Monday, May 30, 2011

In the Midst

Let's admit it - some days are better than others. This week I had a few others. The pain was escalating and I ended up at the doctor on Friday because it was so bad. My doctor talked to me and convinced me that I have to increase my steroid dosage until we get a handle on things. I've been fighting against medication for the last several months – didn’t want to deal with the side effects and I don't want to just band-aid what's going on. Still, this week was a wake up call. I have come to terms with the fact that, unfortunately, right now I need something to help me with day to day living. This is hard for me to swallow, but I need to give myself a little grace and do what I have to do for the time being. Hopefully it will just be temporary. Once there's a concrete diagnosis, I can make a long term plan and start moving forward with some alternative pain management. I have a follow up MRI next week and then meet with a new spine specialist and rheumatologist after that. Until then, I'm taking it day by day.

I don't want to just blog on the days I'm feeling great and thinking positive. I don't want to paint a pretty picture just for pretty sake. This is life. And life is beautiful. But it also brings challenges, pain and dark days. This blog is my journey and I'm going to share it as genuinely as I know how. Earlier this week, I was feeling discouraged and overwhelmed until I stopped to think. As crazy as the last 8 months have been, both physically and mentally, it has actually given me more than it has taken away:

- Renewed Faith: God is faithful - all the time. While I may not be “healed” the way I want to be, something bigger is at work. I prayed to be made whole and that is what's happening. I am more present, more aware, and more alive than ever. For this, I am thankful.

- I got my voice back: I used to write. I had a lot to say. Somewhere along the way, I stopped. If you asked me to start a blog a few years ago I wouldn't have known where to begin. But now, now I stay up way too late just to see the words form sentences on the screen. A friend of mine recently said, “You’re writing your own story.” I never thought about it quite like that but I guess that's what makes writing so empowering. I may not be able to control my circumstances, but I certainly can chose how I will journey through this season. And sharing it out loud has given me such strength.

- Connection: I’ve always been a stubborn, do it myself, kind of girl independent. I never really asked for help because I could just take care of it myself (oldest sibling syndrome?). This year, I learned how to receive. Thanks to our local MOMS Club, women, some I've never met before, brought meals for my family and me when I was recovering from surgery. People volunteered to watch my kids, clean my house, and go grocery shopping. My mom stayed with me for weeks when I couldn't lift my baby. The outpouring of love and support has truly been humbling. Learning to graciously receive has been an incredible lesson. It has allowed me to feel more human, more connected. My heart is full.

I could go on and on about how much I've learned and continue to learn, but there will be time for that in the weeks and months to come. For now, my house is quiet, the birds are singing and all is well. It's time to take it all in.

Thank you for being here...


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Baby Love

When it comes to good eating, we show no age discrimination in this house. In fact, teeth are optional. The only thing I love more than cooking for big people is cooking for little people.

Why do I make my own baby food?

1) Quality: I know exactly what she's eating. I buy or grow the food she eats, then prepare and store it with no added anythings. There's nothing she eats that I wouldn't eat. Plus, eating fresh whole foods as a baby transfers into eating fresh whole foods as a toddler.

2) Savings: Making your own baby food can actually save you a lot of money. I buy all organic fruits and veggies and it still turns out to be cheaper than buying the bottles.

3) Satisfaction: I just love it. Love picking out the perfect little butternut squash, cooking it up, and feeding it to her. That's just me. I love to feed. It makes me happy.

Let me stop here for a second and say that all you mommys and daddys (grandmas and grandpas) out there are rock stars! Raising a family takes 110% of you and at the end of the day, we're all just trying our best. I'm not here to say that there is a right way to feed your baby. I just want you to know that if you choose to make your baby's food at home, you CAN do it! All it takes is a little planning. While it does require some time and effort, you can make the most of both by planning your meals so that you eat what baby eats (just in a different form).

I go to our farmers market on Saturdays and pick out what foods I want for the week. I also get a couple items at Costco: frozen organic petite green beans and the 5lb bag of organic carrots. Then I block off about 2-3 hours one evening (it may seem like a long time but how often do we kill 2 hours watching TV or surfing the internet) and make enough baby food to last about 10 days. I turn on my favorite Pandora radio station and set up my work stations and just go for it. It's quiet, relaxing and fun.

