I'm experiencing a nice intersection between Day Job at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and my bloggy self. Check out my review of Thai Kitchen's gluten-free, dairy-free vanilla cupcake recipe (the link to the recipe is there too).
Our garden yielded some surprises this summer, including cantaloupe and a mystery winter squash. Let this be a lesson to all of us -- if seeds go into your compost bin, the unexpected may pop up. It's easy enough to spot the (numerous) volunteer tomato plants that cropped up, but cantaloupe and squash appeared in beds where we had intentionally planted viney squashy things and I don't know their leaf patterns as well. Where I thought we would get sugar baby watermelons (which we did), we also got some delicious and yet unidentifiable tender-skinned, sweet squash (winter squash, I think, or maybe a more firm fleshed, interesting summer squash) that I thought would pair well with coconut milk. I was right! I used it in the recipe below. You can use patty pan or delicata squash with the skin, or butternut squash without the skin and I expect it will be equally divine.
Thai Squash and Potato Soup
2 volunteer winter squash of indeterminate variety with edible skin (kind of delicata-ish, but not the right shape), cubed -- you can use ~2 cups any type of winter squash
2 medium potatoes washed and cut into chunks
1 red pepper that you need to use up before it turns into compost (ha ha), cut into medium-sized pieces
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup of vegetable broth
~tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
salt to taste (my broth had salt so I didn't need any additional)
Saute all the vegetables in the olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot for a few minutes. Add all the liquids and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes and squash are easily pierced by a fork (or the consistency you like). It would have been really good with some cubes of tofu too.
Since last I wrote, I went on vacation with my family, then came back and started my new job at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. It's a pretty big change for me and a fun challenge as I get acclimated and into the swing of things. The picture here really is a note I wrote to myself at work, so you can see I've got a lot on my plate!
I'm glad I made all the changes in the summer when home and family doings are a bit more laid back. Once the school year starts, there will be lunches to pack and lots of driving kids around to clubs and practices and rehearsals and more. As always, I'm striving for that perfect work-life balance. I need to replace the incidental exercise I lost when my commute changed from public transportation to automobile. I want to resume my regular contributions here and on Facebook in a revised but relevant and helpful way. I look forward to getting around to cooking more and sharing the recipes -- I've been eating a lot of raw veggies from the garden and while it's healthy, it's not too blog-worthy. I also need to put some parameters around my consumption of gluten-free convenience and snack foods. My workplace has an entirely gluten-free kitchen (not too many places can claim that!), and the prevalence of empty refined carbs in my life has risen dramatically. Temptations abound.
The nice thing is that I'm generally able to acknowledge that the current unbalance is temporary. And I'm happy to share some of my strategies for feeling okay even when there is more to do that hours in the day.
1) Take a few minutes to plan. Some mornings I wake up with all kinds of stuff swimming in my head and I spin in circles. On those days, I'll write down even the smallest thing and it helps me get focused and moving. My list may include the smallest thing, but if I write it down, it's captured and I can move through the items more linearly rather than stopping and starting tasks simultaneously.
2) Listen to uplifting or entertaining recordings when you are held captive somewhere. For me, my captive times are when I need to spend time in the kitchen making meals for the day and when I'm in the car on the way to and from work. I listen to Ted Talks on topics I choose, podcasts, and audiobooks. I find that this puts me in a pretty good mood and activates curiosity in me and gets me ready for the day better than listening to music or the news.
3) Exercise. 20 minutes to run, bike or even take a lunch hour walk helps by getting me outside and breathing deeper. There are loads of studies and research that indicates that both these things are very good.
4) Take some time to dream big and imagine cool future scenarios. This is good for when I first wake up, but it also works at work. It's easy to get so caught in the day-to-day that we don't take time to picture where we want to go and we just get swept along with where things are already going. The mental game starts with, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" It doesn't matter if you don't pursue every idea. You will likely hatch some idea you do want to pursue.
5) Write. It doesn't need to be readable by anyone else. Get a notebook. Jot random stuff down. Make yourself write for an entire page anything that comes into your head. Write letters to your future self. Imagine yourself 5 years in the future living out your dream and write a letter full of advice to your current self. Just write and give yourself some freedom to get some ideas out of your head. I know it doesn't sound like it'll do much for you, but give it a try. What can it hurt, right?
I plan on using all of these tactics more in the next month. None of them take long or cost anything. There is no risk. Why not go for it?
