Friday, January 29, 2010

Treasure Hunt

This video was made by one of our good friends, and it's insane. It gives me the chills every time. I couldn't not share.

To listen to some sweet [free] Jesus-lovin' music, check out Dan Bourassa's MySpace page. For more information on Dan's production company, visit 4:14 Productions.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Got Soup?

Or, more to the point, want soup?

Remember how Progresso sent me a sampler pack of their soups, in addition to a nifty mug? Well, that story is not yet over. The Best Husband Ever and I have been slowly eating our new soup plunder. So far my favorite remains the Zesty Southwestern Style Vegetable, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt. Yum!

Do you want to try some of Progresso's soups? Here's your chance! I'm giving away a second sampler pack containing two cans of soup, one digital jump rope, and a Progresso mug. To get your name entered in this pretty sweet (or soupy) contest, you can choose from one or more of the following options:
  • Comment below, telling me your favorite kind of soup. If you have a recipe, I'd love to see that, too, but that's optional.
  • Link to this post on your own blog, and then come back and comment here again telling me that you've done so.
  • Twitter this contest, including @betherann in the tweeet and also returning here to comment again. A tweet might look like the following: Win a soup sampler! @betherann
  • Become a fan on Facebook, or a follower on Google (or both!), and then comment for each follow that you add.
  • Subscribe to the Kitchen Courage feed in your favorite reader, and comment to let me know that you've done so.
Five easy ways to win, eh? I'm a bit of a slacker, so the "easy" part appeals to me. I can't win, though, so maybe you'd better enter so that I can live vicariously through your comments. Each one that you try earns you an entry, so you have up to five chances to win. The deadline to enter is one week from tomorrow -- Friday, February 5, 2010.

Once you've entered and commented like the fabulous readers you are, be sure to check out Progresso's website. You can download a coupon to save yourself $1 on 3 cans of soup. Progresso is also hosting a Souper You contest, which you can enter for a chance to win a trip for two to New York City for a makeover and a shopping spree.

Even though they don't mention it on the website, I'd be willing to bet that you go home with lots of Progresso swag, too. Not that that beats a weekend beauty extravaganza in the Big Apple. I wouldn't mind winning that! I am, however, quite happy with my new soup mug. I hope that you will be, too, you lucky winner you.

Good luck, my wonderful readers!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My amazing friend and blogosphere newcomer (sort of), Mrs. Mac, hosted a giveaway on her crafty blog last week. The prize was a hand-made apron, and I won! I adore the apron (of course I had to model it immediately), but the love that my friend sent along with it is even more wonderful. Thank you, friend!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pain in the . . . Hip

It's back. My left hip, which first began to twinge and then hurt surrounding my first triathlon efforts, is tender again. And by "tender" I mean that I have some pretty gnarly shooting pains when I walk on it, not to mention leap and jump and do all sorts of other exercise-y types of things.

Which means I'm off the exercise. The high impact stuff, anyway. Last time, my doctor recommended a regimen of low intensity swimming and yoga, but I'm not sure that will help this time. The mere idea of doing warrior and crescent lunges on my yoga mat makes me cringe.

My thoughts on the matter are: #%&?>! And yuck. I'm not going to lie -- I feel pretty upset at this development. I was being good to my body and exercising moderately, taking rest days, and making sure I felt good before doing any higher impact stuff. And now this happens. I'll say it again: yuck.

However, I'm also determined not to get too depressed (which is not always an easy feat for me). When I had to take it easy this past fall to allow my hip to recover, I kind of freaked out. Between the stress of an exercise revamp and starting a new job, I ended up foraying into the land of emotional eating and gained some weight. I've lost a little of it, but not all of the weight. I'm [still] telling my eating disordered mindset to shut up about the matter, though, because I know that if I listen even a little bit I'll soon find myself re-imprisoned in food restricting and over-exercising. That is not a place I want to go again. So I'm not trying to lose weight, and am maintaining healthful nutrition and physical activity.

