A New Look + Some Updates

This weekend was busier than I’d anticipated, so I didn’t get a chance to do much in the way of writing. I did, however, update the template for the site — it’s a bit cleaner than the old one, and it’s cheaper to boot. A win-win, in my book.

So! Since I spent more time managing the aesthetics of the blog than I did with a writing exercise or even just dumping my random thoughts into WordPress, here’s a compilation of things happening lately.

I made these amazing Thai sweet potato veggie burgers from Oh She Glows. They’re gluten-free when made with GF oat flour, and they’re incredible. I amended the recipe a bit, so they don’t hold together as well as hers — but that’s ok in my book, actually, because I wound up combining them with sauteed kale and mixing it all up into a bowl full of steaming deliciousness. Sweet fancy Moses, they’re amazing.  By way of further endorsement, every time I warmed them up for my lunch at work, random people would walk by my office and go “Ohhhhhh my God, that smells amazing. What is that?!” If you’re looking for something to keep you warm and full, I highly recommend them.

Also, this almost happened last week. I was thwarted by some logistics (namely that I can’t bring dogs past the security guards outside my building, and there was no enclosed park to play in), but for a brief, shining moment in time, I was crawling out of my skin with excitement over the mere idea of seeing a pack of puppies. Since it didn’t, I’m back to being a total creeper around other peoples’ dogs. This is how I look every time I’m in the elevator with a random person’s dog:

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Over the weekend we had one glorious day of warm weather and sunshine before winter came roaring back. It was 65 and sunny on Sunday, so I abandoned all my other plans in favor of a lumber in the great outdoors. You guys, I *so* want to be able to run outdoors all the time. Weather in DC isn’t conducive to it at all, since it’s God-awful hot in the summer, equally God-awful cold and rainy in the winter. Clearly I need to move to SoCal, or someplace where the weather is equally magical. Anyways, I loooooooved my 3 1/2 10-minute miles. (Side note: when I got back, Brandon noted that I had, in the words of Magic Johnson’s basketball commentary, “worked up a good lather.” Despite doing just over a 5K at a pace nowhere near race-worthy, I  still managed to schvitz like a wildebeest.)

I also just discovered a website that I already adore: Trying to be Good, which is hysterically funny, poignant, and an awesome dose of real talk. Anyone who feels feelings and appreciates humor should read it.

Anyways, that’s a brief update — I’ll be back later this week with real writing!

Snow and WIAW

Happy Wednesday, friends!

This week has been fairly glorious so far: we had a snow delay on Monday, and then got all of Tuesday off due to a snowstorm that was forecasted to totally paralyze the DC area. (Of course, the reality was that it snowed but didn’t stick — but the call to shut things down had already been made, so we got a full day off. I know I should be all up in arms about lost taxpayer money and whatnot, but…nope. I’m not even a teeny bit outraged. #SorryI’mNotSorry.)

Today is supposed to be sunny but cold — so, IMHO, it’s the perfect weather for an afternoon run around DC during my “lunch” break. (On days like that, I eat lunch at my desk and then take the mandatory 45 minute break to go run outside. It’s fabulous, and it makes the day go a bajillion times faster.)

I love how relatively empty all the monuments are during the winter, so the running conditions are amazeballs. During the summer, hot as hell and crowded as all get-out, so I wind up having to dodge packs of sweaty middle-school students and tourist groups who walk painfully slowly. As you can imagine, it gets old fast. In the winter, though, it’s a) not 80 million degrees out with 2000% humidity, and b) noticeably lacking in tourists. There are a few here and there, but most of the people are other runners. It’s blissful.

 

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Aaaaaanyways, with that out of the way, it’s  time for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons! Jenn is both hilarious and a fantastic source of foodie inspiration, so I highly recommend checking out her blog.

Peas and Crayons

Per the usual lately, I’ve been a slacker in terms of taking pictures of my food — there’s so much going on in the evenings that I often totally forget to pause for some photography. Blogger fail! Sooo, these descriptions will be short and sweet.

Breakfasts and snacks: If I hit the gym in the morning, I usually crave a green smoothie afterwards (something cold and packed with spinach sounds delicious after a hard workout — which my husband, parents, and pretty much all my nearest and dearest have taken as proof of my abject insanity). However, if I run in the afternoon instead, I tend to want oatmeal (and lots of it — I love the stuff). Lately I’ve been really diggin’ GF oatmeal with hemp seeds, blackstrap molasses, and almond milk; it’s deliciously Christmas-y, and it’s packed with iron. Win.

As for snacks, I usually default to fruit, or bell peppers (look, they’re so seasonally colorful!) with hummus. Oh, and as I might’ve mentioned last week, pickles with hummus. Confession: while normal people stocked up on bread, milk, etc. before the predicted snowstorm, I stocked up on pickles and hummus. I’m not even kidding. I walked out of the store with a party-sized (read: Lillian-sized) tub of hummus and four jars of pickles. The cashier at Whole Foods probably thought I’d taken leave of my senses, but whatever — I can’t be left with a dwindling supply of my favorite snack!

