Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been going since I was a kid, and I think just about every single one of my friends in college was forced to try one thing or another from this divine grocery store.
I text friends on a pretty regular basis what all of my new Joe’s finds are, so I figured I might as well make a weekly blog post about it. This week we’re in for a real treat too, because they happened to have my favorite fruit in the entire world. You guessed it:
1. Cotton Candy Grapes I tell everyone about CC grapes. They literally taste exactly like what you would get at the circus or the fair, but aren’t unhealthy! The coolest thing is that they are still organic, despite being some sort of weird hybrid grape. I eat them by the pound, and hope they’ll still be around in a week or two so I can get another giant box.
2. Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds That name is a mouthful, and you’ll definitely want to take one of these dark chocolate almonds once you try them. I got hooked on these when I was in college, and they were a great breakthrough to how amazing dark chocolate can be. Even my husband — who hates dark chocolate — eats these by the fistful. They have a perfect sweet and salty mix, and are wildly addicting.
3. Movie Theater Butter Popcorn Speaking of college, you could always find me studying with a snack, particularly the perfectly buttered bagged popcorn from Trader Joe’s. It’s almost as good as the real thing, and is way too easy to eat an entire bag in a sitting. I still always keep a bag or two in our pantry because my chocolate lab, Jax, and I enjoy splitting it while watching Big Brother or a goofy Hallmark movie.
4. Sparkling Watermelon Juice PLEASE make this a staple, TJ’s!! It breaks my heart that this is a seasonal item because I would like to have these year-round. There came a point where I stocked up on 6 boxes of juice, but sadly I am down to one can now. Hoping they’ll bring it back soon, but if not I’ll be stocking up a lot better next season so they’ll last me at least a few months.
5. Vitamin E Oil This is a very recent discovery, but I’m already obsessed with it. You can get this serum for about $5, and it’s amazing to create hydrated and smooth legs after shaving. It felt really great and I would never use it on my face, but it’s really nice for a little extra body shimmer. Just be careful about how much you put on, because it becomes a little greasy quickly.
Well, that’s all for now, friends. Next week I’ll be posting five new pumpkin things to try at Trader Joe’s, in honor of them bringing out their fall collection. Last year I bought a bunch of pumpkin pancake mix at the end of the season so we could enjoy them year-round. You never know when seasonal items at TJ’s might sell out, so it’s always good to stock up when you can.
One of the hardest parts about having a chronic illness is feeling like I have less value because I am not contributing as much to the community as my peers. Before I got sick I was working toward pursuing a career in journalism. I took internships, worked part time at a newspaper, and was excited to continue my journey working at Seventeen magazine to hopefully impact young women in a positive way. I have always felt that words are one of the most powerful tools we have, and all of us have a wonderful opportunity to lift others up and make them feel less alone in this big world.
I always dread the question, “So, what do you do?” when I meet someone new. I hate explaining right off the bat, “Well, I got sick when I graduated from college, so I’m trying to get back on my feet and am working on getting my health in line.” Over five years later now I have made leaps and bounds in progress, but I still am figuring out how to manage what I’ve begun to accept as my new normal. Not only is my answer incredibly awkward, but I also just feel so lame not having a cool job or anything to show for my life. I worked so freaking hard before I got sick and have absolutely nothing to show for it anymore. The internship I had at a national news company isn’t relevant anymore, and my job at Seventeen wasn’t able to materialize into what it could have because I couldn’t even walk down the driveway to the mailbox when I first got sick. My illness didn’t just take my body away from me; it took away every sense of normalcy I had ever worked to create. I have nothing to be proud of, and feels like I can’t make an adequate contribution to society anymore. I have relied on others to take care of me, when all I have ever wanted to do was be able to take care of others.
If anyone who had a chronic illness told me they felt worthless, my heart would feel completely broken and I would try as hard as I possibly could to show them what an enormous, ugly lie that was. People shouldn’t feel like they don’t have worth in this world just because their body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Our value does not reside in what we do — or don’t do — for a living, and people can still change lives when their bodies don’t work properly.
