Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year of Pizza

I’ve been reading a really great book recently that I would like to share with you all. I know that my feelings of overwhelm and busy-ness are shared by so many of you out there – and those who are mothers doing their best to juggle a job/career and all the other obligations we both willingly and unwillingly take on, are especially feeling the stress of having to balance it all.

At times, I catch myself thinking that “back in the old days” there was a greater enjoyment of life….a truer appreciation for spending time with family and friends. I catch myself thinking that in our generation, we are so bogged down with commitments and obligations that we are left thinking “what the hell are we missing here”?

I have this vision of the “good old days”…a mom at home with a pot of coffee on, and a neighbor popping by out of the blue for a visit…both have time to partake in the unplanned visit. Both of the moms have a great ol’ chat while the kids play in the living room with some box (turned into a train or car); or ruler (turned into a make-believe sword) or perhaps some of mom’s Tupperware and fry pans, cooking up a make-believe meal for their bears: no Treehouse playing in the background; no electronic games; and no parent looming over them, watching them (read: helicopter mom).

The reality though, is that this may not be true. The “old days” may not have been easier or better, but I’m pretty sure that time didn’t move quite as fast; and that there wasn’t as much pressure to “be perfect” or “do everything”. Without social media, reality TV, cell phones, etc., I don’t think there was the same degree of consumerism, comparing yourself with size 0 supermodels, keeping up with the “Joneses”…you get the point. And so does the author (Sarah Susanka) of the book which I am reading. It’s called “The Not so Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters”. Here’s a little piece of what the book is about…

“We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today. It’s so big we can hardly see it and its right in our face all day, every day. We’re all living too big lives, crammed from top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute. There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem….If we stop and consider what our lives would be like if things got much faster, we might feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and futility. We just don’t have any more to give. We’re at the end of our rope.

We need to remodel the way we are living, but not in a way that gives us more of the same kinds of space we already have; that would simply create an even bigger life. What we need is a remodeling that allows us to experience what’s already here but to experience it differently, so that it delights us rather than drives us crazy”. (pg 3)

For me, this “remodeling” has already slowly been happening. It’s something that I plan to continue working on in 2012. I’m not even finished the book yet, as it’s also full of activities and questions to ask yourself, which cannot always be answered quickly or easily, or at least not without some deeper self-introspection. So I’ll continue to share some more of this wonderful book in the future.

Today though, I feel very blessed….I had a really big surprise from very good friends last night (people who live very far away from me showed up on my doorstep last night) and this morning I had coffee with three very old (not in age of course!) friends of mine from my school days. It felt a little like I imagine these “good old days” to feel. Maybe it’s because it’s still kind of a holiday (being the week between Christmas and New Years) but either way, I know that spending time with these each of these ladies makes me happy.

And I know that this coming year, I am going to find better balance in my life; allow more spaces for fun; set some personal boundaries so I’m not saying “yes” to everything I feel obligated to; and to do more of what matters: spending fun quality time with family and friends…maybe try meditation, definitely do some running, practice more Spanish, and….make this the year of PIZZA! (From scratch of course!)

Happy New Year to you all. I think 2012 is going to be a great one!

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Years Intentions

Hello everyone! I trust that you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you (like me) are a good 5lbs heavier ;) The turkey dinner at my place was a great success. I think all 18 of us had a great time and enjoyed some wonderful food.

It feels kind of funny that Christmas is already over….all that lead-up and it’s over so soon. I had a really nice time, but it has just flown by so fast. I wonder if it was just this year in particular, or if its just going to get faster and faster. I don’t think that’s possible….But even though Christmas is over, we still have New Years Eve to look forward to.

Towards the end of each year, I do enjoy reflecting upon the prior year and assessing what has been good and what could use a little improvement. A wise lady (and a hell of a baker) I met recently shared her version of her “New Years Resolutions” with me. I really liked it and would like to pass it on to you.

