Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year of Learning


When I set out to conquer the world in 2012 (well, not the world, but you know what I mean), I said that 2012 was going to be a great year.  I was going to make it the best year ever, live it up, and was convinced so many "great things" would happen.

As I sit at my home on Monday evening, December 31st, the phrase "great year" is not exactly jumping out at me.  I'll be honest: this year wasn't easy.  My happiness felt as if it trickled in and out all the time - I felt down in the dumps more often than I preferred.  I traveled so much for work and weddings (which made things difficult financially, and I never felt like I took trips for myself).  Work was very stressful compared to the other years at my organization.  I felt chronically behind in sleep and exhausted all the time.  I didn't "see" much progress happen in other areas of my life.  It almost felt as if life for me stayed exactly same as it was the previous year.  In addition, December's tragedy in Connecticut shook me to the core (on multiple levels)...and I still am struggling to get over the incident (I don't think I ever really will).  For the icing on the cake, this Christmas wasn't exactly my favorite.  Isn't Santa supposed to be a guaranteed win?!

After reflecting on all of this, I asked myself: "Why do I feel as if nothing exciting happened to me this year?  I know 365 days must have provided me with something to celebrate, right?"

Fortunately, I came up with a possible answer to this question.  When we think of what it means to "have a great year," our thoughts often wander to stereotypical American/cultural achievements or sensational moments.  For example:

-Buying a home
-Meeting the love of your life
-Losing 20 lbs
-Getting a promotion
-Having a child
-Remodeling your kitchen
-Starting a new business


In addition, when you run into someone you know, we tend to ask each other the same set of questions: "How is your home?  How is your dog/child/husband/etc?  How is work?  You look great - did you lose weight?"  While these things are certainly important areas of our lives, I'm not convinced that we should use them as a way to assess our progress or complete happiness in life.  It's like putting all of our eggs into one basket and saying: "If these three things don't happen this year, then I won't be happy or feel as if I accomplished anything."


When I take a closer look at 2012, I think that a lot of what I went through related to the concept of my life journey and learning experiences.  Thus, I have officially decided to call 2012 "The Year of Learning." While I may not have achieved anything "new" or have"big news" to report, I have been learning a TON about myself and life in general.  This relates to my friendships, family, dating relationships, the work environment, my health, the world around me, volunteering, and how I spend my time.  Maybe it's hard to capture those unique learning experiences (like the checklist above), but is that what the year is really about?  Is it all about a list that highlights all the things we've accomplished?

One of the best lessons I learned this year was about the overall concept of happiness. I stumbled upon a quote in February that really made me think:

"Happiness is never constant, and it’s not supposed to be. You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life. To believe that you can reach a state of happiness and stay there forever, is like the tide believing she can reach for the shoreline and remain there forever; or like a fruit tree believing that if she only holds on tighter, she can keep her fruit from dropping to the ground. Happiness is simply a series of moments that come and go and add sweetness to our lives. Learn to accept this, and the more happy moments you will have."  

I LOVE THIS QUOTE.  The main reason is that it reminds me that you can't expect everything to be perfect all the time.  There will be crappy days/weeks/months.  You will struggle in your relationships.  You will feel not hot sometimes.  You will have days at work that are stressful.  Friends will let you down.  You will let your friends down.  The list goes on.   However, the more you can accept that happiness is "never constant," the happier you can feel.  Not only are our expectations more reasonable, but when awesome things do happen, we feel so much more excited and grateful for our blessings.  We then can live "great" lives.  Cheers to that!

What is something that you learned about this year that you can celebrate as we kick off 2013?

The meaning of confidence

"Confidence is the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment" (Source).

My friend Noelle shared this quote on Facebook today, and I absolutely love it.  I really appreciate quotes about confidence that have a key message of authenticity and simply being who you are, bringing to light some qualities that our culture often forgets to focus on.

As 2012 comes to a close, what will confidence look like for you in 2013?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not doing what makes you happy - really?

We can all aspire to these abs, right? (Photo Source)

The other day I had lunch with my wonderful friend, Anna.  We got talking about exercise and our weekly routines (or lack thereof).  Anna once completed a full marathon and used to run often, but had slowly gotten out of the habit of running (sounds like me - minus the marathon part). Recently, she told her husband that she "hates" running and didn't want to do it.  Seth looked at her and said "Anna - that is crap. You love running.  What are you talking about?" Great point, Seth...

In thinking further, Anna and I realized that as much as we say we dread running and don't like it - really, we do.  It makes us HAPPY.  It is so healthy for you, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Name one time you went for a run or worked out, and left not feeling glad you did?

