Archive | October, 2013

Why I Run

30 Oct

I realize that many, maybe even thousands, of women have written blogs on why they run.  After 2.5 years of blogging this topic is finally making its way into this blog, and its somewhat about time.  I run for so many different reasons.

Growing-up I was one of those kids that truly struggled to run one mile in gym class.  I remember having to walk part of the 1 mile fitness test in school several years in a row.  I was so NOT born to run.  I remember hardly being able to do one pull up.  I thought it was allergies, asthma, and so many other things.  Reality is, I wasn’t in good physically shape.  But I wasn’t fat or even chubby either.  I just didn’t do anything that required endurance.  Then middle school came around and I traded in my roller skates (that is not a typo – lol) for my new found my love for field sports in soccer, and later in high school field hockey.  And I did Outward Bound somewhere in there too. It was also a recipe for get-in-shape fast!

Then the summer after my freshman year of college I packed-up my bright green ford escort and hit the road solo to move to Boulder Colorado.  I was determined to grow even farther outside of my comfort zone.  It was there, a mile above sea level, that I really began to run.  It started with daily hikes in the flat iron hills in Boulder, then hiking the continental divide, Estes Park, Zion National Park, and so on.  As ski season approached I realized I needed to kick it up a notch and the best way to get there was by running.  I just really wanted to live up that 5 mountain ski pass.  And so my love for distance running began.  I’ll be honest I really disliked running at first, REALLY disliked it.  I’d focus on how tired and heavy my legs felt, and I’d have to stop after a bit.

The next summer I spent living and working in Connecticut, (and for several summers thereafter) which was not my “chosen” place to be.  And I needed to find ways to make the best of it.  Off I went to find a dose of nature.  This led me to spending the evenings after work heading straight out to Talcott Mountain and the various Reservoir trails – to RUN.  It was on these trails through the forests that I found my stride.  I can still remember the accomplishment I felt after running 3 miles without stopping.  I grew stronger, physically and mentally, with every run.  I see myself and life differently when I run. I am healthier inside and out.  And 13+ years later and I am still doing it.  I’ve run in pretty much every country and culture I’ve visited.  It is a part of how I experience the world.

I run because I can.  One mile became two, two became three, and next time I look I find that I can run 13 miles without stopping.  When I run I feel like I am feeding my body life.  With every mile I am proving to myself that I am even more capable and powerful than I ever thought I could be.  I feel strong when I run, I feel unstoppable.  Running builds my confidence and courage to make the impossible possible everyday.  It keeps at bay the professional self-doubt that so many women are plagued with.

My mind and body become one when I run as  my mind becomes placid and drifts away.  Running puts me in balance and at ease.  It tames my restless soul and brings me into living for today.  Its the only chance I get to sort through my thoughts without interruption, to make sense of life and keep it in perspective.  Running has come to be my form of zen meditation.  I am a better person when I run.  A better mother.  A better wife, daughter, friend, boss, and co-worker.

I run because its hard.  And when I think I can’t keep going, I know  deep down that I can, and I keep going.  Nothing feels better.  It hurts at times.  Beads of sweat pour down my face, mile after mile of relentless forward progress.  There is a lump in my chest from breathing in the dry crisp air of winter, yet I feel refreshed.  I conscientiously smile to the world as I hit a new person record.  I run because I strive to be better than myself.

I run because it makes me happy.

Baby Culinaire

3 Oct

This is by far one of my more domesticated blogs but egh it is related to one of my favorite topics to write about – FOOD.  And cooking, because I do love to cook.  Over the past month we have started our little guy (at 6 months) on solids and it has been an adventure for us as much as it is for him.  I read a lot about different ways to introduce solids and researched all our options in terms of baby foods.  I really like the concept of “Baby Led Weaning“.  This is where there are no puree or spoon feeding, you simply give the baby a piece of food and let them feed themselves.  Also, I’m not entirely thinking of this whole food adventure as about “weaning” in the first place.  We have a perfectly happy and healthy breastfeeding relationship and I do not see it ending anytime soon.  I should mention that I do work outside the home and pump milk for my little guy every day.  The other thing with starting solids is that I really don’t like the whole baby cereal (mostly rice) bull shit that industrial food companies market so heavily.  Why?  It’s very simple – babies can’t digest grains until they are around 1-year-old when their bodies start to produce an enzyme called amylase which is responsible for splitting starches.  Furthermore, most of the baby rice cereal is found to contain the toxin Arsenic.  I could write a manifesto about why to ditch baby cereal (and formula) but I won’t bore you.  For more on ditching baby cereal check out the Food Renegade – as for the benefits of breastfeeding (and perils of formula) just google it.

