Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Real World

"It was always half invented, but the other half was good."

This is one of my absolute favorite quotes.  It comes from the Jimmy Eat World song "Littlething" from their 2010 album "Invented".  Really, in my opinion, their best album.  Gasp!  What?  She didn't say Clarity?!  No, I didn't.  But that is a discussion for another day :)  The reason I started this post with that quote is because I feel that it really relates to life.  Think about your daily life.  Your relationships, your thoughts, your feelings about where you are and where you want to be.  There is reality.  And then there is what you think is reality.  
Maybe you have gained 3 pounds and feel huge but the rest of the world looks at you and thinks you are fit as a fiddle.
Maybe you completely adore your new boyfriend and in your mind have a perfect relationship "invented" but, in reality, he's a jerk that is more preoccupied with how he looks than with you and your feelings.
Maybe you just logged onto Facebook to see that one person from your graduating class is a brain surgeon, one is a successful author and one is a perfectly pampered mom of three.  According to their posts.  What you didn't see was the other side, the real life side.
So, that's where the invented stuff comes in.  We often invent a parallel reality that is what we wish our life was.  Or we invent how we think our friends or family are living, imagining it to be perfect.
Reality sucks some times.  Chronic illnesses.  Bills to pay.  Dishes to wash, floors to mop.  Regrets and unfulfilled dreams.  Who wouldn't want to live outside of reality in an imagined Brady Bunch land?
There is the other half, that is good.  Everything you love about your life.  But the first half, the part we try to look past, is often the more important part.  If you feel neglected, overwhelmed, or disappointed about how your life is going THAT is what you need to look at, rather than "inventing" an idea of what is really happening.
Embrace reality.   It hurts sometimes.  
There are many things in my life that will never be cookie cutter perfect, no matter how much I long for them to be.  But they are my perfect, my life, the only one I will have.
Step into your reality and make the changes you want to see.  And the things you can't change?  Let them go or embrace them for what they truly are.  
Leave the invented half behind so that you can become whole.

Not the best recording but this song is absolutely beautiful.  Thanks person that took their phone to the concert to record this :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Workout Wednesday V.1

I am so excited to post my first official Workout Wednesday!

Today I would like to introduce you to Callie Streich.

Callie after finishing the 2011 Brew to Brew!

Name:  Callie Streich
Age:  31
Occupation:  Domestic Engineer (love the description for Stay at Home Mom!) and Yoga Instructor.  Prior to her transition into being a Domestic Engineer Callie was a middle school science teacher.
Craftiness:  Little Owl Peep Clothing and Accessories for children

1) What's it like being a SAHM?
I chase my two kids around, try to keep schedules, try to keep myself and the house from imploding, try to teach important life skills, try to have fun...notice the operative word: "TRY" :) Sometimes I think I would love to go back in time for a day and live it up with June Cleaver to see just how she did it. I'm pretty sure I wasn't that put together even before I had kids!

2) On the other side of that, tell me about being a Yoga instructor.
As a yoga instructor, I'm constantly challenged to meet the seen and unseen needs of those in class.  I work to find relevant asanas and to meet my students where they are. 

3) As a mom of two young children how do you find the time in your day to workout?
 Is it the same each day/week or do you find that it's always changing?

It's weird for someone to ask me how I find time in the day to work out.  I have soo many excuses not energy, kids were up during the night, I don't feel like it, "The Office" is on, I have too many other things on my plate, and so on. 

I have been blessed with a husband that is willing to compromise and help motivate either through his words or his actions.  We have worked out a schedule alternating mornings for our set workouts.  I know that if I don't get up, then I don't get the scheduled chance to work out for two more days. If I get an extra workout in on a non-scheduled day, yay!
I feel like I should share that I used to not be like this.  My mornings were sacred sleep-time since I'm a terrible sleeper.  There was nothing you could do to get me up.  If I didn't get a workout in that day, oh well.  I would also much prefer to veg in front of the TV at the end of a long day.  Now that I'm a mom and responsible for the development of two other human beings, I find it uber important to be a good role model for them.  I look at them and want them to love themselves inside and out.  How can I expect them to do that if I don't do it for myself? I've also found that I'm always one workout away from a good mood.

4) What is your favorite type of workout?
In order for me to enjoy working out, I have to have a mind-body connection. Yoga (pronounced 'yoko' if you're my son) gives me the opportunity to reconnect with myself, meditate, and celebrate where I am in my journey...mental, spiritual, physical. I am more grounded after practicing.  I don't worry about not being bendy enough or being pretty when I'm bending :) 

For a couple years, I've had some low-back issues.  After having my daughter seven months ago, I decided to try running.  Why?  I couldn't tell you.  I would run maybe 10-20 yards before having to stop and stretch out my back in random peoples' yards.  I got some pretty funny looks from neighbors.  I'm not sure what kept motivating me to keep going (maybe the screaming baby at home and an excuse to get out of the house?!).  For months I would do this: run a very short distance, stop to stretch, walk, stretch, then repeat.  Even though my back and leg hurt like the dickens when I got home, I felt ever so slightly better the next day.  So I kept up with it.  I now have zero back pain and will be trying my luck at a half-marathon on Sept. 22nd.  Yes, it was very life-giving to be able to work through my back pain, but I wouldn't have kept up with running if there weren't a mind-body connection. It's amazing how often I'm able to find answers to questions while I'm running.  Oftentimes, it's also a place for me to listen to God.

