Sunday, November 25, 2012

May it be so. Selah.

Lately, I have been around people who have traveled all around the world: People that have been to AIDS communities in Africa, experienced indigenous gatherings in South America, helped in refugee camps in Asia, things that should leave a lasting imprint on a person’s outlook. I have further listened to their conversations, the nonverbal aspect, and how they approach life. To be perfectly honest
, sometimes it is those very people that make me feel frustrated. 

Everyone and their dog knows how much I love to travel… There is nothing like seeing more of God’s creative, majestic creation. There is still so much left for me to appreciate and discover!! However, my sincere hope is that the more I travel, the more I can understand and love on a broader range of people. Yes, I thrive on exploring new places and having new experiences -- but shouldn't the ultimate goal of international traveling be to grow as an individual as well as being able to better relate to those around you? Why should I turn such precious, unforgettable experiences merely into a platform of arrogance? Instead, I should use such life lessons to cultivate more compassion, patience and love, bringing people in closer not shutting them out. Some people become more inward the more they travel; my earnest goal is by understanding other cultural frameworks and living in the culture itself, I may slowly mature into a person who is wiser, more open and overall more approachable. 

I have been blessed with so many opportunities in my life. I want to be able to turn around and bless others in return. Always and forever, I desire with all my being to stay humble and grateful for the Source of all my blessings; I strive to have more compassion and love for those around me. Selah.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Student: "How do you say 'cuy' in English?"
Me: "Guinea pig."
Student: "My mom and I bought three guinea pigs."
Me: "Like as pets or for dinner this weekend?"
Student: "We still aren't sure."
Me: *trying not to lose control of my classroom as I laugh crazily*

Welcome to Ecuador :)

Oh yes, and speaking of taxi rides (because aren't we always?).......
Today, in ten minutes, the taxi driver had me analyze all the minute differences between dating a Latino and dating an American.  Needless to say, it was quite the conversation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Men in the Yellow Cabs

The men in the yellow cabs never cease to provide an adventure in my life here.  As stated in my facebook post yesterday, a taxi driver graded my Spanish skills during our six minute drive last night.  Just in case you were curious, I passed; I received an A from him.

Tonight's taxi ride, an eight-minute drive, still has me laughing.  
It's slightly PG-11, so you may stop reading if desired.....

First, I got this $2 taxi ride for $1.50 because I bargained him down and did my, "I'm a pitiful but cute gringa and don't make much money as teacher" face.  He agreed to my terms, mainly because of the protruding lower lip.  Then, within that eight-minute time frame, we progressed from me living here in Cuenca, me not having a cuencano boyfriend, how jealous/possessive Latino men can be, him finding out that I'm not having sex with boys here in Cuenca, me being a virgin because of my faith & for other logical reasons that I strongly believe in, him being shocked and almost speechless by this fact, and finally me being congratulated for being a virgin.  End of ride.  To describe this conversation, the word "progression" would be an understatement.

After 24 years of saving myself for marriage, it honestly does not bother me one bit to talk about this subject with anybody at anytime, but it was just HILARIOUS how in eight minutes we jumped from topic-to-topic, ending up talking about my sex life (or shall we say, the lack thereof).

Thank you, South America, once again for the laugh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Say What?

The zero article.
Countable and uncountable nouns.
The structure of reported speech statements.
When question words function as subjects.
Zero conditional, first conditional, second conditional, third conditional & mixed conditional. 

Who knew teaching your own language could make you feel so nescient at times?
Conclusion:  I came to Ecuador to learn the grammatical facets of my mother tongue.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Honestly, each day is filled with uncountable adventures, and it's such a challenge to have to choose between blogging or grading the English essays instead.  Today, however, I am being a rebel.  The essays can just take a back seat.

Yesterday, I was walking back to my house from running an errand, and I saw a 75-year old gringo walking towards me.  Now, this is not unusual per se.  There are many retired gringos (Americans) living here in Cuenca, but this one was unique... On the top of his head, he was fashioning a baseball hat, and not just any baseball team mind you. The mortal enemies of the St. Louis Cardinals: the cloddish Chicago Cubs.  I had every urge to "booo" at him whenever he approached closer, but I decided to demonstrate my classier, more refined side.  How funny that out of all the teams and out of all the places, there would be a Cubs fan right here in Cuenca. [Side note: personally, I think the government should establish a law banning all Cubs fans from traveling outside of United States borders.]  *smile*

May I just say that every bathroom up until now has been very clean and fully stocked with toilet paper? Congrats Cuenca, Ecuador. Congrats.

Americans are trusted here.  I never would want to abuse that.  Let me offer an example... All Latin American countries I have been to have the same system of walking into stores with large bags or backpacks: you must first check them in at a desk and/or a locker (mainly for safety reasons). This past week I went to a local grocery store, Tía, with my colossal backpack.  Needless to say, I was trying to remain patient as I attempted to stuff my backpack into the itsy-bitsy locker. The guard asked me, ¿Eres Americana? (Are you American?)  I responded that yes I was.  He then proceeded to tell me to go ahead and take my backpack into the store, no problems.  Americans are treated like royalty.  I want to continue to live up to that. (Slightly interesting though that it's almost reverse preference for my nationality, make sense?).

I am amazed at the generosity of some people.  It makes me re-examine my own life and my own heart.  I had a really hard day today -- woke up with a throbbing headache, shaking and just aching all over my body.  The family that I just started tutoring in Spanish called me this morning, and finally ended up inviting me over to their home so they could look after me, at least for the next 24 hours.  Whenever you don't feel well, the warmth of a family is all it takes sometimes to nurse someone back to health -- not necessarily the strong medications.  In addition to having me in their home, we also just devoured a delicious, homemade chicken soup filled with fresh vegetables.  I cannot thank the Lord enough for His provision and the generosity of this family.  I truly am a blessed girl.  I fully acknowledge this.

