Friday, January 30, 2015

They Never Get Easier...

They never get easier, the Goodbyes
The Hellos, and especially the In-Betweens, that's what we live for
That's the good stuff
The long walks to get you to nap, and reading your favorite books over and over
Your first taste of solids and discovering there is food beyond milk -
Learning avocados are a 'no' but oatmeal gets a big 'yes'
The first words, and shaky first steps
Trips to the park and collecting every rock by the side of the road
Trains, trains, everywhere trains
Coloring outside the lines
Squealing as we run through the rain
Snuggles and cuddles and your hands in mine
All the little moments that add up to big memories
Childcare is a selfless act
An art, a calling, and anything but a 'job'
It's early mornings and late nights
With no thoughts of 'getting ahead'
To care for another, despite no linked DNA
Is truly an act of love
It's knowing that you may not be remembered,
But you will always remember
It's the way you made a difference in their life,
And the difference they made in yours
It starts slowly at first,
The way those little hands make prints on your heart
But they become permanent over time
And with every new child, your heart accommodates more
But babies grow up
And become children who go to school
To learn and grow
And become who they were meant to be
And so we say our Goodbyes
But they never gets easier...


“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” ~ Forest E. Witcraft
Emotional week for me.  That is all for now.
Happy Weekend to you all.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mamma Mia's Amazing (Dairy-free) Zucchini Bread Recipe!

A couple people had asked me for the recipe for the zucchini bread I mentioned in my last post, so here it is!  It is gloriously dairy-free, but it's not gluten-free.  I wouldn't classify it as especially 'healthy" because it does contain white flour, sugar and oil.  But if you are not opposed to any of those ingredients, I can tell you this recipe is delicious!  It's not too sweet and it does contain a nice serving of vegetables. 

This recipe is at least 30 years old, because my mom has been making it since I was a little kid.  I scrawled down the recipe from her several years ago and I will warn you that it is just a list of ingredients.  No directions included other than the oven temperature!  That's how my mom cooks.  You also don't need fancy equipment seeing as I don't own a stand mixer or even a hand mixer and they come out just fine (I just mix everything with a giant spoon!).  Without further ado, I present...

My Mom's Amazing Zucchini Bread

2 cups shredded zucchini
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (*I used 2/3 cup)
1 cup sugar (*I used 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts (*I used walnuts)

Bake at 350 in greased tins.

As you can see, I do make a few modifications of my own, namely just slightly reducing the amount of sugar and oil, and they still come out fine.  I also didn't have any loaf pans around this time, so I made muffins instead!  I loved them in muffin form because they were already pre-portioned and portable.  This recipe yielded 2 dozen muffins.  So I now have enough to last through this massive incoming snowstorm.  I recall when I made loaves in the past, the recipe yielded 2 large loaves or 4 mini loaves of bread, just FYI.

If you can navigate your supermarket and successfully locate some zucchini, I hope you'll give these a try.  They're wonderful!

For everyone on the East Coast - stay safe and warm in the coming snowstorm!

Do you like zucchini bread?

Do you have any favorite recipes from your mom?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Best Parts of My Day...

  • Turning the alarm off and snuggling with the cats for 5 (ok, 20) more minutes
  • Big "Good morning" smiles when I get to work in the morning
  • Dancing around the house with a 2 year old to Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"
  • Mo Willems books, over and over
  • Tiny little hands that reach for mine
  • Contagious giggle fits
  • Naptime (for obvious reasons!)
  • After-nap snuggles
  • Time for a run!
  • My boys running to the door when I come home
  • Stepping into a hot shower and lingering a bit longer than is probably healthy for either myself or the environment
  • Robe, tea, blogging
  • Bed
Linking up with MamaKat today for her Writer's Workshop.
Tell me some of the best parts of your day!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freeze Pop Koozies are the End of Childhood as We Know It

Why hello there and happy Wednesday to you!  I don't know about you, but January is just running away from me.  It's been a flurry of activity so far, and we're already 3 weeks in!  Although it's been busy I still have these undercurrents of energy and excitement pulsing through me.  I still have that same feeling that 2015 is just going to be wonderful :)

And now, I am going to be posting another random list of completely unrelated items.  I feel like I should be planning out my posts better so that there is a common theme to things, but life is pretty random most of the time anyway, isn't it?!  Here we go...

