Break The Rules

Photo thanks to fulbert05

..Banish the guilt. Boot the hesitations out the window. Crack open the windows of your soul and let in the fresh air. Don’t doubt.

If you’re my age, you’re handling a tricky time. Famous psycholgist Erik Erikson (great name, huh?) proposed that humans of ages 12-18 are struggling with their identity versus role confusion. During this stage, we try to determine who we are apart from our families and what we want in our lives. If we’re unsuccessful, we experience confusion and conflict. Sounds like heavy stuff, but I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.

Everyone experiences the same struggle to figure out “who they are”: ie. their values, opinions, likes & dislikes, preferences, attitudes, standards. Along the way, as we try to find strength in our newly shapen identity, we stick (stubbornly) to our guns about our self-imposed opinions & tastes. At times, I’ve been known to insist I hate something that I haven’t tried, since I’ve already decided it doesn’t jibe with who I’ve decided to be. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that as well, either with yourself, or with friends and family.

The point is: it’s understandable, this stubbornness. No one can fault you for trying, in this crazy world, to figure out who you are and, once you’ve got it, stick to it with every ounce of your being. It makes sense!

But never be afraid to break the rules.

Never be afraid to smash down the restrictions you’ve set for yourself, when you said “oh, no, I’m not that kind of person” or “I can’t stand zucchini” or “I never stay up past midnight” or “I only like clothes in shades of black, white or grey”. Challenge yourself. Step up to the plate and break all your own rules. Your identity is important, but nobody else cares too much about whether or not it’s consistent. Try on different hats! Experience new things! See for yourself. Never get so boxed into your identity that you don’t try things you think seem fun or interesting.

If you want to, then..

…try the wackiest fruit in the grocery store, even though it’s “too exotic for you”

…start a blog, even though you have “nothing important to say”

…read the news, even though you “don’t really care about politics”

…read the tabloids, even though “they’re much too fluffy for your taste”

…take a nap mid-day, even though that’s “highly unproductive”

…try a recipe you think looks delicious, even though “it’s much too complicated for you”

…buy a vibrator, even though “you’re not that kind of girl”

…go out to a speech instead of a club, even though “that’s totally lame & nerdy”

…cry, even though “real men don’t do that”

…sleep around (safely, of course), even though “real ladies would never”

…use the five-second rule, even though “that’s disgusting!”

…eat nothing but junk food all day, even though “you don’t even like food like that”

…go figure skating, skiing, dancing, karaokeing, surfing, biking, running, even if “you’re not very good”

do whatever you want.*

.

To a lot of you, this advice may seem totally intuitive. If it does, I applaud you. You’ve managed to keep yourself from being tied to a rigid identity. But I suspect that many of us are guilty of falling victim to this technique of saying: “that’s just not me”, and limiting ourselves from new experiences. Or, if we free ourselves from our restrictions, we feel an automatic sense of guilt about doing something outside the norm. We feel we’ve failed, somehow. I urge you (and myself) to escape this guilt. Say bye-bye!

If you feel like doing something, do it. Don’t question whether or not it’s right for you (it is, by the very nature of you wanting to do it), don’t worry that it contradicts “who you are”, don’t feel guilty about having done something you’ve previously deemed “uncool”, “unproductive” or “not like you”. Live your life first, and your identity will come later.

Happy adventuring, loves!

xoxo,

*Edit: It’s been pointed out to me that maybe some of these statements would imply going against your personal values/morals. That was not my intention! I’m not implying that you should push yourself to do anything that doesn’t jibe with your core standards. My only goal with this article was to serve as a reminder that our self-imposed ‘rules’ do not need to be so rigid. By all means, if something really isn’t you, at your very core, then don’t do it! Sorry for any misunderstanding. :) xo

Loving This Week…

{a delicious caramelized red onion and mushroom grilled cheese sandwich}

This week has been full of simple, lovely things. I went back to my beloved yoga class, and my body informed me that it was about time, since I’ve been sore since Tuesday. I had my first column published in an online newspaper (take that, New Years Resolution #17!) and couldn’t stop beaming with pride! I had a much-needed girl’s dinner with a good friend: perogies (with sour cream & caramelized onions), salad (with tomatoes, walnuts, goat cheese and green onions) and delicious wine. We ended the night by making the easiest chocolate chip cookies on earth (and replaced chocolate chips with chopped up Toblerone). I heard my Dad get overjoyed about his Kindle (and got antsy for mine!*), watched more episodes of Modern Family than I care to admit, wished I could do Rihanna’s dance while I walked down the street listening to this song, got all my textbooks and felt alive and on fire in the best possible way. Here are some snapshots from the last week or so.