 

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Lunches: I have exactly zero pictures of my lunches, y’all. I can tell you, though, that I’ve been chowing down on soup: either Curried Pumpkin from Whole Foods (with added lentils for protein) or Dr. McDougall’s Black Bean and Rice (with added spinach for veggie power).

Dinners: We’ve had a wide range of foodstuffs for dinner lately, including spinach-feta turkey burgers, turkey-veggie chili, and Thai lemongrass stir-fry with brown rice, chicken, and veggies galore.

 

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…And that’s all, folks! Hope your Wednesdays are all off to a good start!

What’s your favorite thing to have for breakfast?

Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) meal of the day?

Do you mix things up with your dinner menu, or are you pretty consistent?

WIAW: Progress, Not Perfection

Happy Wednesday! Per the usual, this means the countdown to the weekend is officially on. T-Minus 56 hours and counting, my friends. 🙂

Also per the usual, Wednesdays are reserved for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons — I highly recommend her many delicious recipes, so do yourself a favor and go check her out.

Peas and Crayons

My food lately has been a bit of a study in learning curves. Last time I did Weight Watchers, I relied heavily on salads and raw fruits and veggies for snacks — but I’ve found that when it gets cold out, I want warm foods. I tried to do mostly cooked, warm foods for a few days, but I found that I was consistently exceeding my Points allocation. Frustration ensued,my friends — it ensued in a major way. I didn’t want to feel chilled to the bone while eating only raw produce, but I didn’t want to go over my Points value for the day either.

I’ve now settled on a 50/50 set-up, which seems to be working thus far: I eat hot oatmeal for breakfast, hot soup for lunch, and a hot meal for dinner, but I snack on things like fresh apples, bananas, the occasional post-workout green smoothie, and raw bell peppers (and pickles…more on this in a moment) with hummus.

Regarding the pickles bit, I should also probably ‘fess up to the fact that dill pickles with hummus is one of my favorite snacks ever. Most people find this disgusting. Now, I can happily put hummus on just about anything. Pretzels, crackers, carrots, peppers…it’s all good, and I will happily stuff my face with it.

If you’ve seen Don’t Mess With the Zohan, you might recall how they make fun of Israelis for putting hummus in/on everything. Let’s put it this way: when I was in Israel, even my Israeli friends were stunned by how many things I’d eat with hummus. Given how much Israelis love the stuff, this was a very big deal. It’s basically their national food, but even they were appalled when I started dipping dill pickles into tubs of hummus and proclaiming it delicious.

But y’all. It’s delicious. I’m serious.

So, every night when I come home, I head straight for the fridge and dig out a bag of sliced bell pepper slices, a jar of kosher baby dills, and a tub of hummus. No shame. Don’t judge.

Anyways, as I mentioned before, this round of WW involves a whole new learning curve than the one I climbed when I originally joined WW almost two years ago. One issue is that the medication I’m taking to clear out my endometrial cancer is also used as an appetite stimulant. I was all “BWWWWEH?! What the hell?!” when I learned this, because I was hungry all the time to begin with — but now it’s kind of ridiculous. So, I have to work extra hard to find uber-satisfying foods to keep me full.

Another hurdle is my recent discovery that I seem to have an intolerance to eggs. (*Headdesk*) I love eggs, and I ate them all the time during my first round in WW — but then I started noticing that I’d have some serious tummy troubles whenever I ate them. I didn’t want to believe that this could possibly be due to my beloved eggs, so I decided it must be something else. But, when I finally isolated the variable last week, it became clear: eggs are not my BFF. As Brandon so aptly noted, I’m running out of foods I can eat. Sadness ensues!

So, with eggs out, more cooked foods in, and my efforts to try and stay full, it’s been a bit of a challenge. I’m not losing weight as quickly as I’d like to, but I have a new motto when it comes to all my goals — weight loss, running, writing, the whole lot — of late: progress, not perfection.

The weight might not be melting right off, but that’s ok. I’m making progress, and I’m figuring out how to do this in a way that works for my body this time around. I’m working within a different set of parameters, and I’m learning the ropes slowly but surely. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress — and that’s what matters most.

I’ll reach my goal at a pace that works, and I’ll do it without feeling incredibly cold or having a daily egg-induced stomachache. 

