the summer s l o w down

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Like a slow tide, I’ve experienced an emerging realization over the last couple months, or perhaps years, that something I’m doing, some aspect of how I approach my life, isn’t working. It is a realization that has made itself known in virtually every part of my experience, in my relationship with friends, in my relationship with William, in my relationship with self, in my slow realization that I’ve lost the ability to just simply stop, lay down on the cool summer grass and do nothing, for even a moment and perhaps hours, as I was prone to in childhood and as a teen. This inability to relax has shown itself in my hormones, in my mental anxiety, physical aches and pains, digestive disturbances, in my rush to chronically add more and more, to say no on the one hand and then say yes to two additional things on the other, to develop a never-ending to do list that’s grown to multiple lists in various regards, to six email accounts separating the differing entities I’m involved in and subsequently floundering through answering most of them, and on.

I know my experience of overwhelm is not unique. I know it’s now more the norm as we all scramble about adding on to our presence on social media, to our physical possessions, to our feelings of incompleteness and subsequent filling the space with things, physical and non-physical.

A year ago, almost a year ago exactly, I actually felt the exact same as I do now, and I took action by downloading Jason McGrice’s meditations. The small sum I paid for those meditations when there’s a plethora of free ones floating about the interspace proved to me well worth it. There are some individuals that I especially associate with Jesus and his qualities as teacher, authority, and healer, in the most sacred way. Jason’s meditations, practiced for this past year more days than not, have been one way I’ve experienced the presence of Jesus, and of attempting to navigate excess stimulation and the generally just too much of our time.

In the past month and more, I’ve written about this slow awakening to the havoc of stress on my more personal blog, in addition to what I’ve shared here in past posts. For whatever reason I also sense the need to share here what is helping me navigate through.

The slow tide of hearing the message to s l o w down, to make it a priority to shut off, to rest my whole system, to notice the constant physical tension and seek whatever activities that guide me to re-learning to relax is coming in strong these days, almost like I’m being hit over the head every which way these days to LISTEN AND SLOW DOWN AND REST.

 

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  • Specifically, I’ve been doing a free-write journal by hand every morning lately. This practice is less like an indulgence and more like a necessity to ground and settle my mind into the day. For example, one morning I felt so overwhelmed by my to-do list and schedule (neither of which should have been causing extreme stress) that I wrote about my exact physical sensations, and how I was watching the shadow of my pen move across the page in the morning light as I wrote down each word. Doing that, and writing it in that way was soothing and helped me slow down my thinking and realize I had nothing to stress over, nothing too pressing, no reason to rush so much.
  • Jason’s meditations, as mentioned above.
  • Re-reading (and actually attempting to follow!) Renee’s self-care recommendations on removing excess stimulation.
  • Gaining more awareness from an eye-opening podcast on self-care with Yarrow Sarah Magdalena Love
  • Maribeth’s Helen’s latest newsletter, which was yet another driving home the message.
  • Returning to the forest. After months of no desire to go trail running, I took my first run back after the marathon to the trails on one of those days that I needed to calm my racing mind. As usual, it was insanely therapeutic.
  • MUSIC! My playlist lately, the birds that soothe me, and chakra healing!

 

Perhaps you’ll resonate with some of this and some of the links will prove helpful. I encourage you to try to slow down with me and take some time to find what works for you in terms of self-care, if you haven’t already. Otherwise, stay tuned for a new recipe coming soon in which I’ll finally share a sourdough loaf!

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Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowls

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I have a big race planned for the morning of the 4th and am now in full on taper mode for the next few days. As anyone who has raced the marathon distance or longer knows, the taper period can be full of anxiety, pre-race nerves, last minute poor decisions, and all around stir-crazy-ness. This time around I haven’t had a big taper due to some training adjustments a few weeks back. It has also become my norm now to fit in my summer classes around the rest of my life so a lot of my otherwise “free” mornings, early evenings, and weekends are spent with my head in a gazillion research papers or on clinical nutrition cases. So all in all, I can’t complain about the current taper.

Even so, as is maybe obvious, I’m definitely prone to anxiety as my emotional go-to, and as the day grows nearer, I’m starting to have a little of that prickly circular overthinking creep in.

 

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At this point in my nutrition program, I’m close to being done on paper, but I’ve returned to taking minimal classes each term to retain some semblance of work-school-life balance so it will still be another year or so to finish. The classes I do have left are also the most intensive because we’re starting to pull all the pieces together and use them in clinical work. Lately, we’re focusing on nutrition for mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and I was glad to see some good solid research supporting the use of lavender for anxiety symptoms.

