Good Eats: Easy Chicken Dinner

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We had a few chicken breasts to grill up a few nights ago, but I wanted to make them a tad more interesting than just serving them alone. So, I served the chicken over a bed of spinach, topped with a serving of salsa. We had sweet potato fries as a side dish. What an easy, healthy, no-fuss dinner that tasted great. My favorite kind!


Gym Hair: Side Bun with a Twist

Monday, May 28, 2012

Do you ever get bored of just wearing your hair in a ponytail for the gym? Well, I do, so as I'm testing out some new gym styles, I thought I'd share what do's hold up after some pretty intense workouts. Lately I've been running HIIT intervals for 40 minutes followed by at least 20 minutes of strength training, to give you an idea of what these hairstyles have to withstand.

This first style was a side twist braid, tucked into a side ponytail. Then, the ponytail was shaped into a messy side bun.

Here are the before pictures:


gym hair-side braid

And here are the after pictures:



The hairdo mostly stayed intact, but the bun could've used a few extra bobby pins and spritzes of hairspray.

I will definitely be using this hairstyle again with a few tweaks. It's so much fun to experiment and change up my style a little bit. It's especially important to keep my long mane off my back as the temperatures keep rising.

My Favorite Things Today

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sometimes, it helps amidst all the distractions, to take a step back and admire the small things that make our places special. These are a few of my favorite things today:

Marking heights on the door panel
This is one of the most charming remnants left behind by the previous occupants of our house. There are size markings up and down the entire length of the kitchen doorway. The previous family was a foster family, so the names and dates span years of family growth. We need to add our own son to this relic soon.

Quirky antique towel hanger
Even though we live in an older home, there weren't a whole lot of pretty details characteristic of some other older homes. Except this pretty girl. She's our towel holder inside the door of the bathroom cabinets. I just adore her!

Toddler Ink Art
Eating outside on an old vintage sheet, admiring the artwork of a busy little three-year-old: ink drawings up the complete length of both little legs. Yes, we did laugh a little, while we tsk-tsked and enjoyed our meal alfresco.

Tree full of birds nests
I have lived in the same city almost all my life and on this side of town for over 6 years. I have passed this tree countless times on family walks and commutes to work on-foot and on-bike. And apparently, I never looked up. Look at all the cute little birds nests filling the crooks and sawed-off crannies of this tree. Maybe the owners felt bad when the city removed the branches from the power lines and compensated the homeless birds, Home Makeover Bird Edition style.

What's making you happy today?

Book Pages: Natural Beauty Recipes

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some things never change, like my love of natural remedies and health aids. I was one of those kids with oatmeal and honey pore masks on my face. Uh-huh.


I picked up this vintage copy of The Complete Book of Natural Cosmetics when I was not even old enough to drive to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. And it still has a place on my bookshelf all these years later.

I knew what tinctures, concoctions, tonics and infusions were, just like a good little apothecary. However, I didn't practice my medicine because of course my parents weren't too keen on buying me bottle of vodka for medicinal purposes. Haha!


Here's a little recipe we can all try:


And here are some charming vintage ink pen drawing we can all admire:


This recipe just kills me. Strain your tapioca and herb mixture through an old nylon stocking foot. What is it with vintage books and nylon stockings lately? Ha! I'm okay with recycling them for alternate uses since it's not exactly trendy to cover your legs with them anymore. However, using old ones for tapioca straining gives me the chills a little.


What natural recipes have you used before? Beer hair rinses, anyone? I think I'm going to whip me up a batch of that apple lotion this weekend and put it in a really pretty glass apothecary jar.

