Friday, November 30, 2012

Just Rodney Yee

"I never laugh until I've had my coffee"...Clark Gable

Coffee and lots of it used to be the first thing I would reach for in the morning. It was a serious addiction of sorts....not that my coffee consumption was that bad except for fact that I could not think about anything else when I first woke up. I still love my java, but I switched to the decaf version about eight or nine months ago. It took forever to wean myself off, and even though I have switched to decaf it is still my go-to first thing in the morning. It goes to show you how ingrained a habit can be. There's literally nothing in my coffee cup now that's going to wake me up and get me going. But I confess, I just love the taste and the ritual of having a hot beverage upon waking.

Well, I digress. A little bit anyway. This morning I hit the on switch on my coffee pot and decided instead of waiting for it to brew I would jump into my morning routine. I have wanted to become a morning work out bee for a while, but it's very hard to get up and going like that in the morning. I haven't mastered a way to throw on my clothes and run out the door to the gym. I feel like it takes me five minutes alone to convince myself snooze is no longer an option. Maybe one of these days I will get there. But I have settled into doing some morning yoga for the past few months. It's not my workout, but it's just something I do to move and get a good stretch in. I have been avoiding classes right now, because I have bursitis in my shoulder and following the flow of movement for an hour has been a little much for me. I do love classes and I hope to get back soon. In the mean time, a girl needs some alternatives. It's also nice to have options to do in your home. It can be a nice way to save some time and money too.

So my recent discovery is Rodney Yee AM Yoga. The routines are twenty minutes which I can manage in the morning and it's just enough to make you feel like you are getting a good start to your
day. There are five separate routines with a different focus: Twists, Front Bends, Back Bends, Open and a Standing Routine. I work my way through the line up and then simply start at the beginning again. Rodney Yee is a pillar in the yoga community and his DVD collection goes on for pages when you browse on Amazon. Literally page after page. Check is out here His instruction is great if you are new to yoga because he really explains the postures and movement thoroughly. I am sure many of his other DVD's are good, but but this is my current fave.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just Friends

You're such a good friend, Nellie!...Laura Ingalls Wilder

Favorite TV show growing up. EVER. Loved the books, the show and the whole part and parcel. I was the only kid on a elementary school field trip who knew how pioneers carried water. Oh, the things I learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder! This iconic scene has stayed with me over many others. Her "friend" Nellie has duped Laura into thinking that she hurt her leg and caused her to be in a wheelchair. Nellie is actually fine, but using the situation to boss Laura around and get attention. Laura finally gets wise to the whole scheme and pushes Nellie down a hill to show she can actually walk yelling "You're such a good friend, Nellie!" Yeah, right.

I was giving some thought this week to friendships. For some reason, I feel the end of the year and the holidays causes me to reflect upon the past year and the changes it has brought. For better or worse I think change actually has the most influence on friendships and relationships because once you evolve people have a new place or sometimes lack there of in your life. Or occasionally, there is that disappointment or the circumstances beyond your control that lead people to walk out of your life. Sad, but true, but honestly how many of us can really say we have the same set of friends we had 10 years ago? Perhaps in a way this is a positive because I know I wouldn't really want to still be the same person that I was all that time ago. I would have hoped I would have evolved somewhat!

During a recent dinner with a friend from high school, we were both sort of discussing that we were a
little the odd ones out. After all, we're both in our 30s and not married, let alone on the precipice of having children. Almost everyone we know from our age group has a toddler bouncing on their knee in a family portrait on Facebook. Since our lives are so different, how can we really continue to hold the same importance in that friend's life when their priorities have been shifted so dramatically. I think it's less on the radar of the person who is navigating their way through change and causes the person left behind to feel, well, a little left behind.  We can never really stop trying to make new connections since our needs change on a reoccurring basis. Who doesn't have the friend who has fallen off the face of the earth with a new beau only to resurface when the relationship is on the rocks or they are single again. No one wants to be alone but how understanding should you be - there is a certain point when there is a shift from empathetic friend to pushover. I certainly don't have the answers but I think it might be stopping the search for the perfect friend or forever friend and know that people will wander in and out of your life based upon the role you need them to fill. There is not one person to fit every need or circumstance. Sometimes the most random people can become our closest unexpected confidants. Whether we realize it or not, we are always in a constant change. Keep the faith, but know we don't all always meet on the same wavelength. Give until it doesn't feel good anymore then allow the tides of change to take care of the rest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Turkey Pot Pie

