Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quick Lit • July 2016

The last few books I have read are an interesting cross-section: a 900-page work of genius literary fiction, a breathtaking work of non-fiction, a primer on nutrition, and a disappointing Chick Lit novel that, with better editing, could have been so much more.

Such is life.  

Fiction specifically targeted towards women causes me more consternation than it probably should.  There was a time, in my early-twenties, I guess, when books like Bridget Jones' Diary cracked me up but didn't yet insult my intelligence.  Now though, I get a little cranky by anything that comes off as either too breezy or too romance-y.  What I can't quite put my finger on is whether my irritation stems from run-of-the-mill snobbishness, whether I have just outgrown that sort of novel, or whether those books are truly not any good and aren't worth my time.

It's a hard call.  And my ego is at stake.

Today I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short reviews of the books I have read over the past four weeks.  

When Breath Becomes Air is a profound and deeply moving meditation on life and death, on becoming a doctor and simultaneously becoming a terminal patient, on what it means to have faith and hope and on what it means to say goodbye. The writing is at once mesmerizing and matter-of-fact, and though the book is short, it is still powerful and important.. Kalanithi succumbed to cancer before he finished writing his book, and his wife wrote the final chapter. Bring tissues.

I picked up The Post-Birthday World after hearing it described as a "beach read with substance" on the podcast What Should I Read Next. The novel is structured around alternate futures for the main character, a la Sliding Doors, and is written in a style I can only describe as an attempt at edgy, feminist-tinged Chick Lit (descriptives that have very little business being used in the same sentence). An American of Russian descent living in London, Irina faces a pivotal decision to continue her safe, albeit slightly stodgy life with her long-time "safe" boyfriend, or to begin an ill-advised (but seemingly fascinating) affair with a famous snooker player and to leave behind her life to start anew. While I greatly appreciate the concept (and generally can't get enough of this sort of structure), the protagonist never quite appealed to me and the language was more than little discordant. The final chapter, however, is a thing of beauty and leaves the reader enough room to wonder which door had indeed been chosen. If you like Chick Lit, I recommend this, but with reservations (and only if you are not offended by crass language in regards to sex). If Chick Lit isn't your thing though, keep moving.

City on Fire is a work of ambitious literary fiction that is not to be entered into lightly. At 900-something pages, a small portion of which are in zine form and some of which are in magazine article form, and spanning a dizzying array of diverse characters, I felt frustrated at times by its grandness of scope, but was well-rewarded for following it to the end (as a matter of fact, when I finished the last line, I turned right back to page one and re-read the prologue). The novel is set in NYC and Long Island during the 1970s, and dips into the lives of a police detective, a fire worker, a group of anarchistic punks, a wealthy and powerful family, a couple of disaffected teens from the suburbs. Many themes are tackled, including race, homosexuality, drug abuse, loneliness, adultery - well, now that I think about it, this list could go on for days. Amazingly, it all works - all the characters, all the themes, and even all the pages. While it takes the first half of the book before the reader even has a full sense of what on earth is going on, the second half moves much faster, zeroing in on the action of one particular night during the New York City blackout of 1977. The writing is superb, the setting is rich and highly evocative, the ending is a thing of beauty, and the author's ability to deftly pull it all together is a masterclass in fiction writing.

The Beauty Detox Solution, written by popular Certified Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, is an excellent primer on holistic nutrition that delves relatively deeply into the science without overwhelming or boring the reader. The heavy use of the word 'beauty' can be a little tiresome, but is easily forgiven since the target audience is one who might be interested in eating better purely to lose weight and improve their skin. The nutritional information is sound, and ample recipes are provided (though the recipes will only be useful if the reader loves avocados). It is an easy read, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Ayurvedic and holistic, mostly-vegetarian nutrition. 

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Meal Plan • 7/4/16

You guys, there are times when making the meal plan is the hardest thing I do all week.  Our schedule, like most people, I'm sure, just isn't quite conducive to easy planning, and every time I think I have a rhythm in place that holds up relatively well to the whims of our weeks, something else comes up and throws me for a loop.  

You would think I would learn to just roll with it.  And I'm trying...

