Sleepy Time

Happy New Year, Readers!

My consistent wishes/ joke has been that I hope 2018 is more amazing than 2017 … which should not be hard given the bar is so low.

So how did you celebrate?

Both myself and my really good friend, Beverly, realized that both of our beaus were doing their own thing. Hers was hunting and Maciej is visiting his family in Europe. Upon this realization, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a “girls night in” as well as officially engage in wedding things as she is my co-maid of honour.

When her train arrived, we went shopping and I started looking at wedding bands (and finally found one that I really like that has a fun significance!), she tried on bridesmaid dresses (and we finally settled on one) and I tried on my wedding dress again because … what can I say … I am so excited!!! It was such a fun day and definitely one of my most memorable New Years celebrations.

After we went to the cinema and saw Pitch Perfect 3. I really enjoyed it despite it being a hokey chick-flick. The plotline is in no way deep but when you are out with your girlfriend(s) and are around my age – as I found the context was very much targetted to us who are veering close to the 30 mark but not quite yet – it was a funny movie.

After the movie, we came back, I iced a homemade chocolate cake – which I cheated with a gluten-free box because I am recently over being ill LOL but I did bake it in my oven!! – and I made homemade vegan baked nacho dip for dinner. Confession: For a box mix, this cake is legitimate. Often with gluten-free, there is a weird aftertaste due to the use of potato starch or rice flour in the mix. With this mix, you cannot tell the difference between the gluten-free and a real cake … at least that is what Beverly said because I have not eaten gluten in almost three years.

We drank wine and I evilly introduced her to Drop Dead Diva on Netflix. Like an old person, I took a nap a few minutes before the countdown and when the clock struck midnight, we took pictures, blew noisemakers and then we … are you ready for it *Taylor Style* … went to bed!

With the advent of a new year, many people discuss their resolutions and goals. Some are opposed to this and others use this calculation of time as an opportunity to make lifestyle changes. I personally have eight areas I am working on in 2018. One of the lifestyle changes I am trying to make is ensuring I get enough sleep! I think this is an “I am almost 30 and all-nighters are not cool anymore because I turn into a raving bitch erm … crazy lady” situation. The reality is, I am very productive in the mornings and I genuinely enjoy sitting in my favourite chair before people have started texting and e-mailing as I watch the sunrise and sip on my coffee. It is a truly hygge ritual that I value.

In the past, I have overworked late into the night and I would often sleep through alarms, become short-tempered and extremely anxious with physical symptoms. During my undergraduate degree (oh the dawn of your early 20s), it was not uncommon for me to be at school at 6:00 AM reading and drinking a coffee in the library, doing courses/ lectures until 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM, getting back on the bus home and writing papers until 11:00 PM, sleep until 4:30 AM, continue working then go in for my part-time government job for 9:00 AM and occasionally attend an evening course from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM that night! Insane … I know! I really have no idea how I pulled this off except maybe my age made the onset of the physical repercussions sneak up on me a bit slower. During this break, I have started turning off my alarm and resting up. At this point, I feel caught up on sleep and am slowly going to be pushing back to earlier bedtimes so that ultimately I am able to wake up well-rested by 5:30 AM.

One thing I am incredibly guilty of is sleeping with Netflix streaming on my iPad. I have read a lot about the negative effects of blue light on your circadian rhythm and I know this bad habit needs to be broken. Some of the effects include: a) suppression of melatonin production; b) not feeling rested after sleep due to a lack of REM cycles; and, c)  poor overall quality of sleep. The full recommendation actually indicates that devices should be shut off 30 minutes prior to sleep. I would love to get into this habit! 21st century me is already toying with what I could be doing if all devices are off for 30 minutes. Some ideas include reading a paper book and meditation/ yoga. But I recognize this is going to be a slow transition if it is going to work.

Truth Bomb: In my final year of high school, I was extremely anxious as I (thinking worst case scenario) did not want to return to high school for a “victory lap”. Complete nonsense, I know. As a result, I suffered from chronic night terrors for months! And these were vivid and terrifying. One of the times I was so scared I jumped into bed with my sister. This is when the habit started because I found that sleeping with the TV on stopped my night terrors. I did this for years – far longer than necessary; however, I was scared that my night terrors would return if I did not sleep with the TV on. Has anyone ever experienced this? Now I am at a point where I cannot sleep without the background noise.

So what do you think? Have any of you ever tried eliminating technology and ensuring you are getting a routine 8-hour rest? What were your strategies? How about night terrors? Have any of you experienced this?

Let me know and may 2018 be amazing to all of you!

