i’m back

This past year, I was sliding down a slippery slope. I was a shell of my true self. A different person. You see, depression runs in my family and I’ve had it once before (a long time ago).

Unlike last time, I got help sooner than later.

I met up with a psychologist who’s bio spoke to me. She was trained in yoga, helping many clients recover through both yoga and meditation. These are two things I LOVE so I was hopeful.

During our first meeting she mentioned her 8-week class that was about to start: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.

Here’s the blurb about the class, “This 8-week group provides proven, innovative skills to help you break the cycle of depression and anxiety once and for all. You will learn strategies that help you see clearly that thoughts and emotions come and go, Many find that these skills help them side step the mental habits that lead to despair, excessive worry, and self-blame. Hands-on skill building exercises are taught that incorporate mindfulness (attentional control training) and cognitive therapy.”

I finished the class in December and am now stronger, wiser, more mindful. I’m close to my normal self again and have great new tools to combat any negative thoughts or depression lurking around the corner.

It’s such a relief.

I believe in fate and this sure was an example of that. I stumbled upon my psychologist on google, she’s a yogi, her class was perfect, and she’s even located 1 mile from my house! That’s unheard of out here in suburbia. Usually you have to drive at least a couple miles to get to where you’re going!

On our last day of class we got to pick out a little token to remind us of how far we’ve come.

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I’m not sure where I’m going to put my little stone yet but I’d like it to be in a place that I see it daily, frequently. The mantel?

Now that I feel capable of tackling projects and this blog again, I can’t wait to update you! You know I may have done things like survive a marathon (?!) and convert to a vegan diet (?!). We’ve also completed a couple of snazzy house projects and have a lot more in the works. Oh and I might have another animal. Hehe.

I’m really looking forward to connecting with you again! It’s gonna be a good time.

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slowing down to pick myself up

I’m turning inward today! I hope that’s okay.

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When I’m stuck in a rut I easily become overwhelmed – with my to-do list, my relationships, my life. I’m currently at this point.

I truly believe I should be able to fix this problem and have attempted all my life to do so. I’ve written posts about this subject here, here, and here. I’m always able to stay on top of things for a couple weeks but then I get to busy, stressed and everything goes out the window.

I’m so very tired of this vicious cycle.

I watched a documentary on Friday night called Happy. It’s about people and what makes them truly happy.

That night I was up at 3:30 thinking about it. I panicked during this bout of insomnia, feeling overwhelmed about failing to be happy.

After a few hours, my mind started to settle and clear. I began to try and figure out what I could do to fix my problem.

I’ve had a couple nights like this in the past few weeks. They remind me of one night of insomnia last year when I realized I wanted to quit my old job (and career) that I went to school for so long for. Now I’m at a completely new job and loving it so I’m thinking I’m at the cusp of another step in the right direction.

Thank goodness.

When I’m overwhelmed I usually find something to escape my feelings. My go-to options are TV, the Internet, food, and my dogs. I think spending time with my dogs does help me feel better and more present but the other stuff really doesn’t. I feel lazy and stressed once I finally decide to get my butt off of the couch. I’m also usually doing a combination of TV, Internet, and food so I’m even more removed from ‘real’ life! Not good.

I know that it’s definitely healthy to escape the hustle and bustle of real life sometimes but lately for me it’s getting in the way of living that life.

My epiphany on Saturday night/morning was something that I already know but have a hard time doing.

To really try to become happier, I’ve got to take it slow. I’m going to focus on fixing one poor habit at a time. Anything else I do that might not be considered healthy doesn’t matter for now. I just have one thing to do. That’s it. That should keep me from getting worked up.

I’m thinking I’ll start with no TV. Without TV I’d have soooo much more time to do things that I really love like gardening, reading, art, even chores! If I’m successful… wait… when I’m successful, I’ll be able to replace one bad habit with tons of other good options. Perfect.

I’m sure there are other people out there like me but man does it feel like I’m the only person sometimes with these silly struggles.

