Monday, July 30, 2012

A Pinch of Sunshine: T.A.C.

Avocado...guacamole, kale salad, veggie burger and...smoothie? Here's a fun exercise. Think of a word––a food, a color, a place, anything––and list whatever comes to mind when you think of that word. Don't think...just go! What do you come up with?

I have a recipe that I haven't found on some other blog or health magazine. Every time I think I have some "ingenious" recipe idea and whip out my phone to take pictures for a blog post, I am disappointed to find that someone not only has my same idea, but that they make it better. But alas, as far as I know, this recipe is mine! It's really not that ingenious, and someone out there most likely has tried something either exactly the same or very similar, but I haven't read about it, and I quite frankly don't feel like trying to find out!

When I was in San Diego, I tried a very peculiar smoothie: an avocado and honey smoothie. That's it. Avocado, milk, and honey. Avocado-girl as a I am, I had to try it, but it was certainly an acquired taste. It didn't have much flavor. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed at first, especially as I looked at my brother beside me with his chocolate shake. But I wanted to like it; it had avocados! It was a smoothie that required concentration. I had to think about what I was tasting with every sip, and I found that the more I drank, the more I liked it. Alas, I didn't find this out until near the end of the smoothie. So, before the end of the trip, I made sure I made another stop by the little café to give it another go.

While on my school end-of-the-year trip, my friend decided to take advantage of all the extra avocados we had (That's kind of a strange many people have you ever heard say they have "extra avocados?") and make an avocado smoothie. We looked up recipes, and found one that used avocado, vanilla yogurt, and milk. I was thrilled to report that our smoothie did the one back in San Diego justice. As I said, it's an acquired taste, and no one else on the trip seemed to appreciate the taste. So, it was up to my mom (who chaperoned the trip), my friend and me to drink 12 servings worth of avocado problemo!

But, it still wasn't my own. However, I am proud to report that with the help of a few bonus ingredients, I have created a spin-off of the smoothie that adds additional health benefits while hardly impacting the flavor. Kale––a dark, leafy green–– is known as one of the healthiest vegetables, and is extremely rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K, and high in iron. Follow the links below to learn more nutritional faces about the ingredients.

T.A.C.(Take A Chance)
You know the saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well, don't judge a smoothie by its color! It will be green! But it should be a lighter, pale green. Personally, I think it's a pretty smoothie! 

Two 16oz. servings:
  • 2 avocados
  • Low-fat milk (can substitute for coconut milk, rice milk, etc.)
  • 1 banana
  • Kale
  • Plain yogurt*
  • Honey (can substitute for another sweetener, like agave or vanilla. Or, you can replace plain yogurt with vanilla yogurt.)
*Note: The yogurt gives the smoothie a frothier and smoother texture, as do nut butters. My mom doesn't tend to like the consistency of smoothies with yogurt or nut butter, so feel free to omit the yogurt. I like it because it adds additional protein and other health benefits, but the smoothie is still plenty healthy without it. If omitting the yogurt, don't omit the honey or substitute sweetener, as the smoothie will taste very bland.

Because everyone's taste varies, when it comes to making smoothies, it is best to prepare it by taste versus strict measuring guidelines. Some people blend ice in with their smoothies to make them colder, but I've found frozen fruits and veggies work better. (Before heading off for a run this morning, I prepared the banana and veggies and put them in the freezer. But, we were in a rush to leave the Cape, so they didn't have time to freeze fully and it was really humid, so we just added a few ice cubes.) There really is no "wrong way" to make a smoothie, but here's my recommendation for "T.A.C.": 

1) Add the avocados, banana, plain yogurt, and milk. As a rule of thumb, I usually use enough milk/liquid to cover 2/3 of the fruits/veggies. If the blender is getting stuck, add more liquid. I tend to like a thicker smoothie, but a thinner drink can easily be achieved by adding more liquid. 

2) Once you have your desired consistency, add kale and sweetener to taste. I've found the kale blends better after the rest of the ingredients have been blended. Kale can be bitter, so be careful not to add too much initially. You can always add more after!

(I wish my nails were green to match the theme.)