This week, we have a holiday, a house guest, a lot of work to squeeze into three days, and a quick weekend trip to the beach on the calendar, so rolling with it is really all I can do.

This recipe is a long-time family favorite, and it is always a lifesaver for us.  I threw together a double batch of it yesterday, knowing we would need the leftovers for today (it reheats like a dream).  Since we keep bell peppers and tomatoes in the freezer for emergencies, and we generally keep canned beans in the pantry, it is a rare day in which I cannot pull this off at the last minute.  There weren't canned beans available this time, but I had a long, lazy day on Sunday in which to simmer a big pot of dried beans all afternoon, so as usual, it was the perfect solution in the scramble of Oh crap, I wasn't planning on cooking, and we are out of everything, but I need something that will feed a larger-than-usual-crew for two days.  If you want to keep it super healthy, serve the recipe as-is.  If you want a little more fat and decadence, serve it with some grated cheese and/or a dollop of sour cream, and scoop it up with tortilla chips instead of a spoon.

This will be a busy day, and I won't get home until almost dinnertime, so an easy recipe is crucial.  This pasta dish comes together fast, and serving it with a salad will assuage my guilt over the high proportion of grain to vegetable in the recipe.

Only the kids and I will be home for dinner on Wednesday, and breakfast for dinner always seems fun to us.  I think we might spend the afternoon at the pool, come home for pancakes and grits, and then watch a movie.  Because why not?

THURSDAY: Spinach Lasagna, Garlic Toast
Don't scoff, but this lasagna recipe cooks in the crockpot.  I know it seems sacrilegious, but it's easy, it will cook while the kids and I are at the pool, and it is absolutely delicious.  The recipe calls for frozen spinach, but I like to use fresh, and I tend to double (and sometimes triple) the amount of spinach called for. 

FRIDAY and SATURDAY: The Kitchen is Closed
The kids and I are squeezing in a quick weekend trip down to Tybee Island with some friends.  We might eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches, or we might eat at restaurants for every single meal.  I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Four Things

Popping in with a few of the articles, podcasts, & recipes that have been on my mind lately.
  • Sometimes I can lose sight of the forest for the trees.  Lately, during my daily yoga practice, I have found myself focusing more on my challenge poses than on what my body truly needs that day.  It is silly, really, to insist on frustrating myself daily with sticking a handstand when the handstand itself has so little to do with the genuine practice of yoga.  As much as I love social media, and as much fun as I enjoy clicking 'like' on all the Instagram photos of beautiful girls doing complicated handstands on the beach, nailing that elusive handstand will mean little in the grand scheme of my yoga practice.  I show up on my mat every day for a lot of reasons, none of which have anything to do with acrobatics.  This thought really hit home this week when I was listening to this super-brief four-minute episode of the Yogaland podcast, in which Andrea references a stunning quote from Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa: "Yoga is not a practice of self-improvement at all; it's a practice of self-acceptance."  Ah.  Yes.  And that is precisely why I have not stuck the handstand yet.  I have been holding on too tightly to the idea that a perfect and beautiful handstand will somehow mean I have reached The Next Level of Improvement, when most likely the lesson I first need to learn is that I am already enough even without the handstand.
  • The Zen Habits blog has long been a favorite of mine, and this week, when too many thoughts were crowding my head, and when I faced the disappointment of not receiving something I had been hoping for,  I was reminded of one of his posts from a few years back titled 'The Zen of Doing.'  It is short, and it is pure and absolute genius.  Whether the word 'zen' makes your eyes roll into the back of your head, or whether you are a bonafide expert at mindfulness (in which case, please leave your contact information in the comments), the 30 seconds it takes to read that post can quite literally change everything about your mindset in a time of discontent.
  • Last week, I made this Marinated Kale & Whipped Ricotta Pizza, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  It is the stuff dreams are made of: it is decadent, absolutely scrumptious (we fought over the last few pieces), and dead easy if you cheat and buy some pre-made pizza crusts at the supermarket.  Whole-wheat crusts are the healthiest option, of course, and ideally you will find the ones that do not include high-fructose corn syrup, but I'm finding lately that true happiness lies in not getting hung up on the details too much.  Regardless of whether you need to cheat or whether you like making your own crust, I recommend pre-baking the crust so that it gets a little crispy before you put the soggier ingredients on it.  
  • Capsule wardrobes and uniform dressing have long been a little bit of an obsession of mine, and over the past few years, I have winnowed my wardrobe down to a tightly-curated, well-fitting, easily-cared-for,  minimalist's dream.  As a general rule, you'll find me in skinny jeans, sandals, and a black v-neck t-shirt in spring and fall.  In the winter, I'll swap the sandals for motorcycle boots, and throw a cardigan over the v-neck (or swap out the shirt for a black pullover).  For summer, I lean pretty heavily on flowy tank tops with the skinnies, or a black t-shirt dress if it's too hot for pants.  I have one or two date night outfits, and a couple of dressier options that work just as well for church as they do for funerals or weddings.  [Of course, a couple of sillier, more single-use frocks have also remained in the closet, like that hand-tooled red leather vintage trench coat that is way too cool to discard, and the legendary Easter dress that I've worn every year since the mid-1990s, but I don't begrudge those gorgeous items their real estate now that the rest of the closet has been beaten into submission].  It's easy to dress like this,  it fits my needs and my style to a T, and it makes getting ready virtually idiot-proof.  Nobody likes wasting 15 minutes deciding what to wear each day, and if you get bored easy, then you can always go crazy with scarves and other accessories, although frankly, I'm satisfied with a very, very small collection of jewelry.  The hardest part of nailing the capsule wardrobe is in the beginning, when you might feel unsure of your style and your needs.  If you are looking to simplify your life (which I swear starts with your closet), the free Wardrobe Planner over at Unfancy might be just what you need to get you moving in the right direction.  
I hope you have a lovely holiday weekend.  We are planning to hit up all the local fireworks celebrations, and I'm going to squeeze in a Lady Date with my girlfriends as well, because THREE DAY WEEKEND FTW.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Meal Plan • 6/20/16

