Finding Balance

Almost all of my time of late has been taken up by dissertation writing, which is definitely productive, but can start to be a bit psychologically an emotionally draining. Spending hours in front of my computer without talking to people tends to start getting a little weird. Luckily I only have about two weeks until I start an internship (yay!) which will force me to take two days a week as a break and get out of my head a bit.

Since I decided to take June and July and really focus on dissertation work, finding a balance has been the key to retaining my sanity. Growing up as an only child has made me super comfortable spending time alone, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally get a bit stir crazy.

This list are all things I’ve found to be really helpful in finding balance, and are simple enough you can incorporate any number of them relatively easily, whether you’re writing  dissertation or working full time.

• Find a Routine (and stick to it!) 

This is probably the most important thing for me in terms of personal happiness and productivity. Having a schedule takes a lot of the thinking/planning out of the way so I can focus on other things. It also makes things like workout a bit easier to fit in– if you get used to doing something every day momentum starts to build making it easier to stick with it. Beyond this, having daily or weekly ritual, like dinner sans-phones can be a great way to recharge.

• Schedule Some Personal Time

Whether this means an a.m yoga practice, a few minutes of reading a book for fun, or even watching an episode of your favourite show, this time is super beneficial. I’ve recently started taking some yoga classes at a studio near me, and found that having that to look forward to makes the writing go by that much more quickly, but the key here is to find whatever helps you relax.

• See Other People

Even besides having some personal time, I’ve found that planning one ore two activities with friends per week does wonders for my happiness levels. Even if it’s a FaceTime call with a friend, it helps me to feel like myself again. It’s so easy to lose track of time and push things to the next week, but strong friendships are key for both mental and physical health.

• Make a List 

One of the things I do each night as part of my evening routine is to make a list for the next day of all of the things I need to do and would like to accomplish. I generally include a few shorter, fun items like yoga, or a coffee date to boost my morale. Seeing a visual representation of everything I’ve done makes me feel even more productive. If lists aren’t your thing, try writing down all of the tasks you accomplish after the fact– it will still be a nice visual, but will likely make you feel less anxious about crossing things off.

 

Finding balance for me means finding ways to acknowledge something positive, or find some happiness in every day. All of these are just different ways I do this. Whether it’s making a list that lets me prioritise the important things so I don’t sweat the small stuff, catching up with a friend over coffee, or exploring my yoga practice, they all help me life a fuller, more present life.

Do you use any of these to find balance? Feel like I’ve forgotten something? Let me know in the comments!

Blueberry Pie & the Fourth of July

I couldn’t help myself with the rhyme in the title, so please forgive me if you’re cringing.

Being out of the USA on Independence Day is always a bit strange (at least I think it is). Seeing all of my friending posting photos on Instagram and Snapchat of fun parties, boat trips, and fireworks, especially fireworks, definitely made me a little jealous. Since we knew there would be no fireworks in London, and as we were pretty tired from spending most of the weekend at Henley, Cameron and I opted for a lower-key celebration. We had dinner at home and then headed to the American Bar at the Savoy for a celebratory cocktail.

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Cocktail from the American Bar at the Savoy

Rather than hamburgers on the grill we made black bean burgers, and found some gorgeous purple sweet potatoes that made some very blue sweet potato fries. I knew I wanted to make a fun, super american dessert, and pie was an obvious option. You may be thinking that apple would’ve been the more classic choice here, but I think blueberry is equally American (it’s the state dessert of Maine), is wonderful in the summertime, and also happens to be my favourite. Another added bonus? It’s so much simpler to make!

For the pie crust I used my favourite recipe, this coconut oil pie crust from the Minimalist baker, and used 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour. I love the whole wheat crust here because it adds a bit of nuttiness that I think works really nicely with the filling. I also love that this crust doesn’t use any vegan butter substitute, as I think it can leave an odd aftertaste in baked goods.

Ingredients: 

• Enough pie dough for 1 double crust pie. The link above makes enough for this, but of course you could sub your favourite.

• Blueberry filling

Blueberry Pie Filling:

• 4c blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used a mix of the two)

• 3 tbs cornstarch

• 3/4c sugar

• 1/2 tsp cinnamon

• 1-2 tbs cointreau (optional)

Directions:

  1. Split your dough and roll 1/2 of it on a well-floured surface into a large disk about 1/8 thick. Use your rolling pin to move the dough into your pie plate, and gently press it in. Set in the fridge while you prepare the blueberries.
  2. Add blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, and cointreau into a large bowl and mix gently until the blueberries are coated with the dry ingredients.
  3. Carefully add the blueberries to the pie shell, and set in the fridge.
  4. Preheat oven to 425°F  (220°C)
  5. Roll the other half of your pie dough to the same dimensions as the first crust. Then use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to make long strips about the width of your thumb.
  6. Use these to make a lattice on top of the blueberries. This video is super helpful and far clearer than me explaining it. Instead of using an egg wash, I like to brush the top with coconut milk.
  7. Bake the pie at 425°F for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (176°C) for 35-40 minutes. The top should be golden, and the filling should be bubbling lightly.
  8. Once finished, let cool for 2-3 hours before slicing. I know it’s a long time, but it will keep your filling from becoming a runny mess when you cut into it.
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The cornstarch will help the filling set so it doesn’t run when you slice it

Honestly the mist finicky part of this pie is the crust. If you’re nervous about rolling it out or making the lattice top there are tons of super-helpful youtube clips. I promise the lattice isn’t really that hard, but looks lovely and impressive anyway.

I hope those of you who celebrated had a very happy Fourth of July!

 

 

The Pause That Became a Long Break

Those of you who check this site regularly may have noticed a lull during the past few weeks, which I am happy to report is coming to an end. I’ve been back in the states visiting my family and doing research for my dissertation, which has left me with little time for creating and positing new content. I’d initially planned this to be just a few days of a pause in new content, but it snowballed into something much longer. But I’m back and ready to get back to work, so get excited for some fun new reads and of course some new Friday Cocktails! I may need a bit of readjusting– so please bear with me as my brain gets back into blog-mode!

I’m researching methods of display and was lucky enough to spend the better part of the past two weeks at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. It’s a huge collection, and by the end of it I was definitely experiencing a bit of museum fatigue. Not familiar with this? It when you’ve spent several hours in an museum and your legs are tired, your feet and lower back are a bit sore, and you desperately need some water (and maybe a glass of wine) and a full meal. Six days in a row and I was beginning to lose my ability to talk to people normally. Although now that I’m a bit removed, the whole thing seems much easier and I’d be up for round two!

I was able to find some time to spend with friends and family while home, including a short trip to Nashville for a good friend’s bachelorette party. It was definitely a bit strange to be back in the city for the first time since moving away last year, but I had such a blast celebrating with her and seeing so many friends. I’m super excited to head back in early September for her wedding.

 

If all of this hadn’t kept me busy enough my first week back in London featured a interview for an internship (which I got!), and a few days at the Henley Royal Regatta, one of which included a very early morning to watch by boyfriend row. It was definitely a very fun week, but I am extremely happy to have a bit of a lull and a good excuse to spend some quiet time in the library.