How to Take a Social Media Break when Social Media is Your Job

lifestyle

Ever been overwhelmed by the rate at which you consume information? Ever been haunted by the unrealistic expectations set by careful curation on influencers’ social media feeds? I have absolutely been there. Sometimes it’s so bad that I want to disconnect from technology altogether and really experience life and information in the context of my physical being. However, it’s 2021 and we’re still homebound due to COVID, spending hours for work and play connected to the internet, the news, and other forms of media. My job as a communications professional involves hours on social media staying up to date with trends, local movements, and newsworthy information. To balance this with my own personal social media presence feels like living a virtual life where I’m consuming news about major historical events, feeling immense pressure from highly edited lifestyles, and convincing myself that I’m somehow not being productive enough. My tipping point was January 6, 2021. I decided I needed to take a social media break.

“But Marcella, how will you do your job?” I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully disengage from social media. Thankfully I figured out a workflow that works for me while respecting the boundaries I wanted to set with social media.

Facebook was not going to be a problem for me. I honestly only keep an active Facebook account for the sake of posting to the various business pages I manage. So keeping myself from checking Facebook on my phone was easy. If it’s not easy for you, I recommend just removing the app. Scheduling social media posts on a desktop is far easier than dealing with the mobile app’s interface. Since my desire to check my Facebook account is nonexistent, I simply turn off notifications on my phone. I don’t even feel like I’m missing anything.

My main addiction (and the source for a lot of unrealistic expectations and anxiety) stems from Twitter and Instagram. These platforms, while potentially spaces to share interests and personal news, have become theaters for hot takes, breaking news, and marketing strategies. While, yes, my profession involves social media marketing, I don’t do this for brands interested in selling a product or service. I needed to rid myself from that toxic environment. I manage social media channels for non-profits looking to share their interests and alliances looking to share valuable information and uplift voices throughout the community. I’m not trying to sell you expensive dinners, I’m mostly posting about beekeeping and farmers’ markets. When it comes to an individual’s social media presence, I found Alicia Kennedy said it best in her essay On Online.

I want to return to a place where Instagram and Twitter are spaces where real people can share thoughts and pictures without there needing to be alternative motives behind it. I can share pictures of my food or unedited photos of my partner and I on a hike simply because they make me happy and they are authentic representations of myself. I don’t need to build a social media empire. I just want to share! We’re in an age where individuals can post (sometimes unverified and dangerous) resources on Twitter or highly edited photos on Instagram. When this is a perception of reality, things get overwhelming and, while I’m not a psychologist, I’m certain there are negative consequences there too.

So to avoid Twitter and Instagram I did the following:

First, I signed out of my personal accounts on my phone and any other device I use to access these platforms. Now I only receive notifications (if any – I’m still a human that needs a work-life balance) for work accounts. Because of this, my desire to check Instagram or Twitter constantly has gone down: the feed is no longer my own.

Second, I reserve my scrolling time for work hours. I do my copywriting and curation from my laptop, organizing posts on either Hootsuite (if available) or a Google spreadsheet. I can post to Twitter directly from my laptop, but Instagram, unless accessed through a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer, has a mobile posting platform only. No biggie though! If I’m interested in sharing a post to my story, or reposting another organization’s information I use the save feature, which I can then access from the account on my phone and post that way.

Finally, I replaced my scrolling habits with other activities. Working from home, I didn’t realize how much extra time I seem to waste on social media. Sure, I do my occasional TikTok scroll. Yes, I still read the news. But I also spend more time listening to new music, reading, or actually paying attention to the movies and TV shows I put on. There are so many hours in a day, how many can you waste on toxic diet culture and misinformation?

And I must close with this: it’s an immense privilege to “take a break” from overwhelming information at all. Social media to me is often the space where I see violence, death, and destruction. I’m often not physically living through it. I’m aware of this privilege. I’m also aware of the privilege involved in having a job that I can do from the comfort of my home right now. I’m doing my best to be understanding that social media is part of the problem, but these harmful things don’t only exist solely on the internet. Real suffering happens in real life.

I hope if you’re able to take a break from social media overload that you take an opportunity to do so. I hope that everyone can find ways to manage stress amidst our collective uncertainty. I hope I was able to provide some methods to aid in that stress relief.

