Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons, Have No Fear, Grammy Will Hook It Up

I was so busy my first week of unemployment that I didn’t even make it out to buy a scratch ticket. Luckily though, all of my busyness paid off and I managed to land a 2-month freelance gig at Jeff Kennedy Associates, a Somerville firm that specializes in exhibit design, yay! The best part is that I don’t start until January 6th so I’ve been enjoying a nice, luxurious 3-week staycation. My 90 year old grandmother must have been psychic too, because in my Christmas card this year were 3 scratch tickets, from which I won a total of $4. Looks like the universe is on my side after all.

Next up is my 2010 lent summary and my January challenge: 100 Things.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons

After I did my dietary detox last month I thought it would be appropriate to build off of the detox theme and do a technology detox for December’s lent. I wanted to observe my current habits; how much I was texting, how many times a day I was checking Facebook, etc. and see just how much I was really overindulging in these activities.

Only one day into my technology tally though, I found out that my contract was running out at the place that I was currently freelancing at. Time to find a new job. With minimal phone usage though? And restrictions on how many times a day I could check my email? And without the help of social networking? Probably not the best idea at this point in time. I think this lent is going to have to hibernate for the winter.

What now then? Well, I bought myself a month of unlimited yoga at my favorite new studio (happy birthday me!) and I’m buying a scratch ticket every day (in addition to looking for work, of course). My goal for this month is to get a new job or win $50,000, whichever comes first.

When life hands you lemons: buy scratch tickets.

p.s. Let's hang out during the week

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I'm a little back-blogged. I've got a list of things from October and November's lent that I still want to write about in addition to my lent for December, BTA (Back to Analog) or The Technology Detox. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creativity & Productivity

Below are links to a couple of interesting articles that I came across this afternoon through Behance. The first is “Getting Creative Things Done: How To Fit Hard Thinking Into a Busy Schedule” which teaches you a system for making sure your creative endeavors don’t get sidelined. Great for people like myself who end up putting their creative efforts in the “if I have time leftover” section of their to-do lists. No more!

The second is “The 1-Step Plan for Super-Productivity”, which basically just preaches the benefits of being an early-riser, something I’ve always aspired to be but have never managed to pull off. A lent for 2011 perhaps?


According to Wikipedia, “a mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of creating transformation". A sort of go-to internal phrase that is used to bring you back to center and to draw attention away from troubling thoughts with the intention of turning will into action.

I’ve always wanted a mantra; something I could repeat to motivate myself to push through that last mile; a phrase to focus on during times when I’m feeling anxious or insecure—I’ve just never been able to come up with one that I thought fit. I think the problem is that I don’t need just one; I need a bunch. What I’d say to motivate myself during a run is different than what I’d say to remind myself to relax in a stressful situation.

So, I took a minute last night and listed the various situations in which I’d like to have a mantra for and came up with my own. I’m keeping what I decided on to myself, but I’ll share the categories I chose: motivation, anxiety, insecurity, depression, mindfulness and relaxation.

In addition to helping you through a particular situation, mantras can also encompass a broader life philosophy. I read about a woman in Whole Living who came up with this life mantra: SELF “an acronym for serenity, exercise, love, and food” which she called the “four roots of real happiness”.

A mantra doesn’t always have to be prolific or even make sense though. I’ve read that just focusing on something, even a nonsense word, activates the parts of your brain that are associated with control and attention.

Whatever word or phrase you end up choosing, remember the power of the mind and that thoughts can indeed become things.

Monday, November 29, 2010

“Happiness is nothing but total relaxation”…

…as was quoted on my Yogi tea bag tag this morning. But why is it so hard to relax? Or maybe it’s just me that has this problem? It’s the same battle that I’ve been trying to conquer for the past two months. There just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with everything so when I do get a free moment, I immediately schedule something productive to fill the time. Great for getting things done, not so great for giving myself a break, and everyone needs a break.

So this Thanksgiving I decided to finally give myself a break (I’ve been known to make a list of goals before a vacation). No Teux Deux list, no catching up on emails, no worrying about my grown-up responsibilities, time to just be. I had meaningful conversations with the people I was with, slept until I wasn’t tired anymore, got lost on a long run, ate without guilt, laughed and played with little kids, and generally just slowed down and had fun, sans productivity.

Come Monday, I’m surprised that I was able to jump back into work and all of my nagging responsibilities as easily as I did, but it makes sense. I feel rested and recharged so I have more energy to devote to these tasks. When I’m burnt out and running on empty even the tiniest to-do item can feel monumental. I think everyone could benefit from the principles of the Sabbath Manifesto, and it's definitely a practice that I'm going to work into my normal routine.

Moral of the story: Your time-off affects your time-on so take a minute to take a minute when you can.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eating a Delicious Meal is One of Life’s Greatest Joys

I was reminded of this during the 3 days that I was choking down heaping piles of unseasoned lentils and steamed beets. It was less noticeable how disappointing mealtime had become during the weekdays when I was distracted by work, but I really noticed what a huge role food plays in my enjoyment of life when Friday night rolled around. No going out to dinner to celebrate the end of a long week, no meeting up with friends to unwind over a glass of wine, in other words: no fun. I spent my Friday night trying to muster up the energy (which was waning at this point) to make my “dinner” while I watched 16 and Pregnant with Laura, who was enjoying a glass of wine and a real dinner. F.

So, what was the point of this again, I wondered? What are the real benefits of a detox? The proponents of a detox diet claim that it’s benefits are to: reduce the amount of toxins and pollution that enter our body, improve immune function, cleanse our digestive tract, and purify the blood. However, none of this is scientifically proven and there’s little evidence that they actually do what they claim to. So is it a waste of time then?

While detoxing did lessen my enjoyment of food (read: life), it was an overall positive experience. Even though I did have a faint hunger pang that remained with me for the full 3 days, I generally felt good: energetic, light, and clear minded. Depriving myself of eating whatever I wanted all the time made it all the more enjoyable when I did start to eat normally again too. Really though, it was a good little kick to snap me out of the bad eating habits I had been falling into.

