happy 2013 (:

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I’ve been agonizing over my 2013 resolutions for weeks. I love that clean slate, the opportunity to improve myself. My first instinct is to fix everything. Do everything. So my first strategy was to write down everything I want to change or do, then prioritize it, paring it down to 10. Then I realized how unrealistic that was, so I instead mapped out a detailed plan to simplify my life, with goals, milestones, and a list of commandments. That one stressed me out equally. Then I thought, maybe I should take a yin/yang approach to goal making, sort of a list of to-dos that balance each other. For example, if I want to do something for my mind, I should also do something for my body. If something for my left brain, I should find something of equal weight for my right brain. It was a mess. Finding simplicity and balance should NOT be a complicated process.

This year, I have struggled to focus on my goals. It’s never been very difficult for me in the past, to accomplish the things I commit to, especially publicly. But this year, or at least the second half of it, my brain was just simply not cooperating. I have felt less connected, less motivated, and less energetic. Easily distracted, bordering on spacey. I’ve been sleeping poorly, less active, and more injury prone. I was sick in September. Then again from October… through… well, now (flu, then cold, then bronchitis..) My tendonitis is back. My shoulder is messed up. I’m always tired. My complexion is dull. Studying is a huge chore and work stress makes me emotional. I can’t focus on anything. I’ve gained back some weight I worked so hard to lose. It’s all connected. I want to fix it all, but it’s so daunting. I feel like my have-to-dos are so exhausting that I don’t get to enjoy the want-to-dos. So while I was trying to figure out where my 2013 priorities should lie, when I put it all down, all my ailments and shortcomings and guilt-sources, it got me down and made me feel hopeless.

So, in an effort to not give up and throw in the towel by January 5th, I’m reallyreallyreally simplifying my goals this year. No fireworks. No big declarations. Just one basic thing, for the first half of the year. Why? Because in May I will be done with school and priorities can be reassessed then.

So here it is.

Focus on healthy. Listen to my body.

There’s a great Henry Miller quote that says “Our own physical body possesses a wisdom, which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders, which make no sense.” I’ve been so guilty of ignoring the signals my body gives me and trying to compensate. I don’t have energy because rather than do the things my body wants me to do (move more and sleep more) I chug more coffee or eat more sugar. My tendonitis is back and my stress levels are high because I haven’t been going to yoga. When I do jump back into a good workout schedule, I overdo it and hurt myself rather than just easing in. When I need a day off, I guilt myself into chipping away at a to-do list I’ve created for myself. I can’t turn off that voice that says “must.be.productive.” If I actually were as productive as my intentions, that would be one thing. But what comes with trying to do it all is often frustration, guilt, disappointment, stress, and exhaustion. And when my life is out of balance, I don’t take something away; my instinct is to add something. Example: spending an hour at the gym is selfish, so I need to spend an hour doing something for someone else. This is well and good til every yin needs a yang. It becomes a bit of a monster.

So, my goal for 2013 is to focus on the foundation, take better care of myself. Let the other things fall into place. Do the things I know make me a happier person, like yoga and dancing. Be kind to myself, not beat myself up. Simple.

I’m going to do lots of other things this year. House projects and creative endeavors and getting my Masters, but those are all just life. I’ll get to them because I’m a doer. I don’t need a list of things to accomplish to be productive because I just am. But there are things I clearly need to focus on to make happen sometimes, and this is it right now. A little shift in mindset. And believe it or not, this is SO hard for me, to whittle it down like this. It’s not my nature, but I’m hoping this is exactly what I need right now.

What about you? What lies ahead for your year?

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cooking confessions

I totally love food. I love eating, and I love making food. For others, mostly (though cooking for one can be fun sometimes, too.)

I met up with an old friend for lunch last week. I don’t see her nearly enough, and last time I saw her I was still a meat-eater. We were catching up on life and she asked what hobbies I’m up to lately – crafty-wise, and I drew a blank. I haven’t been in the make-stuff mood (or with the house projects and work and everything else I just haven’t had the time). But I realized I totally don’t feel like I’m missing a creative outlet these days because I still gotta eat… and thus, I’m still always cooking something new!

