Why I Aspire to be more like Anne of Green Gables

24 Sep


The recent Netflix series “Anne with an E” whimsically transports the viewer into a type of dream world. No, not one without heartache or mistreatment or hard times, but one where Anne’s sheer enthusiasm and sense of wonder irresistibly soften each blow.  To Anne, Avonlea is “the most beautiful place on earth.” She reads far too many books, resulting in expressions such as “it is a scrumptious pleasure to make your acquaintance” and “isn’t Saskatchewan just the most delicious name to say?” Matthew Cuthbert, who co-adopts Anne with his sister Marilla, says she “loves trees and flowers and such,” and “she’s got a lot of romantic notions about life.”

Not only is Anne’s character irresistible, but life on Prince Edward Island, too, holds a certain charm. There is only one school house, one church, one main street to shop on. Obviously, the late 19th century was a simpler time than that in which we live today. Indeed, it is refreshingly so. Anne finds great joy in crowding her hat with wildflowers hoping to make a good impression on her first day of school. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world when Matthew buys her a dress with puffed sleeves. In contrast, modern me views the outdoors functionally as a gym option and only wants to fill my online cart with more items once I strike upon a cute dress.

We 21st century Americans seem to have an options problem. We are overstimulated by social media, consumerism, and curating our self-presentation to the point of exhaustion. We are made paralyzingly insecure by our inability to keep up, to keep busy, to keep going. Worse still, we are so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing that we’ve stopped talking to each other. I traveled Labor Day weekend, and on the shuttle from the Pittsburgh airport to parking, I noticed the couple in front of me didn’t exchange a single word. She was on Instagram, he was on Facebook, just scrolling. I, too, was guilty of checking my phone too frequently over that same weekend while in the company of dear friends I rarely get to see.

I don’t actually want to time-travel to the late 19th century. I like hot showers on-demand, not dying of bacterial infections, and box brownies far too much. I do, however, enjoy  44 minute bursts of escape into Anne’s Avonlea. I want to want a kindred spirit the way Anne does more than I want to stare at my phone. I want to generously win over difficult people as Anne does her best friend Diana’s mother. I want but one sliver of Anne’s spunk and grit, because I think it takes bravery to really engage with others, to be a true blue friend.

Whether you find the following recipe irresistibly simple or refreshingly good, I hope it makes you think of Anne…


INGREDIENTS (makes 3 servings):

 1.5 cup egg whites

1 bag spinach

1 container button mushrooms, sliced

5-6 red vine tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper


Wilt the fresh spinach in sauce pan over medium heat. Remove spinach and any residual moisture. Spray pan with PAM, and add mushrooms and tomatoes. Once cooked, remove from pan and add egg whites. Once egg whites are almost cooked, season with salt and pepper and add feta. To assemble for lunch meal prep, distribute egg whites and vegetables evenly across three containers. Serve with a piece of toast.

CALORIES (without toast): 150 (per serving)


Paris for Non-lovers

17 Jun


Believe it or not, Paris is worth visiting when you’re not romantically involved. You just have to tell the vendor persistently marketing the raspberry red, heart shaped lock that you and your travel buddy are in a ‘no love’ type relationship prior to ascending onto a platonic Seine River boat cruise. It’s effective, eventually.  Kidding aside, a recent four-day stint to the city of lights with my dear friend Kaitlyn was chock full of stunning sights and scrumptious food. Since I don’t have a funny story to rival last summer’s blonde and helpless episode in Dublin, I’d like to instead describe how we successfully navigated the lush Parisian landscape without a single heart flutter:

Day 1: Montmartre – Moulin Rouge =  Friend Zone

After alighting from Icelandair F1540 at 6:20 am with at best four hours of sleep and grumbling stomachs due to the lack of flight service, we somehow managed to first bump into old friends while shuttling to the train station. Well, friends in the sense that your big sister’s co-worker’s brother is your friend. Peter, who I recognized as the brother of a kid I played violin with at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., and his wife, Anne, were visiting Paris for a wedding. And yes, they had done the Icelandair #Stopover, which is apparently a-mah-zing.

IMG_2227Map in hand, Kaitlyn shrewdly steered us to our lodgings in Oberkamp for luggage drop-off, and subsequently towards the Montmartre area, wherein towards the beginning of the 20th century Picasso and other greats made art history while surviving at the Bateau-Lavoir. Is the juxtaposition of eating crêpes nearby a whimsical carousel after the stunning view atop Sacré-Cœur even remotely likely to speed one’s heart palpitations? Psssh, only if you’re a sucker.

