Thanksgiving: A Meal, Not A Long Weekend

“Thanksgiving is a meal.  It is not a four-day event.”

   -   LeAnna Sheehan

Last week, during a lunch meeting at work, one of my colleagues reached for a cookie (because there are always cookies during lunch meetings).  “Well,” he commented, “ I might as well get started now.  I’ll gain fifteen pounds over the next six weeks.”  Way to throw in the towel before we’ve even put the turkey in the oven.

How do we turn that story around?  How do we get through this minefield of family gatherings, parties, late nights, holiday stress and find ourselves intact come January the First?

First of all – it can absolutely be done.  You can get through the holiday season without undoing all the good results that you’ve worked so hard to achieve all year.  And you can still have a good time doing it.  

How, you might ask.

To answer that question, let’s talk about the holiday season as a whole first.  And then, we’ll tackle Thanksgiving weekend.  OK?  Because that is exactly how I suggest approaching the holidays.  Make your overall plan for the big picture, and then tackle one event at a time.

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Commit to a Healthy Holiday Season

  1. Set your intention.  That is probably my favorite LeAnna quote.  This is a great week to set your intention to not gain those 15 holiday pounds (or 10 or 5).  
  2. Make a plan.  Goals are best achieved when you have a well-formulated plan.  This is a great week to sit down with your calendar, look at some of the events you have coming up and plan around them.  Rockin’ holiday party on the 9th?   Schedule an extra class that morning to burn some extra calories.  
  3. Be that person who brings the healthy dish.  I am known as Salad Girl (it’s been that way for years).  Any host who plans their menu knows they can count on me for bringing most nutritious dish.  But when you look at a table laden with high-calorie, high-fat dishes, it’s great to see at least one dish that is healthy.  
  4. Let a few bites be enough.  “It’s not Thanksgiving unless I have my Mom’s apple pie.”  I get it – I do.  I have beloved recipes that I will forever associate with people who are very dear to me.  My Aunt Ruth’s cookies at Christmas.  My mother’s apple pie.  But you can have a little.   You don’t need to eat the whole pie.
  5. Thanksgiving is a meal, not a four-day event.  I credit and thank LeAnna Sheehan for those sage words of advice.  We host Thanksgiving and when we shop, into our shopping cart, along with the turkey and fixings go a whole bunch of To Go containers.  Those leftovers go right out of our house with our guests.
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Begin New, Healthy Thanksgiving Traditions

  1. Make time for exercise on Thanksgiving Day.  According to the Calorie Control Council, the average Thanksgiving meal is (are you sitting down?)  4,500 calories.  So – find time to do something.  Go to a class.  Go for a run.  Go for a walk.
  2. Substitute one old high-calorie dish with a new healthier alternative.  For us, it was the Green .  Bean Casserole.  You know – the one with the soup and those fried onions.  We replaced that years ago with a roasted green bean dish from Cooking Light.  I love this recipe because you can prep it ahead (so easy) – and then just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes right before dinner while you carve the turkey.  The Cooking Light recipe is here.  
  3. Ask yourself – are people really eating this?  My grandmother (rest her soul) used to bring her signature dish, creamed onions, to Thanksgiving.  It just wasn’t Thanksgiving without Grandma’s creamed onions, right?  Um, I guess.  Turns out, none of us actually loved Grandma’s creamed onions.  We finally gave her a different Thanksgiving assignment, much to everyone’s relief and just like that – no more creamed onions.
  4. Get people moving or playing after dinner.  In our family, we break out the games after dinner.  I have tried to make them games that all generations can participate in. Our favorite is Pin The Feather on the Turkey.   Games eliminate that sit-around-the-table-and-eat-dessert thing.  Games make memories.  They also provide a common language between generations.  When my grandmother was in the nursing home last year before she passed, our kids would bring HeadBandz to play when they visited her.  She had learned to play it with them at Thanksgiving.  It really was a great way for them to visit her in her last days as it invigorated her mind and gave her some energy.  
  5. Follow the REI example on Black Friday.  I heart REI.  A couple of years ago it was a huge deal when they decided to close their retail stores on Black Friday.  Now they are taking a step further and they are not processing any online orders on Black Friday.  Yes!  Join the movement.  Go for a hike, walk, run, whatever.  And don’t forget to post it.  #optoutside.