5) What exercise is your absolute least favorite?
Laundry and dishes.

Oh, you mean like a work out exercise?  Anything cardio involving a stationary machine like a treadmill, elliptical, or bike. If I'm gonna get a move-on, I need to see progress!

6) You are training for a half marathon, right?  How have you managed
that training along with your family?  *On September 22 Callie finished her FIRST Half Marathon!  Go Callie!!

Again, that goes back to compromise with my husband and super early mornings. Funny how the compromise was the easiest part.  But once I get myself out the door and running though, things fall into place for me and I've never once regretted getting up.  Well, except that one time I'd had Chipotle the day before and my tummy started yelling at me a few miles from home...but that's another story. And probably one that shouldn't be told in mixed company :)  <------been there!  No fun!

Mommy Callie and her running buddy + her 2 babies right after she finished her first Half Marathon 9/22!

7) Do you have any aches or pains?    
I have learned to welcome healthy soreness as a part of who I am. It's become a reminder for me I'm doing something for myself, which makes me a better partner and mommy.
When waking up at night for the kids or getting up in the morning I have to work through sore feet, calves and inner thighs.  

I mentioned the previous back pain. And I used to also have terribly sore knees whenever I tried to run but have recently changed my form. (I think yoga and running are great practices to help us address structural imbalances.)

8) What is an example of a "human" moment for you?  Meaning that you aren't thinking like a Yoga instructor.
Even though I teach yoga and like to run, don't think I don't notice when others can do more than me or know more than me. Yup, there are times when I think I'm not good enough. But when I recognize this happening, I take a moment to do yoga or go for a run on my own and I'm able to reflect on how far I've come...and that's all that matters!

9) What do you eat?  Do you follow a specific diet plan?  When you are having a treat what's your favorite?

I have had an interesting journey with my nutrition choices.  Currently, under the advice of my chiropractor David Black at Core Wellness in Lee's Summit, I am eating gluten-free and if I choose to eat meat, it is grass-fed and finished and (my rule) humanely raised and harvested. Yes, that means when we go out to eat I usually stick to wild-caught fish or no meat.  I have a hard time looking at a yummy steak without thinking about the life of the cow and the journey of how that tasty morsel got to my plate.  That's usually enough to curb me from eating it, especially knowing I can get something much better for me elsewhere. (Seriously, watch Food Inc. and you'll hopefully get a better understanding where I'm coming from.)

I also have a well as a sweet tooth...which at first was a challenge going gluten free.  I have found some insanely delicious recipes (all free!) on the internet that help me feel like I'm getting a treat.  Currently, I've been noshing on some beet brownies (Yeah, beets!! You can't even tell!!).  If you're interested in some of the recipes, I like,, and

Here is a sample of a workout that Callie does:
Interval Training
Incorporate hills and speed work with distance.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday 4 miles, 
  • Saturday 6-10 miles. 
  •  1-2 more days with the kids in the double stroller and run/walk 2-3 miles at a local trail.
  • Core work:
    • Plank: 45-60 seconds/3 times
    • Side Plank (one arm) 45-60 seconds each side/3 times each
    • Bridge: 45-60 seconds/3 times
Thank you SO much to Callie for sharing a little bit about her daily life and her workout plan.  I definitely could relate to many of her experiences, and I love the term "carb tooth"!  I definitely have one.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Uber bar by Larabar

I am always looking for healthy snacks that I can eat between classes or on the go.  I also LOVE when a food combines many healthy ingredients so that I am getting a well-rounded mini-meal.
I buy Larabars all the time for myself and for Ezra.  Parents:  your children will eat these!  Seriously.  Ezra loves the Peanut Butter Cookie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bars.  The best part is that both of these bars contain nuts and dates and all-natural ingredients so the snack that I am sending him to school with is healthy and will keep him going the rest of the day, rather than a bag of chips or pastry that will just cause him to crash.

I am lucky that I received 4 uber bars, a new line by Larabar.  They come in 4 deliciously fun flavors:

  • Bananas Foster
  • Apple Turnover
  • Cherry Cobbler
  • Roasted Nut Roll
another reason I love this line!

I tried Bananas Foster first (wouldn't you?) and it was so good!  I had it between teaching group cycle and Reformer.  The bar contains pieces of nuts and banana and tastes like fresh-baked banana nut bread.  Satisfying, without being overly filling, it got me from 10:00 am until 12:00 pm when I could have my lunch.  I also had the Cherry Cobbler bar between classes.  Tart and sweet , just like a piece of cobbler.  And the protein from the nuts gets me through my day!

