Friday, June 29, 2012

push and pull

This is Anna.



Yesterday Anna and I had a picnic on the Charles River Esplanade.



I stuffed myself silly with Anna's fresh fruit salad, peach rooibos iced tea, and the most delectable pastries from Clear Flour.

Our picnic was accompanied by some fat, aggressive squirrels.

And the river was full of lovely things like boats, boats, and more boats.




And when we could eat no more, we walked and walked and marveled at the sunshine, the beautiful city, and the joys of friendship.


We talked a lot of bloggy talk, and as I lamented the creative block I've been experiencing lately with respect to my beloved little bloggy space, Anna talked about the push and pull of this creative endeavor.

We push and create and develop these passions, and for awhile, we're amazed by what we've made. But as we exhaust one creative avenue, we have to pull back and reassess. The only way to keep growing is to be willing to pull back in order to push forward again...sometimes in a new direction, sometimes with new energy.

Push and pull.

It's important for blogging. It's important for anything creative. And it's definitely important for life.

Pushing is good. Pushing is progress. But don't be afraid to pull back every once in awhile so you can see where that pushing is taking you. And if you're not sure how to do that, a picnic is a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

my latest health reads

I'm reading like crazy this summer. On the T, before bed, in the sunshine...I can't wait to share my favorites from the summer come September.