Except now my physical activity is going to the wayside, at least for a little while. The thought raises feelings of dread, panic, and depression, but this time I'm ready. This time there will be no emotional eating. This time I will not flip out. Why? Because . . . I realize there's nothing I can do about it. If I want to continue using my body (including the gimpy hip) in the future, I need to let it rest and heal now. Sure, that might result in a little muffin-top-of-doom action, but that's worth avoiding hip surgery, right?

Right. So I'm trusting God, and trusting my body to tell me what it needs. Pain is a communication tool, and I'm going to use it this time around instead of pushing and punishing my body to further injury. So I'm going to lay off the squats and plyometrics and lunges, and stick with hooping. After all, who can resist a nerdy white girl in a hula hoop?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Michelle Dozois: At-Home Exercise's Best Kept Secret

I'm an exercise DVD junkie. I have a fairly large collection of workout videos. From my first purchased DVDs (Yoga Booty Ballet -- don't judge) to Tae Bo, I own a nice range of at-home workouts and, more importantly, I use them all. (Well, most -- Yoga Booty Ballet has sort of fallen off my radar since I got more serious about fitness, but it is a great series for beginners.)

One of my favorite video fitness instructors is Michelle Dozois. An reviewer of one of her DVDs once said that she is a true professional, and its true. She gets the job done and works my body big time every session that I use one of her videos. I would rank Michelle's workouts right up there with Jillian Michaels, who is quite possibly the most popular fitness star at the moment.

But there's a difference between Jillian and Michelle. Unlike Jillian, of The Biggest Loser fame, I don't hear Michelle Dozois' name being chatted up in fitness communities. In my opinion, that's a real shame, because her workouts are fantastic. Please don't misunderstand me -- I'm not trying to dis Jillian. I love Jillian and the horrible/wonderful things she does to my muscles and my metabolism. But I love Michelle Dozois, too, and am sad that she does not get to hang out in the fitness industry limelight as prominently.

So I thought I'd give Michelle a little time in the Kitchen Courage spotlight (if you can really call anything on this little blog "spotlit"). I first found Michelle when I tried Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming DVD, which she co-starred in with two other fitnessistas. After doing a little research, I got my hands on one of Michelle's 10 Minute Solutions videos, Carb and Calorie Burner. Through some Netflixing, I discovered her amazing series of workouts produced by Breakthru Fitness, and you can bet that those DVDs soon found a home on my shelf.

I think that Michelle Dozois' Breakthru Fitness DVDs are some of the at-home workout world's best kept secrets. Michelle's workouts will shred your body just as much as Jillian's, if not more. Michelle has made four DVDs:
  • The Ultimate Workout -- This is Michelle's newest video, as far as I can tell. It contains 30 minutes of [really butt-kicking] cardio, 30 minutes of strength, and 15 minutes of yoga and stretching which can be done separately or combined.
  • Your Best Body Circuit -- Michelle's 50 minute circuit workout is my favorite of hers, I think. You'll need a couple of sets of weights, a resistance band, and a yoga mat, and you can do the full 50 minute workout or a 30 minute express version.
  • Rockin' Body Cardio Jam -- This is 45 minutes of cardio, plus a cool-down, also with an express 30 minute version. You'll recognize the same crew from Michelle's circuit DVD.
  • Slim, Strong, & Sexy Body Sculpt -- This time around Michelle delivers two 30 minute strength/sculpting workouts. One is for upper body, and one targets the lower body. Again, you'll need weights of your choosing, a body band (although one came with my DVD), and a yoga mat or a soft surface.
I'll stop gushing now. And in case you were wondering, no, I am not being endorsed by representatives of Michelle Dozois or Breakthru Fitness. I simply think that Michelle Dozois' workouts are effective and fun (well, as much fun as Jillian's) and worth every cent. If you don't believe me, check Michelle out on Amazon. Better yet, look Michelle up on YouTube and try one of her DVDs' previews, like this one:

If you do know of Michelle Dozois, or if you try one of her home workouts, what do you think? I'd love to know your opinion of her. Let's spread a little Dozois love! In the meantime, happy sweating!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Keeping it Simple

As part of my job as an elementary school family outreach specialist, and also because I like hooping, I decided to start up an after school hooping club for the students. Yesterday afternoon was our first meeting. 40 children in kindergarten through fifth grade turned out. Some brought their own hoops, and one of the moms who decided to stick around (thankfully -- they were a huge help!) also brought her own hoop. I'd say that's a good start, huh?

