Friday, August 31, 2012

Green Smoothie Challenge

Photo courtesy of

Katherine of the Real Food Runner Blog just sent me a very fun invitation.  She is running a Back to School Green Smoothie Challenge.  She had me at "green smoothie"!
It is an easy challenge to do.  Simply have one green smoothie each day, September 3-10, 2012.
I wanted to share this as soon as I got her email because I wanted to give all of you a chance to make your grocery lists.
To officially join the challenge head on over to Katherine's blog and comment on her post about the challenge.  She will be posting green smoothie recipes during the week and I am going to, also!
To get started and to get you excited about the challenge here is a favorite green smoothie recipe of mine:

8 oz coconut water
1 banana, sliced
1-2 handfuls of kale
A dash of local honey
A handful of ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend using the "smoothie" setting until thoroughly combined.

If you want to do the challenge but you aren't big on buying bunches of produce or maybe you don't have the time to blend, you can still participate.  Nearly all grocery stores have bottled green smoothies, like Naked or Bolthouse Farms.  Each bottle contains 2 servings so you would only need to buy a few bottles to get through the challenge.

Make sure you head over to to let Katherine know you will be participating and please comment below as well...I want to know who's in!

If you are an Instagram addict like me lets go ahead and IG it up with #greensmoothiechallenge


Unplug For Love

One of the many fun things that take place in the Instagram world is monthly photo challenges.  I like them because it is a fun way to get to know the people I am following and also to share a little snippet of my day.  I have done daily random photo challenges, artsy photo challenges, and fitness photo challenges.  Just a few days ago a fellow IG'er posted a new challenge, Unplug for Love.  It sounded interesting so I read the list of the daily photo ideas.  The photo challenge list for September gives daily ideas such as "Listen" and "Something Unexpected."  30 days worth of prompts on how to unplug for that day.  It sounds silly, doesn't it?  Using a photo app to take a picture of yourself NOT using your electronic device?  So I headed over to to find  out a little more.
It turns out that I am not the only one that feels like my family and I are spending too much time with our iPhones and iPods.  For several months now I have had the grand notion that on Sundays JF, the boys and I would turn our devices off and spend the entire day doing family activities.  You know, like baking muffins and making candles :)  That has yet to happen.  But after reading the original Unplug for Love post I became re-inspired.
Even though the challenge does not officially start until September 1st, on Tuesday I decided to give this whole unplugging thing a try.  I had just picked up Levi from school and we were home.  This is typically the time of day where I jump on the computer or my phone and he watches a movie or plays on the iPod. Sounds like a wonderfully disconnected time, huh?  Levi turned on the TV and "Arthur" was on.  He knows that I love Arthur so he came to tell me and asked if I would watch with him.  Being completely honest here, I would normally tell him to go watch by himself while I continue to blog or check emails or enter calories into MyFitnessPal.  But this day I pressed the pause button.  I placed my phone down and told Levi that he got me all to himself.  That I was putting my phone down and spending time with him.  He snuggled up with me and we watched Arthur.  I held his tiny hand and smelled his little-boy sweaty head.  Lots of cheek kisses and squeezes, too.  In all it was maybe a ten minute moment before Ezra's bus came and we began our evening routine, but it was ten precious minutes with my 4 year old boy on his last first day of preschool ever.  It was beautiful.
So I am sharing the Unplug for Love movement and asking you to give it a try.  You don't have to be on Instagram to do it.  You can share on twitter (#unplugforlove) or Facebook.  Or don't share at all!  Just use the list as a guide to help you step back each day and enjoy the little moments.

I would love to hear how you unplug.  If you are an Instagrammer make sure to follow @aedriel and to tag #unplugforlove.  For my readers I would also love it if you tag me in the photo as well (@sallylouwho)

Have a beautiful Friday!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2 moves to a toned core!

You work out.  You eat right.  You are in search of toned abs.  Today I would like to share with you two exercises that will help you achieve that.  Both of these exercises are from the Pilates Ab Series.  They are both also copied often in so many other fitness classes.  You have probably done a variation of them since high school gym class.  But one of the many reasons Pilates works better than other forms of core work is because you get your body into the proper form so that the exercise is done correctly and more efficiently.
First, lets talk about your head and neck.  Proper alignment here will not only help strengthen your upper abdominals but will also keep your neck pain-free.

Look up and over at your navel, not at your legs or the ceiling.
Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent.  Allow your spine to lengthen, closing the space between your back and the floor.  Look up and over at your navel, creating a "candy cane" neck.
Use this for any sort of ab work or floor work where your head is lifted.  The top "no" example is placing strain on the head, neck and upper back.  The bottom "yes" example engages the upper abdominals to lift the upper body.  When done properly you should not feel any strain or pull in your neck.  Practice!