This genius new page in my bullet journal is a total meal-planning game-changer.  The idea (and I would be so pleased if it works out as planned) is that I will pull off the post-its each week and store them in my recipe binder.  Over time I will build a collection of them, organized in the binder according to type (pasta, soups, Mexican, etc), and then when it comes time to plan each week's menu, I will be able to pull these post-its out of the binder and pop them into their respective day slots in this page in my bullet journal.

The truth is, of course, that I am constantly trying new recipes and discarding the ones that no longer serve us, so it is entirely possible that I will continually be creating new post-its, but I would like to think there will be at least some re-use involved.

Regardless, it looks cool.  And I had a zen time making it.

This week has more new recipes than usual slotted.  It is that time of year when I am far less overwhelmed than usual, and the time and space have opened in my mind to allow for tinkering and testing.  The beautiful, long, languid days of summer are my forever favorites.

MONDAY: Penne Pasta with Artichoke Lemon Pesto, Bruschetta
The kids are in an all-day camp every day this week, so quick and easy recipes are on my mind.  We are all a little bored with traditional pesto, and this one looked unusual and interesting enough (yet still fast enough) to make the cut for day one.

TUESDAY: Marinated Kale & Whipped Ricotta Pizza, Salad
I swear, I've had this recipe pinned for eight million years.  Not sure why it took me so long to throw it onto a menu.  Very, very excited to try it.  The flavor profile sounds scrumptious, and it should be easy enough if I use pre-made pizza crusts (pro tip: the ones at Trader Joe's are made without high-fructose corn syrup and keep in the freezer for such a time as this).

WEDNESDAY: Brown Rice, Black Beans, & Pico de Gallo
This sounds so simple, and it is simple, but this dish is so comforting and flavorful and I would eat it every day if it came to that.  I mean, it's just beans and rice, sure, but the pico elevates it to restaurant-quality, and if you batch-cook the beans on the weekend and freeze them until needed (or heck, use canned beans in a pinch), then the dish comes together in minutes.  I know canned beans are not ideal - the sodium is too high, the flavor isn't quite as complex, the texture is less-than-perfect, and the cost is higher - but if the choice is between canned beans and picking up take-out, I think it's a no-brainer.  Use the canned beans if that's what it takes.  Sometimes 'good enough' is actually perfect.  Also, if you have a bottle of Liquid Smoke around, I highly recommend throwing a dash or two of it in the beans while they heat up.

