Spring in My Steps

Healthy eating! Tonight’s dinner: Branzino, broccoli, brown rice and mixed green salad.

Spring Is in the Air – Isn’t It?

Last night’s chili dinner was the perfect end to this dreary, stretched-out wintery season. I know, I know. It’s Spring. But I think someone forgot to tell that to Mr. Snow Miser (remember “The Year Without a Santa Claus”)? At any rate, I am hopeful that Spring is making its way back to us. Hope springs eternal, eh?

Speaking of Spring…my husband and I are “springing” into action to lose some weight. Our three-year stint in St. Thomas left me with an extra 20 pounds, only five of which I’ve managed to take off and keep off in the two years since we’ve been back. That leaves me with fifteen still to go. Ugh! I don’t need to make a ton of changes in my diet, a few tweaks here and there maybe, but nothing huge. I do, however, need to be more diligent with my workouts. I used to do Nia classes 4-5 times a week before St. Thomas. I started back again this past Fall, ending up with what I suspect is plantar fasciitis, so I eventually stopped. It’s finally clearing up with some stretching and exercises. I’m not sure if I’ll head back to Nia anytime soon, but I recently resumed power walking. I may add stationary cycling to change things up, too.

The Universe Knows All!

I also began yoga for increased flexibility. I started after mentioning to a friend that yoga just wasn’t for me, that I’d never taken a class that clicked with me…told her that I had thrown in the towel on ever being able to do yoga. I swear The Universe works in mysterious ways…that very night —that. very. night. I received a text from a different friend inviting me to join her at yoga the next morning. I read the text and thought, “She must be crazy!” But she had a free pass for me to use and persisted in asking. I found myself answering “yes” that night, and then I found myself in the most serene yoga class the next morning. It was a combination of meditation and flexibility exercises, with a touch of strength training thrown in. Low impact…just what I needed as my feet healed. So I signed up for more.

That Universe! She sure knows how to give you what you need if you just quiet yourself enough to listen.

Filling in the Holes

That still left a hole in my regimen. I get minimal strength training with the yoga, at least in the classes I attend. So just today I added band work to my mix. I’m not looking for bulky muscles. I only need to tone up and keep my bones dense to prevent osteoporosis.  Add in some ab work and back exercises, and I feel I’ve got a well-rounded routine.

My eating probably won’t change much. I have a thing for crystallized ginger that probably isn’t working for me. I’m addicted to the stuff. Once I have one piece, I find myself going back for more…and more. That is something I will not buy so often now. By the way, if YOU have a thing for it, Whole Foods has the best. But I digress…

This is not going to happen overnight, but I also don’t need to do everything all at once. I’ve been eating well for some time. Now it’s time to add in workouts. Power-walking kicked it off, followed by yoga. The next step is strength training. Maybe some cycling.

“Baby steps” That’s my motto…

Chili Weather!

Beef Chili

The weather is as crazy here as it is everywhere else! Yesterday I was sitting outside enjoying a sunny, warm day (82 degrees!); this morning I woke to overcast skies, drizzle every now and again, and 35 degrees. Guess I’ll be getting at least one more wear out of my favorite sweater before it gets packed away for the season.

These temperatures are more “chili” than “grilled Branzino” to me. Obviously I am not the only one to feel this way. We were invited to dinner at a friend’s house tonight – who is serving chili. I’ll be bringing along some jalapeño cornbread and an appetizer to pair with the meal. I’m leaning toward making jalapeño poppers, but I’ll have to see what looks good at the store. I have some fresh squeezed blood orange juice in my fridge, so I think I’ll also conjure up a batch of margaritas from that. It seems to fit a bit better than wine with this meal.

Chicken Chili

Hope you are all staying warm and dry wherever you may find yourself. May this be the last of the cold spell…Cheers!


Great Friday…and a Little Whiskey Business!!

IMG_7262Great Friday!!

Years ago I used to hold an all-women cocktail party for my girlfriends on the Friday following Good Friday. I called it Great Friday. Why? Because while Good Friday is, well, good and all that, Great Friday…is GREAT! I think the last one I hosted was back in 2006. Not sure why I stopped. I was reminiscing about it all last night, and decided it was time for another Great Friday.

I believe I may have mentioned I am a Whiskey Girl…I love my bourbon…and sometimes a wee bit of Scotch…and I’m working on developing my taste for Rye Whiskey (it’s coming along nicely, thank you very much!). I decided to keep tonight’s Great Friday small and low-key. So Instead of fancy cocktails I’m serving up whiskey, specifically the Irish variety. I have a couple of girlfriends who are also whiskey drinkers, and we are gathering tonight to sample several in my collection.

Irish Whiskey – A Few Favorites

As a writer, I am particularly fond of an Irish Whiskey called Writer’s Tears. According to their site, “Many Irish writers suffered from ‘Writer’s Block’ and it was said that when they cried they cried tears of Whiskey. Most, if not all of them, sought comfort and inspiration from “The Water of Life” (Whiskey). The relaxing characteristics of Whiskey helped many of them overcome writers block and produce inspired works of poetry, prose and plays.”

Any writer who is also a whiskey drinker is calling out a loud, “Hell yeah!” right about now. (Or is that only me?)

One of my last visits to Ireland I found myself in a pub (as all of ye should be when in Ireland! No better place to find yerself…), and that’s where I first discovered this whiskey. For some reason I didn’t bring a bottle back with me to the States. Upon arriving back home I decided I needed to add it to my collection. This was a bit of an issue since it seems it is not sold here, or at least it is not sold near me. But I was determined. And obsessed. After a hearty online search I finally found a distributer in Germany who was able to ship it to me. Tonight I will sit here happily enjoying a wee bit o’ th’ stuff w/ me lassies. Life is good, eh?

