Sunday, July 31, 2011

small-ish changes

My journey as a writer-of-sorts has been a strange one. Growing up, I never ever wore the "writer" label. As a child, I liked it well enough. I kept a special journal full of poems and stories and reflections (green with dogs on it, just in case you were wondering). My writings were often imitations of other things that I had read. I realize now that's exactly how a lot of writers develop. But at the time, I felt like a bit of a crook.

As a teenager, I thought I was good at writing...good enough to get into honors classes and do well, but not good enough to identify my person with the art. During those years, I was never very driven to write except when I needed to for an assignment. I figured it was because I didn't have it in me. It felt mechanical.

I bet a lot of students feel that way. The truth is, I was never really exposed to the kind of writing that I love. I analyzed literature, wrote creative short stories, argued persuasively. The kind of writing I really love is not quite captured by any of those things. At heart, I am a teacher. And when I write on here, I feel like I'm teaching. That's it. That's the kind of writing I like.

Whether anyone learns anything or not is really beside the point. Half of teaching is actually about learning anyway, and this blog has been fruitful in that way more than any other.

The point I'm really trying to make here is basically about my evolution as a writer. I hope I never figure out exactly what my niche is. Because every time I'm swept up by the winds of change, I'm inspired and enthusiastic and driven to write. And the most lovely part of figuring that out is that writing has become rewarding for me. It's intrinsic now! It doesn't matter what grade I get on my blog posts. I just feel good writing them. (And I hope no one out there is grading them anyway.)

So I've learned to embrace my own personal evolution. And now I'm ready for another change. Is this too Kelly Bensimon of me? Gosh, I hope not. (Side note: I promise I only watch The Real Housewives to make the time fly by when I'm running at the gym.)

And here's the big change: I'm dropping the "Life Lessons" theme. It's starting to feel a bit restrictive, actually. I've got another idea bubbling up inside of me (who knows how long it will last...), and I'd like to give it a shot. That's it. Big enough news to deserve its own post? Maybe not. But this is the same quiet, little virtual space I always return to, and changes here are a part of my journey as a blogger.

Keep an eye out for my new project. I am so excited to share.

xoxo

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life" -jessica hische

Mostly true.

Maybe not all of this qualifies as work. But in my little utopia, the work I would be doing for the rest of my life would include...

Drinking lots of morning coffee...
Probably followed by some reading...


It would definitely include this...


And these...
Well, and lots of cooking in general...

Which of course means lots of exercise too... 

Plus yoga sessions with Maus...
 Then we could get some writing done too...

If that got too strenuous, I'd go thrifting...


And take the time to enjoy pretty things...


 Like these...


 Cute things too...
(That means quality time with J.)


  Of course I'd have time to crochet...


And lots of time for blogging...

Until then, I'll just have to procrastinate more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

watermelon trumps heat waves

Are you hot? I'm guessing the answer is yes.

Even up here in our northern city, with our breezy sea winds, we are sitting in stagnant, sticky heat. I like summer. I like summer when I live in a place that has central air conditioning. I like summer when I don't have to wear office clothes every day. I like summer when there is a cool pool of water at my disposal anytime.

Unfortunately, none of those conditions are being met this summer. Enter the saving grace of the season, the one unsung hero that makes these sweltering months worth the discomfort: watermelon.


I've always loved watermelon, but since I've reduced my sugar intake so much, it has become that much better. Seriously, this is nature's candy. I believe I could sit with a spoon and half a watermelon and take it down. So when a family friend suggested a new way to serve it up, I had to give it my own twist.

J doesn't like watermelon. I know, I know. It's unbelievable. But since he's also suffering through this oppressive heat wave, I made him a treat too.


~~~

Waterme-lime Mocktail

Ingredients:
12 oz. seltzer or sparkling mineral water
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
frozen watermelon chunks

Add the first three ingredients to a glass and stir gently with a stir stick. Drop in the watermelon...and be sure to munch it up at the end!


~~~

Spright

Ingredients:
12 oz. seltzer or sparkling mineral water
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 drops liquid stevia, or to taste

Mix all ingredients and stir gently with a stir stick.