In her household, she decides to focus the year on a theme (happens to be baking/cooking often). All throughout that year, she tries variations of her theme, slowly perfecting it with all the practice she has put into it. For example, this year has been “pies” and a year before that was “pasta” from scratch! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

The whole point of this (and why I love it) is to shift the focus away from “I hate myself" and I want to change this part of me that I hate, to something that is much more positive. Of course there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to lose weight, stop smoking, whatever…but instead we could re-frame these intentions more positively as:

-learning to love eating more vegetables and healthy foods by taking a couple of cooking classes
-deciding to enroll in some exercise classes you have wanted to try for a long time now (like zumba or yoga)
-taking better care of your body and becoming more aware of all the great things it does

You get the picture. Sure, the goal might still be the same, but the way you look at it is different. And if that is different, then your journey HAS to be different.

I don’t think I am any different than anybody else when it comes to wanting to lose a little weight or exercise more as part of a New Year’s Resolution, so I am planning on taking my own advice and re-framing a couple of my own goals this year, so that the outlook on it is a more positive one.

I also plan on “theme-ing up” my year, by choosing an area in cooking or baking that I think would be fun to focus on. I have a couple of ideas, and I would love to share them with you in a few days.

Wishing everyone a relaxing Boxing Day and more precious moments with close friends and family.


P.S. Yeah right...who am I kidding? If you're a mom, you'll be cleaning the house, going through old toys and putting them in boxes to make room for all the new toys the kids were spoiled with. Not to mention, putting all of the new toys together; recycling the boxes and paper they came in; and making turkey soup from the bones of last night's turkey ;) Hopefully there's some wine left.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

About that Turkey...

Yah, funny thing about the turkey I thought was going to be all easy to bake. I assumed that when I bought it, it would have been stuffed (and therefore cleaned out of all innards, and all that disgusting-ness). When I received my delivery yesterday, I found my big bird and a lovely container of bread crumbs, spices and such, along with a recipe about how to prepare it. Oh, ok.

And then I start google-ing ways to stuff a turkey and find out that there’s actually a question of “to stuff or not to stuff” because apparently you can cook a turkey to the right temperature but that doesn’t mean the stuffing is properly cooked. WTF? Is it too late to declare a vegetarian Christmas?

Well since that won’t be happening (and I already have the poor bird) I need a Plan B. Without boring you with the details, Christmas Day is going to be a bit rushed because we won’t actually be able to throw the bird into the oven before noon. My lovely and supportive husband (who, by the way is the one who insisted we have the damn turkey in the first place) suggested that we bake the turkey the day before. That way, for the first time ever doing this, we will have a little more of a controlled environment.

On Christmas Day, we’ll slowly warm the turkey back in the oven and offer a generous supply of gravy along with it. For those of you old hats out there who think that’s absolutely blasphemous, tough luck for you. Consider yourself uninvited. Lol .It’s my party and I’ll pre-bake if I want to.

Hopefully, this will be a huge success, and doing the turkey for the first time will give me confidence for a "live audience" next time it's my turn to host.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Craziness

It's supposed to be an enjoyable time of year. People are supposed to be more jolly and friendly. Random strangers are supposed to be more kind towards each other.

Instead, it seems that year after year, people get grumpier and more stressed out about the overwhelming to-do's in preparation for the "big day" which (might I add) is over so quickly. They are worried about how "perfect" their dinner should be; they are short with others in malls and parking lots as they scramble (and overpay) for "stuff" to wrap up and put under the tree; they are generally stressed out and anxious.

Now of course this isn't everybody...just my view on what's been slowly happening over the years at Christmas time. I've been trying not to get caught up in all of the craziness myself, and think I've been fairly successful at it so far.

