Category Archives: Brainpower

Book Recommendation: Relish by Lucy Knisley

“Cookies are all about comfort. Sometimes something simple can comfort the most.”
– Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley’s book Relish: My Life in the Kitchen is such a treasure. Especially if you love graphic or foodie memoirs!

Lucy looks back at her life and realizes, thanks to a foodie father and a hippie-turned-chef mom, food has always played an integral role. She shares her memories, along with her experimental and ever-evolving palette, throughout the pages of the book. Each evoke laughter or a “been there, girl!”-feeling but more importantly–come with a corresponding recipe.

Any foodie, whether you’re culinary school trained or simply take comfort in a good chocolate chip cookie, will find something to love about this sweet memoir.

And speaking of cookies…

Lucy Knisley’s recipe for THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

You’ll Need:

Flour – 2 cups
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Butter (melted but not hot) – 1 cup
Chocolate chips – 12 oz
Sugar – 3/4 cup
Brown sugar – 3/4 cup (packed)
Eggs – 2
Vanilla – 1 Tbsp
Coconut flakes – 1 cup

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mix brown sugar, butter, and sugar
  • Add vanilla and eggs, gradually while stirring
  • In a different bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Gradually combine dry and wet
  • Mix in coconut and chocolate
  • Drop onto an ungreased baking pan
  • Secret weapon: add a tiny pinch of salt to the top of each cookie
  • Bake for about 10 min. until perfect
  • Eat with milk

What are you waiting for? Bake up a batch of cookies and grab a copy of Lucy’s book today! I promise you won’t regret EITHER. xoxo

P.S. Looking for more book recommendations? Here are some more graphic novels/memoirs I love and here’s a round-up of books I loved in 2016

Advertisements

A Planner Round-Up

I recently found my perfect planner. If you’re still on the hunt for yours, I have a few ideas…

Erin Condren Lifeplanner
$55

Classic never goes out of style. This bestseller is a coiled book and allows for a completely customizable look! Build your book just how you want it and find the style that fits your life. Choose between weekly planning layouts, embrace a color scheme, and customize your cover and the coil.

The Simple Elephant
$20

Use exclusive sections to craft positive affirmations, goals, and gratitude statements to renew your commitment, feel inspired, and live happier every calendar day, month, and year. Use the mindmap and vision board to drill in goals and fully engage with both sides of your mind.

Brit + Co Planner
$15

Use the Brit + Co Spiral Bound Planner to stay on schedule. It comes with monthly and weekly calendars, lined and grid paper, to-do lists, activity pages, and blank pages for doodling the day away.

Lemome Bullet Journal
$15

Timeless style and a simple versatile design make this a perfect choice for bullet journaling. The dotted grid pattern helps guide your writing, while staying out of the way of your drawings and doodles. The dots, spaced 5 mm apart, are light enough to blend in once the page is filled. 

$18
A hardcover notebook that’s small enough to go everywhere you go and big enough to work with all day long, whether at home, work, or in transit. The Confidant hardcover notebook comes in Light Gray & Charcoal. It’s available in 3 sizes: Pocket, Flagship, & Plus—AKA Small, Medium, & Large. But every version opens flat and features quality lasting paper.
 
$34
What’s on the agenda for 2018? This classic covered spiral planner, features gold foil and an elastic closure. The agenda holds 17-months of weekly and monthly calendar pages. There’s also a pocket folder with ruler, as well as sections for notes, celebrations, and contacts.
Which one suits your style best? Do you have a tried-and-true planner you love? Comment below and share! ❤ 

Current Podcast Subscription List

Last night, as I cleaned up the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher, I did what I always do during chores these days. Popped in my earbuds and played a podcast. Do you do this? Ever since starting this ritual, I find myself looking forward to doing the dishes. *gasp* It’s almost like the doldrums of domesticity masquerading as pleasant self-care. Highly recommend!

Anyways! Here’s my current line-up, in case you’re curious:

And I just started Britney’s Instagram and Embedded (after finishing Dirty John).

