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Recipes: The Great Sourdough Journey

For those of you who know me personally and have already had to deal with me spamming your feed about this, sorry in advance (well, only a little). For those of you who haven’t been privy to this saga, you’re in for a treat. Warning that this is a looooong post, but it’s the easiest method I’ve come across that still has enough info for noobs.

Here’s the tl;dr: I embraced peak quarantine Millennial and made sourdough bread from scratch. It took a while, but it was awesome.

Background

(aka the part to skip if you actually just want the recipe)

On Easter weekend, since we weren’t seeing family, I wanted to make a special meal to have at home. I was planning on making this delicious garden herb loaf that I’ve been making since I was a teenager, but thanks to everyone stress and boredom baking during the pandemic, the store had no yeast. Luckily, they did have bread flour.

I improvised for Easter dinner and made Irish soda bread (a no-rise, dense, very yummy bread that I used to make with my grandpa). But the lack of yeast at the store planted a little seed of well-I’ll-prove-I-don’t-need-you in my head, and I decided to make sourdough starter so that the next weekend I could make my very own bread, store-bought yeast be damned.

Sourdough starter is literally just home-grown yeast in a jar, and once it’s mature can be used to make sourdough bread. It is super simple and not super easy (but also not too hard). Once it’s ready, you can store it a number of ways, and then revive it anytime you want a fresh loaf of homemade bread! Some folks have apparently had their starters for generations.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon* distilled water**
  • ~5lb.* of bread flour***
  • Salt

* These estimates are super rough and likely slightly more than what you will need, but because the process is so lengthy and I didn’t keep a pristine log of feedings

** You can also use filtered water, boiled water, or leave tap water out overnight if truly necessary. But don’t use straight tap water, as the chlorine and other stuff in the water can kill those good lil yeasties.

** All-purpose, whole wheat, or rye can also be used. Literally whatever you have, though many say a “heartier” flour — aka not all-purpose or baking — is best for getting sourdough starter going.

The Journey

Disclaimers:

  • Costs about $5, makes 1 round loaf of bread 10″-12″ in diameter.
  • I’m not labeling this part instructions like I typically do because there are not only a ton of opinions out there about what methods are ideal, but yeast is a living thing and your setting may affect the details of this process. Throughout, I’ll offer ways that I addressed some of those challenges as they cropped up.
  • As always, Google is your friend and I’m not any sort of magical sourdough expert. This is literally my first time, but it was fun and kept my brain occupied during so much time inside.

Day 1

(Sunday evening)

  1. I did a bunch of research, and settled on this starter recipe.
  2. Found a decent-sized jar with clear sides.
    1. In my case, it was a cleaned out macadamia-nut container, but later I upgraded to a 1-gallon glass jar that I ordered just for my new starter. As long as it can hold 4 cups or so, you’ll have enough room.
  3. Mixed 3/4 cup warm distilled water with 1 cup bread flour until fully incorporated.
    1. Pro tip: Add the water in first whenever you feed so you’ll be less likely to have unincorporated chunks of flour, or flour stuck to the bottom of the container.
  4. Covered jar and left it overnight. The lid should not be airtight, and most folks will tell you to just cover it loosely, but I found that if I *mostly* tightened it but not all the way, that encouraged the most growth. Play around with it and see what work for you.

A note about temperature: I didn’t discover this until day 2, but the ideal ambient temperature for yeast to grow is in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit). My apartment tends to be quite a bit cooler this time of year (high 60s), so I helped keep the little yeast babies warm by putting them on a microwaved heating pack, and then re-warming that every few hours when I remembered. You can also put it in a warmer spot of the house or in the (turned off!) oven with the light on, but it should stay out of direct sunlight. If you can’t keep it warmer that’s okay, just know it might take longer for your starter to mature and it you may not see as much rising.IMG-1565

Day 2

(Monday morning)

  1. I discovered the temperature thing (see above), and ordered a more conducive jar.
  2. “Fed” the starter:
    1. Stirred the starter and removed about half from the jar.*
    2. Added in 3/4 cup warm distilled water and 1 cup bread flour.
    3. Stirred until fully incorporated, and covered jar.
  3. Left for ~24 hours.

