The More Mozzarella the Merrier

“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” -African Proverb

Ordering pizza with a group is great; the more people, the more pizzas you order. The best part though is sharing that pizza with the extraordinary people that surround us. Every August my family gathers in Door County and we have an annual “Luther Bash”.  We sing karaoke, hit up a supper club, take long walks and lucky for me, we eat pizza.  Delicious wood-fired pizza.

A weekend getaway filled with great conversation and plenty of laughter reminds me of how awesome my family is.   It also reminds me the importance of maintaining and continually expanding a network of great people in our lives.

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A feast for the whole family.

Approaching Door County on a Friday night I strategize with my Mom over the phone about what to order from Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille in Fish Creek, WI. My mom has arrived a day early and bless her heart has offered to pick up pizza for the whole family.

In the 4 hour car ride up north Tess, my brother Jeff and his fiancé Jaime have come up with a delectable plan for our Friday night pizza party. We account for everyone’s likes, dislikes and imagine the right variety for our whole family.  We then coordinate this to my Mom.

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The mouth of the wood-fired oven.

When we arrive to our vacation destination, we are greeted with hot fresh pizzas and a packed condo of buzzing Luthers.  My wonderful Mother even went one step further and snapped pictures of the pizza that you see in this post.

That’s the power of a solid network. You have someone to share ideas with, lean on, and lift you up with a smorgasbord of wood-fired pizzas (along with pictures).

 The wood-fired wonder of the North. 

You may associate Door County the seasonal Wisconsin getaway with wineries, cranberries, sailboats and scenery, but would you expect some of the states best wood-fired pizza?

When I discovered Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza back in 2010, I suddenly felt a whole new level of appreciation for the relaxing touristy peninsula.  If one of these puppies existed in Madison, it would be my go to spot.

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The “Sausage and Pesto” with Goat Cheese

“Sausage and Pesto” perfection.

For several years now my immediate family has made it a tradition to get the “Sausage & Pesto” pizza with goat cheese added to it (Tess’s amazing idea, I married well).  The wood-fired pizza has a sturdy charred crust that provides an excellent chew.  The crust is just thick enough to hold a bountiful yet balanced layer of of high quality ingredients: Italian sausage, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto and our addition dollops of goat cheese.

Some combinations seem so simple, yet fit so perfectly that when they come together, you wonder why people don’t do it more often.  The ingredients of the “Sausage and Pesto” pie come together and create a pizza that is fun and memorable.  Just like the Luther Clan; we come together and create a comforting and supportive network.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

While family is often at the core of our network, continually expanding our circle is important.

“Networking is when you create a far bigger family around you than you could have ever imagined.” states best selling author and podcaster James Altucher.

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My uncle Pete’s combo: Sausage, pepperoni, mushroom and onion.

He references his podcast interview with Scot Cohen The Best Networker in the World. PERIOD. “Networking is when you create your “scene” over years. The people you can help. The people you learn to help. The people who can connect some dots and you become happy when you can introduce them to people who connect other dots.”

Harvey Mackay businessman and New York Times best selling author says in his book Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.”

Developing and maintaining your network. 

  • Keep it fun by bringing enthusiasm to a conversation, be optimistic and uncover a shared interest.  One of my favorite ways to spark up a conversation is to ask someone about their favorite pizza.  You can’t go wrong.
  • Be a good listener and let others share what’s on their mind.  Give your full attention to them and affirm what they are saying. By being an attentive listener you become a trusted ally.
  • Reach out to your favorite people every couple months.  Always work on maintaining relationships even if it’s just a call, text or a simple “Like” on facebook.  Share a picture of some pizza you enjoyed.
  • The more the merrier holds true. Always add to your network.  The more we extend ourselves to others and create new relationships, the more opportunities we open up.  And the more excellent pizza we come across.
  • Have patience with those in your network and hold them accountable.  Sometimes we need to lean and sometimes we are leaned on, taking the initiative to help others will solidify a life-long bond.

What pizza taught me:

Surrounding ourselves with great people makes life exciting, enjoyable and sometimes even easier. Pizza is always there for us in the good times and the bad, and if we play our cards right so is a solid support system of family and friends.

What I’m eating:  Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille

What I’m reading: Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – Harvey Mackay

The School of Slice

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it” -Albert Einstein

Pizza is a lifetime sport and so is learning.  During this time of year I always catch the butterflies of an upcoming fall semester.  I’m years out of school, but I try to stay as hungry for knowledge as I do for new and interesting pizza.