This is not the only Irish Whiskey in my collection. In fact, there are a couple I prefer over this one, namely “Redbreast” and “Green Spot.” I’ve been known to take a nip of either on a chilly night by the fire. Not that I limit myself solely to those times; however, there is something about a crackling fire that seems especially fitting when partaking of a dram (or two) of whiskey.

I’ll leave you with some whiskey quotes:

  • Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.” ~Compton MacKenzie (I have verified this on a few occasions!)
  • Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.” ~W.C. Fields
  • Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” ~Mark Twain
  • I’m on a whisky diet. I’ve lost three days already.” ~Tommy Cooper

I’m off to prepare for tonight! Slainte (y’all)!

La Dolce Vita – Retreating to Italy?

Ah, Italy…l’Italia. Mi amore. This is a place I long for most days. I have a story to tell about this country and my past with it, but that will have to wait for another day. No, today’s post is about what the future holds.

After yesterday’s piece about how we, as Americans, don’t eat in so much, my husband and I decided to head to our favorite local Italian ristorante, Princi Italia. LOL If you follow me on Facebook,  you may have seen that my latest round of blood work shows I may have a gluten intolerance. Since the end of January I have been mainly gluten-free; however, I have broken this restriction on a handful of occasions. One of those times was tonight. I found myself with an immense craving for pasta. I decided that if I was going to break my no-gluten policy then it might as well be for great pasta. And this place makes their own pasta – from scratch.

We drove there, though technically we could have walked. It’s nice to have such a fabulous place so close. Our favorite waiter, Giovanni, worked tonight. Yes, he is from Italy, and we always enjoy practicing (or is that butchering?) our meager bits of Italian when he is around and willing to listen.

Recently, I signed up for a writing course. What does this have to do with pasta? Stick with me…Though the course begins in May, there is an opportunity to attend a writer’s retreat in October, headed by the person in charge of the department. Did I mention it’s in Italy? Sigh… Specifically, the retreat will be in the Le Marche region. This area is near to my heart in so many ways. We visited many years ago and fell in love with the area. Soon after our visit, we learned that my husband’s grandmother was born in the exact town we both felt the strongest connection to. That is the story I will tell later…in a separate post. Don’t let me forget!

The more pasta I ate, the more determined I became that I would attend this writer’s retreat. I look at it as fate. It’s a writer’s retreat; I write. It’s in Italy; I was Italian (in a past life). It’s in Le Marche region; my husband’s grandmother was born there. It’s in mid October; my birthday is then. Fate for sure!!

And I am surely not one to tempt Fate!




Cooking 101…Do You Know the Basics?

One of our more typical basic meals

I recently came across a post (I wish I could find it to share, but I cannot seem to locate it) regarding how our country eats poorly. What specifically caught my attention was not the article itself, but rather an answer to a follow-up comment, questioning why we don’t take time to prepare healthy meals for our families in this country. The person who replied was from a European country and offered up several observations, including how our heavy work habits and priorities play a significant role. But what really caught my attention – and what I’m focusing on in today’s post – was something I had not considered. Namely, that what we see on TV and in magazines and via online food blogs shows glamorous, time-intensive meals. They are made by chefs or people who are heavily into cooking. Rarely are simple, easy-to-prepare meals shown. It all looks beautiful and difficult. Who has time for that after an often long day at work? This commenter mentioned that we don’t seem to know the basics of cooking. We often require recipes and seemingly have not been taught simple techniques.

This part of her response has sat with me for the past few days. Typically, my posts here talk about some fabulous meal I’ve eaten or prepared. I don’t usually post about the average, everyday food our family normally eats.  I have also thought about how we don’t often pass along basic cooking skills to our younger generations. When I was in middle school I took home-ec courses. We made basic things like pizza (from those canned rolls that pop when you open them…LOL) and apple crisp and a few other basics. They were not gourmet, but we used a stove and oven and measuring cups. My kids did not have home-ec in school. Fortunately for them, they did have a mom who loved to cook and so they did learn a few things. That is not the case in many households.

Perhaps it has been made to look too difficult. When did a simple meal become something shameful to offer our loved ones? On any given night, my husband and I eat very basically. It is simple yet healthy and from generally from scratch. Tonight we had broiled salmon, quinoa, peas (cooked from frozen), and a leafy green salad. I make my own salad dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, salt). From start to finish it took me as long as it took the quinoa to cook: approximately 20 minutes. I even had time to clean up the kitchen and set the table as I waited for the quinoa to finish.

It was all very basic. I did nothing to the salmon before or after putting it under the broiler. The natural fats kept it moist; I broiled it for 8 minutes. The quinoa and peas were also plain, though I did add some of my salad dressing to them on my plate. The salad consisted of leafy green lettuce, sliced bell peppers, radishes, avocado, and cucumbers. Sometimes I also add carrots or olives, maybe some cheese. That’s it. Very easy, very quick. It was tasty; however, I doubt anyone would classify it as gourmet.

I have over-simplified the comment from the aforementioned article I read. It went into much more detail about the differences between how we live vs. how her country lives, and how that is reflected in our eating habits. How part of the reason we don’t cook has to do with being tired after long work days. Part has to do with an unbalanced workload for women (in general) at home. Part has to do with how easy it is to pick up take-out food or pre-made meals from the grocery store, often made up of over-processed foods. There are many factors at play here.

In all of my pondering of this topic it got me to wondering what a typical dinner scene looks like for many of you? Do you tend to rely on ordering out, eating in restaurants, or perhaps buy pre-made grocery meals? Maybe you’ve subscribed to companies like Blue Apron? I am further curious about how (or if) you learned to cook. Was it in school? At home? By sheer trial and error…?