rainy sundays + wild harvest giveaway

Rainy autumn Sundays are for cozy breakfasts with new friends...

Damp trips to an empty grocery store...

House cleaning...

Pumpkin cake making...


Enjoying honeycrisps...

And sharing a special giveaway with your readers...

When Wild Harvest sponsored a recipe contest this past summer, I only used three of the ingredients in the goody box they sent. But it had so much more than ginger, applesauce, and peanut butter. I remember there was salsa, black beans, the best animal crackers I've ever had, and loads more. And the lovely, lovely people over at Wild Harvest are sharing one of these goody boxes of delicious organic food with one of my readers.

There are up to three entries per person...leave a comment for each one you do! The winner will be chosen at random next Sunday, 10/7.

Ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Wild Harvest product is. If you don't know, visit their website and tell me what you want to try!
2. Follow me on twitter. (Or leave a comment if you already follow.)
3. 'Like' me on facebook. (Or leave a comment if you already do.)

And then go enjoy the rest of this cool, damp evening. It won't be long before we're waking up to frost and crunchy leaves...

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Dana!


true generosity

These are the words occupying my mind this semester and keeping me away from this wonderful little space.

I could quote this whole book (a great read for everyone, a must-read for educators), because it is full of the stuff that could carry a conversation for weeks.

But I won't.

And I won't even attempt to deconstruct this single quote. I suspect it carries a different weight, and a different meaning, for every person.

For me, right now, it compels me to reconsider what Doing Good really means, and reflect on my moments of false charity and true generosity. We have all had both. But by and large, we live in a society of false charity, of "fixing" problems that don't exist, of stitching things up while we simultaneously plunge the knife deeper into the wound.

It sounds negative, I know. But it's also an opportunity...to be more awake...to make a decision to be more conscious and more truly generous, even if it just begins with a book, with our minds, with our thoughts.


mindful moments

I have always been drawn to food in a very deep, very feeling sort of way. I love flavor and texture...the process of starting with raw ingredients in the kitchen, and ending with a beautiful, delicious masterpiece. And as a result, as I've grown, I've been very drawn to food photography. Stunning food photography compels us to recognize the experience of eating as more than just sustenance. It is a ritual, an appreciation, a meaningful moment in our lives that recurs many times a day, day after day.

Even with my amateur food photography skills, capturing the visual subtleties of a dish is always a pleasure and a surprise for me. When I looked at this picture of a (failed) plum cake, I noticed the range of hues in the plum flesh and the aura of caramelized juice that seeped over the dish. This, the appreciation of what goes into our bodies and keeps us running, is one of the simplest and most beautiful aspects of our daily lives.

But the average American spends just 1.1 hours per day eating. At three meals a day, that's 22 minutes per meal. That's not a lot of conversation with the family. That's not a lot of savoring. That's not a lot of listening to your body.

We're all guilty of it. It's just too easy to use that time to multi-task, or to see that time as less valuable than the time we spend Getting Things Done.

But we pay a price. These data indicate there is some relationship between the time we spend eating and our obesity rates. Maybe it's causal, maybe not. But I'd be willing to bet that the mindfulness we engage when we savor our bites and chew our food can help us feel more satisfied and in tune with our hunger signals.

And let's not forget how culturally meaningful the dining table is. It is our time to bond with others, to be thankful, to take care of ourselves. If we don't invest time there, what does that say about our values?

We should find the time. Even if it's just once a week, for a Sunday breakfast or a mid-week dinner...we should find the time to be present with our food, to appreciate it and the company of those that share it with us. I have a feeling it's a big part of our joie de vivre.


my go-to dinner

The school year has officially started, and I officially do not have time for big, elaborate dinners. Three nights a week I am eating dinner after 7:30 and barely finding the energy to make my next day's lunch. J's schedule isn't much better. But we're making time for pizza on Friday nights, and I'm hoping to spend my Sundays making bread and soup...life is still good.

During the week though, I like fast, single-serving meals, using ingredients we always have on hand. For this dish, I always use things that we have already cooked (like rice or tofu), or things that are frozen (corn, vegetables), or stuff that we just always have (onion). The rest of it is shelf stable. That way, there is no planning involved.

I like that this is always a little different, and I never get sick of it. It tastes so good! And it is super easy. I use low-sodium soy sauce and put in as many veggies as possible to keep it healthy.

Trust your gut when it comes to proportion...you know your tastes best!

Simple Stir Fry

Take your pick(s) in each of the following categories. (My favorites are bold.)