Continually reading, learning and seeking new experiences can be half the fun of life.  By consuming new information I’ve always got new ideas flowing and a fresh pizza perspective.  In the last couple years I have fully realized the power of a good book.

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You are what you read. 

I didn’t always read, actually for the longest time I thought it was really boring outside of a classic fiction novel now and again. By progressively getting more into non-fiction I have taken some pretty cool strides in my personal and professional life.

It’s funny to look back when I was young and I participated in the Pizza Hut “Book It” program through my local library.  The basic concept as I recall, was to read a certain number of books and get a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  I don’t know if this brainwashed me, but I read more than ever now and treat myself with pizza.

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“Book It” aside, a lot of very successful people believe regular reading and learning can help us excel.  In an article from Business Insider it was said that Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. Warren Buffet, the second wealthiest person in the United States said, “I just sit in my office and read all day”. Tech visionary Elon Musk responded, “I read books” when asked how he learned to build rockets.

Billionaire Mark Cuban (who is said to read 3 hours a day) addresses the importance of continual learning in his book How to Win at the Sport of Business, “The thing you do need to do is learn. Learn accounting. Learn finance.  Learn statistics. Learn as much as you can about business.  Read biographies about businesspeople. You don’t have to focus on one thing, but you have to create a base of knowledge so you are ready when it’s time.”

A Student of Slice.

Making a habit of self-education can seem tedious and boring.  I’ll share ways I’ve found to motivate myself to learn on a daily basis with the help of some delicious pies.

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One slice in front of the other.

“The Clam Pie” at Gates & Brovi in Madison, WI taught me to ease into pushing my pizza envelope.  “The Clam Pie” is basically an awesome cheese pizza that has some clams, fennel and a dash of cream on it. Delicious and an easy first step towards broadening my pizza horizon.

When attempting to get into a book, start by committing to read a page a day.  Usually this will naturally turn into more as the material grabs your attention.  I started with one page a day and now enjoy reading 20 pages a day.

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Listen and learn.

A kind waitress at Brixx Wood Fired Pizza in Charlotte, NC had the brilliant suggestion that I get a half buffalo chicken, half 4 meat/4 cheese pizza.  She saw that I was torn on what to order and gave a much appreciated recommendation.  I got the best of both worlds because I listened to her.

Many books reference and quote other books and authors.  Once you begin reading, a snowball takes effect as you discover one outlet for information leads to another.

You can also swap the radio for podcasts on your commute.  I enjoy the Tim Ferriss and James Altucher podcasts.  I’ve found many of my favorite books this way.

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Go outside your comfort zone.

At White Pie Pizzeria in Denver, CO I went out of my usual comfort zone and tried the “White Pie” which had a runny egg smack dab in the middle of it.  The pie was truly amazing and I’m very pleased I pushed my usual boundaries.

We can also benefit from exploring reading material outside of our normal interests.  You could start reading a magazine/blog that doesn’t really fit in your normal wheelhouse and stumble upon a subject you really enjoy.  For example I started reading Wired magazine (a technology magazine) and have found all sorts of cool things I never would have been exposed to.

What pizza taught me:

Continually learning and discovering makes life so much more exciting.  If we embrace the student mindset slice by slice, book by book we can become even better versions of ourselves.

What I’m eating:  Gates & Brovi, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, White Pie Pizzeria 

What I’m reading:  How to Win at the Sport of Business -Mark Cuban

 

 

 

Pizza in the Present Moment

“In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention”-Pico Iyer

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I recently got a healthy dose of mindfulness as Tess and I took a long weekend excursion to the Twin Cities to frolic and eat in a new city.  Our appreciation for all things yummy extends well beyond pizza, we’re not self proclaimed foodies, but we love food and experiencing unique fare in new surroundings.

As we stepped out of the hustle of our daily lives, it became way easier to stop and live in the present moment.  The native Minneapolis folksinger Mason Jennings (one of our favorites) sums it up perfectly:  “Be here now, no other place to be.”

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Meet the Bahn Mizza, our guide to mindfulness in Minneapolis. 

While enjoying the “Bahn Mizza” (a Bahn Mi inspired pizza) at Day Block Brewing in downtown Minneapolis, I took a deep breath and tried to totally experience the pizza and the present moment.  Mindfulness is a practice I’ve been working on for almost half a year and the “Bahn Mizza’s” spicy, sweet and savory asian inspired flavors were fun to sit back and marvel.

The pie had a light base of “gochujang mayo” which was subtle, but provided some background heat and sweetness.  It was complimented nicely by a fresh topping of scallions, a pickled slaw, cilantro and maple-soy glaze. Vietnamese pork sandwiched between the crust and the fresh top layer was the star of the show.  The meat was tender and had a glaze that provided nice texture.

