Whether you are transitioning to a plant-based diet or are simply wanting to make more healthful food choices (shorts/bathing suit season is just a few months away- this always scares the ba-jeezus out of me to get my sh*t together), nothing can cause sabotage quite like a good ole’ fashioned picnic or office party. Social situations can derail you in a New York minute, robbing you of all your hard work like a thief in the night. Here are some tips to stay the course and enjoy these gatherings...that’s why we go right? To enjoy the comradery...the coming together in the spirit of a good game, to have meaningful conversation and catch up with friends or colleagues, to witness the love shared at a wedding or celebrate a loved one at a birthday party; and wouldn’t it be nice to do all that without being distracted by the food?
1. Make a RULE for Yourself:
Decide ahead of time what you are not going to eat at the event. That way when the tray comes around, your automatic response is “No thank you.” The decision has already been made and you’re not caught off guard, left to wrestle with yourself over whether you should have that one piece of cheese or not. (By the way it will never end up being just one piece. How will you feel on the other side of this slip?) Some examples of a rule might be: I do not eat cheese., I do not eat fried foods., I do not eat dips made with dairy. I do not eat chips…..see what I mean? Just pick one or two rules around a trigger food that you know will save you the most sabotage.
2. Don’t Stand By the Food:
How often are we engaging in conversation with people, yet the nearby food table is seducing us to refill our plates? The cheese ball just seems to have this neon arrow hovering above, getting bigger and brighter, relentlessly pulsating like a thunderous, thumping heartbeat in your ears. Maybe that’s just me. Fill a small plate and get the hell outta dodge. Standing by the food table is simply putting yourself through some useless resistance training that, if you’re new to these changes, will likely inhibit your success. Find someone to talk with, elsewhere or go outside for some fresh air to take a break until you’re feeling stronger. This last one also applies when you're seated next to that special someone whose political position is wearing out your last nerve. Just sayin'.
3. Bring Your Own Food:
This tip applies to informal parties and gatherings. Check with the host, if it’s appropriate, to give him or her a heads up that you’d like to bring a dish or two to pass. They will most likely be relieved to know they will not need to prepare something special for you. Some good examples of appetizers would be Cowboy Caviar, fresh salsa & chips or guacamole,
7 Layer Dip, vegan artichoke spinach dip, veggie or fruit tray...whatever it is you like to munch on, be sure to bring it! Chances are it will blend in with everything else on the table and everyone can enjoy.
4. Limit the Alcohol:
I know, sometimes we drink just to get through these things. A-hem. The thing is the calories add up, it impairs your judgement and there’s something about alcohol that causes us to munch. It’s like….you have a couple drinks, then you eat to sop up the booze so you don’t get a hangover or you're simply feeling gluttonous and just like that (blink) you’ve had an extra 1000 calories. Try setting a 2 drink limit for yourself or better yet see if you can navigate this thing without a buzz (??). Chances are your discussions will be more meaningful and you’ll wake up feeling empowered the next morning.
5. Don’t Talk About Being Plant-Based Unless You’re Asked:
Often, people tend to feel your healthy food choices automatically make them inferior. They will assume you are judging them and you may be met with a good measure of snarkiness, and even hostility. A good way to get out of the “hot seat” is to say you are experimenting. People generally accept this and you all can move on. Some people may find it very interesting that you’ve made some changes and will be inspired to ask questions. You’ll find sharing your experience with these people easy breezy...be sure to observe them while you're talking and know when to shut’er down when their eyes start to glaze over.
6. Call a Restaurant or Venue Ahead of Time:
When it comes to dining at a catered event or restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by calling ahead and/or checking the online menu. Explain that you have a limited diet and see what they can do for you. I have never had this conversation and been told…”Sorry, we don’t have anything for you to eat.” Chef’s are usually enthusiastic about offering a vegan dish or creating an entrée to meet your needs. And in a time when there are countless people suffering from food allergies, it’s just not that uncommon. Bottom line...Ask for what you want ahead of time. It will save you in the long run and leave you to enjoy yourself and not cave into ordering “the usual” in order to not be made to feel difficult. You can find more tips on dining at restaurants and eating on the road in an earlier blog post Traveling Plant-Based.
