A Green Sunday

About two years ago, I worked on my college’s organic farm for the summer and fall. I spent hours and hours in the sunshine with my hands in the dirt, pulling weeds, planting seeds, and watching their slow, mesmerizing growth. Alongside the three other “garden girls” (or so we called ourselves), I lay on the grass and ate fresh-off-the-vine watermelon. We smothered homemade bread with our very own honey (thank you honeybees!). And everything was simple and easy.

After that, it was kind of hard to stop growing things. Now I’m not saying I’ve got a green thumb. In fact, I’m pretty awful at keeping plants alive. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Especially now that things are less easy -work can be stressful, living at home can be confusing- I want more plants around me. I want green in every nook and cranny of my room. Because, let’s be honest, plants make everything a little brighter and sweeter.

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Last Sunday, I found out my boyfriend’s apartment is a 20-minute walk away from a nursery. So off we went. Overalls on. Boots on. Money in hand.

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And there I was. The strong, capable farmer –

ready to stick her hands in the dirt, again.

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New little green friends.

And small, shiny opportunities for growth.

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All my love,

Katie xx

How to Meal Plan: A Beginner’s Guide

My life revolves around food. If you want to become my friend, feed me. That’s pretty much all it takes.

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For my last year of university, I decided to live off-campus, which meant leaving the dining hall’s meal plan. After a thorough scrub-down of my new empty, dusty kitchen (shoutout to my rockstar parents who helped me clean for 5 hours), I stocked my fridge and pantry. Every night I would come home, exhausted from the day, and end up cooking pasta or some eggs on toast. Not super nutritious and I quickly became disillusioned with the notion of homecooking.

Pretty soon I realized I needed a new approach to making meals. Cue meal planning.

This tiny change in my life ultimately saved me so much time and money. And, perhaps more importantly, I began to fall back in love with food and cooking.

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Here’s how a typical week panned out:

Every Saturday, I would sit down with my cuppa and flip through the pages of my cookbooks. I’d find two very different recipes (say, a soup and shepherd’s pie) that sounded delish, write down the ingredients, and see what I didn’t have in the cupboards. Come Sunday, I would walk to my local coop, buy the missing ingredients and whatever “essentials” I was running low on (more on that later), and do my meal prep. For the following week, I would alternate lunch and dinner with those two recipes.

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Now, I know meal planning sounds like it’ll get boring fast, but that’s where you bring in your “essentials”. There are a few ingredients I always have in my pantry/freezer/fridge. (At the bottom of this post is my “Fridge and Pantry Essentials”, if you’re interested in seeing my grocery list!**) If I didn’t feel like eating one of the two meals I had prepared, I could always change it up and do something different.

My go-to’s were always (and are still):

  • A loaded sweet potato with black beans, cheddar cheese, egg, and avocado (or whatever else I had on hand)
  • Vegetable fried rice or pasta stirfry
  • Vegetable omelet
  • Canned soup (I love Amy’s Organic Soups)

Here are a few tips for anyone looking to give meal planning a go:

  1. Find yourself a cookbook you love

You’ll be more likely to get cooking if you don’t have to sort through millions of Google search results to find a good recipe. When looking for cookbooks, do the cookbook test. Flip through – usually there’s a list of recipes that a chapter or section contains. If 65%+ of those recipes sound up your alley – you’ve got yourself a winner.

  1. Tupperware is your best friend

Go do yourself a favor and buy some tupperware. Ideally have one or two pieces that can hold a gallon of soup. You’ll thank me later.

  1. Pencil in “meal prep” time to your schedule

Meal prepping can be a little time consuming, so make sure you schedule out the time to do it. And, if you’re like me and not an expert with a kitchen knife, budget more time for your prep than what the recipe calls for. I don’t know how cookbook authors can cut a million vegetables in 5 minutes. Personally, I like leaving the kitchen with the same number of fingers that I entered with. So, instead of racing to finish, I add an extra half hour or so to their time estimate.

  1. When in doubt, put an egg on it

When you’re feeling bored with your meal, throw an egg on it. Eggs, I’ve found, make everything better.

  1. Relish it (no pun intended)

This is your time. Make the most of it. Find recipes that bring you joy. Buy good-quality ingredients (you’ll still save money, because nothing will go to waste in your fridge!). Have some wine or a beer while cooking. You’re more likely to keep on keeping on if you enjoy the overall experience.

