Monday, May 31, 2010


Photo found here.
Happy Memorial Day, Americans! And thank you to all military folks, present and past, who sacrificed (at a minimum) their daily choices and personal freedoms. You rock!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Un-Father's Day

I don't know where I picked it up, but somehow I decided that today is Father's Day. Except . . . it's not. Maybe it's all the talk of gifts-for-dad that is circulating the blogosphere and permeating my Google Reader, or maybe I'm just crazy. I think the latter is probably the blame. After all, I thought Christmas fell on December 24 until I reached middle school (at the earliest). In my defense, what kind of a number is 25 for the commemoration of Christ's birth? 24 works much better, in my opinion.

All that to say, Father's Day 2010 isn't going down until June 20. The American version of this holiday apparently always falls on the third Sunday in June, and was established in 1972 by Richard Nixon, of all people. Learn more about Father's Day, including when it is celebrated around the world, here.

Still, dads are pretty cool, so why not celebrate them today, too? Besides, my father-in-law is a Vietnam veteran, which is quite appropriate to mention since Memorial Day is tomorrow. And yes, I do have that date correct.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I've been reading The Song of the Bird, a collection of what might be called devotionals put together by Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello. The following story really got me. In addition to God, can you guess who it made me think of (and appreciate all the more)?
Don't Change

I was a neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change.

I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn't, no matter how hard I tried.

What hurt the most was that, like the others, my best friend kept insisting that I change. So I felt powerless and trapped.

Then, one day, he said to me, "Don't change. I love you just as you are."

Those words were music to my ears: "Don't change. Don't change. Don't change . . . I love you as you are."

I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!

Now I know that I couldn't really change until I found someone who would love me whether I changed or not.
I am blessed. Do you have anyone like this in your life?

p.s. By the way, that's the Best Husband Ever, if you are feeling a bit confused. Welcome, new readers and subscribers!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Healthy vs. Pretty Healthy?

I like to read. I also like to write. Getting a good workout is another daily high for me. Combining all three in one sweet multi-tasking session? Let's just say that I don't get much more efficient -- or pleased -- than that.

In the spirit of being a more well-rounded, well-read freelancing writer, I added the January 2010 edition of Redbook to the tower of magazines I borrowed from the library. Magazines and elliptical sessions seem made for each other, and the gym is where I score my quality time with my preferred girly(ish) mags like Health, Body+Soul, and Natural Health in addition to the un-gendered Runner's World and Writer's Digest. I was completely new to Redbook, though.

I didn't really expect much from Redbook, especially from a Redbook with Kelly Ripa on the cover. That didn't stop me from reading it from start to finish yesterday at the gym, though, and from enjoying its surprisingly balanced take on life, body image, diet, and exercise.

I was most struck by the articles collected under the title "How To Be Pretty Healthy." At first I thought that these essays would be about physical prettiness. Instead, they take on the perceived rules of women's health and how those rules stand up in the real world. The following quote from the introduction particularly struck me:
Pretty healthy means, first of all, that your health habits contribute to -- and don't distract from -- your enjoyment of life. When you're pretty healthy, you live in such a way that you don't bring untimely disability or death upon yourself. You have sufficient supplies of energy, and you don't obsess about the state of your body or your mind. Although you may suffer from illness now and then, you still take pleasure in life most of the time and possess the general sense that you can cope with the challenges that come your way (p. 52).
I cannot claim that this has been true in the past five years of my life. Anorexia and over-exercise prevented that. Even now, when I am supposedly "in recovery," food thoughts dominate my brain, as does the urge to exercise, no matter if I actually feel physically up to it. That being said, Redbook's sub-article on "What Exercise Will (and Won't) Do For You" was of particular interest to me. The piece starts off like this:
For many of us, exercise induces the same feelings of righteousness that other people get from going to church -- and if we don't exercise, we feel morally inferior. But it's not religion. It's not even a good deed. It's just exercise (p. 58).
Gulp. Do I think like that? Unfortunately, yes. I'm guilty as charged. As uncomfortable as reading this made me, it also lightened my burden a little. Not only am I not alone in this, but I don't need to make exercise (and, relatedly for me, eating) a fantatical practice. Instead, I can move moderately, and enjoy the many health benefits that come along with exercise that don't involve weight. For me, exercise almost always makes me feel happier. The mood boosting endorphins of getting my sweat on are far more rewarding than calculating my calorie expenditure for the day, or the meager joy in losing a half a pound.

