Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Quotable

I had a great moment this weekend where something clicked for me in a new way. When I was a small child, religion was a bunch of drawings in a coloring book from a neighbor at Christmas. Today, religion in its old school, ritualistic sense doesn’t really exist for me but some of the stories I learned as a child coloring inside the lines of my Biblical coloring book, continue to be relevant. One such story was about 3 young men who survived being cast into a fire because of their faith.  At various times in my life, that story has been pointed to by friends and family members for encouragement. Think “You will survive the fire.” Usually, that fire was some type of illness. I’ve also heard it used as the promise of a greater, stronger me: “Gold is refined by fire—this pain is part of your refining process.

Recently, I heard it used as a lesson in discomfort and a light bulb went off. Often, we are in uncomfortable situations so we back out of them and settle for the easy option. I can think of several times in my life when I have been extremely uncomfortable and done just that.

It was painful to be single (before I spent a purposeful year alone to grow) so I settled for a guy or two who I knew would never love me.

It was painful to be in a low paying job so I jumped on the first high paying thing (fulfillment be damned) that came my way.  

It was painful…or maybe uncomfortable and awkward to network, so I chose to use networking events as catch up sessions with friends, thereby completely defeating the purpose.  

I could go on but I’ll stop there. The point is in running from discomfort, I managed to run away from my dreams and into the ease of procrastination. When I get uncomfortable with my procrastination, I go on a blitz towards a particular passion. I’ll write a few thousand words or plan out an overhaul of Nicole’s Curated Life. Once I’m feeling better about myself, I slump back into the ultimate comfort of ignoring my writing schedule and project calendar. In the comfort zone, there is no pressing deadline or publisher wielding a “REJECTED” stamp.

Inevitably, the cycle repeats itself because the feeling of dreams passing me by fans the flames and I’m right back in the fire. In that heat is my epiphany. If I’m going to “burn” I might as well make the most of the discomfort and plow through it. I really believe the comfort of happiness, fulfillment and dream attainment is just outside of the heat.

If you are holding back on pursuing a dream because it’s comfortable, consider staying in the fire a little longer. You’re absolutely talented and strong enough to get through it.

As always, please share your own stories of battling discomfort/refusing to settle in the comments. We all need encouragement! Who better to provide it than each of you? Happy Monday!  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Quotable

This quote is good motivation for me. It is not a statement meant to encourage motivation drawn exclusively from internal encouragement. We all need a support system that includes family, friends, and mentors. Hopefully, it includes people who encourage you when you're down and people who give you a gut check when you're losing your mind. The key is in responsibility for seeking help. It's on us and so is doing our own part. We can't drain our networks for all the motivation they can handle and then go home, put our feet up and watch the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead. Our goals are out there just waiting to be attained. It is up to us to push closer to them. The world doesn't owe us. We owe ourselves and there is enough out there for all of us. Happy Monday! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Playlist: Artist Spotlight

I was first introduced to Kiesza's music through her hugely popular dance track, Hideaway. I liked her voice but I find that sometimes, dance tracks don't allow full voices to shine. As a result, I didn't look beyond the single (big mistake) until I heard her cover Hozier's Take me to Church. 

Goosebumps! I looked for more and found Stronger and I had that anthem moment. You know the one...where you're dancing around the house completely free and empowered.

Really, that was all I needed to be convinced. I added her album to my Tidal playlist right away. The album is a good balance of dance tracks and mellow songs including a stripped down version of Hideaway. I look forward to more music from Kiesza in the near future.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Love List

1. We've all had our share of breakups (and if you haven't, you're lucky). The accuracy of this list of types of exes cracked me up--and bought back memories. Somehow, I dated the jerk more than a couple of times... (Popsugar)

2. This infographic for pairing chocolate and wine gives me a great idea for a fun fall party and for creating cute gift sets for the holidays. I'm so excited! (Chocolate Lovers)

3. Ok...technically, you could just make your own taste tester cake by using a mini muffin tin but seriously, how cute is the Nibble Pan? I mean, what baker wouldn't fall in love with this cute opportunity to sample your cake without pulling an edge from the main attraction? (Kitchn)

