Juliana Writes...

Juliana Writes...

Living with the best of intentions

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lessons Learned // Adventures in Antelope Canyon

Traveling always makes me return home a better version of myself.  Adventure clears out the cobwebs and restores the clarity, the more I explore the more alive I feel.  It’s constantly on my mind; where will I get to go next?  How soon can I get there? 

But no journey is complete without a home base.  Often I’m so focused on getting back to wandering that my home becomes an after thought, or worse, a burden – it feels like a dirty, noisy cage of cement and steel, barring me from the wonders that earth has to offer. 

But I’m learning (always, always learning) that the resentment, that ugly, despondent filter over my city is a choice.  It’s a misery I’m imposing on myself and my world, I’m choosing to see the things I dislike in the foreground, to forget the gems that made me feel like Los Angeles was the biggest adventure life had to offer so many years ago.  I’m not saying it isn’t validated to feel claustrophobic at home, it’s a genuine part of who I am, but I have a great deal more control over it than I have been exercising for quite some time. 

I’m writing this because, after a series of glorious (and sometimes stressful – hi, broken-down car in the middle of the desert surrounded by rattlesnakes!) adventures this summer I find myself happily holed up in La La Land, extraordinarily aware of how content I am to just. be. home. 

We have a big trip planned for November and normally I would be chomping at the bit to get there, willing time to move faster, focusing all my energy on the escape…but instead I’m savoring the sounds of my city, the moments with my fur babies, the day-to-day adventures.  I’m choosing to focus on the now and to do so with as much positivity as I can muster and I have to say, it’s helping me recognize all the good and potential we are surrounded by in this empire of endless opportunity. 

Does that mean the wanderlust bug won’t bite me anytime soon?  Of course not.  There is too much beauty to be experienced and I want to be a part of it all.  But for now this…this is a very good place to be.

“It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You realize what has changed is you.”

 -- F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Whole30 Week 3: Experiences and Observations

Makeshift cobb salad that I ate like 3 days in a row.  Delish!

***Disclaimer: I wrote this post a few days ago and never got around to putting it up -- follow through is one of those things I'm working on.  We started easing out of the Whole30 last night and I'm excited to document the process; there are definitely some tummy aches in my future but daaaaamn did that frosty glass of rosé taste GOOD.  Anyway, here's the Week 3 recap!

* * *

Week 3 was a doozy, y’all.  It’s true what they say; right around day 17 or so you just become sort of uninspired in the kitchen!  It’s like, okay, we’ve made a lot of new and exciting things, but especially when work factors in it becomes difficult to plan meals that are both portable and you’re looking forward to eating, plus meals to cook and eat at home.  And it means I have very few food photos because there wasn’t a whole lot worth capturing.  But we survived without too much grumbling and are feeling pretty darn good!

One big moment for me in the third week was realizing that no matter what kind of challenge I’ve given myself, or commitment I’ve made, life is and will always be a fluid thing and being adaptable to that is more important than being so rigid that you might miss out on something great.

James and Wizard and I packed up on day #2 of the blistering heat wave we were experiencing and drove south to the Del Mar dog beach – nearly all the way to San Diego.  After two hours in the car and several more spent frolicking in the ocean we had the thought that maybe we should just get super spontaneous and stay the night.  We didn’t pack clothes or toiletries or anything more than a few Whole30 beach snacks, it was a genuinely spur of the moment thought – but holding us back was the idea of trying to find a place to eat where we could find Whole30 compliant meals and still have this luxurious getaway experience.  It got to the point that it became sort of stressful, we were pouring over restaurants nearby and thinking about how the best meal after the beach is always Mexican food, but what could we actually eat at a Mexican restaurant, and how do we resist the chips and salsa, and we don’t really want to spend that much money if we’re not going to thoroughly enjoy the meal, and, and, and…I finally took a pause and gave the issue a real moment of thought.

I realized that having a perfect Whole30 was actually one of the least important things in the world.  Yes, I’m loving the changes I’m feeling and the things I’m learning, but when it comes to having a romantic, impulsive adventure with my husband and my dog WHO GIVES A $@#! ABOUT A PERFECT DIET?!  It is so much grander to go out to eat and be mindful of what I’m ordering but allow myself to have a full experience than to half-ass something that doesn’t need half-assing!  It felt sort of like a revelation, and that was very freeing.  In fact, I think light bulb experiences like that are a part of what the Whole30 is all about – figuring out the best way for yourself to eat in support of happy, healthy life.  Isn’t that the goal we’re all shooting for, Whole30 or not?