We are a very blessed bunch with much to be thankful for.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

Elena, Susie, LeAnna and Gail

Elena, Susie, LeAnna and Gail

On Friday night, we said Goodbye to the one and only, Elena DiGiralomo.  The Best.  The General!  In the weeks leading up to the big send-off (which was a blast, thank you LeAnna – and to the entire Sheehan Personal Training family), I thought about what dishes I wanted to bring to celebrate this event.  I’ve known Elena since 2000.  Elena taught me to be an AFAA group exercise instructor way back in 2001.  I knew that I had to bring only my very best recipes to this party.  So, I brought the ever-famous Avocado Salsa.  And, for dessert, I brought Catherine Katz’s Almond Chocolate Chip cookies.  

Drs. David and Catherine Katz

Drs. David and Catherine Katz

Dr. Catherine Katz, a neuro scientist and culinary expert, is the creative force behind the renowned blog Cuisinicity.  Married to internationally acclaimed nutrition expert, Dr. David Katz, Catherine has spent years developing nutritional educational programs and “loving food that loves you back” recipes.  In fact, our children in Mansfield Public Schools have been positively influenced by Catherine and David’s work as they developed the Nutrition Detectives program that we have in our elementary schools.  I had the honor of working closely with Catherine Katz, preparing, photographing and blogging many of her amazing recipes, when I worked for NuVal, the nutritional scoring system founded by Dr. David Katz, several years ago.  I have never met a Catherine Katz recipe that wasn’t simply divine.  Every recipe is “company-worthy” – as in, it’s something you might make to bring to a dinner party.  

I don’t even have to look up Catherine’s Almond Chocolate Chip cookies any more.  It is so easy.  There are 4 ingredients.  I do add one egg as I find it helps to bind the dough together (so for me, 5 ingredients).

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Catherine Katz’s Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 cups Almond Meal/flour (finely ground, NOT super fine)

  • 6 Tbsp canola oil

  • 6 Tbsp agave nectar*

  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

  • 1 egg (optional)

For mixing and baking instructions, see the Cuisinicity Blogpost.

*You can replace agave nectar with honey or 100% natural maple syrup.

For Elena’s party, we doubled the recipe.  Whenever I make this recipe, these cookies disappear in a matter of minutes.  If I make them for home, they make great lunch box snacks – and they even make a fairly nutritious breakfast cookie when paired with fruit or non-fat yogurt.  

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I feel like for this party, we brought only the very best together – the best people, the best recipes, the best of the best in their fields.  We’ll miss Elena – but it’s good to know that we can continue to connect with her by sharing photos, stories – and recipes.  She won’t seem so far away.

 

Airport Fitness

This month, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  20!  We’ve been amazed at how quickly the time has flown and yet at how much has changed since we married in 1997.  It has been fun to look back at that decade of the 90’s and to compare it to where we are today.

I was still in that comparison of the present day to the 1990’s mode when I traveled for business last week.  I’ve been traveling for business (with some breaks around the time that we had our children) since 1994).  Last week, I had a rather lengthy 3-night trip to Minnesota with a connection through O’Hare.   On the way home, during my 2-hour layover, I spied a sign that read “Yoga Room.”  Intrigued, I followed the sign, up some stairs into a beautiful, quiet, sun-filled rotunda.  There was an aeroponic garden, a mother’s room, some café tables and a nice sense of calm in this carpeted, naturally-lit space.  I sat down at one of the tables and opened up the Paleo box that I had purchased at the natural foods kiosk just downstairs.  While not dressed for yoga, I did check out the peaceful yoga room where someone was practicing:  immaculate bamboo wood floors, floor to ceiling mirrors, yoga mats.  

Without the noise of overhead announcements, music, television or busy travelers rushing by, I could stop for a few moments and reflect on how far business travel has come in the 20+ years that I’ve been on the road.  Specifically, I thought about how the airlines and hotels have evolved for the traveler who is trying to stay healthy during his/her trip.  We are a lucky bunch.  Whether we’re traveling for business or pleasure, there are so many more choices and options than ever before.  And whether we’re searching for healthy food or a workout, there are more convenient choices than ever.

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  1. Options in Airports:   When I first started traveling, back in my 20’s, the food options in airports were extremely limited.  If you were lucky, the airport you were traveling through had a Chili’s.  Today, if you look hard enough, you can find healthy choices to keep you feeling nourished and refreshed throughout your trip – non-fat plain yogurt, almonds, fresh fruit, vegetable, hard-boiled eggs and salads at all the grab & go kiosks.  Celebrity chef restaurants that will cater to food allergies and preferences (gluten or dairy free) – in airports!  And now, yoga rooms and even gyms in airports.  Check out Roam Fitness – now open at BWI – soon coming to more airports.  At Roam, they will even lend you Lululemon workout gear to sweat in and Malin & Goetz toiletries for your shower after.  I may just book a long layover at one of these airports!

