Category Archives: Lifestyle

Day 41 – How To Get Less Fat…

It’s happened…I have let the gods of fried food and mashed potatoes win.  I have gained back weight I promised myself I never would, and am squishier than usual in lots of places.  It’s so not cool.

I have been “overweight” my entire life.  This is nothing new, and quite honestly, nothing that I’m not used to.  For people who have always been fluffy, you know it’s a constant battle to just not gain weight, not to mention loose it.  The scale is a constant yo-yo number and it seems to go upwards so much freaking faster than you ever imagined possible.  Then all of a sudden, one day, you look in the mirror and you say “What the fuck?  Where did that fourth chin come from?”

When this occurs, if you are a lifelong fat girl, you give in, wave the white dinner napkin, have a really huge bacon cheese burger to give you the motivation for what’s to come, and you plan the “get less fat” campaign.  Now, I do not mean this to be derogatory.  Quite honestly, I do not believe that fat is the new four letter word.  I am fat.  I know this, everyone else knows this.  It’s ok to own it.  The other thing I am however, is healthy (not to mention a stone cold fox).  I have no blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, back, or joint issues.  I get pretty regular check ups, go to my gyno, and live my life.  Fat AND healthy AND happy.  I know, it’s a totally mind blowing concept.  Don’t tell too many people lest the billions of dollars being funneled into the search for perfect bodies and empty souls might decrease by a fat girls income or two.

The other thing that all of us fluffy girls know, is that we probably will really never be skinny.  Like the kind of skinny that other people might get to.  For example, I will never in my entire life be a size 6.  I won’t even be a 12.  My ideal size goal is a 14/16.  That is a size I can maintain without wanting to kill myself and a size that makes me happy when I look in the mirror.  I also have never been lower than that since before I hit puberty.  My body just isn’t made that way.  Hence, when I make an effort to be healthier, I call it getting “less fat”.  I will always be fat, but I can definitely be less fat than what I am currently.

Now, I know what some of you fitness crazies out there are saying, and also you previously fat girls who are now truly skinny (incidentally, you x-fatties are the worst offenders).  You are saying I can get there, it’s a dedication issue, it’s a life choice, it’s me being lazy.  What I have to say to you is that you are totally and completely right.  The issue is, the things that I would have to change, and the level of misery that I would have to go through and adapt as my new “lifestyle” would mean that MAYBE I’d be skinny, but most DEFINITELY I would be fucking miserable.  I love food, I love not living at the gym, and I love being able to not constantly count calories and eat salads and cucumbers when everyone else is eating wings at happy hour.  I will not sacrifice a full and rich life in order to conform to a society’s anorexic and unhealthy body image expectations.  I’m fat, I’m sexy, I dress fabulously, and I’m a freaking pimp in the kitchen.  I wouldn’t trade any of those for a single digit dress size in a million years.  So you can take your condescending tone and snarky comments and shove them up your perfectly formed, spandex clad ass.

Just to set one other thing straight here too…I love my skinny chick friends.  Some women are thin, and beautiful and that suits them.  Some are that way because of genetics and some work their asses off to be that way.  You go for it.  I don’t judge you for the life you live, and I think you rock too.  My main point is that all of us women need to stick together, we need to not be fighting against each other, and appreciate the beautiful spectrum of spectacular females that are out there.  Fat or not, love each other and don’t shame each other into thinking that any of us is not good enough.  We are all good enough and we are all stunning goddesses in our own right, fat or not.

All this being said, if you are on your own journey of “get less fat”, then here are a few tips to follow that have worked for me when I need to get my ass in gear….

  1. Have a plan – You have got to have a plan, no matter what it is.  Join a weight loss program, see a nutritionist, or just do your own research.  You have to plan for what you will do, plan your meals, plan your workout schedule, and make sure you stick to it as best you can.
  2. Get moving – No matter how you slice it, you have got to work out in some way.  Do Zumba, yoga, pilates, hiking, or just some good old cardio at a gym.  There are a million excuses to not work out.  I know them all,  I’ve used them all.  They don’t matter.  And don’t let yourself be intimidated by the people at the gym.  In my experience, there are two kinds of people you will run into.  People who either think it’s awesome you are there and getting healthy and will cheer you on, and those who think you are an offense to their gym space by being fat and being in their sightline.  To the former, embrace them and thank them for the encouragement.  To the latter, gain some small joy from being fat and making them watch you work out.  It makes them so uncomfortable it’s awesome, and it brings me a little smile every time.  For those of you ladies who are shy, most gyms have a women’s only section that is much more private and usually much less attended.  Use that to your advantage and rock out in there.
  3. Eat smarter – Eat lots of colors…veggies, fruits, beans, etc.  I once heard a nutritionist say “eat the rainbow”.  She didn’t mean skittles.  But really, just be smart, make some good choices and watch the portions you put on your plate.
  4. Drink your water – Just do it.  No excuses.  Drink your water every day.  Your skin, your thighs, and your appetite will thank you.
  5. Get a buddy – Being held accountable for working out and eating right with another person helps.  It really does.  Whether it’s your significant other, your weight loss coach, or your friend at work, get a buddy and motivate each other.  It will keep you going and will push you harder than if you were doing it yourself.
  6. Track your progress – Keep track of how far you’ve come.  I do weigh myself every week, NOT every day.  I also find it much more telling though to track your measurements.  When you see how many inches you have lost from areas like your waist, thighs, and arms, it really hits home.  That is a real result that you can see, not just a number.
  7. Celebrate – When you reach a goal, no matter how small, celebrate it.  Be happy, buy yourself a nice new pair of shoes, or eat an ice cream.  I know that you “shouldn’t” reward yourself with bad food choices, but I for sure do.  If I have hit my 15 lb mark then you better believe it I’m gonna go out and celebrate with chinese food.  As long as it’s one meal or one treat and you get back on the wagon afterwards, it’s totally fine.