So, what now? This week has been all about practicing my dad’s “Everything in Moderation” philosophy and easing back into normal, healthy eating without giving in to my guilty pleasures. I’ve also been keeping a food journal and noting everything I eat and how it makes me feel to see if any patterns arise. A food journal is also a good way (for people like me especially) to prevent yourself from overindulging. If I’ve been eating good all day and want to splurge on some cookies that someone left in the office kitchen, I might think twice if I have to account for it.

A few healthy food switch suggestions from Whole Living:

Sweet potatoes to white potatoes
Croutons to walnuts
Mayonnaise to avocado
Milk chocolate to dark chocolate
Iceburg lettuce to romaine lettuce
Cream cheese to almond butter
White flour to whole wheat flour
Vegetable oil to canola oil
Sour cream to yogurt

But there’s a lot more to wellness than nutrition so my next posts will be more focused on other aspects of well being and Whole Living. More to come…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Detox Day 1: Is this what mental clarity feels like or am I just lightheaded?

I just finished a delicious dinner of plain brown rice mixed with unseasoned lentils, topped with steamed beets and kale: Welcome to Detox Day 1.

Since the detox shopping from Whole Living seemed unnecessarily extensive, I decided to nix that version and do a three-day cleanse that I did a few years back. This one is very simple and all of the ingredients I needed for it cost me around $30. Much better. Here’s the rundown:

Do-It-Yourself Detox

For a week leading up to this simplified, moderate three-day cleanse, created by Cathy Wong, N.D., gradually reduce your intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners, white flour, dairy, alcohol, salt, and caffeine while increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Throughout each day of the cleanse, aim to drink at least 8 cups of water and do moderate exercise.

Upon Waking: A cup of hot water with lemon; meditate for 10 minutes

Breakfast: Smoothie (1 cup berries, 1 cup rice or almond milk, 1 scoop protein powder) or 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1 cup berries; green or black tea with lemon

Snack: 10 unsalted raw almonds and one small organic apple or pear

Lunch: Three ounces organic chicken or turkey, or 1 cup legumes; 1/2 cup brown rice or quinoa; 1 cup boiled swiss chard

Snack: Celery and carrot sticks with 2 tablespoons hummus

Dinner: 1 cup steamed beets over 3/4 cup brown rice; 1 cup boiled kale; and 1 cup green, black, or herbal tea with lemon.

Before Bed: 1 cup hot water with lemon

I can’t say that I’ve had any satisfaction from eating today, but I do feel a lot more satiated than I thought I would, and there is this strange sense of mental clarity that I remember from when I did this detox the first time.

Feeling good though, on to Day 2...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Today my Inner Strength Yoga Studio newsletter was all about wellness and since that's the focus of my lent this month, I thought I'd share:

I've been taught and discovered in my life that stress comes from making things that are really not important very important. Not willing to let go of the past, holding on to things, not placing them into the appropriate perspective and over analyzing always adds to our stress.

Wellness is now proven to be a very important quality to cultivate. There is a distinct difference between health, fitness and wellness. "Health" according to the surgeon General is, "The absence of disease." You and I know that there are people out there that don't have a "disease" but are completely unhealthy. Fitness is defined as, "The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness." Fitness means different things to different people. Depending on our stage of life our fitness levels or "suitability or appropriateness" varies greatly. Building muscle for high school athletics, dance or outdoor activities may be an appropriate motive in one stage of life where sustaining or gaining bone mass and maintaining a youthful flexibility as to keep up with the grand kids may be another motive for fitness.

So the question remains. What does it mean to be well? What does it mean to be well to you? According to yogic thought wellness comes from practices that bring you to optimal states of mind, body and emotions. The key word here is "practices". Everything we do is a practice. Brushing our teeth is a practice, worrying about weather you're in the right job or not is a practice, letting the person in your life know every single morning that you love and appreciate them is a practice. I'd like to challenge you in this moment to stop and think of the reasons why you must practice wellness. Perhaps it's for stress management, deeper understanding of our selves, to be a living example for our kids, patients, clients, family or for general fitness?

I believe wellness takes your health and fitness a bit deeper. Many of us engage in yoga seeking health and fitness benefits and soon realize it touches every aspect of our lives. It challenges our beliefs, strengthens our will, and supports us throughout the joys and sorrows of our daily life. Through our practice, we find we become kinder to ourselves, more forgiving toward others, and tolerant of our own imperfections. These are the qualities of wellness that are available to you on the mat.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Detox Shopping List

Oh wow, I was under the impression that detox week was going to be a cheap grocery week. Wrong! Here's my shopping list to cover 4 days of detox meals:


* Soy-free almond milk, 1-1/2 cups
* Coconut water, 1/2 cup
* Agave syrup, 2 to 4 teaspoons
* Ice for smoothies (to total 1-1/2 cup)
* Pure or distilled water (at least 7 cups)
* Herbal tea (caffeine-free, to replace regular tea or coffee intake)

Fruits and Vegetables

* Kale, 1-3 leaves
* Swiss chard, 1-3 leaves
* Watercress leaves, 1 cup
* Baby spinach, 1 serving (to serve with almond chicken)
* Broccoli, 1 head + 1 cup florets
* Snap Peas, 1 cup
* Baby Bok Choy, 1 cup
* White cabbage, 1/2 head
* Fennel, 4 bulbs
* Zucchini, 1 cup
* Capers, 1 tablespoon
* White onion, 1/4 medium
* Scallions, 3
* Shallot, 1
* Small beet, 1
* Cucumbers, 3-1/2
* Carrots, 4
* Celery, 3 stalks
* Avocados, 1-1/4
* Mango, 1/2 cup chunks
* Green apples, 2
* Frozen peaches, 2 cups
* Pineapple, 2 cups
* Lemons, at least 3
* Lime, 1
* Other raw vegetables (for snacks)
* Fresh berries (for snacks)

