Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Else Is Possible: Reflections On June


Oh, how I've missed this space! In case you hadn't noticed, I took a break from blogging for the month of June. I was tempted to pop in for a quick update several times, but my energy and efforts were elsewhere, and so I gave myself permission to simply let it go. That being said, I'm thrilled to be back and get caught up.

So here's what happened in June.

I worked. I ate. I ran. I studied. I slept.

That's the short version, anyway. Let me back up. 

For starters, I embarked on and completed my first Whole30. The connotations our culture associates with the word "diet" don't resonate with me, but I have repeatedly heard people sing the praises of the Whole30 experience and since it seemed already aligned with my preferences, I decided to give it a go. If you have followed my meal planning posts, you know I am drawn toward nourishment comprised mainly of proteins, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Every body is different, but I find that I personally feel best when I eat this way, while also avoiding most grains, refined sugars, and processed foods. (I can go either way on dairy, but tend to limit it to high-quality cheeses and the occasional spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream.) For me, the experience was not as challenging as it is for some, probably because I was already eating mostly paleo/primal, but I was forced to drop my evening chocolate habit and make a few other modifications. For the most part, I felt incredibly energized and very much alive. It's amazing how much even moderate amounts of sugar, alcohol, and even certain carbohydrates can dull the senses. With fewer mood-modifying effects, I felt a little vulnerable, a little raw, but in a good way, like I could trust that I was perceiving things as they actually are.

Also on the healthy living front, I used the warming weather and lengthening days to kick my trail runs into high gear, challenging myself to try new-to-me trails that had previously intimidated me, and completing two of my longest runs in years. I ran almost every day, about 90 miles over the course of the month. I ran in the mornings when I knew I would have to work late, and I ran after work when all I wanted to do was go home and relax. I ran because I had to, because I knew it was the only way I'd stay sane amidst the stress of preparing for my PHR exam.

Which brings me to the studying. Six months ago, with the support of my employer, I registered for the Professional in Human Resources certification exam. The certification is considered the defining credential in the HR field, and covers a significant body of knowledge. I knew I would have to study hard, having less HR generalist experience than many PHR candidates. Although I began studying few months ago, I buckled down big-time in June, spending my evenings and weekends with my nose in the books. The exam was June 28th, and, whew, I passed. It was extremely difficult, and I would not have passed had I eased up on the preparation even a bit. Several days before I passed the exam, I also received a promotion at work. Between the promotion and passing the exam, I don't think I'd felt that accomplished since I was offered the job a year ago!

As I leave the frenetic energy of June behind, the advent of July carries a mixed sort of sweetness. On the one hand, I have the impulse to relax. It's summer, after all, the season made for lazy, laid-back leisure. I do want to enjoy it. On the other hand, this past month laid bare a certain truth for me that I'm not sure I've fully realized before: that I can attempt really difficult things and succeed. I've had my share of successes in life, but I think I always assumed they were due to some combination of kismet and charisma. I got scared when things got hard, so I backed away, worried that my innate talents and charms wouldn't be enough to see me through. In contrast, these recent achievements feel earned. Like I looked the challenges in the eye, worked my tail off, and reaped the reward. It has actually made me wonder what other challenges are out there that a former version of myself would not have considered. It has made me wonder what else is possible.

And, all in all, possibility seems like a fine place to inhabit this month. 

Happy July.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June

"I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June." 
-L.M. Montgomery
My first Whole30. A new level of commitment.

Grilling every night, in our backyard, a wild and fragrant cacophony of kale, romaine, basil, rosemary, dill, parsley, and mint. Fresh food that feeds my body and nourishes my soul.

Trail running every day.

Meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Getting to know the wonderful couple next door.

Skipping the evening TV habit in favor of hours spent reading, writing, or taking long walks around the neighborhood, stopping to admire the flowering sage at the local community garden.

The earth around me awash in a riotous bloom of color: the rain-brightened emerald of the lodgepole pine; the cornflower of the clear blue sky; the indigo of the foothills in the twilight of dusk; and the striated white of distant peaks still capped with snow.

Days so long it seems the sun will never set over the mountains.

Days so long, and still too short to take in all the wonder and beauty.

Happy June.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fuel for Life: My Weekly Meal Plan

Eldorado Canyon, as seen from today's trail run.

After a month during which we moved into our new house and either my husband or I traveled every weekend while also juggling some major professional commitments (hello, Boulder Startup Week), it feels like we've crossed over to the other side of a very stressful period of time.

This weekend, we enjoyed the feeling of having nothing to do. Well, maybe not nothing, but rather a very ordinary weekend to-do list filled with things like trips to the hardware store (which has become one of my favorite things to do now that we have our own house / yard), bathing the dog (decidedly not one of my favorite things to do, but necessary), gardening and assorted yard work, grocery shopping, exercising, and catching up on miscellaneous items that we neglected during the chaos of the last few weeks.