Steph xoxo

What the flu can teach you and new year’s resolutions

Well, I have been taken out for the last week by the flu. Note the sickness and the “crazy eyes” as Maciej puts it below LOL.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a 7-year-old from the army of children engaged in biological warfare on me when she coughed on me. I have been living on a variety of smoothies because they are an easy and quick way for my body to get the nutrients it needs to fight this flu bug. A couple favourites include: a) All Natural Cough Remedy Smoothie; b) Classic Strawberry and Banana Smoothie; and c) Classic Green Monster Smoothie.

This holiday has been a tough one. On the one hand, I am trying to celebrate and on the other, I just need to sleep!

We often get caught in this dichotomy, particularly during the holiday season. When is it okay to say “no” and really put yourself first? I am guilty of this which I blame as to why this illness has been so prolonged. A few years ago, towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I remember listening to a Byron Katie podcast or YouTube video and she said something along the lines of letting the body be sick so it can fight it rather than trying to fight the sick and making your body too tired to fight it. At that point I had an essay due but I was not feeling well. Instead of pushing through that essay that night, I went to sleep and let my body feel sick. I did not fight it. I woke up strong and wrote the essay in a matter of hours that morning. I cannot say I was as wise this time around.

This being said, part of my New Year’s resolution will be looking after myself. I have started doing it now and the effects have been astounding (including, weight loss, and the reduction of physical anxiety symptoms – I sound like an infomercial!). Some of the actions I have taken include time for daily exercise (shout out to my good friend P who has been doing Jillian Michaels with me – until I got sick as well as my dad for bringing me the treadmill), time for things I enjoy (like writing on the blog and reading books that I enjoy with a cup of herbal tea on my special chair) and telling people “no”. I have learned within the mess of wedding planning, you have to say “no” to so many things *sigh*. But when you do it establishes better boundaries and in reality, it is your life you are living. If we have one shot at this, then say “no” to anything that conflicts with your values without any regrets. Trust me, it feels great!

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Do you not believe in them? Comment below!

Cheers to welcoming 2018 with open hearts and minds. I have a feeling this one is going to be a memorable one!

Steph

 

 

WHY Don’t They Cover Their Mouth Mending Soup

I usually have a very strong immune system. My career all started in the preschool room where the unthinkable manifestation of bacteria is bred. But today, I was defeated.

I started the day with a bit of a cold but nothing too bad. I painted, I was outdoors,  I was a little fatigued but nothing I could not handle. Runny nose!? HEY, that’s just my body protecting me … right? Wrong. Because as that one child coughed yet again with saliva spray in all directions, I was taken out.

By the end of the day, I could not bend over and pick anything off the floor without feeling dizzy. Sinus pain, constant runny noise, and my head felt so congested I could barely tell left from right. To make it worse, I had a priority task that I needed to complete which due to the constraints of my life and an incompetent bureaucracy, required me getting from the suburbs to down town Toronto using our toll highway. The result of this being that I had to travel from Yonge Street to my apartment at 4:30PM across the 401 (remember in my last post when I commented that I’m a bit of a traffic masochist? YEA … well, then this was paradise) #sarcasm.

I walked into the apartment exhausted. I could not even look at my treadmill. I needed food but not just any food. I needed a homemade soup that pureed all the nutrients my body needs to fight this menacing illness and while also being quick to prepare.

There is a bunch of research that explores why bodies crave certain things. I personally have experienced it, for example, when I am stressed to the max … pizza. The carbs. The sauce. The oil. All a quick dopamine hit – usually followed by a crash, but nonetheless. For this soup, I decided I was going to be very mindful and think about what my body wanted. I smelled things, I looked at things, I had a full sensory experience (limited to about 5 minutes because I needed to lay down) and then, I put it in a pot.

To my surprise, this soup is filling, delicious, and I actually feel just a smidgen better – I still need rest but it definitely helped – even if it just warmed me up to the perfect temperature.

I envy Maciej’s delicious gluten-full bread 🙁

Print Recipe
WHY Don't They Cover Their Mouth Mending Soup
This soup is quick and easy during those times you are ready to crash (mommy's take note!). It is surprisingly filling and with just enough flavour to enjoy without being overwhelming. With ingredients like onions (mood-boosting), turmeric (anti-inflammatory & antioxidant), garlic (antimicrobial), and tomatoes (vitamin C), this soup can help nourish you back to health on some of the worst germ exposures.
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
bowls
Ingredients
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
bowls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Using a soup pot, heat the stove on medium/ high and add oil of choice.
  2. Chop up 3 large onions. You can be sloppy here. I was tired and watery eyes were not my choice.
  3. Place the onions in the pot with whole cloves of garlic and sauté until the onions are starting to brown.
  4. Add the turmeric, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the onions and garlic and stir the pot so the onions and garlic are coated in the spices. The soup should be fragrant. Don't panic if there is some browning of the spice because that is nothing but delicious flavour. Continue to sauté for a minute or two.
  5. Shake and pour a can of full fat coconut milk into the pot. It will turn a beautiful yellow colour. Mix the coconut milk around picking up all that delicious spice that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add in 1 tin of diced tomatoes and let soup simmer at medium/ low for about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Turn off the stove and let soup cool down before transferring it to a blender with lemon juice and blending for 3 minutes. Alternatively, if you have an immersion blender, that would be way better.
  8. Pour pureed soup into a bowl and remember that this illness too, shall pass.
Recipe Notes