I Finally Tried ThredUp and Here’s What I Think

lifestyle, Vintage

So I’m not the official authority on thrifted clothing but I know a thing or two about the whole process. I’ve been trying to make the conscious effort to shop ethically and sustainably which sometimes means shelling out a bit of money for something well made and ethically sourced, or sifting through racks of second hand clothing at my nearest Goodwill or Savers. Personally, I like visiting thrift stores and spending time finding a piece that speaks to me. Without an agenda, a sense of “oh I really NEED a new black dress,” and instead a sense of “what treasures can I find today,” I find the hunt exciting. It’s an activity. However, what happens when you want something specific and don’t want to shell out the money for a high quality version because it’s just not the “worth it” sort of item? That’s when you use ThredUp.

Disclaimer: I don’t want my opinions to deter anyone from using ThredUp. I think any move towards more sustainable options (that may be more accessible due to price point and online fulfillment) is a good move. These are just some questions/concerns/stipulations I had before ordering, and my experiences. Spoiler alert: I would shop at ThredUp again.

I placed my first order on ThredUp on a slow Thursday at work. Honestly, ThredUp can be akin to a thrift store when you surpass the filters and search options, making it a great source for afternoon scrolling. This time, however, I was looking for two specific things: a pair of khakis and a sundress. My first praise to ThredUp comes here: I found both items easily through the filters. I could sort by my size, brands that I like and colors I prefer. I landing on a pair of Uniqlo khakis (a brand that makes pants that actually fit my weird body) and a grey linen Tahari dress.

While I found what I was looking for, now would be a good time to mention some critiques. While I understand that these items are second hand and the site might have a high turn-over rate, clothing often looks a bit disheveled in the photos. The descriptions offer some assistance (both items were classified as “like new”) but when the photo looks one way and the caption says another thing, you get weary. This was actually a deterrent from me ordering clothing sooner. But with enough assurance from other people, I gave it a shot. My other critique: price point. Yes, I know the designer brands and expensive name brands see a high markdown from traditional retail price, that discount diminishes when it comes to other brands. For example, you can probably find Old Navy items in the actual store on clearance for the same price they are listed for on ThredUp, and if you’re shopping second hand due to budget, this isn’t quite the discount you may need. You can probably find some mid-tier brand items even cheaper at actual brick and mortar thrift stores, however without the luxury of pre-sorting items and browsing online.

Nevertheless, I placed my two item order: $29.75. Definitely more than what I’d pay in a traditional thrift store for two items. I actually paid $3 for a pair of pants at a thrift store one week later. Shipping was $5.99 – another critique but something inevitable for an online retailer, I guess. I was STOKED to get a package in the mail, though. It’s like giving a present to yourself. A treat!

Yet, I waited a week for my items to arrive. No big deal, I wasn’t in a rush, but I was less than excited to get two separate packages for only two items. I’m all for sustainability, which is why I shop second hand in the first place, but part of the sustainability process is minimizing both packaging and shipping frequency. Aside from the plastic outer packaging, the inside only had a paper sticker and tissue paper, which was nice because it was recyclable.

Upon receiving both items, I was pleasantly surprised to find them in better condition than they appeared online – a shock as almost everyone looks better online. Good job, ThredUp. The dress was virtually wrinkle free (although that changed once I gave it the requisite wash) and the pants looked as if they had never been worn. I can foresee myself wearing both items regularly and for quite some time, an advantage considering the prices. In addition, both items fit, and while I’m not sure if that’s attributed to good luck or accurate sizing, I’m happy with that fact.

So what is the final verdict? I may not shop on ThredUp frequently. For the higher prices, lengthy shipping time and ambiguous quality, I would rather partake in my favorite pastime and sort through musty racks of clothing. However, for the times when I need a new black cardigan or a specific party dress I can happily turn to ThredUp knowing my purchase will still fit this part of my sustainable lifestyle. When I’m in the mood to spend money and shop online, I’d rather turn to ThredUp.

Every Day of 30 Days of Thanksgiving 2019

lifestyle

I talk about 30 Days of Thanksgiving in this article, but I thought I would look back at all 30 days here.