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  1. Options in Hotels: Last week, at my Courtyard in Minnesota, I was thrilled when the chef made me a special salad with no gluten, no onion, no garlic, no scallion.  I follow a special diet due to a GI disorder and it makes travel and eating out difficult.  But at this Courtyard, they were so helpful to make sure that I could keep my tummy in its happy place.  The same chef was there to make me a breakfast that adhered to my strict guidelines too.  Let me be clear – this does not happen all the time! But overall, hotels have come a long way in catering to the healthy guest in the past 20 years.  I have thought for years how I would LOVE to design & develop a healthy hotel (for business travelers, at Disney World) – but it looks like someone else has thought of it.  Check out Even Hotels for your next business trip.  Even Hotels have a world class fitness center inside the hotel, a workout space in your hotel room (with equipment), a stand-up desk in your room,  a healthy restaurant that caters to food preferences.  I might check them out for a fun trip in NYC.  Why not stay healthy and balanced on vacation?

  2. Grocery Delivery:  This growth of grocery delivery services has changed things dramatically for the long-stay business traveler and for vacationing families.  20 years ago – I worked in management consulting and worked out-of-town Monday – Friday.  I was on an assignment in NYC for a year where I had an apartment in mid-town Manhattan.  It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget – but, at the time, there were no grocery stores anywhere near my apartment.  I was held hostage to the ridiculously overpriced delicatessens next to my apartment building.  So, I flew from Boston to NYC every week with vegetables in my suitcase!  I always wondered what the TSA agents thought while they screened the zucchini and summer squash in my bag.  I also worked on a project in Chicago, flying out Mondays and coming home on Fridays.  At the time they were just beginning to build a Whole Foods market across from my apartment on West Huron.  But I had no grocery options.  So, on Monday nights, I took a very long walk to the Potash Bros. market to buy a week’s worth of healthy food.  (Uphill, both ways!) Now, you can have your groceries waiting for you when you arrive for your business or family vacation stay.  

  3. Flexible Gym Options:  I have a confession to make.  Once, when I was working in Chicago, I pretended to be my co-worker’s wife in order to get into a gym.  These were to sort of tactics we had to resort to in order to get a workout in back then!  In fact, that I why I started running.  I hate running – I really do.  But when you are working in another city and you don’t have a permanent a gym membership there – you resort to different ways of working out.  Fast forward to today – it’s a completely different story.  There’s classpass, for one.  Classpass allows you to take classes in many different gyms and studios in 39 different cities.  And many studios allow you to take one class.  In fact, when I travel now (at a rate of 1 or 2 nights about once or twice a month), I often drop into a barre or Pilates class and pay a single class rate.  I’m so glad that gyms and studios have moved away from a “let’s keep people out” mentality to a “let’s welcome people in” mindset.  

I once had a boss who often said, “We all have choices.”  And that’s the way it is with travel.  I could have walked right past that yoga room sign and headed to the wine bar for my two hour layover.  Now that I know it’s there I’m packing yoga gear for my next Chicago layover.  

Back at home over the weekend, I was still ruminating on 1997 vs. 2017 – and about the choices we make.  I watched on Sunday as my 14-year-old son sat down to watch the Patriots game with my dad.  He grabbed a snack from the kitchen:  gluten-free pretzels and hummus.  The choices my husband and I have made about a healthy lifestyle have become the choices that our children make.  And that is a 20 year accomplishment that we are very proud of.

For More Reading:

9 Airports with Yoga Rooms

5 Best Workout Apps to Use While Traveling

 

Last Two Weeks of Summer? Time to Read

And just like that, we find ourselves in the last two weeks of summer.  You hear people say it all around you, “It goes by faster every year.”  And while you are grateful for the amazing ways that you took in the best season, there are still the things that you thought you would do, that you thought you should do, that you were supposed to do, or that your children were supposed to do.  Like their summer reading.  Yes, there are some kids out there who are cramming in Jane Eyre or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn over these next two weeks.  

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I’ve been blessed with two children who like to read, maybe even love to read.  They – ok, don’t hate me – usually read their summer reading books in June.  It is getting a little harder now as Child No. 1 was supposed to take notes on the book that he read (still hasn’t happened) and Child No. 2 is still working her way through her second book, the autobiography of Helen Keller.  Child No. 2 has just figured out that not all books are The Hunger Games and she is a little bit miffed about that, but she is getting into Helen.  I actually had to resort to some of the tactics of my favorite expert on how to handle teenagers, Joani Geltman.  I love her post on The Curse of the Summer Reading Lists.  Her tips on PPD (pages per day) is getting us through Helen Keller this summer.

