4 Tips to a Cheerier Day

3 Tips for a Cheerier Day | PepperDesignBlog.com

I must confess, a big pregnant belly and hormones that are sky high and then valley low cause me to contemplate ‘life’ much more than usual. Not the simple things, but the big stuff – the ‘what is my purpose?’, ‘am I reaching my fullest?’, ‘can I do better?’. Then I either sulk about how I’m not reaching one of those metaphorical highs or take a long hard look at what’s happening in my life and what I can change. That’s not always fun.

Yeah for emotional journeys!

I’ve kinda come to the a conclusion that the illustrious ‘happiness’ goal is something that has to be worked at regularly. It’s not really a destination but a journey that requires a lot of maintenance (not daunting maintenance though because, after all, smiling counts :-)). I read somewhere that happiness is a state of mind, an attitude that we embrace and that we can even ‘rub off’ on others around us. What a nice thought!

Here’s what I’m buzzing about today:

1. Happiness as an action – choosing to be joyful in everyday moments is one of life’s greatest privileges. Gleening joy from someone else is an easy fix to a hum drum day, laughing babies are good for that!

2. Making someone else’s day – happiness rubs off, acts of kindness and generosity are the BEST mood boosters. Buying coffee for the person behind you (I was behind someone who once put a $20 bill in the barrista’s hand and said ‘for everyone behind me’ – brilliant, and I was personally smiling ear to ear not at the free coffee but at the emotional high), offering an out-of-the-blue compliment to a stranger, saying ‘good morning’ with a big smile at those walking by, giving an unexpected surprise smooch to your sweetie.

3. Feeling good is not the opposite of feeling bad – happiness and unhappiness aren’t opposite sides of a coin. I love that. Sometimes we’re floating somewhere in the middle because it’s just that sort of day. That’s okay too because life is life.

4. Moments of gratefulness are moments of recalling and recognizing happiness. A gracious mood is one of the most generous gifts that we can offer anyone. How great does it feel when someone expresses their gratitude for something small or big that I helped with? It’s especially awesome when it catches me off guard. Oh man, it’s a mile high feeling. To hand out happiness, just tell someone how much you appreciate them.

What do you think? True story? Or is the ‘pursuit of wholeness‘ far better than than the ‘pursuit of happiness’? PBS posted an article on how happiness is made up of pleasure, engagement and meaning (Martin Seligman calls this authentic happiness) and that it ‘involves both daily positive emotions and a global sense that life is worthwhile’. I’m going to try to do each one of the above today to see what happens.

PS Motherhood (in general), and the joy of having girls.

Keeping Up With the Summer Harvest, Part 3

I feel as though this post might not need an introduction given parts 1 & 2, but I’m so happy to be back to share with you a few more ways that I’m using up that delicious summer harvest around our kitchen.

This is something that I’ve really struggled with as a working mom – Kevin used to take on meal duty every night and it was something that I completely took for granted. Now that he works later hours than I, it’s my job to make sure that there’s a meal on the table at 7pm when everyone is home. Oh the pressure. I usually start to think up an idea around 6:30 when my afternoon mother’s helper is on her way out the door. That means that meal prep needs to be fast and that I need to have everything that we’re making for that night on hand (I currently don’t have any sort of planning system, though really I should). This is part of the reason I am in love with CSA and relish in the surprise of a new, fully stocked organic box of fruits and veggies once a week. Between that box and our garden this summer, we have been making full, healthy meals with just a few alternative ingredients on hand (namely pasta, chicken and cheeses).

Part 1 (frittatas, cucumber salads…) and part 2 (all things roasting) of this series for more easy ideas.

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

One of my favorite summer harvest recipes to share is one that I stole from Martha Stewart’s instagram feed. She (or that wonderfully wise photo curator of hers) suggested cleaning out the fridge each Sunday and making a Nicoise salad out of whatever could be found. This is brilliant because 1. we always have veggies that need to be used up, including leftovers aplenty and lettuce for a salad and 2. cans of tuna are an easy meal staple to have on hand.

I tried it out. I cut corn off of cobs from previous evening meals, roasted up carrots and bell peppers that were at the bottom of the veggie drawer and cubed cheese and avocado to balance it all out. I cleaned out our fridge and made a really pretty meal – little hands thought the colorful partitioning of foods and flavors was fun and it was a total hit.