[coconut, olive]
[onion, garlic, ginger root]
[broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, brussels sprouts, green beans, bell peppers, sugar snap peas]
[rice, corn, green peas, barley]
[egg, edamame, tofu, tempeh, cashews, quinoa, textured vegetable protein]
[sesame seeds, green onions]

Seasonings (all essential)
[soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic powder, powdered ginger, sriracha sauce]

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium and add the aromatic vegetables. Sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add in the vegetables, with the ones that need to cook the longest going in first. Pour in a little soy sauce and rice vinegar.
2. Sprinkle with garlic powder and ginger and mix in. If you're having an egg, crack it over the vegetables and scramble it in. Cook until vegetables are heated through and fork tender (and egg is cooked).
3. Stir in your starches and protein and leave heat on until entire dish is heated through. Stir in sriracha sauce and transfer to a dish. Top with garnishes of choice.

P.S. I'd love to hear your quick dinner ideas in the comments!!


sisterly love

Having an older sister is like having a second mom. (In other words, awesome.)

When you are growing up, she will play aunt with you and your stuffed otter (and her stuffed bunny). She will provide explicit instructions on how to become popular (did you know it involves memorizing the names of all the CoverGirl models?). And she will be the one you can go to when everyone is already asleep and you are still awake, crying and stressing over something you won't remember when you're 25.

And when you are 25...

She will make a beautiful space for you to stay in when you visit.
(The window decal says, "You are loved.")

She will cook you healthy, delicious Indian food.

And she will buy you more delicious food when you're out.

She won't care when you take two weeks to write about how great she is.

She won't care when those two weeks are also the number of weeks late her birthday present is.

And so your dream will probably be to live someday on a family commune with her, where your children will grow up playing together and you will spend your days baking bread and rehashing celebrity gossip. (J is totally on board with this. I asked.)

If you don't have an older sister, you should get one. I hear they have great prices at Target.

In the meantime, you can enjoy mine free of charge. She can be found here, where she blogs about funny, creative, beautiful, and delicious things. It will give you the happy's, I promise.


alone time

A healthy thing to do in any relationship is take some time to be alone.

J and I each find ourselves alone in the apartment for a few days at least once or twice a year. The other one will be off visiting family, attending a conference, having time with the girls/boys.

And during these times, we miss each other so much. From day to day, we like to spend 24/7 with each other. We are that kind of couple. But we also know that sometimes, it's nice to sleep sprawled out across the bed and wake up in the morning to your own peaceful silence.

It's important to find this time for yourself when you're in a relationship. It's important to find alone time, and couple time, when kids enter the scene. And if you're single, it's important to remember how precious alone time is, and what a wonderful companion you are for yourself.

You've got to get to know your own mess.

This weekend I got my alone time...my beautiful alone time with myself as my best companion. On the schedule...

A Sondre Lerche concert with one of my faves + two besties.
Homemade pizza and a chick flick (terrible).
A thorough apartment cleaning that lasted through the whole weekend.
Lots of kitty snuggling.
A potluck with friends and professors (and a wildly popular vegan casserole).
Grey's Anatomy...lots of Grey's Anatomy. (Season 8 is now on Netflix!)

J got his time without me while I was in Minnesota, and when I got back, we talked about how much we missed each other, but also why we valued that time alone. And we both had the same answer. It's nice to just think about yourself.

While it's important and totally do-able to maintain your independence and identity in a relationship, there is no denying that success lies at least partially in consideration and compromise. So day in and day out, many of our decisions and thoughts revolve around the presence of that other person in our lives.

When I was gone, J played video games without me hovering around demanding quality time together. He went out with his friends without thinking about whether he'd wake me at night.

And without J around, I turned off the a/c at night and slept in the whole bed. I didn't wash my hair when it kind of needed it. I watched all the Grey's Anatomy I wanted without once wondering whether J might prefer to have the Yankees on.

And tonight, when I get back from class, J will be there. His luggage will be strewn all over the bedroom, and I will be annoyed that the pile of dishes in the sink will be double what I left this morning. We will spend hours re-hashing our time apart in too much detail. He'll burp. I'll whine.

Then he'll make me laugh more than I've laughed in days. And I'll make him smile that wonderful smile reserved just for me. We'll hug. For a moment it will feel like the very first time we touched. And we will never want to let go.


infuse your mood tea review and giveaway

Okay, this is going to sound a little bit like science fiction. But what if there were a substance that helped your body recover from stress? Let's say it doesn't matter what kind of stress...physical, emotional, cognitive. The mechanism is a bit unclear. Oh, also? No serious side effects*.

