Midweek Links // 3

Hi friends! Welcome to a Wednesday that feels like a Tuesday in a week that feels like it will never end. Dramatic, I know. Post-vacation blues have got me bad.

Speaking of vacation, on our trip I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟) and Adnan’s Story, which surprised me with how good it is! If you didn’t listen to “Serial,” this won’t make sense to you, but: the book is by Rabia, Adnan’s best friend’s sister who you may remember from the podcast. She’s a lawyer and advocate for Adnan, and she brought his case to Sarah Koenig. Rabia goes into the details of the case and brings up a lot of stuff that “Serial” left out. She’s a great writer, so this book is worth your time, especially if you fell under the “Serial” spell as hard as I did in 2014.

If you’re looking for a dishy crime read where the bad guys are lawyers and the victim is a PTA mom and the case is truly bonkers, read this from the L.A. Times.

I can’t wait for a little chill to pop up so I can make this carrot and sweet potato soup with Thai flavors from KC blogger Cookie + Kate.

I loved this profile of Elizabeth Smart. While we all remember her for her kidnapping and rescue, she’s now an advocate for changing the way we talk to children about sex and purity. Fascinating to read her perspective as both a survivor and a Mormon.

Now that we’re home, the reality of our engagement is sinking in: We have to plan a whole wedding. As much as I love planning, I do feel like I’m in over my head with this one. This article from A Practical Wedding helped a little:

“In the end, we come back to where we started: people are the most important thing (which very much includes the two of you). Your people, however many there are, care much more about seeing you happily married than they do about personally liking the color of your bridesmaid dresses. If aesthetics are your thing, go ahead and throw yourself in headfirst. But if they’re not? Remember that it’s pretty hard to go wrong with candles on white tablecloths—because everyone looks amazing in soft light.”

I instantly ordered both Practical Wedding planning books. Fingers crossed!

If you have wedding planning resources that you used and loved, please, please, please share.

See you Friday for a new meal plan ✌

Top 10 things to do in Mount Desert Island, Maine

G and I just got back from a trip to Mount Desert Island, Maine, and it was the best vacation ever. Maine is insanely, breathtakingly gorgeous. We’re already talking about a trip back. I made a non-scientific, incredibly biased list of the best things to see, eat, and do if you ever make it to this beautiful island.

  1. Hike the Precipice Trail.
    IMG_3849This trail, which summits Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park, is not for the faint of heart or the weak of limb. Parts of the hike are so steep that there are iron ladders and handles in the side of the mountain to make the climb possible.IMG_3886But, like many Hard Things, it was so, so worth the work. Sitting at any summit with Grant is my favorite.

  2. Eat a lobster roll or three.
    P1000196Right after hiking, we jetted for Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor, where I had the best lobster roll of my life. Lobster rolls are the perfect food, and this one had the perfect amounts of lobster (lots), mayo (only a smidge), and a toasty, buttery (but not TOO buttery) bun.

  3. Eat a whole lobster.
    Excuse the grainy iPhone photo, but my hands were way too lobster-y to even think about touching my camera.

    G had never eaten a whole lobster before, so that was high on our list. The wait at Thurston’s Lobster Pound was long, but the food was WORTH IT. We intended to order two medium-sized lobsters and ended up with two super-sized ones. #VACATION

  4. Read a Stephen King book.
    Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and he lives in Bangor, Maine, so I had to read one of his novels while I was in the state. I picked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is about a 9-year-old girl who gets lost in the Maine woods. Seemed appropriate.

  5. Lounge on the Sand Beach.
    IMG_4248 The Sand Beach at Acadia is so beautiful and weird. It’s like a regular east coast beach, but in the middle of the woods. I read half of my novel, Grant took a nap, and we did not get in the cold, cold water.

  6. Go to the Abbe Museum.
    The Abbe Museum is dedicated to sharing the history and culture of the Wabanaki Nation, a group of Native American tribes that are indigenous to the land that’s now Maine. What made this museum so special and so interesting is that it was curated by members of the Wabanaki tribe, instead of by historians or anthropologists that are removed from the culture by several layers of experience.

