Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eat Your Breakfast, Andrea!

When I was growing up, I NEVER ate breakfast. My mom didn't like it and tried to tell me many times that I had to eat something, but my dad was my supporter. He always said that he never was hungry and couldn't eat anything either for breakfast for the first 20 years of his life. So I got away with not eating anything. I wasn't hungry, and I truly don't know how I could have eaten anything.

By the time I moved out, I still wasn't hungry in the morning, but I made more of a conscious effort to eat something, anything... I have never been a big fan of cereal (well, I never ate it growing up!) and for a long time had a hard time figuring out what to eat in the morning.

Ten years ago or so, I finally figured out the "breakfast thing." I found a few things I liked to eat for breakfast, and I never skipped "the most important meal of the day" as I tell my kids!

However, a few weeks ago, breakfast became a challenge again. I started teaching a VERY early morning class, something I haven't done in a while and not since the toddler was born. When I can leave my house at a somewhat reasonable hour, let's say 7:30 a.m., fitting in breakfast is easy. But these days I'm already long at work by then... Plus, the toddler likes to get up around 5 a.m. these days, so just simply getting ready while feeding and supervising the toddler is a challenge.

So I haven't eaten breakfast consistently in the past few weeks. I always eat something after teaching my VERY early class, around 9:00 a.m. That's still early, but I've been up for at least 4 hours by then. So I think I have to plan my breakfast a bit better.

I think simply putting some of the ingredients on the counter the night before (right next to the coffee maker - I NEVER forget to make and drink coffee!!!) may help. Also, I'll see if I can find some breakfast bars that I like to keep in the car. So on really hectic days I can maybe eat the bar in the car on my way to work.

Do you eat breakfast every day, even on busy mornings? If so, what's your favorite breakfast food while on the run?

Be well,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weekly Meals

Since last week's meal planning went so well, I am excited to do it again this week! Yes, it's actually fun. So here is this week's menu. The items in green are from the Farmers' Market:

Tuesday: Chinese chicken salad with carrots and celery

Wednesday: Vegetable curry with potatoes, carrots, celery, leeks, onions and edamame & brown rice (I can't make hubby and the teenager always happy... :0))

Thursday: Chicken mozzarella ravioli boiled and then sauteed in a bit of olive oil & garlic and topped with Parmesan cheese; salad with radishes

Friday: Grilled chicken breasts, rice & sauteed squash. To make the squash, I first saute some onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil and then add the cut up squash and saute it for a minute. I season the squash with some salt and pepper. Next I add some broth and a tablespoon of ketchup and simmer until soft yet still firm (not mushy!).

Do you have any meals planned for this week? If so, please share! :0)

Be well,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shopping at the Farmers' Market

Well, we made it to the Farmers' Market again today and got lots of good stuff. The bread guy was there, so we were happy! :o) However, it's a big challenge to "manage" the toddler these days as he gets REALLY excited because of all the great food. He has to try all the different strawberry stands, taste the bread, and insist on biting into the orange slice that's offered only to spit the orange out and dirty his clothes... So the shopping trip was a lot shorter (once again) than we would have liked it to be...

So here is (almost everything) we got today:

After tasting all the available strawberries, the toddler decided to buy these. They look, smell, and taste incredible... Yes, the toddler knows his strawberries! :0)

We also got "basic veggies" (onions, carrots, leeks, celery & potatoes):

Isn't the squash pretty?

Last week's radishes were sooooo good; we had to get some more!

Yes, and we got some stuff from the bread guy! :0) Mmmmm. Sooooo good! Actually, I have to admit that one of the items we bought is actually missing from the picture.... We also got a brioche, but the toddler and I shared it on the way home... Sorry, no picture. It was good!!! So the other items are a wheat olive "thingy," garlic cheese bread, and a soft roll.

We ate the roll for lunch and made an open faced fish sandwich with leftover talapia. We cut the roll in half and slightly toasted it. Then we spread it with a bit of mayo and some Dijon mustard. We topped the fish with Trader Joe's spicy tartar sauce and lemon juice. We mixed about a tablespoon of the tartar sauce with the juice of 1 1/2 lemons. So tasty!

