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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Resolving & Further Evolving

I was thinking about New Years Resolutions and about how passive that sounds. By contrast, resolving to do something sounds active and somehow more powerful. Therefore, I decided to resolve this New Year, rather than make resolutions.

I further noted the relationship between resolve and evolve. Resolve gives the impression of happening just once. Whereas, evolve communicates an ongoing process. To me, life is more like the latter. You go along, trying new things, keeping what works and what makes you happy. Sometimes there's that eureka moment, but mostly, it's a series of baby steps.

A couple months back I presented my health report card, along with some goals for improvement. Here's a review of my core principles for healthy living, with my scores then & now, and any related goals & notes:

Consume a Plant-Based Diet
Grade then - B; Grade now - A-

  • GOAL: Increase meatless dinners to 3 weekly; Limit meaty lunches to 3 weekly.
  • NOTES: I think I hit the 3 meatless dinners most weeks, if I give myself fish as meatless (which I decided to do shortly after the original post). I would like to see fewer of the meatless dinner involve pasta. I definitely limited my meaty lunches. Most weeks, having only 1 or 2. If I did go over, it was because I needed to clean up leftovers!

Choose Lean Meats & Low-fat Dairy
Grade then & now - A

Make at Least Half Your Grains Whole
Grade then - A-; Grade now - A

  • GOAL: Use a non-rice, non-wheat whole grain once weekly.
  • NOTES: Done. I am surprised in retrospect how modest a goal I set here. I am also unclear why I didn't allow for rice. I was not using much brown rice at the time & have certainly increased that. I've also served barley & bulgar a few times each. I've continued to lean heavily on whole wheat varieties, but I know I have expanded my variety!

Limit Discretionary Calories
Grade then & now - D

  • NOTES: Thank goodness I didn't set a goal here. The holidays after all! I will say that I consumed less in the way of sweets & potent potables this year than in years past. I think we chalk this up to mommyhood!

Move More
Grade then & now - B-

  • GOAL: Increase rower/stretch/tone workouts to 3 weekly.
  • NOTES: The holidays, a minor illness & some time out-of-town were brutal on this goal the past month. I did okay the first month. The past few weeks, I've shifted my strategy to walking the dog instead, though I'd still like to use that rower more!
Write Down SMART Goals
Grade then - C; Grade now - B
  • GOAL: Reassess in 2 months ... just in time for New Years Resolutions!
... and NOW ... for the resolving & further evolving!
  • Plants -
    • Continue to consume no more than 3 meaty lunches. Serve 3 meatless dinners per week, only 1 of which is pasta or pizza based!
    • Choose organic off the "dirty dozen" produce list.
  • Grains - 
    • Continue to experiment with different grains, serve a non-traditional one at least 2 times monthly.
    • Limit refined grains served in the home to 1 weekly. (We all have plenty outside the home, after all!)
  • Moving - 
    • Walk the dog briefly every night after toddler bedtime, unless truly extenuating circumstances.
    • 3 times weekly, do additional activity after walking - rowing, lifting or stretching.
  • SMART - 
    • Reassess in June - why not for 6 months? --- because that's when I finish my masters! I'll be pleased if I can accomplish the goals. I highly doubt I'll have time to write about them while we're working on them!
I also resolve to make a few changes unrelated to my physical health. I resolve to address those in my next post - to be titled "Redirecting" ...

Till then, happy tween week! :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Redefining Everything - with Christmas wishes for all

When I hear fellow moms say how they miss me time or going out as much or whatnot, I try to respond appropriately. But I don’t miss it – any of it. That may sound pathetic, but it’s true.
Part of it is how ready I was for my life to change. I was a happy person before my husband and daughter. But I wanted a loving partner, and I wanted to have a family. I got both. I got both after ample time to sow my wild oats. I was out of oats.
Sometimes I feel like a different person entirely from the Sower Of Oats. I used to occasionally wish she’d sown fewer of them. But I finally understand that for whatever reason, the oats were there. If she hadn’t sown them, I don’t think I would be as happy as I am now. I’d always wonder what I was missing. I don’t have to wonder. One day I’ll make true and lasting peace with that rather large dragon tattoo she left me with. (And yes, I do often refer to past-me as a different person. Henceforth, we’ll call her SOO. Judge if you so wish.)
When I do start to feel a little frazzled with the demands of being a working mom, I find myself thinking back to my early 20’s. My couple years in DC were SOO’s heyday.  But you know what pops into my head most often? Not long nights out on the town. Not hijinx or hoopla of any kind. Nope. Instead, there’s me in my tiny apartment, in my $20 Goodwill chair, with my beloved cat Lali on my lap; I’m watching Star Trek: Voyager and crocheting (badly). The apartment was 300 square feet, in a part of town no one would visit, and its view (through a barred window) was of an alley. What’s the appeal? I had no responsibilities – outside feeding Lali and scooping her box. I held two very easy jobs while I lived there, the kind you do when you have no idea what you want to do but you have a college degree. I did not think about them when I left the office. I had fewer responsibilities even than in college – no tuition bill or grades to my parents, you see. I was farther away from home, and I lived alone. I don’t remember being lonely, though apparently I was, since I got a (totally awesome) roommate my second year there. I remember just being me, doing the lamest stuff imaginable and loving it.

small cool loft
It was this small, but never this cool. And never ever that bright!

All my time in DC was me time. Not because I was alone. Being alone is not necessary or sufficient for true me time. It was me time because I lacked responsibility.  By that definition, no time is me time now. Even when my daughter is with my parents or at daycare, there’s always the possibility of a phone call – with some question or report, be it mundane or dramatic, for which I am to be the final arbiter.

That would be some existence! Fortunately, that’s not how I feel.  For the most part, I’ve simply redefined me time. For one thing, I have bothered to define it at all. And I bother to make sure I take a little on a regular basis. I know I’m getting better at it, because my mind drifts less frequently to that DC apartment.

Everyone has only so much time in a day. I have things I feel I need to do: getting food on the table, keeping us all clean and in clean clothes.  That’s of course on top of working full time. (On top of professional organizations and part-time grad school.) I also need to take care of personal needs, which for me fit into three categories – 1. I need to be social in some way.  2. I need to cultivate my relationship with my husband. 3. I need to do some of the lame things I enjoyed pre-baby.  (Lucky me, 2 and 3 usually go together, since I married a fellow nerd!)

Pinned Image
For the most part, I’ve found the rest fits into one of three other categories – A. It can wait. B. You can pay other people to do it for you. C. It doesn’t need to be done.

Now, I greatly enjoy my mommy time. I have gone completely nuts on crafty projects, mostly due to Pinterest. They don’t always work out quite the way I expect, but that’s part of the fun. I love reading to her, letting her read to me, and watching her little mind work and change.  Being a mom has introduced me to this whole other wonderful world.

The me time is essential though – for recharging as a mom and for maintaining myself as an individual. Being a working mom has forced me to redefine how I truly want to spend my time. I don’t have endless hours just to myself. I have to prioritize. And actually, that’s been a pretty good thing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I appreciate this resource of “me time” because it is limited!

I have given myself a few free passes; my C pile is pretty large but small compared to my A pile. I also take me time as I can get it. I make the most of little bits as they present themselves. My commute has become me time. I love my routine, especially my coffee! I love letting my mind just drift. Sometimes I plan out what I need to get done that day at work or that evening at home. I even plan the following week’s meals sometimes! I also get my news while I drive. I love NPR like a dear friend!  Sometimes the love of mind-drifting gets in the way of the news.