At the end of the day, do your research, find what works for you, talk to your doctor, and set reasonable goals.  Love yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up if you slide backwards, and use your support systems.  A little common sense goes a long way and don’t eat brownies for breakfast.  That is all…

 

Day 39 – How To Make A Yummy Breakfast Shake…

Sometimes there are mornings that you just don’t have time to do much of anything but get yourself out of the door and hope you have matching shoes on,  For those mornings, a breakfast shake is one of the biggest saviors in the world.  You can buy pre-made ones, but it’s so easy, and helps you to control the ingredients ,when you make them yourself.

You want a good start to the day but you also want it to taste good.  It’s important to have some fresh fruit, veggies if you like those in there too, and some protein.  There are a million different recipes out there for protein shakes…pinterest, google, your local gym…they can be found everywhere.  Just pick ingredients you like and experiment.

I will admit I had never had a protein powder that I could say I actually liked until fairly recently, and I have to thank Jay for that.  He has used them forever, being an athlete in school and continuing to be a sports junkie later on.  He was really good at trial and error with different brands and flavors…some were ok, and some were just down right awful.  The one that I love, and that we use most, is a vanilla protein called EPIQ Isolate.  It’s a whey protein with no artificial colors or additives and it’s a fast acting protein, which Jay tells me means your body absorbs it faster.  I just like that it’s not grainy and tastes like vanilla not like sawdust in a box.  The vanilla is the flavor I like  best because it goes with just about anything you want to mix it with, but they also have chocolate.  You can get it on the GNC website here, look for sales though, and if you can, get the GNC Gold card, you really get great deals with that.  We just got a new container of it today for $20 off the regular member price.  Wooohooo!

I like fruit shakes in the morning, and this is a really great time where you can use frozen berries to bulk up the consistency of your shake.  They will almost act like ice and make it thick like a milkshake.  The frozen berries are also way cheaper than fresh, especially this time of year.  I like to mix in other natural proteins like almond butter, and sweeten it a little with some agave nectar.  If you are so inclined you can also add things like chia seeds or ground flax seed which are super foods that happen to taste yummy with an almost nutty flavor.

One other thing…get an immersion blender, sometimes called a stick blender.  If you are going to make shakes regularly, this is a god send.  There is no washing out a blender constantly, it works unbelievably well, and you will find about a million other uses for it once you have it.  You have seen them if you ever watch cooking shows and can get them just about anywhere.  They are a really inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment but are super useful.  I have this exact one from Target:

immersonblenderfromtarget_com

So after all that rambling, here’s one of my absolute favorite protein shakes.  It fills you up, tastes yummy, and is super easy to make…

banana shake

Banana Almond Butter Protein Shake

1/2 banana

1 cup fat free vanilla yogurt, I like Oikos

1 scoop vanilla protein

1/2 cup (approximately) fat free milk

1 Tbsp. natural almond butter

few ice cubes, if needed

Layer ingredients in a large cup, in order.  Blend with the immersion blender until smooth, transfer to a commuter cup if you are running out and go!

Day 34 – How To Start A Wellness Plan…

Well it’s the New Year and that means a million people swarming to the gym and vowing to loose weight, get healthy, not eat so much ice cream, and basically be a healthier human.  New Year’s resolutions have never really been my thing.  Partly because I never stick to any, so why bother, but also because I don’t feel like you have to wait for January 1st to make a change in your life if you need it.  If you happen to be ready however, and need a little help with where to start, this might be the post for you.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  What does the fat girl know about loosing weight?  Well let me tell you a well kept secret in society.  ALL fat girls know exactly how to loose weight.  I guarantee it.  We have researched, read, analyzed and tried out every single diet out there.  We get it.  We know all the tricks, all the rules, and all the shortcuts.  In the end, we are still fat because either we just love freaking food too much to let it go, we haven’t found the right plan for our bodies and lifestyles, or life has interfered and we haven’t been able to stay on the path that we know works.  Of course, it is often a combination of all of the above, and us fluffy girls know that it’s a constant struggle to get back on the wagon.

In my own personal battle these are some of the things that I know for a fact have always gotten me back on track and have helped me to have some of the most success on the way.  I hope they might help you to make some changes of your own if you are looking to start the year a little healthier…

