just another day in the life

We debuted our new grill tonight for some grass-fed beef, and I have to tell you … delicious.

The grill was pretty groovy, too.  We decided to take a risk and purchase an infrared grill, and we’re pretty happy with our decision.  Incredible, even heat, easy set up and clean up.  And … it’s portable.  Wha?!? Super cool.

For dinner, we seasoned the beef with a garlic pepper rub (a favor from the wedding we attended in Boston in June) and made veggie cakes and mashed cauliflower (repeater, remember? :) ).  Very satisfying after a long day that included, but was not limited to, Lucy and my four mile run (at an 8.42 min mile pace, according to Nike + … yeehaw!) a long and always surprising day at work, hot yoga and some errands.  By the time we sat down, whew!  I was ready!

Also, we’ve been able to leave the A/C off for the last few days and not melt away, which is blissful.  Real air.  Mmmmm.  (I get really nervous leaving Lucy alone if it seems there might be even the slightest possibility that she could get overheated, so our A/C has gotten a workout this year in ways it hasn’t in the past).

Tonight is MasterChef night, so I’m going to leave this short and sweet, a little snapshot of our day.  It’s down to the final five, and I love watching the dish creations and mystery box challenges.  With that, I bid you adieu until the morrow.

 

twenty twenty twenty four hours

First. And this is very important.

I need more than 24 hours in a day to get everything done.

Truth.

Second. Life has been flying by.  Legit.

Our favorite green juice from the last ten days:

1 bag arugula (we got ours from TJs)

3 pears

5 carrots

4 stalks of celery

1 in. fresh ginger

In actual fact, it was probably the best green juice I’ve made since we started juicing.  Yummers.

So here’s the thing.  The man and I have been valiantly trying to stick to a diet/cleanse etc as closely as we can.  It has been a learning experience every step of the way.  Today – and this is completely true- I was craving a green veggie juice instead of my usual Starbucks.  That hasn’t always been the case.

I have been doing a lot of reading ~ about nutrition, about cleanses, about green smoothies.  It’s fascinating what information is consistent throughout, and what information seems subjective based on the author’s intention.

Aaaand… we’ve also noticed the difference between days when we eat leafy greens, & the ones we don’t.  (Un)fortunately, it’s pretty significant.

We are infinitely more conscious of what we are eating, how much we are eating, and the nutritional content of what we’re eating.  In fact, we came up with our own homemade alternative to Trader Joe’s Bird’s nests.

Veggie Pancakes

2 1/2 cup shredded zucchini

1 cup shredded carrots

2 small potatoes, shredded

1 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp EVOO

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour, my new flour of choice)

1.  Make sure you mix everything well.

2.  Make sure you drain it well ( spent a lot of time squeezing everything and thinking of how much juice I was wasting!)

3.  Shape into patties.  Grill on sandwich press until golden brown with crispy edges.

4.  Enjoy.  (Preferably with soy sauce -we prefer low sodium because strangely, it has a better flavor- or curry dipping sauce … it’s worth it ;) )

 

Just one of the many things we are learning to cook in a new way.  Hope you enjoy  … we do!

any given day

It’s Friday, and even that won’t be accurate in a little over 30 minutes.

My love, my puppy and I have retired to our living room, and are currently being über modern, as we are both tapping away at our keypads while the TV plays the role of white noise in the background.  (Lucy isn’t really into computers, other than licking them occasionally to remind both her father and I that she is vastly more important than anything we could find on The Internet).

I’m not full of half-baked philosophy or new tidbits of nutrition tonight.  No, this evening I’m just very content in being who I am, and being with who I’m with, and enjoying life.

Crazy thing, that.  So often these moments pass before we even have a minute to settle into them, and wrap ourselves up in their luxury and deliciousness.

I’ve been with the man for over four years.  Sometimes that completely blows my mind, because it feels like that walk in Fairmount Park with Baskin Robbins milkshakes was yesterday (yes, that was one of our first dates, and it was definitely the date that preceded our first kiss).  Sometimes, it doesn’t surprise me at all (we still don’t communicate well about laundry and the dishwasher ~ and that feels like it’s been going on forever ~ we’re both convinced we each do both all the time).

Here’s what I know for certain.  Good, bad, up, down ~ I am so thankful/grateful/humbled that I stumbled upon a person who is, in all ways, my partner.

This is a man, and I’m being serious (and somewhat funny at the same time), who at least once a year, enjoys watching all three Lord of the Rings movies with me … on the same day, snuggled on the couch.  And that’s one pretty superficial reason that we work.

