What do you do for fun? #ummpinterest

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

“What do you do like to do for fun?” she asked me.

“Ummm…drink wine with my friends and…Pinterest?” I replied.

Oh man. It was that simple question that got me thinking…what DO I like to do for fun?? Because, seriously? “Pinterest” is an absolutely horrific answer.

But to be honest, I was just so damn tired and burnt out that all I really wanted to do when I got a moment to get bored, was veg out and scroll through my phone.

Yikes.

Since then I’ve identified that I want to spend more time learning photography, because I LOVE it. I also want to spend as much time as possible outside, exploring new places and hiking/walking/meandering. I want to get back into yoga and read interesting books and find hidden gems in the Northeast US (of which, there are MANY). I love hanging out at farms (I’ll say it’s for the kids, but really I just love horses…and cows and sheep and goats haha) and taking in anything that feels rustic and old. US & International adventure travel are on my “goal” list and I want to get more intentional about making some actual plans happen.

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So, what do YOU like to do for fun?

Where does your curiosity lie? What do you find yourself thinking about when you’re supposed to be focusing on other stuff? If there were no restrictions on looking stupid or shirking responsibility, what would you spend your time doing?

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I found out that you kind of owe it to yourself to ask these questions. It makes work, parenting and weekends way more interesting when you’re making plans to do stuff that’s interesting to you. Go figure.

Make life intentional. Try to not just simply survive and scroll.

Trust me. It’s way more fun this way.

Out of Office #PTO

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

When was the last time you took a vacation day JUST BECAUSE?

In 10+ years working full-time, I don’t think I had ever done it.

And then I DID…and it was NICE!

As a full-time, working parent, it’s not often that I get even a minute to do something that isn’t required of me. Even the fun stuff requires some level of preparation and accommodation of other people’s needs.

So I tapped out for a day.

I put up my OOO. I went to a yoga class, got a pedicure and wandered around quaint little Northeast towns with my camera, popping into shops and making small talk with the chatty store owners.

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I met a lady who ran an ethical, fair trade, apparel shop and knew the back story of absolutely every item in the place: who had made it, where it came from and why it was special.

I met another lady who owned an absolutely TINY, cramped antique shop. Packed to the gills with things she had sourced from her yearly travels around the world, as well as some really lovely handmade lamps (her craft). She tells me, “all the young guys are wearing cuff links again, so I make sure to grab a ton of those when I find them.”

At one point, I was sitting in a random little coffee shop, steaming cup of tea in front of me and a fresh pressed panini grilled cheese on its way. The building is historic and the original wood floor was scuffed up with the travels of so many feet in so many years.

The furniture was perfectly mismatched and the old, wavy windows looked out onto the river that rushed under a lovely little bridge.

Across the room from me is a group of about 7 old ladies playing scrabble and whooping it up, like they had been meeting here for years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

It was all just so damn…charming.

 

So basically, this is me encouraging everyone who reads this to tap out every once in a while. Intentionally plan out a day that you can just wander around and follow your curiosity. Talk to the other random, delightful people that inhabit this world and take a moment to gently move around.

Step lightly, and without desperately achieving something for a change.

There’s plenty of time for that another day.

 

Yay Food! #MostlyVegetarian

3 minute read, Blog, Food, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

Umm it’s been a while! And in the spirit of getting SOMETHING published here, I’m totally phoning it in and sharing last week’s menu.

It’s mostly vegetarian and I’m happy to report that my family didn’t even miss the meat. Yes, even my harshest food critics ate every bite (3 year old / 6 year old…)!

Hot tip: Freeze the soup & burritos so you can make at your leisure in a snap.

  1. Sunday: Salmon bowls

    • Salmon:
      • I get the responsibly farmed, Atlantic Salmon at Whole Foods
      • Best marinade ever (literally use this on everything including chicken and beef):
        • Mix about 1/4 cup soy sauce with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 TBSP Miso, 1 TBSP Dijon Mustard and 1 TBSP Oil (Sesame or Olive)
      • Soak non-frozen salmon in marinade for at least 30 mins (the longer the better)
      • Pan sear in Butter + Olive Oil – 5 mins each side on med/high, start with skin side UP – remove the skin after cooking / before serving
    • Steamed Broccoli
    • Rice Pilaf – Make it from a box
    • Put all in a bowl, start with rice on bottom
  2. Monday: Vegan mashed potato bowls