I am hoping and praying that these little beasts will just disintegrate into thin air over the next few days, but if not, I am still enjoying Ecuador, and it is precisely where I am supposed to be. I would not change that for the world. I am so grateful to be in South America again.  En serio po.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Bad Party in my Tummy

For the past week, I have been feeling really crummy.  I thought my lack of energy, extreme dizziness and other symptoms were merely due to the extreme altitude change.  I mean, come on, I changed from 550 feet of elevation to about 8,000 feet.  Every time I climb the four flights of stairs at the CEDEI institute, I am panting like I had just finished a marathon. [Side note: I figure if I can get in shape at this elevation, then when I come back to sea level, I am going to be in FINE shape. Boo yah.]  Getting back to feeling crummy.... today I went to the doctor and found I have two parasites in my body.  I will be taking some strong medication for the next seven days to eradicate them.  It's actually more common than you think.  Until full recuperation,  it goes as follows: water, movies, water, reading, preparing lessons, water, and sleeping.

On a happier note, as I was walking down the street today to get some copies, every single radio and TV were turned on full blast. All to the same station. All to the same channel. Every one is gathered in the local stores and cafes to watch the soccer game between Chile and Ecuador.  Technically, I could just walk around town and hear the game progress as I stroll.  Needless to say, I had a big grin on my face as I peeked into the stores and cafes to see the extreme fans rooting and/or booing at the ref's calls.

Alright, need to go attempt to make some sort of dinner that the three of us (me + 2 parasites) will enjoy.  Talk to you soon!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why learn English?

To start off my English 304 class today -- my more advanced group of students -- I thought I would make them give me all the details of their weekend activities, which always allows them an easy speaking activity. My 17-year old student started off our discussion by telling me he had a hangover on Saturday morning.  I responded with, "WOW, not my idea of a great weekend. Hey, wait....... what's the legal drinking age here in Ecuador?"  He mumbled underneath his breath, "Eighteen."  With enlarged eyes, I replied with, "WHAT THE HECK?  And how did you get into the club in the first place then? Didn't they card you?"

With a sly smile, he responded with, "I told them in English that I was an exchange student and really wanted to visit a club here in Ecuador."  

Good job practicing English outside of class.
But darling, in the future, let's use our language skills for legal activities...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

One month in Ecuador

Today, October 7th 2012, I ate guinea pig (cuy) for the first time. I feel that now it is officially necessary for me to commence my blogging adventures yet again.  Even though I've been in Ecuador for a month, it has been a time of transitioning on my end -- not at all in the cultural sense, seeing as the Latin culture is my second home, yet more in the sense of figuring out my schedule at the CEDEI English Institute and my social life here in Cuenca.  After two years of lacking a social life in graduate school, I feel as though I am trying to compensate within one month's time: explored Cajas National Park, bathed in a well-known Thermal Springs, eaten at a good variety of restaurants (including fresh seafood), and am slowly getting to know more and more of this city of almost 500,000 people.  So, are you ready to travel the world yet again with me?  ¡Vamos!

For those who are wondering, guinea pig does not taste like chicken.  I will have you know that not everything under the sun on God's green earth tastes like chicken.  I only had two very small bites because I still am not sure how my stomach will handle the new meat source, slightly greasy for my tastes.  Hey, but at least I can say I tried it. :)

The Andes Mountains are breathtaking today, with the fog slowly rolling down from the heavens to the town itself.  Oh my.  Pinch me.

Yet another adventure was coming home from church this morning to find this beautiful tarantula you see in the picture.  She was just a wee lass though.  When I was kid, Papa Dudley introduced me to tarantulas; actually we had two of them that would crawl all over me and probably double the size of this one shown.  Some of the grandchildren of the house where I'm staying were playing with her and making all sorts of scared noises as they tried to pick her up.  They put her really close to my face, thinking I would be scared or disgusted, and I just picked her up and let her crawl all over me.  Needless to say, I think I left the kids without words, absolutely speechless. La gringa loca strikes again.

Before coming to Cuenca, I had a list of four churches that I wanted to visit.  This morning I visited the church ( that interested me the most -- merely based on my investigations from the USA home base -- and honestly, I think it might be my home church during my ten months here.  Love the P&W, the ministry opportunities are out-of-this-world (e.g., orphanage), and the people seem genuine and warm.  I will continue to pray about it, but it was such a precious time to worship with my brothers and sisters here in Cuenca, Ecuador.  FUNNY STORY:  I went with a fellow teacher from the CEDEI today to service, and after the worship time, the pastor asked the visitors to raise their hands so that they could give us a small gift.  Well, Tracey and I were like, "Meeeeh, we'll just stay under the rader this time around."  Then we saw the GIFT.  A freshly picked red rose (shown in the picture).  We looked at each other, and at the same time, mouthed "ROSE."  We raised our hands immediately.  And then we giggled to ourselves for the next five minutes.  Flowers, yes please.

I am still trying to get the hang of cooking here -- due to my working schedule, the new METHODS of cooking (sometimes taking twice as long) and just the new variety of ingredients available (and some not available like in the USA).  Whew, it's all a process but well worth it. However, I have already made an asparagus and pumpkin soup, both of which I learned here in the past month.  Also, this week, I am going to attempt some delicious croquettes, another Cuencano dish and maybe the famous "locro soup" of the region (  My favorite fruit so far here, that is not available in the USA is called "granadilla" -- gross looking, best tasting ever. Guaranteed.  Hopefully, my cooking skills and cuisine knowledge will expand during my time here in South America.  That is the goal at least.