Aaaaand, he just signed up for a Tough Mudder run.  Maybe (!!!) my new preoccupation with running has rubbed off on him … are we transitioning together?   What.is.going.on!?!?  Such an incredible feeling to have a person in my life who loves me for who I am now, who I used to be, and who I’m striving to become. (Even knowing all the bad, deep, dark secrets).

Life.  It isn’t all bad.

 

it isn’t always easy being green

Tuesday Green Juice

2 cups romaine

2 cups spinach

1 pkg freshly cut mango (from TJs)

1 Granny Smith apple

Several large carrots

1 peach

~~~~~~~

The first day of everything -for me at least- includes some jitters, some nervous energy and a lot of uncertainty.  I’m just that kind of person ~ new stuff is a little bit overwhelming and intimidating.  I must confess that I’ve psyched myself out of things in the past being a nervous Nellie, so I consider it a huge accomplishment that I’ve begun trying new things all by myself.  Yesterday was the start of my week-long early morning yoga class as well as the first official day of our cleanse, and I think I was just buzzing with excitement and nerves all day.

Today, I felt a little more mellow.  Thankfully!

I was a complete glutton and went to two yoga classes today ~ my early morning ‘stay’cation and my most favorite Tuesday hot vinyasa (which I miss almost never ~ it is my complete and total favorite class ever).  Ironically, we focused on the same thing during both classes.  Sun salutations or vinyasa (pick your terminology!), and really being aware of each movement.  I enjoy classes that bring everything back to the basics ~ it helps to refocus and I always find new ways to better be in each posture. And it’s always great to have two different teachers, because each gives you a new view and new things to try.

This morning’s meditation was on the idea of stillness.  Yoga is practiced not only for the physical benefits, but also to achieve a dynamic stillness.  That is, like a spinning top, to be able to be connected and involved in action and movement, but to have stillness of mind and spirit.  A top, spinning perfectly, appears still, but is actually perfectly controlled movement.

As my instructor said, most of us are not perfectly balanced spinning tops; we’re the tops skittering across the floor and wobbling from side to side.  But practicing yoga and allowing that meditation to influence our daily life experience is one way to try to get our tops as balanced as possible.

I sort of love that imagery.  The idea of dynamic stillness is perfectly illustrated to me by the idea of a spinning top.

Tonight, my instructor talked about having a teacher to help guide you to open your door of self-discovery, which I believe is one of the most important parts of yoga.  I’ve taken a handful of classes with different instructors, and as I said before, Tuesday night is hands down my favorite. Everything about class on Tuesday works for me ~ the philosophy, the pace, the series of movements … I can’t rave enough.  And I believe because my instructor inherently makes sense to me, it makes yoga that much more enjoyable.  Heart heart heart.  Seriously.

Last night, I couldn’t wait to curl up and get to bed.  Tonight is a little different ~ despite two yoga classes, a hike with Lucy and day two of our elimination diet/cleanse, I’m not totally exhausted.

Could progress be being made?  :)

it’s what you make of it

Monday Morning Green Juice

4 cups baby spinach

4 peaches

watermelon (we used the trimmings from a whole melon the man had cubed up and packed for lunches)

~~~~~~~~~

One of the (many) things I’ve been learning as I read more and more about green juicing and nutrition, is that when you get right down to it, it’s completely about what works for you.

I realize that I’m not breaking new ground by stating this.

But I need to state it, because it’s my baseline for how all this is working in our lives, and it’s important for me to remember it, when things get a little challenging.

A week ago Friday, I left work and went straight to the supermarket.  I bought two nice steaks, some asparagus, some portobello mushrooms and avocado.  I called the man, and told him we were going to drink the nice bottle of wine sitting on our wine rack (a Thanksgiving present from my boss the first year I was with the company and a very nice bottle of vino).  We’d been ‘saving’ it for a special occasion, but I wasn’t sure anymore what that occasion would be ~ and I was coming to the conclusion that I was going to have to make some changes to directly benefit my health. This was my ‘indulgent good-bye’ meal, if you will.

We had a very nice dinner, and years from now, I will look back and say I drank one of the nicest bottles of wine I’d ever owned while watching the London Olympics opening ceremonies.  It’ll make for a good story.

The following Monday (only a week ago) we somewhat awkwardly began our quest to change our diet and lifestyle.  It felt very challenging. and it didn’t help that we didn’t have a huge knowledge base, and were using bits and pieces of incomplete information to outline our meals.  Luckily (as I mentioned before) my boss’s wife is hugely knowledgeable, and I had two very good conversations with her last week, and she shared a ton of really valuable and *more importantly* useful information.

