Progress and Productivity in Stillness

Personal

A day at home, I wake up and I’m already in pain. It’s 7am, but I know that I have two hours to kill. I can’t help but refresh the mail app on my phone. I only get notifications for my personal email accounts, but my curiosity always gets the best of me and I look at how many emails await in my work inbox. My eyes just getting accustomed to the sunlight also squint to accommodate the small text on my screen. I feel my shoulders rise, though I choose to put my phone down or scroll through twitter instead. The shoulder tension moves up to my neck. The minutes pass, it’s 7:45 and I tell myself I have until 8 before I can get up, but I get up anyway. I putter about my house, make breakfast and just wait until it’s an appropriate time to open my work laptop and stare at a screen all day. But I can’t wait until 9am to work. I open my laptop (my non-work one that I also do work on) and start reading my emails and writing my social plan for the week. I convince myself it’s not work since it’s not for my salaried job. That somehow makes it better.

All the while, I see the babbling miniatures of a devil and an angel perched on my shoulders. Both of them look like me, and are dressed in pretty rad outfits because duh. One is telling me that I should do my work, continue to hold myself to my standards and ride it out while the other is telling me to sit back, relax and take care of myself. Take a wild guess at which is which. Of course, the devil on my shoulder eggs me to sit on my couch and watch movies. Why though? Why does my desire to pause coincide with devilish temptation? What harm is my inactivity really causing?

I think modern corporate labor has put too much of a value on professional productivity. Since high school it’s been ingrained that I need to be busy all the time – taking college classes, engaging in extra curricular activities, volunteering, studying – in order to beef up my resume and make myself look appealing on paper. Essentially, busy equals important, and if I can’t fill a page listing my accomplishments, achievements by age 18 then I am not somehow unworthy of a promising future making other people’s money. And I know this because I filled those pages and took those classes, and all that it’s given me was an inability to take care of myself because if I’m not advancing my professional career, I’m lazy. Right now, I resent my inability to separate my personal worth from an arbitrary value deciding my professional worth – a vanity metric in professionalism, a quantified value on my productivity and therefore goodness.

If it’s not clear, I’m a workaholic and compulsive people pleaser. It feels good to get that off my chest. While I do my best to be unapologetically myself, I have inherent guilt when I disappoint people. Even people I’ve never met before, people I hardly interact with. (“That’s crazy, Marcella.” Right?) I derive my individual value based on how many lines bisect tasks on a list, or how many Facebook users share posts and images I create. While I feel this way about myself, I preach and preach the importance of self care, of rest, because truly I can’t find myself worthy of that sanctity and peace, but others should do it for themselves. I’ve got to work. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

These tendencies have brought me some success but have mostly set me up for emotional failures, especially right now. Now’s not the time for sealing deals and expanding your audience. I’m hearing the phrase “business as usual” to describe operations right now and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Business as usual” is simply a guise for “we aren’t interested in hearing about your hardship.” The very “get back to work” mindset that will cause a mental health deficit once we crawl out of the collective darkness and resume a more lively, interactive “normal.”

It’s already hitting me: constant anxiety and tension from work-related stress coupled with the ambiguity of the future as we know it. I’ve taken my fair share of easy days, but it brings me more stress to try and justify the outcomes of my “laziness.” Who will have to assume my responsibilities? Will my boss notice? Will clients say something? It’s almost not worth that extra stress.

Oh, but it is. It’s worth it once you understand the incredible power and poise in stillness. Like I’ve always said (and “I’ve always said” because it’s been said to me so often), you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to refill before you can pour again. But also you have to drink from the cup too. You can’t keep filling up your own cup to continue dumping it. You can’t let your own well go dry without taking a drink. Because simply you need water to survive. And we’re all just trying to survive this one day at a time.

And while rest looks like physical inactivity, it’s just a different form of progress. There’s growth in rest. Humans, organisms do their most profound growth while resting. And it took a jar of sauerkraut and a walk in the woods for me to understand how my own stillness could transform me.