* You don’t have to throw away what you take out of the starter! This is called discard, and can be composted or used in other recipes (though you may not want to cook with your discard from the first 1-2 days). My favorite recipe to make with starter discard are these biscuits — solely because they are easy and use the most discard for the least flour.

Day 3

(Tuesday morning)

My starter rose and bubbled on day 2, but most of that had receded by day 3. Often initial rising is due to bacteria and not yeast, so just let it be and stick to the schedule. No need to worry.

  1. Fed the starter (see details above).
  2. Left for ~24 hours.IMG-1566

Day 4

(Wednesday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I used a dry-erase marker to start marking the starter’s level on the outside of the jar when I fed it, so then I could more accurately note any rising throughout the day.IMG-1601

Day 5

(Thursday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~12 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I discovered that if you stir it at about the 12-hour mark (or halfway between feedings), this encourages rising and yeast growth. I didn’t need to continue doing it the whole time, but it really seemed to help on days 5-6.
  3. Left for ~12 hours.

Day 6

(Friday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours, with occasional stirring.

Day 7

(Saturday morning)

  1. The starter had been foaming and bubbling nicely, and sort of passed the float test*, so I knew it was almost ready.
  2. Here is where I got risky folks. Instead of discarding half like usual, I stirred the starter a bunch and fed it double (1.5 cups water, 2 cups flour). Honestly I would not recommend this step unless you want a whole lot of starter on your hands, but for what it’s worth, it did work.
    1. Pro tip: You only need 1/4 cup of starter to make a loaf of bread, so you really don’t need a ton of starter on hand unless you want to either give some away or make a crap ton of bread.
  3. Left for ~12 hours, with no stirring. My starter rose exponentially during this time, so I just let it do its thing and tried not to mess with it (hence no stirring).

* The float test is just to take a spoonful of starter and drop it in some water. If it floats, that means your starter is mature and ready to use. Mine floated for a minute or two before sinking.IMG-1615

(Saturday evening)

  1. Reserved 1/4 cup starter in a large bowl.
  2. Fed the starter.
  3. Let it rise for ~45 minutes, then popped it in the fridge to go into hibernation mode.
    1. For more details on starter storage, skip to “Day 9 & Beyond” below.
  4. This is where the BREADMAKING begins! I settled on this recipe because it was easy, and used the most starter for the least flour (it’s a trend with me haha).
  5. Made the bread dough (steps 1-2 in the recipe linked above):
    1. Mixed 1.5 cups plus 1tbsp warm distilled water into the 1/4 cup of starter I had set aside.
    2. Gently mixed in 1.5tsp salt and 4 cups plus 2tbsp flour until formed a decent dough, then gently packed together.
    3. Covered with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
    4. Gently worked dough into a ball, and placed back into bowl. Covered with (newly dampened) cloth and let rest overnight.IMG-1617

Day 8

(Sunday morning)

  1. Kneaded the dough and did a second rise (steps 3-4 in the recipe above):
    1. Gently put the dough onto a floured cutting board, then folded down the top and turned it 90 degrees, repeating for all four sides
      1. Pro tip: The recipe I used has great pictures and a video for this bit.
    2. Let rest for 10 minutes while put a clean dishcloth into a bowl and dusted it with flour.
    3. Gently flipped over the dough and repeat the fold-and-turn process from Step 1a.
    4. Compressed and shaped into a ball (a bench knife/bench scraper really comes in handy here).
    5. Placed into lined bowl with the recently folded side facing up, then covered (I just folded over the dishcloth because it was pretty large) and refrigerated for a few hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 hours is fine).IMG-1618

(Sunday afternoon)

