Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Than A Bruised Ego...

Was it all worth it???

The alarm goes off. It’s 6:15 am, and I am soooooo stoked and energized. It’s my first full day in Paris, and I am ready to take this city by storm! The fact that I haven’t had the first drop of caffeine hasn’t hit me yet, but there are no worries here. I’m on vacation…and I got dis’! There are things to see…places to go…and I’ve got to do it today! There’s a new city waiting for me…and it could care less if I’ve had my morning cup of java…or espresso, as the parisians do it in their city!

Before braving the streets of Paris, my friends and I make an executive decision to stop at the neighborhood market for a breakfast fit for champions. All we were able to muster up were bananas, apples and pears, but we are OK with that, as we are off brave the 42-degree temperature. It’s now 7:30 am… and not long before our #262 bus picks us up, crams us into it’s belly, like sardines in mustard sauce, and rides all 628 of us sardines, to our destination at the La Defense Train Station. (I exaggerate a bit here…but I think you get the point.) We sardines fall out of our can, and enter the mass ciaos called La Defense. Its rush morning hour, but the sweet smell of freshly baked butter croissants fill the tobacco smoked tunnels leading to this line and that line. Luckily for me…we can all read maps, so we follow the signs and arrows to the R.E.R Red Line, which delivers us to our dissemination… Chatelet Les Halles. But its right about now that we simultaneously begin to notice that our bananas and pears have worn off and caffeine is supremely absent from our temples. A little more breakfast anyone???

As we rise from the underground tunnels of the Parisian subway line, and make our way to a quaint little café known as the La Colonnade on the Rue De Rivoli. There’s no rush here, just a few area locals enjoying a bite, before braving the workday. It looks like a charming little spot, and it appears that the owner is calling his patrons by name. Since my French is lacking…it is quite possible that I imagined it all…but highly unlikely gaging by the lengths of the happy conversations. Anyway, I digress, but the point I try to make here is, that this is quite probably the best café’ crème’ and pain chocolat I’ve ever had. My compadres are quite pleased by their espresso and croissants as well…and it is quite ample enough to allow us the energy to aggressively tackle both the Louvre and Muse’e d’ Orsay.

It’s now 1:15 pm…and our two-part breakfast has long exhausted our eager bodies.

Just a few blocks down, we discover another Parisian find…, which it deems to mention…was not found in my “Edible Adventures in Paris” book, either. La Fre’gate Café Brasserie, was at least on the surface deemed to be what a typical American might deem typical for Paris, based on the movies we may have been exposed to. A glass front corner location, with black and white checkered tile floors, white tablecloths and a mahogany bar in the rear corner trimmed with black leather bar stools and brass footrests. Charming French males servers, decked in white shirts, skinny black ties, fitted black trousers & shoes, wrapped like blankets in white aprons. Typical as it may be… my palette said that that was the BEST CROQUE MONSIEUR (grilled cheese sandwich with ham served in a black wrought iron frying pan) I’ve ever experienced!!! I kid you not…and my compadres can contest! That was some damn good stuff right there…I KID YOU NOT!!!

“That damn good stuff” was clearly enough to get me through more sight seeing and another 10 + blocks of walking along the scenic Seine River over to Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s just before 6 pm…and we are excited because we are just in time for mass. Even more exciting to me is the fact that mass is only 30 minutes instead of the normal 45 minutes to 1 hour. I don’t think that it took me 20 minutes to say a pray, light a candle, and snap a few shots before we whisked ourselves out, took 10 minutes to review a contract for a potential contractor, for emergency work that what need back in SA,TX , then and over to the nearest train station to see the Eiffel Tower. I lose all track of time at this point because all I know is that it is dark… and my compadres and I are hungry once again.

As we surface from the tunnels of the Parisian underground railroad, we walk a few blocks before we stumble upon another few finds… A deli-type panini shop, with a formmage (cheese) shop, and a little dessert store front serving the most delectable deserts, café’, pastries, and crepes with fruit, Nutella, and other concoctions. To complete the picture, there’s even a grassy little gas-lit corner across the street, with a couple of park benches, which I can exaggerate just a bit to call a park. It’s unanimous… this is where we have dinner. We order up a baguette stuffed with feta, tomato & spinach, another with curry chicken, and yet another with a chicken pesto combination. To our surprise, out baguettes are slathered in an olive oil-butter combination before being pressed between two ribbed steel plates, otherwise know and a panini press. We added Parisian Cokes and Water with gas to complete our steaming hot meals in our hands…and you best be sure that my compadres and I had experienced the best impromptu dinner, we’ve had in years. Content, but not complete, we unilaterally decide tackle the pastry shop, just around the corner.

With a fresh strawberry concoction with crème and yellow cake, and two yummy crème Brule’s in hand…the only thing we could have to complete our Parisian food fantasy, was decaf espressos. It’s not he best we’ve had on this day…but fully satisfying nonetheless, even without room for the Nutella crepes, I was determined to try before my French connection was concluded. It’s 8:45pm…and we have yet to see the Eiffel Tower!

As my compadres and I are leaving our café brasserie., we venture over to the nearest street corner to orient ourselves. There are three train stations in our vicinity, and we need to be clear on which line will take us to our next destination. Spread out but still within shouting distance… I remembered hearing a loud groaning, followed by a sharp, stinging jolt emanating from my right arm. The moaning still loudly my ears…it’s really close by. It’s behind me… and my first reaction is to raise my right arm, form a fist, and turn to strike the moaning I hear at my rear. Angry, yet stunned, I feel pain shooting up my arm and into my shoulder socket. It's not enough to deter my instinct to strike full force and full fisted. As I turn, fist in the air and ready to strike, I am able to focus on the empty eyes of a scruffy, homeless male, still groaning at me. It is at that moment that GOD himself must have prohibited me from taking that next strike. I want to defend myself, but I am now saddened. Arms raised to protect his head, those empty eyes, now filled with fear, he is clearly limited in his speech and mental capacity. I lowered my arm, and urged this stranger to walk away, and leave me be. He does. My compadres rush to my side, to make sure that I am not injured, and yet surprisingly I feel blessed that I am not homeless, nor mentally challenged. This man I nearly struck, needed help. Clearly crying out for help he has surely done this before. And yet, I walked away to leave him to the next victim. My compadres urged me to file a police report. Make sure that this man never commits this violation again. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t file a report. I did nothing and I am now disappointed in myself.

We continued on…and we braved the streets of ‘The City of Love.” I completed my task list for the day. After that horrific moment…I still got to enjoy the beauty of the Eiffel Tower lit at night. But more than four weeks later, the empty brown eyes surrounded by the scruffy, dirty beige skin that charged at me almost four weeks ago…still haunt me. Not out from fear…but from the humility of humanity and that yearning question…is there anyone out there that will stand up to help those that need us??? Was it worth it???

Friday, December 4, 2009

Things That Make You Say...MMMMM!!!

Just 4 short weeks ago... I returned from a mesmerizing excursion of a few of GOD's great treasures. I was fascinated by the architectural beauty in "The City of Love," and immeasurably stirred by "The Gift of the Nile." I was blessed to witness ruins left behind by Egyptian ancestors, contemplated the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and swam with some of God's most colorful creatures, in the magnificent blue waters of his Northern Red Sea. Truly, it was one of the most captivating and stimulating treks I've ever taken.

When I think back to the planning process of such an adventure as this...I can't help but to confess... my first revelations were... of course... the food! While most will research guides and various internet sites, one of my first purchases when starting my research was..."Edible Adventures in Paris" by Clotilde Dusoulier.

Surprisingly, none of my friends would be shocked by this. I've often said..."the best way to explore any city is through its food!" Surely, I am not the only traveler out there who starts out by asking,"...what kinds of food are available???" Am I the only one who wonders about the food specialties of the area??? You say France... I say wine, croissants and escargot. You say Peru... I say pisco, cuy and chicha. You say Egypt... I say couscous, lamb kabobs and karkaday. You say Texas...I say Tex-Mex food, tequila and BBQ. You say East Orange...I say Italian hot dogs, Italian cheeseburgers and potato chip sandwiches. I love food and I think you get the point...

And it's to this muse that I ask the question..."Could there be a correlation between food and lovemaking?" Please take a moment to notice that I did not say...SEX! I really did mean to say...lovemaking! Is it such a stretch to equate the shopping for a great meal and wine to foreplay? Or the act of preparing and cooking an extraordinary meal, to the act of making love? Or better yet, sitting down and enjoying that remarkably magnificent meal to a climactic finish??? Laugh if you will, but I think I may be on to something here!