Whether or not you are a Christian, I think the Bible has a really beautiful sentiment about our worth as human beings. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, “For You [God] formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” This doesn’t say that we have value because of our job or what we do; it says we were born having value. We are made in God’s image, and He only creates beauty for the world. I think it’s very powerful knowing that even before ever doing anything in the world we have irreplaceable value. Just ask a mother of a newborn baby; she will say that her child means absolutely everything to her, and that is merely for existing, it isn’t anything he has done to make her feel this way.
I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose in the world and can make a difference in a way that no one else could. Just because you are bedridden or need to be taken care of absolutely does not mean you don’t have value in the world. You have qualities to offer people that make you absolutely irreplaceable in their lives, so we need to stop telling ourselves the lie that we aren’t as valuable because we are different.
On the other hand, I understand the ache that is in your heart for the opportunities you have missed and feeling like some of life has passed you by. I don’t have the resume I would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick, and there are a lot of experiences I missed out on. It’s weird listening to my friends all talk about what they’re doing at work and how comfortable they are there. I still remember working at the magazine’s office like it was yesterday, but I also think that experience was so different because you’re the lowest on the totem pole. Dealing with an illness does teach you what is important in the world, though, and gives amazing perspective people often don’t have until much later on in life. It teaches you to hold on to all the amazing blessings you are given, because sometimes they can be fleeting, and to be thankful for the people closest to you. It teaches lessons of patience, hard work, and resilience. You learn what it’s like to be empathetic with people, rather than just offering sympathy, and you are given an opportunity to be a light for others who go through the exact same things you deal with on an every day basis. Chronic illness builds beautiful warriors who have such important lessons they need to share with the world.
I understand questioning your worth as much as anyone else with a chronic illness, and I am right there with you trying to find my own purpose. The words I wrote on this page make sense to my brain and I know that my life has incredible value, but my heart sometimes has a hard time making the connection. I feel lost in a big world that doesn’t understand me, and I am getting swallowed up in the lies I tell myself at night. Being sick has taught me I’m a fighter, though, and I’m not going to stop searching until I figure out what I’m here for. Deep down I know I have an important role in the world. I just might take a little longer to figure out what it is and that’s okay.
One of my best friends, Nicole, called me from Trader Joe’s the other day because she knows how much of a TJ’s fan I am. She wanted to know about a few of the items there, and after chatting for awhile I decided she would probably love to try my crispy pesto salmon. It is absolutely delicious and has the perfect little crunch over a creamy basil pesto sauce. Hungry yet?
Gluten-free Crispy Pesto Crusted Salmon
Okay, so here are the ingredients:
-Wild Caught Salmon (Boneless)
-Corn Flakes Crumbs
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400°F. I almost always do 400 because it’s just easy to remember and 50° above or below 350° and 450°, so I figure it works no matter what.
Step 2: Chop up the sweet potatoes and broccoli florets and put them on a cookie sheet. I always do the veggies first so I can use the same cutting board and knife for the meat. It makes cleanup so much easier having fewer dishes! I also always use aluminum foil because it’s easier to clean off a pan this way.
Step 3: Drizzle EVOO, salt, and pepper on the vegetables. Feel free to get crazy and add spices like cinnamon or turmeric to them if you’d like! They’re known for regulating blood sugar and helping with inflammation.
Step 4: Pat the salmon dry, and cut it into however many servings you’d like. It doesn’t matter how large or small the fillet is.
Step 5: Put the salmon on the same pan as the veggies. You can drizzle a little EVOO on the pan before placing it there, and then cover in salt and pepper.
Step 6: Make the pesto sauce. Mix 4/5 parts pesto, 1/5 parts mayo. It doesn’t really matter how much mayonnaise you decide to use, but I always like the pesto to still have a very green color. It just looks a little more pale when you put the mayonnaise in. I should note that I hate mayo in everyday life, but it adds a good creaminess to this dish!