1.  Read this book over the weekend.  Something inside me was set off when I first read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in 6th grade, and ever since then I've been drawn to reading stories and first hand accounts of the Holocaust.  There is something about the 2 extremes of human nature during this period in time that I still can't wrap my head around.  That at one end of the spectrum, humans can be so incredibly resilient and radiate light, and at the other be so incredibly full of darkness and hate.  And every time I read these stories, I wonder if humanity will ever reach a point where we completely extinguish the darkness?
2.  Tried this stuff for the first time.  I don't eat popcorn often because it's usually coated in either butter or some kind of cheese, which are both no-go's for me.  But this contains just sunflower oil and salt.  At first taste I thought it was kind of bland, and needed more salt, but it became strangely addicting! 
3.  I intended to go out for a long(er) run this past Sunday but of course it decided to rain and be icy.  So I decided to do some HIIT work instead and grabbed this workout from my Pinterest board.  It's a good one to do at home because it's quick, you don't need any equipment and it will leave you a bit sore!  I did the circuit 3x through which took 27 mins total, but I took 2 min breaks between each circuit (so 24 min total work).  [I also edited it a little and did a few more pushups/squats/crunches than they called for, so you can tweak as you go]
4.  I went to the grocery store last night in search of zucchini because I have been craving my mom's legendary zucchini bread and wanted to make some myself (it's dairy free!).  I had no idea how bewildering this task would be.  I scoured the produce section over and over in search of zucchini to no avail.  Finally, I happened upon a vegetable that looked EXACTLY like a zucchini but was labeled "Green squash".  WTH?!  (I actually had to text my mom to ask her if this was the same thing!)  Maybe I'm the idiot here b/c I rarely buy zucchini, but is this what supermarkets call it?! What is zucchini called where you live?  And have you ever once in your life heard of "Green Squash Bread".  NO?!  I rest my case.
5.  I finally started adding some 'speed work' into my running.  I don't ever do tempos or fartleks like all the professional runners out there, and rarely do track repeats (a few times a summer), but I decided to just start adding sprints into my runs.  Genius!  For the treadmill, I started doing little intervals like this: 2 mins slower/1 min sprint, repeat over and over, and then end with a steady pace cool down.  Outside, I just randomly start sprinting every now and then!  I can only hope my made up speed training actually makes me faster for my next race! Hahaha
5.  And lastly, I was leisurely browsing my daily GroopDealz email this morning when this image caught my eye:
What has the world come to when we can no longer expect our children to HOLD THEIR OWN FREEZE POPS without insulating their poor little fingers from the cold?!?! I hope I never live to see the day when a child is actually using one of these.  Americans are soft, man.  That is all.

Have a great day!
What do they call zucchini around your parts?!
Can you recommend any other good dairy-free (salt only) popcorns to me?
Would you ever purchase a Freeze Pop Koozie?!  Please say no.

Friday, January 16, 2015

10 Years

Linking up with MamaKat for her weekly Writer's Workshop:

Find a photo of yourself taken 10 years ago and display it on your blog along with a current photo. How have you changed since the day that photo was taken?

Me, 25 (Ponte vecchio, Florence)

Me, 35!