{two amazing Christmas presents that I am absolutely in love with!}

{my super convenient clip-on iPod that is perfect for mittened-hand control!}

{the first issue of my Vegetarian Time subscription!}

{just a few textbooks – I’m so excited about my subjects this semester!}

{I picked up some beautiful things from the Dollar Store – candles, a vase and two decorative bowls, perfect for entertaining!}

What’s floating your boat this week?

xoxo,

*Expect a Kindle review post as soon as I get my hot little hands on my belated Christmas present!

Shoshy’s Stuffed Shells

The first time I ate this dish, I wasn’t even done my first bite before I was scribbling down the recipe and asking clarifying questions with my mouth full of cheese and tomatoes.

The first time I served this dish, my apartment smelled like heaven, my guest was floored/impressed/hungry, and we drank white wine, ate raspberry crumble and watched Glee until the cows came home.

This is my friend Shosh’s delicious, simple, indulgent recipe. Thanks Shosh! :)

Oh stuffed shells, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways.

  1. You are easy peasy.
  2. You impress people with little-to-no effort made on my part.
  3. You smell heavenly.
  4. You contain four types of cheese: mozzarella, cheddar, goat and cottage.
  5. You are absolutely positively one of the most delicious things I have ever consumed.

So if I have convinced you that this food must be put into your gullet at the earliest possible convenience, READ ON young foodies and be amazed, astonished, delighted, full.

Preheat that oven to 350!!

Ingredients:

  • Jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 Cans of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 package of goat’s cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt & peppa!

For the sauce:

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil and goat cheese in a large saucepan. Stir together on medium heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce is a even consistency. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

For the shells:

Cook the shells like you would any other pasta – in boiling water with a bit of salt. I used an 8×8 glass baking dish, and I was able to squeeze in about 25 shells. Depending on the size of your dish you may want to cook more or less shells. Once they’re cooked, let them cool while you prepare the filling. Combine the grated cheese, cottage cheese and eggs (beaten). Put 1/2 the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture, and place them in the pan. Add the rest of the sauce on top. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 350 for about an hour.

And voila! Delicious, easy, impressive. Serve it to your friends and listen to them gush over your food. Experience a slight ego boost. :)

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo,

Beat the Back-to-School Blahs

Photo thanks to bofh

So. You had a long, luxurious break spent gorging yourself on food, friends and free time. You wasted away the days sleeping in, watching movies and making sandwiches, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. You had a wonderful, lazy, ridiculous few weeks off.

..Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and school has presented itself as an inevitability that you are suddenly dreading with every fiber of your being. You have begun your goodbyes: “Goodbye, social life! Sayonara free time! Adios fun!” and begun your hellos: “Hello boring academic reading! Bonjour exhaustion! Ola junk food!”. Suffice to say you’re probably not feeling great about the coming semester. Visions of sugarplums summer vacation are dancing in your head.

Never fear! Your guide to beating the blahs is here!

1. Make it easier for yourself

Photo thanks to cfetcher

Get organized! Pick up some colourful binders, label them and keep your notes filed away where you can easily find them. If possible, take an interesting, easy course. Re-arrange your schedule so that it fits your life: for example, eliminate early classes. Stock your freezer with quick, easy meals like perogies, lasagna, edamame, pizza, burgers, bagels, frozen dinners, etc. Make it easy for you to eat whole, balanced meals instead of skipping them or ordering food (expensive!). Stock up on essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, toothpaste, etc, so that you don’t have to always be running to the store for more.

Anything that you can do now, up front, to make it easier for yourself in the long run, I encourage you to do! That way, later on, when you’re running out of energy, time, and any essentials, you’ll be grateful to yourself for having cleared away some of the muck and creating a slightly easier existence.

