Sunday Detox: Organic Easter Egg Dyeing!

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A few weeks back, Taryn and I took my mother out to lunch for her birthday.  We went to Tom Colicchio’s “low key” restaurant Craft Bar, and I ordered a salad.  When it arrived it had a pink hard-boiled egg on it.  Curious.  It was pickled, the waiter told me.  I was intrigued.

A few days later – and because she’s particularly in tune with the universe – my dear friend Rebecca send me this.  A recipe to make pickled eggs of every color, just in time for Easter.

So, today, in an ongoing journey to reduce the chemicals in my cooking, I took a stab at making organically dyed Easter eggs.  It was super easy, with one minor (but fun) bump in the road in the form of a baking powder-induced dye explosion (see video below).

I know Easter is winding down, and your egg dyeing is coming to an end – but if you find yourself with a few extra hard boiled eggs this week, try this.  I am now riding the pickled egg train, and I want you to hop on.

You can check out the recipe for detail on the process and colors, but essentially you boil water, vinegar, salt and sugar, and then add the veggies and spices that create the dye color of your choice (beets for pink, purple cabbage for…you guessed it, tamarind for yellow, and so on).  Pour that mixture over hard boiled, peeled eggs placed in heat proof jars, and let them sit for a few hours.

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And the result…

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I’m going to throw them back in the dye overnight to make the colors a little deeper. Process improvement:  I’ll do this the night before next time…!

Now that I’ve got the base down, I’m going to try to get creative and make different colors.  If you’ve got any bright ideas on how to turn these eggs teal or lime, let me know.  Happy Easter to all who celebrated today!

&d

International Day of Happiness!

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In 2012, the United Nations established March 20th as the International Day of Happiness as a catalyst for people to try to create a happier world for themselves and for others.  Bhutan has embraced the idea and developed a Gross National Happiness metric that’s looked at alongside GDP as a way to measure a country’s economic success.  We dig it, and are hoping that other countries will follow suit.  In the meantime, we’re spending today taking this concept seriously and thinking about a few of our joy-inducing tricks.  

Kitchen dancing:  We did a lot of hosting this weekend, and in the middle of the inevitable chaos of navigating a small kitchen together, Ben and I amped up the music to do a little kitchen dancing.  There’s something about dancing with abandon in the kitchen that brings full on happiness back into any room.  We tend to break it out if we’re starting to get irritated by the lack of counter space or simultaneous chopping, washing, and cooking that has to happen within a two foot radius.  This weekend our signal was me holding a knife in the air and shouting “You’re always in the EXACT wrong spot!!”  Time for a kitchen dance.  

Trampoline workouts:  Turns out jumping up and down on a trampoline like a little kid serves up a serious workout.  While you need a little real estate — which runs sparse in NYC — to have one of your own, as long as you’ve got high ceilings, you’re golden.  The other option is to check out one of the many trampoline-equipped gyms in the city.  Even if this wasn’t a great workout, wouldn’t it be worth doing anyway for the pure joy of getting bounced into the air?

Poking fun at work life: We all do semi-ridiculous things in the name of workplace culture.  If I ever need a quick mid-week laugh, I pull up Justin Timberlake’s and Jimmy Fallon’s #hashtag skit that reminds me how ridiculous our social media language and engagement can be.  Another one for work-related comedic relief?  This viral skit that emulates a conference call in real life.  We’ve ALL experienced conference calls like this, and probably will again this week.  

What do you do for a quick burst of happiness or laughter?  

&d

 

Sunday Detox: Suits and Slapstick

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We all take ourselves a little too seriously, particularly during the week when our noses are to the grindstone in whatever professional endeavors on which we choose to embark.

Earlier this week, I was invited to a gathering of “intellectual leaders” and was placed into a setting that takes itself pretty seriously.  Prestigious. Important. Exclusive.  I signed up.  I arrived.  I deflated.  

I was sick of faking it, tired of speaking for speaking sake, and tired of conjuring intellectual passion for a topic on demand. So, I opted out.  I was there in body, but not spirit.  I sat in the back, I didn’t speak, and I intentionally passed the microphone — the one I would normally grip onto — to others in the room.  