Double Straight Leg Lower Lift
Long name for a leg lower :)  This is an exercise I see everywhere.  I used to do them in high school holding onto a chair.  I have also worked with a partner and stood above my work out buddies head and pushed their legs to the floor and they resist it.  I would bet 1 million dollars that I was not using proper form.  So, here is how to do it correctly:
  1. Finger tips point to ears, shoulders relax away from ears.  Peek up and over at the navel.
  2. Legs are glued together in Pilates V (heels together, toes fist-width apart) and lifted to the ceiling.
  3. Scoop, or close off space between your back and the floor.
  4. Lower you legs keeping your gaze steady at your navel.  DO NOT let your back arch off the floor.  If it does you are going to far!  It's okay if you only lower your legs a few inches in the beginning.  The movement will grow as your strength does.
  5. Return your legs to the starting position (90 degree angle from the floor.
  • Inhale as your lower your legs, exhale as you lift
  • Keep your tailbone "heavy" on the floor and your back on the floor.
  • If your next starts to hurt lower your head.
  • 5-10 reps

Legs together, candy cane neck

Head does not move at all, back does not arch

Criss Cross
I know you have done this one, too!  More widely known as Bicycle, this is another staple in the gym world.  Let's work on form, shall we?
You can go directly from Double Straight Leg Lower Lift (above) to Criss Cross.

  1. Finger tips point to ears, shoulders relaxed.  Look up and over at the navel.
  2. Draw your left knee in, stretch your right leg long
  3. Twist to take your right armpit to your left knee cap.  Turn your gaze to look at the back elbow (left in the picture)
    1. Why armpit and not elbow?  This movement allows your to lift up and over while twisting rather than just rocking side to side.  It also allows the chest to remain open for proper breathing.
  4. Return to center as you inhale
  5. Exhale and switch directions, taking the left armpit to the right knee, gaze follows the right elbow.
  • No space between back and floor.
  • Legs float along an imaginary center line.  It's easy for the legs to get all wonky here but press them in to center line (imagine a wall or plate of glass that they are sliding along.
  • Shoulders "in the back pockets."
  • Legs higher in the beginning to make it easier on the back.  You can take them lower to the floor as your strength increases.
  • 5-10 each direction.

"Armpit to knee" or "Elbow to toes"

Keep your chest open and your tailbone heavy

Try these out.  Let me know what you think.  As you can see, I did them on my living room floor.  You can do them anywhere and it takes under 5 minutes.  Combining these two exercises works the abdominals and the obliques so that you are hitting every part of the stomach area.  Working obliques = a tighter, toned core!  Do them every day and you will start seeing results fast!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The "I don't feel like cooking dinner" Dinner

Cooking is something that is fun for me. I love finding new recipes as well as creating my own.  Over the years I have gotten pretty good at "just knowing" what flavors I can combine to make a dish taste great.  Somedays I spend hours in the kitchen making homemade tomato sauce, zucchini chips, muffins, casseroles or whatever I sounds like fun.  Then, other days, I have completely NO desire to cook anything.  Do you ever feel that way?  Yesterday I got quite a bit accomplished around the house--cleaning, folding and sorting laundry--your basic mom stuff.  And then it was 4:00 pm, when I would normally start dinner.  Nope.  Didn't want to.  So, I turned on another episode of Mad Men and continued folding clothes.  Then 5:00 pm.  A call from JF saying he was on his way home.  I told him I had no motivation to cook.  No, no, I wasn't sick or sad, just not in the mood.  So, back I went to Mad Men. We had a few errands to run so it would have been easy to convince my boys into grabbing take-out.  But, then I thought about it.  JF and I try to avoid fast food and try to keep our boys from eating too much junk.  We also, thankfully, have a fridge and pantry full of food.  So I sucked it up and headed to the kitchen.  Here is what I made.  First time ever, but pretty much just a variation on any other chicken recipe.  Remember:  brown your meat.  Add a liquid.  Add more flavor.  Works every time!

Cut chicken into small pieces.  Heat your skillet, add olive oil, heat the oil, brown the chicken until its a bitt crisp.

3/4-1 cup fresh salsa.  Add to skillet with browned chicken stirring constantly for a minute.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Add a can of kidney (or your favorite) beans, with about half the reserved liquid.  Stir and bring back to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  OR cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer for the next hour.

Serve with steamed broccoli or your favorite veggie.

So, there it is.  My lazy-day, don't feel like cooking meal.  Healthy and simple.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I flew on an airplane! In the SKY!

It's funny the little mantras that help me throughout the day.  When I am feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just having a crummy day I like to look back on what I have accomplished.  In the past two years I have done quite a bit to challenge myself in a healthy way and to not let my anxiety hold me back.  At first, going to the grocery store during a thunderstorm was a huge success.  Then driving to the city--by myself!!-- at night.  Small things that become obsessions then fears and then, finally, victories.
Last summer I was in a position where I had to either get continuing ed credits for my Pilates certification or obtain my next level of certification.  Pilates trainings are few and far between in the Kansas City area, especially those by Peak Pilates.  I knew that I was going to have to travel and travel far.  The nearest training locations last summer were Boulder or Austin.  My aunt lives in Austin so that seemed like a great choice.  Either way I was going to have to fly.  So, I enrolled in the training in Austin.  I booked my flights and made travel plans.  It was really happening!  Eeek!

Let me start this by saying:  I LOVE to fly.  I love buying tiny toiletries.  I love packing my suitcase.  I love rolling my suitcase through the airport, boarding the plane, sitting in my seat.  I love the feeling of taking off and landing, gazing out at the clouds and the endless blue sky. 