Feel free to sprinkle some extra paprika on there. I definitely think it would look pretty. Unless of course you're too sick to function.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Well, here we are! We are in the last days of 2017 and I am sitting in my living room reflecting while listening to Christmas music with a bunch of candles lit.

So I am just going to come out and say it. For the most part, 2017 was a challenging year for me. I have choice words! Now, some people who know me are going to think to themselves “but Steph … this year was a life changer!” and my response to that is: YES! Finally, I caught a break … ON DECEMBER 3RD!! There were 11 heinous months prior to that! So let’s begin story time, shall we?

Remember when I went rogue in August? I was initially hesitant to share about this but I am ready now. At this time, I spent three weeks in Europe and learned three very important lessons.

Lesson #1: Self-Care

To begin, I needed to figure out how to take time to look after myself. This manifested itself to me as I sat in my future mother-in-law’s living room the first afternoon after flying to Dublin … catch that? … not yet? okay, don’t worry, it’s coming. Anyway, I was in her home and she was at work. Maciej’s mom lives very humbly in the countryside. Her internet access is extremely limited and being abroad, I do not have cellular access. The walk to the nearest town is 2 hours by foot. I did have some tasks to do – which I worked slowly on – but I was horribly jetlagged. Instead of engaging in virtual overstimulation, I opened the door where I could see the lush Irish fields, and I read a book. Despite not having the internet to contact people, it was the first time in months I did not experience the physical symptoms of anxiety. I was so calm. The air was fresh and my MIL – did I do that again? – has exquisite taste in coffee … and in hard liquor but that, my friends is a selective tale I will not share on here because what happens during girls night, stays with girls night! I digress. Sitting there reading while not even anticipating a phone call, text, e-mail, push notification … whatever … was the best peace I had experienced in months. It was time to take it easy.

Lesson #2: Work Better, Not Harder

The second lesson was that I needed a professional kick in the ass. I am guilty of overworking and feeling like I am getting nowhere in the process. After spending some time this weekend reviewing my portfolio in preparation for upcoming applications, I realized that for someone who has a few years before reaching the grand “30” mark, I am accomplishing more than average. Furthermore, I learned I really need to not rush through these processes! While having an end-goal in mind is important, I need to stop being so bloody anxious about the process and find a way to enjoy it because when I finally accomplish that end goal, then what? Retirement? That means I have spent the bulk of my working life in a panic when really, I do enjoy the work I do. The World Happiness Report (2016) expresses that,

Most Americans sampled daily in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey feel happier on weekends, to an extent that depends on the social context on and off the job. The weekend effect disappears for those employed in a high trust workplace, who regard their superior more as a partner than a boss and maintain their social life during weekdays.

(Helliwell, Layard & Saches, 2016 p. 30)

While working hard is great … commendable even … balance is paramount.

I am currently tying up some loose ends; however, come the new year, I intend to make it a focus to be more deliberate and organized with my time and tackle my endeavors in smaller chunks rather than adrenal binges followed by exhausting crashes post-completion. This will allow for more time to do things that I enjoy including this creative writing project and spending time with good people.

Some recommendations:

  1. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way of Living Well by Miek Wiking
  2. Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr. Libby Weaver
  3. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (Available on Netflix)
  4. The Minimalists Podcast

These are a few of my favorites, I’m sure more will come to mind.

Lesson #3: Don’t Forget Your Love for Others

The last lesson that really took me and shook me was while I was lost in selfish “Me-Land” – which I needed for a while; however, overstayed my tenancy – is that while Maciej can be stubborn (so am I), I needed to transition from being my own frantic mess and his girlfriend to loving him as my evil sidekick … too personal? Yea, I’m uncomfortable but I have lingered with the “appropriate language” long enough. It’s not that we ever stopped loving each other, it’s just that when chaos reigns, it pours! I have to remind myself a lot that when he is trying to take me away from my work, it is usually because he wants to just be with me and that is not bad.

So, while 2017 started with me wondering who pissed in it’s Cheerios ( … sorry), it was a closing chapter in the middle of my life’s story.

That can’t be it? Can it?

No, I save the best for last.