I may not get my hair cut or my brows waxed as often as some women, but no less often than I did pre-baby. My last brow-wax was a last-minute decision before the grocery store. I also (usually) have hours after she goes to before I want to, so that’s when I blog, tweet, Facebook, watch a little adult TV, maybe shop online, and so on.

I didn’t consciously redefine. It happened because I redefined my priorities, also not consciously. I’d simply rather come home and make yet another handprint craft with my daughter after dinner (always on bathnight!), watch Finding Nemo yet again, put her to bed, then hang out quietly with my Hubben.

With Christmas around the corner, it’s hard not to think about what you want or need. I quickly redefined wants & needs upon entering motherhood! I can’t claim that there’s nothing I want that I don’t have. I certainly have everything I need. And, I have the things that I want most. That’s an amazing gift indeed. My grown-up Christmas wish this year is that everyone could say the same.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Simple Solutions

Sometimes (okay, often-times) I over-analyze.
Sometimes (not as often as I'd like) this works out well.
Sometimes (too often) it just drives me crazy and doesn't bring a solutions.

Lately, I've noticed that sometimes, the best solution is the simplest one. And, lucky for my budget, a cheaper one.

Here are some examples:

  • Clutter 
    • We have an open layout home and an open construction coffee table in the living room. We store toys under the coffee table. 
    • Problem: our common area looks like a play room.
    • Solution: I'd been searching for a storage ottoman for months. I kept objecting to how pricey they are. This weekend, I had the earth-shattering idea to move the toys into my toddler's bedroom. It's right off the main room anyway, so it's not like I'm banishing her to Siberia to accomplish this.
    • Added bonus: (I'm hoping) doing things in her room more often might get her to like sleeping there better!
  • Crazy Dog
    • We only had our dog for a year before our baby came along. Still, you'd think we disrupted some long-existing arrangement for him. (Granted, he was 4 when we got him and had lived with a bachelor before that, but still.)
    • Problem: he acts like she is the plague despite her adoration for him. It drives me crazy. I show it. He gets more & more neurotic.
    • Solution: After a brief break from him (a few days away to visit friends), I felt better toward him. I capitalized on it and started taking him out for walks after kiddo's bedtime. He's feels comfortable; he behaves better. I like him better, and I show it, and he behaves better .... and so on!
    • Added bonus: see below.
  • Exercise
    • I've tried a few different ideas. The rowing machine & weights after kiddo's bedtime was working out pretty well till I got a sick a couple weeks ago, and I just haven't gotten back into it.
    • Problem: I think we all know the challenges of establishing a work-out routine.
    • Solution: See above!
    • Added bonus: happy dog! :)

My point? Solutions don't have to be hard. Maybe they do require lots of thought. After all, I came to these after thinking through and trying other, more complicated ones.
In the future, when something's a little amiss, I'm going to think: is there something totally obvious that I'm overlooking?
We'll see if it keeps working!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthday Reflections

Tomorrow. The sun will come out.
And I?
I will turn 35.
Do you know what that means?
It means that IF I ever want another child, I will have to have a "high risk pregnancy."
That. Sucks.

Now I am 90% certain that I don't want another child. Not because of the high risk pregnancy label, but because the reason that most frequently crosses my mind for wanting one -- is so I can name another one. Kind of a dumb reason to bring another child into the world. The next most frequent -- all my friends are doing it. Also a pretty dumb reason to do anything. The reason that most frequently crosses my mind for not wanting one -- I have never been happier. Just ... why mess with it, you know?

So, I've never been happier. I don't want another child right now. Why the eff do I care that I'm turning 35 and passing into some arbitrary risk group? Because. That's right - because. Because I hate being told what I should or shouldn't do. Sure, no one says you can't have a baby after 35 and certainly more & more women do. But it's that "You can, buuuuut ..." - it's almost worse than just a black or white.

Then there's the "what if's" --- We don't want another child now. But what if someday we decide we do want another baby? Like when D's 4 or even 5. Will I feel too old then? Will I be too old then?

I used to say I had no regrets. If you go back and fix one thing in your past, how do you know what else it would change? For example, if I went back and met my husband sooner, and started a family sooner, sure I'd have more time for a 2nd child, BUT would I have gotten the amazing little girl I have now?
Now? I say - screw that, I want to pick & choose. I want to have exactly the life I have now, except be 3 years younger. (I feel like 5 or more years would be asking too much. Doesn't 3 sound reasonable?)

I know this will pass. I have always loved celebrating my birthdays. Those divisible by 5 in particular. There are 3 full days of festivities planned. Outside the concrete gifts and the external celebrations, there's the best gift I've given myself lately - acceptance. I accept who I am; I actually like myself a lot. I accept turning 35, but I don't have to like it -- at least not tonight.

Linear time, you are a cruel master.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Working with Style ... catching up ...

Phew! Where have I been!?!?!

Well, not taking better photos of my outfits. Let me just warn you at the outset. All photos will be self-portraits, utilizing a mirror & a Blackberry. My husband is more than willing to photograph me, but I'm always rushing to get out the door in the morning --- then rushing to get out of my work clothes in the evening!

Last weekend, we were in South Bend, IN - having a kick-ass time with a great friend from college & her family. Even though there was no snow, it was considerably colder - worthy of sweaters, boots, and the crocheted outerwear from the craft show we attended.

Here's what I wore the day before we left. I called it "Black'n'Tan" --

Sweater & black pants by Merona - from Target. Black pumps by Naturalizer. I love them so much, I actually polished them. My honeymoon opal around my neck. And, yup - my side bangs debut! I think next I'll go for real bangs, but this was a big step for a life-long ear-tucker.

Here's an outfit from earlier this week ---

Two new items. Sweater by Loft (online, on sale). Turquoise beads by Stella & Dot, courtesy of a friend's recent party.

And here's what I wore yesterday. (Yes, YESTERDAY, as in - Saturday - to work.)

Another new Loft sweater. My standard Target navy slacks. My standard floral Sam & Libby flats. Plus, a multi-gem necklace from hubben for last birthday. (BTW, he wanted to know why I was shopping so much with my birthday & Christmas coming up. Answer: I have no idea.) Here's the story behind this outfit. It feels like jammies, a robe & slippers. When you have to work on a weekend, you should at least be deliciously comfy. If my face looks fuzzy in the picture, don't blame the Blackberry; blame my face.

I'll try to get better shots this week, but it's nice to see all the LWM crew again. Check out the link up!

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A Time for Joy ... and for Finding it in Smaller Stuff

'Tis the season ... and that jazz.

This time of year is full of wonderful "stand-out" moments. Special events, parties, Santa photos, decking the halls, making/decorating/consuming cookies ... making memories & starting/continuing traditions.

But don't forget the joy in the smaller stuff too. Give yourself time to find it.

This afternoon, my mom brought over sugar cookies she'd baked. She'd made her special icing and brought along sprinkles. When I was young, we used to make literally hundreds of sugar cookie cut-outs. One year we topped over 1000. Her cookies are world-famous. We've recently discovered it's all about the icing & started using the store-bought dough. Anyway, we passed the tradition down to the next generation today. My daughter had a blast, and we all delighted in watching her. (Each time we weren't watching she managed to sneak another extra cookie!)

