You Have The Same Britches To Get Glad In!

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-Jeannetta Marley Donica

Okay, I know this sounds like a crazy title! The only people who might understand this phrase are my siblings. It’s a mantra we heard A LOT around our house growing up. If myself, my brother or my two sisters ever complained about chores, or said we were angry, or were generally disgruntled, my Mother would just purse her lips, fold her arms and tersely say, “Well, you have the same britches to get glad in young lady (or young man).” We all hated hearing her say that. On the surface it seemed like a crazy thing to say. I would think, “What does that even mean?” This saying, coupled with her unnatural love of burning things (the fire department was called to our acreage more than once to help control a “bonfire” that she lit up, but that’s for another blog!), made me believe that my mom was a little off her rocker. She took no guff and condoned no wallowing in pity. She pushed us to be the best we could be and she expected excellence as the rule rather than the exception.

My Mother died at the young age of forty-nine of breast cancer and her favorite catch phrase became lost in time’s wake. Imagine my surprise when I heard the words rolling off my tongue in response to my own kids’ bad attitudes. The first time I said it, my ten-year-old son looked at me as if I had gone crazy. I chuckled to myself as the meaning of the phrase came rushing to me in a flash of insight and suddenly my Mother seemed like a brilliant philosopher and not a raving lunatic. In actuality, her words were profound. I’m not sure even she grasped the deepness of her saying, but the enlightened-ness of that motto represent words to live by. You see; attitude and/or perception are everything.

Your situation (or your britches) won’t miraculously change, but your attitude about the situation (or britches) can change. Changing your outlook really can transform your entire life. It really is simple to modify the story you tell yourself, such as: I’m not overweight; I have the opportunity to learn about getting healthy. I’m not an unemployed loser; I have the opportunity to explore doing something I really love. I’m not so behind on everything; I have the opportunity to become organized. Attitude and perception color everything you do every day. If you tweak your attitude in order to see everything in a better light, the whole world opens up and your life suddenly becomes about opportunities instead of drudgery.

So, far from being crazy, my Mother was, in reality, quite enlightened. I never told her that I admired her brilliance, as I was only eighteen when she died and had not come to fully appreciate her wisdom. However, if I could see her today, I would hug her tightly and explain that her mantra helped mold the positive person I am today. I would tell her thank you, for tolerating only the best from her children. I would convey that I do my best everyday to have only the “gladdest of britches.” Thanks Mother!

Keep you britches glad. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Of course, if you’ve been reading my blog very long you know that I say eating real, whole food represents one of the best ways to keep your britches glad and your attitude awesome! The following recipe is plant based and gluten free. Eat as much as you care for!

Sweet Potato Potage

2-Onions chopped

8-9-Cups veggie broth (depending on how thick you like it)

4-Jalapenos finely chopped (I wear plastic gloves when cutting them up)

6-cups chopped sweet potatoes or yams, peeled (or pumpkin)

2-leeks washed thoroughly and chopped fine

3-cloves garlic, minced

4-stalks celery, chopped

2-cups unsweetened almond milk

¼-tsp cayenne pepper

2-Tbsp coconut sugar

1/2-tsp cinnamon

Dash nutmeg

2 cups toasted walnuts (put in 325 degree F oven on cookie sheet for 6 minutes, take out of oven and stir and return to oven for 6 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool).

Put onion, jalapenos, garlic, celery and leeks in pan with about 1-cup veggie broth and sauté for ten minutes. Add the rest of the veggie broth, sweet potatoes, cayenne pepper, coconut sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to boil and simmer for at least one hour (longer will make it taste better). Add the almond milk and let simmer for about 15 more minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve with walnuts sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

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Reminiscing, Revolution and Risotto

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I have always been an unrooted soul. As Simon Schama writes in his book Landscape and Memory, some people grow legs instead of roots; and my legs have always been stronger than my roots. However, for all of my wandering ways, some of my earliest memories revolve around the landscape and farming in my home state. I grew up roaming through all the nooks and crannies of the Kiamichi Mountains of Southeastern Oklahoma. Really, they are little more than tall hills, but to my flatland sensibilities, they were massive. It wasn’t until I entered into my twenties and beyond that I would meander through the Rockies and the Alps and discover the true definition of “mountain.”

