I was very down in the dumps a couple weeks ago. Feeling sorry for myself. Trying to take myself through all the self-help teachings I know from Tony Robbins to Brené Brown to counter the negative thoughts, to be grateful, to appreciate what I have, not focus on what I don’t.
It all stemmed from the silliest of things . . . There were two separate jobs that I really thought I was going to book, and then didn’t. This is a regular occurrence for an actor. Auditions come and go. If you can’t take the rejection, you most definitely need to get out of the business. But every once in awhile, when something feels so close you can smell it, and especially when it’s been quite a long while between gigs, the near misses that slip from your fingers start to gnaw at you. I’m sure there are many of you out there, perhaps not in the entertainment industry, but who know what it’s like to look for work, that understand what I mean.
People tell you you’re great, but it’s not translating into forward movement, in my case, a job. You start to feel like nothing will come, that you’re no good, washed up, through. My gloom was exacerbated by an article that had come out celebrating the 15th anniversary of Trading Spaces, the show that catapulted me into a household name. I should have been reveling in the achievement, but instead I started sulking as I contemplated the possibility of never having it that good again. And I started wondering if the sizzle of the Paige Davis skillet would ever heat back up. I guess I’d hoped that the springboard of Trading Spaces would be all I’d ever need. But those days are over. And the despondence was compounded as I contemplated being a woman of my age in this business. The entertainment industry is notoriously cruel to women as they, um, mature. I never thought I would feel this old this soon! I was sobbing over the phone to my friend Jared — the poor dear, having fallen prey to a middle-aged maniac who saw no hope. Is there anyone on this earth equipped to handle said creature? He gave it his best shot and, bless his heart, talked me off the metaphorical ledge.
I lifted my head, took some deep breaths, and started to calm down. I took stock in my fortunes and my blessings. Truth is, Trading Spaces brought me so much of what I do have now: an ongoing relationship with CHICAGO on Broadway, a loyal relationship with a R.C. Willey, the fantastic home furnishing store I have been a spokesperson for going on 6 years now, and all the special events I have leant my name to in order to raise money and awareness for charities and causes that mean a lot to me.
And geez, it would be my birthday that Thursday. I wanted to be happy about it. Not resentful of my age. And boy, howdy, did I ever have an amazing birthday!!!! Heck, I had a full birthday week!
If I think back, it had already started on Monday. Patrick and I spent the afternoon together at the MOMA seeing the Picasso sculpture exhibit and grabbing a bite before he had to go to work. Stolen afternoons are the best. I love when we find unexpected time to connect. Then on Wednesday morning (his day off) Patrick whisked me away for a surprise overnight celebration that turned out to be a dream come true.
It started when we arrived at a castle. Oh yeah, you heard me, a friggin’ castle. Castle Hotel and Spa, to be exact. OMG. He had even booked massage appointments for us at their renowned spa, THANN Spa and Sanctuary.
You would think that would be enough, but the real surprise was yet to come . . .
He had reservations for a restaurant that has been on my bucket list for eight years. Drum roll, please. Blue Hill at Stone Barns. (Hence, the castle. It was a hotel near the restaurant.) This place is remarkable. And honestly, I don’t think I could ever begin to do it justice. It is a farm-to-table culinary adventure like you’ve never experienced. All the food for the restaurant is grown and raised on the property. The farm is entirely sustainable. Nothing of the plants or animals is wasted. It is all cultivated to continue the development of the farm. And the meal was astonishingly delicious and special. The service was impeccable, yet every staff person had a casual approachability. I felt like I was floating in a fantasy.
Oh, how I wish this model of production and harvesting would be replicated to accommodate all the food supply for our country, even the world. We should all be eating this way. It would preserve our health and our planet.
My mom and stepdad are vegan. That means they do not eat animal by-products of any kind. Different than a vegetarian, my vegan parents also refrain from fish, dairy, eggs, even honey. No, they don’t eat butter. No, they don’t eat cheese. There are health reasons why. There are animal cruelty reasons why. And above all, there are ecological reasons why. Our population’s consumption, particularly the methods by which we obtain meat and dairy, are destroying our planet. The model used at Blue Hill radically diminishes the negative impact on the environment. And their harvesting and slaughter methods are more humane as well. All animals roam free. Really free. Truly free. They eat the diet they would eat in nature. They aren’t only corn fed. They live a full, vibrant life, and then every single part of them is cultivated and used when they are taken.
I deeply admire my mom and stepdad’s commitment to a vegan lifestyle, but I haven’t embraced it 100%. The amount of travel I do, and the crazy schedule I keep, makes it more than challenging to maintain all the time. But Mom has affected my choices greatly. And I do believe that if every single person in our country reduced their animal intake by a little bit each day it would have a profoundly positive impact on the earth and reversal of climate change.
I bring all this up to tell you about the final part of my best birthday week extravaganza. My friends Diana and Brian and I all took a trip to hang out at my mom and stepdad’s house in Pittsburgh. We wanted to play games, hang out, and eat vegan. My mom is the best-est vegan cook. And that’s exactly what we did. My mom surprised me with vegan Rice Crispy Treats and on Saturday she made, among other amazing dishes, vegan fried chicken. Smack yo mama good! But I didn’t smack her, I hugged her. **Recipes are included at the end of the blog**
It was the most beautiful feeling all week to be surrounded by such love. The huge lesson being shouted at me by the universe, practically from a megaphone, that all I really need in life is the support and love from my family and friends. And I have that in spades. They always want me. They always choose me. I don’t have to audition for their validation. They just give it.
I told Patrick I felt like the luckiest girl in the whole world, not because he spoils me with lavish trips, but because he knows me so deeply. And that love fills me with joy and sustains me through the rockier times. That devotion is worth more than any casting director giving me a role.
So, I’ll keep doing my part to cherish what I have: my relationships, my home, my puppy, my planet. That way, every week can be the best week ever.
Vegan Rice Crispy Treats
You can find the recipe, courtesy of Kathy Patalsky here: Vegan Rice Crispy Treats
Southern Fried Chick’n
You can find the recipe, courtesy of The Today Show here: Southern Fried Chick’n
Cashew Cream Sauce (Needed for the Southen Fried Chick’n)
Cashew Cream: (There are various similar recipes for this, but this came from “Vegan Cooking for Carnivores” also.)
2 cups raw organic whole cashews
2-1/2 cups water
Soak the cashews in water overnight (or bring the cashews and 4 cups of water to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the cashews to soak for 1 hour). Drain and rinse the cashews.
Place the cashews into the jar of a blender and add 2-1/2 cups of water. Blend until completely smooth, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the jar with a silicone spatula. Strain the mixture to remove any particles that do not get pureed thoroughly; the cashew cream should be the consistency of heavy cream. It can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 2 months.