The “Bahn Mizza” provided total proof that sweet and spicy flavors of the east make perfect sense on a charred pizza crust.  Similarly, ancient eastern practices like mindfulness and meditation adapt well to our modern hustle and bustle, as they allow us to take a load off.

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Breathe in pizza, breathe out love. 

Meditation has a variety of positive benefits beyond just taking a breather from the daily grind. Whether it’s a spiritual guru like Deepak Chopra, or an esteemed medical establishment, there seems to be a consensus that meditation can help reduce stress, improve sleep and increase our level of happiness.

According to the Chopra Center website: “A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.”

Mayo Clinic goes one step further and says some research indicates that meditation can even help with illnesses like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.

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Tess’ Bitmoji practicing present moment pizza awareness.

Finding a piece of mind.

  • Guided meditation:  I’ve used the app Headspace to meditate for 163 days and feel equal parts rejuvenated, relaxed and grounded.  I do 10 minute sessions which are easy to make habitual and you can choose from different “packs”, I like the one on stress.  While it’s not necessary to use tools like Headspace to meditate or practice mindfulness, it can certainly help starting out.
  • Deep breathing:  I’ve found it helpful to inhale for the count of 5 and exhale for the count of 5.  Also, counting alternate breathes to 10 (1 inhale, 2 exhale) can help get you in the zone.
  • Focus on your senses:  One simple trick I use wherever I may be, is to start out by thinking of my feet on the ground.  I think of the sensation of the carpet or my feet against the soles of my shoes.  I’ll wiggle my toes.  I then go up the rest of my body paying attention to how each part of my body feels.
  • Find some silence:  Turn off all distractions. Simply sitting and being still can help you focus on the present. I try to pay close attention to the details of my surroundings.
  • Visualization:  Picture your negative thoughts and emotions as a little cloud passing by.  Andy Puddicombe the co-founder of Headspace who lends his voice to guide you, describes this visualization: “Our mind is a blue sky. Clouds come and go. We tend to get caught up in the clouds and forget about the blue sky”.

What pizza taught me:

Practicing mindfulness meditation is about acknowledging our thoughts and letting them pass. When we step into the present moment we can calm our nerves, reduce stress and find a greater appreciation for the people, places and yummy pizza that surround us.

What I’m eating:  Bahn Mizza at Day Block Brewing; gochujang mayo, Vietnamese pork, scallion, pickled slaw, cilantro & maple-soy glaze.

What I’m reading: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere -Pico Iyer

What I’m listening to: Mason Jennings “Be here now”

 

 

 

Believe in Pizza

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe it’s true that there is no such thing as bad pizza. On my never-ending quest for melty cheese, crispy crust and herbaceous sauce I’ve found every pizza is special in its own greasy way. While some pizza may exude more Instagram appeal than others, at the end of the day it’s pizza and therefore awesome.

We are also special in our own right.  When we assert the same unrelenting faith we have for pizza inward towards ourselves, confidence is born.  Can a perfect cheese pizza from Gates and Brovi in Madison WI. help me find more confidence within myself?

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The Sinatra of cheese pizza.

As I gaze upon my Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza perfectly displayed before me, I can’t help but think this pizza has got it going on.  If this pizza had personality it would be overflowing with confidence.

The exceptionally cheesy pie sits mounted on a chrome pizza stand that invites you to admire its appeal.  It’s poised and nonchalant, not looking for attention, but making it difficult for onlookers not to notice its excellence.

The pizza’s crispy crust is dusted with floor and sturdy enough to support a generous portion of mozzarella. Like my all-time favorite Gus’ pizza in Whitewater WI, the sauce and cheese bake together and meld into one; leaving a perfectly greasy blanket covering the pie.

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How to be smooth as fresh mozzarella. 

Eliud Kipchoge an Olympic gold medalist in marathon running recently was quoted in Wired magazine  “It’s not your legs that run” “It’s your heart and mind”.  He said this in reference to self belief and tackling seemingly unattainable goals (running a sub 2-hour marathon for Nike)

Though I’m not taking on super-human feats, I do have to consciously remind myself to have confidence.  I’ve always wished confidence was something I was naturally graced with, but it’s an ongoing effort. I’ll share several lessons from family, friends, and favorite readings that have helped me out along the way.

