words matter

I was wide awake in the middle of the night with a restless puppy. If I get woken up like that, I’m up, at least for a good hour or two. #frustrating. So, I did a little Pinterest searching. Better than Amazon prime shopping, right?!ūüėú.

I came across this great article about positive/negative words and how they affect plant growth. This experiment is not new- it has been around for a while and is a great illustration showing how words matter. How we speak to others matters!

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In the blog post I read, the author explained how the plant on the right was talked to with positive, loving, encouraging speech. In fact the container was even covered with positive words written out on it. On the left, the negative. Put-downs, hate, discouraging speech was spoken to it and negative written words covered the container. And you probably guessed how it turned out.

Our loving, good, positive words bring life to others. They build up and contribute to a life of thriving. And when we choose words that tear down? It’s stifles. It can make others feel weak. It takes life out of them.

This past week we have probably all witnessed this. It’s been a tumultuous week of feelings ¬†swinging vastly on the pendulum of emotions. One simple click of “post”, “send”, “tweet” has brought forth words of all kinds. Words that encouraged, words that offended. Words that showed grace, words that ripped apart. ¬†Words that left a sting. ¬†Words that extended a branch. ¬†Words that affected.

BUT… we often reflect outwardly what we struggle with inwardly. At least I do.

I had never considered this illustration with how I speak TO MYSELF. ¬†I can be so guilty of this. I get in a routine and I do good with my healthy choices, my time management, my effort in relationships. And when I do, I feel good about myself. I speak nicely to myself. My inner voice is all rainbows and unicorns.ūüĆąūü¶Ą ¬†And I tend to approach things with that same attitude

But when any of those efforts slide? When I splurge on bad foods, skip the workout, spew forth a thought without thinking, or put minimal effort into my marriage or parenting when I know better? ¬†I don’t cut myself much slack. I don’t extend myself much grace. And the negativity begins. My inner self-talk becomes putting myself down. I find fault with everything I do. The rainbows turn to clouds and unicorns to something more like angry birds. ūüź§ūüė°ūüź¶ And I begin feeling a little like this withering plant. A little more lifeless, a little more crumbly. ¬†And that is how I find myself living my day to day- with a negative vibe in things I say and do.

We, of course, need to pay attention¬†to how we speak to others and always seek to speak words that bring life. ¬†Words that show respect. Words that don’t intend harm. But… we often need to get to that place by first looking in.

Have you paid attention to how you speak to yourself? Being content on the inside means there’s a greater chance you will spread that joy and good feeling to others on the outside. As you try to be healthier, help others, and live better, are you considering your self-talk? It matters! When you stumble, remember… Be kind to you. Show grace to you. Love you! Be intentional about this. Practice this. Live this. The picture illustrates so well how you’ll grow and thrive when you do. And when you get your heart feeling good on the inside, it’s becomes so much easier to spread that encouragement outwardly.‚̧

color us healthy

It’s a new school year, and I’m trying to start the school year with #goals. As a family, we have worked all summer to cook together and try new foods… Mainly produce items and colors but we tried cooking some new dishes, too.

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This pic here is my attempt to track our efforts. Tracking has become a norm for me since starting weight watchers. This is just a tweak of what I’m doing on my own, really. ¬†Every month we will use this board to keep tabs of what we cook and eat- the proteins and colors we use. We will either color in or write in what we eat… The goal to keep it balanced and get all the colors in. ¬†If we are lacking somewhere, then we will hunt through my ¬†cookbooks or Pinterest to find something we could try. ¬†I have come to love having our girls in the kitchen with me. ¬†It won’t be easy with all of our schedules, but I’m hoping this board will be a visual for me to make more of an effort. ¬†We had some good bonding this summer over peeling, grating, saut√©ing, and stirring the roux FOREVER. ¬†You can have some pretty awesome girl talk in the kitchen! ¬†Sometimes they’re more willing to talk when you’re doing something while you chat. ūüėČ

But in all honesty, in thinking this through, I realized I need to keep a focus on health being all-encompassing. ¬†Because it is so much more than salads and smoothies, right? ¬†¬†So, we also added a workout pyramid that I adapted from the bible study “Fit to Serve”. It will be a guide to follow for how often we do different types of activity during the week. ¬†I can already tell this will need tweaking as we go… But it’s a good place to start. ¬†It should get them thinking a little less about couch time with candy crush and a little more about getting out and about with Pokemon Go! ¬†Fingers crossed …

We also added a big noticeable part to focus on:  random acts of kindness.  There is a grid of ideas to get us started, but also blank squares where we can write our own onto sticky notes. In an effort to live well, it can become pretty easy to become self-focused. That is understandably so, but it really should be in balance. Getting yourself healthier is really just a basis to live and serve in the world better. My goal is to have us, as a family,  point our eyes outward into the world and see where we can add just a little drop of goodness towards others in our day to day lives.