What do you think? Is it enough to be "pretty healthy"? This is something of a loaded question, especially coming from a health living blog. But I do believe that true health is balance, not just impeccably toned glutes.

That's just me, though. What does "healthy" mean to you? And is "pretty healthy" just as good, or better?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guilt-Free Pleasures

Hello, blogosphere! As you may have guessed, I took a long weekend off from blogging. I apologize for not announcing it, but I was sort of going with the flow. It was a bit of a guilty pleasure, I must admit, which in turn got me thinking about some other guilty pleasures.

Like watching Ghost Adventures. The Best Husband Ever cringes and rolls his eyes every time I load this up on Netflix -- and, I'll admit, he's not without reason. But for some reason I just love this show in all of its ridiculous stupidity. It's hilarious, and delivers just the right amount of creepy that I get covered in goosebumps while watching but then can go to bed without feeling freaked out. I don't know if any of the stuff these ghost hunters experience is real, but frankly I don't care. It's fun to watch and it makes me smile, so I'll continue to watch with only a little guilt. It won't kill that many brain cells, right?

Another semi-guilty pleasure of mine is reading young adult books. Now, this isn't too guilt-inducing because I actually would like to one day be a published YA author, so I can consider all of this indulgent reading "research." And, if you've never ventured into the YA section of the bookstore, I highly recommend it. I find better reads there more regularly than in the adult genres. Still, there are definitely fluffier YA books out there, and many of those have a supernatural theme since the advent of Harry Potter and the much less wonderful Twilight series. I was looking for a fun, light read, though, and this sub-genre delivered. I devoured nearly all of Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall in a single elliptical session at the gym this week . . . and I liked it. Sure, it won't go down in history as a classic, but it certainly was fun to read. You can bet I'll be checking out the next books in the series when they are released . . . with a guilty smile.

Other not-so-guilty pleasures include an inexplicable enjoyment of the film The Man in the Iron Mask, cheesy musicals, Peeps candy, video games, t-shirts with silly and mildly inappropriate sayings, and taking compromising photos of our dogs.

Speaking of dogs, they have their own set of guilty pleasures (but probably don't feel all that bad about indulging). Look what I caught Cody doing after accidentally leaving the garage door ajar:

He is the new poster child (poster pup?) for gluttony. Yes, Cody does have his head stuck inside a bag of dog food. And I do mean stuck. After I caught him in the act of cleaning up the [thankfully] few kibbles left in the bag, he didn't know what to do. So he hung out in that compromising position until I stopped laughing, and then stayed there while I dashed upstairs to get my camera. It turns out that I need not have hurried.

Do you have any guilty pleasures? What are they, and do you receive any teasing about them? I think it's okay to have a few "guilty" pleasures. It makes life more fun, after all. Besides, what would I do without my Ghost Adventures?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Our house has gone to the dogs -- literally, but also wonderfully. The Best In-laws Ever took a vacation, and we took their dog. Meet Eddie, the crippled weimaraner! He was hit by a car as a puppy, but has adapted well to life with a gimpy leg. He has really enjoyed rough-housing with Cody and Jackson (his preferred wrestling technique is swinging his butt around), and avoiding having his ears licked out by a certain chihuahua. What's more, I have really liked having him around. Eddie goes home today, and I will be sad to see him go! Good thing that he's a local family member, huh?

Happy [mostly wordless] Wednesday!

Order "The Marketing of Madness" on DVD from today

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Return of the Muffin

Yesterday I got a hankering. Not quite a craving, but more of a leaning of the soul toward a certain treat. In yesterday's case, it was for a muffin.

If you've been reading Kitchen Courage for a while, you might know that this blog began its life as Muffin Love. The only explanation that I have for this title as the blog was about more than muffins was that I enjoy muffins and used to be rather obsessed with baking them (often to the Best Husband Ever's chagrin, as I health-ified said muffins). In February 2009, I thought that the blog's themes and my writing goals had changed, and so Muffin Love evolved into the current incarnation of Kitchen Courage.

That doesn't mean that I don't like muffins, though. Even if I'm not quite as avid of a muffin maker as I used to be, I still enjoy a good muffin now and then. Unfortunately, with the recent addition of Crohn's to my particular corner of the world, wheat-based muffins are no longer a great option, especially as I'm trying to use diet to manage my digestive health.