I’m no stranger to shoving vegetables in jars and turning my countertops into small-scale science experiments. I took an inexcusable amount of AP science classes in high school, and I would be remiss to not apply some of my “useless” knowledge to my kitchen antics. And when I made a big jar of sauerkraut I saw the possibilities in seeming inactivity. In a jar on my kitchen table, microscopic bacteria were engaging in fermentation. Though the jar didn’t move for days, invisible processes were at work. Upon each day’s burp (not me burping, but me cracking the jar’s lid to prevent too much gas buildup) I could see bubbles rise from the shredded cabbage and smell what could only be described as early stage sauerkraut. Beneath a seemingly unchanging exterior, a transformation occurred.

Human perception is also not the only measure of development. The existential “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it” scenario is extremely human-centric and highlights validation, not only as a marker of activity, but as a necessity for improvement or change. On a walk in the woods only a few weeks ago, I encountered fallen trees, cracked in the middle with the trunk and roots secured in the ground; the fallen limbs interrupting a trail. I couldn’t tell when it happened and I didn’t know if anyone could watch the top swing down and land on the ground. The fact is, yes, the tree still falls and still makes a noise. Because nature does not continue happening for the sake of human applause and validation. On my walk I saw dandelions both with shaggy yellow flowers and seeded white orbs, maturing at different rates but maturing regardless of my ability to notice. While we all watch the seasons change from inside our homes, the tides don’t stop because a boat is not gliding towards the shore. Instead the tides continue the ebb and flow, boat or no boat, surfer or no surfer, because that’s how the ocean moves forward.

But do you know how much the human body does daily outside of sending emails, holding conference calls and eating snacks? With each inhale your lungs fill with air, delivering oxygen throughout your body. Your hair and nails are growing. White blood cells are fighting like hell to protect your immune system from bad shit. The average human experiences cell turnover of 50-70 billion cells per day. I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, but that’s a lot of work for someone who might be eating Cheetos and watching Seinfeld on the couch. If I were the devil upon my shoulder, I’d use these facts to bolster my position, convincing all other parties that this inactivity is paramount for growth.

I know that this entire essay is entirely part of my problem, but I’m done I swear. You don’t have to be ripping your hair out and crying daily from stress to find self-worth and growth. I’m using “you” as a hypothetical as if I’m talking to myself. I haven’t gotten so far as to start talking to myself, but we’re starting new things here so why not. There’s an opportunity to disconnect and progress through rest, through stillness. It’s a difficult lesson I’m learning while adjusting to the ‘new normal.’ Resting to repair an immune system counts as progress. Reading because it quells your anxiety counts as growth. Don’t let anyone else define your growth in arbitrary metrics. To humans a cocoon hangs stagnant, if not for the wind, but inside a creature becomes a winged beauty.

Becoming New in 2020

lifestyle

It really was the year of realizing things, but good riddance 2019.

Growing pains aren’t only physical. No one warns you about the emotional growing pains present beyond adolescence. The first year post-grad was about living in the moment and making rookie mistakes. It was about working two jobs and drinking beers while painting your apartment. It was about realizing the woes of today’s job market.

In 2019 I made a lot of changes. I changed jobs, I moved into another state, I live with someone, and I’m realizing I’m worth more than I’ve bargained for.

Look, I’m a smart lady. This past year I’ve looked at myself and surged with confidence, and a sense of “what am I doing to be better?”

As a woman, especially as a woman in her early 20s, I’m overwhelmingly proud to see opportunities and not limitations before me. There’s so much more available today than what gender norms have afforded women in the past. It’s made me realize so much.

Like body hair. It’s beautiful. It’s comfortable. And while it can make folks uncomfortable it’s also no one else’s business. My whole life I shaved my legs every day. Dancing and performing somehow instilled a need to always have shaved legs so hairs wouldn’t poke through tights and other people wouldn’t be uncomfortable during those tactful quick-changes. And this year I got sick of it. Because it’s so much more comfortable to shave on your own terms and not because you feel others would find it unsightly. Do you. Your comfort is gorgeous on you.

