Write about your worst habit. (The Writer’s Block)
Look for my answer over at www.lightrainink.com…in a few days! Can you guess what my worst habit might be?
Write about your worst habit. (The Writer’s Block)
Look for my answer over at www.lightrainink.com…in a few days! Can you guess what my worst habit might be?
Since being diagnosed with Celiac disease and then finding out I was allergic to beef, I’ve been missing out on one of my all-time favorites: Teriyaki Beef with Broccoli. Of course, I can make it at home (substituting chicken for the beef) but there are times when I’m in a time crunch and looking for a quick meal. Or I am just not in the mood to cook. Yikes!
Enter Evol. (Love spelled backwards) http://evolfoods.com/
I had heard about Evol. from other bloggers but I was skeptical. This skepticism comes from a lot of trial and error with other companies that have claimed “gluten-free” and “tasty” in the same description. It also comes from being picky: I prefer low salt (not for health concerns but for taste), I like minimal sauce (when foods are drowned in sauce, I think it hides the natural flavor of food), and I like crisp vegetables (I didn’t realize how much I actually liked vegetables until I quit eating them overcooked).
Evol.’s Teriyaki Chicken fits all of these, plus more. At 260 calories and 3 grams of fat, I was expecting little flavor. I was wrong. It was tasty, the teriyaki sauce was delicious and not at all overpowering, and the best part: the chicken and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, snap peas, and bell peppers) weren’t mushy. The only thing I didn’t like was that there wasn’t more – I could have easily eaten another serving! While the price is a little hard to swallow when you are on a limited budget, I would get it again as a treat. It’s cheaper than eating out.
My recommendation: Try it!
Note: I was not provided any compensation for this review
One of my goals this year is to get into better shape. Yet, every time I drag myself to the gym, I leave with aches in my joints and muscles that don’t quite seem normal. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary, in my opinion: a warm up on a cardio machine (elliptical is usually the preferred choice), three sets of various machines targeting some muscle group (while the abs are in the most dire need of attention, I recognize that my arms and legs could use toning), and ending with another 20 minutes or so of more intense cardio. I stretch afterwards, taking care to focus on my already-achy shoulders and hips. And then I wonder: it shouldn’t be this hard…should it?
A few facts for understanding why I question this:
1) I used to be a runner and swimmer – this was more than a few years ago but not so long ago that I don’t remember how good it felt
2) I’ve maintained gym memberships – I don’t go as often as I’d like but I do walk and hike with my dogs
3) I lost over 60 pounds about two years ago and have kept it off – with the exception of the 5 pound fluctuation
4) I’m over 40 – not that much over and I’ve seen much older people who seem to have no problems
5) I know the cause for some of the aches that I get – old injuries such as torn tendons, pulled IT Band, falls, and more
So, why does exercise seem so difficult?
In an effort to focus more on my muscles rather than just getting fit, I’ve been doing research into yoga. Tranquility and relaxation along with muscle stretching and exercise all rolled into one thing seems like it might be worth a try…again. The first time I tried yoga, I was convince to visit a hot yoga studio (Bikram). The experience was intense, exhausting, exhilarating, and made me eager for more. Until I woke up this next morning not being able to move easily. One doctor visit later and I found that I had torn my IT Band. Eight weeks of wearing flat shoes (I’m a girl, I love my heels), months of physical therapy, and regular deep tissue massages over the last few years have kept the pain at bay to an extent. Intense exercise or running tends to make it flair up but I’ve learned to embrace my foam roller on these occasions. You may ask, then, why would I consider turning back to yoga?
Yoga illustration via Shutterstock
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is great for lowering stress, improving the immune system, and is proving to have even more health benefits. There are many types of yoga but the more popular are Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar, and Vinyasa. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring each of these further as well as sharing my experiences. In the meantime, what is your experience with yoga? Good, bad, exhilarating?
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
and i keep on remembering
~ Lucille Clifton
Have you ever been in the middle of telling a story about the past and someone who was there (or sometimes not) interrupts with their version of what happened? Telling you that you don’t remember it right? How do you handle it?
Remember when you were younger and your parents tried to get you to eat a salad or vegetables and you would find ways to hide it under the mashed potatoes or meat? No? Maybe it was just me. I was never a fan of variety of vegetables, especially anything with lettuce. Carrots, okay. Celery, possibly. Tomatoes, sure. Corn, absolutely. Avocado, without question. Lettuce, not my thing. And that’s what salad was to me…a big bowl of green lettuce. Appetizing, right? If you think about it, that is also what you get when you go to a restaurant – a side salad typically consists of lots of lettuce, two wedges of tomato, two slices of cucumber, and possibly a ring of red onion, depending on the restaurant. If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on your view), you might also get a pinch of cheese and 3 croutons. Yum. I’m cringing already.