What’s on YOUR subscription list? There are so many good podcasts out right now, I might have to start doing more daily chores! 😉 

P.S. I asked 9 friends, “What’s your favorite podcast?” and here’s what they had to say.

Found: My Perfect Planner

I’ve finally found a planner that I’m totally obsessed with and can foresee using for months (maybe years!) to come. It’s the Bob’s Your Uncle 8 Days-A-Week Planner Journal.  Here’s what I love about it:

  • Features 52 week at-a-glance spreads.
  • Each week runs Monday-Sunday and includes a “Someday” column for other tasks you want to complete during the week that aren’t specific to a certain day.
  • Includes 30 minute interval time slots so you can map out your day super precisely.
  • Spiral-bounding allows it to lie flat and stay tucked in a drawer with the current day facing up.

This may sound a bit neurotic, but when I was contemplating the reasons why past planners just hadn’t cut it, it was the inability to create a detailed timeline for my day.

You see, my work schedule can be a bit of a puzzle. I do freelance work for a number of different clients, I work on this blog, and I side-hustle at a local wine store. The great thing about this set up is that I can create my own schedule by piecing together the three. The not so great thing? Doing so can be a little difficult to conceptualize. A traditional planner with a big empty box for each day almost felt over-whelming. Jotting down “work at 3pm” or “phone call w/ client at 10am” didn’t do my brain any favors when visualizing how I should schedule the rest of my To-do’s.

Then I had a *lightbulb* moment. What if I could find a planner that was more appointment book than daily calendar? I stumbled upon this 8 day-a-week version while searching on Amazon and the rest is history. It’s honestly one of the best things to happen to my productivity levels in YEARS.

 

Above you’ll see a little peek at my planner in action! Nothing too fancy. I throw in a few stickers here and there when I feel like it (like the devil emoji for a 7am meeting, LOL!) and use a few colors of highlighters to indicate different things. Sometimes I’ll mark off a certain time-frame for client work and then bullet point more specific to-do’s off to the side. And that’s about it. I love it!

What type of planner do YOU use? Tell me below! 

A 30 Day Mantra Challenge (+ FREE activity guide)

Now that you know how to incorporate mantras in your daily life and have read up on the mantras folks love and use, let’s get action oriented! The benefits of mantras are no joke and committing to a 30 day practice is a wonderful first step to start reaping the rewards. So, I’ve created a 30 Day Mantra Challenge!

There’s a new mantra for every day of the 30 day challenge. Each day, focus your thoughts on the words. Repeat them to yourself as you get ready in the morning and during your work-outs. Let them wash over you as you take breaks, feel over-whelmed, or sit in traffic. Consider their power as you turn in for the night. Let’s get started…

Day 1. Today I let go of all that does not serve me.
Day 2. I choose to nourish my heart and mind.
Day 3. I choose compassion and kindness.
Day 4. I am loved.
Day 5. I feel abundance all around me.
Day 6. I feel abundance within me.
Day 7. Everything is working in my favor.
Day 8. The Universe is powerful and I exist within it.
Day 9. I trust in the power of the Universe.
Day 10. I am strong.
Day 11. I am grounded.
Day 12. I am connected.
Day 13. I send healing light to those in need.
Day 14. I align myself with my highest truth.
Day 15. I communicate with love and understanding.
Day 16. I open myself to the fullness of my power.
Day 17. I am enough.
Day 18. My mind is clear.
Day 19. This is my path towards a higher purpose.
Day 20. I connect and ask for guidance.
Day 21. I am grateful for this day.
Day 22. I am grateful for my body.
Day 23. I am grateful for my mind.
Day 24. I feel gratitude for the abundance all around me.
Day 25. I am graceful.
Day 26. I have the tools to overcome any obstacle.
Day 27. Practice and all is coming.
Day 28. I love and honor where I’m at today.
Day 29. Be brave.
Day 30. Find delight!

If you want to take your journey one step further, I’ve also prepared a FREE activity guide to augment each day’s mantra. Every day includes 3 action items – 1 to promote positivity, 1 to help with productivity, and 1 for focusing on self-care. If you’d like to nab a PDF of your very own activity guide – CLICK HERE.