  1. Have a plan – I don’t care what the plan is.  It can be something corporate and organized like Weight Watchers or it can just be you following something you saw in a magazine.  Whatever it is, you need a plan and you need to write it down.  Writing it down on paper and even posting it on a place you can see it, like the refrigerator or your desk will help you to remember what it is you are supposed to be doing that day/week/etc.  You need that visual reminder.  Something like this board is really awesome for motivation too…motivation board
  2. Make a weekly meal plan –  It takes time (a lot of time), it takes effort, and it’s a pain in the ass.  However, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Look at your week, make a spreadsheet for each day, and write down what you are going to eat for each meal and even for snacks.  Give yourself some wiggle room in that you don’t have to be so strict that you can’t interchange or trade off some items, but having a plan on paper will help you to stick to your food choices and actually see what you will be putting into your body.
  3. Make a shopping list – Having a meal plan also feeds directly into this one.  Once you have a menu, you can much more easily make your shopping list.  Now here’s the important part (and the part that I am hands down the worst at), you need to shop every week.  EVERY week.  When you let the shopping slip, you will not stick to your plan and you will gradually slide off the edge of progress and fall flatly into the land of “shit, I just ate cereal for dinner for the third day in a row”.  You don’t want to find yourself there.  It’s a bad place.  Go shopping.
  4. Drink – This is non-negotiable.  You have to drink and you have to drink a lot.  Water is always best, but seltzer, green tea, and even crystal light is great too in order to keep you hydrated and interested in drinking if plain water gets boring.  Soda (diet especially), fruit juice, and high fat lattes and other beverages are not your friend.  I’m telling you from experience here, if you drink your water, you WILL loose weight and you will feel a difference in your body.  You will also pee a million times those first few days you start drinking, which is awesome because you will literally be flushing the pounds away.
  5. Sweat – I’d like to say you can do it 3 times a week, but that just aint gonna cut it for most of us.  You have to do something that gets your heart rate up and your skin a little sweaty 5 times a week.  This is not scientific research, this is just historical fact for me and just about anyone I’ve talked to.  So pick something that gets you moving.  Go for a walk, play with your kids, take a Zumba class (they are really freaking fun), sign up for Yoga, or just buy a DVD and do it in your bedroom before you get dressed in the morning.  Whatever works for you and for your family and your lifestyle is what you should strive for.  Don’t make unrealistic efforts either.  If you know that the kids have activities 3 nights that week, you are going to have to really push yourself to get up a half hour early and get in your time, don’t try to make it to the gym with 10 minutes to spare before you have to get to the soccer game.  The gym will loose every time.  Don’t throw away money either.  If you can’t make it to a gym, don’t join one.  Maybe that money would be better put to use in buying some kind of equipment for your home.  Bottom line is do what’s best for you, but do something.   funny ass
  6. Get a buddy – If you have a spouse or partner that is willing to take this journey with you, and is willing to really be an active participant and walk the tough road with you, that is awesome.  Use them, and do it together.  You will have the most success when you are both on the same page.  Friends and family are great motivators too but if your partner isn’t on board, it makes everything much harder, and I would venture to say impossible to maintain in the end.  Other motivators are people like your siblings, who we can usually count on to be brutally honest and take less of our shit.  They will call us out on slacking off and will make it harder to back out on that class you signed up for.  They are also some of our biggest cheerleaders.  Whoever it is, find someone to support and encourage you.  There are a ton of plans that have online communities and personal coaches even that will help keep you motivated.  We can’t do this alone, that is a fact, so use the resources available to you and create your network of support.
  7. Celebrate your success – Celebrate!  When you loose that first 10 lbs, don’t slough it off as nothing big, be happy.  Treat yourself to a new nail polish or rent a movie.  Give yourself a cheat day in order to keep motivated, but don’t go nuts.  When I was seeing my nutritionist, I would have weekly weigh in appointments, and every week after my weigh in I would pick that night for a cheat day dinner.  We would have pizza or chinese or whatever we were craving that day.  My nutritionist was on board with it, he always said that you eat somewhere around 21 meals in a week, not including healthy snacking.  If you use one of those meals as your free day, it’s not going to be the end of the world.  He had pizza every friday night, and always had.  For me, it really helped to stay on track for those other 20 meals when I knew there was that one day I could celebrate that effort.  I know there is the mindset of not rewarding yourself for loosing weight with more food, but for people like us who really LOVE food, that is the best celebration, and really sometimes the only thing I wanted.  It’s not a bad thing, just keep it under control and keep it reasonable.
  8. Don’t give up on purpose – In the end, you may not reach your goal.  You may not ever see that scale tip to that magic number in your head and you may not even feel yourself slide back into your old habits.  Life happens, and it sucks.  However, don’t give up on purpose.  Don’t have a bad week and then just throw your hands up and say fuck it.  I completely understand the frustration, I’m right there with you on wanting to just wave a magic wand and be thinner.  The reality of it is this – Some of us are not meant to be a smaller size and that’s ok.  What’s not ok is giving in and giving up because it’s hard.  Of course it’s hard, if it wasn’t hard, you wouldn’t be fat in the first place.  Keep working at it, and no matter how many times you fall off that band wagon, get back on.  Get back on a day, a week, a month, or a year later, but always get back on.    for life

Day 31 – How To Be Italian At Christmas…

Everyone has their own traditions around the holidays, it’s true.  But really, nobody does it up like the Italians!  In our family, we celebrate with the classic Italian American Feast of the Seven Fishes.  If you don’t know what this is, here’s a brief recap for you from the end all be all of sources…Wikipedia

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration.  Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

We have celebrated Christmas Eve in this way, with lots of family and even more fish, for as long as I can remember.  When I was very young, we would gather in the basement level of my Aunt Rose’s house, but for the most part, my memories are of having Christmas Eve at my Uncle John’s house, who lives right next door to my mother.

There is a ton of work that goes into a night like this, which is mostly done by my mother and uncle.  My Uncle Johnny shops for all the fish and keeps the master list for all the things we need to make and all the recipes we need.  My mother has her tasks that she needs to do as well which consist of the stuffed clams, steamed broccolli and getting her butt over to the house next door to start frying at around 4:00.