  1.  Take baby steps – Do something little everyday to build confidence in yourself.  Reach out to an old friend or family member and feel good about it.
  2.  Develop a mantra – Remind yourself that you’re a pretty awesome dude or dudette.  Simply affirming you believe in yourself goes a long way over time. 
  3.  Watch your posture – Sit up straight, take deep breaths and try not to fidget (very difficult for me).
  4. Make yourself uncomfortable – Spark up a conversation with a stranger when you don’t feel like it.  Ask someone about their favorite pizza (everybody loves pizza).

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What a great cheese pizza taught me:

The first step toward achieving confidence is believing in our abilities. When we have faith in ourselves we can easily snag a slice of life’s abundant opportunities.  Tried-and-true lessons in self belief can help us reach Gates and Brovi cheese pizza magnificence.

What I’m eating: Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza

What I’m reading: “Snap Selling” Jill Konrath

 

Piecing Together the Pie

“The path to success is taking massive determined action”- Tony Robbins

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Whether it’s New York style, Chicago deep-dish, or my favorite Midwestern tavern cut; the crust, sauce and cheese are the fundamental building blocks of all great pizza. All the ingredients must compliment each other and meld together before the true masterpiece, that is pizza, comes to life.

Like all good pizza needs a solid foundation, we too can benefit from a solid base of constructive habits and behaviors.  Equally important to having that base is implementing it.  With the help of a large greasy slice of New York style pizza I will take an important step towards forming my foundation.

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Practicing what I preach about pizza.

It’s 6:30 pm on a Friday night, I’m ready to be home and ready to relax.  All day I’ve looked forward to putting my feet up and enjoying some Pizza Di Roma delivered to my door.

That’s right Madison friends, Pizza Di Roma the New York style slice joint just opened a westside location that shows promise in delivering slices the size of my head to my house.  I tried to order last weekend and was assured this week the slice delivering would commence.

So, I’m at home, sweatpants on, ready to beach out and binge on some huge slices of New York style pizza.  I excitedly dial their number as i sink into my easy chair.  That’s when I hear the most dreaded phrase in the known pizza universe (besides “we’re out of cheese”):

We’re not delivering, would you like an order for pick up?

Sniffle….

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Are slices the size of my head delivered to my door too much to ask for? 

Can I suck it up and put into action the core pizza principles I go on about?  Here goes…

  1. Learn from the failure:  I could have called beforehand to make sure they delivered, next time I will do that.
  2. Detach from the situation and remain positive with some supportive self-talk “It’s Friday and it’s pizza time, the world is at my finger tips”.
  3. Give thanks and be grateful:  I remind myself I’m fortunate to have this day to eat delicious pizza.  This is a brand new business, give em a break.  Thanks Pizza Di Roma for opening a westside location!
  4. Take action: I’m putting on real pants and driving there to pick up some huge slices of pizza!

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The road to Pizza Di Roma is paved with insights and BBQ chicken slices.

None of the ideas I’ve discussed so far mean anything unless I put them into action in my day to day.  So far, I’ve recognized that detaching from thoughts, learning from failures, practicing gratitude, giving to others and always operating with enthusiasm are the building blocks to living a happier life and seeing some personal growth.  What is more important than me sharing these principles, is that I must practice them.

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What pizza taught me:

Just like a pizza needs it’s crust, sauce, and cheese to make it complete, we too must have a solid framework to rely on.  Learning and growing everyday is fundamental, but putting our thoughts into action is where the magic happens.

  • What I’m eating: Pizza Di Roma 18″ pepperoni and extra cheese pizza.  Slice of BBQ chicken and bacon.
  • What I’m reading: “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Catching Up With a Slice

“Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”

grilling-pizza-e1499625290913.pngThere’s nothing like grilling pizza over open flames with friends on the 4th of July. That’s right, to celebrate this great nation’s independence Tess and I joined a couple of our dearest friends Adam and Micki to grill homemade pizzas. Enjoying some pizza on a beautiful summer evening feels like the perfect way to catch up with good friends

We’ve also come together to give cheers to a milestone in the girls growing essential oil empire (They sell and lead teams for Young Living essential oil products, good stuff).  After a lot of hard work Tess hit the silver rank within the company and Micki hit gold, which is pretty darn cool in the essential oil business.  I’m very proud and happy for them both.

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Celebrating my own pizza milestone. 

Along with the girls I too feel I’m about to a experience a benchmark moment in life as I’m about to grill my first pizza. I stand back and watch in wonder as the first crust hits the grill. Dancing flames kiss the bottom of our hand stretched oil-ladened dough.

