Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Inspiration Behind the New Banner

In celebration of reaching 10,000 hits on the blog, and in a continued effort to simplify, I decided to create a new banner and change the background of my blog to white. Here’s the banner I designed and a little insight into each image it contains:

1. Rest.

  • We all know how important rest is. If we don’t have it, our bodies and brains don’t function properly. Each of us requires a slightly different amount of rest each night. For me, that means a minimum of 7 hours. 8 hours is preferable, and I love Saturday mornings, when I can soak in 9 or 10 hours in one night! Too bad America doesn’t instate siestas for people past the age of 5.
  • Sleep deprivation is a real and rapidly spreading problem in our impulsive, instant-gratification society. So many of us come home and run straight for entertainment to “detox” from the demands of the day: TV, Facebook, video games, and the list goes on. We live in a digital age. It’s not all bad, but throwing quickly moving images in front of our eyes doesn’t help us rest; it just adds more “noise” to our lives. Know when to unplug. Plan to turn off electronics a good hour before bedtime, so your brain has time to decompress from the day.

2. Good Nutrition.

  • “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” right?! Healthy eating is a necessity to live a balanced, whole life. Food is fuel, and if we want to “live long and prosper,” we need to be conscious of what enters our systems. But who says healthful food has to taste bad?! Think about this: God wants the best for our lives. Meanwhile, God created us to need food to survive. Every good gift is from God, food being one of those gifts. He’s given us creative minds and tons of different flavors. So, let’s praise God by creating delicious, beautiful meals that are full of nutritional value, and then use the energy from those foods to bring Him glory.

3. Fellowship, Support, Communication.

  • What is fellowship? If you’re not familiar with the Christian term, you may be familiar with the classic trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. Part I is The Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship was a group of people who joined together over a common goal. In the Christian worldview, the one thing that binds us together is Jesus Christ. So, when we fellowship, we are joining together over the union we find in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • God knew what He was doing when He put more than one person on this earth. We need each other. We need support; we need love; we often need correction. We need each other. It’s important to have a support circle, a small list of close friends and family you know you can count on if your car breaks down a thousand miles from home, if you need a shoulder to cry on or a solid kick in the pants, or if you need to ramble at 2AM. Most of us won’t have more than 5 of these in our lives, so when you find them, hold them dear and be mutually supportive.
  • It’s also a reminder to practice communication, just like any other skill in which we want to excel. We need to communicate with each other, always remembering the perfect balance of truth and love. And we need to communicate with God through prayer and Bible reading. God created us to be dependent on Him. But it’s more than a dependence; it’s a personal relationship that He desires to have with each one of us. And it’s amazing!

4. Environment of Growth.

  • I liked this picture because it’s in an office setting, which encompasses things like working (and blogging: see the computer in the background), but it also contains new life being nurtured. Create an environment, at home, in the office, in your car, wherever you are, that is an environment of growth. Eliminate things that hold you back or distract you, and encourage things that push you to be the person God wants you to be.

5. Exercise and Hydrate. Two more vital necessities in life.

  • It’s a constant battle to get off the couch or out of the house and just move, but we all know it’s important. Not only does it help us burn calories, it releases endorphins which lift our moods and help us keep a balanced perspective on life. You don’t have to join a gym or spend lots of money on fancy equipment. Just be endeavor to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • For years, doctors and educators recommended 6-8 glasses of water a day. Today, they’ve increased the recommendation to 9-13 glasses per day! The majority of our bodies is comprised of water; it’s essential for every function of our bodies. It’s important! It’s really important! So, hydrate! And when you’re exercising, remember the trifecto: prehydrate, hydrate, and rehydrate.

6. Refresh.

  • Carve out a block of time each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, that’s set aside to reboot. Soak up the word of God and give yourself time to meditate, pray, and apply what you’ve just read. Go on a short walk, listen to music, read, practice some yoga, or just sit still. Your body and mind will thank you.

This is My Journey to Lean. And it can be yours too. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the journey! ~Melissa

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All Wrapped Up!

This past weekend, we tried out the new Brown Rice Bar for one of our dinners. See the spread here. There was a good bit of leftover veggies, so I decided to toss them in a Sundried Tomato Wrap with some kalamata olives, Green Garlic dressing, and goat cheese. Yum!

You could use any freshly diced veggies for this! Feta would also be nice!

All wrapped up!

Venison and Brown Rice Bar (aka “Unfried Rice”)

Our friends, Greg and Catherine, joined us for dinner on Friday night. Catherine focuses on a raw vegan diet as much as possible, so we wanted to have a fun spread. They did, however, provide some venison that had been given to them. Everything was delicious and very simple. Greg and Catherine arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon. We prepped the Raw Pumpkin Pie and began the meat marinade while we caught up and enjoyed each others’ company. We ate around 5 and finished with a great board game. It was so much fun to cook as couples and try new things.