Something I didn't even consider as I was making this smoothie this morning was adding chia seeds. First introduced in my post "Oatmeal at Home," chia seeds are an easy way to add nutrients into your diet. Click here to learn more about the little omega-3 gold mines.

Do you have any smoothie recipes? What I love about smoothies is that there are endless recipes you can try, and they're an easy way to get in the nutrients you need to get through the day. 

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mac and Tosh

I love the mornings when we get up early and just take off and go. I've certainly become more of a morning person. This summer I've had difficulty sleeping past 8:30, when during the school year I could sleep until 10:00 or later on the weekends. I'm sure I'll be cursing myself and wondering why I didn't take advantage of more sleep over the summer once school starts, but it's amazing how much you can accomplish when you get up early. And if I get up and get my physical activity done early, then I am much more productive throughout the day.

This morning was one of those mornings. Well, almost. My brother is at a basketball camp all this week, so we had to drop him off there first. But we were still out the door by 9:30, in time to catch the breakfast special at PB Boulangerie & Bistro, a french bakery in Wellfleet, MA. This bakery is certainly a hot spot in Wellfleet. At just 10:30 in the morning there was already a 30 minute wait (and yes, we waited). This bakery has everything from authentic open-faced sandwiches, flan, and various breads with names I can't pronounce. But we were here for the breakfast special, which is available until noon. For just $2.80, you can get a croissant, a fresh fruit, and a coffee. Considering it is regularly $2.80 for a lone croissant, this is quite a steal, and makes for a fun and inexpensive morning destination bike ride. Everything is more fun with a destination, especially when that destination happens to be food, and even more so when the road you take to get there is physical activity. So, you bike or run or whatever it is, and by the time you've arrived, you've worked up a well-deserved appetite.'n'_Dale
While waiting in line, I couldn't help doing some people-watching (because what else is there to do in a 30 minute line?) Luckily, there were two very comical ladies in front of me; two friends (who looked to be in their forties), who couldn't be more cordial towards one another. Mom said they were like Disney's Chip n' Dale (they were even dressed in similar shades of beige), the chipmunk cartoon duo created in 1943. However, before making the comparison, I did a little research. I found that while they are often pinned for an exaggerated politeness, it is actually a characteristic trait of Warner Bros. characters, Mac and Tosh, created by Robert Clampett (Warner Bros. animator) for a short film titled The Goofy Gophers (1947). To top off their ridiculous civility, they have British accents. How can you get any better than that?

After we finally got our breakfast, we found a seat on the porch. I immediately took out my notebook to record the ladies' conversation:

So do you think we should get a multi-grain bread? Yeah, is that what you're feeling?
Yes, definitely a multi-grain, and what about that farmer's bread? Doesn't it just look delicious?
Ohh you're right. Yes, let's do both.
And what about those cookies? They're the size of my face!
They do look tempting...ah, what the heck? Let's get a cookie to split. It's not like we have a wedding gown to fit into!
Excuse me, how may I help you? 
Oh, yes! Umm...we'll have one loaf of multi-grain bread, a farmer's bread you want the cookie?
Okay, and we'll have one oatmeal raisin cookie to split.
(undertone) Do they have chocolate chip?
Ohh I don't know. Do you have chocolate chip? No? Okay, we'll just stick with the oatmeal raisin. It's better for us anyway.
Okay, so I've got one loaf of multi-grain, one farmer's bread, and one oatmeal cookie––
Wait! Do you want a desert? Something chocolate?
Well, I don't really think I want chocolate for breakfast...
No, no, no, but for later? 
Oh, maybe for later...
Do you like chocolate?
I do like––
Have you ever had a chocolate tart?
Ohhh no, I haven't.
You HAVE to try a chocolate tart. 
Okay, so we'll have a chocolate tart, too.
So I have one loaf of multi-grain, one farmer's bread, one oatmeal raisin cookie, and one chocolate tart.
What about coffee? Do you want coffee?
Well, I guess we have coffee at home. Do you wanna just do coffee at home? Let's just do coffee at home.
So no coffee?
(looks at friend) No. No coffee.
So we have one loaf of multi-grain bread, one farmer's bread, one oatmeal raisin cookie, and one chocolate tart. Is that all?
One loaf of multi-grain bread, one farmer's bread, one oatmeal raisin cookie, and one chocolate tart. Yes, that's all.
(Thank you for repeating everything I just said.)

