Thank God for Brave Decisions

It’s funny how one brave decision can change your life.

After thinking about it for a couple of decades, last year I decided to take a yoga class. Unfortunately, I bravely walked into that class 30 minutes late. I can laugh about it now, but that day I was mortified. As I walked across the classroom, I really wanted to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was looking for the donut shop?” They might have believed that I was looking for donuts rather than a workout, except I was carrying a brand new yoga mat in my hands. Determined not to be a complete idiot, the next week I arrived to class 30 minutes early.

Then - March 2012

Then – March 2012

Thus began my yoga journey which inspired a blog post called Conquering Mind Over Matter on a Yoga Mat. In it, I wrote how Donna Ornter, owner of Balance Yoga Studio, told me during a private lesson that I had a pretty Warrior II. We even took a photo of my “pretty” pose. Goodness — I was practically standing straight up, which isn’t the intent of the pose. A couple of weeks ago, as we were recreating the photo, I scolded her for calling my Warrior II pretty back then.

“Well, it was pretty,” she laughed. “And it was the best that you could do at the time.”

If for no other reason, that is why you should find a yoga class rather than buying a yoga DVD. A teacher will encourage and inspire you. A DVD will only frustrate you and reinforce all the little doubts in your mind. Thoughts like you can’t do yoga. Or that it’s hard. Or that it’s a waste of time. Or. Or. Or. Believe me, yoga is for EVERY body and EVERY mind. If I can do it, so can you.

Now - March 2013

Now – March 2013

A year later, my Warrior II has improved. It still has a long way to go, and I constantly struggle with the poses and with balance. But yoga is a journey, not a race. More than I ever expected, I’ve gotten stronger and I’ve gained a lot more flexibility.

Last fall, I found my way into another yoga classroom and began working with Marcy Snodgrass, owner of 3 Hearts Yoga. After attending one of her hot yoga classes, I wrote the blog post, Thoughts I Can’t Swat Away. I’ve discovered that Marcy’s studio is the perfect place for me to challenge my determination and my yoga resolve. My subconscious has gotten as much of a workout as my quads. I’ve shed a lot of emotional baggage as well as sweat in her heated studio.

In November, Marcy invited her students to do a 90-day pose challenge. We were to work on any pose that was giving us difficulty. She promised that after 90 days of focus and intent, our ability to do the pose would improve. I couldn’t decide which I wanted to work on because all of the poses are uniquely challenging. I finally selected Forehead to Knee pose, as it would demonstrate increased flexibility. When the challenge began, I was scared to stand on one foot while holding the other foot. While bending my torso over the outstretched leg. While breathing. And squaring my hips. And relaxing my shoulders. And smiling.

Forehead to knee poseKnowing I’d never do it, one night during class I bravely gave the pose a try. I took a deep breath, grabbed my foot, and stretched out my leg. Then, I took another deep breath and squared my hips. Success! Someday, when I least expect it I’ll bend my torso over the outstretched leg and put my forehead on my knee. Until then, I’ll keep celebrating the courage I found to go for it.

Machine Gun Kelly has a song that is becoming part of my life’s soundtrack.

2013 Forehead to KneeI hear voices in the air
I hear it loud and clear
They’re telling me to listen
Whispers in my ear
Nothing can compare
I just want to listen
Telling me
I’m invincible
Telling me
I’m invincible
I am

Whose voices and whispers do I hear? I hear my teachers who are inspiring me to unlock the potential my body still has — even at 49. I hear the other students who are constantly motivating me. I hear my own voice redefining what the rest of my life will be like: healthier and stronger. Thank God that I made that brave decision. And then another. And another. And another.

I’m invincible — I am.

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Weekend Frittatas: The Perfect Brunch

The Bouncing Baby Boy helps with brunch.

The Bouncing Baby Boy helps with brunch.

Our favorite weekend brunch is frittata.

It’s also one of my favorite dinner dishes when I can get away with it. I realized that I was pushing the limits when my Darling pointed out last Thursday that we’d had frittatas three times that week. Oops.

Frittatas appeared on our menu, ironically, through one of my periodic spasms of indecision over dinner.