The funny thing is we didn’t actually end up staying – there were just too many variables that weren’t falling into place – and we did go home and happily eat a Whole30 meal.  But the whole thing felt like an unconditional victory; we moved with flexibility rather than adamancy and it brought about what I think are some very positive conversations. 

On that note, we’re ending our Whole30 five days early (Whole25?) because we have 4th of July plans and feel like it’s probably not a great idea to dive into them after only a few days post-super-clean-diet.  On Sunday we’ll be beginning the reintroduction process, which will look different for both of us – I’ll be experimenting with dairy and soy but not so much gluten, whereas James is ready to see how bread and corn feel, and we both plan to have a drink – beer for him and wine for me.  I’m excited to see how this next step goes and to keep quite a few of the values the Whole30 instills as constants in our diets!

Chicken on roasted broccoli and curried cauliflower rice

And finally, a few observations during week 3:

Cravings are nearly gone.  It’s weird, I know the mac and cheese would taste good but I don’t feel compelled to eat it.  Like, at all.  The bagel and the grilled cheese are gone from my thoughts.  Alcohol sounds good but by no means necessary.

Feeling slimmer and bloat continues to be absent, which I love.  I’m so interested to see what brings that back and so excited to have control over it! 

Energy is steady.  I’m alert through the day and get tired at night.  Pretty sure this is how you’re supposed to live life!

HOWEVER: I had one night of bad sleep and it destroyed me.  I was a completely useless wet blanket for the entire day.  So that was interesting. 

Otherwise sleep has remained strong and high quality.  I’m interested (and nervous) to see how a couple glasses of wine will affect that. 

Workouts are stronger!  I feel like my stamina has improved and it’s much easier to get up and go in the morning. 

I’m still not sick of eggs.  They say you’ll never want to see another egg again and there are a billion posts out there about eggless breakfasts to try to assuage the monotony – yeah, this is not something I’m experiencing.  Fried, boiled, poached, scrambled…still haven’t met an egg I don’t like. 

Roasted potatoes with ground beef, avocado, and a fried egg - this one was for James

I’ve reaped such massive benefits from this program.  “Quitting” a few days early doesn’t feel like a bad thing, I’ve learned so much and plan to attempt that 80-20 lifestyle we hear so much about; 80% basically stemming from the way we’ve been eating for the last 24 days.   I can’t wait to share the trials and tribulations of reintroductions!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Whole30 Week #2: Experiences and Observations

Whole30 compliant chorizo, red potatoes, and brussels topped with a fried egg and avocado

We made it through week 2!  I felt really tested last week – days 10 and 11 are statistically the days that many quit the Whole30 and I understood why; I kid you not, I dreamed about grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Zoodles with shrimp and romesco sauce from the Whole30 cookbook -- I gotta say, as much as I love Pinterest there's just something about having a tangible cookbook that feels lovely.

The detox process continues to completely fascinate me, as someone who considers herself a fairly healthy eater I am continuously amazed at how my body has reacted to the lack of processed ingredients and alcohol – but mainly to sugar.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I never thought of myself as someone who consumes a lot of sugar, but the Whole30 has opened my eyes to how much sugar goes in EVERYTHING.  I mean, even foods and drinks that are considered “healthy” often have some kind of sugar added to them, hidden away with phrasing like “natural cane juice” – yeah, that’s just sugar!  All the breads that I thought I wouldn’t miss have been in the foreground of my cravings – I don’t love bread and pastries the way many people do but my desire for a toasted bagel, something I rarely think sounds appealing, remains unwavering.  To me this is a solid (and shocking) indication of the sugar addiction I was completely unaware of – because it’s being fed to us in so many of the things we would never think to look for it in (my favorite green hot sauce from Trader Joe’s contains sugar!  It’s like 4th on the ingredient list!) we’re basically sugar brainwashed, and the detox from that is intense.  It’s also kind of cool, it makes me feel like I’m gaining power over something that I didn’t know was out of control and I look forward to figuring out how to move forward with this knowledge in July (because I’ll never not eat ice cream…it’s just a fact).

