Unplugging

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I’m back to the blogging world!

For the past week or so, I’ve kept my phone off, haven’t been on facebook, and obviously have not written a blog post.  Escaping the constant bombardment of text messages, emails, and social networking allowed me to focus on spending time with my family and living simply.

Last Monday, I helped my sister move into her dorm at Columbia University.  I cannot believe she is a freshman in college!

Then, on Wednesday, my mom, dad, brother, and I left for vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine.  We had a great time biking and hiking through Acadia National Park and eating our way through the town of Bar Harbor.  I promise to write more about our lovely vacation soon!

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Even though I was anxious to see the photos I took on my new Nikon D5100, a present to myself, I was reluctant to boot up my computer last night.  I knew that the moment I opened my MacBook Pro, a deluge of emails and updates would suck me back into the fast-paced, virtual world.

And here I am, nostalgic for a simpler time, but back.

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Back in the Armpit

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In the days leading up to my flight home yesterday, friends often asked me, “Are you looking forward to going home?”

I always gave them the same response, “I’m looking forward to seeing my family.”

For me, home has never been defined by the place.  Rather, I am at home wherever and whenever I am with the people I love.

My sister and I refer to our physical home in the Philadelphia suburbs as “the armpit.”  Indeed, stepping off the airplane and experiencing the moist rankness of the summer heat last night, I felt as though I had been thrust under the arms of a pubescent weight-lifter.   Don’t get me wrong, I am very blessed to live in a beautiful home.  However, vacations and attending college across the country have exposed me to the possibilities of a better quality of life elsewhere.

So, while it is nice to be “home,” I already can’t wait to escape the armpit and vacation in Maine with my family.

The Most Important Thing in Life

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The most important thing in life is your health.

I hear this phrase quite often, yet I still do not know who said it first.  Regardless, it is a maxim that I strive to follow.

 

Being healthy means that I can enjoy my life to the fullest – I can go hiking with friends, I can go for long bike rides, I can wear clothes that fit well, I can indulge every now and then.  Being healthy also allows me to live independently; I am strong enough mentally to care for myself and possess enough physical fortitude to complete household tasks, like fixing drawers and hanging curtains.  I owe the quality of my life to my health.

Recently, though, I’ve taken my health for granted.  I have neither slept enough nor eaten well and I have certainly had my share of what I call “cubicle cookies,” cookies and treats coworkers bring into the office.  My exercise routine has been lacking and I’ve felt overwhelmingly exasperated lately.  I attributed most of these emotions to end of summer exhaustion.  However, when I woke up with a terrible sore throat and sinus congestion this morning, I began reconsidering my reasoning.  Perhaps I developed this cold because I have not respected my body.

Whether I am correct in this assumption or not (though I believe that I am), this bout of sickness has provided me with the motivation to get back on the healthy bandwagon.  During the next month, before I depart for my term abroad, I will nourish myself with whole foods and strengthen myself with exercise.  I know what I need to do in order to regain my health and the ability to pursue all the exciting adventures of the upcoming weeks.

Angel’s Landing Trail, Zion National Park, UT

Gut-Busting Laughter

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Nothing beats spending an August evening with best friends.

Last night, we celebrated my friend’s birthday with a barbecue at her house.  We enjoyed delicious food …

Mmmmmm cake. Click image for source.

the crisp evening temperatures …

but, most of all, we enjoyed each other’s company.

My friends and I have all been very busy this summer; we haven’t gotten together as much as we had hoped.  In fact, before last night, I hadn’t seen two of my friends since the beginning of July!

With truly great friends, however, time apart bears no significance.  No matter how long we are separated – a day, a month, or (dare I say it?) a year – we can pick back up right where we left off: with ridiculousness and gut-busting laughter.

I love my friends <3.

A Breakfast Testimonial

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My life has been rather unremarkable lately.  Consumed by work and making preparations for going home, I have had very little time to do anything worth blogging about.  Or so I thought.

However, this morning I recalled one of the goals for my blog: to reawaken an enthusiasm for the everyday.  Therefore, I thought I would share with you one of the most mundane, yet pleasant moments of my day: preparing my breakfast of oat bran.