 

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I created a lavender tincture for one of my herbal classes last year for this very reason and on certain days, nothing is so wonderful as opening the top just to let it’s floral aroma infuse into and calm my system. I also created a tincture formula that uses lavender for just this calming and grounding purpose, and there’s one more left in my online shop, if you’ve the mind.

Lavender, in addition to its ability to relieve nervous tension and anxiety, also helps with cognitive function and exhaustion. Its essential oils in the flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, and I find their aroma just lovely. The recipe below is one of my favorites for a mid-afternoon snack and it ups those anti-inflammatory abilities by packing in lots of blueberries, greens, and healthy nuts and seeds. The lavender really rounds out all the flavors and adds that calming touch.

 

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Blueberry Lavender Smoothie Bowl, makes 1
– Add culinary-grade lavender flowers or if available, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. lavender extract/tincture.
– I’ve experimented with lots of plant-based protein powders and currently enjoy PlantFusion brand for its easy digestibility and fermented ingredients. Vega Sport and Garden of Life Sport are also good.
– If you make smoothies or smoothie bowls on the regular, keep in mind it’s wise to change up your choice of greens on the regular to get in all the good nutrients each type has to offer. 

1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup spinach or kale
20 grams/ half scoop vanilla plant-based protein, optional
3/4 – 1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
2 tsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. almond or sunflower butter
1/3 cup almond milk, or as needed to reach desired consistency
1 – 1 1/2 tsp. adaptogen powder of choice, optional

  • Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add additional liquid to reach your desired consistency. I prefer mine spoon-able.

pistachio + flower dukkah for midsummer meals

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I recently taught a class to adults about shopping and cooking simple, healthy meals, and at one point we brainstormed “go-to” meals when time, ingredients, and/or funds might be short. And then we upgraded them. Surprising to me, sandwiches made the list and when I asked for clarification, simple sandwiches like PB&J and grilled cheese qualify as a complete dinner meal for some.

I rarely eat sandwiches for dinner anymore but I definitely did in college. Nowadays, sandwiches, whether true to their type or open-faced, frequently make their way into my lunch options when I’m nearly out of leftovers, or need to re-imagine what’s available and quick to eat. Since The Recipe Redux asked for sandwich upgrades this month, I got to reflecting on the myriad ways I make sandwiches interesting by adding simple, flavorful spreads or sprinkles to take a ho-hum quick meal into something spectacular.

 

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Like my last post which was more a meal-component, today’s idea is to make pistachio and flower dukkah and then keep a jar in the fridge to spoon atop sandwiches, toast, pasta, grain salads, or the like. Dukkah is an Egyptian seed/spice blend that packs a lot of flavor, so doing so can really upgrade a meal. Since it’s summer and I’m all about adding edible flowers to just about everything lately, I also amped up the mix even more with dried lavender and golden calendula flowers (which are soo good for glowing, healthy skin.)

In the interest of helping keep your summer sandwiching interesting, I’ve also got a brief list below of other options to pile between your two favorite slices of bread.

 

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a quick lunch with leftovers reimagined: pureed cooked lentils, a drizzle of tahini garlic sauce, roasted vegetables, and pistachio and flower dukkah to top it off.

Spreads:
Muhammara
Spiced Tomato Chutney
All-the-Greens Interchangeable Pesto
Harissa Yogurt
Tahini Garlic Sauce
Beet Hummus
Baba Ghanoush
DIY Whole-Grain Mustard

Specialty Toppings:
Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
Quick-Pickled Onions or Radishes
Apple, Nectarine or Apricot Slices
Roasted Vegetables

 

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Pistachio + Flower Dukkah
, makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
2 Tbs. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1-2 Tbs. various dried flowers, such as lavender, calendula, rose petals, etc.
several pinches each of dried thyme, marjoram, and oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • In a saute pan, toast the pistachios and seeds until fragrant and lightly colored, about five to eight minutes. Then pour onto a plate to cool. Alternatively, if the pistachios are already lightly roasted, add them in at the end of the this step.
  • Once sufficiently cooled, transfer the nuts and seeds to a food processor. Add the herbs, dried flowers, 1/4 tsp. salt to start, and pulse until the mixture is roughly ground but not yet paste-like. The goal is a fine but still crunchy textured mixture. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, as well as a few pinches of black pepper.

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