We all have our ups and our downs. And both are necessary to keep things in perspective. After all, we could not appreciate the sunshine without a rainy day! Some days are jam packed, and I can’t seem to get ahead. Other days seem to kind of drag by. No matter what kind of day it is, though, I try to focus on the positive things. I think keeping a healthy mind and spirit are critical to wellness, and wellness is an important value of mine. As a mother, I think it is super important to keep healthy and to be a good role model for the children. Focusing on the positive is a good way to keep a positive vibe for the kids. I don’t remember who said these wise words, but it sure works: “If you aren’t happy, fake it, and before you know it you have convinced yourself that you are happy”. It also brings to mind one of my favorite Dilbert quotes:
Accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.
I try to approach every day as the pigeon! Sure the statue days happen. And if they didn’t, I would not appreciate when I am the pigeon!
Ok..again my Leo comes out…even in my cooking. Summer sunshine means amazing herbs spring to life in my garden. My favorite of the summer herbs has got to be basil. I wash my hands before I pick the delicate leaves so I can allow the delicious scent to linger on my fingers for a few extra minutes. Then I close my eyes, bring my fingers close to my face and breath deep. Yum!! It is an herb I simply cannot live without. It plays a starring role in many of my recipes. Everyone has basil around in the summer, and there are a million ways to use it, from simple Bruschetta to complicated sauces. Summer bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil is as refreshing as a popsicle! But I am a “basilphile”, so I have to use it all year long. I try to have pots of basil growing in my kitchen all year long (once in a while one of my foodie friends may sneak one out of my kitchen, so I have to keep more than one plant around!). My favorite thing to make with basil is fresh pesto. It takes moments to prepare and can be used in many different ways. Pesto can be liberally poured over pasta making a delicious side dish. It can be brushed onto fish, adding beautiful color and flavor to either delicate or hearty fish. I have doused chicken with pesto, adding flair to an otherwise bland weeknight dinner. Pesto can also be spread onto a sandwich as a savory condiment. I love the freedom to use my flavor packed pesto on most everything! It is simple and makes me look like a rock star in the kitchen at times. Who wouldn’t love that? Pesto is very forgiving too. I have adjusted or substituted ingredients without having to sacrifice flavor. I will pass along my pesto recipe and let you have some fun with it too! It is a crowd pleaser, so make plenty. Bon appetite!
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
FYI- I have tried using toasted pine nuts as well as roasted garlic and it did not make a notable difference in taste. I have also substituted walnuts for pine nuts, and the flavor was great. I have used both “Kraft” parmesan cheese in the green can as well as fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh makes a difference. Use it if you can, but if you only have the green can on hand, go for it! I usually add a little more olive oil if I am putting this on pasta. If you are using dried herbs in a pinch, you also may want to increase the olive oil. Go ahead! Play with this recipe! Have fun and enjoy the amazing flavors!
The beginning of the weekend is ripe with opportunity. My weekends are spent working, grocery shopping, studying, cleaning, socializing, and tackling the never ending laundry piles that three teenagers generate. But Friday afternoons let me dream a little bit. I think of other things, fun things, frivolous things, that can fill my weekend. I love to think about getting cute cloths (that are stylish and actually fit well..) on, powdering my nose, and heading out for a drink or dinner with friends, amazing them with my well rested charming self. What a laugh! Friday nights bring exhaustion, a frozen pizza tossed into the oven, and an early bedtime (if I am lucky!). Not what I fantasize about while sitting at work Friday! This Saturday morning, however, brought a sweet surprise. My teenage daughter wanted to take a brisk cardio walk with her old mom. What a treasure of time. Walking with my daughter on a crisp fall morning was healthy for our hearts and good for our souls! We walked fast enough to raise the heart rate, and slow enough to chat. She didn’t even seem to mind that my running pants made me look like Bozo the clown. We talked about everything, like how the sun on our skin was generating healthy Vitamin D. Cute boys in her school. A bonfire that she was going to Saturday night. An upcoming golf match for her school golf team. My nutrition classes. The upcoming holiday season. It was a sweet treat to have these moments on Saturday to connect with one of my children in such a low key way. Sunday morning coffee and paper reading are a cherished part of my weekend. That first cup of piping hot coffee with the front page is truly delish. But even that paled in comparison to my Saturday morning with my daughter. By dinner time Sunday evening, the realization that the weekend is nearing an end can be a buzz kill! The Friday afternoon fantasies of a well rested leisurely weekend come to a crashing end. The work week looms. Lunches for the children. The final homework push is on. Work reports to contemplate. But this week that isn’t on my mind. The wonderful memory of the time with my daughter propels me into the work week with a warm heart. No Sunday night buzz kill this week! Yahoo!
Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Some days I just want to sit. Some days I am just flat worn out. Life can come at you hard sometimes. I just buckle up, put my head down, and plod through! I have to keep moving, especially when I just want to check out of the craziness for a minute. That is when productivity really occurs. I have to focus on my track, just like The Will Rogers quote. It is easy to get off track sometimes because life throws curve balls. But I have to keep waiting for the next pitch and keep swinging. Thats how to keep healthy! Keep the mind chugging away, even when temptation is telling me to sit and recover from the curve ball. I can’t just sit here. I put on my running clothes and get out there. Once the run begins, once that Ipod is pulsing in my ears, I become powerful! The feeling of wanting to sit and wallow in a bad moment or bad day wash away. In addition to my awesome playlists, I also have inspirational sermons on my Ipod. Some days, that can recharge my battery like nothing else. I trick myself into getting my butt into athletic clothing, and maybe even lie to myself to get myself going. Once I am out there, it feels good! My muscles heat up, by breath deepens, my thoughts become more focused. Sometimes I even shed a few tears on a good run. I let it all hang out! My thoughts return to my track, and I know that I am ready to move forward again. Thanks Will Rogers, for reminding me to keep moving!
We all have our tipping point. I think we have a hard time admitting it, but come on girls, we tip (and I am not talking about butts or boobs. Unfortunately that is not my tipping point claim to fame…). My tipping point may very well be the word yes. Even when its in my own head, yes resounds! Why is that, I often ponder as I am pulling my hair out …due to lack of time to wash it of course. Why do I take so much on and put myself at that tipping point? The funny thing is…the people and things I say yes to are not at the tipping point. I bring them there. Willingly. It really isn’t fair to blame others for me being in over my head with my commitments or schedule when I have to own the yes. Rats! An imperfection highlighted! Ouch! Okay, enough pity. I strictly limit my pity party time. I put 5 minutes on the microwave timer, let the time run out, and move on. Wait a minute here! That is the philosophy I need for that yes word!! Set my microwave timer. I will say yes only in that window of time. This will reset my tipping point. When I feel that tipping point dragging me over to one side, I am going to march over to my microwave, set that timer for 5 minutes, and sit back for 5 minutes of silence. After that, when that word yes is threatening to tip me over, I am going to look at my timer with no time on it and, free of guilt, say no! I might even go to Walmart and invest in a cheap timer to carry with me. What a great out! I feel myself standing straighter already!
Oh Man! Fall is here and its beautiful! When we are steaming through summer in the South, we long for the cool mornings of fall, the changing of the leaves, and even the raking that goes along with it. Getting out into the yard with the sun glinting and moving through the crisp rustling leaves is a joy to the senses. One can get lost gazing at the magnificent flaming oranges of the leaves still clinging to the earthy brown branches juxtaposed with the Carolina blue sky. The sound of children running through the crunchy leaves makes everyone want to race through the yard and giggle. The joys of the perfect succulent fall fruit also comes to mind…apples. I love biting into a big fresh fall apple. It is pure sweetness with a good firm bite! Sometimes I put a swath of peanut butter on my apple slice to get that salty sweet treat. Apples can even fall into the comfort food category when baked, cinnamon wafting through the air, sugar bubbling on top. Yum! There are so many ways to enjoy apples, its hard to pick a favorite. So I spend fall going through my endless repertoire of apple recipes. Some of my favorite are:
8 ounces cream cheese (any kind…I use low fat), softened
1 Jar of Caramel ice cream topping
Whip these 2 simple ingredients together, quarter an apple, and dip away! Some folks substitute the cream cheese with marshmallow fluff. Enjoy!
6 large green apples, or other favorite apple
3/4 cup Oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 C. Butter or margarine, melted
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
Spray a baking dish with non stick cooking spray. Thinly slice the apples and place in the baking dish. Mix the other ingredients together and drizzle over the top like a crumb topping. Put into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Warm comforting aromas hang in the air. Sit back and enjoy! The topping can even be played with a bit, like using brown sugar and white sugar together or adjusting the spices to appeal to different moods or palates. I have served baked apples with pork, and also used it as a dessert. Any way it is served up it is a celebration of the season!
I love the sun! I am a true Leo. When it is sunny, I am happy for sure! Sunny days bring delicious sweet fruit. Wellness is so important to me and getting fruit into my diet is part of my day. When the supermarket produce section lacks the bounty of beautiful summer fruits, I grab frozen fruits. Nothing replaces the sweetness of a fresh peach, but frozen fruits are still a good choice. The problem with the frozen fruit is that sometimes the texture can be a bit mushy when they defrost. The perfect solution is to make a smoothie. I grab some yogurt, milk, frozen fruit, (bananas, by the way, can go into the freezer when they start to turn and you don’t have time to make banana bread) and my stick blender. I just plop all that into a pitcher, and blend away. Sometimes I add orange juice to my smoothie too. It just depends on my mood and what I have on hand. What is great about a smoothie is that it can work with soy products, rice milk, organic yogurt, and any kind of favorite fruit or fruit juice. It is a totally personalized drink! It can be a good way to get some fruit and protein in, and have something quick and refreshing. And sunny! Now its time to share! My children love a smoothie any time of day. There are times when I make smoothies in the evening, and surprise my children with one as we are doing our morning mad dash. Sometimes it is the perfect after school snack. We have even had a smoothie in the evening while having our favorite dinner…breakfast! (Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner every now and again?) So now that it is October, spend a little more time in the frozen food section of the market and grab a couple of bags of frozen fruit. Don’t forget the yogurt and juice. Then go home and make a sunny…and share!!
