Advice for People in Their Early 20s

By Leo Babauta

A young woman wrote to me recently about fears about the future:

‘I’m in my 20s and I’m trying to figure my future out. I’m just wondering how to stop worrying and letting the fear of the unknown totally consume my daily thoughts (I’m moving from Sweden to American and have no idea how to find a job, a place to live, etc.). I’m very much scared of the future, but even though I have overcome obstacles before.’

The first thing I would say to her is: You are not alone. Lots of people, young and old, are afraid of the unknown, especially when things are not settle, everything’s up in the air.

I have a daughter in her early 20s, a son who is 18 … they have no idea what the future holds for them. Neither did I when I was young, and to be honest, I still don’t! Things are a little less scary for me these days, but I know what it’s like to be afraid of a wide open, scary future.

The second thing I would say is this: No one has the answers. No one knows the best path you should take. No one has figured out the ultimate answer to your problem of fearing the future. The best of us just fake it and make it look like we know what we’re doing. We don’t. We’re still trying to figure it out too, and the honest truth is, most of us are either scared shitless or faking it, even to ourselves.

But you want some practical advice, I’m sure. So let me do my best here … but always remember that 1) you’re not alone, and 2) no one really has any answers, if we’re being honest.

Get Good at Something

You don’t have a job, no fixed things to do, things are wide open … and that’s scary, but also an advantage. Your schedule is open, and you have immense possibilities.

The way to take advantage of that is to find something to get good at, and then get good at it. As good as you can.

And here’s more good news: it doesn’t really matter what you choose. If you choose to get good at design, and work for two years on that, and then discover you hate it … you can switch! You might then get good at making hand-crafted goods, and then switch when you decide that’s not for you. You might then learn programming and get good at that. Or learn blogging, and get good at that. It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because time spent getting good at something is never wasted. You learn about how to get good at something. You meet others who are passionate. You make connections, with people and with ideas and with yourself. You learn about yourself in the process.

How do you get good at something? First, go offline, so you get away from distractions. Then:

  1. Pick something, anything, that interests you.
  2. Find the easiest next step, and get moving on it.
  3. Find joy in that step.
  4. Find someone to share it with. Better yet, find someone you have to turn it in to, like a boss or colleague or client or friend who will hold you accountable.
  5. Find the next easy step, and enjoy that as well.

You’ll suck. You’ll doubt yourself. You’ll wish you were better, faster. We all do that, but the good news is, you’re young and it’s good to suck for awhile. By the time you’re in your 30s, you’ll suck a lot less.

You’ll build some momentum. You’ll start to love it because you start to get good at it. You’ll start to think you know what you’re doing, then realize there’s a lot more to learn, and then find that scary, then find that exciting.

Connect With Interesting People

Find people online doing interesting things, meet up with them in real life. Find people who are passionate, who are building things, who are pushing themselves, who dream big, who are mindful and joyful and healthy and friendly and shy and gregarious and adventurous and curious.

Befriend them. Be there for them. Be helpful. Make them laugh. These are your people.

They will lift you up, excite you, fill your life with meaning. They’ll make sincerity and joy your new normal.

These people will help your future career in some way, but that’s not the important thing: what really matters is that friends matter. Having ones that dump on you sucks. Having ones that support and inspire you, who love and value you … that makes life meaningful.

But don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. Shut off the social media sometimes, and just focus on what you’re doing. When you get together with friends, find out what they’re doing, and be happy for them, but don’t worry that you’re not doing those things. That’s their life, and it’s awesome, but your life will be uniquely what you decide to do.

On Finances

You don’t have a job yet. That’s OK, but you need to find a way to make money. You can freelance, wash cars, drive for Uber, get a temp job, be an intern, it doesn’t matter. Find a way to pay rent, and ideally, learn some great skills while you’re making rent.

If your job isn’t a dream job, just do it for now to pay rent, and spend your spare time building a skill, getting good at something. But don’t let yourself get stuck in that job — keep your eyes open for something better. Start your own business on the side if you can.

Spend less than you earn. Everyone says it, then most people ignore it. The secret is to want very little. Be satisfied with few possessions, simple food, not needing the newest everything or the coolest restaurants or entertainment. Find a library, read some free books, work on some skills, eat simple vegan food. Save as much as you can. Yes, you’re young and not worried about retirement, but having money when you’re old isn’t the point — the point is to build an emergency fund so you aren’t scared about making rent.

Worrying About the Future

It’s normal to worry about the future, but probably the best antidote is to learn to shift your focus to what’s right in front of you, right now.

Are you doing some work? Focus on the physical act of doing that. Are you eating? What are the physical sensations of the food like. Are you riding a train? How does your butt feel on the seat, your feet feel on the ground? What are the sounds like? What can you see around you?

This might seem like trite advice, but what happens is that you learn to turn from your anxiety about the future to noticing what’s around you in the present moment. And you realize that while the unknown future might seem scary, the present moment is just fine.

You’ll find, from one moment to the next, that each moment is fine. You’ll start to develop a trust in the present moment. And that’s the antidote to fears about the future: learning to trust that you’ll be OK, because as each moment passes, you keep being OK.