I now understand why Paris is nicknamed "The City of Love," and Egypt, "The Gift of The Nile." Paris has well known reputation for offering some of the best food and wine in the world, yet little is said about the emerald lushness that is birthed from the Nile. It gives me great pleasure to assure you that EVERY EFFORT was made to partake in all of the lovemaking that both Paris and Egypt had to offer me!

You say food... and I say... MMMM, MMMM GOOD!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Quandry... Does It Ever End?

Writing. I’ve really missed it.

As is usually the case with me, life takes over and prevents me from doing those things that I love to do. Writing is just one of those things.

Letting life control the time I have available to devote to my passions, drive me insane. It’s one of those things I can control…and somehow I manage to lose this battle quite often.

Writing hasn’t been the only thing that’s found it’s way to the back burner… exercise and eating healthy have been lacking as well. Sleep and work never fail to win this never-ending war I seem to have with managing time… and not that these aren’t important issues. They too, need to be done. But here it is, November 22, 2009, and well on our way to 2010, and thinking about setting a New Years Resolution. Wasn’t this something I wrote about back in February??? Haven’t I already worked on this???

I now understand why the contestants on the “Biggest Loser” are stripped from their families and friends…away from their daily distractions, and allowed to concentrate on one thing…and one thing only… LOSE WEIGHT.

But those of us in the real world are not so lucky. I understand why I am… “Consistently Inconsistent!” The quandary is… “What do I do about it?”

The first thing that I’ve decided to do is… NOT BEAT MYSELF UP ABOUT IT!

I am going to pick my self up and I am going to start again.

The next thing I am going to do is…SCHEDULE IT IN.

If this were something important, like a doctors appointment or a conference call, I’d be putting in on my blackberry calendar and setting a reminder. Making the time for exercise, grocery shopping or cooking, shouldn’t be any different. My blackberry really does keep me on track and focused on what needs to happen. This is something that I feel really needs to happen… so it’s getting scheduled.

The last thing I plan to do is… KEEP IT SLOW AND SIMPLE.

I’m not going to make a whole lot of changes at once. I’m going to stick with what I know about eating clean & healthy, and simply being consistent with exercise. I’m not going to spend any money on boot camps, trainers or work out equipment. I’m going to simply concentrate on BEING CONSISTANT…THAT’S IT.

The same will apply to all of my passions. I will schedule them in and I will take more time to enjoy those too.

Wish me luck… AGAIN!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All Things Work For Good...

One year ago this month, an angry force of wind and rain named Ike, downed trees, flooded homes and practically wiped clean, anything and everything in his path. One year later, the cities of Galveston, & Houston are still recovering... still regrouping.

Ironically, this is the same force of nature, that I would follow directly into my new home of San Antonio. I remember vividly, feeling its effects from Atlanta. Delaying my trip, to allow Ike the right of passage over the highways I needed to travel. Once Ike gave his permission to begin my journey, I drove across the street to the nearest Quik Trip, only to discover that Ike would deny my gas station owner, delivery of the one thing I wanted to begin my journey... GASOLINE! Little did I know, it would be more than 8 days later before this owner, and many others like him, would receive the shipments of black gold their city needed.

It was only by GOD's grace that I was allowed the right of passage, through three states on little more that 1/2 tank of gas. But smooth sailing it was not as Ike decided that I would only be allowed to travel 8 hours before demanding that I spend an evening outside of New Orleans, while he wreaked more havoc. The next morning as I was granted safe passage, my heart was broken as I drove through the devastation. The trees, their children played under, now destroyed homes that were once safe havens for the families that occupied them. Roads below the highway... flooded. And even worse, there was no electricity for miles and miles. Power lines were down as far as the eye could see.

Ike finally allowed me to arrive in my new city unscathed, but emotionally disturbed by the havoc I witnessed. Originally, weather trackers predicted that Ike would make landfall on the coast nearest to my new home, racing through it to leave his mark. He decided not to. My new city was cheerfully waiting for me with open arms. Instead, I felt ripped apart from the family, friends and city that I called home base for more than 20 years. Much like the devastated cities I drove through, I knew the pain those families felt.

But all things work for good... and 1 year later, as I look back, I thank Ike for that experience. I realize now that it can be a good thing to be stripped from all that is familiar, in order to discover that which is waiting. Like those cities... I realize that I too, am in the process of rebuilding. This is just a part of the process. There are new adventures to he had. New discoveries to make... new voices inside. There's a new tune to sing.... and it's just waiting to be heard.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Tribute to Food and Friendship

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all." -Harriet Van Horne, Vogue (1956)

Great friends inspire us to be better people…to savor each moment as they happen…and to open our hearts. They help us to celebrate the blessings of life and embrace the beauty of life’s grace. I have the best friends in the entire world! Each unique in their own way, they have a way touching my heart…inspiring me to be a better person. That’s the greatest gift any person could ask for.

Speaking of great gifts…If it had not been for the thoughtful and benevolent efforts of one of my dearest girlfriends in the entire world…I would not have known that there is actually a magazine published that bears the name of the lifestyle I now try to incorporate into my everyday life… “Clean Eating!” What a remarkable and thoughtful testament of true friendship…supplying just what you need…right when you need it!

I have only just received my second issue, it appears to be a wealth of information and filled with delectable techniques and recipes that not only enforce good healthy practices, but embraces the GREEN customs that are seamlessly instinctual when this lifestyle is truly adapted. What’s more, I just love their motto…

“CLEAN EATING…Improving your life one meal at a time!” Sound familiar???

Never underestimate how the tiniest act of kindness can have a hugest impact down the road. I have always known that I HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! When you surround yourself with great people, your life becomes much richer because of their presence. Pay it forward and return the blessing.

I sincerely thank each of you for your personal contributions to my life, and never forget how much richer my life has become, just because you are in it!

I Love You...ALL!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Meal...One Day At A Time

Last weeks posting brought about a barrage of questions and interest surrounding my 30 day experiment. I thought is might be easier to answer the most commonly asked questions, by listing them below…

Q: Does your diet have a name?
A: Yes & No. Although the “concept” is known as “Clean Eating,” I would clarify by labeling it is as more of a choice or a lifestyle, than a diet. The soul of “Clean Eating” is simply consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. Sadly, it’s not even a new concept. Before the invention of preservatives and fast food drive thrus, it was the way our parents and grand parents have eaten for generations. Simply put, if it isn’t grown in the ground…or if it doesn’t have a mother… Don’t eat it!

Q: What are the basic rules or ideas surrounding “Clean Eating?”
A: Ahhh! That’s a simple one, because this is so easy to follow! Start with lots of healthy fruits and veggies, lean protein, and complex carbs that are 100% whole grains. Try to purchase seasonal, and locally grown whenever possible. It will be cheaper and reduces your carbon footprint. Choose organic, pesticide & hormone free products where available. Finally, avoid processed and refined foods like white flour, white sugar, white pasta along with saturated and trans-fats. Choose healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil. Yes it will be a bit more expensive…but the fewer toxic chemicals and steroids in your body, the better.

Q: Are you only eating raw?
A: No. Most cooking methods apply, such as roasting, sautéing, grilling, braising stewing, slow cooking & searing. Frying is the only unhealthy method I can think of…but I’ve never been a fan, anyway.

Q: Are there any trick of the trade that you might recommend?
A: Yes. As a general rule, always keep in mind…”If it isn’t grown from the ground…or if it doesn’t have a mother…DON’T EAT IT!” Also, be label savvy. Clean foods will generally have one or two ingredients, which you should be able to pronounce. Partially hydrogenated, sodium aluminosilted, dipotassium-ANYTHING should be avoided at all costs. Also avoid items that are high in sugar content

Q: Do you find this lifestyle challenging, restrictive or boring?
A: On the contrary, I find it invigorating as well as creative! It’s actually given me a new inspiration while creating an appetite for learning and a curiosity for new foods & products I’ve never used before. It’s feeding not only my body, but my soul and spirit too! It does require a shift in mindset. I have to make a conscience effort to plan my menu weekly, which requires advanced shopping and preparations efforts. When I do not allow the time for this crutial step...I find that I often set myself up for failure because that means eating out when I am hungry, which in my case, can lead to faulty decision making. Planning ahead is more likely to set me up for success. Over all, I’d have to say that’s not such a bad plan, and not at all boring in the least.

