Mindful Monday: Kindness

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Kindness is such a simple concept yet when you read the news or tune into what is happening in politics it feels absent. I think kindness is something everyone could use a little more of and it doesn’t have to be in the form of grand or mass gestures. Think about it if we just spent a little more time on being kinder to ourselves, others, and this planet those little acts of individual love could snowball into something a lot bigger and more impactful.

You can accuse me of being a Pollyanna, but be honest when you see a friend or stranger in an act of pure kindness doesn’t fill your heart and inspire you to do the same? For the next couple of weeks, I have a number of posts coming up centered around kindness because I think we’re all wanting a lot more of it at this particular time.

Mindful Mondays: Healing Teas

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Admittedly I’ve always been a coffee girl, but over the years I’ve found an appreciation for the other hot beverage…tea.  Tea offers a bit more variety when it comes to taste and flavor compared to java.  Another benefit to tea is the health perks.  Here are some I’ve discovered over the years:

Acid Reducer: I used to suffer from acid reflux and when I’d have a flare-up certain things I loved like chocolate and coffee were off limits because they end up making me feel worse. Many people with reflux or GERD find that tea also upsets them, but when I was dealing with this ailment I found that low caffeine tea was easy on my stomach and prevented me from having caffeine withdraw headaches. I still drink low caffeine teas in the afternoon and evenings when I’m looking for a little pick me up but don’t want something that will keep me up all night. 

My favorite low caffeine teas are:  Zen by Tazo, Ginger Peach by Republic of Tea, Monkey Picked White by The Tea Spot

Cramp Relief: Mint tea is great when it comes to cramp relief. During my cycle, I always have it on hand. In the winter months, I sip on hot peppermint tea throughout the day. Once the temperature rises I make pitchers of iced Moroccan mint tea. 

Mint teas I love: Peppermint by Celestial Seasonings, Mint Verbena by Harley and Sons, Armenian Mint by Argo

Sore Throat Aid:  There are a variety of teas I drink when I’m suffering from a cough or have lost my voice. Black tea with honey and lemon is the standby. However, there are a number of herbal teas that are also great aids when under the weather.  

My go to’s for a sore throat are: Throat Comfort by Yogi, Liquorice and Mint by Teapigs, and Red Rose Original by Red Rose

Stress Reducer:  An afternoon cup of herbal tea is a great stress reliever. Several months ago I purchased a cast iron teapot for the meditation area in my bedroom. I’ve made enjoying some tea at the end of a yoga practice or when I’m curled up in my reading chair a ritual.  I gravitate towards floral fragrances I love. I also look for caffeine-free or low caffeine varieties when it comes to sipping for stress reduction.  

Stress relief teas I adore include: Earl Grey Lavender by Adagio, Pure Camomile by Twinings, and Jasmine Blossom by Stash

365 Project: Recipes 76-90

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I’ve been negligent about posting the most recent batch of 15 recipes completed. Here they are.

76. Vegan Chopped “Liver”

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Source: Silk Road Vegetarian 

Notes: While the texture isn’t the same as my uncle’s traditional chopped liver the flavor is surprisingly similar. Instead of liver and eggs, this recipe uses zucchini and toasted in walnuts.

Rating: Liked

77. Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing

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Source: Tastes Lovely 

Notes: I stopped buying packaged salad dressing years ago. Making your own salad dressing is easy, less expensive, and healthier. This was a perfect dressing for early spring salads.

Rating: Liked

78. Strawberry Pecan Salad

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Source: Original

Notes: During the winter I fill up on soups and hearty dishes. Once spring hits I crave greens. This was a bed of baby spinach topped with brie, raw pecans, and strawberries.

Rating: LOVED

79. Roasted Beets and Balsamic Carrots

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Source: Original

Notes: I made this for Passover as an appetizer. I roasted the beets with a little Rosemary at 375 for about 45 minutes. I put the carrots in on a sheet drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I put them in about fifteen minutes after the beets because the carrots cook a bit faster.