Animal Protein

* Striped bass, 2 5-ounce portions
* Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, organic), 3
* Salmon filets (wild, skinless), 2

Herbs, Spices, and Seasonings

* Italian parsley
* Sea salt
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Mint leaves
* Sesame oil
* Garlic, 3 cloves
* Ginger, 1/4 cup sliced
* Nama shoyu or wheat-free tamari
* Cardamom, 4 pods or 2 teaspoons ground
* Sprouts or cilantro (for garnish)
* Chopped herbs
* White-wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

Nuts and Grains

* Steamed brown rice, 2 cups (optional, to serve with striped bass)
* Pine nuts, 1/4 cup
* 100% Buckwheat noodles, 1 packet (to make about 2 cups when cooked)
* Almond butter, 1/2 cup
* Almonds (roasted, unsalted), 1/2 cup + more for snacks

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More of the Same (in a good way)

About a week into October I realized that trying to achieve perfect life balance in a month might be a pretty tall order. Even after four weeks of will power and determination, TeuxDeux lists and yoga classes, I’m still finding it hard to fit it all in (me and everyone else, I suppose). That being said, I’m going to keep going with October’s lent into November and see how I’m feeling by the end of this month. I’m not expecting a solution by lent’s end, just a little more insight on how to get a few steps closer.

That being said, I needed something to give me a push in the right direction so I consulted my favorite resource, Whole Living. I’ve been subscribing to their magazine for years now (it’s awesome), and while perusing their website this week I rediscovered their 28 Day Whole Body Action Plan and decided to sign myself up. Starting on Monday, I’ll be detoxing, journaling, exercising and all around just making steps towards living a more healthy and balanced life. I’m not really sure what I'm going to do about Thanksgiving (which happens to fall right in the middle of the challenge) but I'm sure I can work out some sort of compromise with myself.

Another thing that I’m planning on trying out this month is observing a weekly day of rest, a sort of technology and responsibility detox. I stumbled upon this website, The Sabbath Manifesto, and I couldn’t agree more with the concept of it. An excerpt from their site:

The Sabbath Manifesto was developed in the same spirit as the Slow Movement, slow food, slow living, by a small group of artists, writers, filmmakers and media professionals who, while not particularly religious, felt a collective need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living. The idea is to take time off, deadlines and paperwork be damned.

In the Manifesto, we’ve adapted our ancestors’ rituals by carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, get with loved ones and, if we’re lucky, get some booty, too. The ten principles are to be observed one day per week, from sunset to sunset. We invite you to practice, challenge and/or help shape what we’re creating.

Amen. Happy November!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scheduling "Me-Time" (or indulging my Type A personality)

I’m a big-time list maker and have been for my whole life. Even as early as middle school I was making lists to remind myself to change Lucy and Ethel’s tank (my “I Love Lucy” inspired pet mice), clean out my unnaturally organized closet, and write my Christmas thank-you cards. What kind of 12 year old does this? A: The same one who gets hired by her friends parents to clean their kids’ bedrooms at an hourly rate (true story, on more than one occasion too).

I remember the day when I finally checked everything off my to-do list and asked my mom what I was supposed to do then: “Whatever you enjoy doing” she said. Oh, right. I probably started a new list right then and added “Enjoy yourself” to the top.

Well, nothing much has changed I suppose because this week I’ve been all about scheduling Me-Time (does this officially make me a grown-up or someone who needs to be committed?). I remember reading about a life coach suggesting this in an old issue of Body + Soul, but I had never actually tried it myself. I have to say; it’s been pretty effective so far. By treating journal writing or going to a yoga class on the same level of importance as paying bills and running errands, it gives each item a little more gravity (and the extra satisfaction of being able to check it off a list!). Seeing “lay in the grass on your lunch break” on my Teux Deux list definitely makes it less overwhelming to look at too.

You can’t plan everything of course, and some of my best ‘Just Be’ moments have come much more organically. Whichever way they happen though, being more conscious and in the moment has only made me enjoy my days more, especially the ones that are full of work and responsibilities.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea Wisdom

Does anyone else drink Yogi Tea and love the little sayings on the tea bag tags as much as I do? Here are my favorite gems from this month that relate to my October “Just Be” mantra (and a few that I just like):

“Happiness is nothing but total relaxation”
“Let your heart guide you”
“You only give when you love”
“Where there is love, there is no question”
“Whatever you are, you are. Be proud of it.”

Who writes these? They put a smile on my face every morning! I love the idea of including a positive life affirmation with a morning ritual like drinking tea. If you'd rather skip the cup of tea and get right to the good stuff though, they have a whole section of their website dedicated to them: Yogi Inspirations

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pie Lab

Here's a great article about Pie Lab, a Project M endeavor, from the NY Times. Yay, M!

Yoga Today

Yoga and I have had an on-again off-again relationship for about a decade now. From my first Denise Austin yoga VHS in high school, to a more serious and in-depth practice in college, I’ve fallen in and out of it over the years. Now, whenever I do manage to squeeze in a session, I always, without fail, say to myself “Why don’t I do this all the time!?” (to which I can never come up with a reasonable excuse).

Lame excuses aside, it really does seem to come down to time. During the week I often get home too late to make it out to a class and have a hard time getting psyched about doing the same DVD for the 100th time. The perfect solution for me has been this website, Yoga Today. When I first found it a few years ago they had a free class that you could watch every day, which was incredible (and speaking of incredible, they’re based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming so the scenery is unreal). In the past few years though, they’ve made some changes and now only offer one free class a week, and allow you to buy previous classes for $3.99. Nonetheless, it still gets my stamp of approval and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a way to do yoga on the cheap.