“Why don’t we have breakfast for dinner?” my Darling asked. “We haven’t done that in ages, we all like it, and it’s quick.”

“Cool,” I said. “But I think we’re all bored with scrambled eggs. Why not make omelets?”

After agreeing that this was a good idea, we set about chopping, cutting, stirring and sauteing. I whipped up eggs and milk while the skillet was preheating. We dropped in just the right amount of butter, waited for it to melt, and then poured them in. When the eggs were about half cooked, we tossed in the sauteed onions, added some green peppers, threw in a few mushrooms, and waited until time to fold the egg over.

This is where my omelets always fall apart – figuratively and literally.

This time was no different. When I had finished failing to fold the omelet, accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we had something that resembled scrambled eggs after all. They were just stuffed with all our omelet fixings. Grrr.

“There has to be an easier way to do this,” I thought. “An open-face omelet would be so much easier than all this turning and folding and flipping.”

Enter the Italian frittata.

My favorite version of this dish is actually Spanish, a tortilla de patata. It was one of my favorite snacks when I studied in Madrid during the summer of 1987. I’ve made it a few times but as a more traditional omelet that just happen to be stuffed with shredded potatoes. Now, though, frittatas have become one of my go-to dishes when I’m out of ideas and need to get something on the table. They’re a regular feature of weekend brunch. Super easy and tasty, they’re also excellent for clearing out the fridge when you have a few mushrooms, half an onion, and a handful of spinach left over from another meal. We’ve even used kale and leftover breakfast sausage. I could imagine potatoes, tomatoes, or olives. This is pretty much a “whatever you need to use up” dish.

At our house, here’s how we often go about it. Only the eggs are absolutely required. Everything else is optional, but it should be as organic as possible, of course.

Frittata a la Medlock

Ingredients

  • Onion (we always have white, sometimes red, occasionally yellow)
  • Bell pepper (green, red, yellow, orange, purple… you get the idea)
  • Mushroom (white, portabello, shitake, whatever)
  • Spinach
  • Cheese (what kind do you like?)
  • Butter or olive oil (or both)
  • Eggs
  • Milk

    Frittata in progress

    Before you add the egg, you have something that resembles stir fry. In fact, you could stop here and serve over rice or noodles.
    *New dinner idea!*

Directions

  • Preheat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. If you’re using oil, go ahead and let it warm up with the skillet. If you’re using butter, save it until just before you start sauteing vegetables so that it doesn’t burn before you start cooking.
  • Chop onions, peppers, mushrooms, and other vegetables you plan to use. I prefer a fairly coarse chop, but my Darling likes finer pieces.
  • Saute vegetables, starting with those that take longer to cook. I like to put onions in first, but my family sometimes complain that I overcook them. If you’re using potatoes, those would definitely come ahead of anything else. Add soft ingredients like mushrooms nearer the end. Leafy vegetables should cook just long enough to wilt.
  • Whip up your egg mixture. Normal people are probably good with one or two eggs each. Teenagers, I’ve discovered, like more. Five or six are not too many for the Bouncing Baby Boy. I like to add a lot of milk, about half or two-thirds as much as the volume of the eggs. You want them frothy, so beat the heck out of them. A fork or whisk works just fine, but I could imagine a mixer doing a nice job as well.
  • Spread your sauteed vegetables evenly in the skillet, then pour your egg over them. Stir to mix well, then leave them alone until the egg sets up so that the bottom is firm but the top is still runny.
  • If you’re using it, spread cheese over the top of your frittata.
  • At this point, you have a choice. You can finish cooking your dish on the stove top like fried or scrambled eggs. Or you can pop it in the oven set on high broil for a few minutes to cook the top layers and to lightly toast the cheese.
  • Let cool, slice into pieces, and serve. If your family is like mine, “slice into pieces” is optional. They usually just scoop it straight out of the skillet.

Now I’m hungry. By the way Darling, guess what’s for dinner?

Curious About Juicing?

Glass of Green Juice

My favorite organic green juice made from cucumbers, carrots, kale, and an apple.

If you can’t eat your veggies, maybe you should try drinking them.

