What is fun?

Mid-January Check In

Hello lovelies! It feels good to be back and writing, especially since I’ve basically given up on all forms of it for the past week, being sick and excruciatingly stressed about work (the latter may have caused the former actually) so actually having time to write a blog post on this Monday morning is just glorious.

Speaking of work stress, it was extremely wise of past-me to decide that I would set no new resolutions in January as I would have inevitably failed at them by this point. Starting a new position at work right in the department’s busiest season has been insane, and naturally I have certain standards (ie perfection) that I like to live up to… standards that led to me crying in my boss’s office for almost an hour on Thursday through no one’s fault but my own. Literally no one expects perfection of me except me! Fortunately all that crying made me sick and then I basically gave up on life. Also known as: I reset my standards and now feel a lot happier and less stressed.

But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to avoid resolutions. It’s been really hard and painful (see perfection again. I like starting new things so that I can be really, really good at them). I’ve thought of a number of resolutions I’d like to start or experiments I’d like to try, but I’ve managed to hold strong and start nothing new. I tried for awhile to keep up the things I started in December: daily Duolingo, a pushup every morning, and daily writing, but even those things have fallen off in the last week between work and illness. Fortunately before they stopped, a friend of mine warned me that work might get the better of me this month and that I should just accept it and set a restart date for those habits. I scoffed at the time, but then it happened just like she said, so I’ll try to pick them up again starting next Monday after my major work event is over.

(Buy Girl Scout cookies everyone).

Despite being sick and feeling like all of my internal organs are made up of snot right now, I managed to run  my first half marathon yesterday, which felt pretty great. Running is one area where I have no ego and therefore no perfectionism or expectations, which is a huge relief. I ran very slowly because I didn’t want to make myself sicker and I could feel my cold moving into my chestanne-running as I ran (which is so weird), but I ran the whole time except through a few aid stations where I walked while I drank water and sports drink.  So I was happy with that. Happy enough that I’m thinking about doing another half marathon soon… I started looking at race options after waking up from my post-half-marathon nap.

So what effect has no-resolutions had on my budget?

Not much to be honest. I’ve spent more than I’ve earned so far this month, but I paid rent yesterday and I’m still due for another paycheck so I should come out ahead for the month if I don’t go crazy and nothing bad happens. It won’t be a wildly impressive month either though. I won’t have saved anything for travel, and I’ll only barely save my monthly allotment towards retirement and a house. But it could be worse. I was expecting a bit of a bender. I’ve allowed myself to go out to eat with friends when I’ve felt like it, and even went out to eat with my cat last weekend after she decided to eat something bad and then needed a trip to the emergency vet. It was stressful and we weren’t finished until after 3 p.m. so I was hangry and since she was already in the car, we just went to the vegan drive through, because I’m lucky enough to live in a town with a vegan drive through.

And what do I hope for the rest of January? To survive it, to be honest. To avoid another crying jag in my boss’s office (at least I have a boss who can handle that kind of thing). To do some yoga today and get back out and run more this week even though it’s going to be hell at work. To enjoy the last few days of my man’s company and make plans to see him again. To take it easier on myself in the second half of the month than I did in the first half.

Labor of Love: Meals of Labor Day Wknd

Happy Labor Day! For the past three days, I’ve had people over for meals: two brunches and a dinner. The last time people came over for a full meal was probably months ago, so three in three days is a little out of the ordinary for me, but it has been delightful! And since I’ve spent a bit extra on food, it’s also brought into focus how much more food is at a restaurant compared to homemade.

What I bought:

  • Flour: $2.19
  • Baking Powder: $3.29
  • Kale: $1.98
  • Oranges: $0.98
  • Avocados: $2.00
  • Can of Corn: $0.59
  • Can of Beans: $0.99 (Normally I would have made ahead, but I didn’t)
  • Red pepper: $1.49
  • Sweet potatoes: $7.15
  • Red onion: $.0.76
  • Jalapeno: $0.04
  • Lime: $0.10
  • Green onions: $0.50
  • Blackberries: $2.50
  • Raspberries: $2.50
  • Cranberries: $1.40
  • Pumpkin Seeds: $1.32
  • Granola: $5.11
  • Coconut Yogurt $5.29

What I made for 1st Brunch:

This is my absolutely favorite biscuit recipe, and it’s going to become my favorite breakfast potato recipe too. The biscuits were topped with jam a volunteer made, and the guests brought grapes and orange juice to round out the meal. In fact, they brought so many grapes that we debated about how many grapes one would have to eat if one were to eat only grapes for an entire day. The answer we settled on: six pounds.

For Dinner:

I really like these recipes, but I’d make a few adjustments going forward. For one, I’d use yams instead of sweet potatoes for the prettier color (which to be fair, in The Happy Pear video after the link, it looks like they do, but maybe they call yams sweet potatoes in Ireland?). I’d also add a sauce to the sweet potatoes, like salsa drizzled on top. I think they’d be good with some vegan sour cream as well, or cheese and the real thing if you aren’t vegan.

The kale salad was pretty good as is; I’d probably just use a second avocado since mine were small and the salad felt a little dry in places.

For 2nd Brunch:

  • Parfaits with Cashew Cream, coconut yogurt, fresh fruit and granola

Clearly a great brunch, since it’s the only one I got even a partial picture of. There were also roasted potatoes and banana rice, and mimosas, obviously, since it wouldn’t be brunch without mimosas.