Day 2: The Palais Garnier for free is more sleazy than steamy

The morning was marked with accidental failures, specifically redefining its hours IMG_2281by waking up at 12:40 pm and unwittingly not paying the Palais Garnier 10 euro (I think? At least?) access fee by entering via the gift shop. Our honest mistake was admittedly enjoyable; the opera house is real fancy! Next, a stroll through Tuileries Garden transitioned to a spontaneous walk through the Rodin, due to persistent rain. I wasn’t aware appreciating the works of Michelangelo’s modern equivalent would be considered romantic, but according to Marie Claire it’s the 6th most so activity in Paris. The rain having subsided somewhat, we next traipsed along Champs-Élysées, managing to defy its high-end atmosphere by eating chocolate croissants at Brioche Dior. Curiosity did, however, lure us into the flagship Louis Vuitton store, which currently features a winking Mona Lisa and always serves bubbly to paying customers.

And now, I must break with my theme and admit whole-heartedly that the Eiffel Tower is definitely for lovers. You can’t reach the very tip-top without some transferrance of the dreamy backdrop to your state of mind. But it’s also an adventure, especially close to midnight on a chilly and blustery night when you’ve opted to climb the stairs to the first summit.

Day 3: The Louvre’s Nintendo audio tour just makes you feel like a third grader

We woke up at a more acceptable hour, 8 am, with the intention of beating the line IMG_2446to climb Notre Dame Towers. I sidetracked these efforts, by having us stop at Traiteur Saveurs de Pains Viennoiserie for espresso and pattiseries. I can’t say I will crave a second tarte fruit rouge, but the presentation was excellent. We did not beat the lines, arriving at 10 am and waiting a good hour to ascend the Notre Dame Tower’s 327 stairs. No big deal – I used that time to complete a crossword and secure additional hot beverages for myself and Kaitlyn.  The winding ascent is dizzying, yet worth the great view from the top. Of more interest to me concerning the Gothic cathedral is Victor Hugo’s role in preserving it. The Hunchback of Notre Dame,  published in 1831, arguably served as a plea to not demolish or repurpose the church, which was at the time in a sorry state of disrepair.  “Gothic art was then regarded as ugly and offensive,” state Nadeau and Barlow in The Story of French, “so Hugo’s choice of the location was deliberate: it linked the grotesque characters with the ugly art…which he, as a Romantic, found beautiful.”

Being good tourists, we wasted no time getting to the Louvre. As we learned from IMG_2454our tour guide on Day 1’s Seine river cruise, it would take three continuous and sleepless months to view every piece of art housed in the Louvre, given a three second viewing time. We targeted the Renaissance paintings section, using the Nintendo audio tour to learn about select works. The Louvre is noisy, thanks to its overcrowding of people and art. I imagine it’s better enjoyed by the locals in the dead of winter, when less tourists are around.

Day 4: Forget bringing sexy back; Latin Quarter food finds are worth the vacation pudge

Kaitlyn informed me pre-trip that “eating is her hobby.” We had been killing it on the food front days 1-3, but managed to take our gourmand quest to a higher level on IMG_2499day 4. It being Whit Monday, our planned destination, Palace of Versailles, was closed. Instead, we wandered the Latin Quarter and discovered an outdoor food mart, where we sampled macaroons and specialty wines, and a hotbed of fondue restaurants. One of them, Le Marathon, had a hot non-fondue deal, too: a three-course meal for only 10 euros! I enjoyed French onion soup, chicken and french fries, and opted for espresso in place of the third course. We really struck gold in the ladies room, wherein coupons for various attractions were being displayed next to the sink. (I should mention, too, that our waiter wooed Kaitlyn as she exited the restroom, giving her a kiss on the cheek and remarking on her beauty!) I grabbed a coupon for the Musée du Chocolat, and shortly after we found ourselves learning about chocolate’s origins as an unsweetened drink consumed by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Test tasting, a chocolate sculpture of the Eiffel Tower, and a chocolate-making demonstration were included in the museum as well.

Any attempts at imitating French cuisine will pale in comparison to the real deal. Instead, I recommend a simple yet delicious picnic menu, which we heartily enjoyed on our train from Paris to Barcelona:



– 1 loaf of French bread from any patisserie (it will cost you less than 1 euro)

– 1 wedge of Brie cheese

– Red globe grapes

– A bottle of Etxe Peio‘s wine (purchased from the aforementioned Latin Quarter food mart)


Prepare small cheese sandwich bites by folding Brie cheese into pieces of bread. Pair with grapes. Re-use espresso cup as wine cup.

CALORIES: who cares, you’re on vacation


Why should we keep writing?