Well, dear reader, I really must start planning my lessons for tomorrow and this week.  My supervisors sometime this week or next will be observing me (unannounced).  Feel free to follow me on this blog, especially seeing as I still have nine months of South American adventures awaiting me!  Blessing after blessing.  For reals.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Intercultural richness.

As Americans, we should be one of the most culturally savvy nations in the world; it blows my mind to consider how many cultures gather within our nation's borders. Yet honestly, how many of us stretch ourselves to make friends beyond our own ethnicity? Not just a co-worker, but a real friend. How many can say that they have friends from all backgrounds -- White, African-American, Latino, Chinese, Indian, Russian.... Oh my word, what richness is found in an intercultural friendship! It's a mutual blessing, and it's beyond accessible within the USA. Take advantage of that, fellow Americans!! No regrets, guaranteed. Go beyond the comfort zone.

Monday, August 27, 2012


15 days until I fly off to Cuenca, Ecuador.
The end.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 8: Can I Get A Witness?

It's the last day!  You can do a little victory dance.  Go ahead.  
No, really.  Bust out those groovy moves. :)

I know I said that I wouldn't dare utter another word of breakfast shakes, but I guess I lied.  This morning, I had a pretty stellar combo, if I do say so myself:  Mango, Peach, Kiwi, Strawberries, and just a spoonful of pomegranate. Besides the breakfast shakes and the constant H2O, I was craving some lemonade today.  Would you like some Strawberry Lemonade this afternoon?  That's what I thought.
(When it says lemon juice, you can just squeeze lemons and make it that way as well)

Hilarious moment today:  The kids that I am transporting this summer caught me eating my raw veggies, which is my normal snack between breakfast and lunch.  They asked me, "Are you always eating?"  I about keeled over with laughter.  Yep, that statement about sums up my life.   Therefore, just to give you an idea of everything I ate today, maybe to help you see that you aren't as insane as you originally thought, I would like to share what I ate throughout the day:  breakfast shake, 4 types of raw veggies, lentil soup, gigantic salad, kale chips, bowl of fruit, massive stir fry w/ brown rice.  And I'm still hungry. It's an even more overwhelming list when my options are more ample.  [I promise I don't have worms] 

Tonight's stir fry really hit the spot:
>asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, onion, broccoli (saute harder, more cruciferous vegetables first)
>Add in brown rice (stir fry for another 3-4 min)
>Sprinkle lime on top.  Add in just 1 TBSP of Dijon mustard (check for pure ingredients).  Mix all together.  
That was it.  Honestly, about half of my dinners are stir fries.  It's a quick meal, and it helps me get in the dose of needed veggies every day. 

Say What?  For one of the last "Say What" sections, I would just like to say what eating healthy has done for me this past year.  I've learned it's hard to eat healthy, unless you have a specific reason why you are doing it, accompanied by great will power and determination.  As stated before, going into the program I was like, "What the heck? I guess I will go ahead and try this nutrition route since nothing else seems to be working." Kind of a last resort mentality.  However, since July 21, 2011 I have been migraine free (PTL).  Yes, I will still get headaches, even strong headaches, but it's NOTHING compared to my weekly migraines of yesteryear.  Also, I've noticed more mental clarity and higher energy levels.  Of course there are those days when I just want to pig out on chocolate and forget the world, but the funny thing is that after a while your body adjusts.  It feels nauseous after eating junk food (or too much sugar).  You end up craving vegetables and chucking the Doritos across the room.  I want to live a carpe-diem sort of lifestyle, no matter how many years God grants me on this earth, but in order to do so, I have to have a diet that backs me up.  Just like the maintenance on my car -- being in tune with its constant quirks and getting it checked up on a regular basis -- I want to take EVEN BETTER care of my body.  Exercise, water, healthy eating & moderation on everything else.  Can I get a witness?!?!

So what comes after purification?  Well, we slowly reintroduce foods. Mainly two reasons for that: (1) it helps you target how your body reacts to certain foods (e.g., I found out that although I am not allergic to gluten, it makes me EXTREMELY tired) & (2) it helps give your body more time to take advantage of healthy eating and developing taste buds for healthy eating (aka ongoing revamping).  Trust me.  I was amazed at how much I learned during the reintroduction phase last summer. Since I am already aware of how my body reacts to the various food groups, my process will be must faster than most.  Tomorrow (and for the next 4 days), chicken (free-range, hormone free, antibiotic free) & fish (wild, not farm-raised) will be added into our ingredients!  I am pretty pumped.  Both of these are GREAT sources of protein.  I won't be blogging nearly as extensively, but I will be sharing some recipes every once in a while.

Do you have high blood pressure?  Gluten issues? Migraines?  Extreme PMS issues?  Let me know, and I'll see what foods I can recommend that will naturally help you.  Ask away!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 6 & 7: In a nutshell.

Yesterday, I might have passed out on my couch, 
and I might have forgot to write the blog for Day 6...... C'est la vie.  
Therefore, I have decided to overwhelm you with some new recipes to try for days 6 & 7.  If something fast is needed, just put together a stir fry or a salad, but these new recipes will help shake things up a bit.  Most of these are online, which makes the organization, oh, so much easier! :)

Raw Vegetable Salad

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Mashed Faux-tatoes

Asaragus with Lime and Mint
>I am not a big fan of mint, but I thought I would post this recipe for those who might be tempted by this following recipe!  Give it a try.