Rating: Liked

80. Roasted Asparagus and Baby Artichokes

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Source: Cooking Light via My Recipes 

Notes: I also made this for Passover. This was a side dish for the main meal and was delicious.

Rating: Liked

81. Asparagus Mimosa

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Source: Plenty

Notes: This is a yummy way to have spring veggies for breakfast.

Rating: Liked

82. Pistachio Orange Blossom Salad

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Source: Plenty

Notes: I couldn’t find good watercress so I used mustard greens instead. They are both stronger greens with a more peppery flavor so I often substitute them for one another.

Rating: Okay

83. Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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Source: Original

Notes: This was so easy just melt good bittersweet chocolate on the stove and dip the strawberries. Place them on parchment paper to let them harden. We learned the hard way that white chocolate and milk chocolate cook doesn’t melt evenly without burning so if you want to use those types of chocolate make sure you use a double boiler.

Rating: LOVED

84. Spring Veggie Hash

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Source: Original

Notes: This was inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant. I served an over easy egg on top of roasted potatoes, fresh peas, and asparagus.

Rating: LOVED

85. Rosemary Potatoes

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Source: Pocket Change Gourmet 

Notes: Easy Peasy!

Rating: Liked

86. Strawberry Rhubarb Salad

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Source: Bon Appetit 

Notes: Strawberry and Rhubarb are one of my favorite spring combos and this salad was a great way to spice up a brown bag lunch.

Rating: LOVED

87. Bavarian Deviled Eggs

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Source: Original

Notes: I mixed dijon mustard and vegan mayo with the egg yokes and topped them off with Caraway Saurkraught from Hawthorn Valley Farm.

Rating: Liked

88. Coconut Cardamom Seitan and Veggies

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Source: Orignal

Notes: I cooked seitan on the stove top in Calcutta Kitchen’s Bengali Coconut Cardamom Simmer Sauce.Once the seitan started to cook I added spinach and snow peas to the saute pan and served them over cauliflower rice.

Rating: Liked

89. Strawberry Rhubarb Pocket Pie

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Source: Original

Notes: I took strawberries and the leftover rhubarb in sugar and lemon from the salad above and wrapped them in puff pastry. You can make four, four-inch pies from one sheet. Next time I’d paint the puff pastry in egg so it would get more golden when it bakes. Make sure to cut vents in the puff pastry so the pies don’t explode.

Rating: Liked

90. Puy Lentil Galettes

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Source Plenty

Notes: I used labneh instead of greek yogurt for the sauce.

Rating: LOVED

7 Podcasts Worth Checking Out

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I was really excited and flattered because I was asked by my friend Patrick O’Keefe to be a guest on his podcast Community Signal this week. Community Signal is one of my favorite podcasts because it’s one of the only one’s that goes in depth into my field of Community Management every week.

Podcasts have exploded and there are so many out there now. I get overwhelmed when I search for new Podcasts to listen to. In addition to Community Signal, I wanted to suggest six other Podcast that I think are worth checking out.

  1. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: I can’t wait for season three to come out! I loved Ms. Gilbert’s book Big Magic and this podcast is an extension on her lessons in creativity and empowering others to conquer fear and live their passions.
  2. Her Money with Jean Chatzky: This podcast makes a topic that I usually find boring or stressful, personal finance engaging and approachable. It’s geared towards everyone regardless of where you are in your career if you have debt, and what your financial goals are.
  3. Call Your Girlfriend: The tagline is “A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.” As someone who’s closest girlfriends live in a different state that is something I can relate to. It’s two besties who call each other each week to catch up on what’s happening in politics, pop culture, and everything in between. Hosts, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are so engaging that you forget they’re not in the same room and that you aren’t there with them.
  4. NHS Choices This is a British Health site which may seem weird for me to suggest but of all of the running podcasts, I’ve tried this one is my favorite. If you’re thinking about trying Couch25K or any other running program, this is the one I’d recommend.
  5. Dear Sugar : Cohosted by authors Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond I think this is the best podcast on relationships. I like it because they don’t limit their conversations around romantic relationships. Their subscribers write in with their struggles with parents, friends, and siblings in addition to romantic partners.
  6. RadioLab: When I get ready in the morning I’m typically either watching TED talks on Roku or listening to Radio Lab. I’ve been listening for years and it’s one of my favorite sources on science and obscure stories that I become riveted with.