Me o my, I love pie....Dorothy, "Michael"

People all have their personal favorites when it comes to pie. It always seems to be people have their "must have" for the holidays be it Pumpkin, Apple or Pecan. After a few days of overeating, we're all left stuck with a random hodgepodge of leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner. This year I ended up with half of a pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey. My boyfriend's mother always has turkey or chicken pot pies in her freezer. It's a great way to quickly pull together a lunch or dinner on the fly. Her recipe was courtesy of Pillsbury so I wanted to see if I could create a healthier version.

Healthy Turkey Pot Pie


1/4 cup Earth Balance or Smart Balance
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 13 3/4 ounce can chicken broth (low sodium)
2/3 cup skim milk
2 cups cubed, cooked or leftover chicken or turkey
1 10 ounce frozen peas, mixed veggies or green beans (thawed)
Pre-Made Pie Crust (I picked up a natural pie crust at Whole Foods)

In a saucepan melt the Earth Balance or Smart Balance. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken broth and milk. cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook 1 minute more. Add cubed chicken or turkey and thawed vegetables; heat through. Divide mixture among six 1 cup casseroles. Top with the pie crust.

Place casseroles on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. Freezes well and can be reheated from frozen state: same 425 but 40 to 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just Turkey Day

"Don't you worry about cholesterol, lung cancer, love handles?"...Rita, Groundhog Day

Groundhog Dog always made me laugh. I actually wonder why I haven't watched this movie in a while. Bill Murray is trapped in repeating the same day over and over again and he just finally doesn't care any more about anything. So he gives in to the temptations of smoking, drinking and bad food because it will be like it never even really happened when he wakes up the next day. Yikes, a total recipe for disaster!

Today is the big turkey day and maybe because I always react a little bit to winter weather I have been feeling a little like my life is like Ground Hog day these days. You start to get stuck in a bit of the same routine and get a case of the blahs. Since I got back from Austin and the chaos of the storm settled I have been feeling a little like I work, go to the gym and then go home. A routine is important but it's also good to branch out once in a while. Maybe that is why there is always so much excitement around the holidays. It's the idea of eating different foods and  partaking in a different routine where you get to enjoy giving gifts and socializing more.

I feel like the lesson in all of this is that's important to take time to carve out some adventure once in a while no matter what the season. Plan a vacation, or if that's too much try for a day where you embark on a new activity or try something you've never done before. It's time for an experiment. What do you do when you feel the need for a break from the ordinary? Happy Thanksgiving everyone and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just Elliptical Hills

"I'll never let go, Jack. I promise"....Rose, Titanic

Oh she let go all right. I honestly can't say I really blame her. Who can imagine how cold it was that night in the ocean? I have not watched this movie in years and I am not sure why it popped into my mind the other night. I was leaving my website design class, and as I ducked out into the brisk winter weather it somehow came to mind. After all, here I was shivering on a November evening in New Jersey. But that night on the sunken cruise ship must have just been the worst!

I am not sure about you, but I have been feeling more cooped up than normal with this cold weather since it makes it very hard to get outside and walk or jog. I have been searching online for new cardio routines to add to my workouts, and as I've mentioned before it is much more worth your while to partake in internal cardio than steady state exercise. I really liked this elliptical routine I did the other night that I found on one of the blogs I follow - Peanut Butter Fingers

Julie, the author of the site, mentioned that it felt like climbing a hill. It really kind of did! It was different than my usual elliptical routines and it's good to mix things up so you and your body don't get bored. Check it out if you get a chance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just Thanksgiving

"Oh my exit!"...Cameron Diaz, My Best Friend's Wedding

And so the madness begins. It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and we're already at the precipice.  The holiday decorations are already covering the malls and I didn't check it out personally but I think Santa may have already arrived to hear from all of the children with their wish lists.