I hope to update you on my progress next week. This should hold me accountable!

Who’s overwhelmed? Who’s with me? Who has some words of wisdom for all of us? 

pecan and wild rice-stuffed squash

This dish might have the longest cooking time out of all the recipes I’ve posted on this blog. I only post my absolute favorites so that just shows you how marvelous it is! Relative to a lot of recipes out there, it’s still super quick. There’s just a good amount of time in the oven so you have to find other things to do  like laundry, clean… or watch TV and read blogs like I did. 🙂

The recipe comes from the same cookbook that I used for the Turmeric Brown Rice Con Pollo.

Since I don’t think the recipe is online, I went ahead and typed it up for you.

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Pecan and Wild Rice-Stuffed Squash

2 small acorn squash (I used one giant one instead)
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil 2 baking sheets. Cut each squashes in half from the stem to the tip. Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets. Bake from 20 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Let cool. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split. If there is any excess water, drain the rice in a strainer. Finely chop the sage and parsley. In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, and sage over medium heat until just softened. Stir in the parsley, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.

When the squash halves are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing. In a large bowl, mash the flesh coarsely and reserve. Select 16 intact pecan halves for garnish, then use a food processor to grind the remaining pecans to powder (I just finely chop them). Add the ground pecans, the sauteed mixture, and the wild rice to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff the mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved pecan halves. Place in a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold all of the squash halves. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.

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Fresh sage! I don’t have any herbs in my garden but I do have a couple in pots on the patio. I most often sub dried for fresh when a recipe calls for it (use half of the fresh amount) but this time I had something on hand!

While prepping my ingredients I got a little sidetracked -> I saw this idea on YoungHouseLove a while back. If you have a party where crudités are involved, you could use these celery flowers to decorate the plate!

Along with the blog reading and TV watching, when the squash is initially roasted I was able to get my rice cooked and saute mixture ready.

Every time my dad uses the toaster oven he removes whatever he has cooked with his bare hands. It doesn’t matter if he yells or makes pain noises every time, he does this without fail. I do the same thing and have also added not waiting until hot squash cools before hollowing it out. This acorn squash didn’t disappoint. It had me yelling up a storm.

My dad went to Cornell so that must make me a genius too. Please don’t try to be smarties like us and have patience!

I love the presentation of this dish! You could totally wow some friends with your celery flowers and squash bowls. 🙂

There’s so much flavor in this recipe. The spicy and nutty flavors are a great contrast to the sweet meat of the acorn squash. There’s lots of crunch and chewiness in there too. Mmm mmm good.

As soon as the temps in your State start to drop, you have to make this! It’s got great fall ingredients, a comfort food feel, and it’s healthy to boot!

Are you about to go pumpkin/squash recipe crazy? I sure am.

a series of unfortunate (running) events

Where to start.

My weekly long(est) run started out on Saturday morning at 6:30 am. I was up early because I was good and went to bed at a decent time. I opened up the weekly Marathon Training Team email and realized that we were supposed to run that same day at that exact time instead of Sunday like normal.

Crap.

Now, Al and I will have to run on Sunday by ourselves without the distraction of friends and the downtown Richmond architecture.

Hurricane Isaac (or Tropical Storm by that time?) was supposed to dump a ton of rain all weekend so I made sure I had my hat on to keep the water out of my face. I was excited about a potential downpour. Somehow it always feels childlike and silly to be running in the rain, so to me it’s fun. 🙂

We started off running and instantly realized that the humidity was awful, like I’m breathing through a straw awful. I could’t wait for that rain to come… but it never did.

I was holding my water bottle in one hand and didn’t want to occupy my other with my hat so I kept it on my head. Wearing a hat when it’s not raining makes me feel overheated. I was sweating to death but kept on.

In hopes of not getting bored, we went on a new-to-us route. Between miles 2 and 3 the humidity made me feel like I could barely lift my feet. With lead in my legs, a new sidewalk, and a cloudy morning, I tripped and fell to the ground. I laid there for a second from the shock. While getting up and brushing grass and dirt from my multiple wounds I said to Al, “I have to keep running!” and I did. I’m pretty proud of that because the other two times I’ve fallen during this training, I just stopped and walked home.