Another expert I think of at this time of year is my son’s first grade teacher, Mr. Gagnon.  He had a method he called Drop Everything And Read (DEAR).  During DEAR time in the classroom, all the kids would stop what they were doing, take out their favorite book and just read.  This included the teacher, Mr. Gagnon.  So I think if you are struggling to get your child to finish their summer reading, you could try the DEAR approach too.

I think one of the reasons that our kids are so into reading is that we are big readers too.  I always have a book (or two) on my Kindle, and a stack on my nightstand.  In my pool bag/beach bag this summer, I’ve had this group of favorites – and like my kids, I’ve completed some – and I’m almost done with the others.  

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo:  This was a school-year project for me that became a bit of an obsession.  Marie Kondo promises that if you properly simplify and organize your home, you will never have to do it again.  I will say that in the areas that I followed her advice to a T (my clothing drawers, my closet) – she is absolutely right.  And it is transformative.  After Kondoing, I found that my head was clearer and that I could get through some work tasks (e.g. performance reviews) that I normally found labor intensive, much more efficiently.   You have to be ready to make some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of – and my kids actually hid this book from me at one point – but I loved it and will continue my Tidying project this fall.

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Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan:  This book is one that I re-read from time to time.  It is like a Bible for those of us who have chosen to eat healthfully.  Michael Pollan’s rules are simple:  Eat Food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much. If healthy eating is your goal, and you’ve never read this one, take an hour and do it.   

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner:  This was given to me by my friend, Anne (also a big reader).  If the author sounds familiar it is because she also wrote the book that the town of Mansfield chose to read together this past Spring for One Book/One Mansfield, A Fall of Marigolds.  Meissner is an author who skillfully draws parallels between historical events and present day.

What Great Parents Do by Erica Reischer, PhD.: I found this gem of a parenting book after reading an article by Erica Reischer in the New York Times.  This book is small and simple, yet every single sentence is a powerful and useful tool for parents at all stages of the game.  Whether it’s #61 “Great Parents Avoid Power Struggles.” Or # 26 “Great Parents Discipline in Private”.  Or #55 “Great Parents Teach Happiness Habits.”  Dr. Reischer explains how put this into practice with a two year old, an eight year old, or a teenager.

How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton:  I read this book this summer as part of a Women’s Leadership training that I participated in at work.  I loved this book as it shows you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and in your life.  It comes with a code so that you can take the Strengths Finder test online.  The quiz only took about 20 minutes and I read the book in about 45 minutes.  For that little investment, I received a detailed report of my strengths with ideas on how to best use them.  There’s a kids’ version too.

Dr. David Katz’s Flavor-Full Diet, by Dr. David Katz: Dr. Katz takes Michael Pollan’s food advice and puts it into practice in his Flavor-Full Diet cookbook.  Many of the recipes were created by Dr. Katz’s wife Catherine Katz.  I had the honor and pleasure of working with David and Catherine a few years ago when I worked for NuVal and wrote a daily food blog as part of my job.  I made, photographed and blogged one of Catherine’s amazing recipes monthly.  You can find Catherine’s scrumptious recipes at Cuisinicity.

Commonweath by Ann Patchett: I buy so much fiction on my Kindle, but this one I bought in hardcover, real book form because the author was coming to my favorite book store, An Unlikely Story.  If you aren’t on their mailing list, you need to get on it!  One of my favorite events last year was when Unlikely Story hosted Mike Lupica, “the greatest sports writer for middle school readers.”  My son, who has read every book Lupica has written , got to meet his favorite author (besides Jeff Kinney, of course) and get his book signed. Mike Lupica is coming again 9/14 btw.

That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week by Ana Homayoun: Oh, I have a few books in this genre.  And it’s a reminder that we are back in school in 2 weeks.  Let’s move on, shall we?

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The Science of Skinny Cookbook by Dee McCaffrey: I got this book after hearing about it on NPR.  The author was describing how she made zucchini soup taste creamy using cashews instead of cream.  She had me at hello.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance: No matter if you voted Blue or Red, everyone in America should read this book.  It’s another one of those moments when NPR had me riveted as I listened to an interview with the author.  J. D. Vance grew up dirt poor in the Rust Belt of Ohio but made his way to Yale Law School.  It’s been called one of the saddest and most fascinating books of this recent election season.  

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Ballerina Body by Misty Copeland: I love the title of this book because Misty Copeland, who made history by becoming the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, was told, when she was younger, that she did not have the body of a ballet dancer.  Well, she showed them, didn’t she?  This book contains an exercise plan and an eating plan to help you get that long and lean, yet athletic look.