Toasted Coconut Apricot Muesli

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Growing up, I had an intense passion for breakfast cereal. At breakfast, I would create a small fort with two cereal boxes separated by a carton of milk, and I’d hide in my fortress and read the back of the boxes while slurping down at least two large bowls in a sitting. And it wasn’t just breakfast. After school snack? Cereal. And as I grew, mindless study snack in college? Cereal. Weeknight dinner in my first apartment out of college? Cereal.

When Alex and I started eating all whole foods, I resolved it was time to kick the cereal addiction. Not that cereal is “bad”, but I wanted to decrease my dependence on this food group and work on replacing it with whole grains instead. (Also, I was tired of grocery store clerks saying “You like cereal, huh?” when I checked out massive quantities of the stuff.) Switching to an entirely new breakfast tradition helped immensely, but I still found myself craving the cereal experience as a comforting treat.

So how to make non-processed, whole foods breakfast cereal at home? Oats, the original breakfast cereal. Oatmeal and granola are two of my favorites, but I started getting lazy and eating raw oats with milk and a bit of maple syrup. Turns out this is a real thing called muesli: a mixture of raw oats, dried fruits, seeds, and nuts. Instead of toasting the ingredients like in granola, they’re eaten raw with milk (regular, almond or soy). It might sound odd to those accustomed to breakfast cereal, but it is one of my favorite foods on the planet, probably because of the tradition of my cereal past.

Granted, I typically throw random oats and seeds in a bowl, but a fancy muesli like this one is well worth the time for a flavorful breakfast treat. This recipe combines dried apricots (since our pantry was abounding), crystallized ginger, and pumpkin seeds with oats, toasted almonds and toasted coconut for an unexpected mix of flavors. The recipe is completely customizable so feel free to sub in your favorite nuts, seeds, or dried fruits. We top it with almond milk, and if they’re on hand, some fresh berries. If you’d like, you can add a bit of maple syrup, but this mix is sweet enough that it doesn’t need it. I also like to add a small pinch of kosher salt to enhance the flavors. It’s so simple to put together, it’s almost a “non-recipe”, but I love that it’s a thing; and the perfect thing to satisfy my sentimental cereal+milk cravings.

We used Califia Farms almond milk and fresh blackberries from Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market. Another way to eat muesli is soaking it in milk overnight; we prefer the texture fresh. This is a great option for vegan / plant-based, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free breakfasts.

Toasted Coconut Apricot Muesli
 
by:
Serves: 5½ to 6 cups
What You Need
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • ⅓ cup pepitas (roasted, if possible)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • A few pinches kosher salt
  • Almond milk, to serve (we used Califia Almond Milk)
  • Fresh berries, to serve (optional)
What To Do
  1. In a large skillet over moderately low heat, toast 1 cup almonds until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan, then wipe the pan with a paper towel to remove any almond skin.
  2. Add ½ cup coconut flakes to the warmed pan and toast until golden, stirring constantly, for a minute or two. Cool the almonds and coconut flakes.
  3. Chop 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 cup dried apricots.
  4. When the almonds and coconut are cool, mix together with ginger, apricots, 3 cups oats, ⅓ cup pepitas, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and a few pinch kosher salt. Store in an airtight container; stores a few weeks, but is best fresh. Serve with almond milk. If desired, top with fresh berries.
This recipe was developed for Califia Farms.

How To Pack Food For A Weekend Away In An Hour! (Plant-Based)

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We’re off to a wedding, a birthday party, my in-laws, and then to visit my grammy (Adriana gets to meet her Great-Grammy!) over the long weekend. This means we’re going to clock a ton of hours on the road, so I am coming prepared! Even though a lot of our meals will be made for us (such as dinner Saturday and Sunday night), I like to fill in the blanks by packing some light meals and healthy snack options to have on hand.

After I made the recipes Eric said, “Whoa, that didn’t take you long at all!” – and he was right, it took me just over 1 hour to prepare 4 recipes. Granted, I was going turbo mode, but still. I purposely selected quick and easy recipes (many are from the 2-day meal plan) which I also tend to have most of the ingredients for in my fridge and pantry. And if I don’t have all the ingredients I just improvise! So when Eric commented on how quickly the packed foods came together it struck me that this would be fun to share on the blog. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse into what I’m packing for a weekend away. (Keep in mind this isn’t intended to cover all of your meals – just to supplement when necessary. Feel free to tweak it as you see fit.)

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What I made (click the links to the brought to the recipe!):

  1. Chickpea Salad with butter lettuce “wraps”
  2. Gazpacho (amazing for summer – no cook and super refreshing)
  3. Energy bites – I’m still perfecting the recipe in the photo above so rather than sharing it before it’s ready, I recommend you try these amazing Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites! <—a fav!
  4. Vegan Overnight Oats (note: I doubled this recipe, plus added 2 extra tbsp chia seeds, and 2 small chopped bananas for more volume. If the mixture gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of almond or coconut milk)

Not shown: I’m also packing a few of my Coconut-Cardamom Overnight Oat Parfaits for the car! If I had more time I would’ve also made a batch of my Lightened Up Summer Granola.