This evening, we drove to a nearby touristy town with a great lights display. We stopped for dinner at a favorite brew-pub, then strolled around the square. (Stroll = take turns chasing a 20 month old)

These were both completely awesome times. Wonderful wonderful memories. What I think made them enjoyable was that none of us had had too much.

Earlier in the day, we did nothing. We stayed in our jammies till just before my parents got to our house. The height of excitement was playing with the dog. And guess what -- that time was awesome too. Wonderful wonderful memories. Apparently, my kiddo's butterfly PJ bottoms are also bossy pants. She arranged her Daddy & me just so, "sit sit" and tried to tell the dog just want to do too, but he has yet to accept her as Alpha. The dog is just a funny funny oaf. It is seriously too easy to fool him as to the whereabouts of his toys - good thing we never call on him for the purpose for which he was bred - you know, retrieving game.

We had plans on the horizon, excitement to anticipate, but no reason to rush all morning. Now that's a gift worth giving your family & yourself!

Do you ever feel like you're at a sprint from Thanksgiving to New Years? What ways have you found to slow down?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Working with Style ... and Holiday Comforts!

First of all, I sincerely apologize for the truly crappy photo. But I took one, so I figured I'd share. I've also been meaning to show what my workwear actually looks like most of the day.

Witness: how a lab coat can make any outfit less stylish. (Even without the 30 year-old turkey lapel pin.)

Facts I love about this outfit:

1. Both my skirt & tights are by Motherhood. That is correct. Even though I am lucky enough to be back down to pre-pregnancy size, I still wear them. The tights because they don't have runs, and that is hard to come by in my sock drawer. The skirt because it is just darn cute - plus, most shirts are cut in a way that makes it unnoticable (even without the labcoat!)

2. The top is seriously part of a bridesmaid ensemble from 11.5 years ago. The lovely bride got us all these awesome pink tops, and we each wore the black skirt of our choice. (You'll see mine in a future post, no doubt.)

3. The shoes. They are adorable and comfortable. (The comfort is starting to fade as I wear them completely out.) - Sam & Libby, $24 at DSW a couple years ago.

Finally --- I love that I only wore it a few hours, because work was slow on the day before Thanksgiving! AND I love that I FINALLY got a haircut yesterday, so the next post you see will feature my newest accessory - bangs!

Welcome to the Holidaze Season! Joy to you all! :)
Don't forget the fun link-up at Liberating Working Moms.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

In my mission statement posts, I noted that I seek to find the joy in the small stuff. I thought Thanksgiving Eve would be a more than appropriate occasion to list out some of the small (& big) things that give me joy.
  • Family - (We'll start with the obvious biggie.) I have a fantastic husband, a wonderful daughter, and amazing parents. In a state far, far away (called Nebraska), I have more family, for who I am also grateful. 
Look at us. All on our honeymoon & stuff.

Look at her all small & unsuspecting. And do you know I really have grown to love her more EVERY dang day??

They SAY they moved to Florida for the beach. The beach was here all along. A certain granddaughter was not. ;)


More Family
  • My job - it's rewarding & not overly stressful. I have a true "work-life balance." I work with a great group of people. My immediate work group consists of some of my closest Florida friends, aside from being an inspiring collection of professionals. The group I work with inside the hospital offers me still more great friendships and still more hardworking colleagues. Oh, also - I have a job. I have a job in a hospital, which gives me a unique sense of gratitude for ...
  • My health - Oh, I'm sure we're all grateful for our health. It's part of the litany of things we say we're grateful for, right? I always said so. This is my 6th year working in a hospital. I'm amazed every day at my incredible fortune to be so healthy and to have healthy friends & family. Every day, I feel like I haven't quite learned the lesson adequately and resolve that I need to stay right where I am.
    • If it were only that though, it would be a morbid lesson, wouldn't it? I'm not dying, so I should be grateful. What's inspiring is how wonderful many of the people are. The joy that patients and family can find - even in the worst of times. It's that lesson that I'm grateful for, and that I want to keep learning.
  • Technology - That family back in Nebraska? I am actually able to keep in pretty good contact with them. Oh, I suppose a hundred years ago, I would have written letters, or simply not moved to Florida. But the fact that I was able to pick up & move to this place where my life found me ... yet, still pick up the phone and talk to my Grandpa once a week - Amazing. Worth giving thanks for. In particular ...
  • Social Media - Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with old friends. In some cases, I've become better friends with someone online than I was in real life! Blogging & Twitter introduced me to a whole host of people (mostly women) with similar interests and concerns. I've made real connections with erstwhile total strangers.
    • Not to mention that I have friends back home that are even worth keeping in touch with, added to the fact that we DO keep in touch. That's worth saying thank you!
  • Gratitude - what? No, I mean it. I'm grateful that I'm grateful. I remember being a discontented teen. I remember not seeing the joy in small things and how wonderful life is. I'm not entirely sure where the credit lies for the change --- The sun shining nearly every day where I live now? Having found my life's love? Having become the mother to a wonderful child? Just having grown older?
  • Mistakes - I'm grateful that they've mostly been pretty harmless. The bigger ones of the past have not impeded my current happiness. The bumps here & there in the here & now tend to simply help me correct course.
There's more I give little thanks for every day. Today, I was thrilled to find my perfect K-cup (Tully's Kona Blend). I savored the pumpkin whoopie pie a work-pal brought in. I was delighted when my daughter started tapping the beat to La Grange when it came on the end of an NPR story. I was doubly delighted, when I told my husband the story; he found the song on YouTube, and we had a family dance party. I even took pleasure in exercising & listening to podcasts, then pre-prepping a few Thanksgiving dishes while listening to music.

There's big & small joy out there. Find your happy; follow it ... then don't forget to notice it!

 What do you see worth a little gratitude?

Happy Thanksgiving Day! And Happy Giving Thanks Daily!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Quick & The Read - Recipe Schmecipe

I love to cook. I love to cook healthy for myself & my family.

I don't always have as much time as I'd like. (Okay, yes, I might have more if I interwebbed less, but whatevs.) There are plenty of great shortcuts that allow you to put a (semi-)homemade meal on the table & still have time to do fun stuff like this:

... and still get through the shower before bedtime!

Two recent success stories for us:
  1. Spinach Tortellini with Peas & Pesto - That's right. Prepared tortelli (in this case, spinach pasta with ricotta filling), frozen peas, prepared pesto. We had it with Caesar salads, by which I mean - romaine lettuce from a bag + lite Caesar vinaigrette & Parmesan shavings. Munchkin's new thing is "more salad?" --- Enough to melt a dietitian mama's heart.
  2. Beef Stir-fry - I chopped an onion, sauteed it in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes, then added lean "stew meat" (the stuff pre-cut for you) and cooked till it was mostly done. Then I added a bag of pre-chopped stri-fry veggies. I poured over all that a "sauce" I'd made while the onion cooked (approx: 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 2 big squeezes honey), but you could certainly use a marinade or salad dressing. I served it over 90 second Uncle Ben's whole grain medley. This I actually took a second to photograph: 

No one said it was a good photograph.

Another thing about my cooking? I tend to take recipes as suggestions or inspirations, rather than strict instructions. If I don't have this, that or the other, I improvise. Here are 2 recipes I recently took great liberties with, either by choice or necessity.