THURSDAY: Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce, olive bread bruschetta
Pre-packaged gnocchi is straight-up emergency food, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we will be in Emergency Mode by Thursday.  I keep a pack of Trader Joe's shelf-stable gnocchi around for just this sort of occasion.  The sauce looks like fun, and the added mozzarella will keep it decadent enough to please the children.  I'm looking forward to this dinner.

FRIDAY: Corn & Chipotle Soup, Salad, Baguette
I like simple, fresh soups for summer, and this one sounds intriguing.  Anytime I open up a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, I freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays to use in our black bean chili or to throw into salsa.  I am very interested in seeing how the addition of the chipotle flavor will affect a soup that seems as basic as this one, and plan to try it in some of my other favorite soups if it turns out as interesting as it sounds like it will.

SATURDAY: Frittata, Honey Mustard Roasted Cabbage
Frittatas are one of my fall-backs for the end of the week.  They are so versatile and will use up whatever leftover vegetables and cheeses (and even grains) that are still sitting around in the fridge, and they are always crowd-pleasers.  The roasted cabbage is another new recipe that I've been meaning to get around to, but we love cabbage and are always up for a new spin with it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Five Things

Popping in to share a few of the recipes, articles, and ideas that have been on my mind lately.  
  • It took me years to get the hang of pan-frying tofu, and it is still kind of the bane of my existence.  To get a crispy crust on more than one side, I inevitably flip every single stinking piece of it by hand, and while the end result is tasty and fabulous, I'm not certain that the searing pain in my fingertips is worth the hassle.  Last week, I tried a Baked Tofu recipe from Food 52, and it was outrageously easy and perfect.  This week, I had great luck with the same marinade and baking method, and served the tofu in a Thai Curried Noodle dish.  Next time, I plan to toss the marinated tofu in nutritional yeast and bake it for The Grit's Golden Bowl recipe.  New favorite cooking method, for sure.
  • Have you ever brushed your teeth with activated charcoal?  Rubbing black stuff into your teeth doesn't sound like a good idea at all, I know, but I've been reading about it for a while now and when a sample of Smart Ash (man, I dig that name) made its way into my hands, I couldn't wait to try it.  The process takes a little getting used to, and it makes a colossal mess, but after using it for a week, I am super pleased with how much whiter my teeth have become.  I only use it in the evenings, and continue to use the Doterra On Guard toothpaste in the morning, but I can see making the activated charcoal an occasional (weekly?) part of my personal care routine.  Also, THE NAME.  It cracks me up every time I see Smart Ash in print.  It's like it was designed for me.
  • Last weekend, I took a workshop on the Art of Storytelling taught by a filmmaker from 1504, and one of the short documentaries we watched was America's Boulevard - a fascinating look at the process of creating and installing a massive mural in Chattanooga, TN in an ambitious attempt at urban renewal.  The film itself is only about 20 minutes long, but it is riveting to watch a group of white Northerners swoop into a predominantly black neighborhood in the South and absolutely succeed at bringing the community together to support and help create what became one of the five largest murals in the country.  We will be heading to Chattanooga for Labor Day weekend, and I plan to re-watch the documentary with the children before we go so that they have the sociological context before we seek out the mural in person.
  • This Huffington Post article, The Best 10 Nutrition Tips From Registered Dietician Nutritionists, is one of the most sensible pieces of nutrition journalism I've seen in mainstream media in quite a while.  My favorite tip?  "One meal won't 'make' or 'break' your health." My personal nutritional philosophy is to eat super clean about 80% of the time.  That way, if I go out occasionally and eat a loaded tofu dog with a greasy, DELICIOUS side of fries (ahem, like I did on Tuesday evening), then it's no big deal.  And if I have a green smoothie for breakfast and a giant salad for lunch, but then I eat a plate of pasta for dinner?  Again, No Big Deal.  
  • I fell down the Bullet Journal rabbit hole recently, and I am so in love with the process.  Bullet journaling, if you are unfamiliar, is in essence a DIY day planner system.   Mine is very simple for right now, and I am having a blast adapting it to my needs.  If you are interested in getting started, but are completely intimidated by the absurd amount of websites devoted to it, I recommend starting with this post by Boho Berry (be sure to watch the short video by the creator of the Bullet Journal - it is embedded in the aforementioned post).  Then, if you're still interested, just dive right down the rabbit hole.  I have compiled some of my favorite Bullet Journal posts and pages in a special board over on Pinterest.  One caveat: if you like being told what to do, you might be happier with a pre-packaged planner (in which case, please let me steer you towards the Best Self Journal), but if you're the type who prefers to forge her own way in the world, and bristles when told how things are supposed to be done (raises hand), then bullet journaling just might change your life.
I hope you have a great weekend.  I am going to spend this evening practicing stand up paddle board yoga (bucket list item) at a local lake, and I am beside myself with anticipation.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quick Lit • June 2016