Asparagus Artichoke Salad Recipe
>Try marinating the artichoke hearts yourself -- the more you do from scratch, the more you can monitor what you're consuming [].  If not, just be SURE to check the INGREDIENTS on the jar. Am I repeating myself?

Moreover, I thought I would post this picture as summer is hitting, and maybe so is the sweat. When you go more natural with your food (not greasy or processed), your body allows for repairs to be made naturally within your body, including a clearer complexion.  Oh, the numerous advantages of eating healthy!

Man, today I am really craving crunchy.......
Say What?  I am a nut. You are a nut.  Today's about nuts.   
Let people call you a rabbit for eating so many veggies!  Let people call you a squirrel for eating so many nuts!  Walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds. Hide them in salads; eat them raw; make your own trail mix; put them in soups and stir frys.  Nuts & seeds have countless health benefits: anti-inflammatory, high protein source, lowers bad cholesterol & blood pressure, antioxidants, lowers risk of heart disease, fights depression and the list continues.   For me, they really help hold my appetite between meals.  I am not able to have these during the eight days, but whenever my program ends, I cannot wait to dive into being a squirrel again!  When buying nuts, get the raw, unsalted variety (most natural form).  Here's an article with more information on the pros of being nutty: 

We only have one more day left on the program!! Yay!! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 5: Sugar! Give me sugar!

You are over halfway finished!  My congratulations!!!!!
Are you tired of cooking?  Or maybe all that clean up? It happens once in a while.  I always cook more than I need, so I can have leftovers the next day! 

As stated before, you are on your own for breakfast for the last four days.  The goal of this blog is not to make you dependent upon my recipes, but rather to give you fresh ideas and fresh inspiration to make more meals in your own kitchen, while helping develop a solid health conscience. 

So far, we've had raw veggies & sauteed veggies.  For lunch, let's have some broiled veggies> bell peppers (any variety), onion, cauliflower, tomatoes (even tho it's a fruit), broccoli, carrots, portabella mushrooms and any other veggies that sound good.  
>Set oven to "broil" setting.
>Cut veggies into large chunks. Big, uneven pieces are perrrrrfect for this technique.
>Toss everything in some grapeseed oil, making sure that all surfaces are are evenly coated. 
>Broil for five minutes. Take out, flip, stir veggies.  Continue broiling and flipping every 5 minutes. They will eventually have a charred look - that's a GOOD sign!  
>Be aware that some veggies will be cooked faster than others (e.g., peppers much faster than onions).  That being said, depending on how you crunchy or soft you like them, it should be ready in approx 20-25 minutes.
>After they are done, place on top of bed of brown rice, top with sea salt. Maybe some asparagus fries on the side (day 2)!   On a normal day, I would make a dip to go with it (this following recipe is REALLY amazing for after our 8 days:

For dinner, let's try another yummy soup, experimenting with leek.
Here's the springboard, with some basic alterations needed:
>Substitute the olive oil for grapeseed oil or coconut oil (remember, EVOO is only at low heat or for salads). Technically, you don't really need the butter (and for those on the program, you cannot use it during the program), but if you decide to use it, do ORGANIC for any dairy (or unless it's from a local farm). I wouldn't had the heavy cream either. 
>Okay, the only other major recommendation I have is to make a rotisserie chicken yourself (check the package -- a good one will outright state "no additives/preservatives" and "no hormones added") -- in other words, you are making the broth yourself!  BROTH is a DANGEROUS item on the shelves.  You have to be really careful between all the preservatives/additives (lots of MSG) and the extreme amounts of salt.  Geez.  If you buy one, triple check the list of ingredients , organic broth is preferable.  The pro to making a rotisserie chicken is that after the 8 days (3 more days) you will totally have some chicken waiting for you.  Another easy meal. Yum-yum.
>Other than those suggestions, I would follow the recipe & enjoy! If you are feeling brave, add in another 1-2 veggies to mix up the taste. :)

Say What? My grandmother was diagnosed with late life diabetes, and I have a few friends who have also suffered from this disease.  I openly confess that I struggle with sugar, but I also want to do everything in my power to have my diet help prevent diabetes in the future.  So today, let's talk about my personal weakness: SUGAR.  The following excerpt is taken from Dr. Axe's cooking book (one of my favorites):
"Refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans. Think I'm exaggerating? I wish I were. Sugar is not only devoid of any and all nutrients, it's actually worse than "empty" -- sugar is an anti-nutrient that drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand that sugar's digestion, detoxification, and elimination makes upon your entire system. Excess sugar affects every organ in the body."
I'm thinking, "DANG IT!!"  Why does it taste so good?  However, the good news for me (and maybe you) is that there are alternatives to getting that sugar kick, my favorites being raw honey and maple syrup.  Dates, another fruit, are surprisingly sweet as well (many recipes that normally call for sugar could be replaced with a handful of dates, depending on the recipe). So chocolate is okay once in a great while (and even then it must be in moderation), but when you need that daily sugar kick, reach for the honey/maple syrup -- instead of the fruit-roll ups, jelly beans, cookies, cupcakes or the other million desserts available here in the USA.  Give it a try; you might be surprised.

When I'm off the program, I plan on making this sugar treat and sharing! Weird ingredients, I know, but I can personally testify that you will be making those happy food noises.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 4: Squash=Pasta?

