April 26, 2011

You Know What, I'm Just Going To Put This Out There

There are times when I think it is helpful to hold your tongue, but there are also times when I think you need to be direct and ask for what you want.  Ahem...Universe, are you listening?

I want to write a book I feel proud of.

I want to work at a job that makes me feel inspired and appreciated.

I want wake up in the morning and feel excited.

I want to go to sleep feeling accomplished.

I want to feel like I have enough time.  Time to relax, time to finish projects, time to learn.

I want my days to include cooking and reading and writing.

I want to feel ownership. 

I want to push myself physically.

I want to work hard.

I want to take on something scary and feel confident that my best will be good enough.

I want an adventure where it all works out in the end.

I don't think this is too much to ask...do you? 
_________________________

April 25, 2011

Paleo* Eggs Benedict Over Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

My Grandma Marian taught me a number of very important life lessons:    

*A good hostess always has cookies in her freezer.
*If you keep the empty expensive bottles of booze you can always refill them with the cheap stuff in a pinch. (Which I only did in college, I promise!) And of course,
*A lady never refuses a second serving by saying she is "stuffed," but rather she delicately reclines and says she's "had plenty."  

More importantly though, she taught me about the magic of poached eggs in hollandaise.


My family usually chooses to brunch on Easter, forgoing the ham dinner with all the trimmings for a stiff Bloody Mary (or two) and a Hallelujah.  As an a non-religious adult, I always kind of forget about Easter (what with the changing dates and all of that) but when I realize it's coming around I never forget my grandma's tradition:  Eggs Benedict!

Since going Paleo I have definitely come to embrace the egg, but I never take the time to poach them -- and for no good reason since it is so much easier than it looks.  A pan of simmering water with a splash of vinegar, dropping the egg right in, and then giving it exactly 2 minutes before you rescue and plop it atop various accouterments.  This year I skipped the English Muffin and set it on canadian bacon over the world's most amazing Spicy Sweet Potato Hash. 


It was so good, I'm making it again for Garrett this week for dinner since he was in Reno all weekend and missed out.

For the eggs:

This video breaks down poaching eggs quite simply.  Plus at the end she puts in on a "nice, tasty crumpet."  And how can you not love that?  I like a 2 min egg though, just FYI.   I always fear I will ruin the egg, and it always ends up working out just fine.  Vinegar is kind of a miracle worker.


For the Hollandaise:

In a blender mix 3 egg yolks, 1 TBS lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of salt, and a few shakes of cayenne pepper.  Melt 1/2 cup of grassfed butter (That's why it is Paleo* -- but this is a special occasion thing, don't get freaked out!) and slowly pour in the melted butter as you blend up the other ingredients.  This will make enough sauce to coat at least 6 eggs and may change your life.

For the hash:  

Cook up 6-8 diced up slices of bacon in a pan.  (Dude, just cook 8.)  Remove the bacon bits and add one diced red onion and diced red pepper.  Saute until softened.  Add 3 diced sweet potatos.  Mine were small-medium sized.  Generously season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and add a dash of chili powder for flavor and cayenne pepper for heat.  Cook over high heat until potatoes are at your desired texture (everyone likes their taters a bit different). I did mine for about 20 minutes, tossing them around occasionally so they browned but didn't burn.  


For the entire experience:

Throw the hash on a plate, top with canadian bacon you have warmed in the oven, add your perfectly poached eggs, cover with hollandaise, add some cracked black pepper to the top, and die of happiness.  


You will not regret it.  But I assure you, after two of those eggs, you will delicately recline and say you've had plenty.  

It's a breakfast (or dinner in our case this week) of champions!
______________________

April 22, 2011

It's A World of Hopes And A World of Fears

I was a very good kid growing up. Dangerously good, actually. In high school I earned good grades, never missed curfew, and I had mostly nice friends who, like me, couldn’t wait to get into college and start our "real lives". BAHAHAHAHA. Oh, how I would love to go back to the "Real Life" that was college. But towards the end of my Senior Year, shortly after I turned 17, all hell broke loose.


One of the things I decided to stop doing was going to class regularly.  Calculus and Government -- who needed them?  I had sent in my college applications, Senior-itis had officially settled in, and I felt like I should be able to come and go as I pleased since I was (almost) an adult, DAMMIT. (Feel free, again, to insert hysterical laughter here.)  I had a good friend who was totally with me on this, so we spent a number of mornings leaving the school parking lot to go hang out over breakfast at Dennys, or to drive down to the local Starbucks (where we both worked at the time) to flaunt just exactly how Too Cool For School we were to our fellow co-workers, who were sooooo lucky to be in Junior College, we thought. 

You can imagine how thrilled my parents were each day when they would get a call from the attendance secretary wondering where I was in 5th period. Our house was full of arguments during those days and I am certain I have ordered up an extra large portion of Shitty Kid Karma for my behavior during those few months alone. One day during the height of all of the turmoil, instead of receiving a phone call from the attendance secretary, my parents received a call from a hospital in a town 45 minutes away.  We had decided to skip school altogether and hit up a big mall a few towns over, and after a day of shopping we headed back home to be right on time to act like we had spent the day studying as we had both promised our parents the night before. But due to the rainy afternoon, a bit of road construction, and being inexperienced teenagers behind the wheel, we didn’t actually make it home.


It is the worst car accident I have been in as a passenger, to date.  We crossed 4 lanes of traffic, hit a few other cars, and proceeded to roll down an embankment into a ditch in a 1989 Volkswagen Fox. The feeling of fear that surrounds you when you topple down a hill to await your fate would wake me up in the middle of the night for years afterward. We were taken to the hospital, and as you can imagine the medical bills were steep.  But my parents didn’t think one lick about this when they came to pick me up -- they were in that mixed emotional state of being so happy I was okay, and so pissed that I had skipped school with this friend, AGAIN.


