Monday, September 15, 2014

A Week-Long Birthday

I'm not usually one to draw birthdays out, but this year has been a bit of an exception.  Since it was an extra big one (30!), I've pretty much been celebrating for the past week and a half.  I have to say, it's been really fun stretching out the festivities.
Last weekend, my dad came to visit from Las Vegas so that he could help me ring in the new decade.  My mom hosted a big family get-together on Sunday with my family and Jay's both in attendance.
It was nice to have so many family members together in one place.  I had a great time and received some really nice presents.  My mom also served a delicious spread of Mediterranean food (hummus = my favorite) and made fresh squeezed margaritas.  Yum!

Monday night, Jay took me out to dinner to celebrate just the two of us.  It was a gorgeous night to eat outside, and we stayed at the restaurant way too late for a school night talking and sharing a bottle of wine.  I wish I had remembered to snap some pictures.

This weekend, Jay surprised me with a second present (a new TV for our bedroom) and also organized a party with some of our friends at a local winery.  We were fortunate to have the most gorgeous weather and it was a wonderful afternoon.
We also carved out time this weekend to participate in the annual Heels for Hope 5K run for ovarian cancer. It always falls right around my birthday, and it's nice to have a healthy event on the calendar to balance out all the eating and celebrating.  Plus, of course, it is a great cause.  I hadn't run in a very long time (possibly since my 10k in April?), so I was really proud not have to stop and walk.  Jay and I finished with a decent time and then cheered on my mom who was not far behind.
I guess my birthday has officially come to an end, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  I love that fall is right around the corner and can't wait to start decorating!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Getting Grounded

Earthing - ever heard of it?  It's a concept that sounds pretty kooky but also makes a lot of sense at the same time.

The idea of earthing (also called grounding) is that, just as all humans receive energy from the sun, we also receive vital energy from the earth.  Basically, the earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. When you are in direct contact with the earth, the electrons are conducted to your body, which brings you down to that same electrical potential.  Therefore, just like an outlet, you become "grounded."

Throughout history humans always had contact with the earth, whether it be through walking barefoot, sleeping on the ground, etc.  Nowadays, the modern floors of our houses and soles of our shoes keep us from having that direct connection.  If you never step outside barefoot, it's possible to go years without ever actually touching the earth.

It's hard to say exactly how much of an effect earthing really has.  The research is rather limited, but initial studies have indicated that it does have anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing effects on the body.  Many say that regular earthing helps them to feel better, sleep better, and have more energy.  Vasper, a cutting edge, science-based fitness company in California, has added grounded copper plates to their exercise machines to replicate the positive effects of walking barefoot on the ground.  NASA is using grounding techniques with their astronauts, as well.

Jay started reading up on earthing a few years ago, and he makes and effort to connect to the earth as much as possible.  As an Athletic Trainer, he was especially interested in the anti-inflammatory effects and how it could benefit athletes.  He always says, "It could be nothing, but it could be everything!"  Since earthing is completely free and harmless, it certainly doesn't hurt anything to give it a try.  Plus, it does feel good to ditch the shoes and put your toes in the grass or sand once in a while!

If you don't have too many opportunities to walk around barefoot, you can actually connect to the ground indoors.  There are a variety of grounding products available that plug into the bottom hole (the "ground port") of an outlet, which is directly connected to an existing ground rod in your home.  Jay has a little mat that he puts his feet on while watching TV or working at the computer.  Most recently, he bought us some body bands to wear around our ankles while we sleep.  I used it for the first time two nights ago, and putting it on was a little strange - like I was getting shackled to the bed or something.  But it really doesn't bother me once it's on, and I've been sleeping like a baby.  It makes a lot of sense to be grounded at night, since that's where you spend the most consecutive hours in one place.

Here is a video that Jay helped me put together demonstrating how to check if you're grounded using a multimeter.
If you would like to learn more about grounding, there is a documentary and a book that can both be found on Amazon.  Also, you can use the code SHARE10 to receive 10% off your purchase at earthing.com.  Now go outside and get grounded!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Weekend Update {Volleyball, Grilling, and Organizing}

Hi, how's the week going?  I had a great weekend, followed by a very loong Monday.  It was open house night, which meant I pretty much stayed at work until it was time to go to bed.  And talking the entire day was not too helpful for my voice, which still hasn't entirely returned.

The weekend was great, however.  Jay's school hosted the first boy's volleyball tournament of the season, and his team won the whole thing!  They played great and it was a lot of fun to watch.
After the games on Saturday, I went over to my friend Bri's house for dinner along with some other teacher friends.  She and her boyfriend put together the best healthy summer dinner of grilled kabobs, salad, and watermelon.  I packed my skewer with veggies and it was awesome dipped in hummus.  Kabobs are easy but feel so festive - I definitely need to remember to make them more often.
On the side, Bri made a salad minus the lettuce.  I loved how she just tossed a bunch of fresh veggies with dressing and basil from her garden.  The lettuce was entirely unnecessary.
Since Jay and I always have a surplus of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and fresh herbs from our garden, this is something I plan to make a lot for the remainder of the summer.  So simple and fresh!