In the mean time, since I keep claiming this is a health blog or something, I figured I'd share my latest reads that help keep me developing my own health and happiness.

~~~


Toward a New Psychology of Women by Jean Baker Miller

Published in 1976, this book is definitely a bit outdated, but was such a fantastic perspective on feminism from a time of blossoming empowerment for women. And sadly, much of it is still surprisingly relevant. I recommend it as a healthy read, because it's a great way to develop a critical consciousness about how feminine strengths are important for the healthy psychology of both men and women.





Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil

In the world of alternative medicine, Andrew Weil is a famous name, and Spontaneous Healing is one of his most famous works. I can't say I totally drink his kool-aid; Weil is surprisingly adamant about some of his philosophies, and some of the approaches he advocates for are not ones I buy into. But the overall message of the book is faith in the innate healing power of the body, and I couldn't agree more. It's particularly geared towards those actively dealing with health issues, and offers a wealth of resources about how to approach those issues outside of allopathic medicine, a worthwhile endeavor for anyone.





Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

I cannot recommend this book enough. It's a volume on finding our true vocation, but really speaks to an inner need in all of us to find a meaningful connection to the material world. It is simultaneously practical, spiritual, and emotional...relevant for any age, but probably a profoundly different experience at different life stages.



Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

This book is adorable. It's a beautifully illustrated children's book that relates some of the most universally understood Buddhist stories...a great way for children and adults to consider how compassion and presence can help us relax and enjoy life.










Have you read any of these before? Let me know if you do...I'd love to hear thoughts. =)

Monday, June 25, 2012

chinatown festival





When I think of Chinatown, I'm used to the loud, bustling, overwhelming Chinatown of Manhattan. The Chinatown of Boston is an entirely different creature.

If we were to compare them using Chinese astrology, I'd say Manhattan's Chinatown is the passionate and restless tiger. Boston's Chinatown is more like the gracious, but reserved rabbit.

I'm no expert though. It took a festival to get me there in the first place.

  

Yup, two full years in Boston, and I'd never officially been to Chinatown. The festival was a blast. We enjoyed the sun on our skin and the hustle and bustle around us. There wasn't much to do per se, but we watched an impressive performance by Chinese dancers, drooled at all the various food offerings, and browsed the vendors that were selling everything from jade jewelry to cotton underwear.



We just didn't want the day to end, so we sat at the Boston Common while I drank my bubble tea and admired my new Buddha.

And here's where it gets really good...

We spent the next half hour or so visiting with all the cute kitties and pups up for adoption at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. I'd be lying if I said we didn't almost come home with a new sibling for Maus. And P.S. There is a beautiful 2-year old greyhound over there. Someone go get him!

It was all glorious...just a perfect, beautiful way to spend a lazy Sunday. Forget everything I've been saying about sugar and exercise and stress-relief...the formula for lifelong health is bubble tea, sunshine, and kittens.

Friday, June 22, 2012

fantasy friday: orange tempeh from the capitol

"He presses a button on the side of the table. The top splits and from
below rises a second tabletop that holds our lunch. Chicken and chunks
of oranges cooked in a creamy sauce laid on a bed of pearly white
grain, tiny green peas and onions, rolls shaped like flowers, and for
dessert, a pudding the color of honey."

from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Now that I'm looking at that quote a second time, I realize that the peas and onions could be a side dish all their own...or they could be part of the chicken dish. How did you read it?

In any case, this recipe is admittedly a diversion from the original anyway. Instead of using chicken, I used tempeh to keep things vegan. But I think you could also use chopped chicken breast or firm tofu just as easily.


We are lucky to have easy access to oranges, aren't we? Katniss juxtaposes her life in District 12 to her experiences in the Capitol, noting that to even get her hands on one orange in District 12, she'd have to trade a whole turkey. It reminded me of the girls in Little House on the Prairie receiving oranges for Christmas presents. It's good to remember the many ways we sometimes take things for granted.

You'll only need one orange for this recipe though, so just set aside a turkey and you should be okay.


Orange Tempeh over Barley and Peas

Ingredients:

For the barley...
     1 tbsp oil
     1 medium sweet onion
     2 1/4 cups barley
     1 1/2 cup frozen petite peas
     2 tbsp soy sauce
     1/4 tsp garlic powder

For the tempeh...
     1 block tempeh
     3 tbsp orange marmalade
     1 tbsp soy sauce
     1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
     1 tbsp rice vinegar
     1 tbsp oil
     1/4 tsp garlic powder
     1 heaping tsp cornstarch
     1 orange

1. Begin to prepare the barley. First, chop the onion, heat the oil over medium heat, and saute the onion until translucent. Add 6 3/4 cups water and the barley. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately one hour, until water is absorbed. When done, stir in the peas, soy sauce, and garlic powder.

2. Set the barley aside and cube the block of tempeh. Mix the marmalade, soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, oil, and garlic powder in a bowl. Pour into a frying pan and heat on medium heat until just boiling. Stir in the tempeh cubes and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce has begun to reduce. Stir often.

3. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tbsp water. Stir until smooth, then add to the tempeh and sauce. Continue to cook, stirring often, until sauce is thick.

4. Peel the orange and split into wedges. Use a serrated knife to cut each wedge into 2-3 pieces. Stir into the tempeh. Serve the tempeh over the barley.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

bob's red mill: review and giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winners: Manda, Noelani, and Ella!

Here's why I love Bob's Red Mill: If you are looking for any sort of shelf-stable ingredient, chances are that Bob's makes it...and it's good.

We regularly use BRM gluten flour, textured vegetable protein, shredded coconut, and coconut flour. These products are all excellent. So I was super excited to try three of their products I had never used before...


During the past couple of weeks, I've experimented with the all purpose gluten-free flour, garbanzo bean flour (naturally gluten-free), and apple, cinnamon, and grains hot cereal.

I used the gf flour in a zucchini bread inspired by this recipe. The package recommends including xanthan gum in your recipes (a thickener and stabilizer), but I just added a little bit of cornstarch and was amazed at how well it held together.