What is your favorite podcast?

Mindful Monday: The Art of No

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There are many books out there on why you should start saying yes to anything. That may be good advice for people who never take risks or who don’t deviate from their routines. However, if like me you are a Type-A person who loves to juggle multiple things at once you really do need to learn how to say no sometimes. Think about it even the most skilled juggler will eventually be thrown one ball too many and then BOOM…they all come crashing down on her head.

Now I like having lots of things going at once it’s what keeps me energized because I easily board. I tend to over do it sometimes though and that’s when I need to pull back and ask myself “Do I really want to take this on?” If the answer is yes then the next question is what am I willing to give up for it.

I don’t like to make gender generalizations because I certainly have male, female, transgender, and non-binary friends and family members who don’t fit into pigeon holes that society has fed us over the years. I will say that as a woman I have noticed that myself and many other of my female friends have this challenge. I can only speak for myself but, some of the reasons I have a hard time saying no are:

  1. I’m a people pleaser. I never want to disappoint anyone and I’m afraid if I say know especially to someone who I think of highly that they will think less of me.
  2. I’m curious by nature and love expanding my horizons. If someone offers me the opportunity to do something new or expand my breadth of knowledge, I’m going to jump at that chance.
  3. Sometimes I keep busy when I know something is bothering me as a way to avoid having to face it.

If you are a “yes person” like me one or more of these reasons might resonate with you. Maybe you have other reasons. Understanding why you always say yes is important but the challenge is figuring out what do you really want to say no to and what do you really want to say yes to.

I’m fortunate at work because I have a healthy work-life balance. I work hard and love what I do and I feel comfortable speaking up if I think there’s too much on my plate. I have certainly had other jobs where that wasn’t the case. I had one job where I once worked 15hour+ days for two weeks straight and felt guilty when I asked for a day off. I realize now that wasn’t a healthy environment and that was me at the height of my people pleasing.

For me right I’m trying to be better about not saying yes to every social invite I get. I love spending time with people and my friendships are important to me but, I would find I was skipping things that were important to me like going to a yoga class, finding time to clean my apartment, or having a chance to write an entry for this blog.

These days I try to schedule some me time for all of those other things that are important and make sure I leave at least one weeknight free and one weekend day for me to do my thing. I can’t always accommodate this but I do the best I can. I find it makes me better at the other aspects of my life because I can be there 100% if my basic needs are taken care of.

Are you a yes or a no person? What would you like to change?

Spinster Life: Looking for a Heroine

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I dual majored in English and Communication in undergrad so it isn’t a shocker that I love to read. I tend to mix it up between fiction and non-fiction and I know this is admitting what I nerd I am but the life-long learner in me still enjoys picking up something on literary criticism every now and then. On of my favorite books on that topic in recent years was How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. I couldn’t put it down. She recounts all of the literary heroines she loved over the years and revisits whether she should be holding them up on the pedestal that she used to. Many of the characters she covers are also some of my favorites and I too needed to pause and think about how I was reading them.

Ms. Ellis’ epiphany came when arguing over who is the better heroine, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. While I enjoy both Emily and Charlotte Bronte’s novels I, like Ms. Ellis, always preferred wild Cathy to practical Jane. During her argument with her friend though I have to admit an excellent point was made. Her friend pointed out that Cathy ends up unhappy and a ghost lost on the Moors while Jane becomes independently wealthy, free to make her own choice, and with her happy ending. It’s hard to ignore facts like that.

While I see merit to that argument I also agree with Ms. Ellis who feels that Jane isn’t the perfect heroine because she doesn’t really have flaws or make mistakes. That’s boring and while I don’t want to end up like Cathy, Jane still isn’t the heroine for me.