7. Assess the Situation:
Ok, you’ve got this thing coming up. If all else fails you can always eat beforehand. This will make it less likely to have a slip if you’re not actually starving when you arrive. Alternatively, you could pack food to leave in your car, excusing yourself periodically to chow down your veggie lo mein in the back seat along the floor boards. Look. It’s all doable, you just have to keep your eye on the ball. Revisit your goal and do what’s necessary to stay in alignment with that.
8. Remember why you’re going to whatever it is you’re going to:
Celebration is usually what our social gatherings boil down to. The coming together to enjoy ourselves alongside others at weddings, birthdays, bowl games, office morale boosters, holidays, friendships, anniversaries, love...even funerals. Remembering this will shift your focus (obsession) away from the food.
BONUS TIP#1 Phone a friend.
Or text. Or DM or PM, I don't care if you use ESP to reach out to someone who will support you and help you stay accountable. It might look something like this..."HELP! I'm dumping the entire cheese selection into my jacket pockets!!" Just typing that or saying it out loud should wake you out of your stupor...you'll put the cheese back on the tray and return to business as usual. You've got this!!
BONUS TIP #2
There’s no such thing as “Everything in Moderation” or “Cheat Days”:
These are cleverly worded excuses for going off-the-wagon, otherwise known as yo-yo dieting...and there you have it folks! You’re back on the hamster wheel. Look. We all slip. So if you screw it up, just call it what it is and move on with your life. Or better yet, make the decision that you’re going to eat off-plan and do it consciously, “I know this cheese is bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway.” That way, you’ve made a conscious choice that you can live with and not a mindless one that you’re going to beat-the-ever-living-heck-out-of-yourself for over the next few days. Simply start again with the next meal.
Listen. Come closer.
Not next Monday, not next month, or at the New Year. Start again with the next meal...this is one of the secrets. This is, in part, how it becomes a lifestyle and not just another diet.
Let me share with you one of my favorite, simple and more versatile appetizers that is always a win at social gatherings. I hope you enjoy!
Jeanmare’s 7 Layer Dip
1 15 oz can of fat free refried beans
1 15 oz can of black beans
2-4 Tbsp taco seasoning
¼-½ cup jarred salsa
Jalepeños, sliced (optional)
8 oz guacamole
12 oz vegan sour cream or plain yogurt
1 12 oz jarred salsa
Green onions, sliced
Black olives, sliced
2-6 corn tortillas, crisped or toasted
Other possible toppings: chopped tomato, bell pepper, pico de gallo, cilantro, vegan cheese
Note: To bake chips yourself, slice corn tortillas into triangles and bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp, flipping halfway through cooking time.
Happy Herbivore’s DIY Vegan Sour cream: makes 1 cup
Per serving (1 Tbsp): 13 calories, .2g fat, 14g carbohydrates, 11g sugars, 16g protein
1 12.3 pkg Mori-Nu silken tofu
2-4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp distilled white vinegar
⅛ tsp fine salt
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Agave nectar, to taste
A light dash of garlic powder
1 tsp dried or fresh dill, optional
In a blender combine tofu with 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, vinegar, a pinch of salt, mustard powder, a few drops of agave nectar, and a light dash of garlic powder. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more lemon and/or sweetener if necessary or desired. Stir in dill before using.
Manly meat is so hard to give up! When I went vegetarian in December 2015, my boys declared “We will never give up meat! We love meat!” I prepared the same meal for all three of us, just adding in a little chicken, beef, or fish for them. When I decided to go vegetarian, it was plain and simple; “I don't like meat, why am I eating it?” So, I stopped. Easy Peasy. I ate eggs everyday, mostly, because we had chickens and we had a lot of eggs to use. I also LOVED cheese. My manly-men needed their meat! Once I started studying holistic nutrition and learned about the plant-based lifestyle and it's ability to reverse disease, I was SOLD! I'm a type A personality. You've heard me say this before, I'm an all or nothing kind of gal. My poor husband, he loves me anyway!
I started sharing all the information with my boys, educating them on the amazing health benefits of a plant-based life...they were not as excited as me, but I'm happy to say they were a little frightened by what they learned about animal products. *cue evil laugh. I told them that if they wanted meat, they had to cook it themselves. Well, that was easy because no one cooks around here but me. I win, again!! So, that was it, no more meat. That's where we started and then, eventually, weened off of the cheese and eggs. Well, eggs were not difficult for us to cut out of our diets after an eye-opening article that described the chicken's egg as part of their menstrual cycle!! REALITY CHECK! GROSS!!
