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A New Way

Dark Chocolate Granola Bark

Coming back from vacation is no easy feat, if not exactly a hardship. I know this is true for most of us, but for some reason this one was particularly tough. I think Sam and I had been looking forward to Palm Springs for so many months, envisioning it as the one saving grace from a busy season of work and wedding planning and then when we got home … work and wedding planning were still waiting right where we’d left them. So last week wasn’t the easiest — my car was hit while we were out of town, I have a wonderful employee who has decided to leave to pursue growing another company, and our house is basically infested with ants. But something Sam and I talked about while in Palm Springs is how to reframe things that feel burdensome and difficult — how to claim more control over our days and weeks instead of just letting them happen to us.

20140420_BlogGranolaBark-100

Right at the end of my book tour, I traveled to Chicago for the annual IACP conference and had the opportunity to sit in on a session by one of the Zingerman’s bakery founders, Ari Weinzweig. We have Weinzweig (and partner Paul Saginaw) to thank for their addictive coffeecake and brownies (easy mail order!), but he’s also started writing books based on the lessons gleaned from growing the business. His latest is called A Lapsed Anarchists’s Approach to Managing Ourselves and he gave a talk based on some of the main points: essentially that managing ourselves is the crux of running any organization or business, the one piece of it that we all so often neglect. The point that really stuck with me were about the power of language and the way we talk to ourselves when it comes to work tasks or things that need to get done. Instead of saying “I have to go to Marge to pack boxes today” or “I should tackle this spreadsheet” you can rephrase it — literally — and tell yourself “I’m going to go to Marge to pack boxes today” or “I will tackle this spreadsheet.”

Making Dark Chocolate Granola Bark

It sounds silly and trivial, but these little tweaks highlight the fact that it’s all free choice: ultimately no one’s forcing me to go to Marge to pack boxes. This is what I’ve chosen and reframing it to feel more positive has made all the difference. For several weeks after the conference I’d been turning over these ideas, and then a few friends linked to a great article in Time, “I’ll Finish the Dishes When I’m Dead“, by Brigid Schulte. The take-away? Between work, managing a household and having a family, Schulte says she’s “scattered, fragmented and exhaust[ed]. I was always doing more than one thing at a time and felt I never did any one particularly well. I was always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door.” She calls this The Overwhelm. Oh yes: in capital letters, people. In case you were curious, Sam has elected me president of The Overwhelm. Any volunteers for a Chief of Staff?

Granola Bark
This article inspired a biiiiig step back and some thinking about the way I manage my time. I’m no busier than many of you. In fact, many of you are likely far busier than I. We don’t have kids or pets, we don’t have much of a commute — there are a lot of hassles or time-sucks that we don’t have to deal with. That said, it’s a rare GOLD VICTORY lately if we have a homemade dinner together before 8 or 9 p.m. and this has been a bummer for me lately. Emails and work have crept into the late night hours, and it’s hard for me to see an end to any of it. So while many of you are likely just as busy, I hope you’re doing a better job managing it than I am (any tips?). At the end of her article, Schulte describes how she ultimately goes to a workshop led by time management specialist Terry Monaghan in which she realizes “You can’t manage time. Time never changes. There will always be 168 hours in a week. What you can manage are the activities you choose to do in that time. And what busy and overwhelmed people need to realize … is that you will never be able to do everything you think you need to, want to or should do.”

Basically: your plate will never be cleared (and I’m not even sure you’d want to be a member of that particular Clean Plate Club). So all the occasions I tell myself ‘if I just get through my email inbox, tomorrow morning will be a breeze’? It’s a lie. Something else just replaces the emails on the to-do list. So I’m working on being much more content with the work I do get done in a day instead of looking at all the boxes that didn’t get checked off. I’m scheduling in yoga classes now just like meetings to ensure I get to go. I’m trying to have evenings off with a book or movie, and realizing that all the time I spend worrying about what’s not getting done is time I could go on a walk with Sam or eat fried chicken by the lake — which we did Friday night. And it was grand.