It's interesting how we make excuses that prevent us from doing things that make us happy (the best book I have ever read on this topic is Excuses Begone! by Dr. Wayne Dyer - I highly recommend reading).  When I think about why I don't run, it's not because I don't like it - it's because it intimidates me.  The idea of going on a run often seems daunting because when I'm out of practice, I don't really enjoy those first couple of miles.  I feel disappointed that I'm not running as fast as I used to, and fearful of the journey that it will take to get there.  Then I figure I might as well just not run.

Moving forward, I know that the best thing I can do is to start SMALL.  Instead of saying I "should" run three times a week, why not run once a week?  Instead of worrying about a mile time, why not just make it a goal to finish the run period, and feel proud of myself for that? 

What is a fitness activity that intimidates you, but you really want to do deep down inside? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The story of the M necklace

I wanted to share a little story about a friendship gesture that meant a lot to me during the holiday season...

A few days ago I got to see my good friend Mariko who was home for the holidays.  We met to watch the Seahawks game with our brothers, and it was such a fun time.  During half time, we were catching up and I noticed she was wearing a darling gold "M" necklace.  I told her how much I loved the necklace and how I'd been looking for something like it for myself for some time.  Without any hesitation, Mariko took off her necklace and said "Margie, I've had my M necklace for a while, and now it's time for you to have yours...besides, we don't get to see each other often so you can think of me when you wear it."  She then put the necklace around my neck.

This could not have been a more authentic, sweet gesture.  If I wasn't at a crowded bar watching a football game with beer and dudes, I most certainly would have started crying :).  That moment reminded me of how thankful I am to have Mariko in my life and how much I treasure the times we are together.  

 Thank you, Mariko, for your friendship!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A holiday pedi!

I'm a firm believer that a pedicure and/or manicure now and then can serve as a perfect pick me up when you're having an off day (or month).  The weather in Seattle has not been the best, the holidays are a tad stressful, and I haven't felt the most put together lately (putting on cute outfits feels rather daunting these days).  I find that having nice nails makes me feel more put together in general.

On Thursday I went to get a pedicure with my colleagues at my favorite nail place in Seattle, Spa Envy.  I normally gravitate toward lavender, pick, and brown hued colors, but decided I needed to branch out and do a fun holiday color.  "An Affair in Red Square" by OPI was the perfect choice!  It's a classic holiday red color with a shimmer that polishes things off perfectly - no pun intended.

I love this color enough that I purchased it when I checked out.  Totally worth it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The weird thing about "priorities"

This week has been a bit of an off week for me.  I got thinking last night about why I might feel NOT like myself (note: this was done with a cup of Peppermint tea for good measure).

When I do this exercise, I typically ask myself my three key "stress check" questions:

1.  Have I been exercising?
2.  Have I been eating healthy?
3.  Have I been getting enough sleep?

99.9% of the time when I'm not feeling great, it's a triple NO to those questions.   This week, that's definitely the case.

This got me thinking about the concept of priorities in general.  Exercise, nutrition, and sleep are certainly what I'd consider "priorities" if I wrote a list of all the things that are important to me in life.  Some other items on the list:

-My family
-My faith
-My job
-My health (in general)
-Maintaining my home
-My finances
-Time for self
-My friendships
-Spending time outside
-My dog :).

Here's the weird thing...when I look at that list and am honest with myself, I can count MANY of those things that I haven't prioritized for a while.  With work, travels, and other obligations, I know that some of my friendships have been neglected.  My workout schedule has been all over the place.  I bounce between 6 and 9 hours of sleep throughout the week.  I sometimes have to think for a minute about the last time I prayed.  The list goes on...

This begs the question - are all those things TRULY priority for me?

A priority is something that is "highest or higher in importance" (according to  If going to yoga class was a priority for me, wouldn't I pick that over staying at home and drinking wine and watching Netflix instant viewer?  Is wine + TV my actual priority?  Yes, funny, but let's be real - it's a valid question. 

Realistically, I don't think that we can make everything that is important to us a top priority at the same time, but I do think it's wise to think about how we are spending our time and when (and why) we are letting our priorities get away from ourselves.  Maybe we also confuse priorities with "values," and we waver with what values we make a priority.

All I do know is that the past few weeks have made me more aware of how I spend my time, and how my decisions relate to my energy level.  When I am overwhelmed, wiped out, and sleep deprived, almost everything goes.  I don't feel like I have the energy to work out, go grocery shopping to prepare healthy meals, go to my favorite yoga class, or make plans with friends.  I think that sometimes we are guilty of an "all or nothing" approach, and feel like we've failed if we "only" make it to the gym two times in one week instead of five, or if we get 7 hours of sleep instead of 8.  I think that at the end of the day, if we can take small steps to Show Up for Ourselves...a little can go a long way. ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Whoa pilates!

