Wellness Wednesday - Spartan Week Recap

Everything in moderation...including moderation." ~ Julia Child

The week before Thanksgiving I wanted to give up meat, coffee, booze, and sweets for a week.  This was in an effort to get my food choice on track before the holidays came and went, then wondering (knowing) why make pants were a little snug at the end of it all.  It was also to see if limiting these things had any discernible effect on me.  As I said, I know a week is not a very long time so it would probably be too short of a time to notice anything.  In terms of how my body felt, that proved to be correct.  In terms of my mind, I learned/reinforced a couple things about my diet and general mind frame on eating.

I come from stubborn stock, on both sides.  As soon as I'm told I cannot have anything of one thing - I want it more.  I wholly believe in everything in moderation and that is the key to a good diet and mind.  Everyone has their weaknesses and I combat them by not keeping those things in the house (read: potato chips and cookies).  But when out to lunch on a Saturday I'll get a small bag of chips with my sandwich and maybe even a cookie.  I have a little bit of what I love to eat and keep moving.  By not allowing say that one cookie I will allow myself other things (e.g. cheese) and eat more than I should because I feel like a saint (relatively) for giving up all those other things.

One thing that I do not think is good for you in the slightest is fake sugar/artificial sweetener.  I may have a Diet Coke once in a blue moon, but it cannot be good for you and I very much limit it in my diet.  In terms of diet products, I think if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You're better off just eating a little of the real stuff, whatever that may be.

Lastly, a confession.  I didn't make it the whole week and flubbed on one thing - the booze.  I was home in DC on Monday and my dad and I had a wonderful meal out - lots of great conversation and a bottle of red wine to split.  So sorry about that.  But I say live in the moment, don't get carried away, and hop on the treadmill.
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Gift ideas: Stocking stuffers

In the beginning of a series of holiday gift ideas, I thought I would start off with stocking stuffers.  In my family growing up some big ticket items might be in one's stocking.  A check from our grandfather or a necklace I'd been pining after.  This year the gifts may be a bit more modest from my end, so here are a couple ideas for that extra gift to go by the fire.

A magazine subscription ~

Great offers are normally abound right now and it is literally the gift that keeps on giving.  I'm hoping for a Veranda or House Beautiful subscription myself.  But this is a thoughtful and fun gift to throw in.  For the stocking just buy the latest copy of the magazine.  And, since you don't want the magazines to arrive until after the holidays, this is a great last minute gift.

Potions and lotions ~

Men and women alike appreciate good skin care (although not all will admit it).  I think Khiel's has excellent packaging and products for men if you're buying for a guy who might be hesitant about coconut oil.  Also L'Occtaine is a favorite of mine for their Green Tea scent - it's divine.  Their travel size hand lotion is a great gift, and if you're traveling to your holiday destination you don't have to worry about the TSA keeping it.

Cocktail napkins ~

I am a paper lover.  Notecards, stationary, place cards, cocktail napkins, you name it!  A fun, inexpensive gift to throw in a stocking is a package of festive cocktail napkins.  I recommend not buying holiday themed napkins, as their recipient will not be able to use them until the coming year.  Caspari always has wonderful designs and they are a great way to add a little party to one's stocking.

What are your favorite stocking stuffer ideas?  Love to hear them!


Pachar place mats - different options

In researching table setting options and ideas for Thanksgiving I came across these wonderful place mats.  I love the design inspired by Indian block printing, and think they would mix in well with other prints.  They come in two options: hard, cork backed ones or the cotton two-sided ones.  The hard ones are better for easy cleaning yet the soft have the two prints on each.  From Williams-Sonoma, these Pachar Mix & Match place mats will add some spice and order to any table.


Dressing for success

The guilt of not blogging for a week has set in and I am tripling down today.  This product has been on mind to share with my dear readers because it is so amazingly delicious.  Makoto's Ginger Dressing is on my top ten, maybe even five, condiment list.  Which is big, you should see my refrigerator door. 

You will not find it in the salad dressing isle, but in produce area of your local market's refrigerated section.  So if you're buying 2-3 bottles at a time you can't keep it in the pantry which is kind of a bummer.  I use it on salads, to dip steamed veggies in, add it to marinades, and cannot say enough about how tasty I think it is.  The calorie content is also pretty low (80 per serving), and while the fat is higher than a low-fat dressing (7 grams), is is far less than deadly Caesar or ranch.  

Buy a bottle and let me know what you think!

