Friday, August 31, 2012

My newest adventure: Starting a company

When I was about seven, I used to tell fellow Floridians, "You may not have heard of me, but I am famous in North Carolina." My "fame" was because my dad owned an advertising agency at this time, and as a result I was in some billboard ads and a few commercials.

Well, that "on camera experience" proved useful this week because I've been busy filming testimonials of past students I've coached, and being on camera myself. My dad and his friend Max flew up to Atlanta for a whirlwind 28 hours, 220 miles of driving, and six video shoots.


I'm starting a new adventure in my life by creating my own coaching company for high school and college students. My passion is helping them discover their passions, strengths, and purpose.

I wanted to capture on film my past students' responses and takeaways from my coaching sessions with them.

More to come in later weeks as the idea takes shape, but I am so excited for this new chapter!

Until then, be sure to soak up new opportunities. You never know when one experience leads to a new adventure!

What's next on the horizon?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Garden Experiment

With our new house came three raised beds, requested by me thinking how charming it would be to pick tomatoes straight from the vine for dinner salads.

What didn't factor into the picture was how miserable I was at botany in college, with my roommate having to grow my plant for me: The one requirement for passing our lab.

But here I am - after recruiting help from several friends (and their kids!) - trying to grow a garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, corn, and green beans. The more I plant, the better chance I have that something will grow, right?

I'm happy to say that things are sprouting! I didn't anticipate the excitement of watching bits of green shoot out from the dirt.

Whether or not any vegetables grow my first time gardening, the process has been exciting - reminding me that yielding fruit in our own lives is a process too.

Though we plan and plant - as the poem relates below - sometimes things are established and sometimes neglected. My hope is that in life, plans wouldn't overpower the importance of daily watering and care. Sometimes in wanting things to operate on our personal timetables, we miss opportunities for watering, development, and growth.

Mary Ursula Bethell

‘Established’ is a good word, much used in garden books,
‘The plant, when established’…
Oh, become established quickly, quickly, garden!
For I am fugitive, I am very fugitive—
Those that come after me will gather these roses,
And watch, as I do now, the white wistaria
Burst, in the sunshine, from its pale green sheath.
Planned. Planted. Established. Then neglected,
Till at last the loiterer by the gate will wonder
At the old, old cottage, the old wooden cottage,
And say, ‘One might build here, the view is glorious; 
This must have been a pretty garden once.’

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fitness Friday: Cardio, Legs, Glutes Workout

Welcome to Fitness Friday! As I mentioned in my post about my home gym, I've started using online workout videos to design at-home workouts. Since I've been enjoying these quick - but very effective - workouts, I wanted to share another example with you. 

This week's workout focuses on strengthening your legs and glutes, while burning calories with some cardio. The cardio moves also will tone your arms and abs. The best part: no equipment required, not even weights!

Let's get started!

To begin, warm up for a few minutes by running in place and doing some dynamic stretching. Here's a video showing dynamic stretching if you're unfamiliar with the term.

0:00-3:00 Warmup

16:00-22:00 Repeat leg exercises two more times through

22:00-32:00 Repeat Tony Horton's cardio video (above)

35:00-40:00 Repeat moves through once more

40:00-45:00 Cool down and stretch  

I promise you'll feel how much you worked your muscles... I woke up sore the next day! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peach Crisp Lessons: Peeling away the layers

Our next door neighbor practically ran toward us as we were getting in the car one evening last week.

"We have some peaches for you! Welcome to the neighborhood!" And he handed us a bagful of fresh peaches from the local Sunday farmers' market.

While John and him chatted about moving in and local happenings, I played peek-a-boo with little Isabella in his arms and smiled at 18-month Theodore on his back.

On the agenda for that weekend: making homemade, fresh, peach crisp. Having never made peach crisp before (and certainly never tried it gluten free), I decided to give it a go.

As I was peeling peach after peach into the sink, I thought about Brother Lawrence joyfully peeling potatoes for God's glory and writing, "The time of work does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen... I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees" (The Practice of the Presence of God).

What layers of me are bruised or tough and need to be exposed? What layers am I using to hide behind? Ironically, we try to appear perfect by covering up with damaged layers. But the process of peeling away the layers and exposing our true selves reveals our tender beauty. Tender: compassionate but vulnerable.

I thought of little Isabella, gleefully playing peek-a-boo. Who, or what, do I play peek-a-boo from, only not so joyfully? It's a scary process becoming tender, and one that often involves a game of peek-a-boo as we test out just how much we can let our true self peek through and still be accepted. It's often easier to hide, but then no one fully knows your inner beauty.  

Peel, peel, peel.

Are we willing to find peace in the work? Do we desire true community enough to risk being fully accepted because we're truly known?

The hard work done, I mixed the topping and put the peach crisp in the oven. The result was a tasty, sugary treat that we devoured with two of our friends in one sitting.

