Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

The “K” List

No, I am not pretentious enough to pretend to be Oprah (or be even anywhere that cool), but I will steal a good idea when I see it.

I do a lot of shopping and a lot of self-experimentation.

Here a list of my favorite things, all in one place, in no particular order.

1. GT’s Kombucha (Multi-green) – I think that this is the second year running (or would have been if I had put this list together last year) for the green stuff. Super healthy, tasty, and has become my go-to drink when I need a snack, especially when traveling to someplace where I know that almost everyone else will be drinking alcohol.

2. Q Tonic – I just found this stuff. Delicious. Tonic water with just a little agave nectar, bitters, quinine, and maybe one other ingredient. I drank this all the way through the holidays in place of wine and margaritas and was absolutely content. Bitters is not only an appetite suppressant, it cuts sugar cravings, stimulates digestion, and the creation of bile (which, believe it or not, is a good thing!) There’s apparently a ginger version that I may get for Michael J, since he’s the ginger guy in the family.

3. EOS lip balm – A non-food or libation. I love the container; it’s easy to hang onto (i.e., not easily lost in a purse or bag) and it’s great for lips. It’s “mostly” natural, but I wouldn’t look to close if the on-line reviews are anything to go by. Regardless, I’m willing to risk it. I also like their purse-size hand and body lotion. More to the point, it’s all under $10 and available at local drug stores.

4. Forbidden Rice – Michael J and I started eating this on the recommendation of a friend and we haven’t looked back since. Reasonably priced ($3.99 per bag), it has a ton of fiber and protein and can, in some rights, be considered a complete meal. Super nutty. Micheal J makes it up in batches and eats it as an afternoon snack. Chewy, fragrant, filling, and delicious. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, a handy dandy rice cooker helps.

5. Hula Hoops – I must say, when my Aunt Linda told me that she was buying a hula hoop for exercise, I was skeptical. I bought my first one in May and it was pretty dismal, but after a week…. Now I have four – yes four – hula hoops hanging on the hoop rack (a/k/a the Nordic track). Fun, great exercise, and a killer ab work out. There is a lot to say about the hoop, but we’ll suffice, for the time being, with these two words: get one!

6. YogaGlo – Boy, do I wish YogaGlo had an affiliate program. I have single-handedly convinced 6 people to sign up for this membership site. It’s basically live yoga classes streamed from a yoga studio in Santa Monica, CA. They have a ton of teachers, a ton of archived classes, and 6 or 7 different types of yoga. The classes run anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours and you can search for specific things, like Yoga for Insomnia, Travel Yoga, Hip-Openers, Supporting the Immune System, etc. I used to hate yoga, but ever since I found YogaGlo, I have done it regularly since early August. How regularly, you ask? Tomorrow will be my 38th consecutive day.

7. Etsy – A website that gives you access to artist for the purpose of buying unique handcrafted goods. Etsy has been around for a while, but it’s new to me. I love looking at all the cool stuff and I bought my wedding jewelry there. Reasonably priced and much more interesting stuff that you’re likely to find anywhere else.

8. Amazon – Yes, a conglomerate! But I live in a relatively small area (we have a general store, a post office, and a volunteer fire department; all roads but the state highway are dirt). Needless to say, I get a lot of my stuff via post. I have a huge list at Amazon that I get through their subscribe and save program – which means they deliver to you regularly. Some things come automatically once a month, some things every two months, three months, six months, etc. Not only do I not have to think about it, it comes with free postage and a 15% discount. For a while there, I was getting packages every day, but I eventually figured out that I could change the delivery date so now everything comes in one ginormous box.

9. Avocados – What’s to say? I had sort of gone off avocados for awhile, but they’re back. I’ve found that if I put a half of an avocado in my morning smoothie, the day goes a lot better for me food-wise. I guess my holistic nutrition coach wasn’t lying when she told me to eat more fat.

10. Garnet Yams – These gems are well named. Delicious, good for you; they travel well, and they are equally good with black beans and sauteed kale or in a cinnamon/vanilla spice hemp smoothie. I’ve recently learned that slicing them up and steaming them makes them even better for your blood sugar than baking. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my other list.