Still, I wanted a muffin. I suppose I could have bought some sort of gluten-free muffin from a store or bakery, but I didn't want to simply eat a muffin -- I wanted to bake a muffin. It's been a while since I've baked anything, and much longer since I engaged in muffin creation. I wanted to get my muffin on in the kitchen.

Thankfully, having stocked up on a bag of almond flour, my muffin craving -- excuse me, my muffin hankering -- was not doomed to go unsatisfied. After a quick Google, I unearthed Comfy Belly's Crohn's-friendly orange cranberry muffins. I made a few swaps (a single naval orange for the two clementines, and oil instead of butter), halved the recipe, and nixed the walnuts. Another important alteration I made was to dig out my heart-shaped silicone muffin pan to make these muffins extra cheery.

After an easy prep and a 35 minute stint in the oven, these flavorful muffins emerged looking beautiful and tasting even better. I let them cool for a moment, then enjoyed one. Incredibly, the Best Husband Ever accepted a muffin on the way out the door to work. Even more incredibly, he said it was good, and then ate the remaining two muffins that evening for dinner! As he noted, they turned out a tad dry, but that could be due to the different flour or my oil-for-butter substitution. I am just amazed (and blessed) that he liked them at all! This might be a first for my husband-versus-healthy muffins record.

Do you like muffins? If so, do you have a favorite flavor or recipe? Make me drool when I read the comments, please! Also, check out Comfy Belly's orange cranberry muffins, which are as sunshine-y and delightful as their name implies. Not only are these muffins fabulous, but her blog is brimming with tons of other Crohn's-friendly amazing-looking creations. Case in point: coconut flour donuts, anyone?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Come On, Get Happy

Yesterday I finished reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. And, in spite of its long-winded title and my misgivings about the subject, it was very good! I certainly didn't expect it to be. I spied it in the 14-day loan section of the local library and, since I was already focusing my own energies toward living more mindfully, the book seemed like it could be helpful.

I must admit that I almost did not read Rubin's book. I hate limited loan periods and almost never avail myself of books in this category. Although I am an avid and at time voracious reader, I get stressed when I have to read on a deadline. It makes the joy of reading feel more like work, more like a grind. I much prefer the month-long loan periods of the majority of the library's selections, which can also be renewed for several more months if no one places a hold on them. So my experience with The Happiness Project almost died before it even began.

But last week as I was looking for some engaging reading material for my date with the elliptical machine at the gym, my stack of magazines weren't doing it for me. The book I was reading at the time (Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride) didn't really seem best for a sweat session, as much as I was enjoying it. Then Rubin's vibrantly colored book caught my eye. I hesitated for a moment, then slipped it into my gym bag and set off.

The Happiness Project captured me from page one. I thought that the book might discuss airy-fairy hedonism, but instead Rubin declared that she was looking for realistic ways that she could enhance her happiness in her present life (a freelance writer married with two children). I cringed a little at the word "happiness," but I found what Rubin meant by happiness lined up with what I defined as mindfulness, relishing ordinary and daily joys, and living in the now.

I can't tell you how many quotes from The Happiness Project I would like to share with you . . . but can't. The reason for this is that, upon finishing up the book at the gym last night, I immediately returned it to the library to ensure that I stayed within the 14-day loan period. I forgot that I wanted to share a block of text from page 212 about St. Therese of Lisieux's (who I totally want to read more of now) thoughts on God, mission, and living. Oops. If you do happen to get your hands on a copy of The Happiness Project, be sure to check out the bottom paragraph on page 212.

The fact that Gretchen Rubin is a blogger -- and her blog actually evolved into an integral part of her project -- is a fun bonus. Check her out at the aptly named The Happiness Project site. Rubin has also set up a sister site, The Happiness Project Toolbox, to help interested readers get started on their own projects. I particularly like the group page of the toolbox site, where visitors can either join existing groups working on a resolution together, or create a new focus group.

Which brings me to my next point. Do you want to start a happiness project, or a slimmed down version of one? If so, what would you choose to focus on?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The First Melon

I have sticky fingers and sticky lips. Why? Because it's melon season! I just finished cutting up -- and snacking on -- my first watermelon of the year, and it was delicious. Perhaps a little too delicious (if such a thing exists) as I ate more melon than actually made it into the fridge for later. Oops! I don't mind, though, because it's not even summer yet, and there will be plenty more melons!