My first instinct was to be disappointed in myself.  Why couldn’t I “show up” for this?  Later on that week, as I was speaking to friends and colleagues about the experience they all responded with different versions of the same question:  “What’s really important to you?” “What felt inauthentic about that forum?”, “Why didn’t you feel like yourself?”

It’s hard for me to feel like myself in settings where the pretense is high, and where I can’t inject humor and the child-like do-whatever-you-want-to-make-yourself-completely-JOYFUL feeling.  Most professional settings (that I’ve seen anyway…) come with some level of affectation that we all contribute to in order to ensure others that we are comptent, smart, on our game. But it can stifle people bringing their true self and their honest thoughts to the table, which is bad for ourselves, our colleagues and our work.    

I bumped into an article a few days later that spoke to this same challenge, and the ways that businesses are starting to think about bringing in humor and comedy as a tool to make people more effective and purposeful in their work.  The entire article is worth a read but in essence it says:

“By using humor, we allow great ideas to come from anywhere. Humor breaks down barriers, and people end up having really creative ideas.”

As I thought about this over the past week, it helped reground me in how important it is to me to create professional situations that make people feel as comfortable as possible — that channel the humor and the child-like curiosity that we all have.  The humor that allows us to poke fun at the stiff suits we’re all wearing for unknown reasons. The curiousity that allows us to ask questions, whether or not we think we should already know the answers. The excitement for the world that allows us to truly enjoy it instead of growing tired of it, and that enables us to actually get something done together.

 

On the Road Again…

 

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My gig usually has me on the road about 60-70% of the time.  By some strange twist of fate, I’ve been on home turf in Brooklyn for about three straight months — punctuated by only a few quick trips to Boston.  But I’m heading back to business as usual and packing my bags for a heavy stretch.

On the docket for the next few months for work and fun — Austin, D.C., Boston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit — with a few more trips that will likely be slotted in between.

I do really love traveling, and have been at it enough that I’ve learned how to not have it disrupt work and life.  But what I still need to work hard at is not letting the extreme travel wreak havoc on my physical health.

Here are some of the go-tos I’ve developed over the past few years:

ClassPass:  I promise you that this blog is NOT a walking advertisement for Class Pass, and Taryn already shared its joys.  I’m with her.  And while it’s getting pricey in NYC (at $125 a month), I hang on to it because it’s fantastic when I’m traveling.  Each city I mentioned above has CP, and I can continue my mixed routine of yoga, barre, boxing, gym time, etc. while I’m on the road.

You gots to hydrate:  I’m not a big fan of bottled water, but when I’m traveling I grab one of the 1L smartwater bottles (and pay the ridiculous $5 price).  I don’t have a preference for the water itself (we all know it’s tap — sorry smartwater) but I LOVE the bottle.  It’s light and skinny, which makes it possible to carry around when I’m also lugging a suitcase and laptop bag.  I refill it and refill it and refill it, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes in keeping me going.  Better and healthier than all the caffeine in the world.

Buddies:  While it’s sad that not all of my closest friends live in NYC with me, one of the huge benefits of work travel has been being able to catch up when I’m in town.  I get home cooking and some quality down time with friends in other cities in between the crazy meeting packed days at work. And it’s usually during the week, so I get to be part of the evening family routine, which for many of them now includes running after little ones.  Nourishing for the soul.

SkyMall:  Whoever invented SkyMall is my personal hero.  The comic relief this catalog of ridiculousness (squirrel busts, tree faces, waterfalls for your cats) that you find in the backseat pocket of airplane seats has literally added years to my life.  No matter how stressful or busy a trip has been, flying back home with SkyMall and a glass of wine is an instant remedy.  P.S.  To everyone who I’ve sent too many pictures of my most desired items on SkyMall…it’s about to pick up again.

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Eat yo vegetables:  It is really hard to find anything that’s not a processed carb when you’re grabbing food on the go, particularly in an airport or train station.  And I’ve struggled through one too many Amtrak salads (iceberg lettuce, one cherry tomato and carrot shreds) to count on what they do have. So, I’ve started scoping out the farmer’s markets and grocery stores close to where I’m staying and the stops I’m going to in between in order to stock up.  I’ve also tried packing fruits and veggies with me in my luggage, but I got a little gun-shy last year when TSA took away my box of Brussel sprouts.  I know this one sounds like a lot of effort (and maybe a little nutty…?) but it’s probably one of the things that keeps me feeling most balanced and healthy while I’m traveling.