And at the top… We will each pick a scripture for the month. Faith needs to be the foundation to it all. Each of us will choose one bible verse that we all will reference. So that means six bible verses for us as a family to learn about, talk about, and practice over the course of a month.

My hope and prayer is that we will stay focused and interactive with this. It’s a visible way to keep track of what we talk about often. We have four daughters that each learn in their own way. ¬†Talking through things is good, but the visual of this is just another way to try and teach them how to live better…. to live well. I hope this helps develop healthier habits for all of us. It’s a way to be intentional, which is something I have been working on for awhile now. ¬†I will follow up at the end of September with how we did. ¬†#squadgoals in a mind-body-spirit kind of way.‚ėļÔłŹ

overrated comfort zones

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This is where I teach class from. It’s a jazzercise thing for us to be up on a stage. It allows our customers to see us better when we #movetothegroove.ūüíÉūüŹĽ.

There was a lot I had to do and learn to become a certified instructor, but this stage was the biggest obstacle for me to conquer. I’m not naturally a put-me-out-front kinda girl. But… I was at a point in life where I was ready for something new. Ready to set a goal to work towards. Ready to get out of my comfort zone, which is scary but fun once you get your mind on board. I was ready for a challenge.

That was almost five years ago. Since I made that decision, it has been life changing. Fitness became not only FUN but my job- a priority. I grew as a person. A lot. I gained a confidence that has helped me since in other areas of life and I have learned new things about myself. Good, good things can come from getting out of our comfort zones!

I still get nervous before every single class. Every one! But a fellow instructor once¬†told me that those nerves just mean that I care. I still want to do a good job. I want to encourage and motivate others. I want our customers to have fun! Do you have a comfort zone you’d like to breach? I will be the first to tell you it is worth it. You are worth it. The lives you could encourage are worth it. You never know what can come from getting out of your box… Or hopping up on that stage.ūüėä

eggplant-carmelized onion flatout pizza

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Here is another recipe that I initially saw on a Pinterest link.  In an effort to save a few calories/weight watchers points, I have recreated it here, using a Flatout Bread wrap as the crust.  It was just as yummy as on a regular pizza crust, no doubt from all the delicious flavors that topped it.

 

Roasted Eggplant-Carmelized Onion Flatout Pizza

 

1 Flatout Bread wrap

2 Tablespoons hummus (I used roasted garlic)

1 Chinese eggplant- sliced in thin slices

1 yellow onion

oregano

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. ¬†Rub just a bit of olive oil on the flatout wrap and cut into smaller pieces (I cut mine into 8). ¬†Place in the oven for about 5 minutes to let it crisp up. ¬†(I used my Pampered Chef bar pan and pressed the wrap into it, making a little edge all the way around. ¬†It worked great to give the pizza a little lift. ¬†Sadly, my daughter broke it last night, so I’ll be hunting on ebay or somewhere to find a replacement. ¬†It’s an excellent addition to anyone’s kitchen.)

While that’s baking, slice the onion and saut√© in a swirl of olive oil. ¬†Cook on medium heat until the onion starts to caramelize and the edges start to turn crispy. ¬†This will take a good 20 minutes or so.

While the onions cook, lay the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and salt/pepper them.  Roast in the 450 degree onion for about 10-15 minutes, just watching to make sure they start to turn brown.

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Once the onions and eggplant are done, spread the hummus onto the wrap pieces, just as you would pizza sauce.  Layer the onions and then the eggplant onto each slice as well.  Top with oregano and bit more salt and pepper.

Place back in your heated oven for another 5-7 minutes until heated through.