Mahi mahi lettuce tacos with homemade guac and pico de gallo, plus spiced cauli rice with sauteed zucchini

The other interesting thing I encountered in week 2 is my emotional relationship with food and drink – I had a crappy day and the desire to self-medicate with junk food and alcohol was overwhelming.  It made me take a good, long look at my automatic reaction to negativity and start thinking about how to change that…I still don’t have answers, but I have awareness and that’s a start.  Also, not letting myself succumb to those unhealthy urges, though tantrum inducing at the time, felt like I conquered something small but mighty.  It’s those little victories that I think you have to focus on during something like this. 

Guacamole bacon burgers with leftover pico, sauteed onions, and homemade chili fries.  This is how you indulge on the Whole30!

Anyway, here are the rest of my Whole30 Week 2 Observations:

The cravings continue and they really do sneak into your dreams. I have dreamt about grilled cheese sammies, rosé, margaritas (weird, not usually my drink), pizza, and croissants.

My energy is up in the mornings and through most of the day but I crash hard in the early evening.

My positivity is increased.  Mornings are the best, good energy + good mood!

Flavors are becoming brighter.  I put Tapatio on my eggs the other morning and I swear it had a whole new flavor profile!

I miss cheeeeeeeese.

James also pointed out that he’s missing crunch and I’m finding that he’s so right, there are not many things that give that satisfying potato/tortilla chip or cracker crunch in the fruit and veggie world. 

Tuna lettuce boats and oven fries

Leftover steak salad with chimichurri dressing

My skin is definitely brighter.  I’ve always been lucky with easy skin but I can see and feel a noticeable difference – clearer and softer.

The bags and circles under my eyes are less!  This one is huge for me.  My under-eye area has always been a trouble spot for me; the puffiness is genetic and I’ve always had dark circles, especially during allergy season – the fact that both are down is extremely poignant to me.

On the dark circles note – I’m sleeping way better.  Like, WAY better.  I used to wake up several times a night and I’m now sleeping all the way through pretty consistently, plus waking up feeling rested.  HUGE!  This is my favorite Whole30 effect so far.

The standard breakfast these days

My chimichurri came out runny but the flavor was still there so we went with it!

Who else has experienced detox like this?  Any advice or wisdom from Whole30/clean eating vets??

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Whole30 Experience: Week 1

Today marks one week that I’ve been living life on the Whole30.  It’s been quite an experience so far – I certainly feel grateful that James and a handful of friends (and my parents!) are participating alongside me; the support and empathy of one’s tribe seems pretty essential to surviving a challenge like this.  For those of you who don’t know what the Whole30 is I’m providing the link to their site below – it’s hard to put a definition to it because I feel like it’s something different to each participant.  It’s a diet, sure, but also a lifestyle change, a nutritional reset, an experiment, a cleanse…I think it depends on what you’re searching for.  If you’re curious you can read the official statements about the Whole30 here: 

Part of what I like about this diet (for lack of a better blanket term) is the fact that it has such versatile cause and effect, and therefore each person has his or her own unique experience throughout the 30 days.  Many of the things that are happening to me are not happening to my friends, or are happening differently, and they’re discovering things that are not a part of my journey so far…but the common thread is that every single one of us have tuned into our bodies, minds, and the world in a way we never have been before.  We’re looking at food differently, we’re feeling the effects of toxins leaving our body because we’re not replenishing them the way we usually do, we’re actively taking part in each thing we put in our bodies (so. much. cooking), and, after 7 days of it, I’m here to tell you: it’s kind of exhausting.  I mean that in a good way, I’m actually really enjoying the experience, but it’s a huge mental and physical shift regarding one of many of our favorite things – food. 

For James and me it’s a huge shift because we sort of revolve around food.  We’re constantly thinking about our next meal, when we go out of town it’s all about where we’re going to eat on vacation, celebratory events will obviously be recognized with a special plate and several adult beverages…this is not how the Whole30 works.  It’s still all about food but in a far more mindful way, and it’s broadening my horizons big time.  I like that my world revolves around food, but I think this experience is letting me explore a healthier way to live like that. 