My grandparents owned vast amounts of land in these rolling hills and no matter how far my steps carry me away from Oklahoma, my reminiscences of summers spent in the Kiamichi Mountains seem to always shadow my thoughts. It’s the summer garden that most possesses my memory. Every year, rows of corn, beans of all varieties, tomatoes, marigolds, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, flowers, sweet peas, and best of all watermelons—rows upon rows upon rows—of succulent watermelons were planted with tenderness and care. Flowers, bees, fruit, hummingbirds, worms and photosynthesis worked in tandem to manifest a work of art in its highest form in that garden. And the smell of the garden…even today, I can close my eyes and still breathe in the scent of fecundity that permeated the air in that grand plot. Earth, plants, bugs, blossoms and green, all mixed together in the hot, humid Oklahoma air to produce a bouquet that I could only smell once I passed through the garden gate. The food from that small piece of earth nourished my blood as well as my soul. To my eight-year-old self, it was nearly paradise.

I like to think that the times I roamed in my grandparent’s garden fostered my deep love (bordering on obsession!) of eating fresh and healthy food. I now realize my good fortune of being able to eat whole foods most of my growing up years. Many kids, especially today, are not so fortunate. The consumption of junk food among children is at an all time high—and that characterizes a travesty. All children have the fundamental right to healthy, whole food. It is time for citizens to stand up and revolutionize the food system. Collectively, we have travelled so far from our farming roots in this country, but not so far that we can’t reclaim some of our fertile past and rethink how we eat and provision our tables.

The following represent concrete actions you can take to help change the current corporate food mentality that pervades this country: Consider lobbying your local farmer’s market to take food stamps if they don’t already. Fresh and wholesome food should be available to everyone. If your kids are in school think about initiating a gardening program. Studies show that if kids actively participate in gardening, they consume more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. If you own a house, contemplate all the places you might be able to grow food. Go to a city council meeting and ask if there might be a park where a community garden could be planted. Try and start a gardening for kids program in your city. Seek out local farmers and ask if they will sell their produce directly to you. Find a community supported agriculture program and buy produce from them. Plant more flowers. Buy less stuff. Get your hands in the dirt. Get your soul outdoors. Your health will thank you and your heart will soar. Grow things. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Reminiscing about the past always makes me hungry. I’ve made the following risotto dish on two different continents and in three different countries. It’s always a hit with whatever crowd happens to be gathered around my table. You don’t have to have a special rice to make risotto. It can be deliciously made with short grain brown rice. This recipe has no cheese or butter, but the creaminess of the final dish is astounding. It is time intensive, but that gives you time to visit with friends, think about all your travels or where you want to go and contemplate revolutionizing the world!

Reminiscing Risotto

8 Cups vegetable broth

½ Cup dry red wine (optional)

3-5 Cups mushrooms, any kind, sliced

1 Onion finely chopped

2 Cups short grain brown rice

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tsp dried thyme

4 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt to taste

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a little bit of vegetable broth and red wine and set aside. In a separate pan, heat your veggie broth and boil. Reduce heat and keep broth warm. In large soup pan, add about half your onion/mushroom mixture. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth to the soup pan. Add rice to soup pan and stir over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir until juice is absorbed. Add around two cups of broth to rice/onion/mushroom mixture and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Keep adding broth one soup ladle at a time to the mixture and letting that ladle be fully absorbed before adding the next. Stir constantly and repeat until all the broth has been added and absorbed. This process will take around 50 minutes to complete (but it’s sooooo worth it!). When liquid is mostly absorbed, remove from heat and add in the rest of the onion/mushroom mixture, the nutritional yeast, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt to taste. If you have some fresh thyme, sprinkle it over the top. Enjoy!

Learning & Leftovers!

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

I love to learn new things. I attempt to discover something new, take up a new hobby, or just read something outside my comfort zone at least once a month. Learning, reading, growing should be a part of life until the day you draw your last breath. Unfortunately, too many people hit a certain age and abruptly decide they’ve learned enough, they know it all and close their minds to the input of any new data. This closing of the mind, I believe, leads to many of the problems we have in today’s society.