Today I received an email with a new video by Equinox of women doing Pilates (to some very trendy music :).   I've been practicing Pilates this year and have definitely noticed the benefits of the practice, including (but not limited to): posture improvement, toning, lengthening, core strength, stress release, and overall awareness of my body, breathing, and core use.

It's pretty impressive how talented and in shape these women are!  I give them some credit.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Banana and Spinach Smoothie (yep!)

Today I needed an afternoon snack so decided to make a smoothie:

1 banana
soy milk
a few ice cubes

I had no idea how it would turn out, but this smoothie was great!  It had a good texture and wasn't too sweet.  I learned earlier this year that spinach is a great addition to any smoothie.  It has great nutrients and doesn't have a strong taste so it blends well with almost everything.  I feel the same way about bananas, although I'm a bit of a stickler for using fresh (yellow with a hint of green) or frozen ones.

I did a little digging and found out that the banana and spinach smoothie combination is actually quite healthy and popular.  "A smoothie serves as a snack to help get you through the day, or can be used to replenish energy and nutrient stores after a tough workout. In addition to their virtually limitless versatility, smoothies allow you to consume several servings of vegetables and fruits in one sitting. A smoothie made with banana and spinach provides your body with several essential nutrients, and offers a number of health benefits" (Source). 

Nutritional benefits: Vitamin K, Potassium, Vitamin A

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Latest nutty obsession: youtube animal videos

Last night, before heading to bed, I stumbled upon a series of animal videos on youtube.  I know you're probably thinking "om, that's random" but let me tell you - they were unbelievable.  Which is why I'm sharing my top 5 favorites.  If you aren't impressed or you don't smile, then I don't know what else to say!

Kitten falling asleep

Lions loving their friend

Man swimming with a polar bear

Friendly deer

Baby elephant climbs on top of his mom

Let's make that 6...

A pet penguin

Hope this made your day better!

New wine find: Acronym GR8 Red Wine

Today when I was grocery shopping at QFC, I saw a featured sale of a new wine: Acronym GR8 Red Wine.  I am a big fan of red blends and the description looked great, so I gave it a whirl. 

THIS WINE IS FANTASTIC.  I did a little internet research and found out that this wine was just released in October in an effort to engage the "millennial wine consumer."

The description:
Acronym Red Blend is dark ruby red with aromas of red berry fruit combined with hints of roasted coffee, soft vanilla and milk chocolate. The wine is made for good food, fun friends and is a perfect partner to sausage and cheese appetizers or anything on the grill. (Source)

Water health!

I love this image.  If you ever wonder why drinking water is so important - this should provide a sufficient answer!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving reflections on friendships

On Thanksgiving Day, I signed onto Facebook and saw what felt like 200 status updates proclaiming what everyone was thankful for (that day/in that moment/in general).  While I appreciated some of what I read, I wanted to enjoy the holiday and let things sink in a bit so I could truly reflect about my life and my blessings.

After a long weekend, some great exercise, great wine, and much needed rest, I decided to brainstorm a bit on this topic.  What spoke out to me most this year were the ladies (yes, ladies) in my life who have made a big difference to me.   Friends who have made me happier, simply by their presence and positive energy.  Colleagues who have stuck by me through thick and thin.  Family members who have made me laugh every day since I can remember laughing for the first time.  People who have loved me unconditionally.

I wanted to share about a few friends who have made a big difference to me this month:

My friend Mariko (pictured on the left)
Mariko is like the sister I never had.  She and I went to the same high school but didn't start spending QT together until after college.  Mariko is honest, loving, funny, quirky, and compassionate.  Every time we are together, I walk away feeling like the past hour (or two) could not have been better spent.  The other day, Mariko texted me just to see how I was doing - asking if I was really okay, because she felt that she needed to check up on me (how sweet!).  Mariko has been there for me these past few months while I've been learning more about myself and the relationships in my life.  For that, I cannot be more grateful.

My friend Sarah (Sarah is on the left, hehe!)
Sarah is like a 2 for 1 gift :).  She's my colleague and my friend.  Sarah and I have been through a LOT together - both personally and professionally.  This Summer, Sarah gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Jonah.  While Sarah was on maternity leave (and since she's been back) I've realized more and more how much I appreciate Sarah's presence in my life on multiple levels.  Sarah and I are a true team at work.  We see eye to eye (both personally and professionally) and have great conversations.  At work, we share a common vision and get things done.  We understand each other and enable each other to succeed at what we're each good at.   Aside from this, anytime I'm having a great or bad day, I can email Sarah right away to express how I'm feeling.  We also share the same sense of humor (often self-effacing) which helps get us through the day - no day is short of laughter.   I know I will never take colleagues like Sarah for granted.