Did you make it to the Farmers' Market? If so, what did you get?

Be well,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Meal Planning Was A Success

Well, planning meals around the items I bought at the Farmers' Market was a success! Here is why:
  1. There was no anxiety about what I'd be making for dinner as I knew what I'd be making
  2. I bought all the ingredients for the week's meals on Sunday and haven't been back to the grocery store since! This hasn't happened in a long time. What a time saver!
  3. When the teenager asked "What's for dinner?" I actually had an answer! It's important to keep the teenager happy... :)
  4. I cooked several of the meals while the toddler was napping. It's much easier to cook without someone needing your attention all the time...
  5. Since I took some time to plan what I was going to cook, I made meals I really enjoyed!
One of the meals I made was something I hadn't made before. It was actually the easiest and the fastest. I was "cheating" a bit as I used a curry simmer sauce in a jar. But the meal turned out great, and, again, it was SOOOO easy.

You bring the simmer sauce to a simmer and then add whatever vegetables and/or protein you'd like to add. I used potatoes, carrots, onions, and chicken. Then you just simmer everything for about 15-20 minutes. I said it was easy!

We ate the curry with some rice. I gave in and made white rice to make hubby and the teenager happy. I usually make brown rice, but they like white rice better and love me a lot more whenever I make white rice instead of brown rice... :) (I actually prefer the taste and texture of brown rice.) We also had some mache salad with a simple vinaigrette.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have You Had Your Water Yet Today?

Just had some water... Today I decided to add lemon, orange and cucumber slices... It's good!

Just in case you still needed me to convince you after my earlier post today that water can look pretty and taste great...

Happy drinking! :)

Water: Natural Goodness Made Even Better

Several years ago, I drank A LOT of diet coke. I LOVED diet coke. While I knew that all the "stuff" in it was probably not the best for me, I rationalized that I ate otherwise pretty healthy meals and exercised, so I was okay. However, I never felt truly good about this habit.

In addition to my two or three cans of diet coke a day, I have always drunk lots of water. I like water. I have always liked water even when I LOVED diet coke. About a year ago, I completely stopped drinking diet coke at home and limited myself to only drinking it when we went out or when we were at my in-laws, not more than a can or so a week. At first, it was hard not having my beloved diet coke around anymore. But after a few weeks, I had lost all desire for it and didn't even drink it when we went out anymore!

As I said, I like water, but it can get a bit boring, so I have tried to come up with ways to make it more interesting in a natural way. The following are things that I add to my water to make it more interesting:
  1. Lemon slices - I just love lemons.
  2. Cucumber slices - I always have a cucumber around to snack on and to add to my salad or to put on my sandwiches.
  3. Lemon & cucumber slices - I feel like I am at a spa when I drink this. Plus it looks so pretty when you add lemon and cucumber slices to a glass pitcher with water.
  4. Orange slices - I just recently tried this one when we didn't have any lemons around. It's good!
  5. Asian pear slices - I tried this during another desperate moment when the above items weren't available. It was really good!
So, what is your beverage of choice? Do you drink lots of water? If so, do you add anything to it? What do you add?

Be well,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weekly Meals

Okay, I think planning meals around the items I purchased at the Farmers' Market is actually fun! So here it goes. The items in green are from the Farmers' Market.

Curry with chicken, onions, carrots & potatoes - I am cheating a bit here as I'll be using a store bought curry sauce in a jar. We'll have rice with the curry and a salad on the side.

Quesadillas with fresh salsa

Whole wheat pasta with sauteed veggies & tomato sauce. I'll saute some garlic, onions, mushrooms and carrots in some olive oil and add about half a jar of store bought tomato sauce. Yes, I know, I am cheating again with the store bought sauce... We'll have a salad with some sliced radishes to go with the pasta.

