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Dealing With Cancer

11 Apr

I’m putting out a special request for all my readers today. My aunt is going in for surgery today and I would love and appreciate it if you could send some well wishes her way.

More specifically, she is going into surgery to get a hysterectomy today because she was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer.

She has always been extremely well educated when it comes to her body and knows all about preventative care, so she went to the doctor as soon as she knew something was amiss. Luckily, because of her pro-activity, they caught it in its very early stages and her rate of recovery is supposed to be quite high.

She has a team of extremely qualified medical professionals taking care of her and a wonderful support system when she gets home, so I know that she’ll be on the mend in no time!

Hearing the news from her did shock me initially. I am lucky to come from an extremely healthy family – all four of my grandparents are still alive and the only family member I have known who has passed was my great-grandma (and she was in her nineties!). As grateful as I am for the health of my loved ones and for myself, I am not very experienced when it comes to illness and I sometimes take for granted the fact that I am rarely, if ever, sick.

So this quick post is a just a gentle reminder for myself and everybody who is reading to thank our bodies for doing what they’re supposed to (mostly) day in and day out. Healthy eating, exercise, and mental wellness are just some of the ways we can help our bodies do their jobs as well as possible. It’s also a message to not take your health for granted, because you never know when that might change.

While I believe in my heart that my aunt is going to weather the storm just fine, it was still scary to hear the big C-word come into conversation.

So be well, take care of your body, and (if you are so inclined) send some love and light towards Aunt Rebecca!

Much love,

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Plaid by Post

5 Mar

Good morning, darling readers! The sun is shining here in Washington and it is g-l-o-r-i-o-u-s. I left my house at 6:30 this morning to get to yoga and the sun was already up! I’m going to enjoy this until daylight savings time starts in a few days and we are back to morning darkness.

After my three mile run at the gym last night, I got to my doorstep and found this:

IMG_2137[1]My grandma had told me to keep an eye on the mail this week, but I totally forgot until I saw this box! You guys know how much I love mail, so I did a little happy dance and brought it inside.

tinafeyLove you, Tina ❤

What was inside (hint: not writing/read stuff, as the box would suggest)?

IMG_2138[1]A handmade robe!!! Grandma made me a gigantic, pink polar fleece robe a few years back (that I still wear to this day!), but this one is shorter and for warmer months when it gets a little chilly.

IMG_2142[1]I just love the pink and blue colors (great minds, Grandma!) and I am pretty much going to rocking it all over the house.

IMG_2148[1]The question is, can I get away with it at work? If anyone has figured out how to successfully wear yoga pants and bathrobes at a law office without being frowned upon by your co-workers, please contact me immediately.

My grandma is better than your grandmas. Just kidding, I’m sure they are darling, wonderful people – it’s in the Grandma Rule Book.

Yoga was wonderful this morning and was much more vinyasa-y than usual, so I worked up a bit of a sweat. Luckily, my desk is in Siberia, so I don’t have to force my post-workout stench on anybody. There’s a Pilates class at my gym tonight, but it doesn’t start until seven, so I may go to the yoga class at six to kill time before Pilates. Overkill? Maybe. But it’s either that or go home and stuff my face, so it’s not like I am interfering with huge plans. I lead the most exciting life.

Confession: I have never been to a Pilates class. Does that get me kicked out of the healthy living blog club? Was I ever in the healthy living blog club?

shunAnybody else remember Charlie the Unicorn? Just me? Okay then.

I think I’ll quit while I’m not too far behind ahead and call it a day. I promise there will be a normal fitness-related socially acceptable post tomorrow.

Ciao friends ❤

Food For Thought: What do I need to know about Pilates ahead of time so I don’t look like a total n00b?

Guess Who’s Back? [Lasagna Recipe]

21 Feb

Back again. Throwback anyone?

Thanks for being so patient while I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off. I have been so busy trying to be a good host for my friend Lars that I have had little time for anything else! I haven’t been to the gym in a week – can you believe that? People from the gym were legitimately calling me to find out if I was okay. You know you’re a gym rat when…

Anyway, I’m back and so ready to get back on the healthy living train. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time with Lars. I had so much fun showing him around America’s capitol. I took him to Old Town Alexandria for their annual President’s Day parade…

IMG_2054[1]And out for yummy eats…

Chocolate fondue at Bread & Chocolate

Chocolate fondue at Bread & Chocolate

One of the biggest music scenes in D.C. is the jazz circuit on U Street, so one night we went out to Bohemian Caverns to catch a great jazz concert.

IMG_2065[1]And Lars, being American for the day, had deep fried Oreos for dessert.

IMG_2066[1]Excuse the dark photo, the venue was in a cavernous basement with very little light.