Dark Chocolate Granola Bark

In the spirit of being more content with what I can manage in a day, this past Friday I took time to exercise, did a little wedding planning (what do we think about this wedding arch?!), hired a new employee (!) and made this killer granola bark. A well-balanced to-do list I’m proud of. And really, the biggest question lurking behind this entire post: why haven’t I combined dark chocolate and granola before?! I stumbled across the idea in this month’s Food and Wine but decided to make my own tropical version using toasted coconut, dried pineapple and goji berries. I used Marge Original Granola – I may be a bit biased, but I think it’s the most robust, classic granola I’ve ever tried and it’s truly loaded with nuts and seeds which makes it perfect for this particular recipe. I’d say to spring for the good chocolate here — it’s really the star of the show. I hope you all have a good week in what I know is your own version of the trenches, preferably now with a little more chocolate.

Tropical Dark Chocolate Granola Bark
The nice thing about this recipe is you can completely customize the mix-ins to your taste. I went with a bit of a tropical feel here with toasted coconut, pineapple and goji berries but you could do apricots and pistachios or almonds or cherries — or anything you feel inspired to sprinkle on top or stir into the mix. The sky’s the limit. When I made the bark, I sprinkled a handful of additional granola and nuts on top, so just account for that when planning and measuring.

Adapted from: Food and Wine

Makes: One 15-by-11 inch sheet

1 pound dark chocolate (at least 62%), chopped
1/2 cup diced dried pineapple, plus more to top
1/2 cup goji berries, plus more to top
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, plus more to top
3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1 1/4 cups granola, plus more to top

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir over low-medium heat until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat, stir in dried fruit, nuts, coconut and granola.

Scrape the chocolate onto the baking sheet and spread it in a 1/2-inch thick layer. Sprinkle a little extra fruit, nuts, coconut and granola on top. Let the bark cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day to firm up. Break into pieces and store room temperature in an airtight container.

 

 

  1. Posted April 21, 2014 at 8:57 am

    This bark looks perfect. Such a fun combo of flavours!

  2. Posted April 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Hi, friend. Well you know how much I can relate to this and it was so wonderful to read your thoughts on the article and the whole Overwhelm thing. I get so overwhelmed, so often. I do think it’s gotten worse since I’ve had a kid but I think the bottom line is that no matter how many commitments we have, there will never be time to do it all. I’m trying to figure out how I can tackle all this stuff and get less panick-y. I think it’s so good to get that recharge but I know oh so well all about the vacation slump. xo.

  3. Posted April 21, 2014 at 9:51 am

    First of all, the idea of granola bark is pure genius, love it. Also, I completely agree about the overwhelming subject. It seems like there is never enough time for everything, but some things just have to slip. Recently there was an article going around about being ‘busy’ and how it’s all a sense of perspective and time management. Here’s to hoping you feel less of the overwhelming things in life!

  4. Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:02 am

    AMEN, Megan. I also find myself in a perpetual state of overwhelm and happened across Brigid’s piece last week. I’ve been dealing with an even harsher set of self-imposed expectations ever since I quit my job to blog full time. I’m trying to be more kind and patient with myself, and even hired a therapist to help me figure out how to better manage this stuff. I’ve been my own worst enemy lately and I don’t want to live like this forever, oh no! P.s. This granola chocolate bark is so perfect and I’m digging the birch wedding arch.

  5. Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:43 am

    My husband and I talk about that often. How there has to be a limit to what you can do and every time you choose one thing you are choosing not to do something else. We both love to run and we know that by choosing running we are choosing not to do other workouts. And it’s something I’m trying to teach the kids too. You can’t be in every activity. You have to make choices.

    anyway, looks good, I’m going to try that!

  6. Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I’m not sure your granola can get any better (trust me, I’ve made it enough times in the past couple of weeks to know this), but it’s rare that chocolate is a bad idea, so I’ll totally give this bark a go. I wish I had some of it in front of me right now!

  7. Lydia
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:59 am

    A fried chicken picnic is my new goal for as soon as the weather warms up!

  8. Megan
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Not sure of your faith orientation but I recently read a post on Mother Teresa and prioritizing your time. This link is not what I read exactly (can’t find it) but it’s got some great quotes in it along that vein. http://theradicallife.org/seven-steps-to-a-holier-life-by-mother-teresa

  9. Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Such a smart idea of chocolate granola bark (this could be such a fun (and preppable wedding favor too…) I love your addition of gojis in this.

    As to time management and getting it all done. I find what works for me is planning pockets of time dedicated to different activities- otherwise my email inbox(es) will swallow me alive in a whale-sized mouth. No fun. My house may not be the cleanest, but it looks as though the people who live here are busy living life – my house attests to it. Glad things are turning around.

