Running and Tacos — How Everything Gets Better

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A few days ago, I was feeling a little bit down. I had been going through a job recruitment process that tested me in a way that well clarified my intentions and desires in terms of the kind of employment relationships I want to create in my life. That is, I desire an employer that values my time just as much as they expect me to value theirs in the recruitment and interview stage.

During the interview stage, if I took a day to think about something, I would let these people know. If I had to create a sample of work for them, I had a deadline to follow. In return, however, I was given no timeline or expectation for when I would hear back regarding their decision. In the days following, I received many Linkedin notifications of the same two people from the company looking at my (empty!) profile multiple times without any contact to give me any type of feedback. I decided it was enough and withdrew from the process.

Part of the experience is due to the fact that I cared so much about this job. I was really excited. Before choosing to submit my candidacy for the role, I took time to research the firm and really think about whether I could see myself doing the work. I could—really well!

Continue reading “Running and Tacos — How Everything Gets Better”

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Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies (Take One)

Is this what these are supposed to look like?

Every so often, I engage in the aspirational hobby of perusing recipe books and websites. I dream of what could be. Bean cassoulet with biscuits? Pumpkin chipotle chili? Seitan simmered in mole sauce? I look, I read, and I savor—with my mind’s tongue, that is.

A few days ago, I thought to myself, isn’t it a shame I haven’t ever cooked my way through a recipe book. It wasn’t a question; it was a predicament I found myself in. And so I picked up the only physical cookbook I own, from which everything I have ever made has been fantastic: Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

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Now, a little backstory. I’ve had the book for going on a decade, and I started with high hopes that I would cook my way through it. I even placed a dainty dot beside each recipe I tried, convinced that my zest for domesticity would find me opening the crisp pages of the hardback to a dot beside every recipe title in The Contents. Mind you, there are about 250 recipes in the book, and no amount of zest can carry you through that much cooking from one place… It takes discipline, but that wasn’t what I thought.

Continue reading “Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies (Take One)”

Reformation Dresses I am Crushing On (Fair Trade + Environmentally Friendly)

Reformation is one of my brand crushes: they are a California-based clothing company that manufactures and develops their designs right out of their California factory, where every employee received minimum or living wages, health benefits (if full-time), and even a weekly massage—which, having gone through a brief period of physical labour, is more necessity than luxury. Their website also claims they are working to increase their wages from minimum to living for every employee.

To me they represent a vision of what can be possible: indulging our wants for frilly dresses and beautiful fabrics and clothes while treating people well! In addition to treating people well, Reformation is also known to care about the environment. One of their online reports claims that they limit their footprint as much as possible and “offset” what they can’t (by purchasing carbon offset credits, I assume), thus their manufacturing is carbon neutral.

And to add to all this, many of their clothing items are stunning. They’re not quite as feminine and frilly as the Christy Dawn dresses I absolutely love, but there are lots of items in there that I am constantly crushing on, and I window shop from Reformation all the time. They are one of my most frequented procrastination websites, and they roll out new designs frequently. So frequently, in fact, that from the time I wrote this post to today, I can’t find links to three of my picks—pretty ridiculous since it’s only a two-day difference.

Of course, the dresses tab is my most-frequented. And today I wanted to share the five Reformation dresses I am crushing on at the moment, in no particular order.

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The Winslow Dress: This is one of their “easier” dresses; it’s relaxed, long, not too tight. You can eat in it! What won me over though is that despite the “ease,” it’s still super elegant. It could be a great dress to wear to a wedding. There are so many colours, and it can be dressed up or down; it’s simple and versatile. And do you agree? You have to love a great wrap dress. (It won’t be the only one of those on my list!)

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Celine Dress: If all of these five dresses were sitting in my closet, I can guarantee that this would be the most worn one. How do I know that? Because I have one that looks just the same but it’s short-sleeved, and it’s my most-worn dress of all time. You can find a way to wear a simple black wrap dress like this to almost any occasion. It’s classic enough that it can be dressed up with heels and jewellery and the right hair, or dressed down for a summer night out to get drinks with friends—or whatever. It’s probably also the most boring one of this bunch, but sometimes the boring garments are the ones that are worn best. Not only that, the cut with this is bound to be flattering, accentuating or creating a waistline thanks to the wrap string and the skirt’s cut, which creates the illusion of larger hips, decreasing the waist-to-hip ratio.