It’s embarrassing and a little traumatizing when you fall, I wouldn’t recommend it.

This fall was the worst which makes my fight to keep going even better. My right hand and my poor Garmin were pretty scraped. So was my left thigh and knee.

I have to mention that I was wearing my watch backwards on the inside of my wrist because when it rains I feel like it gets less wet. Who knows if that’s true but if I had known it wasn’t going to rain at all, my Garmin would have been worn like normal and not scuffed. Bah, Humbug!

At around mile 4 some guy driving on the other side of the road honked at us, yelled something, and then flicked us off. How pleasant. At that point I was very glad that Al decided to run at my pace with me even though it’s very slow to him. He was silent most of the time because he wasn’t feeling the run at all but it was nice to have a buddy!

After a hour and 45 minutes we were done.

I felt amazing… and then I noticed all the scrapes. I had planned on walking the dogs with Al but tended to my wounds instead.

I really didn’t mind the cuts but what I did mind was the tiny scrape on my Garmin. That thing is expensive and pretty! Oh well, that’s what it is, just a ‘thing’ right?

Oh and I don’t have my one sleeve rolled up in the photo above because I think I’m a badass, I have it rolled up because I had/have a nice strip of Poison Ivy on my upper arm. I had to use 5 bandaids to cover it up to prevent chaffing or the urge to itch my arm off during the run. Good times.

Let’s just say with the new injuries, the Poison Ivy rash, and the multiple bruises and scrapes from work this week, I look like a hot mess but I couldn’t be more proud. I love my job helping animals, am proud of taking care of my own dogs properly (I got the Poison Ivy while walking them), and even that series of unfortunate events, we still got in a good run.

Have you ever fallen during a run? Please tell me you have.

patrick henry half marathon

I ran 13.1 miles this past Saturday. No biggie. (!!!)

Al and I are officially halfway through our marathon training. We both ran the Patrick Henry Half Marathon successfully without any emergency pit stops, injuries, or giant blisters. It was awesome.

My morning started out at 2:20 am with major stomach issues. I’m not one to have physical problems when I’m nervous so it must’ve been the bag of Baked Lays I ate for dinner (mistake #1). I took a shot of Pepto and attempted to fall back asleep.

When the alarm went of at 4:15 I was still in trouble. In between another shot of Pepto and some Imodium I told Al that I didn’t think I’d be able to race. I couldn’t stand let alone run at that point!

An hour later I felt a bit better and focused on getting out the door. I went to put on my shoes and I realized my favorite running socks as well as one of my running sleeves were gone. I knew it was Olivia so I ran upstairs to the living room where she usually takes her victims and found only my running sleeve. She doesn’t play with toys but what she does do is relocate socks and bras to different parts of the house. It’s not a big deal and is usually pretty cute because she doesn’t destroy the items but at this point I was making us late! I ran to every room of the house and the backyard but couldn’t find the socks so I had to settle for a different pair.

Superstition and lucky clothing is a big part of sports or at least it was to me growing up so losing my socks kinda stunk. Not too big of a deal but just another bump in the road.

We finally made it to the race location and went to get our bibs.

Our names weren’t on the list.

The lady at check-in asked us if we had a receipt or our bank statement. Of course not lady! We weren’t registered and they only took cash or check so we walked back to our car which was thankfully parked somewhat close at a friend’s house. She told us where the banks were and we headed out to get cash.

Back at the registration tent with our shirts and bibs, I dropped off our bag and we headed to the porta potties. I had to pee terribly, my stomach still wasn’t settled, and the line was a mile long but we had to at least attempt to relieve ourselves.

Twenty minutes later we were at the starting line where I found my friends. We were off!

The first 4 or 5 miles were tough. I was worried about emergency bathroom breaks and my legs felt soooo heavy. The Thursday before, I ran a 3 mile hills workout not knowing that I was supposed to run a regular 3 miles so my legs were tired (mistake #2).

