Do All the “Small” Things


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.


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.

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).


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.

6 Tips for Taking Care of Dogs During El Nino

Michelle Chahine Sinno Minjay Dog El Nino
Tail always wagging… Minjay wet and disheveled after our walk in the rain, but not wanting to go back inside either.

Three days into this El Nino weather, and I’m already feeling challenged by getting my dog enough exercise and keeping him from getting frustrated. Let’s face it, Southern California pets are not used to being stuck indoors because of rain.

That got me thinking that other dog lovers across this region may be feeling the same away. Here are some tips for taking care of your pooches and keeping them happy over the next rainy few weeks:

Get Creative Indoors
When it comes down to it, dogs need exercise and stimulation.

1. Stairs
If you live in a multiple-story home, get your dog running up and down the stairs, as suggested by Nicole Pajer on Throw toys and treats across the staircase, in a vertical game of fetch. If you live in an apartment building, like I do, try using treats hidden in the palm of your hand to lead your dog up and down a few stories on a leash.

2. Figure Eights
One of my dog’s favorite things to do is figure eight exercise. I learned this trick last spring from Dr. Gina Kwong, DVM at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, when we had to rehabilitate Minjay’s knee after surgery. Now that it isn’t too hard for him to do (yay for recovery), he loves it. I use barstools as the guideposts to circle around, but you could use just about anything.

The key is making “ice cream” that helps keep him on track. He is, after all, a Labrador whose attention wanders easily. I use mini disposable 5 oz. bath cups you can find at any grocery store. Fill them almost to the rim with low fat plain yogurt, and then mix in a sprinkle of melted peanut butter (melting the peanut butter in the microwave helps you mix it in). Make sure to choose natural, ground peanut butter to avoid giving them too much sugar. (Read the ingredients. It should just say: peanuts.)

One regular-sized 32 oz. tub of yogurt makes about 12 small cups. Freeze them overnight. In the morning you can use them to get your pooch to follow you around in figure eights, or any other kind of healthy exercise in your home, for as long as you want. Works like a charm.IMG_3685

Find Alternative Activities Outside of the House
No matter how creative you get, dogs (and you!) will get bored of staying indoors for days on end. And if all the El Nino predictions run true, we’ve got several weeks of storms headed our way. Another technique is to get your dog in the car for a stimulating drive and a run to the pet store. I do this with Minjay any time there’s rain (i.e. about five times total since moving to the Los Angeles area over three years ago. I think we’re going to be doing a lot more this winter. Thank you, Petco!) There, they can walk around freely, sniff goodies to their heart’s delight, hopefully interact with other dogs, and get some treats from friendly pet store staff. If you get bored of the pet store, find other pet-friendly places you can head to, like shopping malls or bookstores, for a change of scene. I’m grateful to live in Santa Monica where most shops are dog-friendly. Make sure to support these establishments and let them know you appreciate them letting you and your dog spend time there together. Now I have one more excuse to head to the bookstore several times a week, with Minjay.

Use the Time Indoors for Training and Fun
Dr. Gina Kwong from VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital suggests taking the time to work on some basic obedience training or learning new tricks. “My own dog hates getting wet, so when the weather isn’t cooperating, I spend some of our ‘walk’ time teaching him to ‘heel’ in the hallway of my apartment building. Learning new behaviors is mentally stimulating and will help keep your dog stay engaged and focused. It’s a great way to actively spend time with your dog– a win-win for you and your pet! Just remember to keep the training sessions relatively short (about 10-15min), especially if it is learning a new behavior, so that your dog doesn’t become too frustrated.”

Puzzle Treats
“I also love different ‘puzzle toys’ to keep my dog distracted. They are interactive toys that you can stuff with your pets favorite treat,” says Dr. Kwong. This is a tool a lot of us have to use anyway when we leave our pooches home for several hours while at work. They become even more crucial when morning and evening walks are hampered due to the weather. They are a great distraction and keep them mentally stimulated. But giving them too many treats, and fewer walks, could lead to weight gain. “Better yet,” Dr. Kwong says, “Portion out a part of their daily kibble and make them work for it!”

I personally love to prepare these puzzle toys in advance with pumpkin mixed into their kibble and frozen overnight. (I use all sorts of Kong toys). This extends both how much they have to work for it, and so stay simulated, and how long it keeps them distracted.

What are some techniques you use to keep your dogs happy when long walks outdoors aren’t an option?


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