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Serve with the leftover roasted eggplant slices (eggplant “chips” if you’re trying to coax a kid to try them) and fresh fruit. ¬†Enjoy every bit because the flavors are so yummy! ¬†If you’re following weight watchers this lunch for one was only 5 smart points (2 for the wrap, 2 for the hummus, 1 for the olive oil which is only about a teaspoon if used sparingly). ¬†It’s a little bit of effort for “just” lunch, but if you’re having a day at home and want something that’s a little off the beaten track from the typical sandwich or cold-plate like I usually have, this is completely worth it! ¬†Enjoy!!

 

**I’m learning as I go, here, so please bear with me- I promise to have photos to show more of the cooking/recipe process next time. ¬†I realize that will be helpful :))

 

 

 

 

 

family produce project-purple and white asparagus

Our second week of family bonding over veggies proved to be just as fun as the first.¬† No, seriously.¬† It has been so much fun for all of us to just hang out in the kitchen, cooking and laughing together.¬† There may be a few moments of everyone trying to take charge and be the boss of everyone else, but honestly, if that didn’t occur in a kitchen¬†of four daughters and a mom,¬†I may have to look out the window for flying pigs.

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The veggies chosen this week¬†were asparagus.¬†¬†However, we didn’t choose¬†the regular green vegetable that my girls are decent fans of.¬† We found both the purple and the white variety and thought we would check out how they compare to what we already know.

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In their raw state they are actually quite pretty.¬† I never think of white when I think of produce.¬† I think of bright green and deep reds and warm oranges and yellows.¬† Seeing a bundle of cauliflower colored stalks is just different.¬† They definitely have a clean, crisp Spring vibe.¬† If they weren’t five dollars a pound, they would even make beautiful centerpieces- the tidy bundles placed in bunches down the table’s center- tied up with pretty twine or ribbon. What a simple, rustic, natural look.

But this is a food post, not a decorating how- to, so back to the veggies. The purple stalks are just as pretty.  They are a deep, dark hue with a gorgeous texture.  And, to our surprise, once you cut into it, the inside is green!

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When we got these home, we had to figure out how to prep the stalks for cooking.¬† The purple aren’t too different than regular green asparagus.¬† You simply wash them, snap off the ends, and chop them to the desired size.¬† And this really not a sad step in the produce prep, as my daughter would have you believe with her expression.¬† In reality, I think¬†she’s feeling like her sister is taking too long with the we-haven’t-used-it-in-a-while carrot peeler (see below) and that she has waited longer than¬†enough for her turn.

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The white asparagus, having a tougher outer skin, do¬†require peeling.¬† The girls took turns using the vegetable peeler and got them all trimmed up.¬† These needed the ends snapped, too, and are more fragile to work with. ¬†They are also smaller so we were careful to not waste too much of it in the prep. More often than not, when we got to peeling, the stalks would break at some point.¬† It really wasn’t a big deal since we were chopping anyway, but it was a bit of nuisance to chase rogue pieces when you’re in your peeling groove. ¬†And our hopeful dog goes for rogue pieces of most anything, but asparagus are not one ¬† (Note the purple piece, untouched, on the floor next to him.)

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While a¬†couple of the girls are peeling and chopping,¬† the other two are looking up how they want to cook these.¬† They all decided saut√©ing was the way to go.¬† So, they found a simple recipe of using part olive oil, part butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and saut√©ed each color separately.¬† They started with the purple first.¬† Once we got it cooking, we learned that they don’t stay purple- they turn green!

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We did a little research right then, and that is a fact of cooking purple asparagus.¬† They turn a green to bronze color but keep some purple accents when cooked.¬† There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but if you want to retain the beautiful contrast of the purple skin and green flesh, you can eat them raw. They would look oretty to just slice them in thin pieces and add to a salad.¬† Never peel the purple skin off or you’ll lose the¬†phytonutrients and antioxidant power that it’s color provides!

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All in all, both of these were a keeper.  The girls all agreed they would eat these again, so yay!  It was fun to see them try each one and do their best to decipher the different flavors and textures each provided.  The purple were preferred, maybe because they do have a slightly sweeter flavor.   The white had a slightly tender, more crisp texture to them.

