Fitness and clothing. They’re linked, but not in the way you think!

February 17

HAPPY SNOW DAY! (first one of the year for us, at least the first one with actual snow, in Charlottesville.)

I’ve been in a clothes funk lately, which started in late November when I was in a tizzy over what to wear to a yacht club function. Our club is not fancy, usually, but this annual event is when all the serious duds come out to play. It’s hard to recognize people who live in shorts and flip flops during sailing season when they’re dressed in cocktail dresses, jackets and ties. I was halfway debating not attending the event (not really, but maybe . . .) just because I was so freaked about clothing.

I like stuff from White House Black Market but think the prices are insane. I like the prices at thrift stores (and the recycle reuse concept too) but cannot stand the shopping experience. In general, shopping is not my thing. Is this a leftover emotion from when nothing fit well? Worry about money? Complete lack of confidence in my non-existent sense of style? Utter bafflement at what things cost? Mourning that I somehow lack the “girl” gene that’s been beaten into American women as a necessary part of existence?

IMG_8435(what I wore to the yacht club party)

I got over that event angst, but lately the funk has reared its head again. I hate 90% of the clothing in my closet (so went through and pitched a whole huge bag full – this is what I have left. No joke.) and wind up wearing the same thing over and over, IMG_9833which makes me depressed about, um, not looking awesome. But there is absolutely no way I want to go spend money on crap clothing that will, likely, wind up sitting in my closet until I admit I hate it and give it away.

This funk extends to workout shorts. I’m down to one single pair that I like (at least kind of), and they are getting threadbare. The shorts I can source (so far anyway) are all skin tight compression shorts (which I cannot stand), baggy heavy disgusting basketball shorts that look like you could fit 3 people in, shorts that are so short you can see underwear peeking out, or yoga pants. Maybe capris.

Really? I cannot be the only woman in America who wants reasonable shorts that go about halfway down my thighs (or at least a couple of inches lower than my butt curve, thank you very much) that are not skin tight.

IMG_9832(2 pairs that are headed to Goodwill.)

Oh, and while we’re at it? I’m not spending $69 on a pair of shorts. Are you kidding me?

I think I’ll have to stick to borrowing my husband’s boxer shorts to exercise in. They’re the right length, right price, and reasonable weight. They look like crap, and it’s clear I’m working out in underwear, but there are good reasons I work out at home.

A friend, a very astute friend, who has been patiently responding to my “woe is me” rants on Facebook about this clothing issue, pointed out that my issues with clothes are like a lot of people’s issues with exercise.

“I just had a realization: the way you feel about clothes with all of the different aspects that make it so frustrating and hard to move forward for you is the exact same way many people feel about exercise. Despite many different “ways/solutions” offered to your initial dilemma it only results in more frustration and a desire to give up before you start. That is all. I’ve got nothing else. “

Which really gave me pause. In my deep quest to help people by offering options, am I actually making it harder for them to move forward? IMG_9834

Would I be happier clothing-wise if someone just said, “Hey. Buy these 4 items and you’ll be good for a couple of years. Here is the perfect dress. Here, I’ll make the decision for you.”?

Is part of the real issue here a lack of decision-making prowess and not necessarily the rest of it?

Food for thought.

Maybe I need a personal shopper, one who will not take NO for an answer.

I want to help you make decisions for a better life. Comment here below. Find me on Facebook. Subscribe to me on YouTube. Together we’ll be better dressed and fitter. You in?

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On ice scrapers. And Valentine’s Day. And chocolate.

February 12, 2015

ice scraper(this is my favorite Valentine’s present)

My husband showed me how much he loves me yesterday, at 7:45 am, February 11. What did he do, you may ask. Did he shower me with rose petals or present me with a huge diamond? Did he cover me in furs and whisper sweet nothings into my ear to lovingly wake me up with a decadent breakfast in bed?

Nope. He scraped the ice off of my car for me.

Picture this. A late rush-y morning, when I have to be at work and still have to grocery shop and drop Maddie off and she can’t get her rear end out of bed and I’m making her lunch even though it’s her job and it’s freezing cold out and she’s in a terrible I-am-13-and-this-stinks mood and Julian decides this is the morning to get mouthy and I am realizing I have way too much to do today and I won’t get to bed until midnight at the earliest and I could go on but I’m exhausted all over again just reading this.