In the beginning I tried to not stop running at the water stops (mistake #3) but I seriously can’t drink and run at the same time. I usually choke or don’t get enough fluids in when I run so I decided to stop and walk quickly as I chugged. I think this also helped my tired legs loosen up.

As my legs warmed up and the miles passed, the skies opened and dumped tons of ran. I was so grateful. I almost got too chilly at one point but that sure beats sweating to death in the southern sun!

I’d been warned about mile 11 with the big hill. I told my running buddy, Tamra that I’d probably be speeding up at that mile to get up and over the hill and finish strong. She encouraged me and was so positive! She has run the race two times before and has already finished two marathons! A great inspiration.

At the hill we ran into one of our coaches who started telling a dirty joke to help distract us on the incline. It was the perfect motivation to help me speed up and get away! A dirty joke when I’m tired and focused? No gracias.

My knees had been aching since mile 3 but those last two miles were much worse. Cardio-wise I could have easily sped up to get a better time but my knees were killing me. I could feel that if I ran any faster I’d have a calf, knee, or hip injury on my hands so I stayed steady.

As I ran down the home stretch I could see the finish line and hear the cheers. A couple girls that I had passed earlier whizzed by me. I thought to myself, I could totally speed up and pass them! But no, this is a training run. I’ve got plenty of time to run more half marathons after the Richmond Marathon is over in November.

I crossed the finish line and kept walking. My bottom half ached horribly as I grabbed my metal and smiled at the volunteers.

YES!!

My official time was 02:18:04 which is about a 10:32 pace. I wanted a 10:30 average so I got pretty close. I was at the back of the pack overall which is okay by me. This was a very fast group of runners! But even with a pretty rocky start, I finished easily and could have gone a couple more miles. A perfect pace for a marathon training run.

After this run, I’ve learned that you’ve got to prepare as best you can but things will most likely go wrong at some point. Just go with it and conquer.

The more races I run, the more I learn. By November I’ll have it all down pat.

Have you run any races recently?

agility with the girls

If I could spend most of my days learning something new, I’d be so very happy.  It’s such a great feeling to overcome that first bump in the road, the point at which you start to improve.

A couple of people at work have taken their dogs to classes at the Richmond SPCA.  I decided to copy them for a couple of reasons: the combination of learning something new not just by myself but with Al and the dogs and also being able to support a non-profit, no-kill shelter.  A win for us, a win for the animals at the shelter!

Yesterday, we had our second agility class (of seven).  We never really had that first bump in the learning curve.  I think it was only getting over my fear of failure!  I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to handle the girls and that they’d be crazy but so far so good!

The girls will do anything for treats which helps a ton.  Olivia rarely sits still on a leash but she will (somewhat) for some food!

Look how thrilled Al is to be at the class.  He sure does love his treat holder/fanny pack.  Haha.

I promise the man does love the class, especially since Roary is one of the best there!  #truth

The girls have already successfully done about five obstacles and it’s only the second class which I find amazing.  It’s so fun to watch them understand want we want and execute it.  It also gives Al and I a bit more confidence in our handling abilities which is just what I wanted.

Look at Roary go!  The girl loves herself some cheese balls.

There is a fee for the classes but I think it’s so worth it.  It’s nice to know we can support the shelter while spending good, quality time together.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Have you taken your dogs to classes?

SOJ chef demo

Good morning!

This past Saturday I got the chance to assist Chef Sam Baker at the South of the James Market. Lauren, the blogger over at Vegology, gave me the chance to be her substitute that day. Free food and education? Um, yes!

Chef Sam created four delicious dishes using lots of summery fruits and tomatoes. All the recipes were super quick and easy which I love. I wrote about my adventure over at her blog. Feel free to check it out! -> Guest Post! SOJ Chef Demo 07.28.12

I hope you have a lovely start to the week! Look out for a new recipe post on Wednesday.