And speaking of yoga today, I’m trying to make it out to do some yoga tomorrow so if anyone is interested in coming with, let me know!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Just Be

Unemployment was a bit of a Catch 22 for me. As difficult as it was living on a tight budget and stressing about finding work in a bleak economy, having so much free time was incredible. Maybe it’s because I was an only child for 10 years, but I’ve never had a difficult time keeping myself entertained. I have a never-ending to-do list and projects lined-up to last a lifetime, so for me, losing my job was more of a blessing in disguise; a time to relax, re-evaluate, re-center and just be.

In my year of joblessness, I successfully did just that. Fast forward through that year though, and here I am again: sleep deprived, pushing pixels around in front of a glowing monitor all day, eating Trader Joes bagged pasta dinners, and making my $20 monthly donation to Planet Fitness. Really? How did it get to this so quickly?

Let me start out by saying that I’m not trying to make a statement about how working is terrible for your physical and mental health. Having been on both sides of the employment spectrum in recent years, I can safely say that I feel much better about most things in my life when I have a job. The bottom line is that working is great and I’m glad to be doing it again, but now the challenge is trying to regain that balance that I achieved when I had all the time in the world, not just the time between dinner and bed. In my unemployed days, I had the time to take time, now I need to focus on taking the time to make time.

So how do I do that? Lent it out. Forcing yourself to relax might sound like an oxymoron, but hey, if it works then who cares. October is all about trying to find that balance again and my first steps are to: journal religiously, get back into practicing yoga, and to finally give meditation a try. No, I’m too tired’s, no I’m just going to watch Teen Mom on demand all night’s, no excuses. With a busy schedule it’s not going to happen unless I make it happen.

The little tag on my Yogi tea this morning put it perfectly: "The best way of life is to be. Simply to be." And that’s just what I’m trying to achieve.

More to come…

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 5 to 9 Review: Does wine count as a serving of fruit?

And do potato chips count for veggies? Yikes, last month was a lot harder than I expected it to be and I was definitely scrambling towards the end to make my numbers. I had pretty high hopes after the first week when I saw that my regular diet wasn’t too far off from the food pyramid’s recommendations, but even when I really did put in the effort, I never managed to make it.

Why though? Truth be told, I eat a pretty healthy diet already and consciously make an effort to include fruits and veggies wherever I can. A lot of the problem was that I had a busy month (between work and end of summer festivities) and because of minimal time to prepare my own meals, I ended up eating out a lot. Even though I was ordering vegetarian entrées, I was lucky if they contained even one serving of veggies. It seems problematic that unless you’re ordering a huge salad, it’s difficult to get more than a serving of vegetables when you eat at a restaurant. Do I really need to order a side to make my meal complete? Why are veggies always sidelined?

In the last few years (probably because of the rise and general awareness of food allergies), restaurants have been a lot better about telling us about what’s in our meals. Whether it be a calorie count, if it’s vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, or my personal favorite: if it’s local and organic, there seems to be a lot more transparency in the restaurant industry. My suggestion is that they let us know what buckets we’re filling in relation to the food pyramid too. Maybe I’m only interested in this after trying to actually commit to this diet for the past month, but wouldn’t it just make you feel better to know that your meal was actually giving you some of the nutrients you need?

I was on the train a few weeks ago and read an article over someone’s shoulder about how some grocery stores have developed a program that assigns a nutrition rating to products so customers can easily determine which foods are better for them than others. Some stores even have a full-time nutritionist on staff to answer questions and to help people make healthier choices. While it’s ultimately up to the individual to educate themselves about their own health, let’s face it, we’re all so busy nowadays that a little guidance here and there doesn’t hurt.

Overall though, it was an interesting experiment to try to eat my 5 to 9 for the month, but I think I might take another stab at it when I have a bit more time. As for this month, I’m eating whatever I want and resting after a busy (but awesome) summer. Lent will commence again on October 1st.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 2's Tally

Last week I consumed 29 cups of varied fruits and veggies, missing my goal of 35 by 6 cups. Not bad though, I'm up 6 cups from last week so I'll consider it a success. My observation of the week is that 35 cups a week isn't really as outlandish as I thought it might be. You just have to, a. Make sure you buy plenty of produce so it's easily accessible, and b. Snack on fruits and veggies throughout the day. I'm not going that far out of my way to get my servings, I'm just being more conscious of it. It's actually been kind of a relief to realize that I'm not as far off as I thought I would be and that with minimal effort I can actually do it. Horray!

Think I should make an iphone app out of this?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The 5 to 9: Week 1

For week 1, I decided to eat normally so I could see how far off the mark I am on the average week. The verdict? Well, not as bad as I thought, but I definitely didn’t get the recommended 35 servings. I came in at around 23, so yeah, not so bad, but still lacking.

Since I’m a graphic designer, I made myself a weekly fruits and veggies intake chart broken down into the categories that MyPyramid suggested: 3 cups of dark green veggies, 2 cups of orange veggies, 3 cups dry beans and peas, 6 cups of starchy veggies, 7 cups of other veggies, and 14 cups of varied fruits. Every time I had a serving, I marked it on my chart (shown by the kitten face) and tallied it up at the end of the week. Here’s what last weeks chart looked like:

Observations: I managed to miss the most starchy vegetables which was really surprising. Aren’t Americans supposed to be the champions of eating corn and potatoes? I’m also pretty disappointed that I missed a serving of dark green veggies, sorry kale! But I’m happy I at least ate all 7 servings of “other” veggies. Does anyone have any good recipes with peas? I’ve been struggling with that category as well.

So how’s week 2 going? Pretty well, but I still have a ways to go if I want to meet my goal. I will say that having the chart really does help. It’s an easy way to keep track and I look forward to adding a kitten face after each meal. If anyone wants a copy of it just send me an email!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

100 Hammers Update

My fellow M'ers and I officially launched 100 Hammers a few weeks ago and are psyched with the positive response that we've received. Not only are over 50 hammers currently rented out, but we got a few shout outs on some awesome blogs like Good and most recently, Best Made.