Adam is the pizza-grilling veteran among us, he is also a pizza-lover extraordinaire (like me) and director of corporate operations for Toppers Pizza (he loves pizza so much he made it a career, respect).  I grow excited as I listen to him explain his plan to execute three delicious pizzas over the open flame.

“It’s all about the olive oil” he insists as he applies a coating to a pizza crust awaiting its turn to hit the heat.  He also reveals that cooking both sides of the crust is the real secret to crispy homemade grill fired pizza.

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Gathering for some grilled pizza.

I was blessed with a lot of quality friends and family time over the long holiday weekend and such interactions felt long overdue.  As the years go on, hangouts seem to happen less and are more challenging to organize as schedules quickly fill up.

Pizza is a great way to connect with our favorite people.  Pizza can provide the perfect motivation and excuse for us to get together.  Pizza offers a great way to maintain our relationships, build new ones, and celebrate life’s victories.

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Use pizza to connect.

It’s as simple as inviting your best friend to a new pizza place or throwing a pizza party for your whole crew. Pizza is the perfect food to cheer us up or celebrate our accomplishments.

With some quality social time all the effort and hard work we put in all week feels worth it.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the people we share our pizza with.

What pizza taught me:

Staying physically and mentally healthy is very important, but equally important is keeping healthy relationships. Everyone loves pizza, so use it as a tool to connect you with those you cherish the most.

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What I’m eating: Grilled homemade pizzas:

  • Pepperoni and sausage with fresh mozzarella.
  • Buffalo chicken pizza with fresh mozzarella, blue cheese crumbles and diced buffalo chicken pieces on a ranch base.
  • Mushroom and fresh mozzarella on a white sauce base, topped with pesto drizzle.

What I’m reading: Deepok Chopra “Creating Affluence”

Photo Credit: Micki Oldenburg

To get more info on essential oils contact: tessrad@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Look on the Bright Side of the Pizza Buffet.

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them”-Epictetus

IMG_6255As I’m stuck at the back of a long line at Ian’s Pizza in Madison WI. I reflect on the importance of maintaining pizza optimism.  It takes consistent practice to look at my little white paper plate as half full.

Neglecting pizza with negative self-talk. 

“I bet they’ll run out of Mac and Cheese” I whisper to myself as I squeeze through the entrance into a completely packed Ian’s Pizza by the Slice on State Street.  A long line of shuffling customers snake around dividers at a pace that’s a little to sluggish for my liking.  Some antsy patrons stand on tippy toes and crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the glowing showcase of eclectic pizza on display up ahead.

Here I am at the tail end of the line, butterflies beginning to swirl as I start to ponder the slices I want being rapidly plucked off the line.  The eager crowd in front of me dismantling my hopes and dreams of Mac N Cheese pizza and Buffalo Chicken pizza and Quesadilla pizza.

“They’ll probably just have some veggie slice left” I whimper to Tess.

“I bet they don’t even have plain cheese anymore.”

Pull it together dude, you’re a pizza optimist. 

I need to flip the script. Luckily, I’ve been working on my positive outlook.  I’m learning I just have to rephrase the negative chatter that enters my mind and spin it in a positive direction.  I have to switch my gears from slice scarcity to slice abundance (easier said than done, I know).

It starts like this:

“I bet they’ll run out of Mac n’ Cheese.”

translation:

“If they run out of Mac n’ Cheese, I can try some other slice with pasta on it, I think they have a Penne Alfredo slice!”

Chin up:

“They’ll probably just have some veggie slice left”

translation:

“I bet a veggie slice with a bunch of feta on it would be delicious.”

The future is bright:

“I bet they don’t even have plain cheese anymore.”

translation:

“I’m at Ian’s Pizza, the slice possibilities are endless, who cares about a slice of plain cheese!”

Pizza perspective; you can choose optimism. 

To adopt a positive pizza outlook I try to acknowledge my negative thoughts and challenge myself to reframe them.  Then I attempt to creatively find the upside in my situation.

If some kid grabs the last slice of Quesadilla, it’s perfect timing for a Spicy Chicken Taco.  No matter what, I’m walking away from Ian’s pizza with some delicious slices and I can’t complain about that.

What pizza taught me:

Choosing optimism is not always easy, but if we consciously remind ourselves to practice positive thinking the pizza buffet always looks bright. By recognizing our negative self-talk and applying a positive spin we’re not left at the mercy of our emotions and we can enjoy whatever slice comes our way.

  • What I’m eating:  Ian’s Pizza by the Slice, State Street Madison WI. Mac and Cheese slice, Buffalo Chicken slice, Pepperoni slice.
  • What I’m reading: “The Daily Stoic”-Ryan Holiday