One of the things the often comes up when people come to visit is meals out. Aside from breakfast and one dinner at home, every meal we had was at some sort of restaurant. Not only does that get expensive, it can sometimes be difficult to find healthy options.

IMG_2068[1]

Falafel pita with side salad at Busboys & Poet

I didn’t stress about it too much, but I am happy to go back to making my lunches and dinners. The one meal I did make for us at home was a big pan of lasagna. I made it for us on Sunday evening and there are still leftovers in my fridge!

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This recipe is so easy and delicious – classic Italian comfort food.

Classic Italian Lasagna

Makes 16 3″x3″ slices
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s no-boil lasagna noodles (or similar – alternatively, you could use 16 oz. lasagna noodles, cooked)
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used 80% lean, but you could use a leaner meat if you wanted)
  • 1 jar (usually 24-28 oz.) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 14.5-oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. In large skillet, brown meat; drain and return to pan.
  2. Stir in spaghetti sauce and pasta sauce; simmer 10 minutes while preparing ricotta filling (see below).
  3. Heat oven to 350°F.
  4. In large bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, 1.5 cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  5. Spread about 1/2 cup meat sauce on bottom of 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Arrange 4-6 pasta pieces lengthwise over sauce, overlapping edges. Spread 1/3 cheese mixture over pasta; spread with about 3/4 cup meat sauce.
  6. Repeat layers in the pasta, cheese, meat sauce order. Top with can of diced tomatoes (this will make it look very juicy but don’t worry – most of the liquid will soak in, leaving the lasagna nice and moist); sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  7. Cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove foil; bake until cheese is lightly browned, ~10 minutes.
  8. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

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Buon appetito!

 

 

 

Last Day of WOL + Chocolate Covered Strawberries [recipe]

15 Feb

Good morning, world! It’s Friday and I am so grateful.

Stefano and I had a very nice, low-key Valentine’s day celebration, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

IMG_2040[1]We ended up having southwestern-style stuffed bell peppers (recipe next week) and a big ol’ salad.

IMG_2041[1]

We exchanged cards and had some lovely conversation, but we were basically just waiting until we could get to these:

IMG_2042[1]I decided to try my hand at chocolate covered strawberries because I don’t think I’ve ever even had one and I know I’ve never made them. Luckily, it turned out to be pretty straightforward.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Makes 12 strawberries

IMG_2044[1]

  • 1 dozen strawberries
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, doesn’t matter!)
  • Optional: shredded coconut or other toppings to sprinkle on.
  1. First I washed and dried the strawberries and laid them on a cookie sheet that was covered with parchment paper.
  2. I put a big pot of water on the stove, then made a make-shift double boiler by putting a glass bowl inside and turning the heat up to medium.
  3. After added the chocolate chips to the double boiler, I made sure to stir frequently and keep a close eye on the melting status. Pro-tip: Be sure not to get any water inside the bowl – it will totally ruin the consistency of the chocolate.
  4. As soon as the chocolate was melted through, I turned the heat down to low (make sure you don’t burn the chocolate) and started dipping away.
  5. After placing the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the tray, I sprinkled some shredded coconut on each strawberry (you want to do this while the chocolate is still hot so it will stick!).
  6. Once I finished dipping and topping the strawberries, I popped the whole tray in the fridge and sat down for dinner. By the time we had finished eating, the chocolate had hardened and those little babies were ready to eat!

This is such an easy yet indulgent treat and you can make as few or as many as you want – the recipe is totally flexible.

Since today is Friday, it is the last day of the Week of Love Challenge. Sad days! I was enjoying making the conscious decision to express my love to the people I care about. Today’s challenge is to remind us that we are all connected to each other and it is up to us to care for the people all around us. Therefore, I present to you the Random Act of Kindness Challenge!

WOLFri

Can’t wait to hear about the wonderful RAKs you do today!

This weekend I have so many things to look forward to. Tonight is a birthday dinner for my friend Ellen at Ardeo Bardeo. I have been there for brunch before, but this will be my first time for dinner. Then on Saturday, I am going to bust a move or two at a Zumba party with Allison! The event is being put on by Vida, one of the gyms in DC and is taking place from 5-7 PM at the U Street Music Hall. DMV-ers, come join the party (and after party)! I’m sure I am going to look ridiculous, but it’s going to be amazing.

On Sunday I have to prepare for the arrival of a special guest. My friend Lars is visiting the US for the very first time from Germany and will be hanging out with me until Wednesday. I am so excited to show him around, but I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure I help give a good impression 🙂 I have plenty of day-time ideas, but if anybody from the area wants to recommend places to go/things to do in the evenings, I am totally open to suggestions.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Spill!