  1. Prepped and baked the bread (steps 4-7 in the recipe above):
    1. Preheated oven to 500˚F, and took dough out of fridge.
    2. Cut a large sheet of parchment paper and placed it over the bowl holding the dough, then flipped it upside down to plop the dough out.
    3. Gently floured the dough, then used a paring knife to score it.
      1. Pro tip: This is the cool part where you cut the bread so it can expand as it bakes. You can cut any design you want, but be sure your incisions are about 1/4” deep so that it cuts into the dough far enough to expand properly (only some of mine were right).
    4. Picked up the loaf using the parchment, and placed inside a Dutch oven. I think you can use other pots, but this is what the recipe asked for and I have one, so not totally sure!IMG-1624
    5. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and placed in the oven, immediately reducing the heat to 450˚F.
    6. Baked covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    7. Removed from pot and placed the parchment (with the loaf on it obviously) directly on the rack, and baked for 10 more minutes.
      1. Pro tip: My oven runs a little warm and I wish I’d only baked it for 5 here. The bottom of the loaf was a little crispier than I would have preferred.
    8. Removed from oven and let cool for about 1 hour (don’t worry, it will still be warm at this point!)
    9. Took photos, of course.IMG-1627IMG-1635
    10. Sliced into that bad boy, put some butter on it, and ate significantly more than necessary.
      1. Pro tip: Just store what you haven’t used yet in a plastic bag, and squeeze the air out of it. This keeps it fresh and avoids it drying out.

Day 9 & Beyond

  1. Enjoyed daily bread (for 2 people, this lasted us about 4 days including Sunday)!
  2. Left the starter in the fridge just chilling, until
    1. I want to make more bread! Which means it’s time to revive the starter.
    2. Day 12 (Thursday evening), I pulled the jar out of the fridge and let it warm up (on a heating pack like before) for a few hours, marking its levels when I first pulled it out of the fridge and as it rose.
    3. It rose, then started receding within about 4 hours, so I split it and fed it.
      1. I also put it into a clean jar here because I had an extra, but that isn’t strictly necessary.
    4. I’ll continue to feed for 1-2 days until the starter seems happy and ready, then repeat the recipe to make another loaf of bread!
  3. When leaving the starter in the fridge, it only needs to be fed about once per week. You should be able to take it out, let it come to room temp for 45 minutes or an hour, feed, let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour again, then pop it back in the fridge.
  4. My starter is pretty new and I plan to bake about 1 loaf per week so I’ll be feeding more often, but there are also long-term storage options like drying and crumbling it.

Misc. Tips

  • Here is the link to the starter recipe I used again, and to the bread recipe.
  • This site also has a butt ton of info and is good for learning about sourdough/troubleshooting, though it’s a little too precise for my patience level. Also check out this page and this page.
  • If you’re saving discard, mark the container with what day it’s from so you know what’s fresh and what’s maybe not so much.
  • If your starter isn’t really rising, no worries. Give it up to 24 hours, then split and feed it anyways
  • If your starter is rising, sweet! Keep an eye on that bad boy and once it starts to recede (sink back down), that’s when you know it’s hungry. Time to feed (even if it’s been less than 24 hours).
  • If you’re concerned about any other aspects of your starter, just google it. There are lots of helpful sites, forums, etc. including r/sourdough on Reddit.

I know that was an insanely long post, so thank you and props if you actually read the whole thing.

What new recipes have you been trying out lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

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A different kind of winter

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about Easter and spring and all of the ideas that come with those events. The meanings we’ve tied to them are a lot to reckon with.

A lot of it gets painted over with cartoon bunnies and pastel everything, but the roots go much deeper. Spring, and for those who celebrate, Easter, are times of rebirth and new things. But that newness necessarily comes from death and cold and darkness.

And so many of us have spent too long trying to gloss over that bit instead of greeting it face to face. There is a certain grief, in winter.

Now, as we’re in a time of year where new growth is supposed to emerge, the whole world has been thrust into an unforeseen grief of a different sort. Lives lost, loved ones missed, loneliness and anxiety often settling in. It’s quiet, and it’s brutal. And we don’t really know when the spring will come.