Case in point: This year is the first year I am making a turkey for Christmas dinner over here...and hosting 16-18 people. Yikes! But I've got a beautiful stuffed turkey coming to me from and I've delegated out some dishes to other guests that are coming. I'm determined to enjoy my own Christmas Day with my family and not be stressed over it. The last time I hosted Christmas dinner, I made Shepard's Pies so that I could prepare them before hand. It was an easy one dish wonder and clean up was just as easy. Sometimes, you have to be creative ;)

In the meantime, to help us all de-stress, I am sharing an absolutely HILARIOUS link with you all from a very funny girl at Click Here Take a couple of minutes from your busy day and read it. You'll be glad you did.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Festive Traditions

Last weekend was our "Christmas Tree" weekend. We decorated the tree and also did a gingerbread house together. I was surprised that my daughter remembered decorating a house last year as well, because she would have only been two.

I love traditions (and our young family doesn’t really have very many of our own) so we decided that decorating a gingerbread house when we put up the tree will be part of our own yearly family tradition, along with eating freshly baked cinnamon buns! (Next year they will be made with yeast).

Here are a few photos of the day, along with a link to the recipe I used for this quick-bread version of Cinnamon buns.

Just checking things out (while eating said cinnamon bun)

Can't recall what is happening here, but it was funny

Ta-Da! The finished product!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dinner Slump

I’m in a dinner slump friends. You know it: There’s a ton of recipes you’d like to try but by the end of the day, you want something quick and easy. The only thing that comes to mind is pasta or chicken. Then you feel so bored with the prospect of that, that you would rather just eat nothing. Or, eat “breakfast” for dinner yet again.

I have to say that while I love cooking, one of the first things I would “splurge” on if I ever won the lottery would be a personal chef. I can just imagine all the delicious and nutritious meals placed before me every night next to a lovely glass of red wine.

But since that hasn’t happened yet, dinners are my responsibility. I can’t really say what’s got me in this dinner slump, but it sucks. I just don’t want to cook at all in this slump. Not only do I not know what to make; I couldn’t be bothered to make anything. I used to do meal plans, but (as life goes) it seemed like so many different things happened during the week to cause me to get off course. One derivation would always lead to the next…

…Like maybe one night I made too much of something and decided that we would have it for leftovers the next night. Those leftovers meant the chicken (yes, again the chicken) I took out to thaw the night before wasn’t going to be used. Which would have been fine, had it not been for the fact that my husband had to work late the next night and grabbed something at the office. Now…that chicken that has been sitting in the fridge for two days and now begs for me to do something with it; putting off the plan I had for the current night (and of course the one for the night that my husband worked late and I ate cereal). Are you still with me? Good. That makes one of us.

Really, the point I’m trying to get across here, is that planning meals doesn’t work for me. What I think I need – a happy “medium” if you will – is for me to plan out two meals at a time. Then, when plans deviate (as they always do) I am in a better position to be flexible with it.

So with this in mind, I have selected for myself two recipes to try over the next few days: One is a recipe for “Toasted Ravioli” (which has intrigued me), and the other is a good old Chicken Slow Cooker recipe. I’ll fill you in on the results.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Plan “A”

So the fight is on. But I’d rather not view it as a fight. Instead, I would like to think of it as a journey to health. This is my first plan – Plan “A” let’s call it.

In one of my last posts, when I shared my news about the premature ovarian failure diagnosis , I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what we (my husband and I) were going to do, or rather how we were going to decide to handle it. And what we came up with, is that we really would like to give at least some effort to welcoming another child into our lives, instead of doing nothing and simply accepting that as fact.

I was told during that last appointment with my gynecologist that the most likely way for me to ever get pregnant again would be through a donor egg or donor embryo. While that may be an option down the road, it’s not the first option for me. In fact, it’s not the second either. I decided that I’d try another route altogether….And went to see an acupuncturist.

Yes, that’s right. The dude that sticks needles in your body and leaves you alone in a dark room with earphones on, while you listen to budhist chants. Weird? A little. Out of my comfort zone? Indeed. Effective? Time will tell.