  1. Don’t doubt your cooking abilities

I thought I was a terrible cook until I started meal planning. Turns out, following recipes each week teaches you a lot about how to cook ingredients and properly season your food. I feel so much more comfortable improvising now than I did two years ago. And, let’s get this straight – it’s never too late to start learning how to cook. Julia Child was 32 when she started. So channel your inner Julia, throw caution to the wind, and give it a go.

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Have any of you tried meal planning? What are your main tips for beginners?

**Fridge and Pantry Essentials

 

Thanks to Julia (my talented sister) for taking some of these photos!

Evening Skincare Products

I’ve been told that your early 20’s are the best time to develop a skincare routine- you’re young enough to stop premature aging in its tracks and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I must confess, I’m not sure how I feel about the persistent war-on-aging in America. I think that the wrinkles, laugh lines, and scars on our bodies tell stories deeply entrenched in who we are.

However, I do appreciate the notion of caring for your body. Taking the time to look at yourself, morning and night, and thoughtfully caress and nourish your skin. Up until this year, my regimen has largely consisted of splashing water on my face and slathering on moisturizer. Not the best regimen. So I recently decided to put aside some time, show my skin some love, and start caring for my face properly.

My skin is often well behaved, but when it’s bad, let me tell you, it’s BAD. I have dry skin, which gets terrible in the New England winter (like… my ‘eyebrows start shedding dandruff’ bad), but I’m also prone to breakouts in my T-zone. I don’t frequently get pimples, but when I do, they stay for weeks on end. These are a few of the products that have been keeping my skin in check this summer:

Make Up Remover:

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I haven’t been wearing a lot of face makeup recently, so all I need is my trusty Garnier Miscellar Cleansing Water to remove my eye makeup. I put a little bit on a cotton pad, rest it on my eye, and gently wipe away any makeup from the day. It doesn’t sting or leave a greasy residue like most eye makeup removers, but feels light and gentle on the skin. No wonder it has a cult following.

Cleanser and Toner:

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Clinique holds the key to my heart. I use Clinique Liquid Facial Soap (extra-mild) to cleanse and it is a GOD SEND. All the cleansers I have tried in the past have dried out my skin. This cleanser, on the other hand, is nothing short of magic. It’s non-drying and gentle, but still feels like it is cleansing my skin. Honestly, I couldn’t recommend it more.

Similarly, the Clinique Clarifying Lotion is just as amazing. This toner is perfect for sensitive, dry skin. Anyone out there with dry skin, do yourself a favor and check these products out.

Serum and Moisturizer:

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For my moisturizer, I use Pacifica’s Dreamy Youth Day and Night Face Cream. It absorbs wonderfully into my skin, feels light on the face, and is super nourishing. Pacifica is a pretty great brand all together – reasonably priced, paraben-free, sustainably produced, and good quality products.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate was my splurge of the year. But me-oh-my was it worth every penny. You only need a few drops and you can see the difference in your skin overnight. It leaves your skin glowing and so unbelievably soft. Not to mention, it contains evening primrose oil and lavender oil, so it smells absolutely divine.

Facial Spray:

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These last few months have been HOT, so I have been adoring the Mario Badescu Rosewater Facial Spray. It’s one of those panacea products that works for everything. I use it to set my makeup, as a quick pick me up in the middle of the day, and to prep my skin for moisturizer. It’s deliciously refreshing and feels so luxurious to use. I mean, come on guys – rosewater – how classy is that?

 

When I have a little more time on my hands…

Face Mask

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I love using these Dermal sheet masks. I bought mine on Amazon. They’re reasonably cheap – about 50 cents per mask, and guys they WORK. They hydrate your skin beyond belief and leave your face feeling firm and refreshed. After leaving it on my skin for 20 minutes, I’ll usually wrap the mask around my neck and décolletage for another 15 or so, to really get my money’s worth.

Facial Massage Oil

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While I find this Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser to be a little too heavy to use as an everyday makeup remover, I have been using it for facial massages. If you haven’t tried giving yourself a facial massage – do it. It is the ultimate way to pamper yourself. I was first introduced to the concept by the amazing Lisa Eldridge in a Youtube video. It’s a wonderful way to care for your skin and to release all the tension you hold in your face. Check out her video and give it a try!

 

Have you tried any of these products? If so, let me know what you think of them! And if you have any recommendations of other products to try, I’m all ears!