  3. Tuesday: Spaghetti with zucchini and yellow squash and arugula

  4. Wednesday: Black bean butternut squash soup

    • https://healthiersteps.com/recipe/black-bean-butternut-squash-stew/
    • Meal prepped, froze everything except liquids & Greens in a gallon bag
    • Dump frozen stuff into a pot with liquids and simmer for like an hour OR drop it in the crock pot while you’re at work
    • Use a whisk or a quick hit with an immersion blender after it’s cooked to break up some of the chunks
    • Made store bought biscuits the day of for a side
  5. Thursday: Vegetarian Burritos

    • Cilantro Lime Rice – Literally rice + cilantro + lime juice
    • Shredded cheese
    • Chopped veggies (bell peppers, onions)
    • Refried Black Beans (1 Can)
    • Frozen corn
    • Cumin
    • Chili powder
    • Garlic powder
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Turmeric
    • Mix everything above this line in a bowl – Quantities “to taste”
    • Wrap this mixture in burritos, freeze burritos in a gallon bag (a REUSABLE gallon bag for bonus points)
    • Bake covered in a casserole dish from frozen at 375 for like 30-45 mins – Cover in cheese & enchilada sauce if you like 😊
  1. Friday: Homemade cheese Pizza

    • Frozen pizza crusts
    • Jar pizza sauce
    • Shredded cheese
    • Pre-mixed Italian seasoning
    • Assemble and bake at 425 for 10-12 mins until cheese is gooey and golden brown

Hopefully this helps take some of the effort out of figuring out what TF to make for dinner. Wahoo!

Let’s Get Wild #rewilding

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Nature

I listen to a lot of podcasts, including a lot of TedTalks. Amazing stuff.

When it comes to saving the world, there are so many talks from unbelievably smart people. They all break down complex, scientific solutions to the climate crisis into a 10-15 minute talk that my unscientific self can (kinda) understand. It’s all very mind-blowing and very hopeful.

Everything from increasing the reflectiveness of clouds, to creating large scale seaweed farms to draw down carbon. Brilliant minds are furiously coming up with solutions to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted upon the environment.

Then I heard an interesting approach called “Rewilding.” (Also called “Conservation Biology.”)

This idea really caught my attention because it felt like a natural fit with this whole “gentle living” approach.

So…what is Rewilding?

According to rewildingeurope.com, “Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.”

In other words, nature has extraordinary capacity to heal itself, we just need to get out of the way and help her get back to the business of thriving.

Cool. Cool. But what does that have to do with me?

Well, I think there are a few things we can do to rewild our tiny little worlds, that will spill over to the greater cause.

  1. Vote with your wallet: Support brands and companies that have sustainable and ethical practices. Buy things that don’t require the relentless degradation of people and habitats. Local. Organic. Sustainable. Ethical.
  2. Check out conservation efforts happening around you. Here are a few places to start:
  3. Cultivate appreciation for nature. Go outside. Hike. Sit by the ocean. A lake. A mountain. A forest. Don’t underestimate the power of shifting your personal, internal energy. It flows outwards from there.
  4. If you have kids, take them outside. Point out interesting things. Embed an appreciation for nature early and it will stick with them throughout their lives. Catch frogs. Examine butterflies and mushrooms and spiderwebs.

If anything, we could all afford to get a little more wild. Party on, dudes.

LINK: Rewilding Europe

You Don’t Have to Care About the Environment.

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

But if you’re a big company, you should care that we do.

Now, I’m not much of a sign carrying activist (which means I’m pretty much in awe of those that are). But I do believe we have a TON of subtle power as consumers to shift the industries that are doing the most damage to the environment by voting with our dollars every chance we get.

Because the truth is, you, as a single person or household can recycle and compost and turn off the lights and take shorter showers until you’re blue in the face, but until the industries change, the actual, environmental impact we can have individually is minimal. But don’t despair!

Something like 100 companies account for 70% of the carbon crisis we face today, and they’re just not going to change until there’s a profit-driven reason to do so.

Here’s where we come in. We can create a better world simply by taking our cash away from the ones who are destroying it.

A really good example of this is the fact that by shifting our CONSUMER focus away from plastic straws, an entire silicone / stainless steel straw market was created. Like, what??

So yes, avoiding plastic straws keeps them out of landfills and sea turtles won’t eat them, but the BIGGER impact is when entire companies say “Ok, fine, we feel you, here’s a product for that. We’ll be better.”

The same goes for food.

Buying local and organic isn’t just better for you, it sends a message to the industry that THIS is where the dollars are. You can already see the effects of this with the explosion of natural / organic products available. It’s no longer fringe because we, the consumers shifted it.