4 May


I’ve set a personal goal to complete Clifton Fadiman’s Lifetime Reading List. My pace is more the slow crawl of a starfish after pigging out on mollusks than the steady trudge of a horse. Even if I read all 176 books, which span across most genres, history, and the world, I’ve only scratched great literature’ surface. There’s still John Steinbeck and Rudyard Kipling, Willa Cather and Sigred Undset, Carson McCullers and W.E.B. Du Bois. Not to mention Trollope’s forty-three other novels, or almost any meaty, historical biography. Talk about FOMO! Sometimes, too, I’d like to dig into a compactly compelling Graham Greene novel or indulge in some Harold McGee-type food nerd reads.

An overwhelming volume of outstanding books, essays, poems, and articles exist already. An unconquerable amount. Yet we continue writing, churning out news pieces and novels and biographies and blog posts. Why do we feel compelled to keep scribbling? Are we actually producing new thoughts and ideas, or just transposing an old song into a new key? History does repeat itself, and nothing we do or write will ever be entirely original. Yet, I believe we feel almost burdened with telling our own stories. We want to represent our own sentence within the broader pen strokes of mankind’s tale. We want to link our time to past and future ones. National Review writer Jonah Goldberg touched upon this idea in a recent newsletter: “Man is a story-telling animal, and stories are what give us meaning, direction, and passion.”


In a world that is becoming evermore cluttered with words, it’s easy to feel like our own don’t matter much, like we’re just re-mowing the grass in a well-manicured lawn. But I think this mindset undervalues the everyday impact we have on each other. Hearing from someone we love, or admire, is quite different from reading something similar in a George Eliot novel or a Shakespeare sonnet. This applies both to all my fellow bloggers in what we write, and also to everyone who interacts with fellow humans. If what you write matters to one other person, it matters. The same applies to what you do. So while I deeply value and revere the great classics, I also deeply value writers of our time, some better known than others. Ann Voskamp is a constant, beautifully-expressed source of encouragment; Tim Challies keeps me grounded; Jill Carattini outputs informative yet soul-stirring blogs; and Jim Geraghty is my main news source.

We can’t know where we are going without a sense of where we came from. We desperately need, then, to read books that have stood the test of time. We also can’t get to where we are going without probing through and making sense of where we are now, which is why we need to supplement our reading with bloggers and writers of our own time. Risky behavior for a purist, I know. While I plan to prioritize my current Fadiman-list read, Herodotus’ The Histories, I’m also planning to steer away from the ancient Greeks here and there to tap into the here and now. So read on, reader; write on, writer. Every word counts.

If Pinterest counts as a culturally relevant source of the here and now, yours truly has got her finger on the pulse. My most recent recipe find, in the pursuit of any and all slow cooker novelties, is a Vietnamese Bahn Mi Rice bowl, except I made it into a salad. Perfect for low-cal lunchtime feasting!



INGREDIENTS (makes 3 servings):


11 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1/ tsp. pepper

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 jalapeño, sliced


1 cup shredded carrots

8-10 radishes, sliced

2 Tbs. white granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbs. white vinegar


1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped


Chicken: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Combine garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and jalapeño. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low setting 5-6 hours or until chicken appears cooked through. Once cooked, shred chicken and reserve sauce.

Pickled Vegetables: Meanwhile, combine sugar, salt, and vinegar. Add in shredded carrots and radish slices. Let sit at least 30 min, then drain or else let remain in juices (I chose the latter option). Keep refrigerated.

Assembly: Before eating (or when packing your lunch), layer 1/3 purple cabbage, 1/3 pickled vegetables, and 1/3 cilantro in bowl or plastic container. Heat and top salad with chicken.

CALORIES (per serving): 200

(Adapated from: skinnytaste)

Salad is better enjoyed with addition of a sesame vinaigrette, such as Kraft’s lite Asian toasted sesame dressing (add 45 calories/2 Tbs.)

On combating our toxic inner thought lives

30 Mar

Oprah Weight Watchers Ad

“How do you show up in your life?” This is the question Oprah Winfrey asks in her new Weight Watcher’s commercial. It’s a Hulu ad I’ve seen dozens of times in the pursuit of trashy reality TV. Kylei, Oprah’s interviewee who has successfully lost 73 pounds, responds: “I feel like I walk into a room just glowing. I feel like me again.” Oprah and Kylei then revel in their mutual love of chips, and I’m left feeling slightly skeptical of Kylei’s response, yet absorbed by Oprah’s query.

I wish I had a response ready for Oprah, but I don’t. You see, being an adult is pretty weird. You have more freedom than you ever did as a kid, but your brain is far more inhibited. You’re more likely to think, based on past experiences, “They won’t pick me for that job” or “He definitely would never ask me out.” Not because only bad things happen to us, but because we tend to remember the bad more. In the 2001 journal article Bad is Stronger than Good, Baumeister, Finkenauer, and Vohs describe various studies showing that humans more thoroughly process bad emotions, feedback, information, and events than they do good ones.