It was pretty overwhelming. This was not helped by the fact that we had to share the school gymnasium with another after school group which happened to be playing basketball. As a result, I had to forgo learning names, and could only discuss a slim set of behavior expectations before my voice started to go hoarse. So after I quit shouting over the sound of basketballs that there would be NO hitting/kicking/bopping one another with the hoop, and that there WOULD be respect/fun/helpfulness, we got down to business. I warmed the kids up with some Simon Says, which was fun, but also hard on the vocal chords, and then set 'em loose with the hoops.

Madness ensued. But it was fun madness. Even the perfectionista part of me could see that. Just messing around with hula hoops en masse was awesome for the kids, and delight was painted across most faces. As you might imagine, a bunch of the kids were already expert waist hoopers. I let those kids, especially the bigger and taller kids from the upper grades, play with my hoops, and I also showed them a few other moves to work on. With the kids who weren't quite as confident, I tried to show them how to save the hoop from falling.

After about 20 minutes of hooping free-for-all, I called the [massive] group of hoopers back together to play a game of musical hoops (I bet you can guess how that game is played!). Interestingly, nobody wanted to play. Everyone just wanted to hoop! I thought the kids would get bored just waist hooping (and then, later, I showed them a bit of hand hooping around the body), but they didn't. They were engrossed and joyful, and many of the participants got very creative. I saw lots of neck hooping, hooping while kneeling, vertical hooping, and more! It was fabulous.

The afternoon of hooping mania reminded me of my missions trip to Malaysia just over a year ago. As part of our work in Malaysia, my group spent a weekend at a Tamil (Hindu) orphanage. We planned and packed enough crafts, skits, games, and songs to entertain an army. When we arrived at the orphanage, however, all the kids wanted to do was play. I think we spent almost the entirety of our first day at the orphanage playing soccer and catch and jumping rope. That probably totals up to about four hours of free form play -- and the kids loved it. I can't tell you how many of the orphans begged me to "play skipping rope, auntie."

That's what yesterday's hooping club was like. I planned and outlined an hour of activities, only to realize that the kids wanted to simply hoop together -- and to be seen hooping. Kids that I've never met before kept running up asking me to watch them. I did, of course, and gladly.

The purity and simplicity of the afternoon, and the power inherent in that simplicity, was both surprising and blissful. I could not have planned anything better. It's a good thing God's got my back, because His agenda always far surpasses mine. The hooping club's kick-off -- and God, of course -- was, in a word, amazing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Plugged In

I'm pretty open about the fact that I love Jesus. Yep, I'm a Christian. But . . . I'm usually not very good at it.

You see, I have the best intentions. I want to let Him have every moment of my life, every breath, for His purposes. The craziness of life happens, though, and I forget that He is it and try to do things in my own strength. This kind of living is less than ideal on good days, but when the road gets rough, it's downright bad.

And silly. Because I can't fix myself. I can't make myself not be depressed, or be content in whatever I happen to be doing, or fight back the darkness of fear and insecurity. That doesn't mean I don't try . . . but, more often than not, I fail to patch things up.

God never fails, though. When I'm plugged into Him, even the most horrible situations are infused with hope. Life might not get more comfortable -- in fact, Jesus promises that it won't -- but it definitely becomes do-able, and even a source of joy and praise.

I learned this first-hand. God took my eating disorder, which should have ended in my death, and turned it around into an opportunity to mature, to become a woman, and to engage with people where before I cut myself off and refused to grow up. Now, He is walking me through adventure after adventure through my job, through hooping, through writing and blogging, and through the people in my life. While these adventures might not always be cushy and fun, they are worthwhile and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

This has been a rough week, and I can't quite figure out why. Work has been more stressful than usual. Part of that is due to the fact that I decide how to fit my sweet new table into my [very tiny] room, and the result is that my desk (and the whole room) are a big mess, and make me feel the same way emotionally. Also, I have about a bajillion things to do, but no time to do them in, I feel like. Plus, I'm running a family lunch in one of the second grades today, and that's always stressful.