Italian sausages, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, & garlic sauteed in a pan with olive oil. On the side we'll have a salad. I'll add some tomatoes if there are any left by then... :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shopping at the Farmers' Market

Well, we did make our weekly trip to the Farmers' Market yesterday. Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed because our favorite bread guy wasn't there.... :(( He has THE best bread!!! He has an amazing sourdough baguette, an awesome sweet baguette, a slightly sweet brioche (the toddler can't get enough of it!), a fabulous walnut wheat bread, another fabulous wheat bread with olives. And when we feel like spoiling ourselves we get his garlic cheese bread. It's just everything garlic cheese bread should be... Anyway, we were out of luck, and somehow his absence affected our entire shopping experience. We somehow didn't buy as much and didn't stay around as long because we knew we had to make it somewhere else to get some bread! But, we got some great stuff anyway...

First we had to get the toddler's strawberries. They are organic and really good.

Then I got some potatoes. I think I'll use some of them in a chicken curry dish and the rest in a sausage, bell pepper, onion dish.

I got some radishes. I LOVE radishes. I like adding them to salads or simply slicing them and putting them on some bread with butter and just a tiny bit of salt. Soooo good!

I also got some tomatoes from my favorite stand. They are really flavorful even right now. I can't wait to eat them. I like to spread some ripe avocado on a slice of bread and top it with sliced tomatoes and a tiny bit of salt and pepper.

At the stand that has the awesome tomatoes, we also got some fresh salsa. It's great!

I got some carrots which I'll use in the potato, chicken curry dish.

Well, and since the bread guy wasn't there we had to get some sweet stuff somewhere else... Hubby always wants to get some toffee, so we finally did. And there was a new stand with amazing sweet potato and bean pies. The samples tasted amazing - really flavorful but not too sweet. We got a mini pie of each. I think the picture may be a bit misleading. They are tiny, honest!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Farmers' Market: The Key to Better Eating

Well, I have mentioned before that I have a hard time planning meals. I don't like to plan meals because I like to be inspired... I hardly ever (you could say "never") go shopping with a list but instead insist on relying on my memory. My memory is pretty good but not that good which is proven again and again such as when we are completely out of milk, and I spend a hundred dollars at the grocery store but neglect to buy milk... One would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but I haven't.

We are lucky to live in an area with several year round Farmers' Markets. And we shop there almost every week. During the colder months, there aren't many stands, but we enjoy buying various fruits, vegetables, eggs, and some truly delicious bread. Now that the weather is getting nicer the number of stands has been increasing every week. So I am really looking forward to tomorrow's Farmers' Market.

And I have a new idea! I will use my weekly Farmers' Market shopping trip as my inspiration and anchor for my weekly meal planning! Well, that's the plan anyway. We'll see how it goes. Regardless of how the meal planning goes, I can't wait to buy some great fruits, veggies, and breads tomorrow!

Be well,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Food: I Love You!

Unfortunately, over the years, I have sometimes seen food not as my friend but as my enemy. What a shame! There is nothing better than a juicy tomato, a perfectly ripened avocado, a warm slice of freshly baked bread, a small piece of smooth brie cheese... The list is long. Food nourishes our body and our soul. Yet, it's sometimes so hard to see food as the great friend it is!

My gallstone problems have unfortunately made me afraid of food at the moment. I can't really enjoy food because I am afraid that it may cause another painful, unbearable attack. There are of course certain foods that I know to limit or avoid, but the list is pretty long and no one knows for sure. I spent the day yesterday unable to eat anything because of the ultrasound. I was allowed to eat prior to 7:00 a.m. and then couldn't eat until 5:00 p.m. It was a LOOONG day without my friend, food.

I guess what I am learning (once again) is to appreciate food and to not take it for granted.

How often have I seen you as the enemy. I am sorry! Food, I truly love you! And I can't wait to enjoy you without fear and instead with true appreciation soon again! I now know that you have been my friend all along!

Be well,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Smashed Cauliflower

I had bought some cauliflower at the Farmer's Market and finally had a chance to make it last night. It was really good. I added very little cheese this time because of my gallstones, but still it was delicious.

I saw Rachel Ray make smashed cauliflower before, and I sort of follow what I remember she did (but I think she adds way more cheese and maybe some fat).