I ask Jeremy to please start my car to warm it up for me, and I gather everything up (including my very sullen daughter) and head out the door, heart sinking as I realize I am not yet wearing my coat and I will DEFINITELY have to scrape the ice off my windshield (ICE??? It was 70 damn degrees on Sunday! If we can’t have snow can we at least get spring rolling consistently?) and I HATE COLD.

And I stop in my tracks. Because there is my wonderful, patient, thoughtful husband, scraping ice off my windshield. And the side windows. And the back. He finished, smiled, gave me a kiss, and then turned to do the same to his car.

He. Scraped. My. Windows.

I was in a bliss all day. Keep your chocolates, and roses. Keep your Valentine’s Day special celebrations. Tell your love you love them, in words and deeds, every day.

I love you, Jeremy.

So what about this Valentine’s Day thing? Chocolate is nice, of course. And I don’t know about you, but my kids love Nutella, which makes me want to cringe when I read the ingredient list. How about a nutella-like spread that you can make at home, with easily-sourced ingredients that you can, actually, pronounce? Yep, I did. I adapted a recipe I found on The Spunky Coconut and went to town. It more than passed muster, with Maddie taking it to school with her to share with friends. If it makes a teenager smile, it must be good, right? Check out the video for a fun tutorial!

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Ingredients:

  • 8 oz  hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed (CHEAT TRICK: or you can buy the bag of roasted unsalted ones from Trader Joes – this recipe uses ½ of a bag)
  • 9 oz (1/2 of the POUND PLUS bar) of 72% cocoa bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 6 TBS brown sugar (or maple sugar – whoa)
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler until smooth.
  • Dissolve the sugar and salt in the coconut milk over medium heat, then remove from heat (coconut milk will need dissolving too)
  • IN A FOOD PROCESSOR (and yes, you need one. Sorry.) pulse the hazelnuts, then process for about 30 seconds or until finely chopped.
  • Pour in chocolate, then process for about 2 minutes or until VERY smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.
  • Pour in coconut milk mixture and process until combined.
  • Taste! J

This will keep in the fridge for a while, and yes, it’s thick when you take it out. This has not stopped my kids from eating it whenever they can.

I’d love to connect with you! Leave me a comment, or find me on Facebook or follow me on YouTube. I find friendships to be one of my favorite things in life, and I’m always up for a new one!

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On impossible, and being you

February 10

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I made a new friend yesterday. Oh, we’d met before, in the way we meet so many people these days – online, through mutual friends who kept saying, “Don’t you know her?” But this was real life, face to face, and there is really something special about that.

We have common interests and a shared passion for helping each other out, and the first few minutes were an almost comical exchange of “I want to hear your story!” “No, you first!” The walk and talk settled down to an animated discussion that ranged from childhood to marriage to travel to fitness.

Like the other day, the subject of how we managed to take the kids and go off for 9 months came up. I was reminded of something that stuck in the back of my head after the last time, namely that attitude is definitely the key in making some adventure like that happen. It’s only impossible if you make it out to be when you start.

If you go at an idea with the idea that it’s possible, and you’re willing to think out of the box to get there, and you throw up all ideas for consideration without hearing them with an eye to why they might not work – a lot can happen. Or if you search for ways they MIGHT work instead of the other . . .

I think for us, our decision to go sailing came about because we asked the question WHY NOT instead of the question WHY. Small difference in wording, big difference in result. Instead of trying to convince ourselves why we should take off, and shooting down all the reasons in the guise of “responsibility”, we took the other tack. Those challenges, the reasons not to go, dropped.

That “Can Do” attitude (a phrase way too bandied about, I know. Sorry.) pervades into everything. With unexpected results.

Back to yesterday and my new friend. (Bear with me. I think I’ll be able to link this all up!) 2 small things happened when we were walking. We ran into a pair of people who asked if one of us would take a picture of them together. Of course! She showed me how to work her phone, they posed, I snapped, we all went our separate ways. No big deal. And then, a little ways later, when we were headed down the path, I mentioned that I just needed to take it carefully as I have a bad knee. Again, no big deal.

Later in our talk, both of those “no big deals” came up. They were indications of my character, of my attitude toward life and other people (and myself) that are so natural it never occurs to me to notice. A possible way of the two of us working together was mentioned, and one of the reasons was, precisely, the way I had handled both of those situations.

