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Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Dream of Cookies

Cookies are probably my favorite dessert.

Well, cookies and ice cream.

I like to keep things classy, you know?

While I will eat and enjoy just about any cookie, I do love an excellent cookie. And lately I feel like I've hit my stride when it comes to getting the butter and sugars creamed just right, and the cooking temperature perfect, to make those cookies that are lightly crisped around the edges, chewy in the middle, and full of rich, buttery flavors and textures.

Then I found this article. A million and one variations on the chocolate chip cookie, complete with all the science and voodoo behind it. I need a cookie, like now.

And now, even though I'm supposed to go work on my classroom, all I want to do is hit the grocery store and bake cookies all day.

Maybe I can find a happy medium.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


For someone who only has one year of teaching experience, and has never purchased supplies for an entire classroom, I have WAY too many books. 

And these don't include the books that are already in my new classroom. 

Some of these have (thankfully) vacated my living room, but now I have to figure out how to organize my classroom library. 

Ideally I'd like it to look like this: 


But I'm thinking realistically we'll have to settle somewhere in between those two photos. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Yoga Photo Dump

I started practicing yoga several years ago, but for a while it was pretty on-again, off-again. In December when we were on week 4957 of sub-zero temperatures (I hope you can tell this is dripping with frozen sarcasm), I decided to give hot yoga a try. Sweating, after weeks of freezing, was somehow appealing to me.

So was the prospect of warm feet.

Anyway, I purchased a two-week unlimited yoga pass, and went to 4 yoga classes in 2 weeks. I couldn't believe the change in my body over a two-week period--I was sleeping better, had more energy, and was way more flexible, just that quickly.

Fast forward 7 months, and I've been doing a work-exchange program with tAra Yoga (regular yoga, not bikram) twice a week. I clean the studio and check people into class in exchange for free yoga. It's pretty sweet, and I've continued to see my body, my attitude, and my perspective shift.

Tara, the owner, did one of those pose-a-day challenges, and while I did nowhere near the 31 poses, I did a handful. This is the coolest part to me about yoga--I'm pretty self-critical, and lately I've hated almost all photos of myself. I don't know if it's age, changing body, or what. I was a little hesitant to have someone photograph me in my fitted yoga clothes in weird poses, but I decided to go for it.

Upward facing bow/wheel pose

Headstand, after months of trying. 

Half-lord of the fishes pose

Low lunge

Wild Thing...this is my favorite picture of the bunch. 

Half-moon pose

The truly incredible thing about this process was that, even though it's the same body that I was so displeased with in our family picture, I'm thrilled with these pictures. I feel like the focus is taken away from "ugh my thighs are so big, my arm looks funny, I'm slouching and it makes me look fat."

Instead, I think "Look what my body can DO!"

That, my friends, is enormously empowering. I still want to go further, do more, and take my practice to the next level. But rather than my practice being about looking skinny or fitting into a smaller size jeans, it's about feeling strong in my body and being content with where I am NOW.

Do you have a particular exercise that makes you feel strong, instead of sapped? What makes you feel powerful and proud?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Green-ish Smoothie

This summer, I've been on a smoothie kick.

It's definitely part of the eating-healthier movement in our home, and let me tell you, I can think of few better ways to start your day than with a nutrient-rich green smoothie!

There are a million and one recipes out there for green smoothies, detoxifying smoothies, smoothies that will diminish bloat and clear your favorite is pretty basic, and pretty well-rounded.

I like to start with a heaping handful of organic baby spinach for the green part. I've tried kale in the distant past, but the texture and bitterness were too much for me. Spinach is also full of vitamins and calcium, and it's very mildly flavored.

Dan and I vary at this point, but since this is my blog post I'm sharing my favorite combination. So there.

After the spinach, I add a heaping teaspoon of plain greek yogurt, a 1-2 inch chunk of frozen banana (fresh works too, but we have a hard time eating all the bananas exactly when they are ripe, so a few inevitably wind up in the freezer), and fruit. My current favorite is strawberries and mango--full of antioxidants, vitamin C, and also deliciousness.

 Because, let's face it--if this smoothie wasn't tasty, it wouldn't on my daily menu.

Here is where it will vary a little bit for you. Dan and I have a NutriBullet, one of my very favorite kitchen appliances. Dan bought it kind of on a whim, and it was an excellent whim. I use that NutriBullet to make smoothies, grind coffee beans, puree soups, and more. It's awesome, and has a very small footprint, which is very important in my small kitchen. Anyway, because the NutriBullet cups are for people who don't like to measure, they have a "max fill" line. You can pack solid ingredients in above that max fill line IF you add some liquid up to the line.

I fill the cup to the Max Fill line with half unsweetened coconut milk, and half water. If your blender doesn't have a measuring line like this, you might have to experiment with exactly how much liquid to use.

Blend away!

Sometimes I like to shake it up by adding other fruits--blueberries, peaches, pineapple--depending on what we have in the kitchen. But, spinach + yogurt + banana + strawberries + mango + liquid is my go-to formula.

You should note that the shade of green will vary depending on the exact ratio of fruit to spinach. If you really wanted to go nuts you could easily add other green foods--cucumber, chard, even celery. Fewer blue and purple shaded fruits (usually berries) will mean a brighter green, which is important to some people. I personally don't mind a slightly muddied color, it still tastes great.

The reasons this is awesome? You get a huge hit of nutrients right away in the morning, it's quite filling, and it takes about 5 minutes start-to-finish (including cleanup). I like to add a hardboiled egg for a little extra protein and call it breakfast.

Do you like smoothies? Do you have a go-to method of getting some extra nutrients in your day?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Not-So-Dirty Hippie: Update

I realized that I never updated you guys about my bath and beauty products! My bad.