Not least on the list of stressors is hooping. Both personally hooping (at home, at the gym -- wherever) and the after school hooping club that I'm starting. Our first meeting is this afternoon (eep!) and I have tons of kids signed up. I honestly have no idea what we're going to do, how I'm going to keep order (especially as we have to share the gym with another group for the first half-hour), or what the parents will think. In a word, I'm terrified.

Part of the issue here is that I don't really feel qualified to teach hooping, whatever that might mean. I've been dealing with some pretty intense depression and feelings of inadequacy in this area. I watch videos of other hoopers who are amazing and I think -- "Who am I to teach this stuff??" I feel inferior, and I feel attacked.

And then I realized -- I feel attacked. Maybe this isn't just me. The Bible says that we have an enemy who wants to stop us from getting close to God, from experiencing joy and peace. The devil wants to eat up our happiness and our faith, the stinker. And I have found healing, hope, purpose, joy, beauty, connection, and -- oh, so many things I can't even name -- all inside the hoop. Now I want to share it with my students. Should I be surprised that there's some spiritual resistance? Part of today's selection from the devotional I'm reading, Streams in the Desert, says this:

"The moment we receive anything from the Lord worth fighting for, the Devil comes seeking to destroy us."

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not the devil. I don't know. But I do know that I feel awful, and that nothing I've been trying has fixed it. Until last night. It was as I was making dinner that the realization came that I might be under attack, be it from some spiritual enemy or the world or simply myself. So instead of trying to patch the hurt and barraged feelings up with some temporary fix, I prayed as I chopped up veggies. I told God about it. I plugged in.

Did it help? You bet. I also got a feeling that I should tell the Best Husband Ever about it. I didn't know what that would accomplish but I figured that if I was trusting God a little by praying, I might as well trust whatever message He might be sending. So I told my husband, feeling kind of silly. The Best Husband Ever asked what he could do, and I shrugged and told him he could pray. "Now?" he replied.

Before I knew it, he was holding me up, both in his arms and up to God. And after that, I felt better. I could smile, where before I wanted to cry. I could talk with my wonderful husband, where only moments before I had wanted to be left alone to sulk.

Does prayer work? Does God exist? I can't answer that for you. I can only answer for myself, and my answer is a thankful and whole-hearted yes. When I remember to plug myself in and look for Him, I always find Him, and more than I ever expected to receive. In my opinion, God rocks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Progresso Plunder

A curious package arrived on my doorstep this week. Can you guess what it was? Well, I'll tell you -- it was a box of soupy plunder from Progresso! In December the fine folks at Progresso contacted me, asking if I would be interested in trying out some of their soups. Of course I was interested, since I already enjoy such varieties as their Light Southwestern Style Veggie and Light Pot Roast soups.

I did not imagine that they would send me such a variety of soups, however! The package contained not only selections of Progresso's light soups, but also some of their no-MSG-added items as well as their regular soups. They even sent me a perfect soup-serving mug (along with a nifty digital jump rope that my apparently old-fashioned brain has yet to figure out)! I can't wait to use the mug week when I pack a Progresso soup for lunch.

Even before this opportunity crossed my path, I have considered Progresso's soups to be solid products. The calories per can are usually quite reasonably, and tend to run between 150 and 250 calories per can, even on the non-light varieties. Add in the fact that the soups are very portable (obviously), sneak in a nice serving of veggies, and are quite tasty. Even the Best Husband Ever enjoys Progresso's chicken noodle and chicken rotini soups. The only downside to these products is that the sodium content can be quite high, but this is true for most if not all canned soups.

Which brings us to our first taste test. I knew that I would be fairly easy to please with these new cans of soupy goodness, but the Best Husband Ever is more particular. I decided to serve him a can of Light Chicken Vegetable Rotini and see if he noticed the difference between it and the regular chicken rotini version.

When the Best Husband Ever encountered his bowl of steaming dinner soup, he noticed a difference immediately. It was not, however, a difference in taste. Instead, he pointed out that his bowl appeared to contained pieces of green beans and red peppers, which either do not appear in the non-light version of the chicken rotini soup, or do but he never noticed them before. Knowing my husband, I'm going with the former, because he's very observant. I shrugged it off, and he (seemingly, anyway), ate up the soup without complaint.