The garbanzo bean flour made it into two recipes. I made a batch of really delicious laddu (no-bake and very easy!), and also made these falafel patties from the recipe on the package. They were a bit dry, but the flavor was incredible, and they would be perfect served with some tzatziki.


And finally, I had the cereal with a little stevia to sweeten. Though the texture is different from oatmeal, the experience is otherwise pretty similar. What's nice is that it's unsweetened, so you can control how sweet you want it. But without any sweetener at all, it's a bit bland. Honey or maple syrup would also be fantastic. And it is so filling...I couldn't finish this bowl!


There will be three winners from this giveaway, each of whom will receive a package of one of these three products. The winner will be selected randomly, and the giveaway is open until Wednesday, 6/27, at 8 pm.

To enter, leave a comment for each of the products that you would like an entry for (up to 3 entries, one per product).

For more entries...

1. 'Like' my page on facebook.
2. Follow my blog on bloglovin'.

For each of these two entries, leave a comment saying you did what was required, and specify which product you'd like the additional entry to go towards. If you already like my facebook page or follow me on bloglovin', let me know!

Hope this isn't too confusing. You can have up to five entries total, each entry counts toward only one product.

Good luck!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

learning to love the weekends

The student lifestyle is pretty sweet.

I decide when, and if I want to go into work. I go grocery shopping on Tuesday mornings, when not a soul is in sight. And I can make time for exercise whenever it feels right. The downside to all this?

I always work on the weekends.

So having a less than full-time work schedule this summer has been such a dream. But settling down into my weekends has been a challenge. I constantly feel like I should be working, and my fingers are always inching towards my planner. It's not stressful...it's just...habit.

My remedy has been to make sure I have at least one or two fun things on my agenda for the weekend, that will take me away from the productive, grown-up things I could be doing. And my newest fear? I'm not sure I'll be able to go back to working weekends come September!

The fun highlight of this weekend was eating lunch out with J.


We ate at the Allston Diner, which is a place of dreams. Puzzles printed on the tables and kitten pictures on the walls? Yes, please. I was able to get this "ultimate" vegan breakfast, while J loaded up an omelette with multiple kinds of meat. P.S. Delicious.

Maus and I had a girls' night in last night (Grey's Anatomy + crocheting/playing with yarn) while J went out with a friend.

And today I treated myself to some very important supplies at the craft store.


Please tell me you enjoyed this gorgeous weather. I walked the 2+ miles home, ignoring my bleeding heel that hasn't quite been broken in for summer shoes yet.

But what an adventure! I stumbled upon a pile of free milk crates (yes, I took one) and literally stopped to smell the roses blooming along fences in Brookline. (It's the little things, people.)


Not everyone shared my blissful mood.


But gosh, I love Brookline. It's rare that I walk through the residential areas...but the parks, and the flowers, and the architecture...oh my! I wanted to have a picnic, plant a garden, and read in the sunshine, all at the same time.


It's really summer. And I want to bask in every sunny, shiny minute of it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

won't you be my neighbor?

Whenever people ask me who my role model is, I'm usually a little stumped. There are a lot of famous people whom I admire or who inspire me. But there aren't so many people that I would actually model my life after. I usually end up choosing someone in my family (which is a very good choice!), but I often wish I could mention someone everyone will know. Over the past few months though, I've come across a few internet gems that have reminded me of a famous person I would be ecstatic to be compared to...

Fred Rogers (<--worth clicking)

If you have anything close to affection for Fred Rogers and the love he brought into your childhood, this is a video you must watch. I chuckled a bit the first time through, but I was teary-eyed by the end of it and it's still getting me every time! (Plus, it's got an irresistible beat.)


I also really enjoyed this one:


It's so stunning to see such gentleness and sincerity in someone. I read that he was inspired to get into television because he saw a cartoon where a character was hit in the face with a pie, and he was disturbed that children were being taught to find humor in another's humiliation. Thank you for being a good neighbor and the best role model, Mr. Rogers.

Who is your role model?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

what are we supposed to eat?!

In a society that can be simultaneously weight-, image-, and health-obsessed, figuring out what diet we're "meant to eat" is a nearly impossible task.

Trust me...I've tried.

We are constantly inundated with new knowledge about how some food does or does not contribute to our health or weight. That knowledge occasionally challenges something we've believed in the past, and it often contradicts other knowledge that is currently accepted.

It's frustrating, and it makes me question what exactly we're supposed to do with all this knowledge. In the end, I think we have to take it with a grain of salt.

via

A recent NPR article revealed that the paleo diet is becoming more mainstream, and even recommended by doctors as a dietary treatment approach for some health issues. The paleo diet, which emphasizes meat, fruit, and vegetables, and omits grains, beans, and dairy, has long been lauded as the diet we are "supposed" to eat, since it reflects the diet of our ancestors in the wild. (Ice cream was a rare treat for cavemen, I hear.)

I like the concept behind the paleo diet. I think it is probably ideal for a lot of people. And the idea of eating the things we evolved to eat is appealing.

But I do not like the assertion that any diet is right for everyone. A University of Michigan professor concludes the NPR article by saying, "'There's this tendency to want to find the normal human diet [...] But every single diet you pick has an advantage of some sort. Humans have lived in all kinds of places and we have adapted to all kinds of diets.'"

Physically, we all have different needs and different genetic material. What we all ultimately need to discover is what makes our individual bodies feel their personal best. (Personally, brown rice and beans make me feel pretty good.)

What isn't addressed in the article is also the deep psychological connection we have to what we eat.

As healthy as I am, I have not yet been able to completely sacrifice certain treats that I know are not great for me. And though my body might be well-designed to process meat, it's something I can rarely bring myself to enjoy anymore. I believe that eating meat or avoiding treats every day would create an unhealthier psychological burden than whatever physical effects I might see instead.