I have been finding solace in little places, like the hummingbird feeders outside my windows, and the feeling of tiredness in my hands after physical work. But the difficult times seep in when sometimes I don’t expect it. Like last night when, after trying for a while to scoot it outside, my husband killed a wasp that got stuck between our sliding glass doors. I don’t much care for wasps and wasn’t the one who killed it, but I still grieved its death when freedom seemed so close.

Lyz Lenz wrote an exceptionally poignant article about Holy Saturday and “sitting with the broken pieces.” And in this weird time where the world is hurting, we are all grieving, and the weather marching toward spring seems so deeply incongruous, I am trying to just sit with pain and the worry and let it be instead of forcing it away, knowing that in time it may grow into something new.

I wrote the piece below on Saturday, trying to let all of these ideas just be in my head and in my body, without insisting on any resolution.

Today I spend hours on my patio, on my knees. I am repotting all my plants. Some are root-bound and placed in larger pots. Some have soil that has become too densely packed from watering, or have even rotted. Some do not like being forced from their homes and their steady little lives, and will take time to recover. I fill an empty planter bed with soil. I mix in fertilizer, and I water. It is slow work even on a small garden. It is clean, fresh air and rich, heavy earth.

It is mourning, and it is hope. It is all I can offer today in a universe of mysteries, that when we are suffering and when nothing has gone as we expected, we are still here. That the echoes of death and life are all around us, whether tomorrow turns the tide or not. And it starts to make sense that we plant flowers each year, knowing they will fade and eventually need to be planted again.

So to simply be, today, in everything that means, is enough.

I hope this offered something helpful in the midst of a very strange time. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and may peace settle in a little deeper for you today.

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That’s enough

It probably goes without saying that this is an exceptionally strange, difficult, and unique time across the world right now. You’ve probably been oversaturated with constant news updates and tips for social distancing, sanitizing, and working from home. All I’ll say is that I hope you’re staying home whenever possible, and keeping yourself and others safe and healthy.

We’re simultaneously all in unique situations, and all together in this.

But it can be easy to either feel paralyzed amid all the goings-on or to feel pressured into some flurry of productivity as we try to stay home as much as possible.

Personally, I’ve been working from home for the last 2 weeks and while I’ve been mostly managing to keep up with that, it’s been tough to get much in the way of household labor done. My husband is a champ and doing extra chores since he’s currently working fewer hours than me, but sometimes I still find myself slipping into wondering if I’m doing enough.

And that kind of thinking — at least when it’s about simple chores and to-do list items — is quite frankly ridiculous. For all the things I am getting done, I also spend a fair amount of time looking out the window at all the birds that have been enjoying the sunshine and feeders on our patio. I sometimes play a game on my phone or let myself zone out thinking about whatever comes to mind. It feels indulgent at times, but also needed.

So while I remain impressed by all the folks who are able to get inordinate amounts of things done during this time, none of us ought to be beholden to set even higher standards for ourselves. Whatever you are able to do, whatever your heart and body are nudging that they need you to do or not to, that’s enough.

Leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup with anything you’d like to see on the blog or that would be helpful, especially during this time. Thanks for reading, and be well.

 

P.S. I am trying to reserve some of my energy each day and week to offer kindnesses where I can. Some of these are gestures for loved ones, some for dear causes, and some are on a broader scale. If you do have the means to help other folks out during this time, this list has some excellent resources and ways to do so.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and quite captures the space I’d like to create for a while.)

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Making it

We’re less than halfway through March and I feel like I’ve lived half a year over the last couple months. Work is still slammed (though I’m daring to hope I’m almost at the end of it), and things are starting to slip through the cracks.

Healthy eating has been difficult to keep up with, I keep forgetting what day it is, and it’s difficult to get up in the morning. I’m burnt out. And to top it all off, as of about 6 p.m. yesterday I will be working from home at least through Monday (which I personally do not enjoy), and I was up and online at 6:30 a.m. today because there is *that much* to do.

I’ve been working very hard to take care of my mental health amidst all this. One of the little joys that helps me do that is making things. This is, of course, a very broad hobby concept *but* that’s part of what I like about it!