People read only materials that agree with their viewpoints. They only hang out with friends who completely concur with their ideas. We categorize and pigeonhole, usually at a fairly young age and then would rather die than deviate from our perceived ideology. We decide that we’re Democrat or Republican. Vegetarian or Meat Eater. Atheist or Christian. Mormon or Buddhist. Fox News follower or CNN acolyte. Glenn Beck disciple or Rachel Maddow devotee. From our selected vantage point, we begin to think of those who differ as the “Other,” someone to be suspicious of, and certainly no one to whom we would listen. Everything the “Other” says is suspect and they are likely attempting to cause the annihilation of society, or at the very least, the destruction of our ideals.

The media constantly bombards us with information, telling us how we should think and how we should feel! We have forgotten how to reason for ourselves. We have lost the skill of trying to comprehend what an opposing voice might be trying to say. We talk too much and contemplate too little.

I sincerely believe that someone with differing political or religious viewpoints from myself probably has more in common with me than less. I’m certain that my Republican neighbor, like myself, wants schools where kids can learn in a secure and scholarly environment. I have no doubt that they want safe streets where children can ride bikes and neighbors can walk dogs. They’re saving money in a college fund and hoping that they’ll be able to take a nice vacation in the summer, as am I. Just because our opinions differ on some fairly major issues (such as abortion and gay rights) doesn’t mean they are evil or that they are so different from me that I could never speak to them. We have let the media tell us that our differences are so vast that we must, in fact, be mortal enemies. Both “sides” of the media do it. They tell us that the agenda of the Other must be feared.

I’m here to say FALSE. I’m calling bullshit on the media and their constant blathering about how Americans should think and feel. It’s time to turn off the noise and turn on the learning. Pick up a book or magazine that represents opposing views from your beliefs. Read it cover to cover. You might find that some of the arguments represent valid ideas. Maybe you won’t, but you’ll be able to debate your point more effectively knowing what constitutes the contrasting perspective. Have a neighbor over for dinner or coffee whose religious beliefs differ from yours. You don’t even have to talk about religion – just listen and get to know them as people, not as Mormons, Buddhists or Baptists. Read, read, read. Read books, read newspapers, read magazines, read cereal boxes. Get informed, learn and arrive at your own conclusions, free of Beck ranting in your ear, or Maddow bellowing in your face. You don’t need someone interpreting information for you. You are smart. You are capable. Just like Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” You might find yourself going places that you never dreamed, lovely places of understanding and cooperation, all because you chose to read, grow, learn.

Reading, growing and learning can take a lot out of a person. It’s possible that you won’t want to stop and cook a full fledge meal while you’re taking in all this new and wonderful information! On those days, I like to go to the fridge, pull out all the leftovers and make a “Learning Day (or lazy day) Leftover Salad.” Last night I had one of these and it was delicious. Use whatever you have, but mine consisted of the following items. Keep Learning. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Leftover Salad

One LARGE ceramic bowl. I suggest buying some pretty ones. It always makes leftovers more appealing if served in a nice dish. You can find inexpensive ones on-line, at discount stores, or at thrift shops.

Organic baby greens

Leftover kidney beans (about 1 cup)

Leftover brown rice (about 1 cup)

Leftover corn (about 1 cup)

Leftover guacamole to taste

Olives

Jalapeno jelly (homemade by a friend)

Jalapenos

Sambal oelek

Balsamic Vinegar

Put a LARGE amount of greens in bowl. Add beans, rice & corn (I don’t even heat them up). Top with guacamole, olives, a dollop of jalapeno jelly, chopped jalapenos, Sambal oelek to taste and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. Toss. Enjoy.

Note: This is what I had leftover last night. Other nights, I might top the greens with leftover soup and tamari sauce. Soups, lentils and beans serve as wonderful salad dressings. Use whatever you have. Get creative!

Ode to Tolkien and Potato Pot Pie!

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“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I love The Hobbit. I love everything about it. I especially love Hobbit homes and Hobbit accents and don’t even get me started on Hobbit pies! I truly believe if we did value food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would indeed be a merrier world! Hobbits earnestly enjoy eating. Their larders spill over with such wholesome foodstuffs that it makes me want to crawl in the book and enjoy a meal with them! Freshly harvested produce, barrel aged wine, wheels of ripened cheese and bread rolls right out of the oven all make Hobbit food seem mouth wateringly delicious. You won’t find a processed morsel anywhere in their cupboards. No Velveeta cheese or cream of mushroom soup, just good nourishing food.

In this post, I’m encouraging you to go all Hobbit and start buying and cooking with only real, whole food. Through the years, corporate food conglomerates have made their products appear indispensable, while they get richer and the average American becomes unhealthier. Here’s a brief history of how convenience food became so prevalent in our society.