Nothing says southern hospitality like a glass of iced tea! (Of course it's sweet!) All photography in this post courtesy of Bryan McKinnon, http://www.shadowlight.smugmug.com.

The Spread: Brown Rice Bar with Fresh Mix-Ins, Pan-fried Venison, Tossed Salad with Mushrooms and Tomatoes, Carrot Salad with Cinnamon, and Sweet Tea.

Meat for the Man Folk: venison marinated in apple cider vinegar, garlic salt, onion salt, pepper and olive oil for 1 hour prior to battering in Italian panko (bread crumbs) and pan frying in canola oil. Yum!

Fresh Raw Ingredients for the Rice Bar: tomatoes, zucchini, apples, carrots, green onions, radishes, green and red peppers, white onions, pumpkin, garlic.

More Rice Bar Add-Ins: Pomegranate, Goat Cheese, Parsley, Paprika, Curry, and Mint Leaves. I highly recommend the combination of garlic and curry. This was a great feature and I will definitely serve it again. So tasty, and everyone gets to pick their own add-ins! You can please vegetarians, and it doesn't matter if the rice gets cold because it still tastes great!

We concluded the evening with a rousing game of Settlers of Catan, Organic French Press Coffee for the ladies and Earl Grey Tea for the men. (Okay, I took this pic, obviously.)

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast

Good Morning, All! Hope your day started as deliciously as mine: Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola with Pumpkin Spice Coffee and Organic Raisins. Yum! Thanks, Judy, for this trick-or-treat surprise!

Recipe: Raw Pumpkin Pie

Raw Pumpkin Pie: all photography in this post courtesy of Bryan McKinnon, http://www.shadowlight.smugmug.com.

My friend Catherine and her husband Greg were coming over for dinner Saturday night. She eats a mainly raw vegan diet, so I wanted to make a special treat that neither of us had tried before: Raw Pumpkin Pie. We followed the recipe by Veronica Bosgraaf in the Gluten-Free e-Cookbook I posted a link to a while back, and it turned out surprisingly well! I couldn’t believe how much the filling looked like a traditional pumpkin pie. I brought an extra slice to my friend Lonnette at work, and she raved about it on Facebook, asking for the recipe. So, here you go…

Ingredients for Crust: 2 c. almonds, 1 c. dates, 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon.

Pulse crust ingredients in food processor, then press into glass pie plate.

Next, take half of a small pie pumpkin (about 6" diameter), peel, pit, and cube. That's right folks, no cooking involved. Make sure you have a sturdy peeler or use a sharp knife.

Filling Ingredients: 2 c. pumpkin puree (this means you will need to pulse the pumpkin cubes before measuring this ingredient), 1 to 1 1/2 c. dates, 1/4 c. raisins, 1/2 c. cashews, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. each nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, and a dash (1/8 tsp.) salt. We also added about 1/3 c. water to get the right consistency (add this slowly, 1 Tbsp. at a time, as each pumpkin may have a varying amount of moisture).

Pulse on low in food processor for several minutes. Ours took about 10-12 minutes and about 1/3 c. water to look right. Scrape into pie crust.

Spread evenly into crust and refrigerate for 2 hours, or till set.

The Finished Product: Raw Pumpkin Pie

I served mine with a dollop of whipped cream; Catherine had hers all natural.

Mel & Catherine (no, we did not plan to match)

How to Eat a Pomegranate

One of my beautiful poms! All photography in this post by Bryan McKinnon, http://www.shadowlight.smugmug.com.

I went to my friendly, local grocer this Saturday and picked up two pomegranates. They were on sale for $2.49 each. When I got to the cash register, the first one rang up as $2.79. So, I asked the cashier to adjust the order. As a secondary note, the item was misspelled in their system (pomagrenete). I was able to spell the item correctly, so the manager gave me both for $2.49 total. Who says vocab lists never got you anywhere?! Anyway, here’s what you really want to know…how to eat a pomegranate:

1. Cut pomegranate in half.

The juicy kernels are called arils. Some Mediterraneans eat the white segments between the arils, but I discard it with the skin.

2. Cut each half into 3 or 4 segments. Hold each segment by its end and invert the segment's arc, forcing the arils to loosen and separate.

3. Discard skin and white segments. Enjoy!

The name pomegranate means seeded apple. It’s often used as a religious symbol of fruitfulness, as each fruit contains around 600 arils! This fruit is delicious on its own, and is often added to Persian dishes, like soups and salads.

Caution: the juice will stain, so if you’re feeding it to children, I recommend letting them wear play clothes and eating outside. If the juice gets on something you really like, like it got on my white kitchen curtains in my first pomegranate experience, simply rinse with cold water and wash immediately.