I think that I've answered all questions and concerns, but if you feel that there is something I may have missed…please feel free to comment on the site or contact me personally. I will do my best to answer your questions as thoroughly & as quickly as I can. Also, I acknowledge that many are curious about my result, thus far, but please know that (good or bad,) my plan will be to report back to you the Sunday following August 12th...since that falls mid week.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Profitability Of A Well Planned Investment

I have never been one to push principles or practices on anyone…but I have always been glad to share or exchange information, when products, theories, and/or ideas, meet or exceeds an expectation. I don’t think there is much surprise to any of you, that over the last few weeks, I’ve been singing the praises of foods grown without pesticides, hormones, and harmful chemicals. I’ve tried hard to simply concentrate of the concept of consuming only the most natural food available, while eliminating processed foods and products that contain preservatives, additives and artificial sweeteners/flavorings. The subject of my experiment…to adjust my thinking towards a more healthy, and natural lifestyle, while experiencing just how practical, affordable and sustainable such a lifestyle can be.

My findings…
At the monthly follow up visit to my doctor to determine if a plan of attack might be needed to aggressively defend a family history of high blood pressure… not only was it down to a respectable 126/82…but I also had an unexpected drop in weight loss of a whooping 6.2 lbs! These findings may not sound like much…but in only 30 days, truly they are amazing! Let me share with you why that is…

, let me reiterate… my concentration was only on eliminating the processed foods and trying to eat foods in an organic or more natural state. There was absolutely no effort what so ever to incorporate any less or more activity that I normally would have expended. For example, I eliminated “Splenda” and replaced it with 100% pure raw cane sugar (turbinado), honey, or agave nectar. White rice, potatoes and breads were replaced with 100% whole grains, brown rice or sweet potatoes. Meats like pork, beef and chicken were hormone & steroid free, grass or vegetable fed and all natural. Dairy and goat products (like cheese & milk) were naturally homogenized, organic, and growth hormone free. Fruits & veggies were either organic or local. This also takes into consideration, last week’s party, in which, untold amounts of margaritas & beer were consumed, and well as (2) 16 oz. diet cokes (because I was tired of drinking plain water,) ½ of a small red potato, and 1 entire ear of corn. I swear…I didn’t touch a fry or a hush puppy…but will confess that they were screaming my name to the top of their lungs! I wanted them badly…but resisted the temptation! Yeah me!

Secondly, I was also determined to reduce my carbon footprint…and found that is was an easy compromise, since a lot of these concessions were costing me a fortune. I brought my own reusable bags to any store I spent my dollars in. There are a few that willingly apply small discounts for not using the paper or plastic they supply. I opted for locally grown products when the cost of organic was more than I was willing to spend. When you combine these small savings with ever-growing healthcare costs and medications I might need in the near future, given my family history of diabetes and high blood pressure…I would have to say that I am leaps and bounds ahead of my expenditures. Considering that diabetes killed my father much earlier than it should have, I prefer to look at it as an… “INVESTMENT IN MY GOOD HEALTH & WELL BEING!”

, let me please restate for the record…I am not at all declaring that this is a miracle cure to fix whatever ails you…nor am I trying to push this concept upon you. I am simply stating that I have found something that seems to work well for me. What works for some, may not work for others…but just it’s one idea, one inspiration, one muse.

Since we are talking about inspirations, I’ve decided to take my experiment to the next level. For the next 30 days, from July 12th – August 12th, I will take what I have learned about healthy eating and put it into practice, while incorporating a sustainable and reasonable exercise plan that can easily be incorporated into my crazy and hectic life. Nothing extreme…and nothing more than what I’ve already discussed. Just healthy eating combined with a minimum of 30-45 minutes of exercise, six days a week. And since I’ve already put my money where my mouth is (literally,) what have I got to lose except a few extra pounds???

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mystery Meat 101???

This Independence Day…I had the distinct pleasure celebrating the birthday of the girlfriend, who is affectionately known as my “Texas BFF!” Between the two of us…we could probably come up with quite a few weight loss “DON’Ts”…but I think we’ll save that topic for a future posting.

Be that as it may, during a previous visit, her husband and I caught a glimpse of a cooking show in which the host was preparing, what appeared to be a simple but, mouth watering, lip smacking, flank steak for the grill. After we wiped our saliva off the floor, I extended the offer to prepare this delicious piece of meat and bring it on my next visit. A week before my visit, I research the recipe, make a list of the ingredients I will need, and plan a trip to one of my favorite grocery stores. But as is usually the case, an unexpected work trip comes up and I am dutifully out of town for the majority of the week. Upon my return, I find the need to make the compulsory decision to frequent the local grocery chain that I absolutely loathe.

This particular location isn’t equipped with a butcher’s counter, so I am forced to flounder the meat section for the perfect slab of beef. Wishing I was married to a butcher at this moment, my eyes fixate on a handsomely- thick, marbled hunk of red cow’s flesh ironically labeled “flank steak.” This is the one I decide…and hastily conquer the crowds in the aisles to assemble the rest of my provisions. I brave the long check out lines and I return home after a most cantankerous trip, to quickly begin the round two of saliva testing. The recipe calls for marinating our steak from a minimum of 4 hours, but an optimum 24 hours is preferred. I want my cow’s flesh to be succulent and flavorful…so 24 hours it is.

Well, I suppose that steak is probably not an appropriate choice for a “CRAWFISH BOIL”…but my “TEXAS BFF” being the gracious host that she is…quickly resolves that our steak will be featured in Round Two of her “Independence Day / Birthday” Bash. No on knew there would be a round two…until just that moment, but we were okay with that decision. Round one featured a fabulous firework display, along with twenty pounds of crawfish, probably another twenty pounds of fried catfish, fries, hush puppies, corn on the cob, red potatoes and all the beer and margaritas one could drink. (Probably, not the kind of thing that one would post on a weight loss blog…but I did mention that my friend and I could list a few “DON’Ts”…didn’t I??? This might be one of them!) The party was indeed a HUGE SUCCESS…the next morning…not so much.

The next morning brings with it headaches, hangovers, and a backyard that looks like a frat party was held in it. Beer bottles, cans and hush puppies are tossed around the yard like graffiti, and the decorations are barely tied to the canopy with the loose ends blowing the morning wind. Despite the hangovers and the headaches, the yard is cleaned up and restored to it’s pre-party glory for round two to begin. Our steak which has now been marinating for almost 48 hours, finally hits the grill to bask in its manly, muscular, he machine for then next 1 & ½ hour. Round three of the saliva test has indeed begun. The smells permeating from the he man grill are heavenly. As our red, thickly marbled hunk of cow’s flesh is plated, the beautifully crusted grill marks, and sensuous juices seeping from our beef makes one really want to “Slap Yo Mama”…in a matter of speaking. It’s allowed to rest before we slice into it and see its pink juiciness goodness. Our host and hostess serve it along with hot tortillas, home-made salsa, guacamole, grilled peppers, onions, and marinated portabella mushrooms. I opt to taste our meat alone, in an effort to savor it’s juicy goodness…and with first taste, it’s has really great flavor, as I chew, and chew, and chew and chew some more. As I look across the table I notice more of the same, chewing… and chewing…and more chewing. I brought to this party a tasty, marinated piece of rubber. It’s later that I learn that what I actually purchased wasn’t flank steak at all, but brisket…a much tougher cut that must be slow cooked over several hours to achieve and edible tenderness. And just who tells me about my little faux paus…the master butcher in attendance. With my tail tucked between my legs, my rubber is wrapped in foil, handed back to me, and I am allowed begin my long journey home, hood-winked, bamboozled, embarrassed and led astray by a mislabeled hunk of marbled cow flesh.

The moral of this story...know your beef…or marry a butcher!

In an effort to salvage my now badly damaged reputation as a “foodie”… I came home and quickly inserted my thinly sliced pieces of grill-braised rubber into the oven with a bit of the left over marinade, and allowed it to roast for an additional three hours at 325 degrees…DELISH & FALL APART TENDER…but just a bit too late!!!

For Grilled Tequila Lime Flank Steak Recipe (I just used the marinade)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Times Are A Changin’-Happy Summer Solstice!

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”- Zen Buddhist Monk

Ever notice how one simple change often leads to another? When I look back over the history of what I’ve blogged, and how it’s naturally progressed…I can clearly see how my thought process has lead me to this current path that I am following. While I am still (and will probably always be) a work in progress, I think its worth giving recognition to evolution, however slowly it may come.

When I first began this journey, I decided that one of the biggest and healthiest changes I made was to begin to put myself first, and love myself more. With the stresses of work and daily family life, I’ll admit, this was tough to do. It required a different mindset, than I was used to, because not only did I have to be deliberately more cognizant in my actions, I needed to focus on being fully present in my decision making as well. It’s true, I still need work in this area…but at least I am aware of it now and recognize when I put something or someone else’s needs before my own. I know it sounds a little selfish to the parents out there, but if you don’t take care of yourself first, how can you truly care for those who need you?