Wishing you the happiest of weekends – I love you guys!

Inside My Snack Drawer + WOL Day 3

13 Feb

It’s hump day, everybody! Halfway through the week before a much needed long weekend.

Can you believe Valentine’s Day is tomorrow??? I feel like every single holiday is sneaking up on me and I’m so not prepared. I am hoping to get crafty this evening and make some goody bags for some loved ones in the area. Next year I want to be more on the ball and send them to all my friends – even those in faraway places.

So today I want to talk about one of my favorite food places: the snack drawer at my desk. As most of you know, I pack my lunch every day and always include snacks for the mid-afternoon slump between lunch and the end of the work day. I’m generally pretty good about estimating the amount of food I will want, but some days my appetite is out of control and my stomach just feels like a black hole. Enter, the snack drawer.

IMG_2027[1]My office has a basket of snacks that will appear occasionally in the kitchen and my gym often has different kinds of bars at the front entrance. I take those times to add to my snack drawer and I don’t think I have ever actually bought any of snacks. As you can see, I have an assortment of bars, as well as my very favorite Nut & Chocolate trail mix from Planter’s. I like to keep my snack drawer full of things that have lots of protein so they’ll fill me up and power me through the rest of the work day and my gym time before I can get home for dinner.

The other day, I tried Zone’s Perfectly Simple bar for the first time.

zonecranberry

This is from the makers of ZonePerfect protein bars. The idea behind Perfectly Simple is using fewer, all-natural ingredients. Here’s a look at the data:

Serving Size: 45 g bar
Calories: 170
Fat: 4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 8 g
Sugar: 19 g
I like that there’s a good 10 grams of protein in there, but 19 grams of sugar? For a 45 gram bar, that makes 42% of this baby sugar. Luckily, all of it is fruit-based, as the ingredients include Soy Protein Isolate, Apple Juice Concentrate, Sweetened Dried Cranberries, Date Paste, Roasted Almonds, Dried Pomegranate Seeds, and Cinnamon Powder. I like that there’s no added sugar (except to sweeten the cranberries).
I thought the taste was pretty good, though I don’t think I will ever get over the grittiness of protein in these bars. Just not a fan.
The verdict? With a couple grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein, it did a good job of filling me up until I was home to make dinner, but I still prefer whole foods, like an apple with some peanut butter, over a bar.
Do you have a snack drawer where you work? Which kinds of foods do you like to keep stashed for emergencies?
One mini meal I have been really into is an open-faced sandwich with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese and some slices of smoked salmon.
IMG_2029[1]I nom’d on that as an evening snack while watching the State of the Union. Did anyone else watch it? My favorite part of it was Joe Biden’s tie.
joebidentieLOVE that purple.
Politics aside, there was a line of President Obama’s speech that really stood out to me and inspired today’s Week of Love Challenge.
WOLWed
Preach, Barry, preach.
When talking about raising children, the focus of parenting is often on the mother. For a long time, this was because mothers did (and still do) spend the most time caring for children. However, father figures are so important in a child’s life. Be it a biological or stepfather, an uncle, or even a beloved coach, having an important man in your life is crucial. Like female role models, male role models set an example for what it means to be an upstanding citizen who plays a positive role in their community.
My dad has always treated me like I am capable of anything. I was a fearless child growing up and he never held me back from trying new things because I was a girl. If I wanted to play soccer, he made sure that he practiced with me and didn’t go easy. When I wanted to study Arabic, he was always there to help me understand concepts that were difficult to understand. He is a fierce advocate for me as a career and education-minded woman.
Coming from his background, this could be a big surprise. My dad is Egyptian and is the only person in his family to live outside of Egypt. As many people know, the culture surrounding women there is generally not what it is in Western countries. All of my female relatives married young, had multiple children, and didn’t work. Many of them never reached higher than an elementary sch0ol education. Every time I visit, I am asked when I am getting married and starting a family, which is practically unheard of for a 23-year-old in the States, but very common practice back in Egypt.
Still, my father has always valued my desire for higher education and has never once suggested that I should be more focused on domestic life. He supports me in everything I do and pushes me to challenge myself by encouraging me to apply for a job or to look at graduate programs. As far as he’s concerned, I can do anything just as well, if not better than my male counterpart.
As a result, I have grown up with self-confidence and an assuredness that I can do anything I set my mind to.
fathers
So let’s give it up for the dads, grandfathers, husbands, uncles, stepfathers, teachers, coaches, and other male role models that play such an important part in our lives. Like yesterday’s challenge, this could mean anything from sending them a heartfelt email or posting a sticky note on the mirror in their bathroom to remind them how much they are loved.

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