Some Things I’ve Been Eating Lately

It’s finals week, which means any student or professor you know is probably feeling somewhat overwhelmed and slightly cranky. There’s part of me that loves grading final papers and projects because I get to see student progress and that’s one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. But it also takes so.much.time, and then, at the end, you have to do math to calculate their final grade. MATH!; after hours upon hours of reading and commenting on papers. What a cruel joke.

For the most part, I’ve been making food choices that give me energy and happiness during crunch time. Here are a couple recent breakfasts:

christmas colors, obvi.

christmas colors, obvi.

buckwheat chia porridge + beet, carrot, ginger juice

buckwheat chia porridge + beet, carrot, ginger juice

Honestly, I’ve been relying on the Whole Foods salad bar for lunch more than I should, but I didn’t make time to food prep this week. No pics of that, but it’s been mostly small to-go containers of greens, veggies, and hummus. Dinners have been big salads with steamed or roasted veggies. When I felt like I was getting a cold again, I made this turmeric carrot soup (truly a panacea!).

a friend lent me some of his CSA share and I roasted up this beautiful watermelon radish to put on top of a big salad. so pretty!

a friend lent me some of his CSA share and I roasted up this beautiful watermelon radish to put on top of a big salad. so pretty!

not the prettiest, but it's magic, i swear.

not the prettiest, but it’s magic, i swear.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dessert-ing with the (vegan & gluten-free) cookies I’ve been making for parties and gifts. Admittedly, extra sugar is not helping with optimal energy and health, BUT they sure do taste good and make me feel Christmasy!

a tray of the treats i brought to a friend's annual holiday cookie party

a tray of the treats i brought to a friend’s annual holiday cookie party

What have you been eating lately? Have a great day! xo

Friday Five!

Hello, friends. Energy is a funny thing. I’m feeling, in the air and in my body, this pervasive mix of holiday season buzz coupled with the pulse of resistance and discontent.  It’s been harder than ever for me to get into the festive spirit this year. I guess I’m okay with that. It’s a privilege to turn-off real world stressors (and/or traumas) to be jolly and bright, and I know not everyone is afforded that luxury. That said, I am, as always, trying to stay present and sit with gratitude. So things aren’t bad, they just aren’t quite as twinkly as they usually are for me this time of year. That’s okay. Maybe this gif of a cat getting into some Christmas mischief will help:

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lol, cats are jerks and i love them so much.

(Yeah, that helped.)

Anyway, here’s the Friday Five!

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12 Simple Ways to Help Those in Need This Holiday Season (+2 more)

Okay, so I’m admittedly skeptical about a lot of “charities” and holiday do-gooder campaigns, for a variety of reasons: 1) sometimes barely any money goes to the supposed entity you’re trying to help; 2) sometimes the thing the organization you’re giving money to is providing isn’t good for the people who you are trying to help and/or those people don’t want that kind of help; 3) it promotes a culture of philanthrocapitalism and white savior industrial complex; 4) sometimes the orgs are discriminatory against gay people (or some other group they shouldn’t be discriminatory towards); etc. BUT! In a capitalist world, sometimes giving money is actually something that can be pretty powerful, so the trick is figuring out what organizations to give to that don’t suck for those aforementioned reasons. Buzzfeed’s favorite former-academic-turned-journalist, Anne Hellen Peterson, provided exactly that kind of list. I am especially excited about giving to Ferguson’s Youth Tech Program!).

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Not drawn to any of those? Maybe donate directly to the family of Eric Garner.

Or, maybe you love pitt-bulls? Consider donating to Phoebe the pittie’s hospital bills. Phoebe’s parents are two of my dear, queer friends, Angela and Rae, and they are looking for some financial assistance for the very costly surgery Phoebe endured.

Consider donating to any number of these, or maybe making a donation in the names of all those social justice-y types on your holiday gift list!