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Flash Dress: This dress screams “dancing!” Maybe sometimes it’s hard to decide what to wear out to a club or lounge in wintertime, and it’s like this one was just made for winter dancing. It’s so easy and comfortable; it takes some booties and maybe some pantyhose (it gets REALLY cold up here in Canada), and you’d be good to go, no worries about wardrobe malfunctions in sight, completely free to dance the night away. I own several “body-con” dresses in exactly this style, and they are super flattering… This one just reminds me of how badly I need a dancing night out.

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Surrey Dress: This is by far my most scandalous choice. I mean, look at it! This dress has a conservative a-line cut, but there are essentially barely-covered by lace stripes that show off your skin throughout. I find something with a little contradiction like this (conservative cut but sexy/revealing material) to be much more scandalously sexy than a dress that outright shows off a lot of skin. It’s somehow a bit more dignified in my opinion… On the other hand, I have no idea where to or whether I would ever wear this. I love hiding in a crowd and finding my comfort zone in busy environments and this is definitively not a dress to do that in.

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Jagger Dress: This should have been called the Nancy Drew dress because it’s such a feminine, goody-2-shoes style. And I LOVE it. I can totally see this becoming a go-to summer dress. Again, I definitely considered the comfort factor in picking my “crushes” out of all of the dresses on the Reformation website.

Things That Make Me Happy

A few weeks ago, I stopped my job hunt and decided to settle into a routine with my remote work and to take on a larger course load with school. Having spent so many months in limbo, often overexcited or worried about one interview or the next, and feeling as though my entire life routine and even place/city of residence could suddenly change, I didn’t take a lot of time to just enjoy life. Now that I know that for the next year or so, this will be my life, and I will not need to look for another job, I can just settle into this and focus on everything good.

I can’t describe what a relief this realization has been; I feel like I can stop waiting to live and just live now. And this post is a list/celebration of the simple, accessible things that bring me joy.

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— A good hike with friends. I stipulate “with friends” because I recently had an awkward experience with a member from a Meetup hiking group—generally things were fine with them, though, so this is not meant to reflect badly on the website. I love hiking and getting out in nature. Depending on the season, the same trails can look completely different, and the Bruce Trail in Ontario has over 880 Km, so exploring new sections is a favourite hobby. Winter hiking is an especially satisfying experience. I feel twice as adventurous going out when it’s snowing outside (though if you plan to do the same, please read about safety and don’t go alone).

— Writing dates with myself! I’m genuinely surprised I like this one so much, but it’s true. I feel so, so good going to a coffee shop and working on my creative writing project. I am working on a story outline, but it’s been getting pushed back because it seems like there’s always something else to do. Home is just not a place where I can leverage my focus when it comes to things I don’t have to do, unlike studying or work. Well, it turns out that going to a coffee shop does the trick; it’s just so official, and once I’m there, I can focus on my project with abandon, without feeling like there’s something else I should look up or do. It feels like I’m taking time for myself, even though it’s productive time, and finishing this project would be a win professionally and personally.

—Meditating after a Tone it Up workout (and the Tone it Up workout). Hear me out! I don’t have a gym membership, and no fancy exercise equipment (I own a Weslo bike I bought two years ago for $120 CAD and some dumbbells and a yoga mat). The Tone it Up app subscription runs at about $12 CAD per month, and it offers so much. There are daily workouts that are 20–30 minutes long, and daily and weekly schedules. In addition to that, there are guided meditations available. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without working out with my TIU trainers, and I forget how amazing I feel after one of their workouts. The combination of the vocal encouragement and the exercise moves leaves me feeling like I’ve taken a plunge into a pool of endorphins and drank it all. To turn on one of their 10-minute guided meditations after that and enhance that feeling is amazing. It’s definitely the type of thing that can turn the day around for me; the hardest part is convincing myself to actually go for the workout on those days (they’re not always easy!).