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Rin Tin Tin

I love things with character and have a story.  This applies to both people and design.   I wanted to highlight one of my favorite house features - TIN.  The sound of the rain falling on a tin roof is so cathartic.  I have fond memories of staying in a cabin growing up in the summers, waking up to hearing the raindrops plop down on the roof above.  In terms of kitchens I am a country kitchen type of gal.  If I could somehow meld a farmhouse kitchen with a British countryside feel would be my dream.  Driving across the country you see old rusted tin roofs on farmhouses.  This makes me feel that even though things move pretty fast today, older design elements may help us slow down a bit and acknowledge the past.

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Wellness Wednesday - Tardy and Preholiday Edition

I have been absent for the past week, my apologies!  My brother and old friend came into town for the weekend and I've been busy in general.  OK, lame excuse over, we know that the next six weeks are crazy for most everyone.  Holiday parties, gift buying for family, bosses, friends, traveling, and avoiding getting sick during all of this! 

I have been blessed with a pretty decent metabolism and I try to exercise a good amount to keep it up.  A couple years ago I turned to my friend on a walk when we were both home for the holidays, saying I think I was gaining some weight between her mom's cookies and my love for mashed potatos.  We laughed and said it's downhill from here, no longer are the days where a few days of salads put us back on track.  Efforts and routine need to be implemented before the holidays begin so you/I don't get caught up in the desserts, cocktails, and airport snacks in the coming weeks.  And, that fact that I'm wearing shorts as I type this and it was 90 yesterday, I cannot hide in my cords and sweaters which is just as well.

All this yapping is leading up to my thought to cut back on unhealthy food for the week before Thanksgiving to get myself on track for the holidays.  I am a MAJOR creature of habit, and so when I start to eat unhealthy, extra two cookies before bed?  Sure.  Late night diner food with high school friends?  No problem.  So I have committed for the next week (Thursday to Wednesday) to cut out all sweets and booze.  While I'm making the effort I have decided to give my body a break on the hard to digest foods as well.  That means no meat, coffee, white carbs, and processed and/or fried foods. 

I am going to report back next week about if I think it made a difference.  Not just on the waistline but my overall mood, skin, etc.  I realize a week is probably not long enough to see major changes.  But my thought is that if people did this every month or two it would be a great way to recharge into healthy eating.  Honestly the hardest thing for me is going to be the coffee.  People that say "Just drink tea," obviously haven't met me in an airport before 9 am.  So may I apologize in advance to my fellow travelers next week. 

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Black bean and pumpkin soup

I love soup.  It is (can be) healthy.  It gets better with time.  You can pretty much throw anything in the pot you like.  The ingredients can be very cheap.  My kind of cooking.

But I have a block with dried beans.  Heidi and Molly (and others) say they're so much better.  But the soaking and the draining seemed so tedious.  I know I'm being high maintenance here.  Well not only are they cheaper, have less sodium, but these beans DO taste better when dried and coming from a bag.  Last night I made a black bean and pumpkin soup.  I even soaked the beans overnight on Saturday, drained them and didn't use them until Monday night.  I'm not sure how advised that is.  But I did it and it was fine/tasted delish.

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

1 medium white onion, chopped
2 oz olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 can (12 oz) Corona
1 16 oz dried black beans (soaked overnight) OR canned equivalent (drained and rinsed)
6 cups chicken stock
1 16 oz. pureed pumpkin
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 cinnamon stick

Heat olive oil in dutch oven/large pot, add onion and saute 10 minutes until soft and slightly browned.  Add the jalapeno and carrots to pot and mix for additional 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Add beer to deglaze pan with spices called for and garlic.  Mix and wait 1-2 minutes.  Add pumpkin and incorporate, then adding 4 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and add black beans.  Bring pot to low simmer, uncovered for 1 hour, tasting and adding S&P as necessary.  Add remaining chicken stock as needed because beans will absorb plenty of liquid.  If the beans are still not completely cooked, that's fine, but keep on stove simmering for another 30 minutes until tender.  Use immersion blender to puree half of soup, I eyed it.  You can also take half and put in a regular blender and puree.  Make sure it is cool enough so it does not splatter.

I then let it cool and put in the fridge.  It was dinner last night with some Texas Pete, crumbled tortilla chips, and a lil sour cream.


Wellness Wednesday - Smoothies

Recently I have been making smoothies for breakfast.  They are easy and I normally make too much so I throw the rest in the fridge still in the blender and take it out for a snack adding some extra ice cubes and reblending in the late afternoon.  Some tricks I have learned along the way....