What you will need:
Steamer (pot with basket)
Pans for baking
Ice Cube Trays
Wax Paper
Ziploc Freezer Bags
Permanent Marker (sharpie)
Glass Bowls w/ Lids

Carrots for big people

For baby: Rinse and peel carrots. Cut whole carrots into 2" chunks (the smaller you cut them, the faster they'll cook). Bring about 2 inches of water to a rapid boil. Place carrots (in steamer basket) in pot and cover. Steam for about 10-12 minutes or until carrots are tender. Remove and let cool. Transfer carrots to a blender and puree. Add water as needed for right consistency. Transfer into ice cube trays. Cover with wax paper and freeze.

Note and Correction: It's always best to buy produce as close to its original form as possible. I originally posted a picture of baby carrots (I have used both baby and "regular" carrots in the past - depending on what has been available). After a little research regarding the "processing" of baby carrots I would recommend using the regular big organic carrots. Plus, aren't they pretty? The above picture is from our local Farmers Market. The carrots in our garden will be ready in a few weeks. So excited!

Green beans

For baby: Just like carrots. Bring about 2 inches of water to a rapid boil. Place green beans (in steamer basket) in pot and cover. Steam for about 6-8 minutes or until tender. Remove and let cool. Transfer green beans to a blender and puree. Add water as needed for right consistency. Transfer into ice cube trays. Cover with wax paper and freeze.

Okinawan Sweet Potato

For baby: Poke several holes in the potatoes before baking. Bake at 425 degrees for about 45-60 minutes or until you can pierce easily with a fork. Cool. When potatoes are cool to the touch remove skins, cut potatoes into chunks and blend. Add water as needed.

An apple a day... keeps everyone happy

For baby: Bring a few inches of water to a boil. Cut apples into quarters and then core. Steam for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Cool. Once cool to the touch, I use a spoon and scoop out the apple from the skin. It should come out easily. I think this is easier than skinning the apple before you cook it. Plus, steaming the apple with skins on preserves more of the nutrients. Puree in blender. Add water to reach desired consistency (you can use water from your steamer).
Tip: Fuji and Gala apples are the sweetest. Some of the others may be a little sour for tiny taste buds.

Tip: Wrap ice cube trays in wax paper before freezing. This way you can stack trays in the freezer and not get food everywhere. When the cubes are frozen and you're ready to remove, just run some water over the wax paper to loosen things up. Open the wax paper up (cubes facing down) and dump all the cubes onto the wax paper. Quick and easy clean up.

Everything is bagged, labeled and ready to go. Tip: Label the ziploc bag before you put the cubes in - otherwise the ink won't stick because the bag is cold and wet.
I transfer a day's worth of food into glass bowls (with lids) and let them defrost in the fridge.
Tip: You can get bowls like this at Target, Walmart or Ross. Covers are key. Great for stacking or when you're on the go.

Note: As always, consult your pediatrician regarding what foods your baby should be eating for their particular age.

Happy Cooking!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Got Kale?

You've seen it in the store, at your farmers market, maybe even on Oprah. What's the big deal with kale? Why all the fuss and why should we care? Well, quite simply, kale is a triple threat. It's an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and it has anti-cancer nutrients. Yes, kale is your friend. Don't be intimidated by it's tough curly leaves. There are tons of ways you can eat it, from juicing to steaming to baking it into chips. Here are 2 recipes I make all the time.

This is a quick, easy, delicious soup courtesy of Whole Foods Online recipes. It tastes like minestrone with a kick. Normally I use the curly leaf kale in this soup but I tried Red Russian kale in this one and it actually had the taste and consistency of the seaweed in Korean seaweed soup. It was great! Top it with some grated parmesan cheese and you've got a winner. Find the recipe at

For breakfast, lunch or a power snack try a green smoothie.
- Handful of ice (crush in the blender first)
- 1 cup of apple juice
- Handful of kale (ripped up)
- Handful of romaine lettuce (ripped up)
- 1 stalk of celery or 1/2 cucumber
- 1 banana
- 1 avocado (yes, the whole thing. don't be afraid of good fat)

These smoothies are addicting. No gagging here, just deliciousness. Oh, and by the way, I use a plain old $40 Oster blender from Costco. One day I'll get myself one of those Vita Mix blenders but until then, old faithful works just fine.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Rainbow for Dinner

Lately I've been planning our meals based on what we pull out of the garden. Last night I wanted to use some of this beautiful rainbow chard. I had no idea what to do with it. We only planted it because I thought it was pretty.