Peach Crisp (Regular and Gluten free version) 
Inspired by Better Homes and Gardens, The New Cookbook

6 cups sliced, peeled ripe peaches
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten free oats, if desired)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (For gluten free, I used Bob's Red Mill all-purpose baking flour, plus added 1 tsp. xanthan gum)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine peaches and granulated sugar. Transfer to a 1 1/2 to 2 quart square baking dish; set aside.
  2. For topping, in a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. (I used my hands to mix it.)
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until peaches are tender and topping is golden. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rookie Mistakes: First Triathlon

Saturday was the big day: John's and my first sprint triathlon! Back in June, I wrote about maximizing your summer and trying something new, hence signing up for a sprint triathlon. What I didn't anticipate was that July would be a month of not feeling well and that moving to a new house really prevents sticking to a training schedule.

For all those reasons, the triathlon was adventurous to say the least. 

First of all, we woke up at 4am on Saturday to get ready, eat breakfast, and figure out how to stuff the bikes in the back of my Xterra. The race was 45 minutes away, and we needed to arrive early since we hadn't picked up our race packets yet - and had no idea how long we would need to set up our transition stations (i.e. where you go to get your bike, helmut, running shoes etc. in between swimming, biking, and running). 

All of this went smoothly, and we met up with other Chick-fil-A staff members and spouses who were racing as well.

Then, the race! Overall it went well and was a lot of fun because John and I stayed together the whole time (except for the swim), so we could cheer each other on... mainly this was John encouraging me! We weren't going for time, since we hadn't really trained, and instead used it as a way to do something fun, new, and active together. 

It was early in the morning when we met up with other the triathlon-ers! 

Game faces!

Lessons learned:
Swimming: 0.47 mile swim
  1. Practice swimming in open water before race day: I actually did train for the swimming part about 6 or 7 times before the race. However, I did not practice swimming in open water before race day. Swimming in an open lake with the waves of hundreds of other swimmers was certainly a different experience. 
  2. Test your googles: I should have tested out my googles before getting in the water because they kept filling up with water. This wouldn't have been as big of a deal in the pool, but trying to navigate swimming to the left of buoys and making turns in open water was challenging!  
  3. Don't be bothered when people kick you or swim over you - as happened in my case! - during the swim. It's all a part of the experience I'm told.
Biking: 12 mile bike
  1. If you don't have a road bike, borrow one! John and I only had our mountain/hybrid bikes which didn't help our speed. It's a little discouraging working as hard as you can to climb hills as other bikers are whizzing by you. But since we weren't going for a good time, we didn't let it get to us. Also, it's difficult to properly rack a mountain bike in the transition station. Case in point, John got called out over the intercom prior to the race because his biked wasn't racked properly. Thankfully, we weren't disqualified!
  2. Pump up your tires before the race - which we actually did! And thankfully we did, because we passed a biker (the only one we passed!) who had a flat tire but refused to stop. The terrible noise of the tire alone would have made me quit!
Running: 3.1 mile run
  1. Do a brick workout (or two or three) before race day. (A brick workout is when you train on two disciplines one after the other during the same workout, i.e. bike/run workout). Though I run a lot, I was not prepared for how heavy my legs felt after biking 12 miles. I could hardly get my feet to move forward until a half mile in. 
So there you have it, all my rookie mistakes from my first triathlon! However, through it all, we never stopped or took a break so I call it a success; plus we got a medal! 

John jokingly thinks I mainly run races for the cool t-shirts, socks, and gear I get at the event!

Will I do another sprint triathlon? I think so, but I'd definitely train for the next one! Any tips for next time?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

To be or not to be gluten free?

Going gluten free is definitely trendy, and I'm not one to try out a new diet or meal plan just because it's popular right now. However, after not feeling well for over a month, I decided to take a break from gluten for the time being and see if it affected how I was feeling.

And so my experiments with gluten free cooking and baking started. Gluten free cooking was not a big adjustment since we eat brown rice and quinoa often anyway, and using brown rice pasta tastes about the same as whole wheat. Since we also mostly eat clean too, I didn't need to do an extensive refrigerator review either.

However, the baking has been a challenge since there is no easy way to replace all-purpose or whole wheat flour with a gluten free substitute. Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll take up the challenge, but for now I'll share some easy - but delicious recipes - that did not require flour.

First up, is GreenLiteBites Banana, Oatmeal, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

I stuck to GreenLiteBites' original recipe except used regular almond milk instead of the vanilla flavored one, and I added a couple more tablespoons of chocolate chips at the request of my hubby. These are wonderful with a smoothie or yogurt parfait in the morning... or as a sweet treat in the afternoon!

