Tuesday musings

Thank you all so much for your insightful comments on last week's
post about charitable giving.  I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.  I haven't made any decisions yet, but you all have given me some great ideas to think about.

How was everyone's weekend by the way?  We were in Dallas for a long weekend to attend Jason's cousin's wedding.  It was a lovely wedding and seeing Gabe and Kristi's happiness and love for each other got me even more excited (if that's even possible) to marry Jason.  I'd never been to Dallas before (or Texas, for that matter!) so on Friday we put on our tourist caps and did a little sight-seeing.  We went to
Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, which I found fascinating as I've always had an interest in all things related to JFK.  Later, we hit up the Dallas Museum of Art to soak in a little culture.  (Since I work at an art museum, I always make a point to visit one in every major city I travel to.)

It was a great weekend
but alas, I now feel like I'm playing catch-up with sleep, cleaning + laundry, wedding planning, exercising, etc.  I'm trying to practice some extra self-care this week (eating well, taking lots of deep breaths, and saying no to unnecessary activities) so that I don't get overwhelmed.  Things might be a little quiet on the blog this week as I try to get centered again, but hope to be back at it soon!

In the meantime, I leave you with a couple fun links:

13 Small Things to Simplify Your Workday

101 Ways to Cheer Yourself Up: Part 1 and 2

Hope you're having a wonderful week!


 The cherry blossoms are almost at peak bloom!  I'm going to try to take some photos this Friday since they are supposed to peak on Friday and Saturday.

Image via Smashing Magazine.


Paying it forward

Hooray for tax returns!

with splurging on new shoes and a decadent massage socking away a good chunk in my savings account, I want to use part of this year's return to make a few small gifts to charitable organizations.  This is the first year I've really had the means to donate money to charity.  I've always cared deeply about various causes, but frankly, living in one of the country's most expensive cities on a (until recently) single income just didn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room in my budget.

So, being new to this whole thing, I'm su
per curious to hear about your experiences, dear readers.  Do you donate to charity?  (You don't need to tell me how much, obviously...that's private.) How often do you donate?  How do you decide which organizations to donate to?  If you have a certain amount to give, do you give it to several organizations or one organization (where it could potentially go further)?

I've got a few ideas in mind already, but if there are any organizations that you feel are particularly worthy, I'd love to hear about them.



Planner Pad

Happy Tuesday, my dears. How's the week been treating you so far?

I am
super excited because my Planner Pad is due to arrive today!  I first heard about the Planner Pad from Kimberly Wilson, and since that time have heard many more of you sing its praises.  I finally decided that I need to see what all the hype is about.  From what I've read, it sounds like the format helps you to not only organize, but also prioritize, which I think will be extremely helpful.

This may make me sound hopelessly dorky, but there's something so satisfying about the prospect of organizing the next few months of my life!  After I go to the gym and eat dinner, I'm going to sit down with a mug of tea and map everything out.  Ahh...

Do you use a Planner Pad? What do you like about it?


P.S. Thanks to those of you who chimed in with advice about the size. I went with the Executive size because I like to have extra space. I'll let you know what I think!

Image via Planner Pad.


Eat, Pray, Love trailer

I spotted the Eat, Pray, Love trailer on my sister's blog this morning and had to share.  Who else is super excited for this?

I haven't read
Gilbert's second book, Committed (it got pretty lukewarm critical reviews), but I'm headed to Dallas for a wedding this weekend and I could use a little plane reading.  Have any of you lovelies read it?  Would you recommend it?



My food story (part 2)

Yesterday I promised I would share what a typical day's worth of meals looks like since changing my eating habits (cutting out meat and dairy and cutting way back on sugar, processed foods, etc.).  I don't view this as a diet, but rather a way of life that makes me feel great and is gentle on the earth.  Here's what I eat in a typical day.