I realized that the more items I throw away the more money I throw away. I mean for anyone who doesn’t see the urgency behind climate change, reducing your single-use items just helps save money. Not only has sustainability been top of mind, but investing in better quality, non disposable items has been a practical improvement. From mindful clothing purchases to bars of soap without packaging, long-lasting, low-waste items offer more stability than low-quality, disposable products. Plus, it feels good to struggle filling up the trash can each week. It’s ignited a desire try to reduce waste even more. Do I want to start a balcony compost garden? Do I want to, oh I don’t know, never buy new clothes again? Regardless, boy do I love not shelling out $12+ for razors every month.

I realized my extrovert self loves a live-in companion. My boyfriend is my best friend and living together has improved the quality of my life ten fold. Coming home to a friend after work makes evenings more pleasant. There’s always someone to hang out with on weekends. There’s someone to commiserate with when times are tough. I’m thankful for the opportunity to live alone for a year and truthfully everyone should get that chance, but finding happiness living with a friend, a significant other or even alone is a bliss I hope everyone achieves.

But 2019 wasn’t full of easy-to-swallow pills.

College doesn’t teach a course on coping with existential turmoil. In 2019 it occurred to me that I don’t actually know what I want to do. But 2019 revealed who I want to be. This world is plagued with so much bad and doing nothing is just as good as contributing to the bad. If you’re not helping you’re hindering, to quote someone wise. I realized I want to actively do something good. And that’s not easy. My indecision and professional discontent has shown me that using my brain for something important might be worth more than the expectation of a stable 9-5. I realized that you don’t have to have it all figured out at 23. Tons of people do and they’re lucky, but if you don’t it’s okay.

It’s the realization that no, I may not be where my friends are in a year, in five years, or ever. There will be no settling down any time soon. But spending the time now to figure out who I’ll be later is worth my time now.

So where does that put me in 2020? Well, I’ll be working really hard. I’ll probably cry a decent amount. I may not see a lot of people or do the traveling I hoped to do. But I finally want to work towards a goal greater than simply coasting.

My 2020 goals include being better to my body and mind while also studying my butt off and writing more. I want to constantly be reading and taking short adventures here and there. I want to surround myself with people who can support me, because part of me knows I won’t be able to do this alone.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but I’m excited and anxious and nervous and I’m ready to share it all here.

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.

Intentionally burning food was my first sign of true adulthood

food

A timid child, I cried at damn near everything. Couldn’t get the combination in dance class? I cried. Someone made a harmless joke? I cried. I was frustrated easily and fragile beyond help. I was insecure and sheepish for years. That girl is long gone now, but the lingering effects held on in one facet of my life: my cooking. I loved cooking and baking, but I yearned for perfection every time. There were never burnt edges or crispy bits on any of my baked goods or meals, but that resulted in undercooking nearly everything. Setting timers for the minimum cooking time and being the most pesky oven checker were my culinary downfalls. I craved perfection so tenaciously that my efforts had the opposite effect entirely.

Early in my college career my love for food manifested itself into my academics. In my journalism classes I squeezed food into every assignment I could, from political assignments to longform creative pieces. I attempted to become that modern urban farmgirl who cooked squash and overnight oats and blogged about it. I was passionate about local honey and became evangelical about eating locally and seasonally. I had ancient grains coming out of my ears. I needed to have my quirky side and excel at something niche. I snagged an internship with a local food publication and became a published food writer. And yet, each time I roasted a vegetable I couldn’t keep my hands off the oven handle. I hauled squash from the farmers market to class only to bring it home and woefully under season or undercook it for the sake of not making a mistake. I was the girl watching the pot boil. I would peek into the door and feel the warm dry heat on my face, look at the slight color on whatever was cooking, and take it out prematurely. I would take food out of the oven, plate the dish and realize it was undercooked after slicing into it, after which I would throw it in the microwave and nuke the crap out of it, making up for lost time.