Our transition consisted of some “fake” meats...meats made with soy protein, vegetable protein, and/or vital wheat gluten. These are not health foods and I would never want to advocate for that as they are highly processed foods. However, they made our transition A LOT easier. These “fake” meats have helped us get on track and stay the course.
Vital wheat gluten, when used to make vegan meat, is referred to as Seitan. I have practiced with this numerous times coming up with some pretty delicious and fun recipes like “chicken” and bbq “ribs”. It's actually really easy to work with, but takes a while to cook. Confused as to what vital wheat gluten is?
My son has always loved pepperoni. After eliminating meat from our diets, he would say “I'm craving pepperoni”...he's a weirdo. Well, being that I love him so much, I went in search of a plant-based pepperoni and came upon the Fat Free Vegan Blog. I haven't adapted her recipe at all, other than subbing what ever nut butter I have on hand when she calls for cashew butter (I have never had cashew butter so I have used peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower butter on separate occasions.) This recipe is spot on for the “taste” of pepperoni!! The texture is a off...I would describe it as soft and maybe a little doughy. My son likes the softness, but I have tried adding more time to the baking time and have had success with a firmer and drier pepperoni; play around with the baking time and see what works best for your taste buds. I shared this with our nutrition workshop participants and everyone seemed to really like the flavor! Even some of their kids gave it a thumbs up. So, if you are already plant-based give this one a try for some new meatiness, but even if you're not plant-based, yet, give this a try and maybe we can convert you!!
Here are a few tips:
-Get your hands in there and work the dough! It will be too tough to use a spoon.
-The recipe calls for a 7 inch log, this will give you about a 1.5 inch in diameter slice of pepperoni. If you want smaller slices (like you'd find in regular pepperoni), you can create (2)-7 inch logs with the logs being narrower in circumference. Just wrap them separately in foil and decrease baking time by 10 minutes.
-You may prefer a drier pepperoni...just add a little time to the recommended baking time
-I always double the recipe...it lasts for about 2 weeks when sealed in the refrigerator.
-Eastyn's favorite is a pepperoni and mustard sandwich!
Veggeroni (Seitan Pepperoni)
From the Fat Free Vegan Blog
"Mom, I really want goats.. more than anything. I want goats!" That was the constant cry of my (at the time) 6 year old daughter. We always said no. We would kind of brush it under the rug, "not right now, maybe in the spring, maybe when you are older"
Well, as most parents do, after months of begging, we finally caved. We got in touch with a goat breeder and went to visit her farm and came home with two cute little goats. Peaches and Dulce.
At that time the kids were young, we were home and we devoted so much time to taking care of them, playing with them and making sure they had everything they needed. The kids would take them treats every day after school. Some days we would find them just sitting up in the barn hanging out with them. They really became a special part of our homestead. We had them for two years and decided to breed them. We wanted to explore milking and making milk products. We bred them both with only the success of one. But that was fine with us. So in the spring that brought on two more goats. A male (Fallon) and a female (Fiona).
The kids were growing up. We had had the goats (4 of them) for 4 years now. We milked Peaches. Had milk to drink, but never enough for anything else. So we thought we'd get a few more. Home came Hazel.. and eventually Clyde. Between breeding and birthing we some how ended up with 10.. yep. 10 goats this past spring. Right about the same time my kids were becoming more interested in sports, and we turned to a plant based lifestyle. It became overwhelming. My husband taking the brunt of it.. caring for everyone. Let me back up and state the Clyde.. while good hearted is a huge goat with wild horns who is very playful. Keeping the kids and I out of the goat barn.
So what's next. We have had goats for 7 years. I love those little creatures. All of them. There had been this unsettling feeling that it was time to be done. That became clear on New Years day. Josh went out to feed the goats. I was watching him from the kitchen window and I saw him dragging Peaches out of the barn dead. My heart was broken. I ran out the kitchen bawling, screaming that I cannot do this anymore. My heart couldn't take it. Then I had to go tell the kids. They were already in the car because we were leaving to go somewhere. Watching tears stream down their faces from inside the car was devastating. So on New Years day.. a day for new beginnings, we burried our favorite goat and decided to close that chapter of our lives.