The man and I decided we needed to do a full seven day cleanse/elimination diet (which commenced today) and which we based on recommendations from my boss’s wife.  After last week, we learned two things.  First, the juicing made a difference, even though we did it without any real initial understanding.  And second, if we were going to do this seriously, we needed to commit to the plan, and learn from our bodies as we progressed through.

So here we are at the start.  We are one day in, and I have successfully made it to the evening and am not hungry (whoopee!).  We had spinach salad with cold salmon and sunflower seeds for lunch with an avocado as a snack, and for dinner, we juiced again (a mish mosh of greens and fruit ~ spinach, romaine, watermelon, peach, carrot), plus had some raw nuts and another avocado (mine from lunch was inedible, so I was glad to have a real one for din din).  It is sort of crazy how satisfying the juices are, and being so conscious about eating has made me very aware how specific foods affect me.

When I have a moment (like today, thinking about triple creme brie cheese and a fresh loaf of French bread) I remember that I made this choice in the first place, and I will only be as successful as I allow myself to be.  If I am not diligent and committed, then I’m self-defeating, and blame lies with me.  Which, on the positive side, gives me great control.  But it also requires me to find strength, motivation and conviction within myself, and that can be quite challenging at times.

As I sign off, I’m saying a little prayer that with each step forward and with each new day, the challenges become less daunting, and the rewards more sweet.

 

 

 

don’t be tellin’ me no porkie pies

I have to share.

A few months ago (it could have been longer … I’ve noticed that as I get older, time goes much faster,  and all of sudden huge chunks have slipped by without my notice) my mother and aunt surprised me with one of my favorite foods of all time.

The English Pork Pie.

They found an English shop and ordered all sorts of food goodies that I normally only enjoy while on the island of Britain itself.  Highly indulgent. Hugely decadent.  Indescribably delicious on every level.

My mother ~the saucy and industrious lady that she is ~ did a large order of pork pies, English bangers, black pudding (and I’m sure other things she has not shared because she loves a good surprise) and gave the man and I half a dozen.

We had our last two for breakfast this morning.  It tasted like England.

Each pie comes wrapped in paper, folded perfectly, and then labeled (in case you didn’t know which.would.be.insane, because you’re eating a pork pie in the United States of America and that in and of itself is not an every day event).  I have to take a moment and just ramble a little bit about the food I love when I visit the UK.  I have visited intermittently my entire life ~ I have picnicked in the Highlands of Scotland, and driven across the whole country with my mother at the wheel and my brother in the backseat learning every word to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” I love England, feel an affinity for it that is part of my very soul; un-articulatable, deeply inherent.  I love pork pies, I love English sausages, I love 99s (an ice cream treat that is simply a Cadbury’s Flake stuck into vanilla soft serve ice cream), I love Scotch eggs … I love it all.

I’m an American, please don’t mistake me ~ but that doesn’t change the roots of my mother and my father.  Both have deep ties to where they are from, and how that formed who they became as people.  My mother emigrated to the USA in the early ’70s, so she’s as British as as it gets over here, accent and all.  My father grew up in a very Italian community in the greater Pittsburgh area, and just as I am British, I am Italian.  It deeply and inherently influenced how I grew up, and who I became.  I wouldn’t trade my roots and my originals for anything.  And that’s saying something, because as we all learn at some point in our lives, family isn’t a fairy tale.

If you are not acquainted, pork pies are a luscious little concoction of hot water pastry wrapped around pork.  My favorite part?  Hard to say really, but probably the translucent pork jelly on the interior.  Flavor-packed and delicious (once you get over the idea of clear-colored pork jelly, the equivalent of which I have never seen in the USA),  it makes the whole pie.

Ah! Yummers!

Just writing about it makes me sad that they are no more.  But with our new green juicing, and the prospect of our Seven Day Cleanse (beginning tomorrow) that essentially restricts all wheat products and many meats (including pork) I know that we did the pies justice by indulgently enjoying them on a Sunday while watching LoTR.  (Yes, that’s right folks ~ this weekend was an LoTR viewing extravaganza!).

Beginning tomorrow, I’m hoping to document the man and my journey as we begin green juicing in true earnest, do a seven day (to start) elimination diet, and really focus on the meaning of healthy eating, what it means to me, and how it’s possible to transition from what is often referred to (in many of the books I’ve been reading of late) as the “Mainstream American Diet” to something … better?  One of the things we both learned this past week, as we flirted with eating a mainly raw diet, was that changing the food we ate and the manner in which we ate it did drastically and immediately affect our bodies and our health. That knowledge made it much easier to commit to what we’re embarking on tomorrow.