Step 7: Spread as much of the sauce as you’d like on top of the salmon filets. I usually make it a little thick so there’s more flavor, but if you want it super-crispy, be more conservative with the sauce. Then, sprinkle as much of the Corn Flakes as you’d like on top of the mixture on the salmon, and put it in the oven to cook.
Step 8: Bake until the salmon is ready (It depends on how well done you’d like it), and the vegetables begin to brown.
Step 9: While your food cooks, make the extra pesto sauce. Mix the same ratio of pesto and mayo, then add a few squeezes lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a few pinches of pepper.
Once everything is done cooking, take it out of the oven and top with as much of the extra pesto sauce as you’d like. Robert likes it on his veggies too, but I only eat it on the salmon because I think that’s kind of weird and I like the vegetables just the way they are.
Post a comment if you decide to try this how you like it! I didn’t post a picture of the end result because 1) I was too hungry and took a few bites before I realized I probably should have gotten a pretty picture and 2) I don’t know how to make brown things look appetizing. The end of this reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner — it tastes amazing but no matter how hard you try to make your plate look good, it never in a million years will.
Today happens to be a very POTSie day. Luckily, dizzy spells are much fewer and further between, but I hate when they decide to come around with a vengeance. I have been doing a new exercise protocol lately that is supposed to make me feel worse before I feel better, but I am optimistic about how much it could help me in the long run.*
Anyway, I am currently working on a post about what my POTS timeline has looked like, and the improvements I’ve made, as well as the things that are still different in my life post getting sick. It’s been so interesting for me to look back at different things I wrote throughout the years, but is great to have something tangible to look at regarding my life.
Certain things are becoming more normal, and I am pulling off looking like a normal human being like a pro. I have looked pretty normal since getting sick with POTS, since it’s an invisible illness, but I used to have to ask for help much more often. Now I think people around me often forget completely that anything is wrong with me! I hope one day this will be true. Despite being sick for over five years now, I will never stop hoping to get back to complete normalcy. I have a million different things I’m working on for the blog, so today I wanted to just touch on a few things that have been different for me the past half-decade.
1. I can’t enjoy taking showers. Sometimes I hop in a hot shower just because I am in pain and want something to release the tension in my muscles, but for the most part they’re just exhausting. I usually choose between washing my hair or shaving if I’m going to stand the whole time, and have to alternate between the two or rest quite a bit longer after I’m done. Does anyone actually find showers enjoyable? I can’t remember anymore; now they’re just exhausting.
2. I’m not very extroverted anymore. Before I got POTS, I was super extroverted. I was always around people and had an enormous circle of friends. Mentally, I still want to be doing a million things, but my body isn’t up to that. I feel tired and drained from doing too much, so I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. When I do, it’s usually dinner or dessert with just one or a few friends, rather than hanging out in a giant group. When I first got sick I really couldn’t do anything other than try to stay optimistic, rest, and work as hard as possible to take care of my body so I could hopefully get better one day. I think some of my friends who weren’t around might have felt like I was neglecting our friendship, but in reality I just couldn’t function. I have lost touch with people I sometimes still miss. Getting sick really does show you who is going to be around for the long haul, and makes you see who has unconditional love for your friendship.
3. I miss writing for hours on end. My favorite thing in the world has always been writing, even back in elementary school or high school when writing wasn’t supposed to be fun. I always said English was my favorite subject, even when other kids would say “lunch,” “recess,” or “gym.” I loved learning more about our language and how to write things that people would enjoy reading. It’s difficult for me to sit at a computer and type for hours without feeling it after, and then being in a lot of pain for days after. I am very slowly working on endurance, and hope to be writing more and more.
