Monthly Archives: July 2016

Simple Summer Dinner

It has been miserably hot this past week in Baltimore. All of the members of my household, both human and furry varieties, have spent most of our time splayed out on the floor or couches with our limbs spread wide, our bellies in the air, and our tongues lolling out of the side of our mouths. We’re a sad bunch with zero energy or motivation for anything beyond the most basic tasks of living. Oh the joys of a mid-Atlantic summer.

Whether you too are suffering in the heat, or enjoying a more mild summer that actually makes you want to spend your time outdoors in the company of people you love, if you’re like me, you prefer to limit your cooking time during the summer. Who wants to spend extra time in a hot kitchen when you could be relaxing outside on a beautiful summer evening, or standing with your face pressed up against the air conditioner vent imagining what it would feel like to have the whole world suddenly crust over in beautiful, cold sheets of ice?

Summer meals should be quick, easy, and minimize your time spent next to a hot stove. And ideally, they should make good use of fresh summer ingredients. With those criteria in mind, I share with you one of my favorite super simple dinner recipes that utilizes two of my favorite seasonal tastes: fresh basil and tomatoes. This is a one-pot pasta dish that is easy to prep, quick to cook, and requires very little cleanup. Plus it is really tasty. Pair it with a mixed green salad and some crusty bread and you have a fast, easy meal to share with guests, or to enjoy all on your own as you sit on the couch in your underwear with a fan blowing directly on you from only a foot away.

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One Pot Linguine With Tomato and Basil

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What You’ll Need:

12 oz linguine (I’ve also used fettuccine)

12 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters depending on size

1 onion, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes (less if you don’t like things too spicy)

2 sprigs of basil (I usually use more) plus some torn leaves for garnish

2 tbsp EVOO, and a bit more for serving

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 1/2 cups of water

Grated parmesan or other cheese of your choice for serving

What You’ll Do:

In a large sauté pan, combine all of the ingredients except for the cheese. Use about 2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Everything is going in the pan together! Pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, red-pepper, oil, salt, pepper and water. All of it at once! Bring the water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta, stirring frequently with tongs. You want to cook it until the water is nearly evaporated, which takes about 10 minutes. The pasta will be al dente and should look and taste creamy.

Season with a more salt and pepper as needed, garnish with basil and serve with cheese and more olive oil if needed.

Enjoy!

A Quick Yoga Flow for Sluggish Mornings

I have had trouble getting going in the mornings. I blame the heat. I wake up and it is already muggy and warm outside, and my bed is so cool and comfortable. Lately I’ve had to drag myself out of bed and I shuffle through my morning routine with my eyes half closed. It takes all my willpower to keep from collapsing on the couch and going back to sleep for another hour.

To help jump start my days and bring a little energy to my body, I have started doing short yoga routines when I first wake up. I’m choosing videos that are around 20 minutes long because I don’t always a have a ton of time in the morning, and sticking with flows that are gentle and not too challenging, because the purpose is to give my body a chance to wake up, stretch out and release some of the stiffness that can build up during the night.

If you too are struggling to get yourself moving in the morning, I recommend trying a short yoga flow to get your blood pumping. It’s been really helpful for me and is a pleasant way to start my days. Here’s the video I did this morning if you’d like to check it out.

Pokémon Go and the Power of Getting Out

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When I first read about the new Pokémon Go interactive game Nintendo released, I thought it sounded pretty silly. I am not a Pokémon person. I didn’t even realize until recently that it was a game. I remember there being a tv series that I never saw, and I always figured it was like an anime version of beanie babies with stuffed figures that you could collect and trade with friends. That there was the ability to battle and compete within the Pokémon world was completely unknown to me. So it is very safe to say that I am not Pokémon Go’s target audience, and that I have no intention of taking part in its newest iteration, but it’s been interesting watching the reactions to this game.

