Happy Weekend!

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I’m finally in the final stretch of graduate school and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, what this also means is that I am constantly inundated with responsibilities, deadlines, meetings and class. Busy is not a glamorous lifestyle. One thing that I do when I am stressed is eat. lots of carbs. and lots of sweets. I read a quote that directed the reader to “love yourself” as you are eating, and I thought that this intention could completely shift my stress eating. What else could we change if we brought love to the forefront of our intentions? Love yourself as you eat. Love your husband/child/mother when you tell them goodbye as you rush off to work. Love for yoga as you roll out your mat. Love for yourself as you move through your asanas. Love for your town as you take an afternoon walk. Love for mornings as you sip your coffee. Do all things with love. This is not an easy practice. It’s something we must work on, constantly, forever. Try to do all things with love for one day, even just for one morning and see what happens. Or, try to do all things with love for one yoga class. Happy Weekend : )

Simple Pleasure-Doing Nothing

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Sunday was a rainy day, a lazy day. Matt and I spent the entire day inside, reading, browsing the internet, and watching our favorite movie “Garden State” for the millionth time. We had to resist the urge to go out and “do something”. I’ve noticed that if I don’t do something each day, I feel a bit worthless and unproductive (even on my weekend days). In “Eat Pray Love” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the Italian attitude towards a lazy day.

“Il bel far niente means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’… [it] has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert quoted from the book “Eat Pray Love”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Geography of Bliss”, as it’s been a few years since I read the book for the first time. Eric Weiner writes about this “beauty of doing nothing” as a concept in happiness studies. He highlights this idea most beautifully through the concept of the café. Cafés, Weiner explains, are a place where Europeans can spend an entire day, people watching and socializing without an ounce of guilt. The most delicious part of this pastime is that it costs very little money, if any, but can provide you with a tremendous amount of joy, peace, relaxation, and reconnection.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels guilty spending an entire day doing nothing. So why is that? What is it about our culture that has made us feel as though we have to do “something” everyday? Why do we feel guilty spending an entire day in our pajamas, reading, drinking tea, and laying around? And, if you say “but I am too busy to take a day off” should this be so? Our culture has glorified the concept of busy, and I know I have days where I’m rushing constantly from one thing to the next. It doesn’t feel good to be too busy, to have obligations, a planned and packed schedule. In fact, when I get too busy, I begin to feel as though I’m not in control of my life. I miss the option of spontaneity. There is something freeing about having the option to do whatever you feel like doing, in that moment, for an entire day. This is such a simple pleasure; one that anybody can enjoy regardless of economic status. I’ve written about the importance of creating space in order to feel mindful, connected, or creative, in the past and the concept of doing nothing is connected to the concept of creating space. How would people’s lives change if everyone in our country took one day off a week to enjoy the beauty of doing nothing? Try this sometime and allow yourself to really enjoy the day.

Simple Pleasure-A Peaceful Morning

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On Labor Day the weather was beautiful. In the morning I opened the door to see what it felt like outside, only to discover that it was a perfect morning. Have you ever noticed how special morning is? There’s something wonderfully still and quiet about this time of day. The light is prettier, the earth is quieter and stiller (especially on a weekend morning) and your mind is fresh, still warming up after the night’s hibernation. There was something about this particular morning that gave me the urge to go outside. I filled up my cup of coffee and walked down to Lover’s Point (a point on the Pacific Grove, Ca coast). I sat there, on the wall with my coffee and just enjoyed the sound of the ocean, the solitude, and the stillness of this time of day. I felt a calm come over me. I watched the ocean ebb and flow along the sand and it was definitely a simple pleasure.

Simple Pleasure-Farmers Markets

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The farmer’s market is something that I look forward to every week. It has not only become a simple pleasure, but also a necessity for me; something that I rely on for procuring my weekly fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. When you are gluten free and vegetarian, vegetables are a necessity! Reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan was the catalyst that began my diet transformation. In this book, he argues that how we eat determines, not only our health, but also how we want the world to be. The typical American eats at least 3 times/day and is therefore spending money on food at least 3 times per day, per person, on average. How we buy our food matters and the fact that we spend money on food daily gives us an enormous amount of power in determining how we want our food produced. The increase of gluten free options and organic selections are evidence that consumers have power to change the system and selection of food available. Michael Pollan explains that every dollar we spend as consumers counts a a vote for how we want the world to be. The more we spend money on organic produce, the more the industry will put into producing food organically. Simple supply and demand. The more we support local, organic farmers, the more likely these farmers are to stay in business. What we spend our money on matters!

Michael Pollan also argues that transparency is crucial in transforming the food industry. In a standard supermarket, the farmer is left out of the interaction, and thus transparency is impossible. Accountability is also much less likely to be present in the interaction between you and the corporate grocery store. However, when you take the middle man out and have a real face-to-face interaction with the farmer who grew the produce you’re buying, you can ask questions like “do you use pesticides on your produce” “how do I cook this squash”, “how do I know when a peach is ripe” “what is this odd looking edible plant” (because you will surely see produce at a farmer’s market that you’ve never seen in a grocery store before. You are able to give your money directly to the person/farm that grew your produce and they are able to put a face to their customers, increasing the farmer’s sense of accountability. At a farmers market, suddenly, food gets personal. It becomes an aesthetic, sensory, personal experience. You are able to smell the produce, speak to, and ask questions of the farmers, listen to the local blue grass band that plays live during the market, and give your money to the person who actually grows your produce. It’s romantic, idealistic, and reconnects you with the process of buying food for you and your family. This process is something that our culture has become disconnected with.