I usually watch a Food Network show while I work out at the gym, but I am really bad at following recipes, so I just watch the shows and then do my own thing. I know that's not particularly good and one should try to make the original recipe at least once and then change things. But somehow that just doesn't work for me. By the time I get the recipe and all the ingredients I have lost interest. Plus, I try to make my versions healthier! So here is how I make the smashed cauliflower.

1 head cauliflower
Vegetable broth - enough to cover about an inch or two of the pot
Cheddar cheese - to taste; I have added at least a cup in the past. But yesterday I just used about 1/3 of a cup and it it was yummy!
Nutmeg to taste

Cut the cauliflower into florets. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the cauliflower. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain most of the broth but save about a cup. Smash the cauliflower with a potato smasher. Add the cheddar cheese. Add some of the saved broth if the mixture is too dry. Add nutmeg to taste.

My only concern was that the dish looked very white. So I think next time I'll try adding some fresh herbs to give it some color and to change the flavor a bit. Not sure which herb I should add though. Any ideas?

Idea for next time I make this dish: Use herbs (not sure yet which ones) and laughing cow cheese instead of cheddar cheese. Not sure if it'll work, but I'll try and see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Being Kind to Myself

I felt much better yesterday, and I was SOOOO thankful that I wasn't in pain! Are my gallstones maybe little reminders not to take things - like my health - for granted?

While I didn't have any pain yesterday, I was still very tired. I got most of the blood test results back and my liver is inflamed - not unusual when you have gallstones. Later this week I will have more blood tests to make sure the liver inflammation is getting better, and I will also have an ultrasound to see how all these gallstones are doing. Two years ago there were many small sized stones. My doctor said, "Hopefully, they didn't decide to get together." I hope not...

While I just felt like vegging out at home, the very active toddler made it very clear, starting at 5:30 a.m. when he got up, that he needed some exercise. I took him to the gym to give him a chance to play with his friends.

I worked out too but took it easy. While I know that I should ALWAYS listen to my body, I often push myself when I probably shouldn't (like on Saturday when I dismissed the pain in my abdomen.) But yesterday, I was very kind to myself, and I felt good about it (and not guilty for not working out "hard enough" like I sometimes do.) I did some light weights, stretched and did 20 minutes of light cardio. Moving a bit was a good feeling, especially since the gallstone PAIN WAS GONE!!!!!

Be well,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Focus on Health

Well, yesterday's gallstone episode and today's doctor's appointment reminded me of the importance of living the healthiest life possible. I am having numerous blood tests and an ultrasound done over the course of the next week and will probably meet with a surgeon some time soon. In the meantime, here are my goals for the near future:
  • Work out every day but be kind to your body and listen to your body - in fact, I felt some pain in my abdomen on Saturday while I was working out at the gym. However, instead of being kind to my body I insisted on pushing through "whatever" I felt.
  • Eat healthy foods - well, now I also have to take my gallstones into account. I probably should have considered them before... :)
  • Be positive - instead of focusing on all the "what ifs" and on what could go wrong, I should focus on how much better my life will be without these episodes and without the fear of these episodes
Well, life is a journey, and if you open your eyes and your mind, you can learn something and grow every day! As a dear friend of mine frequently reminds me "things happen for a reason."

Be well,

Gallstones: Should I Have Surgery?

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and we had a great time. Everything went well until after dinner. While I got the toddler ready for bed, I noticed a sharp pain below my chest. Unfortunately, the pain was familiar: gallstones.

I had my first gallstone colic about two years ago while I was pregnant with my second child. At the time, I had no idea what was happening to me. While I was meeting with a student, all of a sudden I got a severe pain below my chest, started sweating profusely, and nearly passed out. I went to the E.R., had several tests done, including numerous blood tests since my liver hormones were severely elevated, and several days later was finally diagnosed with gallstones. (I since did some research on my own and found out that pregnant women quite frequently have problems with gallstones. I don't know why it took my doctor several days to diagnose me at the time...) Apparently, I have lots of medium sized stones. Surgery was not a good option at the time because of my pregnancy, but I was supposed to schedule an appointment to get the gallbladder removed once I gave birth. Since nothing bothered me, I "forgot" about making an appointment...

