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What Self-Care Isn’t

On Friday morning I was perusing my Twitter feed and followed a link to an article about “wellness” and “clean eating.” I’ve often felt like I must be doing something wrong when people talk about their clean eating habits. (Am I eating “dirty food”?) What’s the big deal with wellness anyway? This trend isn’t really anything new, but this quote struck me like a bolt of lightning:

“But when we advocate, and even insist upon, a diet so restrictive, moralising and inflexible, and market that diet to young women, and then dress it up as self-care: just how responsible is that?”

The Unhealthy Truth Behind ‘Wellness’ and ‘Clean Eating’ by Ruby Tandoh

(A big shout out to my friend Clio for reminding me that Ruby is none other than Great-British-Bake-Off-Ruby. Yes, that one!)

Self-care is a loaded term, but you get the gist of it–it’s whatever we do to maintain our physical, emotional, and mental health–and it seems easy enough to do in theory. But on closer look, maybe it’s not so easy–why else would there be thousands of how-to guides and a cult of diets preying on people desperate to achieve peak health and “wellness”? At best, self-care is acknowledging, naming, or labeling the things we do on a daily basis to get by, and at worst it’s the expectation that we manage our stress so it doesn’t affect others. For example, when I was having a rough day at work and let it show, I’d be chastised to take better care of myself. Now as a new mom, I’m reminded by nearly every blog I read that I can’t be the best mom or a successful person if I don’t take care of myself first. I even throw the word around with friends when we exchange sympathetic and well-meaning texts.

The idea of self-care is lovely, but the practice can be extremely taxing. So instead of preaching about what I think self-care is, I’m going to tell you what it isn’t.

what self care isn't

What, when, or how you eat does not change your value as a person even if it changes your dress size.

Self-care isn’t taking on an eating plan that is so restrictive that it stresses me out because I have food on the brain 24/7. Self-care isn’t feeling guilty when I indulge in a scoop of ice cream or three. 

so many flavors
I don’t care how full I am, if I’m in San Francisco I have to take a pilgrimage to Bi-Rite Creamery.

I love food. It nourishes my body, mind, and spirit. I love a delicious chunk of cheese, but I also like it in American product, powder, and puff form. I have an evolving relationship with vegetables, one I’ve worked hard at, but I still love chocolate better. Sometimes I’m bigger, and sometimes I’m a bit smaller, but I’m literally always a baller.

What drives some people to accomplishment and success may not work for you, and that’s completely okay.

Self-care isn’t feeling like a failure because I don’t wake up at 5 AM to juice, meditate, and hike.

labyrinth trail at lagoon island ucsb
I’m more of a ‘walk at lunch’ kind of gal.

When I was in the depths of despair, my doctor told me that I could pop a pill to dull the edges and motivate myself to get up before everyone else in the house to go for a run. She told me that I needed a thicker skin and that I could accomplish this if I just took better care of myself. I internally rolled my eyes, quit my job soon thereafter, and never looked back. There are some situations you can’t self-care yourself out of, and that doesn’t make you a failure.

Your home and your life don’t have to be picture perfect.

Self-care isn’t keeping my house effortlessly clean by picking up clutter every time I walk through a room.

all the bins i've loved before
My New Year’s resolution was to KonMari my house. For two months the floor of my living room looked like a Container Store. I am still not done decluttering. #ihavehopes

My house is messy. I’m doing the best I can. I have a one year old that thinks it’s fun to throw Cheerios, watermelon, broccoli, and his apple juice on the floor. When I walk through a room I’m usually chasing after my son or trying to get my cat to stop vomiting on the couch. My house is clean when it needs to be, and while I’d like it to be a more frequent occurrence, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Adulting and parenting are hard, and there’s no ‘right’ way to do either.

Self-care isn’t regretting that I don’t put on night creams during an elaborate bedtime ritual. Self-care isn’t turning off screens and closing social media an hour before I go to sleep.

deep selfie
Wise words in a Seattle bathroom. “Beauty is worse than wine, it intoxicates both the holder and the beholder.”

I am still working on flossing every night. I’ll move on to night creams by forty, I’m sure. Yeah, I know it’ll be too late by then. Oh well. And to anyone who lays in bed with their little ones, whether it’s for co-sleeping or TV is just the easiest way to get them to sleep, you won’t get any judgement from me. The only time I can read or watch things uninterrupted is when my son is asleep.

 Sometimes it’s just about survival.

I think it’s enough to eat Cheetos and watch Netflix on your phone in the dark and feel guilt-free about both. I think it’s enough to take a shower to the sound of your kid wailing in the next room over because they don’t have your attention for five minutes. (They’ll live.) Of course, when you can do better, you will. Maybe in this season of life your self-care is just about survival. There’s always future-you to look forward to, and she has it slightly more together. I hope you take comfort in that, because I sure do.


Spicy White Bean and Chicken Soup

I love to cook and I’m excited to share what a typical experience in the kitchen looks like with me at the helm. I very rarely get to cook with total concentration. My sidekick is a real baby and usually demands attention at the worst possible moment. I’m far from being an amazing cook, but what I lack in talent I more than make up for in enthusiasm. I hope I can encourage anyone who has doubts about their cooking abilities!

On Thursday I decided to cook a new dish. I had a bunch of random ingredients I wanted to use up–previously purchased canned white beans and pickled jalapeños for a recipe I never ended up making, chicken thighs, and three leftover leaves of rainbow chard. I did a quick Google search, and came up with this White Chicken Chili. I love Pioneer Woman recipes, they’re unfussy and homey which is just my speed. I don’t follow recipes to the letter, and usually the results I get are pretty good even if the dish doesn’t resemble the original perfectly.