I know one thing for sure: if I can’t tone down the negativity I send my own way, I can’t ‘show unhappy personup’ in my life all aglow as Kylei is doing these days. Karen Ehman’s recent guest-post on Ann Voskamp’s blog touched upon this very issue. She discusses self-directed viciousness in terms of words we have been depositing into our ‘heart closets’ over years and years. Our self-rejection can be debilitating, making us think less kindly of not only ourselves, but of others, too.

My long-term answer to Lady Winfrey is that I ‘show up’ feeling comfortable in my own skin. I don’t spend much time wallowing in self-loathing because I’m over it. I’m over me. I might not be able to get back to her until I’m an 87-year-old proud denture wearer, and she’s cryogenically preserving herself for the next era. But I’ll have an answer, some day, and it will require putting some work in each day prior. Actually, perhaps that’s the secret to getting older, knowing that our older selves will be easier to bear. The toxic stream of comparisons, self-doubts, and out-of-whack perspectives will have been at least semi-sorted out and subdued. Until then, I’ll be daily reminding myself that all the crazy inside is just that.

Looking back on recent posts, I’m also decidedly protein-crazed. Unabashedly so, as this post is perpetuating that trend with a venture into the realm of high-protein dessert.


fruit tart_1

INGREDIENTS (Makes four 5″ tarts, each of which is good for sharing)


9 dried dates

8 graham cracker sheets

1.5 Tbs. margarine

pinch of salt (~1/8 tsp.)


1 oz. box instant sugar free vanilla pudding

2 cups 1% milk

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 scoop (15 g) vanilla whey protein powder (I use: Optimum Nutrition ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’ flavor)

dash of vanilla


sliced strawberries

sliced kiwis



Crust: Place graham crackers and dates in food processor until ground into fine crumbs. Transfer graham cracker/date mixture from food processor into bowl. Add salt and margarine and mix until crust sticks together. Pat crust into bottom of four 5″ tart pans. Bake crusts 5-6 min. at 350 F.

Filling: Prepare pudding according to instructions. Add Greek yogurt, protein powder, and vanilla to pudding.

Assembly: Once crusts have cooled, distribute filling across them. Finally, top with sliced fruit in whatever manner you find aesthetically pleasing!

CALORIES (per 1/2 tart): 200 

PROTEIN: 12 g per tart

fruit tart_4.jpg


Distraction, the thief of joy

24 Feb


Confession: my current antidote for school, internship, and job search stress is Keeping up with the Kardashians. Yes, it’s bad reality TV. No, it’s not healthy. It does, however, provide a lens into our current cultural climate. In the season 10 two-episode special where Bruce Jenner reveals to family, friends, and nation-wide viewers his desire to get a sex change, his son-in-law (er, boyfriend-in-law before he divorced Kris Jenner) Scott Disick’s take is, “You can do whatever you want. I mean, as long as you become happy with yourself, that’s all that really matters. And like I said, I mean you only really get one chance at this life, so whatever you gotta do to be happy, you gotta do it.”

Everyone does want to be happy.  In Pope John Paul II’s words at World Youth Day 2002,”People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness.” But do we always, truly know what will make us happy? Are we that in tune with ourselves, enough so to admit that many of the things we think will make us happy just aren’t doing it?

While Bruce’s gender transition remains a theme in subsequent episodes, it’s not a priority. Kim and Khloe jet off to Armenia; the Wests baptize North in Jerusalem; Kendall’s modeling engagements hum along; Kylie decorates her new home; and all of the family’s females convene for Cosmopolitan‘s November 2015 cover photo shoot. While I do respect the Kardashian hustle, it’s also a good reminder of my own use of ‘busy’ to block out pain, sadness, and uncomfortable emotions.

img_0180It is all too easy to avoid examining our sorry state, and to instead reach for that next delicious distraction. Some intense cardio, scrolling Instagram, completing a major deadline, a crossword puzzle, even coffee seems to be an offering of happiness. Yet nothing slakes our thirst. Not one pleasure on this Earth will completely satiate us. In Pensées, his unfinished collection of notes and essays, Blaise Pascal makes keen insight into our unhappy condition as distraction chasers. “We are not looking for [a] peaceful existence which allows us to think about our unfortunate condition, nor the dangers of war or the burden of office, but the bustle which distracts and amuses us – the reason why we prefer the hunt to the kill.” Leo Tolstoy, too, provides a piercing image of just how well we excel at the game of distraction, in A Confession and Other Religious Writings. He recounts an old Eastern fable, in which a man is stuck in a well between a dragon at the bottom of it and a wild animal outside of it. Knowing he will soon be consumed by one or the other of these beasts, as he is holding onto a branch on the verge of snapping, he nevertheless spots some drops of honey on the branch’s leaves and begins to lick them off.