Using Pinterest to Enhance Your Writing

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pinterest, besides being a treasure field of hairdos, recipes, DIY projects and home decor ideas, may also be used as a source of something more peripheral: writing ideas. In a sense, you can draw moods and paint pictures in your mind about storylines by paging through the rich collections of images. Here is a list of ways you can use Pinterest to develop your writing ideas:

1. Directs your thinking. I've been plotting a book idea for awhile, and I did a simple search in relation to it. The images gave direction to a few more chapters in the book. For example, say you're writing an article about putting together a care package for a cancer patients. You might search "cancer gift" to begin putting together ideas for your article. You might even start getting more article ideas just by browsing, such as oncologist-approved soap for delicate skin. Pinterest is talented at putting you in the mindset of what you're writing about so the thoughts start pouring in. Beware, because too many thoughts could start rolling in:)

2. Assists the Brainstorm Process. Pinterest could be used as a virtual brainstorm in itself. If you can't find a starting point or become completely stuck, browsing through related images could restart your brain gears. Keep a paper nearby to brainstorm or cluster your thoughts. You may even find an effective technique for brainstorming by typing "brainstorm" in the search box. In fact, Pinterest might just be the proper cure for writer's block.

Source: via Anna on Pinterest

3. Trigger. Even when you're not searching for related images to your writing, you might stumble upon an image that triggers an idea for a blog post or a memory that would form a beautiful poem.

4. Picture your characters and settings. My advice is to create "character" and "setting" boards for any fictional novels you're preparing to write. You can get as detailed as you would like. What would your character wear? Where would he/she live? What would her teenage daughter's room look like? Developing strong, rounded characters requires the writer/creator to think about all of these things. You may even start accumulating details about your character that you hadn't even thought about before. Visualizing settings also helps you work out the logistics of rooms, pathways, and other details about location so you can describe them properly.

Your imagination just takes off with actual images. I find it frustrating to create a character or setting from scratch, based upon my own ideas of person and place. Pinterest puts me in touch with more people and places than I could dream up on my own. I have a hard time conceptualizing settings in my head, but Pinterest is always there to assist with the visualization.

5. Learn new territory. Are you developing a character who loves ballet, but don't know much about dance? You can always start with a Pinterest image search. You'll start picking up on information about the gear, outfits, posture, popular ballets, studio layouts and so much more. You can see detailed pictures of the insides of the shoes the typical dancer's body structure. You've been told to "write what you know." This is good advice, but you can also start "knowing" more by researching.

6. Find a new art medium. I'm not suggesting you give up writing to be a watercolorist, unless that's your dream. I'm talking about finding a way to express your words in a way that feels natural to you. If novel writing feels right, keep on keeping on. For me, novels never felt quite right.  Right now, on Pinterest, I'm on a hunt for more examples of Art + Writing. I have a few art journal and calligraphy images pinned as a start. I've always wanted to combine beautiful words with imagery in some meaningful way, and Pinterest is helping me develop ideas for a new art combination as well.

Link Party:
Mingle Monday Blog Hop

Good Healthy Eats: Better Banana Split

Sunday, May 13, 2012

We eat bananas a lot at our house. And peanut butter. Our Peanut loves both, so we make extra certain to keep a regular supply of them. However, bananas get a little boring in their completely natural state, don't they?

So, I decided to play with the banana a little bit. The results: mmmmmmm mmmm! You'll never miss the ice cream! And I don't say that lightly. I'm an ice cream fanatic. And let me tell you: this was sooo much better (and healthier) without the ice cream.

Set 1 banana on a plate. Microwave 1Tbsp peanut butter for 30 seconds. Drizzle over the top of the banana. Spray with cool-whip-in-a-can. Grate leftover Easter bunny chocolate over the top. Garnish with maraschino cherries to make it even tastier. Serve with a side of almonds.


Don't tell anyone, but I totally had this for dinner one night. It was like eating only dessert for supper. It was sooooo good!

Again, all supplies can be found at Aldi's, making this a cost- and health-friendly treat. Fruit for dessert anyone?