What else I packed:

Hummus, portable fruit, homemade maple cinnamon almond butter (or store-bought), my favourite crackers, food for Adriana. Eric says he’s bringing the Vitamix to make green monsters at his parent’s house. Who is this guy? I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything in the car…especially with a stroller, baby stuff, and my shoes for every terrain (rustic, outdoor wedding!). Should be interesting…

Tips:

– These are my go-to glass storage containers. Mason jars also work lovely!

– Pack several ice packs to ensure the food stays cool and fresh. You don’t want to arrive at your destination with room temperature food.

– Pack the energy bites on top so they don’t get squished.

– You can improvise with these recipes a lot. I make all kinds of versions of Gazpacho, the energy bites, and the chickpea salad. For this chickpea salad I didn’t have any celery so I just used a whole red bell pepper (diced) instead. It’s pretty forgiving so don’t worry!

– Pack the gazpacho in a thermos if you want to save room in the cooler. Otherwise a large 2-quart mason jar will hold the batch.

energybites

Ok, now I’m turning it over to you. Which foods do you like to pack for trips? Share your favs below!

Well guys…I seriously cannot believe it’s August 1st. *still in a 2015 time warp* I hope you are enjoying the dog days of summer. Soak it up and have a fun + safe weekend!!

A Brief Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit

By Leo Babauta

There aren’t many of us who don’t have some bad habit we’d like to quit: smoking, sweets, shopping, nail-biting, porn, excessive checking of phones or social media, other distractions …

The problem is that we think we don’t have the willpower, faced with past evidence of failure after failure when we’ve tried to quit before.

We don’t think we can quit, so we don’t even try. Or if we do try, we give ourselves an “out,” and don’t fully commit ourselves.

Let me tell you this: quitting a bad habit takes everything you’ve got.

It’s hard, but doable — if you put your entire being into it.

If you’re ready to finally quit something, here’s a short guide to doing just that.

10-Steps — Just as Good as the 12-Step Folk

You don’t actually need to follow every single one of these steps to quit a habit, but the more of them you do, the higher your chances. I recommend all of them if you want to be all in.

  1. Have a big motivation. Lots of times people quit things because it sounds nice: “It would be nice to quit caffeine.” But that’s a weak motivation. What you really want is strong motivation: I quit smoking because I knew it was killing me, and I knew my kids would smoke as adults if I didn’t quit. Know your Why, and connect with it throughout your quit. Write it down at the top of a document called your “Quit Plan.”
  2. Make a big commitment. Now that you know your motivation, be fully committed. A common mistake is say, “I’ll do this today,” but then letting yourself off the hook when the urges get strong. Instead, tell everyone about it. Ask for their help. Give them regular updates and be accountable. Have a support partner you can call on when you need help. Ask people not to let you off the hook. Be all in.
  3. Be aware of your triggers. What events trigger your bad habit? The habit doesn’t just happen, but is triggered by something else: you smoke when other people smoke, or you shop when you’re stressed out, or you eat junk food when you’re bored, or you watch porn when you’re lonely, or you check your social media when you feel the need to fill space in your day. Watch yourself for a few days and notice what triggers your habit, make a list of triggers on your Quit Plan, and then develop an awareness of when those triggers happen.
  4. Know what need the habit is meeting. We have bad habits for a reason — they meet some kind of need. For every trigger you wrote down, look at what need the habit might be meeting in that case. The habit might be helping you cope with stress. For some of the other triggers, it might help you to socialize, or cope with sadness, boredom, loneliness, feeling bad about yourself, being sick, dealing with a crisis, needing a break or treat or comfort. Write these needs down on your Quit Plan, and think of other ways you might cope with them.
  5. Have a replacement habit for each trigger. So what will you do when you face the trigger of stress? You can’t just not do your old bad habit — it will leave an unfilled need, a hole that you will fill with your old bad habit if you don’t meet the need somehow. So have a good habit to do when you get stressed, or when someone gets angry at you, etc. Make a list of all your triggers on your Quit Plan, with a new habit for each one (one new, good habit can serve multiple triggers if you like).
  6. Watch the urges, and delay. You will get urges to do your bad habit, when the triggers happen. These urges are dangerous if you just act on them without thinking. Learn to recognize them as they happen, and just sit there watch the urge rise and get stronger, and then and fall. Delay yourself, if you really want to act on the urge. Breathe. Drink some water. Call someone for help. Go for a walk. Get out of the situation. The urge will go away, if you just delay.
  7. Do the new habit each time the trigger happens. This will take a lot of conscious effort — be very aware of when the trigger happens, and very aware of doing the new habit instead of the old automatic one. If you mess up, forgive yourself, but you need to be very conscious of being consistent here, so the new habit will start to become automatic. This is one reason it’s difficult to start with bad habits — if there are multiple triggers that happen randomly throughout the day, it means you need to be conscious of your habit change all day, every day, for weeks or more.
  8. Be aware of your thinking. We justify bad habits with thinking. You have to watch your thoughts and realize when you’re making excuses for doing your old bad habit, or when you start feeling like giving up instead of sticking to your change. Don’t believe your rationalizations.
  9. Quit gradually. Until recently, I was a fan of the Quit Cold Turkey philosophy, but I now believe you can quit gradually. That means cut back from 20 cigarettes to 15, then 10, then 5, then zero. If you do this a week at a time, it won’t seem so difficult, and you might have a better chance of succeeding.
  10. Learn from mistakes. We all mess up sometimes — if you do, be forgiving, and don’t let one mistake derail you. See what happened, accept it, figure out a better plan for next time. Write this on your Quit Plan. Your plan will get better and better as you continually improve it. In this way, mistakes are helping you improve the method.

