February Favorites

Hi, friends! Welcome back to the blog.

I’m here with another round of favorites for the month of February!!

These first few months flashed before my eyes so seamlessly. Days overlapped, and weeks are going by at a speedy pace. I still can’t believe that there are only three months left until I graduate college. A time of celebration awaits me as I approach the end of this four-year long journey. These past four years have been crazy, to say the least. Learning more about my chosen career path, a once in a lifetime experience studying abroad in Italy and interviewing for my first job in the field. Personal and professional growth have been at the top of my agenda. I will keep you all posted in further detail post-graduation, so be on the look-out for that blog post around the end of May.

Post-graduation plans: After a long conversation with my family and through some lengthy self-reflection, I made the decision to take a gap year before applying to graduate school. I will be studying abroad in Guatemala this summer which I’m really excited about and hoping to book my sky diving trip for my 22nd birthday.

So… that’s my life in a nutshell at the moment. But without further delay, let’s jump into my favorites for the month of February!

Book: Design your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Genre: Personal Growth & Development

Is it really possible to design a life that is fulfilling and joyful? Using the principles of product design and crossing them over to life design, Burnett and Evans reveal the steps we need to take to live a happy and meaningful life. We all want to have everything figured out, but trial and error sometimes is a lengthy process that not many are willing to pursue. This book was helpful in transforming my thoughts, ideas and passions into a tangible plan that I can create as I continue to grow. Each chapter contains useful exercises and brainstorming sketches that allowed me to take the ideas and theories presented and apply it to my situation. An easy read, practical in its nature and straightforward to help anyone design a life they love.

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Documentary: Food Choices by Michal Siewierski

A simplistic approach on tackling universal questions surrounding the topic of our food choices. This documentary breaks common myths by presenting facts in a straightforward interview style. I truly enjoyed watching this piece last month and had the chance to clear up my own faulty beliefs about adopting a plant-based diet. Many times we all get too caught up in the comfort of assigning labels to people. “You’re a carnivore, you’re a vegetarian, oh wait… you don’t eat dairy so you’re a vegan.” These labels become part of our identity and everyday dialogue. But a documentary like Food Choices shows you how our choices define us at the cost of animal life & our environment which is far more important than any label we can assign each other. At the end of the day, regardless of these categories we decide to place ourselves in, our choices are what really define us. The documentary confirms that a plant-based diet is the most sustainable for our planet and our overall health.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to be informed about the movement towards using dietary choices as a form of medicine and minimizing your global footprint.

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 Albums/Music Pieces: Anderson .Paak – Malibu/ J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only/ Latasha Lee & the BlackTies/ Adam Ben Ezra – Can’t Stop Running

 The sole focus of this month has been on musical discoveries! A special thank you to my coworker and my music teacher for introducing me to artists that were not on my radar before. This month I listened to Anderson .Paak’s Malibu non-stop in the car on the way to school, work, or on outings with friends. The entire album is an R&B lover’s dream. It was so easy on the ears, yet so funky that you couldn’t help but smile and belt out the lyrics with the volume maxed out. J

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Contrasting the up-beat funk of .Paak’s album is J. Cole’s tributary album 4 your eyez only. This album isn’t just a culmination of Cole’s musical talent and expressive excellence, rather a powerful social message aimed at a generation of individuals grinding to make their voices heard. Numbers like: immortal and change call out to the recent events in our nation’s history. These songs profess the urge of collective action rather than submissive tolerance as the key to a promising future.

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My favorite quote from ‘Change,’ is: “I know you desperate for a change, let the pen glide. But the only real change, come from inside.”

Cole’s advice is clear… if there is something you’re passionate about- a social cause, a political movement or personal lifestyle change, just know that the power lies within you to make it happen. Motivational at its core.

Two powerhouse artists are joined by another exemplary performer and singer – Latasha Lee

Her voice, like silk. Each song builds on the previous one to create a visual story through lyrics and sound. I felt like Lee took me on a journey from a heartbreak to healing and ultimately stumbling upon love. Very soothing and melodious. Loved listening to this album on long drives coming back from school. Pledging my love is perfect for any romantic slow dance!

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For the first time in the history of my blogging career I’ve favorited an instrumental piece under my music section. I was first introduced to Adam Ben Ezra through my online music class and was instantly hooked! I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this piece. The music video depicts Adam in his natural environment and highlights his pure talent. His piece – ‘Can’t Stop Running,’ is AMAZING!! Seriously, if you have an ear for jazz and enjoy listening to instrumental pieces, Adam is the guy for you. Before taking this music class, I had no idea what the acoustic bass was and the quality of sound it produced. I’m very lucky to have stumbled upon such talent this month.

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Recipes: Thai Quinoa Power Bowl/ DIY Burrito Bowl – Oh She Glows App/ Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies – My California Roots

From all the new knowledge I’ve gained from the documentary I watched this month, I decided to channel more creativity into my weekly meal prepping/planning. This month I fell in love with DIY bowls – inspired by various cuisine/culture. I whipped up a Thai Quinoa Bowl one evening to use up all my veggies in the fridge and it turned out pretty darn well. This bowl was super hearty and full of spice and tang. The tofu marinated in chili sauce and the squeeze of lime on top give the dish a powerful citrus PUNCH! This recipe is perfect to prepare in batches and store for weekly lunches or you can step up your dinner game and make it for your family one night.

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On a similar note of putting together bowls, the DIY burrito bowl from the Oh She Glows app was another favorite of mine this month. The black bean and tomato mixture with a tangy cilantro –avocado-garlic-cashew sauce (wow that was a mouthful!) blends together the predominant flavors that are seen in Latin American cuisine. An affordable and plant-based alternative to the chipotle veggie bowl. Now what’s better than the same amazing taste and textures while getting you a bang for your buck?!

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Any recipe favorite is incomplete without dabbling with a dessert re-creation. My sweet tooth this month has been jabbing at me constantly, so I decided to find a solution without spoiling my diet. I tried out these vegan chocolate chip cookies one Sunday morning and they definitely hit the spot. Creamy chocolate, a warm center, balanced sweetness with every bite. The only suggestion I have is to freeze the batter before spooning it onto the baking tray. This method ensures that the batter won’t slide around the tray before placing in the oven. Also, on another note, once the batter is semi-frozen, roll the mixture into small bite size balls and spread evenly over the sheet. In a rush I accidentally spooned 1-2 tbsp. of the mixture and my cookies were really large and didn’t retain their shape after cooling.

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Overall, these recipe creations turned out to be budget friendly without compromising on taste and quality of ingredients.

 Experience: Tater Tot & Beer Festival

This month has been nothing short of adventurous – from music discoveries, culinary re-creations and family outings. Being a full-time student makes it extremely difficult for me to spend quality time with my family. I was extremely lucky that I got to attend a local food & drink festival with my mom. Just going off the title, who wouldn’t enjoy this type of event? A lethal combination of tasty tots, a stellar beer selection and a sunny afternoon. As a 21 year old, I’m guilty of being under the impression that I have an unlimited time frame to accomplish the things I want. The illusion of time prevents us from seizing the moment and invites room for procrastination and bad habits.  So I decided to stop wasting time on tomorrow and enjoying what today has to offer me.

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Thank you all for joining me this month! I had a great time writing up this blog post for you all and hope that you check out some of the items that I featured this time.

Till next time…

Ashna