  10. Posted April 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Hi there!

    Thanks for this post…believe me, you’re not the only one that struggles with this. I love your idea of reframing of “I should” into “I am”! I’m excited to try it!

    My two time management tips:
    1. Take some time to actually write down and map out your priorities. When I did so, I realized what I actually find important to my life, and I reorganized the time I spent on different activities or with different people. And then, I was able to enjoy the things I did choose to do more, because it was a conscious decision to use my time in that way.
    2. I pre-schedule all of tomorrows tasks into my calendar at the end of a day. I sleep better because I’m not trying to remember anything, and the next day I am much more likely to focus on one task at a time instead of trying to multitask.

    Good luck, and thanks for the recipe!!! Combines two of my favorite things (chocolate and granola), and excited to try it out.

    Sam

  11. megang
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks so much, Megan!

  12. megang
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks, Annelies. Yes this is exactly what I’ve been trying to do — the a.m. will be devoted to ‘x’ and I’ll try not to even look at my email during that time. I’m sidetracked easily, apparently. And stressed by the sidetrack! Hope you’re doing well, friend. xox

  13. megang
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks so much, Sam. These are really good tips. I’ve started to do #2 as well…Sam always does this before bed and I thought it wasn’t good because then you’re just thinking about work before bed but he insists that he sleeps better knowing everything is all lined up and set for tomorrow — then you’re not subconsciously turning it over in your mind. I’ve found this to be really true. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your great tips. And YES: the bark is really awesome. I hope you like it!

  14. megang
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Ah … and in my comment I meant my Sam :) I notice your name is Sam, too … just to avoid any confusion!

  15. Carole
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Here’s a little nugget I learned at a time management seminar years ago. Sometimes I have to slap myself with it but I have found it very helpful. “Learn to discern between what is urgent and what is important.”” Most often what is urgent will suck up your time, energy and joy unless you step back and make that distinction. I talk like I’m good at that. I’m not. But I am better when I remember.

  16. suz
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I remember those days too well. What changed? I removed the word “should” (says who?) from my thought process when my son said “Why?”after using it to him and I had no answer. Replace it with “want” or some other form to make it your choice. Not too soon after, you’ll see results.
    Good luck – life is good, but too brief. Make your priorities, then organize and implement. I too made lists the evening before which helped enormously. Keep it at a doable pace.

  17. heidi
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    I think that it helps to learn to designate tasks to others. it helps me when i figure out what i do and what someone else can do just as well,sometimes with some guidance. when it’s my deal and i have worked very hard to develop it i think that “I” personally, have to take care of it. letting go of some of that stuff can contribute not only to more time for me but also a positive learning experience for the other person.it may take a bit of time and sometimes money[you usually have to pay someone to do those things],but it’s something that not only gives you more time but allows you to free yourself up to move forward and grow whatever it is you are creating[ in your case marge].and some creative thinking about who that might be can also help- is there an agency that deals with people who need to learn skills or an apprentice situation or even trade. i’m not sure what the answer is but i know there are people out there who are looking for things, especially creative things, to do.
    meanwhile, i’m happy to see all the press you are getting, well deserved. enjoy this ride, the world won’t end if you don’t do every single thing and if it does, it won’t matter.

  18. Posted April 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Priorities. Love, health, relationship. Then the rest. I usually make a list and see who will die if something doesn’t get done. 99.99% of the time – nobody is going to die. Then I go from there.
    I do like Sam’s advice and sometimes even follow it when I see the middle of the night organizing start happening.
    Keep at the yoga- though it is a time commitment – it’s been a real mind and body saver for me since January. It’s my new thing and I hope it sticks.

    Nice looking bark.

  19. Shannon
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I’m nearly finished with Schulte’s new book. It’s fascinating, well-researched, helpful, and you should read it…in all your spare time, ha. Worthwhile, though!

  20. Mary
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Right before I read your post, I had just listened to Grace Bonney’s interview on Heritage Radio on this topic, talking with her wife, Julia Turshen. I think you may enjoy listening to it. And, yes, that recipe looks amazing. Your Marge original is the most robust classic granola. The gold standard.
    http://www.designsponge.com/2014/04/after-the-jump-productivity-tips-ways-to-avoid-procrastination.html

  21. Shannon
    Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I’m nearly finished with Brigid Schulte’s new book. It’s engaging, well-researched, and enlightening, and you should read it…in all your spare time, ha! Very worthwhile if you can find a few minutes here and there.