I went online but didn't really like any of the recipes so I sort of just took a few recipes and combined them. Here's what I did: Removed the stems and spines then chopped them up.

In a medium size pan, added the chard to 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, covered and cooked on medium high for about 10 minutes (or until the leaves are tender). Then I drained all the liquid into a bowl and set aside. Added a little olive oil, some minced garlic, a sprinkle of cumin, sprinkle of ground ginger and a little salt and pepper to the chard (sorry, no measurements this time). Cooked on medium for a couple minutes then added back the liquid (vegetable broth) that I drained earlier. Simmered for a few more minutes.

I served the sauteed chard on top of some quinoa with mahi mahi and a spinach salad. Too bad it doesn't look as pretty after it's cooked. It was yummy though.



Monday, May 23, 2011

A Dream Discovered

We went to the coast for an early anniversary celebration. It was fabulous. Seeing the ocean and smelling the salt air was just what the doctor ordered. And so much for trying to keep my 3 year old out of the water. The concept of being at the "beach" and not being able to swim just doesn't compute. She and daddy went to dip their toes in the water and the next thing you know, she's up to her waist in faaaaareezing cold water. It didn't even phase her though. Oh, to be three again.

The drive was beautiful. Incredible coast line on one side, stunning Oregon forest on the other. A perfect dichotomy. During the drive my husband and I had one of our "where are we going?" talks. And I don't mean what town are we stopping in next but where is our life going? What do we want to be doing next? We have these talks a lot. It's always good to stop and re-evaluate where we are and where we're headed. Lately there have been more questions than answers but it's still good to talk it all out.

There's not a moment that I regret putting my professional career on hold to be home with my girls. I am so thankful and wouldn't trade one day of it for anything. We've made a lot of sacrifices to make it happen and while we may not have a lot of the "stuff" we want, we certainly have everything we need. That being said, I still have dreams for the next phase of our lives and try to balance appreciating the present with planning and looking forward to the future. Normally I keep these thoughts to myself because, well, they're sort of just dreams, and I've had hundreds of them in the last few years. But what the heck, I'm just going to throw it out there because wouldn't it be so cool if it really does happen and you all read about it when it was just a pipe dream? I actually have it broken down into one-year, five-year and ten-year plans (I can just hear my sisters laughing at me). I'll just share part of it for now. During the drive down the coast I told my husband that I would love to open a little cafe. I would sell a variety of fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juices, smoothies, coffees and teas, and have a small menu of sandwiches, salads and soups made mostly from fresh, local organic ingredients. I can see the menu. I can smell the soups simmering. I can picture the decor on the walls and hear the music playing. I see myself smiling and talking story with everyone, telling them which juice to order and how they have to come back and bring their whole family. But I also want to have a little section that sells natural home and body products. I already know how I want to display them. Okay, and then there's the mini-spa: a peaceful place to get a massage, maybe a body wrap or scrub. It's a must. Oh, and while we're dreaming, if there's space I want a room for some fun exercise classes: yoga, salsa dancing, mini-trampoline jumping. My husband loved my ideas but we both sort of laughed and wondered how those things would flow together in real life.

And then, it happened. At our last stop on the coast, we found my dream. Yup, there it was in the flesh, tucked away in a quaint little coastal town, run by a mother and daughter. I cried.

There you have it: The Herb Jar. A cafe, market and spa wrapped into one. It's the cutest little place. I ordered their green smoothie and it was almost too yummy to be green. I walked around in amazement taking it all in.

The menu of delicious juices, smoothies and coffee.

The selection of home and body products.

The amazing assortment of teas.

I didn't want to leave. So I hung out outside.