11. Kale – I could eat kale damn every day. Enough said.

12. Smart Wool Socks – I used to think that wool was for little old British men or grumpy academics. Having moved to the far north, I have reassessed my opinion. And not only is wool for everyone, it’s for every day. I’m not sure what the makers did to these socks, but I wear them winter, spring, summer, and fall. And, believe it or not, they don’t absorb odor like most socks do. Seriously, you can wear these puppies, with boots, and they never stink. And they don’t make your feet sweat. Now, it’s true that I wear lighter ones in the summer than I do in the fall/winter, but that’s not the point. It’s still wool. They are pricey at $16-$24 a pair. I found a semi-decent replacement (not 100% wool, obviously) for $8 at Target. These aren’t as good, but they’re 1/3 the price.

13. Reiki – Pronounced Ray-Key, Reiki refers to both universal energy and the act of transmitting the energy from one person to another; in other words, it’s both the medicine and the delivery system. I had received Reiki a couple of times – I found it to be super relaxing. I decided to get the first Reiki attunement earlier this year and it’s been amazing. I do self-Reiki regularly and I will do it on anyone who’s open to it. I did Reiki on my 70 year old father this holiday season and it was awesome. I love giving it as much as I do getting it. I’ll have more to say on this in future posts as I continue the attunement process.

14. Female Pop Divas – It started when Amy Winehouse died. I realized that all I knew about this woman was that she had been a train wreck waiting to happen. So, probably like a lot of other gawkers, I downloaded her album, Back to Black the day after she died. And like I’d imagine anyone who didn’t know who she was, I was blown away – not only by the voice, but by the depth of the lyrics, and the ridiculousness of her destruction. However, there is only so much Amy Winehouse one can listen to and stay sane (besides, there’s not that much of it). Then onto Florence and the Machine, followed by Adele. I’m not sure what it is about these women that speak to me so much, but there it is. Oh, and let’s not forget my newly found near obsession with Tori Amos….

15. Ugg Boots – Yes, I have Uggs. But can I at least say that they’re not the super trendy boots that the college kids wear even though they’re not waterproof, have no arch support, and little traction? These are the “Not Your Granddaughter’s Uggs” version. They are waterproof and have vibram soles. I’m not sloshing or sliding anywhere in these boats. And they’re super toasty!

16. Convertible Mittens – These aren’t the ones I have, but you get the idea. Super warm, because of the hand-heat, but with flexibility because you can flip open the top and use your fingers to pick things up. And, at least in mine, there is a slit in the thumb so you can poke your thumb out. But the best thing is that when I got for a walk around the pond, my hands get hot, but not hot enough to take the gloves off. So, I can ventilate. And mine are multicolored and cheerful, which make them a perfect accessory during the darkest time of the year.

17. My high speed blender – Still getting multiple uses a day, I literally don’t think I could live my life the way I know it if Michael J hadn’t bought my that Blendtec that fateful day so long ago….

18. Not a Paper Cup Tumbler – an insulated ceramic cup with a silicon lid; perfect for my morning cup of tea on the road. Mine doesn’t have a horse on it, but that’s the only one I could find on-line. I got mine at TJ Maxx for $4.99!

19. Dagoba Chocolate Bars – It always makes me snicker when I see their New Moon and Eclipse bars in the grocery stores…. Regardless, my favorite, hands down is the Xocolatl. I don’t have it often, but when I do, it’s always worth it.

20. And last, but certainly not least, Michael J. (And not just because he keep me stocked in Kombucha, supports my hula hooping, applauds my near egregious use of YogaGlo, doesn’t freak out when he finds avocados ripening in the cabinet next to his amazon-acquired smoothie ingredients, and buys my high speed blenders, but simply because he is).

I’m sure there are others, but that’s probably enough for now.

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KJ’s Should Be Famous Guacamole

I’m not sure why I stopped making this. When I mentioned that to my beloved, he said: “Maybe because I don’t eat guacamole?”

Given that that means twice as much for me, I really don’t know why I stopped.