How to Change Your Relationship to Failure in 5 Steps

As I inch closer and closer to age 30, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to have a successful life, and thus, what it means to “fail”. I have a lot going for me—(a PhD! a yoga license! a living creature (cat) that I keep alive!), but it’s certainly hard not to think about the things that I don’t have going for me—(a stable relationship! financial security! a pair of “work-appropriate” heels!). In this piece, Aliya Kahn reminds us, “The concept of failure insinuates that there is a right and wrong way to exist. We feel failure when we do not live up to expectations of what “should” be. Since these expectations are rooted in our social values, they often reflect the dominant culture. Our standards for success are ingrained in our culture and often reflect white, male, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender, and able-bodied ways of living.” (Jack Halberstam makes a similar argument in their book The Queer Art of Failure, but leaves responses to this dilemma mostly in theory-land. Kahn on the other hand provides a handy, grounded list that can be applied to real life.) I was particularly drawn to the set of questions Kahn urges us to ask ourselves when we feel a sense of failure–“In what ways did I take a chance or a risk?; What did I learn about myself? How can that be helpful in my life?; What did I learn about others? How can that be helpful in my life?; How is the environment and culture that I am in affecting my perspective on this?; What do I value and how can I see this experience aligning with my values?” Once we change our relationship to the socially constructed notion of failing, we can arrive at understanding that, “The act of failure…is an act of liberation.”

dapperQ Masculine Gender Queer Fashion Show

I loved watching the video and reading about the dapperQ fashion show that happened in Brooklyn last week. The show featured six “menswear” lines that are created by designers who specifically make clothes for transmasculine and other people who are masculine of center/gender queer. Not only are the clothes (and models!) smokin’ hot, but there is a truly moving act of solidarity amidst what could otherwise be a frivolous party—the models carry “Black Lives Matter” signs on their last round on the runway. Intersectionality, ftw.

Kay-Ulanday

Model, poet, activist, Kay Ulanday Barrett.

 Vegan, Paleo Snickerdoodles

Looking for a cookie recipe to bring to a holiday gathering? Try these vegan, paleo, refined sugar-free (just maple syrup and if you want some rolling coconut sugar) from the Urban Poser. I made them this week for a cookie party I’m attending on Saturday; I sampled one (two), and they were delicious!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

teaching sculpt; practicing yoga; last day of the semester warm-fuzzies with my students; some potentially exciting job news; friend-time: a happy hour, a birthday party, and tonight, a holiday soiree with my dear M; friend phone calls, too; deciding to listen to this album like it’s 2003 again; kitten; how well my mom knows me, and how good she is to talk to; the fact that these kinds of protests aren’t going anywhere;  buying xmas gifts; writing out xmas cards; marathoning all the holiday episodes of this show; baking for MP&GS’s annual cookie party; pretty boston snowfall; red lipstick; gold heels; christmas sweaters; and green tea.

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What made you happy this week?

Have a great weekend! xoxo 

Belated Giving of Thanks

Dear readers, I seem to have slipped into an unforeseen hiatus. The lack of posts can be credited to a number of things, including being buried in work and job applications, a week of travel, holiday plans, and a heavy heart. But as I’ve said before, sometimes even when blogging feels like the last thing I want to do, I usually end up feeling better after I’m back at it. And I know sharing some belated Thanksgiving reflections will certainly remind me of how abundant this wild and precious life of mine really is, so here goes….

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was at my annual national academic conference. I am thankful for a career that I love, as difficult and precarious as it may be. I am grateful that when my academic community gathers together, I feel hopeful about using academia as a means of political and social change. I am thankful for the opportunity to see my academic family at least once a year in these spaces we share over ideas and drinks. I am thankful for community and for friendship and for theory. I am thankful for inspiration in unexpected places. I am thankful for mentors.

I got to spend a whole week in Cleveland for the holiday. I am thankful for a job that allows me, for holiday breaks and summers, to do work wherever I want. I am grateful that even though I still had a lot of work to do, that I actually enjoy my work. I am thankful for the delicious juxtaposition that is sitting in a coffee shop listening to cozy christmas music while planning a lesson on the NSA, and that those silly pairings are the patchwork fabric of my day job.

i am thankful for feeling good about myself in a way that makes me want to take selfies!

i am thankful for feeling good about myself in a way that makes me want to take selfies!

I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for the memories of those who have recently passed, and the stories we share about them that makes it feel like they are right there in the room with us. I am thankful for the primarily strong health of my family and that my mom has insurance to see doctors finally. I am thankful that everyone is employed right now. I am thankful for feeling accepted by my family, for never once doubting their love or support. I am thankful for all the vegan food that was prepared for me and that I helped prepare, with love.

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I am thankful for my friends from home. For the women whom I have known from 4, 5, and 6 years old, who I don’t see for a full year, but who share with me the ability to pick up right where we left off. And for the friends I made the summer before I moved away, the group who I would end up sharing one of my most favorite traditions—our vegan Thanksgiving that we’ve been doing without fail for 12 years!

And words cannot express how thankful I am to be honorary auntie to this light of my life. He has added a brightness and joy to my world that I didn’t think was possible and I am so glad to call his mom my longest best friend.