In this multi-week series, #MantraMania, I’m laying the ground work for you to make mantras a part of your life. Here’s what we’ve covered:

  1. Do you use mantras?
  2. How to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life
  3. Revealed: People Share Favorite Mantras
  4. A 30 Day Mantra Challenge to Welcome Positivity, Productivity, and Self-Care (+ FREE activity guide)

Revealed: 9 People Share Their Favorite Mantras

Do you have a go-to mantra you find yourself using day in and day out? I used to focus on (and murmur to myself) the same 2 or 3 phrases to instill mindfulness, confidence, and gratitude. But lately I’ve been looking to switch it up! So, in search of some inspiration, I asked 9 folks to share their favorite mantras. Here’s what they said…

“The mantra I utilize most often is, ‘Be kinder than necessary.’  There is certainly a place in this world for strong words, but I believe you can be kind in your intent, even if the message you need to deliver or the actions you need to take are difficult.  I find that if I am mindful and make my intentions, actions, and words kinder than is strictly necessary I have fewer regrets and am less prone to the useless over thinking of past interactions – which I am very prone to as an anxious person.  The hardest part of applying this mantra is trying to be kinder with myself!”

-Rachel, Ecologist

“My favorite mantra is, ‘Keep your mind where your feet are.’ I think it’s important to not let what is ahead or behind you distract from what you’re currently doing. Every experience or challenge requires and deserves your entire presence. I say it a ton and I encourage my students to use it as well. Two of my students even got the word “Mind” tattooed on their feet!”

-Chad, University Instructor & Debate Coach 

“I actually have two favorite mantras. First, ‘I am exactly where I need to be today.’ It’s easy to get caught up in comparison mindset when you’re working towards goals. It seems someone is always prettier, smarter, more successful, more creative, further along, etc. This mantra really helps me put on blinders and breathe into just knowing I am exactly where I need to be. It allows me to have more peace and quiet, which is far more productive than those icky feelings of inadequacy which often result in burnout and pessimism.

Second,  If you’re not failing often, you’re not trying hard enough.’ In order to really scale and take it to the next level, I believe failure is a requirement. I’ve never met anyone who says they have only succeeded 100% of the time. Failing is a great thing because we’re able to learn and grow. I often try to set goals around failing and currently my goal is 3 times a month. This means I’m going to plan and tackle something I’ve never tried at least three times. I don’t look at failure as a setback, but rather a required action to move me forward.”

-Emily, expert career coach at CultiVitae

“I’ve actually started praying a Hail Mary anytime I need a mantra for a difficult endeavor. It worked wonders during a race I ran two weekends ago, as well as during my first backpacking trip this weekend! For self-affirmation, I tend to just say to myself, ‘You are enough.’ Too often I get stuck thinking friends, family, or even God, will only love me if I do certain things or become a certain way. But this statement reminds me that I am loved right now, just as I am.”

-Johnna, Community Organizer

“There are many mantras I use depending on the circumstance. ‘I am Human. What do humans do? Humans adapt and overcome.’ That helps me a lot when I am feeling tired or getting depressed. ‘Life is suffering.’ This isn’t said in a pessimistic tone. More of a tone that evokes the idea that suffering is an indication of an opportunity to grow. Working out? My legs hurt but pushing through it will make me stronger. The ping of loneliness? Connect with the divine and find an inner peace that doesn’t waver in the face of circumstance. ‘The only way to fail is to quit, setbacks are part of the process.’ Breaking new ground means sometimes I will get in over my head and maybe I will miss the mark. That’s life. That’s how it works. I say or do something stupid, then I know, ‘ok, that was stupid. Let’s reconsider and learn.’”

-Dylan, digital nomad & filmmaker

‘Everything is always working out for me,’ has been a mantra of mine for quite some time, perhaps close to 8 years, since I really started to believe that I create my own reality.