Day 1: I’m thankful for my new home, colorful crunchy leaves and blue skies.

Day 2: I’m thankful for family, friends, dessert before dinner and perfectly crisp, chilly November afternoons.

Day 3: I’m thankful for the unexpected.

Day 4: I’m thankful for waking up to a rising sun and coming home to chicken soup.

Day 5: I’m thankful for my boyfriend, my roommate and all our adventures.

Day 6: I’m thankful for baggy clothes and hot espresso.

Day 7: I’m thankful for my first adult friend (psst…she has a blog)

Day 8: I’m thankful for all my homes: Long Island, Poughkeepsie, Florence, Wappingers Falls and now…somewhere in Connecticut.

Day 9: I’m thankful for nights in.

Day 10: I’m thankful for Sundays spent warding off the scaries with coffee and beer dates.

Day 11: I’m thankful for glorious trips to immortal cities.

Day 12: I’m thankful for persimmons, pumpkin spice and peanut butter. Also working from home.

Day 13: I’m thankful for exploratory trips to find comforts in my new home.

Day 14: I’m thankful for polenta.

Day 15: Thankful for future opportunities to continue my food and farm education.

Day 16: Thankful for being in the front row at concerts.

Day 17: I’m thankful for my support system of friends, family and coworkers.

Day 18: Thankful for smiling strangers and kindness.

Day 19: I’m thankful for being hit with signs from the universe.

Day 20: I’m thankful for long conversations with my best girlfriends.

Day 21: I’m thankful for the strong and influential women in my life.

Day 22: Thankful for chicken wings and the end of a long, long week.

Day 23: I’m thankful for weekend trips, especially when we explore Yale.

Day 24: Thankful for a rainy Sunday spent recharging.

Day 25: Very thankful for short weeks.

Day 26: Thankful for sunshine on a Tuesday, work from home lunches and very few emails in my inbox.

Day 27: Thankful for a fat bowl of pasta, and being home-home for a few days.

Day 28: I’m thankful for my first Thanksgiving spent with my boyfriend and all the white wine we drank

Day 29: Very thankful for fried turkey.

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Best way to cook a turkey. #30DaysofThanksgiving

A post shared by Marcella Micillo (@picturemarcella) on

Day 30: Thankful for the last day of November surrounded by friends, family and lamb barbacoa.

November was difficult. This exercise showed me that on certain days (most days) the smallest things, a perfect dinner, a sunny day, could keep me afloat. Every day is not going to be the best day pf your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the worst day either. My friend said “the sun always still rises,” and I guess that’s what this was all about in the first place.

Vegan Ricotta with Cherry Preserves

Challenges and Joys of Vegan Cheese

food, lifestyle

I’m not vegan, but I understand and participate in the shift towards a more plant-based diet. Enter the meat substitutes and dairy facsimiles that start trends, line health aisles at the grocery store and ignite meaningful conversations about our food system. Again, I eat pant-based as often as I can. I’d consider myself closer to being vegetarian than vegan, but I try to stick to vegetables and grains instead of the substitute products available, especially if those products have unfamiliar ingredients or are no better for me than good old-fashioned vegetables. I guess my biggest concern is: what are in these substitutes, and how are they made?

Now, I don’t consider tofu a meat substitute. I eat it when I’m in the mood for it and in my eyes it’s a protein on its own, with recipes geared towards its unique texture and flavor abilities. I know meat substitutes are often made from tofu. You’ve heard of tofurkey, right? Therefore, I’m not considering tofu as I talk about vegan substitutes because it is not a substitute.

I had the opportunity to fully understand these substitutes when a friend recommended a vegan cheese making kit. I’ve made fresh ricotta, which is easy enough to do if you have a big pot, whole milk, lemon juice and some free time, but I have never even tasted vegan cheese. My first step in understanding the vegan cheese making process was breaking down the traditional cheese making process.

Cheese is just curdled milk. Sorry to burst your bubble. It’s basically strategically spoiled milk that tastes delicious and gives me relentless acne. As I see it, most cheeses require milk, an acid like citric acid or vinegar, and rennet. Specific flavors can be added and the curds can be aged, but at its core cheese contains those basic ingredients.