I'm especially looking forward to nabbing some locally grown Dixon Melons at the farmer's market. The Dixon folks are melon geniuses! Not only do they produce the best standard variety melons I've ever tasted (cantaloupe, honeydew, and red watermelon), but they also have created unique hybrid melons that you cannot find anywhere else, to my knowledge. My favorite is the sinful melon, which is a twist on the honeydew. Can you say yum?

Can you believe that summer is nearly upon us? What's your favorite summery produce? I'm torn between watermelon and cherries. I'll say it again -- yum!

*I look mad at the melon chunk I'm munching in that photo. I assure you that I am not.

**Bonus points if you can name the movie I'm referencing (sort of) with this post's title!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spring, Finally

It appears that it is finally spring here in Montana. Already the afternoons are reaching 70*F, so I suppose that means we're launching straight from drizzly pre-spring to full-on summer. I'll take it, though! I love the sun, although the Best Husband Ever can't claim the same. There's nothing like watching the sunrise into a crisp cerulean sky to get me going. I feel so invigorated and inspired by the good weather.

I also feel more encouraged to pursue health and life -- the now, as I was reminded of yesterday. I seem to exist according to an inner inertia. When I'm a couch-dweller, as I have been in the last few weeks, then it's hard to peel my body off the cushions once I'm feeling better to do anything, fun or otherwise. But if I'm in the habit of healthy eating, exercising, and getting writing in, it's easier to keep those activities rolling.

I don't think I'm alone in this. Are you with me? What are your tips for beating the heavy lure of the couch and getting back to the business of life after a period of downtime? I'm all ears!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I came across this book cover while trolling -- er, browsing the internet today. It pretty much smacked me across the forehead with its reminder, because this is exactly what I'm working on right now. I love random coincidences (or non-coincidences, depending on your views) like these.

Have you ever received a timely message from an unexpected source?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring Gratitude

Even though this is supposed to be my Wordless Wednesday post, I cannot stay silent. I absolutely must say thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday's post on self-image, self-love, and self-care. Although I enjoy blogging for my own edification, I also am drawn to using my corner of the web as a mode of communication. When the stars align and my random thoughts and words make an impact on readers (as seemed to happen yesterday), I am humbled, excited, and gratified all at once. In other words, thank you for reading, for reacting, and for writing back!

Buy Food Matters on DVD

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Promise I Can Keep

The Best Husband Ever took this photo of me in late November 2007, just before I had some minor surgery done. This was only months before I reached my lowest and most unhealthy weight, but I was already experiencing some bad side effects of over-exercising and restricting my food. For the surgery I was going to be knocked out with anesthesia, but the nurses had a difficult time knowing if I could receive the drugs because my heart rate kept dropping too low. Already I was too sick to maintain a normal resting heart rate, especially after skipping meals (on the doctor's orders). I remember feeling so cold and having to get some extra blankets.

Eventually I was put under (which was a rather fun experience!) and got through the surgery without complications, much to my husband's relief. I can't say that I was relieved because I didn't think there was anything wrong with my exercise and eating habits at that point. Even when my surgery "wound" continued to pop stitches and bleed because my body couldn't heal itself properly, I didn't admit to myself that something was up. As with most people who live with eating disorders, it took quite a lot of treatment and therapy before I could recognize that something was wrong with me, much less do something about it.

Have you ever been told to look in the mirror and tell your reflection, "I love you"? Thankfully, I never have, but I've heard of the practice. This is not something I could ever honestly say to myself. However, during a recent visit to a eating disorder recovery forum, I read a post that offered an alternative. I'm not the only woman, disordered eater or not, who has had trouble declaring undying love of herself. I could say the words, I suppose, but I wouldn't believe them. The writer of the post I mentioned, though, does something different. Instead of speaking a lie to the mirror, when she is feeling the need to restrict/over-exercise/binge/purge/choose-your-own-disordered-behavior, she tells her reflection, "I promise to try to take care of you."

That's a promise I can get behind. I can't promise that I'll always love myself -- be it my actions or my physical appearance, faults and all -- but I can vow to try. To be responsible with this body and this life. To pursue health when the disordered voices are whispering other suggestions in my ear. To maintain balance and health even when I don't want to, or when it doesn't come easily or naturally. To try, and to care. Those are promises I can keep.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


While on a short but blissful hike earlier this week, I ran across a sign that directed hikers to a newly cut trail in order to let the old path recover from use and erosion. The sign asked travelers to please "let the land heal." As I obeyed I found myself wondering if this message wasn't meant for me on a more personal level.

