Thursday, October 30, 2014


The "Work.Out." posts over the past several weeks have been pretty intense. I thought I'd change things up a bit this week and focus on relaxation. Whether you're stressed or not, my guess is like me, you welcome any chance to relax. So today, we're doing yoga for relaxation and stress relief. I'm also including a tutorial on breathing techniques, as it's arguably one of the most important parts of yoga practice. Enjoy and Namaste.

* All videos are from Yoga With Adrienne. Check out more of her videos on her YouTube channel.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love List

1. If you're into perfume, you'd likely adore having a signature scent. That's a little more possible with Jo Malone's fragrance combining service.  (Jo Malone)

2. Hollaback is working to end "street harrassment" and had a woman walk around Manhattan for 10 hours while recording her experiences being hit on/cat-called/harassed by men. Check out the video here. You can see more about my thoughts on the topic on my Tumblr feed. (YouTube)

3. I give myself a manicure at least once a week. Love this spill proof nail polish holder that keeps polish stable while your working. (Whatever Works)

4. I saw this mini elliptical trainer publicized as exercise equipment for the lazy. I think it's genius when you sit at a desk for most of the day. Just slide it under the desk and get your workout in while you work. (Amazon)

5. Beyonce is collaborating with TopShop on an active wear line. Maybe that will help energize my workout routine. (TopShop)

6. St. Jude is close to my heart and I have been donating and participating in fundraisers to help them for a while. Last year, I did the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and I plan to do the same this year. If you're in NYC, sign up/donate here. If outside of the City, look for walks in your area. They have them all over the country. (St. Jude/Elvis Duran)

7. Who doesn't need a good shoe hack? I'm all for anything that can make heels more comfortable. (Buzzfeed)

8. The MICA is the latest in wearable tech from Opening Ceremony and Intel. It will debut this Winter. Who said tech couldn't be fashionable? (New York Times)

9.I have been doing lots of designed and ombre manicures lately but for the past 2 weeks, I've been wearing a beautiful shade of purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. No other embellishments and I love it. I think purple may be my Fall go-to color. Maybelline Color Show has some pretty shades. What are your favorite fall colors? (Maybelline)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Food Tuesday

PANTRY RAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today's meal is bought to you by a long day. We've all had them. You work, you go to meetings, you come home and want to order takeout more than anything. Yep, that's the one.

I had that kind of day yesterday but instead of ordering high sodium lo mein or greasy pizza, I opted to take a bunch of staples out of my pantry and make something happen. This pasta is the result.

Instead of providing a recipe (because making it really depends on what you keep as pantry staples), I will just encourage opting for compatible flavors. I went for Mediterranean flavors and added olive oil, chickpeas, marinated artichokes, spinach, and roasted tomatoes with garlic to 2 types of pasta (to clear out small amounts of each).

All of the ingredients are staples of mine. What do you keep your pantry stocked with? What's your favorite pantry raid meal? 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Quotable

Today's quote is about the potential in everything and the sculptor's gift to give it to the world. It strikes me at a place just beyond its plain meaning. See yourself as the block of stone and the sculptor. It is never to late re-carve your story and present a new gift (your new, happy self) to the world. Want a new direction in life, start re-tooling today!!

Happy Monday!  

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Today's workout focuses on the lower body and is taken from XHIT. You can see demonstrations of each exercise here. XHIT is also a great resource for all kinds of workouts. Check out their YouTube channel here. Here's to sweating it out, whatever it may be for you (stress, excess weight, built up emotions, fatigue, etc.). 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

love list

1. I'm always amazed when I watch today's "kids" movies. They are just as entertaining for adults as they are for kids because we totally get the jokes. Here are more that are sure to make you raise an eyebrow. (Buzzfeed)

2. Halloween is coming and if you're like me, you're woefully behind on decorating and candy shopping.  Lucky for me, Costco is now selling decorative mini pumpkins in their produce section. These suggestions on carve free pumpkin decor are just what I need. (Cosmopolitan)

3. I just found Tanesha Awasthi's Girls With Curves blog a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely love it. Great tips and beautiful fashion. You can't go wrong. (Girls With Curves)

4. Cookie butter? It doesn't fit into my workout routine but I don't see that stopping me. Everything in moderation. (A Beautiful Mess)

5. These are great tips for making the best out of less expensive bottles of wine. (Cupcakes & Cashmere)

6. Brit + Co.'s collection of Halloween costumes is sure to provide inspiration if you need it like I do. (Brit + Co.)

7. The story behind Wishbone Letterpress is great inspiration to live the life you want...the life that makes you happy. (Design Sponge)

8. It's squash season. Why not learn how to cut the larger ones properly? (Pure Wow)

9. I love this DIY thumbtack art. Going to try my hand at it this weekend. (Life in Velvet)

100 Happy Days Fallout

I announced a little over a month ago that I was starting on the #100HappyDays challenge again. I was so excited about focusing on gratitude and encouraging others to do the same. The website chided me. “Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? You don’t have time for this, right? 71% of people who tried to complete this challenge, failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.”
“PFFFFFFFT! I can be happy,” I thought. 100 Days? Bring it on!