Combine 1/3 cup oat bran with cinnamon and just enough hot water to moisten the mixture. Stir to combine. Add chopped strawberries, blueberries, almonds, and one container of Siggis Icelandic Style Skyr Plain flavor. Stir and enjoy!

Rich, creamy, and satisfying, oat bran is nearly impossible to eat quickly.  As I watch the leaves on the trees outside my window emerge from the morning fog and enjoy a big bowl of oat bran and a steaming mug of green tea, I am reminded to slow down, even during such a hectic time in my life.

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Kitchen Conversations

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There is a parenting theory that encourages parents to converse with their children in cars.  When a driver and passenger are in a car, they are not facing each other; they don’t feel the same pressures of face-to-face conversation.  Without the visual components of facial expressions and body language, conversations in cars are much like speaking with a wall – a wall that actually cares and responds, that is.

click image for source.

Looking back over the years, car conversations brought my mom and me together.  In the car on the way to softball games, cross country meets, and the occasional shopping trip, we would talk about hefty topics, like puberty and college applications, and more petty gossip, like who recently underwent plastic surgery.  Sometimes, if something was particularly nagging me, I would look forward to a trip to the grocery store with my mom just so I could talk with her.  I remember a specific instance of driving to Safeway and finally finding the courage to tell her I needed more feminine hygiene products.  Now, when I come home from college, I happily assume my position in the passenger seat and accompany her as she drives her “laps” to the bank, post office, and other daily errands, so I can catch up with home life and catch her up with my life.

Recently, my friend has been going through a rough time; his parents are divorcing and his girlfriend broke up with him.  As we drove to his house to cook dinner last night, the car conversation inevitably turned to these two topics.  Staring out the windows, watching the other cars on the expressway and the bikers on the side of the road, both of us could avoid feeling judged, yet still be heard.  When we pulled into the driveway of his house, I expected the conversation to end with that unspoken protocol that car conversations usually do.  Whenever my mom and I arrive at our destination, the conversation shifts to our game plan, we need milk, carrots, and eggs or we need to deposit this check, all prior awkwardness disregarded.

While my friend and I did devise our cooking game plan – I would shuck the corn and he would cut the chicken – once we began our tasks in the kitchen, the conversation started up where we had left off.  Cars, it seems, are not the only places to stimulate the sorts of conversations that really open people up.  Busying ourselves with chopping and sauteing, my friend and I talked about relationship struggles, families, running, music, and anything and everything else that crossed our minds.

“I’m really learning a lot about you this summer,” he said.

“Likewise,” I said.

“It’s nice.”

Our dinner of stuffed tomatoes, chicken kebabs, and guacamole turned out perfectly.  More importantly than that, our kitchen conversation brought us closer together and in a much more environmentally friendly and delicious manner than one could ever replicate in a car.

click image for source.

  

Only Ten Days?

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Yesterday, I realized that I only have ten more days of work and only ten more days of summer here, at one of the most incredible universities in the world.  Just ten more days.

Where did my summer go?

I don’t have much to show for my ten weeks of summer vacation.  I had a number of anxiety issues, so I wasn’t able to read as much as I normally do.  In fact, I wasn’t able to read a book at all.  I checked out several from the library, but they are all still sitting on my desk with bookmarks marking where I stopped, a few pages beyond the introductions.


For whatever reason, not reading any books over the course of my summer bothered me as I biked back from yoga.  I guess I did not focus enough on the present moment at yoga yesterday.  As I passed the bookstore, I decided to stop inside and hopefully find inspiration to finish at least one of my books before I go home for the remainder of my summer.  Browsing the shelves of bookstores and sensing the potential of new, unopened books usually provokes me to finish whatever book I have already started.  It’s a part of the “there are so many books to read and so little time” mentality.

As I wandered through the quaint bookstore, musing on titles, I started to feel a long-dormant, yet familiar rush of excitement, a sensation similar to the anticipation before an airplane departs or a road trip begins.  All these books have a story to tell, a message to send me, a journey to take me on.  I could have picked up any book and bought it; but, any book ran the risk of joining my pile of literary excursions cut short.  I needed a book to really captivate me.  I needed a long, meandering story with developing characters, drama, love, misery, happiness, war, and peace.