I just realized that when I posted the blog about "Soups in the Summer" yesterday, it was officially the first day of summer (June 20).  Happy Summer! :) 

Say What?  Today is about moderation.  Because I eat healthier than most, people think that I avoid chocolate, potato chips or any other foods of the sort.  Well, that is false. I love almonds covered in dark chocolate, strawberry ice cream/frozen yogurt, and the ocassional salty treat (sugar is my personal weakness). However, the key is moderation.  My nutritionist suggested about an 80%-20% mentality, meaning that 80% of your week is filled with the nutrient-packed foods -- like veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, eggs, organic dairy, pure meats -- and then the other 20% you can indulge.  Now, when I say "indulge", don't envision a food party like Fat Tuesday, where people eat anything and everything under the sun before the Lenten season.  ICKSNAY.  You still have to be smart.  Being healthy is a constant, daily decision. Have those potato chips, but what oils/additives are they using?  Have some ice cream, but check the ingredients!  Check the ingredients online of the restaurant's menu (avoid buffets since they have the most preservatives & additives). I personally found that eating out was cut out really fast in my schedule.  Yes, there are the healthier options of eating out, but YOU making the food and knowing what's in the food is truly the way to go.  Just invite people over & split the costs.  The saying is correct in more ways than one: "There's nothing like a home-cooked meal." 

For those of you who are trying to have a strenuous schedule AND try to do this purification, you can consult with Standard Process Company (Whey Pro Complete) or for those who need cheaper options for HEALTHY protein, here is a list of suggestions: ground turkey, eggs, almonds, Greek yogurt, wild fish, handful of almonds and organic peanut/almond/cashew butter (still check ingredients). Try to take it easy during these 8 days as much as possible.  Okay, this is my last day to offer the breakfast shake varieties (just mix up your favorite fruits or try some new ones -- and maybe with a handful of that spinach!).   


Have you tried the Kale Chips yet?  Man, I have had those every day so far.  Kale is VERY dense in nutrients, and if at possible, shoot for eating it on a weekly basis.  Another "power food", as I like to call it, is pomegranate.  Have you ever seen this sucker in its original form?  Better yet, have you ever "peeled" it?  Today, or at least before the program is over, buy a pomegranate in its original form.  Remember, not only is it totally okay to eat the seeds, but those that don't, forfeit some good oils, fiber and micronutrients. It's quite an adventure. (Hint: Do it with an apron and in the kitchen sink. It squirts AND stains.)

Another snack option might be some SALSA, to dip your veggies in:
Tomatoes, onions, fresh cilantro, minced garlic, freshly squeezed lime, hot chile peppers (optional) -- all finely chopped.

To be perfectly honest, I am just going to have a salad today. It's kinda a hot day, and there's nothing that sounds better.  I have some leftover guacamole, so a spoonful of that will be my "dressing" with just about 1TBSP of EVOO.  Maybe a beet on the side (shoot for one weekly)! Here are my ingredients for the salad itself: arugula, romaine lettuce, baby lettuce, green peppers, carrots, celery, red onions & cucumbers.  Add a little sea salt. Devour.

>Find one that is yellow.  Green shows immaturity.
>Cut in half (good luck -- it's slightly hard; I usually make weird noises) & place on a normal cooking sheet filled with about an inch of water.
>Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes. It honestly depends on the size.

>In the meantime prepare the sauce for our "pasta."
>In a large sauce pan, first saute some chopped onions & garlic.  After about 5 minutes, add in the finely chopped tomatoes (quite a bit to get that saucy feel), zucchini, yellow squash & the FRESH basil (lots of it). (If you aren't on program, some grass-fed beef or ground turkey can be added in and then topped with some raw Mozarella cheese [again, check ingredients on cheeses]).

>Take the squash out of the oven and turn over one of the halves carefully.  Take a fork and swipe it through the "innards" to see if it is tender enough.  If it isn't, bake for another 5-10 minutes.
>Once it's ready, scoop out the "pasta" onto a plate and add the sauce on top. 

Is this your first time trying Spaghetti Squash?  Let me know!  
I had it for the first time last summer-- didn't even know it existed. 

I was reading this article today, and I thought I'd share. It offers some, how shall we say, "interesting" facts! Enjoy???  or how about this one

Post script:  If you are on the program with me (through Standard Process Company), it's very normal to experience tiredness and even slight mood swings. It's just your body trying to transition to the new adjustments.  I was telling someone that I got a migraine on Day 2!! Your body is trying to make some serious transitions. Be patient & keep up the good work!! It will be worth it. Promise.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 3: Soups in Summer.

Say What?  By now, you've heard me interject the word "organic" a few times.  Before 2011, organic sounded plain hippie to me. Don't know why. Just did.  I kept my mind open during the program.  Remember how I was talking about preservatives and additives in the previous "Say What?" section?  Well, you also have to worry about the chemicals/pesticides that are being sprayed on your fresh produce.  To be perfectly honest, there's not a lot of research about the health benefits between organic vs. not organic, but I would like the food that I am consuming to be as natural as possible. RIGHT?  Yes. Here's the rule-of-thumb for organic; it's called "The Dirty Dozen; Clean 15".  I pretty much stick to this list. When I'm poor, I just wash the "dirty dozen" items until I have no fingers left. :)

On this Purification Program, I am limited to certain ingredients, which is why I start off the day with simply a shake.  On any normal day, my breakfast consists of 2-3 types of fresh fruit, 2 hard boiled eggs (sometimes 3), and a slice of Ezekiel Bread ( with a generous serving of Peanut Butter on top. I just bought some Almond Butter and have yet to try it! I'm pretty excited tho.  I love breakfasts.

2 peaches
1/2 banana
Chunks of fresh pineapple

Have I mentioned before how large of an appetite I have?  So, by day 3, I honestly am thinking to myself, "Will I ever be satisfied again?  Will I ever fill my stomach?"  Maybe I'm alone in that.  However, I have discovered that soups, hearty and healthy ones, really fill me up!  Therefore, admist the blazing summer heat, we turn to soups.  Yes, scrumptious soups.