When he finished, I asked the Best Husband Ever what he thought of the soup. He said that it was fine, although he thought that Progresso may have changed their recipe for that flavor of soup. At that point I confessed my little regular-for-light swap, which he in turn shrugged off. Apparently the difference in the two kinds of chicken rotini soups was not enough to affect my husband, who usually staunchly avoids any food categorized as light, outside of slow churned ice cream. Again, since he is usually quite particular about his eats (and we all know that I am, too, so this is not a criticism), I'm going to give Progresso's light rendition of their chicken rotini soup a thumb's up!

Like I have already mentioned, I'm quite excited to crack open some more of my new cans of Progresso soup. You can bet that they'll be following me into work to serve as lunch next week, and that I'll be posting some more thoughts on as yet untasted varieties. Here are a few kinds that I'm most eager to try:

Thanks, Progresso! I'll be enjoying these soups for some time.

People in Haiti, however, are going to be struggling for far longer. Care to help?

And, while you're link-clicking, win a Vita-Mix!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I don't think I've talked much, if at all, about one of my new food loves. Well, here these beauties are: carrot fries in all of their beta carotene-y glory. I really enjoy a good French fry (meaning potato and sweet potato varieties), but don't go for the starchy carbs so much. So when I'm feeling like a heaping plate of fries (which is often, I'll admit), then I throw together a bunch of carrot fries. I think I was originally inspired by the amazing HEAB. Yum.

Here's what I do. Select some nice, fat carrots. Cut 'em up into matchsticks. Throw the cut carrots onto a greased cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray (or toss in olive/canola oil). Next, sprinkle on your favorite spice combo (see below for ideas). Put the whole sheet into an oven preheated to 425*F. Bake for 40-ish minutes, or until the carrot fries have reached the crispiness of your choosing. (A minute or two under the broiler can be nice, too.) Serve plain or (like me!) with ketchup. Scarf.

Although carrot fries are delicious plain or simply with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, here are some other spice options you can play with:
  • garlic powder!! (Okay, okay, I put garlic powder on with every spice combination.)
  • chili powder
  • cumin with garlic and onion powders
  • chili powder with cinnamon
  • sea salt, pepper, and cinnamon
  • maple syrup and cinnamon
  • garam masala (or curry powder)
  • basil and oregano
  • paprika and sea salt/garlic powder

Are you still reading? Go cut up some carrot fries! But before you do, why not help out some Haitians?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adventures in Living

I had such a fabulous day yesterday. I'm not sure what was so extraordinary about it, other than I kept life simple. I worked out moderately, drank coffee moderately -- I even vacuumed moderately! I guess the saying is true after all ("the saying" being "everything in moderation," if that is in fact a saying at all).

The most interesting part of my Monday happened first thing in the morning. I decided to walk to the school where I work. This is something I have not done in a few months because a) I always seem to be running late, and b) the sidewalks and streets are covered in ice. For some reason, though, I thought that yesterday would be a good day to walk. So I did. And, rather stupidly, I left my YakTrax at home.

I think I deserve a thumbs up, however, because I made it halfway to school before I fell. It hurt, and I tore some holes in my tights, but I picked myself up and kept going, trying to be a little more careful. As I tiptoed my way schoolward, a grin began to spread across my face. It was actually kind of cool that I fell, that I had holes in my tights. At first I worried that I'd look unprofessional (which I don't think I did -- the tears were quite small), but then I began to think of my "wounds" in a different light. They were evidence -- evidence that I had been living. That I had tried something adventurous. That I was trying to make a textured existence of myself.

I'll say it again. My newly holey tights proved -- to the world, but most importantly to myself -- that I am alive, and that I am living. For a former anorexic, victory does not get much sweeter than this.

It's the trying that's important, right? Not perfection, not success, although both are nice. But it's the struggling, the attempts, the adventuring that is where the heart of living is found. That same adventuring led to this goofy gal praising God as she slid the rest of the way to work in the early morning dark of Monday, smiling as she went.