  22. Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Love hearing how your perspective on stress and responsibilities shifted to a better outlook. Ironically I just shared a TED talk about how we can make stress our friend for the sake of our health. And this granola bark looks insane! What a great idea.

  23. Posted April 22, 2014 at 6:35 am

    The Overwhelm! How appropriate that both words are capitalized. I can completely relate to this.

    I also need to figure out how to be content with the amount of to-do list I accomplish on any given day. When you work for yourself, especially if that work is creative in nature, it really is possible to never stop. But you are right–the fried chicken chicken by the lake is worthy of prioritization, sometimes essentially so.

    Thanks for this post.

  24. megang
    Posted April 22, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Shannon: Just bought it! Going to aim to start it today. CANNOT WAIT.

  25. Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Soooo… this is a breakfast food, right? I’m thinking if I ate this for breakfast, there’s no way anything could seem TOO overwhelming for the rest of the day, right?

  26. Posted April 23, 2014 at 6:26 am

    1. This looks amazing. Once those dang oats arrive …

    2. Wedding planning can make anyone feel overwhelmed. Seriously.

    3. OUR HOUSE IS INFESTED WITH ANTS, TOO! ARGH! It’s yucky. I hope yours depart tout de suite.

  27. Posted April 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I love everything about this and I relate to it so completely. It almost seems like making peace with the neverending to-dos is the key. Or the part that I haven’t figured out. And then there’s this granola bark to top it all off.

  28. Posted April 23, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    That sums me up perfectly. I’m consistently playing catch ups and I never manage to get everything done. Spread way too thin!

    This bark looks awesome, I love how it’s absolutely jam-packed with fruit and nuts.

  29. Joyce
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:41 am

    I LOVE this post – I just read that article too, and it hit home! Like you and Sam, I realized there are actually a lot of things I DON’T have on my plate yet – kids…a super long commute…etc. So much of the “must get this done” is all in my head. This week I have been consciously trying NOT to multitask at work and at home – I am normally doing at least 3 things at once whether at my desk or in the kitchen or online… I am focusing on doing just ONE thing, doing it well, finishing, and moving to the next. And I think next is making this granola bark… :) Yum! Thanks for this post, Megan!

  30. Posted April 24, 2014 at 10:06 am

    This. looks. ah. may. zing.

  31. Susan
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Recipe looks incredible – thanks. Health and “family” first. Family definition to include the relationships that are nearest and dearest to you. I recite this to myself when things begin to overwhelm as a reminder to re focus.

  32. Posted April 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    This looks soooo good Megan.

  33. Posted April 27, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Shifting perspective from “should” or “have to” is challenging, but makes such a difference! Thanks for the friendly reminder, and for the great links and this amazing recipe. I’m going home to throw some pineapple in the dehydrator now!

  34. Posted April 28, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Megan, thanks for this post! Needed to hear it. Sometimes, enjoying time with others and making time for yourself is the exact kind of time management we need – not for crossing items off the to do list! This granola looks absolutely fantastic – cannot wait to try it. Thanks again for the wonderful encouragement (and recipe!!)

  35. Posted May 3, 2014 at 3:47 am

    DEFINITELY in touch with the overwhelmed feeling. I’ve never been great at reigning things in and knowing when to just let some things lie. My skills in this area are a constant work-in-progress. Scheduling time for exercise is a great idea – I’m going to try it! And make this bark – it looks so delicious!

  36. Posted May 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Love the capitalization on The Overwhelm, and also the idea that tweaking the language we use can really change the way we feel about items on our to do lists. Also? That granola bark looks amazing! Gonna have to try it…

  37. Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:23 am

    These are really delicious. Although I am UK based and we use different weigh scales I managed to get the amounts around right. Was super yummy. Great recipe!

One Trackback

  1. By handmade gift ideas for dadThe Good Weekly on June 11, 2014 at 8:01 am

    […] Tropical Dark Chocolate Granola Bark You really can’t go wrong with a gift of good dark chocolate, but this recipe from A Sweet Spoonful takes it up a notch by pairing it with nuts, oats, and general crunchy goodness. This wouldn’t last very long in my house (and I would probably have a hard time not stealing some back from my husband), that is for sure! […]

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