Thursday, June 22, 2017

11 Favorite Things

 1. Oatmeal.  I know.  Summer time is the last season one thinks of for eating a lot of oatmeal.  This dish typically seeming to be reserved more for autumn or winter.  But I assure you, its just as delicious any time of the year.  Finding myself on a major oatmeal kick right now, oh man!  Its just SO good!

The best kind.  Homemade Pumpkin Chia.  SUPER easy to make.  Healthy, filling, homey and so tasty.  Want the recipe?  Here you go.

2. Books.  (Obviously ;-p).  Though especially non-fiction.  A few of my most recent reads...

3. Good listening.  I am finding myself really starting to pay attention and hone in on those who are good listeners, versus those who are not.  The latter sadly making up the vast majority of people.  And the funny part?  Most of these very people think they are great listeners!  I am so over it.  Crappy listeners.

Don't get me wrong, none of us can possibly be awesome listeners 100% of the time.  For the main reason that truly good listening takes energy and focus, difficult for anyone to attempt sustaining for hours.  However, one should shoot for being a focused, open, engaged and genuinely interested listener most of the time.  

When one is a poor listener, their relationships will suffer.  Disagreements tending to occur more often, misunderstandings happening and even sometimes people growing hurt or angered over it.  Learning this will change your life in drastic ways.  Improving your relationships, connections with others, and in turn their feelings towards you (in majorly positive ways).

This is something I am ever working on.  Reading about, putting in a lot of effort as often as I can, continually challenging myself in this regard, and mindfully checking myself on it. 

Here is a short and sweet, but excellent article on the topic.

Are you a good listener?  You might be surprised...

4.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Especially these ones made with almond flour.  I cannot believe how much they taste just like the real deal.  Except these guys are gluten/grain free, dairy free AND sugar free!  Don't believe me regarding how delicious they are?  Try them.  You will be hooked.  I am.

5.  Writing.  Oh man, am I on a writing kick.  A torent just pouring out.  Rushing home every single night after the gym or meeting with a friend to do so.  The hardest part?  Getting into it initially.  Picking up the habit in the first place.  Once you have been doing it daily for a week or two, its likely youll find yourself hooked.

Plus, fun fact(s), ready for some ways writing benefits your health and life?  Writing can reduce stress.  It helps you overcome tough moments quicker.  It can help in making decisions with more clarity and ease.  Writing makes you feel happier.  It also leads to better communication over the long run as well as better learning. 
The list goes on.  Google it ;-)

Writing is awesome for you, benefiting your life in numerous ways.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear     

6.  Salmon and shrimp.  And quinoa.  Oh man.  A major kick on these things right now.  Quinoa is awesome for you.  Grain free, low in calories, but filling and delicious.  An awesome base for throwing together a bowl of your favorite veggies and a protein.

One of my favorites to throw together for dinner or lunch.  Salmon pesto beauty bowl.

Coconut curry shrimp quinoa bowl.

SO yum and loaded with good for you ingredients.  Get glowing with this buddha bowl recipe.

Heres my recipe for this summer quinoa buddha bowl.

7.  Beach Reads.  It is the season... ;-)

A few that I have especially enjoyed (the first one, "The Engagements" is actually one of my favorite "chick lit" books ever. I have read it 3 or 4 times now).

And quite possibly the best memoir I have read in my life (and I've read a lot of them).  This one absolutely making it into the top three.  I have read it 3 or 4 times now and will unquestionably do so again.  Mind blowing.  So beautifully written and such a unique, incredible story.  
Its a mistake not to read this one!

8.  Quotes.  Yes, a lot of them are baloney.  Or cheesy.  Or have only half truths to them.  Or tend to be one sided or narrow.  But, a LOT of quotes are pretty awesome and totally hit the nail on the head.  Some of them summing up a life aspect or truth in such a perfect package (aka, the quote).  Short, sweet and moving. 

They can be inspiring and uplifting in moments of feeling bummed, or even better, thought provoking and capable of changing something within you.

