Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six Weeks to Wellness

Part of my wellness journey includes prayer and meditation. I’ve prayed since I was a little girl reciting “Now I lay me down to sleep…” In recent years, I’ve found myself praying what I call a “genie prayer.” You’re probably familiar: “God, I need a lottery win, a house and a good vacation and all will be ok. Please answer my prayer.” While all those things may be true and/or awesome, the reality—at least for me—is God isn’t a genie. Prayer (again IMHO) really should be more about peace and less about things. Don’t get me wrong—I still pray for miracles, health, prosperity—whatever that means, and for friends and family struggling with things, but I also pray for peace in the event the things prayed for are not to be. I use prayer as a moment to lay my burdens down. I try to pray and release. In other words, I try not to lay a burden down, say “Amen” and spend my day picking it back up and obsessing about it.

Before I got into this whole wellness journey, I noticed I’d shifted to lazy prayer. I’d say the Lord’s Prayer in the morning only to doze off in the middle of it. I’d pray at night after I’d watched all the TV I wanted and was in bed, covered up and comfortably smushed into my pillows. Guess what happened next. Dear God, Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Since prayer is when I get some peace, I knew I needed to make a change. I started going back to church and am working on little prayers for peace and a grateful heart throughout the day. Sometimes that translates into “Thank you.” and sometimes, it’s a bit more involved. The point is I’m making time for my personal spiritual growth.  

My other tool for peace is meditation. I’ve done so many 21-day meditation challenges at this point, I could record a guided series. The problem lately is I don’t take the time to meditate and if I do, I spend it focused on the traffic racing through my head. I thought about going to a meditation retreat but I decided I’m not ready to spend 5 or more days of vacation time in silence yet (and maybe I won’t ever be). I did take some active steps to get focused again though.

I finished Dan Harris’ 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help that Actually Works—A True Story. Mouthful right? I featured the book on a Love List (Meditation Edition) earlier this month. I can honestly say it was the most refreshing approach to meditation. The point wasn’t buried in hard to understand prose. It’s one man’s journey with some expertise and scientific research that’s summed up in plain English. If you’ve ever been frustrated while learning to meditate, this book is for you. You’ll find Harris totally relatable walk away with a sense that you don’t have to buy into the business of guru-ism to find peace. You can sit right at your desk or on your couch and get effective meditation done in just a few minutes.

The book couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. After I finished, I needed more so I found Harris’ talk to Google about meditation. Through that, I was reminded about Headspace, which I’d heard of a while back but never downloaded it. I finally have it and have completed my 10-day intro journey. Not sure if I’m doing the paid service yet but in the 10 days, I formed a great foundation and towards the end, I’d finally learned to get my racing thoughts under control. I plan to continue beyond this wellness journey.  

What is your spiritual practice? How do you stay focused and make sure you dedicate time to that practice everyday? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Food Tuesday: Restaurant Tour

It’s Food Tuesday and time for another stop on the restaurant tour. This week, it’s all about Cantina Rooftop Restaurant and Lounge. This charming little spot is in my old stomping grounds (I used to live a block away) and perhaps it is a good thing it wasn’t open when I was in walking distance. I can definitely see its potential as a weekly stop. We went there with family a few weeks ago for the happy hour/pre-dinner experience and had a great time. I will confess, I am partial to a rooftop when the sun is shining but even if I wasn’t, the casual vibe of Cantina would pull me in.

Location: Hell’s Kitchen. 605 W. 58th St., New York, NY 10019 (btwn 11th and West St/West Side Hwy)

Atmosphere: Outdoor party. There are a few high top tables for four inside with the bar as well as a couple of couches. The walls are open to the outside rooftop where there is a section of tables for 2 or 4 on one side and couches under a glass roof on the other side. The décor is bright and colorful and tropical plants add a bit of a vacation vibe. When we went, there was a DJ playing current hip hop and pop hits. The crowd was roughly mid 20s-early 40s. There was a bar crawl that night so it may have been a bit noisier than normal but it didn’t detract from the relaxed vibe.  

Service: The staff is amazing and friendly. We never waited too long for anything and had no problem getting drinks despite the crowded bar.

Price Point: $$ (small plates: $8-$14; salads: $10-$14; ceviches: $12-$18; tacos: $10-$14; entrees $25-$30). They also offer a prix fixe brunch ($28.95 for 1 entrée and 2 mimosas or bellinis)

Cocktails: They offer a selection of handcrafted margaritas and cocktails ($12) as well as extensive tequila and wine lists.