On November 18th, 2017 I stood in Costco comparing coffee choices while Maciej was going bat-crazy wanting the latest, greatest iPhone X. His phone was binging as he frantically tried to place holds for pick up crying out in a panic “WHAT TIME CAN WE GET THIS!?” and I was like “WHAT COFFEE ARE WE CHOOSING!?”. This ended up with me in a large shopping plaza on a Saturday. Like the masochist I am, I simply love driving in shopping center parking lots on a Saturday afternoon. It’s my favorite. I kicked this man out of my car and told him to get out and head to Apple while I park as far away from civilization as possible. When I successfully found my spot, I walked in. He get’s his phone and I decide at that moment, he is not winning after that show! No, no, no. On our walk back to the car, I saw Michael Hill. I grabbed this man by the arm out of nowhere and proudly stated that this man was going to buy me a $10,000 engagement ring.  Tell me how he goes along with it and the poor customer service representative is like shouting “GET THIS WOMAN A BIGGER DIAMOND”. We, of course, were not going to buy, I just wanted to make him uncomfortable. Well let me tell you, Maciej was a little too comfortable. So in the car, I told him that I did not want a ring out of our budget and especially since I work in a job where my hands are exposed to the elements …. you know … finger paint … markers … boogers … the works. He calmly responded that the next week being Black Friday, perhaps we could get something nice in our budget. I worked that week and come Friday, I was getting hasty so I asked him as soon as I walked in the door, “Honey? Can we go shopping?” he said “sure”. We found a small jeweler who had the whole store on 50% off (*Bonus!*) and I sat while he put a couple on my finger and held my hand close to his face until he found the one. It needed to be resized and I have the car so that Wednesday I received my call that it was ready and I was there. Now, in the store for resizing, they have to check to make sure it fits properly. So I let them. I also told them that they should just leave it on there because I wanted to make sure it did not fall off as I drove home. And on my drive home, there was a bridal shop. So obviously I tried on a few dresses. Leave me be!!

When I arrived home, I put it back in the box and left it on his desk. This man played hard to get! But that Sunday, he was pretty insistent on a hike so I took the bait. We stopped for lunch and the outlook was beautiful. He stood up and reached into his pocket. I thought to myself, “This is it!” … and he pulled out a tissue to blow his nose … lovely. We continued hiking and finally, after having to climb uphill, Maciej asked me to marry him. I personally told him …

Yes! Actually, I will be honest I was nodding my head because like, I don’t even know, apparently I lost my words? Which seems unlikely, he had to ask me … “are you going to say yes?” LOL, I did! And I am thrilled. I get that some people hear the story and respond that “Oh so it was not really a surprise??” to which I am totally fine with because they aren’t invited anyway … sooooo. This proposal is who we are – two people who exchanged CVs on our first date. And I am thrilled for 2018 to be a very special year! And I know that 2017 was the year I learned that we are well matched.

So that being said, why does 2017 invoke such choice words from me? Because it was uncomfortable even though it finished off perfectly. What can I say, I’m a wimp! And no offense, but the cosmos totally owed me after that Saturn Retrograde crap! Would I redo this year again? Nope. But I am so happy with the outcome!

To you and your families, I wish you the best Holiday Season and may 2018 bring many great experiences, memories and as the Danish say, Hygge.

Steph xoxo

Caramelly Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Happy Fall!

Hello everyone!

To begin, I am aware that I have literally disappeared for months. I have tried twice to write a piece that curates my time away; however, I was never happy with the outcome. These posts are currently sitting in my organized file incomplete. Instead of discussing an intensely personal journey, I think I will only say this: the last few months have been the closing of a chapter for me in the best kind of way. I am very excited about my new chapter and moving forward as 2017 has been a challenging year for me. If I am feeling inspired, I will write a post documenting some of the lessons and ends I have tied. As of right now, I am still processing everything and am ready to move forward. Furthermore, I have absolutely NO INTENTION to ever leave the blog for that long again! To my lovely readers, I apologize; however, I do not regret my time away.

Autumn 2017 has been a warm one in Ontario! It has been warmer than our summer. While I love autumn and all the knits, colours and cozies, I am always a little sad to see our local farmer’s market up the street have the final celebration for the year. Last Tuesday, my partner and I decided to purchase a bushel of apples for $15. I would be lying if I said that I did not turn to him in disbelief and ask “umm, there are only two of us … can we handle these many apples without going bananas!?” … see what I did there!? LOL OKAY, I WILL STOP! He, of course, said, “Well, you know how to make everything edible. Therefore, I will delegate that task to you”. I guess it is true!? Let me tell you, these apples are sweet, tasty, juicy and just amazing with their odd shapes and little markings. But what the heck am I supposed to do with a million apples!?

The first thing that came to mind for me is delicious, sweet and smooth apple butter! However, I wanted to make this apple butter without much work nor the use of my oven/ stove because I also wanted to make apple chips. I had read in my travels on the interweb that you can make apple butter using the slow cooker. I was game!