A few of favorites at the moment...

9.  Sweet potatoes.  My god are these good.  Low in calories, filling, versatile and SUPER tasty!!!  Toss a couple of fried eggs on top of a baked sweet potato.  Add some bacon, onions and spinach.  Absolutely delicious, filling and really good for you.  I didn't used to be a huge sweet potato fan until the last 1.5 year ish and now, I cannot imagine my life without them <3

A few superb sweet potato ideas for ya... ;-)

Sweet potato breakfast bowl.  Heres the recipe.

Bean and sweet potato enchiladas.  Heres how to make em!

Sweet potato snack, topped with sunflower butter, banana and cinnamon.

The BEST sweet potato pie.  Free of refined sugar and gluten.  The bomb diggity.  Sure to become a household favorite immidiately upon tasting.  Heres how to make it :-)

Get glowing with this salmon, quinoa and sweet potato bowl.  Heres the recipe for this fantastic dinner.

Another healthy and delcious dinner.  Quinoa, salmon, sweet potato and various vegetables.  An awesome combination.  Want to try it out?  Here you go.

Sweet potato chocolate cake.  For those who claim to hate sweet potatoes, you cannot even taste them in this one.  Gluten free, dairy free AND refined sugar free.  This might be one of my favorite desserts ever.  ready for one of the best and healthiest cakes youve ever tasted?  Who would have thought those two descriptions could be found in the same sentence.  "Delicious" and "healthy" in a cake ;-).  Heres the recipe.

10. Bicycling!!!  Oh man.  And to think I am leaving Europe, the land of bicycling.  The only reason I never got one (which I now regret) was for the reason of knowing I was leaving in the near future.  But man.  Easy, portable exercise.  Gives you a nice, cooling breeze in your face.  Relaxing.  A way to unwind on your way to work or while riding home.  Scenic.  An easy way to explore and cover a lot of ground (within a town or out in the country, either one). 

The list of awesome aspects of bicycling goes on.

My absolute dream bike.  I will get one of these someday, somehow ;-)  <3.  In light mint green, wood weaved basket on the front.  A vintage ladies style bicycle.  Could you get anymore charming and lovely?

11.  Letters.  Whether a thank you letter, a love letter, a goodbye letter, or a letter "just because."  As time has gone on, our means of communication with others has (in my view) grown shorter.  With far less effort put in, sadly often resulting in lower quality communication and less close connections with others.  

What was once hand written letters and cards have became emails.  Nowadays, people cannot find the time for this.  Instead, texting or short facebook messages sufficing.  No one "has the time" anymore.  I would venture to guess this might be part of why there are such issues today with loneliness and with people feeling less emotionally connected with others.  (Another part of the problem?  See point #3 on this list ;-).  And then of course there are surely many other factors at play).

There is something so meaningful, charming and mindful about a letter (or a heartfelt, in depth email).  It shows effort on the writers part.  An engagement and investment in their relationship with the other.  Taking time from their life to sit down and communicate meaningfully with someone in their life.  A letter shows that someone cares for you.  That they find importance in their relationship with you.  

Think of the cards or letters you have gotten in recent years?  I bet some of them really made an impression on you.  Maybe several are saved somewhere in a keepsake box of sorts.  And a letters sense of meaning to the receiver reverberating long past the letter is actually received. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Upcoming Adventure: Florence and Siena

Hi all,

The countdown is here!  Well, two countdowns really.  The one to which I am referring is my upcoming trip to Italy with Judith, one of my very best friends here in Germany.  The two of us will fly on July 2 to Florence and Siena, staying through to July 6

A short but what I have no doubt will be a super sweet adventure.

(Then the other countdown to which I am referring: moving to the US/New England in just 7 weeks time!!!  US Politics aside, I am getting SO pumped :-D.  For the past year, my heart has been whispering towards heading to New England.  I have little doubt that this will be a thrilling, awe inspiring new chapter in my life).