It's called an adaptogen.

I know it sounds a little too good to be true, and usually in the realm of health, that's a red flag that it's too good to be true. But adaptogens really exist. In fact, you've probably heard of some of them: ginseng, licorice root, astragalus. They're pretty common, actually.

*Some adaptogens can temporarily raise blood pressure. But part of the classification of adaptogens is that they are generally innocuous.

One widely used adaptogen is Siberian ginseng, or eleuthero. You can buy it as a supplement, or get it in a tastier form...

Infuse Your Mood tea is just 100% eleuthero for brewing a healing, relaxing tea. To me, it tasted quite a lot like green tea.

I definitely felt relaxed after a cup...maybe it was the ginseng, maybe it was placebo, maybe it was just having a cup of tea. (I'm a huge fan of the placebo effect anyway.) J enjoyed it even more than I did. He had a lot of sleeping problems this summer, and he drank a cup of this every morning for awhile, as a natural pick-me-up and to support his system. P.S. Adaptogens wake up your nervous system without the negative side effects of stimulants (like insomnia and the inevitable crash).

Would I buy it with my money?

Yes and no. This is not a tea that I love enough to buy on a regular basis. But given it's amazing benefits and ability to ease the mornings without the caffeine, I'd buy it for certain circumstances. If I were going through a period of major stress, or trying to quit coffee (again), I'd go for this stuff.

But one of you will judge for yourself!

The makers of Infuse Your Mood will send a box to the winner of this giveaway.

To enter?

1. Leave a comment below telling me when you need an adaptogen the most!
2. Share this giveaway on twitter...be sure to include a link and tag me with @findingclairity.
3. Like my facebook page. If you already have, that's an entry!

Leave a separate comment for each entry and be sure to provide your email address. The winner will be chosen at random and the giveaway will close on 9/13.

Good luck!


summer reading favorites

Classes officially begin today for both J and me. It's always a little bittersweet to say good-bye to the summer, but I'm pretty ready. I love remembering what I was feeling when I wrote this post, but this year I am decidedly more focused on cooler weather.

Maybe it was my week in Minnesota with a winter-loving sister, but my brain has been filled with thoughts of coffee in the library, yarn and crochet hooks, dark evenings with tea, and scarves, scarves, scarves. You?

But I will definitely miss the reading I did this summer...

Gosh, I enjoyed it.

I am lucky to have a children's book library in the building where I work. Do you realize how amazing that is? I can go in anytime I want and browse picture books all the way up to young adult...cozy up in a corner with a pile...check out a few for home...I'm living the dream.

There were five amazing books that stood out to me this summer (I'm not counting Little Women or The Wind in the Willows...both were re-reads...and incredible). So get out your reading list and listen up...

5 Awesome Reads You Might Not Have Heard Of

The Rainbow Goblins
I'm not sure how this picture book slipped through my childhood, but I'm glad I found it before my children come along. The illustrations alone are enough for me (can't go wrong with rainbows), but the story is also fanciful, and I approve of anything with creepy, little mystical characters.

Let Your Life Speak
This book moved me so much, I wrote about it at the beginning of the summer. Part spiritual, part practical. It's definitely a must for young adults deciding where their lives are going, but I think it's probably also wonderful for seasoned adults.

Light on Yoga
So this has officially been the summer I've adopted a regular, daily yoga routine. And this is the book that has helped me do it. Written by Iyengar himself, this book is clear and accessible, but definitely still challenging. I also love that Iyengar addresses more than just the physical nature of yoga...and for a lot less money than regular classes!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
As a non-Christian, I have never been more moved by someone writing from a Christian perspective and advocating for a focus on the values espoused by Jesus. Though deeply rooted in Christian morals, 7 is really a study of seven areas of American excess. It made me extremely reflective of how the choices we make as individuals in this nation are not just neglectful of our fellow humans, but also destructive of the earth and of the very fibers in our being that yearn for a life more meaningful than an SUV and bleached teeth. Seriously, it might just change your life. READ THIS ONE!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
I am officially on pins and needles for the fourth book in this series to come out. I describe this author as a cross between L.M. Montgomery and Lemony Snicket...pretty irresistible, right? Very British, very clever, very cute...if you are at all a fan of children's long fiction, these are a must read.

As the seasons begin to change, so will my reading list. Picture books will make way for scholarly articles. Inspirational non-fiction will shove over for research textbooks. It's okay though. Because you'll find me reading with a thermos of something steamy, and one eye looking through a frosty window for the first flake of snow.

Are you ready?