Lentils are SO good for you.  I never really had them until I went to Chile in 2009.  We had them in one form or another at least once a week.  Two suggestions for this recipe: (1) You might need a little more sea salt or flavoring than they call for.  Feel free to add a little more sea salt or some spicy herbs to kick it up a notch. (2) I would NOT do the can of crushed tomatoes.  Just buy some FRESH tomatoes and chop them up pretty small.  It does the trick every time.

Whenever you are finished, dole out a massive bowl for yourself.  Like it says in the recipe, put some fresh spinach on top (not in the pot -- just on an individual basis), microwave for 10-30 seconds.  Add in just a liiiiiitle bit of vinegar (if desired). You're ready to go!

Whenever I did this last year, I liked this soup so much that I ate it for dinner and then lunch the next day as well.  So, for today, you decide what you want for dinner instead of me becoming a dictator:  more lentil soup? another stir fry? a simple salad? 

Either way... buy a spaghetti squash tonight.  We're having "pasta" tomorrow! :) 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 2: Experimenting.

Well, hello.  So nice to see you again!  Ready for Day 2? Heck yes you are! :)

Day 2 is probably the hardest. You are craving certain foods and wondering to yourself, "Why the heck am I doing this again?"  Don't give up! I'm in the same boat.  Reward yourself today in some way-- watch your favorite movie, go for a nightly stroll, play your favorite game, go shopping for an hour, go for a motorcycle ride -- whatever it is to add a special joy to your day.

Say What? Today's "Say What?" revolves around preservatives and additives. Whenever I did this program in 2011, I will never forget what my nutritionist told me, "If the list of ingredients on a box/can/bottle is long, put the item back.  Also, if you can't pronounce some of the ingredients listed, DEFINITELY put it back!"  In other words, GO NATURAL.  Yes, our bodies will not die from these, but wouldn't you rather have a healthier body that reaches its full potential?  -- To have more energy, mental clarity, mood boost and overall health -- why yes, I would.  Therefore, whenever you are buying food, CHECK THE INGREDIENTS! MSG -- a common ingredient in soups, broths and other liquids -- is a nasty additive that brings on my headaches!! You should know what each one of the ingredients are; if not, don't buy it! Go home & research it.  Soda, store bought cookies, cereal, ice cream, ketchup, soy sauce, bread, crackers, peanut butter and so much more have these hidden, potent toxins lurking in their ingredients. Now, that's not to say that you cannot have those aforementioned items, but you need to do your research and find the HEALTHIEST form of the product (I have to tell you that sometimes there is no healthy form on some things).  Know what's in the food that you're putting into your body.  Eat more deliberately.

I thought I would try a new shake this morning. I am rewarding myself today with my favorite fruits! Whenever I was in Mexico in 2006, I ate probably 3-5 mangoes a day.  I love them!  They are a pain in the rear to peel (any tips appreciated), but they are SO worth the time.  So here is my new concoction of the morning:

1 whole mango
Handful of blueberries
7-15 raspberries
10 cherries
1 TBSP flaxseed

You're like, "What no spinach this morning?"  No, I thought I would mix it up.  However, that means we have to compensate in veggies for the rest of the morning (2:1 ratio).  Here we go!  Here are some munching recipes that involve pure vegetables:

Asparagus, however much you like
1 TBSP grapeseed oil per lb. of asparagus
Celtic Sea Salta
  • Cut off woody end of asparagus. Lay out the asparagus in a line on the lined pan and sprinkle the olive oil first, then the sea salt. Broil for 7-9 minutes, very close to the broiler coil, then turn asparagus over and broil for another 3-5 minutes (time depends on thickness of the stalks).
KALE CHIPS (triple yum)
1 bunch kale
1 TBSP grapeseed oil
1 TSP Celtic sea salt
1 TSP cayenne pepper (love this part!)
  • Preheat oven to 350. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a knife of kitchen shears, carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite-size pieces. Wash and thorough dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.  A personal favorite!  I had a HUGE bunch today! Remember, not to put too much grapeseed oil on it, no drowning that kale please!
LUNCH LUNCH!  We will not be having salads every single day for lunch, but I want to show how you can include variety in the most basic forms -- changing the ingredients, the dressing, the way in which the veggies are chopped...etc.  Today, we are changing the greens being used.  

Massive heap of arugula
Massive heap of baby lettuce
Orange/yellow peppers
Red Onions (I use onions for everything - GREAT purifier)
Celery fineeeeeely chopped
Broccoli fineeeeeeely chopped
  • Combine all the above and add your dressing. I personally would recommend the Vinaigrette dressing given in yesterday's blog for this particular salad. It adds a different flavor with the arugula.  Stay away from the Ranch, Blue Cheese, Italian and 5200 Island dressings!!  Most of those have bad fats, not to mention a boat load of those toxic preservatives and additives.  
  • After making your salad look scrumptious, don't take a bite just yet!  Chop up some slices of some fresh BEETS (let me know if you need help with this one) & 1/2 of an avocado.  Put on side.  Have fun! Make it go around the edges to dress up the appearance or make a design.  Shoot, cooking can be fun ya know?
Again, if you are feeling the munchies between now and dinner: raw veggies (w/ guacamole if desired), kale chips, asparagus fries or some more shakes.... or do something else creative with veggies -- steam, bake, saute, or whatever you want! Experiment. Start to enjoy playing in the kitchen.