Deals: The Happy Hour menu is your best bet for cheap eats. The food (a selection of guacamole, tacos, empanadas and seafood) runs between $10 and $14 (bar and lounge only) and there are $6 house margarita/frozen cocktail specials and $5 beer specials.

Our Meal: We started with guacamole, which comes with plantain and blue corn tortilla chips. The serving is relatively small so for a table of 4 and we definitely needed 2. We also tried the empanada trio and all of the tacos with the exception of the Los Cabos Tuna. The tacos also come in threes and are mini. Everything was delicious. Our server had lots of suggestions and we enjoyed everything she recommended.

Cons: I didn’t have any cons. I loved everything about this place. I will say, if you are going for conversation (first date, perhaps), you may want to go on a weekday or sit outside as the volume on the music is pretty loud. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Quotable

“I don’t do regrets,” said an 18 year old girl on the edge of womanhood—without a pinch of a clue.

I was so naïve and had no idea what life would bring. Today, the reality is I’ve collected quite a few regrets. I’ve lost opportunities to procrastination. I chose money over passion. I put myself last…a lot. What I’ve learned over the years is there will be regrets but there is a chance to learn from the mistakes that haunt you and ultimately to fix them either in a concrete way or through forgiveness if an actual fix isn’t possible.

Today, I don’t disagree with the desire to die without regrets.  I do think, however, that you gain more perspective as you age and can easily let go of things that might have seemed world altering when they happened. Remember that first breakup? I certainly do. I also remember regretting the entire relationship. Today, I’m over it and don’t regret it. I view it through a different lens and can see the beauty in the lessons I learned from that time in my life. Poof. Regret gone.

For the regrets that I’m living with at the moment, I’m praying and doing the work to turn them into things of the past but it's going to take some big, scary life changes. That's why today's quote stood out. I am sure it speaks to some of you as well.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Monday Quotable

I’ve been going through a cleansing process for the last 6 days.  While I started by focusing on how crappy my diet had become and my desire to lose a little weight, I learned a lot about myself in the process.  I know that sounds weird coming from a person who writes weekly posts about herself, her likes, her goals, etc. but sometimes, self awareness can be repressed—often for self preservation.

As odd as it sounds, cutting everything out of my diet except raw fruit, vegetables and smoothie packets blew my blinders off and exposed the things I’ve been ignoring for years now. For instance, I used to be so good about willpower. Once I started something, I would stick to it until I hit my goal whether it dealt with career, health, travel, etc. The goal was always there waiting for me at the finish line. Everything was in reach because of hard work and planning. Then, I hit a wall and I couldn’t control the climb over it.  I lost the job that I felt defined me, was diagnosed with health issues that don’t have cures and was told having children would be a huge feat that would involve a lot of doctors and likely a surrogate. I was broken and not broken open to change…just broken.

But, slowly I recovered. I found a new lily pad to jump to in my career and then I found another. Professionally, my life started looking pretty familiar albeit not stellar—but that’s a story for a different day.  For my health, I found veganism and it gave me the best consistent bloodwork results since my diagnosis. To fill up the rest of my life, over the past few years, I’ve thrown myself into my marriage, my pets, volunteering, exercising, writing, cooking—whatever could distract me. And it totally worked. I built a stable and lovely life. I have an awesome husband and a lovely home. I feel REALLY great most of the time.  For a while, I was even believing my own happy hype.

Actually, let me dial that back. It’s not hype. I am blessed and I know it. I acknowledge there are people out there who would look at me as whiny and wish to have my problems. That may even contribute to my glossing over the sadness in my life. But eventually, dark places have to be addressed and this cleanse opened up the wounds of an incomplete life more than ever.

I was able to clearly see that I was stuck. I was going through the motions while talking about plans for changing my life. Every step towards growth led me to a scary wall…a wall with a sign that said, “You may climb and climb and still never get what you hope is on the other side.” That locked me in a place of fear and I wasn’t able to explore career changes or family expansion.

I also started channeling my sadness into anger, which left me with a short temper and a tendency to shut down. My mood sucked. Part of my plan for the cleanse included meditation and self-reflection. Through those things, I ended up discovering the vulnerability I’d been masking with anger. Luckily, I have a partner who recognized the sadness underneath—and probably has a little of his own. When I talked to him about the stuff I’m posting now, he simply said, “I know. I know you better than anyone and I see it. I’m just glad you see it now too. We’ll get through it.”