My "good friend" began to be a bit evasive after the accident, and it turned out to be because she had been driving without insurance.  Things began to get a little ugly with her family when those medical bills started rolling in and so my dad ended up contacting an old friend who was an attorney.  All I remember at the ripe old “adult” age of 17, is being so relieved that my parents and their friend swept me up and took care of everything.  The lawsuit was settled as it should have been, and there were few ramifications on our end. 


That high school friend of my parents was a gentleman by the name of Pat Tillman Sr.  In 1996 when he came in and righted all of the wrongs that I had wrapped myself up in with my irresponsible youthful ignorance, I was eternally grateful.  In 2004, my heart would be filled with a much different emotion as I watched the events unfold around the death of his son Pat Tillman Jr.

Because I wanted to avoid my government class, Pat Tillman Sr. helped bail my parents out of situation that could have had ugly ramifications. I think of him every year on this date, the anniversary of his son's death, and wish that someone could sweep in and save his family from their awful situation that has turned into an enormous eye opening tragedy. It is a story that still seems to be unraveling, and one that I watch closely with a heavy heart. There are times when I watch the news and feel so overwhelmed with the world that I have to turn it off. But every once in a while a story hits so close to home and I am forced to acknowledge that the world is so small that it hurts.  

I'm thinking of the Tillman family today. 
--

*If you are interested, A foundation has been set up in Pat Tillman's name to provide resources and educational scholarship support to veterans, active servicemembers, and their dependants.  If you have been touched in any way by Pat's story, head over and see how you can contribute to his legacy.     

_____________________

April 21, 2011

Book Review: The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell


So before we talk Celeb Memoirs, we need to talk context.  Are you guys watching The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green?  I will pretend that I have slyly crafted this post about a Planet Green show to coincide with Earth Day, even though you can probably see through that bologna from a mile away.  Anyway -- it is hilarious!  And if you've never heard of it, here's a little introduction so you can get the feel: 


I'm shamelessly addicted to this show because I have this secret fantasy that someday we will move out to Garrett's parents' property (where they already have adorable goats!) and turn it into an awesome family business! Our happily homeschooled children will run around naked in teh fields and we will make our own artisinal cheese!  But then Garrett reminds me that we aren't giant hippies and we don't know anything about farming (YET).  But you know, a girl can dream, right?  Plus, goats are so much more loveable than you would think.  

P1020965


Needless to say, every week when we tune into this show about 2 city boys who move out to the country to make it as Farmers and build a brand, it tickles the part of my brain that stores that fantasy.  When I heard that Josh Kilmer-Purcell (1/2 of the Beekman Boys' fabulousness) wrote a memoir about how their farm fantasy/reality show came to be, called The Bucolic Plague:  How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers,  you know I was on that like flies on...well, you know what flies like.

Anyway, I know I promised that "I Read Celebrity Memoirs So You Don't Have To" but it's such a hilarious story that for the record, you should definitely read it.  I don't imagine I will say that about all the celeb memoirs that I read, so you can certainly count on a few more details in the future, but on this one I don't want to give it all away.  But I'll at least tell you the gist of the book:

Josh (a writer/ex drag queen/ad-exec from Manhattan) and Brent (an MBA/Doctor/Overacheiver formerly in the employ of the Martha Stewart Empire) fall in love with a 200+ year old mansion during an autumnal apple picking jaunt out to upstate New York.  The book chronicles the tale of that purchase as well as their foray into entrepreneurship with their company Beekman 1802, which sells goat milk products as well as foodstuffs created on their farm.  Doesn't this fantasy sound familiar?  I thought so.  Now you know why I love this book (and the show!)

It is one part love story, one part business development case study, and one part modern day Beverly Hillbillies Fable in reverse that is overflowing with gardening stories, wry humor about all things farm life, and of course some well placed behind the scenes stories and jabs at the expense of Martha Stewart -- and really?  That's a pretty winning combo in my book.

Their path is not an easy one, and although they do find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to buy a second home and live out this fantasy, it is not without cost.  Things become more complicated when the economy takes a nosedive and their relationship starts cracking under the stress of entrepreneurship.  They creep right up to the edge of Losing It All.  There are a lot of hysterical antecdotes, colorful characters, and creative inspiration, and I was truly sad to see the book come to an end -- which is such a great indicator that you're reading a good one.  Luckily I still get to tune in weekly to their adventures, and if you haven't checked out the show yet -- DVR it and tell me what you think.  

There's a little something in it for everyone, just like in the memoir.  

_______________ 

April 20, 2011

Easy Weeknight Paleo CrockPot Recipe: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps




One of the things I missed most when I first went Paleo was the ability to throw a chunk of meat in the crock pot, cover it in sauce, serve in on a freshly baked roll and call it dinner.  Most pre-made sauces are loaded with sugar and since I no longer eat anything on a bun, my crockpot gathered a bit of dust while I transitioned.  But when I rediscovered my love for lettuce wraps (HOLY MOSES those are good!) I busted out my crockpot again and sang love songs to it because it makes my weeknight life so much easier. 

After a few trials and tribulations, and some super disgusting dinners (which, HELLO, seem like an extra betrayal when they happen in the crockpot because you come home expecting dinner to be ready only to find out that you have to figure out a Plan B!)  I finally came up with a a combo of yummy flavors that has found its way into the regular rotation in our kitchen.  And a bonus, it gets Garrett to eat pork with a smile!  Although you could certainly substitute chicken in this dish and get great results.  