I whipped this out over the holidays and it literally flew off the table. So for posterity’s sake, lest I forget again:

KJ’s Should Be Famous Guacamole

4 ripe avocados
2 small vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1/2 a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
the juice of 1 lime
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, to taste
dash of cayenne
sea salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

To make the mixing easier, I tend to mash the avocados using a potato masher before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Serve with blue corn tortilla chips (or hemp tortilla chips from the same company if you can find them).

Though spoons, fingers, and celery sticks seem to work just as well!

Surviving the Holidays (for the most part, intact)

Every year I dread the holidays.

It’s not the busyness or the hassle of traveling. It’s not the weird family dynamics (I actually enjoy spending time with my family). It’s not the increasing credit card balance or the last minute wrapping. It’s not the panicked trips to the store searching frantically for tape or thyme (not to mention, t-i-m-e).

It’s really all about the food.

Christmas at my parents house is like a minefield. There is literally sugar in every room in the house (save the bathrooms).

Seriously, it’s everywhere. My father’s bark covered pretzels, Ritz crackers, saltines, and mixed nuts. Cookies and chocolate. And then once my relatives arrived, the pie parade: coconut cream (to die for), my Aunt Mary’s chocolate pie (should be illegal, especially since she uses corn starch in the filling for us gluten-free folk), my cousin Megan’s pumpkin pie, and my cousin Matthew’s pecan pie (which I am pretty sure is illegal in a few states). Then there’s the bourbon balls the neighbors brought….

Did I mention that we also had a 60th surprise birthday party on the 23rd? So that also meant we had an extra dark chocolate sheet cake floating around and a ton of Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato. Seriously, this stuff was insane and was worth the three hours of misery that followed (can any one say lactose intolerant?) A lesser ice cream wouldn’t have been, but this – most definitely.

Regardless, despite all of the potential minefields (including several bottles of wine and about three different batches of my sister’s world-famous margaritas), I actually made it through relatively unscathed – that one brutal stomach ache aside.

So, how did I do it?

1) I thanked the powers that be that I have a wicked gluten-intolerance, because that knocked out a whole lot of options. I remember Anthony Robbins saying something about, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” but I think a more personally motivating mantra is this: “Nothing – and I mean nothing – tastes as good as gluten-free feels.” (If only I could find something similar for sugar!)

2) I planned ahead. Knowing that we were going to be doing a party spread (in addition to the holidays), I ordered gluten-free options from what Jena la Flamme assures me is the best gluten-free bakery in the country (and I must say, I agree), where I ordered some awesome baguettes, some cupcakes, and a pumpkin bread (which, damn the bad luck, is still sitting uneaten in my mother’s fridge!)

3) I tried new things and substituted, substituted, substituted. My newest finds are Q Tonic Water (which I drank in place of wine and margaritas) and hemp tortilla chips, which have a lot more protein than corn chips and are, thus, more filling.

4) I pulled out my old favorites, meaning that I baked garnet yams, ate my normal sauteed kale, and even whipped up three – count them three – batches of my incredible guacamole (Notice the correspondence between the number of batches of guac and margaritas?)

5) I packed my yoga mat (and did yoga twice a day while I was there) and my hula hoop. Although my parents don’t have a great indoor space to hoop and their yard/driveway is slanted, I still got in a little hooping every day.

6) I set an intention going in – to wear the same skinny jeans going out that I wore going in (I should have specified comfort level, but there’s always next year).

7) I remembered that all things are transitory. I’ve realized that I have this belief that when I gain weight – in any amount – that it’s never going away. I tend to get really down on myself and start doing crazy restrictive things with my diet. This time I remembered that things change. My waist got bigger, that means that it can get smaller. It was only four days. (And sure enough, just after two days of being back at my home and doing my normal thing, my waist is looking a lot more familiar to me). What is that saying: change is the only constant? It’s a good thing to remember.

Now, that’s not to say that things went flawlessly or that things are completely back to where they were before I left for the holidays.

I’m just now beginning to pull myself out of the “sugar skid.”

Sugar is my crack; there’s no doubt about it.