The meat industry is massively disgusting and destructive, but it’s hard for me to imagine going completely vegetarian #becausebacon…so instead, what if we all agreed to support local, sustainable farms?

The meat & eggs at my local farmer’s market are organic, grass-fed and part of a small scale operation. You can ask the people at the booth about their farm(s). It tastes better, it’s healthier and by buying it, I’m not supporting practices that give me nightmares.

So put your money where your activism is. Buy things from artisans on Etsy, local farms, organic and plastic-free where possible. It’s better for you and industries will take notice and adjust accordingly. Don’t drive yourself crazy being extreme about it. Just make some swaps.

Cruel, destructive industries? Not on my dime.

I think this will help #gentleliving

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits, Nature

I’ve made a resolution. To post a blog once a week until December 31st just to see if I can do it. That’s 18 posts between now and then, which feels like kind of a lot, but I’m going to let go of judging the subjects / writing and just put it out there.

In this inaugural post, I wanted to share something I’ve been kicking around: This idea of  prioritizing living as gently as possible.

The idea of “gentle living” is really about finding ways to minimize the habits & actions that wreak havoc on ourselves, others, and the planet.

In an effort to come up with 18 more posts, here is a non-exhaustive list of things that fall under this ideology that you may see posted in the coming weeks:

  • Making an effort to live sustainably
    • Buying local and seasonally.
    • Eliminating as much plastic from your life as possible (including using reusable bags when shopping).
    • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle.
  • Adopting simple rules for healthy living
    • Make an effort to move everyday.
    • Eat simple, real, organic food.
    • Connect to nature, go outside, breathe fresh air.
    • Ayurveda.
  • Give yourself and other people a break…aka empathy
    • Nobody’s harder on themselves than…themselves. Be gentle with yourself. You’re human.
    • Everybody’s fighting their own demons. If they’re pissing you off, there’s really no need to destroy them…address it directly, do some self reflecting or just ignore it.
    • Perfect doesn’t exist.
    • Travel and open your mind.
  • Gratitude for the simple, little moments and things.

Those are just some ideas that came from kicking the tires on this gentle living thing. It’s all stuff I try to foster in my own life, and I thought maybe you’d like in on it too.

All this isn’t to say that there’s no room for hustle & grind. There absolutely is. It’s just more about balance. We (I) feel inclined to push constantly, and it seems like it’s harder to accept the natural cycle of ebb and flow in today’s culture. All flow, no ebb, amiright?

As the world becomes more insane by the day, it seems like a bit of ebb is in order. I really do think this will help.

But you’re like, really pretty #posebetter

3 minute read, Blog

Ok, guys & gals. Did you know that YOU are photogenic? Yup, seriously! What if I told you it’s totally not your actual face or body that’s making you cringe when you see pictures of yourself? It’s the fact that your face or body looks different than you expect it to, plus we are our own worst critic. Luckily, there are some tried and true methods you can employ for your next photo-op that will make you go, “Yep, I’m one SEXY THANG.”

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind the next time someone waves a camera in your face:

1. Know your good side

Look at some pics of yourself. I’m guessing your feelings towards pictures of yourself falls in 1 of 2 camps: “why TF does my face look like that??” OR “definitely gonna post that sh!t.”

I’m also guessing that in the pictures that DON’T make you want to run away and cry, your head is angled (even slightly) towards the camera in a consistent way. Aka your good side is facing the camera.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out about myself. Take a look at the below…

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Cute Pic! Baaaad side!

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Cute Pic! Good side!

These were taken on the same day (by a wonderful photographer friend I might add). And, I mean adorable children make any pic awesome, but the black & white pic is what I would consider my “bad side.” My face and body just don’t look right in my opinion. The second pic is what I would consider my “good side.” I just feel like I look more like myself.

If you can make sure that your “good side” is angled towards the camera (and of you can’t get on that side of the group, turn your face in the right direction), you will be well on your way to being “photogenic,” my friend.

And by the way I keep putting “good side” in quotes because this is VERY personal and subjective. It’s just about what you feel.

2. Don’t press your limbs up against your body

Hanging your arms limply at your sides WILL press even the most toned biceps outwards and make you look bigger than you really are. Popping a hand up on your hip can work wonders, as can simply pulling your elbows back and creating a gap between your arm your body.

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Good side? Check. Arm out? Check. Pic usable? Check.

Similarly, whatever is closest to the camera will look bigger (and conversely, whatever is further away will look smaller). So if you lean forward a little bit with your upper body, the rest of you will look smaller.

3. Posturrrrre

Chin up, buttercup! It’s tempting to pull your face back when you’re genuinely smiling, but try to keep your chin away from your neck, if possible.