I’m going to do weekly re-caps of my Whole30 experience and share a few things that I’ve made throughout the month – this week, since it’s the first, I want to start by sharing why I decided to make the commitment.

Wizard has been a very dutiful helper throughout the cooking process...

Week 1: Whole30 Re-Cap

I’ve been attracted to the Whole30 program for a long time, but like so many others out there I would consider it seriously for about 5 minutes and then decide it was too hard, I just love cheese and alcohol too much for all that noise.  However, as I learned more and more about nutrition it became considerably more difficult to discount the idea of an elimination diet – a cleanse to reset the body and then slowly add things back in to see how they make you feel.  Rather than a daunting, unrealistic chore the Whole30 began to look more like an exciting experiment; I could tell that my body and mind were ready to go there.  Luckily so were a lot of my people -- I have no idea how doing something like this alone would feel.  Isolating, probably, since most of my social activity involves eating and drinking with friends. 

So why I’m doing this in a nutshell: to learn about my body, to challenge my willpower and my creativity (both in the kitchen and in my social life), and to hopefully learn enough about how different ingredients affect me to jumpstart a positive lifestyle change.  Also to cook more.  I always want to cook more but laziness often gets the best of me – during the Whole30 that’s just not an option. 

Week 1 Experiences:

  • Very tired.  The first couple of days I was achy and foggy, it felt like a very physical detox.  Then it transitioned to just plain sleepy.  I had one day in the middle somewhere that I wanted physically damage anyone who made eye contact with me.

  • An odd sense of room in my mind for things that seem like they were stored away in a dark, dusty brain-broom closet.  It’s great because I suddenly am remembering all these projects I want to do and this business I want to build and thinking clearly about where I am in my life right now rather than wistfully wishing and dreaming about the future…but it’s also completely overwhelming because there’s no order or flow to anything.  All of these things have been stockpiled away, it’s as if someone opened the door and they all came spilling out at once.  I want to organize them…but I’m too tired. 

  • So many emotions.  I’m an emotional person as it is, but the detox and the clarity combined has me feeling all the feelings all the time.  I’ve done a lot of quiet crying over the last week, and not necessarily out of sadness.  I cried because I am missing my family and Oregon so desperately right now, and I cried during the first two episodes of Master Chef (several times) because all those hopeful home cooks just want to impress Gordon Ramsay so bad and only half of ‘em actually do.  Siiiigh. 

  • De-bloating!  I realized today that my body felt tighter and that I haven’t felt uncomfortably full or expanded since we began last Friday; detox symptoms aside, my belly likes being fed like this.  

  • Cravings for things I wouldn’t normally crave.  I’m not a bagel person but all I’ve wanted for the past five days is a toasted bagel loaded with cream cheese.  It’s weird, because this is something I would never normally seek out, but since I can’t have it I haven’t stopped thinking about it. 

Those have been the most significant experiences for me thus far, I can’t wait to see what week 2 has to bring to the party !  Until then here are a few photos of food.

Hooray Whole30!

This was one of our favorites: turkey meatballs in a roasted red pepper sauce, cauliflower mash, and roasted asparagus, all from the Whole30 cookbook.

Sometimes you still want to feel like you're indulging; these are chicken tenders breaded in almond flour (which is just very finely ground almonds) and oven baked fries.

And this is what a typical breakfast looks like (except there's usually avocado involved too).  Quick, easy, delicious -- just add hot sauce.

Friday, May 6, 2016

One Week Of Phonelessness

Almost exactly three weeks ago my friend Alyssa and packed a picnic bag (the modern girl’s picnic basket – less chic, more room for bread and cheese), wrangled four dogs into the car, and headed north toward a slightly cleaner ocean and a county that doesn’t care if you have pups (or champagne) on the beach.  I learned two things that day:

#1: Basically anything you do with four excited dogs in tow is hilarious, first to the people watching you attempt to handle it and later to you when the melee is over.  Mostly to the people watching you. 

#2: Don’t put your fancy phone that you’ve only had for 4 months in the broken pocket at the top of your floppy, beach bag, sling it over your shoulder, and go running maniacally along the surf line with your equally insane dog.  Your attention will be focused on your canine companion and it won’t be until he does something adorable and you reach for your fancy phone that you’ve only had for 4 months that you realize…it’s gone. 