There is a tension here between our desire, nay need, for happiness and the ugly reality of our wretchedness and mortality. Thankfully, Pope John Paul II went on during his World Youth Day address to say: “Christ has the answer to this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him. True joy is a victory, something which cannot be obtained without a long and difficult struggle. Christ holds the secret to this victory.” It might not be the answer you were looking for, and it sure isn’t instant gratification. But it’s the only way, and I do take comfort in knowing that suffering can actually be a means to happiness.

Eating, while one of life’s greatest pleasures, presents its own tension between taste and calories. Fear not, this cucumber feta salad is healthfully delicious, and perfect as a low-cal lunch addition or mid-afternoon snack





3 large cucumbers, peeled and diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 of a large red onion, finely chopped

5 kalamata olives, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS: Combine all of the ingredients. Eat!

CALORIES (per serving): 70

When you’re a blonde flying solo abroad

29 Dec


img_1096It’s pretty poor travelogue form to document a trip four-ish months late. But, my blonde moments within a European context cannot go unpublished! Graduate school afforded me the opportunity to give a talk at the 2016 International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) conference in Dublin, Ireland. I couldn’t resist using all free moments to sight see, the highlights of which pursuit included a musical pub crawl, a bus trip to Malahide Castle, a walk through Christ Church Cathedral and, the ultimate, a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. You can probably do some google research on your own to figure out the gist of each of these activities. And besides, I wouldn’t want to spoil your next visit to Dublin with TMI on some of its finest attractions. So instead, I’ll share with you what should have been an unremarkable (exempting the terrible plumbing) stay at Trinity College’s dormitories. That is, everyone was having a perfectly ordinary time, until I nearly burnt down my dorm and possibly the connecting buildings.

After conferencing in the morning, I had purchased a sandwich from SPAR, that img_1075Dutch,  quasi 7-Eleven-meets-Whole-Foods which has permeated most of Europe. The bread was a bit grainy, and so I decided to toast the sandwich in the kitchenette’s oven upon returning to my dorm lodgings. I’ve never gotten the hang of degrees Celsius, despite being surrounded by international students for nearly the past two years, and must have left that sandwich to really swelter. When I returned to the kitchenette to retrieve said sandwich, having accidentally gotten caught-up in excessive phone checking and thumb twiddling, opening the oven yielded a blinding fog of smoke. It stung my eyes to the point that I could not keep them open. And, of course, the fire alarm started blaring, at a seemingly much louder volume than do fire alarms go off at in the states. Everyone was forced outside, from both my building and the surrounding ones. There was a daycare on the floor below me, and clusters of cowering children and their less anxious teachers also streamed onto the sidewalk. I was ashamed and guilt-ridden, to say the least. Two security guards reported to the crime scene, and I immediately confessed to being the culprit.

I was sure of a fine. I mean, in Ireland it could cost you 150 euros just for littering a measly wad of chewing gum. Much to my surprise and relief, however, both security guards were utterly unbothered and found the situation hilarious. They merely needed to report the incident, no charges would be pressed!  One guard, in his thick brogue, offered me cooking lessons with Gordon Ramsey, and suggested I can the ‘wich and instead grab lunch at a nearby restaurant.

img_1061Oh, there’s so much more I’d like to say, to remember, to ponder about my trip. It’s so freeing to be elsewhere, to temporarily suspend everyday life’s responsibilities and rhythms. Here’s to Ed, the bus tour guide who cautioned us tourists ‘not to wave to the locals; it will only encourage them.’ And to the guitarist and banjo player who led me through Temple Bar and did justice to ‘Danny Boy.’ To all the bald men, especially the ones who call you ‘love,’ to the unflappable security guards, the well-versed tour guides, and to Arthur Guinness for bestowing on Ireland a deep source of national pride. To the fierce elbowing that substituted for ‘excuse me’ when pushing through crowds; and to Nespresso instant coffee, and beautifully tiled cathedral floors, and visually stunning brewery museums. To finding the ‘Dolan’ crest, and getting hopelessly lost on Grafton and Nassau Street, and maybe on Grand Canal Pl, too. Thank you, Dublin, for your beauty and grace, intertwined with that stiff upper lip.

If you’ll recall, I began the year with oatmeal recipes. So why not bookend it with more of the same? My new oatmeal kick is detailed below, and features canned pumpkin and egg whites (protein!!!). 2016, you will be missed.


INGREDIENTS (makes 1 serving):

1/3 cup rolled oats

dash of cinnamon

dash of salt

dash of vanilla

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

3 Tbs. egg whites

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1 Tbs. raisins

1-2 packets Equal or other artificial sweetener

DIRECTIONS: Combine oats with 1/2 to 1 cup water. Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes. Remove from microwave; add cinnamon, salt, vanilla, pumpkin, egg whites, and milk. Microwave for an additional 1.5-2 minutes. Be careful to not let oatmeal mixture bubble over/explode out of the bowl (this has happened to me more times than I care to remember). Finally, incorporate the raisins and Equal or artificial sweetener of your choice, to the sweetness level desired. Enjoy!