Here's a sort of silly take on this thought, hoop-style:

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I have never felt beautiful. Growing up, at my lowest weight, and at my heaviest . . . I have never felt very beautiful. Being pretty isn't everything, I know. The Bible says a few things like this (in which I find great encouragement):
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised" (Proverbs 31:30).
However, it also says this, which I find even more powerful:
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful" (1 Peter 3:3-5).
God finds us, His creations and His children, lovely in a way that matters far more than my jeans size. Even the Best Husband Ever says that I'm beautiful. But do I believe Him, or him? I'll be you can guess the answer to that (which, in case you were still wondering, is no).

However, I'm taking steps toward finding value in myself -- both in how I look as well as what I can do. Hooping is both helping me and challenging me in this area. I love the freedom and inherent grace in hooping, but I it also makes me nervous. What will people think if they see me? Even more importantly, what will I think when I get a glimpse of myself in a reflection or on video? Past history tells me that I will recoil, that I will judge and deem myself ugly/fat/clumsy/insert-your-favorite-negative-here.

But I need to get over it. Not only to enjoy hooping, but to enjoy life. What's the point of going through all my struggles with anorexia if I'm just going to give up and crumble in the face of self image fears now? It would be such a waste.

So I challenged myself and my fears. On Friday, I went to the gym I belong to, hoops in tow. I've only hooped once in their studio (with permission, of course), but that was months ago. Since then I've put on some weight, and I didn't relish the thought of watching the new, larger me attempting to be graceful in the studio's two walls of mirrors. This thought almost led to me giving up and not going to the gym, but after some wonderful encouragement from fellow hoopers, I sucked it up and went.

I did it. I conquered (or started to!) my fear of hooping in public, of being at home in my body as it is right now, of letting myself get a little crazy in a new and less safe place. And . . . I am glad. It was not easy, and while I was hooping in the gym's studio I definitely got hit with an onslaught of thinking along the lines of "you're fat" and "my goodness, your gut is gross looking inside of that hoop" and the like. But I kept going. Take that, eating disordered thinking! (By the way, the above video is from that Friday session.)

Another unexpected gift that encouraged me along the way on Friday was an award from the beautiful-in-all-ways Clare. She presented me with the following:

Thank you, Clare! And now it's my turn to share seven things about myself. Here we go, in no particular order:
  1. The first dog I ever adopted on my own (i.e., not my family's dog, but my very own), Cody, has vision problems. I used to work at a sanctuary for blind and disabled animals, and Cody came to us from a Wyoming shelter because the folks there thought he was blind. He's not, but his vision is impaired by random eye motion. It's quite disarming, actually, and he's pretty well adjusted to it by now. You would never guess!
  2. My father-in-law is a professional screenplay writer.
  3. When I was in fifth grade, I was thrown from my horse during one of my regular riding lessons. I somehow managed to gash open my chin, an injury that required 27 stitches. I still do not remember the fall or events that occurred immediately afterward.
  4. I hate the sound of lawnmowers, and all similar sounds.
  5. I used to have pet rats, and would have them still if I had not developed a severe asthmatic allergic reaction to them. Rats make wonderful pets!
  6. I have five sisters-in-law, all of whom are the Best Husband Ever's siblings.
  7. I am a Jersey girl, born and bred.
It's time to spread the love! I think the writers of the seven following blogs are also beautiful-in-every-way:
Whew! There's a lot of beauty bouncing around the blogosphere! Now it's your job to pass the badge on to seven other bloggers, if you wish. Or squirrels will eat your first-born baby. Naturally.

(Not really. But I would like to read your random seven lists.)

Happy sharing!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere . . .

. . . everywhere, that is, except in my belly. I'll confess -- I hate drinking water! It probably has some ties to my eating disordered thinking, and the fact that I have muffin top insecurity. My youngest sister-in-law has stated on multiple occasions that she loves drinking water. I think that's great, because I know how good water is for you, and how lovely it makes me feel. It gets my digestive track working right. And yet I hardly ever drink it.

So I wanted to tack a little addendum onto my goals for 2010. This year, I'd like to start drinking more water more regularly. I'm not planning on cutting down my coffee/caffeine intake (let's leave that hurdle for 2011, shall we?), but I think that might happen naturally by drinking more water.