 Okay, then, so why was the idea of flying last year such a big deal?  Big enough of a deal to make my heart race, my palms sweat, and to even contemplate getting a note from my doctor to try and convince Peak Pilates to let me have an extension on my certification expiration?  Because I also have quite a bit of anxiety about flying.  I used to fly about once year and didn't really think twice about it.  But isn't that another thing anxiety robs us of?  Something that used to seem very easy and even fun becomes a big deal.  Something to anticipate with fear.  I like to feel like I am in control.  By stepping onto a plane I am automatically not in control.  The pilot is.  The weather is.  What if we don't land?  I can step back and logically say that everything will be fine.  But...what if?
And then comes my other, even greater, fear.  What if I am on the plane and I have a panic attack?  A fear of being in a confined space.  Here's how it plays out in my mind:
I have a seat.  The plane takes off.  And...suddenly I am panicking.  Most of us know the feeling.  Racing heart, sweaty, the feeling of wanting to escape.  But I can't on a plane.  If I were on the ground I could simply escape.  Go home, pull the covers over my head, and hide.  But on an airplane?  I'm stuck.  And then my imagination goes even further.  I'm crying, pacing, of course an air marshal is there and I am tasered.  Embarrassing.  Uncomfortable. CNN-worthy drama. And...completely unlikely to happen. 
Plus, deep down, I really wanted  to fly.  One of my long-term goals is to become a Peak Pilates teacher-trainer.  Meaning that I would train others to be Pilates instructors.  Teacher-trainers travel throughout the entire world for trainings.  I really don't think Peak would pay for me to take trains and boats in order to run a training.  So, in order to help me reach future goals I knew this was a fear I had to tackle head on.

So, how did I do it?  How did I go from wanting to cancel my training or drive 12 hours all by myself?  I talked to my therapist, of course :)  Here is what helped me successfully fly through the air:

In a car, or at work, I am essentially under the same "lockdown" that I was fearful of with flying.  I can't leave whenever I want.  While driving I have to wait until I arrive at my destination.  At work, I have to keep teaching until the class is over.  It's essentially the same with flying.  Have I ever felt panic while driving?  Of course!  What did I do to handle it?  Breathe.  Focus on something else (planning dinner for the next day, going over something I have memorized like a song or the mat order for Pilates helps me) until the car ride is over.  So, I sat back and asked myself these questions:

  • How long is the flight?  About 90 minutes.
  • Could I, if necessary, handle my panic symptoms for 90 minutes?  Yes.  Sure.  If I have to.
  • What if I have a panic attack?  Okay...what if?  I will get my book out and read.  I will study my Pilates course work.  I will Instagram and play Fruit Ninja.
My carry on was packed with as many distractions as I could think of.  An easy-to-read book.  Martha Stewart Living.  People Magazine.  My coursework to study.  My iPod and iPod touch.  About 15 good luck charms.  And, you know what?  The plane took off, I teared up a bit because it was REALLY happening, and I was fine.  It really is like riding a bike.  But easier, you know, since your just sitting in a cushy seat and all.  I had a short lay-over in Dallas and then did it again.  Take off.  Drink a ginger ale.  Land.  Did I struggle at all?  Eh...not really on that first trip.  I went in September for the course and then November for the test.  When I went in November I did feel a little bit of panic on my flight home.  Why?  Because everything had been too perfect.  So, of course, that means that on my flight home I will die in a fiery crash, right? (btw--this is magical thinking and I am totally going to write about it soon.  You will be amazed.)  So, the last 20 minutes of my flight I was a little on edge, waiting for the plane to fall out of the sky.  But no one around me knew.  I looked out the window.  I listened to Better Than Ezra.  I drank water.  And we landed.  And it felt AMAZING!  Seriously.  If you suffer from any sort of fear or anxiety there is nothing, NOTHING, better than the feeling of conquering that fear.  Trust me.  I am sort of like a junkie now when it comes to conquering my fears.  It's hard to step out of your comfort zone but oh my gosh it feels so amazing once you have "lived" to tell the tale.   
Packed and waiting to board

There she is!

In the clouds, away from it all!

I look really scared here...but it's totally staged.  Promise.  I felt great!

One last thing.  To prepare for my flight I also used meditation.  I would lie down and close my eyes.  I would imagine myself in the car on the way to the airport.  Going through security.  Waiting to board and then boarding.  Sitting in my seat.  The flight taking off.  Sitting in the plane.  The plane landing and how great that would feel.  I did this nearly every day for about a month before the flight.  It helped because I would get those same nervous feelings just from imagining everything.  Isn't the mind funny?  Somewhere during that meditation a thought popped in my head.  "When you are in the air, you will be away from all of your fears and anxieties that you deal with each day.  It will be peaceful."
Oh, wow.  That helped me so much.  That single thought made me then WANT to fly and actually look forward to it.  Guess meditation really does work :)

I want to hear from you.  I love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on flying?  What fears are holding you back?  What fear have you conquered and how did you feel afterwards?
Anything is possible.  Really.  If I was able to fly and not flip out and get tasered I can do anything!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grilled Avocado

I love avocados.  They are creamy and satisfying and a great, meatless, way for me to get healthy fat and protein.
Like just about everyone else out there I like to scroll through my Pinterest feed and look for ideas.  For a while I would re-pin posts and my pin board became like a black hole, pins would go there never to be seen again.  So the past month or so I have been trying to actually look at the pins and try them out.  One pin that seemed to circulate this summer was grilled avocados.  I had never even dreamed of grilling an avocado.  HAD to try it.  The first time I prepared it and JF put it on his charcoal grill.  Second time I did it on our electric grill (like a George Foreman grill).  Both were tasty, the latter was a lot easier!
How I grill an avocado:

Slice your avocado in half
Brush with olive oil
Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper
Place face down on a medium-hot grill for about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula flip it over to check for handsome grill marks and crispy browning.  If needed place it on the grill a few more minutes.

