Friday, October 21, 2016

OH NO! I Chose the COUCH!!

On Tuesday night as I pulled into my driveway with my sunroof open and windows down, I took a deep breath.  Ahhhh . . . fresh crisp fall air!  This would be a great evening to take a walk after dinner.  The leaves were in the midst of changing colors.  Temperatures were perfect for a light sweatshirt.  Rain was expected over the next few days.  An absolutely perfect evening to get out and enjoy my favorite season.

Plus, our schedule had been busy and I had not exercised in several days.  I knew that exercise had been getting put on the back burner more often, but tonight was the night I was putting it back in front!

After dinner, my son and husband were watching their favorite comedy on TV.  I sat down on the couch next to my husband and joined them in cracking up.  Slowly, I snuggled deeper into the couch leaning against my husband and tucking myself under the comfort of his arm.

Looking back I remember thinking about that walk I wanted to take, but even though I was laughing and enjoying the TV show I had begun to get a little drowsy.  When the channel was changed from the comedy to a sporting event, my eyes became heavy and I drifted off to sleep.  An hour later my husband woke me up and I stumbled through my evening routine before falling into bed.  I was so tired,

The next morning the importance of what had happened the night before hit me hard.  I had chosen the couch!  Without much of a second thought, I made the choice to sit on the couch and not exercise.  There wasn't a second of wrestling with the idea.  Not a single mental exchange of should I or shouldn't I.  I just did it.  I sat on that couch for the entire evening.

Who cares?  Right?  So I enjoyed an evening of watching TV and laughing with my son and husband.  There's nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately, for me, this is a problem.  An eye-opening, earth shaking, life jolting problem.

For several years I wanted to do nothing else but sit on the couch.  My time was focused on getting everything done that needed to be done so that I could sit on the couch.  Many times things went undone because I was sitting on the couch staring at the TV or sleeping.

I fought a fierce internal battle to train myself to think before I sat down.  Instead of mindlessly collapsing onto the couch, I began to make physical activity a priority.  I had to make myself pause and make the conscious choice to change my clothes and get out the door for a run or trip to the gym.  Over a few years time, I got to the point where I didn't have to pause.  It wasn't necessarily a conscious choice  - I just did it.  Heading out the door for a run or to the gym became a natural part of my day.

Life has been busy these past few months.  I knew that I was not exercising as often as I had been.  But I was still thinking about it, still including it in my plans.  Until Tuesday.  The idea of getting up and going for that walk had passed through my mind, but I turned it down without a second thought.  I was so upset with myself!

Thursday evening rolled around and I made plans to meet my friend Amy at Zumba.  I was pumped and ready to go.  I said good-bye to my son as he headed out the door to go to the high school volleyball game.  Then, my husband and daughter left for my daughter's piano lesson.  Suddenly I realized that I was in the house all alone and I had 40 minutes until I need to leave.  This rarely happens.  I grabbed the TV remote and was about to plop myself down on the couch when I remembered Tuesday night.  I knew that if I sat down on the couch that I would fall asleep and have zero desire to get back up.  So I put the remote back down, cranked up some crazy 80's tunes and spent the next forty minutes moving around the house.  I did everything I could think of to prevent myself from sitting down.  I even read the paper standing up!  Forty minutes later I was out the door and headed to Zumba!
Accountability got me out the door!
When I saw my friend Amy I threw my arms around her.  Part of what made the decision to not sit down so easy was knowing that she would be waiting for me at class.  I'm incredibly thankful for how she holds me accountable when it comes to many aspects of my life - exercise is just one!  

The other reason I was determined to not sit on the couch was that I had worked hard to change my life and make healthy choices.  I am determined that this life style change will be forever.  It is so easy to fall back into old habits and I don't want that to happen to me.

The good news from this experience is that I recognize the problem.  I'm standing at the top of a slippery slope and I need to back away.  Life is not going to slow down anytime soon.  My challenge is continuing to make healthy choices which include fitting exercise into my life.

This journey continues . . .

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Phone will Show You - I Worked my Plan!