A little hermitage never hurt anyone

10 Oct



I inhaled the entire ‘Gilmore Girls’ series once it hit Netflix. There is a scene from the season 2 episode “There’s the Rub,” in which Rory’s boyfriend, Dean, wants to hang out Friday night, but Rory wants to be alone. “Actually, I was thinking of pulling kind of a hermit thing tonight,” she tells him. He doesn’t get it, so she tries to explain: “I almost never get the house all to myself and I thought with my mom gone, I can finally do my laundry exactly the way I like it…and watch TV and eat the Indian food that I love but my mom hates the smell of and go to bed early.”

I think Rory is onto something. I think being a hermit now and then is likely beneficial. Yet every time a day or evening alone is on the agenda, I get anxious. I have card-making, Halloween costume, and protein-amped cooking ambitions that, if realized, would require many hours at home, by myself, cozy in a fuzzy white bathrobe and potentially neglecting to shower. But instead, fear of being alone launches furious planning of human interactions. You know, the whole FoMO vibe sets in, and I can’t accept that my personality leans toward the ‘homebody’ variety.

I’m not saying you should avoid people. Friendship is absolutely critical to survival, and is not to be neglected. But sometimes people are busy, and you simply cannot engineer social gatherings. Other times you are over-exhausted, or are avoiding housework, or want to start a project, or enjoy a hobby. These are times when you shouldn’t feel guilty for deciding to take a homebody day.

img_0167I was inspired by the monastic lifestyle and impact after my latest read, Thomas Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” The monks maintained a quiet, relatively secluded existence, and yet they were culture builders. Most importantly, when the Roman Empire finally crumbled in the 5th century AD and Europe’s Greco-Roman heritage faced extinction at the hands of invading barbarians, the Irish monks preserved and copied ancient texts. In his piece What We Owe The Monks, Thomas E. Woods Jr. attributes agricultural developments throughout Europe, such as the corn industry in Sweden, cheese making in Parma, and salmon fisheries in Ireland, to said monks. During the Medieval Era, the Cistercian monks made remarkable strides in technological advancement. Committed to living “remote from the habitation of man,” their monasteries essentially became independently run factories. They used the newly invented waterwheel to power wheat milling, flour sieving, and olive crushing, and also to provide running water for cooking, washing, bathing, and sewage disposal.

That was an extreme example, I know! Being a monk was actually quite a rigorous practice, and probably did not involve many days spent comfortably at home. But, when we sit at home now and then, sans social media, we are experiencing the modern day equivalent of being “remote from the habitation of man.” And if and when we can find contentment in being quiet, in being disconnected, in building our own lives and thinking our own thoughts, are we not more at peace?

If you’ve at all bought into my anti-FoMO pep talk here, I think you’ll enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning sipping coffee and preparing these protein pancakes. We’re talking  30 grams of protein!!



15 g Optimum Nutrition double rich chocolate chocolate whey protein powder (or whatever brand of chocolate protein powder you have)

1/3 cup rolled oats img_1352

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. cocoa powder

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 banana, mashed

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup 1% milk

Dash of Splenda (or to taste)


2 Tbs. powdered peanut butter (I use ‘PB2 with premium chocolate’)


In a medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients (protein powder, oats, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder). Add in yogurt, banana, egg white, vanilla, milk. Sweeten with Splenda, tasting until desired amount of sweetness is reached. Heat and apply cooking spray to a shallow, flat-bottomed pan (skillet, frying pan, whatever you have available). Spoon the batter into the pan, forming smaller pancakes to make flipping easier.

Meanwhile, combine powdered peanut butter with 1-2 Tbs. water. Spoon over cooked pancakes, and zap combination in microwave for 30 sec-1 min. If you’re craving a slightly more decadent taste, drizzle those protein-juiced lovelies with honey. Enjoy!

CALORIES: 370 (340 without honey; 295 without peanut butter or honey)



Why Rhi Rhi is wrong about Work, work, work

19 Aug

I, like Rihanna, am addicted to being productive. Her lyrics suggest she’s in it for the output (cash money), whereas I’m more in it for the thrill. Check-marking ‘to do’ list items makes me giddy. I should consider a flashier addiction, say dirt biking or surfing. Even corn hole might be better. Instead, I remain bound to mundane task completion. Does my posture of busyness actually make me more productive? Does my brain function as well when I’m constantly rehearsing the items I have yet to finish? Or am I in fact preventing creative thought, and avoiding, well, living?