Back to the good stuff – so while I like the concept of baby led weaning, I also like to give my little guy the opportunity to try more foods that aren’t conducive to giving him in pieces (e.g, roasted pumpkin, peas, and kale) which is why we are going the “hybrid” route with baby led weaning.  I also stay far away from pre-packaged and processed (shelf-stable) foods for myself and my family.  Pretty much the only things I buy that are pre-packaged are canned beans, pasta, tuna, and bread.  I won’t even buy a package of pre-made tortillas if they have preservatives.  We get most of our food through a Community Support Agriculture (Earth Spring Farm), the local Farmers Market, and the rest comes from a local grocery store (yes, we are one of THOSE families that shops at Whole Foods).  Now, this made it tricky to find baby food since nearly all of it sold in the stores is heavily processed and pre-packaged.   There appears to be one decent line of organic and “safe” baby food – Plum Organics.  But it still seems as though the food is too far removed from the source for me to be entirely comfortable with it, though we will likely give it a try one of these days.  And that is where my adventure began in cooking for baby.

Now, I am a working mom with very little time on my hands so I have had to come-up with some creative ways to cook for baby without consuming the little bit of time I do have with my little guy.  That is exactly what I am sharing with you today.  While making baby food, may seem like an easy and obvious thing to do – it is – there are some neat tricks interspersed here that may give you the edge to give it a try for your baby (present or future).

The other night I was cooking herb roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed garlic green beans for my husband and I for dinner.  While baby is not quite ready to indulge in the deliciousness of my herb sweet potatoes or garlicky beans, I was able to cook him a bit on the side.  This helped reduce my time spent making “special” food for the baby.

First, start by peeling one extra small sweet potato and rinsed it well.

Partially peeled sweet potato

Washing Sweet Potato

Next, I cut the sweet potato into small chunks and then I leave a few pieces in matchstick or wedge shape.  These larger pieces are for my little guy to be able to easily grab with his hands.  Then I take a small handful of green beans (I used 8 green beans to make 4 baby servings) and cut them into medium-sized pieces.

Cutting up sweet potato and green beans

Once they are all properly cut-up, arrange them nicely into a basic steamer basket in a small pot with some water (filtered if living in the city) in the bottom.  Put a cover on the pot and let steam for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and beans are tender (test with a fork) but not just falling to pieces.  In fact I like my beans still slightly crisp.

Cooking potatoes and beans

Next up is prepping them for baby. Be sure to set aside the larger pieces of cooked sweet potato and green bean so that you can give them to your baby to play with during meal time.

Take some of the sweet potato and begin to mash it up.  I use one of these mash and serve bowls, which I find really easy to use and they are inexpensive.  Add drops of breastmilk (or formula or water if you don’t have breastmilk) to the bowl as you mash so that it gets to a nice consistency like you see below.

Mashing Sweet Potato

Mashed Puree of Sweet Potato

And voila!  Mashed sweet potato is ready for baby!  Now, if you are making extra to freeze some of it, I don’t recommend adding the breastmilk while mashing.  Instead, just mash it up adding just a few drops of water and freezing it as is.  Then, you’d want to add the breastmilk once its de-thawed, just before serving.

Now for the green beans.  Place the green bean pieces into a blender, hand blender, food processor, or mini-prep – whatever you already have – with just a little bit of the cooking water and blend it for a few seconds until it reaches a nice consistency (see below).  Moral of the story is that you do not need to go out to buy anything fancy to make baby food.  I personally use a Cuisinart Mini Prep, which I’ve had for years and I love it.  I use it to make pesto, homemade pasta sauce, enchilada sauce, almond cream for quinoa porridge, and now lots of baby food!

GB_Prep

Once you are done with your green bean puree and mashed sweet potato, you can freeze them in portion size servings.  This is an easy way to make multiple meals in advance.  Regular ice cube trays work great to freeze baby food but I personally love the Beaba Multiportion Freezer Trays, which I only have because I got them as a shower gift from my mom.

Baby Food ready for freezer

And that is really all there is to making baby food.  As I mentioned, I always do this at the same time I am cooking for my husband and I to make life easier and to save time.  I have done similar things with pumpkin, carrots, apple, butternut squash, and sweet peas.  All of which he loves.  I sometimes combine foods too, to make it more fun.  Some of his favorite combos so far (at 7 months) – Pumpkin & Banana, Carrot & Apple, and Sweet Peas with Banana.  Those foods aside, we also give him raw foods, which he loves.  Avocado was his first food (and is still his favorite), which we do daily in both chunks for him to feed himself and mashed-up with a little breastmilk.  He also likes eating hunks of watermelon and banana.  Just today I was snacking on a sliced-up honey crisp apple and he helped himself to a slice while we were playing, which he also loved.

Have fun cooking for your baby (ies)!  And when you do, please share your recipes and stories.  🙂

A Love Affair – With A City…

1 Oct

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have a love affair with the city I’ve called home for the past 8+ years. Oh how I love Washington, DC – with all her grandeur, historical mystery, and brusque sophistication. Growing-up I knew that I would find myself calling DC home one day. I love walking the tree-lined streets of historic Capital Hill everyday with my baby and pooch in tow. And in the winter there is nothing more charming than walking by homes with lighted Christmas trees in the front bay windows, except of course a jaunt to the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House. I love heading down to the National Mall on any given day to find a political rally on ending genocide in Sudan or on passing immigration reform. DC is a city where “change” runs in our blood, and people work hard to make the world a better place. And of course its the city where “lobbyists” got their name, with “lobbying” starting right in the lobby of the famous Willard Hotel. Maybe I don’t love lobbyists but they are a fact of life, or of politics I should say.