One of my dad's favorite pieces of advice for his daughters and grandchildren is
Plan your Work and Work your Plan.
Very wise advice that I try to follow.  At the beginning of every season, I take time to think about what I want to accomplish and set goals for myself and my family.  They're not always serious goals like trying a new healthy recipe or exercising three times a week.  Often it's that I want to try a certain restaurant, make 'Smores at least one time or check out a new Putt Putt course.  I make a plan for myself so that time passes with few regrets of things that I wanted to accomplish or experience and don't. 
At 2:30AM this morning I was awake and consumed with guilt and worry.  Summer 2016 is pretty much over.  Had this summer been fun enough?  Active Enough?  Memorable enough?  My kids are getting older and I often feel as if they are slipping through my fingers.  Time with them is becoming more and more precious.  Was I honoring that time and making the most of it?  Had I "worked my plan" this summer?
While taking my last walk on the beach this morning capturing a beautiful sunrise, I realized that I held the answer to those questions that had been nagging me all night in my hand.  My phone!  All I had to do was look through the hundreds of moments I captured over the summer.
My first picture of the summer - Celebrating JJ's birthday with
Fortune Star and Putt Putt
Creating fun memories watching both the Pittsburgh Penguins and
the Cleveland Cavs win Championships!
Making sure both kids were out and about with friends and not
spending the entire summer in their rooms on their phones.
Professional Goal Met - My Team received Community LIFE's Inaugural
Excellence in Quality Award!
Going to Hidden Valley (I never made it there last summer!)
 and spending time with my family.
The last picture taken on my phone this morning.
A beautiful sunrise over Ocean Isle Beach, NC
To me this symbolizes my continued efforts to exercise regularly -
I got up every morning of vacation and walked 2 miles!
I'd say that is proof to me that I worked my plan.  Our summer was fun, active and memorable.  No regrets here! 

One more day on the beach and then it will be time to begin planning the next season and putting that plan to work.  My Dad always gives good advice.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Bacon and Goat Cheese

I discovered this recipe a few weeks ago on Pinterest and immediately wanted to share it with you, but for whatever reason I could not get it to load onto my Facebook page.  So, I was forced to make it again so that I could take some pictures and type it up on my own.  DARN!  That was a true hardship!  LOL  It is SO good I will be making it again and again and again!

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper
6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
5 oz bag of baby spinach
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T maple syrup
2 oz Goat Cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet.  Slice the ends off of the squash.  Cut the squash into one-inch rings.  Remove the seeds.  Place the rings on the baking sheet.  Slide the rings around to coat the bottom with the oil.  Sprinkle the rings with salt and pepper.  Turn the rings over and repeat sliding and sprinkling.  Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes.
Cut the squash in to rings.

 2. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Roasted Squash
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat cook the bacon pieces until they are crispy and the fat has rendered out, about five minutes.

4. Leaving the bacon in the skillet, add the red wine vinegar.  Stir the vinegar and bacon, scraping the bottom of the skillet.

5. Turn the heat to low and add the maple syrup.  Stir.

6. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts.  Turn off the heat.
Add the spinach to the skillet with the bacon.

7. Peel the skin away from the squash.  Using a fork or your fingers, separate the squash into strands.  Place in the skillet.  When all of the squash is in the skillet, add the goat cheese and toss.

8. Serve immediately.  Serves 2

So incredibly YUMMY!!!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recipe: Baked Oatmeal Cups

I've made two batches of these incredibly yummy Baked Oatmeal Cups for my co-workers this week. My picky 14 year-old liked them, too!  So I had to take a minute to share this easy recipe with you.

Baked Oatmeal Cup with Cranberries
Baked Oatmeal Cups
Makes 16

2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1-1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 T ground cinnamon
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
Toppings of your choice - fruit (fresh or dried), chocolate chips, nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line muffin tins with liners (don't skip this step!)
3.  Combine the eggs, oil and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved
4. Add the applesauce, milk, vanilla, salt and cinnamon.  Stir till combined.
5. Stir in the oats and baking powder.
6. Fill each muffin tin with 1/4 cup of oat mixture.
7. Top with your favorite toppings.  Lightly press the topping into the mixture with a spoon.  (I used dried cranberries, chocolate chips, fresh banana and left some plain.)
8. Bake for 30 minutes.
9. Serve warm or store in an air tight container.  These can also be frozen to grab on busy mornings!

Besides this great recipe, I have to share why I made them.  My AWESOME team at Community LIFE (an adult day health center in Pittsburgh, PA serving low-income frail elderly who are medically eligible to be in a nursing home, but desire to live in the community - recently received the Inaugural Quality Leaders' Award for Excellence in Quality Improvement for our UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) Prevention Project.  Part of our Project includes serving cranberry juice to our Participants every morning, so when I brought in some breakfast treats to celebrate I wanted them to have cranberries.  I enjoy cooking for my Team and especially like to share healthy dishes for them to try.
Community LIFE's Loving Hearts Team with our
Award and Cranberry Juice!
These are easy to bake, easy to grab for a breakfast on the go and easy to share with others!  ENJOY!

