31 January 2012

Queen of the Wild Frontier


Who's that gliding over the still waters of Orlando and soaking up the warm Florida sunshine, you might ask?

Man, she's living the life, and look at that tan! Well...

It's me! And I am enjoying the Florida outdoors and every day I "live the life." I love my life! And taking time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings helps to remind me of that fact.  I do have to dispel one myth, though. Though I am tanner than most northerners, I think my photo editing program may have made my legs a wee bit tanner than they really are. And they look a little too orange. I swear on a seagull that I do not use self-tanners. Honestly, I don't.

Last Saturday morning we went out in our friends kayaks again. This time we kind of went out separate ways and enjoyed some quite time out on the lake. About 30 minutes in I discovered this little love nest of Sandhill Cranes. Above is the daddy, very protective. I thought it might come pluck out my eyeballs at any second while I snapped this with my phone.

He had every right to be protective. When his wifey got up off the nest I found this little guy!

Isn't nature amazing? They're just a couple of birds, working together against the wild frontier to bring a little baby bird into the world. It was the perfect gift for my morning, and one of the highlights of my kayaking time.

The other was when I stopped rowing, plopped my legs up on my boat and let myself drift away for a while. The gentle rocking, the cool breeze, and the squawking of seagulls above made for the perfect start to my day.

Question of the Day:
What kinds of things make you slow down and enjoy life?

27 January 2012

Roasted Vegetable and Feta Pitas

I savored every last bite of these. Not only do they make for a healthy meal, but they also might make a great meal to clear out leftover veggies in your refrigerator.

I found inspiration for this recipe on the Whole Foods site, as I so frequently do. But changed a thing or two here and there according to my liking and the amount of time I had.

Roasted Vegetable and Feta Pitas
Serves 4

1 pkg baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced
1 red onion, cut into lage wedges
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 oz (or more) feta cheese
4 whole wheat pitas

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Prepare all of the vegetables and place them in a large bowl. Toss in the vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper and arrange on a large baking sheet.

3. Cook for 30-45 minutes, or until very tender and juicy.

4. Remove pan from oven and place pita straight on the oven rack for 5 minutes.

5. Cut pitas, add veggies, and sprinkle feta throughout.

6. YUM!

25 January 2012

Consumer Anarchy: Granola Protein Bars

You all know how much I love being a consumer anarchist. When I make something myself, or find alternatives to what I have been told I need, I feel like I've taken on "the man" in a huge way. As these granola bars baked, I sat at the kitchen table with receipts and recipes in hand, a calculator, and a grin. I discovered the following:

Kashi Granola Bars (which I usually buy) cost a whopping $0.67 per bar. 

These little puppies? Half the price. Just $0.37 a bar to make...and they make 12 bars instead of the 6 you get when you purchase at the store.

Not only are you saving yourself a lot of mula by making them at home, but you are also saving your health. Next time you dig into a store-bought granola bar (and after reading this, I really hope you don't...) read that ingredients label. You'll find that that health bar isn't all it is cracked up to be, especially if you purchase Quaker or other cheaper brands.

These are a whole food, the only thing in them, are the simple ingredients you are about to read. And that just makes them taste that much better.

John's response to the granola bar? "Very tasty! And I love knowing exactly what's in it!"

For this recipe, I used Healthy Green Kitchen's suggestions and a swap out of my own when I didn't want to pay $18 a pound for hemp seeds. ($18 a pound?!?!) Also, see her site for the nutritional info on this bar!

Homemade Granola Protein Bars
Makes 12 bars

2 1/2 cups raw oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup organic natural peanut butter
1/2 cup Greek strained yogurt (I love Fage)
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1 tsp salt (or a little less if your PB is a little saltier than some others)
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (if the PB is a little hard, you can microwave it for a few seconds to get it melty.

3. Oil a 7x11 glass pan (this size worked best for me to cut the bars into the shape I like, but you can use an 8x8 too.) Press the granola into the pan evenly.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool, cut, and wrap in cellophane. I keep mine in the refrigerator to keep them from getting too crumbly.

Are there any health foods you refuse to buy because of the mark up?

24 January 2012

Pancakes, Pretty Please!

Remember last week when John surprised me with this pancake?

Well, I was searching around on Pinterest yesterday and came across these beauties. I immediately posted this on my husbands wall as inspiration for next time. His response? "These wouldn't taste good because they would be cold by the time get around to shaping them!"

                                                                           Source: weeseeworld.com via Jan on Pinterest

Question of the Day:
Pancakes or French Toast?

23 January 2012

Weekend Update| January 23, 2012

Happy Monday! I don't know why, but against all odds I am extremely happy and energetic this morning. Yup, I'm the "looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays" girl. I just can't wait to find someone to say that to. It feels good to be her every now and then!