The menu for the evening is basically this:

First Course

 Shrimp cocktail20141224_163113

Scungilli (sliced conch)and calamari salad (with a red octopus decor that my cousin brought back from a trip to Italy just for the food this night) 20141224_154327

Bacala (salted cod) salad 20141224_163105

Baked Stuffed clams 20141224_125207 20141224_190615

Saples (fried dough balls – we do three kinds – plain, mushroom, clam, and anchovy) 20141224_170009 20141224_170057 20141224_170330

Second Course 

Bacala stew (hearty fish stew with vegetable sand potatoes in a rich red broth) 20141224_154623

Pasta Course

Crab and Lobster red sauce with linguine (made every year by my cousin Christine and brought over on Christmas Eve)20141224_162604

Fourth Course

Assorted fried fish (shrimp, scallops, eel, squid, smelts, and flounder)  20141224_164735 20141224_162145 20141224_154931 20141224_154421 20141224_154344

Steamed broccoli with lemon (I forgot to take a picture so this is a pretty Google picture, but ours totally looks like this)broccoli

Dessert

Birthday cake (the 24th is my cousin’s actual birthday so we sing and have cake), assorted cookies and/or pastries

As you can see, we have more than just seven kinds of fish, but this is the menu that we have been laying out every year for more years than I know.  Suffice to say that we have this down to a science, and now that all of us “kids” are older, it seems to take us less time than it used to because we are able to help get everything done.  Over the years, the list has been slightly altered.  We have changed amounts as people have come and gone, tweaked items here and there, but the way we cook everything, and the vast selection, has not much changed.  We are, for the most part, making the exact same food that the generations before us were making on this day.

I know for me, it makes the holiday feel like home, it makes me remember so many wonderful times, and for a few hours, I can almost tangibly feel the presence of all the beautiful spirits who have passed on sitting right there with us at the table and listening to the organized chaos of 50 people and kids gathered together to share this piece of their family history.  It’s a beautiful tradition that we share with our family and friends, and even though it’s a ton of work, I can’t imagine it ever being any different.

So how do you do this?  How do you be Italian at Christmas?  It’s easy.  There’s only one step really.

Keep traditions.

There is nothing more to it than that.  If there is something that your family does that you love, keep doing it.  Don’t just be a spectator in the event, you have to learn.  You can say you love Grandma’s cooking all you want, but unless you find out how she does it, you aren’t going to be able to make that food when she is gone.  And trust me you will miss it.  My mother and uncle learned all of this from their family and have taught it to us.  Make your kids pay attention, make them get in the kitchen with you.  If nobody learns how to carry on the legacy, then that tradition you love will not be there for long.  You have to want to do it, you have to be willing to learn, and you have to love the people that you are sharing it with because that is the most important thing.  Sharing it with people you love.

If you don’t have any kind of tradition in your family. start one.  It does not have to be elaborate, it does not have to be grand.  I know some people who’s tradition is just one kind of special dessert that they only have on Christmas.  That works, that’s great, and that’s enough.  If you want something a little bigger, find something that you love to do and ask your family to do it with you.  Maybe you decorate a gingerbread house on Christmas, maybe you make cookies, maybe you try to incorporate one new food item you love until you find something that works for you all and takes shape to become a tradition.  Whatever it is, you have to make the effort and don’t give up from one year to the next.

My grandmother’s generation is mostly passed on now, but the things they taught us are still here.  Every year.  We remember them.  Every year.  And we teach something to our kids.  Every year.  That’s how you keep traditions, and in my family that’s how you be Italian at Christmas.

Day 30 – How To Keep The Magic And Wonder In Christmas…

We all know how it goes.  Shopping, cooking, family, wrapping, travel…it all quickly adds up and can make for one freaking stressful time of year.  However, it’s also one of my absolute favorites and I’m not just saying that.  I love Christmas more than any other holiday by far.  My Dad also loves Christmas and some of my most wonderful memories are of all of us decorating the tree, or going to the candlelight midnight mass.  When we were little, we would lay in front of the huge speakers in the living room and read the jacket of the Sesame Street Christmas record (yes kids, I mean vinyl here).  He still has it by the way, and puts it on for us every Christmas…and we know every word.

There’s just something about Christmas that touches my heart.  We are Christian, so church and the message that holds is a large part of the season for us, as it is for many people.  However I don’t feel you have to be religious to appreciate the magic of the season.  Seeing the children get so excited about Santa, driving around looking at all the beautiful lights, and teaching them to help others, that is magical too.  The warmth of the house, the lights from the tree, the beautiful music, the family time, it all adds up to a feeling of fullness and wonder.  It also reminds me of how blessed we are in this life and makes me try a little harder to do a little something extra for those who aren’t as fortunate.

No matter what your feelings are about the holidays, here’s a few things to remember if you are trying to keep some of that wonder in your home and your heart this year.