Loving myself more then made me sensitive to my bad habits. I was able recognize that I was an emotional eater, and that unearthing lead to discovering ways to conquer those bad habits of emotional eating. And now, even when I faulter, I don’t beat myself up about it. I realize that all things in moderation allows me the permission I need to say…”it’s ok…but I need to get back on track…ASAP!” It also led to my “Tune-Up” which resulted in healthier, cleaner eating. Fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, (organic when possible,) and no prepared meals full of chemicals and preservatives that are harmful to the body. Instantly, I started cooking more and eating out less. I am also taking time out to enjoy my food. No more eating while working at my desk. I find a nice quiet place…and enjoy!

Lastly, I am trying to find ways to increase my activity level. Yes, I could just use the gym membership that I purchased, or buy an exercise DVD. But the truth is, I really want to concentrate on creating lasting lifestyle changes that I will really enjoy. Maybe it’s tennis lessons, or cycling. Or perhaps it’s a martial art such as Tai Chi or Brazilian Jujitsu. Whatever it is, I want it to be a new experience and something to be excited about. The hope is that I will gain exposure to a mulitpicity of newness…and that this one simple change will lead to another.

I am no where close to my objectives and still have a lot of hard work ahead. I think this is probably the most difficult challenge I have ever faced, mainly because it is one trial, I have failed the most. Yet, if I assume that every lesson comes with an opportunity to be better, stronger, and more compassionate than I was previously, then here lies the foundation of a better life.

In the meantime, I will just…Smile, breathe, and go slowly!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Measure of TRUE SUCCESS...Happy NEW YEAR Baby!

On Friday, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my 22nd birthday…or 42! I thank GOD for the glory of his splendor!

To me, ALL birthdays are milestones…a culmination of the riches of your life. To celebrate the gift of life, one must appreciate where you’ve been, what you’ve done, where you are going, and what impact this will have in the world around you. In some cases, they let us know, how little we’ve done…or how much farther we have yet to go. It helps us to set the pace towards the life we aspire to, but constantly a work in progress. Most of us think of New Years as that milestone…but I say, no better way to measure one’s progress that to mark that progress with the day of your personal birth…your very own marking of your time here on this Earth, your very own personal NEW YEAR! I say, the “heck” with January 1st! It has been my personal experience, goals that are set on days that hold more personal significance to me…have more strength and hold more truth. But that’s just me…

Over the past few weeks…I’ve made some amazing new discoveries and a few more confirmations along the way. I have always been a food lover…and always a fan of the freshest available. I don’t think that will ever change. But as one gets older and begins to appreciate the time one has left…I think there comes a time, a maturity, or a “want” to do better. One starts to place an importance on the footprint you have on the world around you, and develops a quench to “achieve.” Albeit in your own life, or the lives of those around you, tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us…so today has to count TODAY!

With that thought in mind, I’ve made a commitment to myself to protect and care for this bodily temple that GOD has so graciously loaned to me. I have vowed to only put in it, the “best” of that which is available to me. With very little effort at all except my new found commitment and a few more dollars than I had previously budgeted, I’ve lost a whopping 8lbs. Pretty amazing considering there weren’t any additional exercise or calorie burning efforts. I realize that it will surely take a bit more than just eating fresh, whole foods, but it rejuvenating to see my body reacting to a great start.

Interestingly enough, in my research, I came across two women who intimately refer to themselves as “Healthy Hedonist.” One of which who happens to be the author of a book by the same name, and the other, a chef, who affectionately adorns the term, and another… "Voluptuous Vegan." I love the suggestion of such a theory, but strongly protect my freedom of choice. I don't think a little beef, pork or lamb, ever hurt anyone...but the key phrase there is "a little!" Personally, I am a seafood and chicken lover, but I do pay homage to the spirit of their principles. Certainly, I can also personally relate to the sexy connotation of the word "voluptuous!" Of course, you just never know...but it is always a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter if the pull is weight loss, or even life direction.
For today, the focus is to strive for a ...“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tune Up Results

“You are probably the healthiest person I’ve seen in six months! WOOO HOOO! You are starting off my weekend RIGHT! Whatever your doin’… keep on doin’ it…cuz it’s really workin’ for ya!”

Those were the words of my nurse practioner, Jerry, as we reviewed the result of my “Tune-Up.” And I am sure he meant what he said...especially since he spends most of his time helping sick people get well. Certainly great news to hear…but certainly not quite the news I was expecting .

He continued.

NJ: “You have stellar cholesterol levels (he practically danced around the table as he announced my numbers and explained what the acceptable levels are), your thyroid is functioning normally, blood counts are good, metabolic and hormone panel are all within range. Even your pap and mammogram are clear…You don’t know how rare it is to see everything functioning as it should. Your blood pressure is a bit high, but for right now, it’s nothing to be alarmed about. Since hypertension does run in your family, we will just keep an eye on it for now. But that’s it…If I had a bottle of red wine available…I’d salute you, even at 8:30 am!” (Jerry knew I was an oenophile!)

But something’s not right…and I knew it! So, I had to ask…

DJ: “So why is it so difficult for me to shed a few pounds? I am apparently eating right, and I get in a fair amount of exercise daily (although I admit, I’ve slacked off a bit), and I even take a multi-vitamin when I remember to take them. But I also have been feeling sluggish, even fatigued from time to time, some insomnia, and even a few bouts with depression... (I know, right... me???) it's just not adding up?”

NJ: There are a number of things that can trigger these symptoms…but the one thing that I know about you, is that you work too much! Stress could very well be one of your issues. Tell me about your diet, describe a typical day of eating.

DJ: Well, just prior to this physical (two weeks ago) it was usually…

Breakfast- usually a bowl of oatmeal, or if I don’t want to get up early enough to make oatmeal, I will grab a WW frozen breakfast sandwich. Usually I drink 2,3, 4 cups of coffee in the morning. Sometimes tea, but mostly coffee.

Lunch – usually a “Healthy Choice," "Lean Cuisine," or a WW frozen something with a side salad or a vegetable. If I am out of veggies then I will make sure to grab a fruit of some kind.

Dinner- is almost always chicken or fish with veggies & brown rice or a sweet potato. Almost always with glaze or a salsa of some sort…something quick easy and flavorful without a whole lot of sugar or calories.

Weekends- Dinner is usually out on the town- mostly sushi & sake, but since I’ve been trying to get out and explore the city, so I’ll pick a new restaurant and try it out…and yes, it almost always includes a wine with my meal! Can't resist a great pairing! Could be a margarita or two if I decide on Mexican...this is TEXAS, after all!

NJ: LOL!!! I hear you talkin'!!! What did you mean by…"up until the physical?" What happened after?

DJ: I got hooked on the "Pearl Farmers Market"…So I'll buy some things there and take them home to play in my kitchen, sort of my version of "IRON CHEF"…it’s been a YUMMY, but eye opening experience. I used to buy the bulk of my foods from the local farmers market at home, but I didn’t know how much I missed that, until I moved here, and didn’t have the access any more. HEB (the local grocery chain) just isn't cuttin' it for me!

NJ: “Well, it sounds like your on the right track. If I could make a few suggestions, I would say completely eliminate the processed foods, especially the frozen lunches. I know they are convenient, but they are usually pretty high in sodium, which could explain your higher than normal blood pressure, and they usually contain all sorts of preservatives that your body just doesn’t need. Reducing your caffeine levels can also do you wonders…maybe you stick to tea instead of coffee. It could explain the insomnia, if your drinking caffeine after 4 pm. Also try to work on getting into a regular exercise routine. You’ve already admitted, you’re a little hap-hazard…and I suspect that your body is pretty used to the normal exercise you do get in. I say…up the anti, but make it fun and enjoyable so that it becomes something that you look forward to. Last but not least, find ways to lower your stress levels. Don’t cha’ know…stress can kill ya!”

Well, there you have it in a nutshell! I have decided get a second opinion, and consult with an endocrinologist, just to be sure. After all, just because something is in the “normal” range, doesn’t make it normal for me. And usually, your first instinct is the right one. I was expecting Nurse Jerry to tell me that I had a hormonal or metabolic imbalance or a perhaps a thyroid issue, but that wasn't the case here. I guess that's why I am inclined to consult an expert in the matter. Worse case scenario, I am back where I started.