This apple butter is not super sweet. It highlights the flavour of the apples rather than sugar. The long cooking time means that the apple flavour intensifies and creates a beautiful caramel texture that is significantly different from applesauce/ puree.

I feel that if put into cute little mason jars with tags, this recipe would make a lovely (and inexpensive) table favour for your Thanksgiving celebration with an appearance of hard work and time. Not to worry, I will not let them know you dumped a bunch of deliciousness into a crockpot and called it a weekend!

Wishing my Canadian readers a very happy and bountiful Thanksgiving weekend!

Print Recipe
Caramelly Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Delicious as an autumn fruit dip or spread on toast as well as a natural sweetener in baked goods! I have also used it in a balsamic vinaigrette recipe that called for apple puree!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 24 hours
Servings
Cups
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 24 hours
Servings
Cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. I do not peel the apples; however, if you want a lighter apple butter, peel them.
  2. Core and chop the apples into small bite-sized pieces. Generally, I cut the apple in half then cut each half into 12 pieces (4 x 3).
  3. Place apple pieces into the slow cooker with the sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on “high” for 10-12 hours. I like to do this before bed because you do not need to do anything during this 10-12 hours.
  5. After 10-12 hours, the apples should have broken down and appear to be a lovely brown colour (it may look a bit lighter if you peeled your apples). Give the apples a stir using a wooden spoon then switch your slow cooker to low.
  6. Leave the apples to cook with the lid on low for about 3 hours.
  7. After 3 hours, transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a blender using a rubber spatula and blend. Due to the hot temperature of the apples, I open the pouring spout of my blender. Be careful as sometimes blending hot content can cause cracks in your blender! I had a glass blender break while blending hot soup when I was younger!
  8. Place the pureed apple back into the slow cooker and cook on low with the lid off for about 7-9 hours. Most of the liquid should be removed, and you should be left with a tasty and sweet apple butter that is smooth and different from applesauce.
  9. Let apple butter cool than store it in a glass container in the fridge. I am sure you can freeze the apple butter as well if you wanted to or if you have a canning kit, store it in a mason jar.
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Learning to Run & Menu Plan – July 31st to August 6th 2017

Well here we are again! Another week has passed and I must note, the word of my week has been: stamina. 

I have two things on the go: (a) my thesis is going through its finalization process (I’m so f***ing tired. I apologize but seriously, this warrants swearing); and (b) I have begun the process of learning to run.

I have come to realize that writing a thesis is literally like building a baby. It takes months out of your life. You cannot properly be a friend, a family member or a girlfriend because you are so tired building this thing as you devote every. waking. hour. to it. (Trust me, if you want to know who your real friends are, go to graduate school). You laugh and get excited during the milestone triumphs (you know, the “EUREKA!” moments). You cry when you cannot take the process of building the parts to your argument anymore. Heaven forbid you think you have a final product only to be let down because it is not ready yet as it is returned to you with cold-hard edits by your lovely partner.  I am mentally exhausted and realistically, I am fed up. I want it submitted so I no longer need to be that awful friend who ditches every occasion or the crappy aunt whose spider-nephew hangs-up FaceTime on you because he’s pissed off you won’t come over and play (even though you really want to). I am nearing completion at this point and more importantly I am on my role. I realized yesterday that there are only a couple weeks left until I am leaving for my trip to Dublin to attend a conference and that hit me hard. I really need to finish this all up and get some additional work done as well as prepare for my presentation abroad. There is no rest for the weary, I’m afraid.

On another note, I promised myself I would learn to run and this week, I started! My stats obviously were not great. Maciej poked fun at my average of 7:04 min/km (he is half of that!!); however, I saw a quote about running that stuck with me given the challenges I have been facing:

It does not get easier, you just get stronger.

Realistically, this is true for many facets of life in addition to it encouraging me to keep up the physical fitness (something I have not been great about during university if you have read my about page).

With my thesis, at first it completely sucked; however, now that I know what I am doing, I have my role. I got stronger.

With aspects of love in my life, the first time I fell in love, it completely sucked – a whirlwind of poor decision making, really; however, now that I know how to remain true to myself with another person, I am happily in love. I got stronger.

When I started a new job and was thrusted with responsibility that no post-secondary institution can prepare you for, I panicked. I wanted to leave. However, now that I pushed myself to learn from others was humbled to reach out to those who have more experience than I do, I made a very good name for myself and carry a strong reputation. I got stronger.

When I had to bravely stand up for someone who could not stand up for themselves earlier this year and face the wrath that triggered my anxiety beyond anything I had ever experienced to the point I did not want to work again, I pushed through it and I am still ready to stand up for those who need a voice. I got stronger.