Things I have enjoyed making recently:

  • Let’s be real, I always enjoy making food. But it’s a great joint activity for my husband and I to do together, and one we can still fit in on occasion even when we’re both busy. We’ve made a number of new recipes in the last few weeks, and I busted out my favorite crepes recipe this last weekend. Plus, y’know, you get to eat whatever you made at the end!
  • Notice how there’s a post this week? (jk, sort of) I have been trying to write a little more, because it helps me process how I’m feeling. That comes in a few forms for me, and I’ve been making sure to submit some of my older work for publication as well.
  • Okay, so you don’t really make crochet, but you do make things by crocheting. And I realize I sound like an old lady with these hobbies, but I am the kind of person whose hands need to be doing something practically at all times, so a little flurry of motion with a hook and some yarn is right up my alley. (Before you ask, I tried knitting and entirely lack the coordination.) I just finished the blanket I’d been working on for — I kid you not — more than a year, and am starting a new basket pattern because, well, I love baskets.
  • I have also been “making” time to sleep and relax, time to exercise, and making myself get off social media when it’s stopped being helpful. I’ve admittedly enjoyed some of these ones a bit less, but also know they’re good for me.

That’s my spiel for today. Make something! Memories, a new craft, an old hobby. The world is a more than a little out of whack right now, and it’s important to find pockets of something you enjoy doing. Specifically, creating something new is a great way to counter all the pain we can’t always avoid.

What do you enjoy making? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

P.S. See my mini thread on some tips for staying healthy and clean during this, well, pandemic.

(Photo is a free stock photo because my hobbies are not that aesthetic haha.)

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Lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is a season in the Christian liturgy that lasts for the 40 days leading up to Easter. For a lot of folks, it’s a time of cleansing or focus on renewal. Often, people will give up a thing or number of things — or incorporate new items into their daily routine — the honor the season and better themselves or their spiritual practice.

I’ve wanted to participate in Lent for a while but quite honestly kept forgetting about it until partway through. And though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, the thing I like a about Lent is, quite frankly, that it ends. It’s about implementing a change for a season, and choosing something that matters to you.

This year I finally remembered, and because I am already working on adding in some personal goals, decided to give up shopping on Amazon and beef. Though I’m not cutting it completely, I’ve also set stricter limits on my use of social media. These are already things I’ve been trying to consume less of, but for me they are conveniences that I enjoy, but which (for the first two) contribute harmfully to the environment and rarely make me better in any way. For social media, though it does have positive elements, it can negatively affect my mood and becomes a place where I waste time instead of doing other things I enjoy that offer greater reward.

When I think about these things over the next six weeks or so, it becomes a reminder to pivot my attention to things that do make me better, whether that’s reaching out to a friend, taking some time to meditate, or just thinking of something I’m grateful for.

I’m really looking forward to how this goes, and hoping that this season also provides opportunities to learn and room to grow by emptying out some of the time I used to fill with stuff that doesn’t really benefit me.

This sort of self-reflective initiative is one of the things that I’ve been discovering is both incredibly important and incredibly difficult to follow through on as an emerging adult, but it’s one I really believe in, and I hope that others also see the value in.

Do you participate in Lent or similar seasons of change? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am very much ready for spring.)

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Hi again

So, um, I didn’t mean to take a month-long hiatus. (My overachieving self actually feels very guilty about letting that happen.) But life has really knocked my legs out from under me lately. My job has been grueling and chaotic, time for rest has been limited, and preserving that has further limited time for other things I enjoy. Last week I intended to write a post and then got horribly sick instead. (Apparently after too long of pushing my body beyond reasonable levels it revolts.)

I don’t have a grand lesson out of all of this. I’m still just trying to make it through to tomorrow, and then the next day. I’m trying to take care of my body the way it takes care of me. I’m trying not to measure my worth by how much I achieve or whether it’s A+ work. I’m trying to be honest without drowning in negativity. I’m trying to notice my fears and worries, and to hold them with an open hand. I’m trying to find peace in whatever brief moments I can.

It’s important to me that this blog not just die out because I got busy (I’m always busy). But it’s also important for me that there be some flexibility and room to take breaks as needed. So posts might continue to be a bit inconsistent, and that’s okay. I’m still grateful for all of you that read them, and love being able to write them.