  1. Decorate –  You don’t have to go crazy here.  Although if you love it, go for it.  My brother in law is a decorating fool when it comes to Christmas.  He has lights outside and puts up the tree right after Thanksgiving.  Every surface is covered in holiday something and I’m surprised the dog doesn’t walk around with a wreath around her neck and a piece of mistletoe hanging off her tail.  We aren’t quite that enthusiastic about decor in our house, but I absolutely need to have a tree.  Sitting in the living room and looking at the lights and ornaments that are from when I was little or were made by the kids just makes me happy.  Whatever it is for you, make the house a little more festive.  A tabletop tree, a little candle in the window, or a lighted snowman in front of your door.  It all makes the season feel special.
  2. Watch those cheesy movies –  Yes, I’m serious.  All those cheesy, ridiculous specials and holiday themed movies that play on a constant circuit.  Watch them.  Some of them suck, but some of them are just too damn fabulous and will make your eyes well up and feel like an idiot, Christmas gold there people.  You also have to watch the classics like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (which is playing right now actually as I write this ) and Elf and The Polar Express.  They are awesome.  They just are.  Do it.
  3. Listen to Christmas music –  There is nothing quite as beautiful and emotional as listening to the floating pure voice of Andrea Bocelli singing effortlessly the melody of “O Holy Night” along with a beautiful orchestra.  I think that this might be what you hear in heaven.  Music has a way of getting into those parts of our heart that we don’t allow ourselves to often feel.  For me, it makes the holiday real.  When I walk into my parents house and my Dad has on the Christmas music (which he is often singing along with). I know the holiday is here.
  4. Talk to a child –  If you ever want to really know what the season is about, talk to a kid.  The amazingly pure answers you get will remind you of what’s important.  They talk about baby Jesus like he is their friend, they get so excited about the possibility of seeing Santa, and they remember those crazy traditions like putting up a certain ornament or leaving carrots for the reindeer.  Kids make the holiday better, just to have that infectious excitement and magical outlook on the day makes everything just more.  They also distract you from the fact that you want to beat your husband for forgetting the one present you asked him to grab off the counter.
  5. Eat –  Yeah I know, most of you are sitting there and thinking “hello, I know this one”, but at Christmas you need to really commit.  Drink the 500 calorie thimble full of egg nog, eat those candy cane truffles, gorge yourself on the prime rib and eat two helpings of Mom’s mashed potatoes.  I may think it at other times of the year, but I never EVER have thought, “wow I wish I hadn’t eaten that” at Christmas.  Food, and decadent, rich, fat filled food at that is part of what makes the holiday special.  Take a break from the restraint, eat what you want, and enjoy it.  Don’t think about what it means tomorrow, and just have a good time, eat the food you love and save room for dessert!
  6. Give –  There are so many people for which Christmas is hard.  Really hard.  At our church we participate in a program with the Covenant to Care for Children organization where our church has “adopted” a DCF social worker.  Throughout the year we try and provide her and her case families with things that they may need and may have a hard time getting otherwise.  At Christmas, we ask what the children might want, and then create a giving tree that church members can choose from and buy gifts for.  Everyone loves it, and often we have to go back and get additional names to care for all the people who want to contribute.  Knowing that these gifts are going directly to these local kids and will be responsible for giving them a gift of light and hope at Christmas just makes me feel good.  The past couple years I have chosen a child who has been close in age to AC to remind me that much more of the need that is out there.  Something about relating it to our own kids brings it closer to home.  If you have the opportunity, and you are able to, try and give something during this time, or at any time during the year.  The need isn’t only now, but the opportunity is never easier to find than at the holidays.
  7. Take a moment –  Through all the insanity, take a moment.  Give yourself a brief reprieve from wrapping presents and checking off lists to just be.  Sit there, listen to the music, appreciate your tree, or drive through a festival of lights.  Look at your family and friends, and appreciate all you have.  There are times that I just sit in the kitchen at my parents house, when we are in the throws of full blown holiday chaos, with about 10 conversations going at once, a ridiculous amount of food on the counter, and the cocktails flowing freely and feel a rush of pure emotion at being so incredibly blessed to call this group of crazy, loud, messy, loving, and truly wonderful people my family.  As I look around at what we have, I take the time to pause, say a small word of personal thanks, and show them all that I love them very much.  I look at those little faces lighting up with joy and breathe in the smells that make the house a home.  In those moments, that is when I feel the wonder, that is when I feel the magic.  I wish all of you glimpses of those moments with those you love this year.

Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Day 25 – How To Be A Part Of A Church…

It’s day 25…that means that we’re 1/4 of the way through this journey of “How To’s”…Hoooray!

I have a couple topics that I’ve been holding in my reserve bank to write about when I’m really feeling the inspiration and the commitment to them.  This is one of them.  Religion can be a touchy topic.  But this post is not about dogma, theology, structure, or any of the sacred texts.  This is simply about how to be a part of a church, any church/temple/mosque/whatever.  There are good and bad things about all religions, good and bad histories everywhere.  This isn’t about who is right or wrong it’s about where you feel you belong.  If that is in no church at all, then that’s ok too.

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I was raised in a pretty religious roman catholic family.  We were always involved in church programs, service activities, and youth groups.  But when I went to college I pretty much stopped going to church all together.  I think this is a pretty normal occurrence for most kids that age.  We are on our own, free, exploring new views, new ideas, and new people.  We are also ridiculously freaking hung over on Sunday morning.  But even though I wasn’t attending mass, didn’t mean I ever lost my faith or felt that religion wasn’t important.  When I came home on breaks, I would go to church with my parents most times and was still pretty involved in a lot of programs they had.

However, as my pool of friends grew, and my belief system was challenged every day with new classes and new situations, I really struggled over some of the core beliefs in the catholic faith.  I decided to look around and see what other options were out there and I now attend a Protestant United Church of Christ (UCC) church in Rocky Hill, CT along with Jay and AC.  It’s the right fit for us, and I’ve been going there for about 7 years.

So what have I learned from a lifetime of being involved in organized religion?  For the most part, they are all the same when it comes to what they want.  They want people to come and worship with them, they want to tell their story of faith, and they want to be positive influences in the world.  The message may be different, the methods may be different, but in the end it’s about spending some time together with some people who have the same beliefs as you.  Listed below are a few ways that may help you be a part of that…