I will still take Nurse Jerry's advice...but now I feel like a dummy! The truth is, he didn’t really suggest anything that I didn’t already know. Frozen foods…high in sodium??? Really??? And I am sure that all the “Splenda” in my tea, coffee and diet coke really does a body good, huh??? They might be saving me a few calories...but at what cost??? I know frozen meals are convenient…and I also know that time isn’t always my friend. This kind of cooking and shopping for fresh foods a few times a week will certainly take more time than I have available. But now, I am forced to find a way to make the time. Although I recognize that I am blessed to not have acquired the diabetes, hypertension and arthritis that runs in my family, I could very easily have that blessing taken away if I don’t do what I need to do. God gave me this one and only temple, and it is my exclusive and individual responsibility to make sure that I take care of it. I am reminded of the “Parable of the Ten Talents”…If I don’t multiply my talents, I could very well lose them…

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away.” Matthew 25:29

Sounds like I’ve got some work to do!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fresh Off The Farm

There’s a satisfaction I get out of cheating the local grocery chain out of albeit, even just a few of my dollars.

Not that I don’t support local commerce, it’s quite the contrary. When you can buy straight from the source, and skip the middle man, there’s a satisfaction that makes my heart sing. Especially, when the source provided you with the freshest, best tasting produce around…it kinda makes ya wonder??? Why aren’t all my meals this yummy???

It’s not that I am the best cook in the world. Yes, it’s true…I take pride in preparing special meals for myself, quite frequently. But the frank truth is, a lot of my meals are pretty average. Quite often than not, I make something pretty darn scrumptious, and yet some are experiments that leave me wondering…what the heck was I thinking???

But in all honesty, last weeks farmer’s market purchases were definitely delectable, and yet they were so simply prepared. The long and short of it was, I steamed the leeks, sautéed the fennel and roasted the beets. That’s it! Not only did I successfully expand my vegetable repertoire, but I got a few new recipes, and learned a thing or two in the cooking process. Remember, never before had I ventured out and cooked those particular veggies, and yet they were pretty damn delicious. This left me in a quandary that I just couldn’t shake. Was the grocery store produce I bought all these years that sub-standard as compared to my farmers market finds? Inquiring minds wanted to know!

I spent the next few days researching grocery store produce versus those grown organically or environmentally sustaining. After all, organic is supposed to be better…right??? Although I am very early in my research stages, the one thing that I found repeated throughout my early findings…grocery store produce is less nutrious than those that are grown organically-friendly.

“University of Texas, Austin, claims the average vegetable found in today's supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago. Not only are those vegetables you been eating at the grocery store less tasty, but may be getting marginal nutritional value. They discuss some of the potential factors in this including use for synthetic fertilizer and the desire to achieve higher yield during a shorter timetable, unfortunately the poor plants do not have time to absorb the beneficial minerals.

Out of shear curiosity, I went back to my Pearl Farmers Market. This time I was smart enough to arrive at opening, for a much more expansive selection. I wanted to be able to buy items that I purchased quite frequently, in an effort to make comparisons. This time,I was able to get my hands on summer squash, zucchini, and tilapia, which are all regulars in my normal repertoire. Of course, curiosity did get the best of me, as I just had to have bi-colored butter squash as well as the flying saucer looking, scaloppini squash, named so for its naturally scalloped edge. I had never had either…so I just had to try my hand at them. $5.00 for twelve pieces of squash and $9.00 four pieces of organically farmed tilapia. Bargains? I’d say so! And considering that they did not disappoint…I can safely say that I was the one who made out like a bandit! And for the record, my Pearl Market finds blew my grocery store produce out of the water!

Excited about my findings, I made the decision to buy the remainder of foods that I needed for the week, as fresh and all natural, as those of my farmers market finds. I got early up on Sunday and drove 18 miles to a grocery store that specializes in fresh, organic and all natural products…not unlike that of the WHOLE FOODS chain. (For the record, there is also a Whole Foods here, but it is 21 miles away.) $104.71 later, I have almost everything I need for the week…and I am second guessing my decision, as I am packing my FOUR environmentally-friendly, reusable, eco bags into the trunk of my car. And at that very moment, I was truly grateful for not having the family of four I wanted in my early-twenties!!!

For those interested is seeing the final results of my "Pearl's Market Finds," here's a link... that you can click ...or you might need to cut and paste into your browser.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Something's Brewing...But It Ain't Beer!

I use the calendar on my blackberry for important things I don’t want to forget.
Birthdays, scheduled appointments, seminars, upcoming social events…you get the picture. But when I read in the paper that the Iconic “Pearl Brewery” was debuting its Farmers Market on May 16th…you know it had to make it to the blackberry calendar. This was something I didn’t want to forget.

Why is that, you ask??? You know the saying…

“You never miss your water till your well runs dry!” My well almost tried up in Texas!

Maybe it's just me, but when I envision Texas in my mind's eye, I see cattle ranchers, oil rigs and FARMERS. I immediately think BBQ, Tex Mex Food and Margaritas! (Of course, I see Texas Wine Country too…but I can also appreciate that this is MY vision, NOT yours!) ATL-aliens don’t know just how good they have it, as it pertains to having access to the freshest foods. Dekalb Farmers Market (and other smaller farmers markets, & regional ethnic foods too) Whole Foods, and yes, my beloved Trader Joe’s. Even New Yorkers can appreciate it when the farmers from Upstate NY & the Garden State of NJ come to their city to give them access to the good seeds they’ve sown. Sure, Texans have the Gulf Shores, but I’ve gotta tell you…after what happened during Katrina, there is nothing about Gulf Shrimp that gets me excited about being a seafood lover. (I really don’t mean to offend anyone, but that’s just how I think about it…Sorry!)

The Pearl Brewery originally began in 1887, (then known as City Brewery), and built it’s facility on the banks of the San Antonio River (also home to the River Walk). This only gains significance to me because during the year I graduated from high school, this facility was purchased by Pabst Brewery. I distinctly remember mentioning this to my Dad, who was in fact the only person I knew, who still enjoyed a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. My father was probably the only person on this earth who was pleased that Pabst was expanding. (For the record, my father was also a “Bud-Man”, so I’m a little blurry about where his loyalty stood.) Then, I remember reading in a trade magazine (shortly after I graduated from college, and the death of my Father,) the same property was purchased by an investor / entrepreneur, who had plans to renovated both the brewery as well as the stables. I didn’t know that the property had stables…but it all became clear why my Father was both a Bud Man and a Pabst Blue Ribbon Fan. As it stands, Pabst stopped brewing in 2001, a few years after my Father’s death. I am quite sure that he was turning around in his grave, when he heard the news in heaven.

My blackberry buzzes at me. (because that is all that it will do since I haven’t replaced it from the water boarding torture it sustained back in December). MAY 16th IS FINALLY HERE! Literally, I was warm and fuzzy inside with excitement. Since this is the day of the official opening, I decide to forgo the ceremonial pomp & circumstance that is scheduled for 9am, and I make the decision to arrive at 10am. BIG, BIG MISTAKE!

As luck would have it, it appears that I am clearly not the only person to recognize that this city is a little lacking in the fresh foods arena. When the exit off the highway is blocked, and there are police in the streets directing traffic like there is a festival going on…you just know that you’ve missed out on something wonderful. Imagine my delight when I finally make through the carnage, find a parking space, and walk completely through the entire campus (which was very nicely restored, I might add,) only to discover that there are only a handful of vendors that even had goods left to sell. Let me remind you that it is only 10am…and it just opened at 9!

Determined not to be defeated, I wrestle my way through the crowds to discover a long line for one of the few farmers who had anything left. I decide to wait…and wait…and wait. As I am waiting, I can see that there could have been an interesting variety of items available for sale if I had not arrived so late. I see bison, lamb, lavender, olive oil…and yes GULF SHRIMP! (For the record, he has quite a line as well, but I am not the least bit moved to change positions) But finally, persistence paid off, as I was finally greeted by a young girl with a friendly smile. Her smile surprised me based on the number of people she helped BEFORE she got to me.

“What can I get you?” She asked with all her Texan charm.

“Is there anything left?” I joked. Despite the all the people behind me, still waiting to helped, she chuckled.

“I’ve got some beautiful red and golden beets…oh, and the leeks and fennel are really great this year!”

"Great, I’ll take them."

“$6.00,” she announced. (What a bargain, for all that I got!) I paid her, and was on my way! My persistence paid off and I was happy to have been one of the few to still be able to walk away with something! Not once did it occur to me that I didn’t know how to make beets, leeks or fennel. Hell, I don’t even know if I liked fresh beets, leeks and fennel. But does it really didn’t matter? I was practicing “Healthy Hedonism,” I was elated and ready to explore my culinary options, for my seasonally, freshly-farmed delights. For $6.00…what did I have to lose???