  • Acid: would you drink a glass of milk followed by a shot of vinegar? Probably not. When you add acid to milk it begins to curdle, forming solid pieces. Doing this over medium heat while skimming those curds away from the whey forms ricotta in it’s most basic form. This is how most cheese making processes start.
  • Rennet: rennet comes from enzymes found in cow stomachs, so not exactly vegan but plant-based substitutes have existed for years. Vegetarian rennet, derived from artichokes, cardoons or nettles, does the job just as well and has been used in traditional Spanish and Portuguese cheeses. The rennet helps the soured milk curds solidify into cheese by working with proteins to coagulate. In order for rennet to work, milk must already be high in calcium and phosphate (which is why rennet might not work well with older milk or goat’s milk).
  • Aging: I love fermentation. Allowing the flavors in cheese to develop over time with bacterial growth gives certain cheese that funky allure. Earthy rinds on brie and savory umami from Parmesan turn the curdled milk into culinary delicacies.

So then how does rennet coagulate almond milk despite a lack of calcium?

In my short experience making vegan cheese, the process involves no coagulation at all. In fact, vegan ricotta involves no cooking at all. The ‘curds’ are not formed by intentionally spoiling the milk, but by incorporating macadamia nuts. The nuts add fat content as well as texture (just make sure to both soak and blend them enough so you aren’t left with any grit in the finished product). While the vegan cheese did not behave like ricotta and did not melt, I’d say that what it lacked in textural satisfaction it made up for in flavor. And yes, I love a good cheese pull and much as the next person, but I believe cheese should act as a flavor enhancer to the dish and not simply a textural layer (unless we’re talking grilled cheese or pizza, then the pull is crucial to the dish, and flavor and texture are equally important). The citric acid provided that curdled tang and the bits of ground macadamia nuts added that grainy texture that ricotta takes on after some time draining.

Vegan products, until very recently with the injection of ‘bleeding’ plant-based burgers into the main stream, have been engineered to behave like their non-vegan counterparts and not necessarily taste as such. Vegan cheeses offered textural similarities to dairy cheeses, but struggled to emulate flavors unique to cultured dairy. Slices of vegan cheese could melt like American cheese but could not offer any flavorful addition to a dish (I mean, American cheese offers very little but STILL).

Recently, vegan cheese makers have employed culturing and aging methods to better assimilate vegan cheese into the world of artisanal cheese plates, moving away from coconut oil-based emulsions and leaning towards something based on fats naturally found in cashews and macadamia nuts. Flavors from nutritional yeast add the missing umami lacking from other attempts.

Now to the more philosophical stuff: is vegan cheese even cheese?

When it comes to finding a food substitute, I understand the inherent identity crisis. Artificial meat is still not meat. Almond milk is technically not milk, but calling it creamy almond juice does not necessarily have the same ring to it. Therefore, vegan cheese by definition is not actually cheese. Cheese by definition is formed by curdling milk, and as I mentioned earlier, alt milk cannot curdle. However, who cares when environmental, ethical or dietary needs are on the line? I think progress in the vegan cheese world proves that artisanship and flavor do not need to fall to the wayside to craft a substitute. Relying on crutches like soy often minimize the clientele as more folks see soy farming as problematic to the environment, and can’t shake soy’s bad reputation despite contradictory research. With advancements in vegan cheese making, there could soon be environmentally sustainable, health conscious and flavor-comparable substitutes hitting the mainstream as hard as imitation meat burgers.

In Praise of the People I’ve Met While Out, About, and Alone

lifestyle

Don’t listen to anyone that says “don’t talk to strangers.” I mean, use your best judgment and obviously don’t talk to people that make you feel in danger, but closing yourself off to the friendly faces in the cafeteria or the waitstaff at your favorite restaurant is a huge disservice to your own world view. The flesh-trapped angels you meet at dive bars offer fascinating anecdotes and kind words. Sometimes they’re just a passing ship dumping a hilarious story to tell your friends, or even a free beer. Either way, use your invaluable alone time to open up your heart to someone new.