4. Thanks to Ash, my house is full of conversation about macros and micros these days. I tease him about it but I actually like the conversation. I've been interested in food as medicine for years. The idea is that if you eat right and treat your body kindly, you minimize your health risks and actually cure some ailments. This list of the best foods for digestive health is a great resource. (MindBodyGreen)

5. When I'm not training with Ash, I often find myself either going to fitness classes or tapping my favorite online resources. I recently found a new favorite in Grokker, which offers free subscription options for tons of fitness videos. Yoga is part of the mix too. (Grokker)

6. After the popularity of BirchBox, I feel like new subscription boxes pop up on a weekly basis. You can get healthy snacks, beauty samples, goodies for your pets, craft projects and now, international delicacies. Try the World offers a new box of curated goodies from a different country every two months. The box also includes some cultural information, suggested movies and playlists and, of course, a description of the food. Maybe you can't travel the world, but you can certainly eat like you do. (Try the World)

7. Lately, I've been obsessed with BBC America's Radio 1 YouTube page. I love seeing established singers doing awesome covers of some of my favorite songs. I've also found a ton of new (and new to me) artists to listen to. (BBC America)

8. Health eating doesn't afford me the opportunity to eat too many super rich treats on the regular BUT cheat days exist for a reason. These caramel dipped marshmallows are the perfect treat for my out of control sweet tooth. (Ticket Chocolate/Scoutmob)

9. Since we're talking about cheat days, we might as well talk about moderation. Every day can't be a cheat day but you can work in treats without killing your healthy eating plan. This pina colada tea is a great example of how. They also make a rum and coke tea. (Old Salt Merchants/Scoutmob)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Food Tuesday

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about taking food inspiration from dining out. I've been continuing with that theme in the Matthews kitchen and the focus this week was on learning to make summer rolls. I love to eat them but I'd never thought about learning the steps for making them at home. I will say that my rolling skills need some work but the meal was yummy. In terms of fillings, I went with what I had at home. That included chickpeas (I know it's not traditional), portobello mushrooms, spinach, avocado and orange bell peppers. I had rice paper wrappers and cellophane noodles sitting in the pantry, which I purchased a few weeks ago in anticipation of this project. In terms of protein, Ash wanted grilled fish in his. I stuck with the veggie mixture.

I did a lot of research on technique and recipes before I started cooking. My favorite recipes are here 1/2/3. My favorite technique videos are here: 1/2. Ultimately, I didn't use all of the cellophane noodles in the rolls so i tossed them in an orange ginger sauce and topped them with the rest of the bean mixture.

I definitely plan to make summer rolls again...maybe I'll play a little more in the cooler months and create a fall rolls hybrid? My notes for next time are :

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Quotable

I have been a frustrated writer all of my life. I love to write, which led to the blog, but the book that I swear is in me has been manifesting in start-stops for years. The result of that has been a lot of disparate stories with similar themes but no completed work I can be proud of. I have managed to finish a the first draft of a short story compilation/cookbook but I dropped it when I first became vegan and was still learning how to cook yummy vegan meals. I never finished editing.  I also completed a script for a short film that has yet to be filmed (did I mention my husband has a production company?). I did at least finish the editing on that one.

The point is--as I've said many times here before--I give myself over to too many other things and let my passions fall to the bottom of my to do list on a regular basis. I'm always trying to find ways to fix that. I've read enough self help books to be a certified life coach. Seriously. At least that is until recently when I read two pieces of great advice. One was today's quotable. The other was a suggestion from a published writer to stop editing while writing and give yourself over to the fact that your first draft will suck.

I know they both can come across as advice to run from if you like the safety and comfort of having a plan...kinda like me. BUT, ironically, these pieces of advice have been the most freeing suggestions to fall into my lap in a long time. I had a fresh perspective and set a goal to write 500 words a day. I haven't had the opportunity to write every day since but I've had several days where I wrote over 1,000 words so I've averaged out. Can I just say I'm so excited???

I'm writing without the expectation of creating a bestselling masterpiece that will lead to a multi-book deal and retirement from corporate America. Yeah...I know. Lofty. I struggle to reign in my daydreams so I can focus. Removing the expectations so I can just write has been life changing. In the end, you never know where motivation will come from. You just have to keep pushing until you find something that works. Otherwise, it's too easy to let life get in the way of your dreams.