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New York City Ballet Workout by Peter Martins with Howard Kaplan: This was my first ballet workout/Pilates book.  It belonged to my grandmother who passed away in 2003.  I inherited all of her books.  One of the best ways to remember her is to pull out one of her ballet books and sit down with it with a cup of tea.  Or share it with my daughter.  This book – and all my grandmother’s books – are a good reminder that even in this digital age, we should still buy real books (and hold on to them, despite what Marie Kondo says in the Tidying Up book).  

My daughter still has a couple hundred pages of Helen Keller left to go.  So, I guess we will have some Drop Everything And Read time coming up this weekend.  Good thing I still have all these books in my beach bag.  And if I don’t finish them, I always have a book with me year-round.  The key, when you’re waiting (at your child’s appointment, on a plane, on the train) is to put your phone down and read.

Question of the Day:  What’s on you end-of-summer reading list?

 

The Recipe – Avocado Salsa

If you’re like me, you’ve got a backyard BBQ or two that you are headed to before this summer is out.  You never want to show up empty-handed and a great way to try to stay on track is to bring a healthy dish.  I’ve been bringing “something healthy” to many a party for a long time, but among my repertoire, it is my famous Avocado Salsa that is most often requested.  

First of all – let me give credit where credit is due.  This really isn’t “my” recipe.   I got this recipe from my long-time Rhode Island hair stylist, Karen.  It is her cursive penmanship that you see on this well-worn recipe card.  In fact, when she gave me this recipe many years ago, she told me that when she would bring this salsa to a cookout, she would put a stack of recipe cards right next to it because so many people would ask her for the recipe.  

I could go on and on about the people who stop me in grocery stores, on the streets of Mansfield, during an Open House at school or who email me to tell me they have made this and that it was the best thing they ever made, but let’s get to the recipe.  I will tell you one secret:  if I’m going to a really big party, I will often double this recipe, to keep some at home.  Not only is it a great salsa, it goes great on salads and we like it with grilled chicken in tortillas for dinner.  Just cover the top tightly with plastic wrap to keep the avocados from browning.

Avocado Salsa

1 large red onion

2 red peppers

¾ bag of frozen corn (I often just put the whole bag in)

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 small cans of sliced black olives, finely chopped

½ tsp oregano

½ cup lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

3 T. cider vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste

4 avocadoes, perfectly ripe

Chop all ingredients (except avocados) and mix together.  Refrigerate.  Just before serving add chopped avocados and mix well.  Serve with tortilla chip of choice.

How do you get the avocadoes perfectly ripe?

Ah, that is a learned skill.  You know that your avocadoes are perfectly ripe when you press them with your thumb and you leave a good dent.  It is rare to find avocadoes in such a state of high-ripeness at your local grocery store.  Typically they are either green and hard or over-ripe (brown and mushy).  I typically buy them in their hard, green state several days ahead of making this recipe and then I monitor their journey as they ripen.  I keep them on our kitchen counter and I put them in a sealed paper bag if they need extra coaxing.  If you are really desperate (yes, I’ve done this), you can resort to the microwave method of ripening.  It is somewhat effective.

Is this recipe really healthy?

Well, it is if you don’t eat the whole bowl by yourself! Also, the salsa is mostly made up of avocado, known for so many health benefits, such as high amounts of Potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, and fiber.  Choose your chip wisely – or use it alongside other foods at the BBQ – such as grilled meat or poultry, grilled vegetable or on top of salad.

I hope this salsa lives up to the hype that I’ve created here.  You will have to make it and let me know.  Leave your comments below!

 

Finding Fitness During Summer Vacation

Happy Summer Everyone!  Could you just feel the collective mood lift this summer solstice, which in our town, spontaneously coincided with the last day of school? Now here we are at one of my favorite moments of the year, with the entire summer stretching ahead of us with the promise of long days, visits to the beach, time with family and friends and a vacation week (maybe more!)

James and Caroline biking Kiawah Island, SC

James and Caroline biking Kiawah Island, SC

James on top of Mt. Megunticook, Camden, ME

James on top of Mt. Megunticook, Camden, ME

Merriam-Webster defines vacation as “a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended.”  Note that this definition does not say “all activity.”  I point this out because for many Americans, vacation means the All You Can Eat/Drink Buffet on the cruise ship.  And even the most well-intentioned among us can easily fall victim to the well-meaning relative who chastises us for squeezing in a walk/run/yoga class during vacation with, “What do you mean you are going to work out?  You are on vacation!”