Insiders tip:  when the avocado looks done place it skin side on the grill just for a minute or two to warm the inner layer.
Scoop the avocado out to eat it.

Now that I have had grilled avocado it's all I want!  The grilling really brings out the flavor.  
Try a variety of spices in addition to or instead of the salt and pepper.

I paired my grilled avocado with simmered black beans and fresh, chopped, tomatoes.

Deliciously clean food!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tips for runners

Hey, it's me running my first 10K!
I often get asked questions about running.  I have been a runner...gosh...for nearly 15 years.  I ran occasionally in high school and college, did my first sponsored race, the 4 mile St. Patrick's Day run, when I was 19, and in 2004 I really became a running junkie, doing 5K's and 4 milers throughout the year.  This year I ran my first 10K.  I honestly never thought I would.  In the past once I hit about 4.5 miles my IT band would start to ache and I would have to stop.  I just didn't think I had it in me.  But thanks to the mild winter we had I ran all last winter and kept adding the miles.  I also know that the core strength I have from Pilates is the main reason I can run farther.  I know how to use my body more efficiently.  In this article from fitsugar I love how it talks about leaning a bit forward, engaging the low abs, and keeping the shoulders relaxed.  Ummm....hello Pilates students!  For ideal posture what I am saying non-stop, all day, every day?
1.  Lean into the wind
2.  Lengthen your tailbone
3.  Shoulder down the back
Pilates terms that can help you not only with your daily posture but with your running as well. there are three helpful tips already.  Now, I will share a few more tips.  Things that I do or have done that have helped me enhance my running.

1.  Let intervals be your friend
If you are brand new to running and want to give it a try start slowly.  I think most people are under the assumption that you have to go out and run immediately, start to finish.  Yeah, only if you are perfect.  For those of us just slightly less than perfect, start out with a walk/run mix.
You will need a watch or timer!
Walk at a fast pace for 2 minutes
Jog/run for 1 minute
Continue this easy interval for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes...however long you can give.
Stay with this interval for at least 4 workouts.  If you feel like you are ready to run more run for 2 minutes/walk for 2 minutes.  Then gradually begin to walk for just 1 minute and run for 2 minutes.
I used intervals like this to run my first 5K (Race for the Cure KC 2008) after having Levi.  Walking was frustrating for a competitive type like me because I would get passed, but lo and behold, during my running interval I would pass quite a few people and ended up finishing with a good time and feeling great!  I would recommend using intervals for your first road race event.  Why not?

2.  Walk to warm up, walk to cool down.
If you are running several miles + your body need a good warm up and cool down.  Give yourself 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after to walk at a moderate pace (think walking through the park).  I learned the hard way this last spring that not cooling down properly and long enough can lead to a splitting headache.

3.  Take the good with the bad
Depending on the weather, your body, your mood, your running will feel different from time to time.  Maybe you have goaled yourself to run 3 miles but by mile 2 your muscles are done and you just want to stop.  Know when to push yourself but also listen to a fatigued body.  While training for my 10K I had days when I would run more than a mile past my goal because I felt so great.  But there were plenty of other days when I would stop short of my goal because my body just couldn't that day.  Sure, at the time I was frustrated, but looking back I may have been pushing a little too hard.  Or it was 95 degrees outside.  Pay attention to your body and you will feel better in the long run.

Runners out there...please share your tips below!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 Day Slim Down

I am so excited about today's post!  I have a guest writer today, my best friend Veronica Batton.  She was nice enough to write about the nutrition plan I gave her for the week before her wedding.  Before we get started, though, I will share with you what prompted the nutrition plan.

  In addition to being best friends for nearly 15 years and being the maid of honor, I have also worked with Veronica as her Pilates trainer.  It was a Sunday morning last April, 6 days before Veronica's wedding. She sent me a text saying that her wedding dress was too tight, that she didn't like the way she looked, and was even contemplating a new dress.  I told her that I would come take a look, which I did.  The dress, which is a gorgeous Vera Wang btw, looked fabulous but did look a bit snug.  I remember saying:  "If my wedding was a week away, here is what I would eat." What I shared with her is a nutrition plan that I have designed to help banish water weight, cleanse the system, and help you feel better. She took notes and after I left headed to the grocery store.  She did a fabulous job with the diet and it was fun motivating her throughout the week via text messages.  By Friday she was glowing, had shed a couple pounds and, more importantly, felt better in the dress and in her body.  
This diet is not just for brides-to-be.  You could use it prior to any special occasion (high school reunion or family pictures anyone??) , to kick-off a new nutrition routine or to bust through a plateau.