It rained Friday night (a real spring rain), and I opened all the windows to enjoy the sweet pitter-patter sound. I read a little bit, and nodded off quickly, having been lulled into a meditative state by the rhythm of the rainstorm. By Saturday morning, it seemed the whole earth had turned supernaturally green. I left the windows open the entire day, infusing the house with the wildly vernal scent of a just-cleaned earth.

This afternoon, after a trail run at one of my favorite spots, I sat at our new pine farmhouse table (a serious Craigslist score) with one of my favorite country stations playing as I plotted out our meals for the week.

It all felt so deliciously normal, and, after this past month, I was thankful for that.

Sunday: Paleo-ish Asparagus, Scallion & Goat Cheese Pizza  
I managed to find an almond and potato flour pizza crust at our local Whole Foods that inspired me to create a pizza based around fresh spring ingredients. I'll use a base of creamy goat cheese (I found this olive and herb one that looks delish) then top it with a combination of shaved asparagus, scallions, mint, and a touch of freshly cracked black pepper. With a side of arugula, it'll make for a perfectly fresh springtime dinner.

Monday: SweetGreen-Inspired Santorini Salad
I used to work about a block from the Dupont Circle SweetGreen, and I ate this salad, like, twice a week. It's that good. I forgot all about it until I saw the imitation recipe pop up on Kristin's blog, and all the flavors came back to me: the acidity of the lemon-flavored shrimp, the tang of feta, the crispness of cucumber, and the sweet burst of the red grapes (Kristin uses cherry tomatoes), all coated in a creamy cucumber and basil-flecked dressing. I can't wait to re-create it!


Tuesday: Leftover Pizza

I'll make extra tonight so that I can have leftovers later in the week!

Wednesday: Pork Belly Tacos

We picked up a giant package of local pastured pork belly at the farmers' market that I'm planning to use as taco filling this week, along with some shredded cabbage, cilantro, pickled onion (so easy--marinate thinly sliced red onion in whatever type of vinegar you have on-hand), and a dollop of creme fraiche. I typically use locally made white corn tortilla shells heated with a touch of olive oil under the broiler.

Thursday: Leftover Santorini Salad Ingredients (re-purposed with chicken)

I have some chicken breast in the freezer that I need to use up, so I'll create a second iteration of the Santorini Salad (see Monday's meal) using chicken instead of shrimp. I'll bake the chicken the night before with olive oil, sea salt, fresh oregano, and lemon slices, then shred it up and toss it with the other ingredients.

Saturday: Out to eat with my parents!
My parents will be in town for the long weekend, and I can't wait to spend some quality time together. They get in Friday afternoon, so after picking me up at work, we'll head out somewhere downtown Boulder for dinner (or takeout, depending on how everyone's feeling).


As a bonus, here are a few snacks I've been enjoying lately:

  • Plain Noosa yogurt with fresh berries or a crumbled up Larabar
  • Unsweetened dried mangoes
  • Organic turkey slices wrapped around avocado and cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes and diced avocado with olive oil and sea salt
  • Slices of cucumber topped with little dabs of goat cheese
  • Carrot and celery slices with almond or cashew butter

What are you cooking and eating this week?

Check out past meal plans here for more inspiration. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Doing the hard thing


Gray skies have been emptying icy sheets of rain across the Front Range today. It's not a pleasant spring-like shower, the kind that patters gently along, leaving wildflowers kissed with tiny droplets of dew-like precipitation. It's a sharp and chilly rain that at times verged on sleet, more like a storm you might expect in, say, December, not the middle of May.

Weather-wise, it was not an ideal day for outdoor activity. In fact, the uncharacteristically bad conditions would have made the perfect excuse not to run. And I almost didn't. 


But something I'm consciously practicing these days is doing the hard thing. 


This practice is not the same thing as being hard on yourself. I think most of us are way too hard on ourselves already, especially women, and especially around themes of food and exercise. 


What I'm talking about is not this shame-based perfectionism and overcompensation for imaginary flaws. Rather, it's knowing who I am at my core and choosing to do the things that align with that version of myself. For me, that means I listen very carefully to where my thoughts originate. Are they coming from the most authentic version of me or from the small version--the one that just wants what I want when I want it?


As I near my thirtieth birthday, I'm reveling in how well I've come to know myself. And one thing I know about myself is that who I am at my core is very much alive and capable of doing the hard thing. I thrive on a challenge, and oftentimes, end up enjoying something all the more because it was hard-won, because I had to stretch and grow a little (or a lot) to get it. 


Knowing this means I couldn't let myself off the hook today, because who I am is not the kind of person who would let the weather keep them from a much-needed soul-cleansing workout.


So I ran. And I'm so glad I did, because it was an amazing feeling to be out there on a nearly empty trail with tiny shards of sleet on my eyelids, grinning like a maniac at the bittersweet beauty of the storm.


Sometimes it's as simple as a run. Sometimes it's something much more difficult than that. Do the hard thing; it's worth it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Literary City Guide on Eat This Poem


I'm thrilled to be featured on Eat This Poem today, sharing a literary (and culinary) guide to my favorite spots in Boulder. Stop on over and take a look if you'd like.

