Sunday Funday: Food — the French Way

Sunday Funday: Food — the French Way

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” —Julia Child

Today, during the second brunch of the weekend, I shared in a lovely spread of spinach quiche, cheese profiteroles, fresh fruit, cream cheese coffee cake, and mimosas. After all, as Julia Child once said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” (And as the rest of us say: brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast.)

Sunday ended with a healthy serving of pizza (by healthy I mean generous, and by generous I mean I ate nearly the entire pie).

If eating carbs is a sin, I’m going straight to hell.

To be fair, there are more embarrassing vices than the enjoyment of a good meal. One might even argue that an appreciation for food is a characteristic of the best sort of person. Just ask Julia Child — or any woman from one of the most notable culinary capitals of the world: France.

In French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, author Mireille Guiliano espouses the value of eating slowly and mindfully, and recommends a diet consisting of fresh, seasonal ingredients. For me, the most appealing aspect of her approach, however, is the idea that there are little to no forbidden foods. Granted, liquor is off limits, but champagne, cheese, and chocolate are perfectly acceptable.

Additionally, she suggests a weekly “day of rest” — intended as a civilized way to indulge in some of your favorite foods.

Sign me up. (Actually, I’m pretty sure I signed up after my third helping of coffee cake.)

For the record, I believe Sunday to be the perfect day for indulgence. It’s a time to break bread with friends (as has been done throughout history) and an opportunity to do so unrushed, in the true French way.

Finding joy in food may seem frivolous, but it’s one of life’s most honest and attainable pleasures. A meal is a means of both fuel and festivity; it can be created with either simplicity or celebration in mind. Even basic fodder can be a form of good fortune, or at the very least, happiness. “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,” said J.R.R. Tolkien, “it would be a merrier world.”

Cheers to that, Tolkien. And now, time for second breakfast.

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“Not That Good” — Embracing Imperfection and Writing Anyway

“Not That Good” — Embracing Imperfection and Writing Anyway

Real talk: I’ve been having difficulty writing lately. It’s not that I don’t have topics or ideas at the forefront of my mind, it’s more that I fear I don’t have the time or mental energy to share them with the thoroughness they deserve.

Like many writers, I feel a responsibility to present multiple sides to a story, and to do so with integrity, creativity, and truth. Perhaps even more cumbersome is my desire to offer up perfect writing to the world — to eliminate all spelling and grammatical errors, to strike cliches and idioms, and to refine my points so they are concise and fair.

I’m sure this fixation on perfection has something to do with negative feedback that made its way back to me several years ago. This comment was flippant at best, harmful at worst — and it has remained with me all this time, probably because it was made by a then-aspiring writer friend, a friend whom I genuinely and noncompetitively encouraged to pursue a career in the field in which I’d been working for several years.

His feedback? “She’s not that good of a writer.”

Funny how the loudest and harshest critics tend to be the folks who have little to no authority on the subject about which they’re so vocal.

Also funny: how just seven words — even when uttered by someone without tact or authority — can haunt a person whose primary motivation for writing is simply to connect with, engage, and, just maybe, inspire others. I relate to the words of Cheryl Strayed when she asserts, “The most important work I’ve ever done as a writer is to make people feel less alone.”

And what is “good” writing, anyway? What does a “good writer” look like? What does a “good writer” even write?

I will admit that, without an editor, a writer is often lost — left to captain a vessel without a crew or navigation instruments, relying only on our intuition as we make our way through the rough seas of an untold story. Left to our own devices — yes, that’s an idiom — we are all just fumbling, bumbling amateurs at different stages of inexperience (or, as I prefer to define it: discovery).

And since there is no editor I’m able to call upon in the wee hours of the morning when I finish a blog post, this space is one of sometimes raw, incomplete, and rambling thoughts (or, as I again prefer to define it: a place of discovery).

Partly because of the absence of an on-call editor, I will be the first to admit: sometimes my writing appears messy. That’s because it is. All writing is messy.