I put Rory in the Pack n Play and gathered all the ingredients on my kitchen counter.

IMG_0806 (1)

I quickly read through the steps and decided that I could confidently make the following changes:

  • I pan cooked my chicken because it’s faster than boiling it.
  • I only had half an onion, but it was plenty.
  • I really like to add veggies into recipes when I can, and rainbow chard is a favorite of mine to incorporate into just about anything–try it in your taco meat, meatloaf, or spaghetti sauce. I chopped up three large leaves and added them in after I sautéed the onions and garlic.
  • I didn’t have any chicken broth on hand, so I used plain water and chicken bullion.
  • I skipped the green chiles and used a can of diced tomatoes and a pickled jalapeño. The heat was just right with one jalapeño, but it could certainly be adjusted by adding a half to start or leaving out the seeds entirely. It would also work to use a fresh jalapeño instead.
As usual, my son was content to play for the first ten minutes and started crying about the time the chicken fat was sizzling in the pan.

Here’s where things got really iffy:

  • I used canned beans rather than dried beans, which drastically cut down on the cooking time.
  • I realized after I’d already added six cups of liquid that I probably didn’t need to add so much since my beans were already cooked.

In my haste, I turned chili into soup. Once I realized I wasn’t going to get that thick chili consistency, I tasted the broth before adding anything else. I opted for only 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cumin powder, and after several more spoonfuls, I decided the soup didn’t need any other seasoning. The bullion was plenty salty, and the pickled jalapeño gave it enough spice and acid.

I think the soup tasted great and so did my husband. The distinct flavors of this caldo reminded me so much of Albondigas soup or Mexican rice.  It was the perfect spicy soup for a gray spring day.

spicy white bean and chicken soup
I was too hangry to get a better photo.

Some bread or corn tortillas would have been a nice addition, but sometimes it’s just more important to get dinner on the table than worry about all the things you’re missing. We had leftover soup on Saturday and served it with ciabatta from our neighborhood bakery.

This recipe made a large pot, about 6-8 generous servings, and from start to finish took me less than an hour to make. I froze a couple portions for a future dinner (yay!), and there’s still some left in the fridge. This is a perfect family-sized weekday meal that could also be adapted for the slow cooker.

Here’s my printable recipe!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy White Bean and Chicken Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A spicy and tangy soup with white beans and chicken
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 1 tabelspoon olive oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chopped rainbow chard or other leafy green (about 3 large leaves plus stems)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes plus juice
  • 1 pickled jalapeño, diced OR fresh or pickled jalapeño to taste
  • 2 cans Great Northern beans (white beans), drained
  • 6 cups chicken broth or water/bullion (follow proportions on package)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil or pan cook chicken. Remove from bones. Shred or chop into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute. Add chopped rainbow chard and mix to combine. Cook until chard is wilted, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes plus juice, diced jalapeño, beans, chicken and chicken broth or water and bullion. Season with cumin. Place lid on pot and bring to a slow boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Taste soup and adjust seasoning. Add salt and pepper or add more jalapeño and cumin. If a less salty broth is desired, add more water.
  4. Serve in bowls. Warm corn tortillas or crusty bread on the side are a nice addition.







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You Are Here

2016 is already almost half over, and this first blog entry has been on my to-do list for way too long. I guess it’s about time for me to plunge back into blogging. Here goes nothing…

I recently became a stay at home mom. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I’m a SAHM, a homemaker, a full time mommy. What? How did that happen? I had a plan when I decided to finally start a family, and this was not in the plan.

My husband and I decided that we were going to be a dual income household. I was going to balance my work and home life. I was going to do the morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups from daycare. I was going to pump in my office so that I could maximize my work time and still provide my baby with breastmilk. I read all the guides on how to survive being a working mom. I made a dozen freezer meals, I toted my pump and parts in a carefully selected messenger bag, I set my alarm extra early. I had a plan. But that plan didn’t work out like I expected. Life went off the rails, and now I’m wandering without a map.

Sunset with my son
Sunset with my son

Like many women of my generation, I have always worked. I had “my own money,” and never felt guilty about spending it on myself (or saving it). But now I’m living in a new world order: I provide full-time childcare, and my husband goes off to work everyday to support us financially. This is the first time in my life I haven’t received feedback about my performance. Being a stay at home mom is rewarding, but it is also…how can I put this delicately? Thankless. There’s no paycheck at the end of the month, and it’s 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Taking care of my child without the added pressure of a career outside the home is also an enormous privilege, one that I try my hardest not to take for granted. I am so thankful that we are in the position to make this choice, even if it is temporary.

The truth is, and I don’t know how many people admit this openly, I’m often lonely and confused about what I’m doing. Being with a child all day and out of the workforce can feel isolating, but I don’t think it has to be. I want to use this blog to connect to other people who are transitioning into a new phase of life and marveling at the journey. I think I have a lot to learn from all the awesome bloggers out there, and anyone with a unique perspective to share.

I am excited to write about what I’ve learned as a rookie mom, a first time homeowner, and a novice DIYer. I hope to entertain you with stories about my crafting mishaps and happy accidents in the kitchen. I welcome you to take a glimpse at my life–it’s messy, real, and hopefully full of laughter and love. This is a lifestyle blog, but don’t let the title fool you, any charm I have is very much still a work in progress.


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