#muffinofmyheart

#muffinofmyheart

For myself and for our world, I am thankful for the fighters and resisters who get out of bed everyday and participate in the struggle against capitalism and white supremacy.

I am thankful for yoga and for resilience for getting me through what has surely been the hardest 18 months of my life. Last year around this same time, I made a decision to break my own heart (and another heart) by ending a relationship. This year, those wounds still haven’t fully healed, and somehow my heart has managed to find ways to crack in new spots along the way. A weary heart puts a damper on the holidays, and I’ve found it hard last year and this year to get in the festive spirit. This is very unfortunate, because I *love* this time of year, and am usually the first one singing Christmas songs to profess my glee. Not so much last year or this. But when I take my yoga off the mat, and practice presence and breathing through hard times, I am able to find glimmers of joy amidst the cloud of uncertainty and pain that have hovered over my days. I am so grateful for those moments and I work everyday to choose more joy.

Things have not been easy, but they have felt significant and transformative. Sugar says, “I used to see a butterfly in my mind’s eye every time I heard the word transformation, but life has schooled me. Transformation isn’t a butterfly. It’s the thing before you get to be a pretty bug flying away. It’s huddling in the dark cocoon and then pushing your way out….It’s the messy work you have ahead of you…of making sense of your fortunes and misfortunes, desires and doubts, hangups and sorrows, actions and accidents, mistakes and successes, so you can go on and become the person you must next become. The one who doesn’t wallow in her own despair.” (I am thankful to have so many reasons to not wallow in despair, despite a slew of misfortunes, and doubts, and sorrows, and mistakes.)

I am thankful it is December 1st. And as hard as it feels this year, I am going to sing at the top of my lungs to all the Christmas songs I hear.

xoxoxo

Friday Five!

Hello! I am sick, and majorly busy, and pretty overwhelmed, but I’m going to take advantage of my current state of “not-enough-brain-capacity-to-do-actual-work-but-enough-brain-capacity-to-do-the-Friday Five.” Because there is nothing like the internet to give you a break from your life outside of it. Also, it’s another cheesy motivational poster kind of week for me, sooo:

And now the FF!

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How a national food policy could save millions of Americans lives

I really appreciate this article from the Washington Post (written by three famous food warriors) that points out the insanity of the government (or at least the First Lady) promoting healthy eating habits, whilst entrenching the structures that make healthy eating impossible for the majority of Americans. The authors write: “A well-articulated national food policy in the United States would make it much more difficult for Congress to pass bills that fly in its face. The very act of elevating food among the issues the White House addresses would build public support for reforms. And once the government embraces a goal such as “We guarantee the right of every American to eat food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable” — it becomes far more difficult to pass or sign a farm bill that erodes those guarantees.” #church

Fall Veg + Lentil Bowl w/ Goji Ginger Tahini Cream

Just read the name of this recipe again. Now look at the picture. Omg, I really need to make and devour this amazing dish from The First Mess!

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First-Ever Walmart Strike!

As may of you know, the labor movement and worker’s rights more generally are things that are very close to my heart/my scholarship/my activism, so I was pretty effing stoked to see this historic news about Walmart workers first-ever strike. Organizers hope the action will raise awareness of their concerns about fair hours and wages in advance of Black Friday. Walmart is known for terrible working conditions and egregious union basting tactics, so it is incredibly awesome that the workers were able to get even this far by organizing OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), a nonprofit group supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers. Support workers, remember to stay away from stores (especially Walmart!) on Black Friday!

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Self Care, In Theory and Practice

This, this THIS. The Hairpin’s Fariah Roisin and Sara Black McCulloch talk to each other about what self-care means, and “the struggles that come when you’ve been socialized to equate an act of self-love with solipsism.” The two women talk about how to practice self-care after bad breakups, while traveling, before sleeping. They write about makeup and selfies and sage and body-hate. Fariah discusses how appreciating other women is part of self care: “I’ve really developed good feelings about other women, and that’s been really cathartic for me. Another woman’s success is a good thing for all of us, and instead of using it against myself—when it has nothing to do with me, I’ve embraced the importance of women’s voices that aren’t mine. Besides, a lot of us are fighting each other when we should be fighting the patriarchy. “ It’s basically all the things, and it’s going to be an ongoing series, so I’m pretty stoked to stay tuned.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

yoga; teaching sculpt and having one of my students come up to me after class and say, so sincerely, “you are so strong. you’re really inspiring.” (be still, my heart!); an overdue coffee date with a person i care about very much; speaking my truth; good outfits; the weather—the changing, the growth of the seasons and the reflection it inspires; this video because it reminds me so much of minneapolis and is just the most delightful; phone calls with dear friends; emails with dear friends; knowing how to take care of myself when i get sick and implementing all my get-better tools; seeing my students improve; the good/bad tv that keeps me company on my couch while i’m not feeling well; kitten.