I shy away from dietary labels precisely because of all of these complex issues. Here are ten general guidelines I follow while eating:

1. Whole, unprocessed, organic foods as often as possible
2. Think "close to the source"...the more local and alive the food is, the better. Meat is considered once removed from the source, as it is essentially the consumption of plant energy consumed by another animal. And raw produce retains more of the good stuff than cooked produce.
3. You can never eat too many vegetables
4. Get lots of fiber (and water to go with it)
5. Protein sources at every meal (I like beans, nuts, and soy...and occasionally gluten, eggs, or fish.)
6. Don't fear fat
7. Tea, spices, and superfoods...I do take a few supplements every day, but I prefer to get my boosts from the original sources. Tea, spices, and superfoods (like chia seeds or cacao nibs) are really easy to incorporate into most meals.
8. Minimize sugar (The sugar I do have comes from the least processed sources possible.)
9. Eat mindfully...this is the most important one for me. Eating mindfully helps us eat the right amount of the right stuff, because we eat what our bodies tell us they need...and stop when we've had enough.
10. Don't feel guilty about breaking the rules sometimes

Dietary labels are probably great for people who need clear guidelines to forge the path towards health. Sometimes it's great to have that structure. But everyone should practice critical reflection of why they eat the way they do and how it makes them feel. Ultimately, we all have to answer to our own bodies.

Personally, I'll just keep eating my veggies. And I'll take them with a grain of salt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

night windows

Every time I come home from campus after an evening class, I pass by a favorite apartment building of mine. It's old and made of brick. The fire escapes are black iron, and the sides of the building are covered in vines, full of leaves at the bottom, but becoming bare lines as they approach the roof.

There is an apartment on the third floor of this building. When I go by, the owners always have their curtains open, with the light on. I like to think they're inviting me to enjoy the scene framed in their night window.

via

The walls in that room are a warm orange-y red. It makes me think of fires and wine and cinnamon bread. The light that shines out the window comes from a paper lantern. It's the best paper lantern I've ever seen. It must be two feet in diameter, one solid creamy color. It looks like they've captured the moon and plugged it into their apartment outlet.

via

In the winter, they put up a Christmas tree, adorned with sparkling white lights. For the whole season, the night sky seems to shine from that window.

I'd like to thank those people for leaving the curtains open. Their night window always makes me smile.

via

Can't wait to see what magic it transforms into during the summer...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

for anyone who's not yet sick of looking at pictures of my cat

What's that you say? There could never be too many pictures of cats on a blog?

Every time I get a good shot of Maus, I immediately want to post it on the blog. Then I wonder how much anyone will actually care to look at zillions of pictures of my cat. It's a silly obsession.

But she's the closest thing I've got to a baby right now...which means she gets all the motherly love in me. So if you don't mind...




Friday, June 8, 2012

fantasy friday: honey cakes from beorn's home



He would provide ponies for each of them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey
to the forest, and he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and
packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry - nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits,
and earthenware pots of honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long
time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his
secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat,
though they made one thirsty.

from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


I.am.SO.excited.

Anyone else? Anyone?

When I go to the theaters this December to see The Hobbit, I will have honey cakes stashed in my purse. I will get to see Beorn the shape-shifter on the big screen. And I will be in awe of the amazing collaboration that has made the LotR movies so enthralling. Gollum is my favorite thing to have come out of the movies. How talented is Andy Serkis?

P.S. I love the books too.


Just like the real thing, these cakes are made with honey, are good to eat, and will make you thirsty. They are twice-baked as described, but you can eat the cake after the first baking...at that point it is a regular cake that is still soft and very moist. Delicious either way.

I won't tell you how good they are. Instead, I'll just tell you that I spent the weekend on the couch with a plate of these muttering, "My preciousss..."


Honey Cakes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp raw honey*
2 tbsp palm sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*To easily measure the honey, either weigh with a food scale, or put the 2 tbsp of sugar in a 1/2 cup, then fill to the top with honey.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease the bottom and sides of a shallow brownie pan (mine is about 10 x 6).
2. Combine the first eight (dry) ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. In a larger bowl, mix the oil, honey, and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg and mix on medium for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Add the milk and vanilla and mix on low until combined.
4. Add the dry mixture in two parts, mixing on low until just smooth. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Allow the cake to cool until almost room temperature. (This will take a couple of hours...you can turn off the oven.)
6. Reheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the cake into pieces that are 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping once. Cakes should be lightly toasted on the outside.



P.S. Now that they're pretty well-established, you won't be seeing a Fantasy Friday post every week. You'd be surprised how long recipe development takes, and I was inspired by my friend Melanie to start focusing more on quality over quantity. These are some of my favorite posts to create though, so they're not going anywhere anytime soon!

xoxo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

the nicest place on the internet

It's Wednesday. Now is a great time to visit the nicest place on the internet. Stay awhile...I find it hard to leave.

Here's a sneak peak...

Monday, June 4, 2012

portraits

There is no place like home.

I'm an army brat, so home has meant a lot of different places in my life. But as kitschy as it may sound, home has always really been the place where these people are.






Of course, a couple other faces have joined the crowd in the last few years too, but the pictures I snagged of them didn't make the quality cut. Last, last weekend I learned that people don't have much patience for portraits. Hmph.

Animals do though.



There are not enough words to express how much I love all these beans.

Where were you on Memorial Day?