It got me thinking about my cooking style. I don’t know if I’m weird or normal in my cooking habits, and I want to know, what do you think? And what is your cooking style? My cooking quirks and philosophies in a nutshell:

  1. I rarely repeat recipes. I have a few regulars that come up in the rotation like vegetarian chili, lettuce wraps, spaghetti sauce, vegetable curry, and black bean burgers (above pic!)- but those don’t require a recipe anymore and may be pretty far from their original source by now. I think of them as my own at this point.
  2. Instead I cook based on ingredients I have. Maybe this is backwards, but I buy things that seem weird or interesting, then Google how to use them.
  3. I hate wasting food. If I make something I don’t love, I find a way to doctor it up or use it in something else. I made some hummus a few days ago and it’d been sitting in my fridge making me feel guilty since the day I made it! (I can’t afford to eat it every day – hello! Those snack calories add up!) So tonight I whipped up the Chickpea Cutlets from the Veganomicon cookbook (with the mushroom gravy of course!), and instead of cooking the entire amount of chickpeas, I cooked half, then stirred in the hummus, too! They were DELISH! And I felt so super clever.
  4. I don’t know how to make really basic things. When I was a meat eater, I never cooked a steak, a whole turkey, or really pork of any variety. It intimidated me. Vegetarian cooking is easier – Vital Wheat Gluten? Nutritional Yeast? Sure! For some reason, those lesser- known, hard-to-find ingredients don’t freak me out even though I have no idea how to poach an egg or how long to bake a potato in the oven. Seriously. (I have another philosophy that people who hate cooking just don’t understand there’s more to life than meat and potatoes. I’d hate that, too).
  5. I am not a baker. I do it sometimes but it stresses me out and I kinda sorta hate it. There’s too much measuring involved!
  6. Just like crafty folks are always looking to hack overpriced home decor, I can’t eat out without trying to dissect the meal. I had some spinach enchiladas last weekend at my fav place for our anniversary date and drove myself INSANE trying to figure out the cream sauce. I could have devoured the entire plate there but brought home half just to better inspect. No joy. I’m even more impressed with that joint – the mystery!
  7. In my opinion, there’s almost nothing some herbs can’t fix. Cilantro or Rosemary are my favorites and one of them can usually rescue a dismal recipe. Oh yes, same with salt! People who are anti-salt are so weird to me. A little salt does wonders! I refuse to feel guilty for adding some salt to my veggie-heavy recipes!
  8. I am constantly surprised by the taste perfection of weird-sounding combinations. Pears and gouda, Jalepeno Blackberry jam, cilantro and watermelon salsa. It amazes me they don’t become mainstream. The first time I had Pear and Gouda pizza I thought – how is it I am just discovering this?!
  9. I would love to have a cooking blog one day, but I don’t feel I have the time for it now. It’s gotta be a LOT of work (the photo-styling/editing alone intimidates me, let alone inventing recipes!). But I haven’t counted it out. There are so many good ones out there and they are so inspiring. I love people who love food.
  10. Food matters. It’s tradition, it’s social, it fuels us. What we eat (or don’t) is a social /political statement, and it defines us. Cooking for someone, something good for them, is one of the most loving things you can do whether it’s appreciated or not! And a large food-budget, assuming you are buying good quality stuff and making your own gourmet dishes – is totally a justified expense! If you can afford it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be feeding your family and yourself things that will make you fulfilled and happy and healthy.