On the journey, however, I noticed something startling. I was stressed out about being happy! Sounds crazy right?  Let me explain .

Each day, I would have moments to be thankful for (being alive, the softness of the bed at the end of a long day, a good meal, date night with Ash, time with friends, a fun workout, no traffic, etc.).  Half can’t be photographically documented and everything else would be a daily repeat. So then, it becomes about taking pictures of nature:

“Oh! I am so happy about the changing leaves! #autumn #leaves #foliage #colors #100HappyDays”


 “What a gorgeous sunset.  #100HappyDays #nature #sunset #beautiful”

After a while, I was spending more time looking for something tangible to be grateful for and freaking out about the daily photo deadline. It all became a bit exhausting so I stopped…and I was grateful for that though it couldn’t be captured in photos (unless I snapped a pic of a stop sign).
I did confirm some lessons through the process:  

1. My time is better spent living in the moment rather than on Instagram documenting it. 

2. My gratitude practice is better left for journaling and talking. 

3. Pictures are great when the mood hits but sometimes, it’s just about a feeling and that is perfectly fine.

Maybe that was the point all along? 

No matter what works for you, I hope you’re finding your happy today!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Food Tuesday

The cold weather set in and so did my craving for hearty, warm comfort food. Rather than opting for soup, I decided to go for Mushroom Stroganoff and of course, I veganized it (super simple). The recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma's "Food Made Fast" series. 

Mushroom Stroganoff

6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. mixed fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and cremini, sliced or diced
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti)
2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 lb. wide egg noodles or grain of your choice (I added new potatoes to the recipe so I didn’t use a grain or pasta)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the margarine. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the shallot and sauté until lightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they have softened and released most of their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to incorporate. Stir in the wine and broth and cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vegan sour cream. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper and stir until well incorporated. 

If you are cooking pasta, cook it according to package instructions while the mushrooms are cooking. Toss the pasta with the sauce and top with parsley before serving.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Quotable

Change tends to be overwhelming. Even small change like eating differently or working out can seem impossible when looked at in the wrong way. It is somehow easier to change activity levels by replacing 30 minutes of your couch time with a nightly walk than to think about a laundry list of how much weight you need to lose, what you need to buy from the store, what exercise program you should be on, and how much money everything is going to cost.   Today's quote is all about making the changes of life more manageable.

You certainly cannot change everything that makes you unhappy or stressed. BUT you can change something. Make one positive change that will make your life or someone else's better. Let me know in the comments what you changed and how it helped.

Happy Monday! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Magnus Tingsek

I always talk about good leading to good. For instance, gratitude leads to more things to be thankful for (whether tangible or not). Sometime, it could just be a change in focus. Other times, it's an actual additional something. Enough of this musing. Last week, the NCL Artist Spotlight was on Allen Stone. In learning more about Allen, I found Magnus Tingsek. 

Tingsek is a Swedish singer/songwriter/producer who has been releasing his own music since 2005 (yep, way late on this one too). Before that, he was in or collaborating with a slew of different bands. He’s spent the last couple of years producing music for other artists and touring with Allen Stone. His discography includes five albums and his latest effort is due out November 7.  Get into Tingsek with the playlist below. If you want to look up his other albums, here are the links:

Tingsek (2005)

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The last thing I want to think about today is working out. My arms and legs hurt so much from training this week that the thought of a bicep curl or a lunge makes me want to hide under the bed. BUT, so it goes when you take time off from the gym. This week's workout is the training routine I did on arm day this week. I will say the boxing was pretty fun!


You can find boxing demonstrations on several YouTube accounts. This video shows the basic punches.

You can find demonstrations for each of the arm/shoulder exercises on Expert Village's YouTube page. Look for the How to Work Out Properly section.

To learn more about increasing reps vs. increasing weight, check out this article. I tend to increase weight for each set but it's really up to you. The important thing is training safely with proper form. The weight/reps depends on your fitness goals.