I get it, alone time is the best. Living along afforded me opportunities to go to the gym whenever I wanted, order sushi for one on a spicy night in and eat Fruity Pebbles from a mug at 11pm. But too much alone time can be intimidating, especially to extroverts who thrive around people. Yet there’s this odd connotation of going out to eat alone: I feel as if unless you’ve got a laptop in front of you and you’re typing away at your manifesto, you’re a loner, people-watching and drinking a beer. America lacks the communal table culture found elsewhere, and the “don’t talk to strangers” thing only worsens the isolation of being alone in a room packed with people.

Reports by The Atlantic in 2014 and Grub Street in 2017 discuss a return of the communal table in America. I can understand the discontent for communal tables at formal restaurants. Maybe you were hoping for an intimate evening out, and suddenly you’re literally rubbing elbows with a marketing executive slurping tagliatelle at a celebratory dinner. But in places like New York City brimming with not only residents but diners, communal tables should be more commonplace and accepted in casual dining spots. Grub Street cited Zagat’s 2016 survey reporting that communal dining was the second-highest reason folks would not dine at a particular location. While America seemed to try to adapt the trendy communal table lifestyle widely present in Europe, Americans lacked the attitudes to carry it towards success.

But what is the harm in talking to someone at your local bar? What is the harm in chatting up the bartender on a slow night when you’re dining at the closest thing Americans have to communal tables, the bar itself? Don’t be weird, but why not talk to someone new?

Ever since my first solo day trip, I’ve been fortunate to meet a few kind strangers on outings alone. Even on one of my worst nights ever (that I mention briefly in my 30 Days of Thanksgiving post), I spoke to the bartender, tried all sorts of his specialty drinks for free, and spoke with a newly wed couple who were absolute joys. I love kind strangers, you get the best stories from these encounters.

Montepulciano, 2017

Walking through Florence alone at 6am to a part of the city I’ve never seen before was pretty frightening, not going to lie. Market stalls were closed and the only figures out and about were likely there from the night before. Luckily, I’m a pretty no B.S. lady when I’m armored up to go out alone. When I arrived at my destination I felt like such an outcast: I was meeting up with a travel group of European Erasmus students. In case that wasn’t obvious: I was an American study abroad student. Therefore, I was the only American on the trip. I even still have the Erasmus card they gave me with my name scribbled on it in blue ink. I found two girls who seemed to know each other and asked if I could tag along with them. They heard my accent and the flood gates opened.

“Why are eggs white in America?” Girl, you’re not missing anything. “Oh my GOD have you seen that movie? Talladega Knights? I love Ricky Bobby.” I couldn’t stop laughing. We spent the whole day together. I learned that they were linguistic studies students from Scotland part of the Erasmus program which gave students grants to live and study throughout Europe. They were responsible for finding rental apartments and even jobs, very unlike American study abroad programs that could arguably be seen as vacation in comparison. We road buses through the Tuscan countryside and drank wine in Montepulciano. I’m friends with them on Facebook, but I never saw them in Florence again.

Waterbury, 2019

True, this night I was not alone, but it was still a moment spent at an unlikely communal table talking to a stranger. I just wanted wings. We’d stumbled on a place called Ordinary Joe’s and decided we like local dive bars. The place was packed and peanut shells were on the floor. Despite casual Friday at work, I was way overdressed. The only seats were at a communal table with a man drinking beer and waiting for a plate of wings. He said he didn’t bite –  which was true. Doug, this kind stranger, talked to us about the life his immigrant parents worked for in America. He’s a caretaker for a number of mansions in the neighboring town and talked about how Waterbury was once such a gorgeous city with beautiful buildings and parks. It’s now something forgotten.

He also mentioned that his mother makes hand made cavatelli for a restaurant nearby, and we should go there and mention that “Doug sent us.” He bought us two High Lifes, told me to marry Nick, and then sped away on his motorcycle.

Woodstock, 2016

The day after election day left a good chunk of people distraught. We all know this. And this particular day I had an interview for an internship up in Woodstock, NY. I got dressed, put on a black shirt in solidarity with students peacefully protesting, and drove almost an hour to my cloudy and grey destination. It was a damp November day. You know the feeling the day after you fall asleep crying hysterically? That’s what the weather felt like. And I was spending time post-interview in the quaint town. I bought a headband and a bandana and I ended up in a small art and incense shop. The shopkeeper said “how are you?” and without thinking I said “good.”