Photo by Alyssa Rosenthal (@alyssajrose)

I lost my phone to an eager tide that day; even as we frantically retraced our steps I knew it was gone.  And I resigned myself to that fact easier than I think most would because hey, what could I do?  My phone was in the ocean.

When I got home I went through the standard steps – put a message up on Facebook, texted my parents from James’ phone, hated myself a little for being so careless, both with my possessions and with my sunscreen application…worst sunburn I’ve had in years.  My parents messaged me back saying they had my mom’s old iPhone 4, her first smart phone, most peoples’ first smart phone, and would send it the next day for me to use.  Great!  I’ll at least have something to be in touch with the world soon. 

My dad sent me an email the following day saying he’d put the phone in the mail, it should arrive on Thursday.  It was Sunday.  Woof.  Alright, I think, I can be without a phone for a while.  It’ll be good for me!  I’ll read more!  I’ll get so much done! 

Here’s what I experienced during my days without a phone:

I did not read more.  I watched just as much TV as I do when I have a phone and browsed Facebook from my laptop instead of writing or cleaning or being productive.  Same story, different screen. 

When I was productive I found that being without a phone was sort of like having a phantom limb.  I would reach for it constantly while I was cooking, when I woke up in the morning, when I got home and flopped onto the couch, when Wizard or Ramsey did something silly…I would sometimes even hear it buzz when I was home alone.  I was totally haunted by my absent phone. 

I missed – genuinely missed – taking pictures of my food.

I could not go anywhere I didn’t already know the way to.  Like, I’m bad with directions even when the phone is telling me step-by-step how to get somewhere.  It takes several times of driving the same route for me to be able to get there from memory.  Unless I was printing out some good ol’ Mapquest directions there’s no way I was heading outside of my little comfort zone.

I got out of bed and went to sleep so much faster.  When I wake up I am so guilty of scrolling through a billion social media sites before getting out of bed.  It makes me feel lethargic, usually means I’m comparing myself to a slew of other people before I’ve even had my coffee, and kills sometimes up to an hour of valuable morning that I’ll never get back.  I hate this habit.  Without a phone it wasn’t an option.  I’d wake up, stare at the ceiling for a few minutes, and get up.  It was fantastic!  I felt better about myself and it was somehow easier to start the day productively when I felt successful about simply getting out of bed.  The same goes for falling asleep – without my phone I didn’t lie in bed for hours browsing Pinterest “to unwind,” I just turned the light off and went to sleep.  Yes, I still fell asleep with the TV on, but hey, one less screen right before bed can’t be a bad thing.  My TV didn’t fall into the ocean, people, one bad habit at a time!

My mom and I text every day, usually just little things here and there, but we’re constantly in touch.  I love it.  Without my phone I felt so far away from her, so we started emailing.  Instead of little texts throughout the day we would send one long, detailed email each, and it felt like such a deeper communication – I suddenly realized I had so much to tell her.  We exchanged some thoughtful, hilarious, and tearful emails, even when they weren’t long-winded I felt more connected to her.  Moms make wonderful pen pals.

I got my iPhone 4 on Friday (UPS made me sweat it out one extra day, bringing me to six full days without a phone) and activating it felt like Christmas morning.  I was back!  And even though it sort of barely functioned (even sending and receiving text messages took longer for it to process.  Basically there have been too many updates since the little brick’s time and it can’t keep up) I found myself slipping back into old habits – the emailing stopped, mornings and evenings were filled with scrolling, etc.  Now, as I sit here writing this, two weeks later, about to head to the Sprint store to get a new phone, I find myself wondering how to find the balance between the two worlds.  There were things that I loved about not having a phone; there were things that made me miserable.  I love social media, but how much is too much?  I love texting, but maybe I need to look at what I’m not taking the time to share.  Maybe I need to be that person who sets their phone across the room so I have to get up to turn the alarm off.  Maybe (definitely) I should turn all the screens off every once in a while and just…read.

I’m getting this new phone with a commitment to balance.  That’s my May goal – no list this month, just…focus on finding the areas in my life that are off and bring them to balance.  If anyone has the secret ingredient please share, I’ll do the same if I find it.