What tips do you have for continuing to move towards your goals?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Love List

1.There are at least ten nutrients that make you feel happier. You can check them all out here. (Greatist)

2. I’m excited for more female superheroes. Check out this video to learn more. My favorite part is a quote at 3:24: "I have a thing called the sexy lamp test where, um…so if you take a story and you can take a female character and remove her, and you can replace her with a sexy lamp, and the plot still functions, yeah—you need another draft."  –Kelly Sue Deconnick, Writer-Capt. Marvel, Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet (Yahoo)

3. I don't need a reason to eat dessert but this article is a refreshing take on why we shouldn't skip it or feel guilty for eating it. (MindBodyGreen)

4. If you've ever been "hangry," this study will not be a surprise to you. Its finding? Women are more responsive to romance when they are full. (Time)

5. Mr. Kate is my new favorite blogger/YouTuber. She's been at it since 2009 but I found her after the release of her book, A Hot Glue Gun Mess. I find her quirky happy personality infectious and love the chemistry between her and her husband, Joey, on their web series, OMG, We Bought a House. She also has an awesome accessories line. Find all things Mr. Kate here and here.(Mr. Kate)

6. The Walgreens app has been around for a while and I've recommended it. It wasn't until recently that I started to use it with frequency. Why? PHOTOS. I am doing wall collages and making an effort to keep more happy photos on my desk. I swear, I put them in the app and the photos are ready for pickup in less than 20 minutes. I'm addicted. (Walgreens)

7. Joe's Jeans doesn't have to do much to sell a pair of jeans. They're popular but they're not resting on their laurels. The company has introduced a pair of jeans that will charge your phone. Yep. You read that correctly. The #HELLO jean has a secret little pocket that charges your phone. (Joe's Jeans) 

8. Maybe if I had a fitness closet like Khloe Kardashian's I would be more inspired to rush to the gym in the morning. Seriously, this thing is awesome. (Self)

9. The Beauty Department put together a list of their favorite beauty hacks. I love these tips and already use several. (The Beauty Department)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Food Tuesday

In getting healthier, I find myself turning to high protein, high fiber foods to make sure I'm full and repairing muscle. Healthy men and women don't needs as many grams of protein per day as you might think (usually 46 to 56 grams) but if you're working hard to build muscle, you'll need more. There are all sorts of resources on how much you need online. You can start with the CDC's recommendations.

I am working on a healthier meal plan that is heavy on protein and fiber. I'm not cutting carbs because they are necessary to healthy body function. The key is not to get carbs from refined, processed foods.

Here is a collection of high protein vegetarian recipes I love from this site and from others.

Egg White Omelette with Spinach and Bananas on PB Toast:  This is Asher's favorite morning meal (he made the meal in this picture). He uses 1 egg and 2/3 cup egg whites for the omelette and adds whole baby spinach leaves. Before cooking, he sprays a little olive oil cooking spray in the skillet. On the side, he has all natural peanut or almond butter on a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread with banana slices.

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Maple Balsamic Reduction: I love beets and quinoa so this salad from Fat Free Vegan is one of my favorites. Quinoa actually packs a protein punch and provides a lot of fiber. (5.6g fiber and 9.5g protein). You can get the recipe here.

Chili with Avocado and Grilled Cheese: I use three types of beans in my chili--all packed full of protein and fiber. Adding a ooey-gooey grilled cheese (on Ezekiel Bread) on the side increases the protein a little more. You can get the recipe here.

Kale, Butternut Squash and White Bean Saute over Cauliflower Mash: Superfoods and protein? What could be bad. You can get the recipe here.

Protein Powerhouse Veggie Burgers: The great thing about veggie burgers is that you can play with the ingredients until you find your favorite combinations. This one uses quinoa (one of my favorite high protein ingredients), black beans and lentils for a delicious result. You can get the recipe here

Low Carb Stir Fry: I love a good stir fry. This one gets a boost of protein from tofu and bonus! It only takes about 15 minutes to cook. You can get the recipe here.

Peanut Butter Overnight Oatmeal: There are 30 grams of protein in this overnight oats recipe...and you even get to have a little chocolate!! The yogurt goes a long way towards meeting your protein requirement. You can get the recipe here.  

