Friday, January 31, 2014

"Beauty" is Not a Dirty Word

Some Color-of-the-Year Beauty Finds
I've been struggling a bit since my YouTube beauty video confession last summer.  Struggling about wanting to share some beauty tricks, tips, or finds in this space.  But in a larger sense, struggling with guilt.


Lately, beauty seems to have become a bad word.  In an effort to make sure that we, as authentic women, are not owned by the aesthetic, it feels like beauty has been banished.  We don't want our daughters to be judged by whether or not they are pretty, so talking about how we look (or want to look) has become a new taboo.

Yet, when I've received a compliment from a fellow mom or female colleague ("your eyes look really pretty today" or "your skin looks great, what have you been doing"), and I've mustered the courage to admit my YouTube secret, the response I get is almost one of relief.  "Oh, you, too?!" I've heard more than once.  Not only do I enjoy taking a few extra minutes on my appearance when I can, but I'm not the only one!

I've thought a lot about it and have come to realize that we, as women of substance may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, which is to say:

I don't think beauty is a dirty word - so long as it is not the only word.

Striving to give our children wholesome, meaningful experiences, challenging our minds with intellectual pursuits, and using our hands to create {delicious food or lovely crafts} does not require excluding beauty from our vocabulary and lifestyle.  In fact, making a little extra effort can make us feel like we're bringing our A-game to those other, far loftier pursuits.

So instead of feeling guilty, I'm going to embrace wanting to be just a little bit selfish and girly each day.  And since I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one, I've also decided to share some of that feminine fun here, in addition to my regularly irregular marginalia.

Do you have a favorite beauty tip you've been dying to share?  I'd love to hear it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Whole 30: Week 3

Week 3 is behind me and I'm in the home stretch!  Thank goodness, because the Day 21 slump hit in full force.  It's not that I'm not motivated to keep going: clothes are fitting better, skin is noticeably clearer, and my joints are a little less painful (at least on the days that haven't been bitterly cold).  But, as predicted, some of the fare is getting a bit dull (despite some great recipes in Week 3).  I have some more new recipes to try in Week 4 to get me through to the finish line.


I made my own egg cups this week using chopped up Bilinski sausage and onions. On Wednesday, when I was home with the kids, I made Danielle Walker's Smoky Sweet Potato Hash, which was amazing! So amazing, that I was so quick to eat it (initially and reheated on some subsequent mornings) that I forgot to snap a quick photo to include here!  Because I have been unable to get my hands on sugarless bacon, I used prosciutto (added just before the eggs) and used 2 tsp. of ghee to cook the sweet potatoes.  I also toned back the seasonings because I suspected Mouse would be stealing off my plate yet again (1/4 tsp. chili powder and only a dash of cayenne pepper; and yes, I was right).


I had business lunches again this week, but with some more casual, familiar colleagues so I was able to have one lunch at Whole Foods and another at Chipotle.  The Whole Foods one was a treat, and incredibly easy with all of the ingredients listed at the hot bar.  I also survived a lunch at Taco Mac (which on a weekend, non-Whole 30 day is easily a favorite place for beer, wings and queso) with a beef patty over lettuce with salsa and guacamole.  Nominate me for sainthood, people!

At home, I had leftover salmon (see photo above and recipe notes below) over supergreens with these beets from Michelle at Nom Nom Paleo.  I also continued the chicken salad quest, but have yet to find the holy grail.  Then again, I am a self-confessed chicken salad snob, so this may be a Don Quixote kind of quest.  This week I hybridized this recipe and this one.  The result was good but not great.


I was spared some kitchen time (last week's gripe) with leftovers (stuffed peppers on Monday; brisket on Thursday; chicken salad on Friday; and baked-ahead chicken breasts with leftover beets and asparagus on Saturday).  On Tuesday, I made the Ghee Salmon recipe from Lindsay at Fit & Awesome, to rave reviews from Daddy M and Mouse (who literally threw her Earth's Best fish sticks on the floor in order to steal my salmon).  We used a generous sprinkle of Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute for flavor on each piece.  As Daddy M put it: definitely a "do again"!

Onward and upward to Week 4!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fitness Friday: Getting Started (or Restarting)

My current workout tabs - and my furry coach
With it being Resolution Season, a lot of folks are starting - or restarting - a fitness program.  I thought it would be a good time to answer some questions I've received about how to get started with a fitness program (especially at home, without the benefit of a trainer).

This is timely for me, as well, as I am finally to a place with my feet (thanks to a wonderful new podiatrist and an amazing physical therapist) and with sleep (thanks to Mouse returning to sleeping through the night) where I can reasonably contemplate working up a sweat.

There is no one "right" way to start a fitness program.  These are simply three things that I find work for me to get back on track.

1) Find something you ENJOY!
Sure, if your goal is to lose a significant amount of weight, you'll need to do a lot of cardio or if you're looking for major muscle definition, you should be hefting some serious weights.  But when you're getting started, the best way I've found to keep going is to do something I enjoy.  Simply put, if I dread it, I won't do it (especially when I'm feeble or a little fluffy).  