I smiled the whole drive home. Smiled at the thought of new adventures. Thankful for new passion and purpose. Encouraged by one mother's dream turned reality. Excited for all the possibilities. Maybe stumbling across this little gem was a glimpse into my future, I don't know. But it did show me that dreams -no matter how big and crazy -can become reality. I know there is something great on the horizon. I just know it. And if one day I'm standing in front of my own cafe door, you're all invited.

Always Dreaming,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

There's Nothing Little About Small Steps (Part II)

There's no doubt we should all be exercising. And it has nothing to do with weight or how you look (although you'll ultimately lose weight and feel better inside and out) but it has everything to do getting your blood pumping. Your body craves oxygen so go ahead and break a sweat. But why do we torment ourselves with exercise we dread? Start by doing something, anything, that gets your heart beating and your face smiling. Play tag with your kids, dance, jump rope, dust off your old roller skates or bicycle and just go have some fun. Seriously, you don't have to torture yourself at the gym, especially if it means you'll go for 3 weeks and then take the rest of the year off. Do something that you'll look forward to. If you live in a warm climate (sigh), jump in the water. Swim, surf, stand up paddle, snorkel, whatever floats your boat. If you live where it's cold and rainy (sigh again), well you can, uh... well, um... alright, I can't lie. This one is a little harder. I have no desire to go out in the freezing cold rain let alone run in it. So guess what? I won't. Sorry, that's just me. There's not enough time in the day for me to dread what I do. Nonetheless, the heart must pump and the body must sweat even in the winter (and in the cold rainy spring). Get creative. My anniversary is next week and I'm hinting for a rebounder (mini trampoline). Besides the fact that it does wonders oxygenating your blood and getting your lymph fluid moving, have you ever seen someone look angry while jumping on a trampoline? I think not. They don't call it jumping for joy for nothing.

I do want to take a second to address those who deal with chronic pain. I understand. There are days when I can barely shift into reverse or walk up my stairs. The idea of getting my heart rate up seems daunting and the suggestion that I should exercise is annoying. Chronic pain creates such a crazy vicious cycle because the longer we do nothing the harder it is to do anything. So here's my two cents:

- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for suggestions on what types of exercises you can or should be doing (and if all their suggestions are lame, ask for more).

- Give yourself some grace. It's hard enough to get moving when moving doesn't hurt. If you're doing anything to push your body just a little bit more each day, I commend you. Really, I do.

- Change your mindset. When I was going to physical therapy one of the PTs told me to stop thinking like an injured person who's trying to get better and start thinking like a recovering athlete. It was so simple but it really affected me. Somehow, it made me feel stronger. Know that you are still strong even though you are in pain. Know that every little step you take to improve your body inside and out is a step in the right direction. Celebrate that!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blogging 101

Time out. Okay, I've gotten quite a few emails and phone calls from people saying that they've been unable to leave comments on the blog. Let's see if we can fix that because I love comments. They make me feel like I'm not talking to myself and I love to hear what you have to say :)

So there's a couple ways you can do it.

- You can sign up as a "Follower" (sorry, I don't really like that term but it's a blog thing. basically it just means that you're reading the blog and want to be friends. it's all good.) On the right side bar, just click "Follow". From there it will ask you to sign in using an account you already have (either Google, Twitter or Yahoo). If you don't have one of these accounts then you can go to the bottom of that screen and click on "Create a New Google Account". It will ask you for your email address and you'll create a password. That's it. Once you become a follower, you can sign in to the blog (top right corner). When you want to post a comment you'll already be signed in under your name.

- The other option is to leave an anonymous comment. You can still sign your name to the comment but you don't have to jump through the hoop of becoming a follower. In that case, just go the comment section and under "comment as" select "anonymous".

That pretty much does it for leaving comments.

One more thing. If you don't want to check the blog all the time but do want to read new posts, you can sign up for an email notification. We'll send you an email whenever there's a new post and you can always unsubscribe if you get sick of me. :) On the right side bar, go to "Follow by Email", type in your email address and hit "submit".

