Reading, Eating, Resting, Restoring

IMG_7914

Last weekend, I attempted to have a little staycation. I say “attempted” as it didn’t exactly go according to plan. I did get in some good eats and reads though. I’m taking another week or so away from my subject before I dive back into some further research and revisions this summer. So for the time being it’s delicious vegan food and as many novels as I can possibly get my hands on. I kicked off staycation with two giant gluten free chocolate chip cookies with GF cookies and cream almond milk ice cream sandwiched in between. I rarely have desserts like this but this just hit the spot.

IMG_7932

Reading the fifth Game of Thrones with my own little dragon in attendance.

IMG_7937

Interwebs surfing, tofu scramble, lavash, guac, kale Kevita.

IMG_7943

PHO!

IMG_7946

Again, much needed and very delicious. Consumed while watching a couple episodes of Broad City. 

IMG_7948 IMG_7949

This was pretty much gone during day 1 of summer break/staycation. I’d read it in the evenings as I edited up my final term papers to help me keep my sanity, but I just devoured it as soon as I had the time.

IMG_7950

DONE!

IMG_7955

Typical lunch: spinach salad with garbanzos and tempeh, veggies, tossed in red wine vinegar, nooch, garlic, and a little olive oil.

IMG_7959

Next book! I put down A Dance with Dragons and almost immediately picked up The Girl on the Train. From what I can tell, this book has gotten a fair bit of hype on the internets, and it’s a great read. This is one of the prefacing pages, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to read the whole book. It’s a wonderfully told story that seamlessly weaves together multiple narratives to form a dark tale that at the end of the day is about women, observation, the gaze, and the darkness within.

IMG_7962

Afternoon treats, more book.

IMG_7964

Trying out a few new bars! So far I’ve liked all of them.

IMG_7966

Reading with this foot snuggler.

IMG_7968

Perhaps the shining jewel in the staycation weekend. Hearts of palm ceviche from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home. One of my absolute favorite recipes ever, and the perfect summery start off.

IMG_7973 IMG_7975

Tofu scramble with fixings, more lavash.

IMG_7979

Slumbering demon.

IMG_7981

Leftover fuel before taking a nature walk at the nearby Wakulla springs before starting off work for the week. Also in here somewhere (but not photographed) is Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I’ve read much of Plath’s poetry (I did a paper on her when I was an undergraduate) but not her only work of prose. I’d heard mixed reviews/feelings about the book from friends and colleagues but I must say I thought it was a good read. I blew threw it in a couple of days and am now immersed in In the Woods. This is another dark and creepy thriller type that is beautifully told and intelligently written. It makes for a great summer read if you want to escape to Dublin in your mind and follow around a Mulder and Scully type duo as they investigate temporally dissonant but related crimes involving 12 year olds. Yes, very creepy but so, so good.

I’m so glad to finally be able to get back in touch with my bookwormish self. During the school year I’m a different type of bookworm–researching, reading sources, patching together paper topics. I love this, but I always have to cut it with a little bit of fiction to help me keep my head on straight. So far this summer, it’s been a bit of a well deserved book binge.

Read anything interesting lately? Next on tap for me is Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast. 

Vegan Mac and Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide

IMG_7874

My favorite mac and cheese recipe. But we’ll get to that at the end of the post.

I’m a HUGE fan of vegan mac and cheeze, especially the funkier varieties of it. I’ve found several amazing recipes for mac that i’ve tried over the past several months, which I’m sharing today as a little bit of Sunday afternoon reading. Today is the day that I food prep for the week, and I often tend to make dishes like these–healthy spins on classic comforts–over the weekend as a way to relax. I love cooking this type of food as it’s not terribly complicated but involved enough to feel like an accomplishment. It’s also so satisfying to devour after soaking cashews and/or sunflower seeds, making a sauce, and sometimes baking mac into a casserole form. Below are several mac and cheeze recipes that I’ve tried over the past several months. I love them all for different reasons, they’re all funky spins on a classic favorite.

Vegan Yak Attack’s Sriracha-Cauliflower Mac was to die for and I loved getting a little extra nutritional punch from the cauliflower in this dish. I didn’t use the breadcrumbs, and it cooked up to a squash casserole kind of consistency for me but SO GOOD. I also subbed chickpea flour for the flour the recipe requires and that worked beautifully.

And of course, one Miss Isa Chandra Moskowitz makes some of the most amazing mac recipes ever. The BLT Mac and Cheese is an awesome spin on two comfort food favorites but with a healthy twist. It was also my first stab at making and trying my first ever vegan bacon, eggplant bacon, which I LOVED!