The failure of my notebook organization confirms that the checklist, hyper-organized mindset is not sustainable. I want each notebook to have a specific, undeviating purpose. Nevertheless, my lab notebook is sprinkled with sketches and grocery list add ons. My prayer journal includes workout routines, a pitch for why processed foods aren’t so bad, and a Matlab tutorial. As much as I would like to neatly focus different categories of my life, it can’t be done. Thoughts and ideas get interrupted. I am distraction-prone. Perhaps, like my notebooks, my brain needs diversions, and space to wander. Last October, journalist Bethany McLean confessed in a Linkedin article: “I am not productive. In fact, some times I waste entire days…I read things that have nothing to do with my work. I day dream. A lot.”

It’s true. Some days, being productive is impossible. Some days you’re just trying to figure out what to do next, and other days the task at hand is too large, too scary, or too full of unknowns. Yet instead of worrying about wasting time or being permanently stymied, what if we rested? What if we were OK with loose ends and unfolded laundry? My, and America’s, “culture of busy” is soul-damaging. “[People are] busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” said Tim Kreider in his 2012 NY Times article, The Busy Trap

When I was a kid, I had a silly idea that whenever I got bored, twirling around in circles would keep me entertained. Now, I’m spinning in circles and afraid to stop. If I can’t come to terms with doing less, or nothing at all, I’m defining myself based on my output, which is absurd. Recognizing this tendency is a good first step.

Call it ironic, but today’s recipe will actually fuel your productivity, hehe. It’s two varieties of a simple protein smoothie, perfect for before, during, or after an intense workout.



15 g Optimum Nutrition double rich chocolate chocolate whey protein powder (or whatever brand of chocolate protein powder you have)

1/2 banana

1/2-1 Tbs. cocoa powder

3-4 ice cubes

1/2-1 cup water

1/2 cup 1% milk

dash of salt

dash of vanilla





15 g Optimum Nutrition vanilla ice cream whey protein powder

1 peach, skinned and sliced

3-4 ice cubes

1/2-1 cup water

1/2 cup 1% milk

1/2 cup 1% milk

dash cinnamon

dash salt


DIRECTIONS: For both smoothies types, place all ingredients in blender. Blend until combined. Place in freezer for 15-30 min. if desire colder smoothie.



Ask the Pretty Girl Out

25 May


I’ve sampled the online dating realm. Multiple times. Thank you, array of iPhone apps, for the glorious social experiment. OkCupid fixed me up with a swell Harvard law graduate, and Match sat me down to coffee with a gorgeous fireman, apparently too gorgeous. I should have taken a step back when Tinder had me driving from Jackson to Birmingham to meet the guy from Chattanooga halfway. But I kept trucking along, determined to swipe right until something worked out. Bumble, the feminist version of Tinder in which girls have to make the first move, did finally make me slow down, and I didn’t make it past a little blasé cyber chatter. Which brings me to my point: guys should be asking girls out. In person. Period.

Online dating doesn’t make much sense. At 7 pm, you’re excited about grabbing drinks with Ryan, who sends the wittiest text messages and seems pretty cute in the motorcycle picture. By 10 pm, you’ve realized he wasn’t trying to be funny in those text messages, and the motorcycle picture was an optical illusion. And, to top it off, you’ve inherited his habit of responding to texts with ‘lolololol’ and just can’t quit. So you kick him to the curb, find someone else, get your hopes up again, and are back at disappointed and analyzing whether you overshared on a Wednesday night.

I don’t care if everyone else is doing it; online dating is the pits, and it must come to an end. Dudes, get off the couch and take some initiative. Put the Doritos down, skip the obscure Turkish soccer match, and venture into the world. Maybe even risk asking the pretty girl out, cuz she’ll probably buy you a drink just for having some moxie. As Philip Wegmann notes in his article Women Lose When Men Bumble, “cute girls will always be intimidating.” But what’s the worst thing that could happen? She says no thanks, your head remains unbitten off, and your manhood is intact. I think y’all male types can manage that, especially since the best thing that could happen is she says yes, and it’s all gravy from there.

And ladies, if you’re still wading through the online bros who love travel, the gym, and (drum roll please) adventure, as perhaps yours truly is, don’t give lazy guys a chance. If he doesn’t even attempt to start the online conversation, please ‘unmatch’ him and move on.

No man-hating session would be complete without chocolate. My cousin visited a couple of weekends ago, and to complement a Netflix binge we concocted a low cal chocolate pudding parfait. So instead of throwing your phone across the room when six-pack Nick hasn’t responded for 24 hours, channel that frustration into eating this:


(Servings: 2)


Make 1 box of sugar-free, fat free instant chocolate pudding according to the instructions, with 1% milk. Use 1 cup of pudding in parfaits, and store the remaining cup for later use.


