my seat so tightly my hands hurt. I'm sure my eyes bugged. I know I grinned like an idiot. 

But what an experience. Instead of fear, I felt exhilaration. Rome sped past us in fast forward, but there were moments stuck in slo-mo, like passing a young woman on a scooter, gesticulating as Italians are wont to do, her cell phone deftly wedged under her helmet so she could talk while driving and still maintain a free hand to gesture. 

The deed was done. The next time could only be easier. Would I do it again? Absolutely, without hesitation, yes. 

Today, I complete another revolution around the sun. Each new year presents opportunities to grow and expand. You achieve so much more saying yes than saying no. And I'm looking forward to the next chance to step outside my comfort zone.

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Lemon marmalade | NaBloPoMo day 12

Another recipe from our day with Marzia Briganti of La Casina di Marzia. This lemon marmalade was so good, so delicate and simple. And it couldn't be easier. 

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Pear, walnut, & lemon conserve | NaBloPoMo day 11

Over on About Food Preservation, I've posted a recipe for a delicious pear, walnut and lemon conserve from my friend Marzia Briganti, from my recent tour in Italy. This one's a keeper, folks! 

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On diversifying revenue streams as a blogger | NaBloPoMo day 10


Today I’m over on BlogHer, talking about diversifying revenue streams on the tail of my panel at BlogHer Food last Friday. In my case, diversification was an imperative, and it led me to occasionally unexpected opportunities, including my food tours of Italy.

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A should-less day | NaBloPoMo day 9

I failed to blog yesterday. Barely a week into NaBloPoMo, and I dropped the ball. I have plenty of excuses. I was traveling home from the whirlwind weekend that was BlogHer Food, where I spoke on a panel. I had to get up very early to make my flight, and my head was not so clear. I should have written while on the plane, but I didn’t. I should have done it when I got home, but I didn’t. I should have planned farther ahead so I wouldn’t have to deal with blogging on a day I knew would be tight, but I didn’t.

Friday morning’s keynote at BlogHer Food was on maintaining long-term happiness. The panelists were all good friends of mine, all colleagues in the sense that they’ve been at it more or less the same amount of time I have, within a tolerance of a couple years. The biggest threat to momentum is of course burnout, and each had differing methods of combatting it. Ultimately, each of them has learned to step away from the need to constantly do: Checking stats, updating social media, chasing comments, the whole lot.

Sabrina of The Tomato Tart cited an interview with Ellen Burstyn, in which she said she has “should-less days.” As she says, “I have what I call should-less days. Today is a day where there’s nothing I should do. So I only do what I want to do. And if it’s nap in the afternoon or watch TV and eat ice cream, I get to do it.”

As a freelancer and independent contractor, my time is not structured. I used to think that being freelance meant you could take time off whenever you want. In fact, it mostly means you never really take time off at all. I am always working on something. I don’t even notice it, really, because I love what I do, but I do get fatigued, and fatigue is the predecessor to burnout.

Yesterday on the plane I read Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden, and played video games on my phone. When we got home, I took a nap, and relaxed with my husband and dog. We went out to dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant.

I should have blogged yesterday. I didn’t. And I’m really fine with that.

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