Normally sugar doesn’t bother me, because I don’t eat it – like, ever. I don’t even eat fruit. Because as soon as I do, it’s like I’m an addict. In fact, I was speaking with a dear friend of mine who works with seriously addicted people and she asked me to describe – in great detail – what it feels like and what happens to me when I eat sugar. I was telling her and she was nodding.

Her response? “It seems like the sugar is triggering a dopamine response in you, much like drugs or alcohol do for many of my clients.”

Lovely.

I got home on Tuesday around 1:00 a.m., after having polished off the last of the Byerly’s dark chocolate salted sea caramels that my father had so lovingly packed in my bag.

Wednesday, I found the bark covered pecans in my suitcase, which my father had made specifically for me (since I can’t – thank goodness – eat his other creations). I ate them slowly and savored each one.

Thursday, I found the contents of my stocking that my mother had so carefully packed up for me and stowed away in the pocket of my backpack. I had one Ghiradelli Square – Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt (which was but a pale comparison of the aforementioned Byerly’s caramel, by the way). I also had an apple.

Today (Friday), who knows? I don’t feel totally out of control when I think about sugar – but part of that’s because we don’t have any in the house. Well, Michael J has some raw honey, but that’s even too sweet for me.

When my dad taught my sister and I to drive, he’d take us out to snow covered parking lots, tell us to go really fast and hit the brakes. Lesson: learn to turn into the skid and stay in control of the wheel.

In some ways, this holiday season brought back a lot of those memories.

Was I out of control around sugar?

Maybe.

But because I headed into it with foresight, planning, and flexibility I feel like it was/is going to be a quick recovery. And who knows, I may be better in the long run for the slippage. Because next time it happens, I’ll know even better what to do.

Happy Holidays!!!

Ah, even more ways and reasons to eat yams….

I’m consistently blown away by how good the Whole Foods website is.

For instance, check out their page on yams.

I’ll be curious to do the slice and steam prep they recommend for maximum health benefits (including blood sugar regulation), but it’s doubtful that I will ever give up my favorite: Candied Yams Without the Candy.

Although I had originally pitched this as a dessert, I’ve recently paired it with black beans, a little bit of forbidden rice (for texture more than anything else though it too is ridiculously good and good for you) and, last but certainly not least, my favorite kale recipe.

I put it all together on a beautiful multicolored, hand-thrown plate/bowl (7″) and I’m good to go. Not only is it super satisfying, it’s also beautiful with the gem-like colors: emerald, not quite ruby, and onyx. Seriously it’s almost as visually appealing as it is delicious.

You’re seeking the path of what?!

I was sitting in a bakery/coffee house in Jaffrey, N.H., but I felt like I was sitting outside of an catch-as-catch-can Ashram just outside of Iowa City….

It was the second day of my Reiki I class and instead of sitting alone, hoarding the only free wifi in town like I’d done the day before, I pulled up a seat with my classmates. And, instead of sticking with the women I had bonded with the day before, I found myself at a small table with the two men – to neither of whom, I had spoken a word.

Given that I’ve never been one for small talk (not to mention the 2:7 male-female ratio in the class), I jumped right in.

“So,” I say to the guy sitting across from me who I know is a Physician’s Assistant, but who is reluctant about telling anyone at work that he’s doing Reiki, “how did you get here?”

In retrospect, I see that that could be seen as a weird question. Maybe a better question would have been, “Why are you here?” or, better yet, “Why did you decide to enroll in a class that you’re too embarrassed about to tell your colleagues?”

Though perhaps, given his response, it wouldn’t have mattered: “I’m seeking the path of enlightenment.”

I swear, where’s your pocket McKenna when you need it?

I blinked.

“Excuse me?” I prompted gently.

He repeated his answer, very earnest. He’s a very earnest young man, I’ll give him that much.

I shook my head slightly and took a bite of what has to be one of the most micro-managed, yet lovingly assembled, chef salads in the planet. Not only did I ask for it without dressing, I also had them hold the cheese, the ham, the red onions, and the croutons and, if they didn’t mind, add extra spinach and turkey.