My desire to achieve perfection overshadowed my research and knowledge. The hours I spent reading Bon Appetit and Food52 were wasted because my internal monologue inserted itself into the narrative. I knew that color equaled flavor. I knew that salt was essential to all recipes and despite knowing those facts and more, my food was timid and colorless. I was a people pleaser down to my core, and while then I would never admit it, now I see how desperate I was to be an image of perfection through and through. I can definitely attribute that (and probably any aforementioned insecurities) to some form of anxiety. I would bring baked goods to family gatherings and sit anxiously as everyone cut into my acceptably cooked and seasoned pie, knowing that I could have cooked the crust longer or added spices other than cinnamon to the filling. I was obsessed with following a recipe and not deviating from that, fearing that a freestyle move might cost me my reputation. I made beautiful looking olive oil cakes that could have used extra time in the oven, or more lemon zest than the recipe required. While everyone loves the gooey, undercooked section of the brownie pan, everyone also likes the crispy edges. My insecurities revealed themselves in my inability to deliver both.

In any communal living situation and even when I would cook with my boyfriend, my sheepishness returned. Too nervous to make a mistake, I would either wait until the coast was clear and the kitchen was empty, or ask him (or whoever else I was cooking with) to do many of the things I knew I could do but just felt unsure about in the moment. Everyone’s a critic and for some reason, despite being the most amateur of amateurs, I was afraid my knife skills, or some other trivial aspect of my cooking, would insight mocks and giggles.

I’m now 22 and living alone. In my castle (this one bedroom apartment), I am the queen and I’m cooking for me and only me. It’s now that I’m getting dare I say edgy about cooking. I’m taking risks with flavors because who but me am I aiming to please? In the most cynical of ways, I didn’t care about disappointing myself. And yet, that’s how I achieved perfection, or what tasted like it. I love cooking onions until they stick to the pan and take on caramel sweetness. I love hearing sausages sizzle in the pan and take on crispy brown sides. I like seeing the edges of my fried egg become crispy and lacy from the heat. I season haphazardly knowing that no one around me can tell me something is too spicy. I don’t measure my spices with a spoon, but I feel the granules leave my palm as I just toss. I’m the queen of the kitchen sink, sometimes throwing whatever I have in my fridge together and wishing for the best while I let it simmer, bubble, or bake.

Taking control of my kitchen and eating food that I enjoyed unapologetically was a sign of adulthood. I realized that I actually like kale, provided it was smothered in olive oil and roasted into crisps. Deciding what to eat, when to eat it, and most importantly how to eat it seems menial but the creativity thrills me. You know you’re a real adult when dinner’s uncertain outcome becomes exciting. Cooking for myself, I feel shameless in my choices. I can eat spicy potatoes whenever I want, or breakfast for dinner on a Tuesday.

And mistakes? I don’t know her. In the words of Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Rarely does a silly mistake warrant an unsalvageable meal. Sometimes you just need to think it over and find a way to repurpose or rectify without retrograding and crying over a burnt pan sauce.

In this journey through burnt edges and sloppy sautés I’ve learned more about my heart than I’ve learned about cooking: there’s more to life than perfection, and if you’re a people pleaser make sure you don’t leave yourself out of the equation.

Cook Your Dang Fruit

food

Last weekend was a blur of eating greasy meals and understanding that I certainly can’t drink like I did in college. I desperately needed to eat a vegetable so on Sunday I bought kale, carrots, peppers and squash. When I came home I realized I still had some fruit in my crisper. I thought, “oh shoot, I have to eat this.” When I reached in the crisper the plums felt fine. The apples mostly were okay, except for one squishy, mealy monster. If I wasn’t in my current mindset, I would think to just throw it away. But that would be insane. This post should really be called “eat your dang fruit” but that would be too easy. No, when your fruits sit in your fridge for just a little too long think to cook them instead of throw them away.

I chopped up the apple and threw it into my new (spiffy) little red pot with just a little water so the sugars don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. I added cloves, cinnamon and honey and let it just simmer and spatter until the apples transformed into gooey goodness.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to cook fruit. It’s truly smart, especially when you clearly abandon your fruit for lack of interest. Cooked fruit tastes delightful in oatmeal or over greek yogurt and creates the illusion that you’re eating something new. It tastes special, like dessert. And what’s better than dessert on a weeknight?

