All the Feelings

Traveling gives me time to reflect. And Fall for some reason brings about all the feelings. Maybe it’s because Fall reminds me of home or because I LOVE Fall and I want to share it with people I love. Whatever the reason, this weekend, while full of travel and Fall things, brought about all the feelings.


I love visiting my sister and her fiancé. I love seeing them happy together and their house is so cozy and inviting. Even the bed in “my” room is far more comfortable than the bed in my apartment. Their dogs bring me joy, too. Lyla and her wiggling excitement and Ruger’s cuddling are things I genuinely look forward to and yearn for. And yet I feel sad that Julie has a life outside of her life with me (lame, I know) and that I don’t have a house or apartment that feels like a home.

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This weekend we carved pumpkins. While, yes, I could do this in the city it wouldn’t be the same. Somehow I would have to get a pumpkin, or two, back to my apartment, which would probably mean I’d have to Uber. And I wouldn’t be able to carve them outside in the quiet, crisp Fall air like I did in New Hampshire. For one, if I sat outside there wouldn’t be much sun and we’d have to move for other tenants or neighbors to get in. And two, it wouldn’t be quiet. I feel sad missing out on the simple pleasures of Fall, but lucky that I can do them with Julie when I visit.

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Sunday morning after relaxing we went on a jog in the woods. While I couldn’t see well without contacts it was everything I needed. It brought me back to hiking in Vermont only it was better because Julie, Lyla and I were the only ones out there. Quiet. Crisp. Nature. I felt at peace.

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My best friend from college came to visit for brunch. We sat for hours talking without interrupting eating all the brunch food and drinking mimosas. It made me feel so happy and yet so sad and I didn’t know why. Maybe because as you get older you see your friends less and less? Maybe because naturally people tend to focus more heavily on romantic relationships than friend relationships and I keep coming up empty handed there? Maybe because despite my achievements in life I still feel insecure? I’m not sure. All I know is my brain felt confused for feeling sad when I also was feeling happy.

It was a truly great weekend. I saw people I love deeply. I did Fall activities that brought me joy. I hugged and cuddled dogs. I ate delicious food. I realize that I am privileged to have the ability to travel and do these things. I am lucky. And yet I also acknowledge that my feelings are valid and real. It’s okay to feel sad despite a great weekend because you miss nature and your family and friends. It’s okay to feel longing for your own home and special relationship. It’s okay to feel insecure despite your achievements. It’s okay to feel is what I’m really trying to say. It’s okay.

This blog is more than a food blog. It’s a safe space for me to write through things that I’m going through. Sometimes you read a recipe or about a trip. Other times it’s my feelings. All I know is that writing here, whether it helps others or not, helps me. It’s like a journal only virtual and I find myself writing in a more positive tone that I would in a personal journal. So if this post isn’t your cup of tea, just bear with me because the topics tends to vary quite often.

Mental Health Awareness

Last week was mental health awareness week. The talk that it conjured warmed my heart because, well, mental health shouldn’t be shamed. Everyone struggles, it’s true because my self help workbook says it is. It also says that pain comes in two forms: pain of presence and pain of absence. We feel pain when some stimulus is present such as general anxiety and we also feel pain from what the anxiety limits us from doing. And yet it’s not that simple to just avoid the thing that causes us pain. Cue exasperated sigh.

Learning how to cope with certain feelings and thoughts can be an ongoing challenge and should not be dismissed. After all, there are ways to treat physical ailments so why are mental ailments different? I’m still trying to find what works for me hence the self help workbook. I also have been trying to find a therapist, which is harder than it should be. The one thing that has worked for me so far is medication and yet even that needs adjusting sometimes. At home I do everything I can to keep my mental health, well, healthy. Here are some things that work for me and may work for you although everyone is different.

Happy lights! I turn this bad boy on almost every afternoon when the sun starts setting at ridiculous times.

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Vitamin D. It could be the placebo effect, but I feel my best when I take Vitamin D in the winter. In reality almost everyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere would benefit from taking a baseline daily dose because the sun is not as strong here.

Essential oils. I’ve been infusing these at night while I sleep and I find it to be very calming. Julie got me a set of oils for Christmas one year and it honestly was one of the best presents, that and my happy light.

Wrapping up in my bathrobe. Or one of the blankets my mom made me. Anything soft is instantly calming for me.

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Exercising. Yesterday I went for a run and at times my pace hit below 8:00/mile simply because I was running off the anxiety. It helps. I don’t use it in a harmful way, but sometimes I need a good run or to lose my thoughts in a loud spin class. Mostly, it just feels good to move my body in some way.

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Cooking meals. It seems silly, but having food ready to go or ingredients with a plan (thank you Hello Fresh) takes away a huge load when it comes to figuring out what to eat. Often times it can just be helpful to limit additional stressors if the main stressors in your life are always there.

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I’m not a mental health professional, but I do struggle with generalized anxiety. I’m lucky that I have a great support system and some successful day-to-day strategies that quiet my thoughts. Other times I find it helpful to reach out for professional help either from a therapist or a doctor to help manage my medications. It is not something to be ashamed of and many people have similar struggles. In a world where we are expected to know everything and to do everything (Fomo, anyone?) how can we not feel the pressure. I simply wanted to write this to say, you are not alone and if you need some day to day suggestions, try one of the strategies that has worked for me!

Healthier French Toast Casserole

Who here loves French toast? Who here wishes it took less effort to cook? Same friends, same.