The first half of the past four weeks were a virtual treasure trove of fun, easy reading, and fabulous literary lovin'.  So much reading, so much blessed free time, so many great books.  It was partly because of the ocean, of course.  There was a glorious stretch of open, unscheduled time, the best backdrop ever, and a giant stack of books I couldn't wait to read.

But then...


I started reading a 900-something page ten-ton block of very well-reviewed literary fiction (not the novel pictured above), and it all stalled out.  Like, came to a screeching halt.  In the past two weeks, I have read maybe 250 pages of it, and I swear, the character development isn't even fully fleshed out yet.  I am loathe to abandon it, but I am hard-pressed to hunker down and finish it either.  

The last few weeks have been busy and boisterous though, so it's possible that I just haven't given the book enough time and attention yet.  In service to serious fiction, I have decided to give it one more weekend.  If I'm not hooked deep by the end of the day on Saturday, I'm going to bail.  Such a depressing thought...

Today I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past four weeks.

About Grace, one of the best books I have read in the past twelve months, is an ethereal novel about fate, family, desertion, and redemption. Spanning nearly 30 years, Doerr manages to convey the passage of years effortlessly while still slowing down the story at times to meditate intensely on a particular setting. Winkler, the man at the center of the novel, has dreams that sometimes come true, and in one brief, desperate moment, he abandons his family so that his infant daughter will not die in the way he has dreamed will happen. The story (and the years) that follow are portrayed in a mesmerizing, dream-like manner, and there were sentences - whole paragraphs even - in which the language is so rich, I could have read them over and over again. Luminous, beautiful, amazing story. 

If you read the inside jacket of I Let You Go, you might expect an incredibly sad and depressing novel about the loss of a child, but there is so much more to this story than meets the eye. The book begins with a terrible hit-and-run accident in which a child is killed (I almost walked away based on that one fact - losing a child is a fear I have no interest in exploring) and then follows Jenna as she tries to start a new life on the coast in an attempt to escape her grief and her nightmares. The action is split between Jenna's faltering first steps on her own, and that of the detectives who spend a year trying to find the driver of the car. The setting is richly detailed and the characters are tightly drawn, but what really sets I Let You Go apart is the plot twist in the middle and the suspenseful aspects of the story. 

In the 1980s, three young girls spent their days playing in and around a ramshackle long-closed roadside hotel where something happened that ruined their friendship forever. In the present day, one of the girls, still living on the property, has killed her family and herself in a gruesome manner, and leaves a clue that hints at what happened long ago. The tale unfolds as it jumps around in time from the 1950s, when the hotel was in its heyday, to the 1980s and to 2013, and unapologetically tips its hat to Alfred Hitchcock. The Night Sister made for a quick and enjoyable beach read, weaving together suspense, spookiness, and outlandish (but fun) ghost story elements.