Industrial foods’ beginnings were firmly rooted in military food production. Meals for soldiers needed to be easy to prepare and have a long storage life. Post WWII, many companies that once provided the military with food were left with manufacturing facilities that risked becoming idle. These industrial facilities developed novel foods specifically intended for home use. As new technological innovations began showing up in middle class homes, such as the freezer and, by the end of the Sixties, the microwave, the newly mechanized kitchens became particularly suited to using foods where much of the preparation had been done outside the home. Additionally, the use of artificial flavors and colors made industrial foods look and taste more appealing. Convenience food significantly reduced the preparation time for creating a complete meal, which made it appealing to women laboring in the kitchen.

The growing of food had once been rooted in a relationship between growers and the earth in an intimate process. It involved farmer, land, and community all working together to provide nourishing food from a sustainable system. A deep love of the land lay at this system’s roots. However, with the onset of the “food-industrial complex,” this intimate process gave way to food produced in factories, as well as volume of production and profit.

As Americans became busier and busier, buying these processed foods helped put food on the table quickly at the end of a hard day. Industrial food companies poured enormous amounts of money into making the public believe that their products were as healthy or healthier than home produced goods. We bought it. We believed them; and now, we are sicker and more obese than ever. Studies reveal that seventy percent of Americans are obese or overweight and doctors predict that by 2030 fifty percent of our citizens will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Another study shows that ninety-four percent of the calories consumed by Americans come from food that provides no real nutrition. It’s time for a big change in the way we eat.

When you go to the grocery store, buy only real, whole food. If there’s a name you can’t pronounce in the ingredients, then for heaven sakes don’t eat it! If it comes in a box, bag or can – don’t buy it! While industrial food corporations might seem to control the food supply, we citizens have the power to completely change the system. Consumers do have a choice of how they provision their kitchens; they can simply opt out of buying mass produced food. The humble dollar can send a powerful message. With every bite, those who hold enormous power can be told unmistakably that they are not as formidable as the masses!

So take a page out of Tolkien and begin to genuinely “value food and cheer and song.”  When you reach for first breakfast or second breakfast or Elevenses, make sure that your food is real, fresh and whole. The following recipe might appear complicated, but if you make the crust ahead of time (say on the weekend) and freeze the dough, it really is a simple, wholesome and kind of a Hobbity meal. This is one of my family’s favorite meals! It is completely plant based and gluten free. It uses some processed ingredients, but they are minimal and I can pronounce everything in all the ingredients! Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Potato Pot Pie

Gluten Free Pie Crust:

I’ve tried many different gluten free flours over the years for my piecrusts, but this really is the best that I’ve found:

3-Cups Pamela’s Bread Mix (this flour mix is really healthy and can be found at most health food stores – or alternatively you can order it from Amazon. The cheapest I’ve found it is at Amazon).

12-TBSP Earth Balance spread (I use the soy free version)

¼-Cup ground flaxseed

8 to 9 TBSP ice cold water (use more water if necessary to get everything to stick together)

Put the flour and ground flax in a bowl and add Earth Balance spread. Cut “butter” in with a pastry cutter until the dough resembles coarse meal. Slowly add water one TBSP at a time until the dough comes together and you can form a ball out of it. Put in a bowl or plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.

Potato Filling

3-Cups veggie broth

1-2-Cups almond milk (unsweetened)

3-4 TBSP arrowroot powder

4-5 Medium potatoes washed and diced into fairly small pieces

2 Cups chopped carrots

1-Cup chopped celery

1-Cup sliced mushrooms (any kind)

1-Large onion, chopped

2-Cups fresh or frozen peas

1-Cup fresh or frozen corn

2-TBSP Finely chopped parsley

2-Tsp sage

2-Tsp thyme

Freshly ground pepper

In large soup pan, put onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms along with ½ cup water and sauté for around ten minutes, until onions become transparent. Add veggie broth and potatoes. Bring to boil and cook for around ten more minutes. Add peas, corn, parsley, sage and thyme. Add one cup of almond milk and bring to gentle boil. In separate bowl add one cup of almond milk (less if you like your filling really thick). Add arrowroot to almond milk and whisk briskly. Add arrowroot-almond milk mixture to soup pot. Stir well until mixture is beginning to thicken. Remove from heat and add in freshly cracked pepper to taste. Pour mixture into large casserole dish. (15 x 10 x 2) Roll pie dough out on well-floured parchment paper. Cut into different designs and use a spatula to pick up dough and place over filling. Arrange dough pieces so that the filling is well covered. Make slits in dough with sharp knife to give some “venting” holes. Bake in a 375 F oven for one hour. If the crust starts getting too brown, cover with foil for the last fifteen or twenty minutes. Let cool for around 15 – 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy.