We enjoyed the monster salad (above) by eating family style off of one big plate outdoors one evening. I love the idea of ‘cleaning out the fridge’ meals (whether it’s a salad or crock pot meal or pizza toppings) once a week. Brilliant.

Moving on to…

Good Eats: Summer Squash & Goat Cheese Pasta | PepperDesignBlog.com

Pasta, as always, is an awesome go-to. Inspired by a series on using just 3 ingredients in each meal, I started making super simple pasta + veggies (and using the cooking water + cheeses to build a sauce) frequently. This squash and goat cheese recipe is one of my favorites so far.

Next up, tomatoes. The easy tomato solution around this house is to toss them as an accessory into a salad, to snack on them with fresh cheese (especially on the go!) or if I really have a bit of time to make a homemade soup.

But one of my favorite new ways to use up all of the cherry tomatoes (or really any kind) that we have lying around is to make them the feature of an entire meal or to build a salad around their juicy flavor. These days I’ve been layering them with fresh mozzarella and basil, and letting them soak in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pepper and chunky sea salt while I make up the rest of dinner (sometimes I’ll let them marinate in the fridge for even a few days).

Summer Harvest Recipes | PepperDesignBlog.com

A more complicated tomato recipe (but oh so good) is this tomato & cream cheese tart from last summer.

Summer Harvest Recipes | Summer Tomato Tart | PepperDesignBlog.com

Finally, a good bread/cupcake recipe is a great go-to with extra vegetable anything. I love zucchini, carrot or squash breads – or a combination! – and I think that this recipe does a decent job of cleaning out the veggie drawer. It seems so much fancier (and special) as mini cupcakes/muffins but works either way.

Summer Harvest Recipes | Farmer's Market Cupcakes and Bread | PepperDesignBlog.com

That wraps up this series on summer veggies! Though admittedly they’re vegetables we’ll all enjoy well into fall so I hope that these little meal ideas bring some inspiration to your hurried dinner creations. Between the three posts, that’s a dozen or so easy ways to enjoy peak fruits and veggies in season and at their finest. I am a procrastinator and a mom, and I promise that they are all fool proof.

One of these days I’ll put together a quick cheat sheet of all of these links, but for now I hope you enjoy :-).

All recipes are chronicled right over here. Hope you are enjoying this beautiful transition into fall!

A Pregnant Girl’s Beach Bag

A Pregnant Girl's Beach Bag | PepperDesignBlog.com

We are officially into fall, but a family vacation to Maui has pulled my mind away from cozy cable knits and more towards finding a swim cover up that is less muu muu and more confidence-boosting for this big ol’ belly of mine (bonus if I can wear it post-baby belly, too).

Just for fun, here’s what’s in my beach bag at six months pregnant (I love a good find, these are a few road tested ideas for the expecting and non-expecting that have worked out really well):
-A pair of comfy leather sandals
-Sunscreen that can be shared with the kids
-A straw hat (high/low)
-That perfect (and not too revealing, not too sweat-inducing) crocheted tunic for trips back and forth to the pool or beach. And this one is non-maternity, it just works well all around (speaking of, here’s a floral cover I haven’t tried but think is so pretty).
-An all-in-one prime makeup cream (a favorite of mine for travel that is also still available on eBay but difficult to find these days), a tinted face sunscreen is also super for warm weather
-An awesome maternity swimsuit (which this one is! I shortened the straps an inch on each side). There’s something about feeling confident without baring it all – though I so admire those beautiful mommas who can sport a bikini well into their 9th month!
-And finally, a canvas tote. I have one that’s a bit more similar to this one, but Roxy’s striped tote (and price) made me wonder if maybe I can justify two :-).

Above and beyond that? I’ve been getting a lot of street wear here in Maui out of this great pocket dress paired with a beaded necklace. And head scarves/headbands. Those go the extra mile in humid weather!

A Pregnant Girl's Essentials | PepperDesignBlog.com

Hope your week is off to a beautiful start! Do you have any travel packing traditions or go-tos?

PS more maternity finds here, a morning routine that includes that above prime color, favorite sunglasses and two ways to track your travel (especially fun with kids). 

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