Her Mac and Shews recipe is a tasty, tangy, healthy spin on the old classic recipe. I doused mine in a healthy dose of hot sauce and was happy as a clam. It’s loosely based on the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook’s recipe. As Isa points out in this post this recipe is tasty, but not the healthiest. I was pleasantly surprised to see sauerkraut on the ingredients list for this dish. It’s used here to add a cheddar-like sharpness to the sauce, something vegan mac dishes often lack unless you’re using one of those amazing new vegan cheese products I’ve yet to really indulge in. This mac is also a healthier version of the classic dish and I loved the flavor brought on by the kraut and onions.

And now for my favorite mac of all the mac’s I’ve made lately:

IMG_7858

Best served on the weekends, with a good movie.

CHIPOTLE MAC AND CHEESE WITH ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS! (Also a PPK creation.) Holy hell, y’all. YUM. The chipotles add just a bit of heat (you de-seed them so they’re fairly mild) and the sauce is the cheezy, nutritional yeasty glory I look for in vegan mac. The brussels add not only a punch of greens to the dish, but also a caramelized roasted flavor. I’ve made this several times over the past couple of months and even passed it along to my parents, who made it while I was up in NC recently. This dish is truly unique and amazing. It could only have come from Isa’s mind to encompass comfort food in a healthy way, with clean, complex flavors and perfect textures.

The photos above are of my latest version of the chipotle/brussels mac. I made it with a lentil-based penne pasta (the ingredients are only lentils and water) for an added protein kick. Any and all mac recipes I make are always gluten free, just like all of my cooking. I recommend using the lentil based pastas (this brand is great!) or a brown/rice quinoa pasta for added protein and nutrients. These more substantial pastas will also keep you full for a longer span of time, making these mac and cheese dishes full meals in a bowl rather than a side dish.

Are there any other mac dishes out there that I should try? If you’re a mac and cheese connoisseur too, let me know in the comments section!

Negotiating Health in a World of False Positivity

 

This is another one of those posts that I’ve been muddling over for quite some time. Over the past year, I’ve made a huge effort to look at the entire picture when it comes to my health and wellness. Instead of ignoring certain aspects of my day, fitness routine, or food choices I’ve made a considerable effort to feel comfortable with the “negative” parts of my life. I’ve come to see them as learning experiences, but this shift has taken a lot of time because of the societal focus on false positivity that I think really overlooks some valuable sources of personal growth and knowledge. 

When the Florida State library shooting occurred this past fall, one of my classes was rescheduled to accommodate the University closing the day after. We had presentations that day, so canceling class altogether was just simply not an option. To start off the session while we waited for all of the stragglers to wander in we briefly shared our thoughts and feelings about the events that had recently transpired within sight of our department. One student said, “I think we should just get back to normal as quickly as possible.”

But things couldn’t be “normal.” Things didn’t feel normal, didn’t feel ok. The library, the heart of our campus, was disheveled–in some ways desecrated. There were several hundred students in the building that night, how could telling them to just move on and put a good foot forward possibly diffuse the fear, anger, anxiety, and stress they were feeling?

IMG_4828

I’m writing this post to address the idea of positivity and its possible detriment, to health specifically. In many places in my life I’ve been taught to only look on the bright side, think positively, only focus on the “good.” That’s an approach that’s never worked for me. Instead of feeling happier that I was only looking at the happy, the sad was only pushed aside. Deeper, and deeper it was shoved down and it never went away. I happen to think that we live in a false positive society: we’re told that if we only see the good, there only will be good, that there only will be happy. I, perhaps not so respectfully, disagree. In the absence of real, authentic thoughts and feelings including “negative” ones — anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear — how are we to know that the “good” is “good?” Like so many things in life outlook is twofold: without dark there can be no light, without cold there can be no warmth. You get the picture.

So for me, getting things at FSU back to “normal” quickly was far from what needed to be done. People were upset. I was upset and I hadn’t even been in the library that evening. We needed to confront that, feel what we felt in order to begin healing.

I read this post when it was first published a while back, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I really related to it. I felt wronged for feeling like I had to ignore my own feelings and thoughts just because they weren’t measuring up to what society deemed as “positive.” I’d like to also choose authenticity over an empty sense of positivity.

IMG_7030

Recently, I’ve started to take the same approach to my health. Instead of only choosing to see my progress, my strengths, the “good” foods I ate that day I’ve settled that I’m going to acknowledge the full picture, no matter what it looks like. I don’t want a false positive sense of health. I don’t want to pretend that things aren’t there when they are. If I don’t have a good work out today, I want to deal with that and think it over instead of only looking at the “good” lifts I achieved or the “good” number of squats I did. If I have a bad body day, I’m not about to ignore it. I meet it head on, and feel what I feel so that I can move forward.