Note: If you have too much filling for the pan, just freeze it and use next time!

Chillaxin’ and Chowder

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It’s Friday, one of my favorite days. The possibility of the weekend looms large. A whole two days to forget about work and hang out with friends and family. As Friday eases into the evening, it has always felt like kind of a magical time of the week, like the universe shifts a bit and breathes a collective sigh of relief that a two day reprieve is eminent. Whether your days off fall on the weekend, or sometime during the week, there is something special about knowing you have a “rest” day ahead.

Being able to truly relax represents something that helps the body heal and the mind rejuvenate. It creates a balance in the body that allows you to be a better human and a more engaged person. Unfortunately, studies show that Americans are finding it more and more difficult to de-stress and chill out. According to Harvard Health, almost “75% of Americans…said that their stress levels are so high that they feel unhealthy.” Americans are literally stressing themselves to death. In order to live an abundant life, you must find ways to deal with the stress of living. I know that some people face monumental struggles everyday and the thought of relaxing in the midst of such challenges appears impossible. However, in order to shine in this life, finding peace in the midst of overwhelming obstacles represents an imperative. You don’t have to go on a retreat or spend a ton of money in order to find your peace. The following list represents inexpensive, yet totally effective ways to relax and chill out.

Unplug. Put away your computer, cell phone and any other electronic devices. Have a weekend where you don’t connect on any social media and you don’t text with friends.

Play games with the family. I’ve already blogged about the awesomeness of game playing, but I say it again, because it really embodies a great way to reconnect as a family and unwind.

Take a walk, even if it’s freezing cold or blisteringly hot. Get outside and feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Soaking up nature – even in your neighborhood – clears the head.

Take a hot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils. Run a hot bath. Put in about a cup of Epsom salts and several drops of essential oil (I like lavender and/or rose). Light some candles and put on soothing music (I have a George Winston Pandora feed that’s fantastic – it’s okay to use your phone for music)! Pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cup of herbal tea. Soak in your tub for 30 – 45 minutes. Threaten on pain of death anyone who interrupts your “spa” time!

Meditate, pray or sit quietly for twenty minutes. Whatever you want to call it, being still for 15 – 20 minutes has a wonderful effect on your psyche. Breathe deeply and concentrate on things that bring you joy. You’ll be surprised how rejuvenated this makes you feel.

TURN OFF THE TELEVISION. This is a biggy and perhaps one of the most difficult to do. Not only do I recommend turning off the TV, I suggest cutting the cable all together. For the most part, the shows that the networks air create tension and reduce relaxation. I’m going to do an entire blog next week about television and how it causes stress. Try to go a whole weekend without watching anything, movie or television show. Besides, you’re too busy taking walks, playing games, meditating and soaking in tubs to watch television!

Eat high quality, whole food. Eating healthy food can change your whole mood. Ingesting plenty of complex carbohydrates, fruits and veggies takes stress off your insides, so you can feel calm on the outside. Try to go a whole weekend without eating any processed food. Plan ahead and have tons of fruits and veggies ready to eat. Watch the grocery store fliers and buy the produce that’s on sale for the week. Have some whole grains cooked and ready. An entire weekend of eating whole food will leave you energized and ready for the week ahead. The following recipe is incredibly easy to make and really inexpensive. I call it my Chillaxin’ Chowder because the nutrients it contains helps me de-stress and feel awesome! Relax. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Chillaxin’ Chowder! (Adapted from The Starch Solution’s Quinoa Chowder)

8 Cups vegetable broth

1 Cup quinoa, I use red quinoa (rinse it thoroughly under running water using a fine meshed strainer. If you don’t rinse, it will be bitter)