 
 
Anyways, with all that being said, let’s move on to the quick and dirty tour of what I’ve been noshing on lately:
 
  • Breakfasts involve tea and oatmeal with home-made cashew butter (which, BTW, is teh awesomz – my MIL made it when she was visiting, and I love the stuff)
  • Snacks are composed of Greek yogurt with berries, apples, and the aforementioned peppers and pickles with hummus. 
  • Lunches have occasionally involved salads, but now that it’s getting chilly, they always involve my newly beloved veggie soups. I made this recipe for a vegan Seven Vegetable and “Cheese” soup from Oh She Glows, and it’s awesome — I also added some lentils for extra bulk and protein, so it’s the perfect lunch. The great thing about it is that the flavor of the soup is a great base/carrier for other, stronger flavors. I’ve jazzed this up about a bajillion different ways: depending on the day, I’ve used Moroccan spices, Chinese Five Spice, Italian spices, curry and ginger, or a sprinkle of bagel seasoning. Each one is delicious, so I’ve been a happy soup-slurping camper.
  • Dinners usually involve lean protein and veggies, so we’ve had things like chicken Marsala with sauteed asparagus, spaghetti squash with turkey and veggie Bolognese, turkey and veggie chili (with my other life partner, avocado), and other such offerings. 
  • I usually wrap things up with a cup of herbal tea and a cookie from Purely Elizabeth. If you haven’t tried these cookies yet, I hiiiiiiighly recommend them! They’re vegan and gluten-free, and they’re filled with all sorts of nutrient-dense ingredients — and despite all the qualifiers about how healthy they are, they’re freakin’ delicious. They’re only 2 WW Points per cookie, so I try to save room for them whenever possible.  

 

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With all that being said, I hope everybody has/is having a fabulous Wednesday!
 
What’s your favorite dessert?
 
Have you ever discovered weird food intolerances as an adult that you didn’t know you had before?

A Slow Start

I’m back again! Things have calmed down a bit after a busy few weeks, and I’m happy as a clam to have time to write again. I missed you guys!

I do, however, think that the whole “busy as a bee on amphetamines” motif is catching up with me in the form of very, veeeerrrry slllllooooooooowww starts to, um, pretty much everything I do. Ever have one of those days/weeks/months/decades when everything you do — getting up, doing work, running, etc. — feels like the engine on a rusty old car in the cold weather, struggling to turn over and get going? That’s me these days. 

We had a wonderful holiday weekend, but upon waking up on Monday morning, my first thought was “Noooooooooooooo. NO WORK. I don’t wanna go. Noooooooooo.” I’m very good at fighting reality by whining about it — it’s one of my hidden talents. Reality always wins, though, in spite of my prodigious whining/goaning/kvetching. (Damn you, reality! Why must you be stronger than my complaints?!) I grouchily dragged myself out of bed and groggily got ready for the day, but I think my eyes were still half-closed when I left the apartment, and I’m pretty sure I looked like an extra on The Walking Dead as I made my way to the bus stop. I might’ve even made the weird labored breathing/gurgling noises the walkers make, but I can’t be sure. (I wasn’t awake enough.)

Once I got to work, my motivation — much like Elvis — had left the building. People, I was feeling unspeakably lazy. Left to my own devices, I probably would’ve sat there and drooled on myself while staring blankly at my computer screen. But alas, that wasn’t in the cards. Real work beckoned, and, being that one has to actually do work to get paid (again I say: damn you, reality!), I bucked up and slogged through my profound lack of motivation. (Someday when I’m a benevolent overlord, I’ll make the Monday after Thanksgiving a mandatory “ease back into work” day. This will involve being in the office, but only doing fun things like chatting with colleagues over eggnog or watching movies.) 
 
The big highlight of my day, though, was my afternoon run. My late afternoon runs along the National Mall have become one of my favorite things, and they’re usually the best part of my day. (Well, that and lunch. Meals and running make me happy.) Much like the rest of my day, I started out slow. At first I was tired and achy — but once I got in the groove, I felt awesome. I was listening to a fantastic podcast, I was going strong, and I felt so great that I decided to tack an extra mile on the end. By the time I was finished, I was one happy camper! 
 
The awesome feeling lasted the rest of the evening, but this morning saw me doing the same “Nooooooooooo, I don’t wanna get uuuuuuuuuuuup, I don’t wanna go to wooooorrrrrrrrrk, noooooooooooo” motif. I think there’s just something about winter that makes me want to channel my inner grizzly bear and hibernate — because each and every winter I wind up feeling like I could easily keep sleeping well after the appointed 7-8 hours of shut-eye have passed. The fact that it’s dark so much just makes my body want to zonk out for an extra four hours each night. (That’s the other thing I’ll do someday when I’m a benevolent overlord: amend winter business hours to accommodate the need for extra sleep. Y’all, I need to figure out how to become a benevolent overlord.) 
 
 
On a separate note, how was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Hopefully it involved quality time with family and friends — and, of course, good food. On our end, the good folks at Williams-Sonoma came through for us in a big way. Did you know they sell both gluten-free stuffing and a GF pumpkin bread mix?! Holy moly, y’all, I was in heaven. In years past, I’d dried out many a loaf of GF bread in order to dry out and make stuffing — but this year, Williams-Sonoma did it for me. I just added sauteed mushrooms, celery, and chicken stock, et voila! It was delicious, and absurdly easy. It also goes without saying that the GF pumpkin bread was freaking amazing. It didn’t even seem like it was GF, which was a huge accomplishment. Williams-Sonoma FTW! Seriously, whoever created their line of GF goods deserves a Medal of Honor.
 