A few months ago I mentioned that I've been swapping out "conventional" brands for more natural products--you know, since it's stuff I slather on my skin and hair and it makes sense to me to minimize the amount of chemicals seeping through my pores on a given day.

At last mention, I'd picked up some shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap from Trader Joe's.

I still love the conditioner, and Dan has actually started using and loving the bar soap. He still struggles with acne and oily skin, and the bar soap is drying without being harsh (which means I use it in the summer when I'm not struggling with dry skin as much). I can't use the soap on a daily basis because my skin is already dry, but I use it every so often because it's gentle and cheap.

On the other days, I actually use the shampoo as body wash because I love the tea tree oil and other great ingredients, and it leaves my skin feeling soft without feeling greasy.

My hair, a whole other story.

I have thick, somewhat curly hair. It used to be super curly, but as I've gotten older the curls have softened. It has, however, always been dry. A friend suggested this crazy notion--using an apple cider vinegar wash instead of shampoo.



So, I take an empty bottle (in my case, a finished bottle of TJ's conditioner 'cause I'm classy like that) and fill it about a quarter of the way with apple cider vinegar. Fill up the rest of the bottle with water. Rinse hair with the wash, then with plain water. (For about five minutes, since I now smell like apple cider vinegar.)

You guys, this has done wonders for me. I've had pretty bad dandruff since I was a teenager (I know, gross) and for the first time in over ten years, I have a healthy scalp. It's incredible. Plus, the ACV wash leaves my hair soft and super clean and shiny.

After my non-shampoo, I like to brush a little coconut oil into my hair in place of conditioner. Go easy on this part. A little goes a very long way.

I do this treatment (ACV + coconut oil) about once a week, and just use Trader Joe's conditioner every other day., you be the judge. Does this make me a dirty hippie, or just a hippie?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014



The irony! 

Side Note: I am actually a huge Beatles fan, so I mean absolutely no disrespect to the memory of George Harrison or his Beatles days. But seriously. I laughed so hard at this. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Preaching on Body Image?

It amuses, concerns, and occasionally annoys me that Facebook has become such a platform for people to "like" various articles without stating any reasons or opinions for their button-clicks. However, every once in a while someone will unknowingly lead me to an interesting article. 

Enter this piece on the pastor's role in teaching about body image. 

I read through a few of the comments (something I try to do discerningly, because I tend to get riled up) and decided it was better to air my thoughts here, in a more intentional setting, than to add a book to a Facebook comment thread. 

The article posits that body image is a significant enough issue for our culture that our pastors ought to spend some time discussing the issue from the pulpit. It cites "alarming" statistics about the over-10 million cosmetic surgeries performed in 2013 and the increase of dissatisfaction of men with their bodies as well. 

The Facebook comments tended toward (and granted, I didn't read them all) two things: claims that the Lord looks on the inward being and so our outward images are unimportant, and that there are much "bigger fish to fry" and that we should preach the gospel and let the body image issues take care of themselves. 

The article was brief, and I felt didn't fully justify the reasons this needs to be a conversation in the church. I am inclined to lean slightly towards the "preach the gospel and let the body image issues resolve themselves" simply because I'm not certain that the pulpit is the best medium for discussing body image. However, I do strongly believe that we need to be teaching explicitly what it means to truly treat our bodies as temples--and this has nothing to do with piercings, tattoos, or what have you, but more to do with giving ourselves and our physical bodies the respect and care that we ought to give to any of God's creations. This is something a pastor can do from the pulpit, or simply a friend over a cup of coffee. 

Whether by pastor or by friend, I think this is a conversation that needs to happen in the Church. We spout Scriptures about how our inward selves are more important and how we should not mark our bodies, without ever discussing the ridiculous expectations we hold for ourselves (what we weigh, how much/if any makeup we wear, what clothes we choose, and on and on). We are created--intentionally, lovingly, and wonderfully created--and that has massive implications for how we see and treat our physical bodies. 

The Church is to be a place of love and drawing inward--a place where the marginalized and unworthy find forgiveness, transformation, and acceptance. Learning to give our physical bodies honor and love is stewarding God's creation. The Church can be a part of this, without ever sacrificing the gospel or placing the emphasis on outward appearances. 

In the interest of honesty, I worry more about what I wear to church on a weekly basis than almost any other outfit. I wonder what the slimmer, prettier women in our congregation will be wearing, and I worry about whether I will measure up with my last-summer styles. I apply my makeup carefully, not wanting to look like I'm trying too hard, but also wanting to look neat and polished. After all, my husband is a deacon and I teach Sunday School--don't we want to give a good impression? 

Almost every week after these thoughts run through my head, I remind myself that people aren't paying as much attention to me as I think, and I try to tell myself that this time is for worship--it is for the Lord, and not for me to play dress-up or the comparison game (and oh how I love that comparison game). It is a weekly struggle to focus my thoughts on that gospel that my wonderful pastor is preaching, instead of that scuff mark on my shoe or how my skirt is lying across my legs. 

(Also? I call B.S. on anyone who tries to claim that physical appearances don't matter at all. I was told recently that I would make a great teacher because I have a big smile and I "sparkle" when I talk about school. I'm ok with that because it's my inward enthusiasm for education spilling outward, but don't tell me that wasn't a judgement on my teaching skills based on my physical appearance. What you look like matters--but hopefully we can overlook physical appearance in a true effort to get to know people's honest selves.) 

So yes, I think that my pastor should focus on the gospel, and we should find our identity in Christ, and learn to value ourselves for who we are and not what we wear or weigh. But we also need to realize that this body image, this sense of self, is part of who we are as believers and needs to be a part of our discussion. 

What do you think? Please share your thoughts, experiences, and perspective--this needs to be a discussion, not a monologue!