Today, I understand that while I know everything happens for a reason, it doesn’t mean I have to ignore or bury the pain of disappointment or erase the feeling of being slighted (aka, the “why me’s”). Once I dealt with that, I decided I had to forgive—or let go of that easy, idyllic life I felt I deserved after going through so much turmoil in my youth. In forgiving, I was broken open and the pain came rushing out in a quiet cry. I’m actually not sure I’ve seen the last of the tears but in letting go, I gave myself permission to open my arms wide to whatever is meant for my life—even if it doesn’t look like I expected it to.
What a 6 days it has been. Now, the process continues. Time to get back to building the new.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Six Weeks To Wellness

The afternoon of Day 1 rolled around and despite my good experience with my morning smoothie, I had some reservations about its mid-day companion. I can’t really bring my Ninja to work and the Magic Bullet is on the fritz. It was just going to be me, a little juice and a packet of ground fruit dust. Again, I decided to go with a water/juice combo as a base. Since I was using the glai roong (daybreak) packet, I chose to use pineapple juice (8 oz.). I mixed the juice with 12 oz. of filtered water and added the juice and contents of the packet to the blender cup that came with my cleanse. I didn’t add the Step Up Fiber Supplement this time because…well, honestly, I accidentally left it at home.

As I looked at the contents of the packet floating on top of the juice and refusing to sink, I got a little queasy. That feeling intensified as I pushed the blender ball down into the cup. I got my shake on and didn’t stop until I was satisfied everything was dissolved and/or rehydrated. It actually got about as thick as the smoothie I made with the banana and blackberries for breakfast.

I took my first sip and had a “momma, I don’t want to eat my peas” flashback from childhood. The first sip was gritty and made me miss my Ninja. I went back to shaking. The second sip was much better. The smoothie wasn’t sweet but with the addition of the pineapple juice, it was actually pretty good—tasty even.

That smoothie held me over for the rest of the work day. On my ride home from work, I had a few carrot chips (about 6) and some hummus while sitting in crawling traffic.

For dinner, I kept putting the smoothie off. First, I just drank water. Then I had some dinner because I needed to satisfy my craving to chew. The craving was made worse by sitting next to Ash who was sitting next to me having grilled chicken with sautéed kale and mushrooms. I had sugar snap peas, ½ an avocado, sliced peppers, sliced cucumber and a bit more hummus.

Suddenly, bedtime (the new one) was looming and I still had a smoothie to consume, a shower to take and a blog post to write. Ugh. Something tells me better time management is going to be something else I pick up during this cleanse.

I was halfway up the stairs to my bedroom—talking myself out of smoothie 3—when I decided if I was going to do the cleanse, I was going to do it right. I went back to the kitchen and got my blender cup. I decided to mix the third packet (reunn or “joyful”) with 2 oz. of almond milk, 2 oz. of pineapple juice and 20 oz. of filtered water. In dumping this packet into the blender cup, I made a mess. It seemed to be clumpier (totally not a word). I shook it up and headed upstairs where I tried to down it in a short series of gulps. The taste, which I’d seen described as medicinal, was surprisingly good. In fact, all was going fine until a chunk of the mixture floated out of the cup and into my mouth. I should mention that I don’t do well with mushy textures. I couldn’t tell if it was smoothie contents that didn’t dissolve or reconstituted berries. Either way, no bueno. Ash saw me gagging and asked to taste the smoothie. He was also pleasantly surprised (he watched some of the reviews with me). His verdict was he’d had much worse protein powders and pre-workout drinks. As for the chunks, he shook the life out of the blender cup and I was able to gulp down the rest without another berry chunk.

I finished the night by oil cleansing my face (I’m trying to get better at removing my makeup before bed) and trying another guided meditation, which I fell asleep on. At the end of Day One, I’m feeling confident in my ability to get through this cleanse. None of the smoothies were vomit inducing. In fact, with just a little juice, they were quite good. My morning headache went away around mid-day and I slept really well. I didn’t feel like I was starving at any point. I think the weekend is going to be quite a challenge but I feel like I’ll be able to get through it. My fridge is certainly stocked with every veggie I can think of in case I need to chew.