Stay cool...stay hydrated...and dream of winter...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

going natural is not always easy


When my sister started switching her beauty products to an all-natural regime, I thought she was crazy. I never thought I could give up my shampoo, conditioner, face soap, face scrub, daytime moisturizer, nighttime moisturizer, eye serum, body lotion, body wash, shaving cream, make up, deodorant, hair spray, hair serum, nail polish, nail polish remover, or cuticle cream. Whew...I'm probably still forgetting things. But after I tallied up that list and took a hard look at what was in all those products, I was ready for a change.

So I've given up some of those products (like cuticle cream...really?!).

I use a lot less of the ones I just can't give up.

I've made my own natural versions and plan to try more.

And I've purchased all-natural alternatives.

For the most part, the transition has been pretty painless. I do honestly miss the artificial smells of chemical shampoos and soaps, but that is a small price to pay. In general, I don't think I look or feel any different. I've just eliminated the harmful chemicals, and saved myself some time in my beauty routine.

Except for my hair.

There once was a girl named Clair,
Who tried to get all-natural hair.
It was oily or dry,
Sometimes frizzy or fried,
She worried her head would go bare!


Ok, it's not quite that bad. But while I've never been crazy about my hair, it's definitely been more troublesome than usual. I'm currently on my fourth natural hair-cleansing routine in almost a year, and have all my fingers and toes crossed that I'll want to stick with it. I've come thisclose to giving up and dunking my head in a vat of chemical-laden hair products. But I'm being stubborn. And I'm sticking to my guns. And I've just had to develop a few tricks to deal with less-than-ideal hair days. Here's one of them.


Dry Shampoo

Ingredients:2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon, optional*

*Intuitively, I think rubbing cinnamon on your scalp might actually stimulate the production of oil. But using this small amount adds a lovely smell and I have not personally had any issues with cinnamon-induced oil increases.

Combine all ingredients in a small container with a lid. Close, and shake to mix. May also be transferred to a spice shaker, so powder can be sprinkled on hair.


To use, gently massage dry shampoo into the roots of your hair, all over your head. Do not rub too vigorously, or your hair will tangle. Bend at the waist and flip your hair upside down. Gently brush out your hair.

I find that this mix does a good job hiding the visual effects of a bit of excess oil, freshens up the smell of hair, and because of the cocoa, blends well. It's no substitute for a good wash, but definitely makes me more confident on those days when I'm just not sure my hair would do well with a washing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

it's hip to eat a square

When we were cable-deprived little kids, we used to watch certain beloved VHS tapes over and over again. The selection included Bambi, Disney Sing-Alongs, and some of the best episodes of Sesame Street I have ever seen. I particularly enjoyed this clip:


They're singing, "It's hip to be a Clair." Right?!

I didn't appreciate the joke until I was much older. And I only realized it was a parody of a Huey Lewis song a few minutes ago. But as a math-loving, self-proclaimed nerd, I love strutting around singing how hip it is to be a square.

Lately though, I'm not the only hip square in our apartment. I wanted to make an easy recipe for something sweet, but light. And the result was a recipe for hip chocolate granola squares. These snacks have a crunchy surface on the outside but are still a little chewy in the middle. Made almost completely out of oats, they're definitely a no-guilt snack, but the sweetness and chocolate help me feel like I'm getting a real treat.


Hip Chocolate Granola Squares

Ingredients:
1 cup oats
1 cup oat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, in liquid form
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp liquid stevia

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the first six (dry) ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the last five (liquid) ingredients. Line a baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper; the paper should easily cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Pour batter onto baking sheet and gently spread it over the sheet with a spoon or spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove from oven and cut into bars, leaving them on the baking sheet. Bake for another 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

june is a month of delicious food

I was so excited to post my weekly goings-on, but have had a frustrating evening with the blogger editor and my tiny little netbook, so I'm checking in with an informal update instead...lately, everything has been about food.

I'm loving all the delicious produce this month, and have a new respect for the month of June, which is usually my first opportunity of the year to complain about the terrible heat.