Trader Joe's was an absolute crazy scene today as I dodged shopping carts trying to get to the gravy and search out the produce section. How is it possible that Brussel sprouts could sell out? But alas, they did and if they were there I have a feeling that someone may have fought me for them. The atmosphere had that kind of feeling of intensity. It struck me as so ironic that this time of year we search out the presents and make the favorite holiday dishes but somehow it all comes at a price. These traditions never fade but it's almost bizarre to me that we do this every year. We go crazy and spend money that we don't have trying to fulfill the wishes of others and give in to all the temptations of cookies and the like around us only to of course make it our New Year's Resolution to lose the 5 pounds or so we gained. In fact, this may be the holiday where we short change ourselves the most. Within the  next few weeks, you will be able to hear a pin drop in the gym as people forgo that time in order to cook, bake and shop. I certainly don't want to be a scrooge, but isn't there a way to enjoy the holidays without overdoing it? The remorse cannot be worth it.

I was reminded of the scene in My Best Friend's Wedding where Cameron Diaz is totally swept up in her wedding planning that she almost misses her exit and practically takes out a few cars to get off the highway. We get so caught up that we aren't present in the  moment and we're too worried about the to-do list that must be tackled. I say streamline, set budgets and do not allow the small things to become a source of stress. Be polite and kind to strangers who are in the same boat. What we should all remember is the spirit of the holidays. Be thankful, give thanks and remember kindness most of all to ourselves and each other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Spaghetti

"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti"...Sophia Loren

I giggled when I read this quote by Sophia Loren because it read like it was not only her beauty secret but her secret in life as well. Speaking of Italian food, my big plan for tonight was to make my grandmother's marinara sauce after going to the gym. She went to the trouble to write it down for me, but then I forgot it after I saw her the other night. I could have just called, but in a haze of hunger after my workout I did not think of that solution. So I decided to put together a dinner with my absolute favorite tomato sauce - Rao's Marinara which was on sale at Acme this week. I love this sauce, but at almost $10 a pop it's on the pricier side.

This was simple and really quite tasty. If it wasn't for the unfortunate issue of pots and pans it would have been super quick too. This is a serving for one and could easily be increased to more.

Turkey Marinara Pasta
3/12 oz 99% lean ground turkey
1 clove or teaspoon of prepared garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pasta (or spaghetti as Loren preferred to call it)

Boil water for pasta (I chose brown rice pasta) and in the mean time heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano. Place turkey in the pan and cook until done the remove from heat. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until done. The brown rice pasta took about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta. Put the pasta, cooked turkey, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup marinara sauce back in the sauce pan and heat for a few  minutes. Serve with salt, pepper and Parmesan to taste.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just Rebuilding

"How long is a day in the dark? Or a week?"...Katharine, The English Patient

I seriously love The English Patient and this quote gives me chills right now. I try to mix up my quotes and not repeat myself as I used both this movie and this character before but nothing seemed to fit Hurricane Sandy better. I took an unintended week off from blogging and it feels good to be back today. Last week, we were all still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and I think everyone in my area is struggling with getting back into a routine. I was lucky and unscathed through the worst of the chaos. I was in Austin visiting my boyfriend right before the storm barreled down on the tri-state area and ended up extended my stay so we got to spend a lot of extra time together. Plus, I never even lost power in my apartment at home. It was like a guardian angel was watching out over me. But my family was not so fortunate and had been dealing with the loss of power and waiting for it to get restored. It finally was turned on the other night but now there's a plumbing issue with he pipes. Why is it always something?

It all made me think of how everyone responds differently to this type of adversity. What's the worst part? The emotional devastation of feeling displaced or the physical difficulty of just getting by day to day? For me, I have always been a person who values a daily routine. It might make me a little rigid but it's how I function best. I remember last year when we had a much smaller hurricane and lost power. I felt confused, upset and overall anxious. I cannot imagine how I would have felt after a week in the dark. My boyfriend said then that one day without power could be fun or romantic even, but more than 24 hours and you want to go crazy.

In my opinion, as we all move on from this I think the most important thing you can do for yourself is to
be kind to yourself both mentally and physically. No matter what the circumstances, try to eat the best you can, always minimize or manage stress the best you can and try to get adequate sleep. These are basic things but easily forgotten when push comes to shove. It all feels so hard that you are apt to do the easy and quick thing which is not usually the best answer. As we approach the holidays I think it's best to keep these things in mind as well. Know your limits both physically and mentally and monitor your actions accordingly. Don't overspend and then decide to worry about it later and dread your credit card bill coming in the mail. Don't overeat with the idea that you can start over. Don't give up the gym because it's cold and dark and a bikini seems like the last thing you'll be needing. All of these choices accumulate on us over time. Everything you do or choose matters.