Today is my last day on staff at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. It has been my privilege over the last eight years to create some amazing things with colleagues, partners, stakeholders and neighborhood residents to improve the quality of life and promote a sense of community through horticulture. To all I have worked with and near, thank you. I am especially grateful for the amazing friendships and connections that I will carry with me always. I have grown and changed in ways I could not have predicted because of the nature of the work and the support I have received from a very dedicated group of individuals. I've had some really great teachers here -- some were sort of obvious, like my supervisors and mentors, but some of the best lessons came from peers, co-workers and partners even if I wasn't ready to hear them at first. My heartfelt gratitude to you all.
At my going away party at PHS last week, I offered up some of my learnings from my experiences that will carry over long past the time when I turn in my key card. I told my friends and colleagues assembled that evening that I would share them here.
1. Prioritize friendships, partnerships and relationships over projects. Be that person that other people want to work with, individually and organizationally. Sign up for projects with people you haven't worked with before. Build wide and deep, both here and with outside partners. You'll probably have more fun and may build lasting friendships (or at least generate some good stories!)
2. Have patience and perseverance. A metaphor for life, urban greening and partnership-building is marathon, not a sprint. The stuff that takes the longest to make happen and with the most partners has the biggest impact: Hawthorne Park took 10+ years, many partners and lots of community to bring to realization. And nothing lasts without maintenance -- bringing intention to landscapes, partnerships, and friendships. On the job too -- individuals may come and go as co-workers, but the relationships continue and the value of the work that benefits the city and the people and communities doesn't stop as long as there are people still invested in the spirit and maintenance of the project and partnership.
3. Be open to new ideas. Some of the best projects I've worked on at PHS at first sounded too big or too out there. I resisted a couple of ideas (but supported them anyway!) that turned out to be leading edge projects that have changed the landscape of urban greening around the country. I've learned to listen to new ideas more openly, and I've also learned that without dreaming big, you probably aren't aiming high enough. I will never lose my pragmatic bias, but I've learned to shut up and listen to stuff that I first think is nuts.
4. Embrace forgiveness and second chances. Everybody deserves to receive both, but more importantly, everybody deserves to give both.
5. If you are fortunate enough to work someplace that provides paid time off, take it! Plan and announce it far in advance if you have to. Life is about experiences. Go to the family reunion. Take that trip you've always dreamed about. Get that home project done you've been meaning to tackle. Take your partner to a beading convention. Visit Knoebels with your kids while they're still young enough to appreciate it. Do the ziplines and treetop adventure at Lums Pond State Park. Seek opportunities for professional development. You owe it to yourself to live a life that is rich and full and varied. If you are somebody's boss, encourage it and set a good example.
6. Find a way to be happy. It comes from within and can be found in any situation. There are actual things you can do to make yourself happier. This is not just pollyanna stuff. Nothing is more important. If you're still reading this blog post, see if you can find 12 more minutes to watch this TedTalk from Shawn Achor about happiness at work, then check out his picks for other TedTalks on happiness when you can.
I'm sure there is more. I DO go on. For now, let me say "so long" to PHS. Even though I'm very much looking forward to getting started on my new adventure as Director of Communications and New Media at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I will savor the PHS memories, cherish the friendships, and carry the lessons with me always.
In just over a week, I need to have all of the stuff on the white board in my office at PHS done. It's a lot of stuff, but I'm feeling much better having gotten it from my brain and onto a board I face whenever I'm sitting in my chair at work. Which reminds me of this book I read a couple of years ago, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. One big takeaway is that we stress out unnecessarily when we keep remembering the stuff we haven't done yet. Our brains just keep coming back to it and churning on it. If we write down the tasks in a place that we are sure to refer to, our brains get freed up and we don't have to worry about forgetting what we need to accomplish. We only need pay attention to any given item again when we are ready to deal with it. I was a bit of a whack job this morning at home worrying about getting things done, and making this list right as I arrived at work helped a ton.
David Allen's suggestions are good as long as you don't make yourself crazy. Take the tips that serve you and dump the rest. Tickler file? Waste of time for me. I did tape "DO DEFER DELEGATE DISCARD" on my computer monitor at work after reading the book to help me get through e-mail more efficiently. With 663 messages in my work e-mail in-box alone, I clearly still have a ways to go on that one.
You may note that I have a whole unfilled column on my list with the title "fun stuff." Gotta work on that. But I find that as I progress through my tasks, some of it can be fun. Like discovering that someone does, in fact, make bifocal reader sunglasses. I think these will be awesome for my driving vacation with the family and in my soon-to-be new role as an auto commuter. It's weird in the car that I can't read the dashboard dials or radio without putting my reading glasses on, so these bifocal reader sunglasses will hopefully solve that. Plus, I'll be able to sit in the sun and read comfortably without squinting. I wish I'd invented them!
