Welcome to the August 2023 edition of RPL at Home, where I share what I’m up to when I’m not in the kitchen or in front of the camera.
Each month, I’ll share snippets of what I’m working, habits I’m cultivating, things bringing me joy, books/TV shows/podcasts I’m enjoying, and more. Think of it as stream-of-consciousness blabbering meets a semi-curated list of recommendations meets life update.
If you recall from last month’s edition of RPL at Home, I recently realized that I am a spy TV show fangirl. So after finishing season 2 of British spy thriller Slow Horses, I figured shouldn’t I be watching what is arguably the best spy TV show ever made?? The Americans.
We actually started watching The Americans when it was still on the air, but for reasons my aging brain can no longer remember, we stopped watching it. Well, we picked it up recently, and my goodness, it is a fantastic show that just lures you in.
In case you’re not familiar, the six-season show centers on two deep-cover Soviet KGB agents living in the Washington DC area in the 1980s. Their cover is a boring married couple with two children living in the ‘burbs, and the show is just as much about marriage as it is about secretive spy stuff and Cold War international relations. The acting, the writing, and casting are all excellent. So whether you’re a fellow spy TV nerd or just enjoy an epic TV series, I highly recommend this one.
My one quibble with the show: why/how do Elizabeth (the lead female) and her teen daughter Paige have perfectly normal, lovely hair? Where is all the mega-teased, hyper-permed big ‘80s hair in this show???
We’re currently on season 4 (you can watch it on Hulu), though we have taken a brief pause to watch some more timely shows like The Bear. I know, I know, some of the footage is decidedly not vegan friendly. But, again, my goodness, it is a fantastic show and every episode is a masterpiece in directing, acting, and cinematography.
I was recently reading one of those New York Times’ roundups of new books they recommend, and The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese was recommended. His first novel, Cutting for Stone, had been on my to-read list for ages, and since I like to do things in order even when it’s not necessary, I decided to start with his first novel.
Cutting for Stone is not a short novel, but wow, was it worth the read. I now understand why the book was on the NYT bestseller list for over two years(!). It’s a grand family saga that moves across three continents and five decades in a big, beautiful way.
It begins with two twins born joined at the head in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the 1950s. Their mother, a nun from India who works at the hospital, dies in childbirth. Their presumed father, a British surgeon at the hospital, flees, so the twins end up being raised by two Indian doctors from the hospital and go on to take similar but very different paths in life.
The author is a physician in real life (an acclaimed author and physician, talk about an underachiever), and much of the book deals in medicine: ailments that affect the local population, specific symptoms and the procedures needed to allay those symptoms, etc. Even though I have weak ass stomach that gets queasy at the sight of a paper cut, Verghese’s writing is so beautiful and almost magical that I was never tempted to skim over these parts.
I loved his writing so much that, after finishing Cutting for Stone, I marched straight over to my local bookshop and demanded a copy of his new book, The Covenant of Water. And by marched, of course, I mean sauntered, and by demanded, I mean quietly picked up off the shelf and paid for with my credit card.
I recently finished a podcast series that shook me to my core. It’s called The Retrievals, and it tells the story of dozens of women who had horrendous, excruciatingly painful experiences at the Yale Fertility Clinic during their IVF egg retrievals.
I don’t want to give away too much, but here’s what I’ll say: (1) the storytelling is incredible, whether you think you’re interested in this topic or not; (2) it exposes how the medical system systematically trivializes, ignores, and dismisses women’s pain.
It will make you angry as hell. And probably sad. Especially if you’ve personally dealt with infertility or have undergone IVF treatment.
Working less! Ironic that I have to work on working less. LOL. But that’s what happens when a natural type A with high expectations needs to slow down.
If you already read last month’s RPL at Home, you know that I finally finished writing and photographing my second cookbook at the end of June. Woohoo!
With that enormous project off my shoulders, I have been forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone, of course, is being a workaholic who loves her job and, up until recently, regularly worked 12 hour days.
Recently, I’ve been asking myself hard questions like: Do I need to work 12 hours a day? Is everything on my plate necessary for me to do? For anyone to do? What areas of my life have I been neglecting that I need to start prioritizing?
I am proud to say I have made some pretty major shifts in my life and my schedule.
For one, I now start my work day around 9 am.
This might seem very ordinary for most folks, but it wasn’t that long ago that I was starting my work day at 6:30 am, sometimes earlier. I’d wake up, do the basic hygiene things, make tea, then get to work. And work until 7:30 pm, when I’d eat dinner. And occasionally, work after dinner.
