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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Spot of Tea

At the end of last year, close to Christmas, I had a Christmas Wish.   Now this wasn't the ordinary I want this and that and one of those type Christmas Wish, but one for what would really matter to me in the new year.   

I find especially at Christmas that we tend to try to overcompensate and end up spending a lot more than we should sometimes on people that do not really need gifts from us.   So my Christmas Wish was for time.  Time to spend with my friends and family in the new year making memories and just reconnecting.   In the technology age, although we're more connected than ever, I don't think we're really connecting.

Today, my friend and I made good on the first of my "Time Wishes".   We had tea.    Now a little history.   We're both from islands which either were or are part of the British Commonwealth and have a great British influence.   Neither of us had ever been to tea before so it was a new experience and we would spend the time reconnecting.

Our chosen location a local tea house in a small town  not far away.   We didn't quite know what to expect.    It was a relaxed and quaint setting in a converted house from another century.  Each room of the house was set up with 3 to 4 tables set with a nice mix of china, silver and cloth napkins.  The service was on point, attentive, but not overbearing. With a full (4 pages) tea menu, it was a little difficult to narrow down our choice, but we agreed on a pot of Mandarin Mango Green Tea. Two Island girls, I think they had us at "Mango". We chose well, it was delish with proper sugar cubes. 

 We finished all three levels of our tea caddy (that's the food)...Tier 1 scones and fruit; 

 Tier 2 assorted sandwiches including a tasty pimento cheese, a raisin bread cream cheese and a lovely, light and refreshing cucumber sandwich;

and Tier 3 - dessert.

After we had drained the teapot we sat and chatted for a while.

The most wonderful part was making good on the first of the gifts from my Holiday Wish. The gift of an afternoon spent with a friend. Thank you for a great afternoon!

What gifts are important to you?   What goals do you have for the New Year?  How do you plan to accomplish them?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Relaxing Day of Work

 I love to cook.   The only problem is, living alone I tend to over do it when I do.   Although I should cook everyday, I don't because cooking for me is an event and I don't know how to cook for one or I have a tendency to get bored eating  the same thing all week.

For the New Year,  I have a goal of cooking more.  The actual decree read something like "Eat out less and when I do make it a quality place.  After all, I can make rice and beans - do I need to go to Chipotle?"  You could insert your favorite, go to, quick meal that you know darn well you could make at home (Pasta, potatoes, etc).

I've also realized that in order to control what goes in, it's best to make it myself.   A dear person said it best when she said  "Cooking at home is kinder on your waist and your wallet".

This week I have been blessed because my friends have just had a baby, so I'm able to cook and do a nice thing by bringing them dinner.

Yesterday I was snooping around for some plant based whole food ideas and came across some from the country of my birth, Jamaica.   Everyone knows Jamaica's favorite son  Bob Marley, a prominent Reggae musician, who was a Rastafarian.   In addition to what they are popularly known for, Rastafarians mostly adopt a lifestyle that is called "Ital".   The saying is "Ital is Vital"   In order to maintain their vitality, Rastafarians adopt a plant based diet, with little salt.   What salt is used is usually natural sea salt. There are a few other guidelines, but that was what I was looking for - plant based and low sodium.

On today's menu (note these are not all eaten together, but provide a variety of options for meals):

1.  Ital Inspired Vegetable Soup (pictured)
2.  Curried Cabbage and Green Banana
3.  Rice and Peas
4.  Tabbouleh
5.  Assorted Fruits (pictured)
6.  There were also some vegetarian meatballs, but those were premade so I'm not counting those.

The soup started with 8 cups of water and 1 cup of yellow split peas.   That's the extent of the recipe....LOL!    Once that is cooked I just started layering:

Herbs and aromatics;   Garlic, thyme, onions, scallions, bell peppers, parsley, celery, basil, ginger, hot peppers and pumpkin (my pumpkin was already cooked from a previous meal).  This was all added once the split peas were cooked.   Oh my goodness....the house smelled so good at this point.

Now it's time to add the "ground provisions", root vegetables.  I had more scallions, this time it goes in whole, yam, cho cho (mirliton or christophine, depending on where your from), Irish potato (really Yukon gold, but this is a Jamaican soup - so Irish it is); Sweet Potato (batata), carrots and parsnips were hiding in the bottom of the bowl.   The greens didn't make it into the soup.   With all the chopped parsley, basil and thyme I thought it was enough.

Let that simmer until the provisions are tender.   I was searching for something to add in the absence of salt that would help balance out the flavor.   I added a squeeze of lemon juice and it seemed to do the trick. 

I wrapped up the day by making some fruit jars.   This is an easy way to have cut fruit on hand (or for delivery with dinner) for breakfast, smoothies, whatever.   Everything is prepared so when you need it, voila!