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash over Farro by the Vintage Mixer - I saw the picture on Pinterest and thought it looked delicious. I read the title, decided I'd toss in some spinach & my own spice ideas. I further decided to use barley, because I had some & because I wanted to try ...
  2. Slow-cooker Barley Risotto by Dietitian on a Mission - In this case, I started cooking and realized I didn't have a number of things I thought I did. I knew I didn't have a shallot and used a third of so of an onion. I thought I had far more chicken stock than I really did --- I used extra water with plenty of salt. 
I smashed them together & it turned out GREAT! My hubben liked the whole thing. The Munchkin actually said yummy over some spinach & squash before deciding all she wanted in the world was "rice." I did sneak a few chickpeas in her little face too.

Take home messages:

  1. There are healthy short-cuts out there. Keep looking till you find ones that work for you. Then take variations on them to avoid "taste fatigue."
  2. Don't be afraid to experiment. What's the worst that will happen? No one will like it? You & they will either suck it up & eat it. Or you'll make PBJs or have chips'n'salsa or somesuch.
  3. Eating at least moderately well doesn't have to cost a fortune or exhaust you. It only requires a little thought on the front-end.
    • I made the following analogy to a patient today: I have a basket of clean laundry waiting to be put away. If I took the 15 minutes one evening to just do it, it would save me the 5 minutes every morning looking for socks (by which I meant underwear).
    • That basket is still waiting ....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Parenting: Journeys & Destinations - No Mompetition, please

"Life is a journey, not a destination."

Agreed, but when it comes to parenting, maybe it's the other way around. As in - the goal is a happy, healthy child with happy, healthy parents. How you get there is what works for your family.

I guess that's what I meant with my previous post about Babywise. I didn't so much mean it as an attack on the authors. More just an affirmation to myself & a suggestion to new parents. ---  Take the advice of books & friends; have a plan, but be flexible & confident ... Trust yourself a little.

In my early early days, I totally lacked flexibility & confidence. I didn't trust myself enough. I leaned on the books, whined on Facebook, and probably drove my husband nuts. A very wise friend & mom of two posted on one of my Facebook whines -- "She doesn't need a perfect mom, just a happy one." YES! Do what makes you happy, within reason, and it'll all work out. I didn't quite get it though till much later.

I finally internalized a better attitude when a workpal shared a little piece of wisdom, and it finally clicked. She said, and I paraphrase here - "You know what? She's not going to be sleeping with you when she's 12. She's not going to kindergarten in diapers. Kids do things in their own time. Enjoy it while it lasts." This from the mother of 8 and 12 year old boys. She rocked them each to sleep & soothed them through the night as needed. (Exactly what I wanted to do!) And they've both turned into well-adjusted little tweens.

What was funny about this exchange was that her response was to my reflexive apology for my daughter's ceasing to sleep through the night. She had asked how I was. I said "tired" and went on to say why. It seemed like conversations with co-workers too often went something like this:

  • "How are you?" 
  • "I'm fine how are you?"
  • "Great. How's your baby? Is she sleeping through the night?"
Then, the well-intentioned conversant would respond to my negatory with advice. Another book to read; another method to try. I always felt supported but also inadequate. It was likely a function more of my lack of confidence than judgement on their part. But I wonder --- Does mompetition start so early? Like - they don't have grades yet, so we measure them by whatever means available? I'm not entirely innocent of this myself. I have been known to unnecessarily drop little brags about my daughter into conversation.

Maybe we each have to take our journey at our own pace, and the wise words only work when we're ready to hear them. I actually DO think life IS a journey! I count mine as a success if I learn something from every experience & encounter.

Do you think there's anyway we can help each other out on our journeys? (As parents or otherwise?) Looking back on my life, there have been plenty of times that someone wonderful & loving (yes, my mom) has tried to help me not make a mistake. But I had to go ahead & make it myself!

Regardless, here's what I'm going to start trying, when I'm talking to newer parents ---
  • MORE simply telling my own experience.
  • LESS assuming it will be what works for someone else.
  • MORE listening.
  • LESS talking.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Working with Style V - Bohemian Rhapsody

    We had our office Thanksgiving luncheon this week. (I KNOW! It's seriously already time for that?!?!?!!? ... Yes.) For the occasion, I decided to wear something fun & festive. I also made an entirely delicious corn spoon pudding in my crockpot - IN the office breakroom. (It was a test run for Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and it made the cut - hands down!) So yeah - I was all kinds of awesome that day.

    It's actually a great photo. My face is just blurry in real life.

    When I put this on at home, I thought "I love this; it's Bohemian chic. BUT does it work outside my head?" I asked my hubben. He said it worked, and he's not a lying liar, so I went with it. I got a bunch of compliments on it. Including {drumroll} - "Ooh, I like that; it's Bohemian chic." My day - made.
    • Top - Merona, a recent Target trip - $17.
    • Skirt - Merona, Target a few years back off the clearance rack.
    • Boots - repeat appearance - cheapies from Rack Room. 
        • (Now that I finally got skinny jeans, I might be able to find a new pair!)
    • Accessories - matching jade ring & earrings - BUT the ring was a flea market find, while the earrings showed up years later at a department store --- kismet!

    You might think I would be a little embarrassed by how often I write "Target" as to the location of my purchases, but I am not. I don't even bother to pronounce it "Tarjay." I find good stuff there. The quality is adequate that by the time it starts to wear out, it's either out of style or I'm getting tired of it. The big danger of loving Target clothes so much is that I not infrequently go in for diapers & come out with a new outfit. (Of course, I sometimes see that as part of its awesome too!)


    I've been doing this FIVE weeks now! Do we have to stop ever? I'm having so much fun.
    If you care to join us, please link up with the adorable Katherine over at Liberating Working Moms.

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    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    No Shame in being in the 99

    There's plenty of discussion about why our wealth distribution is so uneven; whether we should change it; and how we could accomplish that.

    I would like to discuss why some people reject the very idea. Why do many want to refuse to admit being in the 99?

    Remember The Usual Suspects? "The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist." Not quite that - but something along those lines --- the 1% has convinced the 99% that being in the 99% means you're a lazy no-good do-nothing.

    That's not what being the 99% means. It means a lot of things. It means as many things as it means to be an American. Or a Human.

    I'm not quite sure how to fix this misunderstanding. I think sharing our stories is a good start. I've really enjoyed the "I am the 99%" letters I've seen out there. The ones that seem to get the most attention are the really dire stories. That's understandable. Unfortunately, I think it plays into the perception that "I can't be part of the 99%! That's not like me!" There are many shades of gray between the saddest stories and the 1%.

    For example: there's me ---
    I have a good job, with great benefits.
    My husband also has a good job.
    We have a nice home, reliable vehicles, good health, and money left over to go out sometimes & take occasional trips.
    We live within our means, and we're very happy.
    I don't have it rough at all. I never did.
    I had good luck, AND I worked hard.

    Good luck and hard work are not mutually exclusive. Would I have worked hard enough to overcome bad luck? I'm always left without an answer to that question. My fear is - no.

    There are also shades of gray between the Occupy movements & class warfare. And EVEN more gray between what the present situation & socialism.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Working Mom Style - Black & Black ... + red

    Black & Black is the no brainer combination. I resort to it at least weekly. A wee-bit of texture & some colorful accessories keep it from being boring.

