In August of this year, shortly after our wedding and honeymoon, I started a job that took me out of my Big Law firm and into Corporate America. I actually accepted this job the Monday after I returned from my honeymoon, which meant I came back to my old job after a two-week vacation and promptly quit. This was a change that I didn't see coming--I wasn't job searching when my current job came up as an opportunity, but it's been a huge life shift for the better, for both me and my family.
I started my job at the law firm right out of law school, and truly loved it. In law school, you hear a lot about "Big Law" and the demands that culture can place on its lawyers (namely: working all the time in high-pressure, high-stress environments). When I spoke with law students about whether that sort of career path would be right for them, I always said that they probably already knew whether they were the kind of person that would thrive in that environment. I knew at that time that I was a big law firm person at heart--the firm was the first place I had ever worked where I wasn't bored or running out of things to do constantly, and it was the first job where all of my colleagues were smart, talented, incredibly competent people who I could count on as teammates to do excellent work. I worked for brilliant partners and I learned how to be a better lawyer every single day. I worked on interesting cases with people who I still count among my best friends, and that made the late nights and early mornings much easier to swallow. And, I really and truly like to work hard. I like to throw myself into things and try to excel, and the excitement of a fast-paced environment is energizing to me.
That said, the work was difficult and sometimes draining. I didn't want to sacrifice time with my family if at all possible, so instead I often sacrificed sleep. A typical weekday for me involved waking up between 5:00 and 6:00 and opening my laptop in bed while Dan slept, to organize emails and finish any projects from the night before that I needed to get done before the day started. After an hour or so of working in bed, Dan would wake up and we would eat breakfast together, and I would head in to work. I would work in the office from about 8-6, and then I would go home and make dinner. After we ate dinner, I would spend some time with Dan and Kelly if I could (walk the dog, play a game) or, if it was too busy, I would go right back to work (on my laptop, at home). If I did spend time with my family in the evening, I would open my laptop again when Dan went to sleep around 9, and work for another hour or two (or three) in bed before I went to sleep. On the busiest days, I would wake up as early as I possibly could and work all day without stopping (except for caffeine and food, and a shower, if absolutely necessary) until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. On the weekends I typically worked between 4 and 8 hours between Saturday and Sunday--again, if it was busy I would work all weekend, if I wasn't busy I would take the whole weekend off. The thing is, I really like to sleep, so being constantly sleep deprived made me cranky. And, my schedule was so jam-packed that I had absolutely no tolerance for shenanigans that cost me extra time--I used to get SO angry when I would come home from work and there were dirty dishes all over the kitchen, because I had to clean up the dirty dishes before I could make dinner. (I stand by that annoyance, but I was very easily pushed over the edge.) Some of my friends used to like to play the game of "text me a picture of what you're doing right now" and that led to me sending a LOT of selfies of me sitting at my desk, at all hours of the day on all days of the week.
When I got the call asking if I might be interested in the job I ended up taking, my first reaction was that it was a flattering idea but that I probably wasn't interested. I loved my job, and this new job was a different type of work that I didn't know much about. When I told Dan that I had gotten that call, his immediate reaction was "well that's great, I mean, you hate your job." (In my memory, this comment is punctuated with a silence-heard-round-the-world.) I about-faced on him so quickly. "What?! How dare you. I LOVE my job." He looked genuinely confused. "You do? I mean, you're unhappy about it almost all the time." What? No. You must be thinking of someone else. I am the lawyer that loves my job. So, stop it. Thanks.
What followed was honestly sort of a crisis of identity (awesome timing, since this all happened in the months leading up to our wedding so I wasn't already overwhelmed or overly emotional at all). I think part of the survival strategy for continuing with a job that is fairly all-consuming, and doesn't show any signs of letting up for the next several decades, is to tell yourself that you truly love it. That you wouldn't, couldn't be happy doing anything else. Because if you could...why are you doing this? This is hard. So no, you love this, and that is why you must continue forever and ever amen. And if you allow yourself to look too hard at that assumption, and realize that it might not be true, the whole thing sort of comes crashing down. Or that's what happened for me, anyway. I went to the first round of interviews at my new company and asked more questions of the interviewers than they asked of me, trying to decide if this was something I wanted. I wavered. And by the end of the process, I wanted it so badly that I was terrified they weren't actually going to hire me (after effectively ruining my life by making me realize that maybe I didn't want to work at least 60 hours a week for the rest of my life).
Luckily, I did get the job, and now I work normal business hours. And if I'm not terribly busy during those hours, the day still ends and time goes on (at law firms, for those of you who don't know, you bill your time in six-minute increments and account for every moment of your day. So, if you have a slow day, you need to make that time up somewhere else. This was never a problem for me, because I was usually busy, but it's still sort of a mindfuck.) So, what have I learned from that transition? A couple of things.
1. If I could give any young person at the beginning of their career one piece of advice, it would be to take a job that requires you to work crazy hours. Take the 60-80 hour a week job. First, because you're going to learn a ton and probably be paid well, but second because anything you do after that will feel like working part time. That's an amazing gift. I know a lot of people feel like working full-time and juggling the rest of their lives is a real challenge (and it can be, I know--and I recognize that I don't have small kids) but after working the hours I used to work, 40 hours a week feels like a cake walk. It feels like vacation. And that's amazing.
