Grains of Salt

What a week! So very glad Friday is finally here. My plan is to spend the weekend totally unwinding from this stressful start to February. It's the end of my first month at the new job and things are really ramping up. Instead of focusing on how long the days have been and how scattered I'm starting to feel, I want to take a pause for the little things that made me smile so far this month.  A nice reprieve from stress and a reminder to take a minute and sort myself out when I begin to feel overwhelmed. I hope you enjoy!

Also, thank you so much for all the kind support The Shop has received. Looking forward to more collaborations in the future!

Chocolate covered strawberries, dipped and drizzled! Probably my favorite part of an otherwise overrated day. (I always cared so much about Valentine's Day but now that we're married... it's like, poof! I could care less. Strange, right?)

It's been such a warm winter that I was beyond excited for the blizzard we had last Thursday. Although now that I think about it, half a day and barely 10'' barely constitutes a blizzard. Even so, I love how our street looks dressed up in white. A nice break from an otherwise gray month.

A view I caught before an early morning meeting.

My first attempt at biscuits from scratch! They came out a little flatter and a lot less salty than we would've liked, but still super enjoyable. Especially back in bed, with a few episodes of my new guilty pleasure, "This Is Us". Anyone else watching this show? I'm addicted! Mandy Moore! Be my best friend.

Oh, Saturday. Thank you for letting me be so damn lazy.

Ending this post with my favorite melancholy fellow. Walking into the living room and seeing Jack perched on the coffee table, solemnly staring out the window, totally made me stop and smile. He really is all of us... forever remembering that the weekend ends on Sunday.

Launching: The Shop

A little over three years ago I started With A Grain Of Salt with the intention of having honest conversations about healthy and sustainable eating on a budget. In that time it has become so much more than a website where I share recipes. It's evolved into a platform for sharing my thoughts and experiences on tackling urban living.

The stress of managing the day-to-day is something I address often on this site. As I dive further into my career, I increasingly realize how important it is to carve out time for my passions outside of work. It feels like such a struggle to find time to sit down and write but when I do, I feel more whole and creative. In order to better myself in this practice, I made an effort to gain insight into how others manage their time. In other words, how do people around me find time to pursue their passions while tackling the routine of normal life. Work, relationships, budgets, stress, rent... you name it. Luckily, I am never thirsty for inspiration.

Aaron Way Padgett's work, featured in the Shop.

Aaron Way Padgett's work, featured in the Shop.

I am surrounded by so many creative people! Friends who work full time jobs as engineers but come home to sew their own clothes. Others who have turned their passion for drawing into successful careers as illustrators. The list really goes on and on.

In order to really tap into my promise of making this space a communal one, I've decided to launch the With A Grain Of Salt Shop. I want to give the artists in my life a platform in my space. Their art is a testament to work/life balance and indulging personal passion through humility, creativity, and sustainable practice.

The idea is to highlight artists whose wares are treasured possessions in my own home and life. Artists whose jewelry I put on to feel strong and beautiful and whose drawings make me smile when I walk past them on my walls. My hope is to give my readers the opportunity to enjoy their talents as much as I do. All items are totally unique, hand made, and sourced through sustainable practices. Also, I've asked all participating artist to donate 10% of their profit to a charity of their choice.

Olga Babushkina's turquoise and inlaid silver necklace. 

Olga Babushkina's turquoise and inlaid silver necklace. 

I hope you, my readers, enjoy this new venture. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at withagrainofsaltblog@gmail.com if you would like to collaborate. I am so excited to launch this new venture and appreciate all the support as I begin this next chapter!

New Year, Food Resolutions

I make New Year's resolutions every single year. I always buy a fresh planner and on the first page scribble down my goals and plans for the year. I am excited by the idea of change and my resolutions for the first few weeks become the focus of my life. Unfortunately and without fail, by mid-February they fly out of my head. I get busy, stressed, distracted, you name it. Resolutions were meant to be broken. This year, I've decided to make a big change in how I put together my yearly plan for habit shifts. Instead of writing down general goals I'm fleshing them out, one by one, on this site. I want to be accountable in both my actions and my writing.

Full disclosure: I'm not really on the vegan/gluten-free/cooking-only-with-vegetables/organic -everything train. Shocker, I know. I cook based on a sliding scale of healthy and predominantly focus on what's most affordable. I've never really stopped to read labels or check how many additives are in my marinara sauce or frozen waffles. My approach to food is what I would consider totally average. If nothing else, I am an emotional eater and cook. Bad mood means meatballs and pasta. Great mood means chia seed pudding for breakfast, apples and carrots for a snack, and then lasagna for dinner. On a bad day I'm Nigella Lawson, sneaking to the fridge before bedtime for a scrumptious snack. A good day looks a bit more like Ina Garten with nice olive oil and cheese assortments. Oh, I also stress eat fruit. I'll reach for four nectarines over a chocolate bar any day of the week but the sugar content is off the charts either way.