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps  

For the chunk of meat
2-3 lbs of pork shoulder or any type of pork roast (or this would be super good with chicken thighs or chicken breasts)
Liberally salt and pepper and if you're feeling really crazy throw in 3-4 smashed whole garlic cloves.  If you don't feel crazy, just sprinkle on some garlic powder

For the sauce
Mix all of the following:
4 TBS Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce if that's your bag)
2 TBS Almond Butter  (Peanut Butter would be fine too)
1 TBS Honey  (I eyeball it)
2 TBS Vinegar (I've used a bunch of different ones, just to get some acid in there)
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1 TBS Sriracha (or more if you are real spicy)
1/2 tsp of Black Pepper
1 TBS minced ginger  (dude, I totally used the jarred stuff sometimes, go for it!)

Recipe Steps
1.  Put prepared chunk of meat in crockpot
2.  Pour sauce over it
3.  Resist the urge to add more liquid (you will want to, don't you worry you don't have to)
4.  Set and forget  (well for about 4-6 hours at least on your low setting)

THIS, internet, is how I like my crock pot recipes.  Short, sweet and tasty!

When it is done cooking shred with a fork and serve atop your favorite lettuce and add the garnish of your choice.  Because I am usually lazy on the weeknights, I throw on some pre-shredded cabbage or broccoli slaw and slice up a bell pepper for some color and call it a day.  You could do any toppings you want -- chopped peanuts, jicama, cilantro, shredded carrots.  And Garrett says don't forget the extra hot sauce!  But that guy is crazy for heat, so take his advice with a grain of salt (and a glass of water!) 

__________________

April 18, 2011

Alphabet: A History - (A) Advice

In one of my earliest memories my dad picks me up off the ground and throws me over his head. He is wearing a matching red Adidas track suit with black stripes down the side. It is the early eighties and this outfit is worn without a lick of irony. There are many Adidas track suits in my memories, actually. Also baggy mesh shorts, and soft heather grey muscle-shirts sporting XXL across the front. There are practice jerseys and logo’d sweatpants from just about every team my dad every played for.


Our garage contains an array of fitness implements -- an incline ab-board made of shiny red leather, a pull up bar I enjoy hanging from and a bench press that is fun to lay on. A worn looking speed bag by his work bench has surely seen better days, but so have the hands that inflicted all that damage. There is an inversion table, and another medieval looking contraption in the middle of the room where one must wear gravity boots to hang upside down.  All at once they are the tools of the trade and the side effects of his 7 year NFL career. As I child I assume this is how everyone’s garage looks: one part home gym, one part work bench, one part archive of a suburban life packed neatly in matching boxes.


I am about 9 when my dancing begins to evolve into a more competitive outlet, rather than a social hobby. Since our rehearsals become more intense, my dad rearranges his equipment in the garage to assure I have a space of my own. My hot pink stereo plugged in at the tool bench, I am free to tap and twirl at all hours of the day. We spend hours together perfecting my craft, and while he is well qualified for the coaching job, I hardly believe this is how he envisioned using his years of hard won competitive experience.


You would never know considering the time he dedicates to my dancing. There is at least a five year window where he spends each Super Bowl Sunday driving my family up to a dance competition in a Sacramento Hotel that will be one block away from the building where I nail an interview and get my first real job 15 years later. Rather than join the other dads who are off at the hotel bar cheering on their teams, he stands in a banquet room cheering on Team Holly hoping all the while that I employ the breathing techniques he learned while playing in the playoffs.  He promised they would work when my nerves would try and take over.


Back at home his disciplined athleticism shows up while I rehearse. When I have trouble nailing a certain routine, he teaches me how to close my eyes and visualize. When he tucks me in at night we sit together and meditate as I see myself executing perfectly it in my mind. I will use this technique again and again to comfort myself in my adult life when the anxiety of something impending keeps me up at night.  "If you can see it, you can be it."  When I confess that I am nervous about an upcoming performance, he tells me over and over, “What the mind can conceive and you can believe, you can achieve.” And I am certain he is one of the most brilliant men I know to dream up a philosophy that rhymes.


Of course when I lose my focus, he is right there to call me on that too. When I am half-assing it, he asks me if that is how I would do it if I were in front of a table of judges. Would that performance win a 1st Place Rosette? Or do I have something better inside that I'm holding back?  Being the smart-mouth that I am I tell him that I don’t need his opinion. "I KNOW dance, dad. You know football. The two are very different, obviously."   I am annoyed with his hard nosed approach in these moments and I tell him I no longer need his help.


“Always be coachable, Holly or you open yourself up to getting beat. If you already know everything, you don’t have anywhere to go. Appreciate feedback in all of its forms. Show me someone who is defensive and I’ll show you someone I can beat. The person who is always willing to learn how they can be better, always has a chance to be the best.”


I’m sure I sighed and walked away rolling my eyes at the time, but 20 years later what I would give to have just one more piece of that advice. 
___________________

April 17, 2011

Part Seven: A Week in the Life of Our Bellies

This is a continuation of my weight loss series.  If you missed The Prologue, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four , Part Five, or Part Six check them out first. If you are not into this kind of stuff, here is your warning:  Go ahead and skip this one.
 

I think a lot of people hear that we eat a mostly Paleo Diet and think we are super restricted in what we eat.  I beg to differ.  This has been the most delicious way I've EVER lost weight, and I feel infomercial AMAZING!  