If you want to leave a private message or have a question or comment you would rather not post, you can email me at

Thank you again for reading. Our time is precious so I thank you for choosing to spend some of it with me.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

There's Nothing Little About Small Steps (Part I)

Tell me if you relate to this story:

You decide you want to eat a little healthier, exercise a little more and maybe even live a little greener. So... you buy more veggies but then don't know what to do with them so they rot in your fridge and you end up throwing them out. Or maybe you end up eating them (reluctantly) but then feel guilty because you didn't buy organic. Then you buy new running shoes but barely make it to the end of your street before you feel like you're going to have a heart attack. Or maybe you spend a couple hundred bucks for the latest exercise program (P90X anyone?) but after a few minutes you end up watching good old Tony do his thing while you drink a Gatorade. It's okay though because you recycle that Gatorade bottle. In fact, you even bought a case of organic energy bars at Costco for this new diet.

I think we're all trying our best. And while we may start off with good intentions I think many us get overwhelmed, feel like we need to revamp our whole life and then end up doing nothing. Well, here's where I think small steps are highly underrated. I think little changes, smart choices, and a whole lot of high fives and pats on the back are just what we need to live a healthier, happier life.

If you want to eat healthier, don't feel like you have to change your entire diet overnight. Here are some simple ideas:
- Start with adding fresher ingredients. Check out your local farmer's market and get some greens. Have fun with it. Feel good about it. You can even ask the farmers for suggestions on how to prepare your new goodies.
- Try adding one more vegetable to your cart and one less processed, packaged snack each time you go to the grocery store. By the end of the month you'll have a bunch of fresh new veggies in your diet and ideally a lot less things you could really live without.
- "Shop the perimeter". I don't know who came up with the term but the concept is fantastic. Basically, you want to spend less time in the middle aisles where items tend to be more processed. Instead, fill your basket with items from the perimeter of the grocery store: fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, seafood and dairy products.

The bottom line - the more opportunities you give yourself to eat fresh whole foods, the more your body will appreciate it. So be good to yourself, one bite at a time.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

For Every Season

For years I've been using the term "this season" when referring to stages in life. You've heard the sayings: This has been a rough season. What an exciting season! We say it all the time. But really, growing up on an island where it is pretty much 80 degrees and sunny for most of the year, it's hard to wrap your head around the concept of seasons.

Well, last summer we bought a house in Oregon. We fell in love with the big yard, the beautiful trees and the thoughtful landscaping. The grass was the brightest green and it was perfect, except for one dead patch in the front yard that sort of stood out like a sore thumb. I figured they cut down a tree and the grass just never grew back. Well, a few weeks ago, little lavender and white flowers started to sprout in that "dead patch". It is now an incredible flower bed.

I don't think this picture does it justice but you get the idea. It's simply beautiful. Even more beautiful because it was so unexpected. Who would have thought that this incredible bed of flowers was just waiting for the seasons to change? It survived a long and cold winter. Months of rain, weeks of frost, days of snow. It was never a dead patch. It was always a vibrant, breathtaking bed of beauty. It just couldn't show itself. At least not until the seasons changed. It waited patiently. It didn't just survive winter, it thrived through winter. And when it finally arrived, it arrived with elegance, grace and beauty.

I'll be honest. I want "this season" to be over. I want the sun to shine. I want to walk barefoot and drive with my windows down. I want a diagnosis. I want to get off medication that makes me feel crappy. I don't want to be in pain all day. But just when I feel like this season will never end, I look outside and am reminded that seasons always change. Always. And when this one does, I'll be here, stronger than ever.

Waiting for Sunshine,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's for Dinner?

I love to cook. Always have. I'm not sure which I love more: the end result or the whole process. Something about slicing, dicing, squeezing, sauteing. It's peaceful to me. I love the colors, the textures, the smells. While some women dream of Louis Vuitton bags and diamonds, I have a dream kitchen in mind. Oh, the thought of all the counter space, gas stove, tall pantry with glass doors, deep double sided sink and an island in the middle really gets me going. For now, my 1970s kitchen that overlooks the garden works just fine. And that just goes to show, granite counters and Viking appliances don't make the meal, a whole lot of love does. And I've got that. Okay, but let's get real. Cooking is generally not so romantic. Most of us have kids pulling on our leg, babies crying, water boiling over, and hungry mouths that we just need to feed. I know. But still, I fight for it. I try to plan our meals in advance, prep what I can when the girls nap and set them up with something fun while I put it all together. Most nights they watch me cook with a smile on my face. Most nights.