Ezra and I shared the Roasted Nut Roll bar.  I wasn't sure if he would eat the Uber bars.  Lara bars look more like your typical energy bar, with the ingredients being finely ground and pressed together.  Uber bars, on the other had, have actual pieces of nuts that you can see, so I thought maybe this would turn him off (parents of picky eaters, you know what I am talking about).  But he ate his entire half bar and asked for more!  Picky eater approved.

Happy Snacking :)

I tried the Apple Turnover bar on a hectic morning.  I had to take the boys to (separate) schools and then immediately go teach Pilates.  Getting ready to go, making the boys breakfast and packing their lunches all had to happen in about a 20 minute time period.  I needed to eat something healthy, and I like to combine fruit and protein at breakfast, so grabbing an Uber Bar just made sense.  It tasted great, just like Apple Pie, and went well with my morning coffee.

Meal on the go!
There really are so many reasons I love Uber bars and Larabars.  I could go on and on, but instead, I will make a list:

  • all natural ingredients that are listed in plain english.  No "natural flavorings" or other vague descriptions for these bars.  Sea salt.  Dates.  Honey. Cinnamon.   If it's in the bar, it's listed.  Thank you!
  • Healthy yet tasty enough that kids will eat them.  I feel so good about sending these to school with Ezra and/or having him eat them as an afterschool snack.  These would also be great pre or post a sporting event.  I would much rather have him eat a Larabar than, say, a Twinkie or granola bar.
  • Sweet flavors without being overly sweet.  All of the Uber Bars and Larabars have amazing flavors but they don't taste overly sweet at all.  Enough to satisfy a sweet craving but I also eat these when I am craving something a bit hearty.
I was hesitant to try Larabars.  Nuts.  Dates.  Blended together.  It sounded a bit too healthy.  And, yes, these bars are healthy, but you wouldn't know it if you were doing a blindfolded taste test.  I have had Coconut Cream Pie in addition to the cookie flavors that Ezra loves.  My favorites are Peanut Butter Cookie and Key Lime Pie (just the right amount of lime flavor).  There are 18 flavors of regular Larabars.  Click here to check them out.  With flavors like Blueberry Muffin and Cappucino there is something for everyone on your shopping list.  Next on my list Chocolate Coconut Chew.  Really, I just can't say enough good things about these bars.  I love them for their taste, the fact that they combine several healthy ingredients, and that they provide me a fast yet nutritious option for a snack or part of a meal.

The kind folks at Larabar would like to giveaway a sampler case of 16 Larabars!  If you have never tried them, or if you love them as much as me and my family, this is a great opportunity!  Just take a few moments with Rafflecopter to enter.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Larabar provided me with 4 Uber bars to try.  The other flavors I mention I bought fair and square :)  I was not compensated in anyway and all opinions of Larabar and Uber Bar are my own.  They are really THAT good.  I can't stop gushing about it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Social Sunday V1

Thanks to Michele over at short girl, long island I found out about Social Sunday.  It seems like a fun way to let my readers know more about me and also a good writing exercise.  Not sure if this is the official way to do it, but I am jumping in!

1.  What is something you have wanted to do but are afraid of?
I can't say that there is anything right at this moment.  I have gotten pretty good at conquering my fears and not letting fear hold me back from something I want to do.  I am definitely afraid of being locked up in an airplane for 20+ hours to fly to Australia.  I would love to go there someday, though.  But, I would say what is truly keeping me from going to the Land Down Under at this point is funding :)

2.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Owning my own Pilates studio.  Working towards being a Peak Pilates teacher-trainer.  Spending tons of time in full functioning mom mode

3.  What are you looking forward to before the end of 2012?
Finally finishing In The Garden of Beasts.  I love this book, it's so well-written, but I just can't seem to read more than a page or two at a time.  Oops.  Also looking forward to running a relay marathon in November!

4.  What are your hopes for your blog?
I would like for my blog to be a place where anyone and everyone can go to read about health and wellness.  I hope that readers try out the workouts I create and the recipes that I share.  I hope to continue to inspire people to battle their fears and anxieties.  I hope my blog is a place where people find ideas, inspirations and hope for the future.

5.  Do you always see yourself living in your current town/city?
Hell no!  Don't get me wrong, I love my little town.  But I have always wanted to live in several different cites and states.  I love meeting new people, seeing how other cities function, and being somewhere different and new.  My boys love our home and neighborhood, so I don't see myself picking up and moving anytime soon, but someday I would like to venture beyond this area.

6.  What is your morning routine?
Weekdays:  My alarm wakes me up around 7:30 am to get the boys ready for school and, on some mornings, to get myself ready for work.  After the bus comes I either head to work, or if it is a morning I am off, I drink a cup of coffee, watch or read the news, and then take L to preschool and/or head to the gym.  
Weekends:  My internal alarm still wakes me by 8:00 am.  Coffee and news and lounging if I am lucky.  I also try to get in a run on Saturday or Sunday.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today + Mom Music

Today was a great day.