And stand up straight! How, you ask? Pull your shoulder blades in towards each other and make space between your ears & shoulders.

4. Smile with your eyes

Yeah. Tyra Banks said this so it must be legit #projectrunway4life. But seriously, if you can figure this one out, you’ll avoid looking like a deer in headlights. When you paste a smile on your mouth, but the smile doesn’t reach your eyes, you end up looking a little fake / angry / crazy. Just a little crinkle around the eyes goes a long way to capturing genuine looking smiles.

5. Figure out 2-3 go-to poses, incorporating the tips above

Related to the above tips, if you figure out a few go-to poses for common pic situations, you’re way less likely to be unpleasantly surprised by how you look. Here are some common ones to figure out:

  • Groups: Stand on the correct side (see tip 1). If you can’t stand on that side, angle your “good side” at the camera. If you’re at the end, pop that hand up on your hip. It also helps to stagger your legs (i.e. put one slightly in front of the other).
  • Selfies: Ditto above.
  • Photo of just you: Angle your body ever so slightly so your good side is facing the camera, then stand up straight, shoulders back. Don’t forget you have arms. Pull them away from your body (even slightly). Chin out a little bit.

Overdoing any of these postures will look weird and unnatural. Subtly is the ticket. Either try them out in the moment and tweak based on the resulting pictures, or be super cool and try it out in a mirror.

See! You ARE photogenic! Now go do your little turn on the catwalk, you beautiful thang!

The Pain of Perfection

3 minute read, Blog, Healthy Habits

My mother calls it “the curse.” It’s the multi-generational, subconscious, uncontrollable need for tidiness and order. Our house growing up was spotless, beautiful, and orderly. Everything had a place, every routine was down pat. It was a really un-stressful way to grow up. Honestly, I think it shaped some of my best qualities. There was no uncertainty, just calm routine.

*Mom is #goals

Because what happens when it goes beyond tidiness and maintaining a calm routine? What happens when perfection is chased in bodies, careers, social situations, parenting and self images? Left unchecked, it can bring us to our knees. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Perfection is painful. It’s painful because we’re judging something (our situation, our experiences, our relationships, our body). When we judge, we label, and when we deem something as “bad,” we tend to wish it was otherwise. We are rejecting what is, and what cannot be any other way (at that moment).

We think things are out of order, our children can’t be controlled, we need to lose 10 pounds. We clean and clean, we obsess over calories, we make everything just so, because then FINALLY we can be in control of the “bad things” and other people will see that our lives are “good.” We’re so embarrassed when we fall short. What will people think!

But what if the ticket out of the destructive spiral of perfection is not to make everything perfect? What if the ticket out is this: Radical acceptance + Gratitude + Don’t care.

Things simply cannot be different in this very moment. They’re not good. They’re not bad. They just are. It’s scientific fact.

Labels tend to cloud our judgement. They elicit emotional responses. The dishes should be done, the kids should behave like I want them to, I should be a size 2, I should hostess like a magazine, I should climb the corporate ladder, I shouldn’t be angry. Should, should, SHOULD.

No.

Let’s use “I should be a size 2” as an example. I, personally, am NOT a size 2. Not even close.

Acceptance: My body size is what it is today. It cannot change at this very moment. I care deeply about my health and do what I can to make good decisions.

Gratitude: But damn am I grateful for what this body can DO. It’s climbed mountains, it’s created humans, it’s capable of things I couldn’t even imagine.

Don’t care: There will always be someone thinner AND bigger than me. I give caring about my body size a big, fat, MEH. But for real, people who judge other people for the size of their body are jerks. If you’re judging someone for their body, it says a lot more about you than it does about them. We’re all out here doing our best. Also #yolo.

One more example: “The dishes should be done.”

Acceptance: They are not done. There are 3 options. Do them myself, bribe someone else to do them, or ignore them for now. I can either change it, or not.

Gratitude: Having dishes in the sink means we have food on the table. It means the people I love were here.

Don’t care: Is anyone in danger because the dishes aren’t done? Probably not. Also, people who judge other people for having dishes in the sink are hypocrites and jerks. We’re all just out here doing our best. Plus, they’ll get done eventually.

We can focus on our health, and on creating a sense of calm in our households. We can aspire to do well at work. But join me in trying to remember to check our stress levels when it comes to all the “shoulds.”

What is, is perfect. And you are enough.

Your Thighs are Seriously Just Fine #newyearnewyou

3 minute read, Blog, Healthy Habits

We’re getting to that time of the year where those shiny New Years Resolutions are starting to feel like a BIT of an uphill battle.