Anyways, I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday and a great weekend. I’ll be back to blogging more regularly now that things are calming down a tad, so I’ll be seeing more of you wonderful, lovely people soon. Here’s hoping your week is off to a good start!

An Extra Hour

Good morning, everyone! How was your weekend? Did you get some extra sleep after “falling back” for daylight savings?

I had a much-needed restful weekend, and I feel particularly well rested after moving the clocks back an hour. I always have mixed feelings about daylight savings: I haaaaate that it gets dark so early in the fall, but I love the daylights (pun intended) out of that extra hour of rest. The well-rested feeling lasts for a few days, which I adore.

By contrast, I loooooove that it stays light in the evening in the spring, but I can’t stand losing that one precious hour of rest. Similarly, it takes me a few days to re-adjust to having lost that hour, and I wind up feeling groggy and like a a really irritable zombie all week. Instead of saying “Braaaaaiiiiins,” I wind up muttering “Sleeeeeeep” as I stumble around like an insane person.

But I digress.

In both cases, I try to focus on the thing  that does make me really happy. (If we’re looking at trade-offs, I figure it can’t hurt to focus on any and all benefits.) In this case, it’s sleep. Sleep is my homie. My BFF. I love it to pieces.

I decided to milk that extra hour for all it was worth: I slept and dozed and lounged, knowing that I had extra time and didn’t need to worry about getting up and being productive. Leisure! Rest! GLORIOUS!

So, while it’s getting dark obscenely early now, I at least got to spend the day being way lazier than I normally would. And I have to admit: I really like being lazy.

Aside from my propensity to lounge around endlessly in my PJ’s, we had a lovely weekend. We hit up our favorite Indian restaurant for their lunch buffet, saw Ender’s Game — which, BTW, was awesome, and I highly recommend seeing it — and then visited one of my favorite grocery stores here (Mom’s Organic Market).

I love grocery shopping in general — I’ve loved it since I started cooking when I was in high school — but I especially love shopping at Mom’s. Mom’s, while not as economical as places like Trader Joe’s, has produce that looks so flippin’ gorgeous, it’s almost inspirational. I really think that if you could take a bona-fide vegetable hater and show them the produce at Mom’s, they’d reconsider their loathing of anything that comes from the ground. It’s heavenly.

After all that shopping, I whipped up some healthy breakfast-ish muffins. I’ve been trying to squeeze more veggies into our daily routine, and we’re both pressed for time in the mornings — so I figured this would be a good means of both saving time and giving us something healthy to snack on.

 

Gluten Free Morning Glory Muffins

While the original recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart, is already pretty healthy, I decided to up the ante on this. I used gluten-free almond and amaranth flours, replaced the sugar with agave, substituted 1/2 cup of the flour for ground flaxseeds, and substituted almond milk for skim milk. (I also nixed the oil, because the batter was plenty moist without it, and the raisins, because I really don’t like having raisins in baked goods. I’m weird like that.)

With those substitutions, these muffins are gluten- and dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and loaded with protein, fiber, and produce. I know almond flour sometimes doesn’t sit well with some Celiac tummies, so if you decide to make your own GF version, use whatever GF flour you like — I obviously haven’t run that experiment myself, but I suspect it’d work just as well.

Healthy Morning Glory Muffins (Adapted from the Martha Stewart recipe)

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup amaranth flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup GF rolled oats
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed

Baking time will probably depend on your oven (mine gets funky sometimes, for reasons I’ll probably never understand), but these will bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center of each comes out clean.

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend and that all your days are off to a marvelous start! If you’re in the mood for some more marvelousness, feel free to swing by Healthy Diva Eats, where the lovely mamacita Katie hosts a weekly link-up for Marvelous in my Monday — it helps the beginning of the week feel less painful. 🙂

MiMM MIMM #74  Family, Dinner Date, and More!

WIAW: Volume Eating + Weird Gym Experiences, Part II

Good morning, and happy Wednesday! The weekend is in sight, y’all, and that alone is deserving of a happy dance.

It’s been a while since I did a WIAW post, so I figured it’d be a good time to discuss what I’m noshing on now that I’ve re-joined Weight Watchers. First and foremost, thanks are due to Jenn, the lovely mamacita who hosts this shindig over at Peas & Crayons!

 

As for foodstuffs, the WW strategy is all about volume eating.  From what I can tell, the WW Points values are based on Volumetrics: an approach that focuses on feeling full by eating a high volume of foods that have low caloric density. Basically, it focuses on low-fat, low-calorie foods with a premium on lean protein and lots of produce. So, that’s what I’ve been inhaling in almost Conehead-esque style.