  1. Determine why you are there –  This is sometimes the hardest part of being part of a church.  There’s lots of good and bad reasons to be a part of a faith community.  Some people have no other reason for going to church than they have always done it, so it is what they do.  That is ok, and if it is something that they still feel they want to actively participate in, then they must be getting something out of it.  Other people go to church because of their kids.  They want them to have some kind of faith foundation.  That is fine too, as long as you intend on raising them in that faith.  If you don’t believe, then what’s the point really of having your kids there when you don’t even want to be there?  Then there are those who go to church to feel some kind of connection.  Some kind of action or feeling that lets them know they are part of something bigger, believe in something larger.  There’s also the aspect of just simply being part of a community of people who will support and care for you.  Whatever your reasons, be it any of these, all of these, or a million more, know what they are.  Know why you are there and what you want to get and give by being a part of this church.  Now here’s the hard part.  If God doesn’t play a role in why you are there, it maybe better for you to join a book club.  There are social aspects to faith communities of course, but if you aren’t there to foster your relationship with your higher power, even if that means to learn what it is that you actually do believe, then what is the point?
  2. Don’t hide it –  Mainline churches in general are on a downward slope.  Most of them have seen declining numbers and many have had to close their doors.  There are lots of reasons for this, and lots of people who are much smarter than me continue to research it and try to reverse the trend.  One of the reasons that I happen to very much agree with is that we feel some kind of social shame about being part of a church.  We don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want to invite others to join us, we hardly even discuss it at all.  Now, I agree there are times and places where it isn’t necessarily appropriate to be discussing religion, but when did we start apologizing for going to church?  We need to embrace the fact that this is an important place for us.  Tell people when you have church events you are attending, just as you would if you were going to a show or a picnic.  Talk about why you go when people ask and invite them to join you if they would like to learn more or experience it for themselves.  There is no need to push your beliefs on others, but we shouldn’t hide them either.
  3. Be present –  If you have decided to become a part of the church, be there.  I am not the person who will tell you that you have to be there every week, we don’t go every week either.  But you do need to go more than twice a year.  Be a part of the community.  Get involved in an event or two.  Go to special programs or simply just sit in the seat during the worship and gather what you need from it.
  4. Have conversations –  Not all who attend a church are unwavering in their faith.  Church is an opportunity to have those conversations, a chance to ask questions and to listen.  Talking with people and hearing their stories, listening to sermons, attending some bible studies to help you learn are all ways to grow.  Whatever you learn from those discussions can help you determine if you are in the best place for you or if you should start having conversations in other places of worship.  Just because you started in one religion doesn’t mean you can’t decide to transition to another that makes more sense for you.  Wherever you feel moved to be is the right place.  Trust your feelings, follow your heart and share that with others.
  5. Be amazed –  Faith to me is about having a connection to God.  When I go to church, it is one place that I feel that presence there with me.  Through the words that are said, through the music, through the simple act of being gathered together for service.  I feel it when we perform service activities for people who need help, or when AC plays with the other kids and then tells us about what he learned in church school.  It is a feeling of amazement and awe.  No matter where you go to church, allow yourself to be amazed.  Open your mind and your heart and make a little room for God to come in.  Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with that feeling it takes my breath away.  Those are the moments that keep bringing me back.

Day 21 – How To Snack Smart…

Snacks…I love them.  How can you not love little bites of yummy food that give you energy and endurance to get through the hours before you get to have big food!  Hoooray!

There are definitely good and bad ways to snack, you want to try to be healthy, but you also want to have something that tastes good.  You need to include some protein and also some carbs so that you give your body fuel to get over the hump.  I try to stay away from prepackaged “100 calorie” snacks because, while convenient, they are full of crap ingredients and in the end are empty calories.  I’m all for snacking on cookies, but I’d rather just have one or two actual cookies that cookie chips that taste pretty much like cardboard.

So, most people in our family are a little “fluffy”.  Every now and then when one of us gets a little scared at the number on the scale or when we start to have to pour ourselves into our pants, we have planned some fun family weight loss competitions.  The last one we did was called the “Winter Wellness Challenge” and my cousins husband did the best job EVER on running it.  He really focused on health rather than weight and sent motivational emails and compiled recipes we all sent in into this really amazing cookbook for all of us.  He missed his calling as far as I’m convinced, he should be doing this for a living!  Everyone did pretty well and it was a great way to be a little more conscious of what we ate.

Below are some of the great snack ideas from our “Winter Wellness Cookbook”.  They are quick, yummy, and healthy so you can feel good about eating them too!  Enjoy!

100 calorie snacks

1 cup blueberries and 2 Tbps whipped topping

1 cup frozen grapes

2 small dried figs, stuffed with 1 Tbsp of reduced fat ricotta and sprinkled with cinnamon

3 squares dark chocolate

vanilla banana smoothie – 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup non fat vanilla yogurt, handful of ice – blend until smooth

Fruit Dip

1 8oz block of cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Blend ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Portion out into snack size cups and throw in your lunch bag to have with apple slices, graham crackers, or whatever else you can think of!

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp seasoned salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Remove the stems from the kale and tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.  Wash and dry the kale in a salad spinner.  Toss the oil and salt with the kale leaves, spread onto the cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges are just turning brown.

Healthy Spinach Dip

1 wedge laughing cow cheese (any flavor)
1/2 cup cooked spinach

Mix the cheese and spinach together and spread on pita chips or veggies.

Day 20 – How To Take The Best Nap…

I know, how hard could it be?  You just find a comfy place and check out for a while, right?  On some levels, that can be true, however, a nap can be a true work of art if you really commit.  In today’s society of always being on the go and forever checking off that mental “To Do” list, naps sometimes feel like an impossibility, a luxury we can’t afford, or a time for your kids when you can get some things done in silence.

This is a fallacy.  Naps are definitely for adults, and we need them for the same reasons that we put children down to sleep for an hour or two.  Sometimes we need that mental and physical “time out” to keep from being cranky, over tired, stressed, etc.  Sleep makes everything better.

I am blessed with not requiring much sleep.  I can function on very little for a few days if I need to, and don’t require much recovery time.  This especially helped in college!  However, I absolutely love a good nap.  There is nothing better than taking a shower and laying down naked on cool sheets to sleep for an hour before you have to go out for the night.  Lazy Saturday afternoons when it’s rainy or cold are a great time to snuggle in with your partner or your kids and nap together for a while to recharge your batteries.  And who doesn’t love a good nap on the beach in the sun?