It was essentially romaine, spinach, a ton of turkey, and an avocado that I had picked at the grocery store that morning before class, a handful of raw cashews, and some fresh lemon. All things considered, it was amazingly satisfying. (Although this may seem like a digression, at that moment all I could do was study the content and quality of my salad.)

“I don’t mean to be harsh or anything,” I began. And the thing is, I didn’t. I really didn’t and I still don’t. “But what does that even mean?”

Our table-mate choked around his tuna melt and immediately goes for the cookie, suggesting that he, like most people I know, reach for sugar when the going gets tough.

It was his turn to blink. “I’m not really sure.”

I nodded encouragingly. “But you’ll know when you get there?”

He smiled as he bit into his dill spear. “Exactly.”

You know, I could have stopped there and maybe I should have. But I didn’t.

“But what does it mean? What are you actually doing in order to get there – other than this…” I waved my hand between the two tables… “of course.”

“Well, I eat healthy.” He hesitated. “I meditate a lot. I’m learning Reiki.”

I kept nodding, because at this point, I could have been talking to myself or at least half of my friends.

“Oh,” he added after a bit of thought. “I do a lot of yoga. I find that I get a lot out of yoga.”

I take a quick mental note of how I spend my days, these days: check, check, check, and, well, check.

Does that mean that I, too, am on a path of enlightenment or is simply that my daily activities resemble his quest for a spiritual plane that is currently more lofty than the one in which he currently finds himself?

Then I had a crazy thought: ‘What if that is the path and I just happen to have stumbled on it accidentally?’ Even as I speared a particularly luscious piece of avocado, I decided that that was ludicrous. But the question remained – well actually a couple of questions remained:

1) What is enlightenment?

2) Can we all have different paths?

And, perhaps, the most troubling:

3) Why is it that I am doing what I’m doing?

I don’t have answers for these questions. In fact, I’m not sure that I need answers to these questions. But even if I did (need answers, that is) they would be beyond the scope of any particular blog post.

So, instead of tackling that today, I’m going to dig out Mr. McKenna (and maybe even my tarot cards [I bet you think I’m kidding]) and give it some thought. Who knows, I might even meditate on it.

When I figure something out – or maybe even before then – you’ll be the first to know.

Becoming a cliche (and not minding all that much)

I always tell my students that stereotypes exist for a reason, but it doesn’t mean that we have to fulfill them.

I’m beginning to see that the same thing holds for cliches and, despite my best efforts, I have done exactly what I’d said I’d never do: become one.

I’m actually so far gone into cliche-dom, it’s hard to tell the forest from the trees. Simply put, I’ve become like every other 40-something woman I know.

It started with Tony Robbins.

Then segued smoothly into an interest in holistic health.

Then it was other self-help programs.

Add in coaching…

Add in massage…

And blogging…

And women’s retreats

And health supplements…

And green smoothies…

And chiropractic…

And acupuncture…

And belly dance…

And hoop dance…

And yoga….

And now, last (well, probably not) and certainly not least, Reiki and meditation.

What happened to the driven type A professor who worked 8-10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week and worked out (hard!) approximately twice a day? You know, the woman who scoffed at yoga and whose idea of meditation was the 5-6 hours between midnight and 5 where, admittedly, she was lying down with her eyes closed…and probably breathing, though may not through her nose.

What is it about the 40s?

As someone who is much further along her spiritual path than I am (and more about that later) recently told me: “We all like to think we’re unique, but essentially we’re just a bunch of bozos on a bus.”

The thing is, I love my life; I’m having a great relationship with my body (in fact, one could say we’re having a love affair of epic proportion after years of abstinence); I actually feel better than I have in years.

But when I look in the mirror (with my crystals and rocks) after having stowed my yoga mat, strap, blocks, and bolster, I can’t help but ask: “How did get here?”

I asked my new husband if he minded me not only turning into a cliche (but also his ex-wife) he assured me he was cool with it. Though on second thought, he did draw the line at snake handling. I guess no one’s perfect! 😉

Maybe not all 40-something year old women are slaves to personal/spiritual development; maybe it’s the just ones that I know. If that’s the case, it makes more sense, because as sociologists have known for years – change your peer group, change your life.

