Vitamin R

I need some rest. And by rest I don’t mean sleep. I mean relaxing without running around and being “busy” and on a constant schedule. I was so tired last night after work, meetings and traffic that I just wanted to lay on my couch instead of going to the gym. But I could tell it was mental exhaustion not physical, so I made myself go. I knew I would feel better if I went. And I did, and I do. But I had to break out my 80’s PRINCE music to get me motivated for a leg workout so that helped.

So this weekend I hope to REST. Relax, chill, lounge, maybe even try to nap. Something I’m not great at but am working on.

Our minds need rest too, not just our physical bodies. With so much information and incoming data we need to take the time to stop it all and just give our minds some breathing room. Whatever that means to you- it doesn’t have to be meditation, maybe it’s light reading or walking. Maybe it’s flipping through a magazine on your couch. Whatever allows your wheels to stop turning and let the thought process clear and de-clutter. Everyone talks about unplugging the phone, the computer, the tv, but it’s harder and harder to do with our lives becoming so seemingly dependent on technology.  Especially if you’re not naturally inclined to understand technology like I’m not- I’m constantly frying my brain trying to figure stuff out. All of that brain overtime can eventually lead to physical distress;  headaches, ulcers, insomnia not to mention weakened immune system, exhaustion and general crankiness.

So my plan is to rest saturday. No running around, grocery shopping, cooking 8 different things. No yard-work, big hikes or hard workouts. No to-do lists, projects or jobs for at least 24 full hours. That’s a lot to ask for from a Type A person like myself who loves to be active and moving my body.  Of course it helps that I will be staying with my mom to help her after foot surgery. It’s easier to rest when we are out of our own familiar environment. It’s not as tempting to start projects or finish something that needs to be done.  Will the world end if we don’t do a load of laundry or put away the dishes?

Resting is so beneficial- our cells rejuvenate, our muscles rebuild, our brain is refreshed. That’s why everyone feels great after a vacation. What can you do to build in rest time for yourself every week? Even if just for one hour?

Magnificent Moonflowers

I am fascinated with this mysterious plant. The moonflower is a member of the ipomoea family. Morning glories would be it’s daytime sister plant.  Blooming only at night, when the sun begins to set, it is HIGHLY fragrant and lasts only until sunrise. Such a short, sweet life that takes so long to arrive- I think it’s the most unusual, exotic plant that I am lucky enough to be able to grow. It takes a lot patience though as they really take time to begin their journey upwards but the rewards are heavenly. It’s also a late summer bloomer that really only gets going around this time of year.

I started these seeds in April and a storm blew over my egg carton.  I was able to salvage a few seedlings

Almost 8 weeks later in June- just starting to come to life and look like a vine

Later in the summer, the green lushness takes over but still no buds. More patience…..

Then in mid-august- Buds! They stay like this for 24 hours before opening.

FINALLY! You can actually watch them slowly unfurl and open  to saucer sized pure white blooms at dusk.  It’s quite magical to watch

This is what I wait for all summer…..

It’s interesting what we can learn from gardening and growing things from seed. Patience, perseverance, anticipation and accomplishment when we finally see the results.

I wish you could smell this post!

Goodbye Summer Salad

It hurts my heart to say this but…summer is almost over. I look forward to fall but there is something about the end of summer that makes me sad. Like I have to grow up now or something. No more lounging by the pool or watching fireflies at night. Summer seems to give us permission to play more than other seasons. This year I plan on carrying that spirit with me into all the seasons!  Since I am trying to squeeze in every last bit of summer that’s left, I made this salad last night using two of my favorite summer vegetables. Super simple and refreshing!

Kirby cucumbers peeled and chunked. I remove the middle core of seeds- sometimes they are not easy to digest.

I cut up a bradley tomato, halved some red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and slivered some white onion. I only like a hint of onion, not big chunks.

I added plain greek yogurt (bonus protein source!), red wine vinegar and a dash of pepper. I like a light vinegar since cucumbers seem to soak up balsamic and become too strongly flavored. They are like little sponges. Mix really well and let chill overnight.

To me, this salad tastes like summer and the longer it marinates the stronger the flavors. It’s also good to use in pita sandwiches as a condiment.

What will you miss about summer the most?

Chilled Black Rice Chicken Salad

I learned about black rice earlier this year, I’d never tried it before.  It can be used in any way you would you use brown rice, but has a nuttier flavor and chewier texture. I found it in my local grocery store in the asian foods section.

It actually becomes a nice purple hue after cooking.

I grilled some baby peppers, corn and chicken breast and cut them into bite sized pieces to add to the cooled rice.

Curry, Sesame Oil and a bit of vinegar dressing was tossed in before chilling overnight. The flavors all really mixed well together. The crisp corn went great with the chewy rice and the peppers gave it a sweet, smoky flavor

Cute-as-a-Button Veggies

I love cute little things: miniature, tiny stuff of all sorts. And I love vegetables. So I go pretty insane when I come across cute, little vegetables. I just want to eat them they’re so cute…And I do. A quick friday trip to the farmer’s market found these little gems. They look like big gumballs, no?  They are locally grown and I visited with the farmer who grew them, picked them, and was selling them straight from her farm to me. I pop one in my mouth pretty much every time I walk in the kitchen.