25, naive, a dreamer
35 is...seasoned, wiser, still a dreamer
25 first life-changing trip to Europe
35 is...trips closer to home to visit all the new little lives in my life
25 was...eating cereal for dinner every night
35 is...making an effort to "cook"
25 was...being able to handle my liquor
35 is...hung over after 3 drinks!
25 was...accepting Baltimore as my new home
35 is...wondering where in the world I will call home next
25 was...getting caught up in the excitement of corporate culture
35 is...finding peace in counter-corporate culture
25 was...yet to experience the greatest heartache of my life
35 is...grateful for love; past, present and future
25 was...not a single double-digit run under my belt
35 is...5 half marathons in and looking for more!
25 was...convinced at 35 I'd be married to Leonardo Dicaprio
35 is...still hoping he comes to his senses
25 was...jamming out to R Kelly's 'Ignition' in my 1989 Camry
35 is...Taylor Swift on repeat in the Hyundai, all day, e'eryday
25 was...flip phone!
35 is...iPhone
25 was...thinking microwave 'Lean Cuisines' at work were healthy
35 is...fresh food over frozen
25 was...signature frosted blond tips
35 is...wild and crazy natural hair
25 was...all my friends are single
35 is...everyone I know is married with kids!
25 was...running in Nikes
35 is...running in Nikes...and Hokas!
25 was...looking to others for the answers
35 is...realizing the answers are within me
25 was...thinking that 10 years later I'd have it all together
35 is...realizing no one ever has it all together

25 was...young and hopeful
35 is...older, still hopeful :)
So much has happened in the past 10 years, but at the same time, it seems like time has flown by.  I guess that's what happens when you get old :)
Tell me about your life 10 years ago!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rambling Food Thoughts: Raw garlic, Baby kale, Eggnog tea, and Cashew milk

I should probably link up to one of those Thinking Out Loud posts sometime, but alas, it's not Thursday and so this post is just going to be a stand-alone bunch of my random thoughts, mostly about food.  Let's begin!

1.  Came across this quote in an email I received this week and LOVE it to start of the year:

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"
2.  I forgot to mention the home remedies I implemented when I was attempting to overcome the flu over Christmas.  Before being diagnosed with the flu, and feeling like I just had a really really bad cold, I Googled something along the lines of "cold and flu home remedies"and overwhelmingly came across 2 main methods.  So for days (even after I got the diagnosis) I attempted to cure myself of influenza by chewing and eating entire RAW cloves of garlic and drinking straight apple cider vinegar cider.  Pretty sure I gave myself an ulcer and just FYI, it did not cure the flu.  HAHA.  However, the next time I feel like I'm coming down with a cold from one of the kids, I'm going to give these self torture methods another go and see if they work on colds.  Consider me your human guinea pig as I sacrifice my breath and esophageal lining for your benefit.  I'll report back.
3.  Finally took a picture of Wegmans sushi for you:
Mmmmmmmmm  The best supermarket sushi
4.  My sister made me an ENTIRE pan of vegan fudge over the holidays.  I've been slowly chipping away at it every day (I know, tough job) and it's almost done.  Whyyyyyyyyyyy?!  I keep wishing it was magic fudge that would regenerate itself every time I cut it, like a starfish, but that hasn't happened yet.  Not looking forward to the day when it's all gone.  How will I live?!
5.  I tried a salad mix with baby kale in it for the first time this week and was pleasantly surprised.  Unlike it's parents, the baby kale was delicate and mild and required no marinating before eating raw.  I do enjoy eating kale salads from time to time, but the secret there is you need to let the adult (?) kale soak in oil/vinaigrette for awhile to soften it up and make it more palatable.  So if that has turned you off in the past, see if you can find some sweet baby kale in your produce section.
6.  This tea is SO GOOD.  I don't even know what actual Eggnog tastes like (cough, cough, dairy) but this tea is scrumptious.  Get some before it's gone!
7.  While babysitting this weekend I realized the progression of songs I sing while trying to put a child to bed are directly related to how tired both the child/I am and go something like this: 
Various lullabies --> Random children's songs --> Show tunes --> Pop songs with borderline inappropriate lyrics sung like lullabies --> Repeat entire cycle!
8.  I finally found cashew milk at the store!  Verdict:  It tastes very similar to almond milk, but a bit less sweet and more nutty.  At this point, are there any nuts we can't make into milk?!  Don't answer that.  Have you tried cashew milk yet?
9.  It was 38 degrees on Sunday!! Warmest its been in days.  I took the opportunity to run outside and it felt like spring.  I kid.  But doing a couple runs a week on the treadmill is already killing me.  Perhaps I need to finally start listening to this Serial all the kids are talking about.
10.  I am looking for a spring Half, ideally in the month of April.  Right now, I'm thinking of doing a race I ran in 2012 back home - the St. Luke's Half Marathon, but am open to suggestions!  Preferably in the PA/DE/MD/DC/VA area so it wouldn't involve excessive travel.  What races are you all doing in the spring?
Anddddd, I think that's about it.  Apologies for the lack of cohesion in this post.  I've been kind of all over the place and super busy since I got back from the holidays.  I think it's setting the tone for what my 2015 is going to be like!