If you love to dance, find a local Zumba class (I've heard great things!) or discover a dance video on YouTube that makes you want to move and groove.  I was surprised at how well I worked up a sweat joining Moose at his Just Dance game that he got for Christmas.

If you're dying to be a Bond girl, try some kickboxing!  Nothing makes me feel more fierce than kickboxing!

Both Pilates and yoga make me feel so stretched and lean that they leave me looking forward to the next session.

The point is, figure out what makes you want to move and stick with that, at least until you've built an exercise habit.

2) Be kind to your body - start with small bites!
Right now, I NEED to do cardio, and I WANT to do crazy intervals and burpees all the time.  BUT, my body just isn't ready.  Yet.  I can't run a continuous mile at the moment, and can't sustain 30 minutes of cardio.  Yet.

For me, one of the best ways I've found to build up is by taking small bites, and then building on that.  The photo above is of the tabs on my TV earlier this week.  After a warm-up, I alternated an arm & abdominal toning workout from Tone It Up with a cardio segment from Blogilates.  Could I do the Blogilates segment 3-4 times back-to-back like Cassey suggests?  No.  But I can do it 2-3 times by alternating it with a toning segment that gives my ticker a break.

Try it out!
Love Your Arms and Abs

Fat Melting Routine

You can do the same with the famous Couch to 5k running program (which alternates walking and running to build up to a 5k).  I am currently trying to run once a week, and am using a free C25k app on my phone to keep me from having to remember each day's program.

3) Stretch!
I've written about this before in the context of running, but it's such an important key to avoiding injury and sticking with ANY new (or renewed) fitness program.

I'm loving this one from Tara Stiles at the moment!

How do you get moving - and keep going?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Whole 30: Week 2

Week 2 = done!

I'm happy with how I'm feeling (i.e. energized; not deprived) but, truthfully, I'm getting more than a little tired of spending time in the kitchen . . .  Read on to see how I kept my taste-buds and tummy happy on the road to the half-way point.


Last week's egg cups served their purpose, but were pretty bland.  I saw this recipe for ham & egg cups over at The Clean Plate, but could not for the life of me find ham that hadn't been somehow sweetened.  I luckily stumbled upon some prosciutto (ingredient list: pork, salt, pepper) that I substituted, and these were GREAT!


I had several business lunches and remembered to carry my own dressing to add to a bed of greens with grilled {something} over top (and a handful of nuts discreetly scarfed down in the car afterward).  I was delighted to find this Bolthouse Farms balsamic vinaigrette in the produce section of my local Publix which, as best as I can tell, is Whole 30 compliant.  I pre-measured and brought along my dressing and am happy to say was never tempted to veer off course.


I pre-cooked dinners for the majority of this week, which really helped keep things more interesting.  On Monday I made these Italian Baked Eggs from Against All Grain, and they were out of this world!  Again, I struggled to find an unsweetened sausage and ultimately had to settle for a cooked one, but the flavor of the Bilinski sausage I used was excellent.

On Tuesday I had leftover shrimp stir fry (originally from last week's menu).  I find the key to having delicious leftovers of this recipe is to keep the shrimp separate from the veggies and only cook the shrimp for one meal at a time (they only take 2-3 minutes anyway).

We ate out on Wednesday and I planned ahead and brought approved guacamole and salsa to dress up a grilled chicken salad.

On Thursday I had a girls' night, and my friend Nikki was sweet enough to provide Whole 30-friendly noshables (olives, nuts, and veggies) along with Pellegrino with orange slices.  Not quite a perfectly balanced meal, but delicious without guilt!

Friday night I had these stuffed peppers, which I made in advance.  While I loved the flavor, not having any grain to help absorb the fat proved problematic.  I think next time I will experiment using a paleo meatloaf recipe that includes almond meal (or similar) to stuff the peppers.

Saturday night I made chicken salad and ate it over a bed of raw spinach.  I tried this recipe but found the mustard flavor a bit overpowering for my tastes.  I'm planning on some chicken salad for lunches this coming week and aim to try a different recipe next time around.

I was thrilled to discover that one of my all time favorite brisket recipes is entirely Whole 30 compliant! The whole family enjoyed this on Sunday night accompanied by Nom Nom Paleo's cauliflower, carrot & parsnip puree, which was such a hit that Mouse ate her whole serving and I had to fork over some of mine to keep her satisfied.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fitness Friday: Downton Abbey Workout

Via Official Downton Abbey Facebook (itv)

Have you noticed TV show workouts popping up lately?  Fiterazzi Magazine posted this Bachelor Workout Challenge earlier this week.  The Tone It Up girls featured a commercial break workout on their Facebook page to do during their Bravo show on Thursday night.  

Call me a dork, but I think this is SUCH a fun idea!

I'm still holding out hope that someone with lovely graphics skills will answer my prayers with a Downton Abbey workout, but in the meantime, U.S. viewers have Episode 3 coming up on Sunday!  To hold you (and me!) over until bigger and better things come along, here is my totally unofficial "Downton Abbey" Workout.
Rules: When you see/hear the listed action , do the corresponding workout command.