We have learned a lot from having them. My kids have learned responsibility, we have all watched them give birth and care for their young. We learned to love them and let them go. And we've watched them die and mourned for them. That's a lot to learn especially for a kid. So, yes.. i'm glad we caved all those years ago and let Natalie get her goats!
We all close chapters in our lives. All the time. This was a long chapter for us full of a lot of joy. Moving forward i'm not sure what the future brings. I know this spring and summer it is to put the time that we dedicated to the goats into a more efficient and productive vegetable garden!
I am glad I got to share this chapter with you. I hope as you close chapters in your lives you take time to reflect on the impact that it has made. These are the things that make us who we are!
Living among my omnivorous family can get tricky, especially when it comes to dinner time. And truthfully, it can be super frustrating either cooking separate plant-based meals for myself or adding meat and cheese to them for the rest of the fam. Sometimes we are in a good rhythm of getting dinner on the table and other times it can be downright draining. I've never been one to try and convert anyone. But when it comes to cooking for my family, I feel I'm wrestling this moral dilemma, knowing that despite the personal choices I make for myself, I am still part of that “machine”...the meat, dairy and egg industry.
It's said we vote on our food selection with our dollar and even though I’m not consuming meat, dairy or eggs, I’m still voting in favor of them because I’m purchasing for my household.
I don't think I've made it a secret that my reasons for going plant-based were rooted in vanity. I wanted to be slim and look my best. But I think there are countless reasons I have stayed plant-based for a number of years now: chronic disease prevention, faster workout recovery time, water conservation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, land conservation, the slowing of deforestation and species extinction, reducing marine life destruction and waste pollution, alleviating world hunger, and disengaging in animal cruelty. I'm an animal lover. And I don't see a difference between my dog Phoebe and a sweet mama cow named Daisy chewing grass leisurely in the meadow with her babe.
Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
That said, I’m really trying to work out a solution here, but I fear I’ll have to just wait until they all move out! When I first began transitioning to a plant-based diet I removed all animal products from our home and declared it “Plant Strong and Cruelty Free”, a home where only healthy food is served and nobody gets hurt. My kids just ended up mad at me...a hangry mob. So I'm leaving this very personal decision up to them. #firstworldprobs
On a positive note, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve...some recipes that work for all of us, and lucky for me this one, especially, is versatile, delicious and leaves me feeling as though I haven’t just poisoned them all. A girl’s gotta sleep at night...
This recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo is adapted from Chloe Coscarelli's first cookbook Chloe’s Kitchen. Not only does it make a rich, delicious Alfredo sauce but also a wonderful white cream sauce to toss with your vegetables or top your baked potato. I’ve tweaked it to be more healthful.. sans the oil and added vegg. I hope it brings your family to the table in a healthful and decadent way, herbies and omnivores alike!
Fettuccine Alfredo, serves 4 to 6
1 pound fettuccine
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup raw cashews or blanched almonds
1 ½ cups water
2 teaspoons white miso paste, optional
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, optional
12-16 oz frozen broccoli or vegetable medley, optional
Note: If you are not using a high speed blender, such as Vitamix or Blendtec, soak cashews or almonds overnight or boil 10 minutes and drain. This will soften them and ensure a silky smooth cream.
photo credit Chloe's Kitchen
On the inside I feel young, but the mirror keeps telling me differently. Why do I even have mirrors? New lines keep popping up and I'm not going to say I like them because I don't, at all. But they do remind me that I am not as young as I feel and that's OK. With age comes wisdom and clarity(and wrinkles and sagging skin-GAG!). As I reflect on the years passed, I think how important some things seemed and FELT and now...laughable. During my twenties, I traveled with my husband as he made his rounds through 6 years of independent league professional baseball (not as exciting as it sounds-imagine living in a hotel room for half a year in a strange city...with a baby! AND a husband gone half of the week). I'll share some of those stories another time. But, through those years, states, cities and stadiums I've met some amazing people...good and bad. It's not just those EXPERIENCES that have shaped my opinion of what makes a GOOD person, it's every experience I've had: jobs, family, friends (ex-friends), having a child… Every time I have an interaction with those people that test my ability to be a decent human being, I remember my list...we can all use a reminder to just BE GOOD........
