Archive | September 2013

Healthy recipe of the week: peach smoothie

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A friend of mine gave me some peaches from her dad’s place in Mount Airy, N.C., so I decided to make peach smoothies. They were really good and perfect for the hot weather. Click here for the recipe.

These are even diabetic friendly! I think on the next batch, I’ll leave out the sugar to see if they still taste as yummy and also to make them healthier. I also used almond milk instead of regular milk.

Also this weekend, I made apple crisp out of some organic apples from the same friend. Equally delicious, but definitely more sugar than the smoothies.

AND I made banana bread! It was a fruit kind of weekend.

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Sometimes it’s OK to quit

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing what kinds of exercise we like to do. I told her I enjoy my exercise DVDs, but that I’ve been wanting to do the Couch to 5K running plan. I’ve even talked about that on this blog a couple of times, and it was on my to-do list on my phone for months.

After our discussion, I deleted it from my list.

I have a hard time making up my mind to do something and not doing it. Or starting something and not finishing it. I hold myself accountable, but sometimes it makes me feel more stressed than driven. It’s just one more thing on the list instead of something I’m excited or motivated to work toward.

That’s how I felt about Couch to 5K. No one told me I had to do it, but I determined that I would like to run a 5K sometime and thought this running plan would make me feel confident to do so. Who knows? Maybe I can run a 5K without any kind of training. I mean, it’s really not that far. But I haven’t tried, so I don’t know. I would still like to run one sometime, but man, deleting that from my list felt good. It was nice to say to myself, “You know, I’m just not into this. And that’s OK.”

It’s kind of silly. No one looks at my to-do list except me, but I feel a sense of accomplishment when I check something off. And deciding that I shouldn’t feel a need to do something in the first place was empowering. Even a small weight off my shoulders — that I put there. I can’t do everything, and while I enjoy running short distances, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be “a runner.” I can be other things, like someone who enjoys working out to DVDs in the comfort of her own home. (Note: I did a P90X workout this morning and liked it.)

My friend said something like this: “Life is too short to waste time doing something you don’t enjoy.”

I think there’s a line, of course. I wouldn’t suggest that a new mom abandon her baby just because mothering isn’t that fun sometimes. And I wouldn’t advise someone to give up on a marriage because it’s tough. But that’s not what she was talking about.

If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do and keep putting off, maybe it’s time to let it go. Maybe you would be happier or better off by putting that time- and mind-consuming thing aside and freeing yourself up for other things you’d rather do. I’m not saying be irresponsible, but I know that many of us have to-do lists that require more hours in the day than we have, and we stress ourselves out about some unobtainable goal.

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I am queen of too many to-dos. Sometimes the things on my list really do need to be done, but sometimes they are barriers to doing the really important things in life, like spending time with family or talking to God.

Another thing I determined not to finish is “Wuthering Heights.”

I bought this book in a used bookstore earlier this summer and thought I would expand my literary proficiency by reading a classic. I read half of it, was somewhat intrigued, then got bored.

I found myself trudging through it so I could read the next book, which looks way more interesting. So I tossed it into a bag with the rest of my Goodwill-bound items. Now for something more enjoyable. …

Healthy recipe of the week: Greek-style chicken

Today I made a super easy chicken dish in the slow cooker. The lemon and olive flavors really come out in this dish. I put the chicken with a mixed greens salad and jasmine rice.

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Here’s the recipe, from my Crock-Pot cookbook. Mine isn’t as pretty, but it’s still yummy.

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I used black olives instead of kalamata olives because I like the flavor of the black olives better. I also challenge you to make this without the lemon and chicken falling into pieces. I personally don’t mind it that way, but I want to know how the picture above even happened. I’ve made this dish twice now, and both times, the chicken is so tender it pulls apart.

Also this week, I made banana pancakes. We’ll pretend they’re healthy since there are bananas in them. Here’s the recipe. Mine weren’t as fluffy as the picture online, but I bet if I had a pancake mold and could keep the batter from spreading, they would be thicker. I reheated some this morning for breakfast and they were even better, probably because they weren’t as moist/mushy in the middle as when I first made them. They were definitely cooked, but the banana is a little mushy. One thing I would do differently is not make as much or just make the whole batch when people are over. This made about 17 pancakes! (The recipe says about 12, but mine weren’t as thick.)