And, in some way or another, or to some person or another, all writing is “not that good.”

Over a month has passed since I set a daily blogging goal, and some days I have not met this goal. A typical blog post on Daley Muse typically takes about two to four hours, two to four times as long as the single hour I idealized. There have been times when other responsibilities piled up so high it felt impossible to push over those piles and do the work I feel most compelled to do while I’m on this planet: write.

But here’s the thing: at least I’m writing. (Even if I’m “not that good.”)

And here’s what I hope for you: even if you feel like an amateur without anything valuable anything to say, that you say something anyway.

Friday Feel-Good: Rescued Animals, Scientific Breakthroughs, Food for Good

Friday Feel-Good: Rescued Animals, Scientific Breakthroughs, Food for Good

After a long week, sometimes all you need to see is puppies on puppies on puppies. Well, straight from the largest dog sanctuary in the world, here you go. (BRB, booking a trip to Costa Rica.)

Or, if marine mammals are more your speed, here’s Yoda, a baby seal rescued in Nova Scotia after a near-death experience.

And because I can’t get enough of adorable animals and adorable kids (as you may have noticed), here’s a video of a chick hatching to the tune of an entire class of kindergarteners singing it “Happy Birthday.”

Speaking of miracles, here are some of the incredible scientific breakthroughs that have already occurred in the first month of 2018.

In other science-related news, VR (virtual reality) technology is giving people with limited mobility the opportunity to walk, run, an even ski again — all with the help of headsets and multi-projected environments.

If you haven’t teared up yet, check out this amazing story about a soup kitchen in Italy that makes five-star meals from unsold food about to expire. Milan’s Refettorio Ambrosiano enlists top chefs to prepare meals for people in need who are first seated and then served by volunteers — all in an effort to help restore their dignity and confidence. Since its opening, the restaurant has served over 16,000 meals and saved approximately 25 tons of food surplus — proof that food for good and good food are not mutually exclusive.

 

Happy Friday, friends. Let’s do a little something good for humanity this weekend.

Play — Skate, Dance, and Ride — Like a Girl

Play — Skate, Dance, and Ride — Like a Girl

Today is the 32nd annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a time when we celebrate the many female athletes who make serious work of their play — and motivate the rest of us to push our own limits just a little further.

In their honor, here are some amazing women and girls you may not know about — but probably should.

First, meet Sky Brown — the fiercely talented pro skater who is using her winnings to teach and inspire young girls all over the world to ride and embrace their own talents in a typically male-dominated sport.

One notable athlete well worth mentioning is Figure Skater Surya Bonaly, one of my childhood heroes. Two decades after her heyday, Bonaly is still a source of inspiration for women and girls who make their own rules in the face of absurd regulations. She is the subject of this 2015 short film bio produced by Actress Eva Longoria.

Age is just a number for this 70-something ballerina, who has been dancing for nearly as long as she’s been alive.

The Afghan women’s cycling team is a testament to the bravery of those who challenge gender barriers and, ultimately, put their lives at risk every time they ride a bicycle. These women are the epitome of girl power.

There are a number of ways to support women and girls in sports, but it wouldn’t hurt to start by visiting the website for the Women’s Sports Foundation. The organization was founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King, and is “dedicated to creating leaders by providing girls access to sports.”

I can’t wait for the phrase “You ______ like a girl!” to becomes the world’s most commonly recognized way of acknowledging a person’s tenacity, strength, and endurance. Until then, we’ll keep riding, dancing, skating, and playing like the badass girls we know we are.

Travel Tuesday: 9 Stopgaps for Adventure-Seekers Stuck at Home

Travel Tuesday: 9 Stopgaps for Adventure-Seekers Stuck at Home

Ask most frequent travelers and they’ll tell you once wanderlust is in your blood, it can be difficult to expel.