Recipe adapted from's To Go Baked Oatmeal

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Balance is a Big Picture Word

"Mom, are you going to the gym tonight?" my son asked me one day last week.

"No.  I'm going to hang out with your dad.  It's only my second day back at work since his surgery," I answered

"What's happened to you?  You haven't gone in a couple of weeks!"

What happened?  Today has happened.  Life has happened.

I have spent a lot of time over the past several years agonizing over finding balance in my life. Finding balance in how I spend my time so that I am able to fit everything in that needs to be there. The list of responsibilities and activities that are classified as "needing to be there" goes on and on and on and on . . .

I have driven myself crazy trying to fit everything in to my day.  I have gotten up early and I've stayed up late.  I have created and edited To Do List after To Do List.  I have asked friends to hold me accountable so that I am not tempted to miss something,  I have called ahead to my family so that as I slow down in front of my house they are ready to sprint out the door and hurl their bodies into the car. I have written out schedules and then re-arranged them ten times in one day.

I wear a bracelet that signifies balance in the hopes of having a visual reminder of my quest to find balance.  I have re-listened to a sermon about Elizabeth's journey of finding balance (  I have cried.  I have felt guilty.  I have driven myself crazy.

The list of ways that I tried to find balance is longer than the list of activities that I'm attempting to balance!

Over the next couple of nights as I laid on the couch drifting in and out of a light sleep waiting for the alarm to prompt my husband to take his medication (He got his tonsils out.  Sounds like a simple procedure, but at 42 - not so much!), my mind raced.  Was there a problem?  I hadn't exercised consistently in a few weeks.  There were several things that I hadn't done recently.  Everything had been focused on prepping for my husband's surgery and then his recovery.  Before that we were wrapping up the school year and prior to that was Tennis Season.  Life has been a little hectic.  There was zero balance! I was quickly returning to the mess that had been my life six years ago.

At some point in the midst of my mind's exhausted haze I had a moment of clarity.  Yes - life is hectic.  But NO - I am NOT a mess.

How is that possible?

It's possible because my focus has not changed.  I am still focused on making healthy choices when it comes to handling my stress, eating, time management and my family.  My plan has not changed - I still want to be healthy.  I still want my family to be healthy.

When life is hectic, my stress level sky rockets.  So I'm pretty stressed out right now.  But I'm handling it in a healthy way.  I'm making wise choices.

The lessons I've learned: 

1) I will never be able to find balance every single day.  It will even be difficult to maintain perfect balance in a week's time.  That's because balance is a big picture word.  With all of the roles that I fill right now in this stage of my life, there are always going to be people or activities or responsibilities that require more of my attention.  That doesn't mean that I'm giving up on the other roles.  One of them will come back to the forefront in a few days or next week.


For these past couple of weeks, my husband has been my main concern.  Our children stayed with my parents.  I took several days off of work.  All of the meals that I planned were bland and soft so that he could swallow them.  My roles of wife and caregiving spouse were in that #1 spot.  Yet, I maintained my focus on being healthy.  I reached out to my support system when I found myself eating more chocolate pudding than my husband.  Their series of funny texts kept me out of the fridge!

This weekend, my role of Tennis Booster President was in that #1 spot as the Team volunteered at our community's summer festival.  I spent the entire weekend at the park operating the Crazy Colors Game Booth.  I stayed on track by packing my meals and treating myself to a small bag of Kettle corn.

Starting Monday life calms down for a little bit.  My meals are planned and prepped.  I'll be back in the gym.

In two weeks when we start three weeks of various camps for the kids a touch of chaos will return.

But overall - Balance.

2) Balance requires maintaining my focus.

My niece maintaining her focus on the balance beam.
I picture my 8 year-old niece on the balance beam.  She focuses on a spot on the beam to keep her balanced.  At times she may lean over to the right.  And then she may lean far to the left causing her one foot to come off the beam.  But by maintaining her focus she is able to re-gain her balance.  She may fall off now and then, but she jumps right back up on that balance beam!

Life may pull me to the right and then pull me to the left, but by maintaining my focus of making healthy choices even amongst life's most stressful or busiest moments, I can stay on that balance beam of life.