Unfortunately, little (and delicious) pork pies don’t really fit in.  But I wanted to share them anyway, because I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed every.single.solitary.bite.

tgif

Today, after many false starts, my offices moved to our final resting place.  I have to say, I have been with my company for a little over two and a half years, and the idea of permanent offices has been like an oasis in the sand.  There is still a lot of organizing to do, but the thought that my work life is no longer a series of cardboard boxes is … well, I don’t think I have a suitable word.  Euphoric?

I mention this because the idea of ‘settling in’ has always been a little alien to me.  Growing up, we moved every few years, so unpacking all my worldly belongings from boxes, each item wrapped haphazardly in tissue paper, has never been a foreign concept.

As I sit on our couch (this evening, indulgently opened up to the size of a queen-sized bed for optimal lounging potential) and relish the moment of my man, my dog and myself relaxing in our home, I can’t help but ruminate on this point in my life timeline.  Here I am, re-signing a lease for a fourth year (!!! I haven’t lived anywhere for four years since … actually, I can’t remember), raising the most beautiful little lady puppy I’ve ever met (huge commitment for any person), celebrating four plus years of getting to enjoy my life with my best friend in the whole world, and working for the same company coming up on tres anos.  Could I have drifted more into ‘stasis’ than this?

Perhaps not.

And I’m okay with that.

If you’ve read this blog, you will know that I spend a lot of time dithering on ideas of fear, the unknown, growing up ….  I use ‘dither’ with a smile and a wink, because I don’t want to take myself too seriously, but I also don’t want to brush it aside and eliminate any significance.  Life is an amazing journey ~ some of us over think it (please cue flashing lights, signs and arrows pointing in my direction), and some of us rush through it like a bull in a china shop, just absorbing everything, living every moment to its fullest.

I am the first kind of person.  My little brother, he’s the second kind.

He inspires, infuriates and provokes me.  I am sure there is not another person in this world whom I love in quite the same way.  It would be impossible ~ he is my only sibling.  I deeply adore him; I admire how he walks through life to the beat of his own drum, how he listens to his inner monologue; how he articulates his opinions with thought, purpose and eloquence.  He’s very passionate, very intelligent, and very, very infuriating.

A big sister is allowed to say that.

But no one else.

We grew up in a togetherness unlike the majority of siblings I knew.  As youngsters, I remember spending a summer in the UK (the entirety of my maternal side lives there; my mother was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland) and needing to be a team, as we were … dum dum dumAmerican.  Ah, the horror!  And we moved so often, we spent many a summer each other’s only friend.

I think about those times with such fondness ~ even though I know deep down, they weren’t always easy.  Our last move (pre-us going to college and moving out on our own), we lived in an apartment for a few months waiting as our house was built.  We shared a room in the basement, and I subjected him to repeatedly listening to The Fugees and Celine Dion. Weird combo, but I kid you not.  (He also never lets me live it down).  We spent that summer driving our grandmother’s Pontiac Sunfire (Sunbird? I’m not a car person…) around random streets for hours, listening to the radio.  (I’d just gotten my driver’s license ~ there was no boredom in driving!).  I don’t know if he remembers it the same way that I do.  It doesn’t really matter.  I love the memories I have.

Right now, what I think is most significant, is that out of the lumps of clay from which we were molded (and those lumps of clay had much in common) it amazes me that as adults, we are such different people.  We have seen each other frequently in the past few weeks (a true anomaly, but a welcome one, in which I remembered who he was, and why it is that people love him so much) and it gave me a lot to think about**.  (** See paragraph in which I specifically state “some people over think it”).

Change is inevitable (I am not breaking new ground by stating this).

Creating your own permanence ~ that’s what I’ve been learning these past five years.  I say five years because it’s been about that long since my life ‘timeline’ took a little switchback and changed route a little ~ y’know, shook things up. Five years ago I was 27, and trying to get my head around my twenties, when I made a lot of wrong turns, and felt utterly confused and lost.  At twenty-seven I made a spontaneous decision, it didn’t work out, I crashed and burned, and was left figuring out how to move forward.

Completely different circumstances, but that’s a little how I feel as a re-surface after this most disastrous July.  Permanence, inconsistency, love, truth, family.  What’s important.

Today, I pulled files out of the boxes they have been languishing in for nearly a year.  I carefully placed them in drawers, and dutifully labeled folders.  I spent far too much time adjusting my computer, keyboard and pen caddy on my desk (OCD much?).  I set up pictures of my mother, my father and my brother on my desk; the first time I’ve ever done that.  I ordered a bulletin board from Staples, and a frame for the poster I have been longing to hang on my office wall for years (battered ballet shoes).  I told the man I needed a good picture of he and Lucy Lou to add to my collection.