Here's a peak into what we're eating this week:

Breakfast
Breakfast at our house is sort of grab and go.  Garrett usually works sometime between 5am and 11am so he takes some fruit with him.  He hates eating breakfast and I yell at him about that.  I think he kind of likes it.  I'm lucky enough to have a cafe at work so I generally grab 2 scrambled/hard boiled eggs and bacon.  I'm sure it's not nitrate free hippie bacon, but I think I'll live.  It keeps me more than full until lunch.  Sometimes if I'm running on time in the morning I will make myself a smoothie.  If I can get my act together on the weekend I will make a dozen or so Bacon, Egg & Cheese Muffins because they are THE BOMB and Mini-Frittata muffins are easy to grab on the go.  Or I even sometimes do dinner leftovers because I'm not queasy about eating chicken for breakfast.  Sure, my coworkers probably think I'm a nut, but that's ok.  I think they already knew I was nutty before they even saw what I was eating. 

Lunch
This weekend I am grilling up a crapload of chicken breasts/thighs, zucchini, squash, red onions, and asparagus.  I marinated the chicken breasts in a mesquite marinade that is probably not STRICTLY Paleo, but again I think I will live.  I did this last weekend as well and I'm still standing.  I think you have to be reasonable with your dogma.  We do the best that we can to avoid sugar, grains, and gluten but meat marinade is not the hill I'm going to die on, you know unless it has some Partially Hydrogenated crap, wheat, or Corn Syrup.  Then, HELLS TO THA NO. Anyway, then I package them up in little tupperwares for a quick lunch grab.  We will alternate eating that and having dinner leftovers all week so we don't get bored.  It's easy, takes about an hour on the weekend, and it's 5 days of lunch.  On the weekends I don't worry about lunch too much -- we either forage the leftovers, go out to eat while we run errands (Chipotle salads, anyone?) or sometimes sleep late and only eat two meals, so who even needs lunch?  I need to remember how awesome that last option is while we don't have kids.

Dinner

This week we will be enjoying the following:

  • Asian Beef and Fried Cauliflower Rice Bowls - This is such a delicious and man-pleasing meal.  Last time I made it for Garrett he said, "Can we have this again tomorrow?"  Win. This time I will probably double the recipe so we have leftovers for lunch.

  • Turkey Meatloaf Minis + Mashed Cauliflower + Roasted Garlicky Broccoli - I love to roast broccoli in Olive Oil with salt, pepper + garlic powder (The Trifecta).  It gets crispy and delicious and we can demolish probably 2 lbs in one sitting because we are CRAZY BROCCOLI LOVERS.

  • Santa Maria Seasoned Grilled Tri-Tip + Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts+ Salad  These brussels sprouts change lives.  No joke.  Please try them.  It is hands down Garrett's favorite thing to eat.  I was just going to roast the brussels with The Trifecta this week and Garrett said, "Please, with the bacon! with the bacon!"  So we'll indulge a little.

  • Orange Chicken + Shallot, Zucchini, and Squash Sautee with The Trifecta - OMG this is so good, but I add a little honey and ALOT of red pepper flakes for kick. Also, I don't season the chicken first, because I did that the first time I made this recipe without thinking and whoa, was that salty!  Easy, tasty, and like a mini Paleo Panda Express.

  • Southwest Turkey Burgers with roasted carrots + parsnip fries and roasted red onion wedges (roasted with Olive Oil and The Trifecta, of course) - I use this burger recipe, serve on a bed of bibb lettuce and top with bacon and avocado slices)

  • Grilled Grass Fed New York Steaks (from our meatshare!) + Roasted Garlic Green Beans + Salad  - This will probably be our Friday night meal because I love to grill on a Friday night with a good glass of vino in hand.  I'm especially excited since we just picked up our Wine Club Subscription.  YUM!  I've also been enjoying the occasional Skinnygirl Margarita on a Friday night, and WOW, those are delish. I don't know if discovering them was a good thing or a bad thing.  I foresee those being included in many a summer evening.
  • Chili Colorado + Veggie Must-go.  Do you do Must-Go in your house?  As in, "everything in the crisper drawer must go."  This is a new recipe I'm trying and I'm thinking about making the chili part this weekend so we can use it for lunches too, we'll see. 
 Snacks/Post-Workout Meals

So honestly, I'm not that into snacking.  All of these good eats keep me relatively full throughout the day, so I'm a 3 square meal type of gal.  Post-Workout I generally will have a Coconut Water and sometimes a few slices of turkey or salami while I am cooking dinner.  


Garrett, on the other hand does more snacking and has a different Post-Workout routine since we have different goals (Me:  Lose Weight, Him:  Stop Losing Weight)  He snacks on nuts and some fruit during the day.  The boy is a whore for bananas.  Post-workout he will usually mix himself up a Protein Shake with some Almond Milk + A Banana, and will usually enjoy a sweet potato, which we always have ready made in the fridge because I usually just roast up a big batch of on the weekend when I am grilling that chicken. That one hour of weekend prep accomplishes a lot with a little planning.  I'll peel them while the chicken is resting and stick them in a tupperware.  He likes to nuke them and eat them with a little grassfed butter.  For the record, I would like to take a bath in that butter, it is AWESOME.  If you are not eating Paleo, do yourself a favor and slather that on a baguette.  Holy shit, the thought of that makes my head spin a little.


Dessert
As for dessert, again I'm usually not that interested, although when I have a box of mangoes in the house I definitely enjoy those.  Sometimes Garrett will slice an apple and dip it in almond butter, or pair it with some chunks of dark chocolate.  If we are feeling extra special, we'll whip up a fruit cobbler like this.  Or my favorite dessert is some greek yogurt over berries with a touch of honey.  The truth is, I'm trying to eliminate the dairy completely because it doesn't always agree with me, but sometimes it is just too good and you've only got one life.  If some greek yogurt is my one vice, I'll take it.  We are Practical Paleo People.  Someone make me a Twibbon, will ya? 