2. Sleep is not overrated. I am a better person when I am well-rested. I am a MUCH better wife when I am not stretched too thin. I have the capacity to be very productive and juggle quite a lot, but when I'm operating at that full capacity, I'm sort of a bitch. Because I need other people in my life not to fuck up the very delicate balance I have going, and one pile of dirty dishes can just put me over. the. edge. That's dumb. Don't be like that. And don't think that you need to operate at your fullest, most productive capacity all the time just because you can. I don't have any objective proof of this, but I'm pretty sure that takes years off your life.
3. I had some seriously impressive stress eating habits. I sort of knew this, but once I took the stress of my previous job away I realized just how much I was stress eating. And it...was a lot. Like, really a lot. So that's good to know.
4. I do miss the fire drills. I like the adrenaline rush of working with a team to solve a problem in an emergency, and I used to do that all the time at the firm. I realized just how much I missed it when I got to do the same thing recently at my new job, but those situations are much fewer and further between these days. Most people would see that as a good thing--fire drills call for long days on the job. And, in balance, the tradeoff is definitely worth it. But I do miss that rush.
5. I am actually interested in doing things other than working, eating, and sleeping. I'm very much enjoying this blog, for example. I like to read. I like to exercise. I like to cuddle with my dog for inordinate stretches of time. I used to think that I didn't really have a "dream" that I should be pursuing instead of spending all my life in the office (in my mind, that dream needed to be like...painting, or owning a bed and breakfast, or something). I still don't want to be a painter, I hate drawing and painting because I am bad at those things. But I like doing other things. And it's nice to have space in my life to do them.
There isn't really a moral to this story: I don't think working long hours is the worst thing you can do, and if you have a job like that and you're making it work, cheers to you! (You probably need a drink. I'll buy you one.) I wanted to write this blog post because it's important context for where I'm coming from and where I am in my life. And there's no way I would be writing this, or anything, if I hadn't quit my Big Law job. So there you have it.
In case you haven't already heard/binge watched the entire series, Netflix recently released a four-part mini series called Cooked, based on Michael Pollan's book of the same name. I became familiar with Mr. Pollan when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and also really enjoyed the follow-up In Defense of Food. What I really like about Pollan is his ability to be thoughtful about food, an really delve deeply into the sociology and anthropology of eating without feeling too...haughty? Boring? He acknowledges that food is so deeply tied to who we are socially, and also that there is a crucial connection between how we eat and how we see the world. How we choose to nourish ourselves reflects all sorts of choices, whether we make those choices intentionally and thoughtfully or not.
Cooked is interesting because it focuses on food from the perspective of cooking, and how cooking makes us uniquely human. He also touches on how cooking has changed drastically in recent history, and how changes we've seen in America are spreading to developing countries (there's a close look at India, for example, where home cooking is deeply embedded in the culture but where corporate processed foods are making a push to take over market share and convince the Indian people to embrace fast food and convenience foods). I highly recommend the series if you haven't already seen it, and if you have we should talk about it! Here were the three parts that have stuck with me the most:
1. The time that the average American spends cooking in a day has decreased by more than half in the last several decades, from 60 minutes a day to just under 30. Most Americans aren't really cooking in their kitchens anymore--they might be reheating frozen convenience foods, but most of us aren't really preparing food, from ingredients, very much at all. The documentary makes an interesting point about how this correlates with obesity, because a lot of the really attractive, delicious, high-calorie foods are also very labor-intensive if you were to make them yourself. Like cake or cookies--if you had to make a cake or a batch of cookies from scratch every time you wanted to eat them, instead of reaching for a hostess package or a tube of dough or box off the supermarket shelf, you would probably eat those things less often. The same is true of things like french fries--making them at home is a chore. You can do it, but you probably wouldn't do it every day. But, thanks to the miracle of fast food and frozen, processed supermarket foods, you can have french fries easily and cheaply every day. If you actually had to cook all of the foods you wanted to enjoy, your self-restraint would probably be much stronger.
2. Processed foods are much, much more lucrative for corporations than fresh foods. By convincing you to buy frozen or boxed foods rather than cooking the same meals from scratch, companies can profit significantly more. This isn't necessarily new information, but I hadn't thought much about how much this simple fact affects our diets. It's hard (impossible?) to ignore all of the marketing and messaging that you get about food in a day. It's everywhere! And even trying to sort out what "healthy" food is really tough. This is obviously a big interest of mine, and I still find it really hard to sort through the noise about what's healthy and not healthy. Even if you're just paying attention to nutritional experts with no vested interest in the food industry you can get confused (paleo? vegan? pegan? remind me if we like or hate canola oil this week?) BUT, if you're also being assaulted with messaging from companies whose entire goal has to be convincing you to eat processed foods, the deck is pretty stacked against you. And the food industry is not dumb--they know that people are trying to do better, and that's why they use buzz words that they know will make you think their food is healthy, even if it isn't. This is why you see "natural" and "simple" on food packaging all over the place these days, when it used to be "low fat" or "fat free" (still is, to some extent) or slapping "gluten free" on foods that never contained gluten to begin with. Because they hope that you're confused. And they hope that confusion leads you to buy their box of simply natural, gluten free rice-a-roni.