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.

Waste Not, waste-free snacking

food

I tend to graze throughout the day: a little bit of food throughout the day rather than big meals. I love a good snack, but snacks are not always the most waste-free foods on the planet. Packaging is a huge problem when it comes to cookies, chips and candy. Oreos? A delicious packaging nightmare with plastic trays and wrapping. Chips either come in family sized bags that are too large for one person to consume and smaller bag either provoke the mindset of “I can eat the whole thing” (uh, you shouldn’t) or “I can buy a million of these little snack size bags” producing excessive garbage. Watching chips turn stale hurts me, it does. What is a gal to do? May I introduce you to popcorn.

Popcorn? Popcorn! So, I don’t have a microwave. I don’t know how I do it, but I don’t have a microwave. Thankfully I’m a vintage kind of gal, and popping kernels on the stovetop is exactly my jam. One 32oz bag of kernels costs $2.50 at Shop Rite, which is super cheap considering I’ve made popcorn 3 times and have hardly made a dent in the bag! Popcorn kernels allow better portion control so you’re not always popping enough kernels for either a baby or a family of 4. While the bag recommends instructions for 2 servings, it’s easy to find half measurements online and doubling is simple. Plus, one bag means one piece of garbage! Not ideal, but definitely better considering the amount of food per piece of garbage. If popcorn kernels are available in bulk bins opt for that and reduce your waste completely. Additionally, flavor options are endless depending on spices, oils and sweets on hand. I’ve been making popcorn with salt and cracked black pepper. Sometimes I’ll feel fancy and drizzle a little white truffle oil on top. And chocolate on popcorn? Dare I say, yeet.

As far as snacks go, you could definitely be eating worse food. While popcorn isn’t exactly health food, it won’t be necessary to cut back excessively considering it’s corn. And I can’t stress this enough, it is not health food but it’s better than a bag of potato chips or cheetos. While I miss those two things, I’m getting the most for my money with popcorn.

Last, and honestly probably least, the bag is smaller than air-filled chip bags and takes up less space in my tiny kitchen. In fact, sometimes I leave it on the sliver of counter space that I have because I forget to put it up in my cabinet. I mean perks are endless.

Next time you’re at the store and you’re craving something to munch on, try some popcorn. It’s food waste-free and delicious.

Day 12 10/11/18

lifestyle

Today was bad. Like how I thought the white wine was sweet because I tasted it after a particularly dry rose, today was particularly bad because yesterday was just exquisite. I’m supposed to be at an industry event right now, but I hope you realize that I’m not since I’m publishing this at 7:51pm. I felt like I was hit by a truck today and went home sick. I continued to work, let me tell you. My body literally hates me for my work ethic. But day 12 is the day that got me. Day 12 is also the day that forced me to throw away food. I napped briefly in the middle of bowl of soup number 4 so that sat getting cold and sad on my night table. Whole wheat egg noodles are also low-key gross, but I wasn’t about to get picky with my sick foods. I am thankful, however that I have so many frozen meals that my mom brought me. I need something spicy to really knock the mucus out of my head (sorry). My head feels like a balloon on the verge of popping despite the bowls of hot water that I mulled over with my blanket scarf draped over my head.

I’m especially bummed about missing the industry event, but my friend Kelly put it best: real adults don’t go to work when they’re sick. Since I’ve been working I still find it hard to view my coworkers as peers since I’m the youngest person in the office. I feel as if I constantly need to prove myself and stick through each and every day like my head is on the chopping block. But the reality is, I get sick sometimes. Everyone gets sick sometimes. I wasn’t sick for over 3 months, but this week was the week that got me and that needs to be okay. Taking one day to re-charge was necessary. I even worked from home, which is an option that I’m so grateful to have. Self-care and self-preservation are essential right now. They’re the tools that will enable me to produce my best work once I’m well rested.