Red, White Bean and Basil Frittata: If you come to brunch at my house, chances are you'll be having a frittata. I love trying different combos of ingredients. This one is high in protein and gets an extra boost from a little cheese. You can get the recipe here

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Quotable

Sometimes, a quote says everything I want to say. When I feel like I'm in a situation where I am shrinking myself or not speaking up for what I know is right, I go back to this quote for strength. Here it is in its powerful entirety:

"Most of my life has been spent trying to shrink myself. Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less sensitive. Less opinionated. Less needy. Less me. Because I didn't want to be a burden. I didn't want to be too much or push people away. I wanted people to be like me. I wanted to be cared for and valued. I wanted to be wanted. So for years, I sacrificed myself for the sake of making other people happy. And for years, I suffered. But I'm tired of suffering, and I'm done shrinking. It's not my job to change who I am in order to become someone else's idea of a worthwhile human being. I am worthwhile. Not because other people think I am, but because I exist, and therefore I matter. My thoughts matter. My feelings matter. My voice matters. And with or without anyone's permission or approval, I will continue to be who I am and speak my truth. Even it it makes people angry. Even it it makes them uncomfortable. Even if they choose to leave. I refuse to shrink. I choose to take up space. I choose to honour my feelings. I choose to give myself permission to get my needs met. I choose to make self-care a priority. I choose me." --Danielle Koepke

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Playlist: Artist Spotlight

I've liked Angel Haze since seeing her in a cypher on BET a few years ago. She is unapologetically herself and I dare you not to notice her talent or the powerful messages to be learned from her story. Haze's father was killed in a fight while her mother was still pregnant with her. He shot himself while pistol whipping someone. Her relationship with her mother is contentious and she's said she will never return to her home city--Detroit--because it brings up the scared girl of her youth who had to survive through religious extremism and rape.

Her past hasn't broken her though. It has strengthened her and her art because she's unafraid to be blunt and honest about what she's been through. Her first mixtape, Reservation, helped grow her cult following and put her on hip hop's radar. Her latest album, Dirty Gold, is slowly growing that fan base even more. She's also been nominated for a VMA for Battle Cry, which features Sia. I'm not sure that Haze has had her breakout moment yet but I am following her career closely. I believe her shining moment is just around the bend and I'm hoping several more women MCs will be welcomed in with her.

For years, rap has been male driven and provided room for only one female rapper at a time. The chosen female was often promoted more for looks than talent (though many have been arguably more talented than most of their male counterparts). I've been waiting for a time when we had several female artists to inject the female point of view into a musical space that's become largely misogynistic. I miss the era of my childhood when female rappers were everywhere and well respected.

It appears the time is coming again and there is a long roster to check out. After you finish listening to the Angel Haze playlist, check out some of my other faves. Some have been around for a while and some are new. All are extremely talented. My female roster includes obvious choices like Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma and Missy but I also highly recommend Tink, Siya, Nyemiah Supreme, Jean Grae, Gifted Gab, Lee Mazin, Lady Leshurr and Rapsody. I could go on but that gives you enough to check out for now. Happy listening.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Love List

1. "Make sure you send me the pics!" If you've ever uttered those words after hanging out with friends...and then had to repeat the request a couple of times, you will be excited about the Moments app. The app is a private way to give photos to a chosen group of friends and for you to get the photos you didn't take from them. (Newsroom)

2. Let me be clear. I HATE to iron. I should own stock in Proctor & Gamble based solely on the amount of Downy Wrinkle Release I buy. These tips from PureWow on removing wrinkles without an iron are right up my alley. (PureWow)

3. I heard about Mystery Show on Pop Culture Happy Hour. Yes, I listen to a lot of podcasts--there are two on this week's love list. They are quickly replacing radio for me but I digress. On Mystery Show, Starlee Kine solves mysteries that can't be solved by using the internet or on a person's own. These aren't your run of the mill mysteries but I don't want to say too much. Check out the show! There are only 6 episodes so far. Binge, binge, binge. (Gimlet Media)

4. We've all seen before and after fitness photos. Last week's love list highlighted the ways people can make it appear weight has been lost by manipulating angles. The idea is not to get hung up on what Instagram is showing you--it may not always be true. Despite that, this week, I'm totally hung up on a before/after series. Photographer Blake Morrow did a series with Beth Beard in which she poses before and after a 150-pound weight loss. They are so creative and a beautiful way to celebrate Beth's pride in her accomplishment! Check the pictures out here. (Women's Health)