3. The Air episode that's all about bread, and gluten, and glutenous delicious bread. Pollan brings up the point that lots of people have been bringing up since the "gluten-free fad" got going, that only 1% of the population has celiac, but as many as 33% of the population tries to avoid gluten these days, many because they report feeling better when they don't eat gluten. The documentary points out that bread is one of the basic, staple foods that you see across cultures dating back to Ancient Egypt. So, what's up with that? Why would people suddenly be getting sick from something we've been eating for centuries? YOU GUYS, I ask myself this question all the time. I've seen the studies that say non-celiac gluten intolerance can't be proven when you do blind testing and ask people to self-report symptoms. I like science. I like scientific studies (I read them for a living, some days). And gosh, I don't know, maybe non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn't real? But, personally, I used to eat gluten and be sick almost every day. And now I don't eat gluten and I am sick basically never. But you get my point. If it's not real, then shit, I have no idea why eliminating it from my diet makes me feel so much better. And if there's a different option, please figure it out, because I love and miss a good baguette.
The interesting point that the documentary raised is that we've been eating bread almost forever, but it's only recently that commercialized bread (ushered in by Wonder Bread, etc.) has started adding all sorts of ingredients to a food that used to be just flour and water. Maybe a little salt. And yeast, if you add it, but you don't actually need to add packaged yeast to bread because yeast is in the air. So, ok--this food that used to be only three ingredients, and that was traditionally always fermented (what we think of as "sour dough" today used to just be "the only way we know how to make bread") now comes in a wrapper with upwards of 40 ingredients. Maybe it's something else in there that's upsetting our stomachs? A traditional baker who speaks in this episode said something to the effect of "there are so many terrible wheat products on the market today, it's no wonder people aren't feeling well." I don't have an answer or a conclusion to this section, but as someone who doesn't feel well when I eat wheat, I found it really interesting. Maybe interesting enough to try some simply-made sourdough bread. We'll see.
Again, if you haven't watched the documentary, I whole-heartedly recommend it. There are a lot more interesting points than the three I've highlighted, so don't think that it's all spoiled for you. And consider spending some more time in your own kitchen, preparing your own food. Or at the very least, make some thoughtful choices about how you're choosing to spend your grocery dollars. Because the bottom line is that we control how the food industry functions--we vote with our dollars every time we buy food. For a lot of America, those choices are really constrained and difficult to make (Doritos are cheaper than broccoli. That sucks, and it shouldn't be true, but it is.) I don't mean to minimize the difficult choices that a lot of families have to make in order to keep themselves fed. But we all have choices to some extent, and I would challenge you to make those choices intentionally, and support the kind of foods that you want to see more of. Later this week I'll post about how our family does that, for anyone who is interested.
I hope you all had wonderful weekends--it was gorgeous in Minneapolis.
I have been dragging so hard this week--I don't know what it is, but I can't believe the week isn't over yet and every morning has just felt like a struggle. Tuesday morning I woke up grumpy and tired and uninterested in going to work but then, like a damned miracle, I made this smoothie bowl and it turned my day around. Before 7:00 am! It's that good.
If you're not familiar with matcha, it's a powdered green tea that's made from grinding the whole tea leaf, so you are actually eating tea leaves rather than just steeping the leaves in hot water like you do with traditional tea. It has stellar antioxidant content, and more importantly, amazing flavor (if you've ever had green tea ice cream that delicious taste is matcha). And that's what this smoothie bowl tastes like. If you've ever had Pinkberry's green tea flavor, that's what I immediately thought of when I tasted this straight out of the blender. Like ice cream for breakfast, but healthy and vibrant and packed with the nutrients and energy you need to get through a day that you'd much rather spend in your bed. I'm in love. I buy my matcha from Thrive Market, and it looks like this:
I'll be honest, this smoothie bowl takes a few more minutes than a bowl of cereal, but really only a few and it's time very well spent. And you don't need to make it look this pretty, if you're not in to that sort of thing. Here's what's in it:
Matcha Smoothie Bowl (makes one large smoothie or two smaller ones)
One tablespoon of matcha
Two handfuls of spinach
One banana (frozen, if possible)
1.5 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I measured! Just for you.)
2 medjool dates, pitted
Handful of ice, to thicken (add last)
Toppings (I've been loving berries and hemp hearts, but you could also try granola--I LOVE Paleonola, also available from Thrive Market, coconut butter, honey, bananas, mango, etc.)
*a note: I tried adding avocado to this, and I really wouldn't recommend it. The flavors are pretty subtle and the avocado was recognizable, in a bad way. So skip that.
Add your ingredients to the blender, starting with the spinach and adding everything except the ice. You're probably going to need a spoon to help push your ingredients down once or twice (with the blender off) to get these ingredients to mix well, because the liquid content is a little lower to avoid a really thin smoothie (since you eat this with a spoon). That said, I put the extra smoothie in a jar and took it to work today so I can attest that it's also delicious to sip. Once your ingredients are well blended (look for consistent color, you don't want chunks of spinach) add your handful of ice and blend again until the ice is crushed and blended with the smoothie. Pour into a bowl and top with your favorite ingredients.