If anyone is interested in renting a hammer just sign up through our website and spread the word to whomever you think might be interested.

Definitely check out what the SWEAT workshop in Ohio did with our hammers too on Eleven Dozen. Awesome, awesome, awesome. 3 of the guys even got their hammers tattooed on them. Love it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The 5 to 9

Since I’m a vegetarian, one would assume that I eat my fair share of fruits and vegetables. For the most part, I consider my diet to be healthy and well rounded, but I’m pretty sure that I still miss the mark when it comes to the daily-recommended value of fruits and veggies. My Pyramid, brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture, and revamped from the traditional food pyramid that we saw in school as children, says that I should be consuming 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily (the older version preached 5 to 9 servings, hence the name of this month, in reference of course to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5). What’s kind of cool is that the servings are personalized, based on your age, gender, height, weight and activity level. You can go onto the website, and enter your information to find out your own recommendations.

In addition to outlining my own personalized daily recommendations, they also gave me a weekly goal: 3 cups of dark green vegetables, 2 cups of orange vegetables, 3 cups of dry beans and peas, 6 cups of starchy vegetables, and 7 cups of other vegetables. I like thinking of it in terms of weekly rather than daily, because let’s face it, some days I’m going to be under and hopefully some days I’ll be over. So, I’m making myself a nice little star chart and tallying up my score each week. Maybe I’ll buy myself the kale necklace from last post if I manage to meet my goals for the whole month.

What’s always been a little bit confusing is what constitutes as a serving. Here are a few examples, but check out this website for a much longer list.

What is a serving of vegetables?
-1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables
-1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw
-3/4 cup of vegetable juice
-5 broccoli florets, 10 baby carrots, 4 slices of onion

What is a serving of fruit?
-1 apple, banana, orange, or pear
-1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit
-3/4 cup of fruit juice
-1/4 cup of dried fruit
-6 strawberries, 15 grapes

So, that’s my August challenge. I’ll post a photo of my star chart at the end of this week and any interesting findings as they come.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Is there any kale in that?"

July turned out to be a very tasty month of kale eating indeed. Did I eat it every day? Well no, I definitely wasn’t perfect, but I did manage to work it into my diet on most days and I have to say that it’s really grown on me. I get excited when I see it on the menu at a restaurant, I have fun trying to figure out how to sneak it into recipes, and it was definitely a funny topic of conversation: “Is there any kale in that? I’m trying to eat kale every day this month” got me a few funny looks.

The biggest lesson I learned and what I’ll take with me from this month: You can sneak kale into just about anything. Toss some into a smoothie and you won’t even notice the taste. A bit of kale mixed into some scrambled eggs really jazzes ‘em up. Try these delicious apple kale muffins, you’d never guess they were chock full of kale. Basically, kale plays well with others and considering how awesome it is for you, it’s worth it to include it in your cooking whenever you can.

So, I’m officially a kale convert. Thanks to everyone who ate kale with me and supported my kale habit. I think it’s finally time for me to sport the “Eat More Kale” tshirt. And oh wow, this is on the top of my Christmas list.

And tell me I’ve taken it too far but I think Kale or Cael, would be a pretty good name for a baby boy. Sorry future baby’s daddy, my mind’s made up…

Next up for August: The 5 to 9, where I attempt to eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spaghetti with Braised Kale

The afore mentioned kale-centric pasta dish. Surprisingly delicious for being so simple.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tales of Kale

In my search for kale-centric pasta dishes for tonight's dinner, I stumbled on this article, "How I Learned to Love Kale" and thought I'd share. Enjoy and eat more kale!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The kale makes the meal"

I just had a very delicious week of kale eating. Highlights were my pear kale smoothie (scroll down a bit for it) , and the lemony chickpea kale stir-fry that Jocelyn and I made the other night. Super easy, light, delicious, healthy, and awesome for summer. Here's some kale talk that happened during our meal:

Danne: "What did you say again? I want to put it in my post"
Jocelyn: "I don't remember"
Danne: "Yes you do, you just don't want to be on the internet"
Jocelyn: "I said, the kale makes the meal. It's like a PSA for kale, ok?"

So, Jocelyn said it best, the kale makes the meal.

In other kale news, I wrote to Bo, the Eat More Kale guy and he sent me a bunch of bumper stickers for free. Thanks Bo, you're the best! Let me know if you want one, I have a few leftover.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hail to kale!

To kick off July, here are a few facts about kale:

1. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods there is.

2. It has been cultivated for over 2,000 years.

3. It’s a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

4. Studies suggest that the phytonutrients in kale may actually help the liver neutralize potentially cancerous substances.

5. Kale is a cool-weather crop—frost actually makes it taste sweeter and more flavorful.

6. Research has shown that kale consumption is linked to improved mental function as you age.

7. During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign. The vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of rationing.

7. There are several varieties of kale known commonly as: curly kale (pungent flavor with delicious, bitter, peppery qualities), ornamental kale (mellow flavor and tender texture) and dinosaur kale (slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than curly kale).

9. Kale can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, although it is best when eaten within one or two days after purchase since the longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.

10. Both the leaves and the stem of kale can be eaten.

So, as my kale sistah Jess says: Eat (or drink) more kale!

Sorry Jess, I had to do it haha

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eat More Kale

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with kale: The love part being more wishful thinking (I really wish I loved kale), and the hate part being more of the truth (I really don’t like it that much). Recently though, I discovered the kale chips from Prana Café in Newton and I’m obsessed. I find myself buying bunches of kale each week at the farmers market and making them in huge batches at home. While I’m happy that I finally found a way to enjoy kale, there’s still a problem: the chips are really the only way I can tolerate it. After seeing the millionth “Eat More Kale” bumper sticker the other day, I decided that it was time to lent it out and really embrace kale for the wonderful gift from nature that it is. I've officially declared July “Eat More Kale” month and by the end of the month I’d like to not only have eaten kale every single day, but also to have discovered new recipes and ways to prepare it so it can become a part of my regular diet.

