Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Scissors, Haircuts, and Marriage

Today, Mom treated me to a haircut for my birthday. I was in desperate need of a cut and style, so six inches off and layers later, I now have a fresh, new, professional style for my fresh, new, professional life in Atlanta.

What does all of this have to do with marriage, as the title suggests?

Sitting next to me was an older couple, very much in love with each other. One was 80 and the other 82, yet they acted like newlyweds as they flirted and joked with each other. They admired each other's new haircuts and complimented one another throughout our conversation. When the lady found out I was recently married, she proudly told me that she'd been married over sixty years, saying, "It's worth it. You'll wake up some days wanting to run away but it's worth the hard work. 60 years later and we're loving every minute."

When they walked out of the salon hand-in-hand, my hairdresser said more to herself than to me, "That's how I want to be when I'm 80."

I thought, what a beautiful birthday gift they've just given me... a snapshot of 60 years of love.

For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
-John Donne, "The Good Morrow"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rock climbing

The day after Christmas, John headed home to Atlanta for his work with the upcoming Chick-fil-A bowl (a shameless promo for the event... tune in Dec. 31!). Meanwhile, I ventured to a rock climbing center with Dad. We love hiking, playing tennis, and running together so this was the latest in our active adventures.

Dad had been indoor rock climbing with a friend last month, and his excitement made me have to give it a try while I was home. When we arrived, we were given a 15 minute lesson on how to strap into the harness, tie the appropriate knots for the rope, and how to belay. Having never been in Girl Scouts, I found learning the figure eight with follow through and double fisherman knot to be rather complicated. However, after practicing a few times (then using it again and again throughout the day) it soon became easy enough.

For those who had never been rock climbing, below is a brief video explanation:

We started on the easier walls that are slightly slanted forward, which lets gravity help you out. Then we tried out the completely vertical walls which were up to 32 feet tall. I was amazed at how frightening it is climbing that high with only a rope holding you. Although the fear somewhat subsided by my fourth climb, at one point I yelled down to Dad, "There is no way I would ever do this on a mountain!"

I found climbing challenging but very rewarding. Some of the routes on the vertical walls had such small grooves to grab onto and little rocks to step on that it required a lot of flexibility. At some points, my arms and legs were stretched far apart like Silly Putty and then the next move would require that I scrunch my body up as small as I could. For this, I was grateful for my yoga DVDs - and long arms/legs and small feet. Physical body structure seemed to play a part for all the climbers I saw, but being able to get my body in strange "poses" (i.e. yoga) gave me an advantage over Dad (sorry Dad!).

I had such a feeling of accomplishment after looking to the top of the tall wall I had just conquered and seeing how far my fatigued arms and gripped fingers had made it.

Most rewarding part: Our last climb had an overhang, which juts out from the wall, that you have to get over to climb the rest of the way to the top. After a few tries, I was able to pull my body up with my forearms and swing my legs up and over the overhang, while grabbing the next groove in the rock. I couldn't believe I actually made it!

Funniest moment: Dad fell on one of the high climbs (no, that's not the funny part!), and although I accurately stopped the rope to keep him from hitting the ground, I couldn't let the slack out fast enough. So there he was, hanging, suspended 2 feet above the ground, banging into the wall repeatedly. Meanwhile, everyone around was laughing, and I was laughing so hard I couldn't move the rope and instead watched him dangling and swinging into the wall... oops.

Takeaway: Rock climbing was not only such a good workout (think sore forearms, back, abs, legs the next day) but one that was so rewarding. Getting to the top of a climb was exhilarating, and when Dad and I left after a couple hours (because we literally couldn't get our fingers to grip the rock anymore) I felt so accomplished. It's definitely a sport I want to try again... but only inside, I don't have quite the trill-seeker in me to want to risk my life on an actual boulder.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nike Training Club Review

Doing something active is always better than doing nothing, especially during the holidays with heavy schedules and heavy food getting the best of your workouts. (See Fit Bottomed Girls interview for healthy holiday tips.)

So I decided to try out some fitness apps to take with me during my travels. The first up for review is Nike Training Club, a free app on my iPhone.

Summary: It has four workouts you can choose from: Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, or Get Focused. Within each option you choose if you want the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. Then it gives you about six workouts to choose from in that level. These are great options that let me get whatever type of workout I am looking for and at whatever level of strength I'm feeling.