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Aside from the prep and the cooking, here are a¬†few fun facts we learned:¬† white asparagus are grown without light.¬† It’s a¬†process called etiolation.¬†¬†The dirt¬†is¬†kept mounded¬†up around the emerging¬†stalks, to keep the light away.¬† This prevents photosynthesis from occurring.¬† The plant¬†will not¬†produce any chlorophyll, which is what would turn it green. This is obviously labor intensive¬†for the grower and adds to the cost of the product.¬† White asparagus are considered a delicacy in Europe as well. ¬†And nutritionally speaking, one cup of asparagus provide 3 grams of fiber, 4-5 grams of protein, and antioxidants.¬† They are high in vitamins A,B, C¬†and K and are a good source of copper and iron.

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After just a couple of weeks of intentionality in the kitchen, my girls do seem more¬†at ease with using¬†basic kitchen¬†tools and following a simple recipe’s directions without asking me 85 questions before each step. ¬†They seem more confident. ¬†They’ve also already picked out the next produce we will try next week.¬† I can take that one of two ways:¬† either they secretly enjoy their mother’s food nerd tendencies and kitchen lessons, or they are appeasing me in hopes that they’re scoring brownie points¬†to keep in the bank for the future.¬†¬†Either way,¬†we get time together doing something productive and fun and¬†are making memories along the way. Bon appetite! ūüôā

 

 

 

family produce project- rutabaga

In an effort to learn about other foods, learn kitchen skills, and practice working together, our family has taken on the weekly “Family Produce Project”.¬† Every week we will seek out a new fruit or vegetable that is either completely unfamiliar to us or that we haven’t done much with before.¬† We will scope out the produce sections of our grocery store(s), agree on a new item to try, research how¬†to clean and prepare it, and find a yummy recipe to try our hand at cooking it.¬† Anything goes- from the most obscure to a rather known fruit or veggie, keeping in mind that our goal is to try new things and get out of our food comfort zone.

The first week has been fun.  I initially thought we would make a special trip to find the perfect subject to get us out of our box.  Week one already proved busy, so in our Wal-mart run for camp things, we decided to check out what the produce department had to offer.

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I was actually pretty impressed with the selection and the display.  There were rows and rows of every color you could look for.  The girls had to determine if they wanted to try a fruit or veggie, decide what color they were looking for, and figure out if they were going for something they sort of knew or something that they had never heard of before.

Not too long in the hunt, they found the rutabaga.

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I love how Wal-mart gives the shopper a brief blurb about the produce.  High in vitamin C, sort of tastes like a turnip, good to cook stews or soups with, and look for one that is not mushy or decaying.  We figured two would feed our family of six in a side dish, so we bagged them up.

This will be our Monday night gig.¬† All the girls have to plan to be home and all have to work together in the kitchen and on the computer (or their phones) to figure out a recipe that sounds good to everyone. ¬†They have to determine how you clean and prep the food to eat (skin, de-seed, peel, slice, etc.) and will have to gather all the ingredients and tools to make the dish. ¬†After a few hits on Pinterest, it didn’t take long for them to agree on making rutabaga fries.¬† That pretty much meant ketchup, too. ¬†I’m sure they saw that as a necessity to trying to eat something that looked like an huge, dirty, rock.

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We first had figure out how to cut into the rutabaga.¬† Did it have a seed or pit?¬† Can you eat the skin?¬† They determined it’s best to start by slicing the whole veggie straight down the middle, so you can work then with each half.¬† You lay each half flat-side down, then slice 1/4″ all the way through (much like you would slice a loaf of bread).¬† You then take each half-moon shaped piece, cut the skin off, and slice 1/4″ slices, very much looking just like raw French fry pieces would.

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Once both are cut, you simply toss with olive oil and spices, lay out flat in baking pan, and bake.  Pretty simple prep for limited cooking abilities in the kitchen.  The finished dish smelled yummy and each of the girls seemed genuinely interested to and willing to try it out.  When we sat down to eat, we looked up what we could on rutabagas.  Did you know that we are the only ones that call them that name?  In just about everywhere else in the world they are called Swedish turnips, or Swedes for short.  And they are actually a cruciferous vegetable- just like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage to name a few.  They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.  They have fiber and other vitamins and minerals that promote healthy functions in the body.  They are antioxidant and beta-carotene rich and help protect from heart disease and cancer.

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So, this will be a goal for summer.  Every Monday night is family night, girls night in if Brad has to be gone.  We will cook and learn and laugh and hopefully make some healthy memories in the kitchen.  Healthy for our bodies and healthy for our souls.