Suggestions anyone? I’d love to get some good recipes prepared before the month starts.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Are you back yet? How was it? What was your project? What were the other people like? How was Belfast? Was it what you expected it to be? To answer everyone’s questions:

1. Yes, I’m back!

2. It's definitely up there on my list of “best experiences of my life”.

3. To sum it up: We did a “blitz” project focused on using hair booms to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which culminated in an outlandish booth at a local event called, The Good Life Festival. We wore red jumpsuits with “STUFF IT” spray painted down the leg, stuffed human hair into panty hose, gave over 25 haircuts to willing participants, crafted snazzy buttons made out of hair (they’re not nearly as disgusting as they sound), made Evan sit in a kiddie pool filled with fake oil dressed up as a BP executive, and had a letter writing station so people could write to their congressmen. Here's the video that Ben Barry was kind enough to make of the event.

Project M North 2010 from Ben Barry on Vimeo.

We were all fairly convinced that we’d continue with the oil spill theme for our final project but when we learned of the sudden death of David McLaughlin, an artist, craftsman and collector whom we had met days prior to the festival, we unanimously decided to switch gears and create a project in his honor and memory. Inspired by David’s incredible home, a converted cannery in Liberty, Maine, and his philosophy of reusing what others discarded to give new life to otherwise unwanted materials, we developed “100 Hammers”, a collaborative project in which participants are shipped a hammer from our collection of 100 and then use it to create an art piece, in whatever form that may take. The artwork is then shared on our website and auctioned off to benefit a local charity. I will post as soon as our site goes live.

4. My fellow M’ers were incredible. Half expecting a group of pretentious designers with their own agendas, I was relieved to meet a bunch of talented, down to earth, dedicated, hilarious, hardworking, and passionate people. Our group dynamic was exceptional and we proved to be a prolific and dedicated team. We laughed and cried (sometimes laughing until we cried), ate and drank, worked and played, and just did absolutely everything together for the 2 weeks that we were there. I was, and continue to be, inspired and motivated by each and every one of them and am thankful to have so many awesome, new friends.

5. I’m pretty sure that Belfast is the best town in America. Delicious, local, organic food abounds, there’s a pretty hip art scene (considering it’s northern Maine), bars have outdoor bonfires to sit around (go to Three Tides if you ever make it up that way), the scenery is beautiful, the community is incredible (with one of the guys in my group remarking “I’ve never felt like I was a part of a community until I came here”), just an A+ all around. If I can’t handle the long winters I’m at least having a summer house there.

6. In one word, yes. It met my expectations and then surpassed them. I couldn’t have anticipated what M taught me about design, about myself, and about life. In my application essay I ended it by saying “So, when it comes down to it, why am I applying for Project M? Because there isn’t enough time in life to spend your day doing something that doesn’t quicken your heart.” I remember thinking to myself a few times that even as mentally and physically exhausted as I was, there wasn’t one thing in the world that I’d rather be doing. To me, when you’re in the moment, and truly living from your heart, that’s the whole point of everything. Thank you Project M for reminding me that this is possible.

I’ll be posting more as soon as I sort through the 3,000 photos and 10GB of video that I have (seriously) and I will let everyone know when 100 Hammers launches. Check out this article that was written about us in the Village Soup if you didn't see it already on my Facebook page.

One last thank you to everyone who donated to my M fund. It was such a hugely positive experience in my life and I literally couldn’t have done it without your help. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

M Twitter

M Blog

I'll be blogging about my personal experience with Project M when I return in a few weeks, but you can view the blog that we're keeping as a group documenting our process here. There's not too much on it right now but it'll definitely be filling up more each day. We're working on a Twitter account too so I'll post that info when I have it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

M Fundraising

I'm leaving in less than a week for Project M and am getting really pumped (and honestly, a little nervous). I wanted to take a second to thank everyone who donated to my M fund. I'm up to $1,225 and can't express how wonderful it's been to see how happy friends and family have been to help out. And a last call, if anyone is interested in donating and hasn't yet, you can still do so from the PayPal link in the last post.

Love you all, check back in May for M updates!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Project M!

I'm very, very excited to announce that I'll be participating in this May's Project M session in Belfast, Maine. For those of you who aren't familiar with the project or didn't receive my fundraising email, here's a brief summary of what it's all about:

It was started in 2003 by designer John Bielenberg. After seeing architect Samuel Mockabee (where the M originally comes from) speak about leading architecture students to work on projects centered around the concept of “design for the greater good”, he was inspired to bring the idea to the graphic design world. Seven years later, he runs multiple 2-week Project M sessions a year, helping young, creative thinkers to see that their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world.

At the beginning of each session, M’ers arrive with no idea what shape their project will take. They work collaboratively to explore the local community to get a sense of how they can use their skills as designers to produce a project that will bring forth positive change in the area.

A few examples of how past Project M sessions have impacted cities and towns around the world:

• Helping to provide safe drinking water to over 100 families in Alabama

• Bringing communities together by turning abandoned lots into parks in Baltimore and Detroit

• Incubating a social-enterprise company, NADA, that produces low-cost bike frames and targets young people to get on bikes and out of cars in urban environments

• Laying the groundwork for an organic garden and local farmer’s market in Connecticut

• Creating awareness and providing a creative outlet for Icelanders during its economic collapse.

I'm so, so excited about this and have been dying to participate forever so I couldn't be happier. The only tricky part is that the project isn't funded by a corporate sponsor but by the individuals who apply so I'm trying to raise $2,000 in the next 3 weeks. If anyone can help in any way it will be sincerely appreciated. I set up a donations page through PayPal, so if you'd like to make a donation you can do so by clicking the donate button at the bottom of this post.