These ladies would be terrible at a buffet. But I'm not one to judge. I myself am an awfully indecisive person (especially when it comes to food), and I know my friend and I have probably definitely had very similar conversations. They certainly made the wait much more enjoyable.

Sweet Dreams,

Megan :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Writer's Life

Although I may at times curse it and think myself weird, although it may result in my wandering off alone, spending Friday nights in seclusion with only a notebook, a pen, and my thoughts, I do believe I am meant to live a writer's life. It is not always the most entertaining, and it sometimes can be quite lonely, but if one doesn't mind being alone sometimes, then perhaps it is not a sorry thing to be. While I of course enjoy my time with my friends and would get terribly antsy if left alone for too long, I will not deny that after a consecutive amount of days spent in the company of others who don't share my same rhythm, I thirst for a period of solitude. Being a teenager and having these cravings can be difficult sometimes, when my friends are off playing but I know I am perfectly content writing or reading. But it is not something to dwell over or think too heavily on. The best antidote is to feed these cravings with exactly what they yearn for: an hour or two of solitary running, kayaking, writing, reading, or some other form of physical activity or reflection. And then I can return graciously to the hustle-bustle of the everyday life.

I have always been somewhat of a homebody. I used to––and sometimes still do––get mad at myself when a friend would invite me out, and I would decline because I wanted to spend the evening home writing or reading. There was one particular Friday night when I stayed home from a school dance to finish reading "Catching Fire," the second book in the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. There was another night I can recall when my friend invited me over to watch a movie, but I remained home to be with my short story I was writing for school. "I'm not a normal teenager," I reflected to my mom on that particular night. But what is a "normal teenager?" Who says I must comply by the general teenage definition of a fun Saturday night when the whole time my heart would be longing to get back into the enchanted woods of Icnoytol, the land of friendship? Who was going to save Fe? The longer I stayed away, the more her secret threatened to erase her forever.

I've learned that I am one who needs her share of solitude to balance her social life. I can't be going out every Friday night. After a stressful week of school, I need to come home and just have time for myself: write for myself, run for myself, what-have-you. I need time to reflect. I get run-down if I pack too many activities into a week. I've learned to just accept this. You should never be ashamed to do what you love to do. If you love to fence, fence. If you love to garden, garden. My family has an artist friend who at the last minute, cancelled a vacation with her niece because she couldn't bear the notion of leaving her painting. Never apologize for who you are, but also allow yourself to be pushed out of your comfort zone. If I haven't seen my friends in awhile, then I will push myself to prioritize a party over a night at home. It's all about balance.

Too many people live their lives unhappy. The married woman who can't stand to be alone with her husband stays with him, and she is unhappy. The teenage girl who is tired of singing, stays with it because she says she has nothing without it, and she is unhappy. The high school athlete who hates track, stays with it because he is afraid of disappointing everybody, and he is unhappy. Disappoint who? The coach? The other athletes? The parents? The spectators? Yet he says he'd rather be unhappy than disappoint everyone else.

Why? We can only live our lives for ourselves, because in the end, that is all we have. People come in and out of our lives. Are we going to sacrifice our happiness for someone who may be insignificant five, ten years from now? We can only spread our energy so thin. We have to accept that we won't always be able to please everybody. We have to pick the few whose opinions we value greatest. As Dr. Seuss wrote, "Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter." (I'm sorry if I've quoted that before.)  Be who you are. Embrace it. Love it. Own it.

Do you ever feel like "an outsider?" Do you ever struggle with balance? Have you ever felt "guilty" for doing what you want to do (i.e. staying home even though your friend wanted you to go to the movies)?  I don't have it all figured out. My mom graciously reminds that I will spend my entire life figuring it out. I can only hope that I will only ever make progress.

Sweet Dreams,

Megan ;)

P.S. "Did you notice?" is updated.