5 Cups chopped potatoes, any kind

2 Sweet onions, finely chopped

8 Cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped jarred jalapenos (you can use fresh, but use less)

4 Cups fresh or frozen corn, thawed

1 Cup unsweetened almond milk, or milk of your choice (unsweetened)

8 Cups fresh spinach, chopped

Chili sauce to taste

Fresh parsley

Add broth, quinoa, potatoes, onion and garlic to large soup pot along with 4 cups water. Bring to boil and reduce heat; cook until potatoes are tender, around 30 minutes. With a potato masher, mash the potatoes in the soup. Add in the jalapenos, corn and almond milk. Cook for around 15 minutes more. Add in the spinach and simmer just until spinach is tender (about 5 minutes). When serving, add chili sauce to each bowl. Sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

Become a Workout Warrior

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Today I’m writing about how to turn yourself into a workout warrior! Many people I know despise the very word exercise. It conjures all sorts of images like pain, the gym scene, pain, hours and hours of pounding your body, deprivation and did I mention pain? Those notions about exercise are so last season and today I’m here to deliver the best news. Exercise can actually be…wait for it…ENJOYABLE!

We all know moving the body exemplifies a great way to stay healthy. But let me just list a few of the benefits (as described by the Mayo Clinic) of exercise. 1. It helps keep you at an ideal weight. 2. It helps combat disease. 3. It improves your mood. 4. It boosts your energy. 5. It improves your sex life.

If we know that exercise provides multiple benefits, then why oh why do so many people find it soooo hard to do everyday? I think the answer lies partially in perception. William Blake once wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see everything as it is…. Infinite.” Meaning that your perception colors (and in the case of exercise, limits) everything you do. Part of this negative perception of exercise comes from the industry itself, which works very hard to convince people that they need special powders, potions, lotions, equipment, shoes and pills in order to get in shape. The fact of the matter is you don’t need anything special, except a little motivation, to start your journey towards fitness.

First of all, I suggest forming a picture in your minds eye (a perception) of how you see yourself in six months to a year of kick ass working out. I’m not talking about getting a picture of some skeletal model in your mind. I’m talking about you: Fit. Buff. Awesome! Skinny is also so last season. Don’t aim to be skinny, aim to be healthy! Second, throw away the tired notion that working out has to be an arduous process. If you haven’t been moving your body much, start out with a simple goal, such as, I’m going to walk twenty minutes, three times a week. Get your day timer out and schedule in when you are going to walk. Make an iron clad deal with yourself that you will not miss your workout dates. Treat it like an important business meeting and keep that date with yourself. No.Matter.What! If you can find a friend to walk with you, it might be easier to keep your exercise appointment, because you know someone else is counting on you to get your butt out the door!

After you’ve met your walking goal for several months, begin upping your time. Add in another day of walking, or lengthen your time walking to thirty minutes. Keep adding on time until you are walking 45 minutes per day 5-6 days per week. Then, begin exploring other options of working out. You might decide that you want to throw in some running while you’re out walking. If not, not worries. Not everyone is destined to be a marathon (or even 5K) runner. Try looking at your local library for workout videos, such as yoga, weights or Pilates. Take in an exercise class at a YMCA or yoga studio. In my small town, we have a yoga coop, several gyms, a YMCA and a few ballet studios that offer great deals on all different types of classes. I personally never go to classes or gyms, as they don’t really appeal to me. Your goal should be to work out an hour a day, everyday. You can have one “rest” day, but try to at least get in a walk or put on some music and dance!

I have a motto about working out: I exercise one-hour everyday unless it’s Christmas or I’m vomiting. No Excuses. Once you make exercise a habit, I promise that it will become so important to you that you will miss it on the occasional day that you can’t fit it into your schedule. I sometimes have to drag my butt out of bed at 4:30 am to exercise because I know the day is so full, I won’t get it in otherwise. But it’s totally worth it. I always feel like a badass when the blood starts pumping and it’s only 4:45 in the morning! Just make a goal and start. Before you know it, you will be feeling stronger, seeing muscle form and perceiving yourself as a workout warrior!