Anyway, I hope that was some insight into the fact that we don't just eat hunks of meat all the time. With a little planning you can have a ton of great eats at your fingertips.  And the weight loss?  Well that is just icing on the (grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free) cake!


*If this is helpful and you'd like to see more of what we're eating, let me know.  And if you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I will address them in a future post.
____________

April 16, 2011

What To Read? What To Read?

I have two stacks of books in my house that need some attention.  If they were on my nightstand, it would have surely toppled over by now.  When I finish the book I am currently reading (review coming next week: it's a celeb memoir, natch) I need to pick something new and as the typical Libra that I am, the decision making is overwhelming!  It probably also has to do with the abundance of choices, but I'm hoping you'll have some insight on that.  

So what we have is Stack A:  Books I own that I have been dying to read

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis - Jen Lancaster recommendation and it looks cute
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian - I'm enjoying a Bohjalian Renaissance
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - I know.  I can't believe I haven't read it either
The Night Villa by Carol Goodman - She writes page turning literary thrillers.
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain - Just because I love him.
Candy Girl by Diablo Cody - Had to throw in a Celeb Memoir, duh.
Little Children by Tom Perrotta - It sounds so intriguing.  Haven't seen the movie. 
The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg - Because in my fantasy life, I live on a goat farm.
My Horizonal Life by Chelsea Handler - Because one celeb memoir wasn't enough. 
The Likeness by Tana French - I love Tana French SO HARD.
The Town that Food Saved by Ben Hewitt - Super intriguing premise
Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House by Meghan Daum - Meghan Daum rules!
The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver - Looks fun/interesting.

And Stack B:  Library books checked out that I am dying to read  

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken - You know how I feel about her
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon - Interesting premise
The Heights by Peter Hedges - Looks like it is probably well-written/interesting
I'm Not the New Me by Wendy McClure - Sounds like a lot of thoughts I'm marinating on now.
Home to Woefield by Susan Juby - Farm Fantasy Alert!
Juno's Daughters by Lise Saffran - Oh this is just right up my fluffy alley
Lost and Found by Jacqueline Sheehan - Perhaps another dog helps woman heal book? 
Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston - I'm interested to see the resolution of this book
Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum - I keep seeing this book reviewed so I'm curious
If You Have To Cry Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone -- Gotta have a few celeb memoirs on deck, right? This bitch is crazy, and I kind of like it.
The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey - I am simultaneously obsessed and deathly afraid of Great White Sharks.  I can't wait to read this.
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter - This looks fast paced and smart.  I love mysteries like that.  
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen - I love her dark novels much more than her fluffy ones




Have you read any of these recently that should go to the front of the queue? Or to the back, for that matter?

___________________________

April 15, 2011

Linky-Loo

TGIF, you all.  I don't know about you but I wasn't sure I was going to make it!  I am soooo ready for the weekend.

So we established this week that Old Navy Pants Suck Super Hard, yes?  But guess what, I don't plan to stop shopping there anytime soon.  Know why?  Because all of a sudden Old Navy is rocking some cute jewelry for relatively cheap.  Today I'm wearing this necklace which I bough on clearance for $7.99



Worth it!  Plus, look at all of this.  Cute stuff, I think.  (Thanks to my cousin Kelly for reminding me of all this FUN JEWELRY -- remind me to tell you guys the "fun jewelry" story someday.)  Maybe you aren't dead to me just yet Old Navy.  But be warned, you are on life support. 

So since we are talking about fun stylish things (I almost said "fashion"  BAHAHAHAHA) can we talk about Academichic.  I love this site.  I am generally not that inspired by fashion-y websites because they are always like, "Here is what I wore, it's thrifted and totally vintage and you'll never be able to find it, and I'm going to frolic like I think I'm a model in urban looking locales that are just 'in the neighborhood', aren't you sooo inspired to dress cuter?"  And I usually am not to say the least.  But I think they give good advice on Academichic -- like advice for fashion novices who are intersted in looking pulled together but don't have time to clip out meaningful articles in Vogue.  Plus they are all adorable and don't only talk about fancy, fabulous outfits.  They do a lot of casual, a lot of how-tos, and great inspiration if you are pregnant, IMHO.  (Hat tip for Kateo for turning me on to that site.)

Completely unrelated this list of 75 Things Worth Watching from Netflix made it into my bookmarks recently and there are some fun things on that list.  And if I can interject my own recommendation, we have been making our way through The Up Series and it is super interesting.  It's a series of documentaries about British children starting at age 7 and updated every 7 years.  If you like your documentaries with a Sociology bent, check it out. 

And if you don't care a lick about documentaries, let's talk food for a minute shall we?  Who doesn't like food?  I made a Turkey Curry Sweet Potato Casserole (scroll down for the recipe at the bottom) because I had heard about it on the internet almost as much as I had heard about the Crock Pot Pepperocini Beef.  I realize the name sort of sounds like a mish-mash of random, but it is more accurately a mish mash of AWESOME!  I wanted to use the word awesomesauce right there but I refrained.  You're welcome.  Anyway, it was so good I am counting the minutes until I can consume the leftovers.  I bet they are even better!  Liz  sent the recipe my way and I can't help but think that she just changed the trajectory of my life in some small way -- it was THAT GOOD. I was going to post about it on its own but it is one of those meals that just don't photograph that well.  Aren't those usually the best dishes though? 

Also on my list of recipes I plan to make soon:  this salad.  I'm not usually a salad for dinner type of person but when the weather gets warmer I start to tolerate it.  Doesn't it just sound like a delicious thing to throw together on a warm spring evening (sans croutons for me, but you should totally add them and then tell me all about it!)  Now if we can just have one of those lovely evenings already so I have an excuse to make it.  Link courtesy of @NatalieDaily for just mentioning it on Twitter, which peaked my interest enough to google it.  What?  I get bored at work sometimes. 