Here's to good health! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Love List

1. This recipe is being touted as the best banana bread recipe and it comes from Dominique Ansel, the creator of the cronut. Can't wait to try it. (Tasting Table)

2. Love the pro-peace message behind the Yoga Joes. (Kickstarter/Dan Abramson)

3. I'm always looking for ways to improve in the kitchen. These tips from a personal chef are great. (Mind Body Green)

4. Ombre is everywhere these days so it was only a matter of time before it impacted makeup. I plan to try this ombre lip tutorial for date night this weekend. I love it because it is slight and not a full recall of the dark lip liner/pale lipstick look from the 90s. (MAC Cosmetics)

5. Tank top season is over but I am thinking of doing this Brushstroke DIY anyway. Who needs sleeves? That's what cardigans are for! (p.s. I Made This)

6. This is a great set of tips for properly storing your groceries. It's helping me cut down on the amount of food I waste because it spoils so quickly. (Buzzfeed)

7. My fingerprints are a mainstay on my tech screens. I don't care how many soft cloths or stylus pens I use, it's a problem. The iRoller promises to fix that. (Grommet)

8. I'm always looking for new effects to try on my nails. Masterclass offers kits with instructions from professionals on doing manicures with metal, gems and geometric patterns. (Masterclass)

9. Lately, I've been obsessed with lightening my hair but I want to find the right shade and technique (highlights, full color or ombre) that strikes the right tone for both work and fun. I think I may have found exactly what I want in Jessica Alba's latest color. (In Style) 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food Tuesday: Kale, Butternut Squash and White Bean Saute over Cauliflower Mash

Kale, Butternut Squash and White Bean Saute over Cauliflower Mash

1 steamer bag frozen cauliflower
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 bunch dinosaur kale, chopped
1 ½ cup diced butternut squash
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
½ red or Vidalia onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

Large, deep skillet
Food processor
Rubber spatula

Steam cauliflower. While it is steaming, heat olive oil in a deep skillet on medium high heat. Sauté 1 clove of garlic for about 30-45 seconds.  Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add butternut squash and sauté for about 5 minutes.

While the vegetable mixture is cooking, remove cauliflower from steamer bag and put cauliflower into a food processor. Add about half of the vegetable broth, earth balance salt and pepper. Pulse a couple of times to combine everything. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula then replace top and blend until smooth. Check while it is blending. If it needs more moisture, add more vegetable broth. This will take a couple of minutes.

While cauliflower is blending, add kale to vegetable mixture. Once kale is wilted, add white beans and stir until well combined. Add cayenne pepper and turmeric and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put burner on the lowest heat setting and allow to continue cooking for 3-5 minutes.

To serve, spoon cauliflower onto a plate. It will serve as the base for your meal. Top with vegetable mixture. Before serving, I garnished with a few pieces of roasted red peppers for color. Enjoy! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Quotable

This weekend, I learned a valuable lesson at an amusement park (of all places). Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with patience or calm despite the shovel and chainsaw wielding zombies at Six Flags Great Adventure's Fright Fest. Surprisingly, it was all about courage (and not the courage to get on roller coasters because I LOVE them.

There I was, reliving my childhood on my favorite roller coaster when a group of guys behind me started cursing, yelling and antagonizing other people on the ride. We went through with the ride and coasted to the end of the ride. While we were stopped, waiting for the car in front of us to take off, the guy next to me turned around to the obnoxious crew and told them to calm it down as there were young kids on board. They guys (of course) had plenty of F bombs in response but my coaster car neighbor stood up to them as if he were the parent and they were children in need of reprimanding. Ultimately, they apologized and calmed down. It was simple, but it struck me as courageous--perhaps because it is rare to see someone saying what everyone else is thinking while everyone else is content to avoid confrontation.

It made me think that confrontation--even if it's small--for the greater good, is not a bad thing. When I saw this quote, I knew I had to share it and the story. Most of us avoid confrontation at all costs and vent about annoying or worse things with our friends and family. Ultimately, that venting does nothing for the greater good. Sometimes, we have to be like my coaster neighbor and summon the courage to speak out. Just something to think about.

When have you summoned courage to speak out? Did you regret it or were you proud?