My friend Erin (pictured above, right)
This year, my dear friend Erin moved back home from London, and then onto Boston!  I am truly excited for Erin to start her new live in the city she loves, but I miss her soooo much.  Fortunately, Erin is the most reliable communicator and I can always count on her to respond to my nutty texts or send me fun emails during the week.  My favorite thing about Erin (besides the fact that she is SUCH A GOOD FRIEND) is that she appreciates the simple things in life - watching a favorite movie or TV show, drinking a cup of tea (or Guinness :), or cooking dinner together on a Friday night.  For this reason, whenever Erin and I talk or spend time together, we always have a blast no matter what we do (we always manage to make the smallest things seem like an epic adventure).  For that, I am thankful.

My friends Marianne (L) and Maria (R)
I have known Marianne and Maria since I was a freshman in high school.  We refer to ourselves as "M3."  Marianne (M1), Margie (M2), and Maria (M3).  When we are together, we are absolutely over the top, ridiculous, (definitely annoying to the public), but also awesome.   Last Wednesday I was able to spend QT with the two of them, and it reminded me of how grateful I am for them.  They are truly incredible and so much fun to be around.  They understand me completely and every time we're together we laugh so hard.  You can't put a price on that!

My friends Anna (pictured below on her wedding day!) and Megan (pictured above!)
I could go on and on about how wonderful these two are, but in this post I will refer to Anna and Megan as my #1 Blog readers and cheerleaders :).  Anna and Megan have read my blog since day one, and they never have stopped encouraging me.  They give me great feedback and are constantly my source of inspiration to keep on writing.  In addition, they are incredible people and awesome friends.  What I appreciate the most about Anna and Megan is that they are so honest and loving.  They can admit good or bad days, and say "this is me, world! take it or leave it"  Gosh I love these gals.

Who is a friend you have been particularly grateful this holiday season?  Let him/her know! :)

Working out for 365 days - one woman's story

Today my friend Sarah shared a fascinating article with me about a woman who challenged herself to workout (or "sweat") for an entire year - that's right, 365 days.  Every day.  Even on her wedding day!

I strongly encourage you to read the full article (and interview), but here were two responses that I really loved:

So did you really sweat 365 days in a row?
Yes and no. I worked out for 365 days in a row but sometimes my body needed a break and I listened. Those days I would walk for 45 minutes in my neighborhood or go to a slower paced yoga class. I did not sweat (much), I just moved. It is important to listen to what your body needs no matter what your fitness goals are. When you are able to truly listen, you will be able to complete the goal a lot easier than if you push it so hard that it breaks.

Hit us with some words of wisdom – what else did you learn?
Like anything in life, you make the things that are important to you a priority. If you do not have your health, then you have no life. Deep, right? Take care of your health and cultivate it by providing yourself with a healthy lifestyle. You will thank yourself a thousand times over for all of the benefits that continue to unfold.

I really love the idea of listening to your body and doing what is right for you every day.  This weekend I REALLY pushed my body working out, but on Monday I knew my body needed to rest a bit but still continue moving and pushing through the soreness.  I decided to go to yoga last night, and it was definitely the right call.

One thing I've learned about fitness in the past year is that it's not about tackling intense workouts every day - but rather, listening to your body and doing something (large or small) every day.  If all I have the energy for (or what I need) is a 20 minute speed walk around my neighborhood with my dog, I do just that - and I don't apologize. However, when I don't do anything for a few days in a row, that is perfectly okay, but I just don't feel as healthy or happy.  It's not about weight or diet or checking something off my list - but rather, taking care of myself and my body.  Exercise for me contributes to physical, emotional AND mental health!

Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

Article Source

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From one blah day to two GREAT days

On Friday night, I sat at home in a complete state of blah.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know this usually happens once every couple of months.  Friday night I didn't really have anything to complain about, but I was feeling sad, restless, sluggish, alone, and down in the dumps.  I hadn't had a productive day, and I didn't feel happy or healthy.

Fortunately, I was able to pull myself out of the state of blah (after a good night's rest).  I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and the idea that we can decide what kind of day we are going to have.  Sure, life doesn't always throw us the easiest situations - however, we are ultimately in charge of how we respond to the obstacles we encounter.  We can choose to have a good or bad attitude.  We can choose how to spend our time.  We can choose to take care of ourselves and our health or ignore it.   At the end of the day, it's up to us. 