5. BE Perfectly Imperfect- I would never want anyone to think I am perfect. I WANT to be WEIRD and different and even a little CRAZY! I get mad, sometimes for no reason. I fight with my husband. I yell at my kid. I don't wear deodorant. I “make” cereal for dinner sometimes. I start projects and never finish them. I get obsessed with ideas one day and then, totally and completely abandon them the next. I hide chocolate from my family so I can eat it all myself. I like to put a big piece of spinach in my teeth and keep it there until someone notices. I can be really loud, and DRAMATIC, and get so excited about the smallest things, but also, have my feelings hurt very easily. I scream, yell, rant and rave, but I LOVE, just like all my other OBSESSIONS, deeply, completely, TOTALLY, 100% with EVERYTHING I have and sometimes it's too much, but mostly it's just ENOUGH.
You don't have to LIKE everybody and everybody is NOT going to like you.
But stick to that old adage:
Does anyone have the itch? That ...winter is grey and never ending... why isn't it spring yet feeling? I know i sure do. Now don't get me wrong. I love when we turn the clock back in fall. I love the dark evenings. Probably more than most people. I can't wait to settle down in the dark with a book and a cup of tea. I still enjoy the dark of night. I am that person who still has their Christmas lights up.. well. because they are beautiful! (Although my husband says they are coming down this weekend! And we have to clean the attic! UGH) It's not the dark that makes me itch for spring.. it's the grey.. Everything is dirty, we are all feeling cooped up, and we just need some freaking sun!
I long to see green.. green grass, maybe some buds on the trees. Unfortunately I can long all I want, but the reality is that we can't rush the seasons. We need to learn to enjoy each of them and what they offer. I know for myself sometimes I wish there was a fast forward button to spring, but guess what.. no.. nope.. there isn't one! I started following a girl on instagram a few years ago from Scandinavia who was always posting fabulous winter pictures and relating them to the feeling of Hygge.
Have you ever heard of Hygge? It's a pretty amazing thing. It's a part of Danish culture where they find pleasure in coziness and comfort. Most feelings of hygge are associated with winter. So i dove in! I figured if she was finding joy (and not just her, her whole culture) in the dreary days of winter so could we! And the more I looked into it, the more I realized it's not just about finding joy in the winter months, it's about carrying that joy and hygge feeling with you throughout the year.
Now if you don't already know, many studies have been done and all the results show that the Danish are the happiest people on earth! Seriously, on this whole entire planet! Not even just Denmark, but the whole Scandinavian area. I just read an article that Finland is currently closing jails.. (9 this past year) because they have no inmates to fill them. Schools are practicing meditation instead of detention, and little kids go to forest kindergarten! I mean how much cooler could this part of the world get. I could go on forever, but I'll stick with hygge!
SO ... how do we, as an easily distracted, busy, uncontent society make some personal changes to find coziness and comfort in these long days of grey? Or for the whole year.
For me, I started with coziness.. I added some throws to my couches, kept my wood stove burning, got some oil lamps out of the closet, and wool socks. I do have some awesome slippers too! I found some books I'd been wanting to read to keep on the coffee, table for when i have time to hygge! Now, don't assume I live in this little cozy dream world. But at least now these things that bring me joy are readily available, so when i am ready to wind down at the end of a long day my house brings me a certain coziness.
Then on to comfort.. there are not many material things that bring me comfort. I have no real connection with any of the things in my home. I couldn't keep adding things to try and bring comfort. So instead i went the opposite way.. i started getting rid of things! What a comforting feeling it was to not be tripping over stuff that I didn't even want in my house in the first place. With a sort of empty slate, I am learning to find comfort in the everyday. My coffee in the morning, kissing my kids before I drop them off for school, folding laundry with my husband, watching my chickens peck around in the yard. Nothing about these things are miraculous in themselves. Although learning to notice them, learning to get excited when I hear the coffee grinder, or cherishing that my kids now lean over for that kiss.. even at 9 and 13.. maybe it's out of duty, who knows.. but it's not about them. It's about how I am choosing to notice how it makes me feel! Comforted. For me I have learned to find comfort in feeling things.