I’m not saying this is an easy method, but many people have failed because they ignored the ideas here. Don’t be one of them. Put yourself all into this effort, find your motivation, and replace your habit with a better habit for each trigger. You got this.

Help Quitting Your Habit

If you’d like help quitting your habit, join my Sea Change Program as we learn how to quit a habit in August. It’s free to try for a week, so sign up today and do your quit with us!

The program offers:

  1. Articles & videos to teach you about the concept of quitting.
  2. Daily reminder emails if you want them.
  3. A forum for discussion.
  4. A live video webinar with me where you can ask questions.

Sign up here to be a part of the Quit a Bad Habit module.

Coconut-Cardamom Vegan Overnight Oat Parfait with Blueberry Chia Seed Jam

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Food photography has been sparse in my house these days (Now, if we’re talking baby photography on iPhones, well let’s just say I’m killing it.) Lately, I only have 15-20 minutes for food photoshoots, so I’ve learned to be super quick when it comes to snapping pictures. I used to be militant about using my tripod, but I haven’t pulled it out in months. I used to give photoshoots a bit of planning before diving in, but that rarely happens anymore. It’s taken me a while to realize that my expectations of how things should be done aren’t always practical for the stage of my life that I’m in. This applies to life in general too. I’m going to do what I can and try to be a bit easier on myself. Perfectionism kills creativity. It’s also the killer of fun! If I only have 10 minutes to snap some photos, so be it. I’d rather share a little bit than nothing at all.

I started off this photoshoot using this darker background – it’s a scratched up piece of metal signage I found at an antique market last year (the front of the sign says “DO NOT ENTER”). I thought it was going to work perfectly, but I actually found it to be too moody for this recipe. It just looks too dark for the light, summery mood I was going for.

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So I switched to my trusty slab of white quartz instead. It’s the surface I’ve used the most in the past year. It’s heavy as heck and I actually managed to dent the hardwood with it one day (*headsmack*). Anyway, I like this clean and fresh feel much better even though the lighting wasn’t the best because I shot at noon when the sun is overhead. The inspiration for the photo came from Ashley. She did a cool multi-jar shot with homemade milk for my cookbook. Too much fun!

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In Lightroom, I made minor edits to the photo: increased clarity, exposure, whites, saturation, and removed blue and adjusted temperature. It took me about 30 seconds. There are things about the lighting I’m not super happy with and I probably blew it out too much, but oh well. Gotta pick your battles!

This is the same photo before editing…50 shades of grey!

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So that’s where my head is at with photography lately. I’d love to spend more time on it again, but right now I’m rolling with doing it under a time crunch. I’m beyond excited that Ashley is shooting the photography for my next cookbook. I honestly can’t imagine doing over 100 photos again with a baby crawling at my feet (and stealing the food). You guys are going to be blown away by the photos in the next book. We’ll have to show you some sneak peeks!

Now, finally onto the food. This is my newest overnight oat parfait creation. Six to seven years later, I’m still making vegan overnight oats on the regular. I’ll often make a large batch that lasts 2-3 days in the fridge. Or sometimes I eat it all in one day because I just can’t help myself. It’s so easy, perfect for the summer, and endlessly customizable. Make it parfait-style in portable jars and you’ll have snacks for days. Toss it in your bag and run out the door. Bring one for your friend and he/she will love you even more.

If you haven’t tried overnight oats layered with chia seed jam, you really must. It’s divine. This would be great with granola on top too.

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Coconut-Cardamom Vegan Overnight Oat Parfait with Blueberry Chia Seed Jam

Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free

Overnight oats are getting fancy up in here! Coconut milk, oats, and chia seeds are mixed with ground cardamom, cinnamon, and maple syrup, and then layered with blueberry chia seed jam and sliced pear. You’ll want to eat this for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner! Chia seeds don’t lie. Also, can I just say how awesome a layer of vegan ice cream or banana soft serve would be in this?