It would be easy to throw up barriers. To say no. I’m choosing to to the opposite, to think with an open mind. I have no idea if anything more than a good friendship will come of it, but kind of like not knowing what might happen when we chose to go sailing, the possibilities are endless.

So be yourself, I suppose, is my advice for today. You never know what will open for you when you do that.

Oh, and friendships rock. That’s all. 🙂

I’d LOVE to connect with you. Leave me a comment. Find me on Facebook. Follow me on YouTube. Together we can find ways to strengthen our selves.

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Attitude and mistakes. And Shrimp and Grits!

February 6, 2015

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When I meet my students for the first time, we go over the basics.

What’s the most important ingredient in cooking? “Salt,” someone says. “Safety,” chimes in another. “Love.” “Spices.” “Butter.” The answers come thick and fast. These are, after all, 9,10, and 11 year olds.

Attitude, I tell them. Cooking is 90% attitude. Cook like it’s going to turn out well. Trust yourself! If you cook or present your food with an apology, or with your head down and body language saying this is terrible, or pick it apart before you even let anyone taste it (“I forgot the garlic! It’s probably not very good.”) chances are good you have contributed to a less-than-stellar experience. Serve it with a smile, with excitement? You’ve got it.

And the next thing I tell them is that there are no mistakes in cooking. There are only lessons to learn from. Sure, you need to be careful with knives and behave certain ways, but in general, you can’t mess things up too terribly.

These 2 guidelines, principles, go hand in hand for the most part. If you go at it with the attitude that you can do it, and you know that if something happens you’ll roll with it – those 2 things can open up an entire world to you.

It’s not just cooking, though, of course. When is a guiding principle applicable to only one aspect of your life?

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, the co-chair of a board where I serve. We’ve seen each other off and on, at board meetings and even on the soccer field where his oldest daughter and mine used to be on the same team. This was the first time we had a chance to learn about each other’s lives.

Somehow the conversation turned to traveling, and he mentioned a friend who was getting ready to take his family traveling for a year. “We’ve talked about that,” he told me, referring to his family, “but there’s really no way.”

“Why?”

He looked at me. “How could we afford it? We have 4 kids.”

I pounced, or at least it felt like that to me. “No, just do it! The hardest part of any decision like that is making the decision to go. Once you do, things just fall into place.” I shared our story, our 9 month cruise with the kids. ?????????????????????? ??????????????????????Go. Go go go.

To me, this kind of an experience is so much like cooking. 90% of it is attitude, and really, there are no mistakes. Only learning opportunities. What can you learn today?

I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, or find me on Facebook or follow me on YouTube. Together we can learn a ton.

This week’s recipe is Shrimp and Grits. Inspired from a version we had at Charleston’s SNOB (Slightly North of Broad) restaurant, this dish reminds me of decadence and lavish pampering. The Christmas vacation we had in Charleston was magic, from the house we stayed in right on the beach to the family who all piled in with us to the food we ate both in and out. That’s a heck of a lot of memory on one plate. IMG_4889

Ingredients:

  • 1 c grits, 4 c water
  • 2 TBS butter or olive oil
  • ½ a link of kielbasa sausage, sliced very thin
  • 2 oz prosciuitto
  • ¾ lb peeled and deveined shrimp (I use the 25-30 count)
  • 4 scallops, cut in ½
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • ¼ c white wine
  • up to ½ c water

Directions

  • Bring 4 c water to a boil, then add grits whisking constantly until smooth. Cook over low heat until the rest of the food is ready. (Or follow package directions!)
  • Melt 1 TBS butter in a sauté pan. Add in the meat and cook until beginning to brown and get crispy. Remove to a bowl.
  • Add 1/2 TBS butter or olive oil to the pan. Add scallops and cook for about 1 minute a side. Scallops should be browning but not tough – you actually want a little opaque in the middle as they’ll continue to cook off the heat. Remove from pan into bowl with meat.
  • Add ½ TBS oil or butter. Add in the shrimp and cook until pink and curled into a c-shape. Don’t overcook! Remove from pan.
  • Add in the veggies and stir. The tomatoes will release juice which you can then use to scrape up all the yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the wine and let simmer until the tomatoes have mostly broken down, about 5-10 minutes. Add in the water if you need it for liquid.
  • Stir back in the seafood and meat. Heat through and serve over the grits!IMG_9413
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Waking up vs getting up

February 4

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(Side note. How is it February already?)