When you have anxiety and when you have had it keep you from doing everyday things you appreciate "normal" days just that much more.
It has been over two years now that I have been learning how to settle down and enjoy myself.  So anxiety-free days are plentiful.  But I still realize how wonderful each day is and how there are so many people out there that keep themselves experiencing the small, wonderful moments in life because of anxiety or fear.  You can do it.  Find your strength, find a therapist, and jump in.

I taught Pilates at a new gym today.  So much fun.
We went to the school carnival.  Even more fun.
After that we went to see Finding Nemo 3D.  When E was a baby it was the first movie he saw in the theater.  Once it was out on DVD he watched it constantly.  Watching the movie today I felt as though I was hanging out with old friends.  
I used to be a Marlin.  

  • "Hold my fin!"  
  • "I promise, I won't let anything happen to you!"  
  • "How do you know nothing bad will happen?!?"

I was scared of the world, more preoccupied with the dangers "out there" than the wonderful things that can happen.  Today, as we sat and watched the movie, I realized I am a lot more Dory now.  Well, my memory is fine, but, you know, I am way more positive.

  • "Just keep swimming."  
  • "It's time to let go."  
  • "If you don't let anything happen to him (Nemo) then nothing will happen to him."

It is way more fun being Dory :)

On the way home from the movie we had so much fun!  My friend drove the boys and I and she had her two kids with her.  Four kids singing wonderful, happy, appropriate-for-the-day songs.  Yes, they are mainstream pop songs.  Yes, my emo-hipster 20 year old self would be cringing.  But I can honestly say that I loved hearing these songs, hearing the kids sing to the songs and have fun, and that when you listen to the lyrics of each song you can grasp a positive meaning and smile.  Isn't that what music is all about?

Phillip Phillips.  Hmmm...okay.  But I like this song and so do the boys, and it definitely is a feel-good, whistle along kind of song.

I love fun.  Its nice that my kids do, too. 

Owl City.  Kids love this song, L even sings it in his sleep.

If you have children, play these songs for them.  I bet they will immediately start dancing and singing along.  Dance party!
All three are great workout songs, too.  I feel like I owe credit to fun. for getting me through miles and miles of running.  

How was your Saturday?

In Praise of Peak Pilates

Five years ago when I began my Pilates training, I had never heard of Peak Pilates.  The owner of the Studio On Main chose to purchase Peak equipment so when it came time to be certified it was only natural to go with Peak.  The first training that was held at the Studio I observed rather than going through the training because I was several months pregnant.
The classical mat order, the Pilates Principles...all of this was new to me.  But something about the dance-like flow of the mat and equipment work captivated me.  At times it seemed annoying (why is there so much to memorize?) and bordering on information overload.  
With classical Pilates there is a specific order for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.  Each exercise has a specific spot in the order, with specific cues for set-up, execution, imagery cues and breathing.  When you are new to teaching Pilates it can be very overwhelming.  The following year I enrolled to take PPS-I, to become certified to teach the beginner work on the mat and equipment.  I was so happy that I had observed a course because I felt a little prepared for what I was going through.  A Peak Pilates training is so very much fun.  Learning the exercises, the anatomy of the body in relationship to the work, and so much more.
I have now been through two trainings, I am a level II (Intermediate) instructor.  Yes, when you go through a training there is a lot to memorize.  When you are tested out it can be very nerve-wracking because, as the instructor, you have teach in the correct order with the correct cues.  You are also required to be able to perform each exercise efficiently.
But let me just is SO VERY worth it!
I am more than prepared to teach any and every student/class that comes my way.  I can answer nearly any Pilates-related questions my students have, and if I can't, I know that my Peak instructors are just an email away.
I am able to safely modify exercises as well as think on my feet to be able to spot what exercises my students are ready for and which ones should wait.
Being in my field I take and observe a lot of classes.  Some instructors seem lost when it comes to having an organized framework for their class.  Some have mentioned "forgetting" certain exercises.  (Other Peak trainers...can you imagine forgetting the Hundred???)
I'm rarely nervous to teach a new class.  I can confidently walk in to a Pilates class and know that I possess the best tools to teach to the students in front of me.
Even on days when I am feeling under the weather, flustered or just distracted, as soon as I walk into the room and see my students, my training takes over and, for that hour, I can concentrate on teaching.
It's a horrible feeling to walk into a fitness class and feel unprepared to teach.  I have also been on the other side of that and been a student in the class where the instructor appears to not really have an idea of how her/his class should flow.  A quality training is invaluable.  You and your students will see and feel the difference.
New students approach me all the time after their first class with me.  I get feedback like:

  • I never knew this was Pilates!  I love it!
  • When will you be teaching next?!
  • I've tried Pilates before but it hurt my *neck* *back* *insert other major area* .  Your instruction helped me to not have any aches or pain.
  • You are the sub?  Can you take over this class?  (To which I always graciously decline, but say I will be back as soon as needed.)
The above comments are samples of what I actually hear on a weekly basis.  It may sound like I am tooting my own horn.  But what I have learned in the 5 years that I have been a Peak trainer is that there is a difference between bragging and presenting yourself as a quality instructor.  I DO feel like my training is the best.  I DO acknowledge that other forms of Pilates/exercise are beneficial.  I DO have wealth of information that I just can't wait to share with my students.  I would never dream of telling a student or instructor that my class is better than another.  Instead, I invite all interested to come try my class and decide what feels best for their bodies.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1 Sculpting Ab Move You Need To Do!