Off I go!  Let me know what you do to keep your health on track while you’re traveling. I need to keep up my game.

And let me know if you’re going to be in one of those cities, so I can cook some veggies with you on a week night…

&d

 

 

Sunday Detox: Alone in the Woods

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As I’ve thought about the subject of detoxing and unplugging from daily life, I’ve started asking friends about their favorite method of recharging.  A lot of times I hear “Being alone in a cabin in the woods” as an ideal way to get away from it all.  It always sounded vaguely appealing to me, but when would you really ever find yourself alone in the woods on purpose?  Well, this weekend, I got my shot at it.  

After a week working in Boston, I made my way up north to Killington, Vermont to spend a weekend skiing with friends.  On the way, somehow, I managed to sprain my hand rendering it useless.  Skiing was completely out of the question.  

I quickly realized that the cozy cabin we had rented — complete with cocoa and fireplaces — was about to be my stage for this “alone in the woods” fantasy so many had touted.  I wasn’t super excited about the change in plans.  I’m not a big fan of alone time in general and even when I’m reading, writing or doing other solitary activities I like to have people around me.  Being alone is the opposite of relaxing to me.  Still, I figured that I should make the most of the opportunity and see if some solitary time by the fire could be a new way to detox.    

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of everyone clamoring out the door to head to the slopes early.  It was 15 degrees out, I was carless and in the middle of nowhere, so I knew that I was cabin bound. Here we go.  

Hour 1:  I turned the fire all the way up and started to reading our latest Prose and Hos(e) book, Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. It’s a good, easy read, but slightly depressing and it wasn’t helping my current mood of being stranded in Vermont.  I needed something a little more active.

Hour 2:  I wrote an article that I needed to get finished before the end of the weekend, hoping that it would consume the rest of the day.  But without distraction, I was done in 45 minutes.  Success?  Not in this case.    

Hour 3:  I read the NYTimes and started talking to myself in reaction to some of the articles on Trump and Rubio.  Are they seriously talking about sweat and comb overs?  

Hour 4:  I found the game cabinet chock full of games from the 1970’s.  I played Scrabble with myself, and won.  It turned out to be good practice for that evening when I finally managed to beat Ben in Scrabble (by a hair and with an assist, but still).

Hour 5:  I was having an ongoing verbal dialogue with myself at this point, and needed something much more active.  I started debating with myself (yes, out loud) whether I should attempt to do forearm-based yoga with a sprained hand.  Ultimately, I decided the mental impact of sitting in one place was probably worse than the physical impact of potentially hurting my hand again.

Hour 6:  Did 90 seconds of yoga and realized that I was wrong.  Re-wrapped my poor sprained hand and realized that my inability to effectively be alone had reached new levels.

Hour 7:  They returned!  When I heard the car door slam outside I ran to the window like a lonely puppy dog.  As they piled in the house, I slowly realized that they were all exhausted and were making a bee line for the showers.  No one was up for chatting.  But somehow, it didn’t matter.  There were other people present and I was suddenly satiated.  

I went back to reading my book and the Times by the fire and it felt different and more peaceful than when I was in the house by my lonesome.  I was finally recharging.  

My husband, Ben, later turned to me and said he was envious of all the time I spent alone. A true introvert, he had a fun but entirely exhausting day full of people and wanted nothing more to have us all get out of the house and leave him to read by himself.  

So we did.  And everyone got their version of detox.  

&d

Sunday Detox: Valentine’s Variety

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I’m never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  I’ve mostly seen it make single people feel bad and make couples feel pressure and spend a lot of money.  Indeed, its roots are in martyrdom and suffering.

Quick history:  In ~300 A.D. St.Valentine was persecuted and executed for marrying Romans who were forbidden to marry. After 100 years of deep reflection, Romans – Pope Gelasius, to name names – realized that Valentinus was actually in the right and declared February 14th as a celebration of his badass rule breaking.  The party spread across Western Europe as a celebration of romantic love, fueled by Chaucer and the pomp and circumstance of courtship that began in the 14th century.  Then it hopped across the pond to the United States.  We wrapped it in mass commercialism and spat out our current day version of the celebration complete with candied hearts, chocolates, expensive dinners and prescription meds.