I rarely have trouble waking up. I can open my eyes and be ready to face the day pretty easily. It’s the getting up, the physically getting out of those cozy warm covers into the cold dark that’s harder. Part of what I love about weekends is the ability to stay in bed until I feel like getting out (pretty much anyway), snuggled in and reveling in the delicious luxury of time and space.

My preferred wake up time generally is 6. 5 or 5:30 works too, depending on when I’ve gone to bed. These days, with Insanity Max:30 being the grunt-inducing sweatfest that it is, my workout does NOT happen first thing; instead my morning bliss time is spent writing this blog, or posting on various social media sites, or even getting a few other items ticked off my list. My get-out-of-bed time, though . . .

People have recommended a few things. “Set a crazy alarm.” “Put the phone across the room so you have to get up to get it.” “Set 5 alarms all within 2 minutes of each other.”

I came across an app the other day that’s intriguing, though it’s not yet on my phone. Called “I can’t wake up”, the premise is that you set the alarm along with one of some series of tasks that actually force you to get your brain moving. It might be a math problem. A jar of “water” that you have to fill up by shaking the phone really hard. A bar code that you scan on some item across the room (or across the house). Once you’ve completed the task, only then does the alarm stop sounding.

If I didn’t live by myself, or if my morning hours were closer to Jeremy’s, I think this would be a winner. Get yourself active right away and your day has begun!

Anyone else have no trouble waking up but struggle with the getting out of bed part?

I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, find me on Facebook, follow me on YouTube. Together we’ll make mornings more productive!

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Why am I blogging anyway?

January 31

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Why am I blogging?

I suppose the answer is multi-faceted, as is so much of life. Sure, I’m blogging to think out loud. To share some of the weird musings that go on in my brain. Maybe it’s a narcissistic journaling that I’m secretly hoping someone else will read.

Maybe it’s another place to link to Tasty Thursday, or to my Facebook page. Another place to share content I find.

Really, though, for me the main purpose is inspiration. I want to highlight the small steps I am taking to make my life stronger, more clear and more ME. This inspires me, which may be selfish (one of my least favorite terms). I am also hoping it inspires you to be your stronger and more real self.

Celebrate what you CAN do. Isn’t that what we all need to do anyway?

Let me know how you are inspired. Share your quotes, photos, sources. Comment here or find me on Facebook. Subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Together we’ll change the world, one small step at a time.

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Super Bowl snacks, the homemade, Tasty Thursday version!

January 29

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Super Bowl Sunday – the junk food day of the year.

There’s no secret that junk food is a huge business. Let’s face it – those chips and dips just taste great! But you don’t have to ingest all those chemicals in order to bliss out your taste buds . . . here are 3 tried-and-tested homemade versions of those Super Bowl favorites – Buffalo chicken strips, ranch dressing, and blue cheese dip.

Check out the video! (and have you subscribed yet? Or better yet are you supporting me on Patreon?

BUFFALO CHICKEN STRIPS

  • Boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • Your choice of spice combination: I like 2 TBS chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp garlic powder, and a pinch of salt (up to ¼ tsp) USE WHAT YOU LIKE!!!
  • 2 TBS coconut oil or butter
  • 2/3 c Franks HotSauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Toss chicken strips with spice mixture and place in a baking dish
  2. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, melt coconut oil and stir in Franks HotSauce. Heat until bubbling slightly and you can smell the vinegar
  4. Toss chicken strips with hot sauce mixture.
  5. Bake another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with ranch dressing and blue cheese dip!

RANCH DRESSING

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.31.48 AM

  • ½ c mayonnaise
  • ½ c sour cream
  • ¼ c buttermilk
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ½ small onion, very finely minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • ½ tsp basil
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp dill
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • good pinch salt
  • small handful each cilantro and parsley, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Refrigerate until flavors meld. Best made ahead of time!!!
  3. Taste before serving and add salt or pepper (or fresh lemon juice) if needed

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.30.25 AMBLUE CHEESE DIP

  • ¾ c mayo
  • ¾ c sour cream
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • ½ c crumbled blue cheese (no need for the really great stuff here!)
  • ½ small onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • about 20 grinds of fresh black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Refrigerate until flavors meld. Best made ahead of time!!!
  3. Taste before serving and add salt or pepper (or fresh lemon juice) if needed
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