Or at least it is for me.

But I’ve tried to make some changes this year. Particularly in the way I’m thinking about myself and the reasons I want to make said resolutions in the first place…And I wanted to share, just in case it helps you too.

The problem

I believe that in order to accomplish some of our most earnest self-improvement goals, it’s not enough to rely on willpower alone. Maybe you want to lose weight? Me too. Willpower is fine until you’re screaming “FREEEEEDOM” a la Braveheart, clutching a bottle of Pinot in one hand and a bag of Oreos in the other.

Deprivation doesn’t work long term. We’re not wired for it.

The Fix

The trick, in my experience, is to flip the conversation in your head. To go from self-punishment and deprivation to self-love, positive goal setting and abundance.

Seek to ADD to your life, not to lose something. Rather than cutting out all sugar for the rest of time, add vegetables to every meal and 30 minutes of moving-your-body to every day. NOT because you hate your thighs, but because vegetables clean your blood/curb your appetite and exercise floods your brain with endorphins. Yay! Losing dessert is sad, but ADDING more vegetables is doable. And eat the dessert. #yolo

This can work for non-health related goals too. Is your goal to spend less money? De-clutter? Do less of something? Ask yourself, why. I’m guessing your ultimate goal is something like freedom from stress, more resources for other things, more space, more time. The tactics themselves (less money, less stuff) feel like deprivation. But the GOAL is abundance. Keep THAT in mind while you’re tossing out that sweater you haven’t worn since ’03, and I bet it’ll be easier to bid it farewell for good.

I feel like we should make these healthy, positive changes so that we have more energy & resources for LIVING. Not to punish ourselves for being “screwed up” and different than the “ideal.” I mean, whose ideal is that anyway?

I get it though. I’m tired too.

That’s why it’s kind of a waste of our precious time and energy to worry about an arbitrary “ideal.” I don’t think we’d be so concerned with our dress size if someone hadn’t told us we ought to be. And then on top of judging ourselves, we’re also worrying about whether other people are judging us for not stacking up. We all likely have enough to worry about without adding THAT.

Not Convinced?

Here’s a helpful perspective I heard recently: You are basically THE rarest and most magical being alive.

Did things just get weird?

Ok. Put a more logical way…Your personal combination of DNA and experiences has literally NEVER been seen before (in the past) and will NEVER be seen again (in the future). You are actually, scientifically, objectively, unique.

So why waste another minute HATING the things that make you, YOU? You are not broken. You’re good different, and your thighs are seriously just fine the way they are.

Why feel like you’re on the outside looking in? You ARE in, just by existing. Self improvement is awesome. Doing it because we feel like we are somehow “wrong” is not awesome. It’s unsustainable.

You’re a magical, statistical impossibility and it’s time to start acting like one.

Forest Bathing

3 minute read, Blog, Healthy Habits, Nature

“The Earth has music for those who listen” – Shakespeare

St. Mary’s Glacier

Oh man, Colorado! We went early for a wedding and forest-bathed our asses off (it’s hard not to, really) for 4 days. It was one of the most rejuvenating trips I’ve taken in a while and I know I need to incorporate more of that in my everyday life. And oh! The pictures!! Snapped a super-wide angle lens on my trusty little Canon Rebel and away we went.

Loveland Pass

Forest Bathing is a Japanese concept from the 80’s. It’s more or less taking a mindful stroll through the woods and soaking in all that nature-y goodness. Or as I helpfully described to a friend who brought up this concept on this trip…”Oh! I think it has to do with some sort of compound the trees secrete.” Uh, yeah. Something like that.

Reservoir Trail Indian Peaks Wilderness

Anyway, the benefits have been proven again and again. Being in nature reduces anxiety, calms the mind and generally makes you feel like less of a hamster on a wheel. Also, that “secretion?” Apparently that’s phytoncides and it turns out, I pretty much nailed it. They’re released into the air by trees and when inhaled, are thought to reduce stress hormones and increase white blood cell function. I mean…hell yeah?

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Loveland Pass

The other forest bath ingredient, present in ESPECIALLY high quantities in mountains (and beaches, waterfalls and thunderstorms), are negative ions. These little puppies “create positive vibes” as WebMD puts it.

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Copper Mountain Alpine Coaster

So yeah…that, combined with the ~1,260ft of elevation we hiked over the course of 2 days, plus picking excellent traveling companions and approaching every day with the spirit of adventure, meant we came home from Colorado feeling pretty damn refreshed.

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Lake Dillon