Some fun facts about this superfood breakfast: the matcha has a high Vitamin C content, which allows your body to absorb the iron in the spinach. It also has caffeine, so you probably want to skip your coffee (or adjust your intake accordingly, but you're definitely getting caffeine from the matcha). Matcha has also been shown to encourage high metabolism and discourage fat storage in some studies--I'm not hanging my hat on any of that, but with the sky-high antioxidant content and fruit and veggie boost you're getting from this smoothie bowl, you're definitely doing your body a favor. And it's SO GOOD. Also, if you've never tried hemp hearts that's another ingredient I'd recommend adding to your shopping cart. They're an amazing vegan protein source, and they're easy to sprinkle on this bowl (or yogurt, or cereal/oatmeal, or you could throw them in your favorite smoothie). I buy them at Costco.
Enjoy! Or come to my house for breakfast. Or dinner. This is all I eat now. (Kidding. Settle down.)
Like everything I write about, I am not an expert in proper training for a race. But, I’ve finished several half marathons and am currently training for another, and I’ve figured out a super simple training routine that works for me. I got to this routine by finding things that didn’t work—specifically, when I looked online for different training plans and saw options that included four different types of workouts, with different intervals and speeds and ladders and counting explained in footnotes, I knew that was a non-starter. I don’t want to consult a sheet and write notes on my forearm and bring a stopwatch every time I’m stepping out for a run…I just want to run. And listen to Justin Bieber. All I’m willing to count are miles, and my Map My Run app keeps track of those (and my splits) for me.
So, instead of anything fancy, I follow the basic premise that I need to fit one long run in each weekend, and this long run needs to get longer by one mile each week, building up to the race. I train up to one mile less than the race I’m going to run (so my longest training run for a half marathon is 12 miles) and I build in one extra week so that my 12-mile run actually happens two weeks before the race, with a 6-8 mile run the weekend before the race. Lots of people don’t train up to 12 for a half—their longest training runs are more often 10 or 11, but I like to get really comfortable with the distance. To decide when I need to start training for a race, I just count backwards from race day (the week before is my 6-8 mile run, the week before that is 12, the week before that is 11, etc. counting down to 4, which is about where I can start without having run recently). On top of my long runs, I try to run twice more during the week, ranging from about 3-5 miles on those “short” runs. Inevitably, some weeks get thrown off (this week is a great example, and you can read about it in the workout log below). I prioritize sticking to my long runs above all else, and finding ways to work around challenges to keep my stamina at a point where I can get through those long runs. A weird week here or there doesn’t derail me as long as I stick with it and fit in enough rest and recovery. I also take it pretty easy the week of the race, resting a lot and keeping my short runs short. There you have it: the simplest training strategy there is!
Weekly Workout Log
Thursday: rest day (this was a LONG day at work, so it wasn’t terribly restful, but I didn’t exercise)
Friday: Run 5 miles. I missed my long run the previous week (which was supposed to be 6) because of the flu, so my strategy to get back on track was to do a longer “short” run on Friday and then put my long run on Sunday. This was a good idea, but would have gone better if I had taken a real rest day on Saturday. Friday’s run went very well—I kept up a 9:30 pace, the weather was beautiful, and I was tired by the end but happy with my performance.
Saturday: This was supposed to be my rest day, but I went for a 4-mile walk with a friend and worked around the house all day, so by the end of the day my FitBit said I’d walked a total of 7 miles. All easy, low-impact stuff, but not super restful for my legs, either.
Sunday: Run 6.5 miles. This run went great for the first 4 miles, keeping a steady pace just ahead of 9:30, and then added 30 seconds per mile each mile after that. I just hit a wall around 4 and had a hard time coming back from it. But, tough runs like this one build stamina for future runs, so I’m alright with that. I also eyeballed this route at 7 miles but it turned out to only be 6.5, and by the end of it I didn’t have the heart to run around the block and get that extra half a mile. So, it was what it was.
Monday: Rest day (a real one, much needed).
Tuesday: 30 minutes of spinning at home (we bought a spin bike on Black Friday and I LOVE it) strength exercises at home (burpees, squats with five pulses at the bottom of the squat, spiderman planks, side planks, kettlebell swings, Russian twists, and lunges. ) I truly hate lunges, but I need to build strength in the muscles that they target—every time I put them in a workout I have to really make myself do them. Suck it up, buttercup.
That’s it! Hope you’re all having a wonderful week.
The title for this post is almost long enough to be its own post, but I want you to know that I considered "The Easiest Lamb in History" as an alternative, but thought that could give people the wrong idea. I also resisted adding "(Paleo, Delicious)" at the end. This dinner is so good. I'm digesting it as I write, and there are leftovers in the fridge and I already can't wait to eat them. Plus, I had an event after work tonight and didn't get home until 8:30, and I still had everything here ready to go by 9:00, after 10 minutes of prep this morning. It's a winner.
I'm going to try something new with this recipe--you can tell me if you hate it, but most of this post isn't going to have specific measurements. I don't measure when I cook--ever--and this makes me a terrible baker, but I'm a decent cook. If you're new to cooking, or even if you're not, try just trusting yourself and throwing some stuff together. It's going to come out fine, which might give you more confidence to try throwing things together in the kitchen more often, and that makes cooking a lot easier and a lot more fun. If I had to get out my measuring cups every time I was making dinner for my family, we would do nothing but eat out. Just sayin.