For dessert, there were blueberry muffins packed with HUGE blueberries and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Yum!
With how hot it's been here, we've been trying to grill as much as possible rather than turning on the oven.  Meals like this are a great way to avoid heating up the house.  I think veggie kabobs along with my favorite Field Roast vegetarian sausages would make for an excellent combo.  

Sunday was pretty low key.  I helped tutor a friend's daughter with her Spanish and completely cleaned out my closet.  I'm trying an online consignment shop for the first time called ThredUp.  Once you sign up, you can order a big bag that the company will send you for free (at least the first time).  You then stuff it full of all the name brand clothing items you can possibly fit.  The postage on the bag is already pre-paid, so you can just drop it off at the post office or a Fed Ex location to send it back.  ThredUp will either pay you for the clothes and resell them or donate them to charity.  I must have stuffed at least 30 things into that bag - I could barely lift it into my car. 
I'm excited to see what they offer.  I'll let you know how it goes!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lately

Hello!  Just checking in since I haven't blogged in a while.  Work started back up full-time last week, and the new schedule is going to take some getting used to.  I've spent a lot of time up at my school attending meetings and getting my classroom up and running.  The first day for students is tomorrow, and there is always SO much to do!
I left this afternoon feeling pretty good about everything.  The only problem is, I don't really have a voice.  It started sounding really hoarse about three weeks ago and still hasn't come back all the way.  That is going to make talking all day to 160 noisy seventh graders quite a challenge.  It needs to get better asap!

Other than than that, I've just been trying to enjoy the last bit of summer.  Between work starting for me and Jay being busy with volleyball, it seems like we've been cooking less than usual.  We ate out several times this weekend and also enjoyed a couple of family dinners with relatives who were in town from Canada.  My mom made an awesome vegan lasagna last night that I definitely need the recipe for!  I contributed a salad made with strawberries, pecans, and goat cheese and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.  It was a tasty combo!
We also gave our back porch a little face lift a couple weeks ago and have been enjoying spending time out there in the evenings when we can.  It's amazing what a difference comfy chairs can make!
And our garden is still doing well, especially for how late in the summer it is.  I picked these just the other day.
In terms of exercise, Jay and I are both sticking with the P90X3 program, although we aren't able to do the workouts together anymore most days.  I still really like it for the most part and hope I can stick with it during the school year.

I've been horrible about taking pictures and blogging lately, but I hope to get back into the swing of things once I settle into more of a routine.  I'll leave you with a picture of Wendy and her new BFF.  She is totally in the spirit of shark week - she adores this thing!
Have a great week!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Vegan Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese is one of my favorite classic comfort foods, but healthy it is (usually) not.  The boxed processed types are full of scary ingredients, and homemade versions generally aren't much better.  The average mac & cheese recipe calls for tons of butter, white flour, milk, and cheese.  Throw in some white pasta, and it doesn't get much more nutritionally void than that. 

Fortunately, thanks to wonder that is nutritional yeast, it is possible to make a mac & cheese that is both delicious and really good for you.  My go-to version involves the no-cheese sauce from the Forks Over Knives cookbook, which I shared a while back.  Last night, however, I was craving something a little different.  We had some sweet potatoes to use up, and the thought of a slightly sweet, cheesy meal sounded appealing.  I did some searching, and, sure enough, I wasn't the first person in the world to think of using sweet potatoes in a mac & cheese dish.  I ended up making some modifications to this recipe that I found on Alicia Silverstone's website (which is awesome, by the way) to create what you see below.  I highly recommend!
Vegan Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
Total cook time: 1 hour
Servings: 4


Ingredients:
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 box (13.5 oz.) elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheese (like Daiya)
  • 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast and 1/2 tbsp of olive oil for topping
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Place sweet potato cubes onto lightly greased baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender, turning once half way through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.

In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, chili flakes, nutritional yeast, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Remove sweet potatoes from oven (don’t turn off the heat) and add them to the bowl with all your seasonings, almond milk, and shredded cheese. Mash well.

Add macaroni noodles to the bowl and stir it all together.  Transfer the mixture to a large casserole dish.  Top with nutritional yeast and then drizzle with olive oil to form a cheesy "crust."

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top begins to brown.  

Serve and eat!  As usual, we also topped ours with some Sriracha for an extra kick.  
This macaroni turned out even better than I had imagined.  Jay was a huge fan, too.  We practically ate the entire thing in one sitting. 
Hope it was a great week.  Happy Friday!