Breakfasts have involved my usual toast with coffee — I’m on a hazelnut coffee kick these days, so I’ve been brewing that stuff up like a champ.

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After hitting the gym, I’ve been having either scrambled egg whites with sauteed spinach or a fruit and kale smoothie:

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Snacks: Since volume eating focuses so heavily on produce, my snacks are composed mainly of fruits and veggies — namely bananas, apples, grapefruit, Thai cole slaw (shredded cabbage with GF Thai peanut sauce), and celery with a Greek yogurt dill dip. Beyond produce, I’ve also snacked on popcorn, low-fat string cheese, and puffed corn cakes topped with hummus, pea shoots, and organic turkey. (These concoctions were unexpectedly delicious. *Drools*)

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Oh, and let’s not forget about tea, since I drink ridiculous amounts of the stuff. Green tea, Rooibos chai, herbal infusions, the list goes on…basically, it’s a really good thing I have an electric kettle in my office. I also might have an entire cabinet shelf at home dedicated completely to my tea stockpile. I will neither confirm nor deny this allegation.

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Lunches have been brought to me by the good folks at Imagine Soups: I’ve been combining 1 cup of a vegetable-based soup (thus far, Garden Broccoli and Carrot Almond are my favorites) with sauteed spinach, onions, and a half cup of cooked lentils to bulk it up a bit. It’s delicious and filling, and it’s been perfect for the cold days we’ve we had earlier in the week.

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Dinners have run a wide gamut, but I confess that I didn’t get a picture of a single thing. We tend to cook during the week and eat out on the weekends, so I ate offerings such as this recipe for chickpea and herb salad from Epicurious, turkey-veggie chili (a recycled picture is below), a chicken salad from Chipotle topped with Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Guacamole (side note: this stuff is AMAZING), and Greek salad with grilled chicken from one of our favorite restaurants.

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Desserts have also focused on low-calorie foods, such as these chocolate chip meringues from Gina at Skinnytaste.com and dehydrated fruit from Trader Joe’s. Confession: my chocolate chip clouds didn’t turn out to be nearly as cute and photogenic as the ones pictured in the link above. They actually look, well, fugly. So, instead of me posting a picture here, humor me and let’s pretend that they look as adorable as the originals. Ok? Deal? Awesome!

Also, thank you guys for the comments on yesterday’s post. Y’all have no idea how relieved I am to know that I’m not the only person who sees weird, weird shizz happen at the gym.

I actually have one more story to add to that list: after I graduated college, I briefly lived in Philly before moving to DC. I was quite desperately under-employed at the time, so when I wasn’t job hunting my tail off, I was usually at the gym. Of course, my apartment had it’s one Weird Gym Dude, and he liked to try to talk to me whenever he could (despite being old enough to be my dad). This was how I looked whenever he tried to start up a conversation, because these attempts gave me that icky “Ew, you’re trying to hit on me” feeling, as opposed to the “Oh, you’re a harmless, normal person who just wants to be friendly” feeling:

One day I was on the bike, and I happened to be multi-tasking by reviewing my college Arabic textbook. (Gotta keep those language skills fresh!) Homeslice walked up to me — wearing a weighted vest, no less, which he’d recently taken to donning while he nearly gave himself a coronary on the treadmill — and said, with as much suaveness as he could muster, “Miss, are you a native speaker of Arabic?”

Now by this point, I had no patience for this guy. This was, like, attempt # 2,594 to strike up conversation with me, and I was in a particularly bad mood that day. I’d been having problems with my boyfriend. I was feeling particularly discouraged by the job hunt. I was tired. I was cranky. I was not in the mood to deal with Señor Kevlar Vest.

“No,” I said. “If I was, would I be reading an Introduction to Arabic book?”

“Well,” he replied, “I only ask because you’re very exotic looking. You have a foreign, exotic beauty about you.”

I was flabbergasted by this (first because it’s lecherous and gross, but second because I’m SO not exotic — I’m Irish and Welsh, so I’m basically the most milquetoast person ever), so I said nothing and just gave him a look which I hope conveyed the “WTF, dude?” that was running  through my mind.

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And with that, he walked away and began his daily ritual of trying to force his heart to explode while running at full speed with his weighted vest.  I got a job in DC and moved out of that apartment not long after, so I didn’t see much of him after that — but to say the least, he’s the reason I implemented a policy of never removing my headphones at the gym.

Aaaaaanyways, with all that being said, I hope everyone is having a good week — happy Wednesday!

Have you ever had weird conversations with weird people at the gym (or anywhere, for that matter?) What did you do?

Lovable Things

Because I couldn’t sleep last night (fie upon you, insomnia), I decided to counteract my inevitably surly mood — said surly mood always rolls up like a Panzer tank on PCP when I don’t get enough sleep — with my daily trip to the gym and a list of things that are eminently lovable, or at least enjoyable. Besides, it’s a de-facto Monday for those of us who had yesterday off, so we all need something to smile about. So without further ado…happy things!