For the Lamb:
One boneless leg of lamb (I bought mine from Costco and it came from Australia! I don't even know how much it weighed. Buy whatever size you want, they don't vary that much.)
Rosemary (use fresh if you have it, but I didn't and dried was fine)
Red wine (for the gravy)
For the Cauliflower Rice:
Cauliflower (see below--the crumbled kind is easiest, but a head or florets will also do if you don't mind using a food processor)
For the Green Beans:
French green beans
Nutritional Yeast (this might be another ingredient you're not familiar with, but it's sold at most grocery stores and easy to find on Amazon. Look in your spice aisle, or in a "healthy" section where they keep things like chia seeds and flax meal. It has a cheesy, breadcrumb-y sort of flavor/texture, and it's great on these green beans.)
In the morning: Roughly chop your onion into big chunks and place them on the bottom of your crock pot. In a small bowl, mix 2 parts mustard with one part honey (you don't need a ton--eyeball 2-3 tbs of mustard and half that much honey). Open your leg of lamb and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in an x-pattern across the fat layer on the outside of your leg of lamb. Then, take your honey-mustard mixture and rub it across the entire surface of the lamb, making sure to get it in the slits, and rub any leftover on the inside of the leg of lamb. Tuck the edges of the lamb back into a "closed" roast shape. Sprinkle rosemary over the surface. Place a small bowl upside down in your crock put and set the leg of lamb on top of the bowl (the lamb is going to collapse off the bowl at some point during the cooking, but lifting it off the bottom lets it get that roasted crispy outside all the way around the roast, instead of just on top). Turn your crock pot on low for 8-9 hours (I left mine for 8.5 and it worked out fine, but I'm sure it was done at 8). When I got home and looked at the lamb I thought it was going to be terrible, because it looked very dark and overcooked. But fear not, it was delicious. Tender and juicy and so, so good. This is what my crock pot looked like in the evening (this is not what you would call an "appetizing photo"):
To be fair, Dan had already eaten a chunk of the meat at this point. Just trust me--if you see that and are discouraged, do not despair. It's probably delicious.
Next, turn your oven on to 400 and grab your cauliflower, green beans, a cookie sheet, and a large frying pan. If your cauliflower is in head or floret form, you need to throw it in to the food processor and pulse it a few times until you end up with crumbles. But, I recently discovered that this product exists in the world, which makes cauliflower rice a snap and doesn't require the use of a food processor (which is, I think we can all agree, the worst kitchen appliance):
If you've never tried cauliflower rice, I really recommend giving it a whirl. It's surprisingly delicious, and great with rich meats like lamb or pork (or..anywhere else you would eat rice, but this combo is especially good).
Put your frying pan on the stovetop and throw a few glugs of olive oil in there (enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan). Turn on your burner to medium-high heat. While that's heating up, dump your green beans out on your cookie sheet and drizzle another few glugs of olive oil over the green beans. Toss the green beans in the olive oil to coat them evenly and salt them to taste (I choose to salt mine generously, because delicious). Sprinkle nutritional yeast generously across the top of your green beans and throw them in the oven.
Dump your cauliflower in your hot frying pan--you want your cauliflower rice to get charred, because that develops a really delicious flavor. So keep the heat on the higher end, but obviously if things are getting too smokey turn down your burner. No need to set off the smoke alarm.
Again, to get that good char on your cauliflower, you don't want to stir it too much. Let it sit and sizzle a little before you give it a good stir. Throw some salt in there, too.
While you're letting your cauliflower and green beans cook, take the lamb juices from the bottom of your crock pot and throw them in a small saucepan or frying pan with a heavy splash of red wine (note: if you don't believe red wine is paleo then I don't want to be your friend, but you could probably go without the red wine and still enjoy this meal).
Turn your heat up to medium-high under your soon-to-be-gravy, and let it boil until it's reduced by about half. The pictures above are a before and after...stir it a few times as it's boiling to make sure the bottom isn't burning, and turn down the heat if it is (or if it looks like your pot is going to overflow).
Give your cauliflower rice a good stir, and keep doing that every 2 minutes or so until it's cooked and charred. You can see a color difference between cooked and uncooked cauliflower (cooked is more of a yellow-y color) and you'll be able to see the browned, charred, delicious spots. Take it off the heat when it looks like this:
Check on your green beans, and stir them once if the bottoms are getting too burned. Although, again, I like these at least a little burned. If you have a lot piled on your sheet (like I did) you probably want to stir once. If you have more of an even, single layer, you probably don't need to stir. They're done when they look like this, after about 20-25 minutes in the oven:
Once everything is done cooking, put down a scoop of cauliflower rice on your plate and lay some lamb pieces over the top. I pulled the lamb apart into chunks with my fingers. Ladle gravy over the top of your cauliflower rice and lamb, and plate your green beans. Enjoy!
As a final "make your life easier" note, I like to package leftovers for a meal like this at the same time I'm plating dinner. I'll just lay my plate out next to 3 or 4 tupperware containers, and put each component into the tupperware the same time I'm putting it on my plate. This was dinner for me and Dan tonight, plus three full leftover meals in the fridge. Easy peasy!