Now, I start my mornings with movement. First, I go on a walk with Max each morning. A minimum of 20 minutes, but often a full 45 minutes. We chat about both work and non-work stuff or listen to an interesting podcast and enjoy the lovely outdoors and beautiful weather we’re blessed with in San Diego.
Then I come home and exercise.
Again, this might sound ordinary to a lot of people, but up until a few months ago, I hadn’t consistently exercised in FOUR YEARS. During that time, I was dealing with various injuries, many of which were brought about by lack of exercise (along with my overly mobile joints). Knowing that (a) exercise is enormously beneficial in so many ways and (b) I used to love working out…I am baffled that I just cut out exercise from my life for so long.
But, for the past 1-2 months, I have been incorporating exercise into my life every day or nearly every day. Some days it’s just for 20 minutes, but the consistency feels like a major victory. And I’m feeling great. My joints and muscles feel stronger. And I feel happier.
The added benefit is that, unlike in my 20s when I was obsessed with my body looking a certain way, I now exercise for my mental health, confidence, strength, and longevity. If the slightest ab definition comes in from all those core exercises in my pilates classes, that’s just the cherry on top.
PS: I’ve been doing a lot of exercise classes online. The channels I regularly visit are Move with Nicole (for pilates) and MadFit (for strength workouts and dance). 11/10 for both channels.
And while I sometimes still work until 7:30 pm, I also sometimes end work earlier to read (for fun!) on our patio. I even bought cute patio chairs to make it more likely I’d actually do that.
If you’ve been sweating up a storm this summer or you’re looking for new dinner inspiration, our latest eBook was made for you! It’s called How to Mezze.
Mezze refers to small sharing plates that are commonly found in the Middle East and Mediterranean, and mixing and matching a few mezzes is a fun way to eat dinner that can require very little to no actual cooking.
In the 40+ page eBook, you’ll find recipes and recipe variations and countless ideas for customizing your own mezze platters. It’s a pay-what-you want model so you can choose how much you pay for it!
We’re also donating 25% of the proceeds to The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Foundation. Syria is the home country of one my favorite dips, muhammara, featured in this eBook, so it felt fitting. SAMS is a global medical relief organization that works on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria, in neighboring countries, and beyond to save lives and alleviate suffering.
You can learn more about the eBook here and download it.
Oh, and don’t forget you still have a few days to enter this month’s RPL Recipe Club! Each month, I’m choosing a different recipe for the RPL community to make, and August’s recipe is the classic Indian eggplant dish Baingan Bharta (which has been known to delight even eggplant haters). Anyone can make the recipe, then submit a photo to win amazing kitchen prizes.
This month, we’re giving away a Vitamix Immersion Blender to one lucky winner!
For all the details check out the August 2023 edition of the RPL recipe club.
This section includes affiliate links.
🦶💆🏽♀️Shiatsu foot massager. My best friend from law school recently had a baby, so I gifted her what I figured a new mom would want but never buy for herself: a fancy foot massager. She raved about it, so I decided to treat myself to the same. And wow, is it a treat!
I use it after long days on my feet (filming videos, recipe testing), and this thing really digs into the feet. I feel much lighter on my feet afterwards.
🍷A Yeti wine glass. I now understand why Yeti mugs have a cult following. I recently purchased the insulated wine glass and I’m hooked. I use it for wine occasionally (to keep white and rosé wines chilled for a long time in the summer), but I’ve actually been using it more regularly for hot tea.
I have been using an Ember temperature-colored mug for the last year and a half, and it’s been great, but I think I like the Yeti better. Is it weird to drink hot tea out of a wine glass? Perhaps. But it keeps the tea hot for just as long as the Ember mug, perhaps longer, and it’s easier to clean. As a tea aficionado who drinks a minimum of three cups and sometimes closer to seven cups of tea a day, this is a godsend.
🍅🍑Summer Produce! This last one isn’t a product so much as a gift from nature. I have been devouring peaches, blueberries, and red plums (and pluots). They’re unreasonably good right now, and my favorite one of all, the Santa Rosa plum, is exceptionally sweet.
Also, heirloom tomatoes. I’ve been making an heirloom tomato salad at least twice a week, and the simple combination of summer tomatoes with good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar plus basil, flaky salt, and pepper is so unfairly good, I sometimes cry happy tears.
Okay, that’s it for this month! I’ve been loving writing these more personal posts, and I hope you’re enjoying them too.
Drop me a line below and let me know what you’d like to see in next month’s edition!