Upon waking
Large glass of warm water with slice of organic unwaxed lemon (this acts as a natural cleanser to your system)

I usually drink a mug of either green tea or almond milk mixed with Chai concentrate. Food-wise, I try to make sure that I combine a grain with a protein for sustained energy throughout the day. For example:

Multi-grain toast (I like Vermont Bread Company's organic multi-grain) with organic raw almond butter and organic no-sugar-added apricot fruit preserves

A bowl of Nature’s Path oatmeal, topped with walnuts or almonds and chopped dates or berries

Mid-morning Snack
An apple OR bunch of grapes OR bowl of blueberries

Lunch is usually leftovers from the previous day's dinner and almost always includes some type of whole grain, veggie, and protein. For example:

Cold buckwheat noodles topp ed with cubed tofu, cucumber, scallion, and cilantro tossed with ginger-soy dressing

Risotto-style barley (chopped onion + minced garlic + pearled barley cooked in veggie broth and white wine) with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and arugula

Brown rice penne topped with slices of avocado, cubed sweet potato, edamame, snow peas, shredded carrot (or whatever veggies we've got on hand), drizzled with tamari and toasted sesame oil

Brown rice pasta topped with marinara sauce (we make our own by sautéing minced garlic and onions in olive oil, then adding crushed organic tomatoes + fresh oregano and basil + crushed red pepper flakes + sea salt) with a side of garlicky kale

Mid-afternoon Snack
Sliced raw veggies OR apple slices OR a Larabar
Glass of unsweetened almond milk

We usually make enough dinner to provide leftovers for the next day's lunch, so see lunch options above.  Some other favorite meals are:

Vegetarian tacos (whole wheat tortillas filled with black beans, diced raw onion, sautéed zucchini, cubed butternut squash, spinach, and guacamole)

Big salad with spinach or mixed greens, topped with with chickpeas, broccoli, red onion, sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes and a cumin-spiked dressing (cumin + minced garlic + squeeze of lemon + olive oil + sea salt)

Brown rice linguine with homemade pesto (fresh basil + minced garlic + olive oil + pine nuts + sea salt mixed in the food processor)

Butternut squash soup garnished with a sprinkle of chives, with a side of cold bean salad (cannelini or gigante beans + parsley + cured olives + tomato-lemon vinaigrette)

As I mentioned yesterday, I don't count calories but I am mindful of portion sizes and try to listen to my body to determine when I'm truly hungry, when I'm full, etc.  I also try to drink water throughout the day so that I stay hydrated and don't mistake thirst for hunger.  

I would love to hear about your favorite meals!



My food story (part 1)

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on yesterday's post.  Your wisdom and support makes me even more jazzed to share my thoughts with you all.

As I mentioned, this post began as a fairly straightforward list of weight loss tips, which a couple of you had asked me to share after I tweeted that I'd lost 20 pounds. I realized, however, that the changes I've undergone in recent months have taken place on a deeper level than that list conveyed. The post felt incomplete and disingenuous. I felt that you deserved more and that I owed it to you (and to myself) to share that deeper story, even if it meant baring a little bit of my soul. Yikes.

I've always loved food. Maybe it's because I grew up in a household of foodies or maybe it's due to some fundamental aspect of my personality. I love everything about it. The endless variety of textures and tastes, the artistry of a perfectly prepared dish, the coziness of cooking and sharing a meal with loved ones. As far back as I can remember, the utility of food has always been intertwined with the experience of eating it. By this, I mean that food was never mere nourishment. It was, by turns, pleasure, creativity, celebration, togetherness, and community. Until recently, I would have called myself ardently omnivorous, in every sense of the word. What I wouldn't have told you is that my enthusiasm for good food had slowly translated into an extra 30 or so pounds, which I thankfully carried pretty well on my curvy/athletic frame.

The past couple of years and particularly the past six months or so have felt like a revelation for me, food-wise. As a person who loves food, I naturally have followed the push to revolutionize and reform our country's fantastically screwed-up food system. I've read the books and watched the documentaries, first out of curiosity and then because I couldn't stop. The more I learned about what goes into your average supermarket fare, the more horrified I became (and I'm talking just the actual physical composition of the product itself, not even the cruelty inherent in the process, although that horrified me in equal measure.)

There was no specific incident that pushed me "over the edge," so to speak. I slowly became more and more aware of what exactly I was putting in my body, and as a result, how it made me feel. I noticed that I felt light, healthy, and energetic when I ate mostly fresh veggies, non-meat proteins, and whole grains and that I felt dull, sluggish, and vaguely sick after consuming meat, dairy, sugar, and simple carbs. On January 1, 2010, I stopped eating meat and dairy, and cut out most sugar, simple carbs, and alcohol. I made these changes not to lose weight, but because I want to feel like my best self physically and because I want to know with certainty that what I'm putting into my body does not contribute to the havoc the typical American diet wreaks on the environment, the animal world, and our collective health.