Juicing is all the rage these days. It seems like everyone is talking about the goodness gained from a tall, fresh glass of green juice. Even Martha Stewart starts her day with green juice. After all, it’s a good thing. When I’m juicing, you can see it. The dark circles fade from under my eyes, my complexion becomes clearer, and there’s a spring in my step.

I get lots of questions from people eager to learn about juicing and buying a juicer. I always ask them why they’re interested. Because while juicing is awesome, I can’t recommend it for everyone. Juicing is part of a complete nutritional shift. If you’re still drinking liters of soda, smoking, or consuming lots of processed food, don’t waste your money buying a juicer. Instead, start with incorporating green smoothies into your diet. They’re good for you, they offer a nutritional boost, and most people have some sort of blender. If you don’t have a blender then a 2-cup food processor will do the job.

I started juicing as part of my effort eliminate the effects of bad eating habits. I read books that described juicing as a way to flush your cells with nutrition, thereby washing away toxins from soda and other processed food. My imagination went wild envisioning sad, tired cells trying their best to work while coughing toxins like cartoon characters cough smog. I wanted happy, healthy cells that replicated themselves with lots of energy. I pictured newly empowered cells attacking viruses like pro wrestlers – superplexing them into oblivion. I purchased a juicer and bought bags full of organic veggies that were suggested for juicing. The hardest part was taking that first taste of the bizarre-looking elixir. It didn’t taste like anything I ever imaged. It was cool, with a almost milk-like density.

While I’d love to juice everyday, I can’t always get the organic vegetables I prefer. It is important to stress here – only juice organic vegetables and fruits. Otherwise, you’re dumping toxins (and God knows what else) into your bloodstream.

Why Juice?

Simple biology. We all know that food provides energy for our bodies. However, did you know that 60-80% of the energy gained from a meal is used to digest it? When I drink juice rather than eat a meal, suddenly my body has an energy surplus because I’m not digesting food. I don’t know about you, but I need all the energy I can get. Juicing allows me to consume double or triple the amount of vegetables I normally eat. That means double or triple the nutritional value. It also allows me to experiment with new vegetables like kale. One isn’t born with taste buds that like kale. But now, I love it.

There are several reasons why you should be juicing. But there is only one reason why you shouldn’t juice. If you think you’ll lose weight by juicing, you’re wrong. Losing weight is the byproduct of healthy nutrition. Many people start juicing with high hopes of losing extra pounds because they’ve heard that a juice fast is a quick way to lose weight. But like all other diets, a juice fast isn’t a permanent fix. It’s a temporary solution, just another diet gimmick. Oh, you’ll lose weight, but it won’t stay off. You’ll gain it right back unless you completely change your nutritional intake. But for some people, I recognize that juicing can be a necessary beginning to a complete nutritional change, especially if they aren’t eating vegetables or if their meals come through a drive-thru window. Juicing introduces them to vegetables.

1) Few people eat enough veggies.
If you drew a line down the middle of your plate, would 50% of your meal be veggies? What kind of veggies are you consuming? Do you eat enough dark leafies that are filled with chlorophyll to cleanse your cells? Or do you only eat potatoes, sweet corn, and green bean casserole? Consider this: Are potatoes still a vegetable after you boil the dickens out of them, then add a stick of butter and a drown them in milk? My southern taste buds say yes, but my cells say no.

2) Juicing green vegetables adds chlorophyll.
Chemically, chlorophyll is almost identical to hemoglobin – the substance which transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. The benefits of chlorophyll fall into three main categories: purifying, anti-inflammatory, and renewal. It has numerous health benefits, as it can help cleanse and oxygenate the blood, detox and alkalize the body, and help promote healthy intestines.

2) Raw veggies provide their full nutritional value when juiced.
Cooking lowers the nutritional value of food. The more you cook them, the less effective vegetables are. I once cooked green beans in a crockpot for three days so that they would taste like my great-aunt’s southern-style green beans. While delicious, there wasn’t an ounce of nutritional value left in them. Poor things.

3) Juicing flushes toxins from bloodstream and from cells.
Every second, millions of your cells replicate. Your body is constantly replacing old cells with new ones. By drinking green juice, you are helping to rejuvenate your body at the cellular level by feeding them what they need — clean energy and glorious vitamins.