Get Lean has interval drills that really get your heart rate up, as if workout routine names "The Shedder" or "Wipeout" didn't give that away!
Get Toned has different workout circuits that tone all over using dumbbells or a medicine ball.
Get Strong is similar to Get Toned but with heavier weights, hence workouts called "Worth the Weight" and "Tower of Power."
Get Focused offers 15 minute workouts for specific areas, such as "Ab Burner," "Shoulder Ripper," and "Leg Sculptor."

Review:  These workouts are true to their name! They will get you sweating, moving, and feeling your sore muscles the next day. Let's be honest, I don't feel that I've really worked out hard enough unless I'm sore the day after! The workouts are very user-friendly, demonstrating how to do each move through pictures (of very fit athletes), word descriptions, and video demonstrations.

When you start the workout, you can set music from your phone. I love this feature since I cannot workout without upbeat music, but you can't change music once you begin. A lady's voice also coaches you through the workout, so once you understand how to do the moves you don't need to look at your phone. It's helpful to go through the workout ahead of time and learn how to do the exercises before starting. But if you get confused, there is a helpful video you can watch for each move - and it pauses the workout while you watch, so no cheating allowed! Each exercise has a time on it, such as 1 minute or 30 seconds, and your "coach" lets you know when you have 10 or 5 seconds left of the move, counting down for you. However, there is no way to skip exercises or the rest breaks (though trust me, you'll be needing those recovering minutes!). She also gives you helpful tips throughout the workout, such as to remember to use yours abs for balance. The downside is that she repeats the same tips each time you do the move, so it gets a bit repetitive.

Overall, I love this app because it has so many workout options that it's hard to get bored with it. Be warned, though, some intermediate circuits - like the "Ab Burner" and Get Lean's "Body Surge" - felt more advanced. 1 minute of toe touches with a medicine ball is a long time - especially when you're repeating the move 3 times! As you finish workouts, the app logs your workouts, tracks your progress, and allows you to post your workout to Facebook or Twitter. You're also awarded medals as you accrue workout minutes. For instance, my second medal unlocked 5 smoothie recipes and Sofia Boutella's Fearless Workout.

Bottom line: Nike Training Club is the perfect app for at home training or to bring along for squeezing in a 15 or 30 minute workout in between Christmas dinner and dessert.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Moroccan Chickpeas and Couscous

It's always exciting to experiment with new foods and flavors, so last week I tried a new Moroccan recipe. This recipe is originally from Cooking Light, but I made some alterations based on ingredients I had on hand. 


  • Although this recipe is exotic sounding, it is still a safe bet to serve to those with a little bit of an adventurous palate. I wouldn't recommend it to picky eaters, but it certainly is not too strange to serve for guests.
  • Cooking Light calls the recipe "Moroccan-style Lamb and Chickpeas" but I didn't have lamb on hand (nor were my husband and I eager to try it... yet!). Instead, I had some Trader Joe's turkey kielbasa already in the fridge, so I cut it into bite-sized pieces and used it in place of the ground lamb that the original recipe calls for. 
  • Using my beloved mortar and pestle I ground the coriander, which added an unusual but very tasty spice to the dish. Also, I didn't have cumin, so I used paprika.
  • I served this dish over couscous (from Trader Joes, where else?!) and made sure the soupy part soaked in to make it moist. Next time, I 'm going to try it over Israeli couscous for a bit more texture.

Here is Cooking Light's original recipe. Below reflects my changes/additions.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)
Total: 40 minutes

8 ounces smoked turkey kielbasa, cut into bite-sized pieces 
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin (or paprika) 
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
(15 1/2-ounce can) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup couscous


  • 1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and pepper; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add kielbasa, broth, and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice.
  • 2. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. 
  • 3. Divide couscous among plates and spoon 1 1/4 cup of chickpea stew on top of couscous. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Are your strengths hiding?

Through my work with Element3sixty, I have the incredible opportunity to sit down with high school and college students and hear their stories. I enjoy starting my coaching sessions this way because typically a certain word or theme will stand out again and again in a student's story. This repeated word or theme provides a clue to what energizes them.

For instance, this week I coached a very driven, bright girl who is a senior in high school. Throughout our conversation she repeated the idea that she likes having a lot of projects going on simultaneously because she enjoys making plans. She is involved in several organizations and thrives on leading meetings, building off others' ideas, and improving plans. She was most excited when she realized that something that has always come naturally or easily (planning and being detailed-oriented) is actually a unique strength that adds value for others.

But it's not only whether you're strong in something that is important.

Do you enjoy it? Does it energize you?