Do you do any prep work that helps you meet your goals?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Change is good for you

Well, I've made it through the first full week of 2015.  I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do next week when I have to work a full week, since I've had the past 3 Thursdays off.   But have no fear, vacation is coming up the week after next!
In my line of work, the time between mid-October and mid-January is very hectic and we don't get much time off.  It is our busiest time of the year, so now that we've started a new year and the end is in sight, I'm hoping that everyone has come through either their work situation, holidays or whatever end of the year tasks you had, not too badly beaten and looking forward to the weekend.
A few days ago, I was thinking that I’ve gotten into a rut with my routine, especially over the last 3 months.  And it wasn't an good routine either.  In addition or perhaps to kick start to my New Year goals, I decided to break out of my routine.  What did I do?
I parked on the other side of the building at work.
Yes, I know it's not a big step, but when you consider that for nearly 10 years, I’ve parked on the same side of the building and other than when I got my car new (it has dings now, so it doesn’t matter as much as it did before) in the same block of 4 or 5 parking spaces.  So I decided to mix it up and park on the other side of the building this week.  There were a few days where I was on autopilot and remembered when I had nearly reached "my block" of parking spaces.  To keep up with the challenge, I kept  driving and went around to the other side of the building.   I read somewhere that changing your routine keeps your brain cells firing.   I can testify to that!  I think a large majority of mine were firing when I walked out to the usual side early in the week and my car was missing!
Just sharing to say – do something new and exciting this year.   At my job, and I'm sure it's the same with many others, change is constant and will keep our brains firing with new challenges, perhaps more than we want it  to.  Do something in your everyday travels and adventures that challenges you.   You may learn something, meet someone or achieve something you never thought possible.
What change are you making to your routine?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Life Lessons I learned from running

I've wrapped my 2014 running season and started 2015 with a Resolution Run of 4 miles today.  I've learned a few things over the course (pun intended) of the year, that I'd like to share.

1Set Goals.  At the end of 2013, encouraged by one of the ladies in my running group, I signed up for the Triple Peach.   The Honor of being a Triple Peach Finisher is limited to 1500 brave souls who run 3 designated races sponsored by the Atlanta Track Club.   The Peachtree Road Race, run on the 4th of July, The Atlanta 10-Miler and the Atlanta Half Marathon, run annually on Thanksgiving.   When I set the goal, I figured it was achievable since it was based on progressive mileage.  10k (6.2 miles), 10 miles and then the Half Marathon (13.1 miles), the finale.   Although things didn't work out perfectly, I earned my each of my medals and am a Triple Peach Finisher!   I'm working on my goals for 2015.

2Train consistently or "You can run today's race, on the last race training" - Jessie A. Lopez, Running Partner.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.   Very few people start doing something and don't have to train or apply some manner of discipline to do it.  Running is the same, especially if you have goals...and we all have goals, right?   In 2014 I did bad things and my caveat is "don't try this at home".  First I ran a 10k, having covered the 10k distance only twice before the race.   I ran a 10 miler, which I suffered through because of inconsistent training.   And I finished a half marathon, after the clock should have been shut off, because I barely ran between the 10 miler and the half.   What's the deal?   I have no excuse.   I sat, slept and sulked instead of running every time that I should have.    Lazy kept me sitting. Tired kept me sleeping.   Hormones had me sulking.   Funny that each of these 3 minor conditions could have been cured by a few good runs.

3Don't profile other runners or "That 75 year old granny will leave you in the dust".  Oh boy....on a short run, you can usually finish before those you have preconceived notions about.   However,  on a long run, Grandma, the person you decided was heavier and slower than you, a 9-year old first timer and the duo of Grandpa Sam and uncle Joe talking about their great grandsons, will pass you and convincingly so.   You may (I really mean, I may)  be able to hold them off for the first 5 or 6 miles, but on the last half of the race, experience and consistent training takes precedence and you will I did get spanked.   The difference between me and them.....see #2.

4.  Know, rotate and replace your gear or "You can't run straight if your shoes have no tread".  Well because I wasn't training consistently, I didn't realize that the tread was a little too worn on my favorite pair of running shoes.   And when I realized it I had to debate between replacing them days before the race or running in them anyway.   I voted to run in them anyway and ended up with issues.   Also, who knew that eventually your socks wear down too?   The socks which on prior runs  were holding my feet firmly an providing support and protection, started sliding around in my shoe and I ended up with feet that were killing me for the last 6 miles.   I had a second pair of running shoes that I could have worn that had more tread, but they didn't match my I suffered the ouchy feet.

5.  Have the right equipment or "Cute pants are cute, until they start falling down".  Everyone knows, or should know that you need to be properly fitted for your running shoes.   For Shoes, going to a specialty shop geared towards running and running gear will beat out the deal found at TJ Maxx.....always.   But what about your other gear.    This lesson was learned in 2013.    I had been training pretty regularly, my shoes and socks were in good condition, but I wanted a new pair of pants for an upcoming 5K.  I wore them without a run test.   Bad move.   On race day....I spent the first half mile moving pins from my bib to secure my pants.   Even more embarrassing I was running with my church group and the new pastor.  Luckily I had taken all 4 pins for the bib so I was able to leave two in the bib and still save the embarrassment of falling pants...As luck would have it, our new associate pastor became my running partner!   Thank goodness for the extra safety pins I grabbed at bib pickup.  I actually run with a couple of extra pins available now.

6.  You can run anywhere or "but you can't run everywhere" - Running is the type of activity that you don't need a special place to do it.  Run in the mountains, on a trail, at the beach, on the street, the options are endless.  But be smart about your route.   In Atlanta this year, there was as story about a woman who was assaulted while on her solo run in a isolated area.  A solo run is soothing and a great stress buster, but be wise and aware of your surrounding.   If a certain spot gives you the heebie geebies, find another place, run with a partner or run inside.

7You can't outrun ( or out train) a bad diet.   Exercise and diet go hand in hand.   However it seems that for some reason I can't get my eating plan and my exercise plan together for long term....but trying again.   And I've made a big commitment with small goal markers.   1 pound per week for the year!

So with this, I'm looking forward to a new run season....

What have you learned from your exercise of choice?