Celebrating 10,000 Hits with Guest Author Catherine Hosack and Her Zucchini-Tomato Pesto Rolls Recipe

I met today’s guest author several years ago at a local Barnes & Noble while we waited for the midnight release of the final Harry Potter book. Catherine Hosack is a dear friend who is also in a journey towards better health. She writes a blog called “Going Raw: Adventures in Uncooking.” Check it out here. I wanted a guest author to help me celebrate 10,000 hits on my blog, so I asked her to share her story with my readers, and here it is:

“I love Melissa’s “journey to lean” blog for a lot of reasons; for one, it shows that everyone has their own spiritual and physical health journey to experience. The process of learning what is best for our individual bodies, minds, and spirits is, I think, an essential part of our lives. As Melissa’s blog testifies, this process can be hard, but it’s worth it. My personal journey along these lines has led me to eating a mostly raw, Vegan diet. Briefly, a Vegan raw food diet is a pure vegetarian diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In order to qualify as raw, no food can be heated above 118º F, which is the temperature at which the whole live enzymes and nutrients in the food start to be destroyed.

“I started eating this way because in 2002 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which basically means that my immune system and my colon were not happy. After seven years of dealing with really strong medications and a very bleak outlook for my long-term health, I decided to increase my health through nutrition. I decided to try a raw food diet because it maximizes one’s intake of live enzymes, antioxidants, and alkaline-forming foods – all of which actively improve your body’s immune system and increase your natural health. The idea, in short, is to eat foods that make you stronger, instead of eating foods that make you weak and therefore more susceptible to disease.

“Transitioning to this new way of life was difficult at first, but now I am happy to say that after a year and a half of eating a diet heavy in raw foods, I have experienced NONE of the ulcerative colitis symptoms that used to disrupt my life every couple months. Additionally, I have more energy, I hardly ever get sick (not even a cold), and I’ve experienced other unexpected health benefits as well.

“I LOVE raw food. If I go a couple meals without a big raw dish, I crave it. I still eat cooked foods sometimes, of course, and it’s still fun to eat my old favorite foods like Pad Thai and pumpkin pie and things like that… but as time goes on, I feel less and less drawn to my old comfort foods, and more and more attracted to my new favorite dishes, like avocado-carob pudding, fresh sprouts, garden-fresh okra, and marinated eggplant.

“This is one of my favorite raw food recipes.”

~Catherine

ZUCCHINI-TOMATO PESTO ROLLS by Catherine Hosack

  • PESTO INGREDIENTS
    • 1 cup of pine nuts or walnuts, soaked in water for 8 hours or more
    • 1 cup of fresh basil
    • 3 cloves of garlic
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • dash of sea salt to taste
    • Appliance needed: blender or chopper
  • OTHER INGREDIENTS
    • A couple medium tomatoes or 3-4 small ones
    • 1 zucchini

INSTRUCTIONS

“Blend all the pesto ingredients in some sort of small blender or chopper. Next, you need to make thin zucchini-strips. You can either do this by getting a big knife and cutting your zucchini carefully, lengthwise; but it’s far easier to use a cheese slicer if you have one. Just hold the zucchini and pull the slicer down from one end to the other, keeping the thickness of the slice as even as possible.

“Dice the tomatoes into pieces about the size of large grapes. Then take a slice of zucchini, spread pesto on the slice, and stick a tomato on one end of the zucchini slice. Carefully roll the zucchini around the tomato. I like to grind peppercorns over the finished rolls. These are so tasty…and cute too!”

Bon Appetit! I hope you enjoy this raw Vegan treat! Don’t forget to check out Catherine’s blog! ~Melissa

Free eBook from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits announced his newest book today. I’ve been following this blog for some time now and have not been disappointed. Download a free PDF of this 27 chapter book on simplifying your life here. There’s also a full digital copy with extra features available for $35 (which happens to be satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back). Check out the release post here.

table of contents

i. step back

  1. introduction
  2. the age of distraction
  3. the importance of finding focus
  4. the beauty of disconnection
  5. focus rituals

ii. clear distractions

  1. limiting the stream
  2. you don’t need to respond
  3. let go of the need to stay updated
  4. how not to live in your inbox
  5. the value of distraction
  6. why letting go of these distractions is difficult
  7. tools for beating distraction

iii. simplify

  1. creating an uncluttered environment
  2. slowing down
  3. going with the flow
  4. effortless action
  5. 3 strategies for prioritizing tasks
  6. letting go of goals
  7. finding simplicity

iv. focus

  1. a simple system for getting amazing things done
  2. single-tasking and productivity
  3. the power of a smaller work focus
  4. focused reading and research
  5. walking, disconnection, & focus
  6. creativity and practicing deep focus (available in full version)
  7. finding stillness and reflection (available in full version)

v. others

  1. finding focus, for parents
  2. the problem of others
  3. managers transforming office culture
  4. how to start changes on a broader level (available in full version)