So when your your stomach is upset and you don’t feel well, it’s okay. Take care of yourself. If you have muscle fatigue and your work out isn’t what you wanted it to be, appreciate it for what it was — successes and shortcomings alike. A yoga teacher once told me when doing moon pose no less, my yogic nemesis, “Don’t be afraid to fall. If you fall, that’s just a part of your practice for today.” And in a nut shell, what’s become my outlook toward really everything was solidified and shifted. Don’t be afraid to fall, it’s just part of it. Part of life, part of your practice for the day, part of being human and part of being a fully HEALTHY human to boot. Authenticity involves seeing, acknowledging, and coming to terms with a the whole picture, “positive” and “negative” alike.

In the absence of dark, there is no light. And, dear friends, if all we ever see is light, how the hell are we going to get a good night’s sleep?!

 

Photos and Life’s Loves: Stress Busting Edition

IMG_7811

Mornings. 

Lots of rain in these parts! Lots of books, lots of polishing of final term papers, humidity, smoothies, spring rains. Fortunately, i love all of the above so I’m more than content. This is the time of the semester when stress abounds. Everywhere, in every single tiny nook and cranny. Even though I try and work ahead when it comes to my writing and research, the last 3 weeks of the semester prove stressful nonetheless, packed with presentations, paper polishing, and perfectionism at its zenith.

IMG_7812

Kombucha brewing is on hold for the time being, for obvious reasons but I hope to start up another batch this week. Luckily, you can sustain a scoby off of a single batch of booch for weeks on end. You won’t get any kombucha from it, but your scoby will be alive and well! This is some ginger green tea brew from my last round of bottling, about a month ago.

IMG_7659

I found a bookstore! It’s about 45 minutes away in Southern Georgia and it’s perfect. I’ve been thinking of it since I ventured up last week. It was a rainy day, fairly cool as far as Florida goes. I took the drive North leisurely, listening to podcasts in the car. I found this little gem of a bookstore and my heart sang. I’ve been craving a small, independent bookstore ever since I moved here. I spent way too much money on books (a worthy cause if you ask me) including the newest Game of Thrones. No, I still haven’t watched the series yet! I won’t until I’ve read this tome. This photo was taken the day of, when I began reading A Dance with Dragons.

IMG_7794

About 4 days later.

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a voracious reader? As in ravenous. I go through books like a hungry vegan devours a tempeh ruben. I try to work ahead with my term papers, I wrote two of them nearly 2 months ago! This gives me time to a.) read Game of Thrones b.) polish them up slowly, over time, and carefully and c.) relax and enjoy my time. I LOVE being in graduate school, in fact I’ve never been happier. I like to enjoy this process. Writing is such a personal and intellectual challenge for me. Why waste it when I could savor every word upon the page?

IMG_7784

I’ve been enjoying natural light lately, with a few candles burning here and there.

IMG_7781 IMG_7761

Lots of tea, lots of smoothies. The usual.

IMG_7774

I found an amazing new Indian place near my house last weekend. I got channa masala and a mushroom curry dish with veggie pakoras. Amazing and much needed, especially on my rest day.

IMG_7788

A now for a couple of recommendations for your week ahead. If you’re a nerd like me, you should definitely check out this podcast. Imaginary Worlds is wonderfully composed and thoughtfully narrated. In 10-20 minute episodes, Eric Molinsky looks at a variety of nerdy alt culture topics from superheroes’ origin stories, to a read of current politics by way of Game of Thrones (the books and the TV series!). Definitely worth a listen and a lovely foil to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, another one of my new favorites. I went back and listened to the first episode of IW and I have to say, it’s one of the best introductions I’ve encountered in a long time.

Also, if you’re in the mood for a movie, check out A Fantastic Fear of Everythingavailable on Netflix. It’s brilliantly done. I’ve always thought that if Wes Anderson’s and Tim Burton’s diegeses combined, then that would be my ideal visual world. This movie is the closest thing I’ve found to that. The storyline follows writer Jack’s psychological state and his recently developed agoraphobia. There’s a point in the film (don’t worry, no spoilers here) where things sort of spiral out of control and it seems to be an entirely different movie from the one you started watching. But then, the end comes and everything is tied together so nicely and you completely understand (and appreciate) what just happened. I thought it was the perfect combination of dark, subtle humor, wonderful production design, and absurdity. It served as the perfect bookend to this past week, where writing and all of its psychological appendages have been on my mind almost constantly.

Books, movies, podcasts,  writing, amazing food. That’s pretty much what it’s been around here of late. Pretty swell, if I do say so. I’ve so enjoyed striking this balance lately–relaxation and enjoyment coupled to cut semesterly stress. Any tips and tactics that you use to find a similar equilibrium? Let me know if the comments!