Tips for Running with Your Dog

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Meet my running partner, Titus. He is a Staffordshire Terrier who likes to sleep under the covers. He is the best running partner ever because he:


1. Is always ready for a run. Only ice in his paws will slow him down (he’s short haired, so winter runs are not ideal). I don’t need to set a date and time. He’s there. He’s ready.

2. Always keeps pace with me. I am never running too fast or too slow for Titus. I have pretty short legs, so 5mph works for both of us.

3. Gives us both a reason to exercise. I am a proponent of Caesar Milan’s advice about exercising your dog. If we can both pump out 3 miles at once, we’ll both feel better afterwards.

4. Makes me feel safe in grittier neighborhoods. No one messes with the pit bull.

5. Except those tiny little people that approach asking to pet him. I just love that!

6. Gives me a bicep workout at the same time. Titus, leave the squirrels alone! But really, guiding him with the leash is a good arm challenge. Look at him. He's meaty!

7. His happy energy wears off on me. When he sees the running shoes get tied and the leash come out of the basket, he gets downright giddy. It makes me feel a little more excited about running too.

8. Won’t roust up the cat as much when he’s tired. Milan knows that that a tired dog is an obedient dog.

Titus has accompanied us in 5K races and trail hikes. He’s a great sport. I think this is the reason he hasn’t even come close to showing his age yet. He’s 8 (going on 9 in August) and he’s still a solid block of muscle with some sprightly puppy energy still inside him.
If you’re thinking of running with your pup, here are some things to consider:
Will your dog run beside you? If you have a dog that takes you for a walk, you might consider some training to make him a better running partner. Titus stays at my side, so I am never at his mercy. Except when a squirrel crosses right in front of him, but see my comment about built-in bicep work above.
What breed is your dog? It is absolutely necessary that you do some research to make sure that your breed is suited for running. Do not try to run a 10k with a bulldog! Titus is well-suited for brisk, shorter runs. Perfect!
Is he ready to run? Even if you’ve found a breed that is built to run, you still need to build up their endurance just like you built up yours. And check with his doctor just like you checked with yours.

How far are you going? Titus and I usually go 3 miles tops. Any longer than that (or on hot days), and you should probably bring along water for both of you and a collapsible water dish along the lines of this. If the dog is lagging or showing signs of exhaustion, do not push him! It is also best to go when temperatures and sun are not at their peak. We both find that 60 to 70 degrees is pretty ideal for a run.

Where are you running? Be mindful that your dog is not wearing shoes to guard his feet from broken glass, sharp rocks, frostbite or burning-hot pavement. Titus is used to running on sidewalk and trails, which are my normal running routes. Just make sure to keep Bowser's feet in mind.
What type of leash do you have? I find that a leash that is long enough to allow me to pump my arms and maintain good form, but short enough to keep the dog near my side, is just perfect.

Try not to make running with your dog too difficult though. A doggie workout buddy is ideal because they barely require any fancy gear or training. That's what makes running with him so great!
I don’t have any advice on what to do with those #2 bags while you’re running. They’re gross and they flop about and make it hard to, well, run. There are other disadvantages, but this is not the place to list them:) If you have any good tips for running with poo or if you’ve invented the perfect disposable bag system, please let me know! I'm in desperate need of something...anything!

Good Healthy Eating: Summer Salad

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I decided I wanted to start playing with my food and make it fun and exciting again. With a husband who regularly makes hot dogs with mac and cheese, a girl just needs something a little, um, better. However, I'm a 5-ingredients-or-less, 15-minutes-or-less, health-conscious type of non-cook. I had a few ingredients, you know, just lying around, so I threw together this beautiful tomato salad.


Tomato Cucumber Summer Salad

I chopped up 1 carton multi-colored cherry tomatoes and cubed 1c cucumbers. I mixed in 1Tbsp feta cheese, 1 good spritz of olive oil over the top, and 2 snipped chive stems. Mix in a little black pepper, sea salt and a splash of vinegar if desired. Garnish with mint for presentation.