Luckily, I was symptom free until about two months ago when I experienced another attack. At that time, I was in severe pain for about 7 hours. In addition to severe upper abdominal pain, I also vomited numerous times and had diarrhea. The pain is so bad that I am unable to walk or stand up.

I have an appointment to see my doctor this afternoon, and I know that she'll recommend surgery to remove the gallbladder. I really don't like the idea of surgery. Why am I so afraid of having my gallbladder removed? There are several reasons I guess. First, I don't like doctors, hospitals, etc. Second, while the gallbladder is not absolutely necessary, not having one can cause digestive problems, especially problems digesting fats. I know someone who had her gallbladder removed and had diarrhea for years. Not a pleasant thought! Third, IF I am able to have laparoscopic surgery, the recovery period should be relatively short and easy. BUT, you never know. There is always the possibility of complications. Plus, I have an 18 month old to run after. And he runs FAST!!! Finally, there is that thing called work. I really don't want to have surgery in the middle of the semester.

Well, rationally I know that I probably will have to have surgery as it is likely that I'll have another attack. And what do I do if I am with my toddler and become incapacitated during a gallstone colic and there is no one around to help? Not a pleasant thought. But I think it would be best if I had the surgery in the summer when I am off from teaching, and my husband can also take some time off. In the meantime, I can try to avoid foods that are known to cause problems with gallstones:
  • eggs - especially hard boiled, poached seem to be okay for many people (I totally forgot about this and had some hard boiled eggs yesterday!!! I read that up to 95% of people have symptoms after they eat hard boiled eggs...)
  • coffee - I just can't live without a cup of coffee in the morning - but I think I had a cup too many yesterday
  • fat, including fried foods - I don't think I had too much fat
  • milk - I was never a big milk drinker but started drinking milk every day during my second pregnancy
  • fruit juice - I had some orange juice yesterday morning, not something I usually do...
It seems that I ate/drank about everything that can cause problems with gallstones yesterday.... Well, we'll see what the doctor says later today...

Be well,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's Okay to Take a Break from Working Out

I didn't feel well this past week, and I didn't make it to the gym on Wednesday and Thursday. And I didn't walk to the far away park with the toddler either. We did go to the nearby park, but I didn't get much exercise. Daily exercise has become such an important part of my day that not working out at the gym or going for a long walk, makes me feel uneasy.

I really think I need exercise every day to get my daily dose of "feel good" hormones. When I exercise I also get some time to day dream or focus on me, something that just doesn't happen otherwise with the toddler around. Exercise is therefore "me time" and so important for my mental health.

Exercising and eating well really go hand in hand. Unfortunately, sometimes when I don't exercise I feel badly and then don't eat well. I have noticed that I have especially a hard time to eat well in the afternoons and evenings on days I don't work out. I guess the guilt of not working out gets to me.

This past week I tried to be conscious and mindful of what I was eating, especially in the afternoons and evenings. Being aware that not working out can trigger not eating well and paying attention to what I was eating really worked! I ate pretty balanced meals on both days. I probably ate a bit too much in the evening on both days, but I didn't go completely overboard, and I reminded myself that eating a bit more and not exercising was okay. I also planned my next workout for Friday. Getting my gym bag ready and planning my next workout focused my attention on working out and made me look forward to the "feel good" hormones.

And, after I finished teaching my class yesterday, I couldn't wait to go to the gym! I felt really strong (maybe my body just needed to rest a few days!) and really enjoyed my workout and the "feel good" hormones... :0

Lesson learned: It's okay to take some time off from exercising. In fact, sometimes your body needs a break. Don't beat yourself up. Focus on eating well and plan your next workout!