I was told that with the use of herbs; some changes to my diet; and weekly visits, (at least for the first month) that we should be able to get my body back to having my monthly cycles. (Whaaaat?) If it seems unlikely to you, then you’re certainly not alone - I thought the same thing. But I consider myself to be fairly open minded also, so what the hell? This may put us out a couple hundred dollars, and I may have to drink some pretty funky “herb” mixtures, but the alternatives (adoption or invitro) are a LOT more expensive. So this is where we will start. At the very least, I hope he’s able to do something about these annoying hot flashes. Seriously.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week One

Often, I find myself using all or nothing thinking. For those of you not aware, all or nothing thinking is like not being able to see the "grey"; when you see things as only black and white. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. It doesn't matter that you've succeeded 95%, the 5% stands out to you, and you see it as a fail.

Now I’m sure a lot of us partake in this ridiculous (and might I add....completely useless) cognitive distorting from time to time. But when you couple that with unrealistic or lofty goals, this can become a problem. Case in point: my getting back on the wagon exercise routine.

What I would like to see myself do: 6 days/week of exercise; a mix of pilates, running, weight training and maybe a little Jillian Michaels. Now while my body MAY be capable of this, it’s not something LIKELY given the period of time that I’ve been “off the wagon” and that this time of year (December) is a busy month for many reasons.

Knowing that this is unlikely, I need to scale this down into a realistic program for myself. Instead of committing to this; then finding failure with myself because the goal wasn’t reached, I need to start at a smaller goal and build up. Little steps. Not baby steps, but little steps.

There’s a part of me (controller of my all or nothing thinking) that thinks this way is not very interesting, that it’s not a very valiant goal to have; and therefore not really even worth engaging in. But really – where does this leave me? I’ll tell you my friends. That leaves me right back at the beginning. At the place where I decided that I needed to move forward from.

For me, this means small adjustments and added increments to increase time, intensity, or activity week by week. While it’s not as “sexy” of a goal, it’s realistic, and I know I can do it.
Week One: Get on the treadmill and walk at least 15 mins – 3 days/week. (This is the minimum. If I accomplish more - fantastic).

That’s it friends. That’s all. Can I physically do more? Of course I can. I can do a LOT more than that. Week One is easy, it’s true. It’s designed to inspire desire, to think “that was too easy – let’s do more”. But when you’ve fallen off the wagon, that’s where you start.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Back on the Wagon...

...the exercise wagon that is.

It’s official. I’ve fallen off. It seems that since my daughter has been back at preschool this Fall, that she’s been sick with some random cold every other week. That translates into sleep-disturbed nights and “sharing” colds and flu within our household, which again somehow translates to sleep-disturbed nights. I am normally never prone to catch colds but it seems that I too have been sick three times since Sept. This sucks.

Anyway, I find that I am most successful sticking to an exercise routine if it’s done first thing in the morning: Before work, before my daughter gets up, before eating. Wake up, change, grab iPod, water and shoes, and head downstairs. However, after a night of disturbed sleep it’s sooooo easy to talk myself into staying in my warm bed for a few extra minutes of sleep. But come on, how much more quality “sleep” can one get in a half hour time frame? Let's be honest.

Exercising in the morning for me, sets the tone of the day; starts everything out on the right path. Come to think of it, the lack of this routine could also be causing my recent state of “blah”.

So it’s time to get back on the ol’ wagon. It has to happen sometime soon. I am after all, planning to do a half marathon next May. I know, that’s a while in the future, but time flies. The sooner I can get my arse in gear the better. Also, it’s a good time to get into a solid routine, as there is no shortage of sweets, treats and food going into this time of year. I’d rather go through Christmas with a good exercise routine and plan in hand instead of putting it off until the New Year; all the while adding a few extra “oh well, I have my New Year’s Resolution” pounds. You know what I’m talking about ladies. It’s the same type of weight that one puts on before starting a Monday morning diet.

So you may be wondering what my “plan of action” is. Well, that makes two of us. ;) I’m going to give this some thought and get back to you in the next few days. Before Monday. LOL.

Tips for Managing Stress & Anxiety (plus a smoothie recipe!)

Read my latest blog post on You Ate: And my smoothie recipe!