I chose to make the office mine.  I chose to believe that this office will be mine for quite some time.  Taking that initiate and diving in hasn’t always been easy for me.  I’m not the bull in the china shop.  I hope that a year from now, I’m complaining about the very office I just moved into.  I hope I still work for the company I work for today, I hope that the man and I and Lucy Lou are still lounging on our ridiculously comfy couch.  I hope my little brother is still living the rockstar life in NYC, and my parents are still riding horses and golfing in Chester County.  After a life of constant change, I am okay with asking for a little ‘same-ness’.

I pray that a year from today, the people who matter to me are still a phone call away.  And that in the general scheme of life, not much has changed.  In this day and age, that’s asking for a lot.  I’m asking anyway.

starting over

I decided, when my head finally surfaced after the fiasco of a storm July turned out to be, that while I had twitching fingers, and things to say, I was going to wait and give myself a fresh slate, beginning in August.

Sometimes, life just lays you out flat, and as you stare up into the sky, assessing whether all your limbs are intact, and if you can, in fact, still see clearly and breath, time stops having a quantitative quality.

So here I am, August 1st.  Dirt brushed off the shoulders, standing upright again, and ready to take on the world.  Sort of.

The man and I recently (and that’s the truth ~ we’re only on day #3) began ‘green juicing.’  There is a lot of information out there on green juicing, but I am lucky enough to work for a man whose wife is super duper (technical term) educated and certified on more levels than a person can count.  She sat down with me and we went through the basics and now it is up to the man and I to continue on.

Basically, in a nutshell, blah blah ~ green juicing is really good for you.  Normal, everyday diets don’t tend to include enough body-nourishing food, and green juicing helps you to absorb all the goodness much faster.  As I understand it, juicing separates the juice from the fiber of the plant, therefore eliminating digestion (which would normally take care eliminating the fiber) and it’s like a jolt of goodness straight into your system every time you drink juice.  Huge benefits, plus plus plus right?  Why isn’t everyone jumping on this immediately?

Aaaand there’s the rub…. as anyone who juices knows, juicing is pretty labor and time intensive.  Which makes it a lifestyle commitment.  The man and I are still working this out (as well as different juice concoctions) and it’s definitely one day at a time.

Can I be very honest and admit that after Monday, I was feeling pretty skeptical about the whole process (and pretty hungry).  But by the end of the day yesterday, I was feeling really enthusiastic.  I did feel better ~ even after two days, which was encouraging ~ and once you dig in, everything feels a little less intimidating.

Green juicing is good for a number of things ~ getting healthy, losing weight, staying healthy.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been interested in learning about it outside of necessity ~ but I might not have jumped in both feet first if I hadn’t felt that in the best interests of my health, it was the best choice for me.

Like I said, July was a rager.

A few things I’ve been trying to keep in mind as I navigate this new world of liquid veggies and health ~

1.  The juice and smoothies should be green.  Green leafy veggies are very alkaline and water-rich, plus being full of all kinds of goodness (minerals, enzymes, etc).  The whole point of green juicing and green smoothies is that they are, well, green.

2.  The ratio of veggies to fruit should ideally be 3/4 vegetables to 1/4 fruit.  Newbies (like the man and I) are advised to aim for at least a 50/50 ratio, because you should like what you’re drinking, not choke it down.

3.  An apple can pretty much make any combination of ingredients taste drinkable.  Seriously magic.

We have made several juices and green smoothies so far, but my favorite consisted of the following, put through our 450 watt GE juicer.

G & J’s First Green Juice

5 oz baby spinach

1 bundle organic carrots (I was advised that carrots with the greens still attached are the best, because they are the freshest.  So that is what I used.  Not sure how the taste would be affected if regular, “everyday grocery” carrots were subbed, but I’m fairly certain the juice would be palatable.  I did not, as a sidenote, put the carrot greens through the juicer.)

1 golden delicious apple, cored

 

1. Juice! Enjoy!

The man and I have a centrifugal juicer (things get pushed down through a chute toward a whirring blade surrounded by a mesh cup), so I cut up the carrots and apple into small pieces to make it easier to feed into the chute.  I juiced the spinach first, then the carrots and finally the apple.  Then I pulled out all the pulp, and ran it through two more times (it netted me another 2-3 oz of juice, and I have to tell you, it was worth it).

As I said at the top, sometimes life just lays you out.  And after standing back up and taking stock, sometimes changes must be made.  Starting now, the man and I are making some life changes, and I’m choosing to have faith that these changes are a step in the right direction, toward a healthier ‘us.’ Hope you’re ready to go on the journey!