In a nutshell: Instead of worrying about fitting everything in TODAY (work, the healthiest of meals, exercise, my kids' getting to exercise, spending time with my husband, volunteer responsibilities and on and on . . .) I will take a step back and look at life through a wider lens.  How have the past few weeks looked?  Have I maintained my focus amidst life's chaos?  I will look at the big picture.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Italian Pie

I am so excited to share with you this amazing recipe that I made last night adapting it from a recipe found on Pinterest.  It is healthy and incredibly yummy!  Even my husband was raving about it.  I had it for lunch today and it was just as good re-heated in the microwave.  So without further ado . . . .


1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes, partially drained
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds. Place cut side down in a baking dish.  Poke all over with a fork.  Cook until tender, 30 - 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook turkey, chopped onion and minced garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender.  Drain and return to skillet.  Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta and egg stirring until smooth.

Remove squash from the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.

Using a fork, rake squash pulp until it looks like spaghetti removing it from the shell.  Place on a paper towel and gently dab with a second paper towel to remove some of the moisture from the squash.  

Arrange the spaghetti squash in the bottom and up the side of the pie plate like a crust.  Gently spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the squash.  Using a slotted spoon, put the turkey and tomato mixture over the cheese.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Cut into six slices.  

Serving size: 1 slice
Servings per pie: 6
Calories per serving: 316 (I entered all the ingredients into the calculator tool on My Fitness Pal)

I served this delicious pie with a side salad and a piece of garlic toast.  
Spaghetti Squash Italian Pie is a must try!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Talking Myself Into It

Talk yourself into it, not out of it.     ~Dolvett Quince
I’m laying in bed – my soft warm bed with the Memory Foam mattress and heavy denim comforter.  I should get up.  My bed is so warm.  I need to get up.  The sheets are so soft.  It’s January 31st.  The last day of the month.  It has to be now 
My goal for myself is to participate in an organized 5k every month.  January is a hard month.  There are not many 5ks in my area (It’s cold in Pittsburgh this time of year!).  My schedule did not match with the few that were out there so I was forced to go with a Virtual Race.  A Virtual Race is one where you register for the event, but then you can run it anytime and anywhere that you want within the given time frame. 
I registered for the Cutch’s Crew 5k in support of Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutcheon’s Foundation.  You can run the race anytime between January 1st and May.  For me this would serve as my January 5k (check out this great event at
Before I knew it, it was January 31st.  How did that happen?  It was a beautiful day and my plan was to run after church. 
Off to church we went!  We were all happy.  My kids were getting along.  It was a great worship service.  What a great morning!
“Hey – Let’s stop for lunch at Moe’s!”  someone asked on our drive home.
We all responded in unison, “Welcome to Moe’s!”  My husband pulled into the parking lot.
As I sat in Moe’s eating an insanely large burrito, I remembered that I was supposed to be running a 5k when I got home.  There was no way that I was going to be able to run after ingesting the deliciously overstuffed lunch I was shoving in my face.
Upon arriving home I figured that an hour long nap would be the perfect way to digest.  I turned on my alarm and crawled into bed.  One hour passed.  My alarm jolted me out a deep sleep.  I’ll just lay here for a few minutes I thought as I pressed the “off” button.  That one hour turned into two hours.  The sun was beginning to set.  My bed was so soft and warm.
No one will know if I don’t run this race today.  No one will know if I don’t meet my goal of one 5k a month.  What difference does it truly make?  Eleven out of twelve months.  No big deal.  I was very quickly talking myself out of going for a run. 
Then I thought about my sister who gets up at 4:30AM every weekday to fit in her workout.  I thought about my running friends on facebook who were also striving to complete a 5k a month.  I thought about the example that I was setting for my kids.  In the car on the way to church I had talked about needing to get this 5k done today.  They would know if I didn't go for a run.
Motivation - My sister gets up at
4:30AM to get her miles in! 
I threw the warm soft covers off half of my body allowing one foot to drop to the floor.  Slowly I peeled the covers off the rest of me and stood up.  Brrrr!  I shivered.  My body longing to crawl back under the covers.  Nope!  I was going to do this.
Looking at the clock, I realized how late it had gotten.  I wanted to enjoy the beautiful day!  Scrambling, I threw on my workout clothes and headed out the door. 
My lungs were instantly filled with the invigorating  air.  My feet pounded on the pavement in time to the music filling my ears.  The bright sun hit my face filling my heart with joy.
It would have been so easy to talk myself out of this run.  My tired body.  The warm bed.  The lazy Sunday afternoon.  I have done that many many times.  But what I have learned is that I feel so much better when I talk myself into exercising.  I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.  It amazed me how easy it is to forget that.  
When I was watching the Biggest Loser a few weeks ago, Dolvett was talking to his Team as they worked out.  He was pushing them to their physical limit.  Team members began to waiver wanting to quit.  Dolvett continued to push repeating louder and louder - Talk yourself into it, not out of it.  Talk yourself into it, not out of it.  TALK YOURSELF INTO IT, NOT OUT OF IT!  What wise words.  But how do I do that when all of the reasons to not do "it" are screaming so loud in my head?  The answer, I have found, is to start listing all of the reasons I should.  Though quiet at first, that voice of confidence and enthusiasm will rise above the voice of negativity and push me into motion.  My kids.  My health.  My happiness.  My family,  My friends.  
Wise words from Dolvett!  
Self-talk plays a HUGE role in our health.  What are you telling yourself?  Are you putting yourself down or filling your head with excuses?  Be a cheerleader!  Cheer yourself on.  Tell yourself that you can do it.  You're a super star. A stud!  You can do this.  Tell yourself you can and you WILL!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Snack Battle: 10 Smart Choices for After-School Snacks