Yield
4-6 small jars
Prep Time
15 Minutes
Cook time
25 Minutes
Total Time
40 Minutes

Ingredients:

For the blueberry chia seed jam:
  • 550g frozen blueberries (about 4 cups + 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, or to taste
  • Dash fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
For the vegan overnight oats:
  • 1 (15-oz) can full-fat coconut milk (yes you can use light, but full-fat is super creamy and delish)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom , or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1-2 small ripe pears, diced (for layering)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the chia seed jam: In a medium pot, stir together the blueberries and maple syrup until combined. Add a dash of salt. Simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered, for about 8-10 minutes until softened (the berries will release a lot of water during this time).
  2. Add the chia seeds and stir until combined. Continue simmering and stirring frequently (reducing heat if necessary to avoid sticking) about 8-15 minutes longer, until most of the water cooks off and the jam reduces in volume. it will look thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the  lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, uncovered, and into the fridge until cool, for at least a couple hours. For a quicker cooling method, pop the jam in the freezer, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until cool.
  4. For the vegan overnight oats: In a medium container (with a lid) or in a medium bowl, stir together the entire can of coconut milk, oats, chia seeds, maple syrup, cardamom, and cinnamon until combined. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours, or overnight, until the oats soften and the mixture thickens. Stir to combine before using.
  5. Layer the chia jam, overnight oats, and diced pear into small jars. Secure lids (or cover with wrap) and store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. The chia seed jam will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Also, leftover jam can be frozen in plastic baggies and it thaws beautifully.

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PS – Thank you for your enthusiasm regarding my 2-Day Meal Plan! I’m so thrilled by your response and hope to do another in the future.

Worried About What You’re Not Doing

By Leo Babauta

In any given moment, many of us are thinking about what we’re not doing.

We feel guilty that we’re not doing more. Worried that we’re not as productive as we could be. Guilty that we procrastinate.

We feel guilty that we don’t exercise more, eat right, have better bodies.

We worry that we should be doing something better, something more amazing, doing what the amazing people we see online are doing.

We worry about what we have to do later, what’s next, where we’re going.

We worry about the goals we’re not reaching, or that we might not reach. We feel guilty that we’ve failed in our many attempts at these goals or habits.

We worry about what other people are doing, the ones we see in social media, the ones whose pictures in Instagram look more amazing than our lives.

We feel guilty that we aren’t perfecting ourselves. That we aren’t doing the perfect thing right now.

This is perfectly natural, and there’s nothing wrong with this worry and guilt. We all feel it. I’ve probably felt it about a dozen time just this morning.

But there is another way. Allow me to share this way with you today.

The Fallacy of What You’re Not Doing

I think we have an idea that in an alternate universe, there’s a version of ourselves that could be living a more amazing life. That is perfectly productive (no procrastination!), that doesn’t get distracted, that hits all kinds of goals. At the same time, this person is also traveling, having amazing experiences, living the life with great friends and a wonderful partner. This person is learning all kinds of skills, reading, learning about fascinating topics. With a great body, of course.

This alternate self, of course, doesn’t exist, and never will.

All we have is this plain ol’ regular self. We’re stuck with it.

So we should make the best of what we have. Take a look at the current-reality self and say, “Hey, you’re OK. You’re pretty awesome in some ways. In other ways you’re flawed. That’s how all Earthlings are, actually. In any case, you’re good enough. Oh, and btw, I love you.”

There’s no perfect version of your life, of you. There’s no perfect thing you should be doing now, no perfect sequence of things you should be doing today.

There’s just what this moment is … including your dissatisfaction with this moment and yourself (and other people). This dissatisfaction is part of the moment you’re stuck with.

So we can be dissatisfied with this moment, or practice being satisfied with it.

Satisfaction & Appreciation of This Plain Ol’ Moment

The other way that I mentioned above is a simple (but not easy) practice:

  1. Pause, and notice that you’re worried about what you’re not doing. Notice the feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself or this current moment.
  2. Accept your feeling of dissatisfaction as a part of you, and just allow yourself to feel it. Notice the sensations of this feeling in your body.
  3. Turn to the current moment: what are you doing right now? Be completely present with the physical sensations of whatever activity you’re doing.
  4. Notice that this current moment is absolutely enough. It doesn’t need to be different, doesn’t need to be more. It’s great already, in its own way. And so are you.

This is a practice, and it’s not something you’ll ever perfect. You just remind yourself, and forget, and remind yourself, and forget. That’s the fun of it.

This post, by the way, is as much a note to myself to remember to do this as it is a guide to anyone else who might find some use in it.

May this moment, and the next, be full of enough-ness for you.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Alaska…stole my heart. Last month, Alex and I took an epic trip there as part of a family vacation; my sister and her fiancé flew in from Burma and my parents from Minnesota. We met in Juneau, my sister’s fiancé’s hometown, and spent time with his parents. Having locals as tour guides was fabulous, and is hands down my favorite way to explore a place. The houses we rented were both true gems, and the scenery — well, you’ll just have to take a look. Hiking, fishing, bird-watching, drinking coffee, spotting whales, flying over towering mountain peaks, meandering in quiet rain forests — we couldn’t have asked for more. I’ll narrate a bit, but will leave the photographs to do most of the talking. (In a separate post, I’ll cover Skagway and Glacier Bay.) Hold onto your hats.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Our first house in Juneau

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Day 1 – we embark on a fishing trip with gear from our rental house and my sister’s fiancé Evan as our guide. My #1 bucket list item is to “catch a fish and eat it”, and I’m ready for this trip to fulfill my dream. (I’m a city girl through and through, so this is a big deal.)

 Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Mainly I caught leaves and seaweed, and tangled the line. But it was beautiful.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks  Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, and many of the trees are covered in moss.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

View from the porch of our house, on to Mendenhall Glacier

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We’re at it again, this time me and my dad. No dice. But we had precious father-daughter time, which has been few and far between after I moved away from home.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Glad our rental house had rubber boots! They are all the rage in Juneau, men and women alike.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

A hike through the rain forest near Mendenhall Glacier…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Spontaneous selfie! It’s not often we’re all on the same continent.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

My sis and me…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Another gorgeous hike outside of Juneau…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

The food was fabulous! Our favorites were The Rookery and Salt (below). Below is truffle fries, quinoa and beet salad, ensalada caprese, halibut ceviche, and a house salad with crispy chickpeas.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We toured Alaskan Brewing Company with a family friend, which was a treat! Their Smoked Porter is pretty brilliant.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple CooksJuneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

After trips to Skagway and Glacier Bay (which we’ll share soon), we settled into a second house in Juneau.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

We celebrated July 4 on the water…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Back to our little red house with a view…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

My favorite part of the mornings: a slow cup of coffee with our Aeropress.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple CooksJuneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks  Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Our last day in Juneau was one of the most beautiful I’d seen. Another gorgeous hike, a short drive outside of Juneau…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

And, my last chance at fishing. This time my sister’s fiancé and his dad showed me the ropes.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

They each got a salmon. I was starting to feel discouraged…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Until…

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

It was just a little guy, but it still counts, right? (I’ll have bigger fish to fry on the next trip.)

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

The view from our deck on the last day was stunning.

Juneau, Alaska | A Couple Cooks

I can’t wait to return to this magical part of the country. Thanks to my parents for arranging everything, to my sister for coming home, and for her fiancé’s parents for being the best tour guides we could imagine. Let us know if you have any questions about Juneau! We can provide links to the houses we rented if that is helpful.

Other Travel Posts
Arches National Park + Monument Valley, Utah
Flagstaff, Arizona
Traverse City, Michigan
Santorini, Greece
Amalfi Coast: Positano, Capri, & Ravello, Italy
Rome and Naples, Italy
Cambodia and Laos

The Gods of This Day

By Leo Babauta

This morning my son Seth woke up, gave me my morning hug, and then I told him that he and I are gods.

We’re the Gods of This Day, and we have the power to make today one of the most amazing days ever.

We don’t have unlimited power, but we have great influence. To make today amazing, we need to:

  1. Choose activities we love, or turn ordinary things into amazing activities.
  2. Really pay attention to each activity, and really appreciate its amazingness.

Or, we could just let today be ordinary and not care. We chose to care.

So we spent about 20 minutes thinking out what we could do today to make it incredible, and we came up with:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes (Noelle is going to make them)
  • Read Harry Potter together
  • The Gods & House-elves Great Cleaning Race (we are supposed to clean house a bit, so we’re turning it into a game)
  • Lunch: Home-made pizza (I’ll make the dough, Seth makes the toppings)
  • Ride bikes
  • Play in the park
  • Play chess
  • Read our novels (I’m reading American Gods, Seth is reading Candy Shop War)
  • Write / program (I’ll write, Seth programs on Scratch)
  • Dinner: Teriyaki tofu stir-fy
  • Evening: watch our favorite TV shows on our projector

The day will probably not go exactly as planned, so we’ll have to be flexible, but I love that we spent some time imagining a great day that’s within our power to create.

And as we go through today, the entire day will be an exercise in mindfulness and gratitude/appreciation.

Not every day can be planned — usually we have to take what comes, or we have constraints to work within. That’s OK, but as the Gods of This Day, we still have the power to make it amazing.

As a fellow God of This Day, what will you do with your power?

Berries and Peaches with Mint Syrup

Berries and Peaches with Mint Syrup | A Couple CooksBerries and Peaches with Mint Syrup | A Couple CooksBerries and Peaches with Mint Syrup | A Couple CooksBerries and Peaches with Mint Syrup | A Couple CooksBerries and Peaches with Mint Syrup | A Couple CooksWhy should we all use our creative power…? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. ~Brenda Ueland

Some people ooze creativity, but I would contend after my 33 years on this earth that we are all born with a creative spirit. Maybe it’s not easily visible in some people, but instead of singing or dancing perhaps it’s creative problem solving skills. Or, I’ve met engineers who are closet painters or sculptors. And I’ve learned from teaching cooking that once people have the tools of how to create a meal, they are creative and inventive beyond what they thought possible.

