Friday, January 18, 2013

On Inspiration

Inspiration is a tricky little bastard.

When it finds me, it sticks on and hitches a ride like some errant burr. When I lose it, it disappears almost completely, like Aaron Burr. Heh. I didn't plan that one, folks. Plus ten points for spontaneity, minus ten for bad punnery.  Nothing gained, nothing lost.  Like my scale this week.

I have a hard time finding inspiration to take care of myself when I'm sick. The process of planning, of staying in motion, of mindfulness doesn't feel difficult when I'm in the groove. It feels nice, even. But when the fog of cold meds and sinus headaches creep in, the machinery I've put in place to help me find balance in my life seems to steer off-course all on its own. All I want is a warm blanket and a bowl of soup delivered to my door.

Luckily, this bug seems to be passing relatively quickly, so by yesterday I was able to assemble a week's worth of lunches in one go. Now, even if my symptoms get in my way, it won't be too hard to grab a healthy midday meal - my Super Jar.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from Trader Joe's ready-made Spinach Super Salad:

It is a very tasty combination of ingredients, and has a great balance of protein and carbs to fuel an afternoon swim or yoga sesson. It is also a little more processed/preserved/pricy than if I made my own version, so thus the Super Jar was born.

From bottom-to-top, this one has three tablespoons of carrot-ginger dressing (recipe from Self magazine, here), quinoa (1/4 cup dry, though it expands considerably after cooking) and 1/4 cup of edamame. It is crazy-tasty, especially with two cups of mixed greens and a handful of dried cranberries. If you want to go crazy, you could add some chickpeas, grated carrot and roasted pepitas like the Trader Joe's salad, but I'm enjoying this as-is.

Jar salads have been popping up all over the internet for the past year, and if you - like me - hadn't read the instructions before, you might think the jar's purpose is for shaking up a salad, like one of those McSalad Shakers that were so trendy ten (twelve? fifteen? Eek, I'm old) years ago. But no, in fact, the purpose of the salad jar is to do the exact opposite - to keep your salad elements separate, so that they stay fresh longer.  The joy of salad jars, for me, is that I can make five days of salad and they'll still be tasty on the fifth day.

There are plenty of guides to jar salad preparation, so you can check out the specifics at those links, and I'll just cover a quick list of tips I've found helpful.
  • I stack mine from bottom-to-top, dressing/heavy grain or beans/heartiest veggie/less hearty veggie/most likely to wilt.  
  • I tend not to include the greens on top - I just plop them in the bottom of the bowl before I dump the salad out.
  • I don't mix the veggies, I only put them in layers so that they can stay as crisp as possible.
  • Nuts and dried fruit should be added in the bowl, not in the jar. I feel the same way about animal protein, but others disagree.
  • The mason jars I use are super-portable and easily storable in the refrigerator, without the troubling effects of BPA in plastic. 
Here's a shot of me dumping my Super Jar into my lunch bowl today:

You'll notice that I'm at the table. It's our new thing in the household. Tom and I gifted each other with new dining chairs for Christmas, and now that they've arrived and we've assembled them, we've committed to eating each meal at the table instead of in front of the TV, as was our habit. It's a way to be more mindful about our meal and help us feel more sated. It's important, as studies have shown that multitasking while eating may be bad for our health. So table-dining it is... and we get to enjoy our new chairs and my recently-started collection vintage tablecloth collection. (My first non-Christmas acquisition, this sunny yellow number with strawberries, is currently on display.)

While I'm taking care of myself, inspiration seems to come more easily. I feel inspired to try new recipes. I feel inspired to stay accountable. I feel especially inspired to write.

At the beginning of the year, Tom and I laid out our writing goals and created a general schedule for 2013. It's jam-packed, but the more we write, the more we... write. It has a snowball effect on us. We have a main project and a supporting project for each month of the year.  Currently, our main project is the mini-musical we're working on with our composer friend Joe, and our supporting project is preparing our horror script to take the main slot next month.

I'm glad that even when I was feeling too sick to string two words together, I was at least inspired to look for visual inspiration for the horror (which is all outlined, and ready to go.)  This week, I worked on a collage of that inspiration, and hoo boy, did it creep me out to assemble it. (You can click it for a larger version.)

 It was fun, though, and really whet my appetite to write the script. I like how creativity whets my appetite more often than food does these days.

May you find inspiration for your own creativity, and for taking care of yourself!


  1. Finding inspiration in the grocery store is a good springboard for creating healthier versions. I love the idea of the salad jars. I have seen them on Pinterest, but never checked them out. That would make salad prep super quick too for each meal, just pack them up after grocery shopping.

    And I am super envious of your new dining table. I fully agree that eating at a table is way better than the couch. It makes you more attentive to what you are eating and invite sparkling conversation :) Hope you get good use out of your awesome new chairs!

    Keep on feeling better!

  2. Should try this some time. Great blog! :)