The plan:

Day 1:  Cleanse the system and give yourself a blank canvas
Veggies and fruit only today.  Variety is key.  Berries and bananas for breakfast, apple slices and celery for a snack.  Lunch a spinach salad topped with red peppers, carrots, broccoli.  Berries and cucumbers for a snack.  Make dinner another huge salad of spinach, red leaf lettuce, top it with as many veggies and fruits as you like.  The idea is to give your body plenty of healthy, fresh food, not to go into starvation.  Snack on veggies or fruit anytime you are hungry.  Make you salads big enough to be satisfying.
Dress your salad with:
Citrus Vinaigrette
Equal parts lemon juice and olive oil.  Add black pepper and herbs if you like.

Day 2:
Fruit for breakfast
Fruit and/or veggies for snack
Salad for lunch.  Today you can add nuts to you salads or snack.  Limit the amount to 4-6 almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc. per meal.
Dinner is another big salad with as many leafy greens and veggies as you would like.  You can add 3-4 ounces lean protein like grilled chicken or fish.  A hard-boiled egg is also a great protein choice.

Days 3, 4, 5 continue just like Day 2.

Trainer's tips:

Salads will be your friend!

  • Get plenty of water.  Drink a full 8 ounces when you wake up.  Drink a half ounce for every pound you weigh.  So, if you weigh 150 lbs get no less than 75 ounces each day.
  • Stock up on fruits and veggies before you start the diet.  Chop, slice and dice and place everything in easy to reach containers in your fridge.  This way it will all be ready to go.
  • Variety is key.  If you try to do this eating only strawberries and lettuce you will starve and miss the benefits.  Get as many different veggies and fruits as you can.
  • Continue to work out but this is not the week to run 7 miles or do a strenuous bootcamp.  30 minute walks, a 1-2 mile jog, yoga or Pilates are great.
  • As you can see you don't get bread or grains for these 5 days.  Ease them back into your diet at the end of this plan.  If you immediately go and eat pizza and breadsticks you are going to feel uncomfortably bloated.
  • Healthy fats are your friend!  Olive oil for your salads, nuts throughout the day, and avocado for meals and snacks will help you be nourished and satisfied.  Again, the point of this is not to be starving but to be healthy.
  • Dairy is up to you.  If a babybel cheese is going to get you through the day, then have it.  But don't order the cheese platter or down a milkshake :)
  • Water, tea, coffee (no sugar, no cream, no sweetener) for liquids.  Water first!
And is Veronica's thoughts on the slim down program:

"I remember leaving David's Bridal and feeling a wave of shame and regret hit me square in the face. 
I was too fat for my wedding dress. 
After a talk with Sally, and a hysterical fit of rocking back and forth in my dark bedroom, I was ready to begin her plan. 
Sally was my maid of honor at my wedding, and she did an amazing job. 
"Do you think I can lose five or more pounds in a week?" I asked.
She said she could give me a meal plan that would definitely make me feel more comfortable in my dress on my wedding day. I was sold. 
She came over the next day to see the damage. 
She said it wasn't as bad as I said it was, and there was no need to buy a bigger dress. I looked in the mirror and saw a corset line running along the waistline. My gut was pushing against the lining, and every line was visible. I felt awful.
I finally stopped brooding and went to the farmer's market to get some spinach and assorted lettuce leaves. 
I remember the first day I was grateful for coffee. 
The first two to three days were pretty tough. I remember texting Sally every 7 minutes or so to ask, "Can I have eggs? It's protein," or "So, what about a piece of cheese?" 
It was tough, but I managed to stay true and was focused on walking down the aisle in my wedding dress. 
Every day, I would prepare my salad for lunch and watch with envy as those around me devoured bread rolls, crackers, cookies and any other carb you can call to mind.
After the third day, I was beginning to get used to the diet and my cravings were starting to die down. 
I remember the fifth day I was grateful for red and yellow bell peppers. 
I was on the diet for eight days. The day of my wedding Sally helped me slip my dress on and zipped me up. 
It was effortless.
My dress felt so comfortable and I felt great in what I was wearing.  I looked in the mirror and saw a beautiful streamlined Veronica in a Vera Wang, and, best of all, NO LINE! 
I felt amazing on my wedding day and it's all thanks to Sally."

Thank you again to Veronica for sharing her experience!
Isn't she lovely?
Had to include one with me...I love my dress, too!

Let me know if you have any questions about the program!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Threads of Hope

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ash 
As the manager of a fitness studio I am lucky enough to meet all sorts of interesting people.  One of those people is Lisa Ash.  She is a Yoga instructor but so much more!  She spent a good portion of the last year in Zambia, working with the HealthEd Connect Organization.  One of the many facets of this corporation is to help provide purposeful activity for women in the small communities where Lisa spent time.  Every human likes to have a purpose, and having a creative outlet can be so rewarding.  From what Lisa shared with me I learned that the day-to-day activities of many adult women in Zambia consist of cooking, cleaning and caring for their families.  Rewarding?  Yes.  But women in any country, any setting, will tell you that, while household and family duties are rewarding, it is nice to have something to do that is just for yourself.
A few weeks ago Lisa shared some really beautiful bracelets and necklaces with me.  They are made with thread and Zambi Bwafano paper beads.  Women in Zambia make these rolled paper beads, weave them into bracelets or add beads to create a necklace.  Then the jewelry is sold in the United States to help raise money for various projects in Chipulusku, Kasompe, and other Zambian communities.  The most recent project was raising money for a "cook shack", or school kitchen, for the Chipulusku school.  For more information on Lisa's time in Zambia and the Threads of Hope project click here.

