Do All the “Small” Things

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It’s three weeks into the new year, and I’ve settled on my three main resolutions:

  1. Keep doing all the good things you’ve been doing.

I don’t know why resolutions seem to imply that we’re doing things wrong and need to change everything about ourselves. It always feels like the beginning of the new year isn’t the time for reflection and growth that it should be, but a time for thinking about what isn’t good enough in your life. I wholeheartedly disagree with that. I’m happy with a lot of the things I’ve been working on, from being devoted to loved ones to going to the gym regularly.

So why don’t we ever stop at the new year and say, “Hey. Well done. Keep it up!” That’s definitely how I feel in a lot of areas.

2. Get a book deal.

However, there is always room for growth. And for me, one spot with huge potential for growth is my writing career. This year, I have a very clear and conrete goal to finally, finally get a book deal. Wish me luck!

3. My third resolution is also somewhat work-related, but I’m keeping that one private 🙂

But I do have sub-resolution that I’ve been having a lot of fun with lately that I really want to share, and that is to:

Do All the “Small” Things.

You know, those things. The things we often put off because we’re too busy (but could usually find time for if we really want to, plan ahead just a bit, or are more efficient).

Andie Mitchell Eating in the Middle Recipe Michelle Chahine Sinno

For example, over the last few weeks, I finally tried out a recipe from a great cookbook that’s all about balance, Eating in the Middle by Andie Mitchell. Ever since I flipped through the book last summer, I’ve wanted to try the Baked Banana Bread Doughnuts. I finally made the effort to buy the doughnut pan (and a cooling rack!), get the ingredients, and MAKE them. I’m not exaggerating when I say the whole thing took 30 minutes. It was so easy and simple, and I enjoyed them so much. These instances really make me wonder why I put off so many things… that in my mind they require effort and “time that I don’t have.” When all it takes is 30 minutes. (And it was a rainy LA day as well. Perfect).

Inspired by baking my own healthier version of doughnuts, I tried this recipe for blueberry muffins the following week. Also so easy, yummy, and satisfying.

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What I love most about baking is that you can see the exact ingredients you’re putting into things. Can someone please explain to me why so many baked goods nowadays have “soy lecithin” in them. Since when did that become a staple of baking? Just curious.

I’m also happy to report that after four and a half years of living in Los Angeles, I finally, FINALLY, took Minjay for a long walk in Griffith Park. When I first moved here, I was looking up good places to walk dogs, and I came across this collection of good trails. I’ve been to different areas of the huge park in the middle of Los Angeles, but I never got around to taking Minjay for a nature walk there. It was definitely my loss, since the collection of trails is lined with beautiful, tall trees. I had been craving more “forest-y” walks while living in LA, and it had been accessible to me all along.

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Beautiful post-rain muddy walk. Minjay loved all the fresh nature smells. You can see the dew drops on his face 🙂

In the midst of these trails is a great coffee shop called “The Trails.” (I love this review, which describes it as the place John Muir and Julia Childs would meet for lunch).

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I’ve wanted to go to Trails literally since I moved here in 2012. But I haven’t. Why? Well it does take about 30 minutes to drive there, at the right time of day (without traffic). So it does take a little bit of effort. But there have been 53 weekends a year for the past 4 years to make it happen. Why didn’t I?

A few days after getting back to Los Angeles from Lebanon, where we spent Christmas break with family and old friends, I decided I was going to start the new year by being active: I was going to take Minjay to Trails. The whole endeavor took 2 hours total, and it was wonderful (both the freshly-made food and our walk in nature). Since then, I’ve been 2 more times, and plan to go back often.

Doesn’t it always turn out that it actually takes relatively minimal effort to open up new, great things in our life? These “small” things add so much variety and happiness to each week. And yet we put them off under the pretense of busyness and a lack of time. Really, all it takes is being more proactive about how we do want to spend our time.

Morning walks with Minjay in Griffith Park.
Morning walks with Minjay in Griffith Park.

I should note here that “doing all the small things” also does include necessary chores and errands we put off. Like changing car tires when they need to be changed. We’ve been putting this off since November, and yesterday my tire finally burst. Definitely learned my lesson to do things when they need to get done– because putting them off usually means they will take twice as long to deal with in the end.

 


P.S. I love, love the photo on the top of this blog post. I took it yesterday morning in Griffith Park, after several rainy days here in Los Angeles. The photo is unaltered in any way, and was taken on my iPhone. It really was just this beautiful yesterday morning.

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The Art & Science of Loving Where You Live

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Do you love where you live?

In an increasingly mobile world, so many of us leave the place in which we grew up for college, work, relationships, and a variety of other reasons. Author Melody Warnick moved 6 times in her adult life, and upon finding herself in Blacksburg, Virginia in her mid-thirties, she began to wonder what it would take to feel settled in one place.

The result is her book, This Is Where You Belong, which was my new book club‘s first selection to read as a group. We all agreed it was a quick, easy read with great information, interesting research and useful tips. Warnick describes a lot of actionable steps you can take to become more rooted in the city you live in. Some happen naturally, some simply take time. But others require effort.

One of her findings is that walking more can help you get to know a new place. I had already experienced this through my twice daily walks with Minjay. (I’d add that getting a dog can really help you feel rooted anywhere.)

Some of her suggestions can be done easily– find a great nature spot and go for a hike! Others may require you to come out of your shell, like inviting neighbors over for dinner.

My favorite chapter in the book was the “Buy Local” chapter. It’s filled with charming stories of real-person connections that can be made by using your dollars at a local small business. For example, Warnick tells the story of Stacy Mitchell (author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses), whose brother bought her a book for Christmas from her favorite Portland, Maine bookstore. He made the purchase online, and then got a call a few minutes later from someone in the shop to let him know that his sister already had the book. (That story really tugged at my heartstrings).

I had never considered the “multiplier effect” of shopping local. Warnick explains that 14% of revenue from big-box retailers stays in the local economy, while 52% of the revenue of small businesses circulates locally. That seems like a really good investment in your community. Add that to the chance to make good connections and new friendships, and it’s seems so worth it.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who just moved to a new city, or anyone who feels like they want to belong more in a place they live, which would be a big contributor to work-life balance.

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At the end of each chapter, Warnick includes a simple “Love Your City Checklist.” I marked this one:

“Learn the names of the flora and fauna in your area. Check out a book on the subject, or connect with the Master Naturalists or Master Gardners in your town.”

After walks with Minjay in my neighborhood, I had already started to do this, for a children’s book I’m writing. For example, I found this fun map a couple of years ago. This was a great reminder that I’d like to (and should) do more.

Some other steps I’ll be taking after reading the book:

  • Seek out small businesses more and buy local as often as I can. Immediate changes I can make: the pet store and christmas gifts.
  • Go on more hikes nearby (Minjay will especially like this), and find more nature spots.
  • Search for more landmarks in my neighborhood. I had started to do this in Santa Monica, but after moving 3 months ago (just 10 minutes away), I need to do it again in my new immediate neighborhood.
  • Write my city councilman about our street corner, on which I’ve seen so many unnecessary accidents happen in just the last 3 months. It needs a stop sign, or at the very least a speed-limit sign with some more enforcement.
  • Learn more about Robyn Bomar’s “The Birthday Project,” and do it in January when I turn 30!

 

 

 


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