Matt and I have built relationships with some of the farmers. We have our favorite stands/farms and often, vendors will remember if we’ve missed the week before. We have learned how to cook new produce like acorn squash and how to tell if a peach is ripe thanks to the farmers sharing their knowledge with us. Also, it’s just a great place to get kick-ass deals! We can buy organic produce for half of what it would cost us at Whole Foods and have a good time while doing it. The produce is local, and therefore seasonal, picked when at its peak, and very high-quality. I couldn’t imagine buying my flowers anywhere else, and I feel good knowing that I am spending my money supporting a philosophy that I believe in! Often the markets will include ready-made food stands from local restaurants, or coffee. I love to get a bag of kettle corn for dessert or a cup of coffee at the morning markets.

Life is a process, so you may as well enjoy every part you can. My simple pleasure for the week is the farmers market because it allows me to get great deals, make my dollar stand for something that I believe in, and enjoy the process of buying fruit, herbs, veggies and flowers for the week.

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Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad

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This salad is wonderfully simple and therefore must be made with high-quality ingredients. The heirloom tomatoes must be ripe. The olive oil must be extra virgin. The salt must be coarse kosher or sea, and the basil must be fresh. The good news is that this salad is soo simple. I made this for dinner tonight solo as Matt has a standing Tuesday night tradition to do dinner with a specific friend. For one serving (this was my entire meal) I used two large heirloom tomatoes and a handful of basil.

Ingredients:

heirloom tomatoes (2/person if an entire meal, less if using as an appetizer)

1 bunch of basil

extra virgen olive oil

coarse sea or kosher salt

Directions: Remove the stem and slice the tomatoes into thin rounds. Arrange around the plate to your personal aesthetic (I chose to use yellow and red heirlooms and to alternate them for visual interest when plating). Next, chiffonade the basil. This is key as basil can bruise easily and therefore must be cut properly. If you don’t know how to chiffonade check out this short youtube video. Finally sprinkle the ribbons of basil atop the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt. Done. So easy, but this is really a delicious combo! One thing that I love about this salad is how beautiful it looks on a plate. I also love how simple it is! When I was in Italy, the food was amazing, and amazingly simple. The key with simple food is that you must use high quality ingredients and therefore simple cooking is really just a celebration of the ingredients you choose to use. If you haven’t had a fresh, organic heirloom tomato, you must! These tomatoes are NOTHING like the tomatoes you buy at Safeway. They are bursting with flavor, sweet, and very special. They are also one of the most beautiful pieces of produce at the farmer’s market when they are in season and I believe that we eat, with our eyes! Take advantage of this season to try one as soon as possible (if you have a local farmer’s market, that’s the place you want to go to get these beauts). This recipe is especially wonderful paired with a glass of red or white wine.       Enjoy : )

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Simple Pleasure-Loving Where You Live

Pacific Grove, Ca

Pacific Grove, Ca

Matt and I met in Santa Barbara, Ca when I was in college and he was in a band. After I graduated and Matt left his band, we moved to Santa Cruz, Ca (my hometown), however when we visited the Monterey Peninsula, we really fell in love with the area. We both felt connected, in some way, to the area and drove the 45 minutes almost every weekend to spend a day there. The more we discovered about the area, the more we loved it, and we felt like we had finally found a town/place that we loved in a similar way to the way we loved each other. It was unconditional, always growing, and felt natural. I’ve read a quote by Oprah where she described the way she felt when she first visited Chicago. She said she felt like she had gown roots and maybe that’s what happened to Matt and I when we visited Carmel and Pacific Grove. We finally moved to Pacific Grove, Ca in August almost one year ago and I feel like we continue to build our community here. It’s wonderful to walk half a block and have the view pictured above.

In “The Geography Of Bliss”, Eric Weiner explains that “The late British-born philosopher Alan Watts, in one of his wonderful lectures on eastern philosophy, used this analogy: “If I draw a circle, most people, when asked what I have drawn, will say I have drawn a circle or a disc, or a ball. Very few people will say I’ve drawn a hole in the wall, because most people think of the inside first, rather than thinking of the outside. But actually these two sides go together–you cannot have what is ‘in here’ unless you have what is out there.’ ”
In other words, where we are is vital to who we are.” 

Where we are is vital to who we are. We can not separate ourselves from where we live and we are constantly interconnected with our environment exchanging, simultaneously, information and energy. Matt and I found that we are slightly different people, living here, in a place that we love. We reach out to others, we are friendlier, happier. We feel motivated to build a social community around ourselves rather than isolate from the rest of the world. We feel comfortable, natural, like we belong, like we have grown roots. When you find the right person to spend your life with, you can be happy doing nothing with that person. That is the way we feel about the Monterey Peninsula. We are happy doing nothing here. I mean we are happy doing something as well but we don’t NEED to have something specific to do. It is a full day just to go for a walk with Matt along the beach or go out for coffee, or window shop in Carmel. Of course, just like specific people fit or don’t fit, specific places resonate with specific people. Not everyone would love this area like we do, but what is important is to find the right place for you. It is possible to have a soul-mate home. Eric Weiner says that the easiest way to determine where your true home is, is to ask yourself where you want to die. Matt has always said “I could die here” when we visit Carmel, and so I feel like that may be our true home, the place where we will raise children, and build a home, a life. But to end this point, my simple pleasure of the week is that I love where I live!