I think half the battle is deciding what to cook. Whether you're a wannabe chef like me or hate cooking but still have to feed your family, we've all been there. It's 4:00 p.m. and you're wondering what to make for dinner. You stroll down the supermarket aisles clueless, tired, hungry, a little annoyed and end up grabbing take-out. Been there. The dinner rut is no fun. While there are a bazillion recipes online, that alone makes it a bit overwhelming. One of my favorite go-to sites is Whole Foods. They have an incredible recipe section. It's super user-friendly and they have tons of great recipes to chose from (with pictures). I also like the way you can search for recipes by dietary needs (gluten free, dairy free, low fat, vegan, etc) or by category like kid-friendly, entertaining, etc. You can even create your own recipe box for all your favorites. I have made several of their recipes over the years and they're almost always a hit. For some reason, they're also super quick and relatively inexpensive, which you wouldn't expect if you've ever shopped at Whole Foods.

Tonight I made a vegetarian chili (courtesy of Whole Foods). It's a family favorite that I make at least twice a month. Most people don't realize the "meat" is tofu - yup, it's that good (not that tofu isn't yummy, but you know what I mean).

I wanted to do something a little different with our veggies tonight so I grabbed some of the beet tops, kale and swiss chard that we harvested over the weekend, chopped them up, and sauteed them in a little olive oil, garlic, crushed red peppers and a touch of butter. Yum! I like my cooked veggies a little crunchy so I literally cooked them for less than 30 seconds.

Check it out. So fast, easy, and yummy. And believe me I'm honest about the way things taste. If something tastes like dirt, it tastes like dirt. I'm not going to smile and pretend it's delicious. Don't get me wrong, I'll still eat (or drink) it because it's good for me (and I try not to gag in front of the kids). Anyway, the point is, this was yummy. No lie. :)

Here's to a little more love and inspiration in your kitchen.

Bon Appetit,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eating Green

I've been following an anti-inflammatory diet for over 2 weeks now. I hate the word diet. It sounds so restrictive, temporary and just down right lame. And this has been anything but lame. In fact, I'm sort of loving it. Partly because I look at it from a "look at all the cool things I get to eat" standpoint and partly because I don't kick myself when I eat something outside the diet (like the to-die-for chocolate souffle my husband made for mother's day). I refuse to feel guilty.

What is this all about? Well, despite being on some icky steroids, my inflammation levels are still really high. Pain and inflammation, inflammation and pain. It's a vicious cycle. So, being the cooperative partner I am, I'm helping my body out by eating foods that are anti-inflammatory and well, not eating foods that are inflammatory. Simple as that. Lots of veggies, low-glycemic fruit, fish, nuts, soy, beans and whole grains. Check out Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory food pyramid for more information.

I can't remember the last time I ate red meat and it has been 8 days since I've eaten any kind of meat. I'm not trying to go vegetarian but it's sort of just evolving into that. I'm seeing all the other options out there and getting creative with my own cooking. A huge plus is going out into the garden and being like "hmmm, what should I eat?" and then picking some incredible spinach, kale and swiss chard.

By the way, isn't it amazing how much the garden has grown (see above). We harvested a bunch of greens the other day and I ran out of room in my fridge. I rinsed each leaf individually (or else we'd be eating slugs), put them through the salad spinner a couple times, then bagged them up. I just love it. Speaking of the garden, I have to go water it now, which is FANTASTIC because that means it's actually not raining for once. :)

Hope you're having a great day.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dealing with Disappointment

My appointment at OHSU didn't go as I hoped. Nothing bad, nothing good, just a lot of getting nowhere. Fortunately, our computer had a virus so I've been internetless for most of the week, otherwise you would have heard my complaining fresh off the press. It has been frustrating to say the least.

So what did I do? How did I deal with the disappointment? Well, I did what any self-respecting woman in her mid-30s dealing with a hovering medical conundrum would do. I sang karaoke. Oh yes, and this was no comfy private karaoke room with 15 of your closest friends kind of karaoke like I'm used to back home. This was straight up college town, college bar, pick your poison and get up in front and saaang kind of karaoke. Ahhh, there's nothing a little Dancing Queen can't cure. And as for my audience, I was roller skating to Abba before they were even born, so who cares. It was fun.