As a Pilates instructor I get asked all the time the best way to get a flat, toned stomach.  The true answer is that you have to eat healthy AND add sculpting work.  But, for the sake of this post, lets just go ahead and say that you are eating right, getting your fair share of cardio along with flexibility and weight training.
A few weeks ago I was doing a circuit training workout and I wanted to try something new.  I was leaning on a stability ball doing side crunches and I decided to add a twist, turning up to the ceiling.
The result?  An exercise that works the abs and the obliques (side abdominals), as well as the good old "muffin top".  I like to make my workouts simple enough that you can do them at home, so I tried this exercise using a few stacked blankets.  You can use either, but, honestly, I felt like using the blankets actually worked me harder and allowed me to have better form.

 Side Ab Twist

What You Need:
A clear space and a stability ball or a few stacked blankets or pillows.

  1. Place your right side on the blankets and "stack your hips"  This means that your navel/torso/upper body is facing the wall in front of you, hip bone over hip bone.
  2. Stagger your legs, right leg in front, left leg in back.
  3. Place your right forearm on the floor, shoulder directly over the elbow.  This is for balance only.  Do not place pressure on your arm.  Imagine your shoulder lifting away from your elbow and send that weight to your torso.
  4. Left arm is bent with fingers pointing to you ear.
  5. Start with your body in one straight line.
  6. Do a side crunch up and then a twist, turning your upper body toward the ceiling while keeping your hips stacked.
  7. Untwist while holding the crunch, then make your way to starting position.
Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.
Shoulder over shoulder, hip over hip.
Hips stay stacked, upper body twists to the ceiling.  Use your ABS not your arm!
Stretch at the end!  Let your top arm come next to your ear and take a breath.  Ahhhh....

Trainers Tips:

  • Inale at the start, exhale as you lift and twist.  
  • Take it slow.  About two seconds to lift, two seconds to lower.
  • Lengthen your spine.  Don't let your back arch.
  • Keep the upper body engaged without being tense.  Think "ears away from shoulders".    

You can also do this on a stability ball!

Bottom leg has a bent knee when you use a ball.

Use the abs, not the arms or legs!
Try it!  You'll like it :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

There is always time for a workout

     Monday is normally a day when I get in a treadmill or elliptical workout.  A chance to work  on my speed or endurance.  Yesterday, however, I had the opportunity to interview a personal trainer for an upcoming Workout Wednesday.  Great for my blog, not so much for my workout.  When I finished  chatting I had only 10 minutes before I had to grab L from the gym's nursery.  My first thought was to just skip my cardio and try to squeeze something in later.  But I had really been looking forward to a run.  Normally I spend 20 minutes on the treadmill doing speed work.  So, I seized my ten minutes and used every minute to my advantage.  I did a 3 minute walking warm-up at 4.0.  Then I ran at 6.7 mph for 5 minutes, 7.5 mph 1 minute and 8.5 for the last minute.  I did a one minute walking cool down.  11 minutes and done.  I got my heart rate up, I was sweating by the end of it.  It wasn't what I had planned but I was still able to get in a bit of cardio.  Life is busy.  Things happen that cause us to be very short on extra time.  When that happens it is so easy to just throw in the towel and skip that day.  Or maybe you are really busy and that is keeping you from even starting to workout.
10 minutes IS enough.  Will it train you for a marathon or help you to look like Jennifer Anniston?  Probably not.  But a 10 minute workout will help you to feel better.  Will help you to burn a few extra calories.  Will help you to stay in shape for anything life throws at you.
So, if you only have 10 minutes, or even 5, still jump on the treadmill.  Or walk around the block.  Or check out my awesome 10 Minute Workout.  

Make every minute count!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baked Guacamole

If you read this blog with any regularity at all, you are quite aware of my crush on avocado.  If this is your first time stopping by, well, now you know, too!
I love avocados for their flavor, their protein and healthy fat, and the fact that they can be used as a main course, a side dish, or a supporting ingredient in a smoothie or sauce.
I am pretty sure that I invented this recipe, but perhaps I didn't.  Years ago my Grandma Mary was cooking dinner for us and she said that she had invented a new dish with shrimp, butter and garlic.  I remember my mom saying: "Oh, you mean Shrimp Scampi?"
So, it is in my genetic code to think that I have invented something when perhaps I have not.  If you are reading this and you are the true inventor of Baked Guacamole, please let me know :)

Baked Guacamole

2 Avocados
1/4 cup banana peppers
1 lime wedge
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh salsa (make sure it has onions and cilantro so you achieve that yummy guac flavor)

Cut the avocados in half and scoop out the good stuff into a baking dish.  Squeeze in some lime juice.  (I also like to add a splash of the juice from the banana peppers, but that's just me)  Using a fork mash the avocado.  Add the banana peppers and stir until combined.  Top with shredded cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.  Top with a few dollops of salsa.   