—Salads and protein smoothies because they represent the purest, truest form of self-care to me. It’s true that positive/constructive self-talk and a good attitude are realistically even more important to me, but I feel a nagging sense of pride eating a salad. And as someone who eats a lot of salads and drinks a lot of smoothies, it’s weird that I STILL get this feeling every single time. But it’s been years, and the magic is still alive. That probably has something to do with why I keep going back to my super green, super “earthy” tasting smoothies. I feel like I’ve won a competition when I eat well, and that’s a positive feeling of joy that nothing else other than winning an actual competition can give me.

—Mindful Youtube or Netflix watching. That little adjective at the beginning of this is SO important. Here’s a little tid-bit on me: left to my own devices, I fluctuate between over-control and eventually, after a crash and exhaustion, under-control. So it’s important that I intentionally create balance between work and “life,” times when I put in concentrated, hard work and times where I can take it easier and live more slowly. One way I genuinely enjoy taking it slowly is watching TV shows or my favourite videos. But that can easily turn into a binge if I’m not careful, and not only is that potential lost time that should have been dedicated to other things, but it also makes me feel really guilty. So instead, I like to plan exactly what I’m going to watch before I do: is it two episodes of Lucifer? Five Youtube videos I can chuck into a playlist? Whatever it is, I make a plan for when to stop and what to do after. And then after that,  I grab a blanket and a mug of tea and rid myself of every distraction and just relax. This can be so therapeutic if done with intention and mindfulness!

I’d love to know what everyday parts of your life you find joy in. I think sometimes it takes looking over our day and finding out where we can make space to do the things we already do a little more intentionally that can make the difference between a meaningless routine and a space/time of joy. Would you agree?

 

Book Chat: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (Miss)

It has genuinely been such a long time since I picked up a book that could keep my interest. And it’s not because I haven’t tried: With my Scribd trial, which gave me access to a nearly infinite number of books in either audio or digital format, trying is all I did. And then with the library, too. Part of it has just been because I want to read, but another reason I’ve been trying so hard to find a good story is that I wanted to introduce/continue a book segment on this blog.

Well, I’m just accepting the fact that there are a lot of books being indiscriminately published, marketed to a buzz, and then as readers we’re kind of fooled into thinking it’s because they are actually good, right? Nope! This is a slight rant, I guess, but the truth is that as an advanced reader for NetGalley, I’ve read good, well-structured, interesting, and well-told stories that went out of print just a couple months after “launching.”

So, at least we know some good books don’t get any buzz. But must the opposite be true, too? No, it doesn’t have to be, but it definitely is if my experience with reading lately is anything to go by.

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I picked up The Alice Network by Kate Quinn from the library on a whim. I recognized it when I saw it in the fast-lane display shelf at my local library. It’s this month’s book club pick for one of the few book clubs I know of in my area, and it’s also emblazoned with a seal for Reese’s book club. And maybe I haven’t talked about her on this blog, but put simply Reese Witherspoon’s opinion on a story really counts for something in my books. (Pun not initially intended!)

And the premise for this one is great. Or should I say these stories, because the book technically has two stories lines and it alternates between them with each consecutive chapter. One story is set just after WWII and involves a young, unmarried but pregnant woman who runs away from her family in search of her missing cousin. Her search leads her to Eva Gardiner, a seasoned French spy, and I presume (because I haven’t read the whole book) that together they solve the mystery of the missing cousin.

The second storyline is about Eve Gardiner and how she began her career as a spy in what is the fictionalized version of the real-life Alice Network, a group of female Allied WWII spies. Interesting, right?

Well, sort of. First, I was okay with the back-and-forth for a couple of chapters, but I quickly lost interest in the 1915 time line. The 1947 time line of finding Charlie’s (the young girl) cousin had so much more urgency. I even began skipping over the 1915 chapters and found that I didn’t feel lost at all. The stories are at least for the first 100 or so pages (1/5 of the book) completely independent. You don’t have to read both at the same time to get what’s going on, at least to that point.