I made a good start on this goal yesterday. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday languishing at home on my couch, sick and yucky-feeling. Yesterday, though, I returned to work and spent my few bits of spare time brewing herbal tea (thanks to my dad for leaving a nearly-full box of lemon zinger tea with us last week -- I think I drank 5 cups of it yesterday morning alone!) and then guzzling it while I taught, planned, emailed, and so forth. My belly's thoughts? Thank you! We'll see if I can keep it up, but I think my tummy will appreciate it if I do.

On a side note, I know that the above photo has nothing to do with water consumption. It does, however, have water in it. I snapped it this weekend when the Best Husband Ever and I visited the bark park with two of our three dogs. Another goal that I've added for this year is to get back into take more pictures. More specifically, I'd like to take non-food-themed photos. To help encourage me in this, I've started a 365 project, which I'm documenting on a brand new blog, Camera Cowgirl.

Project 365 asks participants to take a photo a day for one year. It's like the two 365 self-portrait projects that I never quite finished. (Actually, I think I did finish the second attempt, but I never posted all my photos to the group or my set. Oops.) This new project is more general, and can be photos of anything. So far my 2010 photo subjects tally up as follows:

Dogs: 4/7 (but none of Cody yet, only Jackson and Lio)
Food: 2/7
Technology: 1/7

Hmm. I may need to branch out a little to make it to the end of 2010. Dog photos are going to get old really fast. Which is why it's good, I suppose, that my most recent photo is non-canine. It's a little abstract, though -- can you guess what this is a photo of?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sniffles, Smoothies, and Cereal

As the 2010 portion of the school year kicked into gear, our weather celebrated by dumping slush, snow, and even a little ice on us. Today, it's sunny and gorgeous, but chilly. At least, I think it's cold out. I wouldn't know whether it actually is because I'm at home, camping on the couch, battling some sort of cold/flu fun that's trying to travel south into my chest. Happy new year . . . or not.

In between languishing on the couch and cuddling with our chihuahua, I decided to fuel my immune system with a series of green smoothies. Yep -- even though it's full-blown winter outside, I went green monster on ya! To tell the truth, the icy smoothies felt so good traveling down to my belly because I felt rather feverish. Of course, by the time I finished each smoothie I was shivery, but that's being sick for you.

My breakfast green monster was extra good. It is a new concoction that makes me think of springtime. I believe the inspiration for this smoothie came from a reader's comment, although I can't quite remember. Anyhoo, at some point somebody told me that they included cucumbers in their green smoothies. I decided that I needed to try it.

To make this cucumber-licious smoothie, into my blender went:
  • 2 mini cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup skim
  • 1 packet stevia OR 2 packets of sweetener of your choice
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • drizzle vanilla extract OR vanilla-flavored syrup
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum (for smoothness)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum (for thickness)
  • a couple handfuls of spinach
  • 2-3 big handfuls of ice
I blended everything up to the spinach, then added the greens. Once all of that was combined, I added the ice one handful at a time. I'd love to be able to say that I tossed everything into my VitaMix and 0.193 seconds later I had a perfect green smoothie, but that is not the case. I make do with my Wal-Mart-purchased blender and try not to stress it out too much, which is why I add the ice incrementally.

This new smoothie blend is delicious! It is very refreshing and reminds me of honeydew melons and sunshine. I topped this thick and creamy smoothie with blueberries and a new cereal that I recently discovered, Kashi GoLean Crisp.

Here in Montana we're usually one of the last places in the United States to have newer products show up on our shelves. That's what it feels like, anyway. With this one, though, I think we might be on the front end of distribution because I can't even find this cereal on Kashi's website! I hope that other places get it soon if they haven't already, though, because it tastes so very good. This cereal is like a lighter granola with a smattering of dried cranberries and blueberries thrown in. And the texture and consistency are just what I like in a granola-ish cereal. Kashi's GoLean Crisp has big chunks, and that makes this girl happy.

See what I mean?

Those are pretty good-sized chunks, but not the biggest I found in the box because, well, I already ate those! My favorite granola cereals form nice clusters, which I find very satisfying to chomp on. I know I'm not alone in this . . . right?