 

1)      Rooibos Chai. (Side note: my spell check tried to correct “rooibos” into “Boo-Boo.” You fail, spell check. Please do not redneckognize America’s #1 TV star.) Cooler weather has arrived, which means it’s time to bust out the chai! There are times when my stomach doesn’t do well with traditional black tea chai, so I was thrilled when a friend sent me a box of Numi Rooibos Chai as part of a care package. (Emma, you rock!) This stuff is amazing. It’s delicious, warming, and caffeine free – which, of course, makes it the perfect option for a late afternoon tea hankering in autumn. I’d tell you to imagine me sipping a mug of it while sitting in an overstuffed chair and watching gorgeous leaves fall from trees outside my window, but the reality is that I usually sip it while sitting in my windowless office and staring at my computer. Close enough though, right?

 

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2)      Listening to awesome podcasts while running or at the gym. I often get tired of my workout playlist, even though I add new songs to it pretty frequently. I mean, I love all the songs on there, but this playlist goes back over 10 years – so there are times when I just. Can’t. Listen. Any. More. Knowing that my playlist was driving me slowly insane, I decided to rekindle my relationship with podcasts. Egads, people, is there ever some awesome stuff out there. I’ve been laughing my way through workouts with NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me and have been getting all edumakated and inspired by the Creative Wellness podcast by Melanie St. Ours and The Good Life Project podcast by Jonathan Brown. It’s amazing how much faster the minutes go by when I’m not saying “Uuuuuuuugh, you again?” at whatever song has started playing for the bajillionth time.

 

3)      Nature’s Path Gluten-Free Granola. I have an abiding, deep love of granola, and while I’ve successfully made my own from time to time, the fact remains that I’m a) pressed for time, and b) lazy. Between grocery shopping, cleaning, washing clothes, and pre-chopping piles of veggies during the weekend, it just doesn’t leave much time for much else. There are a few other kinds of GF granola on the market, but Nature’s Path is, thus far at least, hands down the best one I’ve tasted. To quote Fat Bastard (one of the best characters of all time, IMHO — he gets quoted a lot in our house), “Get in mah belly!”

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4)      Mind Over Medicine, by Lissa Rankin. I picked this up a couple of months ago, and I love it. She discusses some of the key issues we covered during the course of my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of which is the idea that health is more than just diet and exercise. Career, relationships, a sense of community, and a sense of meaning or purpose are critical factors in health and wellness; similarly, the lack of those things can also contribute to illness. Considering all the time we spend being careful about eating veggies and hitting the gym, it’s worth taking the time to look at health from a holistic perspective – and I mean holistic in the sense of looking at the whole of our lives, not just the sum of its parts. I love how Dr. Rankin presents these ideas!

 

5)      Random Interwebz humor. This Tumblr page, Brides Throwing Cats, has had me in stitches more than once. (I want to put a disclaimer on this before I’m accused of finding humor in animal cruelty: THE WHOLE THING IS PHOTOSHOPPED. No cats were actually thrown!) Also, Hyperbole and a Half has a new post up, and basically everything she does makes me laugh so hard I pull a muscle.

 An uninterested audience waits for this tabby cat to drop to the floor. Awkward.

 

So, with that, I’m going to drag my sorry self to the office. Tell me, though: what kind of stuff have you guys been lovin’ on lately? 

WIAW + Going Green: An Update

Before I get into this week’s WIAW, I wanted to quickly update y’all about yesterday’s post: it turns out I was wrong about two of the Seventh Generation products that I thought had A’s.

Long story short, a friend posted the Going Green post to her Facebook page, and a friend of hers, who apparently knows quite a bit about this stuff, noticed that two of the products I listed as having A’s, in fact, have a C and a D.

Gah! No bueno.

That said, I do appreciate her bringing the discrepancy in EWG ratings to my attention. Brandon and I had been using our phones to look up the EWG ratings for various cleaning products while we were at the store, and at the time we were certain that all the things I featured had A’s. I’m not sure how we got mixed up (maybe it’s a problem with the way their mobile site loads? Maybe the hostile crowds in Target stressed me out so much that they negated my ability to think/read clearly?), but I’ve since taken down the pictures of the two Seventh Generation products — the liquid dish soap and the laundry detergent — that didn’t get A’s.

Secondly, she was concerned that, given the incorrect information I’d posted, maybe I’d been paid to write the post as a promo for Seventh Generation. I would never want to mislead you guys (or anyone, for that matter), and I was really upset by this — so juuuuuuust in case anyone else got the same impression about yesterday’s post, I want to be up-front about the fact that I’ve never been asked to do a product review or promotion by anyone, including Seventh Generation. The intent of yesterday’s post was not to promote their products, but rather to discuss the incredibly disturbing stuff I’d learned about toxins in cleaning products and promote the Environmental Working Group’s efforts to find out what’s safe and what isn’t. If I’m ever asked to do a product review or promotion in the future, I plan to fully disclose this in any ensuing post about that product.