I won’t bore you with all of the daily smoothie details. I think my recipes will be pretty consistent with the ones I used on Day One. I am, however, making Six Weeks To Wellness a regular feature during this process. The focus will vary each time but the post will always connect to something in my wellness journey.  I hope you’ll share your own stories along the way. Here’s to health. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Six Weeks to Wellness

I’m doing the Kaeng Raeng (Be Healthy, Be Strong) cleanse. In planning to detox, I decided to do a focused, intense health and wellness program. What does that mean? Well, everything.  People, I’ve fallen off the wellness wagon. I haven’t been meditating like I used to. My body hurts. I’m tired all the time…and more than a little irritable. My pores are showing and my skin is breaking out. Sexy, right? I’ve also started sneaking a little meat into my diet. A little turkey bacon here, a lot of seafood there.  And the junk food? Don’t get me started. There was a night last week when I had sour cream and onion chips and a beer for dinner. NOT KIDDING. And don’t get me started on my relationship with the gym. We’re damn near divorced.

SO…at the end of my self-imposed program, I hope to have a better sleep schedule, more energy, less junk food cravings, better skin and a full on romance with the gym. I started the process yesterday with a big grocery trip.

I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier so I don’t have to set 5 alarms in the morning. My goal at the end of this program (6 weeks) is to have enough energy to get out of bed shortly after the first alarm. Last night I went to sleep around 1 AM. Late for most (ok, admittedly late for everyone) but about an hour early for me. This morning, I killed the first alarm, but I was up with the second. Then, I opened my Headspace app and did day 1 of the 10 day meditation sequence. My thoughts were all over the place but I got through it. Welcome to Day One.

Next, I whipped out my skin brush and went to work. I do that fairly regularly so it was a pretty quick process. If you want to know how, there are tons of videos on YouTube. I like this one

Before showering, I started oil pulling with coconut oil (I've used sesame oil as well). It takes about 20 minutes so I was swishing oil for the rest of my morning routine.  After the swishing was done, I brushed and it was off to the kitchen. I had a cup of my turmeric tonic (coconut water, fresh lemon juice, turmeric, cayenne), which I sipped while putting together my first Kaeng Raeng smoothie.

I started my day with the juu juu “into the blue,” packet, which is a blueberry banana mix. I’d read enough reviews and seen enough YouTube videos to be prepared for something that didn’t taste so great. Instead of going hard core (just the mix and 24 oz. water), I decided to work with flavors that compliment the product. I added 16 oz. of water, 8 oz. of blueberry pomegranate juice, ½ a banana and a handful (about ½ cup) of frozen blackberries. I also added a ½ scoop of the Step Up Fiber Supplement. The finished product filled the 24 oz. blender cup that came with my order and about half of an 8 oz. cup. I took a timid sip out of the overflow cup preparing for the worst. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The smoothie is NOT sweet and juu juu is filled with little seeds. That didn’t bother me but, it may bother some. Now, full confession, I've done juice cleanses before (Dr. Oz/Joe Cross 3-Day Cleanse) and I have a smoothie most mornings that consists of fruit, chia seeds, maca root powder and unsweetened almond milk. Occasionally, I’ll add a scoop of vegan, unflavored protein powder but I’m not a huge fan. Those smoothies aren’t particularly sweet either so the lack of sugar in Kaeng Raeng doesn’t bother me…after all, this is supposed to be a detox.

I'll update with my afternoon and evening experience in the next Six Weeks To Wellness post. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday Quotable

Occasionally, I go through bouts of dissatisfaction. I don’t want to call it sadness because I’m still happy objectively during these periods. The problem is I’m not satisfied with where my life is, if that makes sense. Anyway, I’ve been going through that lately and as a result, I have seen my patience wear thin, my tone lean closer to harsh and my attitude fall into the “UGH!!!” bucket more often than I’d like.  

I had a lesson in being responsible for the energy I bring into a space over the weekend. I was out with Ash and my family when Ash raised an issue. As I was responding, I could hear my tone—dripping in “You annoy me so much.” Internally, I was annoyed but my intention was to eliminate the issue by trying to fix it without getting annoyed. Well, you know what happens with tone, right? Apparently mine was harsh and parental. Ash responded in kind and then we both had an attitude. I’ll admit my attitudes tend to linger. That lingering energy impacted everyone else’s mood and led to a larger issue that I won’t bore you with.

The point is the sentiment expressed in today’s quote. Sometimes, my personality is a catastrophe. I’m a work- in-progress and while I may be happy overall, the things that make me less than happy tend to grab on to my ankles and drag me all the way down. I’ve tried to shake the malaise through some subtle changes: hair, makeup and home décor changes (though I’m not sure chopping 15 inches off of my hair and dying it coppery blonde qualifies for subtle??). Those things haven’t really helped so I’ve turned to a few other things to break the funk:

Spending time on my passions daily (for me, writing, cooking, décor)
Cranking up the amount of time I meditate/pray per day
Doing a cleanse/detox
Hitting the gym with a vengeance

There are a couple of other things I need to do with respect to family growth and career progression. I think I’ve found myself in another period where my life feels mechanical. Every day is the same and none of it is in the direction of my dreams. This purgatory has bought out the catastrophe in my personality but I know its not permanent. I'm knocking down walls so that it will be beautiful again. 