“I’m not,” he said. In that moment, I definitely was not “good.” In fact I was feeling pretty bad, even though my interview went smoothly. He noticed this and said “take some incense, we all could use a little peace today.” We were then chatting. I introduced myself and he mentioned how his wife had traveled to Italy often. “Ci vediamo, it means we’ll see each other,” I said before leaving to fill up on comfort food.

Fall Leaves and Boots

My Mindful Exercise: 30 Days of Thanksgiving

lifestyle

Around 4 years ago I was spending too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself. Weeks of antibiotics took a toll on my physical, mental and interpersonal well-being – not to mention I was non stop working and taking pride in my inability to remember meals or get adequate sleep. It was a toxic form of Stockholm Syndrome where I was growing to love the alienated, unwell version of myself because I associated being exhausted to being important. This was my sophomore year of college, an extremely formative year not just in spite of but because of some of those hard times. This tradition grew out of something unpleasant and that’s always my hope whenever November comes along.

So this is 30 Days of Thanksgiving, a 30 day mindfulness exercise that not only changes my mindset but also prepares me for the holiday carnage. After Halloween ends folks jump straight to Christmas and sentences brim with “I want” statements. “I want a boyfriend,” “I want some new boots,” those kind of “I want” statements that seem greedy and sometimes unrealistic. It really changes the season of giving into a season of taking.

Honestly, slow down. Christmas will come like it does every year. It’s draining, and I’m sure I’m not the only one anxiety-ridden and stressed. What we miss by rushing through November is an opportunity to take care of ourselves and appreciate the little, every day things we take for granted. This is especially necessary before the draining, hectic holiday season. I mean, is anyone ready for heavy traffic and throwing elbows at the mall? I’m not.

How does it work?

This could very well be a journal activity, but I prefer to do this on Instagram as a way to bring realism and positivity into the social media realm, something lacking in a lot of hyper-produced, inauthentic content that circulates among the many genuine accounts. Every day, no matter how down I feel, I think of one thing I’m thankful for. It could be anything: people, places, things. You know the drill.

Now despite hard days that inevitably arise when it gets dark at 5pm, you have to keep going. Last year I remember getting a flat tire on my way to meet someone for dinner. It was a perfect situation: no tire iron, no car jack, no roadside assistance. Thankfully, the person I was meeting for dinner drove the extra hour to meet me. We called a local roadside service to change my tire, and after a few hours and about a hundred dollars we were en route to finally get some food. The CBD cocktail I drank with dinner made me ugly cry in the shower a few hours later, but despite all that (plus the next day’s waiting for new tires) I still could find something to be thankful for.

Personally, I find that putting this out on social media almost manifests a positive attitude. There’s something about writing it down and getting input from friends and followers that feels comforting, like we’re all living through November together. However, there are other variations depending on what you can manage. I mentioned bringing this exercise analog in a journal, but you can also verbally express thanks. Tell the people around you when you feel thankful for their presence. Tell your favorite barista that despite your long commute, you’re thankful for mornings because their drinks bring you comfort. Hell, tell the pizza guy that you’re thankful for that stuffed crust. Whatever you choose please don’t forget the reason for the activity. Keep your gratitude front and center even when you’re not posting about it on social media or writing it down in your journal.

Tofu, meet the omnivores

food, lifestyle, vegetarian

My first encounter with tofu was neither pleasant nor life changing. I ordered a miso soup that accompanied a sushi dinner. I remember dunking my spoon into the cloudy amber liquid and lifting jiggly chunks of tofu out from beneath the brothy surface. The flavor was nothing spectacular but the texture was just a little off-putting. I had little to no desire to give tofu a second chance.

But this wouldn’t be a good blog post if I didn’t try tofu again. Many years later I tried tofu in a rice bowl, cooked until crispy and drenched in creamy coconut curry sauce. I thought “man, this is good.” For a second I thought vegetarianism was possible for me.

But the truth is, I love meat. I grew up in an Italian household and that meant fish for Christmas, lamb for Easter and fresh vegetables on the side. The comforts of a Sunday sauce simmered with meatballs or a fried chicken cutlet at my grandma’s house could never be replaced by vegetarian alternatives.

