The Notebook

A notebook is a place for me to deposit all of my thoughts. Naturally, I have a few dedicated to various topics. Every post on this blog has started out as an idea in the notebook I’ve reserved for this purpose. There’s also one for recipes. Another one holds bits of writing pertaining to my current literary project. I was introduced to the art of free writing in January 2017, and I’ve had one for that ever since. I’ve had countless notebooks for class notes. I’ve journaled, sketched, doodled, and practiced calligraphy—all in a humble notebook. The book that I’ve started most recently is dedicated to my virtual exploration of France.

I’m studying films that are set in Paris this semester. The France notebook has been christened with my observations on Le ballon rouge (1965) and Le voyage du ballon rouge (2007). I find taking notes to be very therapeutic when I’m not under pressure to prepare for a test. I’ve worked long enough at my formal education, and I won’t be taking any tests in the immediate future. Now I write for fun.

DesignWorks Ink is my go-to brand of the moment. I just ordered this stunning blue notebook—three of them to be exact. If you’ve been inspired to pick up your pen/pencil but don’t know where to begin, here are 20 subjects from the school of life to inspire your writing:

  • the good old days
  • friendships, present and past
  • foods I’m trying for the first time
  • places I’ve been in my mind
  • heroes and heroines 
  • mistakes that have taught me well 
  • the events of my life
  • worldwide wines
  • my strengths
  • dreams I had at night
  • daydreams
  • my ancestors 
  • startups I have in mind
  • blueprints for my dream house 
  • things I want to learn
  • the history of (insert name of country)
  • inspiring quotes
  • the clothes I like and why
  • things I’ll never understand 
  • lessons from my grandparents

Works Sighted

Appointed notebook (hunter green); Designworks Ink notebook (pacific forest); Moleskine notebook (sapphire blue); Apica premium CD B5 notebook (blue); Designworks Ink notebook (denim blue)

Apica CD-15 B5 notebook (navy); Stow pencil case; Uni-Ball black pen (0.8mm); Muji aluminum pen case; Apica CD-15 B5 notebook (sky blue); Designworks Ink Notebook (Neptune blue); Appointed notebook (lavender gray)

Moleskine notebook (earth brown); Fieldnotes (lined); Apica CD-5 A7 notebooks (pastel); Smythson notebook (Nile blue); Fieldnotes (blank); Muji pen case; Uni-Ball black pen (0.5mm); Smythson pencil case (Nile blue); Moleskine cahier journal

What I Eat on Whole30

When I talk to people about Whole30, the question I get asked the most is, “What do you eat?” As I stated in the previous post, I am currently in the middle of my second official program. I completed Whole30 for the first time in 2017, and I’ve grown immensely as a home chef and as an expert in the guidelines since then. Cooking real food requires a lot of preparation and cleanup in the kitchen, but my efforts have paid me back tenfold.

I start my mornings with a smoothie consisting of unsweetened almond milk, frozen black cherries and blueberries, kale or spinach, and collagen peptides. Although smoothies aren’t encouraged on the Whole30 program, I’ve decided to keep them in my diet. Your brain registers that you are full when you chew your food, and that’s how you know to stop eating. The Whole30 team argues the following: When you drink your meal, your brain isn’t getting the feedback it needs to tell your body that it’s had enough of what it needs. I don’t consider my smoothie to be a meal, and if you are going to fall prey to consuming it as such, perhaps you should steer clear. Don’t use fruit juice for the base or you’ll have prediabetes in no time. Too much sugar (even the natural kind) isn’t ideal.

The base for my midday salad usually consists of romaine lettuce, spinach, and spring mix. After chopping and washing the lettuce, I spin it dry. The spinach and spring mix that I purchase from Trader Joe’s is pre-washed. After establishing the base, I move on to add-ins, such as red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes (seeds removed), olives, hard-boiled eggs, and roasted beets and Brussels sprouts (cooled). I favor walnuts and pumpkin seeds as garnish. For the main protein source, I usually opt for either baked salmon, warmed sardines, tuna fish, or an omelette with an avocado on the side. If I have an omelette, I’ll refrain from adding boiled eggs to the salad bowl. But, when I make chicken salad for lunch, I’ll add it directly to the bowl of leafy greens and forgo the dressing.

Brands to consider for dressings, marinades, and sauces include Tessemae’s, Primal Kitchen, and Whole30. Out of the three aforementioned brands, I’ve only ever tried Tessemae’s products. I’ve been making my own mayo, garlic aioli, and ketchup lately. I also made this ranch dressing that got my husband’s stamp of approval.