What kind of juicer do you have?
My juicer isn’t fancy and it wasn’t too expensive. I bought a Warner Juice Extractor from Lowes. You can easily get one from Wal-Mart, a catalog store, or on-line . The day I bought mine, I discovered it while my Beloved was looking at building supplies. It’s done a good job despite the paces that I’ve put it through including juicing hundreds of tomatoes last summer. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for it, but I think it was around $80.

Veggies Ready to JuiceWhat’s your favorite juice recipes?
While I prefer green juice, you can try any combination of veggies and fruit using the magic formula: 3 veggies:1 fruit. Its important not to use a lot of fruit in juicing. You can easily spike your blood sugar levels if you use too much fruit. Besides, eating fruit is easy. Eating vegetables is generally the problem. Use fruit to sweeten your blends, not overtake the spinach. The internet is full of juicing recipes. You can easily find recipes, but below are a couple of my favorites. The organic vegetables are often available, even in Murray.

Green Goodness
2 Cups of Organic Kale (or organic spinach)
2 Organic Cucumbers
2 Organic Carrots
1 Organic Apple

Carrot Delight
6 Organic Carrots
1 Organic Apple
1 knuckle organic ginger

 

Ready for Spring

January Sunlight

I love the clean white light of winter. But I’m ready for the sun track its way closer to the Earth and warm my garden soil.

I’m over this so-called winter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. With its bright white sunshine, it makes me feel as if the world is full of possibilities. For me, winter is like a pause. Or a deep breath that centers your mind.

I don’t think we’ve actually had a real winter in years, with accumulated snow that makes any landscape beautiful. Instead, we’ve had these so-called winters that have been endless string of dreary, cloudy, and cold days which make me want to burrow deeper into my blankets. If we’ve had any snow it was a dusting. Or maybe I just didn’t notice. How sad.

As the days grow longer and the calendar approaches April, I long for spring. Like many of my co-workers, I think we need to encourage a certain groundhog to retire. Obviously, he’s lost his touch. The daffodils, which announce spring better than ole Phil, have been in bloom along the roads for weeks. They seem so out of place with the dreary days.

When I was a kid, I would watch for the daffodils. I’d get off the bus in the afternoons, toss my books into the house, and run into the pasture past the barn until I reached the Old House Place. It was a lot that once had a wood-framed house where my grandmother’s cousins lived. There are several large trees on the lot which would have surrounded the house with shade. The house is long gone, but what remained were thousands of daffodils, paper whites, and sweet peas. It was the closest thing to the secret garden I often read about. It was one of my favorite places on our farm. It was also a favorite place for our cattle, who loved to graze there. They probably ate the blooms, but I swear they didn’t. I think they liked hanging out with the flowers, like I did. When the magical day arrived and the daffodils bloomed, I’d find a spot and just lay down among them and the cows. It was my idea of heaven. Daffodils are still my favorite flower, but this year, they’ve made me a little sad to see them braving this crappy weather. They deserve a little sunshine and just haven’t gotten it.

During the winter season, my primary goal is to accomplish very little around the house. Oh, I maintain the vacuuming and the laundry. I dust occasionally, but there’s no real joy in it. After spending spring, summer, and each fall being industrious with my gardening and canning, I’m ready to relax after the holidays. On rainy weekends, I’ll open a closet and consider cleaning it out. But I don’t. I’ll walk into my pantry and consider reorganizing the cabinets. But I don’t. I’ll wander from room to room and consider tackling a major deep cleaning. But I don’t. Instead, I’ll settle in with a book or a movie. After all, I rarely take a day to simply relax.

But after three months of considering stuff to do, I’m ready to actually start doing something again. I’m ready to clean out the flower beds of their dead leaves and eager weeds. I’m ready to spend a Saturday with the sun warm on my back, as I put down new mulch. I’m ready to wash windows and dust away the cobwebs. I’m ready to clean out the sun porch and paint the wicker furniture. I’m ready to till the garden and smell the earth. I’m ready to dig deep into the rich compost piles my Beloved has been tending. I’m ready for spring.

The forecast calls for more rain and potential snow for this weekend. Guess, I’ll have to be patient. Or finally clean out that closet.