    Bearing witness to the terrible losses and injustices that Native peoples suffered on the land where we were vacationing felt important to both of us. The exhibits are a mixture of art, history, and personal storytelling, and everything was gorgeous and well-written. Worth the time and money 100 times over.

  7. Eat at CJ’s at least twice.P1000281Since Grant has dairy allergies, we almost never get dessert on vacation. We walked past CJ’s on the first day of our trip and saw the words “dairy-free” in the window. The manager explained their whole process for lowering cross-contamination risk the second he heard we had allergy concerns 👍. They had three dairy-free sorbets and two dairy-free ice creams, different flavors each day. G had four flavors in all: chocolate coconut, graham cracker, raspberry-vanilla swirl, and mocha cappuccino.P1000283Other awesome eats: Project Social for tapas like lobster-stuffed piquillo peppers, Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast for their strawberry rhubarb jam and homemade bread, and Galyn’s Restaurant, where we had the most delicious Dijon-white wine mussels.

  8. Walk to Bar Island
    P1000220At low tide, you can walk across a normally submerged sand bar to Bar Island. We did this while exhausted from our Precipice hike, so I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have, but it was beautiful. G played in some tide pools, and I sat on a log.

  9. Go on a sunset cruise.
    P1000332We sailed around the harbor on the Margaret Todd, a four-masted schooner. G loves sailing, so this was super fun for him. We shared pink wine and pistachios, and met some fun people to chat with.P1000357

    While I guess this activity isn’t available to everyone, watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain —  the first place in the U.S. where you can see the sun each day — is. Which is what we were doing when Grant said a bunch of nice things to me, got down on one knee, and asked me to be his wife.P1000338I am over-the-moon happy.And the nice people we were chatting with on the cruise above? They got engaged on Cadillac Mountain, too, except in 1989. To meet them on the day we got engaged felt very auspicious.

    So, go to Maine. I can’t promise you’ll come home with a new fiance, but you’ll have a hell of a time regardless. Eat a lobster roll for me!

Midweek Links // 2

Happy almost long weekend! How are you relaxing? What are you eating? I need to know!

My favorite Labor Day eats and reads are linked below.

First things first, check out the Fall style story I wrote for KC’s Ink Magazine.

This article decoding Britney Spears’ history through her hair styles is essential.

I froze a bunch of leftover watermelon for these 3-ingredient watermelon margs. 🍹🍉🍹🍉🍹🍉

I’ve been blowing through episodes of this true crime podcast. The hosts describe interesting, real-life cases. Perfect for a Law & Order fangirl like me (Detective Elliot Stabler is my boyfriend, and I am only kind of joking).

I finished Heft, by Liz Moore, this week. I loved it. I’m not sure I would have picked it up based on plot summary alone (Brooklyn man doesn’t leave his house for a decade because of his morbid obesity and the accompanying depression), but Kristen of Dine & Dish recommended it via Snapchat. I am so thankful to her. Heft is one of those novels where the characters get deep inside your heart. I’ll be thinking about it for a while.

Speaking of Snapchat, follow Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking (username: whatsgabycookin). She’s a fun person to follow in general if you like yummy, California-style food, but my favorite thing she does is her Friday “Snapisodes.” She makes a step-by-step recipe and encourages her followers to make it over the weekend. So fun. Last Friday, she made a stone fruit and tomato panzanella, and I did too! 🍑🍅 Except I swapped the burrata in her recipe for avocado and left out the croutons because I didn’t want them, ha. The recipe, as I made it, couldn’t be simpler: slice a bunch of stone fruit, add some halved cherry tomatoes and chunks of avocado. Tear basil over the top. Photograph for Instagram. Dress with balsamic vinaigrette. DEVOUR.

Good luck making it to Friday! You can do it. xoxo

What I Gained by Losing 30 Pounds

At the end of last year, I was so unhappy with my body. I was holding onto pizza and wine weight from grad school and college, and many of my clothes were tight and uncomfortable. I was exercising somewhat regularly, but I didn’t feel good in my skin. This unhappiness bled across my life: I was anxious often; I was lethargic. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how.