Whirlwind Week Recap

I haven’t updated since last Friday and even before then, it’s been hit and miss for a while. This might be a bit random and stream-of-consciousness, but here goes…

Bryan’s job has been interesting, to say the least, over the last several months. They’re short-handed and still adding on more projects, which has made it virtually impossible for anyone on the team to meet deadlines, even when working 60 to 90 hours a week with no overtime compensation. So, we had a tough decision to make. After much prayer, seeking of counsel and deliberation, and a final discussion with his superiors, he handed in his resignation and his last day will be this Friday. In some ways, it’s scary; in another way, it’s a relief. I know it sounds crazy to leave a job in this economy and time of year without having something to fall back on, but I know he’ll work hard to do odd jobs and make ends meet. He’s definitely proven he’s a hard worker! (So, if you need odd jobs done, let us know!)

About two weeks ago, we put the house on the market and sold one of our vehicles. The one-car-household thing may be a slight challenge with Bryan looking for a job, but it should be okay. We praise God that we are debt-free, except for the house. This helped with our decision. We’ve limited our expenses and will be shopping at Aldi and the Farmer’s Market more regularly, and we’re committed to living simply. My long-term goal is for him to be in a job that he loves, something like photography, carpenter-type projects, or be able to learn graphic design and/or web design. So, if any of you need a photographer for your holiday card this year or hear of someone looking for a wedding photographer, let us know! Meanwhile, there are still items for sale on the Sale page of this blog! (hint hint)

I’m praying that the house sells quickly and that my job remains stable until it does, or at least until Bryan finds something else. Whatever happens, we know God is our Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide) and our El Shaddai (God Almighty). We’ve been studying names of God in Sunday School with our fourth graders for the past year and a half. It’s been a great study and we’re thankful for the continual reminders.

Here are some snapshots to capture the past bit:

Jan and I went to the Saturday Morning Market downtown. Check out all the beautiful peppers! And this wasn't even half of them! Who knew there were that many different types of peppers! I didn't buy any of these, but I did get a ton of mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens, beets and beet greens, butternut and yellow squash, green onions, West End Coffee Mistletoe Java blend and Great Harvest Bread! All for about $30 (and $12.50 of that was the bread)! It was Jan's first visit to the market; we'll definitely be coming back!

I had an amazing workout with Judy at the gym last night, followed by a dinner of a turkey/ham sandwich on wheat bun with lettuce and mustard, organic carrots, and a giant Fuji apple. Bryan also made apple pie, but there's none left for a picture.

I had lunch with some friends/coworkers at Sushi Murasaki downtown today. It was amazing! We had miso soup, seaweed salad, and two huge plates of sushi. My favorite is the Genji roll, but they serve a special on Tuesdays that came in a close second: all I remember is that it had the word "sexy" in the title (notice the roll that's missing a few pieces; it was warm and tasted like it had cheese on top). Everything was delicious! I even liked the BBQ Eel this time! I wish I could take pictures of food for a living! Maybe someday...along with my other million and one dreams.

Dessert was bite sized fried cheesecake (pomegranate on the left, mango on the right). Yum! And just the right size!

Tonight I made a pumpkin smoothie (aka milkshake) for dinner before our 8PM volleyball semi-finals (which we won - yeah!-so we'll be in the final game next week). The "smoothie" had 2 cups of prepared pumpkin, 2 scoops vanilla ice cream, and 1 cup milk, plus cinnamon, fresh ginger, cloves and nutmeg blended together; then I topped it with my most recent trail mix. It could have used a little more liquid and maybe a few dates for some added sweetness. I think next time I'll try fat free yogurt or a frozen banana instead of ice cream or plus the dates. The trail mix went very well with it.

Fresh Ginger in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

There’s more going on, but I’ll spare you the details tonight. God is good all the time! And I can be calm and joyful as a result! He’s been so good to bring songs and scripture passages to mind. Isaiah 26:3 has been a good one, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Another good reminder is in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Philippians passage has been a strong tower for me this week.

Someone said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.” Who holds my future? Thankfully, not me. The Creator God, who knew my goings and my comings, my thoughts and my steps, before the foundation of the world–He holds my future! And so, we wait and trust, knowing that God is our loving creator, gracious Redeemer, friend and defender, provider and keeper to the uttermost.

Another Trail Mix Blend

This one is high protein and delicious! Combine the following ingredients and store in a large container. I leave a 1/2 cup measuring cup in the container so it’s easy to serve. It makes a great breakfast or snack. Enjoy!

  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (Bryan asked me to leave these out of his portion next time, but I like them and they’re really good for you.)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 box Kashi Go Lean Crunch! Honey Almond Flax Cereal (delicious honeyed granola clusters!)
  • 1 bar dark chocolate, chopped in chunks (I used Green & Black’s Organic Espresso Dark Chocolate bar.)