Something I have come to learn is that real success is not sheer luck. It is being malleable to your surroundings and willing to be uncomfortable while you push forward for the best version of yourself. And with that, I have this weeks meal plan to keep me fueled as I run as well as keep my mind healthy and nourished as I keep climbing these mountains.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Admittedly, breakfast this week is (albeit delicious) but very monotone. My reason for this is, I find that the iron and protein in the green monster smoothies are keeping me energized and focused while I write. I mean, like, I am totally strong and not snacking out of boredom when I have one in the morning. They are seriously magic. Additionally, I need a quick breakfast because my brain works best in the morning at extensive mental work and I am better at physical work in the evening. As a result, I aim to quickly eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast but get straight to work so I can get the most out of my day. Hence, cereal and smoothies it is!

Additionally, my dinners are very summery. Usually by August, I have no patience for full-on meals and tend to opt for BBQ type meals, fruits and salad. I have not tried the Smoky Vegan Carrot Dogs; however, I have heard about people in the vegan community making these carrot dog things and I figured after smelling the barbeque smell in my neighbourhood that it would be a fun recipe to try. I will definitely let you know how it goes!

While it is not listed in my meal plan, I have been keeping up with my water intake and the results are amazing. I have no idea how I let myself get so dehydrated because the more water I drink, the better I feel. I find I am not snacking as often, my thought processes are clearer, I feel stronger and way healthier both physically and mentally. Honestly, I really suggest everyone to try and increase their water intake because it is difficult to put in words, you just feel amazing when you do. It makes a huge difference. I will be starting up a new challenge this week, so stay tuned for that!

If you missed it last week, the blue items shown in the meal plan are linked to other blog posts (as well as a few non-blue items) which I will list below:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

**Lightened-Up Crispy Baked Fries from: The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon p. 203

Snacks:

And there you have it! Very simple, mostly quick and light meals to accommodate my hectic work schedule as well as the warm weather.

Wishing everyone a productive week in hopes that you too, will become stronger no matter what challenges you face!

The Milestone Race

What is life!? LOL

How is the work week going, readers? We are just over the “hump” so to speak. I have been productive at both working to complete my master’s thesis and doing some data management for one of my (many) jobs.

A topic that has resonated with me lately is the idea of, what I am coining, the milestone race. Humans are competitive by nature and in a variety of different ways. Many women (of course not all women) in their 20s are in the “family” race. You guys totally know what I am talking about: get some post-secondary education, find a partner, get married, buy your forever home, have 1.8 kids … the works. In fact, some people go to the extent completing the race within 10 years! All the by the age of 30! Now, let us consider this for a minute.

To be clear, the above chart is meant to be humorous, not offensive. What I am doing is poking fun at the prescribed decade that is your 20s … (I heard your 30s are better? If not, keep it to yourself, I need some hope LOL) and with that being said, I question this notion. I question rushing through so many of life’s joys in the quick span of your first decade as an adult! We are socialized as young girls to believe that this is happily ever after. We have seen it in the millions of minutes spent watching our Disney princesses find their prince, our rom-com protagonists finding love in the most apropos way and do not get me started on 50 Shades of Grey!

While there is nothing wrong with hitting these milestones, and flourishing happily – I congratulate you if this is what you needed – consider the flower children who make different choices. What about those of us who do not follow this pattern. The problem I have come to notice is that while there is nothing wrong with “settling down”, this prescription is not a prescription for happiness and it does not define your worth as a person.

Furthermore, while you are busy running the marathon of your third decade to hit the finish line quickly, you miss all the fun and joy that comes from the blunders, processes and lessons you are forced to learn as you navigate your transition into adulthood. Take for example the ample arguments on paint colour and design I watched my parents so passionately argue about growing up. I swear, being on the brink of bloody divorce over the colour of wooden spoon (I am exaggerating, my parents love each other going on over 30 years now LOL) – has brought many hilarious memories when we look around their house and the warmth that colour brought into their home. In addition, those whose families were built out of order and in different circumstances has brought forth my most favourite little spider-nephew as I watch my sister so confidently flourish in her career and raise her son with no remorse nor care to rush into a marriage because “that is what you do”. She is confident and is in the process of raising a beautifully smart, confident and silly little guy.

And with that, I come back to me – the overworked and exhausted overachiever who looks forward to one day marrying my partner, but keeps up the hustle! I have not achieved “marriage” (1000 XP right?? LOL) and there is some time until I will. I am nowhere near being able to afford a house. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto and love every quirk that comes with it. The fact I decorated my home, my kitchen sucks, and my bedroom is my sanctuary of calmness – but I do not own it – I still love these moments. Looking on social media, one can see that I have a handsome partner who is going to have a fabulously successful career one day. In addition, I have worked so hard and my career thus far has been pretty successful, I am independent. This, however, is deceiving because while I have had some amazing successes, people are not seeing the not-so-glamourous stress I put on myself to cultivate my passion. Have any of you spent 16 hours consecutively editing and eating your quick leftovers at your desk all on 3-4 hours of sleep? If you have, I send you all my empathy – you are amazing!