Tell me some randomness from your life or just what you're eating/drinking lately!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Don't Fight It

Not to be confused with Don't Fight FOR It. 

In my last post I said one of my guiding mantras for the year was to continue to be true and authentic to myself and to listen to my intuition.  I believe deep down we all know what is truly best for us, but with all the external stimuli vying for our attention on a daily basis, it's sometimes gets buried, confused or lost in translation.  I think carving out times of stillness, when you can tune in to your inner voice, are important and essential practices for everyone.  This is not something I've always done and when I don't, I usually feel the consequences.  (If only I could get into meditation!)

When I said I hadn't made any grand-scale goals for the year, that was true, but I don't think it means I'm directionless, lazy or unambitious.  I don't think it's entirely realistic to assert what you will do for the next 365 days.  If you try something and decide it isn't for you, you should feel comfortable enough to admit that and change course.  I think many people stay in things that aren't right for them (jobs, relationships, etc.) far too long because of the 'sunk cost' mindset.  That is, 'I've already invested x amount of time/money/effort in this and even though it's not working, I can't back out now or I'll just lose all said time/money/effort'.  I've done it before simply because I didn't think quitting was an option. I figured maybe things would get better and I'd be stupid to start over from scratch with something new.  Goes great with fear of change!

I'm still trying to figure out my place in the world and what makes me feel fulfilled.  I may be late to that game, but do any of us ever have this all figured out?  When something doesn't feel right, I don't think you should fight it and continue on come hell or high water.  This doesn't mean you're a quitter.  When I worked in finance, I never really felt like I 'belonged'.  My personal skills, values, worldview, etc., did not match with that industry and I often felt like if I just kept working harder, things would eventually fall into place.  It took years of resistance from the Universe, starting with small hints and continually growing stronger, for me to see that who I was, wasn't going to change!  There's a key for every lock and that just wasn't mine :) 

So as I continue to look to the future, it's important for me to 'tune in', go with it, and not fight my true nature.  But as always, when I set my mind to achieve those things I am passionate about, you can bet I will fight FOR them.  I believe when you take actions that are in line with who you truly are, BIG things will happen and that is fully what I expect for 2015!

Do you ever find yourself fighting battles of what you should do vs. what feels right?

How do you tune in to your intuition?

Monday, January 5, 2015

I'm Baaaaaaaaack....and, I Missed Christmas

A bit of medical advice to start your year off:  Don't get the flu. 

If there is anything more depressing than sitting home alone on Christmas, it would be sitting home alone on Christmas, WITH THE FLU.  #worstthingever

Hello and Happy New Year!

Let me back up a bit here....I was feeling pretty sick the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas but figured I just picked up another cold from one of my kids.  In fact, I worked both of those days and was wondering why I was being such a baby about this "cold", when in fact I worked an 11 hour and 9 hour day WITH THE FLU!!!!!!! 

I was supposed to leave for home Wednesday (Christmas Eve) but was feeling pretty terrible so I decided to stay in Baltimore and go to urgent care.  After a long wait and 2 giant wooden swabs up my nose (super uncomfortable), I was diagnosed with Influenza and sent home with some cough syrup with codeine.  Score!  It was too late for Tamiflu because I had already passed the 48 hr mark.  So I spent the holidays paralyzed on my couch with nary a festive sight or other human being around.  Side note:  If you've never had codeine you are missing out because it is a real trip.  After not being able to sleep for nights, I took this stuff and not only slept like a baby but had the most lucid dreams ever.  I kind of want more.  Kidding!!