Serving Suggestions:
  • with tortilla chips as a dip--not just for parties but for a fun lunch option!
  • top rice or quinoa with Baked Guacamole for a meal or sidedish.
  • serve as a partner to grilled chicken or seafood.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bingo! -or- The 16 year Losing Streak

I am a lucky girl.  My two best friends from high school are still my best friends to this day.  Where we used to hang out nearly every day, over the years that time has been cut back drastically, so we maybe see each other, all three of us, just a handful of times throughout the year.  One of those times is to play bingo at the fall festival in our home town.
I played my first game of bingo there in the fall of 1996.  How do I remember?  Easy.  You have to be 16 to play so that was my first year being old enough to buy a card and play.  The details are fuzzy.  I sort of remember feeling very adult buying bingo cards and pull tabs, trying my luck to win some cash. The bingo tent was, and still is, run by the Marching Band Music Boosters club.  So, in addition to playing bingo in the tent, years ago I would volunteer to help out in the tent.  It was a given that we would go in high school.  To say hi to friends and parents, to see our teachers, to be seen being oh-so-cool playing bingo.  Ha!
After graduating from high school we returned to play each year.  In the beginning, it was to see younger friends still working at the tent and to say hi to those teachers that we loved and missed.  The years have gone by and now when I enter the bingo tent I can't say that there is a familiar face among the volunteer workers.  It is rare to see a familiar face even playing bingo.  So why do we go back now?  Nostalgia?  Sure, that's part of it.  Fun?  Most definitely!  As we talked about last night, us three girls like playing bingo.  As we sit in the tent each year we always say that this will be the year that we venture to an Elks Lodge or American Legion Hall and try our luck in a different setting.  We haven't yet...but I have a feeling this will be the year.  Years have been missed here and there at the bingo tent, but when it works out, we still head to the bingo tent.
  So, what's another reason we go?  Ummm, to win!  Not to brag, but I did win a game 8 or so years ago.  I don't remember the exact amount, but I think it was around $70.  It was a pretty thrilling moment.  We had been playing from 1996-2004 without a single win.  My dear friends Veronica and Stephanie, though, have yet to win a single game.  None of us have one the winner-takes-all, nail biting, ultimate bingo round:  Blackout.  It is always played as the last game of the evening and you have to get every space filled to win.  We buy at least 4 cards each and frantically dob our way through, some years in utter panicky-fun.  We have held hands, set up lucky charms, sang songs and many other embarrassing things in order to bring luck to our cards.

While we have never won the jackpot we keep going back.  Sitting at the wooden folding tables.  Discussing what's new in our lives and reminiscing about bingo tent trips from years past.  Sipping on lemonade and noshing on funnel cakes.  While the 11:30 pm Blackout game used to signal the end of bingo for the night but just the beginning of our evening (maybe heading out with friends, to a bar, to Denny's or IHOP) it now signals the true ending.  Time to go home.  Hey, we are old ladies!  It's fun to see how times change but continue to stay the same.  I know that each year, no matter where our lives have taken us, the three of us will try our hardest to get to the bingo tent to play a few games and maybe, just maybe, take home the jackpot.  But seeing each other, keeping a tradition among friends going strong, to me, is the best prize of all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm happy

When I was younger I loved rainy nights.  Something about the streets being shiny, the noise of the rain falling, made me giddy and I would daydream about my future.  I would see myself in a high-rise apartment, looking out onto a rain-shined city.  In my fantasy I had the perfect, executive-level businessy-business job.  I had two children (Andrew and Annabelle) and a handsome husband.  I was happily busy and cutting edge.
As I was teaching yoga this evening, the rain falling on the beautiful arched roof, the windows shiny with rain drops, I was reminded of those childhood fantasies.  The dreamy feeling came back to me.  But instead of imagining and yearning for a future, I realized that I am there.  I.  Am.  Completely.  Happy.  And exactly where I want to be.
No, I am not living the exact blueprint of those fantasies, but I am pretty darn close.  Switch the apartment to a cozy country cottage (sort of).  Handsome husband.  Yep.  Two beautiful children, that I bet would let me call them Annabelle and Andrew if I bought them a video game ;)  I manage a Pilates studio and teach fitness classes and get to watch peoples bodies change for the better because of what I am teaching them.  I am quirkily cool.  I think.
It is hard for people with anxiety to be happy in the moment.  "If I am too happy now, then surely I am going to get hit by a bus or come down with the plague."  Thoughts like that rob me of happy moments.  Over a year ago my therapist asked me to try to not have those type of thoughts.  Instead of saying "But what if something bad happens because I am too happy?" say "I can just be happy and I will be happy tonight, tomorrow, next week."