Paper bead necklace and bracelets made in Zambia

My bracelet!

Yellow and gray?  Okay, I'll take it :)

Ezra rocking his bracelet.  I gave it to him the day of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies so it was a really cool tie-in when the country of Zambia walked into the arena.  Learning experiences are everywhere!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival

As you enter the festival flags from countries throughout the world line the walkway.

On Saturday we went to the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival.  As a family we love going to different festivals to try new things, hear new music, look at fun crafts and all that goes along with outdoor fairs.  This was, however, the first time we had been to this festival.  There are booths set up representing various countries.  There was also a main stage with entertainment on the half hour.  While we were there we saw Irish dancers...very cool!

The main focus of the festival, it seems, is to showcase various foods from each country.  My kind of fun!  Each booth had several choices from savory to sweet and a few beverages as well.  The food is all very reasonable priced, ranging from $1.00-$4.00 for each menu item.  We started with beef shawarma from Egypt.  John and I each took a bite and then Ezra did, too.  That’s when JF and I both realized, almost simultaneously...yikes!  We have no idea what was used to cook these foods and each booth could potentially have used nuts.  We have also found that, in many cases, the people working the front have no idea what was used in the cooking and sometimes it has been made off-site so no one even knows for sure.  We opted to err on the side of caution and also the side of not being annoying to the volunteers just trying to make the festival fun for everyone.  So, now shawarma for Leevs.  But, don’t worry, there were plenty of other treats that he tried that we knew were nut-free.  The shawarma was very good.  Lots of flavor and very tender.  The pickle was...interesting.  Had a bit of a kick!

My favorite booth was Japan.  We had a sticky rice ball, sweet rice-stuffed tofu, steamed edamame and...drum roll...a green tea popsicle.  I love anything made with green tea.  From cookies to soap.  I love it all.  But it is hard to find green tea sweets (ice cream, cookies, etc.) in this area, so I was thrilled.  
A mango shake from Pakistan (no sips for Levi), gazpacho from Spain, fried plantains from Haiti, Iced Coffee and coconut juice  from Thailand.  Second favorite?  Vietnam.  We had shrimp spring rolls and fried rice, a favorite of both boys.

Pretty much a dream come true for me to sip from a freshly cut open coconut!  

I love their hair!  And energy!

Thai Iced coffee for my coffee drinker.
As with most children, mine tend to be picky with what they eat.  This was a great opportunity not only for them to hear and see new things but to also try many different foods.  We encouraged them to take a tiny taste of everything.  Levi was a little harder to convince than Ezra, plus we had the worry of nuts, but he did a great job.  I was shocked that Ezra even tried the gazpacho.  A tiny sip and a wrinkled nose, but he still tried it!  To me, that means everything.
If I can get my children to try new foods and flavors I feel that as they venture out in to the world they will be more open to different, and hopefully healthier, options. 

Going to the Ethnic Festival was a preview to the fun fall festivals that happen nearly every weekend from now until November.  As a family we had a great time and will definitely make it a yearly tradition.

What did you do over the weekend?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A sweet reminder

I have so many blog post ideas running through my head right now.  But it's late Friday afternoon, I taught 5 classes today plus interviewed a potential instructor. The bus will be here soon.  We also have baseball practice and friends coming for dinner, which means time to go sweep the crumbs under the rug :)

So, I will continue planning blogs in my head for now and instead leave you with this absolutely sweet blog post from Big Head...Little Body

I often get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of activities, house cleaning, sick days and cranky days.  I LOVE how she speaks on parenting small children as a season in life that needs to be enjoyed.  I will *try* to keep this in mind the next time I find cereal all over my couch or reading the same super hero book for the 100th time.

I dare you to read this and not tear up a bit.  Let me know what you think and stop my friend Sandra's blog and say hi, too!

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let's Be Honest...

I'm going to come clean about something.  It's not very personal-trainer-y.  It's not very Pilates Instructor-y.  And the whole "total body wellness" side?  Nope.  It's not that, either.  But it's the truth, it's how I feel, and I know there are many others that feel this way.

I feel fat.  Every day.  Sometimes all day.  The only time I don't feel fat is when I am at my goal weight (typically 119-122) and I have been eating more or less perfect.  I tend to feel this way after a long Pilates training weekend, after I have been very strict with my diet, or after being sick (haha).  Before you ask, yes, I do eat.  I eat all the time.  Around six small meals per day.  On the weekends, less meals, but bigger.  Just ask my husband.  I can put away pizza or ice cream or sushi in a flash.  But that's where I start to feel bad.  The guilty conscience of a healthy eater and fitness nut, I suppose.  I start to think about all of the bad calories, bad fat, the chemicals in the food.  I know what eating sugar does to the body.  So after eating a "bad" meal I feel guilty.  And then fat.  And then mad that I chose to eat, say, a couple slices of pizza and a piece of cake at a birthday party.  Sometimes I wish that for a day I could be a person that orders a value meal and thinks it's a wise choice.  Or has a donut for breakfast and doesn't think twice about it.  I know I am better off being aware of the foods I eat, but it's a lot to think about, isn't it?