War and Peace.

There it was, a fat, daunting volume.  I picked it up, felt its weight, flipped through a few pages, and hugged it to my chest.  Tobias Wolff told me it was his favorite book, and not just because he was proud to say he read the whole thing.  He said it was a story that really took him away and surprised him each time he read it.  (He has read War and Peace multiple times).

I should have put it down.  Plenty of stories are diverting and less challenging.  I just couldn’t.  I miss reading too much and it had been too long since I felt a real desire to engross myself in a story.  So, I handed the cashier twenty dollars and sat myself down by the fountain to start at Chapter One.  Because that is what people with anxiety-driven focus issues do; they read War and Peace.

Wish me luck!

What are you reading currently?

Have you read ‘War and Peace?’

What Should I Write About Today?

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What should I write about today?

Watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games?

The meteor shower I saw with my friends last night?

The fact that I ran moved my body faster than a walk for 30 minutes yesterday?

Dealing with the break-up of my two friends?

Being scared that someone may want to be more than friends?

 

So much has happened lately and I’m not sure where to begin or what to make of it all.

Something About a Sofa

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After a long day at work, nothing beats flopping on the sofa in front of the television.  Since I am living on campus this summer, I don’t have a sofa or a television.  Sitting on my bed and watching the Olympics on my computer just can’t compare to the homeliness of a living room.

I had forgotten how comfortable a sofa is until I went over to my friend’s house last night.  He and a group from band are renting a house off campus for the summer, which has infamously been dubbed Das Haus.  Throughout the week, they take turns cooking dinner and last night was his turn, so he invited me over to help.

We made a savory meal inspired by the Simon and Garfunkel song “Scarborough Fair” consisting of Lemon, Sage, and Garlic Roast Chicken; Roasted Baby Potatoes with Thyme and Rosemary; and a simple vinaigrette salad dressing with parsley.

Our chicken was delicious and looked like this. Click image for source.

After cleaning up, we turned on the Olympics and collapsed into their huge sofa.  In a matter of minutes, I felt my eyes drooping shut.  There’s something about a sofa and the white noise of television that puts my usually anxiety-ridden mind at ease.  I should hang out at Das more often.

Frittata Friday

Does anyone else eat dinner at 9:30?  Besides Europeans?

I typically don’t get off work until 8:00.  By the time my coworkers and I gather our ingredients and go up to the apartment we borrow to cook in, it is around 8:15.  As anyone who has ever cooked knows, prepping ingredients and cooking takes at least an hour, if not more.  When we finally turn on the Olympics and sit down for dinner, it is usually 9:30.  Eating so late doesn’t bother me, as long as dinner is a modest meal.

Last night, my friends and I made a delicious, satisfying, and light frittata.  We modeled it after Bon Appetit’s “Tomato Frittata.”  The original recipe is very simple, consisting of mostly eggs, tomatoes, and cheese.  However, neither my coworker nor I can eat dairy (she is allergic; I am intolerant), so, we decided to omit the cheese and up the flavor profile with more vegetables and some leftover sausage from another night of pita pizzas.

Placing the tomatoes as a layer on top of the eggs in the skillet makes this frittata unique and visually appealing.

I apologize for my blackberry image quality and dark lighting.

Served alongside a bed of butter lettuce with endive and homemade mustard dressing and green beans sautéed with shallots, our Tomato Frittata with Spinach, Sausage, and Onion was one of my favorite meals of the summer.

Happy Friday!

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Tomato Frittata with Spinach, Sausage, and Onion

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • Baby spinach
  • 1/2 a large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 link precooked sausage
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes (5–6 medium), cored, cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.   Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sautee garlic, onion, spinach, and sausage.  When onion is just done, transfer mixture to a bowl.  Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in spinach mixture and season with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, pour egg mixture into pan and cook until eggs begin to turn golden brown around the edges. Arrange tomato slices on top of egg mixture. (Some slices may sink.)

Transfer skillet to oven and bake frittata until eggs are just set in the center, approximately 20 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, loosen frittata from pan and slide onto a warm plate. Slice and serve warm.