What do you do to break out of a funk? Please share in the comments. Happy Monday! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Love List: Meditation Edition

This week's love list is all about meditation, happiness and peace. What can be wrong with that?? Please feel free to share your favorite books, podcasts, articles, sites and studies on the subjects in the comments!

1. Headspace is a newer app billed as a personal trainer for your mind. The goal is to help you apply mindfulness to your everyday activities through a collection of meditation sessions. You can start for free with the Take 10 program and move up from there if you wish. It's available in apps for iOS and Android as well as on your computer. (Headspace)

2. Dan Harris' 10% Happier (How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story) is making me look at meditation in a new way. I've been working towards a regular meditation practice for a while but have found some of the thought leaders in the area a little too hard to understand at times. If you've ever seen Oprah interview Deepak Chopra, you will know she has moments where she says something to the effect of "Wait. Now, what? That one was waaaaaaay deep. Can you explain it again?" That's what I mean. Harris takes the "deep" (or convoluted) language away and just tells his story (at least so far--I still have a couple of chapters to go) and the benefits he's experienced from meditation. If you want to hear some of his story before committing to the book, check out his talk at Google here. (Amazon)

3. Gretchen Rubin is a best selling author and one of the women inspiring me to pursue my bliss despite how hard I worked for my law degree. Rubin graduated from law school, became a lawyer and landed one of the most prestigious positions in the field--clerking for Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. Then, she realized she wanted to be a writer. She pursued her dream and went on to have three HUGE best sellers (Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home). This year, she launched Happier, a podcast with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, about happiness. You can listen to the podcast here. The episodes are fairly short and there have only been 15 episodes so you can catch up pretty quickly.  (Gretchen Rubin)

4. People who meditate often talk about the brain's link to the body. Now there is actual science linking the brain to the immune system. Read a summary here and a more in-depth explanation of new discoveries here. (Greatist/UVA Today)

5.  Let's stick with science for a second longer. This post lists 19 Science Backed Reasons to Meditate including strengthening your immune system, boosting your memory and relieving headaches. (Greatist)

6.  Tiny Buddha has a few good tips on ways to make meditation easier and more fun. (Tiny Buddha)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Food Tuesday: Traditional Salads

Ash and I shared an amazing Cobb Salad for lunch over the weekend. Cobb salad is a pretty run of the mill salad and can be a little boring albeit delicious. I wanted to re-created something light for dinner last night and we opted for a Cobb Salad but I put a spin on tradition by adding shrimp instead of grilled chicken. I started looking for other fresh takes on the Cobb Salad and didn’t find anything. I finally concluded that it wasn’t truly a Cobb Salad if the ingredient palate (avocado, blue cheese, bacon, boiled eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers) changed.

It got me thinking about other traditional salads (Ceasar, anyone?) and how they’ve lost their edge in the era of curly kale, pomegranate arils, zucchini noodles and quinoa.  So, I decided to continue the salad kick on NCL (see Food Tuesday from May 19) and focus on tradition. Let’s shout out to an age gone by and work some tradition into our meals. Happy Eating and be sure to share your favorite traditional salads in the comments section below.

p/s can you tell I’m on a diet and trying to focus on salads instead of a box of donuts? 


1. Traditional Caesar Salad (Bon Appetit)
2. Salad Nicoişe (Saveur)
3. Greek Salad (Southern Living)
4. Brocoli Salad (
5. Waldorf Chicken Salad  (Southern Living)
6. Chef's Salad (Martha Stewart)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday Quotable

I think it is important to routinely clean house spiritually, physically and literally. Purging the things that harm your life (or insults your soul as per today's quote) may be hard or even painful in the short term. In the end, however, it is so freeing to let go of things that drag you down. Sometimes to get there, you have to bump heads with societal norms (or even your own). The key is just as the quote says. Look at the stories you've been told throughout your life. Are they limiting? Do they make you feel like less that you aspire to be or think you already are? Do they hurt you? Ask yourself why you've let those stories define you and if it is degrading your potential to be your greatest self, kick it out and replace it with a new story that uplifts. You can do the same with nutritional choices, exercise, clutter, people, habits. If they don't add joy and length to your life, dismiss them. Happy Monday! Spread joy today.