I love the grittiness of the city, of any city for that matter, and all the off-beat culture, music, street food – and DC food trucks of course. Some of my favorites are Red Hook Lobster Pound, Tasty Kabob, and Fojol Bros. Then there are the restaurants… complete deliciousness. I appreciate the diversity of culinary delights we have to choose from everyday. I also love the small town feel in every neighborhood across the city – Capital Hill, Takoma Park, and Glover Park to name a few. And did I mention that the plethora of street festivals all year long absolutely rocks? Um yeah. I love everything about DC street festivals. I also love the intellectual stimulation that is around every corner of town and in every coffee shop… DC is a city filled with intense people. Guess that’s why I fit in pretty damn well. I could go on and on about everything I love about Washington, DC. But I also realize that we won’t be living here forever, and there is a pretty good chance that we will move sometime in the next 2-5 years. So while I am in love with this city I also want to put on record the list of things that I will not miss about DC living. So here it goes…

  1. Taxation Without Representation
    Enough stated. Having been a District resident for over 8 years I have finally come to the conclusion (don’ know what took me so long), that if DC residents don’t have representation in Congress than we should not have to pay Federal income taxes since we do not have a voice with a vote.
  2. Sirens (and car horns) – All Day and All Night
    I am listening to sirens as I write this blog post. Their sound penetrates through our double panned insulated windows. And about 50% of the time my pooch Tico howls along with the sirens. Which is very endearing except when the baby is sleeping. Bottom line though, I am tired of the blaring noise of sirens and car horns.
  3. Garbage – and the Failure to Use Trash Cans
    This one really gets me. There are trash cans everywhere in this city. In fact there are professional street cleaners and career sidewalk cleaners. Still there is trash everywhere. On any given day I will see kids and adults walk by the front of my hose, unwrap their candy or fast food and pitch the garbage right in my front yard. Isn’t that so 20 years ago!?!? Don’t they teach kids in school not to litter!?!? And by the way, there is a trash can 15 yards from my front yard.
  4. Drugs and Drug Addicts
    No I won’t give you a dollar or my change so you can go get your next fix. For the 100th time, I work hard for my money and there is no way in hell I am going to give it to a drug addict so they can go get high. Get a frigging job! Oh and I am REALLY tired of those mini zip lock bags that litter my neighborhood and carry the residues of your last high. Really tired of them.
  5. Chicken Bone Ally – EVERYWHERE!
    Where do they all come from. And I can’t believe my pooch is still alive after all of the damn chicken bones he has managed to get a hold of. I discovered this problem when we first adopted Tico – and then I began to observe the phenomenon. People buy fried chicken and chicken wings at the nearest 7-11, Popeye’s, and Checkers. They then proceed to walk around the neighborhood eating their chicken and ditching the bones on the sidewalk as they walk. Bizarre! First of all, who eats chicken while walking around? Second, does it not dawn of these people that there are trash cans everywhere. What a concept!?!? Third, come on people you know that chicken bones can splinter in a dogs stomach (not a new discovery, and pretty common knowledge) and there are dogs everywhere in this city. I have seriously considered collecting up these chicken bones, putting them in bags with signs, and stapling them to the trees in an effort to get people to throw their bones in the garbage cans provided.
  6. Paying a Premium for Everything
    Everything in this city is so expensive. Food, gas, dentists, dinning, nails at the hardware store, dry cleaning, healthcare, the list could go on and on . End of story.
  7. Being Surrounded by Sex Offenders
    I made the terrible mistake with my very first iPhone (yep, first gen) of dowloanding the free “sex offenders” app. I started playing with it around my office and realized that I am surrounded by sex offenders. And then I continued to play with it at home, and found I was still surrounded by sex offenders. There is no escaping them. Rapists and child molesters are everywhere in this city. Gross! Right!?!?
  8. Dodging Wandering Tourists
    There should be signs upon entering the metro system providing “Metro Etiquette 101”. Stand only on the right-hand side of the escalators, the left-hand side is for walkers (and sprinters). Do not dilly dally at the ticket checks, Washingtonians have places to go and too little time to get there. And no your back pack can not have its on seat in the metro car. This does not even begin to explain the behavior of tourists on the sidewalks, at cross-walks, and everywhere else in this city.
  9. People Yelling at All Hours of the Day
    This really gets to me. Just because ya’ll are drunk at 4:00 am and again at 6:00 pm, does not mean I have to listen to your belligerent rants outside. Learn to use your inside voice outside.
  10. Random Road Closures
    We experience random road closures all of the time for many different reasons. On any given day it can take me a full hour to bike home from work (I live less than 3 miles from the office) because every road around the Hill will be closed, no matter where I turn. It’s just another suspicious package day… Oh wait and on the other side of town all the streets are closed because POTUS is making an appearance. And shit man, were you planning on going grocery shopping on Saturday morning? All roads closed due to a race. No food for you! Nough said.

So there you have it – my DC shit list. I am still madly in love with this city for oh so many more reasons than this.

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