Nothing bad will happen if I am happy.

Happiness in the Yoga studio 

Teach Me Something Thursday

My friend Michele over at Short Girl, Long Island has a fun new weekly post on her blog:  Teach Me Something Thursday.  She also refers to it as TMST, which I love because it reminds me of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Yes, I am a dork.
Each week she will be featuring a different post that will teach you, the reader, something new.  Fun, right?
This week I am so excited that she featured my post about how to stretch your neck to relieve aches and pains and to help strengthen those overused muscles.
I am looking forward to new posts each week and learning new things.
On that note, I am going to remind you that I am still working on my Workout Wednesday feature that I was hoping to start months ago.  Turns out it is more difficult than I thought it would be to get this going.  Cheers to Michele for getting her feature day up and running so quickly :)
I have several people that I am going to be working with on this and will hopefully have Workout Wednesday any week now!

One more thing:
Don't forget to enter my giveaway for Sunrise Tai Chi book + DVD.  It is a really helpful and easy to follow set and even if you have never done Tai Chi before you will like it and learn a lot about this form of exercise.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shoot! Don't shoot!

Post shot restroom pic.  The latest craze :)

I got my flu shot today.  I wasn't planning on it, but I had a get-to-know-you visit with a new primary care doctor and at the end of the appointment was asked if I need one.  I typically do get a flu shot each year.  It's not that I really want one.  I maybe have even noticed that I tend to get sick more on years when I have had the vaccine.  But, both of my boys are allergy/asthma kids and we err on the side of caution with them and they get the flu vaccine each year.*  It may sound weird, but, I figure that if something is going to be put into the bodies of my children that I want to test it out, too.  All out panic mode thought:  If, months or years from the, the CDC is like "oh, sorry...those flu shots contained blankity-blank and you are all going to die."  I want to make sure I am going through it, too.
I am always interested to know what other people do when it comes to vaccinations.  I have friends that don't vaccinate their children.  I have been hyper-vigilant when it comes to vaccines, but, have also questioned my pediatrician each and every time and we try to spread the shots out over time so that my boys little bodies aren't being bombarded.  The Autism-vaccine connection weighed heavily on my mind, especially 10 years ago when Ezra was first getting vaccinated and less research had been done.

I would really like to hear some outside perspective.  Not just from parents but single folks, too.  Do you vaccinate?  Do you avoid them?  Why?
Thanks for sharing.

*No one in my family, boys and me, got the H1N1 vaccine in 2010.  I felt that it was made too quickly and that the risks outweighed the benefits.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Anti-Inflammation Smoothie

Inflammation can be good, when our body need to heal or recover.  Inflammation can be bad when it is ongoing or caused by stress or other outside factors.
I ran my first 10K last June and since that time I have steadily put on about 8 pounds.  Some of it is probably muscle, but, when I mentioned my problem to a few runners that I know they said it could be caused by inflammation brought on by the training and race and even running in the hot temperatures this summer.  Training and running a 10K is not necessarily on any of the short lists out there of what causes inflammation, but, my legs do feel swollen and I have had joint pain, so it made sense to me.
Last week I participated in the Green Smoothie Challenge and during that time I decided to try to make a smoothie with as many natural anti-inflammatory ingredients as possible.
A quick Google search provides more than enough information and I went with this article from  I really liked it because it gave the top 10 anti-inflammatory foods along with a "sidekick" (I love substitutions and add-ons) and an "arch-enemy", meaning that the food listed should be avoided.
The smoothie ended up being purple rather than green so that is why I saved it to post after the challenge :)

Anti-Inflammation Smoothie

8 ounces green tea
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh (or frozen) raspberries
2 handfuls fresh organic spinach
1/4-1 tsp ginger (fresh or freeze dried) depending on your taste buds
1teaspoon local honey

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on "smoothie" setting until smooth.  I actually ended up using an immersion blender to completely blend the berries.  I think I will use it from now on for smoothies.

Remember:  A little ginger goes a long way and it has a kick.  If you have never used ginger in a smoothie before I would suggest starting with 1/4 tsp and working your way up.  

Pretty much everything in our daily lives can cause inflammation (stress, pollutants, too much sugar intake, an unbalanced diet) so I would recommend this smoothie to anyone.  

Not the prettiest.  But not the ugliest, either!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunrise Tai Chi + a Giveaway

Up until last summer I had only heard of Tai Chi but never had tried it.  I interviewed an instructor interested in teaching at the Studio and he gave a sample class.  I really enjoyed the flowing movements, breath work and the fact that to do the movements properly you need to be completely focused.  Just like with other mind-body exercises (Pilates, Yoga) Tai Chi requires not only physical ability but mental focus.  That is not to say that you need to be in perfect health to practice Tai Chi.  The gentle flow of the work allows all ages and skill levels to participate.  Once I had that first class I wanted to learn more.  I was asked several years ago to be a reviewer for YMAA Publication Center and this past year was lucky enough to receive "Sunrise Tai Chi" to read as well as the companion DVD.  The book provides so much information on how, why, and when to do Tai Chi.  What moves are helpful in aiding what ailments.  How to breathe and move efficiently.  From walking to sitting there is a detailed explanation, along with pictures, on how to implement Tai Chi into everyday life. The book is very easy to understand and after leafing through it just once you will have a better understanding of the work. The DVD has sample workouts to enhance what you have read.  Whether you have done Tai Chi before or you are brand new this set will be helpful for years to come as you practice Tai Chi.