2. Inject fun into your routine

Photo thanks to mlr

Brighten your note-taking with colourful pens and/or paper. Schedule a study/textbook reading/cooking gourmet food date with a friend once a week. Make time for your personal special activities: turn the computer off one hour earlier and spend the time reading, writing, drawing, dreaming. Take the scenic route to class. Create elaborate meals whenever you have time. Dress up for school. Take a bubble bath instead of a shower. Watch part of a movie every time you finish a reading/assignment. Reward yourself for doing annoying tasks (laundry, dishes, toilet-cleaning?) with candy, a magazine, a new eye shadow, etc. Resolve to wind down with a glass of wine once or twice a week. Listen to music while you’re getting ready in the morning.

I know people who say they just don’t have any time for fun. That’s nonsense! As long as you make a small effort in your day to stop and smell the roses & appreciate the little things, you’ll be happy at the end of every day, rather than burnt out and depressed.


3. Fix what’s broken

Photo thanks to daviddoctorrose

Replace that old towel that never dries you off properly. Buy a shoe rack so that it’s easier to find and organize your shoes. Write yourself a reminder to water the plants, take out the garbage, etc, etc. Pick your clothes up off the floor. Move that table that you keep running into. Re-organize your kitchen cabinets so it’s easier to reach the things you use most often. Hang up that picture that’s been leaning against the wall since March. Buy a timer for the oven so that you stop burning things. Re-arrange the furniture so that you feel more zen. Get to class earlier so you don’t get a bad seat.

By ‘broken’ I mean not working. Take a good look at your life, your home, generic viagra usa your daily routine, and hone in on the things that annoy you every day. There are most likely several things that bug you on a daily, weekly or occasional basis that only require a few minutes of effort to change. In order to have a successful semester, try tweaking a few things in your life to keep you running smoothly and happily throughout the school year.

4. Make your space beautiful

Photo thanks to missvu

Buy new linens for your bed and make it a cozy, nest-y haven. Keep photos of friends and family around all the time. Clear the clutter off your desk or workspace. Cover the walls with magazine cutouts, photos, murals, collages, artwork. Keep all your favourite things in plain sight. Colour-code your bookshelves. Paint the walls your favourite colours. Hang up a blackboard and write inspirational quotes on it in colourful chalk. Buy scented candles. Have living things: pets, plants, flowers. Always have soft music playing.

Make your house a home, a place where you love to be. Make your bed just for sleeping so that when you cozy down into your fluffy duvet, it feels luxurious and comfy. Light candles, play music, keep beautiful things all around you. When exams roll around, it will be nice to have a special, comfortable place that relaxes and calms you.

5. Cut back on time-wasters

Photo thanks to balakov

 

One of the things I’ve never understood are people who complain and complain about how exhausted, burnt out and stressed they are, who complain about having absolutely no free time, and who spend several hours a day on facebook. Huh? I don’t get it. Unless your desired use of what little free time you have is to creep people on the internet, than this whole statement doesn’t make sense. The sad part is, I know people who say that no, they have no free time and no, time spent on facebook doesn’t count as free time. Wait, what? So they’d rather be doing activities that they actually enjoy, like reading a novel, riding their bike, hanging out with friends? And they can’t do those things because they don’t have time? But they have time to log into facebook for hours at a time? Confusing.

I’m not exactly a saint on the social media front, and I have logged a good chunk of time on facebook, but I would never claim that I had no time for activities I enjoy. I simply chose to spent that free time online instead of engaged in interesting activities. One of my resolutions for the new year is to cut down on time wasters. Force yourself off of facebook, off of twitter, off your blog reader, stop watching tv shows you don’t even enjoy, quit checking your email 340 times a day, and focus. Force yourself to find other ways to spend that time. Force yourself to do a more mindful activity. It won’t be easy, since your brain would initially prefer to be on autopilot skimming through pictures of that weird kid from high school’s family reunion, but your soul will thank you in the end. Pump up the creativity!

And Breathe Deep!

Find joy in the little things. Always plan so that you have something to look forward to. Put in the work every day so you don’t have to cram at the very end. Spend some time every day re-centering yourself, relaxing, and breathing deep. Work hard, play hard, focus in class (my very best advice to myself, it’s the single best way to spend less time reviewing at the end of the course), don’t procrastinate. Make time for the special things. Get enough sleep and good food. Don’t burn yourself out. Smile.

And banish those blahs!

xoxo,