It's a crazy revelation when you see how little changes in your day can make it seem so much brighter. So if you have a few free minutes, check out the tradition of hygge. I'm still learning. But it's a sure way to cure the winter blues ... or grey's! Hey, maybe grey can be your new favorite color!
Louisa Thomsen Brits, a British-Danish writer, casts hygge as a state of mindfulness: how to make essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful, how to live a life connected with loved ones.
What does it mean to be happy? Is it even a thing? Is it attainable? This is really what I wanted to know...
Can You Really Get There?? And WHERE is it???? Because in my experience I’d always been running right behind happiness...this restlessness pushing me toward a perpetual high of some kind. If I was in a perfect relationship I’d be happy. If I had the perfect job I’d be happy. If we made more and more money I’d be happy. If I’d lost 15 pounds and had a brand new boujee car I’d be happy. If my kids had the best toys, clothes and Pottery Barn inspired bedrooms life would just seem perfect. The thing is, I would get there but happiness would somehow still be up ahead, just around the bend. The bar had been raised and just like that I had set a new standard for happiness and once again I was on the fast track in trying to catch it.
In 2013, my marriage ended. My husband and I separated. Life sort of stood still that day. It was that eerie quiet like when the power has gone out and the whole town is shockingly silent. You’ve grown so used to the electric hum in the background that when it stops abruptly it wakes you out of this mind-numbing trance of whatever the hell it was you were doing.
Days led into weeks and weeks into months of utter despair, rage, sadness, grief, anger, depression, hatred, loneliness...and painful solitude. I was in the most pitiful, desperate, pathetic place I had ever known. One day I made a call to my former teacher and life coach. It was a call of desperation. I could not stand the physical pain I was experiencing...every part of my body ached. The physical pain of a broken heart. I don’t mean to sound so tragic (I’m told I have a flare for the dramatics. Whatever.) In hindsight, it wasn’t just the circumstances of our parting, it was the crumbling of my entire facade-of-a-life. The image of “us” as I thought everyone knew us to be….You know, the Facebook image. “Look at us being happy, perfect and always having fun!”
“Annie, I just want to be happy. Whether we divorce or reconcile, I just want to be happy. How do I do that?”
From that day forward, I began my most sincere efforts, not exactly in finding happiness, but in finding RELIEF. I did what any good, self-reliant woman would do. I opened the blinds and I called the plumber. We had a problem with the toilet, a task my husband, under our previous arrangement, would have been in charge of. I started getting my house in order, making lists of what needed tending to, changing the locks on the doors, removing pictures from the walls that reminded me of what used-to-be, and in the spirit of that, I rearranged my bedroom and purchased new bed linens and a table setting for 4. My husband and I were friendly during our separation so it wasn’t a matter of “getting rid” of him, but if I was going to achieve happiness for myself I had to reconstruct my life and my surroundings. I was like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The girls and I got into a rhythm. I would go for long walks in the park with my steadfast, loyal friend and look forward to coming home to an empty house while the girls were still in school. I spent A LOT of time alone. I would read, meditate, do yoga, journal, sip tea...weep.
Annie and I were having regular life coaching sessions. She encouraged me to make 3 lists. I was to make a list of things that brought me PLEASURE, a list of things that were MEANINGFUL to me, and a list of STRENGTHS or things I was good at. Where there was an overlap between PLEASURE + MEANING, those activities would foster a fertile ground for happiness. Where there was an overlap of PLEASURE + MEANING + STRENGTHS, this would show me my “sweet spot” for what kind of meaningful work I could put out into the world.
I took an inventory of my overlap for happiness: eating healthy food, exercise, quality time with my children, hiking, learning something new, travel/adventure, cooking, creating beauty, organizing, spending time with friends, meaningful discussion, meditation, decluttering, sitting in the sun, appreciation.
From my journal...