Though I love meat, I have no desire to try something marketed as a “meat alternative.” It’s not meat, don’t try to make it meat. What do I want? I want to highlight plant based proteins and meals for their naturally, non-meat flavors, which brings me to tofu. Let’s edit the dialogue…

While some “meat substitutes” capitalize on tofu’s ability to crumble like ground beef, I prefer to savor this jiggly soy protein for its naturally appealing qualities, and that means heavy handed seasoning and crisping the edges until golden brown. Since tofu is a blank canvas seasoning is everything. It’s not the time to be timid in the kitchen. In my experiences, tofu tastes best with a sweet and salty sauce (like here in this vegan noodle bowl). The tofu’s creamy texture also compliments a bit of spice nicely, so go ahead and add those chili peppers.

When cooking tofu, at least for a crispy result, it is imperative to really squeeze that liquid out. Put the block under some weights and let it just release liquid for as long as possible before cooking. This will ensure maximum flavor absorption and minimal spongey texture.

The downside to tofu? Not great for leftovers unless eaten cold. In my experience reheating tofu results in that rubbery texture. Certain things (like the aforementioned noodle bowl) don’t taste spectacular cold or reheated, but a cold tofu dish tastes great. These shawarma spiced tofu pitas tasted arguably better the next day cold: the tofu maintained crisp edges and didn’t seize up and become little morsels of rubbery nightmares.

Takeaways to this tofu rant: vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy tofu. Period. If you try tofu and it’s spongey or jiggly, give it a shot elsewhere. Season it aggressively and don’t expect a meaty flavor. Instead, approach tofu with open-mindedness and interest to try something new. You might be an omnivore like me and begin incorporating more plant based meals into your diet too, no disguise needed.

Success, failure and what really happens

lifestyle

Let’s start with a walk down memory lane: you’re 14 and watching 27 Dresses with your best friend. You’re both shoveling chocolate into your mouths thinking that James Marsden is the cutest guy ever. You idolize Katherine Heigl’s humble, selfless character and think “wow I’m not going to be like her selfish sister, I’m going to be like her!” Well, kids, it happened. You’re 22 years old and your notebooks are falling apart with to-do lists and calendars. You’re saying “yes” to almost everything. And finally, you’re running between jobs to make everyone happy. What is the price of your 27 Dresses lifestyle?

People offer advice and help but what do you say when someone says you need to take a break?

All joking aside, I’m learning each day how crucial it is to take care of yourself. I read a quote earlier today: “you don’t have to be stressed or busy to be important.” And while I struggled to find the words of wisdom to help me through this time, those were them. I’m putting myself in difficult situations because working every day and being hopelessly tired every night means I’m important. Wrong. It means I’m stretching myself too thin and compromising other elements of my life: relationships, physical health, mental health, and even job performance. I realized today that due to my tiredness and lack of concentration last week, I really let some of my responsibilities slide. It affected so many other people involved in my job, and while I wasn’t obligated to work my main job while I was at my second job, I felt it was my duty as a decent person to not let more work slip through the cracks. I somehow worked two full days over the course of one normal work day. I slid behind doors that I knew blocked security cameras to answer emails. I ate cold pizza from a Tupperware container perched on my knees while I drove from the museum to my office to pick up some materials and have a short meeting. I mean, I tried living two days in one and that was insane.

Success isn’t defined by your lack of sleep. Failure isn’t defined by your attention to self care. Success isn’t characterized by skipping meals. Failure isn’t the picture of you in your blue bathrobe. The reality is, each of us defines success and failure in our own thoughts and actions. “Everyone is on their own unique path in life.” That’s been my mantra since embarking on this journey. My path is the road I’ve been on, but I’m driving the car.

I need to put myself first. I’m at a point where I need to feel confident in my abilities to an extent and feel like I can work hard and sleep hard, not just work hard and feel like vomiting all the time. Sorry for that visual, but I’m about telling the truth here.

So this Katherine Heigl martyr character shall be no more, and while I won’t undertake the identity of the inauthentic, selfish, wedding-crazy younger sister, I will stop being the star of my own rom-com.

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.