I had to look it up, today. There are 40 days left of fall. 50 days until 2019 has arrived.
I woke up this morning – for the second time, the first was with the dog needing a 4:45 am potty break, parents of toddlers, I feel for you – and thought, today is a good day to write. So here we are. Writing, like many things, begets writing. So here I am.
We’ve passed Daylight savings, and have been weathering the transition. Fall is usually my favorite season – the lights twinkling through the auburn, red, and golden leaves. Sweaters, and layers, and hot hands slipped into my pockets before heading out into the neighborhood. Walks around the Wellesley campus are spectacular this time of year. In my kitchen, squash gets roasted, the Pot finds itself in use, and I find myself forming a re-acquaintance with hot chocolate and those perfect vegan mini marshmallows from Trader Joe’s. Why they aren’t available year round is a mystery to me.
Truthfully, I haven’t quite found myself feeling the same level of enjoyment of late. After a long stretch of feeling content, I’ve been back feeling less-than, lately. Noticeably abrupt at the changing of seasons, the optimism of summer shifting into a feeling of stuck-ness, of in-between. While this has been one of the most full years of my life professionally, it has also been challenging, and come fall, I’ve found myself squirreling away energy to make it through the days.
Friendships and relationships have suffered. A sense of ease has been missing, but somehow, anyway I can, I know I’ll find myself out the other end soon. Whatever that other end may look like. And it’s hard not knowing, isn’t it? So when I feel that feeling of un-ease, that’s where I know to double down on my self care – to focus not on the past or an uncertain future, but the present, right here, right now. Self-care is a form of meditation. It’s doing the things that we can do, in this moment. To be present, and to feel rooted, in the now.
This year, like last, I’ve been slow to post my seasonal self-care ritual: my Fall Self Care Bingo. But we have 40 days left of the season, and the board is a great way to help fill your days with the goodness needed to get through it all, without forgetting to notice the present moment. Hopefully it will bring you some enjoyment as it does to me. I think I’ve missed the boat on apple picking this year, but the rest are totally doable as the season goes on.
Grab your copy to download and print here:
[Writing as Self Care]
I’ve been thinking about ways to write more, as a form of creative outlet, catharsis. Each morning, I write to myself. Long handed morning pages – not always three, but at least one, in my notebook. This practice keeps me focused. Each morning, I also start with gratitude. A list of three things, or ten, that I’m grateful for.
I’ve taken back up with The Artists Way – I pick up the book and put it down again every so often, picking up on the creative exercises from Julia Cameron’s seminal course in discovering and recovering your creative self. There’s a passage in there that I’ve noted and noted again: Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
On this note, I’ve wanted to write more. I suspect that you might want to write more as well. To do this, we need to surround ourselves with others who encourage us to do the work. As we lead our way into 2019, I’m hoping to do this with like the like-minded.
I’ve contemplated forming a writing circle that meets in person, but think I’d like to start the way I know best: a weekly video call, along the lines of my format for “Do the Thing!” hour – we gather, let each other know what we’re working on, and get to work with our pencils to the page. The idea for ‘Write the Thing!’ will be to meet weekly or every other week at a time that I’ll hold as consistent as I can.
Does this interest you? Would you like to be part of my writing circle? Just send me a note, and I’ll add you to the list of writers, and we’ll make this thing happen.
[Reading as Self Care]
I’ve started putting together my reading list for November and December, to round out the year with positive influence on the page. This year I’ve read less than last, but I always boost up the last few months. Here’s what’s planned so far. Several are chosen from my Personal Development reading list. I always add a handful of new ones as I read along.
Brené Brown: Dare to Lead
Steinbeck: Travels with Charley in Search of America
Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Jasmine Guillory: The Proposal
Dana Velden: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carloton Abrams, Dalai Lama: The Book of Joy
Trevor Noah: Born a Crime
Celeste Ng: Little Fires Everywhere
Atul Gawande: Being Mortal
Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia
Missing – some good YA fantasy to take me through the holidays. It’s possible that I’ll just do what I do every year and re-read Sabriel. Do you have any favorites I shouldn’t miss?
[Food as Self Care]
This blog, of course, started out as a meditation on eating – a thing to do during my transition to living in San Francisco. At the time, I was full of wonder, but homesick, finding solace in cookbooks, my neighborhood, and everything I could get my hands on at the Farmers market. That feeling of grounding myself in food is always present. Some days I dream of waking up and checking in for a stage at Noma, giving up all of my responsibilities and peeling a hundred pounds of parsnips to get through a busy shift and feel rooted.