Two of my favorite characters ever are also explored by Ms. Ellis, Anne Shirley, and Jo March. I reread one of the Anne novels each year and I have to admit that I get more excited when I read the earlier four books as opposed to the later four. I used to think it was because there was more tension in the earlier novels and while I still think that is true  Ms. Ellis reminds the reader that once Anne gets married she gives up writing and all of her later stories are focused on her children. Jo March meets a semi-similar fate. She doesn’t give up writing completely, but she does end up living back in her hometown and married to a man who is boring compared to her prior beau. I wanted them to both have amazing adventures and become world famous authors.

She breaks down other characters I love including Elizabeth Bennett, Franny Glass and even the women in Valley of the Dolls. Okay, I admit I never saw Neely, Anne or Jennifer as a character I wanted to be, but I do reread Valley of the Dolls every couple of years. I love and agree with most of Ms. Ellis’ critiques. She doesn’t abandon these characters. They still have heroic qualities we should look up to, but we should also be aware of their shortcomings and flaws.

This has made me want to read some more novels with strong female characters to find some new heroines to add to my posse. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments. 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Best Pizza in NYC

 

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Sal & Carmine’s 

 

There are some foods that New York is known for: bagels, hot dogs, and of course pizza. My college years in the Midwest most adventures in pizza were ordering the campus specials from chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s…not that there’s anything wrong with that. But New York opened me up to a world full of pizza that I never knew existed.  Most tourists are familiar with famous haunts like Grimaldi’s and John’s, but here are some other worthy slices to try.  

Best Traditional Slice-Sal and Carmine’s: It’s hard to walk a block in NYC without finding a place to grab a basic slice. Most, to be honest, are mediocre, but Sal and Carmine’s  is the perfect place to walk in for a standard slice or pie and leave completely satisfied. I think the secret to this little hole in the wall is their focus on simplicity.  They don’t crowd their menu with other dishes and sides. They only serve pizza and it is dished up with fresh ingredients and baked to perfection.  

Best Sicilian Slice-Spumoni Gardens: Traveling out to Graveshead, Brooklyn might not be on everyone’s to-do list, but it is worth making a special lunch trek to Spumoni Gardens.  This is the perfect summer jaunt thanks to their ample outdoor seating.  They have a comprehensive Italian menu and you can certainly gorge on pasta and entrees, but the standout dish is the Sicilian slice. Seeing as they’ve been serving up slices since 1939 and have had a loyal following all these decades, they must be doing something right.  

Best Gourmet Toppings-Artichoke: This local chain has locations throughout the Village and Chelsea and even LaGuardia Airport. What sets Artichoke apart from other pizzerias is their premium toppings. Their house specialty is their namesake pizza with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, and two cheeses.  I’m also a fan of the Crab Pizza with crab sauce, cheese, and surimi stuffing.

Best Pizza at an Upscale Restaurant-Cafe Fiorello: This Upper West Side restaurant is one of my favorite’s in the city. Fiorello’s has an incredible antipasto bar, deadly desserts, the best bartenders in the city, and amazing pizza. Their pies are served ultra thin and crispy. They are perfect for sharing over a bottle of red wine or cocktails. The menu changes every so often but there is always a great selection of both meat and vegetarian pies. You can’t go wrong with the classic Margherita pizza. 

Best Pizza that is Worth the Long Wait-Di Fara’s: I mentioned Grimaldi’s and John’s which both serve up amazing pies and are notorious for their wait times. In my opinion the true worth the wait pizza is at Di Fara‘s in Midwood, Brooklyn. They’ve been a neighborhood fixture for over 50 years and while five dollars for a single slice may seem steep in a city famous for one buck slices, trust me it is worth every penny. They don’t take reservations so brace yourself for a potential wait. In my personal experience I’ve waited up to 45 minutes for a single slice. I do have friends that have endured a two hour queue, but swore it was worth it.  I’ll let you be the judge.