Guys, I am just not ready for it to be Monday. I need another day! Save me. Make it so. Alright--I'm not ready for it, but here we are anyway, so we're soldiering on. Moving forward.
I owe you all a post about what it's like to make a career change that takes you from working all of the hours to just working business hours. It's marinating in my mind and it's going to materialize soon, but it's important context to posts like this one because I recently found myself with a great many more hours in the day. When you're used to working most of your waking moments and instead begin to work only between the hours of 8 and 5 (and only on weekdays!) it's really revolutionary to decide how you're going to fill the new space in your life. I took a new job in August that allowed me that luxury, and this blog is one of the byproducts of that. (Because it would have been really boring if I had written it at my old job. What am I up to this week? Oh, more working. Here's my desk, at all hours of the day. No one wants to read that.) Another byproduct is that I've been reading more. Reading is something I truly love to do, and I'm thrilled to be doing more of it these days. But sometimes I have a hard time choosing my next book, and I thought a post about what I've read and enjoyed lately might be useful if you find yourself in the same position. I'm not going to pretend to do any sort of in-depth book review, but here's a quick look at some books I've read lately that I would recommend.
I just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air today, and I definitely need more time to digest it, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it now. This is not a lighthearted book--it is a heavy, complex book about death, written by a neurosurgeon-neuroscientist-writer who is grappling with his own terminal cancer diagnosis. It is thought-provoking and sad and beautiful and wonderful. Read this if you want to think deeply about the big picture of life and death, and the human experience and how we relate to each other.
Our Souls at Night is a completely different look at the later stages of life. It's about two elderly people who live in a small town, and whose spouses have passed away, and their choice to spend their nights together (sleeping in the same bed, because they miss companionship). It's a quick read, and an enjoyable glimpse into a time that people don't often write about or talk about--the years when children are grown, and spouses and friends have passed away.
The Hypnotist's Love Story is the last of Liane Moriarty's books that I had not read, and honestly I resisted reading it until the end because the title sounded absurd to me (I didn't want to like a book with that title). But, I really did like it. If you haven't read anything by Liane Moriarty, I highly, highly recommend her. Her story lines can be a bit chic-lit-y, but her writing is excellent and she has a superb ability to capture complex humanity in her characters. I've thought back on her characters and stories after finishing her books often, and always feel like her writing makes me consider aspects of the human experience that I hadn't connected with before. That, and I can never put her books down.
Single, Carefree, Mellow is a collection of short stories, all of which I wished had been full-blown novels because I finished each one wanting to know more. This is another one that gives you brief glimpses of people in all variety of complicated relationships and situations, this time in bite-sized pieces. It's another fairly quick read, and you could easily set it down and pick it back up again between stories if you're the type that has a hard time finishing a novel.
Happy reading! And Happy Monday! We can do this.
The fur baby turned one last week, and we celebrated him in the most obnoxious way possible by baking special pupcakes, putting a birthday hat on him, and taking pictures. We did not throw him a party, which I think was a tiny win for self-restraint (or just exhaustion…so many parties lately). As I was baking the pupcakes and mixing up the frosting, I was thinking to myself, “You cannot go back from this. You are crossing the line into official crazy dog lady territory.” And, it happened! Thanks for having me, glad to be here.
In case you find yourself needing pupcakes for your hound’s special day, or just as an easy homemade treat (if you made these mini, they’d be great for an everyday treat) try these. I tasted them, they’re pretty good. Dan was worried about Chewy making a mess with the crumbs, but that turned out to be unnecessary because he wolfed this down SO FAST. You could almost see the thought bubble: “I’m going to eat this real quick before you realize you left something delicious on the floor in front of my face.”
Pupcakes (makes about 8 standard size cupcakes)
For the pupcake:
One medium banana
One cup flour (whatever kind you have—these are for your dog. Keep perspective.)
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp baking powder
Splash of vanilla (or not. Again, don’t think Chewy’s pallet is this discerning, honestly. But I threw it in.)
For the Frosting:
1/3 cup peanut butter (smooth)
1/3 cup applesauce (add slowly as you mix until you get a consistency you like)
Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a cupcake pan. You could also use cupcake liners, but there’s no way I was going to get one of those off before Chewy inhaled his cupcake, so I went with unlined.
Mash your banana in a medium mixing bowl. Add all other pupcake ingredients and mix until combined. No need to be fancy here, you can add them in any order (just stir everything well).
Spoon batter into your cupcake tin until the wells are about ¾ full. I always overfill. It’s fine. Pop those suckers in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
While the pupcakes are baking, mix up your “frosting.” I put mine in a bag and cut off the corner to pipe the frosting onto the pupcakes (and again, questioned my life choices. But they did turn out pretty cute.)
After the pupcakes are done baking, let them cool until they’re no longer hot to the touch before frosting. I transferred mine to a plate to speed this along (Chewy sat by the oven during this whole process with his most polite face on, obviously smelling the peanut butter.) Frost each pupcake with some of your peanut butter/applesauce frosting, and top with some carrot shreds. Feed to your confused, but thrilled, dog. Sing “Happy Birthday” and confuse him more.
Man alive, friends, it has been a crazy week. Sometimes I think long weekends just make the short week more hectic, because everyone comes back rested and ready to go on Monday and things get NUTS. No? Just me? Ok then.