9 months later, I’ve made it. I’m 30 pounds lighter. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been. I have new clothes and a new outlook on life. I know that sounds unbelievably cheesy, but it’s true.

photo by the lovely Lindsey Foat
photos by the lovely Lindsey Foat, @lindseyfoat 

I lost 15-20 pounds pretty easily between January and March (thank you Whole 30), and another 10-15 have come off very gradually since then.

I’ll go into detail in a different post about the HOW of losing this weight, but a quick answer: Whole 30 and Gretchen Rubin’s book about habit formation. (All that getting up early has really paid off.)

I was hesitant to write this post. My brain is screaming at me: Weight doesn’t matter.

And I’m right — weight doesn’t matter. But health does. And the process of losing this weight has made me a healthier person.

I’m not going to lie and say the weight loss hasn’t been awesome. IT HAS BEEN. Needing to buy new, smaller jeans because the pair that used to cut into my waist are baggy? That feels amazing.

But I didn’t JUST lose weight. I gained muscle and strength, a better understanding of nutrition, a devotion to balanced living, and an actual desire to exercise regularly.

And I still eat pizza and drink wine. Just less often.

I know a post like this is often accompanied by before and after pictures. And this post won’t. Not because I don’t have before and after pictures, and not because I don’t see the value in documenting that visual change.

But that is not the focus for me. I’m more interested in the invisible progress, like a faster mile time and the steady energy I get from healthier eating.

Hiking Quandary Peak earlier this month was the most affirming part of this whole process. It was still hard, obviously, but I could do things I couldn’t before. When I slipped during the descent, I caught myself with my ab muscles. I felt them engage, and I was able to catch myself in a squat, instead of letting my ass hit the gravel.

This level of control has never been true for me before, and I am so proud of myself.

read more at The Fruitful Blog

30 pounds is a weird amount. It’s enough that I have needed to replace many of my clothes. It’s enough that my face looks different in photos. It’s enough that those closest to me — my BFFs, my sister, my boyfriend — have noticed the changes in my body.

But it’s not enough that I look drastically different.

Many people — even people that I see daily — haven’t noticed. If it comes up, they’re astounded. They say that they can’t believe I had 30 pounds to lose. This feels … weird.

In one way, I suppose it’s a compliment. And I’m sure that’s how these people mean it. They’re saying that I didn’t look fat before, so how could I possibly have lost that much weight?

It doesn’t always feel like a compliment.

It feels undermining — like my change was entirely cosmetic, and, therefore, vain. That since I didn’t “need” to lose weight, I shouldn’t have bothered. Or I should at least shut up about it.

It feels like I shouldn’t be proud of my hard work. That I should hide it.

But I am proud. Very proud. Sticking to a diet and exercise regimen is hard, man.

Making jokes at my own expense is part of my sense of humor. Teasing myself helps me take life less seriously.

But I cannot be self-deprecating about this. This lifestyle change has been too hard and too important to undermine in that way. So honesty is what work for me.

And, honestly, I’m working hard, but I am far from perfect.

I still throw sensible eating to the wind from time to time, and I sleep through my workout upon occasion. But, as my lifestyle guru Gretchen Rubin says, “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Learning this lesson has helped me immensely.

My life has changed. Because now the healthy, nutritious, active choice is the every day, not the once in a while.

The best part of losing weight hasn’t been losing the weight. The best part is the new life I’ve created in the process.

Exercise is now a priority, not a line item on my time budget that’s constantly getting rescheduled. Junk foods like highly processed crackers and candy are now the treats they are meant to be instead of daily snacks. My brain is less sluggish in the afternoon; my fingers are quicker across the keyboard.

My life is better — and not because I am skinnier. It’s because I’m stronger.

Summer Meal Plan // 4

I got back on the meal prep train this week, and it made a huge difference in my after-work frame of mind. When I’ve planned and prepped ahead of time, cooking can be relaxing, even if I come home from work super-hungry. It’s when I don’t have a plan that I spiral into a hangry snack attack monster the second I walk in the door.

Having a plan was extra-necessary last Friday.