Be well,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Pink Pasta

I have felt a bit down in the last few days, so I decided to make my "Happy Pink Pasta" last night. I call it "Happy Pink Pasta" because the sauce is a beautiful pink color and eating the pasta makes everyone happy ! :0

It's not exactly low fat or low carb, but I also made some asparagus and salad, and we ate more salad and asparagus than pasta. Also, it would have probably been a good idea to add some protein to the meal, such as some grilled chicken or grilled salmon. But I haven't really started the meal planning yet, so there was no chicken or salmon to be grilled.... :0 So here is my happy pink pasta recipe:

Happy Pink Pasta Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine OR vegetable stock
1 can diced, peeled tomatoes with juice
1 cup half & half (I used to use whipping cream, but half & half works just fine)

1 pound whole wheat pasta - boiled

Parmesan cheese (shaved)

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic. (Be careful not to burn the garlic.) Saute until the onions and garlic are golden brown. Add wine (or vegetable stock) and boil until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add tomatoes with juice and simmer about 5 minutes. Add half & half and simmer another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce with the boiled pasta (I like to mix the pasta and the sauce in the pot in which I boiled the pasta and let the mixture sit for a minute so everything "marries.") Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

We ate asparagus and herb salad with the pasta. I simply boiled the asparagus, briefly put it in ice water to keep the color, and then topped it with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Low calorie yet so flavorful.

I used an herb salad mix and dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Very simple, yet very good.

Well, I definitely was happy after eating my happy pink pasta and the flavorful asparagus and herb salad... :0

Be well,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Being Flexible

I always start my classes with a quote. Yesterday, I shared the following quote:

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." - Jimmy Dean

I really like this quote for several reasons. First, I like to look at life as a journey (or the metaphorical "sailing trip" mentioned in the quotation above). Second, I think it is really helpful to frequently remind myself that I have to be prepared to deal with the unexpected. I naturally (like many people) like to be in control, but the older I get the more I realize the importance of being flexible and being able to adjust to the unexpected and unwanted. By being flexible, I can get "back on track," not beat myself up for past mistakes, and continue working towards reaching my goals.

Be well,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

10 Things I Wish I Had Known/Started Doing 20 Years Ago

Well, sometimes I think (hope!) a little bit of wisdom comes with age... So here are ten things that I have learned over the years that I wish I had known and started doing twenty years ago:
  1. Wear sunscreen EVERY day.
  2. Accept that life isn't "perfect." That means you aren't, and can't be, "perfect" either.
  3. Treat yourself at least as well as you treat others.
  4. Be thankful every day for all the blessings in your life.
  5. Focus on how exercise and eating right makes you feel (and not so much on how it makes you look).
  6. Let go of the small stuff.
  7. Worry less.
  8. Make food your friend and enjoy every bite you eat.
  9. Ask for help more often; you'll be surprised how many people are willing to help you.
  10. Love yourself. You are a wonderful human being! :0
What are some healthy habits that you have learned over the years (and wish you had known/started doing a long time ago?)

Be well,

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Sudden Appearance of a Sweet Tooth

Growing up, I didn't like sweets, especially not chocolate. I remember being thoroughly disappointed whenever I received chocolate as a gift when I was little. I just did not like it! My dislike for sweets, and especially chocolate, continued for many years. Sometime around my 30th birthday I noticed that I found the thought of something sweet not so bad anymore, but in no way did I crave sweets. I started to eat a piece of chocolate here or there and also enjoyed a piece of cake or a cookie once in a while. But overall sweets were never a problem for me (not something I can say about cheese and salty foods...).

My disinterest in sweets and chocolate completely changed when I became pregnant with my second child several years later. All of a sudden, I started craving sweets and chocolate A LOT. During my pregnancy I "discovered" ice cream, graham crackers, cheese cake, chocolate chip cookies, pies, milk shakes... It's not like I never bought or made these items before, I just had never had a desire to eat them, especially not in large quantities.

During my pregnancy, I exercised regularly and ate pretty healthfully except for my overindulgence in sweets, and I am sure that the large amounts of chocolate & co. were a significant reason for my whopping 50 lbs. weight gain.