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Wherever and however you nap, here’s a few tips to get the best nap you can…

  1. Don’t sleep for hours –  The average time for beneficial shut eye is between 20 – 90 minutes.  This doesn’t mean you can’t sleep for longer, but you don’t want to spend 3 hours on the couch because you will have a hard time sleeping later at night when you really want to.  My sister is notorious for taking power naps.  She goes outside at work on nice days, sets her alarm on her phone and sleeps for 20 minutes on the picnic bench at her break.  She has the right idea.  A mid afternoon nap can give you great benefits like increased alertness, focus, and mood.
  2. Pick a comfortable place –  This can be wherever is good for you.  The bedroom, the couch, a hammock, your car, whatever.  It also depends on where you are and how much time you have.  If I’m home, a nice nap on the couch works most times.  I find that I often sleep too long if I actually nap in bed.  In any case, just make sure you will be comfy and able to relax.
  3. Enjoy it –  Don’t lay down and keep thinking of all the things you have to do.  First of all, you won’t go to sleep that way, and second it’s not going to help anyone.  We all need sleep and if you are going to commit to a nap, go all the way.  Don’t feel bad about it later, don’t beat yourself up over not doing the dishes, and don’t complain that you could have been cleaning out the car.  Taking care of ourselves is one of the best things we can do for us and for those around us.  If you need a little rest to make your head stop rotating like the poltergeist, then just go lay down and do it.  Everyone you run into that day will thank you and the dishes will get done eventually.  I promise.

Day 12 – How To Love Your Body…

In this world of ours that is filled to bursting with selfies, photo filters, “plus size” models that are a size 10, and Kim Kardashian’s ass, it’s hard to know how to love what you see in the mirror at home everyday.  Under the bright unflattering lights of your bathroom.  With no filter and no airbrushing.  It’s a scary thought, but really, it shouldn’t be.  When did we get so far down the rabbit hole of narcissism and self hate that we can’t even bring ourselves to look at our naked bodies and appreciate them for what they are.  Beautiful.  Every single one of them.

Whether you are fat, skinny, stretch marked, or stretched tight, you should love and appreciate that beautiful form of yours, no matter what you see.  Here are a few things to help us remember how fabulous we are…

  1. Look in the mirror – Look.  Really look.  And I challenge you to look and not to focus in on those things that make you unhappy but rather the things that make you beautiful.  This is a conscious decision, and not something that will happen overnight.  You have to make the choice to not hate yourself and not perpetuate the myth that you are not perfect, just as you are today, right now.  Admire your beautiful feminine hourglass figure, or your narrow hips, or that beauty mark that spreads across your breast.  Adore your ankles, or the curve of your back, or even that big booty you have behind you.  Hug tight that swell of your belly that has had the opportunity to eat great food or give life to a new being.  Look at yourself.  Appreciate yourself, and love yourself.  Every day.
  2. Look at magazines, models and social media – It is a part of life to have to see flawless airbrushed images of impossibly beautiful creatures.  Don’t shy away from it, it’s fine to look at them as long as you appreciate them for what they are.  Art.  A very talented group of makeup artist, stylists, trainers, and editors have all contributed to the outcome of those pictures.  They are stunning, they are gorgeous, and at most times they look nothing like the actual person does in real life.  They are art, they are interpretation, and they are meant to sell products, services, or ideas.  Take them for what they are and don’t use them as a bar to reach for in your own life, cause it aint gonna happen ladies.  Unless you are Jennifer Lawrence, that bitch really is flawless.
  3. Be naked –  Being naked is awesome, it just is.  Feeling comfortable in your own skin is a gift that you can give yourself constantly.  The  more often you are naked, the more comfortable you will feel.  It’s a habit you have to form.  Don’t just be naked alone either, be naked with your partner, your kids, whoever.  This is something we have done for forever in my family.  My father recounts days getting ready in the house with three daughters and how we would run around the hallway upstairs in various stages of undress as he just shook his head.  My sisters and I are still pretty open to this day.  At home, Jay and I walk around naked in the morning or before bed all the time.  We also sleep naked usually.  We don’t hide it when AC is with us either.  How are kids supposed to know what real bodies look like if the only bodies they see are on the pages of magazines.  Don’t make it a big deal and they won’t either.  Don’t cover up, everyone has the same parts, it’s ok.  Let go a little and you will start to feel more free and less self conscious.
  4. Speak kindly – Words have such a profound effect.  When you speak negatively about yourself, you begin to feel negative about yourself, your energy becomes negative, and others will begin to notice that and respond to that negativity as well.  Especially children.  Kids don’t just wake up and say “I hate my body”.  They learn that, and they learn that from what they see you doing and what they hear you saying about yourself and about others.  Recently AC has said to me “M, you have a big belly”.  Instead of taking that negatively, I say to him that yes I do have a big belly and that it makes me soft and comfortable for him to cuddle with and shows that I love food.  I also remind him that there are all different kinds of people in the world, all different sizes, shapes, and colors, and that we are all beautiful because of who we are, not because of what we look like.  He is 5, and he gets it.  Why can’t we get that when we are 25, 35, 65.  Speak kindly of yourself, and others and you might just start to believe your words and recognize that the nice things you are making an effort to say really are true, and really are the things that are important.
  5. Be healthy –  It is a myth that healthy means thin and also that unhealthy means fat.  It is all you hear today, loose weight and all your health issues fade away.  That’s, for the most part, total bullshit.  I agree that you want to be healthy, you want to eat lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains and you want to do something every day that makes you sweat a little.  Whatever that is, is up to you.  Play with your kids, go for a walk around the neighborhood, or rock out on the treadmill in the gym.  Whatever works for you.  Attend your yearly checkups, have a gyno exam, do self breast exams, and talk to your doctors about anything abnormal.  What you should not do is assume that because you are fluffy in your backside means you have health issues by default.  Real health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes are there, and they are there for EVERYONE.  Not just for fat people.  I have been overweight my entire life and have no real health issues other than the occasional migraine headache.  The point is, go with the facts about your own body and not with what society says.  Find a doctor that respects and talks to you and don’t ever be afraid to challenge them.  They may be MDs but they aren’t perfect.
  6. Look your best –  The number one best thing you can do for yourself is to look the best for you.  Don’t drown yourself in bigger clothing if you are thin, don’t try to pull off fashions that are meant for size 0s when you are a size 20.  My rule is to never leave the house wearing something that you would be embarrassed to be seen in if you ran into your mother.  I never walk out the door without a little powder on my face and a little mascara on.  It’s not for other people, it’s for me.  It makes me know that if I DO run into people, I won’t shy away, I won’t be embarrassed, and I will always be willing to say hello.  There is nothing worse than that feeling in your stomach that you look so awful you don’t want to be seen.  Of course it happens to all of us, maybe you have the flu, or just broke up with your love interest, or are recovering from a very late night of martinis and bad decisions.  Whatever the reason, bad days happen, just don’t let that turn into the norm.  Take pride in what you look like and present yourself at your best.