Furthermore, when analyzing my life using the above “milestone race” (which I get often in an attempt to diminish my successes), of course I do not come up to par! We all make the story of our lives. It is not up to other people to assess our stories in accordance to one prescription. As so famously stated by Aerosmith: Life’s a journey, not a destination. And with that, I leave you my readers with a vote of confidence and wisdom. Consider your life and every single thing that has not worked out the way you think it should. What has happened instead? What have you learnt from it? Are you happy? If you are not, what can you do to try? Is it by removing yourself from the milestone race? Wishing you joy as you make your history.

Feel free to comment below or connect on social media. Every one of you is going to have the story of a lifetime, I promise.

Cheers and enjoy the rest of your week!

Menu Plan – July 24th to July 30th 2017

It’s Sunday night, friends!

Weekends are a funny thing to me. On the one hand, I want to sit back and relax, however on the other hand, if I do this, I end up paying for it during the week. Especially Sundays! I did not realize this routine of preparing for the week ahead until I hit my mid-twenties. It feels like overnight that I went from being able to live out of a single outfit and a toothbrush in my backpack at a friend’s house to being completely irritated – protective even – of my Sundays. I think most notably my Sunday routine shift got to me earlier this year when I had to attend a shower on a Sunday and did not prepare in advance. While I was happy to celebrate with friends, I was completely irritated that evening trying to prepare my grocery lists, menus, work distribution and lunches for the week – and failed to do so! I spent the week feeling completed off my roll.

Gone are the days …

Who am I kidding? The young days were fun and I enjoyed the ability to run around without a plan in mind but I am also enjoying this, albeit hectic, but naturally “settling down” transition. And on that note, I present you, my readers, with my very first installment of the Sunday Night Weekly Menu Plan for this week.

To preface, I use a tool called Pepperplate. It is fantastic because you can save all your favourite recipes, generate meal plans and grocery lists on your computer. With the app, it syncs to your phone and iPad. This means you can pull up your grocery list while you are at the grocery store, pull up a recipe from your meal plan in the kitchen on your iPad and many more. Even if you identify as an old-fashioned pen ‘n paper kind of person, there is an easy print option. I am not sponsored by Pepperplate in any way, I just really love the simplicity and design layout. I have been using it consistently for almost 2 years at this point and it has made my life so much easier! It is my hope that by sharing this tool with you, I can help streamline and curate your love for food, recipes and SUNDAY NIGHT SANITY… sorry – got excited. LOL.

Alas, the meal plan de jour:

Click image to enlarge.

A few things you are going to notice right away: 1) I like consistency; 2) leftovers are my homie – I know some people veer away from eating leftovers and such but realistically, I am insanely busy working as a grad student and professional so when I cook, I batch cook. Additionally, I do not believe in throwing food out. Sure, it happens sometimes but I have been to impoverished areas such as Kibera, Kenya (see photo at the end of this post) and my partner has spent years doing work in various countries in East Africa including a recent publication on food assistance. At the end of the day: not being cognizant about where food in my home is going conflicts with my values which is likely why I am so strategic in using tools like Pepperplate. It lowers food cost and waste – something we can all agree on.

Listed above in my menu plan, you will notice some items are blue and some are black. The blue ones are recipes with links to blogs which I will include below:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snacks

In developing my menus, I consider what I have in my fridge and freezer first and accommodate my meals to those ingredients. For example, the creamy polenta with mushrooms, chickpeas and olives recipe – I have had cornmeal in my pantry for some time and it is driving me crazy because outside of cornbread, I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH IT!! Although, I have a few ideas for recipe development come the colder weather.

Also note that I have included my water intake in my meal plan as a hope to push me to increase this (if you haven’t seen my 14 day hydration challenge, click here). This weekend with hosting has not been great (why can’t sangria count as water!?); however, Monday starts a fresh week and I am hoping I can get back at it in an effort to report to you guys how it has gone – the successes and the challenges.

Anyway, on the note of protecting my Sundays, I am going to quickly put together my work schedule for tomorrow and get some shut eye! Wishing everyone a productive and delicious week!

Celebrations and Food

Celebrations are in order!

Yesterday we had a few people over for Maciej’s birthday. It was lovely. We had four guests over and a lovely spread. To see what I served, click here. I must say, I think this was the first time as the main hostess for our get together where I was irked because I prepped a lovely sangria and had to wait to drink it! I lasted a good 45 minutes before I said FORGET IT! LOL

Forgive my ugly apartment kitchen. It is not fancy but it helps me make beautiful meals and despite its looks, we still entertain the best company! However, one day I do dream of when I get to have a beautiful warm kitchen where I do not need to stop and wait for someone to get out of the fridge before I can move on!!