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup almond milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 cups gluten free rolled oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 Tbsp. chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray, or use liners.
  4. Divide batter between 12 muffin cups, filling almost to the top.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or just until edges start to brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.
  6. Let muffins cool, and then remove them from the pan - they won't stick this way.
Lentil and Quinoa Veggie Scramble

This dish I invented on my own after having a little bit of lentils left over from the night before. I called it a scramble because you can really thrown in any combination of vegetables you have on hand, and it should taste great. It's also a scramble because I didn't measure anything precisely - hopefully you can follow these rough estimates and make it your own.

Serves 2
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
Ground black pepper, seasoned to taste
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chickpeas
Few handfuls of spinach
Lemon juice from 1/2 of a small lemon

  1. Cook lentils and quinoa according to package instructions. After they cook, mix them together with balsamic vinegar and 1 chopped garlic clove. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pan and add chopped onions. Let brown for 5 minutes. Add in bell peppers and mushrooms with the remaining garlic, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, and ground pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in chickpeas and spinach, cooking until the spinach is wilted. 
  4. Turn off heat, and add lentil mixture. Squeeze lemon juice over top.

If you're wondering how I'm feeling after being gluten free for a week, I can definitely notice a difference in my energy levels. I also have less aches and pains and headaches. However, the combination of being settled in the new house and work slowing down has probably contributed too. After a visit with the doctor yesterday, she recommended that I stay gluten free until I feel 100% back to normal and then try slowly reintroducing gluten and keep track of how I feel. She said sometimes our bodies just need to be "re-calibrated" so to speak.

I'll keep you posted. And if you have any other easy gluten free baked goods recipes for me to try, please send them my way!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Signed, Sealed, and Decorated!

After reading a Wall Street Journal article this morning titled Are We All Braggarts Now? I was hesitant to publish this blog post. My intention isn't to show off our new house by posting pictures. Instead, several family members and friends have been asking me for pictures, and this was the easiest format to show them. So, if you're interested in a sneak peak of pictures of our house (mostly!) decorated, see below. If not, come back in a day or two for a new post of recipes I've made and devoured recently. 

Living room (still waiting for a couple of chairs to arrive) and den (minus a new orange rug)

Kitchen and dining room (We love the open space, especially for entertaining!)

Dining room (opposite viewpoint) and hallway to backdoor 

Master bedroom/bathroom and downstairs guest bath

Guest room, stairwell and reading nook (minus a chair), and guest bath.
The other upstairs room can be seen here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to build a home gym for $150 or less

In college, I was known for doing kickboxing in my dorm room or recruiting friends to join me in crunching it out with a yoga abs workout DVD. It's a fact that I own more workout DVDs than regular movies. Well, now I have a new workout video obsession- ones posted for free on Pinterest!

Sites like FitFluential, FitBottomedGirls, FitSugar, and Shape all regularly post 5 - 15 minute workout videos. It's easy to search their Pinterest sites to find whatever routine you are looking for, such as cardio, arm workout, abs exercises etc. What I've been doing is finding two or three 5-10 minute videos and doing the circuits through twice each. Trust me- they pack a lot of power into 10 minutes, so doing a few cycles through is certainly enough to work up a sweat!

The best part: No gym membership required and you can easily tailor the workouts to fit into your schedule or work specific body parts.

For instance, yesterday I did this R.I.P.P.E.D. video from FitSugar twice through, this Jillian Michaels circuit from Shape Magazine twice through, and the exercises from this FitBottomedGirl post twice through - all totaling a sweaty 45 minute workout!

So what do you need to get started on home workouts? Here's what my "home gym" looks like.

I am using an empty bedroom right now, but you don't even need a full room. As long as you have somewhere to store your equipment and a small space to spread it out when you're using it, you'll be good to go!

All of my equipment totals less than $150 - and I'm sure you can get everything even cheaper on eBay or Amazon!

  • Yoga mat: $15 and optional skidless yoga towel to prevent yoga mat from slipping 
  • Set of 3 - 4 dumbbells (mine are 3, 5, 8, and 10 lbs.): $35
  • Exercise ball: $20
  • Set of 3 resistance bands: $25
  • Medicine balls: $20
  • Interlocking flooring mat (to protect the carpet when I'm jumping around): $30
Total: $145

Other equipment I use:

  • Computer to play workout DVDs and/or exercise videos from YouTube and Pinterest
  • Speakers to plug your iPod into
  • Workout DVDs
What about you? How do you make the most of at home workouts? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marriage is a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

I remember turning to my best friend during summer road trips to the mountains or beach and shouting, "Rock, paper, scissors!" Even now, John and I will half-jokingly play a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to determine who's turn it is to complete a chore.

We're told to have faith like little children so perhaps it's no coincidence that this childhood game resembles my marriage experience these past ten months.


In ten months, John and I have moved to a new city, made new friends, bought a home, started new jobs, faced stress at work, coped with illness, and are learning to build our marriage. Without a common foundation, I am not sure what this first year of marriage would have looked like. Although it hasn't been completely seamless, I am sure that it would not have been as filled of joy, life, and love if we didn't have solid ground on which to stand firm.