In the end, it’s on you.  You need to choose to love yourself, practice things that will help you to do that, and teach those positive practices to others.  Choose to recognize that no matter who you are, there is beauty in you, and that when you learn to see it in yourself, others will see it too.

 

Day 11 – How To Get Past Writers Block…

I will admit, today I don’t feel like writing.  It’s cold out, really cold for this time of year in Connecticut.  We are in the grips of another “polar vortex” which basically means it’s not even Thanksgiving and I have my winter coat on.  I worked today, went out to dinner with Jay to celebrate his new job, and all I really want to do is sit on the couch, have a cup of tea and eat the rest of the cookies that AC and I made this weekend (see Day 9) while I wait for my beloved Sons of Anarchy to come on.  However, if I don’t write I will be even more upset tomorrow that I have not met my goal, and so soon into the challenge at that.  For these 100 days, I have a list of about 60 ideas for the postings already, but I haven’t had to really go back to it very much.  Writing happens with me very organically.  I can usually pick a topic in my head that day, kind of do the major points in my mind and then sit down, write a post and be pretty happy with it minus some small editing during the second or third read through.  However, when I can’t think of anything to write, like today, it is almost impossible for me to just get something down on paper.

So I went back to my list.  I had sent it out to a very few people to get their input and see if they could add to my ideas.  One of the topics that my little sister sent me in her response was just this – “How To Get Past Writers Block”, saying that it was obviously something I have done.  At the time when I read her suggestions, I kind of put that one to the side.  I’m not really a writer I thought to myself.  I don’t have long stints of sitting at a blank screen, I don’t have the pressures of an advance or a publisher or even many readers for that matter.  I wasn’t sure I could really relate to the writers block that others have.  That crippling inability to put thoughts and shapes to the page.  But as I thought about it today, the topic started to take form in my mind.

I do kind of have a process for getting through those times that are hard for me to write, I  do consistently have some behaviors that I feel do help me, and maybe my process might make sense to someone else.  As I thought about it more, it’s not just for writers block that I do these things, I did them in school when I couldn’t focus on studying, I do them now when I need to compartmentalize the various things I have going on, and I also do them when I’m having trouble writing.  So for what it’s worth, here’s a brief glance into my process…

  1. Make a plan –  I don’t mean this in any kind of super organized and detailed way.  Not for me anyway, and not for a blog.  Although I do have an outline for my book manuscript and I’m sure others need them for larger work.  But in general write down your ideas for the next few posts.  If it helps, keep a notebook or ideas that you can stash in your purse or car.  I often use the “notes” feature on my phone to jot down ideas because it’s convenient.  It’s hard to go in totally cold to writing, so having some kind of plan, whatever works for you, will help in the end.
  2. Walk away –  Just don’t write for a couple hours.  Do the dishes, watch a crappy movie, read a magazine, go on Pinterest, whatever.  Just don’t write.  Get it out of your head and amazingly a lot of the time, this is enough to get past whatever mental block I’m having and reset my mind so that it can maybe start the creative process again.  However, don’t walk away for too long.  Don’t let it get so long that you don’t write at all that day, or that week, or that month.  That’s not taking a break, that’s giving up.
  3. Just write something –  The wonderfully quirky Anne Lamott tells readers that you have to write.  Write anything.  She also says you will have a ton of shitty first drafts, and shitty second drafts at that.  It doesn’t matter.  Keep writing.  Having something down on paper is better than having nothing down and when you begin to write, you will find that you may hate a ton of what you have, but there might be one or two sentences in there that are genius.  Those little victories are what you need to hang on to.  Those small glimpses of the brilliant people we can be, make writing 6 shitty first drafts worth it.
  4. Eat something – I know, I know, it’s primarily a food blog and of course I will bring it back to eating.  But it’s true.  Having a snack or a glass of wine or cup of tea help me to relax.  In turn, that makes it easier to get ideas and topics down.  I do some of my best writing in the morning when I’m fresh and full of energy, or at night, after I’ve eaten, when I’m sitting in the living room with Jay and just typing while we watch some TV and have some tea and a cookie.  Something about that, maybe it’s like that after school snack you got before you started your homework that is ingrained in our minds, but it works.

Happy writing!