This last one...appreciation, otherwise known as gratitude, flipped the switch for me, as boring as it sounds. I began a daily practice of appreciation. Being grateful and feeling appreciation for everything as it is right now, rather than wishing for my circumstances to be different. I journaled this daily as evidence of my new practice. On the shittiest of days I found something to appreciate...the sun shining, the 5 minutes spent with my daughters lying at the foot of my bed, my dog’s unwavering loyalty and devotion, a call from a friend. I pledged to do this for 30 days and on Day 19 I noticed it had become a new habit. Instead of automatically seeking out all the wrongs in my world, somehow I had gotten into the practice of seeking out what was right. From this place, of gratitude and appreciation, is where miracles happen, friends. It’s where the seemingly impossible becomes POSSIBLE. The lights turn back on. It’s where forgiveness lives.
I found that happiness isn’t a place after all. It’s not a finish line or staking a flag in the ground to say, “I made it”. Happiness is a by-product of living a meaningful life.. I’m finding that happiness is a state of BEING...a sustainable one as long as what you’re doing is in alignment with PLEASURE + MEANING. Even on the bleakest of days (I still have them; I’m human after all), I would still say that I’m truly happy and have maintained a sense of steadfast fulfillment and contentment.
Incidentally, my husband and I reconciled. It turns out he was going through a good bit of healing and transformation himself. I hadn't been paying attention. I didn’t even entertain the thought of us getting back together because all my attention was focused on being happier and becoming a more fulfilled, healthy individual.
And in the space of appreciating what is, two awakened, shaken, broken -open souls were able to fall in love again...better than before, and build a new marriage based on something real instead of something we might be or have one day . He’s “my person”, I always knew that...
I can’t predict our story to be a happily-ever-after. But it’s a happy NOW. Our lives are rich in ways money, prestige, or things will never bring. We have had to make uncomfortable and painful decisions in order to reach higher ground and continue to grow. This means walking away from circumstances that no longer serve us. This means living apart in the short term to do things right for the long term. There is comfort in discomfort...especially if it means creating a better life, a brighter future, a more meaningful, magical now.
If you’re experiencing a marital crisis or any kind of despair, I would invite you to choose to see your life from a higher perspective. Dressed up as the Grim Reaper, it’s hard to recognize this situation or predicament as something good. It feels terrifying and painful; it causes us to run back to where it’s comfortable and safe, denying us, once again, the freedom that comes with living our best life. Find relief in the KNOWING that this darkness is the only place from which we can grow and change in BIG, lasting ways and live a more fulfilled life, if we're willing.
A butterfly seems so cliché, but I love butterflies. As caterpillars, they go crawling into the darkness of the cocoon where they experience transformation and re-emerge into something a hundred times more beautiful than before ...and take flight!
As I'm sitting in the hotel room waiting for my son's next hockey game to start, I'm thinking, what are we going to eat when we are done?! Sometimes it feels like such a battle; especially, when my family can't make a decision. We grabbed something quick at Whole Foods earlier, but I'm sure the team is going to want to go to a restaurant together. Quite frankly, I'm tired of black bean burgers!! That's usually our only “vegan” option on most menus. There are so many variations of the black bean burger so, it can be fun to taste what the different restaurants have to offer.
We went to this interesting restaurant called “Melt”. Have you heard of it? It has a retro vibe, with old signs and every kind of holiday décor imaginable! It had super cool energy, I love it! Anyway...It specializes in grilled cheese with a crazy amount of options in all things grilled and cheesy. But here is the best part: they offer vegan cheese as an option!! So fun!! They also had THE.BEST tofu wings, EVER! If you are open to it, it is really fun to discover new places and foods.
After the hockey game, we went for a treat at Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt and a treat it was!! It serves organic locally made yogurt, but also several vegan varieties (made with coconut milk)!!! It offered tons of self-serve toppings with at least 15 vegan options including fruit. It is so exciting!!
Let's talk about those black bean burgers though. I'm not knocking black bean burgers because we eat them all the time and we love them. Black bean burgers are a very quick and very nutritious meal. With that being said I thought I'd share with you a few options to try. Friday is our “burger” day so I try to play with them and make it fun. Here is a quick and easy base that you can add a million different varieties to:
Preheat oven to 400. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Put ingredients in blender and mix until blended (you could also mash everything up in a bowl if you find that easier). I like to reserve a handful of black beans to stir in after they are blended just for effect. Shape them into patties (about 4). Bake 12 minutes, then, flip them and bake another 12 minutes or until they are browned and crusty on the outside (the inside will remain soft). Put them on a beautiful bun with your favorite toppings and ENJOY!