At the same time, as I've said here before, I also believe that it's okay to not be okay.  It's okay to need one night (or two) to sit around and throw a pity party, and then decide to move on when we're ready.  Thus I decided to pull out my journal and move myself in the direction of progress:

(11-23-12): So today is not my day, and that is okay.  I cannot feel perfect every day, in every way.  So tonight is going to be my off day, and tomorrow will be better.  I will wake up with greater energy and a sense of the new day and the opportunities ahead.  I will take time to do things that are healthy for me, and I will be kind to myself.  I believe that tomorrow I will make progress and take steps toward my health and happiness.  I deserve to be happy, to have a healthy body, and to live my life fully.

Fortunately, my journal exercise proved to be rather effective.  I started out my Saturday with the most amazing yoga session.  The entire time I was there I thought "I am SO GLAD I am here.  Why don't I do this every Saturday?!" (Note, I promptly went home and put this yoga class on my calendar for the rest of the year).   After taking Lucy to the dog park, I showered, put up grown up clothes (yes, it's an accomplishment) and met my family at the Fremont Brewing Company for a fun beer tasting.  We drank awesome ales and laughed the whole time.  I then watched the Notre Dame vs. USC football game with a fantastic, spicy chili dinner (thank you, Mom)!  Instead of going out on Saturday night, I watched The Good Wife and then went to bed and got 10 hours of sleep!  It was a day full of pick me ups.

To no surprise, my positive energy kept on going on Sunday.  I started out this morning with a power walk with Lucy in the neighborhood (a 100% guaranteed mood booster).  Then I watched the Seahawks game (I won't mention details of the loss) while cleaning my place.  Later, I went for a run with my friend Alex, which I had been putting off for way too long.  It felt great to do the loop and feel that sense of accomplishment.  I then met my friend Carly for a walk at Discovery Park, my favorite place in Seattle.  It was such a beautiful day.  In addition to getting more great exercise outside, I felt so fortunate to be around Carly.   Every time Carly and I hang out, I leave feeling energized and happy.  Carly is an honest, fun, and beautiful person (inside and out).  This afternoon reminded me how important it is to surround myself with friends who are guaranteed to make me feel better whenever we hang out.

To finish off my day, I went grocery shopping and cooked an awesome, healthy dinner.  Fresh salmon, baked asparagus, a vege, chickpea, and pine nut couscous side dish, and a fresh garden salad - with red wine, of course. :) I also managed to take a hot bath and relax for a solid 30 minutes.  I am now taking time to blog, which I haven't done since earlier this month!  

How are you going to turn tomorrow into a great day?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Flat belly tips!

Today I got another great newsletter from a trainer about tips for getting a flatter belly.  Rather insightful.  I found it particularly interesting how what you eat (not just how much you eat) can contribute to your belly fat.  Read on!

Beer belly. Love handles. Fat.

Whatever you want to call it, excess weight around your middle can be the most difficult weight on your body to lose.

It is also more dangerous to your health than those extra pounds that accumulate on your hips or thighs.

The fat around your belly is an outward sign of deep, internal fat surrounding your organs. Fat in this area causes an increase of hormones that raise blood pressure and increase bad cholesterol, putting you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

Belly fat has also been associated with an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and metabolic syndrome.

What's to blame for belly fat? Stress, age, poor lifestyle choices, and genetics play a role—but so does your diet.

Here's what not to eat and what to eat if you want to banish belly fat.

Recipe for a Fat Belly

It is fair to say that weight gain around your waistline and anywhere else on your body is caused by consumption of too many calories. That being said, there do seem to be certain foods and drinks especially associated with an increase of fat cells in the abdominal area.

While you may use it playfully, the phrase "beer belly" is an accurate description of what goes on when you down too much alcohol. Drinking too much may make it difficult to fasten your jeans. Why does this happen? When you drink alcohol, your liver goes into overdrive to burn it off instead of working to burn off the high fat content. Alcohol can also make you hungrier, causing you to consume more calories than normal.

Foods containing trans fat are another contributing factor for a large waist. Trans fat is a manmade fat created with partially hydrogenated oil. This unnatural fat leads to belly fat and moves fat from other parts of the body to the abdominal area. Where can you find trans fat in your diet? Cookies, crackers, pastries, potato chips, margarine, fried foods, and packaged foods all have this unwanted intruder.