Okay, so tonight's dinner is another stir fry, but with different ingredients (VARIETY).  Again, the purpose of today's blog is to show you how to play around in the kitchen, constantly experimenting.  

Yellow squash (cut relatively small)
Zucchini (cut relatively small)
Yellow Onions
Snap peas
Ginger Root (really unique taste!)
Grapeseed Oil
Brown/wild Rice leftover from yesterday (if you don't have any, make some more)

  • Add your oil (1-2 TBSP), minced ginger root (it's great in stir fry, just make sure not to go overboard) and 1-2 garlic cloves minced to the saute pan.
  • Next add onion, carrots & snap peas.  Let it cook for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Next add squash, zucchini, mushrooms.  You are adding this next so that you won't have it all mushy or the other previous ingredients too hard/uncooked. 
  • After everything seems to be to the blandness/crunchy level desired, sprinkle a handful of spinach on top.  Saute for only 1 minute.
  • Next add in the brown rice right to the pan -- let it saute with all the others.  Feel free to add a little more oil at this point if things are lookin' a little "dry."  
  • Sprinkle with sea salt. :)  Want to squeeze a little lime? Or crushed red pepper? or some fresh rosemary? Totally up to you and your taste buds.
Chug that water!  Remember, no other liquids! It's better to drink water between meals, not during meals as much. It can actually mess with the digestion process if you have too much water with your meal. 

Cooking takes time and it makes for a messy kitchen. Man, my kitchen is crazy right now (ick).  Also, keep in mind that this purification program that I'm on is limited to fruits, veggies, rice/lentils.  Therefore, if we can be creative in these 8 days and enjoy ourselves, the possibilities of healthy eating are countless AFTER the program -- when you can add in healthier forms of cheese, nuts, whole grains, and all other sorts of goodies. For right now, however, let's stick to the basics. Yay?  Yay!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 1: Say What?

SAY WHAT? This section of the blog will help you understand important nutritional facts and the "WHY" of the health world, as well as other suggestions when cooking.  Today's "Say What?" involves cooking oils.  I personally adore extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and grapeseed oil the most, sometimes sesame oil with Asian dishes.  Rule of thumb, EVOO is great for salads and other recipes that require low heat.  However, EVOO actually turns into bad fat above medium heat (anything above 200-250 degrees, which isn't all that hot when it comes to cooking).  So, to actually cook, please go with coconut oil, grapeseed oil or seasame oil.  You will see this selection for tonight's stir fry dinner.

Please keep in mind that the program that I am doing helps PURGE out the toxins in my body with the supplements/pills/powder that I have, but since you might not be doing the Standard Process program with me, this blog will be more about developing a health consciousness and, hmmm shall we say, healthy appetite. :)  Also, at the end of the 8 days, I will keep posting for the next few days with what regular meals would be like for me, STILL being health conscious (but more options when off the Purification Program). 

So, what shall we make for breakfast?  Well, I almost always go the shake route for breakfast during the program.  So, take a few deep breaths, the ingredients in this shake might give a shock to the system, in the best way possible. 

5-8 large strawberries
10-15 raspberries
1 TBSP of flaxseed
Generous handful of baby spinach (yes, I'm serious)
Wee squeeze of lemon
3-4 oz of water
  • Mix in blender. Enjoy.
  • Don't like the flavor?  Try different fruit.
Mornings are the hardest for me. I have the largest appetite known to mankind, so I usually am hungry after this.  I usually have to make 2-3 shakes before lunch time comes around.  I get the munchies pretty bad the first few days.  ANOTHER OPTION besides the shakes: I usually chop up some raw veggies (peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, celery..etc) and then dip them in some homemade guacamole:

2 avocados
FRESH cilantro
Lots of lime squeezed over the top
Sea salt to taste
  • Keep in mind that both tomatoes and avocados are considered fruits -- be sure to compensate with your intake of those raw veggies. Don't forget that 2:1 ratio!
LUNCH TIME!  Okay, so you've made it through the morning.  Breathe a sigh of relief.  Ready to have a blast with a salad?  Yeah, I thought so.

SALAD #1 >  CHOP EVERYTHING VERY FINE. Mixing up textures for some reason helps. Ingredients on my salad today: Massive amounts of baby spinach & romaine lettuce (should have a heap), red peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini.  Dressings are dangerous -- no, really.  So, you have two options today.  My personal favorite is to drizzle (not drench) extra virgin olive oil and then squeeze some lemon on top to offer the zest.  Your other option would be a vinaigrette dressing: (2/3 cup olive oil, 1 TBSP Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/4 cup water, herbs to taste).  Either way, don't forget to add sea salt for the final flavor.  If you are still hungry after you eat the salad, you didn't make it big enough -- and that's coming from a big eater.  My salads sometimes are too big for a plate, let's just put it that way.

For dessert, have a SMALL bowl of fruit (orange, apple & peach is what I had).  Drizzle a very small amount of RAW honey on top (when I am not on the program, I use organic Greek yogurt and granola sometimes as well).  Voila! :)  So, if you get hungry between now and dinner, you could make some more shakes with all sorts of different ingredients AND/OR num-num on that guacamole and raw veggies mix.  More munching recipes to come tomorrow, don't worry!  Eat dinner early if you feel like you're dying......

Wait, did someone say dinner?  Go ahead and start the brown rice (it takes a while -- approx 45 min).  In the meantime, start chopping up the veggies for our stir fry.