All through my pregnancy, I hoped my cravings for sweets would "magically" disappear after my pregnancy. No such luck... While my cravings are not as extreme anymore, I still crave chocolate and other sweets a bit too much and a bit too often. It's easy to go overboard... I therefore decided that I should have an "action plan" for how to handle these cravings. The following "sensible sweets" satisfy my recently acquired sweet tooth without causing me to overdo it too much. I think it's especially important to incorporate several of these items into my eating plan each week (another reason to finally write that meal plan...:0):
  • 100 calorie, dark chocolate bars - they do a good job at taking "the edge off" my cravings
  • Skinny Cow ice cream bars - I especially like the ice cream sandwiches, the cookie is so nice and soft and slightly "chocolaty"... :0
  • Frozen yogurt - I enjoy the new, real yogurt kind with interesting toppings
  • Chocolate & vanilla pudding with blue berries - I like mixing half a small container of each and topping the mixture with blueberries
  • Graham cracker & a glass of skim milk - this was my favorite snack while I nursed my second child - What happy memories! (I ate WAY too many while nursing and now try to eat only one at a time.)
  • Cereal - Before I developed my sweet tooth, I never was much of a cereal eater...
  • Fruits - While I love salads and vegetables, I have never been a big fruit eater; in fact, in the past I could have easily lived without fruits (unless you count tomatoes, my favorite food ever). Interestingly, I have found that incorporating more fruits into my diet has helped with keeping my sweet tooth under check...
Be well,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Warm Spinach Salad

Yesterday, I made a salad I hadn't made in a long time: warm spinach salad. Spinach is so good for you, and I especially enjoy eating it in this salad. The warm dressing slightly wilts the spinach, and the slightly sweet flavor of the sauteed onions and the earthy flavor of the mushrooms make the salad interesting.


1 medium sized red onion, cut in half and then cut into half rings
Mushrooms, sliced (I use whatever kind and how ever many I have on hand)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Wash the spinach and put it in a bowl. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute a few minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue sauteing the onions and mushrooms until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are soft. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer until the dressing slightly reduces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the dressing cool a bit (1-2 minutes) before pouring it over the spinach. Toss and enjoy.

Sometimes I like to top the salad with some shaved Parmesan cheese, but I didn't add any cheese yesterday, and the salad was delicious without it. I have to remember to make this salad more often!

Be well,

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Healthy Balance

To feel well and balanced, I need to feel that I am adequately taking care of all people and things that I care about in my life: my children, my husband, my friends, my home, my garden... Unfortunately, for the past months, I very much neglected my garden. I somehow couldn't find the time to spend even just a few minutes taking care of my plants. The neglect really showed, and I constantly thought "Oh, I should work in my garden."

Yesterday, I finally worked in the garden for a few hours. I got a lot done and also benefited from the fresh air and the exercise. Ripping out overgrown plants is quite a workout! Plus, working in my garden gives me some "me time" during which I can let my mind wander and focus on myself. Not to mention the amazing smells and the beautiful flowers and plants that I am surrounded by. Taking care of my garden is truly good for my body and soul. In the end, life really is a balance, and when one part is out of balance, everything is affected. I should always make sure that I take care of ALL aspects of my life so that my life is in balance, and I can live my best possible life.

Be well,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Benefits of Working Out In Nature vs. at the Gym

We went on another nature hike yesterday. This time we hiked with the toddler in his brand new jogging stroller. The hike included some rather hilly parts, so we got some good exercise. We ended up hiking for about 1 1/2 hours (with a 10-15 minute stop in the middle to give the toddler the opportunity to walk around and look at some animals). It felt great to be outside and to get some exercise as a family!!! I really want to set a good example for the toddler and instill the importance of eating right and exercising from an early age.

While I love going to the gym (on most days), exercising outside, and especially in nature, just seems to have added benefits for my physical and mental well being:
  1. I always feel a lot calmer after I exercise outside.
  2. There is a sense that I "got away from it all" that I just don't have after a gym workout.
  3. I don't have to smell other people who are working out around me.
  4. I am not tempted to watch T.V. and look at "perfect" bodies that I could end up comparing myself to.
  5. The air is better.
  6. I get to see beautiful flowers, trees, and, animals.
  7. I get to feel the wind in my hair and sunshine on my skin.
  8. I don't have to wait for a cardio machine.
  9. I don't have to fight with the locker and worry that it won't open. (It's a long story...)
  10. I don't have to worry that the annoying trainer will try to sell me his training sessions!
Be well,

Friday, April 3, 2009

Favorite Poem

Many years ago, several aspects of my life weren't going very well, and a friend of mine shared this well-known poem with me. I have read it many times over the years, and I like to share it with my students every semester. Every time I read it again, it makes me feel good and empowered.