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What made you happy this week? xoxo

Coping with Suffering & the Suffering of Others Through Compassion

On Friday morning, a student of mine approached me at the front of the room a few minutes before class started.

“Can I talk to you outside?” he asked.

I nodded and followed him into the hall.

“Last night…” he began, swallowing a lump in his throat, “Last night my friend got shot.”

He explained that his friend was in critical condition in the hospital. After expressing my condolences, I asked if he needed to leave and go be with him.

“No, I don’t need to leave now, but if I seem out of it, or if I get upset by something, I might end up leaving before class is over, if that’s okay,” he asked/explained.

“Of course,” I replied, “Do what you need to to take care of yourself. We’ll make sure we get you caught up if you miss anything.”

On Sunday, I received an email from the student saying that his friend had died.

This is not the first time something like this has happened since I’ve been teaching college. I had a student talk to me during office hours about being suicidal. I had a student who got through a class at the same time that her parent was getting deported. At the beginning of this semester one of my students lost her mom to cancer. And last week, another student’s mom just got diagnosed with cancer (a year after her dad passed away from kidney failure).

In my other job, as a yoga teacher, I don’t always hear these stories verbally, but I feel and bear witness to my students’ struggles. I feel trauma in the quivering hips of a student I adjust in half-pigeon. I witness sweat mix with tears while my students rest in savasana. I feel the weight of heartbreaks, and transitions, and grief from every exhale in the studio.

Because I, like everyone, have experienced suffering to varying degrees in my own life, it sometimes feels overwhelming to also be wound up in the suffering of others. I have not always known what to do with the heaviness I feel after those interactions with burdened students. I used to attempt to find ways to bring them comfort while still shielding myself from carrying their pain, but that never proved successful.

About a year ago, I learned about the Buddhist practice of tonglen. Pema Chodron describes it as “connecting with suffering–ours and that which is all around us.” She explains,

“We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.”

When I first read those words, I was at one of the lowest points I had been in a long time. My entire life had been flipped upside down and I felt very scared and alone. I was spending all my time consumed in my own suffering. I remember sitting on my bed and re-awakening to the suffering of the world. I remember breathing in for victims of drones, for people with chronic illness, for exploited workers, for my mom and the challenges she was facing at home. I started weeping almost immediately, burying myself in that pain, but, at the same time, my body felt suddenly light.

Chodron continues,

“At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us.” 

The practice of tonglen is a reminder of the interconnectedness of all beings. When I have been in low places, I can find comfort by practicing compassion for those who are also suffering. This is different than “misery loves company.” Tonglen isn’t about feeling better because “someone has it worse,” it’s about recognizing that all beings suffer, (just as all beings feel joy), and that a path to effective healing must consist of compassion both towards ourselves and towards others.

When I am surrounded by suffering, I can conjure the compassion that I have learned through my own personal challenges. When I see and feel the tumult of my students, I can breathe it in, hold it, then exhale some relief to them, and in turn, to me.

Any human being who is in relation to other human beings will experience the suffering of others, but those of us in care-giving occupations may often experience it to a level that feels overwhelming and/or triggering. In addition to tonglen, these are some other ways that I practice coping with others’ suffering:

Ritual.

At the end of every yoga class, as I’m guiding my students out of savasana, I fold my towel in front of me on the mat in exactly the same way.  Over, under, flip it, fold. That process may seem small, but it allows me to transition from the space in the room–now sopping with the stories the students came in with–back into the world, and to leave what no longer serves me on the mat.

Sweating.

Running, HIIT, yoga, whatever it is, when I move my body and sweat, I feel epic release.

Showering.

This is a practice that some suggest you ought to do every night.  After being out in the world with all the mucky energy, it is important to rinse away the day. (And also allows your bed to remain a clean, pure space to enable optimal sleeping and dreaming conditions!).

(PS: I don’t practice this one all the time because I do the majority of my working out and/or yoga in the morning, so I usually shower in the AM. If I do do a PM shower, I try to make it very quick so as to not waste water!)

Dry Brushing.