Happy Monday! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I admit I've spent most of the week listening to Allen Stone. BUT, there have been some mainstream (aka radio) hits that I've been nodding my head (or wiggling my hips) to this week as well--particularly during my morning commute. Thought I'd share them. After all, what's the weekend without music! Hope you're enjoying yours. Cheers!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Allen Stone

I heard another artist being compared to Allen Stone about a week ago and decided to look him up. I'm so happy I did. The soulful sound of his voice has been providing the soundtrack for my days ever since. I will confess I am a little late to the game because Allen has been creating a buzz in the music industry for quite a while. He has two digital albums Last to Speak and Allen Stone. His self-released, self-titled effort came out in 2011 and quickly went into the Top 5 of iTunes' R&B/Soul charts. He was later voted one of mtvU's "Freshman 5" and named a VH1 "You Oughta Know" artist.

After completing a long tour (over 600 shows) to showcase and promote his work, he returned home to the small Washington town of Chewelah to record his latest album, which is said to be filled with live music. I can't wait for the release but I've got plenty to keep me happily listening in the meantime. That includes his latest single, Million.

Today's playlist is filled with Allen Stone originals and covers. My faves are Sleep, Million, Running Game, his cover of Marcy Playground's Sex & Candy and  his cover of Is this Love by Bob Marley. I could go on and on because there really isn't a song I dislike but I will stop there. I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Today's workout is a HIIT routine. You can find a visual here. Happy sweating and happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Love List

1. If you (like Ash) take up the entire bed when you sleep, this article may provide a good response when your partner is pissed about it. Seriously, though, there is something to say for sleeping in power pose. (New York Magazine)

2. I've layered my hair many times over the years to make it look fuller. Sometimes, the cut is great and I feel all bouncy and full of movement--or at least my hair does. Other times, I've wanted to weep at the choppy mess I was left with. The Language of Layers (Part One and Two) will help you better communicate with your stylist what you mean when you ask for layers. (The Beauty Department)

3. I am not--or at least I wasn't--a coffee drinker. I'm a tea girl through and through. Then, I hit a crazy patch at work where no sleep was ever enough. One morning, before a very long commute, I decided I should have coffee to stay awake and alert on the road. From that moment on, I've had coffee almost every morning. You'd think I was too old to pick up another vice but it is what it is. In an effort to curb my spending and to stop getting a too-big-for-my-cupholder cup of iced coffee every day, I looked for an alternative and Starbucks Iced Coffee was there waiting for me to do my own customizing. I go for unsweetened but it also comes in unsweetened and caramel. I have mine with vanilla almond milk. (Starbucks)

4. I love this simple trick for covering your thermostat. (The Chic Site)

5. I saw The Equalizer over the weekend. Great movie and I highly recommend it. I saw Gone Girl too. Also good though I read the book and you know how that goes. (IMDb)

6. I love doing morning affirmations. This site has some really good ones. Mine are a bit less eloquent but maybe I'll use this to step up my game. (Free People)

7. This is a great hack for blog photo backgrounds. (A Pair and A Spare)

8. I liked this post on vintage beauty tips especially the ones on use of natural treatments. (Michelle Phan)

9. Distractify compiled a collection of photos that they say define the 21st Century. The photos bring back a flood of memories--both good and bad but I like the collection. (Distractify) 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Food Tuesday: Vegetarian Cacciatore

If you follow me on Instagram (nmatthews241), you know I finally got back into the kitchen and cooked something share-worthy. That is, unless you think popcorn or cereal are worth posting about in which case I've been in the kitchen making share-worthy crap for a couple of weeks. But I digress. Last night I made Vegetarian Cacciatore and I loved every delicious bite. The recipe made more than enough for 4 people (or leftovers for 2). It’s also the perfect cool weather comfort food and only takes about half an hour to prepare/cook.

Vegetarian Cacciatore*
1 large eggplant, largely diced
1 8 oz. package of mushrooms (white button or baby bella)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Dole fire roasted garlic style)
1 vidalia onion, cut in half and sliced into thin strips
1 whole fire roasted red pepper, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup quinoa
1-2 tablespoons basil or parsley (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon kosher or course sea salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the diced eggplant to a large skillet and add ½ of your salt. The eggplant will soak up the olive oil. Stir and allow to sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and put on a plate. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet and add mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown.  Remove mushrooms and add them to the plate with the eggplant. Add remaining olive oil to skillet and allow to heat. Add minced garlic and allow to cook and perfume the oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add onions and roasted peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes.  

While the onions are cooking, put vegetable stock in a pot with rinsed quinoa and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Allow the quinoa to cook for 15 minutes and then let it sit (off of the heat) for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, fluff with spoon.