Phew.

No disrespect to St. Valentine.  I, like Pope Gelasius, think that he was doing the world a solid by providing rights to unjustly persecuted.  But in 2016, I’m looking for some alternative ways of celebrating his noble deeds.

Do it Kiddie-Style:  One of my fondest memories of modern day Valentine’s Day is the little cardboard cards we swapped in our elementary school classrooms as a celebration of platonic friendship.  Everyone gave a card, everyone got a card, and everyone was happy. Last year, I bought a box of these for nostalgia and handed them out to my friends.  Turns out they have the same effect on adults as they do on kids.

Phone a Friend:  Take advantage of the day to celebrate your pals (guys or girls) that make your world a happier place.  Friendship is consistently under celebrated in our Hallmark world. Send your best friend a handwritten note.  Call a pal from across the country who you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Throw a galentine’s day party.

Dine Alone:  You all know how I like to eat alone at restaurants, cultivated through a few years of intense travel for work and brought back home to NYC.  Dining out alone on Valentine’s Day is the ultimate milestone for this particular brand of social defiance.  You’ll probably have to sit at the bar because restaurants are packed.  Still, observing the acts of love and awkwardness associated with Valentine’s Day is pretty sweet – and you’ll have fun talking to the servers about the proposals, breakups and other pressure-cooker type conversations they observe that day.  For places to head in NYC for dining alone, check out NYTimes Food writer Julia Moskin favorite places to pull up a single chair (shared by H&F senior correspondent Aunt Andy).

Expanding our Definition of Love:  This past year has been a pretty awesome one for love, from the rise of powerful trans voices like Laverne Cox to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. St. Valentine would be proud, but we’ve still got a long way to go.  Perhaps the best way to support love today is to support the organizations that are working every day to make the joys of love accessible to everyone.  A few of my favorites?  GLADD, The Center and The Theater Offensive.

What are your alternatives to celebrating Valentine’s Day?

&d

Sunday Detox: Handwritten Notes

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I’ve lived in NY, Boston and New Haven over the past ten years, and have been lucky enough to build up a cadre of awesome lady friends along the ride up and down the east coast.  They’re all badass, brilliant, and caring.  But as life and work consume more and more of our time – and takes us to separate cities – it’s hard to find quality time with those ladies, and our long, restorative chats over lattes, yoga sessions or nights out with one-too-many cocktails (in that order…).

While it’s easy to stay connected these days with a smart phone attached to each of our hips, there’s nothing that really replaces being in the same place and a part of each other’s daily lives.

So, a few years ago, I started writing handwritten notes and greeting cards to my girl team to let them know that I’m thinking about them – that I miss them – through more than the periodic thumbs up of a Facebook like.

They’re not long notes.  It’s hard to find time for that.  It’s hard to spend hours on the phone catching up and recounting everything significant that has happened since we last connected.

But they’re funny little cards that remind me of them.  They’re Valentine’s Day cards celebrating my girl-love.  They’re one liners that remind me of our funny moments together.  They do the same – sending back fun little surprises every time I’m sorting through the catalogs, bills and junk mail that come through snail mail.

When we ARE together – even if it’s just once a year – we pick up right where we left off, thanks to keeping the lady-love alive the old fashioned way.

&d

Sunday Detox: Single Tasking

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Our culture – particularly work culture – tends to fetishize multitasking.  In this always ON world, I hear a lot of people proudly tout their ability to multitask and name it as one of the reasons for their professional success or a reason they’d hire one person over another.

But, as most of us know, it’s actually physically impossible to do more than one activity at once.  There’s a ton of research on this, but if you want a quick snapshot check out this quick video.  Your brain and body are just shifting their focus from one task to the next more frequently – from email, to messaging, to reading an article, or whatever set of activities you fill your day with.  And we end up paying less attention to each task, make more mistakes, and come out of the whole situation less accomplished and fulfilled.

Sounds dumb.

