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!

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