Last month, however, my mentality totally shifted. It honestly felt like it happened overnight. I've been between jobs, spending a full month at home feeling a bit depressed, not particularly motivated, and eating all the pasta. Guess what happened next? I gained weight, felt sluggish, and even more depressed. So, I decided that when we got back from the holidays I would change the way I eat,  starting with the elimination of as much sugar, dairy, and processed foods as possible. Not because I feel sad for the cows (animal cruelty is an important issue, but this is not a politically driven post) and not because I think the sugar industry is evil (even though, guys, I think it might be). I am cutting back on these items because when I drink too much milk and put mozzarella on my salad, my stomach hurts. Sugar makes me cranky and forces my stretchy pants to become even stretchier. Also, the more I read about additives in foods the less I have faith that my future babies won't come out with four eyes.

This doesn't mean the mission statement of With a Grain of Salt is changing. I'm not going to start promoting all organic, all gluten-free, all anything. I firmly believe that - to a certain degree-  your budget should not affect the kind of food you are able to cook. There is a huge problem with food deserts and lack of fresh ingredients in many communities but this blog does not make it's purpose to address those issues. I want to be more accountable in the kind of recipes and food I promote on this page while sticking to the original mission statement.

Discussion, recipes, and tips about a realistic approach to living a healthy, sustainable life on a budget of money and time.

All of this is to say that I am making a conscious choice to pay better attention to what I'm putting into my body. I wasn't unhealthy before - my diet has always included plenty of fruits and vegetables- but I want to be even better. Call it a New Year's resolution, if you will. I prefer thinking of it as a logical step in the process of becoming a healthier and stronger woman.

Carolina Holiday

Happy New Year! We got back from our vacation to South and North Carolina late Monday night and spent today settling back into our space. I love coming home after a trip and making a day of unpacking. It's a good opportunity to savor the last bits of the journey, relive good memories, and evaluate how much I over packed. New Year's resolution #5: cut down on the number of beauty items I travel with. 2 moisturizers, 4 lip glosses, 2 highlighters, 5 lipsticks for a trip where I barely even touched my concealer. Reign it in, me. (Resolutions #1-4 in a future post.)

I've written before about counting down the days to these holiday trips. Traveling South is a total 180 from the insanity and hectic atmosphere of our New York life. I even enjoy the time spent in the car, just us and the dogs. Podcasts, conversation, and frequent stops to indulge in bad for us food.

This year felt more special than ever. The wedding was long behind us and we were able to fully relax and enjoy the quiet and calm of South Carolina. I woke up every morning and read on the front porch while Potato and Jack spun around like tops in the front yard. Ian slept in until noon almost everyday and woke up to grits and football. After nine glorious days we drove to welcome in 2017 with friends in North Carolina. I can honestly say I have never had a better time for New Year's Eve or been in a warmer or more welcoming home than that of our hosts. Not to mention, the epic amount of wine I drank. New goal: learn more about wine. Appreciate it on a deeper level.

More than anything else, over the last eleven days we did something we almost never do. Settled into relaxing. We said yes to all the sugar, carbs, fats, oils, and fried chicken. I wore sweatpants for days on end and did not put on makeup everyday. Ian did not check work email. Even the dogs hit refresh. They ran around, played, jumped and experienced space in a way they could never do in the city. We all totally disconnected. The result is coming back to New York with a completely clear mind.

I want to share some photos which didn't make it to social media. Looking through is making me nostalgic and it's only been a few days! I hope you enjoy them! Let me know how you celebrated your holiday break in the comments. I would love to learn about what you ate, where you traveled, your families! Resolutions and habit shifts in the days to come but for now, I want to savor the warmth and love of the last few weeks.

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Photos of a 100 year old oak which was uprooted during Hurricane Matthew. It's now being cut up and used for firewood.

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It is an understatement to say that we ate a lot this trip. I'm not one for diets but after the amount of BBQ, butter, sugar, and carbs consumed over this holiday I'm actually attempting a Whole30! Seriously, the food was amazing. We stuffed ourselves every single day to the absolute brim.

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My signature New Year's frittata made with leftovers from dinner the night before. I'll post the recipe for this very soon. So quick, easy, and always a crowd-pleaser!

 

If you've been following along on this blog, you'll know I post a photo of this pecan tree every time we visit my in-laws. In my head it's something akin to our very own Giving Tree. It produces enough pecans that we head home with a bag full every visit. Less than a quarter of a pound of this treasure costs around $7 in NYC! So it's safe to say that straight off the tree pecans are my prized possession in the kitchen. I immediately stash them in the freezer and use sparingly as toppings and snacks. Gold people, they're actual gold in this city.

For maximum pecan harvest, Ian's younger brother was put into the tractor arm to hit the nuts off with a big stick!

Recipe for these sugar and cinnamon roasted pecans up soon!

All the treats and gorgeous scenery aside, the best part of the holidays is family. It's cliche and it's cheesy but the moments when you catch people reconnecting and really catching up are the ones which bring the most joy. Having a plate full of BBQ, mac + cheese, and coleslaw to shovel into your mouth while doing so is just the cherry on top.

Actually the cherry on top is discovering your husband looks really damn cute on a skateboard. Happy 2017, dear readers!