4. I miss being a helper. Before I got POTS I was independent and strong. I loved helping other people in any way I could, and was always there to do acts of service. There is nothing I hate more than having to swallow my pride and ask others for help. I’ve had to do that a lot the past few years, and it honestly doesn’t get much easier. I hate inconveniencing others, and I have a really hard time telling people I need something. I am still working on communicating better, but in the meantime I use my writing as an outlet.
5. I wish I could have my old dreams back. I dreamt of living in New York City as a magazine editor, and thought about how many lives I would change through my writing. I wanted to be able to support myself, pay my parents back for school, and afford my own life. I wanted to keep pushing myself and training for another half marathon, and I wanted to collect a million new skills from the new people I’d meet.
I have set new and more realistic goals, and am focusing on getting my body in shape so I can reach higher. Despite my life being much more complicated now, it’s also somehow become more simple. I realize how much I value the people who are in my life, and how important they are compared to everything else in the world. I’ve learned to appreciate the many blessings I do have, and how to live in the moment better. I still feel like I’m looking to find my purpose in the world, but I also trust God now more than ever to have better plans for me than I ever did for myself. I’m just trying to figure out what that is now.
*For any POTSies who are curious, I am doing the Levine protocol.
I took a survey on my Instagram last week, and found a lot of people were interested in having me write about what I cook. Let me begin with this: I am not a chef, and before Robert and I got married we joked about how he would be doing all the cooking since I couldn’t even make simple grilled chicken without completely burning it. Like, I would char it completely to make sure it was cooked thoroughly. Now, though, I am all about creating recipes that are super easy, healthy, and tasty. I think cooking is fun, and I am surprisingly capable after learning more about different ingredients. I want to make recipes that literally anyone can do, and without all the work of measuring out ingredients and being hassled with following something exactly.
Today, I want to share my newest creation that I can actually take 100% credit for! I made it last night with some ingredients I picked out from the store, and I was actually anticipating to get a major fail blog post out of it. My coconut curry chicken is now Robert’s favorite dish I’ve ever made, though, and he said he gives it a 9.8 out of 10, which is the closest to perfect he’ll ever get. He said this was comparing it to restaurants and every kind of food he’s ever had. I asked if he’s ever had a dish that’s a 10 before, and he said no. Not to toot my own horn, but I am pretty proud that this was ranked as one of the best foods in his book!
Okay so it’s really easy to make, but before getting started I want to preface this post with something. I cook by eyeballing everything. I compare this to playing music by ear; you don’t need to have measuring cups or any sort of help reading exact numbers for my recipes. I’ll explain how I make everything based on ratios or describing how much flavor you want in a recipe. This, in my opinion, makes things a lot easier and more customizable from person to person. I typically make enough food for 2, so just add more however much you think you need when cooking for a bigger party. Here goes nothing!
Krista’s Coconut Curry Chicken
Chopped Garlic Cloves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400°F.
Step 2: make the coconut rice.
Coconut rice is one of my favorite things and is so easy to make! Literally all you do is dump the coconut milk (I love the organic coco milk from Trader Joe’s) into a pot on the stove, cover, and heat until it begins to boil.
Just a heads-up, if you get the milk with a normal amount of fat in it, it might be partially solid. The first time I made this I threw out the milk because I thought it went bad since it was solid, but it’s supposed to be like this! It will melt into a liquid once it begins to boil.
Once the coconut milk is boiling, add a pinch of salt, and dump in about 3/4 the amount of rice as there was liquid. An easy way to do this is just measure it in the empty coconut milk can.
Once you pour the rice in the pot, re-cover it, turn the heat to “medium low,” and cook without stirring until the rice is fluffy and has absorbed all the liquid.
Now, let’s move on to the main dish while the rice cooks!
Step 3: Put the seasoning together.
Seasoning chicken is surprisingly easy. The only things I used were turmeric, curry, garlic, lime juice (sorry I put a photo with a lemon, but I changed my mind at the last minute and am not professional enough to retake the photo. Plus, using a lemon instead will not kill you, and is a fine substitute I’m sure), salt, and pepper.