As I’ve gotten older and have learned what I like to eat, I’ve grown to love salads. I find the variety of vegetables and sometimes fruits make me feel both healthy and eager to dig in. Jicama, peppers, beans, quinoa, and mango are all new salad additions for me. I mean, really, where were these salads when I was growing up? If it wasn’t for the fact that I love chicken and bacon, I could almost have stayed on the path to being vegetarian. Almost. That’s another story, though.
This summer, without fail, every week at the grocery store, I would dig around among the fruits and vegetables to find items to add to my salads. Many nights, a big bowl of salad with a sweet potato biscuit has sufficed for dinner. Maybe living in the south has helped this process – it’s too hot to cook most nights and a salad doesn’t feel like a lot of work. Paired with a tall glass of iced tea and a piece grilled chicken breast or piece of fish, I feel justified in a tiny piece of chocolate for dessert. What can I say? I deserve a reward for eating healthy.
My Favorite Salad (today)
2 stalks green onion, diced
1/2 orange pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 oz mushrooms, chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 can baby corn, rinsed and cut in bite sized pieces
1 c broccoli slaw
1/2 c shredded carrots (or diced baby carrots)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed well
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed well
Favorite lettuce blend, preferably something with spinach
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well. Leftovers will store well in airtight container and refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Feta cheese crumbles, optional
GF croutons, optional
1) If you can’t find broccoli slaw, use 1 cup of red cabbage (sliced and chopped)
2) If you aren’t a bean fan, feel free to substitute diced chicken or turkey instead
3) To make your own gluten free croutons:
A. Preheat oven to Broil
B. Cut 2 slices of gluten free bread (I typically use Udi’s brand) into small cubes and place on cookie sheet
C. Mix 1/4 c olive oil and 1 tsp of your choice of seasonings (I use season salt, garlic powder, and chipotle powder) in separate bowl and mix well
D. Brush olive oil mixture onto bread cubes
E. Broil for 2 minutes, then turn cubes over and brown other side for an additional 1-2 minutes (speaking from experience, watch the time close as it will burn quickly)
F. Transfer to a bowl to serve with the salad
4) Mix it up – if you don’t like black beans, use kidney beans; if you like jicama, add it. The point of this salad is to create a visually appealing masterpiece that you’d be excited to eat!
What do you like to add to your salads?
Do you subscribe to the theory of keeping a bucket list? Take a look at one person’s take on the bucket list phenomenon:
Can you use the idea of a bucket list to help you create a plan for daily living?
A number of years ago, I “attended” an online writer’s conference (www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com). I say “attended” in quotes for a reason: I did it half-heartedly. Why do it all if you are going to do it half-heartedly, you might ask. I ask myself that too. It’s similar to my attitude with exercise and diet, I suppose: if I at least try, then I can say I tried, which is better than never having tried at all. Okay, that may be pushing it. You see, I didn’t go into the week-long conference planning on dropping out after a few days. To be honest, I didn’t really plan on doing it to begin with either. Let me clarify: I found out about the conference about two weeks prior to the start of it. I had just moved half way across the country, started a new job, and basically goaded myself into attending. How hard could it be? It’s free! It’s online so I don’t have to travel! It’ll give me a push to finally do something towards writing! No problem.
Famous Last Words
At first, it seemed as if it would be easy to attend around my work schedule. I thought I could read the forums in the morning before work so I knew what the assignments would be and then work on them during my breaks throughout the day. I could post everything at night and catch up on things I hadn’t finished during the day. Being the overachiever and newbie, I figured 8 workshops would be easy. Others that were planning on attending talked about taking the week off from work and I laughed at the idea. It was online – no big deal. So, I didn’t make a plan for dinners or what would happen if the proverbial fire popped up at work.
How It Really Worked
Day 1: A quick look that morning at the workshops I had signed up for and my planner filled up with ideas. I had a break at noon for an hour, so I wrote more. That night, after dinner and conversation with the girl about how her day was, we both got down to business – she with homework, me with perusing the forums. I had this…
Day 2: I woke up late because I stayed up too long the night before reading the forums, so no reading assignments that morning. At lunch, my customer called a mandatory meeting. Uh oh. Got home at 7p to a starving child and the question of whether I was abandoning her. Double uh-oh. After she went to bed, I read the forums and realized I had a number of things I was now behind on. I needed a glass of wine, which in retrospect wasn’t a good idea because it made me sleepy. Very sleepy.
Day 3: Woke up late again?! This is troublesome. No time for lunch because the boss needed me to rework a budget. I sense this is an attempt to test my abilities so I don’t take a break for the rest of the afternoon. After a 12-hour day at work, I couldn’t turn down the girl’s request for a dinner out. Who wanted to cook at this point? Bring on the margaritas and solitaire!
You get the point…
When I finally went back to look at the forums on Day 6 (Saturday), I was depressed. I realized I should have planned better. This was a free resource and I could have learned a lot. I also could have used the ongoing camaraderie with other like-minded individuals to help keep me going from that point on.