John was out of town last week and he came back on Friday night. I enjoyed sleeping in on Saturday and then heading out to do some shopping at Whole Foods and our local produce market. When we got back to the house I made granola protein bars (recipe to come this week) and then took a nice nap.

Protein bar preview!

After my nap I went for a 1.5 mile run. I'm really excited that our training for the 5k in February is starting to take us past the 1 mile marker on a consistent basis. I think I'll finally start to see my endurance build. Today we have another 1.5 miler and then by the end of the week we are pushing up to 2 miles! I've never run that long on my own accord without being in a race. :)

Saturday night I made a really yummy new recipe that I found on the Whole Foods recipe page. I'll also be sharing that this week. So get ready for some awesome new recipes to put on your to-do list. They are called Grilled Veggie Pitas, but I made it with a twist. Here's a teaser....

Sunday morning we got up and ate breakfast, put on our outdoor gear and headed out for some kayaking on the lake. What a beautiful morning! The birds were chirping and water was still. Look you can see my reflection...

We had a blast, and I would love to make this a weekly thing. Not only is it a great upper body workout, but it's so nice to slow down and glide across the water and notice the little things that are so easily missed in nature otherwise.

It was a great weekend, and something tells me that this week is going to be equally magnificent!

Question of the Day:
What is your favorite outdoor activity?

19 January 2012

Homemade White Pizza

This recipe is not my own, it is actually my mother's. She taught me how to make it this past weekend and it's one of my new favorites. Who knew that pizza, sans sauce, could be so delightful? The flavors of the vegetables really shine when not overpowered by a red sauce and the pizza feels so much lighter too (which means you can eat more!!)

Over Christmas, my mom taught my little neice how to make it too. It's a simple recipe to make with kiddos and is a great way to have fun and teach nutrition! Here's little Juliana adding her own special ingredients. ; )

Homemade White Pizza
Serves 3-4

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought and risen and tossed according to directions)
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
2 handfuls spinach, washed and torn
1 large tomato sliced (or 3-4 roma tomatoes)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
Freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly shredded mozzerella
Corn Meal

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle a baking stone generously with corn meal.

2. Toss dough, and lay out over stone. Coat dough with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings and a little fresh Parmesan.

3. Top with spinach, tomato, and mushrooms. And cover with a generous dose of each- Parmesan, feta, and mozzerella cheese.

4. Place in center rack of oven and cook for 18-20 minutes. When done, lit sit on the counter for 5 minutes while the stone continues to warm and the juices settle.


Question of the Day:
What's your favorite (Papa John's, Domino's, Pizza Hut, or Homemade) and why?


18 January 2012

Weekend Update| January 18, 2012

Good morning all! This is one of those "you know your life is a little crazy when..." moments. Posting a weekend update on a Wednesday?? Unfortunately that has become the habit for me lately. But I figure pictures are pictures and you can share them anytime you want...especially if it's your blog and you can do what you want with it. :)

Saturday morning I woke up with my panties in a wad. I mean, the really bad side of the bed. I don't really get mean when I'm in a bad mood. Meanness is usually associated with hunger for me. Nope, a bad mood means I'm careless and unemotional...I'm as cuddly as an ice cube. John knew I was having a bad day and made me pancakes. And then told me to close my eyes for the best surprise of my life....

Yup, that about turned my day back around. Seriously, isn't he the sweetest man you've ever read about?

Around lunch time my mom and step-dad came up from Vero Beach to help me get ready for a bridal shower I was throwing for one of my best friends. One of our projects were making little marshmallow pops for the hot chocolate bar I put together for the shower. Aren't they cute?

Sunday morning we lounged around the house and did some cooking and preparing for the afternoon shower. My mom made this spectacular white pizza....recipe to follow this week. Aren't I such a tease? It was so good!

The afternoon was delightful and the bridal shower went off without a hitch. I can't wait to share my post on the shower and all th creative things we came up with! We had a blast putting it together. This little lady deserved all of it and so much more...

Question of the Day:
What shower has been your favorite and what made it special?

13 January 2012

Something Other Than Stretchy Pants....

Oh my goodness, I feel like a brand new woman today. I don't know if it was the antibiotics the doctor put me on, my diligence in taking them, or your thoughts and prayers, but I feel great today! You know you were really sick when a great day means you can breathe through your nose, even if you have to blow it every minute of the day...

I've been itching to get back here and share some photos and an update from last weekend. Remember this post where I talked about my "accomplishments" for 2012? One of them was to seize the moments when John is away and really enjoy spending time with myself. Last weekend I did just that!