Sugar-sweetened beverages and sodas are another possible culprit for belly fat. The empty calories and high amount of high-fructose corn syrup (a manmade sweetener) cause abnormal weight gain in the midsection. High-fructose corn syrup is also found in foods such as ketchup, mayonnaise, jam, canned fruits, yogurt, bread, and even fruit juice.

Finally, refined, low-fiber grains are also responsible for belly fat. To avoid these, skip foods such as white rice, white bread, and sugary cereals.

Recipe for a Flat Belly

Whittling your waistline starts with a low-calorie, well-balanced diet and regular exercise. A recipe for a flat belly starts with a diet rich in fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean meat. Moving toward a slimmer waistline also requires you to move away from the fatty foods and drinks listed above.

A truly flat belly comes from a combination of a consistent, challenging exercise routine coupled with clean eating.

I'm here to help you meet your fitness and weight loss goals.

Call or email today to get started on a fitness program that will have your belly flatter than ever.
Green Tea For a Flat Belly
You may also be interested to know there's a beverage that may help reduce belly fat. That beverage is green tea.

An ingredient in green tea called catechins stimulates the burning of calories and speeds the loss of belly fat. So pour yourself a glass and drink your way to a slimmer you.

Be sure that your green tea is unsweetened and calorie free.
Cauliflower, Kale and Chicken Sausage Bake
Here's a recipe that tastes like comfort food, but without the guilt. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, filled with calcium, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Servings: 6

Here's what you need:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Pinch of each, dried: thyme, rosemary, tarragon, and parsley
  • 4 links nitrate-free, chicken sausage, sliced into half moons
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup fat free ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a casserole dish with olive oil. Place a large pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, dried herbs and chicken sausage. Mix well, and then add kale. Cover for about 3 minutes, until kale gets bright green and wilted, then remove cover. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes until everything is tender. Set aside.
  3. Place the cauliflower florets in the pot of boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, drain, and return cauliflower to pot.
  4. Add the kale mixture to the pot as well as the chicken broth, lemon juice, ricotta cheese and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix will over medium heat until all has been incorporated.
  5. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and serve.
Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 238 calories, 10g fat, 584mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, and 18g protein

Motivate your friends, family and co-workers!
Use the "refer a friend" link below to forward this newsletter and subscribe your friends.


John Verd
Phone: (855) FIT-CAMP
Web: Visit My Website

Friday, November 2, 2012

Little treats for self (Philosophy HEAVEN)

The other day I was at Nordstrom and passed by the Philosophy section (bad idea).  I realized that all of their holiday flavors were for sale and couldn't help but do a bit of exploring. :)

I landed on two items which I am way too obsessed with right now.  The good news is that my Nordstrom credit card notes took care of both purchases so it was the perfect compromise and reward!

I love this lotion because the fragrance is yummy but fairly mild.  It wears really nice and has already made my skin feel a lot better.   The Pumpkin Pie body wash is fantastic because it's 3-in-1 (shampoo, shower gel, and bubble bath) and smells like holiday goodness.

What is your favorite holiday beauty product?

Holiday home treats

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and decided to treat myself to a couple items for my home that I just love.  For the record, I got everything for a great deal.  I bought a large pumpkin spice candle with a beautiful matching candle holder, along with a gorgeous bouquet of white roses (the photo above does no justice).

Pumpkin and holiday flavored candles are one of my favorite home treats this season.  Now that the weather has shifted gears, I am really craving time at home to relax and enjoy my surroundings.  This also means blogging, which I have been behind on for the last two months.

In short, the flowers and candles are something for myself that are simple yet bring a lot of joy to my home, and therefore me.  What is something simple that brings you happiness at home?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

20 INSTANT pick-me-ups!

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge fan of what I call "instant pick-me-ups" - little things you can do to brighten your day, especially if you're in a funk.

Sometimes when we are in an "off mood" or feeling anxious inside, we simply need to DO something to move away from that weird place.  Even if it doesn't fix the issue entirely, it allows us to shift our thoughts and actions (even momentarily) toward something positive. 

Here are some of my most trusted (and cost effective!) pick-me-ups, in case you are in need of some new ideas.  In no particular order:

1.  Light a candle (yes, even during the day)

2. Spray down your counters (I am obsessed with Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Basil Scent Spray - it smells so good that I literally look forward to cleaning)

3.  Jump up and down (thank you, Gretchen Rubin!)

4.  Put in your favorite happy movie while you clean your home (a few of mine: Something's Gotta Give, Under the Tuscan Sun, He's Just Not That Into You, Sex and the City)

5.  Take out the trash and recycling

6.  Take a shower/bath!

7.  Stretch!

8.  Read The Happiness Project

9.  Go for a 20 minute power walk

10.  Do downward dog pose (or other yoga poses)

11.  Close out of Facebook, email, etc.

12. Go to the gym

13.  Journal - just get everything out.  Don't judge yourself for what comes out on the page....just WRITE and feel empowered by doing so.