I am so excited to offer my first giveway!  I have teamed up with YMAA Publication Center and will be giving away the book "Sunrise Tai Chi: Simplified Tai Chi for Health & Longvity"by Ramel Rones.  Ramel Rones is a martial arts gold medalist, a disciple of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming who is a world-renown author, scholar, and teacher of Chinese gongfu.   Ramel Rones works as Scientific Consultant of Mind/Body Therapies at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard and Tufts Medical School.  His current research includes studies on tai chi for rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, prostate cancer, and cystic fibrosis. book also has a companion DVD!
This book gives wonderfully simplified explanations of the mind and body aspects of Tai Chi.  You will learn how to calm your mind, control your breathing and how to move your body properly.  The DVD features 20, 40 or 60 minute workouts.
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that promotes relaxation, proper breathing and flowing movements.  Practicing Tai Chi will not only help with flexibility, breathing and movement but is also said to prevent injuries, boost the immune system and provide relief of pain from chronic conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

I have had the opportunity to try Tai Chi and it was a very relaxing and rejuvenating experience.  I became more aware of how to carry myself and how to use my breath to carry out various movements.

For the giveaway I am going to be trying out Rafflecopter for the very first time!  I have used it as a blog reader and I think the process is fun!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*YMAA Publication Center provided me with a free copy of the book and DVD to review, I was not compensated in any way, and all opinions of the Sunrise Tai Chi book and DVD are mine.*

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Song is like a Time Machine

I woke up with a song in my head this morning.  The song was "Long Goodnight" by The Get Up Kids.  I tend to be a sort of cave man when it comes to songs being stuck in my head.  It's like I still don't quite get it that, at the touch of a button, I can listen to any song I want at any time.  But, for some reason, this morning that idea clicked and I used good old You Tube to play the song.
I listen to my iPod quite a bit when I am doing things around the house but it is typically whatever I am currently listening to.  Not counting a few random Pandora visits I rarely listen to The Get Up Kids anymore.  I packed it away, along with my "Boys Lie" t-shirt, pink suede converse and old journals.  So the song came on and, just like that, I was 20.  I wasn't in my kitchen making breakfast and packing lunches.  I was with my best friends, driving in my Jeep.  Singing with my cousins.  Doing all of the things that I did as this song and album served as a soundtrack for, gosh, nearly 2 years.
It's not that I am not happy in the present, but it really was nice to hear a song and be immediately transported, if only in my thoughts, to a different time.  

What song/album has this effect on you?  Please share, I really would love to hear :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let's Settle Down

I am in the middle of what I think of as snowball stress.  My family and I have a lot going on this weekend.  Beginning tomorrow afternoon and going all the way through until Sunday evening we will be in constant motion.  So, already, my mind is racing.  As I drove to work today I was thinking about tomorrow afternoon.  As I am thinking about tomorrow afternoon I begin to plan what will be for dinner tomorrow.  Oh, gosh, then it turns into meeting up with the babysitter at the right time and then baseball snacks and the game...eeeee!  See what I mean?  It's a snowball.  I know that everyone reading this knows exactly how I feel.  We all rush from one thing to the next and are constantly focused not on the present moment but what is going on tonight, tomorrow, next week or even next month.  Okay, so, how to fix it?  Thanks to CBT I am my own therapist, right?

First, lets take a look at my schedule.  As an outsider.

Tomorrow, yes, there is a lot going on.  Work.  Picking up the boys for a doctors appointment.  Baseball practice.  Getting a babysitter.  A night on the town for JF's rock and roll show.  Phew!
Okay, so, what?  

Sure, I will be running from place to place all day long.  But once we get the boys with the sitter the brakes can go on and we are on our own.  Headed to be reunited with lots of friends and good songs.  And Saturday?  Nothing on the books at all.  For some reason my mind skips past that day and zooms directly to Sunday, Ezra's first baseball game of the season.  And that's not til 6.

So, here is the lesson to be learned:

When my schedule gets really full I tend to focus just on the busy parts and not even notice the down time.  What I instead need to do is look at both scheduled and unscheduled times evenly.  Sure, Friday is busy, but once we get to the show that will be our stopping point.  And then a whole day of free time.  The snowball was taking me right past that and directly to the baseball game, skipping not only whatever fun adventures Saturday holds, but a Sunday morning of coffee and lounging with the fam.
So, when you get that snowball stress feeling, step back and really look at your schedule.  Take a breath.  Think about where you are right then and where you really will have to be in the coming days.  
You may just be surprised at how un-busy you are :)