I would also love to hear any topics that y’all would like to hear more about — on my own, especially when tired/busy, I tend to run repetitive. Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m not getting up quite early enough for these views anymore.)

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24

This week is my birthday, so per tradition I have made an annual playlist.

Same rules as always: these are the songs that have meant the most to me over the last year, one song for every year I’ve been around, in listening order and not order of significance. The link to the playlist on Spotify is below if you feel like giving it a listen.

This year had a ton of really high highs and really low lows, so I built the playlist to reflect that journey to some extent. It’s become increasingly important to me to be honest about when life is difficult and painful, but also to hold fast to hope in whatever form I can find it.

  1. Dreamer – Sea In The Sky
  2. Almost (Sweet Music) – Hozier
  3. Vagabonds – Grizfolk
  4. Heavy – Birdtalker
  5. Star Maps – Aly & AJ
  6. No Plan [Explicit] – Hozier
  7. Preach – John Legend
  8. Rainbow – Kacey Musgraves
  9. lovely (with Khalid) – Billie Eilish, Khalid
  10. Call Off Your Ghost – Dessa
  11. Welcome to the Family [Explicit] – Watsky
  12. Human Touch – Armors
  13. I Melt With You – Sugarcult
  14. Polarize – Twenty One Pilots
  15. I Need You – Relient K
  16. </c0de> – Motionless In White
  17. Those Nights – Skillet
  18. World Away – Tonight Alive
  19. Anchor – Skillet
  20. You’ll Be In My Heart – Phil Collins
  21. I Will Spend My Whole Life Loving You – Kina Grannis
  22. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service
  23. Chin Up – Copeland
  24. One More Light – Linkin Park

I hope you enjoy this playlist. What songs have you had on repeat lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

P.S. Honorable mention to “Land Of The Free” by The Killers. I’ve listened to it a lot this year, but there were a couple of other songs included that caught the same feeling this song gives me and were more personally representative, though I think this song really encapsulates a lot of what our country and world are like right now.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because I’ve been really enjoying purple lately and finding some peace in small moments outdoors.)

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The unicorn skill

Work has been absolutely grueling recently. A short staff and big upcoming deadlines have meant that I’ve been getting into the office at 6 a.m., working weekends, and falling asleep on the couch right after dinner. That has also been the primary reason that blog posts haven’t been regular (sorry!).

Because my job has been a trial by fire, I’ve also had a crash course in imposter syndrome and a chance to hone my skill of being able to quickly make up for resources I don’t have.

Enter the unicorn skill. I now act as the team lead for a small number of colleagues, and am part of the interview process to fill more positions. If there is one thing that I dearly want to improve myself and see fellow emerging adults improve at, it is the ability to figure sh*t out.

I have long since given up counting how many problems or questions I face per day that I don’t know the answer to. Sometimes it’s helping a coworker with a task, sometimes it’s diving into an assignment with minimal training, sometimes it’s digging up resources on topics that aren’t clear.

The trick is that there is no way to ever completely master this skill, but it is crucial to succeeding both in many professional roles and when figuring out this whole adulting thing.

Know what you don’t know. There is no such thing as being overprepared; however, you will much more often find yourself accidentally underprepared. If that underpreparedness is your fault, figure out how to fix it for next time, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid it. If you can identify the key elements of the problem that you don’t know/have, then you’ll know exactly what to look for.

Own what you do know. What do you already know about the topic or task? Is it similar to something you’ve encountered before? Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to experience. For example, I just wrapped up a project at work updating a big product catalog. It wasn’t something I had done before in this capacity, but having spent most of high school and college doing yearbook and then student journalism, I knew the bones of the process were the same. I knew how to work backwards from a deadline, brushed off some InDesign skills, and made it happen. Anything you’ve done in the past that you think could help probably will.