So how about you? What are your confessions or weird ideals about food and cooking?

veggie book club: the kind diet

I was going to name this post “Cher Horowitz Turned Me Vegetarian” or something equally cheesy (confession: I go through 9 pun-y or nonsensical post titles that make me snort-laugh, then land on a really dull one at the last minute. True story). But really this isn’t meant to be silly or goofy. I just wanted to explain a little more about my decision to go vegetarian, which I blogged about on Earth Day. I have been doing a lot of reading (books, articles, blogs) and watching (documentaries) on the subject of food, nutrition, animal treatment, the environment. It’s undeniable it’s all linked despite the fact we like to simply pretend they are not (maybe we don’t want to believe we are the problem). But I’ve always been into these subjects (with varying levels of enthusiasm depending on what else is important in my life at the moment), so why now did one book inspire me to finally realize I needed to make a huge change in my life? Life is funny.

I was at the library browsing cook books and came across Alicia Silverstone’s vegan cookbook, The Kind Diet. I’m no stranger to vegan cuisine – I have cooking club comrades who stinted as vegans for a year (and we made awesome stuff), and I try lots of meatless meals all the time. I own lots of vegetarian and vegan cook books. I grabbed it just because (confession #2 here…) I am always curious to see how celebrities fare when they author a book. And Alicia Silverstone is just kind of adorable, right?

I was surprised to find out that the book isn’t really entirely cook book. The first two sections (of three) are more about the the why and how of the matter. Section 1 is devoted to the hard topics at hand. The gruesome details about what you are ingesting (not just meat and animal products, but white sugar), the horrifying truth about how animals-for-food live and die. How it affects your health and well-being in ways you don’t know until you cut it out. And it’s really, really hard to put down, and it’s even harder to refute.

Section 2 outlines the lifestyles of a “kind diet,” that is one that is not only kind to animals, but kind to the planet and to yourself. There are three levels she calls “flirting,” “vegan,” and “superhero.” Flirting is vegetarian. Maybe even pesco-vegetarian. It’s dipping in a toe, cutting back on the bad stuff, experimenting with different meatless meals in a way that’s meant to slowly work you into plant-based. Vegan means cutting out all animal products entirely. Until I read this it didn’t occur to me there could be something more strict. Superhero is hardcore. It’s vegan, but it also eliminates processed foods (think Boca) in favor of organic, natural, and often raw.

Forget the recipes (I’ve tried a few, some GREAT and others kind of… meh). This book was somehow written in a way that made me stop and evaluate more than some of the other (and admittedly “better”) books about vegetarianism and sustainability. I ordered the book on Amazon before my rented copy was due back at the library. Since the night I started reading it I haven’t eaten meat. I don’t know why this book made such an impact. Maybe just because the writing style is so breezy and she’s so darn likable that I didn’t find loopholes in the reasoning, or maybe because she was so nice about it I couldn’t argue. It’s not graphic and abrasive like Skinny Bitch; it’s put in a way that makes sense. It’s polite, honest, sort of emotional, but it’s also well-researched (it’s no Michael Pollan, but she’s done her homework, clearly). It’s also not preachy, or even pleading. It had me from the preface, which said (and I paraphrase liberally): there are a million problems in the world – but what if there was just ONE THING you could do to help solve many of them? That hooked me. That’s exactly me. Overwhelmed by the pressure to want to make a difference but not realizing I can. Wanting to take a step to do what I think is right but fearing I might not be able to succeed at it.

My only criticism is the recipe section makes the assumption we all have a Farmer’s Market around the corner year-round because we all live in LA. It’s a bit out of reach – many of the ingredients are nearly impossible to find in my area and many others are available at a price that’s not reasonable for me to pay. But she is down-to-Earth in that she doesn’t expect complete perfection, even from herself, and that even “baby steps are better than no steps.” For me, that was the eye-opener that made me realize I should do this. I’ve always been overwhelmed by an idea that seemed like something I’d want to do, but so daunting. I’m not a vegan (maybe never will be) but not eating animals is a big step (or several baby ones, haha) to living a life that’s kinder in a lot of ways. It’s a big deal. So this post is jam-packed with embarrassing confessions, not the least of which is that a celebrity swayed me to change my life.

If you are up to it, I recommend the book, her website, and her vegan peanut butter cups (two thumbs up from my husband who requested them again).

confession.