But I’ve resigned myself, for now, to the life of an over-educated home cook. Surrounded by my cookbooks, my days are punctuated by the delivery of my monthly meat share, the weekly pickup of my vegetable CSA, or a trip to Trader Joes for a daily sample for the novelty of the thing. Every so often, I give up on making decisions and try out another meal kit. At first I was ashamed of it, but now I see clearly: sometimes you just need to eat without spending hours debating the merits of one dish over another.
Right now, I’m dabbling with Marley Spoon, the meal kit that Martha Stewart aligned her star power with. A few boxes in, I’ve mixed feelings. The dishes have been decent but not mind blowing (they rarely are). But I’ve appreciated getting to work – spending a little bit more time than normal prepping my dinner, and then sitting down to eat something I wouldn’t have likely chosen for myself.
As for fall foods that I’m looking forward to, there’s still so much to eat and to try. I still go back to the same seasonal list that I wrote about here: delicata squash, squashes of all varietals, apples, boiled cider, apple cider donuts, chili, pumpkin whoopee pies, Turkish pumpkin dessert, persimmons, and my all-time favorite pumpkin chocolate chip bundt.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that I do when I feel like not doing any work.
It’s that awful feeling. You wake up, have a long list of things to do for the day, and suddenly you are overwhelmed, grumpy, in need of a caffeine drip, and you are just NOT READY start the day.
Not to mention when that feeling hits the middle of the day and your to-do list is long – you’ve been on a roll, things are going well, and then BOOM, you hit the wall. Whenever the mood strikes; here are some ideas to get yourself back on track:
[START NOW] When I’m not ready to start the day:
* Make the bed. This seems to be in every productivity book written in the past decade. Because it works.
* Take my vitamins. Chances are I’m lacking Vitamin B. Or a swig of probiotic from the fridge. I find that a small positive behavior can really set me on the path of better habits for the day. This is one of my “anchor habits” that other good habits build on.
* My elaborate morning coffee or tea ritual. Kettle on, grind the beans, get the coffee, curl up with the dog on the couch for 45 minutes before starting the day.
* Read my way to a better place: at least 15 minutes of personal development books – Michael Hyatt, Brian Tracy, Brene Brown, Stephen Pressfield, anything from the self-improvement, productivity, business aisle. Usually this gets my brain thinking “work-mode”.
[Get UNSTUCK] When I’m feeling blocked:
* Just 10 minutes. Set a timer, and commit to doing 10 minutes of work on a task. This also works for those days you don’t want to move or exercise.
* Pull out my notebook. 25 minutes to get stuff on paper. Sometimes 50. What’s scaring me? What am I dreading? What is blocking me?
* Walk outside for 10 minutes. If I’m having trouble transitioning between work projects, I’ll take 15. A change of scenery is a great way to shock yourself out of a negative thought pattern.
* Put on a Podcast. Being Boss, RadioLab, Tim Ferriss. Whatever’s on my podcast list. Usually I pop in the headphones and take the dog for a walk to listen if he’s home with me.
* Create something small and tangible. There’s power in making things. Knitting, cooking, a flower arrangement from the yard.
* Hardboil a dozen eggs. I work from home. There’s something comforting about batch cooking and knowing that I’ll have something good to snack on throughout the day. Also, if I don’t manage to get “enough” stuff done, at least I’ve hard boiled some eggs.
* Gratitude list. Sometimes I start with just three things that I’m thankful for – even if it feels like there’s not much that can go on the list for today.
* Taking 15 minutes to write a short retrospective of my week so far. What worked well this week? What should I stop doing? What should I improve?
* Take the day off. (Sometimes you just need to take the nuclear option.) It’s important to commit to my work, but not at the total expense of my health and sanity. I’ve been working at getting better at stepping away from my work entirely. There’s no shame in taking a well needed personal day.
* Phone a friend. I’ve been getting better at reaching out – be it a friend, a biz-friend, or my mom. Short phone calls have been useful to reset when I’m struggling.
* Take selfies with my dog. Somehow animals make everything better. If you don’t have a dog, cat, bunny, snake, or other lovable friend – watching youtube videos of cute baby animals is a good alternative.
I’d love to hear some of your best ways to reset a rough work day! How do you get back on track?
Need more ideas for productivity and self care? My next mini-course round launches on October 16th. It’s only $29 and designed to get you back on track and focused on yourself so you have the energy to do great things in the world.
Oh hello there! I’m excited for my absolute favorite season which starts TODAY. Foliage, cider donuts, stews and braises… it’s HERE! I don’t think I have to tell you that fall in New England is an absolute gem. Unless you’ve never been here – now is the time of year to visit! I’m fired up for leaf peeping, hiking, adventures with my Instant Pot – and savoring those last hot days while I have them.
To make the most of the season, my Fall Self-Care bingo is up and ready for printing!
The board is full of small pleasures to take advantage of the shift in seasons while focusing squarely on yourself. I’ll be printing out my own copy today and playing along with you.