I love reminding myself of this regularly as a part of my daily gratitude. I also love, and find myself repeating this mantra, during times when things feel hard, or like something feels amiss. It feels so normal at this point to know that things are happening FOR me and not TO me. This simple shift alone has radically changed my life.

The mantra also helps remind me that whatever is happening right now must be an important part of the bigger picture, and that even if things feel challenging, they will not feel this way for long, because even in this difficult moment, things are working out for me. It helps me feel the universe supporting me, even in the moments that feel clouded. It helps me feel inspired to keep believing, and to know that everything I do matters and contributes to the journey that I’m on. When I remind myself that things are always working out for me, I stay in a positive, more love-filled space. I share that loving energy with myself and those around me, and feel like I am actively choosing to become the person I truly want to and can be.”

-Brittany, Simple Living and Travel expert and entrepreneur

“Hmm, choosing a favorite mantra is tough because I’ve been using mantras differently lately… I’m about to sound super hippie, okay? Are you sure you’re ready?! Lately I’ve been trying to embody my mantras instead of “think” them. So when I sit for meditation, I think of a word or feeling, and then I manifest that feeling inside my physical body. So if I want to be sensitive to inspiration and see it everywhere, I focus on “feeling” what it feels like to be inspired. I summon that buzzing productive energy and allow myself to truly feel it in the moment. I dive all the way in and simmer in whatever feeling I need to cultivate for the day. Not your traditional mantra, but it makes meditation more tactile and less theoretical. It’s really helpful!”

-Erin, Bad Yogi

“My two favorite mantras are There is always tomorrow’ and ‘You WILL get through this.’”  The first one is pretty self-explanatory – it keeps me from beating myself up about something that happened today – I’ll always get a second chance tomorrow to do better.  The second one sounds really simple, but it allows me to step outside myself and realize that I have been through tough and frustrating times before, and have thought I would never got through them, but that in the end I survived.  Nothing lasts forever, and sometimes I need to remind myself of that!”

-Megan, Book Coach

“I love this mantra: This, just this, I am comfortable not knowing.’ — Debbie Millman
I write it down at least once a week, and it’s such a good reminder in staying present and being okay with not knowing everything. I am someone who has always wanted to know how things are going to go in my life. I remember as a small child being shocked to learn we have no way of knowing when we are going to die. That we don’t receive that information on a piece of paper slipped under our door. As an adult, I still struggle with the unknown, which is to say, my entire future — any moment that is not right now. I’d like to know it all, because then I think I could relax a little. If only I knew who I’m going to marry, and how many kids I’ll have, and if my dreams will become a reality, and if I’ll finally eat pasta in Italy. Of course, life doesn’t work this way. I know this on an intellectual level. But being in your 20’s, I’ve realized, is an entire world of unknowns. On a bad day, I remind myself of the mantra, and I pick one thing to be okay with not knowing. It’s easier when it’s just one thing, and even if it’s small (what I’m going to have for dinner, for example), it’s good practice in staying present, in letting go.”
denys-argyriou-213104

Do any of these mantras resonate with you? What’s YOUR favorite mantra? 


In this multi-week series, #MantraMania, I’m going to lay the ground work for you to make mantras a part of your life. Here’s what you can expect from the series:

  1. Do you use mantras?
  2. How to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life
  3. Revealed: People Share Favorite Mantras
  4. A 30 Day Mantra Challenge to Welcome Positivity, Productivity, and Self-Care (+ FREE activity guide)

On Believing and Being Believed

A few weeks ago, I posted a story in my mid-week round-up. It’s the first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s book Her Body and Other Parties, and it’s called The Husband Stitch. The story is Machado’s adaptation of the “the girl with the green ribbon,” a spooky story you may be familiar with (and still terrified by) thanks to Alvin Schwartz’s In a Dark, Dark Room.

Have you read it yet? You should.

(I’ll wait.)

Now you should go read Jane Dykema’s essay, “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch'” found HERE. Dykema explores the ways in which Machado’s story brings up questions about who we believe and why.