Thanks so much! I will most likely be blogging about the experience too so make sure to check back throughout May.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Everything in moderation

Miser March ended up being a lot harder than I anticipated. In theory, sticking to the budget that I had set up for the month was perfectly reasonable; there was even a little money leftover each week for unnecessary expenses, win! What I didn’t (and couldn’t) account for though was unexpected expenses, and for whatever reason, March had a lot of them. I was reminded again how important it is to have money saved and felt thankful that I had been good about this when I was in a better financial situation. Anyways…

Even though I couldn’t be as stingy as I set out to be, I did manage to pick up some good money saving habits. I’m addicted to comparison shopping now and I finally jumped on the buying in bulk bandwagon. I make the extra effort to go to the cheapest gas station, I signed up for Keep the Change so I can at least put a little money away, and I really think twice before whipping out my credit card for an impulse purchase. I definitely slipped up a few times and some of the habits I tried to make quickly went out the window, but the month definitely made me more mindful of my spending and kicked me back into miser mode.

What I did determine though, is that even though saving money is great, paying for convenience is totally worth it sometimes. Holding down a squirming Fanne to clip her nails, haggling a price for car repairs at 5 different shops, and paying half the price to get my hair done at a beauty school are all things that I’m not really interested in doing. To me, it’s worth the money to save the stress when I can afford to do so.

I thought a lot about money and happiness too, especially after finishing up The Happiness Project, which I mentioned back in February. In her chapter about money, Gretchen wrote “If money is to enhance your happiness, it must be used to support aspects of life that themselves bring happiness to you”. Sure, money alone doesn’t buy happiness but it can definitely help to support it. Living miserly is great for saving money, but I can definitely say that I felt happier in months where money wasn’t constantly occupying my thoughts. Going out to dinner with friends, taking photography classes, and traveling might not be “necessary” expenses but they make me happy, so to me it’s totally worth the money.

So, as my dad would say, “Everything in moderation”. It’s good to know how to be thrifty, but it’s also important to not be too strict about it when you don’t have to be.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Danne’s Top 10 Tips for Miserly Living

1. You have more food than you think you do. Eat it. Before you spend $100 at the grocery store every week, take a look in your pantry. I’ve been managing to spend way less on groceries by making use of my non-perishables and by only buying a few items each week, ex. produce, dairy, bread. I’ve also been much better at not buying more than I need to ensure that nothing goes to waste. Juicing has been an awesome way to use up fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad so I don’t have to throw them away.

2. Comparison shopping. Check your local supermarket flyers and hit up a few different stores for the best deals if you have the time. Not just for groceries too, look around for the best price on whatever you need.

3. It’s worth it to buy in bulk. I didn’t need olive oil this week but when a 68 oz. can was on sale for $9.99, I snatched it up. It might not save you money right now, but it will later.

4. Use it ‘til the last drop. I bet you can brush your teeth 10 more times with that seemingly empty tube of toothpaste, and you can get at least 3, if not 5, uses out of your tea bag and have it taste just as good.

5. I bet you can find it cheaper. There’s a coupon out there somewhere or someone trying to sell it on Craigslist. It’s worth checking out before you pay full price.

6. Turn your clutter into cash. Clean out your closets, your basement, your garage and sell stuff you don’t need anymore.

7. Save up for something rather than buying it now and paying for it later, ie. using your credit card. It saves on impulse splurges and there’s definitely a greater feeling of satisfaction when you don’t give into the instant gratification of buying something you can’t afford.

8. You don’t need it. That last drink at the bar, a new dress for that party. Resist the urge!

9. Every little thing really does count. If I sign up for BOA’s Keep the Change Program, that might put an extra $20 into my savings account this month, and hey, that’s $20 that I definitely wouldn’t have put in there myself. If you aren’t awesome at saving left to your own devices, take advantage of forced savings.

10. Sometimes it’s worth the money. If it’s going to benefit my health, support a local business, or improve my life in some way, then I don’t beat myself up for not being cheap. Some things aren’t “necessary” but they’re still beneficial and worth the splurge.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Even misers need to have a heart

After my trek to Planet Fitness this afternoon, I decided to make a stop at Shaws because I remembered that strawberries were on sale for $1.99 this week and that laundry detergent is buy one get one (my new favorite sale to take advantage of). When I got to the parking lot though, I noticed that a few workers were outside in the pouring rain holding picket signs. I had forgotten that there was a strike! One of them (who happened to be a really cute young guy) gave me a desperate look as I drove in. Even though I've committed myself to being as cheap as possible in every aspect of my life, I had to give myself a break here. Saving ¢.50 on strawberries probably wasn't worth it when these poor people were standing out in the rain because their health care rates were rising substantially. So, moral of the story, even misers need to have a heart sometimes and cut themselves some slack.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Miser Advice Needed

There's a few pretty big expenses that I have coming up and I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to save money on them:

1. My car needs a 120,000 mile check-up. Anyone know a lot about cars who can tell me what I really need and what I can skip? Any mechanic friends out there? Do tech high school auto shops do work like this?

2. New tires for my car. Has anyone ever bought tires online? Is it just worth it to shop around? Luckily Watertown has a plethora of tire shops so I'm definitely going to make a bunch of phone calls.

3. Small expense: I need a bike helmet. Anyone have one they don't need anymore and want to sell or give to me?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

These things...

...are actually kind of awesome. I always immediately toss them into the recycling bin but in the spirit of Miser March, I decided to check them out this week. I sat down for an hour or so and compared the sales at 3 different supermarkets. Here's this week's miser report:

Shaws wins for cheapest tuna and oranges and they also have a good deal going where you can buy 4 packages of produce for $7.99.

Stop&Shop has a lot of good sales this week including, 2 for $4 strawberries, 10 for $10 28 oz. cans of tomato sauce, and 10 for $10 avocados.