So I finally made it home the Saturday after Christmas.  I missed all the good Christmas stuff.  Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day with all my relatives.  All the FOOD.  I didn't have an appetite for over a week and subsisted solely on Campbell's chicken noodle soup and Gatorade.  My appetite and strength really didn't return until the middle of last week. 

Alright, enough about the flu.  Just don't get it.  Although I hear the flu shot isn't really effective this year, so your best bet is to either become a hermit for the next 3 months or don a bubble anytime you are out in public.

I'm late to the party and by this time, you've read about a million Christmas and New Year's recaps so instead of overloading you with yet another, I'm going to give you a rundown with mostly photos of what I did with my week of vacation post-flu, post-Christmas :)

Spent some time visiting with friends and family:

My sister and her family from ATL were not in town this year, so my parents house felt pretty empty without the addition of 5 more people!

The food I wait all year to eat:  (Struffoli/Pinulata - Italian fried dough balls covered in honey and sprinkles)

Once I finally felt semi-well, I couldn't wait to go for a run.  It was what made me feel human again.  I got a few good ones in last week:

Last run of 2014!

Snow run!
(Editor's note:  I kept trying to get that horse to come over to me so I could pet him but he was super hesitant. I thought it was just because I didn't have any treats to offer him, however, I accidently put my arm down on the ELECTRIC FENCE and found out why he was keeping his distance.  I totally got shocked and that horse surely thought I was an idiot.)
Drifting in and out of consciousness during my run with influenza, I wasn't really thinking about gifts (I didn't even know what day it was half the time), but when I finally got home and got to exchange gifts with my friends and family, it was such a nice surprise.  I got lots of wonderful new running accessories.  My sister got me a bunch of stuff for running safely in the dark including two flashers you can attach to your clothes/shoes plus a reflective vest! I also got several new long-sleeved running shirts.  And look what my sister in ATL sent to me:
I am going to buy every single vegan treat in sight

In other news, I was supposed to go on a blind date while I was home (set up by sister) but I had to cancel due to the aforementioned viral infection.  We finally rescheduled for a week later, and he then texted me that afternoon that he got the flu!! HAHAHA  Sounds made up, but I assure you this is my real life. 
This week was the first time all year that I had time off and had no plans whatsoever and it was really needed.  I did a lot of thinking about the previous year and what I want 2015 to bring.  I decided I'm not going to set any real goals because I did that last year and probably didn't even meet half of them!  I mean, I didn't even make spaghetti squash.  So instead of setting myself up for failure, I've decided on a couple of mantras that I want to guide me in 2015.
First, and most importantly, I want to be open to change and NEW possibilities.  I want to be more receptive to things I may not have considered in the past, because I am anxious for even bigger changes this year.  I want to be more open-minded about the future, and where it may lead.
And secondly, I want to continue to be TRUE to myself.  This is something that has led my actions over the past 2 years and I want to ensure I am continuing to be authentic and listening to my intuition as I choose new paths this year.
That's it.  Be OPEN and AUTHENTIC.  Boom!  Those are some solid guiding mantras for the year right there.
There are many other things I'd love to do this year, but I just don't know if life will provide the means for those things so that's why I'm just going to stay open and be more accepting of what does come my way.  Life is like a box of chocolates you know? 
I have good good feelings about this year anyway.  Plus, I just love how 2015 sounds compared to 2014.  I feel like the Universe is on my side.
You know how I know this?  Because look at the sky on my drive back down to Baltimore last night.  This crappy iPhone photo doesn't even begin to do it justice.  I couldn't stop staring (while of course keeping my eyes super focused on the road ahead).
Layers upon layers of pink and gold that went on for miles.  Sounds super corny, but I felt like I was driving straight into Heaven.  Now I wouldn't exactly classify Baltimore as "Heaven", but I felt it was a prelude to the year to come.  Everything feels full of promise and I hope it does for all of you as well!  Here's to the new year; a 2015 full of possibilities.
Please catch me up on your lives!
What are you looking forward to in 2015?