My last arbitrary link is to an idea I am thinking about completely stealing to get the creative writing juices flowing.  Have you guys read or followed City Wendy's Alphabet: A History series?  She started it ages ago and it has been one of my favorite little blog features to read.  Obviously she is a great writer which is part of it, but I just think it is a fun way to get to know bits and pieces of a person's life.  She was originally inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life which is a very fun book if you ever have a chance to read it.  I enjoyed it, and think I may try it that feature out around these parts, so act surprised would ya?

Hope you all enjoy your Fridays!  What are you planning on cooking/watching/reading this weekend?   
_____________

April 14, 2011

To Run or Not To Run: That Is The Question

So I am second guessing my decision to run a half marathon, but maybe not for the reasons you might think – hear me out and then I would love it if you weigh in. I have no perspective in these types of situations. INTERNET, I need your advice. Eep!


:::opens up can of worms:::


I signed up to run the Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon a few months back after a night of imbibing and ego-fluffing, clearly. Liquid courage and a few months of CrossFitting will make you feel like you can do crazy things. I was excited at the thought of a new challenge and I am nothing, if not someone who loves to get wrapped up in a new challenge. I thrive off a good To Do List.  You know this.  This is the personality trait that Garrett will probably mentally order under ‘worse’ when it comes to contemplating that whole “For Better or For Worse” thing. While it is also a strength of mine, it is absolutely my Achilles heel.


When I signed up, my thought process was A) This will be a new challenge and it will feel exciting to accomplish as well as B) It will support my overarching goals to lose 50 more lbs this year. I still feel the same about option A. I am no longer doubting my ability to finish the race anymore and I totally think it will feel awesome to complete!  But it is B that is beginning to feel a bit like a gray area.


I began running regularly in February and coincidentally that is also when my weight loss completely stalled. It wasn’t a total shock and it didn't concern me too much at first (oh, who am I kidding? I had concerns in the beginning when I was only losing 6 lbs per month.)  But overallI had lost 70 lbs and this wasn’t my first rodeo -- I knew I would plateau at some point, so I started to tweak some things with my approach.  I quit drinking alcohol completely. No change. I reduced my fruit consumption. No change. I really reigned in my carbohydrates and started tracking my food. No change. I tried Intermittent Fasting. No change. After 2 months, I hadn’t lost a single pound and it sure wasn’t for lack of effort. I was starting to get REALLY frustrated.


I continued to train for the half marathon, actually even kicking that up a notch, and I tried to remain patient because my body composition was still changing. My pants continued to get looser. If it wasn’t for my friend Sarah and the lovely AndreAnna (who sent me a box full of 12 POUNDS OF CLOTHES, God love her!) I would have absolutely nothing to wear! Things were changing, but the truth was with a goal of 50+ more pounds, something had to give because I was not comfortable staying at this weight and just saying "Oh, this is my body's set point."  Because it is not.  There was something rotten in the state of Denmark, and I was determined to figure out what it was.


Frustrated (and kind of exhausted, frankly) I had decided to take a little running hiatus. Three days per week I had been running 3-4 miles before I started work at 7am and you know what, I WAS TIRED. Especially considering that at least 2 days per week I would work until 4:30, CrossFit at 5pm and then go home to make dinner, handle things on the homefront, and try to squeeze in some active relaxing before I would crap out on the couch just to get up and do it all over again. It was becoming a bit of a grind, and I just didn’t want it to be like that.

I have a tendency to get a little obsessive with goals so trying to employ some things I have learned about balance over the last 8 months, I took this opportunity to try and intervene before I got to the point of quitting out of exhaustion. I weighed my options (no pun intended) about what could give a little, and I chose to take the break from running because even though I enjoy, it can’t hold a candle to how much I love CrossFit. I couldn’t imagine a week without CrossFit, and I thought I could ease off the running without much consequence since I had plenty of time to get back on the wagon before the Half Marathon in June.


My last run was March 24th. Since that run I have yet to get back outside to run or hopped on the treadmill. I have continued CrossFitting 3-4 times per week but I ditched my food tracking and just went back to eating an unweighed, unmeasured Paleo diet because I wanted to get back to being intuitive about my eating. You know with my obsessive personality there is nothing that drives me to insanity quicker than tracking my food.  I started having a glass of wine again with dinner on the weekends because DAMMIT!  I really enjoy that and don’t like feeling deprived. I bought a giant box of mangoes from Costco and I have been shameless eating them for dessert nightly and that one act alone has brought more joy to my life that you can even imagine. Fresh Mangoes! I could write a love poem about them, but I will spare you.   


Also, I lost 7 lbs.

And the only difference was that I was exercising less and enjoying what I eat more.  This weight loss journey is just abolutely messes with your mind sometimes, doesn't it? 


I was doing some hop scotching around Mark’s Daily Apple (a great resource for Primal/Paleo info!) and I read The Case Against Cardio.  I think he does a succinct job at explaining why rigorous aerobic activity isn’t always a great way to burn fat, but talk about an idea that goes against everything you've ever been taught about losing weight.  But hey, so does going Paleo, and that seems to be working out pretty swimmingly for me in the big scheme of things!  So I kept an open mind.  Then I re-read this article about chronic cardio and a little light bulb in my head went off. It was actually this passage that got me thinking:



This kind of training…raises cortisol levels, increases oxidative damage, systemic inflammation, depresses the immune system and decreases fat metabolism. About the only good thing it does in improve cardiac muscle strength – and even then you get to the point of diminishing returns fairly quickly.
Was I doing myself a disservice with all the running without even meaning to?