Market Basket wins for toothpaste over the other stores with Crest at 2 for $3, and they also have 2 for $5 blueberries which seems to be a great deal for this time of year.

I also really wish I had the 40% A.C. Moore coupon last week when I actually needed something there. Time to start giving the grocery store fliers a once over before tossing them out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Miser March

Miser: A person who lives in wretched circumstances in order to save and hoard money.

Or, what unemployment has turned me into.

I’ve been out of work for about 8 months now so I’m definitely no stranger to scrimping and saving. Even though I’ve always been a careful spender, unemployment has definitely taken it to the next level. I’m comparing prices at the supermarket, using everything until the last drop, borrowing and making instead of buying, and just cutting back wherever I can. Although I’ve become a champ at this, I’m sure I can do better. This month I’m taking my economizing up a notch and declaring it Miser March.

Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

I’m starting out by doing something that I’ve always wanted to do: Withdrawing my weekly spending allowance from the ATM at the beginning of each week and spending only that. I feel like physically handing someone money rather than using a piece of plastic with my name on it might make me think twice before purchasing something unnecessary.

I cannot use my credit card or dip into my savings account unless it’s an emergency.

I should make or borrow whenever possible, but if I do need to buy something, it has to be on sale or second hand. Time to utilize Coupon Cabin, Craigslist, the library and things like Bank of America’s Add It Up Program.

Spend as little as possible on food and drink. Looks like it’s time to actually read through those grocery store flyers that usually get tossed into the recycling bin and do some comparison shopping. I remember being in awe of my friend Jess when she told me that she spent about $20 a week to eat. Eating out and drinking (alcohol) are only allowed if it doesn’t push me over my weekly budget. Love you 3 buck chuck!

Read through The Tightwad Gazette for money saving tips on everything. I’ll be sure to post good things that I find.

Sell things I no longer have a need for on Ebay or Craigslist for extra cash.

As always, I’m interested in feedback so if anyone has any tips for me, please share.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life Junk

Out of all of the challenges that I’ve completed for the 12 Months of Lent, this February’s fun month may come across as less serious or structured than some of the other months I’ve done, but my intent for it was the same as it’s been all along. Like with every other month, I recognized something that was lacking in my life and devoted a month to trying to fix it.

Although I had originally designated February as Frugal February (now switched to Miser March), I’m glad that it wasn’t set in stone. Last year I determined each month’s challenge in advance, but this year I decided to figure them out month by month, allowing me more flexibility, and I definitely think it’s better this way. Coming out of January, what I really needed was a pick-me-up, not an intensive spending restriction to keep me in my house and further my status as a Watertownie. After the rough 6 months I had just gone through, I needed to get out of my head and back into the world.

So, did it work? Did a month of enforced fun help to pull me out of my winter slump? Yes and no. While I may not have partied like it was 2007, I did manage to have one of the best months that I’ve had in a while. Maybe I didn’t have rip roaring fun every day, but I did manage to do something enjoyable that helped lift my spirits for sure.

Sometimes we all need a reminder to not let life junk get in the way of living life, and that’s just what Fun February was for me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Fun Project

I love having fun, probably even a little more so than the next person (as anyone who hung out with me in 2007 can attest to). Lately though, the fun times have been a little lacking. Blame it on the winter blues or my extended period of unemployment, but whatever the case may be, there’s really no excuse. It’s time to bring a little more fun into my life.

Since February 1st, I’ve been making an effort to do something fun everyday. Whether it be learning how to play Umbrella on the Ukulele, giving myself funny manicures, or having friends over to watch the Olympics, I go a little bit out of my way everyday to make myself smile and laugh out loud. It’s a similar idea to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, where she spends a year giving herself monthly resolutions aimed at making her happier and improving her life. Instead of the pursuit of happiness though, I’m focusing on the pursuit of fun.

Happy February! Let me know if you want to hang out and do something fun.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Year in Review

When I was growing up, my dad would always tell me to “make it a great day” before sending me off to school. I’d usually shoot back some smart, teenage retort about how I couldn’t possibly control what kind of day I was going to have. It wasn’t up to me dad, how could I know what the day had in store for me? It’s only in the last few years that I’ve come to realize what a valuable lesson he was trying to teach me. That our own fate and destiny aren’t in the hands of an unknown force, but that we are the ones who choose the path our lives will follow. It was this philosophy that pushed me to take the fate of 2009 into my own hands and make it the year that I wanted it to be, one month at a time.

The 12 Months of Lent was designed as a series of month-long personal challenges that were outlined to push me towards living a richer and more fulfilling life. I sat down a year ago with my friends Amanda and Jenny and together, we came up with an idea for each month, ranging from eating more mindfully, to being more conscious consumers, to just doing things that we’d been putting off for no good reason. The ultimate goal was to adopt the habit that each month was trying to form into our daily lives. They say it takes 30 days to break a habit, so hopefully it would also take 30 days to make one.

Looking back on the year, it’s definitely had a lasting impact on my life. Whether I really wanted them to or not, a lot of the months did form habits that have stuck with me: I write in my journal more than I ever have in my life, I think twice before using disposable anything, I check the label to see where my produce was grown, and I try to support local food sources whenever possible. I have a hard time not picking up trash when I see it, and I make an effort to purchase things with the least amount of packaging possible to reduce my consumption in the first place. I recycle absolutely everything, and even though I failed at it, I gave composting a try, and I’ll give it another try come Spring. I more readily offer compliments to friends and strangers, I don’t hesitate to get in contact with someone that I haven’t spoken to in a while, and I generally just try to do things instead of putting them off. Overall, the 12 Month of Lent was a very positive experience and I look forward to continuing it through 2010, repeating months I enjoyed, and coming up with new challenges as I go along.

So, many thanks to Rick for the encouragement to blog in the first place, to Amanda, Jenny, and Tim for your participation, and to all of you for your support and thoughtful, insightful comments over the year. Keep them coming and happy 2010 everyone!