Take fruits that are on the fritz and cut them up in small pieces and throwing in the freezer in small plastic bags.  This is your ice so you have more flavor and better texture.  Also the ripe fruit will have a higher sugar content so this is your smoothies sweetness without adding any additional sugar.  I use diary in my smoothies, normally about 6 oz of skim milk and some nonfat organic plain yogurt.  I don't use vanilla yogurt because of the extra sugar content it adds.  I add the yogurt in batches/spoonfuls until I have my desired consistency.  I then cut up a piece of fresh fruit or two and also add some kale leaves torn up and ginger minced.  I haven't used any additives like flax seeds yet, but I'm intrigued...I might pick something up on my next Whole Foods run.  My favorite combination thus far has been pear, banana, kale and ginger.  Yesterday morning I added a little apple cider idling in the back of the fridge to an apple banana smoothie, pretty sweet, but delicious. 


My smoothies do not look resemble this cornucopia of fruit in the slightest.  But my camera is dead and a stock image it is today.  

Next week I will start a little Wed through Wed project I'll write about here.  I am excited to share. 

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Finding my spots

Wherever one lives they need to have "their spots."  The perfect place to get a cup of coffee, sit, and people watch.  A good dry cleaners.  A go-to weeknight dinner place.  A weekend brunch locale to take out-of-towners.  The problem is I still sometimes feel like an out-of-towner in Miami.  I know there are gems and I love to find them, but unlike New York where you can amble around, Miami is more spread out and you go many places by car.  Thus I think it is sometimes more difficult to happen upon these places.  In my neighborhood I have found a so-so nail place, a cute Friday night date place, an adorable home goods boutique, and a good high-end second hand store.  But I have other categories yet to be filled.  The search continues.  

On Sunday I met a friend's out of town visitors while sitting out by the pool.  Still in town yesterday, I took them to run an errand in South Beach.  While one ran her errand, we sat at the place she always had breakfast with her family when in town on vacation growing up.  This was their breakfast spot.  I have such great memories growing up going to get ice cream after dinner in the summer at "our spots."  We sat and chatted, so nice to make new friends.  I was also happy I had found a breakfast/lunch spot in the beach.  News Cafe, an institution of South Beach I was not yet aware of, we sat in the shade, drinking iced cappuccinos enjoying the morning.  A spot is born. 

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The stripe type

I love stripes. Both for fashion and interior design.  I think they're so classic and have a modern element as well.  In my dream backyard I'd have black iron and teak patio furniture with medium width black and white striped cushions abound.  The skirt shown also comes in a longer version which is to die for.  Hope you likey.

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Wellness Wednesday - Stride searching

Today I signed up for the Miami ING Half Marathon.  It will be my third half marathon, having my first and second in 2009 in NYC and Chicago.  I'm excited!  Signing up for a race gets my caboose in the groove of running.  Why do I need to have a race on the horizon to really remember how much I enjoy running?  Not sure, but the weather here is getting so nice and I have the time to actually train (which I haven't done before in any strict fashion).  I thought why not.

It is on January 29, 2012, so I have a good amount of time in front of me.  I found a 8 week free training schedule online to follow and begin in a few weeks.  For now, I'm just going to go on easy long runs and get back in the swing of running over 5 miles (which I haven't done in months).  Today, I also decided to join TeamFox.  It is Michael J. Fox's Foundation for Parkinson's Research grassroots fundraising arm. The Fox Foundation is an incredible place, so well run in my opinion, and my grandfather fought Parkinson's for more than ten years before he passed away in 2008.  So if I am going to run, I feel I should also do some good for others, and this organization has a place in my heart.

First let me express the #1 thing I need in my training regime -

Wool socks.  I'm verging into TMI territory, but bear with me.  I have to wear these Smart Wool socks on any run more than 3 miles or I get blisters.  My feet get pretty sweaty and these socks do not rub and absorb nicely, so there, aren't you glad you know that.  But seriously, these socks are amazing and I highly recommend them for anyone running or walking long distances.

Tomorrow I'm going to go on a 5 miler and then this weekend do 6-7 I hope.  I never thought of myself as a runner until a few years ago.  I always played sports, but was never the fastest in long distances and was too impatient to slow down and try to find my pace.  Well I found it one early Saturday morning in 2009 in Central Park. I found a man who looked north of 75 just starting around the 6 mile loop in the Park.  I thought to myself, if this man can do this, why the heck can't I?  I plodded 5 yards behind him for 6 miles, got over that mental hump, and have never looked back.  I hope he's still out there in his yellow windbreaker pounding the pavement.

I hope you're finding what makes you happy by being active and pushing your personal boundaries in a comfortable way.  I know that sounds strange, but I think one has to have ownership over the physical activities they do and experiment with new things in a non-abrasive environment.  I was yelled at by coaches long enough, and this elderly gentleman didn't even know I was behind him, but he made me comfortable to be active in another way I now love.

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