I identify as a creative: I was a writer and played classical piano and French horn throughout my childhood, then ended up majoring in music and journalism in college. Since I chose a career in the business world (I’m part owner of a technical writing firm), I’ve had to determine how to balance an intense creative passion with a demanding career. How’s that for a challenge? I’d imagine many of you reading this have had similar experiences. Cooking became that creative outlet for me, and along with that this blog.

Many times, the stress of running two businesses while trying to be a loving boss / wife / daughter / friend / sister / aunt / niece / etc. has left me on less than a full tank. A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be approached by a dear friend to try out a book called The Artist’s Way that focuses on creative renewal. One of the challenges in the book was to take an “artist’s date” each week, where you do something to indulge your inner artist. For me, it was playing a Chopin waltz I hadn’t touched in years. It felt so good, I cried (ha!). Creative healing central, here. If any of you readers are creatives or wanting to tap into more creative potential, I’d highly recommend the book.

And now, the food. To me, a simple recipe that highlights interesting flavors with minimal effort is #1 in creativity in my book (at least, in the home cooking realm!). A dear friend made this for a picnic and I couldn’t get over the simple beauty of vibrant, ripe fruit against the minty sweetness of a light drizzle of syrup. Our variation with this local fruit from our farmer’s market was beyond stellar. Like eating the best kind of candy possible.  And if you struggle with work / life balance as I do, it’s also a super simple dessert for a summer evening. Whip up a bit of the syrup (which mainly involves hands off wait time) and store it in the refrigerator for the next occasion.

We’d love to hear in the comments below if any of you have thoughts on creativity, creative renewal, work / life balance, etc. Hope your summer is going well! 

Mint Syrup
 
by:
Serves: 1½ cups
What You Need
  • Large handful of mint stems
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
What To Do
  1. Remove the leaves from the mint and reserve for a garnish. Roughly cut the mint stems so they fit in a medium saucepan. In the saucepan, add 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar Bring to a simmer and simmer for a few minutes until thickened.
  2. Remove from the heat and cool for about 1 hour while the mint seeps. When cool, strain into an airtight container. (Makes 1½ cups syrup; store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.)
Berries and Peaches with Mint Syrup
 
by:
Serves: 4
What You Need
  • ½ pint blackberries
  • ½ pint raspberries
  • 2 peaches
  • Mint leaves
  • Mint syrup (above)
What To Do
  1. Slice the peaches. Place the berries and peaches on a plate and drizzle syrup over fruit. Garnish with mint leaves.
 

The Joyful Results of My Grand Travel Experiment

By Leo Babauta

I’m just finishing up four weeks in Europe with Eva and the kids, and wrapping up my Grand Travel Experiment. I have to say it was (mostly) a success.

I wasn’t perfect, but even in the failures, I learned a lot.

I’ve written recently about my work and workout routines while I travel, so I’ll try not to repeat too much, but this post will be an overall summary of the entire experiment.

During this experiment, I wanted to work on several problem areas for me in past trips:

  1. Overeating
  2. No regular exercise routine
  3. No regular work routine
  4. No regular meditation
  5. Not being able to let go of expectations of my kids

I did better than I’ve ever done with work, exercise and meditation, and the overeating and expectations of my kids were mixed successes but with lots of learning.

I’d love to summarize what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I’ve learned, for each area.

1. Overeating

My experiment was to eat whatever I wanted (including vegan gelato!), but to try to be mindful as I ate, and not overeat. I rated myself after every meal (More than 110 of them!) on a scale of 1 (overate so much it hurts) to 5 (not quite full but sated).

Results: I was a 3 or 4 on almost all meals, and rarely a 2 or a 5. I never got to a 1, though my kids did sometimes. I consider this a huge success over past trips, where I either 1) overate on almost every meal or 2) restricted what I could eat so much that I didn’t get to eat a lot of tasty vegan food. I would have preferred more 4s and less 3s, but honestly, that would have been an unrealistic expectation. Overall, I think with the exercise and not overeating too much, I didn’t gain much, if any, weight on the trip. Which is amazing for a 4-week trip!

What I did right: Each day, I had a goal of trying to hit about 20 points, including 5 possible points for work and another 5 for workouts … so if I did perfectly with those, I’d need 10 points for three meals. That’s two 3s and a 4, which wasn’t hard to hit. This running tally in my head reminded me to be mindful (most of the time). I also asked the kids to remind me not to overeat if I was in danger of not making my points.

What I did wrong: Sometimes I couldn’t help myself and I overate. This didn’t feel good, because I don’t like being overfull, nor does it make me feel healthy. My problem is with trigger foods (like French fries/frites, or sweets). I tend to just inhale these instead of eating slowly and being mindful of my fullness level.

What I learned: I need to notice before I start eating a trigger food, and treat it as a danger zone. I should still be able to eat it, but I should be careful as I do so, as these are difficult foods for me.

2. Exercise

In the past, I would be too tired from all the walking we do when we travel to keep up regular exercise. This trip, I wanted to do a daily workout, just something simple — pushups, or bodyweight squats. My plan was to do this every morning.