Dry brushing is a practice of taking a body-brush and running it over your body to get blood circulating and remove dead skin cells. More than that, it too acts as a method of release and detox.

Sage.

Burning sage cleanses the space around you. I do this whenever I move into a new apartment, and any other time I feel like I need to purify the energy around me.

 

In her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach writes, “…as we feel suffering and relate to it with care rather than resistance, we awaken the heart of compassion. As we practice responding to our suffering with the kindness of compassion, our hearts can become…as wide as the world” (p.201). The suffering of others is also our own, and vice versa. Our mission is not to resist or find a way to escape, but rather to let it open us up into our most vulnerable and compassionate selves.

Friday Five!

Happy Friday! I hope you had a nice week. My week has been up and down, and also busy. I did get to enjoy an afternoon in the Boston Commons, and it made me very happy to be a New England resident in the fall:

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And now the Friday Five!

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From GMOs to Soda Tax, What the Election Results Mean for Your Fridge

Well, a lot of people are pretty unhappy with Tuesdays election results. I am grateful for the small, meaningful victories (like the states that raised minimum wage, ensured paid sick time, and challenged prison expansion), and not terribly surprised by the “losses” (which is really just the status quo in our capitalist system). Anyway, regardless of your politics, I figured the RGK community would be curious to know the outcomes of the bills that related to our food system. Mother Jones provides this thorough review.

Yacon Cacao Chia Cookies with Chai Tea Frosting 

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently on the Rest & Restore plan, which, for me, means no sweets like this for a couple weeks. BUT, when I’m done resting and resorting, I look forward to giving these Essential Living Foods low-glycemic, raw, vegan cookies a try!

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7 Ways to Deal with Uncertainty

So, I am, for the third year in a row, in a position of complete uncertainty. Jobs, relationships, where I’ll be living…it’s all up in the air. Existing in liminal space and coping with instability is not easy…and it leads me to google things like, “how to deal with uncertainty.” One of the articles that popped up was this gem from Tiny Buddah. I actually found some comfort in it and plan to practice these things more mindfully.

1980s AEROBICS + T. SWIFT

Okay, I was going to just link to this in the SftWtMMH, but this mashup is just TOO GOOD. Seriously. HAPPY FRIDAY.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

a low-key halloween night with friends; exploring new coffee shops in different parts of the city; Logan’s visit, especially our afternoon in the Commons; voting (i suppose…); it’s social movements week in both my Mass Comm class and my Public Comm class, so I’ve been spending the whole week getting to talk about MLK, Malcolm X, ACT UP, the changing face of activism/digital activism, etc. It’s kind of my jam, and I get pretty stoked to introduce this stuff to my students who seem largely to not know much about it; new string lights above my bed; kitten; delicious homemade soup; yoga.

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xox

Some Things I’ve Been Eating Lately: Rest & Restore Edition!

Hello! As usual, I didn’t end up documenting an entire day of my meals, but I have taken shots of my food over the past few days, and so I’m still able to provide a pretty solid sample of what’s been in my belly of late. I am currently participating in Rest and Restore, a two-week program designed by Lacy Davis from Super Strength Health that encourages participants to slow down and commit to eating a whole foods, plant-based, sugar-free diet.

Because I already eat entirely vegan and almost entirely whole food, it may seem odd that I thought it was worth it to pay to get a meal plan that so closely matches what I already do. But the benefits of doing something like this in a community of other people on the same journey is really powerful, and it’s helping me go the extra mile with my health: for these two weeks, in addition to following this meal plan, I’m cutting out alcohol, cutting out any kind of dessert-y things (no maple syrup, no agave, not even dates), and I am upping my protein intake. These are three areas I slack on majorly–that is, I will often drink just to be social without pausing and deciding if it’s actually serving me; I will often end the night with something sweet (usually “healthy”, but still, it starts to feel addictive, and it’s a cycle I like to take a break from); and I can certainly always use a push to get more protein.

So here is what a some of that has looked like:

My mornings, as usual, have been smoothie-centric. This is an INCREDIBLE turmeric green smoothie, slightly modified from the SuperTasty Anti-Inflamatory Cookbook.

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color coordinated nutrition on my drive to work.

I was exploring downtown Boston with Logan while he was in town and we stumbled across an adorable health-food market that happened to have an R&R-approved quinoa veggie soup. It was delicious!

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For dinner, I’ve been working on finishing this incredible butternut squash lentil soup, based on this recipe. It was seriously so yummy!

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I’ve also snacked on lots of carrots and hummus, apples, and almond butter.

What have you been eating lately?