If you don't live in a house that was built in 1920, it's possible this post will be of limited value to you. BUT, what I learned through doing this project is that it's surprisingly easy to paint metal in a way that is (allegedly) durable, even for a surface that's going to get hot, so this post could have all sorts of applications for other metal things that you might want to paint. There are lots of spray paints that are specifically designed for metal, but we didn't have the option to take this radiator outside (both because it was too cold for spray paint and because these radiators are HEAVY and we weren't going to be moving it more than a few feet).
I found myself repainting this radiator because we're in the middle of a bathroom remodel and the radiator was removed from the bathroom so a tile floor could be put down. Since it was out of the way and not going to be getting hot any time soon, it was the perfect time to clean it up. Plus, I liked the gold color but the beat-up finish was going to look especially dingy next to brand new, shiny tile. So! Off to the Home Depot!
What we learned from our friendly Home Depot experts is that you do need to buy a special undercoat to ensure that the paint you're using will stick to the metal and hold fast when the radiator heats and cools--but the undercoat goes on just like regular paint and is super easy to use. Here's what it looks like (we had them tint ours yellow since we were using gold paint).
So, start by cleaning off your radiator really well, and chipping off the loose pieces of paint. Here are some before pictures of ours:
One thing about radiators is they're secretly designed for hiding families of dust bunnies on their inner coils. Do the best you can with cleaning that sucker out, but mine was not perfect (I know I have a radiator brush somewhere, but I did not find it for this project). Once the radiator is clean and dry, slap a layer of that Glidden Gripper over the entire thing (I used a regular old paint brush and it worked great).
Let that layer dry for an hour, and then follow it with two coats of your paint color of choice (letting the second coat dry according to the directions on your paint can before you paint the third layer). I started with a Ralph Lauren gold from Home Depot, but it turned out to be a very bright yellow (think "follow the yellow brick road" gold, or "pimp gold," if you will) and I was going for something more muted. This is the gold paint I used in the end, which is available at Target:
And that's all there is to it! Admire your beautiful new-old radiator.
I'm definitely going to repaint some of the other radiators in our house now that I know how easy this is, but I'll wait until summer so they're not hot while I'm painting (I'm not an expert here, but I don't think that's a great idea). I supposed you could also just close the radiator and let it cool down, but we have plenty of other house projects to attend to in the meantime. Hoping to start revealing some rooms soon!
I am not good at keeping my nails pretty. When I worked at the law firm, a friend of mine was talking about how she accidentally cut herself trimming her cuticles, and I was like “you trim your cuticles at home?? Am I supposed to do that?” She sort of cocked her head to the side and said “let me see your hands….umm, yeah…you should trim your cuticles.” Good. Thanks. Good tip. So, I’m not the best source of advice on this front, but we’re all works in progress and I’m trying to get better, so come along with me anyway.
For Christmas, a friend gave me a top coat called seche vite that is AMAZING. The whole point, for those of you who don’t speak French, is that it dries super fast. Which is great for those of us who mess up our nails before they dry almost every time. It’s also nice and thick, which helps keep the polish from chipping (although when it does chip it basically just peels off in one giant piece, and then you have mismatched naked-and-painted nails). You can also paint your nails and top them off with seche vite right before you go to bed and not worry about creases in the polish (again, being the nail rookie that I am, I didn’t realize you would get sheet imprints in nail polish if you painted them too close to bed time until I was about 25, and wondering aloud to a different friend how I ended up with a linen finish on my nails. Without even looking, she said “you painted them and then you want to bed. That’s not a fancy top coat, that’s the imprint of your comforter.” Umm, ok, right.)
So, buy yourself a bottle of seche vite and paint your nails whenever the hell you feel like it. Or, not at all. Goodness knows I’m not judging. Also, if you have tips for cuticle management I am ALL EARS.
This Week's Workout Log
My training got a little screwed this week by a busy weekend (birthday-valentine's day-birthday sandwich) followed by the stomach flu. But, I will rally. Here's what I got done:
Wednesday: 45 minute spin class at work followed by 15 minute hard core abs class. You guys, the spin instructor for this class is 38 weeks pregnant and still teaching. Makes me feel not so great about myself when I'm struggling through class and she is TRUCKIN ALONG. She's badass.
Thursday: It was way too cold to run outside today, so I took my run to the treadmill. BUT, our new kitchen appliances were just installed, and thanks to the miracle of old house electrical wiring, our kitchen appliances were mysteriously on the same circuit breaker as our treadmill (two rooms away). Because...why wouldn't that be true? Long story short, I blew the fuse trying to run on the treadmill and gave up about two miles in. At least it was something.
Saturday: I tried to live up to my promise of doing more strength training this day, and decided to try out a new kettlebell workout, which I found on Pinterest (original post is here.) The workout consists of two circuits that you repeat three times each, and I did it with my 20 lb kettlebell. The first set is 12 Russian Swings, followed by 10 squat to row, followed by 20 split lunges (10 on each side--I did these as walking lunges and passed the kettlebell from hand to hand underneath my front leg on each lunge). The second circuit is 10 RDL (the original workout says to do these on one leg but I'm not sure how you're supposed to even it out--I did the first and second times through the circuit on alternate legs, and split the third circuit to do five on each leg), followed by 20 Russian Twists (10/side) and 20 one-arm rows (10/side).