Needless to say I haven’t been super excited to get back on the treadmill. Sure I have missed it a little bit, but when I go to bed each night and think, “Should I set my alarm for 4am tomorrow and get back on the treadmill?” I never feel the pull of the Siren’s song like I do when I skip CrossFit. I don't want to stop running forever, don't worry out there my favorite running buddies!  But part of me feels like at this point in my journey, running might need to take a back seat. I am trying to see the forest through the trees here, and my major goal this year is to lose the weight. That is Numero Uno. I don't want to do anything to hinder that.  But I also don’t think I will be able to show up in June and perform well in this Half Marathon if I don’t get back on the training bandwagon -- when I stopped running I was only doing about 5-6 miles comfortably.  That would obviously need to improve and I am thinking my abilities may have even decreased with the time I've taken off, who knows? 


The last little nagging thing is that we are already registered to the tune of a few hundred dollars that is non-refundable if we opt out of the race. This point is moot whether we run or not, that money is spent.  But if we do choose to run it, we will also have to fork over at least an additional $600-800 for plane fare/hotel/food/etc at a minimum.


I’m starting to wonder whether it is worth the cost.  Physically.  Mentally.  Financially.  But damn if the idea of giving up on a goal doesn't chap my stubborn hide! 

I'm struggling.  Any words of wisdom, internet?

__________

April 13, 2011

DIY Jewelry Storage For DIY Dummies





In my dream life I am very crafty.  I cut things and sew things, and every project I start turns out perfect from the conceptualizing phase to execution.  I patiently complete each step in its proper order feeling more and more inspired as the process goes on.  Speaking of the process, I artfully photograph all steps so that later I can quickly and easily throw up a tutorial on my perfectly designed website to show other creatively-challenged folks how they too can aspire to be as soft focused and perfect as I am. 

Oh wait that's right -- here at this blog, I document reality.

Since Garrett and I moved in together -- two years ago tomorrow, actually HEY-O-- he has been hounding me about getting my jewelry under control.  I have lots of necklaces and rings and earrings and bracelets and they usually end up falling out of the one random organizer that I have and this drives him bananas.  You would think we could put our two college educated heads together and come up with a solution fairly quickly.  But that is where you would think wrong.  After two years of deliberation and 3 consecutive weekends of looking at all the parts sitting on our kitchen table, we finally managed to get this up last weekend.  And we spent the subsequent days patting each other on the back like we had just finished the Sistine Chapel. 





Coupled with my old craptastic organizer that all the necklaces used to fall out of, it now fits all of my baubles perfectly.  Yes, I did just say baubles even though the bulk of my jewelry comes from the clearance rack at Target.  Cut me some slack.




 
The genesis of this idea came from Christina's post over at Style Lush.  She smartly planted the seed of using belt hooks to hang my necklaces.  When I first read it, I wasn't convinced it was exactly what I wanted to do.  Frankly, my dream jewelry organizer looks like this and I thought about doing that for a minute, but luckily I am competent enough to know my limitations.  Actually the truth is I showed that post to Garrett and said, "Hey, you're handy...what do you think about doing this?  Isn't that cute!"  And he looked at me like I was speaking French and said, "What am I supposed to shoot a moose and mount his antlers to help declutter our closet.  It's not even moose hunting season, I don't think."  We are city folk, what can I tell you?

Between my inability and his confusion, that idea died before we could even talk about procuring materials.  But the next time I went to Target I spied some belt hooks out of the corner of my eye, and lo and behold this necklace storage solution was created!  And by lo and behold I mean I told Garrett where I wanted it and he made it happen.  Overall I have to say I am very happy with it!  And aside from having to laugh at the same joke that every man tells when using a stud finder (Hey honey...look, I put it on my chest, and it FOUND A STUD!) the whole process was relatively painless.

April 12, 2011

Part Six: Transitioning to a Paleo Diet

This is a continuation of my weight loss series.  If you missed The Prologue, Part One, Part Two , Part Three, Part Four , or Part Five check them out first. If you are not into this kind of stuff, here is your warning:  Go ahead and skip this one.

When we last left off, fresh of the great results of my allergy diet I had begun to research Paleo eating, and a lot of information was clicking for me.  I had seen great results, felt better than I had in ages, and had a ton of energy.  But friends and family were definitely giving my dietary changes a raised eyebrow.  Transitioning to a Paleo diet requires an open mind at first, I'm not going to lie.  Especially when people start calling it a Caveman Diet, because honestly -- HOW DOES THAT EVEN MAKE IT SOUND APPEALING?  Have you seen the Geico commercials -- using cavemen for comparisons don't always make something look more appealing.  But I can honestly tell you that for me, it totally changed my life and simplified the way I cook and eat.  For those who are interested, here is the scoop.

The main reason Paleo eating requires an open mind is that it goes against A LOT of conventional wisdom that you learn growing up.  I'm not talking about eating worms or anything crazy, but if you were raised anything like me you grew up thinking low fat and low calorie diets were the secret to good maintaining your weight, and as long as you just ate "everything in moderation" you would be the picture of health.  Paleo is not about any of these things, so for me overcoming a lifetime worth of what I knew was a challenge.  Also, there is the small fact that the science of nutrition is relatively young.  We are all kind of guessing at it -- scientists and consumers alike. There is always research on both sides -- I thought Linda's post on this topic was accurate and succinct. It's a lot of noise, so you have to find what works for you, not what works for everyone.