I don't count calories. I eat as many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds as I want. You know what? It's not easy, but it's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. And even though weight loss was not my primary goal, I have to say that shedding those 20 lbs (20.5 as of this morning) feels darn good as I'm literally lighter on my feet, which gives me more energy and makes it easier to work out. My hair is shinier, my skin clearer, and my sleep more restful. I honestly can't remember the last time I've felt so vibrant and just so...good.

I know that some people take issue with the idea of changing your diet for both personal health reasons and for environmental or animal welfare reasons. There seems to be some sentiment out there that the latter reason is more "pure," and that you should not change your diet expecting to reap physical benefits. But for me, it sort of seems like it's all intertwined. I want to feel good, and part of feeling good is aligning my personal consumption with my values. To separate my own health from the health of the earth or its creatures doesn't make sense to me. Isn't the point that we, as individuals, can effect larger change through our own actions?  It's food for thought (sorry - couldn't resist).

Tomorrow, I'll be posting more details about what I eat, including a sample daily menu and some favorite new dishes, so stay tuned.



Radical authenticity

I've been contemplating writing some version of this post for awhile now and a conversation I had yesterday finally convinced me to take the plunge.  A blogger friend and I were Gchatting about some emotionally charged topics and she said something to the effect of, "I wish more bloggers would tackle tough issues like relationships, body image, etc.  It would be so great to have a forum to discuss these kinds of things."

I know there are many bloggers who cover tough subjects with amazing - sometimes downright astonishing - honesty (hello, Penelope Trunk).  However; is it just me or is there a maddening tendency among many bloggers to portray their lives as picture-perfect fairytale romps through Never Never Land?  While I'm the first one to champion fun and uplifting content, I often find myself yearning for a little more substance and a little less style.  However, I don't take issue with these blogs...not really anyway.  Instead, I take issue with myself.  If I really wish that more bloggers would talk openly about these kinds of things, then why shouldn't I hold myself to the same standard?  

I can tell you why I don't.  I don't because I'm scared of sharing my feelings so openly in a public forum.  I don't because it makes me feel vulnerable.  I don't because I fear that the response wouldn't be positive.  I don't because I worry that no one would care.

But, you know what?  The more I think about it, the more empowered I feel by the idea of injecting some radical authenticity into these posts.  I recently tweeted about how excited I am to have lost 20 pounds since December (woo hoo!).  A couple of you lovelies immediately responded by asking me to share some weight loss advice, so I began working on a post in the form of a bulleted list with tips like eat more fresh fruits and veggies, etc.  Halfway into my post, I realized something.  I could come up with 7 million "tips," and still any post about weight loss would feel incomplete if I didn't share at least a little bit about my mental, emotional, and physical struggle to be in a place where I feel really good about my body.

I'll still share my tips, but I'm re-writing the post.  In fact, I've got lots of topics that I'm excited to blog
about with radical authenticity.  My hope is that this space will continue to be a source of positivity and inspiration, but that I will also provoke some candid conversation on a wide range of topics that affect us all.  Thank you for being the supportive and intelligent ladies that you are.  I look forward to deepening our dialogue and continuing to build our little blog community.



Weekend happenings

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you all had wonderful weekends.

I had a lovely time in Chicago.
My mom picked me up from the airport on Friday and we headed to the mall to indulge in a little retail therapy, followed by super yummy 
sushi for dinner. Saturday morning was the bridal shower (that's me at the shower, with my godmother Laura and Laura's sister Donna). Saturday afternoon was my first dress fitting. It was so much fun to try on the dress again! 

Sometimes I still pinch myself when I realize that I get to marry the love of my life in just a few short months. The shower and dress fitting definitely made it feel "real" though, so it was a pretty emotionally intense weekend!

I hope your week is off to a good start. I'll have more fun posts for you later this week!



A wedding-themed weekend

I'm off to Chicago tomorrow for a long girls' weekend with my mom (my dad will be on a golfing trip). On Saturday morning, my godmother (my mom's cousin) is hosting a bridal shower for me. I've heard a rumor there will be cupcakes, so needless to say, I'm pretty psyched. Saturday afternoon I have my first dress fitting. I'm excited to see my dress again, especially with the shoes I picked out! And I can't wait to spend some quality time with my mom, and of course, my parents' dog Kiwi.