So, when I first saw this workout I thought "that's a great start, and then I'll probably add a set of clean and presses and maybe some other stuff on the end." HA. You guys, I finished this workout, but I knew by the end of it I was going to be extremely sore. I winced every time I sat down or did stairs for...three days? Mostly because it targets parts of your upper hamstring and your glutes that I otherwise don't work enough. Clearly. So this one's a keeper.
Monday: This was supposed to be a 6 mile run, but instead it was a "lay on the couch and curse the microorganisms that cause the stomach flu."
Tuesday: Was feeling much better, so I took Chewy for a 3-mile "run." Chewy is really not a runner, guys, but I'm not ready to give up on him yet. Sure, he wants to stop and smell every fire hydrant we got past, and needs to take breaks to frolic in the snow, but he's adorable. So we don't make great time, but we get the job done.
Wednesday (today): Made it to the weekly spin class, but skipped "hard core" abs afterward. Didn't have it, friends. Not hardcore today. Maybe tomorrow. Not today.
And that's it! Later this week I'll be sharing the recipe for Chewy's birthday pupcakes and a tutorial for refinishing radiators, if you're lucky enough to live in a vintage house like ours! (I actually love our radiators because they keep our house so cozy, but a few of them were in super rough shape. Fortunately, that's not hard to fix! More to come.)
Hello, friends! Did everyone enjoy the long weekend? (Or did you have a long weekend? My company was closed yesterday, but I feel like President’s Day is not a holiday I enjoyed at previous jobs…) In any case, I was struck down by the flu Sunday night/yesterday, so I was happy for the extra day in the weekend and spent it passed out on the couch. But, it was also Chewy’s first birthday, so I rallied in the evening to make him some pupcakes and take photos of him enjoying them in a birthday hat…I’ll share that recipe later this week (preview photo is up on Instagram if you just can’t wait).
In the meantime, LET’S TALK ABOUT THESE AMAZING PANCAKES. You should really make these this weekend. They would be the perfect “I know Valentine’s Day is over but I totally still love you” breakfast. I made them on Sunday morning and I can’t wait to make them again. We usually don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because Dan and I both have birthdays in February and his is the 13th (and now Chewy’s is the 15th!) so it’s already a very busy weekend. But I think these pancakes might become a tradition. Plus, they’re paleo and delicious without syrup, so they’re sort of…healthy? Did that ruin it? Try them.
For the pancakes (makes about 6 medium pancakes):
2 medium-large bananas
½ tsp vanilla
zest of 1 small lemon
4 tbs almond meal (I like this one)
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (I used vanilla)
For the topping:
4 tbs coconut butter*
1 tbs coconut sugar*
1 tbs plus 1 tsp lemon juice
*if you're wondering about these ingredients, check out this post.
1. Mash your bananas in a bowl, and then throw the rest of the pancake ingredients except the blueberries into the bowl (as you can see, I didn’t mash my bananas first, but I should have. Do as I say, not as I do.) If you don’t usually use citrus zest in recipes, just grab the finest grater you have and use it to remove the outer zest from the lemon (try not to get much of the white part beneath the zest).
2. Heat your griddle (or a large frying pan) on medium-high heat, until droplets of water sizzle when they hit the surface. Throw a little cooking spray (or a light coat of the oil of your choice) on the griddle.
3. Pour a small circle of batter on to your griddle. I strongly recommend that you only do one pancake on your first round, because the first pancake is always a mess (the heat isn’t quite right, or they need to be a little smaller to flip easily, or whatever). I almost always mess up the first round, so it’s better to just start with one. Also, these pancakes are not great for making shapes. I had grand ideas of heart-shaped pancakes…not gonna happen with these babies. But they’re delicious as circles, and appropriate for any season.
4. Plop some blueberries on to the pancakes, and gently press them into the batter. I had giant blueberries and some of them didn’t want to stay in the pancakes when I flipped them, but pressing them in helped, and keeping them more in the middle of the pancake and further from the edges helped, too. If a few roll out, just use them to top the pancakes.
5. When the edges of the pancakes look dry and you start to see bubbles coming up in the middle of the pancakes, flip those babies over. Let them cook for a minute or two on the other side (you can lift the edge of the pancake and check for doneness, if it still looks wet at all give it another minute to cook).
6. Transfer your cooked pancake to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Adjust your heat as necessary (if the first pancake took a long time to cook and didn’t brown nicely, turn the heat up a little. If it burned, turn the heat down.) Use a paper towel to brush off any excess oil, and re-spray before you put down the second batch of batter. After my first “test pancake” I make three or four at a time. Pour your next round of pancakes and add your blueberries.
7. While the next round of pancakes is cooking, mix up the topping. Add the ingredients for your filling in a small bowl and whisk together until combined (my coconut butter was pretty liquid, which made the whisking easier—if your ingredients aren’t combining easily, throw them in the microwave for 15-30 seconds).
8. When all your pancakes are done, construct your stacks by alternating layers of pancake and topping so that you have a little topping in between each pancake in your stack.
9. Eat them. Say “mmmmmm” a lot. Collect stellar partner points for making these for your significant other.
Happy (belated) Valentine's Day! I love you all.