I also am replacing my lost Fitbit One charger. I'm sure my old one will turn up as soon as I have the new one out of the package, in which case, I'll keep the duplicate at work. Then I'll be sure to never miss a step. Har har.
Then there's the mindless and time-consuming tasks. I don't really mind mowing the lawn usually. Scanning pics for my niece is fun too. Finding time for both is the part that feels stressful. Maybe I can offer a cash reward to my kids for helping with those projects. Everybody wins!
The rest of the stuff... well, it's just stuff I need to do. It'll probably all get done. Or nearly all. Some of it absolutely HAS to get done. Other stuff... We'll see, anyway. Likely nothing too bad will happen if I miss a thing or two.
Big changes are afoot for me. I’ve accepted the position of Director of Communications and New Media for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Awesome! NFCA has done groundbreaking work in raising awareness and encouraging celiac testing, advocating that manufacturers to bring gluten-free products to store shelves and training restaurateurs to safely prepare food for people with celiac and non-celiac gluten intolerance. I’ll start my official duties there in mid-July. So excited! I can’t imagine a better fit than to turn my “extra-curricular” activities into my Day Job. I plan to continue my website and blog; no doubt there will be many things to share from NFCA.
That means I’ve resigned my position as Director of Gardening Programs at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. I’ve been at PHS for 8 years. I have learned an immense amount and had the opportunity to work with some really talented and caring people over the years. I know I’ve made some life-long friends and hopefully I’ve contributed to the world of urban greening, community gardening, increasing the availability of fresh produce, and making Philadelphia a more livable city.
If that’s not enough change, I’ve also joined Jeunesse Global as a distributor of their line of skin care products and supplements. I am not completely new to the world of direct selling, so I know Jeunesse has something special to offer in its science-based product line, its compensation plan, and its 21st century embrace of technology to help distributors spread the word. Click here if you want to know more or are interested in getting a free sample. I'll write more about the benefits of Jeunesse in future posts.
And my (and Jenn’s) job of parenting is also alive and well. Our boys are now 10 and almost 13, and our taste of nearly-teen has been quite an eye-opener to what lies in store for the next 8+ years. We are currently reading and appreciating Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager by Anthony E. Wolf. As Jenn notes, Wolf offers insights into the teenage mind in a completely conversational tone of voice. It is chock full of realistic examples and gives permission for parents to be imperfect. I find it is helping me have more empathy for our older guy, which in turn keeps me from being such a total nag all the time. Everyone’s happier all around.
This might be the world's fastest and easiest, yet impressive foods to take to a party. You probably have all of the ingredients on hand already. Whip it up for that Memorial Day gathering and you know there'll be at least one interesting and safe, satisfying snack. Amaze your friends and family!
Peanut Chili Dip
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons lemon juice1 1/2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari sauce
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, optional
Combine all of the ingredients. Add more water if it's too thick. Eat it with carrots or other veggies. You can also thin it more and mix it in with still-hot gluten-free rice noodles for a quick peanut sauce. Serve it hot or room temp.
Happy Mother’s Day! Because May is Celiac Awareness Month, I have been working on a heavy, deep and real blog post for weeks. I have learned from experience that most of my pondering posts are politely ignored. So instead of “efforting”* my way through what I’m sure will someday be an awesome contribution to the great thinking of the day on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, I am instead offering a Mother’s Day special for the “Happy, Healthy” part of my equation: A list of some of my favorite things. According to all the Hallmark cards, I’m supposed to have a relaxing and self-indulgent day. Since it never fails that talking about favorite things makes me happy, I thought this a fitting post. I hope my happiness oozes through your electronic devise and into you and you are prompted to think about your favorite things and then maybe tell me about them.
My favorite food in the whole world is my Spicy Red Lentils and Greens. You have to try this. I’m not lying. So good. Maybe I’ll make some today.
My favorite recipe invention is either Cauliflower Crust Pizza Tartlets or Vegan Maple Pulled Pork. Both of them had that “Eureka!” thing. Love that!
My favorite book is probably Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It completely changed my outlook on running from being a drudge to being fun. In part, it led to my triumphant 2nd place medal in the women ages 50-59 Rick’s Run 5K last month. It started the whole barefoot running thing, which I actually think is not such a great idea, but it did empower me to not feel like I need to spend a lot of money on running shoes. I’ve noted a couple of influential books on my Happy, Regardless page.
My favorite movie is “Fried Green Tomatoes,” though I have to turn it off when Ruth gets cancer. Too sad. I also love “League of Their Own.” There’s no crying in baseball! Classic.