Although, I have yet to decide what to do with leeks and fennel, tonight for dinner I have decided on a Roasted Beet Salad topped with fresh goat cheese and toasted pistachios along side a Pan Seared Salmon in a thyme garlic butter (and yes I will go light on the butter.) But even more importantly, do I bridge the gap with an oaky Chardonnay that is expected to highlight the butter, garlic and toasty, earthy flavors from the beets and pistachios? OR... do I choose a highly acidic Pinot Noir to cut through the richness of the salmon while accenting the thyme and the beets?

Decisions, decisions…no one said “healthy hedonism” would be easy! My Father, on the other hand would be quite proud of my persistence!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Healthy Hedonism???

“Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell, there is excellence all around you and you need only be aware to stop and savor it!”

-Chef Gusteau from Ratataloiulle

There’s just no way around it…I LOVE GOOD FOOD! Pair it with a excellent wine…and I am in heaven.

I know I am not alone. Recently, a girlfriend who is also a chef, and I exchanged emails about how much we love food…and in it she joked that the next time she got married, she would hold the ceremony at the local farmers market. I responded in turn by announcing my candidacy for bridesmaid, so I could support her during her special day while proudly holding my colorful bouquet of fruits and vegetables. Lord knows…her wedding cake would certainly be a culinary masterpiece of pure genius!

And while we were only joking, I do have to admit that we are both struck by form of Hedonism….a school of philosophy which argues that pleasure has an ultimate importance. (Here we go again with The Pleasure Principle!) My rambling mind wanders a bit further venturing into legitimate territory, and made me question…Is it fair to deny one’s love of something? Can my love for food really be harnessed into a healthy hedonistic lifestyle?

Remy (the rat from Ratataloiulle) said it best…

“If you are what you eat…then I only want to eat the good stuff!”

I couldn't agree more! But I also know that it will take a bit more just than replacing butter with a healthy extra virgin olive oil, because Pam is definitely out of the question! While skipping dessert and adding more fruits and veggies is always a viable option, I still contend that at least for me, there is a definite disconnect between the mind, body and spirit. After all…these are practices that are and have always been in place for me. I have always been fairly decent about healthy food habits. I take a multi-vitamin and get some form of physical activity almost daily, limit my dairy intake since I have allergies, and I almost never indulge in fried or fast foods…but that can probably be attributed to …”Only wanting to eat the good stuff.” And even with that, as I am blogging these thoughts, I am putting the finishing touches on my very healthy Mojito Glazed Chicken that I plan to serve over a bed of fresh Black Bean & Corn Salsa…and will for go the Ginger-Lime Mojito beverage that you know was intended to accompany my Latin inspired cuisine. But I also know that if I always do, what I have always done, then I will always get, what I have always gotten. At least for now, I will maintain my status quo.

The first part of my scheduled tune ups begins next week…and I can’t wait to finally get started. Since I have planned a SERIES of tune ups…it is my hope that I will have the bulk of the answers I seek, just in time to celebrate my 42ND New Year!

Thinking ahead to my new year…I am once again reminded of the words from my new friend, Chef Gusteau…

“Not everyone can become a great artist..but a great artist can come from anywhere!”

… Well, here’s to the great artist I hope to become! It is the perfect opportunity to create my ultimate masterpiece!

Oh...and here's the recipe to the "Mojito Chicken"... For the record...I did skip the Yuca Fries in lieu of the black bean & corn salsa...although they did look & sound pretty yummy! No fried foods... remember???

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...

Whether you’re an Oprah fan or not…EVERYBODY in American knew that Kirstie Alley was being interviewed about her recent 75 lb weight gain after her departure from Jenny Craig and her passing of the baton to Valerie Bertinelli. It was EVERYWHERE, from tabloids to shows like Entertainment Tonight and Extra. Valerie reached her goal weigh...and I ain’t mad at her either! I have to admit, she does look amazing! But I refuse to compare my worst (or close to it,) to someone else’s best.

As I watched the interviews of Kirstie and Michael (the man who lost AND gained back 1000lbs) my heart was breaking for them and for the millions of US who are just like them. I can certainly empathize with their plight, as well as identify their red flags, as they shared their stories. Their red flags attacked me like a hundred sharp daggers being tossed through the sky, piercing my shiny coat of chest armor. Amazingly for me, there was at least a slither of hope in their stories that confirmed that I was at the very least, doing some things right.

Here’s THE GOOD…

They started again! Recognizing and acknowledging any failure is hard to take. Even though they gained it all back, they found the strength, courage and determination to pick up the pieces and start again. KUDOS to them! They also recognized that they couldn’t take on their tremendous tasks alone. They needed help and made a conscience decision to seek intervention. For Michael it meant family support as well as medical intercession, but for Kirstie, she decided she would do it her way, and is developing her own weight loss plan. While I think she is on a quest for a magic pill…I still congratulate her for the determination to do it her way. But the message still remains… when you fall off that horse, you gotta get back on him and ride him again!

Here’s THE BAD…

Old habits die hard! I wrote a blog a few weeks back about teaching old dogs new tricks. It’s certainly no task for the weary or faint at heart. It literally requires making an ethical decision to DIVORCE the old bad habits that have created the person you’ve become. It’s certainly possible that some of these issues are intertwined with hormonal or in my case…emotional issues in an effort to create temporary comfort. Whatever the reason for gaining the weight…I can tell you, what I do know, is that it may not be as simple as eating less and exercising more. The bad news is that getting to the core of your weight loss issues requires time as well as patience. In today’s society of “instant gratification,” patience is not always viewed as the virtue it once was.

Here’s THE UGLY…

Most of us will identify our goal, develop a plan to attain our goal, and them work towards achieving that goal. I hate to admit it, but this sets us up for failure! When Michael reached his goal weight, he went out and celebrated with “hotdogs and french fries!” Kirstie turned her work out room, into her a dining room because she “had not had a lot of dinner parties and company.” When she reached her goal and Jenny stopped coming by to weigh her, she simply lost her motivation. While reaching your goal weight is certainly cause for celebration, it is not the end of the race. I hate to tell you this but THERE IS NO FINISH LINE IN THIS RACE! When approached with the correct mindset, this is in fact, a never ending journey, something that will always require work and dedication. That is exactly why experts advise us to develop a plan or a lifestyle that we can stick with…don’t engage in the latest fad diet plan. Reaching your goal weight is only half of the struggle. The real work comes in when we dedicate ourselves to the new task of maintaining the goal we’ve reached. It’s almost like preparing for a never ending “Triathlon” for the foodies of the world. I’ve said it before, and I think we can all agree…this is a mind, body and soul experience. We’ve got to be in this thing for the long haul…not just until we reach our goal.

In my own personal quest to “bring my sexy back”… I am grateful to the Michaels and Kirsties of the world who allow us the privilege to learn from their mistakes. I have scheduled my tune-ups, and I am working on my very own life long triathlon. I will certainly keep you posted on my tune up results and as well as my progress. If in my own quest, I am able to help someone else by sharing my story, then… that would be a wonderful thing, and I am humbled for the privilege.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Time for a Tune Up...

OKAY…so I didn’t hide under that rock…I decided to stay and face music! But how well did I do???

I mean...REALLY??? The thought has crossed my mind on more than once ...when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance...
"Do I really have what it takes to get the job done and keep it from happening again???"

Let's face it. There is always going to be a reason to eat! There will always be an upcoming holiday, a reason to celebrate...or a friend coming in town??? How does one retrain their thinking, so that celebrations don't always center totally around food? How can one strengthen their willpower to resist temptation? How does one achieve bliss in the land of weight loss heaven???


A very dear friend came down for a visit. I absolutely adore this man, and we've shared a most endearing camaraderie for almost 15 years. We've been through a lot together...but despite it all, the one constant that has always been present ... OUR LOVE FOR THE FINEST GASTRONOMY! We love to FEED each other... and after all, that is how we (and most) show our appreciation or affection for one another...isn't it??? I've been known to cook dinner for him on occasion, and he loves to treat me to the latest and greatest eateries in his neck of the woods. So in preparation for his visit, I took the liberty of researching all of "THE BEST" Texas Barbeque, Authentic Mexican Cuisine and Margaritas, this town would have to offer... knowing this would be something that he would certainly enjoy. I have always been adorned with the title of "GRACIOUS HOST" ... and while my quest to not disappoint was always forefront, I managed to successfully retain my illustrious title during his visit.

Being once again, struck by my “Pleasure Principle,” at no time during the weekend did I stop to think about caloric content, or even fat grams. My version of making a smart food choice was choosing between chicken or beef; anejo or reposado tequila. Did I make good food choices? Probably not always…but they sure were YUMMMMMMY! And for the commrade also agrees that "IRON CACTUS" has the best margaritas on the "Riverwalk!"