Cue my research for the best and easiest overnight French toast casserole. Some had too much sugar or unnecessary additives and others didn’t have much oomph. By oomph I mean sustenance that keep you full and satisfied such as fiber and protein. And then I stumbled upon Siggi’s baked French toast.

It had the protein that I wanted from the addition of yogurt, but it had a few unnecessary extras like butter sugar. Luckily, those unnecessary additives are just that…unnecessary. So I took them out. And here you have a filling, delicious, and easy French toast. Make it the night before and bake it off in the morning while getting ready, working out, or sipping your morning coffee.

Not enticed yet? Well, I adjusted the recipe to be pumpkin French toast! Enjoy your new favorite Fall breakfast, you can thank me later…

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Pumpkin Protein French Toast

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of sandwich bread (choose whole grain with some protein per slice)

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 container high protein yogurt (Greek or Skyr)

  • ½ cup pumpkin purée

  • 4 eggs

  • Pumpkin pie spice

  • Local, pure maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Slice bread into inch cubes.

  2. Combine milk, pumpkin purée, and yogurt in a large bowl.

  3. Whisk in eggs and spices.

  4. Fold in sliced bread.

  5. Pour into a greased 8x8 or bread loaf pan.

  6. Refrigerate overnight.

  7. In the morning bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until egg mixture is set and bread is browned.

  8. Serve and enjoy.


Nutritional Information

Makes 6 servings

Does not include maple syrup or other toppings.

326 calories

8 grams fat with only 1.4 grams saturated fat

49 grams carbohydrates with 11 grams from fiber

17 grams protein

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A Truly Fall Weekend

This past weekend I went to New Hampshire and stayed with my sister. It was overall an epic Fall weekend.

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Julie was running a race at her company on Saturday and since I wanted to spend all my time with her I spontaneously decided to run. Luckily it was a 5k. It was so great to see Julie socializing and laughing with her friends since I don’t always get to see that. The race was almost all uphill and into the wind, but Julie still crushed it with a time of 20:40. She got first in her age group and I got second with a time three minutes slower. Ha! I love that I enjoy exercise and running to the point that I can run a race on a whim now.

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Saturday afternoon, after eating the BEST burger made by Greg, I ventured to Hampton for a gathering at Sierra’s family home. Sierra and I were in undergrad classes together and have stayed in touch since. She actually helped me get my first apartment in Boston.

Her family has a gathering each year to make apple cider! First you crush the apples and then you press them. It’s truly amazing! I had a turn at the crank and really enjoyed it. The cider that came out of it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

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Julie, Greg and I mixed the cider with vodka, ginger beer, and Prosecco for a fancy cocktail. Since the cider was not pasteurized we had to drink it up pretty quickly. Not a problem for us!

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We enjoyed some homemade chili with venison meat and chips…all the chips…on the side. I ate a lot of chips. So many that Greg even commented on it. Oops. That’s what happens when I don’t buy chips normally, I love chips (tortilla chips), I drink a few drinks before dinner time, and I run and don’t eat enough after. Sure I felt guilty, but there were a lot of factors playing against me in that moment. And sometimes you just want to eat the damn chips. Life moves on.

I went to bed early after mercilessly trying to get a contact out when it may not even be in there. I slept wonderfully, though, with the crisp air and the peaceful noise of nature. Gosh I love staying with the twin and brother-in-law-to-be. Waking up to dogs doesn’t suck either.

Sunday was devoted to MAPLE! Greg has a business selling maple syrup and I wanted to help. We packaged some pouches and bottles. Stay tuned for a more detailed post on maple soon!

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Needless to say breakfast was pretty stinking good. I had extra maple syrup with my pumpkin pancakes and even enjoyed some bacon! I only like thick cut bacon it seems.

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After the bottling was done and the labels were in their places we went for a walk to the lake. It was a perfect Fall day. Literally perfect. I wish I could just pause time in that moment. Happiness. Crisp air. Sunlight. And family. What a truly wonderful weekend.

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Pumpkin: More than Just Pie

At work the dietitians have been tabling each week about any food and nutrition topic. We’ve covered overnight oatmeal, energy balls, rehydration solutions, healthier tailgating, sugar sweetened beverages and so on! This week I’m talking pumpkin to kick off a month of SQUASH!

If you live in New England you know that the debut of all things pumpkin, especially the PSL, gets earlier and earlier every year. Dunkin’ Donuts started selling a PSL in August! Too soo, Dunkin, too soon. For those of you who don’t know a PSL is a pumpkin spice latte.

I don’t love PSLs…gasp…I know, it’s shocking. And yet pumpkin is one of my favorite foods. I love it for the flavor, the nutrition and the versatility. Sweet or savory, anything with pumpkin will absolutely rock your world and help your night vision! These are some of my favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin.

Oatmeal (duh)

Just add 1-2 tablespoons and some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. The result is a lighter yet comforting breakfast with added fiber and vitamins.

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Baked goods

An exceptional substitute for oil in recipes, pumpkin cuts way back on the fat content usually found in baked goods. It’s a 1:1 substitution for oil and roughly a 1:¾ substitution for butter.

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Chili

Chili is such a comfort food. And it’s easily just tomatoes and ground meat. Want to add more fiber and nutrition? Stir in a can of pumpkin! This also makes a slightly thicker consistency.

Pancakes

I’m team fluffy pancakes as opposed to thin. Pumpkin added to the batter makes a fluffy and moist pancake, perfect for real maple syrup to soak right in. Cue drool.

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Don’t wait! Go out and stock up on this cheap, versatile, nutritious Fall staple! Let me know what you cook up in your tiny (or large) kitchen!