So, back to Italy.  Chosen for two reasons.  Judith hasn't been to either of these two cities.  And because Florence is the first European city I ever spent time in.  So it seemed a rather fitting "ending" to this awesome chapter of my life, if you will. 

Back during 2008 when I studied abroad there for six weeks, I have no doubt that this experience was a huge contributor in leading to my having lived in Europe now for the last four years.  Interesting, isn't it?  The small seeds that get planted in our minds and hearts.  Often not realized fully that they were even being planted until years down the road when they bloom and actualize.

Florence felt like a fitting wrap up to this hugely awesome, life changing, heart filling period of my life.  Because in a way, Florence is where it all began.

(And having never been to Siena but hearing how gorgeous it is, I am psyched to experience and explore it!)

However, before I fill you in on mine and Judith's potential explorations of and plans for our visit to these two cities, I thought it might be fun instead to rewind for just a moment.  Sharing with you some of the photos from my experience of studying abroad in Florence back during 2008, as a mere 22 year old.  The ball that got it all rolling if you will ;-). 

Elated, nearly dizzy with thrill in this photo.  Having just arrived in Florence :-D.  My first time in Europe.  In awe and just tittering with excitement in this very moment.

View of Florence from the Boboli Gardens

The flat I stayed in, with three other girls, for the six weeks I was studying there.

My bedroom.  With a pretty but totally out of place, strange Japanese motif on the wall...

Wandering the Boboli Gardens with a few of my new friends/fellow classmates.

With one of my roommates.  Supposedly in rubbing the boars nose, one will undoubtedly return to Florence someday.  Interestingly, I have ;-).  Several times since.

Learning to make authentic Italian food.  DELISH.

In asking for "a bit of ice with my water," this is what I got.

How gorgeous is that Duomo dome from the inside? 

Florence at sunset from the vantage point of Piazza Michelangelo.

With Johanna, who was probably my closest buddy and travel partner in crime while in Florence.  We spent almost every day together, as well as traveled to Venice and the Cinque Terre together.

Inside the Florence Duomo.  Apparently if ones shorts are too short, or one is wearing a tank top, this is what they give you to wear while inside ;-).  Sexy, eh?

Venice <3


God this was a cool moment.  Feeding the pigeons in the famous Piazza Saint Marco when, upon standing up, a cloud of them surrounded me.  Several landing on my hands and arms.  This was pretty magical.

Venice, by gondola.

The narrow, crumbling alleys of Venice.

Tough guys in the Colosseum of Rome ;-)

Drinks at JJs Cathedral in Florence.

Cinque Terre with Johanna.

Cinque Terre.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence.  I was SO thrilled for these entire six weeks.  Just filled with joy and excitement.

Annnnnnnd, at the tail end of my studying, my mom flew over to visit!!  Her first time in Europe as well :-D

Grand Canal in Venice.

Mom and me in Piazza Saint Marco of Venice.

Mom and I, also out with my friend Johanna and her friend, Georgio that evening.  (Georgio later texted while my mom and I were in Rome the next week, professing his love and asking that I move there.  That was interesting :-O). 

This photo was taken on our last night in Florence before my mom and I would take off for Paris <3

So this is a funny story. 

The guy behind me on the right, in the purple shirt?  I had the most monstrous crush on him throughout my entire time studying in Florence.  He worked at the restaurant situated at the end of my street.  I took to going there several times a week, to gaze, trying not to drool as I ate my pumpkin ravioli (which by the way, was also drool worthy).  When my mom arrived, I assured her she needed to see this beautiful man.  We had dinner there one evening, upon which she agreed he was gorgeous. 

Come my last night in Florence, she grabbed my arm playfully, marching us down the street to get a photo of me with this guy I had so desired and crushed on from afar.  She asked the restaurant staff if they might pose for a photo, as I had loved their food during my stay.  God, my face was so flushed, feeling so silly.  As though he totally knew was I was up to ;-)