    • Cowl neck black sweater - Target, probs under $20 -- I love this top. It feels cozy, yet the 3/4 sleeves fit comfortably under the lab coat. Still, I desperately need some new fall/winter tops, or at least cardis!
    • Check-patterned black'n'grey pants - Target, Merona, ~$25 - I seriously LOVE their new line of dress pants. They look great & feel almost like jammies. I have 4 pairs!
    • Red Shoes - DSW years ago, Naturalizer, on clearance - A nice shot of red without the burden of the heels on "the shoes."
    • Red Earrings - I have no idea where. I have no idea when. I have no idea how much. I DO know that I always get compliments. They're a little heavy, so they only come out & play every once in awhile.

    Voila! Easy but not dull:

    You're jealous of my bathroom, right? Secret - I like to use the fancy public one out by the main entrance, rather than the barebones employee one back in the belly of the beast.

    Don't forget to link up or at least check out the other stylin' ladies over at Liberating Working Moms!

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    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    On Recovering from Babywise

    My daughter is only 19 months old. Already I'm so proud of her. She's smart, funny, kind, inquisitive, etc etc etc. We get compliments from friends, family & total strangers about her great disposition.

    When I was preparing to be a parent, this was my goal. I remember asking for advice on what book to read to prepare me to be the best possible parent. A few friends mentioned On Becoming Babywise. I read, and it clicked.

    Now I just want to laugh & laugh in the face of pregnant Angie - read a book to make you the best possible parent? (And yes - I did expect to be perfect.)

    Don't get me wrong: I do think there is great value in preparing to be a parent. I think the book gave me some an excellent base. I still believe that having a fairly strict routine early allowed my daughter to know what was coming next, develop confidence in her ability to go through the world, and ... to develop that lovely disposition.

    What I wish - is that I'd had a little more confidence in my own instincts early on. I guess that's impossible, right? The confidence I have now is a result of having a been a parent for over a year and a half. I still question myself, of course. One of my biggest questions is whether some of what I do now is a just plain silly thumbing-my-nose at the Babywise guys. Like they give a crap if I rock my baby to sleep.

    Here's the thing. I "did Babywise" 100% for the first 8 months. It worked like a dream. I felt vindicated; all those people who'd chuckled that parenthood was harder than a book could ever let on  - ha! Then guess what: we went on vacation. (This was Christmas last year.) Who wants to do cry-it-out on vacation? When we got back, we had to start from square one on the sleep training thing. It sucked. It was emotionally draining. It was like every time there was a little bump, we were going to have to do it all again?

    I bought Toddlerwise, figuring I needed  a refresher. That is where I lost all love for the Wise guys. There is some line in there about "If you occasionally have to leave your child with another person, a little change in their schedule shouldn't throw them off completely." I literally threw the book across the lactation room. (Yes, I was pumping at the time.) If your book was patently NOT intended for working moms, that's something that would have been nice to know A YEAR AGO!

    When the next bump came along, I think it was a tooth or a fever or who knows, I decided "Eff it." I started rocking her to sleep. I like it. Just like my mommy liked rocking me to sleep. Most of the time she either sleeps through the night or wakes up once & briefly. Occasionally we have a rough night. If it's really rough or there a couple in quick succession, I question ditching Babywise.

    But then in the morning, I still have my smart, funny, kind, inquisitive kid with her great disposition. And, me? I'm pretty resilient. And I have a cup of coffee.

    What I really wish I knew was how to put this into any sort of wisdom for a new parent! Anyone more eloquent or wise than I?

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Week in a Day, my Way

    Rachel Ray has this show - Week in a Day. About a year ago, I watched it a few times. Great concept - spend a few hours cooking one day, have meals for the whole week. I quit watching the show though, because - well, for one thing, there's only so many - "then you put the leftovers into mac'n'cheese" that I can handle.

    Still, it's a great concept. And one I've been meaning to incorporate into our routine. Well, last week, I finally did. It was so awesome, I did it again this week!

    Here are last week's meals:
    • Sunday: Stuffed Acorn Squash
    • Monday: Pumpkin Chili + cornbread muffins (Jiffy)
    • Tuesday: Hummus, Crudite & flatbread
    • Wednesday: Pumpkin Chili + garlic toast (Pepperidge Farms)
    • Thursday: Pasta Marinara (+ squash stuffing)
    • Friday: (Okay, fine we ordered a pizza.)

    Clearly, my Sunday cooking didn't quite feed us all week. We did snacks one night & delivery another, but the majority of our meals came from Sunday's efforts.

    Here's how I put it together:

    I halved & seeded the squash; olive oil + S&P - and put them in a 350 oven for about an hour. (A fork works much better for seeding than a spoon, btw.)
    I started the chili while the squash baked. It looks gross now, but just wait. Essentially, you can take your favorite basic chili recipe & replace a can of tomatoes with a can of pack pumpkin. I like the look of black beans with the slight orange tint. Also, it was Halloween, so I felt like I should have black - the other beans are dark red kidneys, pretty close to purple!

    While I was composing the chili, I was also cooking chicken. This was a compromise & a gamble. Although I'd purchased organic chicken breasts, I cooked them in a totally lame fashion - just a little EVOO + S&P -- and {gulp} in the microwave it went. It turned out fine! Really juicy even before it simmered with the chili for hours. I shredded it up & added it to the chili after I had the other ingredients mixed smoothly.


    Once the chili was all mixed together, I made the filling for the stuffed squash. I pulled the squash out of the oven & stuffed it. I topped it with a little shaved parmesan, set it under the broiler for a few minutes & voila!

    I must credit Aggie's Kitchen. Please see the link.
    My alterations: I use diced zucchini instead of mushrooms. I know that's quite different, but it tastes great, and mushrooms are not a hit with the hubben. I use fresh or frozen spinach instead of kale, as I just find it easier to work with. I use Italian breadcrumbs instead of panko, because I have it on hand. Finally, I omitted poultry seasoning & beef broth, because I forgot them!
    I made this a couple weeks ago & positively adored it. Munchkin doesn't seem to care for winter squash but DIGS the stuffing. It is a HUGE amount of veggies too!
    I used small "Golden Acorn" squash this time. I would recommend using the green ones. These were more bitter than the last time I made this recipe. 
    Pumpkin Chili
    1/2 large white or yellow onion, diced
    1 large tomato, chopped
    1/2 bunch green onions, diced
    1 can pack pumpkin
    1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic
    1 (10-oz) can seasoned black beans (in their liquid)
    1 (10-oz) can dark red kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breast - cooked & shredded
    Saute the onions in a little olive oil. Add everything else. Simmer as long as you like. Serve it the next day for even more deliciousness!
    I like chili with some shredded cheese. This one tasted just great with it. I preffered the corn muffins with it, but the garlic toast was fantastic too.

    The whole process took me under 2 hours. It forced me to let my husband play with our Munchkin, whereas I usually hog her, but also allowed me to see them! Best of all, it nearly eliminated meal prep through the week. It was just lovely!

    My best tips to do this yourself:

    • Don't try 2 intensive recipes. Either pick 2 tried/true/easy or go with one sort of stretch + 1 go-to.
    • Try to choose at least some overlap ingredients. This allows you to multipurpose as you prep ingredients.
    • Find a day & time that work for you. It might be Wednesday night for all I know.
    • If you find dinner prep stressful, give this a couple tries. It might take you once or twice to get the hang of it. 
    Probably, like me, you sort of get the idea. However, like Rachel Ray, I'll be back with more menus in this vein. I hope you enjoy it! :)

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Working with Style - "Casual" Friday

    Okay, so officially, my office doesn't have casual Friday. But I always like to mix it up a little bit on Fridays. Fun Fridays? Funky Fridays? These boots were made for Fridays?
    Yes, now that Fall is here, often I like to pull out some boots on Fridays. 
    Case in point: 

    • Top: Marshall's - I believe it was from the juniors' section. I'm not ashamed. I got it a few years ago, and it's a favorite. It's also a sneaky way to show Husker pride pre-game day.
    • Corduroy skirt: Old Navy - I LOVE it. I don't know that it's technically business casual, but it works. It has an adorable diagonal stitch to it that I wish had shown better in the photo.
    • Boots: Rack Room Shoes - I don't actually like them very much. They're clearly fake leather, but I got them cheap and at the time figured I shouldn't spend much on boots since I wouldn't wear them much in Florida. Wrong-headed. I've been looking for new ones since. I can't find "the" pair. In the meantime, do know how many compliments these get? Maybe Floridians really don't know boots? ;)
    • Accessories: wooden circle dangle earrings from a beachy shop, bronze multi-loop bangle bracelet. I love to mix materials in my accessories. (But please notice the wooden button accents on the top!)

    PS - This was actually last Friday's outfit! Yesterday, I went to a special training, so I played it safe! :)
    Happy weekend.
    Want to share your "Working Mom Style"? Link up!

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    Healthier Her, Healthier Me

    You want your child to grow up healthy. You want to be healthier. Luckily, they go together like two peas in a pod, peanut butter & bananas ... or peanut butter & fingers!

    For me, I had gotten a little lazy. I seem to have an unnaturally high metabolism. Add to that, pregnancy & breastfeeding - I was pretty much eating whatever I wanted. But in the past 6 months, I had to start making an effort.

    Not because I started to gain weight back after breastfeeding was over. But because I didn't want to feed my daughter the crap I'd somehow ended up eating. Oh, I'm sure it still wasn't terrible relative to the SAD (standard American diet), but I wasn't proud of it, and I didn't want to model it for her.

    So, slowly but surely, I made changes. It's like how kids start behaving better when Christmas approaches - someone's watching, and there will be consequences.

    I'll admit I do still hit the frozen yogurt after she goes to bed (or - ahem - the clearance candy ... you can't see me while I'm writing this, right?) But even when she's not watching, I've started to actually crave fruits for snacks.

    We also go for walks at least a few times a week, play catch in the back yard, run around the house playing hide&go-seek --- what we're modeling there? --- activity can be fun play, not a chore to dread. I've also started to internalize that. I look forward to my little work-outs & have fun planning them.

    I think many parents get stuck trying for the own healthy habits because they think in terms of "kids' food" and "adult food." Kids ages 1-2 should drink whole milk instead of low-fat or non-fat --- that is the only thing different about healthy eating for them than for us. It's important to remember that their palettes are more sensitive so they may not like super spicy foods, but they don't have to eat chicken nuggets or mac'n'cheese all the time. You and they can eat the same healthy foods. Enjoy!

    So, the short & sweet of it is just this --- if you want a healthy child, model it - you'll get a healthy you. If you want a healthy you, strive for a healthy child. 

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Stop the Insanity! - A Simple Behavior Change Tip

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  - Albert Einstein

    Have you ever heard that quote? I didn't know it was an Einstein quote until just now, and perhaps it doesn't mean quite what I thought it did. No matter. I think it fits very well to the challenges of changing behaviors.

    Most of us know the behaviors we should change or want to change. We may know the behaviors we'd like to start in place or our old ones. It's the how to get from one to the other that causes such confusion. And insanity.

    Too often I hear how often a patient, acquaintance, or friend has tried to develop healthier habits or to lose weight - to start exercising more or eating less of this, that or the other.

    Very often a common theme emerges: insanity. In the Einstein way. They're trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    A few months ago, I wrote a post about getting my daughter to eat different fruits & vegetables. I said "Try, try again." I went on to explain how I tried different foods, or the same foods but in different ways.

    Occasionally, the same thing in the same way works on a different day. Sometimes not. If you've tried the same thing a few times and not succeeded, you're not a failure -- you need to try something new.

    I think a few examples will better illustrate than further explanation:

    • You drink regular sodas and want to cut them out. You try just drinking water. You miss soda, so you go back to drinking it. You try drinking diet soda but don't like how it tastes. How about trying the diet version of a soda you don't drink on a regular basis. I know a few people who couldn't switch from Coke to Diet Coke but could do Diet Dr. Pepper. Mountain Dew fans rarely like Diet Mountain Dew. Maybe you'd like Coke Zero?
    • You want to start exercising. Running seems to be straightforward; lots of people are doing it; maybe you even liked it when you were younger. (Yes, this is me.) But you start, and you. just. don't. like it. So - try a different activity. You don't have to do it in the morning or right after work or over your lunch hour. Try different times, different things.
    • You find out you have high blood pressure and need to cut back on sodium. You try not using the shaker at the table but everything tastes bland. You try the salt substitutes but the Mrs. Dash-types have the pizzazz you want, and the No Salt-types just doesn't taste right. Try using different herbs & spices in your cooking. Try different preparation techniques like roasting vegetables. Try something that's not trying to be salt - like balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
    "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." - Thomas Edison

    I thought that quote was Einstein. Shows what I know. Maybe it doesn't mean what I thought either.

    Bottom line: you don't have to be a genius to change your behavior. You just have to keep trying different things.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Neutral with a Bang - Working Mom Style, week II

    Last week, I set out my rules. This week, I'll show you an example & see how I stack up.

    This is a simple, feel-good outfit. I wore it Wednesday this week, and it got me "over the hump." The outfit is easy. Shoes & accessories give it interest. I don't consider my daughter an accessory, but I do think I look better with her. :) Anyway, she wanted to be in the picture. Her outfit is adorable too, so take note! (All Kohl's & hand-me-downs)

    The Outfit:
    • Kohls -- I figure since I slighted Kohl's last week they deserved center stage this week!
    • Sleeveless brown button-up shirt
    • Tweedy lighter brown skirt
    • Multi-semi-precious stone necklace 
    The Red Shoes:
    • Dillards - a definite splurge. And worth it. They're actually more comfortable than they look, thanks to a strap across the top. They add a great splash of color to any outfit. And, boy - do they rake in the compliments. Something like 6 women at work will say, "Oh, you're wearing those shoes I love!" I don't wear them often, but they are a great feel-good item.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Practicing v. Preaching

    I like saving money. Therefore, I take a health assessment annually. This earns me $10 off my premium every month! It also earns me a report-card that never quite satisfies me.

    This time, I was annoyed at the time. However, I'm looking at it now as an opportunity to improve. No matter how great we are, we all have room for improvement. If not on matters of health, then perhaps elsewhere? 

    Well, despite the fact that I provide healthcare, I am not perfect in health. The survey generated four "opportunities for improvement" --
    1. Eat more fruits & vegetables.
    2. Get more exercise.
    3. Better manage stress.
    4. Maintain a healthy weight.
    Honestly, I kind of thought half of it was BS. #1 - I reported 6 servings per day of fruits & vegetables, which I think is good. Sure, it could be better, but you're going to call me out on 6!! #4 - I was a healthy weight last year & have lost weight since; I think I have it under control - thanks. (#2 & #3 - I concede. And I'm working on them.)

    Anyway, it got me thinking about whether I practice what I preach. Actually, it got me thinking more, as I've been thinking about it for some time. I  decided  to give myself my own report card.

    First, I had to determine what core principles I preach. Then, how well do I practice each. Finally, if I fell short in certain areas, am I improving or actively making plans to improve. See? A report card. It's actually a rather enlightening exercise. I highly recommend it. Here, for your amusement (and perhaps useful information) is my report card:

    Consume a Plant-Based Diet
    Grade: B
    • Recommendations:
      • Eat "more" fruits & vegetables. Most people fall short of recommended daily servings of fruit & vegetables, so it's pretty safe to just say "more." The exact recommendations obviously vary by person.
      • 2 techniques I suggest are - 1. Filling half your plate with fruits & vegetables. (USDA recently adopted the popular "plate method.") 2. Going "meatless" several times per week.
    • Where I am:
      • In my own judgment, I do eat "enough" fruits & vegetables. However, I could always eat more. I used to eat more in fact.
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • I have started to take a vegetarian lunch to work nearly every day. I spoke with my husband, and he's on board to eat less meat for dinners.
      • Obstacles: Meat-based dinners are easy. A little marinade or rub. Pre-heat the oven, or fire-up the grill. Steam some veggies. Done. I have some great go-to veggie sides, but actual vegetarian entrees do not come as easily for me.
    Choose Lean Meats & Low-Fat Dairy
    Grade: A
    • Recommendations: 
      • Overall, most Americans consume more animal products than they should for optimal health. (Hence my first recommendation.) Most of us, don't want to become vegetarians. When we do choose animal products, we should opt for choices with less saturated fat - lean cuts of meat & low fat dairy.
      • Another important concept is not adding fat during preparation. Ex: breading & frying fish takes away from the health benefits!
    • Where I am:
      • Pretty much awesome in this category. Yes, I occasionally get something fatty when we go out. At home, though, nearly all meals are lean meats. Chicken breast & seafood each make it on the table weekly. Often turkey (breast is best!) and lean cut of pork. I stick with very simple preparations as well.
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • Continuing to be awesome.
    Make at Least Half your Grains Whole
    Grade: A-
    • Recommendations:
      • This is a slogan I stole from USDA. Refined grains lose fiber, vitamins & minerals, and protein. And who knows what else, right?
      • Although it would be great to make all your grains whole, it's not a realistic goal for everyone.
    • Where I am:
      • At least half my grains are whole. For the most part, this comes in the form of whole wheat versions of typical foods.
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • I'd like to see greater variety in my grain choices. I used to do more bulgar wheat, the occasional quinoa or barley. I need to get back to it.
    Limit Discretionary Calories
    Grade: D
    • Recommendations: 
      • Exact amounts vary dependent on who's doing the talking and to whom they're talking. I use some education material that recommends 75 calories per day of "discretionary" calories (so called "empty calories," i.e. sweets or alcohol). But it really depends on calorie needs, activity level, and other personal variables.
      • Basically, you need to be able to get all the nutrients you need in a certain number of calories. If you take up those calories on food that doesn't give you anything else, you won't have room for the foods you need.
    • Where I am:
      • Ahem. I'd love to blame my husband & his sweet tooth, but the truth is ... I've always overdone it in this area. I like beer & wine (in moderation, of course!). I love dessert (not always in moderation!). 
      • I do score well on (non-beer & wine) beverage choices, opting for water or sugar-free drinks. We also down-sized our serving cups for frozen yogurt a couple years back. (We nearly always stop at one serving too!)
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • Right now, nothing. Honesty is the best policy, right?
      • My health stats are good; I'm happy with my weight; there are other areas for improvement. I'm leaving this one alone for the time being. 
      • If my metabolism ever changes, as I'm sure it will, I'll know right where I can go to cut out 400 or so calories a day.
    Move More
    Grade: B-
    • Recommendations:
      • Again, it's a pretty safe bet to just tell anyone to exercise "more," as most of us get far less than we should.
      • At a minimum, people should get 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
      • I further recommend increasing "passive exercise" - taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting, parking farther away than necessary.
    • Where I am:
      • I am the queen of passive exercise. I'm fairly phobic of elevators, so the stairs are my BFF. I get to work so late that I have to park far away!
      • I fall pretty short in the actual exercise department. I take a walk every weekend morning with my daughter and some evenings after dinner. Now that she walks instead of riding in the stroller, the pace is nowhere near moderate! I make it to about 1 yoga class every month.
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • Getting to yoga classes more often is just not going to happen. (Unless someone wants to give me a space & start-up money, so I can open a studio closer to home!) I used to run, but I realized I didn't like it & was tired of pretending I did. 
      • I'm trying to do better. We got a rowing machine. I've only just discovered podcasts in the past month. A good one makes the time on the rower glide by. I also know about 10,000 stretch & tone moves from years of magazine perusal.
    Writing Down SMART Goals
    Grade: C
    • Recommendations:
      • In short, SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & timely. I discussed this at length a few months back.
      • I always add that goals should be action-oriented, rather than results-focused. For example, not "I will lose 15 pounds in 3 months." Rather, "over the next 3 months, I'll eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables every day, exercise 30 minutes 3 days per week, and change from whole milk to fat-free."
      • Writing down goals is a proven strategy to improve your chances of accomplishing them.
    • Where I am:
      • I love to-do lists. I do an annual performance evaluation at work, which helps me keep written tabs on my professional goals. I journal about personal/spiritual "stuff." But, the annual health assessment results are the closest I've come to my own written health goals.
    • What I'm doing about it:
      • Well, I wrote this, right?
      • Yes, I did. But let's get down to brass tacks.
    Timeframe: achievement within 2 months
    1. Increase meatless dinners to 3 weekly. Limit meaty lunches to 3 weekly.
    2. Use a non-rice, non-wheat whole grain once weekly.
    3. Increase rower/stretch/tone work-outs to 3 weekly.
    4. Assess progress in 2 months ... just in time for New Years Resolutions.
    Now, it is either crazy or very smart to set new health goals right as the holiday season gets started. I guess we'll see. What do you think?

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Fun Fall Food, part 2 - Crock-pot Comforts

    Enough said?
    Let me elaborate: if you don't have one, get one.

    I actually love crock-pot meals year-round. A few minutes prep time + a little forward thinking = all day cooking tastes. That's season-less good math! This Summer we all talked about ways to get a home-cooked meal on the table without heating up the whole kitchen. Well, the crock-pot is a great way to do that. But, Fall & Winter are when crock-pots really heat up. It seems most of the recipes just seem right with rosy cheeks!

    Sunday, I took about the first 15 minutes of nap time to prep this little beauty:

    I poured in 2 cups of chicken broth, then drizzled in 2 tablespoons molasses, a few turns fresh-cracked pepper, a shake of Kosher, a pinch each of fennel seeds & caraway seeds. Whisk away! Then I chopped a head of plain old cabbage into roughly 6 wedges, then half a medium white onion & a small Gala apple. I tossed all those into the crock-pot as I chopped. Finally, I topped all the veggie goodness with a nice lean pork roast. More S&P on top of that, a few more seeds, and just for the heck of it - I studded it with whole cloves. Apparently, it was use-little-used-spice-day at my house.

    After that, I sat outside & read my fat, nerdy book till the Munchkin woke up. Then, off we all went to the pumpkin patch!


    When we got back, we found this goodness:

    I served it with bakery rye bread:

    Cabbage is not yet a hit with the Munchkin. It is a bit strong, not to mention the other flavors. (She got green beans for her veggie - Old Faithful!) My husband & I really enjoyed the meal Sunday, as well as leftovers tonight. We didn't actually eat the apples, but they added nice flavor. The cabbage was mouth melty. The whole thing took on a bit of a licorice flavor from the fennel too (& maybe the molasses?). Anyway, it seemed classic but also creative.

    So, Florida doesn't seem quite like Fall yet, but I think I'm ready for my kitchen to be! Enjoy! -- Angie


    2 cups chicken broth
    2 tablespoons molasses
    Pinch each - Fennel seeds & Caraway seeds

    1 head green cabbage
    1/2 medium white onion
    1 small tart apple
    2-3 pound lean pork roast
    6-10 whole Cloves
    Salt & Pepper to taste


    Into a large crock-pot:
    Whisk together broth, molasses, seeds, S&P.
    Chop & add cabbage, onion, apple.
    Place pork roast atop veggies; S&P to taste, stud with Cloves.

    Set crock-pot to high for 3 hours.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Limitations Don't Limit Style

    1. My fashion background: I've always liked clothes, but I never really thought about putting together a wardrobe or about my clothes projecting an image really. Right around the time I got pregnant, I started watching What Not to Wear. At first, it was just a fun distraction. Then I kinda drank the Kool-Aid. I decided that dressing the part was an important part of being a professional. Maternity clothes have come a long way, but it can still be a challenge to look nice while pregnant, let alone professional - at least if you have any qualms about how much money you spend on clothes. But, I took the effort, and I managed. Now that I'm a working mom, it was a matter of incorporating the lessons into a new life.

    2. My setting: I am a clinical dietitian at an acute care hospital. Our dress code is on the more conservative end of the "business casual spectrum." All men wear ties, and many a jacket or suit. Women have to wear nylons with skirts or dresses, and closed-toe shoes are required.

    3. My finished product:

    Not ready for a fashion photo-shoot, but pretty good for the end of a work-day, even post taking my toddler to the doctor!

    4. My wardrobe deconstructed:

    • Accessories: Opal necklace (purchased on our honeymoon to Australia); drop-down glass earrings.
    • Multi-color sleeveless top: SteinMart. I actually paid full price. *gasp* - a rarity for me, and yes - I know SteinMart is a discount store.
    • Cardigan: Target (Merona). I actually got this when I was hugely pregnant, but I still love it. It's a nice little pop of color and works with just about anything. I paid less than $5 for it off the clearance rack. I got a lavender one at the same time, and I can't find it; this pains me.
    • Navy pants: Target (Merona). ~$20 - special deal but not off the bargain rack.
    • Shoes: Target (Merona). ~$15 - usually I spend more on shoes for work. I got these for casual use & found them surprisingly comfy.
    • It is shocking  that none of this outfit came from Kohl's. With few exceptions, my entire wardrobe is from Target & Kohl's. I think maybe the socks are from Kohl's.

    5. My take-home lessons:

    • Wash'n'wear hair
      • It took me a long time too get here. I started with a pixie about 2 years ago. Not only has my hair gotten longer, but I've finally found a great stylist again. She gives me a great cut, but maybe the best thing about her? - she believes me when I tell her that I'm absolutely not going to style my hair. She tried once to show how easily I could blow it dry. When I came back the next time & immediately confessed that I hadn't done that once, that I'd continued to shower at night & sleep on it - she cut it to work better for that. Oh, sure - it would look awesome if I took the time to straighten it. (... but only for about 15 minutes. This is Florida, you know. Add to the humidity just a little natural wave & about 7000 cowlicks, and you'll excuse me for just going with it.) I know other moms work out a way to style their hair in the morning. I haven't. I kicked myself for it for a little while; now I'm over it.
    • 5-minute face
      • WNTW fans will recognize this nod to Carmindy. I am not a huge make-up person. I don't like how I look with too much on, and I found it frustrating to spend time putting it in the morning, only to have it wear away later. Carmindy's little routine is super-speedy and seems to last the day. I rarely leave the house without it. I mean, it's only 5-minutes - why not toss it on before going out?
      • PS - regular brow waxes matter. If you're not waxing, start. (Unless you're a seriously good plucker.)
    • Layers
      • It seems the problem of office thermostat wars is common. Floridians are also very fond of over-air-conditioning all indoor spaces. It makes for a maddening life in which you are never just right, always too hot or too cold.
      • I also find layers a great way to add versatility to an outfit. Going out later? Or just running some errands? If you can take off your jacket or sweater, you might feel less like you've been in your work clothes all day. (I also find a pair of flip flops in the car goes a long way toward that!)
      • Special  layer - Lab coat - Most allied healthcare staff wear lab coat in our hospital. It's a major determinant in my personal choices. I don't wear shirts with bulky sleeves or overly-complicated fronts. I almost never wear a pull-over sweater. Even if it's the coldest day of the year, I know I'll get hot at some point during the day. The layers pictured are pretty much a year-round deal.
    • Bargains, but with value
      • I used to have a closet bursting with clearance items. If it was cheap & I liked okay, I'd buy it. Now I'm choosier. I want my clothes to actually look nice. I want them to have a little quality. Oh, I still love to find a $5 shirt; I just don't want it to look like a $5 shirt.
      • When you find an item you like, go buy another (or a few more). I now have 4 pairs of those Merona pants in different colors. They're fabulous. They fit trim through the leg but don't restrict my middle!
    • Splurge on shoes
      • I love shoes. There, I said it. I try to fight stereotypes. But I fail here.  But I'm still a bargain hunter in that department. Work shoes are an exception. I am on my feet a good half the work day. I take the stairs, and I have a fair hike from the parking lot & back. I don't mess around with cheap shoes or crazy shoes at work. (Exception to the cheap above.) When I go shoe-shopping, I'm on the look-out for "comfort" shoes that are still cute - some favorite brands: Naturalizer, Aerosole, Nurture. Remember that shoe commercial where the ladies wear pumps & play basketball? Well, that's how I like to feel. I've picked up on the flats trend as well!
    • Easy-care
      • I do not iron. Let me repeat: I DO NOT IRON. I love science for many reasons. Among them is the great variety of wash & wear fabrics that actually look a feel good.
    • Add interest with color, texture, pattern, accessories
      • I used to pretty much have an all black & gray wardrobe. I thought it was an easy way to have everything go together. With my trusty WNTW training, I confidently mix patterns, textures and colors. If you're a novice, start small. Maybe mostly gray & black with a colorful sweater. Are maybe black but with pattern or texture. Before long, you'll be a regular maven.
      • I love accessories. Maybe even more than shoes. For work though, I tend to wear 3 or 4 simple necklaces & earrings. You really can't see much else with the lab coat on. Having a few go-to items that look good with everything saves me from over-thinking in the morning.
    Above all? Know who you are. Accept your limitations and work within them. If you don't like to iron or do your hair in the morning, that doesn't mean you have to be frumpy. And have fun! :)