But by page 100, what had begun as a truly interesting story with a hook began to swivel to a stop. The characters began to engage in meaningless banter and paragraphs describing Eve’s swearing or Charlie’s newly acquired morning sickness began to feel like cheap fillers to avoid getting to the next plot point before it’s structurally appropriate to do so. As in, if the story does hold water and warrant the number of pages and words spent telling it, then it wasn’t apparent in the first 20%.

Based on several Goodreads reviews, I also wasn’t the only one who strongly preferred one of the time lines over the other. I think this is problematic because that so many people made a “choice” is a symptom of the fact that you could make a choice (duh!), which means that some readers, myself included, weren’t given a compelling enough reason to want to read both other than their strategic placement, alternating chapter-by-chapter.

I’m not sure what I will move  on to now. Any ideas?

The Only Way I Can Eat Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are nutritious and a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and protein. But for me, they’re not easy to eat. You could put them in a glass of water or juice and then quickly down the whole thing before the seeds soak and form their gelatinous shell. But a much better way is to make a chia seed pudding bowl.

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This is a great breakfast option, especially if you’ve done a workout beforehand—since it can be just a tad high in calories. It’s crunchy, thanks to the granola, and the fruit is sweet and nutritious.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 cup plant milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (I doubled this because I love vanilla!)

Note that 1/4 cup of chia seeds contains 280 calories. So if you want to (or need to based on your dietary habits) save on some of those pesky little things, consider halving the pudding recipe, or even cutting a quarter (3 tbsp of chia seeds blended with 3/4 cup milk).

Once you have your ingredients, go ahead and blend them for a minute or two. You’ll want to blend on the highest setting possible. And that’s it—that’s your chia seed pudding! But that’s not where the magic starts (or ends) for me… I personally don’t love the texture of chia seed pudding. So the toppings make all of the difference for me, and the most important, non-negotiable one is about a 1/4 cup of granola. Getting a bit of the granola crunch with every spoonful makes all the difference.

[If you do not have a blender, you do not need one! Put the ingredients in a container and shake, then place in the fridge for a couple of hours; the seeds will expand and absorb the milk. Just make sure to mix everything really well before leaving it to set in order to avoid clumps.]

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Today, in addition to the granola, I added cup banana and thawed wild blueberries. But you could add any combination of complementary fruits that you would like. And then to finish, you can top the whole thing with just a little bit of sweetener. I used one tablespoon of maple syrup.

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This bowl was seriously such a treat! Even though chia seed pudding is one of those uber healthy, health-nut type snacks/meals/foods, incorporating the proper textures and flavours can make a world of difference.

There are so many ways of making the pudding and this is by far my favourite. I’ve seen lots of recipes that recommend simply blending everything together, including the fruits. But having the fruits as a topping just makes this less of a boring meal and provides some variation with each spoonful.

In whatever way you can, consider adding chia seeds to your diet. They are considered a “functional” food, thanks in large part to their fibre content, which can help lower cholesterol and improve digestion. You deserve to protect yourself against cardiovascular diseases while warding off gastrointestinal problems (and remember that simple irregularity can increase your chances of developing colorectal cancers!).

It would make me so happy if you tried this recipe and then let me know what you think! Do this for you.

Vegan Blueberry Protein Pancakes Recipe

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A challenge that comes with adopting a mostly plant-based diet is finding ways to make old favourites without animal products while still getting enough protein. In the case of these protein pancakes, it’s extremely simple, and the result was pretty tasty.

This recipe yields four medium-sized, fluffy pancakes. If you use pea protein powder (instead of brown rice protein powder), beware that you might be able to taste it afterward.

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You will need:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (yes!) baking powder
  • 1/4 cup protein powder (either brown rice or pea)
  • 3/4 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 1.5 cups water (you may need to use a little more or less)

Make sure you whisk all of the ingredients together really well, and cook as you would regular pancakes. And don’t forget the maple syrup!

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