You guys, I totally cheated on my wardrobe challenge yesterday. In a moment of serious summer shoe desperation, I racked my brain for a loophole to not spending. I decided that if I added up my remaining Christmas gift cards ($26) and all the loose change I could find in my house, car, purses, gym bag, etc. (9lbs, approximately), it was a perfectly legal way to fund a little retail splurge.

I ended up with a total of $78 to spend after hitting the Coinstar. Wanting the most bang for my buck, I hit the Target and Old Navy clearance racks and ended up with a tank top, a t-shirt with a screen printed wolf {cooler than it sounds}, a really 80s looking dress, a summery scarf, and 2 pairs of wedge sandals. Grand total: $66. That left me with $12 I didn’t even spend and that familiar old rush I get from great bargains. Hello, old friend. I’ve missed you.

I was bragging to Jonathan about how clever I was, and he started calling me Nancy, as in Nancy Drew. I guess that kind of works. Only instead of solving mysteries, I search for loopholes to my own personal resolutions that allow me the delusion that I still have integrity.

Thanks for keeping me honest, Internet. Phew, I feel better now.

foodie

I kind of have a weird relationship with food. I am kind of obsessed with it. I love to look at it. I like certain food colors together, like green and red. I have a real thing for green and red food together. It’s nonsensical. I also love food that is small. Gummy bears. Bento boxes. Tiny desserts.

I am in two cooking clubs.

I plan my meals for the week ahead every weekend.

I read cooking blogs and obsess over well-styled food photography.

I’m very conscious of the food I have in my fridge and pantry at a given time.

If I know I’m going out to eat somewhere I already know I like, I get anxiety over wanting to have the same, safe choice. I feel guilty if I don’t love (and try) everything. I do love almost everything. Except: chunks of beef in soup, hot dogs, mayonnaise, thousand island dressing, pork chops, bacon on a burger, coconut.

I read about veganism and food sources and processing, and different diets, and nutrition and why French women don’t get fat.

Pretty much, I am weird.

Two weekends ago, I re-joined Weight Watchers. I won’t get into the entire thought process behind it. I have issues of many varieties, and Weight Watchers helps conquer many: the meetings serve as therapy, I’m accountable for all my food/fitness choices when someone else weighs me every week, and counting up those points? You know I love a challenge.

Plus, I get to think about food ALL THE TIME. Because point-counting takes so much pre-planning, I get to obsess over food. I look at recipes all the time and find ways to skinny-fy it. I measure, weigh, count. Make lists and menus. And my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are quenched. Really! When painstakingly planning my outfits AND my meals, I barely feel the need to alphabetize everything.

I don’t actually have a concrete goal in mind. I am at a healthy weight. My goal weight, which I get to choose next Saturday probably, won’t be too much lower than where I am, but did you know, once you reach your goal weight, you can keep being a member without paying anything, so long as you maintain your weight? I am very motivated by the cost savings as much as the weight loss.

And did I mention I will be going to Hawaii next winter? HELLO, BIKINI.

Down 3lbs :p

This is a warning for the possibly MANY food/nutrition related posts coming in the future!

to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die

Confession time.

There’s a vapid 16 year old emo girl inside me.

Seriously. I squelch her, for the most part.

But. I totally watch YouTube makeup tutorials and mess around with my palettes of crazy makeup colors while blasting AFI and From Autumn to Ashes.  And want to dye my hair purple and wear stripey leggings and Hello Kitty barrettes and gobs of eyeliner and smoke cigarettes for breakfast and ~**~tYpe liKe tHiS~**~. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t spend my teenage years in an emo-saturated blogging/MySpace/Flickr/Twitter era or I’d have been spending hours in front of the mirror expressing my angst through my eyeliner.

This is one more day on the verge of tears.
And now my head hurts.
And my health is a joke.
Now I got to stop because the headphones broke.


I post cuz the hubby’s outta town and my constructive activities tonight have included playlist-making, music downloading, nail-painting, and eyeliner-caking. (: