An Autumn Meal – Part 1

I know, it’s been a long time since I have posted on “The Dweeb” (that’s what all the cool people are calling it), but it’s been for good reason. Reasons I can’t get into right now, but I will soon. Well, by the end of the year, at least. So, anyway…
I noticed that I’ve been making up a lot of my recipes, so I decided to look in one of the millions (slight exaggeration) of cookbooks I own to make a new and delicious meal. This week I looked to my Orange County Bounty cookbook, which was gifted to me from my friend Marian.
OC Bounty
Yes, I am one of those “tabbers”!
I like this cookbook because the recipes are organized by season and the recipes revolve around the fresh local produce of that season. In the Fall section, and I found this great recipe for Stuffed Swiss Chard.
OC Bounty Open
Redactions for copyright reasons!
I have most of the ingredients already, yet it’s something different from my usual fare. I made a special effort to leave the recipe as it is and not change it around too-too much. Changes: from rice to quinoa – it’s always good to add a healthy protein and I only made enough for one serving (4 leaves for me!).
Here are the ingredients:
Mise En Place
I only mise en place for the camera (stuntin’)…Walnuts, celery, onion, cottage cheese, feta cheese, quinoa and an egg to act as a binder.
So I mixed it all up used it as stuffing in my rolled Swiss chard leaves…
Season Water
Season every layer!

After you roll the leaves you fill your baking dish halfway, with water. I decided to add some 21 Seasoning Salute to the water. If I had broth on hand, I’d probably use that for even more flavor.

I decided that I needed a side…and it had to fit in with the fall theme…AND it had to use my new crinkle cutting tool. So butternut squash it is! I was inspired by Instagram to make the squash fries…
Crinkle Cuts
Yay! Crinkle cutting tool! I saved the bulb-y part for soup…
I tossed the fries in a baggie with some olive oil, pink Himalayan salt and garlic powder…
Fry Prep
Fry prep!
I put both in the convection oven (it’s still too warm to use the regular oven!) at the same time, but the squash fries took slightly longer (and they would not have if they were in one, single layer)…
Ready for Oven
These colors make me happy!
After about 35 minutes the chard was done and 45 minutes, the fries were done…
Chard and Squash
Healthy and delicious! Yay!
This is such a colorful meal! It makes me so happy just looking at it, and I’m ecstatic tasting it (that’s why I’m a dweeb)!
I am enjoying this meal with an awesome seasonal beer from Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA).
Seasonal Beer
Yum!
I actually haven’t had beer in a few months (since a wedding) so this was really good and refreshing.
So, make this! It’s easy! Oh…what? Dessert you say? Well, okay then…
How could I make a fall meal, this beautiful, without dessert? I couldn’t!
Since October is National Apple Month: Hasselback Apples!
People are hasselbacking everything these days, so I thought “why not apples?” I thought I was being innovative until I looked it up on Pinterest. Yeah, other people have thought of this as well! So, here’s my take on it…
Hasselback Prep
Preppin’ like crazy today!
It is a pretty standard “crumble” recipe, on top of a half sliced apple. I used Cinnamon Oat Kodiak Cakes mix instead of regular flour and/or oats. That adds protein and lots of flavor. I used coconut oil instead of butter to form the crumble, just because I bought a new jar.
Golden Delicious apples are my favorite, so I used them of course!
Pour on the cinnamon blend (try to get in between the cuts, I actually let it cook for about 15 minutes and then when back in to put more of the mix inside the cuts) and cook for about 30-40 minutes. I covered my pan with another pan of the same size and added cinnamon water to the bottom of the pan so it would steam them a bit…
Hasselback Apple
NOM!
I topped it with some amazing Halo Top just for some extra autumn-ness!
Halo Top
Oatmeal Cookie, for more cinnamon and oatness!
So, now, enjoy! Make a day of this deliciousness!
I’ll be back next week with a fall recipe from another cookbook (that had been wasting away on the shelf!)…

Feel-Better Friday – Migraine Edition

I have been suffering from migraines since I was about 3 years old. I remember that first one like it was yesterday: I was at the doctor’s office with my mom, who was there for a well woman visit after having my brother (that’s how I know I was 3). The office was packed, and it was so.very.hot. I remember that hot, uncomfortable feeling so well because I have the same symptoms now. I felt sweaty and bloated – like my clothes were getting tighter and tighter, the lights in the office felt like they were pointing directly into my eyes, I could barely hold my head up or walk, almost like I was a drunken 3 year old, and I felt like I was going to toss my cookies. And I did. Right in the waiting room. The nurse gave me one of those teal, kidney shaped hospital-y bowls to vomit into.

Lovely story, I know. I actually went for YEARS having these headache/vomit combos. I started out having memorable ones at least twice a year and then, in my teen years, it was bi-monthly and as I got into my twenties, I started having them once a month. But, what were “these” headaches?

When I was younger, I just thought that I was a nervous person. When I was in elementary school, I would get them when I would stress out about something. Not real stress, things like “Am I going to get a part in the play?”, “Is Tanya still mad about what happened on the playground?”. I also noticed that I would get them when the seasons changed. When back-to-school time rolled around, I was always feeling like my new clothes were tightening up and that I was hot. I thought it was because of the weather AND the anticipation of the new school year (I was on to something). I was a “Nervous Nellie”, so what? Then, as a teen, I thought it was because I was hungry and tired. I was always on some weird diet when I was a teenager (Bagel and V8 Juice diet – blech), so I thought I just had low blood sugar. I used to stay up really late in high school too, so it was just a headache from being tired. Or, if it was weather related, I was having a sinus headache. When I’d eat something, I’d feel slightly better, even though I still had to lie down (another clue). Then, in my twenties, I started having them once a month. It was usually before my period, so I thought “PMS symptom”.

So, I made all of these diagnoses on myself. I was a nervous person, who had motion sickness, heat-and-sleep related sinus headaches, low blood sugar and PMS. On a regular basis. Same feeling, same symptoms. I just lived with it for years. At times, I couldn’t see or I had vertigo along with the headache. That was just a bad headache from not wearing my glasses. “Gotta wear those more…” I thought.

Then one day, when I turned 24, I got a job as a secretary at a high-stress, state run mental health clinic. One of the program coordinators had a particularly crazy meeting. She popped into the “clerical pool”, looking sweaty, worn out like she was about to vomit, when only about an hour prior she was dressed very well, make-up applied. This was a look I was all too familiar with.  She said breathlessly, “I need to take an Imitrex, I am having migraine!”.

DING-DING-DING!!!

The lights came on in a major way! So I looked it up “migraine symptoms” and it listed EVERYTHING I’d ever experienced. It even mentioned a little thing that I noticed, and thought that I was the only one who experienced it, excessive yawning! I thought I was the only one who could not stop yawning when I was about to have a head attack! It was a real revelation for me! I had no idea what was wrong, just an oddball headache sufferer and frequent vomiter (sorry to get graphic, but that’s how I migraine). It has a name – Migraine.

I went to the doctor and it was confirmed. I had a CT scan and nothing was there (rimshot!). She asked me if I wanted a prescription for it. I said, believe it or not, “No.” I had done my research and all of the prescription drugs offered for migraines had side effects worse than the migraine itself.

So, I opted to go for the “take some Advil and lie down in a dark room” route. I’ve been doing that ever since. And, while it doesn’t help prevent migraines altogether (I wish!), it helps ease the pain when I am going through the attack stage, and if I recognize the signs early enough, during prodrome.

I do try to catch my symptoms early, especially before going away or to work. But, sometimes they come on suddenly. This is why I carry The Migraine Kit!

Migraine Care Kit

As you can see, it has some OTC meds, some natural stuff, some clean up tools (migraines can get messy). Like…

  • Be Koool Soft Gel Sheets – They are for kids? So what! When your head is pounding and you cannot get cool any other way (if it’s brutally hot and humid, or you are on public transportation), this little sheet works. Put it wherever it feels good to your head. I say that because sometimes having something directly in the middle of your forehead feels like death (if you suffer from migraines, you know what I mean).
  • Natural Inhaler – Okay, this is one of those things that will work sometimes and will aggravate your headache other times. It depends on if smell is your trigger or not. Sometimes it is a trigger for me. For example, I was on a bus and a woman with heavy, musky perfume sat down beside me when there were several seats available. I actually had to ask her to move, which didn’t seem nice and I didn’t tell her why, BUT it would have been much worse for her (and me) if she didn’t move. Anyway, this inhaler has a menthol-eucalyptus smell that I really only like when I am having a migraine. Something about it is soothing, and it makes me feel cooler. If you can’t find a eucalyptus inhaler, just put some Vicks Vaporub on a tissue and put that into a baggie. You can sniff the baggie (some of this migraine stuff has to be done in private!)…
Migraine Care Kit - Inside
Before I put in the Be Koool…
  • Benadryl – This really works for me when I think that I’ll probably have a motion sickness related migraine (if it’s humid out and I didn’t get enough sleep before a train or plane ride). I know that most people think of Benadryl only as an allergy med (or sleeping pill), but it is great for migraines. I always make sure that I take two Benadryl before I get on a plane!
  • Advil LiquiGels – Ibuprofen is my preferred OTC migraine drug. I think that the liquigels work faster. It’s probably a mind over matter thing, but still.
  • Mouthwash, Tissues and Wipes – Necessary cleaning materials. I also make sure that I have paper towels and extra plastic bags in my car. I shouldn’t have to explain why.
Migraine Care Kit - Closed
This is just a 47 cent pencil case from Walmart!

I have two kits. I keep one in the backpack I carry all of the time and one in my car. If I change purses, I put the kit in the purse.

It seems like nothing, but this is important stuff. I have been stuck without things to help me over the years and it’s been pretty terrible. Any little thing that you can do to help yourself, DO IT.

This is what works for me, what it in your “Migraine Emergency Kit”?

 

 

Burmese Tofu!

I don’t really remember how I got obsessed with making Burmese tofu. I think I was reading about how terrible soy is for women (especially if you have hormonal dysfunctions like I, and so many women, do), and I was looking around for a substitute (probably, sounds like me). I do remember this was several months ago. I have been wanting to make this recipe for a while now. I had the bag of chickpea flour, just waiting in the wings. When I started making mug cakes and waffles with the flour I knew I had to use it for what I originally bought it for (because I would end up making 101 chickpea mug cakes and no tofu). So, here’s how I started…

Ingredients
First time using pano on my phone and it’s for food!

The ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Flour
  • 3 Cups of water
  • Several shakes of turmeric
  • Two shakes of crushed red pepper
  • As much garlic as you can stand in your cooking (I can stand a lot!)
  • About four grinds of Himalayan Pink Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper

As you can see, I’m really precise (heh). The most important thing is the flour and the water – you can season this however you like. Some people use broth or stock in place of water and, hey, if I had some I’d probably use that too. So, you boil two cups of the water and, in the meantime and in a separate bowl:

  • Blend the flour, and the spices, with the remaining cup of water.

Once the two cups of water have reached a rolling boil, add the flour/spice/water mixture. It’ll look like this:

Mixed Tofu
Glossy…

So, you have to whisk-whisk-whisk away to get rid of any lumps and until the mixture looks glossy (like it goes in the picture). You are now ready to pour the mixture into your prepared pan. To get your pan ready, line it with parchment paper. I used an 8×8 Pyrex pan.

Spread Tofu
Smooth it better than I did! I should’ve used a bigger pan…

Smooth it out in your pan, using a spoon or a spatula.

Then, once it’s spread out in the pan, let it sit until it gets room temperature (so condensation doesn’t form when you put it in the fridge). Which brings us to the next step: put it in the fridge! I let it sit out for about an hour and put it in the fridge for about three hours and I got this:

Refrigerated Tofu

After it firms up in the fridge, you can cut up your tofu in any shape you want for your dishes. I cut mine two ways – in triangles and small rhombuses (yup, I said “rhombuses” – wait, is it “rhombuses” or “rhombi”?).

Stir Fry Pieces
Rhombuses (rhombi), for stir-fry…

Here I am frying the triangles in some olive oil:

Golden Brown
Try not to use too much oil – these are like little sponges…

They are SUPER YUMMY! Take a look at this:

Cooked
Golden brown and delicious!

Crisp on the outside, a little soft on the inside. Seasoned perfectly (if I do say so myself)!

So, I made some meals with it:

Meals

I will most definitely share my stir-fry on Instagram!

So this was an easy, delicious recipe. A success! I can add this one to my repertoire, change it up a bit, make different sides. A great soy substitute!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Sunday Meal Prep: Feeling Productive…

As the title says, yes, today was a very productive day. I did everything that was on my to-do list and even a little more. One of the most important things I did today was prepare my dinners for the week. Yes – meal prepping is key to making life a little easier.

Seriously. One of my favorite meal preppers, WorkWeekLunch, mentioned a few weeks ago that we have so many decisions to make during the day, having our food already prepared eliminates the need to make even more decisions. It’s true. Think about it…I know that if I am at work, and I haven’t made my meals yet, I will wonder “What do I have? What can I make?”. Sometimes the answer is “go get pizza” – which is not good, because I can tend to overdo things (know yourself!)…

So, I have been meal prepping for a fairly long time. A couple of years, at least. When you see the pictures I post of older preps you’ll see that I haven’t always made the cleanest, healthiest choices. Oh well. That’s what I felt like eating at the time and those were times when I was in full-on maintenance mode, when I was comfortable making a little dip into the world of carbs and sugars after dieting for a while. Here are some of my preps, I added an Instagram link for the food listing. I actually have a lot more preps on Instagram, but you really have to scroll down and it was pre-iPhone…

Meal Prep 6
I had just gone to Trader Joe’s
Meal Prep 3
Not too bad
Meal Prep 2
Buffet Style! 
Meal Prep 4
I jacked all of the recipes from Mind Over Munch in this one
Meal Prep 5
A soup and overnight oats phase
Meal Prep
Another buffet style prep! This one looks really appealing right now! 

Below are some recent ones. Since I work from home most of the week, I don’t have to prep all of my meals, just dinner on the days that I actually do have to go into the office.

Meal Prep Recent
Those are not potatoes – it is pureed cauliflower with a little bit of ricotta!
Meal Prep Recent 2
I am in love with frozen meatballs, obviously…

Here is the prep from today. I have a busy week, filled with some exciting stuff! Yay!

Meal Prep Recent - Today
Vegetarian Meal Prep

I added a little something extra to it already. There is not enough red or orange for my taste, so I added some Tomato and Onion Salad

I started by cutting the farmers market tomatoes my grandma gave me today. Seriously, grandmas are the best with the food gifting! I also cut up a little red onion, for flavor…

Tomato & Onion
I decided to do this when it got dark out (bad lighting)…

I seasoned the sliced tomatoes with garlic powder and 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s…

Tomatoes 3
Wax paper on my cutting board, I have been doing this forever. It really helps with clean up!

Then I added a little apple cider vinegar, olive oil and more 21 seasoning salute to the jar, then added the seasoned tomatoes and I shook it up!

Tomatoes 2
Extras for me! (Chef’s treat!)

I didn’t measure, I just wanted enough to coat the tomatoes when I shook the jar!

That should be great for Monday and Tuesday! I’ll have to think of another red or orange for Wednesday and Thursday…

Easy stuff. A little preparation on Sunday, helps you through the entire week!

Enjoy!

 

 

Happy #NationalRelaxationDay!

Honestly, I had no idea it was National Relaxation Day until I saw all the hashtags popping up on Instagram this morning. What a great day for it too…It’s raining where I live (Hudson Valley, NY)…I have to go into the office tomorrow…It’s Tuesday…

I don’t know! This holiday should be every single day. Or, every night at least.

Since I didn’t know about this, I was too late to make an appointment to get a massage (bwah haha!) so I’ll have to settle for the next best thing: A relaxing magnesium mocktail…

This is what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of Natural Calm
  • 1 packet of stevia
  • 2 Limes
  • Your favorite unsweetened sparking water

Magnesium has so many benefits – and most of us are lacking in this particular mineral. It helps with…

  • Digestive motility (I told you I’d mention this a lot, it’s important)
  • Calming & Sleeping – a natural sleep aid
  • Beauty – helps maintain collagen
  • Heart health – it’s up there with potassium and sodium, assisting in heartbeat and blood pressure regulation
  • Muscle soreness relief 
  • Migraine prevention (I’ll have an entire blog about this, soon)

So, back to the drink…

Stirring
Action shot!

Juice those limes and add the stevia packet. Stir to combine…

Fizzy

Add about 3/4 of the can of sparkling water. It’ll bubble up a lot, and it’ll bubble up even more once…

Bubbles

…you add the packet of Natural Calm! Stir gently and then add the rest of the seltzer…

Finished Product

NOM! YUM! My choice of sparkling water (Simply Balanced Tropical Cherry from Target) made this taste like a Cherry Lime Rickey, or that cherry lime drink from Sonic…

Okay, so now that we’ve had a drink, we can look at some relaxing pictures. I just added some relaxing words to these pictures I took in various places. Enjoy!

Breathe 2

Relax

Breathe.PNG

Enjoy

These Moments...

Yay!

Smoothie Supplements!

Smoothies are one of my favorite things. Seriously, I have been drinking them fairly regularly for years. I have gone though several blenders (blown out motors) and shaker cups (mold – from leaving them out in my car) over the years. I have tried several “diets” in my life, but the one thing that has remained constant is The Smoothie.

My smoothie taste has evolved over the years too. I went from just your basic fruit, ice and yogurt (delicious, but not that healthy) to pure fiber shakes (icky, but effective) to what I do now, which is a little bit of a blend of the two styles (accidental pun in there!).

Today, I’m not really going to show how I make my smoothies, talk about the protein powder I use (that deserves its own post) or give recipes. I’m just going to show some of the supplements I use to make my blends even more healthy.

Starting with my favorite, Hemp Seeds

SS - Hemp Hearts

I really like hemp seeds in my smoothies, for the health reasons I’ve listed above, but especially because of the last little thing I added there: they add such a nice, thick texture to smoothies. Use hemp hearts and cashew milk and you’ll feel like you are drinking a milkshake, seriously.

Another favorite – Chia Seeds

SS - Chia Seeds

I like chia seed for everything! I make chia eggs, chia pudding and even chia cheesecake pots. They gel up so nicely and add bulk and help bind food (all of which are reasons why they are great for digestive health).

While I rotate the use of all of the others, MSM is in every smoothie I make…

SS - MSM

MSM has no flavor. In fact, I used to just put a half-teaspoon in some juice in the morning and go. Now, it is in every smoothie. So many beauty related benefits, especially for hair, as it is supposed to help strengthen cells during the growth phase.

Here is a new favorite, Maca Powder

SS - Maca

I first found out about it when I was researching foods that would help in treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), something I am managing with weight regulation. Maca is great for helping regulate the hormones (if you know about PCOS you know how important that is) so, I ordered it immediately. And I love it! It tastes great – I am a fan of earthy tastes though, think about my beet post. It mixes so well with cocoa powder too. One of my favorite things to have mid-morning is a Hot Maca-Cocoa!

Here is an old favorite, something I’ve been using for a while: Flax Seed

SS - Flax

Flax seeds were one of the first things I heard about when I got into the “healthy food, health living” lifestyle, about 13 years ago. OMEGA-3s! That was all the rage back then. Heart health is still supremely important, but I don’t see too much out there about flax seeds anymore. Actually, no, I see them used a lot as an egg substitute in plant based diets. I am determined to bring them to the forefront again!

Now, something good AND tasty: Matcha Powder

SS - Matcha

I must admit, I originally bought this with lattes in mind. I knew about the benefits, but I really just wanted it hot and milky. However, a couple of weeks ago, I added it to a basic vanilla smoothie and WOW! It’s so good! Plus, a metabolism booster…and a mood booster…and an energy boost. So many benefits!

Last, but certainly not least, Spirulina!

SS - Spirulina

Yay! My new favorite thing! Not only does it have the benefits I’ve listed above, it’s great to use topically. The morning after I used it in a mask I looked in the mirror and thought “Either I got a good night’s sleep last night, or that mask helped my dark circles…” I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I like to use spirulina in a fruity-slushy type of smoothie, goes better with the flavor.

These are the supplements I’m using right now, and I rotate some of them out and put others in. There will be updates when I do!

 

What I Ate…(Meat Free Monday)

…today. Okay, so today was an unintentional “Meat Free Monday”. I saw what I had planned to eat and noticed that it was all vegetarian food. Even the smoothie shop I went to for dinner caters to the vegan/vegetarian population. Cool. I was actually a vegetarian from the age of six, up until the age of 25. I didn’t eat any red meat, and I rarely ate chicken. I was more of a pescatarian now that I think about it. Something changed when I hit 25 though. I don’t know what it was, but I suddenly wanted to eat burgers. I can’t really explain how it happened and I don’t remember the exact meal that broke my 19 year  long stretch. When people ask I usually say, “I just wanted a Big Mac. I had one, and I fell in love!” I don’t know what they want to hear, but it wasn’t some big to-do. It happened over the course of time.

Anyway…What did I eat today?

Breakfast: Raspberry Cocoa Latte and a string cheese…

Latte Ingredients
Latte Ingredients

I use the same formula for my lattes:

  • Almond milk, heated
  • Packet of stevia – one in the cup, one in the pan with the milk
  • A small swig of vanilla in the almond milk, while it’s heating
  • Powdered flavoring – usually 1 to 2 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

So, that’s how I made today’s latte. Powdered flavoring=Cocoa Powder and I substituted the pack of stevia in the almond milk pan for one raspberry honey stick that I got from the farmers market. That’s it! It was good. The raspberry flavor was slight, that’s probably because it was natural and not filled with sugar.

Breakfast
Big breakfast (heh heh). Honestly though, the lattes are really filling!

Lunch: Feta Dip, Veggies and Olives

Feta Dip

Okay, this was awesome!!! The dip was so easy too…

Feta Dip Recipe
Easy peasy…

Only four ingredients: Feta (half of a small container – I’m really precise – Ha!), cream cheese (about 1/3 of a softened brick), olive oil (about a teaspoon) and garlic powder (depends on your taste, I use a lot)…Simple. One of those back pocket recipes.

Beverages: Seltzer with lime or apple cider vinegar

Drink
…lime-ish squeezy!

I LOVE seltzer! Seriously, I stock up on whatever brand is on sale so I am never without it. Polar is amazing. LaCroix is great, but sometimes I’m not willing to spend that much. Vintage and store brand will do just fine, thanks! I used to have a SodaStream, but it broke a couple of years ago and I’ve yet to get a new one. I should (re-)invest. It would be worth it!

Dinner: Italian Kale…

***Warning: I turn into a bit of a smartass here, I was highly annoyed. Feel free to read this section in Sarcasm…***

Okay. So I had planned to go to a new restaurant in town to get a salad for dinner. And I went, with my cousin…

Blend
“Buddha Bowl” – (unmassaged) Kale, spinach, tomato, sweet potatoes, avocado and a lemon vinaigrette. Intentionally Missing: Corn. Just Plain Missing: black beans

I ordered what was called a “Buddha Bowl” salad. And I got what is seen above. It had everything it said it would, but it was not really a “bowl”, it was more like a plastic carton of produce. I paid $8.00 for a plastic carton of kale that is on sale for .99 a pound at Shop-Rite this week! The kale wasn’t even massaged! I know that sounds like something a snob would say, but massaging kale is a real thing. A real and VERY IMPORTANT thing. It helps break it down so one can chew and digest it easier. Seriously, I took one bite and I nearly choked. I actually need to warn this restaurant – this is a potential hazard. I just was not in the mood to argue tonight, so I just left…

…And, I did what any person who spends $8.00 on a carton of produce does: I took it home to cook it myself!

Kale - Fried
DIY Restaurant – I believe it’s called grocery shopping! 

Yup. I massaged EACH piece of kale (you could HEAR it breaking down as I kneaded), added the contents to a pan with olive oil and garlic powder and…

Kale - Fried - Yum
Repurposed food…

…Yum! Success! I turned this meal around! I sprinkled some parmesan on top, as you can see.

So, there you have it, a full day of vegetarian eats. Pretty clean eats too…Yay!

Freak-Out Friday…

I turned 38 on Sunday (yay). Almost 40. Awesome. For the past couple of years I have noticed that things are changing, physically.

The Hair…

I have five to six gray hairs now, which is fine. Seriously. I only had one gray hair about three years ago, and now I have six. That rate of growth is nothing to be alarmed about. I have so much hair that you’d really have to take a mini flashlight and a tongue depressor (thinking back to those crazy elementary school lice check-ups!) and search my hair to find them. I take fenugreek and I use it topically, which is supposed to help darken hair/keep it dark. Also, whatever. I’ll dye it if it starts to become “too much” for me, but not a moment sooner than that (I like my natural hair color – plus only SIX HAIRS!).

Hair Care
Pre-Poo: Coconut oil and aloe vera for moisture ~ Fenugreek for growth and darkening…

So, I’m sorta “at peace” with my grays…

The “Puff”…

I now get bloated and put on visible, obvious water weight about a week before and during my period. My face gets super puffy and everything (incl. hands, feet, tummy) gets so flippin’ bloated!

This has never happened to me before! In fact, in the past, when I would see commercials for PMS medications I used to think “…Bloated? Water retention? Does that really even happen? Heh, heh…” – YES! It happens, young fool! This is a fairly recent phenomenon for me too – I just started noticing this last fall! I can’t even weigh myself until I am in the clear also, because that water puts on at least FIVE POUNDS. Seriously, at least…

So, what do I do about it? I don’t take a pill for it (even though I was seriously tempted one time because I had a date the next day). I like to make detox/debloat drinks. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes, and I’ve found that anything with green tea and ginger and/or turmeric works pretty well. I just make different combinations of those three ingredients and it seems to help. Iced green tea with lemon and ginger is my favorite.

They say that drinking and eating these foods/drinks/spices help:

  • Cucumber
  • Parsley
  • Green Tea
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric (the BEST anti-inflammatory spice!)
  • Lemon
  • Watermelon
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Dandelion Tea (I haven’t had this, but I know it’s a big part of Jillian Michaels’ detox, so it might be worth a try…)
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Water – Lots of water, of course!

Here are a few of the combinations I’ve tried:

Detox Drinks
Detox~De-Bloat! l to r: Black Lemonade (activated charcoal), Lemon-Ginger Green Tea, Cucumber-Parsley Green Tea and a shot of ACV with Ginger and Turmeric!

At least I get to try different home remedies and recipes, which is lots of fun for me. Especially if I get to buy a new gadget. I’ll have to think of some…

The Eyes…

Probably the most superficial thing, the thing that really irks me: the changes to my under-eye area.

Now, I’ve always had a hollow under-eye area. I have high cheekbones with chubby cheeks, so that just naturally occurs.

Young Erika Hollows
2nd Grade Under-Eye Area!

It didn’t bother me until a couple of years ago, when I noticed that on top of being “hollow” they were also getting darker (sounds familiar – “Erika and the Deathly Dark Undereye Hollows”…).

So, when I’m tired (which is every-single-morning now), I look like this:

Older Erika Hollows
ZERO MAKEUP! You can see the darkness, even with the old-timey filter…

Eventually, during the course of the day and with the help of concealer, the darkness is less obvious. But it’s jarring to me – because I’m not used to it!

I’m also not used to: Undereye dryness.

I must’ve been such a jerky youngster. I used to see commercials for eye cream and think “C’mon! These women are being so dramatic. Do you really need that?” YES! Skin changes over the years, especially around the eyes!

I used to have an oily under-eye area. I remember when I worked in a department store, at age 20, I would use the tissue paper from the bagging area to blot my face. I’d have to blot my forehead, nose AND under my eyes. NOW, I’d kill for some excess under-eye oil! The dryness is what emphasizes fine lines, so I’m learning that I have to keep that area SUPER HYDRATED. I told my mom about my issue and she bought me this:

Josie Oil
Josie Maran Argan Oil – Light – because I’m sensitive…

She said that it’s not enough to use my regular moisturizer (even though it’s a cream), I have to add an oil or serum beforehand. She’s right! My skin looks and feels so much better when I use the oil! I don’t use this only around the eyes. I use it on the dry patches around my nose, around my lips and to condition my eyebrows. It’s great! I highly recommend it. My mom got me the “Light” formula because she knows how sensitive my skin is, and I haven’t had any reactions to it. I combine it with my First Aid Beauty and it’s great!

I’m sure I’ll notice more as time goes on, but for now…

Wellness Wednesday!

I seem like a very calm, serene person. Someone I once worked with called me “the definition of laidback”. That’s fine. That’s awesome. But, while it looks that way, that’s not the way it is. Think about ducks. They look so smooth and graceful gliding across a pond, but under the water they are paddling for their lives. That’s how it really is with me. I am quiet and cool, but inside my mind is racing, going a mile a minute. I am think about the past (“I wonder what would’ve happened if I…”), present (“It’s too warm in here, I might get a headache”) and future (“I think I’ll have pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Probably not tomorrow, maybe next Monday”) – all at once. This is all happening while I’m listening to music, checking an app notification, working on my laptop and watching tv on closed captioning at the same time. It never stops – and that’s good! I do enjoy living this way, the Multi-Tasking Life, but I do need a break from it every once in a while.

About 12 years ago, to cope with the stress brought on by over-stimulation and overthinking, I began meditating. It was something I had heard and read about for years, and one day I decided “…that sounds like something I need in my life…” I picked up the book “The Complete Idiots Guide to Zen Living” and I was on my way.

Since then I have taken a couple of classes here and there – on the Alexander Technique and even aromatherapy – to add to my Zen/meditation repertoire. In 2008, I was lucky enough to take daily meditation classes at the Omega Institute during the Women and Power Workshop. There, we did seated and walking meditations at least twice a day on the gorgeous grounds. I don’t practice every day, I wish I did. In fact, and this is bad, I usually only practice when I am at the stress breaking point.

Omega Sanctuary
Steps leading to the Sanctuary at Omega Institute

When I do meditate, I really love the focus I give to my breathing. I have the tendency to, like most people, hold my breath when I am stressed out or in pain. It’s amazing how a deep breath, in and out, can help to relax you so much.

It sounds really simple, right? Just clear your mind of all thoughts, focus on your breath and chill out. Well, it’s not always easy for me to “clear my mind”. In fact, I don’t think I have ever completely “wiped the slate clean” while meditating. And that’s, okay. I can still feel blissful while a little something goes on in my mind. It usually ends up being something happy and hopeful instead of worries. There is something that helps though…

Guided Meditation and Imagery!

These styles of meditation can really help anyone who has a problem with focus. The guide talks you through your meditation, by telling you what types of breaths or movements to make (guided meditation) or by talking you through different imaginary scenarios that will help you get through whatever problems you’re having (guided imagery). I find it easier to concentrate on the music and/or the guide’s voice than to just sit in a quiet room and try to “clear my mind”.

It helps put me in a positive mindset. I like to listen to guided imagery before I do something important – before taking a test, giving a presentation, etc. it can really make you feel more powerful and confident.

It can also help you sleep. There are some great Youtube videos and podcasts out there with meditations specifically for helping you sleep. You have to find the ones that will work for you. Some make me fall asleep while I’m listening and some just make me feel relaxed but not sleepy.

As with anything – do what works for you!

The Tea Garden

Today I visited The Tea Garden, a new teahouse in my hometown of Middletown, New York, where they held a free morning guided meditation and breakfast bar.

Meditation Area
In front of the meditation area. I didn’t want to close my eyes!

It was great! Jillian, the owner and meditation guide was so knowledgeable and had so many tips and tricks.

I told her about how thoughts will sometimes intrude my meditation and she advised “…step outside of them and don’t get involved. Treat them as if you are a third party observer.” I actually found that really helpful during today’s meditation.

Oh – and there was also food! There are nothing but clean eats on the menu and they are all small, palate cleansing dishes. Nothing heavy, nothing to feel guilty about.

Today there were tea eggs, kidney beans, a variety of pickled and spiced veggies and, my favorite, steamed buns…

Steamed Buns
Steamed Chinese bread, steamed custard bun (nai wong bao) and spicy cucumber. To drink: “Double Beauty” – a mixture of tea and coffee and lemon ginger water…

So, I have to say, it was a pretty good “Wellness Wednesday”…

  • For more on guided imagery and meditation, visit Health Journeys.com
    • From that site, I enjoy guided imagery from Belleruth Naperseck and Lynne Newman. Lynne is a New Age practitioner who is local to me, and leads amazing guided meditations in person as well.
  • Some great podcasts:
    • Meditation Minis with Chel Hamilton
    • Sleep With Me: The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep (hilarious, actually)
    • Guided Meditations: The Yoga Bunny

ACV Shots ~ Post-Birthday Detox!

I don’t always go crazy with the food on the weekend. I try to keep the healthy eating going throughout the course of the week, with minimal “cheat meals”. Yesterday though, it was my birthday. I didn’t go too crazy, but I did make a slightly “bad” breakfast, I indulged in a coupla slices of pesto pizza from my favorite pizzeria and I had a celebratory red velvet cupcake (okay, two) from my favorite bakery.  Not too bad, considering the damage I have done in birthdays past (have you ever nearly passed out from eating too many tamales? I have!). But still, since I haven’t had those complex carbs (wheat crust pizza?) in a while, I woke up with an acidy tummy feeling. That’s my very grown up way of saying I had acid reflux this morning. Even though I didn’t eat that much, my body is not used to the carb-sugar overload anymore. Carbs and sugar (over a normal limit), for me = acid reflux. I’ve tried to deny this for years, but those two things are the common denominator.

So, how do I counter this? I’m fighting acid with acid!

Yes! Using natural acid found in lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (ACV) and mixing it with water, neutralizes stomach acid. It helps to drink this acid-water mixture first thing in the morning because it also helps kick start the digestive system. That’s the plan for today – make a couple of ACV shots, in various flavors, for the week.

I decided to make them all in different flavors, all with different health benefits. Apple Pie, Lemon Ginger, Turmeric Lime and Mermaid (hee hee – food trends). Here they are, spices in first…

Spices Down
1/2 teaspoon each – l to r: Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric and Spirulina
  • Cinnamon: Helps lower blood pressure
  • Ginger: To soothe/settle the stomach
  • Turmeric: Anti-inflammation
  • Spirulina: Detox and vitamins

I then added a tablespoon of ACV, and about half a teaspoon of my other liquid flavorings.

Acid Additions
Acid Additions…

Here they are with just the ACV and lemon-limeness…

Pure - No Mix
Yeah, not gonna drink this straight!

Some people like to add still water to their ACV shots, but I like seltzer…

Mixed
Sparkly goodness!

I would normally wait until the day I drink these to add the seltzer, but I’m stuntin’ for the camera today!

Today, I am having the Apple Pie…

Apple Pie Shot

Yay! The acid-tummy feeling has subsided and I actually feel more awake (probably because of the acid flavor jolt)…

Try it! Enjoy!