From the essay:

“Of all the stories I know about mothers, this is the most real,” Machado’s narrator begins, and goes on to tell a story of a mother and daughter traveling to Paris. The mother falls ill and the doctor sends the daughter to get medicine, a task which takes so long, a meandering cab ride, the doctor’s wife making pills out of powder, that when the daughter returns to the hotel she finds her mother gone, the walls of their room a different color, a hotel clerk who doesn’t remember them. Then the narrator says there are many endings to this story, one in which the daughter persists, stakes out the hotel and starts an affair with a laundryman in order to finally discover the truth: that her mother died from a highly contagious disease and in order to prevent widespread panic, the doctor, cab driver, his wife, and the hotel employees conspired to erase any trace of the mother and daughter’s existence there. Another ending to the story is that the daughter lives the rest of her life believing she’s crazy, “that she invented her mother and her life with her mother in her own diseased mind. The daughter stumbles from hotel to hotel, confused and grieving, though for whom she cannot say.” I would tell you the moral, the narrator says, but I think you already know.

We are taught to value simple, elegant truths. In science, philosophy, theology, and politics, we apply Occam’s razor, the idea that between competing hypotheses, the simplest one is the right one. That the daughter is crazy is a much simpler explanation than that a whole cast of characters conspired to hide her mother’s death and erase their existence, simpler than the introduction of a contagious disease, simpler than the construction and remodeling done to the room. And yet —

Dykema notes that when teaching the story, a woman will confess she cried while reading it and when asked why, she’ll reply she doesn’t know. I didn’t cry when I read The Husband Stitch, but I did when reading Dykema’s essay. Why? Because right now, we urgently need discussions about believing and being believed. Her words resonated and I hope you’ll read them…and then start a discussion of your own.

In class, I don’t say to my students, “Do you feel it, too? Or can you imagine it? The perils of living in a world made by a different gender? The justified and unjustified mistrust? The near-constant experience of being disbelieved, of learning to question your own sanity? How much more it hurts to be let down by ‘one of the good ones?’”

Instead, Dykema discusses the narrative tools her students can apply to their own writing. But outside the writing classroom — I’m ready to start asking.

Have you read a short story or article lately which sparked an important conversation? Would love to hear! 

(Image above is an illustration by Dirk Zimmer from In a Dark, Dark Room, a book which still haunts me to this day.)

5 Ways to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life

When we think about mantras it’s easy to imagine a pretzel-legged yogi, chanting in near-coma calm, a look of transcendence on their face. Maybe there’s a Tibetan singing bowl involved, maybe the lights are dimmed.

But what about those of us who need the power of positive thought so we don’t slam into a pedestrian in a fit of road rage on our commute? The folks who want to harness their affirmations so they nail an interview, not transcendence?

I think mantras have a place in OUR mouths, too!

Remember: A mantra has the power to drown out excess noise – like negative thoughts about traffic and bad interview results – to help you quell the accompanying emotions – such as rage and fear.

Often, the situations in which we experience the most excess noise are the very times we can’t commit to a 30-minute meditation practice. But we can still turn to a mantra to guide us through.

Here are a few ways to incorporate mantras in your daily life…

1. As you prepare for your day. Laying in bed after your alarm sounds is a great time to set an intention for your day. Then, you can repeat the intention throughout your morning routine to infuse the mantra in every step of your preparations, setting yourself up for greatness! As you brush your teeth, blow-dry your hair, prepare your coffee pot, and pull on your shoes–repeat your mantra. Try: Today, I will choose happiness. 

2. During your work out. Whether you’re rolling out your mat or lacing up your sneakers, there’s definitely an opportunity to infuse a little mindfulness in your fitness plan. Mantras can be a great motivator (even Nike uses “Just do it!”) but they can also serve as an opportunity to give thanks for the strength and power your body holds. Try: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

3. In quiet moments of solitude. Sometimes your mind needs a quick reset in the midst of a hectic day. When you stumble into a second of peace – kids finally napping, you’re alone in your office for the first time all day, or hey! a bathroom stall (I’m not judging!) – use the time to focus your thoughts in a way that will serve you. Try: Taking a long, hard look in the mirror reminds me of who’s boss. 