While the quinoa is cooking, add eggplant and mushrooms back to the skillet. Stir until ingredients are well mixed. Drain the canning liquid off of the tomatoes and add them to the skillet. Stir them into the mixture and add the red wine and stir. Reduce heat and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes.

Serve the vegetable mixture over the quinoa. Enjoy!

NOTE: If you don’t like quinoa, you can use any type of grain or pasta you want.  I’m sure its delicious with polenta (which I usually serve with vegetarian ragu) or even just a crusty bread to scoop with.

NOTE: If you eat meat, feel free to make this with chicken thighs. I believe traditional cacciatore is made with rabbit so you can go for that too if you prefer.  You can find good recipes for either one here:  Chicken (Food Network)/Rabbit (Epicurious).


* Recipe based on Laura Vitale's Vegetarian Cacciatore (as demonstrated on Laura in the Kitchen) here

p/s See those little social media buttons under my mini-bio?? Click them and follow me on my other platforms!! Thx!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday Quotable

What is it that makes us remember the bad things in life in such detail while the good things become fuzzy? I don’t mean the epically good things like starting the job of your dreams, buying your first place, your wedding day or the birth of your child. I just mean the everyday good. A friend who comes over to binge on Netflix and pizza when you had a bad week at work. A husband who tries to make the perfect quinoa so you can vege out after work. A sister who calls just to say hi. Belly laughing with friends over cocktails. They’re all beautiful things in the moment but they tend to go out of focus soon after the moment is over. You remember the warm fuzzies but you don’t remember particular details.   

The bad things, however, seem to reside in your mind in great detail. You can probably remember the time, temperature, what you were wearing and everything everyone said in a bad situation.

When you’re facing drama, chances are you can look back on a previous time and say “this is just like ______________.” Yet, in good times, you don’t sit around remembering the warm fuzzies of the past. You doubt or fear the good feelings because the bad feelings are there, poking their way into your thoughts—reminding you that you’re never truly rid of them.

Well, after spending the last few years trying to focus on the good in my life, I’ve found some tricks for keeping my eyes on it. And in my opinion, silence is the golden rule. Silence the fears, doubts and persistent bad memories of the past by reminding yourself of the good. All. The. Time.

Here are some examples I can pull from my own life:

New boyfriend (and I use that as a general term because it applies to everyone I dated before Ash) is awesome but old boyfriend was too. So I question every move and just wait for the other shoe to drop. In the process, I either found something or pushed new boyfriend away. The result in my mind was the same: “I knew it! He was just like the others.”

I was in that cycle for years until I took a year to date myself and started figuring out why I was dating the same type of guy over and over again. By the time I met my husband, I’d dumped most of my negative garbage and learned to face the doubts head on by raising them and then silencing them by focusing on all the good things—the things that set him apart—from the men in the earlier chapters of my life.

Then, the negative thoughts crept into my career. I worked for a task master who questioned every decision I made and criticized me constantly. I began doubting myself and it effected my performance. Eventually, I moved on (you can read more about that here) and had a clean slate. Despite the fresh start, the self doubt lingered. Ultimately, I had to get past that and remind myself I got a new job because I’m qualified and smart. When the doubt creeps in (usually with new challenges), I remind myself of my accomplishments and focus on times when I was proud of my work. If necessary, I go all AibileenClark on myself…”You are smart. You are important.” Whatever it takes.

I’ve also experienced this penchant for remembering the bad when it comes to my health and vitality. I’ve felt like a waste because of my illnesses and my issues with being able to carry a child. When I first got diagnosed with lupus, I told Ash to leave me. I felt like a burden. Some people in my life at the time even encouraged that feeling by asking why he hadn’t run for the hills. I internalized those thoughts and even on my good days, the “waste” voices would creep in. Slowly, I learned to shut them up by focusing on all the ways I was just fine…that my value isn’t based on perfection. I had to remind myself of all the ways I was awesome and whole. Eventually, that list turned into what I was thankful for and it drowned out what I was scared of or unhappy about. That’s how my spiritual practice came to include focusing on gratitude.

Now, I try to spend most of my time focusing on the good in my life. Because of that, I’ve come to expect the best for my life. When I forget, I remind myself to reflect on the good. I actively make the bad thoughts/memories fuzzy by leaving no room for them in my life. That’s not to say nothing bad happens or that I never get sad/frustrated/mad. I just try to spend as little time in darkness as I can and when the moment passes, I take whatever lesson came with it and leave the residual bad feelings behind. In doing so, I find something else to be grateful for.

How do you focus on the good? What do you do to mentally break out of a bad spot? Do you have a gratitude practice?