Dinner at my house usually consists of a protein source and one or two sides of steamed or baked vegetables. Carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli are our three most common sides. Sometimes we’ll have air-fried yucca with garlic aioli or air-fried sweet potatoes topped with cinnamon as a second side. Proteins that commonly appear at our dinner table: burgers wrapped in lettuce, chicken thighs, BBQ drumsticks, and salmon. No matter the meal, sparkling water has a permanent place at the table.

The grapefruit Sprindrift and the coconut La Croix are real treats. I’ll also drop essential oils into a can of unflavored water from Trader Joe’s. Other treats include apples with almond butter, dates, and warmed RXBARs. If you’re going to misuse RXBARs, don’t buy them. But, the brand’s delicious vanilla almond butter should not be overlooked. Two handfuls of roasted walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashews helps to keep hunger at bay too. Fruit and raw vegetables are also ideal snacks.

I often look for new Whole30-compliant recipes on Pinterest, but improvising in the kitchen is satisfying too. Whole30 continues to encourage my cooking creativity and nourish my health, which is why I generally adhere to the rules when I’m not officially on the program. Imagine all of the benefits you could reap from this life-changing opportunity. Are you ready for a change?

Works Sighted

Lettuce wrap: bacon (although, not a diet staple), roasted turkey breast, boiled eggs, and garlic aioli

An Introduction to Whole30

I first mentioned Whole30 in “5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Health Right Now.” I’d hoped that the post would pique your interest in the program, but in case it did not, allow me to try again. I am currently in the middle of my second Whole30, but I’ll backtrack to my first one. It was April 2017 when I decided to give myself this experience as a birthday present.

I was a novice home chef and had been dabbling heavily in baking. If you are what you eat, I was banana bread, Levain-style cookies, gâteau au yaourt, catered office food, boxed products from Trader Joe’s, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (specifically half baked, milk & cookies, and chocolate fudge brownie). I ate salads and steamed vegetables but not in quantities that would counteract the toxins I was consuming. I suffered from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation that occurs in the tissue on the bottom of the foot. The topic of steroid injections came up in the conversation I had with my doctor regarding the issue, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about pursuing it as a supposed cure. I was about to discover that sugar was an inflammatory food.

The purpose of the program is to eliminate all foods that could possibly cause undesirable reactions (allergic or otherwise) for 30 days. That way, you’ll be able to identify which foods in your diet are sabotaging your body and overall health. Granted, some people could be allergic to items that are acceptable to consume on the Whole30 program, but that won’t be the case for the majority of participants. The rules were simple to follow. (I highly recommend taking a look at them.) Added sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol were on the no list. Eggs, ghee, vinegar, and salt were allowed. My diet consisted of chicken, beef, salmon, eggs, fruit, and a wide variety of vegetables. Coconut milk took the place of cow’s milk. I cooked with ghee and olive oil. I fell in love with almond butter; peanut butter took a back seat. I said goodbye to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, breaded chicken and fish from Trader Joe’s, biscotti, and office catering.

Without added sugar and grains (my two worst offenders), my body started to go into withdrawal. The inextinguishable cravings finally subsided after a few days. Then the magic happened. Whole30 presented me with an opportunity to focus on the types of food that would enhance my health, not subtract from it. I was working full-time, taking a writing course, and a year and a half into life as a wife. I didn’t have an abundance of free time, so I skipped post-work activities (like happy hours and the gym) to rush home and cook. At the end of the 30 day period, my biometric screening indicated that I was the healthiest I’d ever been.

I learned to read nutrition labels more closely. (One serving of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream contains 32g of added sugar, which is 64% of the recommended daily allowance.) My plantar fasciitis disappeared after I eliminated added sugar from my diet. I learned to cook real food, lost interest in the foods I’d cut out, and started to crave vegetables. I had more energy, a lower weight, decreased glucose level, and glowing skin. I took charge of what I ate and learned to say no thank you when offered foods that weren’t for me.

It wasn’t easy to navigate the wide world of options immediately after my first Whole30. I tried to adhere to The Paleo Diet full-time because it resembled Whole30 but with a few more liberties. I found myself floundering without the strict rules I’d become accustomed to. Making Paleo brownies twice a week defeated the purpose of going Paleo in the first place. Before I knew it, I was back to eating quite a bit of the foods from my pre-Whole30 lifestyle. But this time, I possessed the tools to dig myself out of the situation.