4. When negative thoughts creep in. We all have our negative thought triggers. Whether yours comes from road rage and interview stress like the examples above or perhaps as a result of fear of public speaking, a toxic relationship holding you back, or just reading the news each day, mantras are a powerful solution. Instead of trying to silence these thoughts (impossible!), use new thoughts in order to transcend them. Try: I am filled with positive actions.

5. Before you fall asleep. After a long day it’s nice to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Instead of the thought spiral that can lead to sleeplessness, identify those things which truly served you in positive ways today. Did you know the happiest people do this daily? Jump on board! Try: I am thankful for [fill in the blank!].

Will you try these out? How do YOU incorporate mantras in your daily life? 


In this multi-week series, #MantraMania, I’m going to lay the ground work for you to make mantras a part of your life. Here’s what you can expect from the series:

  1. Do you use mantras?
  2. How to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life
  3. Revealed: People Share Favorite Mantras
  4. A 30 Day Mantra Challenge to Welcome Positivity, Productivity, and Self-Care (+ FREE activity guide)

My Birthday Book & Movie Haul

In case you can’t tell by the title of this post, I recently had a birthday! Just last week, in fact. I was blessed with some amazing gifts (like this beautiful bar cart from Chet and a huge box of Gilmore Girls themed coffee from my mom!).

But my favorite way to treat MYSELF for my birthday is to pick up whatever book(s) and movie(s) I feel like! Usually I’ll talk myself out of book and movie purchases because of a little thing called the library and another little thing called Netflix. On my birthday though? Well – I deserve it! 🙂

Here’s what I picked up:

Movies

Stephen King’s IT

Who doesn’t love watching a scary movie (or three or four) in October? I still really want to see the new version but I mean c’mon! So many famous faces in this one. Including, but not limited to, John-Boy from The Waltons sporting a rad early 90’s ponytail.

The Edge of Seventeen

This movie looked reminiscent of two of my favorite coming-of-age flicks – Cheaters and Juno…and the back cover likens it to a modern day The Breakfast Club (another fave!) – so I was all in. Plus, I love Woody Harrelson!

Books

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

Since I left the world of speech & debate, and no longer sit through tons of informative speeches every weekend, my annual dose of pop psychology has drastically diminished. This looked like an interesting and fun way to rectify the situation. I’m excited to dig in!

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 so this book seemed like a good bet. 😉 The subject matter, a city hit by an epidemic of “white blindness,” reminded me a little bit of Station Eleven. Not to mention it won a ton of awards and received rave reviews! So, although it’s not a book I would normally gravitate to, I couldn’t resist.

Which of these interests you most? Have you bought any books or movies for yourself lately? I’d love to hear!

I have an idea…

When you see one of those flashing speed limit signs that tells you how fast you’re driving, even if you’re only going a notch over the ridiculously low speed limit, you slow down, right? You take your foot off the pedal. Start to coast for a few seconds until you’re a safe distance away. In fact, these signs are ridiculously effective.

Studies repeatedly show that when alerted by a radar sign, speeders WILL slow down up to 80% of the time. Typical average speed reductions are 10-20%, and overall compliance with the posted speed limit will increase by 30-60%.

Which got me thinking…could we harness the power of the radar speed sign for other applications? And then, *lightbulb* You see, try as I might to be mindful of my posture as I work at my desk. I fail. A lot. But what if I got a reminder to straighten my spine and not sit like a Notre Dame resident as I power through a project?

What if I saw a photo flash across my screen of someone displaying bad posture? And what if these photos kept coming in the form of intermittent pop-ups any time my desktop was on? Would my back grow taller? Shoulders loop? If the efficacy of those speed limit signs are any indication…my money’s on YES.

If this is already a thing please let me know! If not, I’m ready for it to become a thing. Alright Monday… LET’S DO THIS! (with as straight a spine as possible.)

Do you have any tips or tricks for better posture during computer work? I’m all ears. And if you take this idea and make a million dollars off of it, you’re welcome! 

(Photo via here.)