Dig first, and dig well. Google is your friend, as are any other resources at your disposal. When I’m asked a question I don’t have the answer for at work, I go digging — through our files and management systems, through emails, through our website, and then through some thoughtful keyword Google searches. Often, I find the answer within a few minutes. Even if I don’t, I usually get more information or a clearer picture of what’s missing.

I cannot tell you how many times someone has messaged me a question, and then figured it out on their own before I’m able to respond a couple minutes later (of course, I’ve done the same too many times). The moral: don’t. Learn how to use what’s at your disposal to help you when the answer isn’t obvious.

On the other hand, know when it’s time to ask for help. There comes a time when you’re wasting your time by continuing to search alone if someone else could either 1) provide the answer, or 2) assist you in the search. Once you’ve done the legwork to make asking for help as useful and easy as possible for the person you’re asking, being able to ask is important. It’s not an admission of failure or incompetence to ask someone with more expertise or resources for support.

We’re all in the same boat. Figuring things out on the fly is a skill that I think we all need, and which most of us are forced to develop at some point. Remember that it’s always someone’s first rodeo, and it’s likely that anyone you’re working with also wants a good outcome from the task. Imposter syndrome has a habit of making you feel like you’re the only one who is underprepared, and everyone else has it all figured out, when that is a bold-faced lie. None of the rest of us know what we’re doing either — we’re just working on knowing a little more some of the time.

What’s your favorite tool when you feel underprepared? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m busy, y’all.)

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So you made a mistake

My apologies, I honestly totally spaced on last week’s blog post until Friday, at which point I was well into spending time with family and settling into some delightful time off. Spending time with friends and family (including a lot of driving across Northern California) was actually why I forgot. And though I feel bad about the gap, it created a perfect opportunity for today’s topic: dealing with mistakes.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days.* Of course we all hope that they’re few and far between, and relatively minor when we do happen — and that probably goes double if you’re as much of a perfectionist as I am.

But mistakes in some form are inevitable. The question then becomes how to deal with a mistake when we make one.

Unfortunately, I (and I imagine all of us) are all too familiar with people who don’t exhibit the best patterns of admitting and responding to their own mistakes. Ideally this is something we’d all learn well in much younger years, but is crucial that we prioritize as emerging adults before we become more set in our ways.

Even if not always easy, the steps are pretty simple:

Acknowledge that it was a mistake, in whatever capacity necessary. The exact form this takes will vary depending on the nature and magnitude of the mistake, but it just comes down to admitting you made a mistake, plain and simple.

Pro tip: It can be helpful to explain why or how the mistake happened, but spending time justifying it isn’t going to win points or help you out in the future. Being defensive is natural and understandable, but rarely productive (something I remind myself of frequently). For example, a coworker asked if I’d intended to do something for a document we were jointly working on, and when I went back and looked it was a total mistake on my part. I mentioned that I hadn’t been paying close enough attention and thought the element in question was part of something else, and thanked her for pointing it out. No big.

Apologize. Usually a general apology with acknowledgment of the mistake is adequate, but mistakes that really harmed a particular person or group might warrant an apology directly to that party.

Reminder that it’s not the end of the world. Probably. But seriously, if it’s not a mistake that did or could bring serious physical or lasting emotional harm to someone**, don’t spend copious amounts of time beating yourself up over it. Make amends, move on.

Don’t stop there. Okay, you made a mistake. Probably not the end of the world (see above), but it is important to articulate what you’re going to do to either fix the mistake if it is indeed fixable, or to ensure that it doesn’t happen moving forward. This might mean saying that to other parties affected by the mistake or simply to yourself, ideally paired with actionable steps to safeguard future efforts.

Be humble, and then give yourself a little grace. A mistake is often a setback, and can be an indicator that priorities or methods need to be adjusted. Let any mistakes you make offer you a lesson, but then allow yourself enough room to grow beyond both the mistake and the limited scope of the lesson it taught you.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* If you got that reference, thank you and I’m only a tiny bit sorry.

** If whatever mistake you make did or could cause that kind of harm, of course do whatever you can to remedy the mistake, but then it’s likely a good idea to find a mental health professional who can help you process through that.