Ground up two full graham cracker sheets in a food processor. Add 1/2 Tbs. of melted butter.


Slice 1 cup of strawberries.


In two glass cups, layer pudding, graham cracker crumbs (use all of them), and whipped cream twice. Top with strawberries.

CALORIES per serving: (contingent on a sparing use of whipped cream!) 260


Mexico, Spring Breakers, and Faux Mojitos

21 Mar


With our hat vendor, Pepe

My sister Katie and I spent last week honeymooning beachside at the Park Royal in Cancun, Mexico. We enjoyed a string of lazy days sunbathing, getting our read on, and sipping gin and tonics. Despite being a relatively mellow trip, we feel resort life merits commenting on, especially the week of most colleges’ spring break So, we hope the following survival tips will come in handy if you’re an all-inclusive vacay newbie, or just happen to be over 25 amidst a throng of rowdy, skin-baring, Margarita-sloshing not-quite-adults:

Resist the deep, deep temptation to strangle a sorority girl on your flight who absolutely wants to get along with her roommate, if only she wasn’t so horrible. I mean, who does this roommate chick think she is, trying to be sorority lady’s best friend?! Unbelievable. As American Airlines Flight 2422 progressed, said-sorority chica and her two sorority sisters widened their circle of dislike to envelop pretty much everyone, frequently prefacing their statements with the disclaimer, “I’m not complaining, BUT…” whilst Katie and I coined a term in their honor, “I’m not complaining, but I hate you, and I’m going to kill you.”

Drink the questionably liquored mojitos. That Sprite-induced sugar buzz is merry and imagebright. The resort bartenders will run out of mint leaves come 3 pm, so do like an experienced frat boy and recycle yours.

There’s no such thing as a free dance party. The resort provided minimal nighttime entertainment, exempting one brief, pirate-themed  soirée, because they had relationships with local clubs. Fit a hip shake or toe tap in when you can, unless it’s worth $45 to be immobilized alongside 7,000 Mexicanos at La Ciudad. According to our sources (two Daytonian male college students), the human blockade surrounding your table is no biggie, as long as your bladder’s empty, you’re OK with sharing a bottle of wine, and DJ Marshmello is front and center. Ok, ok, we reluctantly admit that Deej Marsh sounds like the real deal – listen to his remix of ‘Where are U Now’ here – but as we all know I can’t be barred from bathroom access for more than twenty minutes.

Understand the nuances of ‘all-inclusive.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘all good.’ The buffet gets old fast. Pack some nice and dry snack foods, such as pretzels and popcorn, to balance out the buffet’s wet food vibe. The exercise room was an additional $6 per day, but beach walks are still free. There’s cable, but the shows are dubbed in Spanish. Charlotte and Chloe on Geordie Shore taught me some new vocab, but it’s mostly no bueno. Incorporating ‘maldito!’ and ‘rayos!’ into my Spanglish may not prove feasible. We still aren’t sure what 11 am Insanity is all about, but according to the resort’s daily activities board, it’s a regular party:


I probably wouldn’t go back to the Park Royal, but I would go back on vacation with Katie in a heartbeat. Sister time is something beautiful.

Now that we are again stateside, it’s time to eliminate vacation chub-a-lub. Yesterday, my mom and I spent the afternoon cooking. I got to experiment with her gift to me, the Vegetti, to make my slightly modified version of Ambitious Kitchen’s Thai Chicken and Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry, found here. Sweet potato noodles are only 25 calories per ounce versus 100 calories per ounce in dry spaghetti. My version of the recipe is below. So that it could be eaten throughout the week, I only prepared the chicken, sauce, and noodles. I am going to add frozen vegetables (broccoli, mixed peppers, etc.) with each serving. Disfrutala!


(Servings: 4)


-2 to  3 small sweet potatoes (want 12 oz., after removing skin) image


-1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

-Seasoning: salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin

-Squirt of lemon or lime juice


-2 Tbs. peanut butter

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce

-1/2 Tbs. honey

-1 tsp. crushed garlic

-1 Tbs. chopped ginger

– 1/2 cup 1% milk


1. Sweet potato noodles: Remove skins from sweet potatoes.. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften. Use spiralizer to make noodles. Set aside for now.

2. Chicken: Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Squirt with lemon juice to better coat chicken with seasonings. Spray cooking pan with PAM or lightly coat with olive oil. Cook chicken in pan until completely done. Remove from heat and place in bowl. Put sweet potato noodles into cooking pan, and cook on low heat for several minutes.

3. Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients.

4. Compile: Add sauce to cooking pan. Cook noodles in sauce, on low heat, until soft, for about another five minutes. Next, add chicken. Remove from heat, and place into storage container for use throughout the week.

CALORIES per serving: 265