All that being said, I apologize for posting what turned out to be incorrect information here. Lesson learned: don’t use the mobile site while getting pushed around by unruly Target customers. 🙂

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Aaaaaaaaaaanyways, on to happier things: WIAW! Thanks, as always, to the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons for hosting the awesomest cyber-potluck on the interwebs.

Peas and Crayons

This week’s eats have been a study in soft foods. Why is this, you ask?

An epic glutening earlier in the week caused a backslide in my post-op recovery, so I’ve been sticking with mild foods that don’t upset my stomach. On a larger scale, though, I’ve found that — and this may be the biggest post-op shock of them all — my food preferences have changed. For example, I still love coffee, but my body isn’t reacting kindly to it at all. I’ve cut it out in favor of green tea, which is something I never dreamed I’d do willingly. (I find, though, that I feel much better without java. Whoda thunk?) I’ve also been gravitating less towards spicy foods and crunchy things and more and more towards soft , easy to digest foods like scrambled eggs, toast, bananas, rice, and avocado.

Also, my appetite has gone from being voracious to positively bird-like. After having gotten full from eating half my dinner, Brandon and I both wondered if perhaps I’d gotten my stomach stapled by accident. To quote Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure:

That said, it’s not bad at all. Those nanners? Delish. Scrambled eggs? Nectar of the gods. Turkey burgers with avocado? Awesome. Rice topped with a tiny bit of ghee and some bagel seasoning? A party in my mouth.

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I never would’ve guessed that these would be the foods I’d want, since I’ve historically loved spicy, crunchy foods — but I’m a big proponent of the theory that the body knows what it needs in order to heal itself. I’ve found this to be true for ages; I don’t generally crave things like candy, cake, or chips (unless I’m about to get a visit from Aunt Flo, in which case all bets are off), but I do routinely crave stuff like oatmeal, blueberries, or broccoli. I figure that my body knows what it needs, so I have no qualms about giving it what it wants! (Except for the aforementioned exception to this rule, in which case I try with all my might to keep from eating junk food. This usually fails, but hey, I put up a good fight.) 🙂

Anyways, I hope everyone is having a lovely Wednesday — here’s to the week almost being over!

Do you find that your body often knows what it needs in order to heal/be healthy?

What do you crave when Aunt Flo is about to visit?

Going Green

Right after I got my preliminary diagnosis of premature ovarian failure, my doctor speculated that the problem might’ve been linked to my history of autoimmune disease. She admitted, though, that no one knows much about autoimmune disease, so I took it upon myself to get all edumakated on the subject. Now, I’m a researcher at heart — when I was in grad school, I used to love rolling up at the library as soon as it opened, travel mug full of java in hand, in order to dive head-first into Lexis-Nexis like Scrooge McDuck into his pile of money — and this situation was no different.

I’d always known that having Celiac predisposes me to other autoimmune conditions, but I figured going gluten-free was all I needed to do to prevent those other things from ever cropping up.

Well.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more at play than that. In The Autoimmune Epidemic, Donna Nakazawa notes that new diagnoses of autoimmune disease have skyrocketed in recent decades, and that one of the probable causes is the  population’s vastly increased exposure to environmental toxins. Such toxins can come from non-organic foods, household cleaners, industrial pollution, and even carpets and furniture.

Color me appalled, y’all.

At various points while reading The Autoimmune Epidemic, I sat on the couch (which, as I soon learned, is probably toxic as all get-out), brazenly slack-jawed and mouth-breathing, as I realized in horror that basically everything around me is poisonous. Noooooooooooo!

The root of this problem lies in chemical regulation: in the European Union, for example, substances must be proven safe for humans and the environment before they can be used in agriculture, cosmetics, industrial chemicals, food, household cleaners…basically, the list goes on for a while. In the U.S., by contrast, chemicals can be used in every imaginable context — and can only be taken out of those products if they’re proven to be harmful. However, it’s really, really hard to prove that something is harmful once it’s out in the general population. And therein, to quote my homie Shakespeare, lies the rub.

To quote the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the nation’s leading health and environmental research and advocacy organization,

EWG research into more than 2,000 common cleaning products lays bare the troubling consequences of the lack of federal oversight over the ingredients in cleaning supplies. Manufacturers can use nearly any substance they want, even those known to pose health or environmental hazards. And they can hide information about virtually all those ingredients from the eyes of consumers. The result is an unregulated industry and hundreds of potentially harmful cleaning products on store shelves. (Source)

Oh, hell no.

Brandon and I looked up our all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and dish soap on the EWG’s consumer Guide to Healthy Cleaning, only to find that they’d all earned big, fat, stinkin’ F’s. Once again: oh, hell no.

We were so very mad when we saw this. Like, if steam could’ve been coming out my ears a la Looney Toons, it absolutely would’ve been (replete with the steam-engine whistle sound).