Be sure you are eating enough high quality calories of complex carbohydrates so you have the fuel you need to make it through your workouts. If you’re not eating enough, you won’t have the motivation you need to exercise. The following recipe is gluten free, plant based and full of veggies and complex carbs. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Workout Warrior Pasta Bowl

16 oz package of spiral brown rice noodles (I use the Tinkyada brand)

2 Onions, diced

4 Cloves garlic, minced

2 Bell peppers, diced

1 Cup mushrooms, chopped (any kind, use more if you like)

2 Zucchinis, chopped

2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved

½ Cup Kalamata Olives, chopped

¼ Cup pine nuts (optional)

Fresh cracked pepper

Sea salt

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Oregano

Fresh Basil

High quality balsamic vinegar

Cook noodles in boiling water for 14 minutes. Drain, rinse and put into very large bowl. While noodles are cooking, in a heavy bottomed skillet, add zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, garlic and onion. Add about half a cup of water and sauté veggies for around 10 – 15 minutes, or until tender. Put veggie mixture into bowl with noodles. Add the cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, pine nuts, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt to taste. Add in as much fresh thyme, oregano, and basil as you desire (if you don’t have fresh, add in dry spices to the sautéing veggie mixture). Splash a good bit of balsamic vinegar over the top – to taste. Mix the whole dish well with salad tongs. This dish is good hot or cold. Enjoy!

Note: you can also add a high quality ready-made pasta sauce over the top as well. Sometimes I use one of the Muir Glenn marinara sauces.

Serendipity and Soup

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Serendipity is one of my favorite words. Not only does the meaning rock, I just like saying the word. It rolls off the tongue in a happy kind of way. The dictionary defines serendipity as: “Luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.” I have had many opportune moments in my life and I believe there are certain things you can do to ratchet up your serendipitous experiences.

It has been said that luck (or serendipity) follows those who work hard and prepare. I completely concur with that statement. If you want something and decide to work hard toward that purpose, you will undoubtedly realize your goal. You have to prepare, so when serendipity comes knocking, you can open the door of opportunity. You can’t sit on the sidelines and feel disgruntled when things don’t go your way. You have to act to realize.

No matter how old you are, no matter what has happened in your past, if you have a goal, don’t let anyone tell you all the reasons you can’t achieve it. In fact, it’s probably best to distance yourself from the naysayers. They will only drag you down and make you doubt your abilities.

I’ll give you an example from my personal experience. I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree until I was 43-years old. I worked hard, finished and then was offered an assistantship to continue my education and complete my master’s degree. All tuition was paid for and the department gave me a really cool job to boot! I finished my masters in a year and a half, as opposed to two years, because a fantastic teaching opportunity presented itself if I could finish a semester early. I’m now a lecturer at university, in addition to having another writing job on the side! I couldn’t see exactly where I would land when I re-started my education, but serendipity kept showing up, as I worked hard preparing; and, I kept taking the opportunities presented to me

When it comes to serendipity, good old-fashioned hard work, towards a concrete goal, will always increase your odds of fate working in your favor. Opportunities really are everywhere, you just have to be prepared to grab ahold when you seen one you like!

When you’re working hard toward attracting more serendipity into your life, you must consume enough high quality calories to keep your brain fueled and your body strong. Once again, we’re back to food!  If you are carb-starved, you won’t feel like keeping up a good work ethic. Having a big pot of soup cooked and ready to serve will keep you full, satisfied and bursting with energy to strive toward your goal. I like to make a HUGE batch of soup on Saturday or Sunday. That way I have a ready-to-serve healthy meal prepared when hunger strikes. The following recipe keeps well all week and can be served with a grain of your choice such as millet, quinoa or rice. Here’s to working hard and enticing more serendipity into your life. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Serendipity Soup (Adapted from The Starch Solution)

2 onions finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

2 cups lentils (any kind)

2 cans chickpeas, drained

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes

2 cups chopped potatoes

2 cups chopped sweet potatoes

½ cup chopped mushrooms (any kind)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons chili paste. I use Sambal Oelek, found in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores.

4 cups chopped fresh spinach or kale

Sea salt to taste

7-8 cups vegetable broth or water (depending on how thick you like it)

Fresh cilantro

In large soup pot add onion, garlic and ginger. Pour in ½ cup water and sauté for around 10 minutes. Add paprika, cumin and coriander, along with the lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, potatoes and the water or veggie broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for around an hour (until potatoes are good and soft; you really can’t simmer it for too long). Add the lemon juice, chili paste and greens and cook until greens are tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. I like to add some fresh cilantro to the top of mine.

Note: you really can’t go wrong with soup. If you want to add more/different veggies or spices, feel free to experiment to come up with a recipe that is more suited to your tastes! Enjoy!