But for many people, exploring the world is an unattainable luxury. Not only is independently-funded travel expensive, too many extended vacations away from work and home can jeopardize one’s career and family life. As difficult as it may be to admit, frequent trips abroad may not be practical.

If a week on the beaches of Bali or a Patagonian adventure are out of your budget (or otherwise out of the question), there are healthy ways to alleviate the urge to travel — ways that don’t involve booking a cruise or spending money on airfare.

  1. Be a tourist in your own town. Take it from this fifth-generation Idahoan: sometimes the best medicine for the travel bug can often be found in your own backyard. Living in the same area for an extended period could get boring, but if you try hard enough, there are opportunities for discovery in the most unlikely places. Year after year, I find somewhere new, interesting, or beautiful to explore — and something else to love about the place I call home.
  2. Explore Google Street View. With this game-changing online tool, you can search nearly any destination in the world and digitally stroll just about anywhere. You can see landmarks, natural wonders, parks, transport hubs, and more — all with a few clicks of your mouse.
  3. Create a treasure chest for your inner explorer. In Eat, Pray, Love, Author Elizabeth Gilbert recounts her experience of having collected and kept magazine clippings and other ephemera that, in part, helped inspire her to make a life-changing journey to Italy, India, and Bali.
  4. Write your travel bucket list. Rather than this being a discouraging pin-prick of all the places you have yet to see, a bucket list can be a helpful reminder to make travel a priority — so that when you have the circumstances to do so, you’re mentally prepared to purchase the airfare and plan that trip.
  5. Read about travel. Whether you subscribe to Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, or Vagabundo Magazine (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of that one, either), publications like these can help satiate your wanderlust by exposing you to parts of the world you may not realistically ever have the time or financial ability to experience. If you can’t see it in person, the next best thing is to see it on the page or in your imagination.
  6. Watch documentaries on travel. Some of my favorites are The Happiness Diaries, Travels with My Father, An Idiot Abroad, and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
  7. Follow honest travelers on social media. The trick here is to connect with the folks who keep it real. Avoid punishing yourself with the highlight reel of so-called influencers who post only the most sparkly moments of their travels. Life abroad is typically be raw and gritty, so follow those who know and are humbled by the realities of the journey — and depict their experiences honestly and without pretense. Two of my favorites on Facebook right now are Oneika the Traveller and the king himself, Rick Steves.
  8. Keep a travel journal. This is a terrific way to keep your experiences alive, so that when you do travel and return home, you can read about and relive your past adventures.
  9. Celebrate your friends’ journeys. This world is a big place, and each person is in a different stage of its discovery. Try to refrain from saying, “I’m so jealous.” There’s no need to be jealous; if someone you know has an opportunity to travel, share in their joy — and trust you’ll get your turn.

Can You Spare an Hour?

Can You Spare an Hour?

Career, sleep, family, fitness, or friends. If you had to pick three, which would you choose?

That’s the challenge former Facebook director of market development Randi Zuckerberg once claimed is “the entrepreneur’s dilemma” — and plenty of accomplished professionals agree.

I certainly agree.

It often feels like there’s never enough time to respond to messages and inquiries that come my way, to care for the people in my life who need attention and care, to continue my professional education (to the extent I’d like), to devote time to activism and bolstering my community, to become a better steward of the planet — let alone to do all the things I want to do, like travel or pursue other hobbies.

But in looking at the list above — career, sleep, family, fitness, friends — I can’t help but think something is missing. As someone prone to burnout (often due to putting the world’s needs above my own), I have to wonder: where’s the me in that list? Where are the pesky and oh-so-woo-woo priorities related to emotional health and well-being?

For starters, where is:

…learning how to love yourself and knowing your purpose in life?

Or:

…personal fulfilment?

That’s not to disagree with Zuckerberg’s assessment, but merely to create more dialogue surrounding it.