  1. The Dowager Countess delivers a zinger -----> 10 curtsy dips
  2. Scene switches to from below to above stairs -----> 10 high-knee runs
  3. The Grantham family sits down to dinner -----> 10 narrow pulsing squats
  4. Thomas says/does something devious -----> 10 skaters
  5. Lord Grantham laments how times are changing -----> 10 ab bicycles
Join me on Sunday night (or whenever you're catching up via DVR) and tell me about it below!

Monday, January 13, 2014

My First Whole 30: Week 1

As part of my intention to better nurture myself this year (and, in particular, my body), I embarked on a Whole 30 on January 6th.  If you haven't heard of the Whole 30 (I hadn't until I read this post from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy), it is essentially a 30-day, extreme paleo-based detox wherein you eliminate all sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains, dairy, soy, beans/legumes (including peanuts), and alcohol.

I try to feed myself and my family with nutritional, natural foods as a general rule.  But lingering foot problems (and my suspicion that they are inflamation related) led me to take the leap.  I have found some wonderful resources on the Internet that helped me make it (successfully) through my first week, so I'm adding to the wealth by sharing my weekly meals here.


I made egg cups with spinach on Sunday based on this recipe.   Other than a scramble on Wednesday that I shared with Mouse, I stuck to those with some avocado and some fruit (apple, orange, strawberries).  The goal was quick and easy out the door.

The toughest part of the morning was drinking my coffee black.  I experimented with some different blends and may have settled on the plain ole Starbucks Pike Place.  Jury is still out.


Let me begin by saying this: lunch was a mistake.  I dug up a South Beach recipe for chicken and mushroom soup (with leeks and brussels sprouts).  The recipe made four 250-ish calorie portions, so I doubled what I made and divided into six, 375-ish calorie portions.  While it was delicious, the brothy soup filled me up at the time but did not stick with me.  Even adding a Whole 30-recommended serving of fat (macadamia nuts) on the side did not keep me from needing an afternoon snack.


Daddy M was working through some non-approved leftovers last week so I winged it several evenings.  Trader Joe's pre-cooked chicken patties saved my tail.  I threw those together with steamed veggies, sauteed kale, roasted sweet potato (depending on the night), and it made for a satisfying meal.

On Tuesday I did a shrimp stir-fry.  I used the South Beach recipe, doubled, and substituted coconut oil and coconut aminos for the suggested cooking oil and soy sauce.  I also omitted the red pepper flakes so that the kids could partake.

On Sunday night, we had dinner at a neighbor's house.  I volunteered to bring a salad, and threw together spinach, strawberries, mushrooms and slivered almonds, which we topped with this delightful and Whole 30 compliant orange poppyseed dressing.  I used a ridiculously large organic navel orange from Trader Joe's, and, as a result, my dressing was more of a vinegarette, but it was a hit from a flavor standpoint!


I whipped up a batch of Paleo Mayo from Well Fed, which I used to make deviled eggs as a post workout snack on Friday.

The fact that I had a workout intense enough to require a snack afterward was a minor miracle (and one I attribute to a reduction in inflammation due to the foods I've been eliminating)!  I've continued to have foot problems since my surgery to remove a Morton's Neuroma a year ago December.  I've recently switched from an orthopedic surgeon to a podiatrist (which, in hindsight, is where I ought to have started in the first place), who has additionally diagnosed me with severe Achilles Tendonitis and has me wearing these lovely night splints while I (attempt to) sleep.

The splints (which, right now, don't last the night) leave me pretty sore in the morning, so I'm trying to grab afternoon workouts where I can (once I've been up and worked through the kinks).  I start PT tomorrow and I'm really hopeful that, combined with this squeaky clean eating, I can get some more intense workouts logged, and get back to working out first thing in the morning!

Other resources:
I've started a Whole 30 board on Pinterest with some other recipes.
The Whole 30 website has some excellent downloads that I've been relying on.
Melissa, the amazing authoress of Well Fed and Well Fed 2, not only has a very helpful website, but has also been publishing some weekly plans for those kicking off the New Year with a Whole 30.  Here are links to Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3.

Are you doing a Whole 30?  What's your favorite recipe so far?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cleaning House

Moose brought in the heavy lifters to help clean up his Fisher-Price nativity this year.  And really, it matches how I feel right now - time for some major clean-up and changes in my life (and not just in the master bathroom that Daddy M demo-d on Christmas Eve!).

Last year was filled with a lot of blessings, but as you can probably guess by my spotty posting, it has left me worn thin.

The Sunday after Christmas, while I was at a special Shavasana yoga class with my dear friend, Erin, this phrase came to me as an intention:

I nurture my mind, body, and spirit
So I have the strength to nurture others.

So, rather than a New Year's Resolution, I'm focusing on that intention for 2014.  Which means trying to find time for myself, elsewhere (even if it is with frivolous pursuits) as well as here.  Sharing here really brings me happiness, and if something I share nurtures a little part of your soul, too, all the better.

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions this year?