But instead, as I enjoy juicy strawberries and crunchy sugar snap peas, I find that this is the best tune to accompany my summer savorings:



I've spent this Fourth of July weekend at home, breaking my no-sugar rule with my mom's homemade strawberry rhubarb pie. As this is by far my favorite food in the world, I am completely okay with that.



~~~

I also enjoyed peach cobbler overnight oats this week:

Peach Cobbler Overnight Oats

Ingredients:
1 medium-large peach
a few dashes of cinnamon
sweetener, to taste

Combine. And devour.

~~~

But best of all, especially for all that great summer produce, is my parents' version of gazpacho...basically an obscene amount of vegetables processed together. My mom shared the recipe below with me, and I'm sharing it with the world!


Ma & Pa Gazpacho

Ingredients:
about 3 lbs tomatoes (give or take, it doesn't matter THAT much)
1 large cucumber
1 bell pepper
1 Serrano or jalapeƱo pepper, seeded
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
handful of basil or cilantro
1 can V8 (optional, but when I use store tomatoes, it's better with V8)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
salt, to taste

Food process in batches that fit into the processor receptacle, then pour each batch into a bowl and stir together with liquid ingredients until well blended. This makes a huge batch that fits into my largest stainless steel bowl, but if you like to eat it every night, it's nice to have it made up for the week. In any case, you can half the recipe if you think you won't eat that much of it.

~~~

Being home has been a wonderful, if short, adventure. There has been great company, amazing (and healthy!) food, a beautiful garden, and lots of happiness.



Enjoy the rest of this beautiful holiday weekend!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

dads are motivational

I bet you thought I forgot Father’s Day, huh?

Well, I didn’t.

I just figured I’d bring home my gift this weekend and wait to blog about it until I’d bestowed it on its very deserving recipient.


I’ve continued with the name theme on this parent-centered day. This one’s just a bit more cryptic, but it might help to know that’s a coffee cup filled with coffee flavored chocolates. The mug cozy pattern comes from here

~~~

Cuppa Joe Truffles

Ingredients:
4 oz. dark chocolate
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ cup agave nectar
¼ cup almond milk
1 tsp coconut oil
2 tbsp powdered espresso

Melt the dark chocolate and paint the inside of a chocolate cup mold. Put in the freezer for a few minutes, remove, and paint more chocolate on any uncovered spots. Repeat as many times as necessary to solidly coat the cups. Meanwhile, heat the unsweetened chocolate, agave nectar and almond milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly. When completely melted and blended, turn off the heat and add the coconut oil and powdered espresso. Stir until smooth and allow to cool. Pour into coated molds and freeze. When completely cool, top the cups with more melted chocolate and refrigerate. Pop chocolates out of the mold and wrap in candy foil.



~~~

It seemed appropriate to give my dad a coffee-themed gift, but in hindsight, he doesn’t really need the extra caffeine. My dad has always been full of energy…running, keeping up the yard, cooking, working. Or maybe it’s not that he had so much energy, but that he was always happy to do just a little more if it meant making us a little happier.

When we were little, he used to come home from work to a maximum volume, “Daaaaaadddy’s hooooome!!!” We’d race to the door, and then drag him to the living room, where the games began. First, we’d spread two blankets on the floor (baby J wasn’t born yet), and my sister and I would each sit in the middle of one. Somehow, my dad would gather up the corners of each and throw one of us over each shoulder, like rucksacks. Then he’d tromp through the house and we’d pay careful attention, because when he put us down, we’d guess where we landed before he opened the blankets.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The second game involved rolling us up in the blankets as tight as possible. Then we’d wriggle out…no unrolling allowed. On really fun nights, he’d roll the both of us up in one blanket, each of us at opposite ends.

Isn’t it amazing how much fun you can have with so little? And isn’t it amazing how my dad managed to be so great at the end of long days? He has always been 100% there and supportive of me. And he's given me that insatiable appetite to learn and do and live life with energy. It's one of the greatest gifts. So this is the least I could do.

I love you, Dad!

Happy (belated) Father's Day!