What are your plans for the weekend?


P.S. Is that cake dreamy or what?  Check out more pictures from this beautiful wedding here.

e via Style Me Pretty.


Nourishing Bites: Larabars

Inspired by the lovely Kirsten of A Karma Project, who recently posted some of the foods she can't live without, I've decided to share a few of my favorite go-to foods with you, my dear readers.  I'll be sharing one food item each day this week, with a focus on foods that are healthful yet convenient.  While I love making meals from scratch - and do so quite often - I also appreciate the time and effort I save by using pre-packaged options (especially when packaged minimally or in environmentally friendly ways).   

I have to second Kirsten's love for Larabars.  Believe it or not, I just recently discovered these yummy little gems.  My first thought upon biting into the delicious Coconut Cream Pie bar?  Holy coconut craziness...where have you been all my life?  Seriously, these things pack so much flavor and goodness into each bite.  They also taste so much more like real food than any other similar bar I've tried, and it's no wonder since they're composed of actual recognizable elements, with nary an unpronounceable mystery ingredient in sight.  For example, the Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor (another personal favorite) contains just four ingredients: dates, unsweetened cherries, peanuts, and salt.  That's it!  I have recently become way more conscious about what I put into my body, so I really dig this commitment to simple, wholesome ingredients.  And for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions, Larabars are 100% gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan, and kosher.  And let's face it: nothing beats the convenience of a bar.  They're perfect for breakfast on the go, a mid-afternoon energizer, or post-workout refueling.  Yum!

Have you tried Larabars?  What's your favorite flavor?


Image via Larabar.


Nourishing Bites: Nature's Path Oatmeal

Inspired by the lovely Kirsten of A Karma Project, who recently posted some of the foods she can't live without, I've decided to share a few of my favorite go-to foods with you, my dear readers.  I'll be sharing one food item each day this week, with a focus on foods that are healthful yet convenient.  While I love making meals from scratch - and do so quite often - I also appreciate the time and effort I save by using pre-packaged options (especially when packaged minimally or in environmentally friendly ways).   

Nature's Path Oatmeal
Growing up, I was never a big oatmeal person.  However, in recent years I have begun to appreciate this hearty, healthy whole grain.  (I've heard your taste buds change every seven years, so maybe that has something to do with it.)  I've found that a bowl of oatmeal in the morning keeps me full until lunchtime, and provides a steady dose of calm energy throughout the day.  There are a few reasons why I gravitate the Nature's Path brand.  Firstly, they offer a Flax Plus version, which helps provide those essential Omega 3 fatty acids.  Secondly, it's certified organic and the company's founders are active in advocating for organic farming and a more sustainable food system.  And last, but not least, it has the best texture and taste of comparable products that I've tried.  Texture-wise, it's smooth but not mushy and the taste is just slightly sweet but not cloying at all.  Sometimes I will top it off with chopped fruit, almond slivers, or a drizzle of agave nectar, 
but it's truly satisfying on its own.

Have you tried Nature's Path oatmeal? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Image via World Pantry.


Nourishing Bites: Oregon Chai

Inspired by the lovely Kirsten of A Karma Project, who recently posted some of the foods she can't live without, I've decided to share a few of my favorite go-to foods with you, my dear readers.  I'll be sharing one food item each day this week, with a focus on foods that are healthful yet convenient.  While I love making meals from scratch - and do so quite often - I also appreciate the time and effort I save by using pre-packaged options (especially when packaged minimally or in environmentally friendly ways).     

Oregon Chai
Today's Nourishing Bite is actually more of a nourishing sip.  I discovered Oregon Chai Chai Tea Concentrates several years ago.  As a Chai lover, I have sampled various versions of this yummy Indian-spiced beverage.  While Teaism's Chai remains my all-time favorite, it's not always possible to drop by my favorite tea house, especially now that I live further away.  When I can't get to Teaism and don't have time to create my own version at home, I reach for Oregon Chai's boxed concentrates.  These days, I prefer the Slightly Sweet version, which, compared to the Original, has just a teeny bit of sugar.  Mixed with almond milk and poured over ice, it's sweet, spicy, creamy and delicious.  In cooler months, I heat it in the microwave for a warm and comforting treat.  Oregon Chai also offers vegan, sugar-free, and caffeine-free versions of its concentrate.
Have you tried Oregon Chai?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Image via Give Me Oregon Chai.