If any relationship is to grow, it needs a rock base. Otherwise, cracks are exposed and crumbling erupts. John's and my foundation is our faith. Life carries a lot of uncertainty and to navigate it, foundational truth has been our guide. In disagreements, different points of view, or difficult decisions, we can at least be sure of both of our desires to act from faith and truth. And we can at most have clear guidance moving forward from our core beliefs.


There's few things more special than receiving a handwritten note. During our engagement and after our wedding, I saved all of the sentimental letters and notes that we received with gifts. I have also saved all of the letters that John has written to me over the years. 

Pen and paper are powerful tools for building up a marriage. I've awoken several mornings to John's kind, encouraging words scribbled on a note and left on the bathroom mirror. I've snuck a few notes myself into his suitcase when he travels for work. These small reminders make a big impact because the act of writing reinforces commitment. Taking the time to describe in words how much you appreciate your spouse has been an important part of how we choose to love each other every day. And yet, marriage is also so much more than a piece of paper. It's consciously acting and doing what's best for your spouse, and thinking what's best of them as well.


I don't think I ever earned any gold stars for cutting in a straight line during kindergarten. Thankfully, now I have a husband who is there alongside me to encourage me when life isn't a perfectly straight line from point A to B.    

When one blade of the scissor decides to move, the other is forced either apart or together. Which way are you choosing to move and by default choosing to move your spouse - together or apart? Although still newlyweds, we have learned the importance of communicating how we are really feeling or what we're really thinking. Only honesty will enable us to both decide together in which direction to move next or where to point the scissors. And when we are working together, we can pull the scissor blades apart momentarily to each work in our individual strengths, knowing that it will bring us closer ultimately.

Next time you play "Rock Paper Scissors" with your spouse to determine who's turn it is to do the dishes, do a quick assessment on how well you're doing of standing on the same foundation, verbally building each other up, and communicating honestly.

**For more marriage insights, check out the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy for the Perspectives on Life and Love Carnival.**

Blog Lovin 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bring out the Olympic athlete in you

Did you know there is an Olympic athlete in you?

It's all about creating and keeping habits that build upon your natural talents to develop your strength. Maybe it's your physical strength, as in the athletes competing for the gold, but it can also be your communication, leadership, strategic, or other personal strengths.

Bestselling author, motivational speaker, and business consultant Marcus Buckingham says, "You grow most in your areas of greatest strength. It sounds odd but you will improve the most, be the most creative, be the most inquisitive, and bounce back the fastest in those areas where you have already shown some natural advantage over everyone else - your strengths. This doesn't mean you should ignore your weaknesses. It just means you'll grow most where you're already strong."

Most people, from teachers to managers, tell us to focus on our weaknesses - that lower grade or lacking communication skill - in order to improve this area. And I think most people do this in their own lives even without prompting from their superiors. It's tempting to want to "work on the weaknesses" because if you don't improve in them, then you were already weak in that area to begin with. There's no risk because you can't fail in an area where you are already weak.

Yet the most growth comes out of areas where you are already strong and can take this strength to an even higher level. And this requires risk because who wants to fail in an area where they're known for being strong? It's safer to stay at being good instead of reaching to become great.

Take the risk! (John jumping off sliding rock in NC)

But no athlete qualifies for the Olympics by playing it safe. The star of a Little League team doesn't eventually make Varsity baseball by practicing all of the positions he's not that great at. And the Varsity athlete only wins that scholarship to college by practicing what he's already excelling in day after day.

I'm currently reading The Power of Habits: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Although I just started it, the book is already compelling and very telling about why we act certain ways. Even trying to fix our weaknesses can become a habit, and the only way to break a habit is to replace it with a better one. To do this, however, you need to know what triggers the habit in the first place.

If you find yourself caught up in spending all of your energy on your weaknesses,

  • First, stop and think about how you spent your time today. Where did you devote your attention - on your weaknesses or on developing your strengths?
  • Second, write down the areas where you are weakness-focused. Do you see patterns there? Try to uncover a common theme to your actions.
  • Third,  from the pattern that has emerged, notice what is the trigger point. Do you see a peer excelling in an area where you are weak and then want to go fix this part of yourself? Do you get feedback from someone and only hear the negatives? 
  • Fourth, recognize that it is important to manage around your weaknesses and improve them enough to be competent and proficient. However, also determine what strengths you want to grow in. Clearly identify them and write them out. Need help with this? See this blog post.
  • Lastly, consciously decide how you will focus on your strengths next time you experience your identified trigger. Set a plan of action and record what happens.
Continue reflecting on this pattern and the results that occur when you replace a negative habit with a positive one. Over time, the Olympian in you will emerge. Go for the gold!