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on my life. 
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. 
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. 
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. 
It will make or break a company, a church, a home. 
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. 
We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. 
We cannot change the inevitable. 
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes. 

--Charles Swindell

Be well,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Things Don't Go As Planned

For the most part, I do an okay job when it comes to eating right and exercising these days. Could I do better? Sure. That's why I started this blog. But, overall, when things go as planned, I do okay. Unfortunately, with a teenager and a toddler plus work, things quite frequently don't go "as planned"...

My "Normal" Routine
I normally work out between 5 and 6 times per week at the gym and walk to the park with my toddler on most days (depending on to which park we go, a 30 - 75 minute walk). Twice a week I have a babysitter come in the afternoons while I work from home or attend meetings, so on those days, I don't always get to go outside with him. But, overall, I am pretty consistent (maybe a bit too "consistent" in the sense that I should mix up my workouts a bit more...).

Stomach Virus
I went on a great hike on Friday with hubby. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to work out since then until yesterday because of a terrible stomach virus that plagued our family. The toddler got a horrible diaper rash, vomited and had diarrhea, had teething pain, and was in pain and a bad mood pretty much day and night. Hubby also had horrible diarrhea. My stomach was upset, but, overall I appeared to be doing a lot better than everyone else. However, I was exhausted (partially because I truly had some physical symptoms but also because of spending most of the day holding the toddler, cleaning up leaking diapers and throw up, and constantly doing laundry.) There was just no way that I could make it to the gym...

Hello Gym & Feel-Good Hormones
I was still exhausted when I finally made it back to the gym yesterday. In fact, I almost didn't go. It was hard to push myself through a 30 minute cardio workout. It wasn't fun. I only made it through the workout because I promised myself to reward myself with some ab work and stretching after the cardio (I truly enjoy ab work and stretching). So overall, I spent about an hour at the gym while the toddler played in the playcare. He had a good time and was happy when I picked him up. I was exhausted when I picked him up (as I have been since Friday afternoon), but I also felt just a tiny bit more energized because of the workout. The "feel good hormones" got me hooked again... :) Let me never forget how good exercise makes me feel and to exercise/move at least a little bit each day!

Be well,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meal Planning: Lunch

Okay, I have found that putting together lists of things I usually eat (but some of which I have forgotten about) is actually fun! And after I have put together, revised and expanded these lists, actual meal planning can't be that hard, or can it??? We'll see. But for now, on to the next list: lunch:
  • Bean and cheese burrito with LOTS of salsa, preferably fresh, chunky salsa
  • Lean cuisine meal with some veggies/salad
  • Amy's meal with some veggies/salad
  • Quesadilla with salsa (and not too much cheese, even though I love, love cheese...:o)
  • A big, interesting salad - topped with some protein (chicken, salmon, tuna, poached or hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, etc.)
  • Whole wheat pasta with sauteed veggies and tomato sauce
  • Soup (my favorite is tomato) and a few slices of good, fresh bread
  • Veggie burger on half a whole wheat bun topped with one wedge of laughing cow cheese, tomatoes, lettuce & pickles (I just remembered this one! I used to eat this all the time but totally forgot about it... This list works!)
  • Crisp bread topped with laughing cow cheese, ham or turkey, and tomato
  • Tuna (canned) mixed with lemon juice and a little bit of mayo, crackers, veggies or on top of lettuce or spinach
  • Chicken salad (chicken cut into small cubes and mixed with lots of Dijon mustard, a little mayo, salt, & pepper) with crackers or on top of a bed of lettuce or spinach (Another one I haven't had in a long time. I especially like eating chicken salad on top of a bed of lettuce...)
Even though I think of the above items as lunch, I often eat them as dinner... :) But, I'll make a separate dinner list later. The items on the "dinner" list will be for when we get to eat dinner as a family on the weekends and when hubby gets home early enough for dinner a few times during the week...

Be well,