Grab your copy here:
More news from around here:
My next wellness and productivity mini-course is being launched on October 15th! Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.
Also – I’ve been hosting *Do the Thing Hours a few times a week – free online co-working sessions where we hop on a video call; go around and let each other know what we need to accomplish; I mute everyone, set a timer, and we get to work. A little added accountability for your work day, particularly helpful for those of you who don’t go into an office every day. Email me at sam@thesecondlunch if you’d like to be added to the list!
Finally; my facebook page has been given a little facelift! Head over to facebook.com/thesecondlunch for some daily productivity and wellness inspiration.
To mark each season, in practicing what I preach, I’ve been making a new Self Care Bingo board to print out and complete. I thrive on gold star stickers and crossing things off the list; and if I don’t plan to do it, I don’t do it! So much of self care is really fitting in the little things – day to day activities that bring calmness, clarity, and joy to life.
If you want to play along, download your summer self care bingo board (just click that “I Want It” button; it’s free), get yourself a pack of gold star stickers, choose your own adventures, and make yourself a priority! Bonus points if you cross out every single box – I’d love to see your completed boards!
:: This week in food ::
I’ve been on a potted herb buying spree, and have put myself together a nice herb garden – theoretically to cut costs on herb buying – although, I think I’ve probably been a little overkill in my plant acquisitions. I have multiple types of basil, thyme, oregano, parsley and cilantro, lemon verbena, and dill. Don’t mind the over-exposure, there’s far too much sunshine out today!
I was ahead of the game with my meal planning this week, and my absolute favorite shopping is on holiday weekends when everyone has theoretically already shopped for the weekend and the aisles are totally empty. The store was practically blissful, and the samples plentiful. Here’s my meal plan for the week.
:: The Weekly Meal Plan : Week of July 3rd, 2017 ::
This week’s prep: I roasted a chicken on Sunday, and popped the carcass in the slow cooker overnight for stock. I still have to hardboil more eggs, but I’ll likely do this mid-week.
Fitness and nutrition: I finished Amanda’s FasterWay bootcamp (the new session starts on July 10th and it’s almost sold out!) and have moved on to training for the Falmouth Road Race (7 miles; near the end of August). I’m still trying to stick with some of the carb cycling and IF from the Faster Way (Amanda’s program) because it works well for me.
Sunday: Nom Nom Paleo’s Damn Fine chicken, Jamie Oliver’s extra crispy roasted potatoes, green beans. I was hoping for the grill, but for some reason the ignitor stopped working on me and it was too hot out to troubleshoot. The green beans I steamed in an inch of salted water on the stove for about 7 minutes, and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Monday: cod with bright herby sauce, mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower. I’ve been getting frozen wild cod pieces from Trader Joe’s for the times when I’m not likely to pick up something fresh at the market. These are cheaper, and I could care less about eating big pieces. I’ll make a bright sauce (like a chimichurri) with some of my fresh garden herbs, and serve with mash, and golden roasted cauliflower.
Tuesday (4th of July!): hot dogs, baked beans, and steamed broccoli. We aren’t going anywhere for the 4th, so it’s staying home and eating some comfort foods. I have some strawberries and whipped cream and if I get my act together, some shortcake biscuits.
Wednesday: taco salad and enchiladas. We don’t eat too much processed food in this house, but Amy’s cheese enchiladas are a universal favorite. Somehow they are SO good!
Thursday: takeout – likely Chipotle! It’s a full day of meetings and errands, so I’ll likely pick up some Chipotle on the way home.
Friday:Turkish ground meat and zucchini. With fistfuls of my grandmother’s Istanbul spice mix, dill, parsley, and yogurt.
Ah, New England winter. The season of slipping on the ice, freezing through your boots, getting trapped in 12 feet of snow, and braving horrific public transportation. Oh and that feeling that becoming a complete shut-in is a good alternative to braving the bitter cold outdoors and the general societal grumpiness. It’s no joke. At the onset of every winter here I feel like throwing up a big SOS flag and jetting to the nearest warm place to hibernate for the season.
But because I’ve committed myself to living here (at least until I figure out a better idea) I make it a habit to roundup ideas big and small to get me through the seasonal shift and help me actually enjoy myself through the holidays, new year, and the big freeze. I’m a strong advocate of self care (and teach an e-course on it) and am my best self when I actually plan and visualize ideas before being threatened by the winter blues. Here’s this year’s list:
Food and Drinks to Ease the Chill
Weekly chilis, stews, and braises. Chili is a staple in my household – it’s holds high on the family favorites list. Tori Ritchie’s Braises and Stews, and Molly Stevens’ All About Braising are two seasonal favorite cookbooks.