5. Another Round is easily my new favorite Podcast. There is something irresistible about the chemistry between Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, who transition with ease from topics as important as microagression in the workplace to lighter fare like Tracy's love of animals (most recently, silkie bantam chickens). Listening is like having a conversation with my best girlfriends. It's fun and meaningful at the same time. You can check it out here. (Buzzfeed/Another Round)

6. I've been writing a lot this year about living my dreams or at least mustering the courage to take the first step. I came across this Buzzfeed post about the 37 Things You'll Regret When You're Old. It is a great list to remind you to live a life you love. (Buzzfeed)

7. The Tree of 40 Fruit is a series of hybridized fruit trees by artist, Sam Van Aken. Each tree grows over 40 different types of stone fruit including cherries, plums and almonds. The trees are created through grafting and blossom ombre color patterns ranging from pink to white. Who wouldn't want to own one of these? (Sam Van Aken)

8. I've struggled with procrastination FOREVER. I've tried a ton of tactics to get around it and many work for a while before I ultimately fall back into my old patterns. Maybe it's linked to a lack of passion for the things I push into forever "later" land. How to Boss Yourself Around offers some new suggestions and strategies. I like the fresh approach of acknowledging your feelings about a task and pushing through anyway. (The Cut)

9. FlashTattoos made the Love List a little over a year ago. Now they've upped their game and put out a special Beyoncé collection. It's filled with honeycombs and bees as you might expect but the collection also includes the song lyrics and powerful monikers she is know for like "Flawless." My credit card literally walked over to my hand. (Flash Tattoos)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food Tuesday: Food Inspiration

One of the greatest things about going to food festivals or food trucks is gaining inspiration for home cooked meals. Often, I find small twists on my favorite dishes. Today's post is about some of that inspiration,

It all started at Brooklyn Flea. We were strolling the lot looking for unique treasures for our house. As the breeze picked up, the smell of food wafted towards us. One minute, I was admiring extremely intricate drawings on Post-Its. The next minute, I was being lured away by smells of Belgian fries, Sunday sauce, and Vietnamese summer rolls.

Ash went for the summer rolls and I went for an eggplant parm slider. Both meals inspired me to try at-home versions, starting with the eggplant. Eggplant parm has long been a fave but I'm admittedly a little bored with it. The idea of making the eggplant parm into a slider was just the little spark of inspiration I needed. I can see these little cuties at cocktail parties (though they might be a bit messy) or on dinner plates. It was quite the perfect little bite. The only change I'd make is to switch up the bun. It needs to be a tad larger to stand up to the thin but hearty layers of eggplant, Sunday gravy and cheese. I can't wait to tackle this project.

Also in my cook-at-home series are Bibimbap and those summer rolls Ash ordered.

What recipes have you updated with a twist? Share your experience/advice in the comments section! Cheers and happy eating.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Quotable

I’m guilty of setting my default position on “I’m so happy for them! It’s awesome they can live a life where they pursue their dreams.” When it comes to my life, however, I think about the dream life I want—I can actually see it quite vividly—but I often don’t see a path to it.  That is where faith comes in and I draw on it often for motivation. That said, there is that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that life is beyond my reach.

The fire that keeps the evil little doubting voice around might be stoked by my excuses:

I don’t know where to start.

What if no one likes my work?

What if I look stupid in front of everyone?

I’m too busy to work on my creative exploits.

There is so much risk involved.

I’m can’t afford to throw money at the wind. I need something certain.

There are hundreds of thousands of people doing what I want to do. There is no room for me.

I’ve got an excuse for every scenario. All of these excuses hold me back and keep me from being among the dream seekers. The truth is, it’s not just my excuses. Perhaps it’s because I put financial stability high on my list. Or perhaps it’s because I like the security of health insurance. And maybe it is because a tiny piece of me believes that I don’t have a right to live my dream. Why? Because I’m not daring enough and because working for someone else is what I’ve always known. Shaking up the structure is tough. That’s why today’s quote jumped out at me. I have to constantly remind myself that I have a right to pursue my dreams and live a happy life. The projects I’ve been working on will lead to something and the only thing holding me back—at least in these early stages—is ME.

Do you have an inner doubter? What do you do to silence it?