And look at these adorable, dainty, lady-peas. The name kills me- so delicate, as is their flavor. Too many times people overpower their natural flavor with smoked meat or other heavy flavors. I like to slightly undercook them so they are crisp. I simmered them tonight with some chicken base, garlic and fresh corn for about 25 minutes. I served with hot sauce over quinoa. Nice little succotash type dish.

Of course baby carrots are my stand-by veggie snack, with or without hummus. I pack them in my lunch instead of chips.  Naturally sweet, they help with sugar cravings. My dogs love them too- I checked with my vet and they are good for dogs. I also like to make soup with them.

LOOK at these little blue (purple?) potatoes…These I could just set out as decoration they are so beautiful. I like to slice and fry in coconut oil with onions.

And of course, Okra is one of the cutest veggies ever with their little caps they wear. Read about my love of okra here

Do you find any vegetables cute or am I just a freak?

Yoga Squash and Mushroom Tomato Sauce

Someone brought me some beautiful home-grown spaghetti squash and tomatoes the other night after taking my yoga class. I couldn’t wait to prepare them. Especially the red sauce with real tomatoes.

Spaghetti squash is a nice summer alternative to heavy pasta.

I pierced the squash, wrapped it in foil and baked at 350 for an hour. I let it cool slightly before halving it open

Scraping the flesh out with a fork creates nice long strands of “Spaghetti”

The sauce was simple. Onions, garlic and diced tomato with fresh mushrooms. I put the mushrooms in last to keep them firm. I’m strongly against mushy mushrooms.

I served with a piece of grilled salmon for protein. I was out of parmesan so my reliable feta topped it. I can’t stand not having feta cheese in my house, I love it dearly, but I have to say- Parmesan really would have made this perfect. The vegetables were all just a tad under-cooked which for me means perfectly crisp and flavorful. Squash, mushrooms and tomato all tend to get soft and mushy really fast if left on the heat too long.

What made this all taste so good was that someone brought it to me as a gift from their own garden. The way food is grown and cooked has a lot to do with how we take it into our bodies. When food is prepared with love and generosity we ingest that energy. We take in everything that vegetable or animal has been through. Hence, my love of farm fresh eggs from pet chickens!

How do you feel when you eat home-cooked food lovingly prepared Vs processed food from a factory?

Me ‘n Booze

I have a long standing relationship with alcohol going back to high school when my friends and I would sample greedily from our parents liquor cabinets. I went for the southern comfort whiskey and apricot brandy everytime (sorry mom). I drank in college along with my friends, even though I was into bodybuilding and extremely health conscious. I would train hard at the gym but go out for margaritas and beer on the weekends. I only stopped when I was dieting to compete, which ended after 6 weeks in a fit of frustration with a stack of pancakes and a bottle of chardonnay.  After college when I started my grown-up job I enjoyed drinking with new friends and made it a regular social activity. As years passed and my career became more demanding I drank probably more than was good for me and for the wrong reasons. I was not addicted to alcohol but I would say I abused it. I used it to get me through things I didn’t want to do-whether it was social obligations, parties or work events. I drank out of fear, insecurity, loneliness and boredom. Never heavily, but just enough to be a little more than enough.

I stopped drinking once for 5 years when I was on a vegetarian diet. I can’t say I felt much different but I did feel out of balance for my body. I needed more protein than I was feeding myself. Grilled chicken and alcohol soon came back into my life.

Areas of the body affected by alcohol consumption: So basically….everything.

W

When I made big career and diet changes early  last year I stopped drinking alcohol again. I was training hard and had changed my lifestyle significantly. I was tired of feeling rundown, dehydrated and tired. I believe that alcohol was affecting my body negatively and for the first time my body was clearly letting me know.  I was making such positive changes in the rest of my life that I didn’t want to keep punishing myself  physically so I stopped drinking completely. My body reacted very positively; I had more energy, I slept great, my skin glowed, my stomach was flatter than ever and I felt amazing inside. It seemed pretty obvious I was doing the right thing.  Over the last few months I’ve tried to re-introduce alcohol back into my life like an old friend. A glass of red wine here and there, a cold beer on a summer night, but 99% of the time I feel like *@&!% after trying to drink  just one drink. I can’t even finish it. My head gets stopped up, I get lightheaded, my stomach burns or I feel nauseous. The body never lies. It tells us what works for us and what doesn’t. 

Truth be told I love nothing more than standing in my kitchen, chopping fresh garlic for sauce, while listening to Frank Sinatra and sipping a big ol glass of Merlot, but right now my body is saying “NO” and for now, I will abide. Maybe this will change, maybe it won’t. I can make the sauce without the sauce.

Maybe emotionally I don’t need the alcohol anymore. Maybe I am ok to face fear without feeling numb.  Maybe now I am able to meet people and be social without altering my personality with alcohol. I don’t know what it is, but I am listening to my one and only true source of wisdom- my inner voice. The voice who speaks to us softly at first and then louder and physically through our bodies when we don’t hear. It was talking to me the whole time, I just never listened.

Cheers!

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