I'm so proud of this picture. It documents a Saturday morning where I actually showered, did my hair and makeup and looked pretty for the day! Most my Saturdays are spent in stretchy pants and workout gear with my messy mane pulled up in a nasty bun-thing. But Saturday I was spending time with my girlfriends and took the oportunity to put on some tunes and primp myself for once. I enjoyed it so much I might do it again this weekend! :)

Here I am with my girly friends Kayla and Kate. Kayle (the middle) is getting married on February 25th and we spent Saturday at her dress fitting and enjoying a lunch together. She looks so beautiful in that dress and I can't wait to show you all pictures from her big day.

Kate is the maid of honor and I'm a bridesmaid in the wedding, so we spent the rest of the night together crafting and planning for Kayla's bridal shower we're throwing this Sunday. YAY!  I'll have many pictures coming up. The theme is "I've Got Your Love to Keep Me Warm."

And now...a immunity-booster smoothie...

Immunity Boost Berry Smoothie
serves 2

1.5 cups orange juice
1 banana
4-5 large frozen strawberries
1 handful of frozen mixxed berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry...)
30 drops GSE liquid probiotic
4 ice cubes

Blend and enjoy the boost!

Question of the Day:
What kind of things do you do for you when your husband is gone?

11 January 2012

In Sickness and in Health?

It feels like it has been ages. The last time I posted was the 5th...that's almost a week ago! Remember in my last post when I talked about being sick? Well, that's still true.

I haven't blogged because the only update on my life I could give would pertain to my bodily fluids and functions and I'm quite sure none of you are interested in that.

I miss you all so much though! And I miss this space. I'll be back soon, once I'm in  a place where I have to blow my nose every tenth word instead of every three.


05 January 2012

Accomplishment for the New Year

"Resolutions" always leave a bad taste in my mouth. Mostly because we go into them half heartedly...the very word means that we have resolved to...or we are resolute in our thinking. But I find that most often we come up with a list of things we "wish" we could have in a perfect world and kind of mosy along to try and prove we can make them a reality. Not much resoluteness there.
                                                                                Source: Uploaded by user via Becca on Pinterest

"Goals" is a good word. Here we have not only wished something, but we have set up a method with which we will accomplish them. We know what we want in life, and we set it in our sights and create steps to achieve them. This is a great plan, but even the term "goals" has kind of worn itself out...

This year I have a list of "accomplishments." You might think it is kind of strange to credit yourself for things that haven't happened yet, but I feel like if I already create the award for myself, all I have to do is achieve and accept it (and maybe make a lengthy speech) and then I will have done something great...I've already set myself up for success.

This year I will accomplish:

1. Running a 5k in February without walking.
2. Running a 15k in September for the first time.
3. Complete my graduate certificate in TEFL.
4. Complete my CPM training (Church Planting Movement).
5. Learn to seize the moments that I have alone when John is traveling instead of dreading those times.

Brooks Adrenaline G12s

Let's talk about accomplishment #1 today. Last year I started running and ran/walked my first 5k in September of 2011. It felt so great to accomplish that goal, but I really wanted to strive for excellence and signed up for another one in February so I could push myself to run the whole thing.

For Christmas we bought ourselves some actual running shoes. I've been running in Nike cross-trainers. And though they are great for cross-training, running is a whole different story. We put down the cash and made an investment in our feet and in our new hobby. I'll be using these bad boys to train for my races this year! :)

In February I'll be running this race...only the 5k, not the marathon...

We are super excited. We will be running this one with my mom and step-dad, David. It's going to be such a fun time and a great way to build us up as a family. I can't wait to share with you how I accomplish this goal and prove to myself that I AM A RUNNER and that the hard work does pay off!

Question of the Day:
What stops you from reaching your goals? Is it the semantics?

03 January 2012

Winter Break Update

Good morning!

How are you? Man, it feels like I have been out of town forever. I miss you all and thought about you often. I really did, that's not just something to say. I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years!

As you read in my prior post, Christmas was wonderful. We enjoyed our time together so much and it's amazing how fast those kids are growing up. Well, amazing isn't the right word...scary is.

Here's some more pictures from our time in Virginia...

John and the kids AND our friend Xiaoxin playing Apples to Apples. We met Xiaoxin 3 years ago in Orlando when she was studying there and came to an international student event. We became great friends and hung out weekly for 1.5 years. Then she moved....to the same town our family moved to! Imagine our luck. We love you Xiaoxin!

We also did a 2.8 mile hike to White Rock Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Wonderful to connect with nature and get our workout on!

John and the kids conquering a rock!

Oh the joy of a child...

And the joy of love... :)

See? I told you we had a great time! We got back into town last Saturday and rang in the new year with our friends Caitlin and Ben and their cats Boomer and Dip. I didn't get any pictures of the night...argh! Since then I've been at home, sick with a cold and laryngitis. Not a cool way to end my vacation. But, I am happy that it has caused me to slow down today at home long enough to write an update here and reconnect with you all.

Question of the Day
How are YOU? Tell me all about it...what was the highlight of your holiday?