Rutabaga Oven Fries: (adapted from a recipe on cookinglight.com)

2 medium rutabagas

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons rosemary

1 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Slice up the rutabaga into matchstick size pieces, similar to the cut of thin French fries.  Either in a baggie or just in the jelly roll pan, toss and coat the fries with the oil and spices covering the pieces evenly.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until tender and browned.

 

 

tug-o-war

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Tug-o-war.  If you live in our neighborhood, this has been an annual tradition at the elementary school at least since my oldest daughter has been there.  It is an annual competition, a tournament among the grade level classes, that earns you bragging rights for the year.

This is a photo of my daughter’s 3rd grade class. ¬†She’s the tugger in the white shirt right there with her teacher coaching her on. ¬†These kids and their teachers are serious, mentally prepared, and make it fun. ¬†The parents have as much fun watching as the kids do competing.

When I look at this photo it depicts how I feel with my daily journey to live more balanced. ¬†Being about six weeks into weight watchers, I am feeling the reality settling in of living a new lifestyle. It’s not one big pull and I’m at my goal. ¬†It’s something that I will work at always. ¬†And I want to be healthy so ¬†I take it seriously. ¬†My health and the health of my family matters. ¬†I have had to get to a place of being mentally prepared in order to approach this as a lifelong journey- a lifestyle of balance that I practice daily. ¬†And, yes, I have fun. ¬†I make it fun! ¬†I have gotten in a rhythm of sorts with it all. ¬†I found workouts I love to do. ¬†I know what foods I need to fuel my body with and I am learning how to prepare them in ways that are tasty‚Ķ that I look forward to eating. ¬†I’m learning to say to no to things that make me feel overwhelmed and I try to rest when I can. ¬†It’s not easy and it takes work. ¬†Daily work.

So what else is going on in this picture?  How does this relate to a journey of better living?  I see a whole team that pulls with you, in the same direction you are going, to get you closer to the goal.  One person alone cannot carry the work that requires many.  Your team is right there by your side, going through the game with you, wanting the win too.  They are your steadies- those that do life with you in a way that makes you want to live better, love bigger, and give your all.

On the other end of your team? ¬†That’s all the things that work against you‚Ķ habits from the past that are hard to shake, negative self-talk that becomes your everyday norm when you are in that self-demoting mentality, emotional triggers that cause you fight or flight‚Ķ and most days flight is just an easier option. ¬†It’s those that may not support your new way of living or your new habits of bettering yourself. ¬†And sometimes it’s just the taste of that one vice that you.cannot.say.no.to.ever. ¬†(Remember… The chocolate struggle is real…). These things tend to always be pulling us away from our goal- whether it’s massive resistance or just a gentle tug. ¬†We are in constant motion to pull back, away from these triggers.

Standing there right by your team is the coach. ¬†Maybe this is a person, maybe this is an online community of support, maybe this is a monthly meeting you attend. ¬†It’s that person or program that gives you specific strategies on how to pull harder in the direction you want to go. ¬†Coaches that have clipboards full of ideas to keep you committed to do your best. ¬†They see in you the goals you want to accomplish and they help you figure out a plan to execute a plan.

None of this would be easy without the cheering section.  These are those bystanders around you that yell out encouragement from the sidelines.  They are there, ready to give you that attagirl that we all need to hear from time to time.   They may not be in your life daily, but they are there watching you succeed, giving you that thumbs up to keep going.

My daughter’s class started off this competition losing two out of the first three rounds. ¬†That didn’t stop them. ¬† They kept trying, working together one round at a time, getting stronger as they kept going and relying on each other. ¬†And by the time it was all said and done, they walked away with first place. ¬†What a win! ¬†Accomplishing a goal is always so much more satisfying when a little sweat and tears went into the game.

So I look at this photo and realize- this is life. ¬†This is me using my strength to pull towards the goals I have set for myself. ¬†One giant tug doesn’t get me there. ¬†I have to work with those around me, that help push me towards my goals. ¬†I have to use the support I have put in place to help coach me through, and I need to pay attention to the encouragement I get along the way. ¬†One day at at time. ¬†One tug toward the goal at a time. ¬†The drawn-out, hard fought wins are always the ones that you remember the most. ¬†And they are always so worth it.‚̧ԳŹ