My favorite memory captured on Jumbotron is when my family came up with a Ryan Howard home run ball. So awesome! Watch it here: http://m.mlb.com/video/v3103416/howards-solo-shot-puts-the-phillies-back-on-top/?c_id=mlb
My favorite memory NOT captured on Jumbotron was my 1994 wedding to Jenn. Though we didn’t get legally hitched (sort of, anyway) until 2008 in California, our event in 1994 was the big coming together of friends and family to celebrate us and our intention to be a couple permanently.
My favorite singer is P!nk. She can do angry and loud. She can do vulnerable and open. She makes me laugh. She makes me change the CD when my kids get in the car because she has lots of rude lyrics. Can’t decide if I like Truth about Love or Funhouse better. Depends on my mood on any given day.
My favorite gluten-free trip was to Paris France. I’d welcome the chance to go back to Rome and put together a list of gluten-free finds there too! My travel list also includes New Zealand (my favorite TV show was Xena, which was shot there. I fell in love with the scenery while watching the warrior and her trusty sidekick and bard “friend” Gabrielle fight for the right and just in ancient Greece.)
My favorite app is called Cloud Spotter. It lets me take pics of clouds, make my best educated guess about what kind it is, and I win points and badges for correct identification. Total nerd fun. Plus, it gets me to look up and focus on nature when sometimes I might just stare at my phone on my public transportation commute like everyone else.
My favorite gadget is Fitbit. It’s a high tech pedometer that (quietly) cheers me on, tracks my steps, tracks flights of stairs, and more. It sends me badges for my accomplishments too. Who knew I’d be so motivated by electronic badges?
I’d love to know what some of your favorite things are.
*Shoot me a note if you get this reference!
There have been some interesting articles about celiac and gluten-sensitivity in the news recently. I generally note my findings on my Happy Healthy Gluten-Free Facebook page, but I notice Facebook isn't showing the love and sharing my posts very widely lately. (If you follow my page, be sure to share, comment and like the posts if you are so moved. That way, Facebook will show the info to more of the people who follow my page too.) Facebook aside, here are a couple of recent headlines:
People with celiac, gluten-sensitivity and inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to suffer from migraine headaches. Sadly I researched this because I had to leave work with a pounding headache and nausea about 30 minutes after arriving this past Thursday morning. I’ve only gotten migraines a handful of times, but according to the research, it looks like plenty of us get them. I don’t know what the trigger for my headache was – I don’t think I was glutened – but the statistics are interesting nevertheless. I was really fascinated to see that those with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity were at a much higher risk than those with celiac or IBD.
Celiacs are twice as likely to have heart disease. Darn it! It makes sense though – increased inflammation can’t be good for any major body system, which makes sticking to a strict gluten-free diet imperative for those of us who have to.
Celiacs are less likely to get colon cancer, especially if they are on a strict gluten-free diet. I love good news! Add this to other findings that celiacs are less likely to get breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer. I think that calls for some celebratory cauliflower crust pizza tartlets! (This recipe will be featured soon in the Reading Eagle newspaper – Awesome!)
Regardless of the medical studies, those of us with celiac or other gluten-related challenges do ourselves the biggest favor by being attentive to our overall health by eating a gluten-free diet, reducing inflammation, exercising regularly, and maximizing our happiness.
And maybe these coupons I spotted will add to your happiness!
$1 off Udi’s products: http://shop.udisglutenfree.com/special-offers
Bob’s Red Mill $1 off coupon: http://www.bobsredmill.com/get-a-coupon.html
Don't jump to any conclusions. I know this recipe may sound weird. I thought so too at first. I was motivated though to create an alternative breakfast option. A friend of a friend and I started exchanging Xocai chocolate recipes. I regularly drink the [insert flashing product placement alert here!] Xocai Extreme Chocolate High Antioxidant Shake for breakfast. Usually I have it naked. Sometimes I add kale. Sometimes I add strawberries or bananas. But sometimes I want to eat my breakfast with a spoon. I also like keeping things raw. This recipe combines speed, rawness, chocolate, and a spoon. Awesome, right? The oats soak up the liquid so they don't need to be cooked. The result is kind of like pudding, but it's under 250 calories. It's a great afternoon snack too.
Gluten-free Overnight Oats
1/3 cup Gluten-free rolled oats. I use Trader Joe's.
2/3 cup almond milk (or whatever you like to use as a milk thing)
1 Tablespoon powdered peanut butter (PB2 or Just Great Stuff both make it)
1 scoop (1/4 cup) Xocai Extreme Chocolate Protein Powder
Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a cereal or other small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, giving the oats enough time to soak in the almond milk and soften. Eat chilled for a fast breakfast or a delicious and healthful afternoon or evening snack. Makes one serving.
245 calories, 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber. Eat it. Love it.