After school snacks have long been a battle in our house.  Both of my teenagers eat lunch very early at school and I rarely have dinner ready before 6PM.  When they arrive home, they want to stuff their face to satisfy their deep hunger.  I want them to eat something small yet satisfying and healthy so that they are not full when I finally get dinner on the table.

I tried having minimal options in the house.  Then I tried leaving out one specific snack for the kids to eat after school.  This left me with two hungry and grouchy kids.  I tried talking with my kids about making smart choices and then leaving them on their own to decide what to eat with all options open (including the Doritos and ice cream that my husband loves).  While my kids took full advantage of all options, I was left grouchy at what I deemed their lack of self-control and poor choices.

When I thought about it, there are two main goals that I have for my kids when it comes to their after-school snacks:
1) That they eat something healthy.
2) That they learn to make their own smart choices when it comes to snacking.

I spent an evening researching healthy snack options.  While I read about a lot of great snacks, I had to be realistic.  My kids are not going to eat veggies dipped in hummus.  A handful of almonds is not going to satisfy their hunger.   Keeping that in mind, I came up with a new idea that gives my kids the freedom to make their own choices while making sure that the options available to them are ones that they will like and are healthy.

We've been following this plan for two weeks now and have found success!  I'm no longer greeted at the door with hungry whiners.  I'm no longer finding piles of wrappers next to the couch and empty bowls stacked on the end table.

There is a list of these ten snacks posted in our kitchen.  With seven of the items, they can pick two. If they choose one of the remaining three, they can only have one item.  I know that I will have to begin to change a few of the items week to week so that my kids don't get bored, but for now things have stayed the same.

Here is our list of 10 Smart After-School Snacks for this week!
My kids can pick two of the following:
1) YoCrunch Yogurt Cup - Chips Ahoy is their favorite flavor
2) Pretzels - pre-portioned baggies (28 sticks = 110 calories)
3) String Cheese - 1 stick
4) Microwave Popcorn - Orville Redenbacher 100 calorie bag
5) Hard-boiled egg
6) A piece of fruit - We usually have apples, bananas and oranges on hand.
7) Bowl of Cornflakes - (1 cup = 100 calories) I recently got rid of the HUGE cereal bowls we had and bought smaller bowls that perfectly hold the appropriate serving size.

Or one of these:
8) Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
9) Easy Mac & Cheese
10) Mug of Hot Chocolate
Some of the snacks my kids can choose from when they get home from school.
JJ and Ellie like having the freedom to choose their snack.  I am confident that they are making wise choices because there is no other options but healthy.  Surprisingly, no one has complained that the chips and ice cream have disappeared (not even my husband!).

I think that one of the keys to the success of this snacking strategy is that they can have two things in some cases.  Pretzels with string cheese.  Yogurt and a banana.  Popcorn and pretzels.  Cereal with fruit.  One small item doesn't seem like enough.  Getting two feels like a lot more food.

My husband and I often debate about if I am babying our kids by making things so simple for them. His point is that our son is going to be heading off to college in two-and-a-half years and I am not going to be with him making him lists of healthy food choices.  My point is that our children obviously do not know how to make healthy snack choices because they are not doing it.  I view this as a method of teaching them how to make smart choices.  Eventually the lists will disappear.  Eventually they will automatically reach for the fruit or pretzels over ice cream or Doritos.  Just like they now grab water and don't even ask if they can order pop in restaurants.

The snack battle appears to have come to an end in our household.  The kids are happy with the choices that are available to them.  I'm happy that they aren't complaining and aren't full when it comes time for dinner.  We all came out of this battle victorious!