Failing the ability to totally wig out and send expletive-laden hate mail to the makers of all these products (because really, what would that do?), we decided to instead put our money where our mouths are: we tossed out all our old stuff and bought A-rated products.

Here’s a run down of what we used before vs. what we use now:

All Purpose Cleaner Seventh Generation Green Works

Dishwasher Detergent Seventh Generation Cascade

One of the things that irked me the most in finding out that, like, everything we own is hazardous is the fact that all the Green Works products we’d been using are practically brimming with really bad crap. Y’know, things like probable carcinogens, which I think we’d all like to avoid. I’d specifically bought Green Works because it’s marketed as a health-conscious, eco-friendly alternative to the more hardcore cleansers out there. But obviously, that marketing ploy turned out to be — how do I say this gently? — a steaming pile of BS.

Buyer beware, I know. But y’all, I looked at the ingredient lists. I compared labels. I didn’t just pick it up because a commercial told me it was a good idea. And yet, I got totally hosed.

Insert fit of rage here, my friends.

But wait, there’s more! In doing some further investigation, I found that all my cosmetics are just as laden with endocrine disrupting, banned-in-the-EU chemical compounds as our old cleaning products.

*Headdesk*

So, those cosmetics are next on my list of items to be replaced. Financially, though, it wouldn’t be feasible to toss all my makeup and start over from scratch — so for now, I plan to gradually replace my existing stash as I use up what’s left. As I start hunting for new cosmetics, hair products, body wash, and moisturizers, EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database will hopefully provide loads of guidance on what products are safe vs. which ones I need  to avoid.

All in all, although I’m peeved beyond words about the extent to which manufacturers have pulled the wool over my eyes — and a lot of peoples’ eyes, for that matter — I’m tremendously grateful to the EWG for doing so much research and using a rigorous methodology in order to determine what’s safe and what’s not. They’re a tremendous resource, and I wish I could bake a huge batch of cookies and send them out to all their offices. Failing that, I’ll just have to give them my eternal gratitude.

MIMM: Cookies, a Pedi, and Continued Improvement

Good morning, everyone!

The good news: I keep feeling better and better, so I’m definitely on the mend. *Does happy dance* It’s amazing how feeling bad can make you acutely aware of — and thankful for — the times when you feel good. Every time I notice how much better I feel, I get really, really happy (and really, really grateful).

The bad news: it’s Monday. (One of my talents is stating the obvious. The other? Walking into fixed objects. As my Sunday school teacher used to say, God gave us all special gifts.)

I find that, for me at least, Mondays are a consistent source of an emotion that can only be described as “Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh.” I don’t mind the bit about getting up early — left to my own devices, I generally do that anyways — but commuting? Uuuuuuuuugh. Going to work? Uuuuuuuuuuugh. Not seeing the sun all day? Uuuuuuuuuuugh. (This gets a bajillion times worse in the winter, since that’s when I can literally go from Monday through Friday without seeing the sun. I’M GOING TO GET RICKETS, PEOPLE. RICKETS!)

I find that all my Marvelous in My Monday material comes from the weekend, and this week is no different. So, although the work weeks may suck away my will to live (third talent: use of exaggeration for dramatic effect), the weekends are comparatively fabulous! Before I dive into the weekend marvelousness, I’d like to thank the lovely Katie from Healthy Diva Eats for hosting this lovely shin-dig. Muchas gracias, mamacita! 🙂

Among the marvelous offerings this weekend were:

  • A freakin’ amaaaaaaaaaaazing strawberry Bellini I had with dinner on Friday night. This thing was sublime, people. It was sweet, light, and crisp — basically, the perfect beverage for a summer weekend.

Strawberry Bellini

  • The pedicure I finally got with my bright pink Essie polish, which I lurve. I feel about my pink nail polish the same way I that feel about my pink jacket: it might make the uber buttoned-up DC folks take me less seriously — people who wear bright colors tend to be looked upon skeptically here — but I don’t care. I’m on a mission to be unabashedly myself instead of acquiescing to DC culture (which, the longer I’m here and the older I get, the more I’ve realized is basically antithetical to every element of my personality), and this is part of that motif.

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  • I spent yesterday on a bit of a baking binge, and I whipped up some pretty fabulous GF oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies using Pamela’s GF Oatmeal Cookie mix and Enjoy Life allergen-free chocolate chunks. These babies are also dairy-free, so they’re safe for those of us upon whom lactose hates. I’m taking them to work today in order to ease the Monday grossness for everyone; although cookies don’t solve all problems (although wouldn’t it be great if they did? I can see it now: Boss is throwing a fit? Cookies! Computer crashed? Cookies! Building is on fire? Cookies!), they’ll at least make today a bit more manageable for the office crowd.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I hope everyone has a lovely Monday (well, as lovely as Mondays can be) and that the day goes by quickly!

What was the best part of your weekend?

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

What’s the best adult beverage you’ve ever had?