I have been feeling pretty impatient with every facet of my health -- physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I want to be better right away in all of these areas. I want to return to my peak physical fitness now, run a half-marathon now, rediscover a stronger relationship with God now. But I've forgotten that I need to "let the land heal" first. I have to be gentler and more forgiving with myself, and allow myself to improve slowly.

How do you deal with healing of any kind? Are you content to take life down a notch, or find yourself chomping at the bit like me during the road to recovery? How do you deal with the fact that you're not the version of yourself you'd like to be [yet]?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Do You Wine?

What are your thoughts on drinking alcohol, specifically red wine? Red wine is thought to be heart-healthy and also contains antioxidants, and even lower bad cholesterol. There are many arguments for drinking red wine, and also quite a few reasons to avoid it, not least among those alcohol abuse and related liver issues.

But what do you think? Does red wine (or any alcohol at all) have a place within a healthy eating plan? Do you drink alcohol, and if so what kind, how often, and why?

Do you not drink alcohol? If so, why? For religious, social, or personal reasons, or simply because you don't like the taste?

I am eager to hear what you all have to say on this topic!

Monday, May 3, 2010


It is a morning of revelations. Not the Biblical variety, and certainly not particularly wise, as traditional revelations tend to be. However, for those who love a good mystery or some tasty cereal, these revelations don't lack for importance.

In my last entry, I posted the photo at right and asked you all to guess what it is. I had a lot of fun reading your guesses! Here are some of your responses regarding the contents of the pink bowl:
  • mashed potatoes
  • Cream of Wheat with nooch
  • tapioca
There weren't many outlandish ideas, though, because most of you were spot-on (and those who weren't came so close!). If you guessed mashed cauliflower topped with nutritional yeast . . . you were absolutely right! Smart cookies . . .

I'd read about mashed cauliflower on the blogosphere some time ago, but never acted on it. Now that my foray into the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) world has outlawed starchy potatoes, however, I decided to give the mashed cauliflower a try. It was fairly easy to make, and I actually prefer it to mashed potatoes, which I find quite heavy, even without taking buttery toppings into consideration.

Here's what I did. I removed the florets of one head of cauliflower from the stem/leaves and placed them in a large microwave-safe bowl. I added small amount of water to the bowl (approximately 1/4 cup), then covered the bowl with a plate. I stuck the whole thing in the microwave and cooked it for about 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower had steamed into softness. Next, I removed the cauliflower to blender. I processed it until smooth, then served it up topped by nutritional yeast. My verdict: hot, healthy, and SCD-friendly deliciousness!

What do you think? Have you tried mashed cauliflower? If so, which do you prefer, mashed cauliflower or mashed potatoes? If not, do you plan on trying mashed cauliflower?

Now that the mashed mystery has been solved, are you ready to see who won the Kashi cereal giveaway? I certainly am! This giveaway was the most popular in the history of Kitchen Courage, with a record 16 entries. Thanks to everyone who read, Tweeted, blogged, Facebooked, and participated! You are all a gift to me and bless me with your readership.

There can only be one winner, though, and that lucky lady is . . .


Jess's favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a passion that she's joined in by the Best Husband Ever. Her favorite product in my Amazon store is the ThinkThin peanut butter protein bars (which are insanely delicious). She also enjoyed the fact that all of my store's product categories are alliterative. So observant -- did anyone else notice?

Jess, email me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) come with your mailing information, and I will get your Kashi cereals to you at once. Thank you again to everyone who participated, and happy Monday!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mystery Mash

I had a delicious new food adventure lately. My newly conquered dish is above, but it is not what it seems. Before I reveal its identity, let's play a game. Can you guess what the mystery mash is? Maybe it's blended cottage cheese, or perhaps a failed attempt at pavlova/meringue. How about strangely curdled yogurt or clumps of damp yet edible paper? I'm excited to hear what you think -- post your guesses, crazy or otherwise, in the comments!

While you're waiting (with bated breath, I'm sure) for the answer, be sure to enter to win some Kashi cereal. Also, why not give my rather forlorn Ask Anything page some lovin'? Don't forget that Mother's Day is next weekend. Love Street Living Foods has some great options for mom-pleasing raw, vegan, organic, and totally delicious gifts, not to mention 15% off and three free samples with the coupon code "LoveSt1st."

Happy Saturday, friends!