Cereal predilections and food fetishes aside, the cucumber smoothie and Kashi cereal joined forces to make a lovely and easy lunch. The texture and sweetness of the cereal was like frosting on the cake of my vividly green smoothie. Perfect for a snowy, shivery, sniffle-y sick day, don't you think?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Don't forget to submit your roasted pumpkin (or squash) recipe ideas! Deadline is Friday, January 8th, which is only a few days away. Sophia of Burp and Slurp already submitted an amazing-sounding idea (cheesy pumpkin and black bean croquettes -- yum!), and I am so excited to see what other ideas are emerging from your kitchens.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wanted: Roasted Pumpkin Inspiration!

Here's what I did with my Saturday (or part of it -- the rest of it I spent vacuuming, trying to hoop, and feeling sick . . . why do I have to get sick at the end of vacation?):

The question now is -- what do I do with all this roasted pumpkin?!? That's where you come in. Send in your roasted pumpkin ideas or recipes, either through the comments or email me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) com. (*Note -- that's a zero in my email name, not the letter "o"). I'll pick my favorite, and the winner will have the option of writing a guest post on Kitchen Courage. If the winner is not interested in writing, I will feature them in a post of my own.

To sum up --
  • enter: submit your recipe ideas for what to do with this mess of roasted pumpkin squash
  • deadline: Friday, January 8
  • winnings: guest post/featured post on Kitchen Courage starring you!
Happy pumpkin-ing!

Friday, January 1, 2010

What's New?

Photo by Just Juls.

Okay, okay, the title of this post is silly. We all know the answer to that question: new year, new decade, and of course new resolutions being made right and left. But not by me.

I really dislike resolutions. To me the term indicates something that is short term and transient, often due to it being couched in the hope of the result occurring quickly. I am, of course, thinking of that ubiquitous resolution -- to lose weight, shape up, and look fabulous. And that's not a bad thing, but most people who make this kind of promise to themselves rev up their efforts too hard, too fast, and burn out by February.

Instead of resolutions, I like long-term goals. Last year I set some random culinary goals, and actually met quite a few of them. This is headway for me, because on the rare event that I make a new year's resolution, I never meet it. Not so for 2009, though! For example, I baked more loaves of non-quick bread than ever before. I also explored ice cream-making, crock pottery, and using other people's recipes.

Last December I also set my mind on these things:
Let me share some of my big plans for our future together. I'll give you a short preview: deeper intimacy with God . . . wider freedom from eating disordered behavior . . . increased unity with the Best Husband Ever . . . a greater appetite and joy for life . . . running my first 5k . . . higher cooking and baking summits . . .

Like I said, big plans. And they all boil down to this: love. For and from God, my husband, my family and friends, all people, myself.
Did I get there? I'll just say this -- if I did not meet these goals (and some of them I definitely did, like running a 5k!), then I certainly took giant leaps in their direction. That, I think, is pretty darn rad.

So what's in store for 2010? Only God can say for certain, but here are some things I would like to focus on:
  • Talking with God and reading Scripture daily, preferably first thing in the morning.
  • Cultivating a deeper friendship and intimacy with the Best Husband Ever.
  • Improving my intuitive eating (i.e., listening to my body and eating balanced choices when it tells me to).
  • Hooping! To be more specific: earn my teaching certification, perform, teach, and visit hoopers in other cities as well as attend hooping events/festivals.
  • Writing. I want to finish and submit a novel for publication.
  • Travel -- to a different state (Austin and Portland are on my list in addition to my native New Jersey) or a different country, I'm not picky!
  • Spending more regular quality time with friends. My big challenge that I'm setting myself in this area is to host a dinner or game/movie night!
The last year's goals seemed to reduce to a basic theme of love -- for God, myself, my husband, other people, passions, activities, my job, the world, and so forth. This year, I think my theme is intimacy. I don't want to do things or know people -- I want to go deeper, passing through the surface and connecting at the heart. Somehow, though, I think this theme (and last year's, for that matter) will extend well past 2010 before I feel that I've attained it, if I ever do.

Do you have a theme for 2010? I'd love to hear about it. Oh, and happy new year, my wonderful readers!