Friday: I got home from work starving, but had done some brainstorming on my drive home, and walked into the kitchen with a plan: saute all the veggies in the fridge (which ended up being a pound of baby bella mushrooms YUM) with garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes, toss with linguine, slightly smashed white beans, and vegan parm (My boyfriend has a dairy allergy, for those of you that don’t know). I added frozen green peas to the pasta at the last minute and served it with broiled salmon.

It was on the table in thirty minutes and it was the perfect Friday meal: quick, didn’t require a trip to the store, and a little fancy-tasting. I ate it with a side of Real Housewives.

Saturday: I’ll often make a big meal for lunch on the weekends with the intention of leftovers carrying us into workweek lunches. I made my own riff on this awesome street chicken and rice recipe from BuzzFeed. I served the chicken and rice with shredded romaine and sliced yellow tomatoes on the side, and instead of the yogurt sauce, I thinned hummus with cashew milk and red wine vinegar.

For dinner, I had a ✨magical✨ slice of pepperoni pizza at Pizza Bar. (Also, I ate this pizza before I saw 98 Degrees perform. Yes, you should be jealous. They were incredible.)

Sunday: For lunch, I had the most delicious salad I have ever eaten. Promise. Romaine, green onion, avocado, yellow tomatoes, nectarine, pistachios, pepitas, leftover salmon, and balsamic vinaigrette.P1000057

My sister and I tag-teamed a taco bar dinner. Ground turkey, black beans, flour tortillas, and all the extras. She made brown butter blondies that KILLED. I brought this single-serving flourless peanut butter cookie for G, as brown butter is one of those things that doesn’t have a dairy-free alternative.

Monday: After a heavy weekend (hello pizza, tacos, and dessert), I wanted to start the week with lots of veggies.

I made corn and zucchini chowder (subbed the half-and-half for full-fat coconut milk and smoked paprika for the bacon), grilled chicken breasts, and sliced cantaloupe.

Tuesday: leftovers! I was exhausted after a stressful day at work, and G didn’t get home until 7:30 or 8, so it was seriously the best feeling to have a fridge full of prepared food that I could just reheat.

Wednesday: I made Potsticker Noodle Bowls from Iowa Girl Eats, and, wow, it was yummy. I used brown rice noodles and ground turkey instead of ground pork.

For a side, I roasted cauliflower and okra until they were brown and crispy, and whisked mayo, sweet chili sauce, and chili garlic sauce together for a dipping sauce. I found a red bell pepper in the depths of the produce drawer and sliced that up too. That sauce, though, was the real star. G stirred some into his noodles.

🌟Hot tip🌟: When I really have my planner hat on, I’ll prep the kitchen for dinner in the morning: group ingredients together in the fridge and lay out the pans and dishes I’ll need. It probably doesn’t save me a lot of actual time, but it streamlines the process in the evening, which I usually need post-commute.

Meal prep tip: In the morning, gather all of the ingredients for dinner together in the fridge. For more, visit TheFruitfulBlog.com

Thursday: I went out with some girlfriends for sushi and drinks, but wanted to be sure Grant had Thursday dinner and Friday lunch, so I made this tandoori quinoa and chickpeas in the morning before work. It was so quick, maybe 30 minutes, and a lot of it was simmer time. I ate breakfast and enjoyed my coffee while it finished.

Breakfasts: Breakfasts were good this week, you guys. (Besides the usual Ezekiel toast and green smoothies, which were obviously tasty.)

Sweet potato “oats”: On Sunday afternoon, I shredded a few raw sweet potatoes in the food processor. In the mornings, I threw a big handful of the shreds, cashew milk, and half a banana into the microwave for five minutes, then topped the bowl with sliced banana, hemp hearts, coconut shreds, jelly or honey, nuts, etc, etc, etc.

Banana-egg pancakes: Yep, just mashed banana and eggs whisked together and fried up like pancakes. I’ve made these forever, but I tried this recipe, which adds almond meal and baking powder to the egg and banana. These ingredients added a little more structure.

Lunches: leftovers and salads, nothing too exciting, except for a perfect farm stand cantaloupe.

Have a good weekend, friends!

What did you eat this week? Any recipes I need to add to my rotation? Are there other things I could share to make these posts more useful?

For seasonal meal ideas from The Fruitful Blog, click here!