In the years since that first attempt, there have been numerous tries. I won’t bore you with the details about my continued failures but needless to say, I haven’t done well. The only thing I think I’ve gained from this yearly attempt is the knowledge that the conference continues to grow every year and it’s still free. It also sets a starting point for when I need to start prepping for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)…which is a whole other blog post.
I’ve spent the last few months going through old journals and conference notes, re-reading books and articles on writing, and perusing various blog sites on how others focus/write/publish. While I know this is helpful in some ways, doing this has also given me a sense of procrastination and I realize I’m not producing anything. I know I have a lot to say by the number of entries in my journals and on my computer, but I don’t seem to have a lot of follow through. It frustrates me and yet, I continue to stall. I told my husband last night something that I had once shared at this conference: “If I don’t write, everyone will think I can. If I do write, then no one will think I can.” His answer? Keep writing. I love that simple viewpoint and his faith in me. However, I’m overwhelmed and almost paralyzed with fear. I wonder if anyone else has felt this way. And then I realize the answer to that is yes. It’s why there are numerous books on the subject and why therapists are in such high demand.
To paraphrase Yoda, “There is no try…only do.”
In that first conference that I attended, one of the workshops was about finding the muse within us (something I could certainly use more help in doing). The assignments seemed simple – the presenter posted a question and you were to provide a short answer response. Easy, right? My first assignment was to answer this question: When diving into writing, am I eager or overwhelmed? But the real question underneath that was “Why Do I Write”?
I ask myself this a lot, especially lately…What do I like about writing? What do I think I can contribute that no one else has? Why do I continue to want to write when I seemingly produce nothing? It’s the last one that gets me the most. My answer to the question posed during the workshop was this:
“Diving in is overwhelming. After 100’s of How To books (or so it seems), I keep thinking, “What if I do it wrong?” The problem is I don’t hardly do it at all. I’ve never just jumped in the deep end of the pool because it’s too cold. I usually take baby steps. I think that uncertainty is bringing feelings of being overwhelmed up to the surface. I’m tired of baby steps though.
Why do I write? I’m sure I could say “because I have to” or “to become famous” or even “because I love books”. These are all true in a sense. But why? Something inside me just keeps steering me towards this path. In my dreams. In my day to day work. And even in periods of quiet and solitude. I turn to writing as a way to cope, a way to express without repercussions, and a desire to better myself. Sharing a small part of me with the world.”
I’m still working on diving in but I’m eager to write, which is why for the sixth year, I’ve signed up for the conference again. Things are different this year: I’m not working so my days are mostly free to focus on the workshops, I have a lot of ideas and better sense of direction on where I want to go with my writing, and I have an incredible support system. I’m excited to do this…nervous, but excited. If anyone has advice or tips on how to get the most out of this conference, please share. I’d love to hear from you.
5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (frozen is fine)
1 sweet onion, chopped
8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 c mango habanero salsa (I use Mrs. Renfro’s)
1 tsp season salt
1 tsp chipotle chili pepper
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
In a slow cooker, place the chicken in a layer at the bottom. Top with onions, then mushrooms and garlic.
In a separate bowl, mix pineapple juice, salsa, and spices. Mix well and pour over chicken and vegetables.
Cook on low for 7-9 hours.
Serve with roasted potatoes.
Note & Random Thoughts:
1) Feel free to add other vegetables (carrots, zucchini, and corn would be good options) – I used what I had on hand.
2) If you can’t find Mrs. Renfro’s salsa (www.renfrofoods.com), use a 1/2 cup of medium/hot salsa and add 1/4 c of mango puree.
3) I typically use McCormick spices out of convenience.
4) This was for two people, with enough leftover for one lunch. Increase amounts accordingly for more servings.
5) My dogs appreciated the liquid from this dish poured over their food for a treat – I know, bad habit…but they were very good for the rest of the night and this was a nice bonus for us.
Running, surfing, bicycling…kickboxing, yoga, Pilates…hiking, horseback riding, kayaking…the list goes on. What do these things have in common? They are forms of exercise that can both bring enjoyment and health. What else do they have in common? They are things I’d like to try (either again or for the first time) over the next year. I used to be a runner (or a jogger considering I was never fast) but was sidelined with weight gain and bad knees. I once biked my way to Denali National Park with a group of like-minded individuals (I was 16 and much more active). I’ve tried yoga exactly once. I pulled a muscle and thought maybe my experience should stay at that level. I’ve hiked and gone horseback riding but not for a very long time. And while I haven’t gone kayaking, I have gone canoeing and that was quite the experience (note to self: always check the weather before embarking on such an adventure).
Yet, with all of this excitement, I’d like to be more active. Currently, my activity level falls somewhere between low and non-existent. A one-time lover of going to the gym and working up a sweat, I’m now content with short walks with my dog. He’s a big dog so I take some comfort in the fact that I’m also getting an upper body workout when he sees a cat that he’d like to chase. I can do more, though. Right?
Tell me – what do you do for exercise? Rock climbing? Surfing? Tri-athalons? I’m looking for suggestions and motivation.