But it’s hard to avoid the onslaught of demands for your time, at the same time – the pings, email notifications, phone calls, chores and obligations.  And over time, it starts to erode our ability to actually deeply focus on any one thing because we become so programmed to shifting in between different activities so quickly.  I’ve definitely felt myself in these places, where I am impatient and furiously swiping on my phone in search of…nothing.  Not good.

I try to build practices into the weekdays that help me fight the tidal wave, to varied success.  One thing that I’ve found helpful is to train, or re-train, my mind to stay in one place, on one activity, during the weekend – where my time is much more my own.

  • Half-techie shut down:  Sometimes I need to completely unplug and just shut down all technology (see Taryn’s Screenless Saturday for the benefits of that approach).  But, more often, I just need to shut down all the crap that comes my way without me asking for it – particularly email and social media.  I still want to be able to look up who Aziz Ansari’s girlfriend is after reading all about her in Modern Romance.  I still want to use Google Maps to help me find my friend’s place in Jersey.  I still want to be able to take an instantenous picture of my husband’s sudden urge to wear a bandana and run around the house screaming “I am a ninja!” But I don’t want to be hit with all the things I wasn’t planning on seeing.  So, shutting down inbound technology for a day has been my go-to reset on Sundays.
  • Marathon reading:  Sitting down with a book and reading for 2-3 straight hours is the ultimate indulgence and is a great re-training in focus.  No picking up your phone to quickly check in with your “phone world” between chapters.  No turning on the TV to see if there’s anything interesting on instead.  Just plowing through chapters of a good read.  This is a tougher one for me, so I’ve set an ambitious reading goal for the year to keep me honest.
  • Cooking cooking cooking!  If I’m feeling up for something a little more active, cooking achieves the same benefits for me.  I’ve often used Sunday as a day to cook a few good meals for the week.  The attention, coordination and creativity that it takes to make multiple meals at once is a challenge – aside from the actual space challenge presented by a small Brooklyn kitchen.  Last week it was a vat of red lentils and freekeh + granola + chocolate chip cookies.  The week before cranberry muffins + fish tacos + turkey chili.  Random combinations, but that’s where the beauty and the focus comes in.

This is definitely the winter version of this list.  Or maybe that’s the newly minted homebody in me feeling some queasiness.  Regardless, when it’s a little warmer or you have little ones running around, I’m sure there’s a different set of possibilities to help folks focus.  But for now, I’m digging these.

&d

 

Sunday Detox: Granola!

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I love living in NYC, but it can be overwhelming and downright toxic for your health if you’re not careful.  I’ve always used Sundays as a day to reset – whether to recover from a long weekend of fun nights out, or to prepare for a long week ahead of work and travel where healthy meals are far and few between.  A little time spent on detoxing on Sundays has gone a long way to combat the madness of city living.

I’ve never been able to be too extreme in my approach.  Days straight of drinking only juices and concoctions or severely limiting my diet or behavior has never worked for me or has felt particularly healthy.  So, instead, I just try to set myself up for low-sugar, low-flour, low-alcohol weeks, kicking it off on Sunday.

Some Sundays are more successful than others.  Life is life.  But, I’ll plan to share one approach a week with you guys to try to keep myself honest, and hear how you all keep yourselves healthy.

First up:  my favorite granola recipe!  I grabbed and adjusted from Cookie + Kate, a fantastic whole foods cooking blog that you should check out.  I make it in bulk, and then try to pack it with me for breakfasts or snacks during the week.   It is naturally sweetened with honey (or maple syrup, if you prefer), instead of the pounds of white sugar you’ll find in the grocery store variety.  I also sneak in a little ground flaxseed for some extra Omega-3 and fiber. That, along with whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts and seeds I have in the pantry that week, and I’m done.  Couldn’t be easier.

The recipe below will yield about 5-6 servings, so I typically double it to have a stockpile.

Homemade Granola

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1½ cup raw nuts and/or seeds (I use a combination of chopped pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg or cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup dried fruit (I use a combination of cranberries, blueberries and cherries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients except the fruit.  Pour in the honey, oil and vanilla and mix it until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.  Throw it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and into the oven for about 25 minutes, stirring once about half way through.

Once it’s out of the oven, I let it set for a few hours.  I like my granola clumpy and it tends to stick together better than way.  Mix the dried fruit in once its chilled and set.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some granola to chomp…

&d