For now I’ve decided that the little voice inside of my head (the one that uses words like “cliche”) is just the part of me who doesn’t want me to change; the part of me that doesn’t like balance, doesn’t trust it.

For now, I am going to continue what I’m “called” to do and what I firmly believe is going to heal all of the damage I did during the first 36 years of my life between the extra weight, the processed food, the horrifically abusive people that I not only welcomed into my life but actually invited, and the unending – unmitigated – stress. For now, I will ignore that little voice, but I, too, for the sake of marital harmony (among other reasons), will draw the line when it comes to snakes.

Resistance is what you make it

I was on the phone with a friend of mine who was telling me that she loves yoga. She loves everything about it: the clothes, the way it makes her feel, the music…. She just can’t get herself to go to class.

My ears perk up: “Try YogaGlo!” And then I go into the long laundry list of reasons why I think YogaGlo is the best thing since GT’s Multigreen Kombucha.

When I stop to take a breath, she says, “You’re way more committed to working out at home than I am. There’s just so much resistance to working out at home. It’s too hard.”

What?!

“Wait a minute,” I say. “If I had to go to a class to do yoga, I’d never go, whereas I do yoga at home almost twice a day.”

And here’s why.

When you work out at a class you have to:

1) Get dressed (either in your yoga clothes or get all of your stuff together to change there; if it’s the latter, insert a step between 8 & 9 to change clothes dressed and somewhere around 14-16 to change back into your street clothes).
2) Go outside.
3) Get in your car (because there is not a studio anywhere near my house [or hers for that matter]).
4) Drive for 20 minutes.
5) Find a parking spot.
6) Walk inside.
7) Check in at the front desk.
8) Go put your stuff somewhere.
9) Find the class (which is only offered at a particular time a day or day per week).
10) Pick your spot.
11) Go get your props.
12) Do your class.
13) Put away your props.
14) Go get your stuff (now you may need to change or shower or what have you, so number accordingly).
15) Walk to the car.
16) Drive to wherever you’re going next.

Now, here’s what I do:

1) I turn the alarm off and roll out of bed.
2) If I slept in pajamas, I go downstairs, pee and get a drink (though if I slept naked, I get dressed first).
3) Grab the props.
4) Turn on the iPad (or maybe even the Apple TV if I’m feeling particularly ambitious).
5) Hit the icon on my desktop for YogaGlo.
6) Pick my class (which, to tell you the truth, is often the most challenging part).
7) Take a deep breath.
8) Following savasana, I grab a fleece and make a smoothie.

It was just really funny to me that she thought that my routine was so much more challenging (or caused so much more resistance) than hers.

But since she wasn’t following through with hers either, I convinced her to at least try mine for a while. And maybe I really will do that local Bikram class this winter – goodness knows that in this neck of the woods, the heat should feel pretty darned good.

A smoothie by any other name….

I am going to spend the weekend in a small town in New Hampshire to get my Reiki I adjustment. I’m spending the night at a local B&B.

Because I tend to have very weird – by most people’s standards – requirements for breakfast, I decided to email the innkeeper to let her know that I don’t do wheat or dairy (sob!) and that I’d be good to go if I could just bring a blender and make a smoothie in her kitchen.

Her very gracious reply:

Yes, I do serve breakfast and I do have a blender. I buy fruit for the weekend. Do you want me to purchase something special for the smoothie? Bananas, strawberries, pineapple? or something gluten free – we have a good range of products up here.

Hmm… Fruit in a smoothie. What a novel idea. Unfortunately, my body responds to sugar (including the natural fruits a normal smoothie drinker might actually put in a smoothie, as if were crack.

I write back:

Some spinach, maybe. Or some romaine.

Her prompt response:

You got it!

You know, I tend to be shy about asking for what I need in certain situations. I’m perfectly fine to give a waiter a run for their money (in the most polite way possible) in order to get my needs met, but somehow I had always held back when it came to B&B’s. But I guess what they say – whomever they may actually be – ask and you shall receive.

It’s shaping up to be a lovely weekend!