The Warm Boozy beverage. Mulled wine, hot nog, hot toddies, or my favorite: a shot of baileys in a mug of boiling water. On my to-cook list this month is my own homemade Irish Cream inspired by the brilliant Smitten Kitchen.
Revisiting Habits and Routines that Keep Me Healthy
Up the self-care routines; revisit old routines, habits, and streaks to see if there are ones that I’ve dropped that I’d like to go back on. Re-committing to a weekly number of sweaty workouts, upping the yoga classes, and planning out fun fitness activities help. I also try to make more time for meditation, embrace some “Woo”, and surround myself with green plants. I made my own self care bingo printable to encourage myself to keep up with the small self-care activities that make a big impact.
Simplify where you can! Fall back on some simpler routines – for me that’s shopping once a week instead of several, and re-committing to the “home court habits” that Darya Pino talks about in Foodist. Not just for nutrition but for overall health.
Take advantage of the new year’s momentum. Just because the majority of people fail their seasonal resolutions, doesn’t me that we all have to! Take advantage of the momentum and set some smart health and fitness goals for the year. Mine include training for a longer triathlon, consistent weight lifting and strength training, a faster 5k, and beating this year’s gym trip record.
Winter Tips for House and Home
Hot hands winter warmers. I acquired an entire case of them (before someone pointed out that actually you can get reusable ones). On the plus side, these are great for grab and go, and stashing a few in my car.
Seasonal housekeeping – I like to do some basic seasonal house care tasks as a way to usher in the change in weather. I’m not Martha Stewart, so you won’t see me going overboard with the winter homekeeping, but some basics are a great start. For me, this included doing some Marie Kondo wardrobe assessments, and taking on some household projects. This month it’s making a good 72 hour emergency kit for our home.
Candle season. I pick up a bunch of plain candles (unscented preferably, as I prefer not to inhale chemical fragrance) at Ikea and Trader Joe’s. I light a bunch of them in an area where they won’t burn the house down. These are also a useful part of our emergency stash incase the power goes out in winter.
Need more ideas for self-care this winter?
Download my handy dandy Winter Self Care Bingo printable:
With winter in full force today, I’ve been working on a list of things in my life that spark joy to ward off the winter blues. This is a variation of a gratitude exercise that I do with my coaching clients – and something I try to revisit on a semi-regular basis.
I often have difficulty reminding myself what things spark joy when I’m feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many of my friends and clients do as well.
So it helps to do this exercise when I’m on an upswing, and be kind to myself when these things don’t seem like they’ll help. Sometimes the act of making the list is enough to spark positive feelings.
I write out a combination of big things and little things – when I don’t have the energy to travel or adventure, I may still find joy from slicing carrots with my sharp knife, stirring a pot of beans, or cuddling with my sweet puppy. The act of doing something small but satisfying helps to start a positive domino effect in my daily life.
Here’s my list this week.
My red Heath serving bowl, a birthday gift from Devon. And filling it with greenery, such as the parsley tabbouleh picture above. It’s this Ottolenghi recipe.
Chopping and slicing things with a very sharp knife. I purchased a new Kyocera knife as a replacement for one that chipped. At some point, I’ll get a new one with their warranty, but after stalling for a while, I finally just decided to bite the bullet and spend the $30 with industry discount at Sur La Table.
Planning trips, and traveling. I had a few big trips on my to do list this year: my favorites were Florida (twice) and Denver, Colorado! Every year I go with a small group of friends on a spring excursion. We’ve done DC, London, Disney World. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Disney. I’d like to go back this year. Bonus points for silly out takes from warm beaches.
Helping other people find their passion in life. Life is too short to be drifting down the wrong path. There is a world to explore, and people in need to be of service to. For you Wellesleys out there: Sed Min for the Win.
The feeling of having written something. I do wish that I enjoyed the writing process more – but it’s often difficult to feel like I’m in the zone. That said, the joy of having written is strong!
The ocean. I’ve been blessed to have lived most of my life near the ocean. I love the vivid color of the sea, the lapping of waves, gathering sea glass and worn rocks. It’s a perfect place of contemplation. I like walking past others who walk on the beach alone, a brief nod of solidarity and of knowing.
Acquiring new books at my local bookstore. Or even the non-local ones – I like getting books on trips, and visiting bookstores in different places.
Adding a finished book to my Goodreads “read” list. It’s really nice to see everything I’ve read in one place, and to see the virtual shelf growing. Even on days when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing, I can see that I’ve read and haven’t given up on learning and exploring.
My sweet bean, Bertram the Frenchie. I adore getting to spend time with him, head into the outdoors on adventures, and see him taking true pleasure in chowing down on whatever is in front of him. He likes sitting on my lap and watching the world. He loves people – it’s actually quite nice to have a social puppy that is different than my own nature.
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