So, I spent forty dollars and change on meals with friends this weekend, not including the regular grocery shopping that I still need to do… hello heads of lettuce! How good to see you again! But, a quick glance at a popular brunch spot here in Hillcrest and my favorite dinner spot show that I would have spent $55 on just my meals had we eaten out. And while I don’t have a lot of leftovers, I do have probably two or three meals left over, and I obviously did not use all the flour and baking powder so there will be future biscuits to look forward to. And as one of today’s brunch guests exclaimed, “this is so much better!”

Sometimes I wonder why I immediately gravitate towards writing about food when I’m thinking about money. I don’t think this is just me–many of the blogs and Facebook comments I read mention cutting down your food costs, either by reducing restaurant meals or trimming the fat from your grocery budget (not necessarily literally). Eating gives us the opportunity to make choices aligned with our values three times a day; there are very few other decisions that I make with such frequency and that I have so much control over. As a vegan, I’ve thought about this a lot in ethical terms, but I haven’t thought about it as much in terms of my budget (as though my budget and my ethics are somehow separate, which of course they’re not).

It’s just food, you might say! And it is. It’s also just money! It’s also just time! Time well-spent with friends for less than we would have spent in a restaurant, and sharing delicious things that feel good to me. It’s not always that I can spend relaxing time with my friends (and also have time by myself later) so I enjoyed this weekend a great deal. The rest of today will involve a lot of knitting, a little more grocery shopping, and hopefully, maybe, an early bedtime.

Enjoy the recipes and your weeks!

What is fun?

It’s been four-ish months since my birthday and three-ish months since I figured out what I wanted to do with my 27th year on earth. I asked myself three questions, and while I don’t have any complete answers yet, I do have some words (not an exhaustive list), which is a step in the right direction.

The short version:
What makes a family? Connection
What do I want to do with my life? Work. At something.
What is fun and how do I have it? Spontaneous & low-pressure. I don’t understand these things either.

What makes a family? 

The word that comes to mind is connection. At least, this seems to be the thing that has been most satisfying about exploring family in the last three months. Connecting is at the root of my family resolutions–eating dinner together, going on adventures, kissing in the morning & at night. It’s about creating moments, daily and weekly, that bring us together.

What do I want to do with my life? (aka work?)

Trying to write a novel this month has been an interesting exploration of this. I’ve been attempting to write intensely for the past sixteen days, which is one of the things I’ve thought I might want to “do” (as though I can only pick one thing for the rest of forever–a false choice). It hasn’t turned out exactly as I’ve imagined. For one thing, writing fiction mostly makes me want to stab myself with a pen. Nothing is ever comes out as good as I want it to, which makes the whole process extremely frustrating for me. It’s also probably really healthy because forcing myself to work through that perfectionism (without resorting to stabbing) eventually leads to some halfway decent work sometimes. Having picked up an artist’s pencil for the first time in years recently, I’ve also learned that this perfectionism is not limited to writing. Blogging in a tiny corner of the internet doesn’t seem to bother it though.

On the + side, yes, I want more writing and more art in general in the rest of my life. So the word here is yes, and also, work. I realize that doesn’t necessarily answer the question I was trying to ask.

What is fun and how do I have it? 

This is the question I still haven’t found an answer to. Does asking this question suck the fun out of everything? I wonder if some people are just predisposed to have more fun. I find a fun thing to do and immediately figure out how to turn it into work instead. Today for example was full of fun things: art and writing and hanging out with friends discussing books, and I managed to get stressed out about getting off schedule for all the “fun” I was supposed to be having. Screen printing took longer than expected and didn’t go as planned, so I didn’t finish, which put me behind schedule for novel writing, and then I tried to squeeze in a grocery trip before book club and by the end, I’d turned what should have been an enjoyable Saturday into a failed to-do list.

I do have a couple of words about fun though, what I think it might be (not sure if I’ll ever get close enough to fun to prove it).

Fun is spontaneous. It doesn’t seem to work for me to plan out ahead of time what fun things I’m going to do next week because by the time next week actually rolls around, I might want to do something else instead, but then I’ve already committed to this not-fun-anymore-activity when I really just want to be at home reading or cleaning the bathroom (which is another reason why I haven’t figured out fun–cleaning the bathroom always has higher priority). But the times I think I’ve had the most fun have been when some unexpected opportunity has come up, and instead of sticking to my planned routine, I’ve seized the opportunity. Spontaneity.

Fun is low-pressure. I hate karaoke because singing in front of people, even drunken friends, is too much pressure. (I just realized that perfectionism may be impacting my ability to have fun as well as my ability to write without torturing myself–seems like a rather obvious ah-ha moment). And things are fun until there’s too much pressure associated with them. Book club is great fun until I have three homework assignments, albeit incredibly entertaining ones. Talking about feminism and movies and television and great books and random stuff online with friends is fun until I have to actually do something with our ideas, like make a website or share those ideas in a regular, coherent fashion. Derby is fun until I find myself doing more admin work than actually playing, and suddenly people expect way more of me not because of my skating but because I’m a semi-organized, easily-committed person. Then it actually starts to suck.

in fact, things seem to be fun for me until I get good enough at them that they’re actually something that I take seriously (or that others take seriously about me). So there seems to be this fun-line in which I have to be good enough at something to enjoy it (#perfectionism) but not so good at it that I’m expected to deliver results.

So I guess my new questions are, how do I become more spontaneous? And how do I keep fun things low-pressure so that they stay fun?