A Love List for Valentine’s Day

I guess I was bit by the Valentine’s Day bug, because I’ve been feeling a lot of love this week. In the spirit of this sweet holiday, I’m sharing a few things I love in what I hope will be an occasional feature here: a love list. This list is a mashup of lovely links and a gratitude list featuring the people, experiences, articles, and belongings that I’m currently loving. Let’s dive in!

A Love List: 02-14-15 | Jaybird

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Choose Less, Do More

Choose less, do more: that’s my mantra in 2015. If you had said those words to me a few years ago, I would have smiled politely and walked away shaking my head, but now, they’ve become somewhat of a rallying cry.

Choose Less, Do More | Jaybird

My tendency in college was to do all the things: if someone had a cool project, or a worthy cause needed some help, I’d be there in a flash and spouting off ideas for all the ways I could support it or even lead the charge. I used to pursue these ideas without thinking about the demands of my existing commitments, and I would end up working nonstop on passion projects and volunteer activities. The weekend became work time, and every time I finished my last exam before a school break, I’d get sick, as if my body knew that this was the only chance I had to get some rest.

It turns out that you can’t adopt every cause that comes your way and still have time for a career, hobbies, relationships, self-care, and all the million small things you have to do to be a functioning human. The universe showed me flickers of this moral a few times, but its meaning didn’t start to stick until the last two years. To have time to be with my family, to deepen my relationships (not just run on maintenance mode), and to truly commit to a few exciting ideas, I had to step back from the rest.

I had to choose less.

And so, I have. I’ve had to say no a lot, something that used to be uncomfortable for me. With practice and time, saying no has become something that feels natural–not a value judgment, not a separation, but an honest decision that just needs to be voiced. I’ve learned to listen to my gut reaction when it comes to taking on a new project or commitment, and if I don’t hear a chorus of jubilant baby angels singing, it’s probably a no.

Sometimes it feels sad to decline, especially when I believe in an idea and know I could help, but the reason that saying no feels fulfilling is that I know I’m saying yes to a commitment I’ve already made. That celebration of a long-term dedication, that sense of alignment with priorities…those feelings remind me that I’m walking down a path I love and that the way I spend my time and energy reflects what I value.

This philosophy plays out in many different aspects of life:

  • Career: I get excited about new tactics, experiments, and projects, because I’m focused on those that are aligned with our strategy and can set aside the rest.
  • Spending: I certainly don’t need lots of stuff, so instead I’m putting my money where it matters. This year, that means a summer trip to Europe with some of my best friends since middle school. One big experience to look forward to makes it easy to cut down on small, frivolous spending.
  • Self-care: I have more time to indulge my curiosity–to read a new book, do yoga, try that weird and amazing juice place–and to understand that this time isn’t “up for grabs;” it’s critical time to recharge so I can show up whole to my relationships and activities.
  • Food: I go out to eat less often but when I do, I savor a long meal and good company at a special restaurant instead of multiple fast meals at ye olde favourite taco joint (it probably helps that I don’t live around the corner anymore).
  • Volunteering: I made a standing commitment to volunteer with one organization and attend as many events as possible instead of volunteering with multiple organizations and doing less for each.

Choosing less is how I do more. Dividing my time across fewer commitments lets me go deeper with each, a practice that feels sustainable and sustaining in its simplicity. If there’s a way to do it all, that’s what I’m working towards.

I’d love to hear your take on “doing it all.” What commitments are the most valuable to you? What have you learned to let go of to make space?

Better Homemade: Potstickers (Gyoza)

Food and friendship go hand in hand. When you sit down to a meal with loved ones, you’re engaging in some of the most meaningful parts of a relationship: shared experiences, nourishment, culture, and conversation. When you can learn something new, even better.

How to Make Potstickers (Better Homemade Series) | Jaybird Blog

The main thing I’ve learned about trying new dishes is that you don’t have to be an expert–you just need to be willing to try something new. Last weekend, two of my friends taught me how to make potstickers (more specifically, Japanese gyoza). Though we bought pre-made wrappers, we made the filling from scratch and cooked them immediately. The taste of fresh ginger and garlic, mingling with hot sesame oil and a vinegar dipping sauce, was far better than that of the frozen potstickers that I used to mooch from my roommate. I was surprised by how easy it was to make the potstickers–mix up the filling, put a wrapper in your hand, add a small spoonful of filling, then gently trace the wrapper’s outline with water and fold it to seal.

It did take me a little practice to get the folding quite right, and I only finished one for every three or four that my friends put together. But the point of the evening wasn’t to create an efficient assembly line; it was to enjoy spending time together and sharing a special meal. We celebrated a grad school acceptance and stuffed ourselves with piping hot gyoza, dipped in a seasoned vinegar mixture, and somehow were surprised when we ate a few dozen among the three of us.

How to Make Potstickers (Better Homemade Series) | Jaybird Blog

How to Make Potstickers (Better Homemade Series) | Jaybird Blog

How to Make Potstickers (Better Homemade Series) | Jaybird Blog

All of the ingredients can be found at a standard grocery store, with the possible exception of thin pre-made wrappers. We got the wrappers we used frozen from Joong Boo, a Asian market/Korean quick restaurant here in Chicago. You can look at a local Asian market or try your hand at making your own from scratch.

I had planned to write out the rough quantities we used, but I found a beautifully photographed step-by-step recipe on another blog, so instead I’ll point you to Just One Cookbook’s Gyoza (Potstickers) Recipe. To learn how to fold them a few different ways, you can turn to trusty YouTube. At 2:26, the woman in this video shows you how to fold dumplings like the ones we made:

So, what do you think: will you try making potstickers at home? Have you tried any fun new recipes lately?

Linked up with Treat Yo’ Self Thursday