(Photo is a free stock photo, please pardon the loose connection as this is a rather difficult concept to visualize in a non-cheesy way.)

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Why I don’t believe in diets

Shoot, I said it. Anyone who knows me well has heard me rant (likely on multiple occasions) about frustrations with societal beauty standards and the modern, largely Western, insistence that one’s attractiveness or even worth increase the lower the numbers on the scale go.

In some respects, things have been improving lately thanks to increasing numbers of people speaking out regarding body positivity and size inclusivity. For a lot of folks, curves are cool again.* But there’s still fine print there. Curves might be in, but only around a woman’s chest and butt, and waists should be artificially tiny. Stretch marks should be seen nowhere, and acne must never be allowed. Hair has to be glossy and voluminous, with copious time devoted to the “no makeup” makeup look, and effortless-looking but pricey attire.

And that simply doesn’t reflect the wide spectrum of normal, beautiful bodies.

I’ve been so impressed by how many of my friends have made it a point to push back against all these supposed standards and set a wonderful example of shining exactly as they are.

But… the holidays are approaching.

We’re still a full week out from Thanksgiving, and I have already heard far too many conversations about holiday diets (either prior to, planned for after, or both). And I’m already tired of it.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for that type of talk. I don’t diet. It’s a personal decision because of certain health predispositions in my family history, and an awareness that if I did, I would be likely to unhealthily fixate on wherever I placed the “goal.” I step on a scale maybe once every few months, and I’d prefer to do so less. While wedding planning, I kept a slightly closer eye on my weight with the sole purpose of staying around where I was and not letting stress do too much of a number on my body. If I overeat at one meal, I might have more conservative portions at the next. I stop eating when I’m full, and eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat as many vegetables as I’d like to, and should exercise more, but I make sure to listen when my body is telling me that it needs more of those things.

This isn’t to say I’ve mastered body positivity or that I always like the way my clothes fit. Far from it. But I’m working on it, and hope that together, more of us can.

Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to say that all dieting by anyone ever is bad. It’s important to take care of your body, and a holistic diet — with adequate portions, a variety of nutrients, combined with exercise — can be an excellent way to improve one’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. But when diets become all about the number on the scale, or certain measurements, or what other people think of you, or plain and simple control, that’s no longer promoting your health.

One of the most important, under-discussed aspects of adulting is identifying the messages we were told growing up, how they impacted us, and whether our reactions to them have benefited us or harmed us.

I’ve been on my no-diet soapbox since elementary school because I was taught that health was about way more than a number and people are beautiful no matter what they look like. But over the years, I also internalized a lot of negative messages about how I ought to look and they’ve taken a toll on my self-confidence. And that’s for someone who by and large fits a lot of those “standards.” Folks with especially small or large frames, who have disabilities, whose hair has a mind of its own, or who are considered too short or too whatever, get handed even more negative messages about the way they ought to look. And after a while, the boundary starts to blur between taking care of one’s body out of self-love and restricting ourselves because of others’ opinions.

If you are from or currently in an environment where people tend to place a high priority on needing to look a certain way, check in and see how you might have internalized unhealthy messages. If necessary, make adjustments to take care of yourself better. That can mean a more balanced meal and some exercise, or having a treat for dinner and giving yourself distance from people who aren’t building you up. And please, please don’t be afraid to talk to loved ones or a doctor if weight or food are interfering with your quality of life.

If most of the compliments you give people are focused on their appearance — especially things like “you look great!” to mean “you’ve lost weight” — it might be time to re-examine what sorts of messages you’re sending to other people. Appearance-based compliments aren’t bad, but they should be balanced by compliments about who a person is, or how happy they seem that day, and other positive elements that don’t reinforce false, constricting standards of what a person should look like.

And for goodness’ sake, it’s the holidays. Eat as much dessert as you want to.

Got something to add? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

 

* It is necessary to note here that people of color, especially Black women, have been at the forefront of this movement and that the dominant culture has historically profited by widely popularizing and capitalizing upon trends, traditions, and innovations within marginalized communities. We should be learning from other communities, not stealing from them.