Though I remain skeptical that a cultural phenomenon that further glues people to their smartphone screens and encourages them to connect to the world only through technology is actually a positive thing–and there have certainly been some negative consequences of the game with people hurting themselves and disrupting spaces where game playing and levity don’t really belong (please people, do not catch Pokémon at the Holocaust Museum)–I am pleasantly surprised by the tremendous anecdotal evidence that the game is helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions be more active and social. It’s a positive benefit that I had considered when I first heard about the game, and I’m glad to see so many reports of people who normally struggle with motivation and social interaction finding that they are inspired to get outside.

You can check out a long list of tweets and posts from people about how the game has helped them here, and here.

Guided Meditation App

As I’ve mentioned before, prolonged, self-directed meditation is not really my thing. I have tried it in the past and it just doesn’t work for my personality and mindset. But lately I have been getting increasingly into short guided meditations as a way to reduce my stress and bring a bit of energy to my body and spirit on draining (far too hot) summer days. In the past I have used Youtube to find guided meditation videos, but I recently started using the Stop, Breathe & Think App. It’s a quick and easy way to take a step back from the stress and grind of your daily life and make time for quiet moments of reflection and release.

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The app has a good selection of guided meditations that mostly range from 3-10 minutes in length.

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Each meditation lists the length and the general purpose of the meditation, so that you can choose one that best suits your needs in the moment.

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I like that they are short little practices, because I can fit them in between my appointments when I need to settle my mind, or at the start of my day if I need a bridge between waking up and moving into my daily routine. I have not tried the Falling Asleep meditation yet, but I look forward to testing it out the next time I am struggling to quiet my mind at bedtime.

The app is free to download and offers a lot of information on how meditation and mindfulness work, how best to practice, and what benefits you can expect to experience by incorporating meditation into your regular routine.

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The Stop, Breathe & Think app is available for iPhone and Android devices, and can also be used online instead of via smartphone.

 

(This is not a sponsored post. More Well is in no way affiliated with Stop, Breathe & Think.)

 

Declaring Independence From Your Clutter

While my dog spent his holiday weekend cowering in fear at the sound of fireworks popping and cracking throughout the neighborhood, the humans in my household enjoyed a long, lazy weekend of backyard barbeques and television binge watching. In the middle of all that languid relaxation, we did manage to tackle some much overdue spring cleaning.

While we worked our way through episodes of the most recent season of Orange Is The New Black yesterday, I pulled piles and piles of stuff out of our closets and drawers and we slowly went through the mess, throwing out junk and a heaping pile of dried up pens, and organizing what remained into a storage system that would make the things we needed easier to find. We went from feeling like we had absolutely zero closet space available, to having lots of room to spare. It is a great feeling to open my downstairs closet and know exactly where everything is. I feel a sense of relief just thinking about it.

I prefer to clean in overzealous bursts, taking on large scale organization projects all at once and knocking them out over the course of a couple of hours. I go for big change–cleaning that feels cathartic and restorative, and sets up the satisfying visual of going from massive mess to idyllic cleanliness. Not everyone prefers this method, and for some people, physical or mental health limitations might make large scale cleaning impossible.

If you find yourself needing to get your house in order, but need some motivation or a cleaning method that is a little less demanding than my particular all at once style, you should check out UfYH (aka, Unfuck Your Habitat. Be warned it employs regular and repeated use of swearing). There are helpful tips and tricks for a variety of cleaning tasks and situations (laundry tips, cleaning when moving, recommended cleaning products), as well as cleaning challenges and advice on how to use cleaning/break time systems to help you move through your cleaning tasks without burning yourself out, or becoming distracted by other obligations. The UfYH methods can be applied not only to cleaning, but to studying, job searching, and a variety of other often tedious chores that you may need a little extra motivation to push through.

Check it out if you feel the need to clean up your habitat, but you don’t know where or how to get started. There are daily prompts, photos of people’s before and after cleaning success, and lots more tips and answers for how to clean pretty much everything on the UfYH Tumblr page.