A sunny weekend

What a gorgeous weekend this has been!  Both yesterday and today have been so sunny and warm.  After the bone-chilling winter we had, it's such an amazing feeling to step outside without a coat and feel perfectly comfortable.

I laid low on Saturday since I was still feeling under the weather, but sticking around the house gave me the opportunity to do a bit of organizing and catch up on some projects.  I got a head start on spring cleaning by doing a serious re-organization of our kitchen.  We've already started receiving some wedding gifts, and I wanted to clear out some old and unused stuff to make room for the new!  

Today, we took advantage of the nice weather by visiting a nearby farmers market.

I loved browsing the beautiful jams, fragrant herbs, and homemade soaps.  Jason saw me admiring some Avocado Mango soaps (made with all natural ingredients) and treated me to a bar!  I can't wait to try it out.

We followed up the farmers market with a nice, long walk/run through one of our favorite parks.  Now I'm relaxing with a mug of tea and catching up on my favorite blogs.  

What did you lovelies do this weekend?  I'd love to hear about it!



Sweet vintage cake stand, by Olivia

I was so excited when Olivia contacted me to let me know I'd won her cake stand giveaway! Olivia makes the most beautiful vintage cake stands from unique plates that she finds at antique and thrift stores. It was so hard to choose just one. I finally decided on the Isabella cake stand. Isn't she a beauty?

I'm finding that it's perfect for storing the jewelry and other odds and ends that seem to collect on our dining room table. (I take off my jewelry at random times and can never seem to put it back in my jewelry box.)

Thank you Olivia! I love it so much!

P.S. Be sure to check out Olivia's lovely shop and her equally lovely blog where she muses about her daily adventures in baking, exploring her town, and other inspirations. I promise you'll be as smitten as I am!


Wishing you a relaxing weekend

Happy Friday! What's everyone up to this weekend?

We were planning to take advantage of the nice weather by going hiking at a nearby park, but I'm feeling a bit under the weather so we will have to play it by ear. Good thing we recently signed up for Netflix (we're a bit behind the curve), so I've got some fun films to keep me entertained if I'm couch-ridden. First on the docket is King Corn, which I've heard is really fascinating.

I hope you all have a relaxing weekend! And take care of yourselves - it seems like there's lots of nasty germs going around. Vitamin C, echinacea, lots of fluids, rest, repeat!

Image via The Pulp Girls.


The NEO-traditionalist Manifesto

I recently stumbled upon the loveliest blog. The NEO-traditionalist is penned by Kate, whose interests include "reading biographies, scouring rummage sales, listening to NPR's This American Life, eating banana cupcakes, quoting Diana Vreeland, and dreaming up whimsical names for her future children." Clearly, we were meant to be best friends, don't you think?

I totally swooned over her Neo-traditionalist Manifesto, which Kate kindly gave me permission to share with you all.

We believe...

We believe in being glass-half-full sorts of girls.

We believe that often times, granny is chic.

We believe in peddling vintage Schwinns with flower baskets.

We believe in poetry, picnics, and piñatas.

We believe one is never too old to keep a diary, the secrets only grow more scandalous.

We believe in arranging fresh flowers unruly like an English garden.

We believe in adventure and traveling the globe, be it to Marrakech or Malibu.

We believe in mixing lucite with oriental rugs. Thrift store finds with heirlooms.

We believe in handwritten thank you notes, better late than never.

We believe in needlepoint, letterpress, decoupage and forgiving Martha Stewart.

We believe in piggy banks and cookie jars.

We believe in book clubs full of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Austen and Woolf.

We believe station wagons are hopelessly chic.

We believe in recycling our Grandmothers’ names. Eloise, Jackie, Faye…

We believe in collecting: stamps, shells, books, big glittering diamonds…

We believe in marrying the boy that writes us the best love letters.

We believe in highly competitive board games—Chess, Scrabble, Chutes & Ladders.

We believe in spontaneous road trips and charming, chintzy bed & breakfasts.

We believe there’s something to fortune cookies, wishbones and 4 leaf clovers.

We believe in classics, shaken and stirred.

Love, love, love. Definitely hop on over and check out Kate's blog and her adorable vintage Etsy shop!

Image via Kate's Etsy shop.


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