The truth is...if it's not "Fiesta" or "Christmas" or " Pick a day to CELEBRATE and I will give you a REASON to EAT" day... Do I REALLY have what it takes to make this work and create the body I want as well as the lifestyle to maintain my desire???

I guess maybe the better question to ask is… how much am I willing to sacrifice to get what I want? How badly do I really want it? How do I resist all of the food temptations out there so that I can be totally focused on achieving my goal?

This isn't the first time a friend has come to visit...and be rest assured, this probably isn't going to be the last. The visits seem to be a quandry that I battle almost monthly... and yet I toil daily with that quest to achieve the perfect balance between my love for food and my desire to be thinner. There are days…weeks even, where I manage to do well. There are probably an equal number of days where my “Pleasure Principle” seems to override what little discipline I seem to acquire. This engine doesn't seem to be performing the way it should be. There seems to be a definite disconnect between thoughts and actions. It is painfully obvious that all spark plugs are not firing equally and consistently, and this can certainly affect the performance of this vehicle.

Looks like its probably time for a tune up… before this vehicle BREAKS DOWN!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's FIESTA Time

Who knew that it would be such a challenge to stay focused while trying to lose weight???

Food is EVERYWHERE in this town…it’s no wonder why San Antonio appeared as #3 on the top ten fattest cities in the US. After living in this city for over 6 months…I can easily see how and why it reached such a lofty status on this disparaging list. And make no mistake about it…Fiesta plays its part in this cities #3 ranking for sure!

What originally began as a commemoration to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jancito, has grown into a Texas-sized celebration that is only matched by the spirit of its people. This 11 day, 107 event gala attracts 3.5 million people and generates more than $285 million dollars annually. It has now grown into a celebration of this cities’ rich heritage, and this year, Fiesta marks its’ 118th anniversary. While this city-wide celebration hosts plenty of parades, exhibits, athletic activities, and live music with dancing, you better believe that there will be plenty of FOOD, FOOD, FOOD!

Starting with “Oyster-Bake” on opening weekend (yes, that’s right…an entire festival featuring oysters! Like’em fried, raw, baked, steamed or barbequed...doesn’t matter one bit!), and going on to the "Champagne and Diamonds Brunch, A Taste of New Orleans, Fiesta Nueva, A Taste of the North Side, The Chips & Salsa Event, Ole’ Luncheon," and finally what I am sure will become a personal favorite, " A Fiesta Taste of Texas Wine Country!" All of this is BEFORE attending the "Battle of the Flowers, Night in Old San Antonio," or any of the other activities that will have on hand, your typical festival foods like ice cream, funnel cake, turkey legs, corn dogs and cotton candy. Oh, and of course, this IS Texas, so you know there will be plenty of chalupas, flauntas, BBQ tacos, and armadillo eggs for the tasting. Now keeping in mind that there are over 100 events featuring these culinary delicacies…there’s a stomachache coming on, just thinking about all of the food to be consumed.

Now I would love to hide under a rock for two weeks, until Fiesta blows over, but I don’t think that I’d have a job to come back to when it’s all said and done. I have asked before and I ask the question AGAIN…how does one remain focused in the face of temptation??? I suppose I could eat before I go…or try to make healthy food choices and avoid the fried stuff. I could allow myself a little indulgence and make time to work off the extra calories, or I could just take myself out of my misery and hide under that rock!

My first reaction is usually the correct one…

I’ll talk with you again in two weeks!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

GOD gave his ONLY Begotten SON...

... Jesus came that I might have life,and have it more abundantly. ~John 10:10 NKJ

He came ...So that I could have pizza and carrot cake??? In a sense...Well, YES, I'd say so!

Clearly, I don't think that GOD intended for me to use his words in this example...but I think it applies here! This week was Holy Week. In essence, It commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

For all intensive purposes, it was an exceptionally good week for me...
And as it pertains to our discussion regarding my obsession with food…
it was a manageable week of no regrets. That, my friends, is a good week!

What I mean by that is, that I did as I was supposed to do on most days of the week. I ate right, and got in a decent amount of activity. I probably could have done more, but I think I did enough to not see any plus signs on the scale this week.

Sunday happened to be exceptionally focused day. Got up and went for a walk around the neighborhood before sitting down to a breakfast of apple cinnamon oatmeal, a cup of freshly sliced strawberries and blueberries, a whole wheat english muffin, with a dab of mango-peach fruit spread, a cup of coffee and my Sunday paper. Working down my “to –do” list I inadvertently lost track of time. Realizing that it’s Easter Sunday…surely there is a nice café that is open for what should have been brunch, but is now almost dinner time at 4:00 pm…you think???

I get in my car and drive across town to discover a quaint little café, located near a golf course, and with an adorable, but decent sized outdoor patio, which would allow me to enjoy this fabulous Easter Sunday. After reviewing the menu choices and realizing that I have behaved decently all week… I opt for the single serving sized goat cheese, sun dried tomato & cilantro pizza…and pair it with a fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon! Not only is it a fabulous pairing…but John (my server) volunteers that for dessert… the “14 Karat Cake” with homemade cream cheese icing and a drizzle of caramel over the top... is to die for. They make it fresh daily…and today’s batch was exceptional. Well, I am not much for sweets usually, and will forgo them, lieu of a fabulous glass of noble nectar. But when John shares that they also have a pretty damn good port, that pairs fabulously with this luxurious treat … I am all in!

After my sweet extravagance…my fear was that I had blown an entire week of decent success for one afternoon of indulgence. Probably not what GOD had in mind when HE gave HIS only begotten Son… and I know HE is up there in heaven, just shaking HIS head at what HE'S created in his child here on earth. I know HE’S not surprised or even amazed…and probably thinks it’s pretty funny, but HE knows HIS child…and knows that HE created a “Foodie- Monster!”

Guess I’ll get up in the morning and do my best to work off the damage…or at least, I hope so!

Happy Easter~

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Enchanting Week End???

I am not ashamed to tell you when I've let me just start right off by saying...I FAILED BIG-TIME!!!

Friday night I decided to visit my friends at my favorite sushi restaurant, Osaka's. I don't think I am wrong when I say that this place is my 2009 version of "CHEERS!" It holds a special place in my heart because, being new to a city and having the entire restaurant staff befriend you...well that makes it pretty darn special. Needless to say, these were in fact, my first (non-work related) friends in Texas.

I digress for a moment to share with you, research shows on average that a person stops at a fast food drive thru, or orders take out, 3-4 times per week. Since I consider version of fast food... My friends at Osaka's can usually count on seeing me at least 1-2 times per week. With the stresses of work, I had not visited my beloved restaurant in over two weeks. And while I can say that it's nice to be's probably not good during LENT OBSERVANCE!!! Hugs, kisses & smiles are usually considered standard practice for long absences...please know for future reference that at Osaka's, they do all that...and send you SAKE ON THE HOUSE!!! For those who remember that I gave up alcohol for Lent, sending me sake was probably not the best gift one could receive. To top it all of the bartenders was experimenting, and apparently was awaiting my arrival, so that I could try his version of a “Sake-Rita.”

How could I possibly say “NO” to the man who loves to feed me...and the man who loves to serve me??? Saying “NO” seems like a slap in the face for those who so affectionately professed their love for me...RIGHT??? (Ok...I realize that was a bit of a stretch, but I think you get the picture!!!)

Feeling guilty about my collapse...the next morning, (after apologizing to GOD for not holding up my promise, less than 2 weeks before Easter) I got up and started my trek to Austin. My Texas Girlfriend and I were in compliance when we mutually agreed to partake in activities that involved more than just moving a fork or a glass. This Saturday, we would climb "Enchanted Rock!" It is second in size to Georgia's Stone Mountain, and Indian Legend has it that this rock is haunted. But the actual truth is, when it cools at night, it makes a creaking noise. Although it takes the better part of an hour, this pink mountain of granite ascends 500 feet up to its summit, where climbers are rewarded with magnificent vistas of Texas Hill Country.More than half way up the steep terrain, sweaty, hot and completely out of breath, I managed to musty up enough air to jokingly complain to my girlfriend...

"Are we there yet???"

Much to my surprise, she manages the energy to turn completely around...and re-works her ventilation to respond...

"But just look at how far we've come!"

Right then and there, I knew that there was a lesson to be had...but I was too sweaty & out of breathe to figure out what it was...but I hoped that once I got to the top, I could figure it out! Since I had 250 feet still left to climb...I figured that was plenty of time!

Well we got there … and were pretty damn proud that we made it to the peak…our zenith, our pinnacle!