The Four Agreements is a life-changing spiritual self-growth book that offers a simple but powerful framework from which the reader can quite literally change their life for the better. The agreements themselves (be impeccable with your word, don't take anything personally, don't make assumptions, always do your best) are widely distributed, but are illuminated here in this slim volume in a way that cracks the code for those seeking freedom from the usual neuroses that we fixate upon. Caveat: the author claims to have been given this information in a dream, and some of the wording may strike the reader as too new age-y, but this is one of the few books I have returned to over and over and over and over again for years. At 138 small-sized pages, it can be skimmed and read in one sitting, but is better (in my humble opinion) savored slowly in order to properly chew on the amazing wealth of wisdom.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Meal Plan • June 13

This weekend, as I was fed by some of the best chefs in the Southeast at the Southern Grown Festival on Sea Island, I was already flummoxed by how to put together a meal plan for the coming week.  I was eating so well, you see, and while I was inspired by these chefs, I was also intimidated to return to my own kitchen and come up with anything even remotely tasty after the foods I sampled.

And then, on the way to the Farewell Y'all Brunch on Sunday morning, we heard the news about Orlando, and the world shifted.  We took a walk on the beach before brunch, and I thought about the then-20-something people who had lost their lives.  While we ate, we found out the number was much, much higher, and things stopped making sense.  There we were, at an exclusive beach club on a breathtakingly beautiful island, with outrageous amounts of incredible food being set before us, and at the same time, there were hundreds of families in a horrifying limbo only 200 miles south of us.

It was sobering.


I hugged our friend a little tighter before we got in the car and headed back home.  I told him I love him.  Because I do.  I love our friends from way down deep in my heart and I think it is important to say it out loud.  The days are long, after all, but the years are short.

That seems to be my go-to response in these situations, but how scary is it that I have a go-to response at all?  How do we even live in a world in which I have a go-to response to horrific events?

And yet, here we are.  We got back home last night, and we reunited our little family, and we returned to our routines, and it seems absurd to even think about the fact that I need to come up with a meal plan, but the truth is that I do.  No matter what goes on in the world, I will need to feed my family.  We will need to sit at the table together and enjoy our dinner, even though (and maybe because) there are so many families tonight that will never have that chance again.

MONDAY: Kale & Cannellini Bean Risotto
This recipe is a family favorite.  The technique couldn't be simpler, and the final dish is comfort food at its best.  I needed comfort food today.

TUESDAY: Cheese Plate
I'm going out for dinner with a girlfriend, but the rest of my family is still going to need to eat.  The husband took a class on cheese making over the weekend with the fine folks at Sweet Grass Dairy, and we brought home an absurd amount of amazing and potently stinky cheese.  The kids cannot wait to dig into these treats.

WEDNESDAY: Thai Curry Noodles with Broccoli & Tofu
This is a new recipe, and I am looking forward to trying it out, but I may bake the tofu before tossing it into the simmer pot.

THURSDAY: Roasted Buddha Bowl
I love this dish.  Rice, topped with caramelized, roasted vegetables and crispy roasted chickpeas, and drizzled with a tart, creamy vegan sauce.  Also comfort food.  I think I'm seeing a pattern here.

FRIDAY: Smoky Potato Cakes with Kale & Ricotta, Salad
I have only made this recipe once before, but it was impressive for such an easy, quick-to-put-together dish.  Looking forward to trying it again.

SATURDAY: Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini, Spicy Marinara
This isn't the quickest recipe in my arsenal, but it is an absolute crowd-pleaser.  The whole family gets excited about gooey mozzarella oozing out of a crispy breadcrumb covered ball of rice.  Serving it atop spicy marinara elevates the experience to a whole other level.

SUNDAY: I dunno, man.  It's Father's Day, which I suppose means I need to cook on my only day off.  I will almost certainly keep it easy.  Probably vegetable crudités with my homemade Blue Cheese Dip - it's one of Preston's faves.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five Things