What ended up working for me was eliminating grains and sugar completely and increasing my fat/vegetable/protein intake.   I don't have any conspiracy theories, and I won't tell you that the grain industry is playing puppet master in our lives or anything that dramatic.  But after doing a significant amount of reading I do believe that the food pyramid is bullshit, and so for me I decided to do some experimentation and Paleo has felt phenomenal.  I think anyone exploring a new way of eating needs to do that.  Immerse yourself in whatever you choose for at least 30 days.  See how you feel, go from there.  My diet currently emphasizes consumption of vegetables, fruit, animal protein, nuts and seeds while eliminating all refined grains, sugar, and dairy (though I still eat a bit of dairy here and there).  If you are considering going the Paleo route, here are some places to start. 

I feel like I need to give a quick disclaimer that Paleo is NOT just a typical Low Carb Diet, which I think it sometimes gets incorrectly billed as.  It also doesn't involve any weighing, measuring or counting.  You don't track carbs or calories.  I've lost over 70 lbs not regularly tracking anything that has gone into my mouth.  Sure there have been times where I have used a tool like Fit Day or Fat Secret to check in that I am meeting my nutritional goals, but those times are few and far between because frankly -- that's a pain in the ass.  And to me, having to write down everything you put in your mouth is the first sign that something is a temporary fix and not a change in your lifestyle.  The elimination of sugar and high glycemic foods allowed my body to reset itself so that my hunger signals were working correctly again.  I no longer have major cravings, and when I'm not hungry, I don't eat.  It was something I could never get the hang of while eating sugar and refined carbohydrates and there is a great chapter in Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution that really breaks down exactly why that happens in the body.  I can't recommend that book highly enough if you've ever had trouble losing weight or had any type of illness at all.  Incredibly illuminating!     

So, Paleo is not about eliminating carbohydrates but more focusing on the nutritional density of the food you are eating along with eating foods that doesn't cause inflammation in your gut. I think this explanation  clearly explains how excess carbohydrate consumption affects your health better than I ever could, plus it has a very cute video at the end of it which is worth watching.  And if you are interested in understanding how grains affect your gut health, definitely check that article out.  When you eliminate refined sugars and grains, your diet by default does become lower in carbohydrates than the Standard American Diet -- but "Low Carb" is not the point.  The point is -- get in tons of nutrition efficiently from foods that don't cause inflammatory problems in your body.  



So how does one do this in real life?  For me, Step One was eliminating the grain element of my dinner and replacing it with another vegetable.  We always had some type of protein in our dinner, plus a veggie, plus some rice or bread or pasta.  This is pretty common, no?  So to begin with I just started making our proteins with two vegetables -- which actually was kind of fun.  I roasted, steamed, braised, bought new spices, tried new veggies and tried to keep my plate to mostly vegetables with a nice serving of protein. At first this was terrifying, I used to be a total bread addict!  As a kid I used to hide left over dinner rolls under my bed at night -- I was that dedicated.  How gross is that? 


Step Two was examining what we were eating for breakfast and lunch -- and wouldn't you know it was pretty heavy grainy fare -- cereal, sandwiches, pasta, etc.  I used to think I was doing myself a favor by eating lots of grains because I was getting so much fiber and that would fill me up.  But the truth is, vegetables are largely more fiber dense and don't cause an insulin response that interferes with your body's own hunger response.  Instead of grains in the morning I started trying to include a protein source in each of those meals.  For breakfast I began making smoothies like this one here, or grabbing a hard boiled egg or two.  For lunch I started packing enormous salads with chopped chicken or steak, or I'd bring leftovers from dinner the night before.  These were pretty easy changes and I started to think the transition was going pretty smooth.  

The Third Step was paying attention to the details.  What was I snacking on?  What types of fat was I using when I cooked?  I learned exactly how saturated and unsaturated fats are broken down in your body.  I bought a few new cooking staples.  As far as what to stock in your kitchen, I think AndreAnna's post on what is in her pantry is one of the best I've ever seen.  She has been an incredibly inspiring mentor to me throughout this process, so I highly encourage you to look around over there if you are considering making a similar switch.  Paleo cooking is actually super simple because you are basically picking and choosing various protein sources, fats and vegetables and the combos are endless.  Robb Wolf has a great food matrix that makes it pretty easy to get up and running with tons of ingredients to make healthy meals. 

Every once in a while I would think about how I missed sandwiches, or get sad over the fact that we never hit up our favorite local pizzeria anymore.  But the truth is, I wasn't actually craving these foods, which I think is important to note.  It was nostalgia, not an actual food craving.  After about a week of not eating grains at every meal I didn't really miss it.  And I still don't!


In Part Seven I'll share with you some meal plans if you're interested.  I definitely started my Paleo transition by making "Paleo" version of my favorite grain based treats.  But eventually I have left those behind too in favor of simpler food.  I'll give you a run down of what the two of us eat in an average week and share some of my favorite recipes!

April 11, 2011

Style Question: Why do Old Navy Pants Suck So Hard?

Oh, so when I said I might start posting pictures of What I Wore did you think it would be fabulous and stylish fashion-y pictures?  BAHAHAHAHA...yeah, I am a woman of substance, not so much with the style.  

Today's Style Question - Part One:  Why do Old Navy's pants stretch out so that you can fit an adult diaper in there only 4 hours after wearing them?  And Part Two:  Why do I continue to buy them?  

The quick answer to Part Two -- these pants were $11.99 on clearance and they were vanity sized to high heaven! 







The top photos?  From 7am this morning.  
The bottom photos?  Taken at noon.  

That is some Dramatic Ass Pooching, if I do say so myself.  What gives, Old Navy?
I mean really?  What could these pants possibly be made out of that they stretch so amazingly without even being considered "stretch" pants.  


My final questions of the stylish nature then, is:  If you can only get 2 acceptable hours of wear out of a pair of pants is the bargain and vanity sizing worth it?  

I'm thinking not.  

Do you love Old Navy Pants?  Am I crazy? 
_______________

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