Start by putting three shakes of chili powder into a mixing bowl. Then, put in a very generous amount of curry powder. After all, the dish is called “chicken curry,” so we need this flavor to really stand out! Add about half the amount of ground turmeric as there is curry in the bowl. I just eyeballed all of this to be more than enough to season the chicken breast with, that way I didn’t have to make up a mixture again or have a naked chicken.
Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, then stir in enough EVOO to turn the mixture into a little bit of a liquid, but still smell primarily like curry. If it smells too much like EVOO, add more curry and turmeric until the marinade smells like seasoning again. Squirt in as much lime (or lemon) juice as you think seems good. I used one of those premade lime juices that you keep in the fridge, and put in about 6 drops. Chop up a few garlic cloves and toss them in there, too. I really roughly chopped it, which is why you can clearly see chunks of garlic on my finished product. I bet you thought those were peanuts or some sort of fancy topping. Nope, just good ol’ garlic!
Step 4: Prepare the chicken.
I always start off by patting the chicken breast dry with paper towels, and placing it on a cutting board. As I mentioned before, I don’t know a lot about cooking, so I probably hack off a little too much of the chicken. Are those white things veins that need to be gone, or fat that is chewy and gross? Or is it just part of the chicken breast? Regardless, the shape of my chicken sometimes isn’t very pretty because of my lack of knowledge.
Then, cover both sides with salt and pepper. This is a step I only take because I have watched enough of The Food Network to know that it’s an incredibly professional move.
After that, throw the chicken into the sauce and cover it completely. I mixed all the chicken around a ton so it would be evenly coated. Put it on a baking sheet and cook until the chicken is white throughout. You can Google “How long do you bake chicken?” to find more answers on food safety and such. I don’t want to be responsible for any food poisoning, and honestly I just cook it until it seems ready, then cut into it to be sure that it is no longer pink.
Step 5: While the chicken is cooking, you can take care of the carrots. These are literally the easiest thing to make of all time.
Start by chopping up as many carrots as you’d like. I did four for two people, but they were enormous since they weren’t organic and were likely genetically modified. I don’t typically go this route, but the organic bag was way too big and heavy for me to carry, so here we are with these four foot long vegetables.
Then, let some butter melt in a saucepan. Once again, put in as much as you’d like depending on how fattening you’d like this meal to be. You could also use EVOO or some other ingredient to sauté. I don’t think it really matters.
Toss a bunch of cinnamon and a pinch of salt on the carrots. I love cinnamon, so I don’t think you can really have too much of it.
Cook until soft, stirring on occasion. It takes maybe like, 5-7 minutes?
Step 6: Cook everything until it’s all done, then put it all together on a plate. I don’t really know how else to end this, but I think you are capable enough to finish dinner on your own. I certainly have no idea what I’m doing and was able to execute it alright.
I’d give this recipe an 8/10. I really liked it and am craving it again now that I’m writing about it and looking at all the photos. Minus the ones of the raw chicken — raw meat really grosses me out, which made me almost decide to not include those photos. I think they were necessary to break up the steps and make this an easy read, though.
Please let me know what you think of this if you decide to make it, and if you’d like to see more of this! Since I love to cook now I might be doing a few recipes each month, rather than a million Instagram stories that will disappear.
This is the question of the week in our household. I strongly believe they’re cookies — they’re sweet and more dessert-like than they are savory — and Robert thinks they’re crackers. Who knows his reasoning, other than the fact that there is the word “cracker” in the name. All other evidence points to cookie, but I digress.
We like to talk about our differing opinions, and sometimes we can even change each other’s minds. I used to think Poptarts were better than Toaster Strudels. I do stand by that for the strawberry flavor, but a cinnamon Strudel is literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It’s basically a mix of a warm, perfectly crispy fried donut with a gooey cinnamon roll filling. How can anything beat that?!