Just a few of the articles, podcasts, and recipes that have been on my mind lately.
  • The Miracle Morning:  Boho Berry's blog post about the book The Miracle Morning gave me a lot to think about and reinforced for me the importance of starting the day right.  The book is about the wonders of having a solid morning routine, and I couldn't agree more.  My best days are the ones that start with a little quiet time, some inspirational reading, 15-30 minutes of exercise, and a bit of journaling, and I like to set my alarm an hour early in order to make those things happen.  
  • Speaking of mornings, I made this Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats recipe this week, and it was just right when I came back in the house starving after an early morning run.  The protein and fiber satiated me, and the advance preparation couldn't have been easier.  It literally takes less than 5 minutes to prep the recipe the night before, and then it's ready to go at breakfast time.  Even better, it's already packed in a jar and can be grabbed from the refrigerator and taken to work with zero hassle.  Total win.
  • Twelve Things Ariana Huffington Wants You to Do Before Bed :  Clearly, routines have been on my mind lately.  At night, I like to go to bed and read a book for 30 minutes or so before falling asleep.  My brain appreciates the break from electronics, and I enjoy the ritual of spending some quiet time with some good, quality fiction in a low-light setting in the most comfortable bed in the world. 
  • Brene Brown on Big Strong Magic:  I really, really enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's Magic Lessons podcast series on creativity when it came out last summer (was it that long ago? now I'm not sure...), but this episode, featuring the amazing Brene Brown, was so powerful and mind-blowing that I have listened to it at least four times over the past six months.  I copied quotes from it into my journal, and have spent countless hours mulling over the topics they discuss.  It is the stuff of pure genius.  The language is a little salty in parts, but it's worth putting on your big girl panties for.  Good, good stuff.  And if you haven't yet read Gilbert's Big Magic, I highly recommend it.
  • Have you noticed the hilarious and pervasive mango theme going on at Trader Joe's this summer?  Mango is the new pumpkin, you know.  A lot of it is pretty excellent, some of it is so-so, and a few items are just weird, but I am totally, absolutely, completely head-over-heels in love with the Mango Body Butter.  If you want some though (and you live in Athens), you better hurry, because I'm going to go by there again in the next few days and buy out their entire stock before it disappears for the season.

I hope you have a great weekend.  I'm headed down to the coast for the Southern Grown Food & Music Festival at Sea Island, and I'm so excited I almost can't stand it.


Monday, June 06, 2016

Meal Plan • June 6

I do not recall whether I have addressed it here or not, but one of the reasons I eat so clean for breakfast and lunch is so that I can be a little more decadent and easy-going with my dinners.  The children are more than happy to join me in green smoothies for breakfast and Rainbow Bowls for lunches, but even they would mutiny if I only served The Healthiest Foods Ever for every single meal.  And the husband?  Well, that would be no bueno.

He is very supportive of my nutritional proclivities, and for the most part he doesn't mind that half of the dinners I serve are vegan.  But he also likes cheese.  And eggs.

And if I'm being totally honest, I like them as well.  I don't like them all the time - as a matter of fact, I feel sick if I eat too much cheese, and so I limit it to dinnertime.  And even then, I still prefer to not have it at  every dinner.

Thus, we have reached a relatively happy dinnertime balance.  I manage to squeeze in around six servings of fruits and vegetables at breakfast and lunch so that I can loosen up a bit and have some pasta for dinner.  Or cheese.  Or something else that's a little less than ideal.  And a few of our dinnertime meals remain vegan, and a few of them are utterly ridiculous (like tonight's pre-packaged gnocchi cooked in oil and topped with mozzarella and parmesan).

All of life is a balancing act, yes?  It's about progress, not perfection.

MONDAY:  Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans
This was an emergency dinner.  My client errands ran late, and it was after the witching hour before we hit Trader Joe's to get the week's groceries on our way home.  I wasn't sure what to make for dinner since we were running so far behind, so I grabbed a package of gnocchi and did a quick Google search when I got home.  This recipe was quick and easy to pull together, and was not only relatively healthy, but also surprisingly delicious for something thrown together at the end of a long day.  (Pro tip: I used the Power of Greens mix from Trader Joe's.  Spinach would work just as well).

TUESDAY: Chickpea Curry with Brown Rice Medley
The whole family enjoys this recipe.  It calls for coconut rice, which we found to be unnecessarily fatty, so we simply cook the Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley in vegetable broth to serve with it.  I have even cut half of the coconut milk in the curry itself - using vegetable broth for the other half of the liquid.  These little tricks cut a lot of fat and calories, and using vegetable broth ensures that you don't lose out on any of the flavor.