Friday, July 13, 2012

San Diego #3: Bubble Wrap

Seaweed on a beach in San Diego, CA
Pop, snap! Like bubble wrap. A burst of seaweed breath, it burps. Scattered everywhere...tempting. Tempted I am to stomp on every one, like rolling over pine cones on a bicycle. Steering my sneakers, doubling back. Pop, snap! I've always wanted to tap dance on a bed of bubble wrap in the park and hear it pop, pop, pop like kinetic popcorn kernels or Mexican jumping beans. There's so much seaweed at my feet. I should just take a sheet––a clump––lay it in the middle of the beach, and dance.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blueberry Eyes

Gardens are the gifts that give back. We planted one blueberry bush and it's paying back generously. I missed strawberry season, but no way am I missing blueberry season. If blueberries didn't cost $4.99 a pint, I would sit down and eat an entire container in one serving. Alas, I know my family would not appreciate it, and considering I can't yet drive, I would be left without blueberries until the next shopping trip. So, I must ration the blueberries and restrain myself to a small handful sprinkled over my oatmeal or yogurt. Now that it's blueberry season, though, I can take a more generous serving.

Mom asked Owen (my brother) to pick blueberries today, but I graciously offered to take his place. "Owen should have fun with his friend! No bother, it's my pleasure!"

My blueberry picking strategy: pick two, eat a few. Some of the literal-minded may argue that "a few" refers to "three," but I looked it up on Google and found no proof that "a few" means anything more than "more than two." Therefore, "a few" merely refers to a small amount (interpret "a small amount" however you please). If I were at a blueberry orchard, my strategy would change to "eat until I'm full, and then start filling my basket." Again, however, I must be courteous to my fellow blueberry pickers, for they may not share my same love for blueberries, nor may they have the patience to stay as long as I may like. Then, I might put a 30 minute limit. Either eat until I'm full, or eat until 30 minutes is up...whichever comes first.

All my life, I have been associated with blue. In my school's winter musical, I was "the girl in the blue dress." To the arcade owner's son at the cast party, I was "blue shirt girl." I guess I just love the color blue. The celestial blue in the sky, the blue of the ocean, the blue wildflowers in the garden. Ironically, thinking back, the majority of the boys I've had crushes on have had blue eyes. 

I myself have blue eyes. When I was little, people often said I had "blueberry eyes." One resident at the Assistant Living home I volunteer at commented on my eyes two weeks ago, saying she couldn't focus on what I was saying because my eyes were so blue. ("I mean, they're like, overwhelmingly blue," she exclaimed, as her eyes widened almost fearfully. What I initially took as a compliment, I no longer could be sure.) Maybe I was brainwashed into loving blue and blueberries from a young age. 

People often associate the color blue with sadness and depression. In writing this post, I did a little research about the symbolism of the color blue in hopes of crediting one of my favorite colors and fruit. Below is an excerpt I found about the symbolism of blue:

Blue is the color of the Virgin Mary, and is associated with girls who have similar pure qualities. In addition, it is the color of water and the sea, with all the symbolic references already discussed for that element - that is, blue usually indicates femininity, life, purity, etc., just as water does.
Blue can also symbolize peace, calm, stability, security, loyalty, sky, water, cold, technology, and depression. (

I associate blue with cleansing, calmness, purity. It is one of nature's most natural colors. It takes up the greatest expanse of our color palette. It's refreshing, like that first ocean plunge of the season. 

What color do you associate yourself with? Or, is there a color other people associate you with? If you're not sure, look in your closet. Do you have a lot of one color? Look around your room, look at your school binders and notebook, look at your desktop background. Most likely, you associate yourself with a certain color without even realizing it. We go through our days with our daily routines, we have our preferences, we have all of those quirky habits and tastes and pet peeves that make us who we are, but have we ever stopped to question why? Today as a society, we are so obsessed with the details of other people's lives, but when we stop and examine our own, we may discover something we didn't expect to find. 

Sweet Dreams,

Megan :)

P.S. "Did you notice?" is updated.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

San Diego #2: Above Sand Flats

35,000+ feet in the air, the mountains below are like the sand flats I tower over on the beach. The sand flats are mountains to the ants, and these mountains are sand flats to the giants. It's all relative. From up here, we feel so tall and mighty. Next to them, we are so small, just ants looking up at a sand pile.

P.S. "Did you notice?" is updated.