I think it’s so important for people to keep an open mind and continue to grow throughout every stage in life. I have changed a lot in the matter of a few short years, and it’s crazy to think that some of the opinions I have now will be different after I gather even more information and experiences. I look back at my old social media sometimes and think it’s strange to see how much has changed over time. Sure, I have had some big life-altering events like getting sick with POTS, but I’ve also just grown up and matured as an adult human being. My thoughts at even just 22 years old were very different than they are now, six years later.
The thing with humans is that we are dynamic and ever-changing. We meet new people who challenge us, we collect different experiences, and any sort of trauma often drastically alters our view of the world. This is why I think it’s so important that we change the “cancel culture” we live in. Far too often, we see someone’s rise to fame or notoriety completely trashed because of something they tweeted or posted on Facebook nearly a decade ago. I could list dozens of examples of people who have fallen in the public eye, and I’m sure you can think of several too. One of the scariest things about being a human being is that we all make mistakes. Sometimes we make little ones that won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, other times we make huge life-altering mistakes that we wish every day we hadn’t. We make mistakes we can’t take back, and realize we’ve done something wrong by the lump in our throat and pit in our stomach.
Ultimately, the greatest gift we can give other people is love, and sometimes this is in the form of forgiveness. Our cancel culture is a lot more harmful than people really seem to recognize. It is based on hate, rather than understanding or trying to gently teach someone how they can grow. This is ironic when the person at fault is being completely ripped apart by people who are trying to preach tolerance because the truth is, we don’t have to agree with someone to still show them love and forgiveness. Love is often the most powerful way to change people’s minds and help them see that maybe they still have some growing to do. Martin Luther King Junior said it best,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There is a reason he is one of the most quoted people in American history. He was incredibly wise and someone who changed countless lives through exhibitinglove in all that he did. He made peaceful protesting an art, and made an absolutely enormous impact on the world through his kindness and controlling his emotions well. He is someone who had every right to feel angry and frustrated and lash out, but he taught us that you can really get through to people by showing patience and love in your arguments.
By living in a society based on canceling people who have made mistakes, we are essentially saying that unless someone is absolutely perfect, we will not accept them as worthy of having an opinion to share. This is problematic in so many ways. Not only does the cancel culture hurt people who have messed up, but it is ultimately scaring beautifully creative minds from sharing their talents and ideas with the world. Bright minds are now afraid to speak up because they know at one point or another that they don’t have a perfect past and have been wrong about something. In reality we all have, but it’s often a whole lot easier being critical of someone else than it is judging ourselves. It’s often merely a matter of who has unintentionally documented their mistakes on whether their career will thrive or completely tank before it even begins. There’s a difference between the past and present, and there is a difference between a one-time isolated incident, and being consistent in acting some kind of way. At the end of the day if we choose to hate every person for their uninformed past, we are going to miss out on some really amazing human beings. I hope we can move to a point where we can gently correct people, rather than tear them down with the insults and hatred that is so easily accessed with the invisibility of the Internet.
Now that I have a house of my own, I’ve been trying to keep it clean and as junk-free as possible. I’ve been slowly getting rid of old clothes I haven’t worn in awhile, but it’s definitely a big process after moving all of my stuff in.
I got coffee with my sweet friend Melody yesterday, and she suggested doing something called the “30-Day Minimalism Game.” I was intrigued when she told me the very simple concept: get rid of one thing on the first day, two things on the second, three on the third, all the way up until you reach 30 days. By the end of the challenge — if you can actually complete it — you will have gotten rid of hundreds of things.
In all honesty I don’t think I can make it to day 30 because I really don’t think we have that much junk in our house, but I’m really curious to try and see how far I get. Go give my Instagram account a follow if you want ton see what I get rid of every day, and want a chance to take some of my stuff off my hands. I’ll be donating most of it to Purple Heart or The Salvation Army, but I’m always happy for a friend to get something they need, too!
Here’s to decluttering my house and making some extra room for the things I actually use and to breathe. Day 1: Finally throwing out my old Brooks tennies!