WEDNESDAY: Crispy Black Bean Tacos
This recipe isn't our healthiest dinner ever (see the cheese & the oil-cooking method), but it is one of our favorites.  And it is SO EASY and SO FAST - ideal for a quick dinner after a long day of work, especially if you throw together the bean mixture the night before and leave it in the fridge so that you only have to pull it out and spoon it into the tortillas with a little cheese before tossing them onto the skillet.  The beans and the corn tortillas are healthy enough, too, and a little cheese goes a long way here.   Serve it with some guacamole for a dose of healthy fats.

THURSDAY: Baked Tofu with Coconut Kale and Brown Rice
I can't wait to try this recipe.  I found it linked on the blog of a nutritionist I like, and it sounds scrumptious.  If you're a tofu newbie, this looks like a great one to try.  Bonus: the preparation looks to be idiot-proof.

FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY: I'll be at the Sea Island Southern Grown Food & Music Festival all weekend, so not only will I not be doing any cooking, I will be eating (a lot of) food prepared by some pretty phenomenal well-known chefs.  And I'll be at the beach.  And Jason Isbell is playing.  Pinch me.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Lit • May 2016

I have lately fallen a little bit in love with zero-based scheduling (but not for the reasons you might expect).  Much like zero-based budgeting, in which every dollar is accounted for and told how to behave, with zero-based scheduling, you take a look at your calendar and the list of tasks/appointments/etc and then you schedule the entire day down to the minute (okay, the hour).

It sounds constraining and painful, and I balked at first, but since I - like everyone else -  constantly sing the tired refrain of there-aren't-enough-hours-in-the-day, obviously something needed to give and this seemed worth a shot.

Because if what you're doing isn't working, then maybe it's time to try something new, right?

So far, I have learned a few valuable things.  (1) The train will get derailed and I absolutely will have to re-juggle the schedule as the day goes on.  (2) Holding too tightly to the original schedule will result in nothing more than frustration and tears.  (3) Using a pencil is advisable.

Interestingly though, what I am finding is that there are in fact more hours in the day, and I do have time for everything I want and need to do.  Namely, I wanted more time for nonfiction reading (I do my fiction reading at night when my brain has no interest in being filled with more facts), so I scheduled 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to drink coffee and to read.  

Eureka, right?  More time to read.  I am in love.

Today, I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

One Good Turn, the second in the Jackson Brodie series, takes the standard detective novel in a comically absurd direction, but oddly, it works. A bizarre and ridiculous series of events connects a disparate cast of characters in ways so laughably outlandish that the reader doesn't even have to suspend disbelief - the unbelievable coincidences are meant to be unbelievable, and they are, ultimately, the driving narrative force. It is a silly novel, but it is cleverly written, and I love the author (though this is one of her earlier - and definitely not one of her best - works).

Aim True is a glorious celebration of authenticity, yoga, nourishing food, inspiration, and natural beauty. Kathryn Budig, a beloved yoga teacher who fills her classes with laughter and physical challenges, effortlessly distills onto the page everything she has stood for in the yoga community: body acceptance, pushing physical limits, and finding one's own inner strength. Filled with beautiful photos, recipes for both food and for beauty products, multiple yoga practices, and joyful writing, this book will be a mainstay of my yoga library for years to come.

As far as loveably dysfunctional families go, the members of The Nest's Plumb family will go down as some of my all-time favorites. Four siblings have waited for years to inherit a family trust that was never meant to be more than a small gift, but has grown over the years into a Significant Amount. In the process of waiting for the youngest member to turn 40 (the date in which "the nest" will be disbursed), many of the Plumbs have leveraged the money ahead of time and find themselves in slightly desperate positions. There is the handsome Manhattan screw-up, the prim New England mom, the gay antique shop owner, and the once-promising novelist who hasn't published a book in 20 years, and the money that will either divide the family or give them each a chance to redeem themselves. Never heavy-handed, Sweeney manages to convey each of the characters' foibles in a way that keeps the tone light-hearted and more than a little hilarious. The novel rides the fine, beautiful line of beach read and literary fiction, and was riotously fun to read.

This post contains my affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting The Postmodern Planet.