Find a way to unwind that helps you manage it all. Everyone has so much on their plates these days that it's key to identify an outlet that allows you to distress. Write, meditate, dance knit, it's time well spent because it's relaxation for the soul.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Just Brussel Sprouts

"I'm not an amazing cook. But I can follow a recipe!"...Rachel McAdams

I had mentioned in a previous post how awesome the Whole Foods flagship store is in Austin. It is like a Disney Land for an organic food lover or any food lover really. Everything is fresh and beautifully displayed, and this particular location offers a fantastic food court with a ton of delicious options. My boyfriend and I  love to go there and it usually becomes a rather long "date". We like to browse the selections and pick up specialty items there. You have to be selective at Whole Foods because as we all know it's rather expensive!

On our last excursion, we picked up lunch from the food court and I put together a kitchen sink of a salad with a little bit of everything. I should have taken a picture of it to share! My boyfriend selected Dijon Balsamic Brussel Sprouts as part of his meals, and we both thought they were great. I tried to re-create them tonight as I happened to really like brussel sprouts and they are very good for you. They improve thyroid production, help protect against certain kind of cancers, and lower cholesterol.

The picture below doesn't really do the dish much justice because this was much better tasting that it appears. Here is the recipe if you want to check it out. I combined it with grilled chicken in a bowl to make it a meal, but it's perfect as a side dish.

Dijon Balsamic Brussel Sprouts1 Bag of Brussel Sprouts (Rinsed and chopped in halves or quarters)
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Coconut Milk (Make sure it is unsweetened milk)
2 Teaspoons Coconut Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the brussel sprouts in a bowl and toss with all of the ingredients. Put all of the vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn them over about half way through the cooking process.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just HITT It

"All this walking"...Step-Sister, Fairy Tale Theatre

I loved Fairy Tale Theatre growing up. I was never a big fan of animation so to see all of my favorite fairy tales brought to life by real actors was fantastic to me. I do have a weakness for fairy tales and for some reason I find this line to be hilarious. Now it sort of reminds me how people can be faithfully putting in their time at the gym without seeing true results. I know I have been that person many a time..exerting a lot of effort with very little return.

I've been down in Austin visting my boyfriend this past week which turned out to be very fortunate timing for me since I managed to escape the terrible Frankenstorm that battered the New Jersey area. Looking at the pictures I feel awful about what everyone has been suffering through this week. My boyfriend and I were discussing an article yesterday afternoon about the importance of resistance excercise and why for whatever reason most people choose steady state cardio for their gym time.

In the excercise world, people used to look at the formula as calories in calories out, but we know now that it's more complicated than this. I sometimes do a quick interval workout during the week and often times I end up next to  a person huffing and puffing away on the piece of equipment next to me and I see that they have been on the bike or elliptical for almost an hour. Whoa...why? If you aren't doing some High Intensity Interval Training otherwise known as "HIIT" then you are really wasting your time. Sure, you are burning some calories but unless you are cutting back in your diet you are not going to see a huge difference. I've had people tell me they gained weight when they started really getting into running, and I know I used to spend almost an hour on the treadmill back in the day before I knew better. Honestly the time on the treadmill equaled about the same calorie increase in my diet on those days because I was a little hugrier from the activity and/or under the impression I could treat myself since I had worked so hard. Resistance training helps to create more muscle and that is what will burn more calories in the end. In order to burn fat and improving your body composition you really need to incorporate a form of resistance training into your workout. A good way to start this is to do some interval cardio a few days a week. If you can do this first thing in the morning before you have eaten all the better. It gets your heart rate up and gets you on the right path.

Here are two sample workouts that I often use that are really good to get started:

Choose a bike or elliptical and set it at a low resistance since you want to be able to move quickly. The formula is simple from there: go for five minutes at an easy pace and then you are basically going to alternate between a medium pace and a go for broke fast pace every three minutes. Basically three minutes on followed by three minutes off. I usually go four rounds and then end with a cooldown of 3-5 minutes to wind down.

If you want an even quicker workout that keeps you on your toes start out with a warm up of 3 minutes and then alternate between a medium pace and a fast maximum pace for 1 minutes switching between paces every other minute. Wrap up with a 2 minute cool down and it's a 20 minute workout. So toss those hour long sessions of walking on the treadmill and start to "hiit" it.