And, I know, it's not just the healthy food vs. junk food aspect that makes me feel fat.  Like I was saying, if I am not at a certain weight and certain "feeling" I don't feel good.  I am working on having a more realistic body image.  The best compliment I can get is when someone says that I look too skinny.  If I don't hear that constantly then I assume that everyone thinks I am fat.  As a side note, I am working with my therapist to not project my feeling/insecurities onto those around me :)

So, for this one, I don't yet have an answer.  I don't know if I want one.  Through going to therapy I have learned about secondary gain.  Meaning that, the "benefit" from having an illness or problem is desirable to the individual (me).  If I am not worried about how I look, what I eat, and my weight, I could potentially gain weight and feel horrible.  So I could very well be choosing to not take a mentally healthier path because of that.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Veggie Mini Muffins

If you are still reading this then that means you weren't completely turned off by the idea of veggie muffins.  Thank you for being brave!

I have a love-hate relationship with my juice extractor.  I love it because I am able to juice veggies and fruit to create new juices and a fun way to get veggies I may otherwise not eat.  I hate it because I don't like all of the wasted pulp post-juicing.  So, this last Sunday, I made beet-carrot juice and decided to try a recipe using the pulp from my juicer.  If you do not like beets, you will definitely want to do carrot pulp only or another combo that you prefer. I like the taste of beets, but the flavor is very overpowering. I think apple-carrot would be excellent.  If you do not have a juicer you can just use a fine grater on the carrots, apples, beets, etc.

I found a fancy little recipe at

When I make a recipe I tend to switch up things to tailor it more to my liking, but this recipe is absolutely perfect just like it is!  Click on the link for the recipe!  I made no modifications, but, since the recipe leaves some options for ingredients I will share with you what I used:

1/2 cup juicer pulp - I used a carrot/beet mixture
Instead of her 1/4 cup Agave I used local honey, just because that's what I had on hand.
Instead of 1/4 cup coconut oil I used olive oil, again because it is what I had on hand.
I used whole wheat flour rather than gluten-free because we tolerate gluten just fine.

I just love the pretty pink color of the dough!
Perfect little muffins

The muffins turned out wonderful, with a hint of pretty pink.  I put butter on them when they were still warm from the oven and they were delicious.  Both boys loved them, Ezra ate 4 immediately and has been snacking on them all week!  I have been topping them with a little peanut butter for a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.  I have been storing them in the fridge to extend their life a bit.

This recipe is definitely going to become a weekly staple for me.  I love having healthy snacks on hand for myself and the boys.

Kid tested, approved, and loved!

I am also looking forward to trying more recipes from PicklesnHoney!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Crack the Walnut!

I hear this phrase all day long.  Sometimes I say it.  Sometimes my husband says it.  Most often lately I hear my students and fellow instructors say it.  I learned the phrase during my Peak Pilates level II training in Austin, TX.  My instructor used it as an imagery cue to get shoulders down the back and to promote good posture. 

"Imagine you have a walnut between your shoulder blades, then squeeze the walnut."  That is a better way to describe the image, but, once established, just saying "Crack the Walnut" gets the desired result.
Want to try it?

Sit or stand tall, shoulders over hips.
Relax your head and neck.
Relax your shoulders and squeeze a walnut between the shoulder blades.

Now you are in good posture, sitting or standing tall. 

Imagery is so important in Pilates.  It can really help with form, breathing, and so much more.  I am always interested to see what does and does not work for my students.

What do you think?  Does this image of "cracking the walnut" work for you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Is fear keeping you from anything?

My therapist often says that anxiety makes your world very small.  I find that to be very true, at least for me and my anxiety. Just a few short years ago I felt like I was afraid of everything.  For my example today I will use my fear of vomiting.  Sorry.  Gross, I know.  But, it's one of my biggest fears.  Has been since I was a child.