14.   Make cucumber water.  Or lemon water. 

15.  Change your sheets

16.  Start a load of towels

17.  Go get a manicure (note: my favorite place in Seattle only costs $15.00!)

18.  Call your funniest friend that always makes you laugh within 2 minutes of speaking with him/her (for me, this is my friend Monica - who finally just moved back to the States!)

19. Vacuum

20.  Pull out a sheet of paper and write a list of 20 things you are grateful for

The gift of a beautiful morning

This morning I woke up at 7:00 AM due to construction work across the street from my building.  I'm not gonna lie - I was really annoyed (note: it's Sunday morning).  This was not the first time the workers have begun construction in the morning earlier than city laws dictate. 

Not able to get back to sleep, I decided head outside for a walk with Lucy.  It was the best possible way to get rid of my (somewhat petty) negative energy and make my morning a positive one.  Words cannot describe how beautiful it was this morning.  Seattle has seen the most incredible weather this season, and it just keeps on going and going!  Yesterday, we passed 70 degrees - in OCTOBER.  Let me tell you, when it rains this Winter I am not going to complain.

The reason why this morning was so great was because of the way it made me feel - happy and peaceful inside.  When I went to sit down at the park bench, I closed my eyes and just listened.  There was no noise other than the cool morning breeze. 

There is something so powerful about being outside when there aren't cars driving by, people yelling, or music playing.  Whenever I have these moments, I am reminded how important they are.  We are constantly bombarded with noise every day - TV, radio, cars, internet, phones, neighbors, etc.   The quiet times often bring us the calm we need to keep things balanced in our lives.  For that, I am thankful.

When is the last time you found "quiet" in your life?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Discovery Park haven

This morning was one of the first Saturdays in weeks that I didn't have to work.  I started my day by heading to my favorite place in Seattle: Discovery Park.  The weather in Seattle has been absolutely incredible these days, and so I decided to take advantage of it!  There was not a cloud in the sky, and the views were breathtaking.  Lucy and I got in a great walk too :).

This morning reminded me that the best things in life are free.  There's a reason why that saying is a bit cliche and over-used - because it's true!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Allowing yourself to be human

"Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person." -Dr. David M. Burns (Source)

I came across this quote on my friend Dana's Facebook page, and just LOVED it.  Great food for thought on this lovely debate night (with a glass of Pinot Noir, of course).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meeting Miss Happy

Tonight was one of the best nights I've had in a long time.  It was a very happy night.  This was because (1) I spent time with two friends who bring a LOT of happiness to my life, and (2) we spent our night by listening to (and meeting) a true happiness guru: Gretchen Rubin.

In case you don't remember reading my post about the Happiness Project in August, I blogged about a couple books that I loved.  One was Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project.  It is a fantastic, upbeat, energizing book about a woman who decides to devote a year to living her life intentionally on a quest for happiness, by focusing on one aspect/area of her life each month.  GREAT read.

Tonight, Marianne, Maria and I headed to 3rd Place Books in Lake Forest Park for Gretchen's introduction of her new book, Happier at Home.   Gretchen spoke for a few minutes, and then opened up the audience to questions.  Marianne (of course) had a great question in regard to keeping resolutions at the beginning of the week, but not so much toward the end of the week (or month).  Gretchen had a great suggesting of giving yourself a rating each day on your resolution area to keep you motivated and focused on building the habit. 

After the speaking session was over, we waited in a long line to get our books signed by Gretchen.  She could NOT have been nicer.  She was so authentic, down to earth, funny, friendly, and kind.  We were so excited to tell her about our own happiness project we were working on, and she was equally excited for us. 

Tonight reminded me how important it is to prioritize the adventures that you know will make you happy.  I now have a new book to read by a brilliant author, and am so thankful for the fun memory created tonight with my closest friends.

Thank you, Gretchen, for providing such a positive impact on our lives!  You are the best!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pumpkin Sunday!

Since Fall has officially begun, I decided to start my Sunday the right way with one of my favorite breakfasts: Spiced Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Spiced French Roast Coffee.  It was truly amazing.