Thank you Nicole for sharing your space with me today!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fuel for Life: My Weekly Meal Plan

Portobello pizza caps from a few weeks ago: hollowed out caps with tomato sauce, red onion, bits of chopped portobello stem, and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and baked till the sauce is bubbly and hot.

I don't have a witty introduction this week, just a bone-tired yet resolute commitment to get back in the swing of meal planning now that we've somewhat settled into our new place.


Monday: Easy Fish Tacos

I don't have a recipe for these, because there's really nothing to making them other than picking out whatever fish looks good at the store, and sautéing it up with a little olive oil, cayenne, garlic powder, and lime juice. I flake the fish, then portion it into soft white corn tortillas heated up slightly under the broiler and top them off with whatever I have on-hand: sometimes cabbage and crème fraîche; sometimes avocado, scallions, and cilantro; sometimes a crumble of cheese (goat or feta or queso fresco) and some pickled onions or fresh salsa. The whole production comes together in about 15 minutes, and it's a meal on its own, so no need to worry about side dishes.

Tuesday: Baked Lemon Chicken with Asparagus
I love being able to throw stuff in a pan and let it bake while I get something else accomplished. The 30 to 40-minute window always feels like a golden little pocket of time, enough for a quick run, a tidying up of the house, or a phone call to my mom, made all the more sweet with the knowledge that a wonderful dinner awaits. The linked recipe doesn't include asparagus, but I'll just combine it in the same pan with a little extra olive oil, garlic, or lemon.

Wednesday: Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I rarely eat grains anymore, but I have had a serious craving for a grilled cheese sandwich lately, so I decided I'm going to indulge my craving in the cleanest way possible: gluten-free bread with grass-fed cheddar grilled up in some ghee and a side of organic roasted red pepper and tomato soup. It's definitely not Paleo, but it's also not the end of the world. I'm going to enjoy every bite!

Thursday: Leftover Baked Chicken with Kale Salad
I'll have leftover chicken from Tuesday's meal (I always make extra chicken), so I'll mix things up by serving it with a quick kale salad (kale, shredded carrot, scallions, avocado, slivered almonds, coconut aminos, and toasted sesame oil). It'll be quick, healthy, and delicious, which means it meets all three elements of my weeknight meal criteria.

Friday: Dinner out with friends

Saturday: TBD, with my friend Mira
My best friend Mira is coming over on Saturday to spend the day helping me get my new patio in order. We plan to get some veggies and herbs planted, put furniture together, and perhaps, if we're feeling especially ambitious, tackle a few other DIY decor projects. (That Mira is the kind of person to willingly and enthusiastically volunteer for this kind of thing is one reason among many why she is my best friend.) A light yet satisfying meal sounds just right after a long day's work outdoors. I'm looking forward to enjoying just that on my new patio. A cheese, charcuterie, and fruit platter perhaps? Rosé sounds like a good idea too.

What are you cooking and eating this week?

Check out past meal plans here for more inspiration. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Enough (Saturday)


Today, we said enough.

Enough unpacking. Enough fretting over furniture arrangements. Enough transferring utility services and solidifying the details of our sublease agreement.


The endless checklist of moving-related logistics would be there tomorrow. What wouldn't be? This particular Saturday, the sort of sublime blue-skied Boulder day that, while not a rarity here, seduces me senseless nonetheless. So my husband and I drank our coffee and made an intentional decision to set aside our stress for the day.


We said enough. And then we played.


An early morning walk to the farmers' market for armfuls full of locally produced bounty: three dozen delicately-hued eggs (we eat a lot of them in this household), sage-infused breakfast sausage, slabs of rich pork belly, a tangle of green garlic, a bushel of gem-like radishes, a spearmint plant, a potted Colorado Blue Columbine, and a white sage smudge stick (to burn as an energy-clearing ritual in our new space).


Breakfast of aforementioned eggs and sausage sautéed with green garlic.


A long run along South Boulder's Mesa Trail, which climbs a meandering mesa up toward Eldorado Canyon. Lungs filled with the scent of sun-baked pine. Unobstructed views for miles in every direction. Anne Lamott's description of awe as a "reverberating wowowowowow" echoing in my head with every step.


Back to the farmers' market for a lunch of pupusas made with organic white corn masa and chicken with vinegar-spiked cabbage slaw and guacamole.


An afternoon of moodling around the new house with the windows open to let in fresh air. Alternating between re-reading a favorite book and drifting in and out of a nap. A lazy walk through the neighborhood, during which we laughed hard at our dog's bird-obsessed antics and admired the nearby community garden.


Dinner cooked slowly. Pulled pork, kale sautéed with green garlic, radishes with lemon, sea salt, and a pat of butter.


A quiet evening at home, windows still open to enjoy the drama of a thunderstorm rolling in over the mountains.


It was not the productive Saturday I'd imagined. And thank goodness for that.