Holy cow…how time flies. Are the Halloween costumes already clogging the aisles at my local Walmart? Just look at all those bags of spider rings, candy corn, and gourds. Whew. I guess on that note it is important to ponder how time is spent. I think I want to get some personal value out of my house being spotless and my children being perfect. Then I want to bonk myself over the head for such a silly thought! Is that really time well spent? Sure the house needs to be tidy and everyone needs clean undies, but the real value in time is being with loved ones. In our hustle and bustle of everyday life, am I the only one that forgets that at times? Walking to the mail box and chatting with the neighbor. Meeting a friend for coffee. Doing community outreach and helping those that are struggling in these hard times. That is the real value of time. I need to remember to “clock out” if you will, and let “productivity” be measured in relationships, not in simple duties that can really wait until later. Taking a somewhat dark turn, I reflect on being at funerals. People eulogize, and I have never heard some one talk about “productivity”. Reflections are about time spent together. Laughs shared. Moments with meaning being remembered. Vacations. Racquet ball games. College antics. (I remember being at a college reunion, and a bunch of us were at the same hotel. We thought it was hilarious to steal the piano from one of the hotel party rooms. Well…not steal, actually, just move and hide elsewhere on the premises). These are the moments that are to be cherished, and these moments need to be enjoyed every day. When I lay in bed at night, I want to happily drift off to sleep thinking about being with people and the relationships that I built that day. I refuse to lay there and pat myself on the back for vacuuming or making a gourmet meal for my kids. I want to bask in the warmth of my friendships! No wonder we say that we “build relationships”. That is where life’s real productivity lies! And in that also lies Wellness!
I had 3 babies in 4 years. Going to the grocery store with 3 children is an olympic event. There are so many dynamics involved, such as timing, sleep patterns (not mine!), and preschool schedules. My children are out of their toddler years, but I see so many families at the grocery store struggling. I just didn’t seem to have trouble in the store. But I planned…extensively! I always had (and still do) a grocery list going in the kitchen. A grocery list in my house was a living breathing document. The list moved and changed moment by moment. A trip to the grocery store was an event, and we planned for it. Besides the list, I made sure everyone was well rested and well fed. I talked to my children about going to the store and what kind of conduct I expected out of them. I also outlined consequences for bad behavior. For example, I would tell the children that we were going to the store and that they were not allowed to ask for any treats on this particular visit. If they did not behave, the consequence might be that they would not be allowed to watch the Beauty and the Beast movie with the rest of us that afternoon. I also gave my children a list to use at the store. My children did not have to be able to read the items on the list, and having something in their hand was a good distraction. I usually wrote two to three items in magic marker on an index card. An index card might say “MILK APPLES YOGURT” . In the store, I would read the items to my children several times while pointing to the word, and encouraged the “I spy” game for the items. My children enjoyed looking for their items and were very excited when they had success. This technique worked well for many years. I made every effort to avoid taking my children to the store in the evening or right before a meal. To me, that was just asking for trouble, and having three wee ones was hard enough! Why add to the chaos by going into an extremely stimulating environment with a tired group of children? My children are all now teenagers, and our grocery list is still a mainstay in our kitchen. For many years I have encouraged my children to actively participate in making the list. Certain parts of household responsibility must lie with with children. Now if they run out of their favorite shampoo, a major drama for any teenager, it isn’t my fault!
Baking is an exact science. A chemical reaction needs to occur for the recipe to work. Cooking is the opposite. Its a little of this and a pinch of that. Cooking can change with your mood, what you have available, or who will be eating it. Thats what I love. I am touchy feely, as so is my food. I love to take a recipe and then adjust it to make it “mine”. I try to make a recipe exactly according to how it is written the first time and then add notes. My cookbooks are filled with notes of how recipes turned out, what changes to make, and if it should be made again. ( I would like to think that these books will be cherished many years after I am gone and that it is what my kids will fight over..). I write these notes next to the actual recipe. I also have a 3 ring binder in case I print a recipe off of the internet. I can 3 hole punch it and add it in…if it is deemed worthy! Cooking takes experience, and it can be a little scary to begin. I get a little mad if I make a dish that does not turn out and my ingredients and efforts are wasted. But wasted is the wrong word to use. When you learn something, it is not time wasted! Just have a backup plan in the freezer to pull out just in case! When starting, try a recipe that does not have expensive or complicated ingredients. Then jump in and go for it! Have fun! And don’t forget to add your own personal touch!