Take a look at this Marcus Buckingham video on this point:

You do have a choice.

You can choose to discover where your best is and to act on it, like the little boy in the video who realizes he loves drumming much more than trombone.

It might not be as drastic as a shift as you think. The boy is still in the band, just with a different instrument. Instead, you may just need to position yourself in a situation differently.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to begin uncovering your unique strengths and passions:

  • How do you like to be challenged?
  • When does time fly by because you're doing something you love? 
  • What would you do if  you knew you couldn't fail?
  • When was the last time you were really excited?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What words do your family, friends, or coworkers use to describe you?

Now, take this list and start seeing where it fits into your life and/or work now. What areas can you reorganize, rearrange, delegate, take control over that will energize you and build off your strengths?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why BeEmbraced? Part II

Although many people find change uncomfortable, our culture wants us to embrace all things new. I'm not arguing the pros and cons because I see both sides. It can be positive to get behind a new initiative, such as eating vegetarian once a week (which John and I are now doing!), but it is also draining to constantly try out the latest political, spiritual, physical, etc. ideology.

While we're seeking out the various aspects that we want to define us, we often miss the opportunity to be embraced. Notice the difference.
Be embraced.

I find that it is often harder to be vulnerable, receive grace, let others love you for you. To slow down, enjoy moments of solitude, let the beauty of nature surround you. Be embraced.

What have you been embraced by this week?

Saturday, December 10, 2011


As John, my husband, is discovering, I love the Christmas season. We started listening to Christmas music on Pandora before Thanksgiving, got our tree the weekend after, and have already made and decorated several batches of Christmas cookies.

One of the traditions my family had growing up was going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down our tree every year. Raised in Florida, my friends are always surprised that Florida even has Christmas tree farms... well, yes they do! And complete with hayrides, bonfires, s'mores, petting zoos, and a Christmas shop.

So as we and some new friends ventured south of Atlanta this year in search of our first tree as a married couple, I was anticipating a quaint experience, complete with lots of kiddos, hayrides, and apple cider as the website indicated.

Instead, we were the only customers in site, a dilapidated trailer with a few hay strands sat unused by the side, and they gave us a cart and saw to tote down the path to the tree farm. The adventure had begun, and after a little searching, we found our tree! Before leaving, we were given a stuffed animal to put on our tree, a $2 coupon off next year's tree, a cup of lukewarm apple juice cider, and a poem the owner's wife wrote celebrating the growth of Christmas trees year after year. Needless to say, we'll be returning next year for some more laughs!

Cutting down our tree...

Finished product! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts

Call me crazy but when a new friend/new dinner guest came to our house on Monday night for dinner, I served brussels sprouts. I know, risky for someone I'd never even met before. But if I can get my husband, a self-proclaimed hater of brussels sprouts, to now ask for seconds and request I buy more to make next week for dinner, then I think it's a winner of a recipe!

Thanks to Cooking Light for this meat-n-potato-lover approved recipe (see below).


  • This recipe is a wonderful fall or winter dish to serve for guests because you can chop ahead of time and the cooking is relatively simple... meaning you can keep up conversation without burning the chicken!
  • The only additions I made were (1) Adding garlic to the brussels sprouts (you can never have too much garlic!) and (2) Making the apple cider with Williams-Sonoma mulling spices and apple juice. The cider is also a good accompaniment with dessert.
  • As a side, I roasted red potatoes, quartered and tossed in olive oil and rosemary. Bake at 450° for 45 minutes or until lightly browned.

Recipe from Cooking Light:

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 chicken breast half, 2/3 cup brussels sprouts, and 2 tablespoons sauce)
Total Time: 40 Minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; add to pan. Cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken; place pan in oven. Bake at 450° for 9 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup broth and cider; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 4 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley.

3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup broth to pan; cover and cook 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Serve sprouts with chicken and sauce.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why BeEmbraced? Part I

Today is a beautiful, winter day - sunny, blue skies, and just chilly enough to feel like Christmastime. It's usually easy to allow days like this to embrace me.

But what about those days, which are inevitably approaching, of gray, rainy, and dreary skies? My natural reaction is to want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep... or as my husband knows, put my eye mask back on and roll over.

Instead, my challenge to others and myself is to be grateful for each day, allowing the goodness and grace to wrap around you. BeEmbraced. Not that I'm ignoring or neglecting the justice and mercy still needed in our broken world. But my hope is that my posts inspire you to be embraced:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
          -William Blake, "To see a world in a grain of sand"