For me, there needs to be some kind of exercise or physical activity each day on vacation.  Otherwise, I feel like mush.  When on vacation, I don’t try to keep up the same routine that I have at home.  Instead, I like to do some kind of activity where I learn something new, explore my new surroundings, or spend time with my husband or family in an active way.  Because I know that this is how I like to vacation, it’s something I keep in mind when I choose a hotel or rental.  Are there running trails, bike paths, tennis courts?  I once chose a beach house in Chatham because it was adjacent to the town’s athletic complex with basketball courts for our son and tennis courts for my husband and me.  This year in Miramar Beach, FL, we chose a tennis resort so we could play every morning.  

Andy & Melissa on clay courts, Miramar Beach, FL

Andy & Melissa on clay courts, Miramar Beach, FL

I wanted to know how others fit fitness in while vacationing so I asked  Jen Markowski and Keegan Garnsey to weigh in on this topic.  Jen and her family love traveling to new cities for destination races.  “Running in a new city is always a great way to check out the area.”

Keegan told me, “While on vacation (especially somewhere warm!), I have no problem finding time for the sometimes much needed R&R.  But anyone who has traveled with me before (my husband especially) will attest to the fact that sitting still (some call it relaxing) for long periods of time does not come easy to someone that is constantly busy.  Our compromise usually consists of a few hours of lounging, followed by some sort of fun activity.  Whether it's finding a local hiking trail (stumbling across gorgeous waterfalls in the Waimea Canyon in Kauai), zip lining down the mountains in Colorado, or paddle boarding in the gorgeous waters of Grand Cayman, I always make sure to find an activity that also serves as a way to "explore" the local area.

Keegan paddleboarding in Grand Cayman

Keegan paddleboarding in Grand Cayman

Keegan rope climbing in Colorado

Keegan rope climbing in Colorado

The idea of a family activity on vacation is something that I have been trying to work into our plans over the years with mixed success.  We’ve tried paddleboarding a few times, surfing lessons, golf lessons, bike-riding in several locales, and hiking small mountains.  I find that with everything we try I need to be prepared for a range of emotions and reactions, including frustration, glee, elation, and of course, the big one – whining.  Lots and lots of whining.  Especially when climbing up the mountain.  But we just keep telling them, “it is SO worth it – wait until we get to the top.”  And then they are thrilled that they did it.

From this standpoint, as we view summer from its early days, while our lawn are still green and we have yet to see a native garden tomato, it seems like we have all the time in the world to fit in every day trip and activity.  I used to keep a mental list of things I wanted to do as a family and then I would feel defeated when it was suddenly Labor Day and we hadn’t done all 50 of them.  So, a couple of years ago, I changed my approach.  I start each summer with a plain poster board that I hang in our kitchen, simply labeled, “Summer 2017” and everyone writes a favorite moment, event, or thing that we did.  By the end of the Summer, it is full.  And you realize that if you had done all 50 things, you would have spent every free moment in the car, in traffic – which sounds a little bit like winter school & work life – and not like vacation at all.  

I would love to hear your stories about how you fit in fitness on vacation.  Please add your comments!

How do you fit in fitness on vacation?

 

Injured!

 Can I just say that it’s harder to be a happy, shiny healthy blogger when you are injured?  Ok – I’ve said that and I feel better now.

Pain is part of the athletic process.  There’s the pain that comes as we work a muscle to its full potential.  There’s the normal soreness of recovery after a great workout, run or class.  There are pains that come as we get older – for me, it’s arthritis in my knees.  It’s this last one that can be the most difficult to discern.  When is it just something that you have to live with every day (like my crunchy, achy knees) – and when is it time to seek medical advice?

For me, with this latest injury (low back, hip, glute and right leg), it finally took a perfect storm of factors to convince me that this was not going to go away with my usual methods (stretching, massage, ice and heat).  I could no longer do my favorite things.  By the end of a ballet class, my low back was screaming.  Even a 2-mile run made my IT band and glutes seize up for days. I couldn’t reach for any of the wide shots in tennis – and I was done after an hour.  Even Pilates was hit or miss – sometimes I felt better, sometimes every movement hurt.  It hurt to stand too long, sit too long, drive my car too long.  It woke me up at night. Life was one big ouch.  

The verdict?  Lumbar facet arthropathy – basically arthritis in the facet joints located in the back of my spine at L2, L3 and L4..  My PT, Ashley – who treated me for a recent knee injury – is amazing.  We have a plan for recovery, but it includes taking my current activities (barre, ballet, Pilates, running, Tabata, tennis) waaaaay down for a bit.  I have exercises to do and she is doing soft tissue work.  I told Ashley, who knows me well, “Be very specific with me and tell me what I can and can’t do.”

“No twisting of your spine. No running. No ballet.  No Pilates.  If it hurts, don’t do it.  You can walk.  Take a relaxing kind of class, like yoga,” advised Ashley.  