I posted the recipe to the pancakes last November after seeing it in my Health Magazine.  For the whole wheat pancake mix, I use Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake & Waffle Whole Grain Mix.  I like it because it's healthy nutritionally (has a good amount of fiber, protein, and is made with flax), and it doesn't have that dry/cardboard texture.  For the coffee, I combine fresh ground coffee with a few shakes of nutmeg and cinnamon, mixed together in the filter bag.  You can pick one spice to use alone, but I think it's way better with both!

I love Sundays where it's so relaxing and things don't feel "hurried."  When you can take the time to make Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes...while watching football :).

From work, to appreciation, to SELF

If you're one of my regular readers (who I get text/emails from if I haven't posted a new article in three days - you know who you are), you probably noticed that my Blog went to almost "nonactive" in late September.

Quick recap of my life: my organization had our annual fundraiser on Friday night.  This meant that for the past two weeks, my entire staff worked until 9:00 PM 7 days a week (yes, that means Saturdays and Sundays too) until the event was over.  This also included lots of long hours and weekend work days in August.  Yesterday (after the event was over), I worked a full day with the post-event banking, announcements, etc.

This month, I didn't really have an opportunity to focus on my wellness.  I think I exercised once over the past three weeks (as opposed to my normal 5-6 days per week), and my "workout" was a 30 minute walk.  I didn't have time to grocery shop or cook healthy meals.  I managed to spend time with a friend once, which was an impromptu "happy hour" at 8:30 PM with my dear friend Maria (it was a LOT of fun, for the record).   I got to see my family once.   Last, but not least, I didn't have time to write (journal, blog, etc).

What's interesting in all of this is that I never once felt resentful about working so much.  I think it's because I love my job and felt so good about my hard work that the other things didn't matter to me.  I thought "I know it's a Saturday night at 9:00 PM and I'm at the office, but I am so lucky to A) have a job, and B) have a job I love."  My addiction to work ended up being a happy and healthy one.

This morning I woke up feeling so excited about the day and the new month ahead.  If September was "the month of work," October will be "the month of self."  My focus in October will be taking care of myself (along with my home, and Lucy - who I've been referring to as my "neglected dog").  I'm not sure if I've ever felt so excited to be at home, clean my house, and take care of myself. 

You probably saw or watched the youtube video that I posted above.  I came across this video last week, and it quickly became my "pick me up" during those long work nights.  It somehow reminds me of my recent experiences, and trying to be grateful for the little things, along with the big picture.

Something else I'll be looking forward to this month is a little bit of self indulgence (just being honest).  I started this off yesterday with a trip to West Elm (note: I parked my car in a 30 minute load/unload zone to put a cap on my shopping time).  I found my most favorite candle (was thrilled it was still available) and splurged on a beautiful faux-fur throw, which I had been wanting for a while (and will put to great use this Fall on cooler nights).

Today I am watching the Seahawks game, blogging away, and thinking about the new month ahead.  I am grateful.

How will you make October a great month?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pushing through intimidating tasks

My great friend, Marianne, shared this quote with me and our friend, Maria, the other week.  Marianne and I have always joked (although we are kind of serious at the same time) that "we only do things we know we're good at!"  Yes, it's true.

It is not instinctual (at least for most people) to try new things that intimidate us, especially when we fear we might fail the first time.  So, we lean toward activities where we know we'll succeed and keep our self esteem on an upward slant.

The above quote is particularly relevant to my plans for today.  Tonight I am going to my first hot yoga class (Bikram Yoga, to be technical).  I got a Groupon months ago and have absolutely been avoiding it ever sense (yes, for some reason I am a tad hesitant to submerge myself into a heated room for an hour and a half).  Since the coupon expires tomorrow, I have no choice other than to take the plunge and head to Bikram Yoga tonight after work.  I consider it a blessing in disguise.

In all seriousness, I am excited to go to the class, because I know that when I am done with the class I will feel so proud of myself for going - mostly because I will have pushed myself to do something out of my comfort zone and try something new.  In addition, this month I have been focusing on practicing yoga, so developing by hot yoga practice will be a great way to honor that commitment.

Lately I have been learning about how my thoughts (both negative and positive) have the power to influence the outcome of various situations.  For instance, if I go into this yoga class thinking "This yoga class will be challenging but so rewarding!" - that positive outcome is much more likely to happen, vs. me saying "I am dreading this class and it's going to be miserable."   In other words, we often get back what we put out, both in our thoughts, energy, and actions.

What is one thing you could do this week to challenge yourself?  What is something in your life that you would like to see become easy after you push through the hard stuff?  Keeping a clean kitchen?  Reading that book that's been on your shelf for two years?  Running an 8K? 

Marianne (L), Maria (C), and myself (R) - fun times!