Nowadays, I generally adhere to the Whole30 guidelines in my day-to-day diet, but I also enjoy sitting down for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, making non-compliant dishes, and ordering a pizza once in a while. Today is the 13th day of my second official Whole30 (much needed after the holiday season). Recently, I made mayonnaise, ketchup, and ranch dressing for the first time. With my unit on emulsification now complete, I suppose I can say that I’m an advanced home chef.

Works Sighted

Loft shirt (old); Warby Parker Durand glasses; The Whole30 Slow Cooker: 150 Totally Compliant Prep-and-Go Recipes for Your Whole30

15 Ways to Repurpose Your F&M Hamper

A Fortnum and Mason hamper is a gift that keeps on giving long after the original contents have been consumed. Traditionally, the hamper is filled with items from Fortnum’s food halls and given to a loved one as a gift. (Although, I’ve never thought of giving a hamper to anyone but myself.) The recipient will find items—jam, tea, biscuits, chocolate, wine—to elevate his/her next picnic. There are two ways to go about filling a hamper. You may choose one that has already been curated or you may decide to handpick the contents yourself. The distinguishable wicker hamper, which exists in a variety of sizes, can be seen atop countless picnic blankets across England. But, what of its other uses? I’ve been thinking of useful ways in which the hamper may be repurposed. Feel free to complete the following sentence as you see fit.

The F&M hamper may be used as a(n)…

  1. small, curated library
  2. boot box
  3. spa in a box
  4. crafting supplies catch-all
  5. plant stand
  6. planter
  7. lamp stand
  8. coffee table
  9. wine cellar
  10. toy chest
  11. healthy snacks box
  12. car emergency kit
  13. mail center
  14. bed for your four-legged friend
  15. end-of-the-bed trunk

Works Sighted

The Piccadilly Hamper

Browsing at Fortnum and Mason

Browsing at Fortnum & Mason was one of my favorite pastimes when I lived in London full-time. The magical experience began outside with the signature blue-green hue of the ground floor’s exterior and its artfully-designed window displays. The red carpet, sparkling lighting fixtures, and counter of loose chocolates impressed me on my first visit to 181 Piccadilly. But, I soon realized that there was much more to F&M than what initially met my eye. Established in 1707, Fortnum and Mason is an institution known for its tea and food-filled wicker hampers. On your loop around the store, you’ll see biscuits in beautiful tins and picnic essentials like wine and jam. Additional offerings include: jewelry, stationary, books, tea towels, tote bags, and Christmas tree ornaments. (The author of A Christmas Carol himself was a customer here.) There’s also a tea salon on the 4th floor and bees residing on the rooftop. I’ve taken to browsing online, but my mental Fortnum’s shopping list continues to expand nonetheless.

Works Sighted

glass teapot; tea towel; picnic carry all; Champagne & wine bottle holder

tea strainer; teacup & saucer; white tea; mug; chocolate pearl; Scotch egg

Fortnum’s Dinner Party Discourse & Debate; cinnamon honey; tea caddy ornament; rosé sparkling tea;

truffle honey; vanilla honey; bag; clock ornament

Parka Weather

It is impossible to enjoy the weather if you do not dress for it. When the temperature reaches a degree that warrants a parka, it makes sense to wear one. (Puffer coats are also permitted.) You feel and look uncomfortable when you are cold, and that is not becoming.

When I wear my parka, I feel like a caterpillar in a freshly-spun cocoon: cosy and good spirited. I refuse to use inclement weather as an excuse to stay in, unless the weather is actually inclement. In the Mid-Atlantic states (or at least in PHL) we generally like to use the threat of snow as an excuse to close schools and nonessential businesses. However, things may look different this season due to the Covid work-from-home/study-from-home policies currently in place. Taking a walk every day is vital to maintaining good health. If you work from home, it may be the only opportunity you have to be active beyond your commute to the opposite end of the hallway.

You don’t become exempt from your daily walk just because winter has set in. You weren’t exempt from your commute when you were going into the office. If you prefer moderate weather, don’t worry. All of the seasons take their turn. For now, bundle up in your insulated, water-resistant coat and get moving. Count your steps if that works for you. Let’s not go downhill this winter unless we’re on a sled, tube, snowboard, or skis. In fact, a Christmas walk sounds gratifying.

Merry Christmas to you dear Reader. May you find health and happiness in 2021.

Works Sighted

J.Crew parka (old); J.Crew Martie pant; L.L. Bean boots