This all started to sink in.  Slowly.  I can walk? Walk? Sob!  And I had a feeling that Ashley was not aware of just how strenuous Gail’s or Jayme’s yoga is. So I was pretty much out of class options.

True confession time.  I spent almost a week not doing that walking.  Here’s the thing:  I do most of my working out early in the morning.  Really early.  Like dairy-farmer waking-hour early.  People have always asked me how I manage to get up at that hour.  Well – a big help is when you are signed up for a class or you know you are going to emerge from your workout sweat-drenched.  It’s a lot harder to get up for a walk.

So, here’s what I did do:

  1. I did the exercises Ashley gave me to do.  Every day – sometimes twice a day.  I want to recover from this injury and I know that this is the road.

  2. I tried not to focus on what I CAN’T do – and instead I’m focusing on what I CAN do.  On Sunday, I took Meredith’s Athletic Stretch Class.  It was amazing!  And it was something I had never tried, because typically, I’m at ballet at that time.  

  3. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the time that I gained, because I had been banned from so many favorite activities.  I tried to use that time to do other healthy things (like visit a new farm stand, try a new recipe, or sleep in for a change).  And I could do so guilt-free.

  4. I found ways to make walking exciting, using my Aaptiv app.  I love Aaptiv – it’s such a great resource for running and treadmill playlists.  I even use it for stretching.  And now I’ve found that it is fabulous for walking programs.  I found hill and interval workouts that had my heartrate almost up to running levels.  

  5. I thought about injuries that I’ve had over the course of my lifetime – and how I’ve handled them.  I have both exemplary stories and sit-on-the-couch-and-eat-bon-bons-until-you-heal kinds of tales.  Experience tells me that when you keep up with a workout routine (in some way, shape or form) and a healthy eating plan, you can emerge from the situation unscathed.  When you treat it as a big vacation, the pounds creep on, you lose muscle tone and it is a much longer road back to health.

 Yesterday, I had just finished one of my hill-walking on the treadmill workouts and I went to the grocery store after.  I stopped in the parking lot to let a pedestrian pass.  I quickly realized that this pedestrian, who was in a wheelchair, was a double amputee.  I thought to myself, without sobbing, “I can walk. And my injury will heal.”  That is something to be joyful about.  

Spring Field Trip: Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market

From time to time, I hope to take some Field Trips as part of this blog journey.   I consider myself to be a “foodie” in that I spend a lot of time and care figuring out what food I’m going to put into my body, onto my family’s table and into my children’s lunch boxes.  In our house, as a team (and it truly is a 4-person effort), we all work at menu-planning, recipe research and shopping.  As part of this blog, it is my hope to share all of that with you.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I made a long-desired trip to Rhode Island for the Saturday morning Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market.  We had already formulated our plans and then an article appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine featuring the market and sealing the deal.  The Pawtucket Winter Time Farmers’ Market is absolute legend.   It’s held in the Hope Artiste Village from November to April each year on Saturday mornings from 9 am until 1 pm..  Then, beginning the first Saturday in May they move the market out of doors to Hope Street on both Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings (so you can still experience the treasure that I am about to describe.)

What took us so long to find this true gem?  Oh – that’s right!  I just remembered that I’m a busy Mom with no time for strolling Farmer’s Markets languorously on Saturday mornings!   We took advantage of a rare break at our ballet school to make this trip.  And by the way – it’s all of about 15 minutes from Mansfield – and worth every minute and mile of that drive and time!

My daughter also brought along her best friend, so I had two up-and-coming foodies in tow.  We met my mother there (a Rhode Islander and Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market Veteran).  My daughter’s BFF (also a PWTFM Veteran – had a list of favorites from her family and knew exactly what she wanted to get).  

So, what’s at the Market?  A lot!  Over 80 vendors are there.  Plan to get there early – like at the 9 am start (they have amazing coffee and you can get one of those first).    I was so overwhelmed by all of the amazing vendors and their fresh produce, baked goods, prepared foods, plants, seafood, desserts, eggs and more – that I had to take one complete lap before buying anything.  Everything must be local.  In order to be a vendor, at least 80% of what you sell must be grown on that farmer’s farm and 100% must be sourced from RI, MA or CT.

What were some of our favorites?  Well, first my favorite local farmers are there:  Ward’s, Langwater – and some of my Rhode Island favorites too, such as Mello’s and Schartner.  I love, love, love the Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan vendor Two Little Buns.  The scallops that we bought from Bomster Scallops were the sweetest I have ever tasted.  I loved that I found purple carrots! The girls loved La Creperie – and had their breakfast there.  They also loved the Greek vendor and her delicious olives, hummus, etc. My mother would second those scallops and she loves the German baker and Olga’s from the East side of Providence.

Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market is a true treasure.  I’m so glad we finally made the trip.  We’re definitely going back soon to check out the outdoor version of this Saturday treat.  

Last Call: CSA Sign Ups!

By Melissa Schlenker

There are so many reasons to look forward to the warmer weather.  One of my favorites?  Farm fresh fruit and vegetables!  I love the farmers’ markets so much.  Maybe a little too much.  When my daughter and I hit the Easton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays during the Summer and Fall, we come home with bags of fruit, vegetables, plants, bread, cheese, and sometimes dessert!  And an empty wallet.  I go a little overboard at the Farmers’ Market.

This year, for the first time, we are participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It is a system in which people invest in their local farm in return for a share of the produce during the growing season.  When I told my sister this, she asked me if that meant we were going to work on the farm.  Um, no.  I’m going to pick up a box of fresh produce on my way home once a week!  Although there may be arrangements out there where lending your labor on the farm is part of the deal, I did not see that in the research that I did.  

There are a lot of reasons why I have NOT done a CSA before.  The biggest one was cost.  I used to think that dropping over $400 for a share was a lot.  However, when I look at the math – we are spending $440 for our CSA – and we will get twenty-one weekly boxes.  That is roughly $21 per box.  I spend waaaaayyyy more than that when I go to the Farmer’s Market.  

The second reason was finding a pick-up time and location that was convenient for me.  However, I have finally found one that is on my way home (Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon).   If you can’t make it there on Friday before 6, you can pick up on the weekend.  You can also have someone pick up for you.

One last thing keeping me from taking the plunge was my fear of coming home with a box full of dandelion greens, rhubarb and kale.   However, after talking with some friends who have participated in this CSA before, I was assured that the Summer boxes offer a wide variety of produce and include a good amount of the blueberries and strawberries that have made Ward’s famous.  

Also on my short list for CSA candidates were these three local favorites:

In the end, my choice came down to pick up time and location.  But I encourage you to check them (and others) out.  Options are more flexible than ever with half shares, farm stand debit cards, and even flower shares.  

My last little piece of advice as I venture into this unchartered CSA territory?  Talk to other veggie lovers.  Find out what they like and dislike.  Chances are you’ll find someone to swap with when you do get those dandelion greens.  I already have a taker for the week I bring home too much rhubarb.  

If you are thinking of doing a CSA – don’t delay.  Most farms have deadlines of mid-April or so.

Question of the Day:

Do you CSA? What’s been your experience?

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Is Turmeric the New Kale?

By Melissa Schlenker

Have you tried turmeric? This powerful spice has been touted for so many benefits (reducing inflammation, improving circulation and digestion, preventing cancer, warding off viruses) – how can you not? Unless you are on certain medications (blood thinners, for example), it might be worth a try.  It seems to be the healthy super-spice of the moment, with recent features in Oprah Magazine and on the Today Show.  If you want to try turmeric in everything from a bedtime drink to a face mask, check out this post on the Wellness Mama blog.  My colleague swears by this pre-bed Paleo turmeric drink to help with insomnia.

At our house, we’ve been finding new ways to use turmeric in recipes and this soup recipe is one of our favorites.  It may officially be Spring, but is has been cold!  Soup will be on our menu until June.

Through all the cooking, tasting and eating we have done with turmeric, we have found that it does have one downside:  staining properties.  We had to work hard to get the yellow spots out of our white kitchen island and even our granite countertops.  And one thing that it stains permanently?  Elastics on braces!  My daughter’s white and blue elastics turned yellow and green – and never turned back.  I asked her if it meant that she would give up eating this soup.  Her response?  No way! She’ll take the soup!  

This soup is incredibly creamy (without any cream added to the recipe).  We also added some cracked black pepper, which (along with oil) reportedly enhances the health benefits of turmeric.

Creamy Carrot Turmeric Soup

A simple vegan recipe from Feastingathome.com.

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or vegetable oil or olive oil)

½ cup chopped shallots (2 shallots or ½ an onion)

2 Tablespoons chopped, peeled turmeric (if using ground turmeric, start with 1 tsp and add to taste)

4 garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 pint fresh carrot juice (or 2 cups veggie or chicken stock)

1 lb chopped carrots

½ tsp salt, then more to taste

¾ - 1 can coconut milk

1 tsp curry powder

½ tsp apple cider vinegar or lime

½ tsp soy sauce

1 tsp maple syrup

Pinch or 2 or cayenne to taste

Garnish with mint, cilantro or edible flowers

For cooking instructions, see the recipe at the Feasting At Home blog.

Question of the Day

Have you tried turmeric? As a supplement or in recipes? What do you think?

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