Did I mention that this was a pretty low-cost side dish? Almost all the ingredients came from either Aldi's or my backyard! And the taste was so light and summer fresh. Can't wait to make this for our next barbecue.

See the mint growing in the cracks?

The Importance of Fitness for Health and Recovery

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Today, I proudly present a post from guest blogger David Haas, who has been studying and writing about the positive effects of an active lifestyle on cancer patients. David is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Take it away David...


When you are dealing with cancer or any other traumatic life occurrence, it might surprise you how much good exercise can do for you. Many people, when they are faced with challenges, want to hide and become very sedentary, but the truth is that in many cases, it is far better for you to stay active. Caring for Cancer states that fitness should be one of your highest priorities if you have cancer, so see what your options might be.

Get Some Advice

If you want to get fit while recovering from cancer, or if you find that fitness for mesothelioma treatment is one of your big goals, you should not start with no information. This is especially true if you are someone who is starting to exercise from a dead stop! If you are invested in making sure that you can start off with a fitness regimen that suits you, consult with your doctor and then see about working with a personal trainer. There are many people out there who find that having someone to guide them through the process helps them stay on top of things.

Right Time, Right Place

If you want to exercise, you need to make it part of your routine, and you will discover that in many cases, you need a special time and place for your exertions. Think about how you feel about working a gym into your routine. For example, are you someone who loves going to a class, or do you just want to head to the weight room to pump some iron? On the other hand, you might be someone who is devoted to simply working out on your own. Learning this about yourself can help you figure out what exercise regimen is right for you.

Get a Workout Buddy

Even if you are dealing with the easy tiring that comes with cancer treatment, you will find that in many cases, the thing that you have to beat is lethargy. Consider how you can make sure that you get off the couch and off to the gym or even out for a walk. Talk to a friend and ask them to keep you motivated. Whether you run on the treadmills side by side or you simply get each other to the gym before going off in your own directions, you will discover that this is something that can get you very motivated. Just be ready to return the favor if your workout buddy is having a rough day.

Have Fun!

If your primary memories of working out and getting fit all have to do with trauma and drama suffered in high school gym class, it can be tough to find the motivation to get fit. The truth is that now you are doing it because you want to do it. No one is forcing you, and there is no reason that exercise can’t be fun. Whether you are interested in a martial art or in rock climbing, you can now tailor your experience to be what you want it to be!

For example, how do you feel about performance? If you love the idea of getting up in front of others, why not consider a dance studio? On the other hand, if you are invested in making sure that you can take care of yourself, why not enroll in a martial art dedicated to self-defense?

Take a moment to consider where you want your health to be when it comes to general fitness and exercise. Find a program that works for you and then stick with it. No matter what your goals are, fitness is important.


Book Pages: Beautiful Hand Calligraphy

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I remember doing a unit on calligraphy in my middle school art class. My mom took me to the store to buy an extra-special set of calligraphy pens because of my fervent interest in this particular art unit. Besides wanting to be an actress, ranch worker, artist, writer, singer-songwriter, fashion designer, beach bum and naturalist, I also wanted to be a professional calligrapher at one point. I even collected all the necessary tools and scavenged this seconhand calligraphy book:


Check out these rad typeface techniques. These would be perfect for art journals or scrapbooks.


Beautiful spiralling calligraphy:


Have you ever tried calligraphy before? It's an enchanting art form. You can add another dimension of visual beauty to your handmade greeting cards or handwritten wedding invitations. This triple-tip technique looks reminiscent of manuscripts from the 18th century or something.


And here is my own attempt at an ancient typeface. This sheet was tucked inside the book and probably written by the little 7th grade version of me. I can hardly believe that I could pull this off at age 12.


Immediately upon seeing this practice page, something reignited inside of me. I just love the aesthetic of calligraphic letters. I think a part of me has always wanted to combine art and writing in some meaningful way. Well, ta-da!