Sweet snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (you decide the quantity -- the more the better!)
Minced garlic (start with a little if not sure how strong you'd like it, I go crazy)

  • Pour a small amount of grapeseed oil & the garlic into the frying pan. Stir fry these veggies for 4-8 minutes.
  • Add crushed red pepper for a bit of a sting. I like sting.  (Opt: if you don't like spicy, maybe add some fresh basil or oregano. Also yummy)
  • After you believe it's the right texture (crunchy or soft enough), pour the veggies onto a small bed of your brown rice.  Add sea salt to taste. Also, feel free to squeeze a little bit of LIME on top.  Lime does wonders for stir frys. For reals.
How much water have you had today?  I'm on my 10th one right now.  Hint: Drink 8oz immediately when you get up (before breakfast/shower).  Get in that water!!  

You can do this!  Remember, it's only eight days out of 365.  Your body will thank you, and my sincere hope is that you will be inspired to extend this care to the other 357 days. :) Keep pressing onward.  Keep yelling at that chocolate to go take a hike!!  You show those Doritos who's the boss!!  Resist.  Get plenty of sleep tonight.  

How are you doing?  Surviving?  
Day 1 & 2 are always the hardest,
but you got this. Ya hear me?

Prep: Rolling Up Your Sleeves.

There will be two blogs today: 
one with your new grocery list (buy food today!)
& then the other with the recipes for tomorrow's adventure (day 1).

First off, it's important to remember, NO other liquids for the next eight days besides filtered/spring water -- no coffee, tea, juice, Gatorade, lemonade, not even milk.  Water is one of the key components to the purification process.  NOTHING can replace water.  That was the biggest lesson I learned last summer, when I averaged 2-3 glasses a day.  Baaaaaaad.  The average person, whether on this program or not, should consume 8 glasses (64 oz) of water every day; those who suffer from headaches should drink EVEN MORE as their minimum, considering that dehydration is a trigger for headaches/migraines.  

Okay! So ready to go to the store?  Stock up like a lunatic on your veggies and fruits -- keep in mind that "you should eat twice as many servings of vegetables as fruits!" That's the hard part - lots of veggies.  Do not stray away from the things on this list when buying.  Also, don't forget to buy some brown/wild rice and some lentils.  I would go organic on as much as possible (especially berries & the rice), but no worries if not. Let's just first get you thinkin' healthy. :) 

Lastly, but super important, buy some SEA salt.  I personally promote the Celtic Sea Salt, because of the health benefits and the unique flavor, but if you don't have a health food store close by, just pick up the most natural sea salt possible (check ingredients).


I would love to hear what you bought!
Post your comments.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Changing your oil.

QUESTION:  Why do we change the oil in our cars 2-4x a year, and yet we don't think TWICE about giving our bodies that same care?  

I can testify -- being a skinny stick for almost my life -- that just because you "look" healthy on the outside DOES NOT equate to a healthy inside.

Well, if you're ready for a healthier lifestyle -- whether for the mental clarity, the mood boost, weight loss or just to have solid, overall health -- I am READY and EXCITED to help you!!  Starting Tuesday (06/19/2012), I am doing an 8-day program that helps purify your body and will be posting recipes in advance to help you and encourage you as we go.  So you are as much prepared as possible...  All of the 8 days, it will be FRESH fruit & veggies (w/fresh herbs and good oils), brown/wild rice & lentils and water.  Nothing else.  Trust me, it's not as horrible as it sounds -- and geez, it's only 8 days out of 365.  I think you'll live; actually, NO, your body will be thriving.

I always do my program through the Standard Process company, which would be the more effective, full purification; however, before you make that financial commitment, I would like to take these eight days to prove to you how do-able this healthy lifestyle is, as well as hopefully educating you along the way about our "food" in America.  I did the full out program -- which is 22 days total -- in the summer of 2011, and I have been migraine-free since then (PTL).  That's a BIG deal, people!!  Food is meant for so much more than we realize.

If you are planning on giving this a try, please leave a comment on this blog or on my facebook wall.  I would be more than happy to answer your questions along the way as well -- gluten issues? arthritis? picky eaters? coffee habit? depressed? ...etc.  Man, you will not regret this decision, and I will be here the whole time rooting you on! So excited  for you!

Hope to hear from you soon!  Buckle up!  The ride begins soon. :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Peru Itinerary

Follow along with the various cities here. :)
I thought I would offer a very general itinerary so that you are better able to "travel along" with me and Jana. More details to come after the trip. :)

Be writing again soon!  Off to the airport.

May 6: 12 hour flight from St. Louis to Lima (have to get up every 30min-60min to avoid getting blood clots)
May 7: Lima 
May 8: Lima
May 9: Fly to Cuzco (otherwise, it's a 22 hours bus ride)
May 10: Take train to Aguas Calientes (town right outside of Machu Picchu)
May 12: Back to Cuzco
May 13: Flight day = Cuzco-Lima-Trujillo
May 14-17: Trujillo 
May 18-20: Lima
May 21: Back to the USA.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Woe is me!

Progression of thinking in regards to 20 page papers..........
Level 1: "Oh my word, I don't want to do this. Why am I even in grad school? WHY?!"
Level 2: *cries because of only having five pages written*
Level 3: *pulls out hair because only half way through and already fed up with chosen topic*
Level 4: "Okay, woman, you just need to buck up and get this done!"
Level 5: "Hey this is finally coming around nicely and it’s kinda fun!"
Level 6: "Oh my word, I don't know if I can fit all my thoughts into 20 pages. Man."
Level 7: "Ehhh, why not shoot for 23 pages?"
Level 8: Finishes paper. Feels like the queen of the world for sixty seconds until….
Level 9: Recognizes that another 15 page paper still beckons.
Level 10: Start process over. Redirect to Level 1.

= This is my life currently. 
Two weeks left in graduate school.