It wasn’t until my Sunday drive home that I realized…”When it comes to weight loss…I’ve still got a long way to go!”

Sure I’ve had some ups and some downs…some challenges and some successes. This is my life. There are always going to be obstacles. There will always be a temptation, a set back, a joy or a pain. There will always be a fork in the wheel.

I think that is the way it was meant to be. After all, how will we ever know how strong we are? Can we appreciate the ups of life…if we haven’t experienced the downs? I believe that our level of happiness can be directly proportionate to the level of disappointment or failures we face. This was the first Lent Observance in which I didn’t accomplish what I sent out to do…and yet it was the most eye opening experience yet! Why??? It wasn’t about the alcohol as much as it was that I was looking for clarity…I needed answers! Despite my failure…I set an expectation…and in return, I got just what I needed, even when I didn’t deserve it!

Go Figure?!?

I guess it was an “Enchanted Week End” after all, huh???

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Challenge For Accountability

I was deeply moved by all of the positive feedback to last week’s blog on "Spring Training." It seems as though everyone is catching some form of Spring fever…and last week must have hit a nerve. Most expressed a connection to the spirit of the blog’s content, and almost all were drawn towards action in some form or fashion. While inspiration is where it all starts, action is essential to making "IT" happen. Kudos to you and the action you took this week!

One of the most inspirational responses came from a very dear friend, whom I thought, was already living his professional dream. Yet, he was drawn to take his aspirations even further…

“That was exactly what I needed, [He writes.] I’ve been thinking about going
to law school…but was discouraged about the LSAT requirements. I went out
and bought a few LSAT books, and it’s not as bad as I thought. I must confess
I had negative thoughts about my chances of getting accepted into law school. Your blog and Gandhi’s quote have given me inspiration. Now I’m going to put
it all on the line and pursue my dream…”

Now that’s success in action! This was a huge breakthrough and I am so proud of him! Although an incredible pursuit, he’s got a long road ahead of him. He’s taken the first step…inspiration. Now he’s working on his action plan…necessity.

Weight loss and law school…I couldn’t help but to parallel our two challenges. Although the end results are different, I realized that the course that we must take to achieve our goals, is in fact, the same. I couldn’t help but ask myself…what could I do to encourage him to stay the course? How does one maintain focus and stay motivated through one's entire jouney? My answer…ACCOUNTABILITY!!!

It is unusual for most to make commitments to others and not keep them. We extend ourselves to our family members, our children, even our bosses...and we usually follow through with the best of intentions. Yet, we usually find it's okay to break a promise to ourselves and deem it acceptible. Well...It's not! Hold yourself accountable to your goal, maintain your focus, and allow others to help you get to where you want to be!

1. Publish Your Goal
Whether your have a weight loss challenge, a professional quest, or a personal achievement to accomplish…make it known! Make a pledge to yourself, and put it in writing. Place it some place where you can review it every morning, and ask yourself…”What action will I take today towards accomplishing my goal?” Then do it!

2. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People
Birds of a feather…flock together. Research shows that fostering healthy relationships can help you to not only achieve…but also maintain your goals, regardless of what they are. Don’t be afraid to share your goals, or even to ask family and friends to support you in your efforts…while you do the same for them in return. Remember that you reap what you sow. Sowing good seeds can only help you to achieve great harvest.

3. Find A Mentor
Seek out someone who has already achieved what it is that your trying to accomplish. Not only will they be flattered that you sought them out, but chances are they will be willing to share their trials and tribulations in an effort to help you avoid the same pitfalls. They will be equally as eager to share their successes.

4. Form Your Own Support Group
Find a partner who shares your struggle, and agree to support one another. Since we are talking about weight loss, maybe its a workout partner you need to stay accountable to. If your struggle is with cooking, find someone to do healthy recipe swaps with, and agree to exchange once a week. If you are reading this blog, then it was probably sent to you by someone who really cares about you and has a vested interest in your success. Pay it forward and pass it along to someone who you know may possibly get something out of it. Share the tips and inspirations that you use to achieve your goals.

We all struggle with something. How we react to that struggle can mean the difference between success and failure. Our freedom of choice is our power to succeed. It is my hope that there is something written here every week that will both challenge and inspire you to be the person you were truly meant to be.

That is my prayer for you!

Much Love~

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Training

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. March 20th was it's first day…and in only three more months, summer will be upon us.

When I think about spring, my mind instantly goes to that place where tree and flowers are beginning to bloom and rebirth begins. The cold and dreary days of winter are almost behind us and life becomes warm, fresh, and vibrant. And for all that this season represents, before our eyes is the perfect example of what this period can really mean for us as individuals. This season only happens once a year, and it is the perfect opportunity for renewal, rejuvenation, and transformation to occur for anyone looking to make changes within themselves.

So, how do we get there?

First, Know Your Motivation- I have a friend who has a picture of himself in his old college football uniform, beside his bed. He looks at that picture every morning before he gets up. For him, it‘s his stimulus. It’s the first thing he sees, and that vision stays with him all day long. Another friend just became a Grandmother for the first time, and she wants to be able to play with her grandchild without sweating like a pig or getting winded when she runs down the driveway. (Those are her words…NOT MINE!) Keeping these powerful motivations front and center makes it easier to be strong when faced with temptation. Sheer determination will help to face challenges head on.

Secondly, Set Realistic Goals- When you’ve got a lot of weight to lose that large number can be overwhelming. Instead of concentrating on a number, set a goal unrelated to the number. Maybe the goal is to move more this week. Pick an activity, and do it every day. Perhaps, you cut down or eliminate sodas and drink more water. Want to eat healthier foods…cut out that trip to the drive thru, or aspire to eat more fruits and vegetables. (And no, French fries don’t count!) Whatever it is, start small and perfect that habit before moving on to something else. Taking on too much change at one time can set us up for failure and cause us to lose our motivation.

Lastly, Think Positively- One of my favorite Mahatma Gandhi quotes is... “If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. When I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it, even if I did not have the ability in the beginning.” Once you’ve made up in your mind that you can achieve something…YOU CAN! Reflect on what you can do…not what you can’t. Make it a daily habit to say something positive about yourself and at the end of every day…recall all of those things you did RIGHT! Remove any negativity and self doubt and surround yourself with positive people who support your efforts and care about your results.

Our mental processes are sometimes more powerful that the physical actions we take on to achieve our weight loss goals. Even before we step foot in the gym, or put that first bite of food in our mouths, the decision must be made to SUCCEED! Our self-image and our habits tend to go hand in hand. Change one and your will most certainly change the other. I truly believe that this journey is a mind, body and soul experience, but without the motivation for achievement, this passage to renewal, rejuvenation and transformation is doomed for failure.

Summer will be here before I know it, but I refuse to let the rebirth of spring just pass me by without taking advantage of all that it has in its midst.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Buffet Affect

If I didn’t know it before, I can now firmly say with confidence, I am an emotional eater.

This week I was faced with an unfathomable truth…My best simply wasn’t good enough.

It’s a crushing blow. To give 100% of yourself and work diligently on a task, only to see the fruits of your labor yielding an immeasurable failure. I gave it my best effort. Never once did I consider that my best wouldn’t be good enough.

Overtaken by a tsunami of emotion, instinctively, I wanted to make myself feel better. I didn’t want to cry, or think, or even talk it out. Instinctively, what I really wanted was to sear up the colossal sea scallops I just bought the day before, and serve it on a bed of creamy, cheesy, slow cooked polenta. And yes instinctively, I wanted to open up a bottle of a chardonnay-viognier blend, whose buttery -sweetness would be perfect to compliment to the richness of the polenta, while drawing out the luscious, sweet tenderness of the scallops. YUM!!! And considering this purchase of glorious nectar was made just days before my vow…I couldn’t wait to partake in its magnificence. Yes, that was EXACTLY what would make feel better…even temporarily.

But, for a split second, I thought about the words of Warren Buffett

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars; I look around for the 1-foot bars that I can step over.”

And just like that, before I knew it…I was changing into my workout gear and heading for the gym! For 60 minutes, I tuned out the world and sweated to the sounds blaring from my ipod. I didn’t think about what went array, or what I could have done differently. Yet, when I was finished, I’ll admit I was exhausted…but surprisingly, I felt better.

Being successful isn’t always about conquering the biggest challenges…it’s about constantly growing and overcoming the feats that I can manage. And sometimes it means re-thinking my approach. If I always do, what I’ve always done…then I am surely bound to see the same result. I guess that applies to more areas of my life besides weight loss.

The next morning…I came up with a new approach to my 7-foot bar. I don’t know if this will work either…but I am bound and determined to give it my best shot!

Much Love~