Oh and the dots you see on the second pancake are … raisins. Yeah, that’s it, raisins. Definitely not chocolate chips. …

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Natural scents

I think I’m turning into one of those people. The people who are afraid their scented candles are giving them cancer and vow never to burn one of these toxic-releasing agents in the living room again.

I’ve said before that if I can get through life without getting cancer or shot, I’m doing pretty well for myself. Both happen WAAAY too often and I’d like to do everything in my power to avoid them. I know I won’t live forever, but I would like to be healthy while I do.

So yesterday, after seeing that one of my Yankee candles is done for, I did some research on natural scents for the home. It’s not just about potentially hazardous chemicals in our house, but also about money. And how I’d like to save it while still having a fresh-smelling home.

Here’s what I found:

  • An easy-to-read article about toxins found in certain candles. Summary: Some candles release toxins that can cause respiratory problems, damage to the nervous system, as well as other issues. Cheap candles and ones with metal core wicks should be avoided. Beeswax and soy candles are good, non-toxic alternatives.

I’m no expert on this stuff and I’m not saying I 100% agree with the article above, but I do think that we add so much stuff to our products and cut so many corners to save money that I wouldn’t be surprised if that sea breeze scent was killing brain cells or something.

Reading the article then made me wonder if my beloved Yankee candles are harmful. I adore them and sometimes get them as gifts, so I looked into it.

  • photo (66)The Yankee Candle site says its candles are made with “fragrance extracts and real essential oils.” I can’t find an ingredients list and there isn’t one on the bottom of my candles, so while they sound OK to use, I wish the company would be more specific. I know their candles are high quality (and not cheap!), so that makes me feel a little better.
  • I also found this article about Yankee candles. It says that Yankee Candle is part of the National Candle Association (I checked), which monitors the candle making industry in the U.S. (I had no idea there was such a thing ’til yesterday.) Yankee Candle does not use lead wicks and does use refined paraffin, which, according to the NCA, is non-toxic. The NCA also says the soot produced from burning candles is not harmful and that, although some natural scent ingredients can be toxic to some, members of the NCA use ingredients that are considered safe. So basically, you decide.

I’m keeping my remaining Yankee candles for now, but they are getting low so I also looked into making my own. Again, I’d like to save money, too. I have a bunch of glass jars that could easily become candles if I melted some beeswax and put a wick inside them. I found a pound of beeswax for less than $9 on Amazon (I think that will make a few medium-sized candles), and I found a bag of 25 cotton wicks for $4, also on Amazon. The smell of beeswax has a hint of honey, but you can add essential oils for a different smell. That’s what I would do.

I also looked into other ways to scent the home besides candles.

  • This blog suggests “simmering waters infused with spices, herbs and fruit.” She has some great ideas, and they all sound delicious. The downside for me is that I don’t want to have to warm something up on a stove and I don’t have a mug warmer or potpourri pot. Maybe I should invest in one, but I feel like if I had to plug something in, I might forget about it. An actual flame is harder to forget about. I would also like something that lasts a long time, and with the jars she mentions, I’m not sure I would use them in time or often enough to take advantage of their full potential. Still, they are beautiful and a great idea. Perhaps I will try it and see how it goes.

photo (64)In other news, but on a similar topic, I made my own scented plug-in last week. I had some Wallflower holders from Bath and Body Works, so I used my own essential oils (lavender and eucalyptus mint) mixed with water to make a new, natural scent. I got the essential oils at Michael’s for $4 or $5 each.

Here are the instructions I followed. The plastic ring around the wick wasn’t as hard to get off as I thought it would be. I really liked the scents for the first couple of days after I plugged them in, but Pete wasn’t a huge fan of the lavender and now I can’t smell either of them. I’m wondering if it would last longer if I filled the bottles with essential oil only and didn’t add water. I’m going to try that when the bottles are empty.