See, a quick and easy meal that is super healthy and kind of fun to play around with! I also really like this next recipe from the Minimalist Baker. The cook time is a little longer than the previous burger recipe as you have to prepare sweet potatoes and rice or quinoa. I have made a few adjustments from her version to make it work for me. Don't be afraid to play around with recipes to make it work for you and your family! They aren't a set of rules, but suggestions! Give this one a try:
SWEET POTATO BLACK BEAN BURGER
Adapted from the Minimalist Baker
Share your favorite black bean burgers! Do you have any favorite vegan restaurants?!
Everyday is a new adventure! Some big, some small. Some easy, some hard. Work.. work is an adventure. Especially if you are lucky enough to feel like you don't have to work. We have been blessed to be in that situation.
Most of our mornings start the same. Wake up.. decide who is making coffee and packing lunches, and who is getting the kids up (sometimes its rock, paper, sissors! Seriously! One little guy is never happy about seeing us in the morning!) Breakfast with the kids, feed animals, tidy up the house, drop kids off at school, and then off to start our adventure. I'll just throw out there that we have always had a dream of working together. After many years a dream that has finally come true.. wow that sounds corny.. but its truth!
Living in a small community we have been able to become a staple in a handful of peoples days. They are the heart of this little place. Sinking our lives into others in our communtiy is something my husband and i have always been excited about. Being able to connect with the people who live among us, see their lives grow and change. Sometimes mourn with them as they go through a loss. It's not always rainbows and butterflies, but the majority of it I wouldnt change for anything. Plus let me tell you about our staff.. hands down the best! We have been able to connect with everyone on a level that is much more than boss/employee.. shedding tears when anyone of them leave us! (lucky enough that they always come back to visit, or even pick up a few shifts!)
And after all that happy sappy reality of my life.. here is the other side.
Restaurant life is tough you guys... constantly being needed. And not like a child needs their parents.. like a fryer is on fire and someone better get it fixed! Or a truck doesn't show up with your order and you have to quickly improvise and regroup.. or an employee gets sick and you work a 14 hour day. These sometimes feel like daily occurances. Plus add raising a pre-teen and a busy boy.. you get a little over loaded sometimes. That's where balance comes in. I thought that would come so easily. I thought wrong. What I thought would take a month ended up taking about 8! Yep.. 8 solid months of feeling like we couldn't find a groove. Like life was always throwing us a curve ball. I know everyone has times like this.. they never go away. EVER! So learning to go with the flow (something my need for control has a hard time dealing with) is the only thing you can do! And then there is feeding ourselves! Easier said than done folks!
..Sticking to a plant-based lifestyle while running a traditional restuarant has definitely had it's challenges. It was soooooo hard at first. Hard to stay on track. Choosing not to try new foods. (Although there was always someone around to be our taste-testers.) Hard to explain why we are choosing this path for our lives. Justifying this over and over. Serving food to customers that we dont eat. After so many explanations, and justifications I felt myself not finding joy in the food I was preparing for myself and my family. I felt like a fraud, encouraging people to come and spend time and money in our restaurtant. I wasnt sure how to change that.
Then I realized .... I didn't have to. Our customers mean more to us than the food that comes out on their plates. I can't change the way anyone chooses to eat. Customers are the life blood of a business, so you have to give them what they want. Meeting others right where they are is just the start. I can still talk about my life with them. I can still engage with them on a level deeper than the food choices that they are making. I don't need to justify myself about my food choices. All I can do is inspire others by leading by example and sharing it's benefits. Sure.. we pack our lunches some days.. sure we drink green smoothies. But that's us! And it's ok that it's not for everyone. So for now, our next step is to create a new menu. A menu with an option for everyone. So anyone who comes in (not matter what their food choices are) has plenty to choose from! Living in a small community has its rewards and challenges. Our dream is to offer the healthiest items around. Being local, and thriving on plant-based opportunities!
Our vision is to provide a wecloming atmosphere to everyone. Where people feel at home and relaxed in this little piece of our community. Watching customers interact with one another from behind the scenes is so rewarding. It's almost like watching a movie. So even when we are worn down and running on fumes.. this is life.. This is our life that we have been blessed with!!
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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