I would assert that friendships, career, family, fitness, and sleep are not enjoyable or fulfilling unless you know, understand, and are living your purpose. But maybe my head is in the clouds because of my current read — Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Admittedly, I haven’t finished the book, and in reality, a good portion of its 316 pages of spirituality/self-help jargon has gone right over my head. But… BUT.

I’ve at least begun asking myself important questions. Hard questions.

One of which is:

Can you spare an hour?

Despite the day-to-day demands and stresses related to the big five above, there has to be time in there for me — for all of us, individually. Otherwise, I would posit that the human spirit simply cannot survive.

Even if it’s just an hour.

So here’s my challenge for myself (and you, if you’ll join me). Find a single hour, rather, make time for that one hour — each day over the next month. Even if you have to wake up an hour earlier, create time and space in that single hour for you to get to know yourself. Even if you have to sacrifice an hour of TV. Even if you have to cut yourself off from social media. Even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom in four 15-minute increments each day.

We all need time for self-care and reflection, whether that looks like reading (on the train), journaling (on the bus), mindfulness (right after waking up, with earbuds in so as not to wake your partner), meditation (on your lunch break), or some other form of spiritual practice that helps us tap into our life’s purpose.

USE that hour to its fullest. Use it to:

Think.

Feel.

Dream.

Create.

Build.

Experiment.

Love.

Appreciate.

Empathize.

Embrace.

Unfold.

Learn.

Discover.

Flourish.

Forgive.

Become.

When I need a little more coaxing, I look at the following why-to list (it helps to define the importance of these 60 minutes). This hour is to:

Listen to yourself and your inner workings — then lend yourself compassion and understanding.

Give yourself the care you need but cannot (and should not ever) depend on others to provide.

Stretch your body when it feels tight. Run when you want to stand still. Walk when you only want to sit. Move it to music when it feels rhythmless and defeated. Shake out your muscles when they feel constrained and unyielding.

Breathe when you feel like you can’t.

Sing when your voice is shaky or offkey.

Tend to your soul when it is fading.

Hold yourself together when you feel like you’re falling apart.

Be your own friend when you feel like you have none.

Learn what you must do to love your life again — even if you’re not sure what’s left to live for.

Restore your inner strength after you have become weak.

Revive your spirit when its light is going out.

This post took exactly one hour to write. (Maybe a bit longer.) And there were so many other things I ~should~ have been doing. But this daily exercise is helping me get reacquainted with my purpose — and that understanding is shining an unignorable light on every other aspect of my life. In truth, this hour (sometimes two) a day is slowly starting to change me in ways I didn’t expect.

Can you spare an hour with me?

Sunday Funday: Feel-Good Game Day Commercials

Sunday Funday: Feel-Good Game Day Commercials

I’ll admit — I still haven’t decided whether or not to watch today’s big game.

But I have decided to watch the commercials. And lucky for me (and you), I was able to find a few sneak peeks of some of today’s most heart-happy spots that will air during today’s game.

Here are my favorites (and I’d imagine none of us are surprised to see Coca-Cola lead the way):

 

This Toyota commercial follows the journey of Lauren Woolstencroft, who beat the 1-billion-to-1 odds to win eight Paralympic gold medals.

 

I might not drink much Budweiser, but I can definitely get behind the company’s water donation program (highlighted in the commercial below), which has donated more than 79 millions of cans of water to U.S. cities affected by natural disasters since 1988.

 

Another brewery is going straight for the feels this year — Stella has partnered with Water.org and Matt Damon to give back to people impacted by the global water crisis. Purchasing a limited-edition Chalice helps provide five years of clean water to someone in need; see the commercial below:

 

Lastly, in a preview of what’s to come during this year’s Olympics (beginning in just a few days), the indomitable Lindsey Vonn shows us what it looks like to be a “girl on fire.” (Please show this to your daughters to so they know what a hero looks like — she’s much more than just pretty, but strong and brave, too.)

 

Are you watching today’s game? Or just tuning in for the commercials and/or the halftime show? Feel free to share links to your favorite feel-good commercials from past years in the comments below.