When I was pregnant with Levi I came down with a stomach bug.  I got sick at work.  I got in my car to drive home, just about a twenty minute drive, and had to stop at two different gas stations (or was is 3?) to get sick.  At the time, yeah, it sucked, but I made it home and slept it off.  The thing with me, though, is that I often take a past experience and then dwell on it.  So, a couple years after that, Ezra had a stomach bug.  Then John came down with it.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I was sick.  That week was horrible.  I didn't eat.  I would be working and feeling just fine when the thought of "you know...the stomach flu is waiting for you." would creep in my head.  I would literally make myself feel sick ruminating on it.  Sweaty.  Mouth watering.  Nauseous.  I would leave work thinking I was going to be sick.  My heart would be pounding as I drove home.  I remember getting stuck at a stop light while on the phone with JF and screaming in to the phone "This is a nightmare!  I am stuck and going to get sick!" And...nothing.  Days later, after finally eating, I did end up going through the same bug they had.  But I would say the worrying about getting sick was worse than actually being sick.  After that my fear of vomiting, especially while away from home, continued to get worse.  I had dealt with a similar situation in high school that kept me from school and work.  This time around, in adulthood, it kept me from wanting to go anywhere.  An invitation to go out to lunch with a friend?  No way!  What if the food made me sick?  Going out for a run?  Ha!  I could start to feel nauseous and have no way of getting home.  I would get nervous on car rides.  Traffic jams, even just a small back-up, would send me in to a panic.  After a while, I just chose not to deal with it and wanted to stay home.  Here is where anxiety made my world small.  I was anxious about getting sick away from home.  So I let anxiety win.  I opted to not go anywhere, do anything, in favor of sitting at home "safe" from my fears.  But I wasn't safe.  I was missing so much.  A shopping trip with a friend.  A baseball game of my son's.  A favorite local race that I had done for years with a friend.  I rationalized that I didn't want to do any of those things anymore.  I was happy to be a home-body.  But there is a big difference between a home-body and being scared to move.  My world was shrinking.  I only went places when I absolutely had to.  I worked.  I went grocery shopping.  And although I appeared happy and at ease, internally I was a mess.  Checking and re-checking my feelings.  "Do I feel sick?"  "Am I going to get sick?"  "Will that food not settle well?"
And this is where cognitive behavioral therapy saved the day.  Once again, I am not a doctor.  So, I am sharing with you my personal story of what has worked for me, taught to me by my psychologist.  I hope that by sharing what works for me it will motivate my readers, although everyone is different.

When it comes to my fear of vomiting in public, here is what works for me.  It has also helped me with my fear of tornadoes, being stuck in traffic, among other things.  Self-talk can help in any situation where you are feeling scared.  Name what you are scared of.  Then address each portion of the fear and give rational ways that you could deal with the situation.  I do self-talk now, but the following conversation flows the way I have also talked with my doctor.  It really does help to learn from a psychologist first, and then practice on your own.

Here is a typical self-talk conversation I would have if I were scared of vomiting:

I am scared of vomiting while out in public.
How often do you really, really, vomit?
Eh...maybe once a year.
How do you feel before you get sick?  Does it just happen out of nowhere?
No...I experience the normal symptoms.  Sweaty, nauseous, heart racing, etc.
So you would know if was going to happen?
Yes...but what if I am in my car and can't get to a bathroom?
Well...what if?
Ummm...I would puke.  On the side of the road or in a shopping bag in my car.
Would it be the end of the world?
No.  But it would be gross.
That's right.  It would suck.  No one likes puking on the side of the road.  But if it happens, it happens.  You wouldn't be dead.  Life would go on.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to talk yourself out of being afraid.  It could work for many situations.  It has also really helped me with my fear of storms/tornadoes.  I now don't feel quite as stuck during storm season.  While I don't feel like I will ever be a storm chaser, I have learned to talk myself down and if I have plans to go out even if the weather is calling for storms, I have learned to keep going. 
It does get better.  It has been quite some time since I have let one of my fears hold me back.  That is not to say that I don't deal with this on a semi-regular basis.  I have just learned how to help myself not get stuck.
 Please feel free to share with me below.  If you have a fear that is holding you back I would love to have a dialogue with you on how you can calm your fears.  Email me if you don't want it to be in the comment bar for the world to see :)

Is fear keeping you from anything?  Has it in the past?  How did you get through it?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stretch your Neck

Every couple of months I tend to get a stiff/sore neck.  Not just a little ache, but the kind of pain that keeps me from looking fully from side to side, hurts terribly when I go to do little chores like unload the dishwasher (sorry, hubsy!) and makes teaching quite tedious.  Massage therapists and Physical Therapists have worked on my neck, always exclaiming how many knots I have, and calling other PT's in to "show me off."  Because of this I try to be kind to my neck and add lots of stretches throughout the day.
In addition to this, as a Pilates instructor, I meet and talk with people of every age that talk about having neck problems.  Neck flexibility is also one of the first things older individuals say they lose and are trying to get back.
Think of your daily activities...sitting in a car, sitting at a desk, looking down at a phone, book, or game system.  All of these put a stress on the muscles that support your head.

Here is a quick, easy stretch that I think EVERYONE should do.  You can do it seated or standing, once a day or a couple times throughout the day.  Pair this with my chest-opening stretch for a energizing yet de-stressing pick-me-up :)

Step One:  Relax your head, neck and shoulders.  Gently tilt your head to the left, like you are placing your ear to your shoulder.  You will feel a stretch on the opposite, right, side of your neck.  It should be a gentle stretch, not painful or pulling.  Hold for 20 seconds.

Step Two:  Keep the "ear to shoulder" form and then turn your gaze down, like you are looking in to your back left pocket.  This stretch continues to help stretch the neck muscles and now adds the stretch all the way towards the base of the skull, relieving tension from that area.  Hold for 20 seconds.  First lift your gaze forward and the return your head to the center.

Repeat on the right side.

Trainer's Tips:
  • This is a two part stretch, not two separate stretches.  Ear to shoulder, then, holding that position, turn your gaze gently downward and hold.  Then turn your head gently upward, returning to the ear-to-shoulder position, then return upright.
  • Take deep, even breaths while your are doing the stretches.
  • If the stretch hurts ease up a bit.
  • Try to do this once a day, moving towards three times, morning, afternoon and evening.
Let me know what you think!