Results: I did a workout every day. Some days I was rushed, as we were trying to get out the door early for some reason, so I didn’t get a full workout, but I tried to make up for it with sprints or swimming or sprinting up stairs. This was one of my biggest successes — I’ve never traveled and had as regular a workout routine as this.

What I did right: I would do my workout as I was getting ready or working (if I worked at home). I didn’t give myself a choice — just do the workout. I also found lots of opportunities to do mini-workouts as we walked around or went to the beach — I would swim a lot, or sprint, run up stairs, dance with the kids.

What I did wrong: Nothing, really. I don’t think I could have done better unless I made workouts my top priority and found a gym in each city, but then I would have less time for exploring with the kids.

What I learned: Keep the workouts minimal, don’t give yourself a choice, and do them first thing in the morning. This is what works for me, and I hope I can remember this on all future trips!

3. Work

In the past, I would do as much work as possible before my trips, writing everything in advance. That’s not sustainable if I plan to travel regularly or for extended trips, so my plan was to purposely not do work ahead of time, forcing myself to work every day while we traveled.

Results: I did brilliantly. This was my best trip ever in terms of getting work done. I worked every morning, without fail. Some days I would only get 30 minutes in if we were in a hurry, but I did the work. The great thing is now that my trip is over, I don’t have a mountain of work waiting for me when I get home!

What I did right: First, I purposely didn’t do all my work ahead of time, so I was forced to do work on the trip. Second, I didn’t even question whether I’d work each day — the only question was whether I would do it at a coffee shop, or at home if there wasn’t a good coffee shop option nearby. Third, I did it in the morning rather than giving myself an option to do it later in the day, when I probably would have been too tired after walking around all day. Last, I only asked myself to do an hour a day, aside from maybe answering a few emails at night.

What I did wrong: I assumed there would be good Internet wherever I went, but in some coffee shops and some of the apartments we rented, the wifi either wasn’t great or didn’t exist. So a couple of times I had to use my phone’s data to connect, which wasn’t ideal.

What I learned: This trip taught me that I can quite sustainably work every day while traveling … in the past, I didn’t think I could while mindfully enjoying the trip. It wasn’t a problem, which is welcome news to me.

4. Mediation

I often drop my meditation habit while traveling, simply because my routine isn’t fixed, and often because I don’t have a space to meditate nor the energy after so much walking around.

My idea was to do a minimal amount of meditation as soon as I awoke, every day.

Results: I remembered almost every day as soon as woke up. I did sound meditation, where I would try to listen to all the sounds around me. I also did some sound meditation while out at busy squares and beaches in the different cities we visited. A few days I didn’t remember to meditate as soon as I woke up, but I would remember a little later in the morning and do a short meditation wherever I was. Overall, much better than any previous trip!

What I did right: I kept the meditation short and simple, and allowed myself to do it while lying down in bed (which I don’t do at home). This helped, because I didn’t have to disturb the kids (who were often sleeping in the living room on a couch bed in the apartments we rented), and it lowered the barrier to actually doing it.

What I did wrong: Nothing — I’m happy with how this went.

What I learned: Keep the meditation short, do it immediately upon waking, and if you forget, don’t be afraid to meditate wherever you are.

5. Expectations of the kids

This has always been a problem area for me — while I think I’m a pretty good dad, I can lose patience when the kids aren’t behaving as I’d like. This gets in the way of my enjoyment of a trip, and just as importantly, it makes the trip less enjoyable for the kids. Most importantly, it can hurt our relationship when I’m bossy, or lose my patience with them and say something out of frustration.

So my plan was to try to relax those expectations of the kids, or notice when my expectations were getting in the way of enjoying the trip. This meant a lot of mindfulness, and a lot of compassion for myself when I was feeling frustration due to expectations.

Results: This was probably my most difficult and least successful area. For the most part, I was calm and relaxed, but there were times when I lost patience and showed some frustrations when the kids didn’t behave as I’d like. A couple of these were not good at all, and I feel bad about them. While I didn’t lose my patience every day, there were definitely times when I got frustrated, regularly.

What I did right: I tried to be mindful of my frustration levels, and give myself compassion when I was feeling frustrations. I tried to notice my expectations of the kids and see when those were unrealistic or unnecessary. I also let go of frustrations much faster than normal when I did this.

What I did wrong: I can’t expect “perfection” here, so I’m not going to beat myself up for losing my patience … but there were a few times I wish I hadn’t said anything and instead dropped down into myself and dealt compassionately with my frustration. When I get frustrated, sometimes I’m not mindful. This is something I can continue to work on.

What I learned: I definitely have a lot of expectations of others that I don’t realize I have. Those can get in the way of my happiness and the relationships I have with people, and I need to continue to practice mindfulness around this.

Conclusion

Considering all these areas, I think the experiment was a joyful success, and I’m very happy I did it. I learned how to work and workout and meditate while traveling, which were big areas of weakness for me. I learned to control my eating a bit more, which is another big improvement. I taught myself that I can travel for a long period in a sustainable, enjoyable, healthy way, and that’s a major success in my mind.

And I enjoyed the trip, immensely and with great joy. Now time for a nap.