While all the dishes were delicious, can we please stop and marvel at this double dark chocolate macaroon tart – seriously, it is a work of art.

I WOULD be lying if I did not admit to having a slice this morning for breakfast with my coffee, okay? It was divine. Chocolatey, decadent and not for the faint of heart as well as surprisingly easy to put together; however, you do need to make sure you prepare it in advance as it is a no bake recipe that requires freezing.

Despite all this decadence, something that has been a major accomplishment is I do not feel guilty about this celebration with food. While I recognize that in the minimalist philosophy, food is strictly for nourishment, food is also a very social ritual. Celebrating birthdays and holidays with food brings people together. Where there was a time I would feel inherently guilty for indulging, I find now that I enjoy feeding people and fostering conversations and joy through food – as well as secretly pushing how delicious gluten-free and plant-based meals can be. I did let everyone know at the end that there were no animal products – something I am usually hesitant about and everyone was in awe. They could not believe that the cheesy nacho dip I served did not have a lick of dairy in it, LET ALONE be carrots! I think since I have transitioned in my adulthood into eating predominantly healthy food, I do not feel guilty on the odd days that I indulge – not to mention that with all the prep work, the only lunch I had was taste testing the upcoming courses! I spent a total of 7 hours in the kitchen… SEVEN!!!!! Regardless, it was a fabulous night.

Overall, the evening was lovely and fostered how much I love to host people.

How about you, readers? Do you ever feel guilty indulging during a party or get together? How did you work with those feelings? Hosted any summer parties lately? Share your experiences below or connect with Red Lipstick Lifestyle on social media!

Cheers to a beautiful summer and wonderful people!

Feelings of Overwhelm

What am I going to do?

I don’t know about anyone else but 2017 has not been my year. I feel like the challenges that have been thrown at me are reminiscent of being the last player left on your team during dodgeball and there are no balls left on your side.

Earlier in the year, when another challenge would present itself, I would usually respond with anger, frustration and overwhelm before I finally exploded and tired out. I would like to say I have made sooooo much progress but really, today, I would like to acknowledge my baby steps. You see, typically as someone who is innately anxious while also enjoying achieving big dreams, I see the big picture and freak out. This goes for my large accumulation of student debt, the entire 6 chapters of my master’s thesis, and the steps leading to my ultimate professional goal. Even to some extent, I get overwhelmed and impatient with this blog… I JUST GOT IT RUNNING YESTERDAY! THIS IS MY SECOND POST!!

On Monday, I sat with a good friend of mine who has an accumulation of wisdom in her years ahead of my own. We were discussing some of my work and she told me: “Okay Stephanie, you are well on your way. However, now you need to take each chapter one at a time, finish it, refine it, make it perfect. Then once that is completely done – THEN move onto the next”. I share this little tidbit of wisdom with you my readers because – like most areas of my life, I tend to circle things. I move around without always committing to my one main task at hand. There is a whole philosophy of productivity that talks about this. For now, I would like to refer to this infographic created by Brandon Gaille. Gaille proposes 5 time management techniques for enhanced productivity.

My biggest vice is I switch between tasks and I procrastinate on social media. So, what if I did not? Would that bring the stress down? Would I actually get something done? I have decided to try all five of these techniques over the next week and write a review post on my feelings towards the various methods. It is my hope that I can figure out which method works for me so I can get the things I need off my to-do list.

On the list for tomorrow:

I have to complete my proposal for a conference in New York City; I need to complete a chapter of my thesis; and, I need to host people in celebration of Maciej’s birthday!!

On that note, I have put together a lovely menu spread for tomorrow! I am excited to get cooking! The recipes in this menu are all from one of my favourite bloggers of all time, Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows. Her recipes are always a hit – even amongst those dietary meat purists. On the menu I have:

Appetizers:

Main Course

Dessert:

Drinks:

I think it goes without saying, I have one HECK of a day in the kitchen and on the computer tomorrow – anyone want to give me a vote of confidence that I can pull this off? Nah, sadly, me neither. I think it would be wise if I take some time before bed and schedule out my day tomorrow in my iCloud calendar as well as make friends with the Pomodoro technique because tomorrow is going to be a busy one! I will let you know how the menu turns out!

Do you have any productivity tips and tricks? How about keeping stress and overwhelm at bay? Share them below! I would love to discuss them with you!

Wishing everyone a good night!

And of course, most importantly – to the man I hope to keep whispering nonsense to until you have tripled this age – Happy Birthday.

Photo credit: Boakview Photography