Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Lady of Leisure

Summer is delicious. That's my official take on the matter. And this summer is shaping up to be particularly enjoyable. Not only am I done with my full-day job working with elementary kiddos with behavior issues until September, but I'm not completely unemployed. I'm working in the summer version of the same school program, only this time it's half days Monday through Thursday, and only until August. I feel so spoiled!

On top of all that, my summer tiny class is filled with amazing students. I've only been teaching in the extended school year program for just over a week, but already I feel so blessed to know them as well as my three fellow staff members. Our "curriculum," for lack of a better term, covers how to relate well to one another. This week, for example, we're covering trust. (They made that fabulous banner that is pictured at the top of this post, with lots of sharing and politeness and hardly any shoving!) In addition, we're getting them out in the community riding bikes, visiting the public library, playing outside, and going on mini field trips. I'm having a blast!

But summer school only takes up my mornings. So what else am I up to these days? I bet you can guess -- blogging! I'm riding my bike instead of driving as much as possible, and heading out for luxurious mid-afternoons of lunch, mugs of tea or sugar-free Italian sodas, catching up with the long-ignored posts collecting dust on my Google Reader, and blogging here. It's fabulous, although I feel rather lazy enjoying this life of leisure while the Best Husband Ever continues on his 9-5-ish schedule.

Still, my feelings of being a bum are countered by biking in place of driving. Also, I'm able to hit the YMCA gym when it's less crowded. Unfortunately I'm still having trouble getting pool time in due to the summer camps that are in there, but I'm trying. Really.

I'm also practicing letting myself slow down and enjoy not being go-go-go all the time. I use the word "practicing" deliberately, because it's not easy for me, both in terms of my temperament and also in light of my [now mostly past] eating disorder. I really like to be busy, occupied, and productive-feeling. As a result, it's extraordinarily difficult for me to lay and watch a movie, spend quiet time with God and my Bible, curl up with a book, or, in fact, sit and blog. But I do. Because it's healthy. Because it's okay not be constantly in motion. Because I need rest, even if my anorexia is whispering that I need to get up and do something.

So I ignore it. I tell that voice that it's crazy and move on with my life. I watch a movie (last week the hubby exposed me to the wonderful old film, The Three Musketeers, which I found surprisingly delightful). I sit myself down and read. (I'm currently reading Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger, which is a mature YA book that I'm completely engrossed in -- The Book Thief by the same author is also extraordinary.) I blog (obviously). I go out and take photos for no good reason. I drink my tea and enjoy it. I lay in the sun, soak up its luscious vitamin D, and allow myself to simply be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tri-ing To Train

Sometimes I make rash decisions that I regret later. Does this happen to you? Fortunately, it does not occur too often in my life . . . but right now I'm [somewhat] living in regret land. Over what, you ask? I am currently regretting my entrance into the sprint triathlon that's being held in my home city at the end of August. It's not that I haven't been training -- in fact, I have! However, if you read on, you'll discover exactly why I'm none too keen on the triathlon at the moment. Here's a brief overview of how my training is coming along.

August's sprint triathlon begins with a 500 yard swim. This, unfortunately, is where my training falls to pieces. I'm not a good swimmer. I can't do freestyle to save my life, so I had planned to alternate laps of breast and back strokes during the event. These strokes, though, are fairly slow. So my time in the pool is fairly boring, not to mention uncomfortable (I don't like to be wet, I don't enjoy wearing a swimsuit, and my swim cap and goggles give me a headache). Swimming's not my thing -- but I know that. So why in the world did I enter a triathlon? Even if I am participating in the beginners' heat, I think I'm doomed to embarrass myself come summer's end.

My biking training stats are decidedly less dismal than my efforts in the pool. Part two of the August triathlon is a 12+ mile bike ride. I'm happy to report that I've attended my first spinning class in over a year, I have been using the YMCA's nifty Expresso stationary bikes for both endurance and hills (these bikes are so cool -- they have handlebars that you can steer, a screen that displays a virtual ride or a television program of your choice, a built-in radio with great music that you can plug your headphones into, and the computer saves your workout information to the manufacturer's website), and I've been using my mountain bike as a form of transportation now that the weather is warm. I think I'll be ready for the biking component in August.

My running in preparation for the triathlon's 5k run has been . . . fair. I've gone on a couple of runs over the past weeks, but the super-hot weather plus some twinging pain in my left leg's joints has kept me elliptical-ing more than anything else. I have to say that I've done quite a bit of the elliptical, both forward and reverse, but I should probably do more straight-up running around town and on the trails. I'm not sure if that will actually get me more ready than the elliptical in reality, but I believe that it will and so I'll feel better once I get more "real world" miles under my belt -- er, running skort.

I think the most worrisome part of my training efforts is that I just don't feel excited about the triathlon. I know that I won't always feel like working hard to get ready for it, but I'm also simply dreading the event itself. It's started to become something of a task master instead of a fun new challenge to try (tri!).

Do you have any advice? Because I could sure use it! To see what my most recent workouts have entailed, check out my Runner's World widget over on the blog's right sidebar in the space entitled "Current Sweat Level."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Keep Your Sweat Off the Table, Please

It's hot! I know that I've been complaining about summer taking its sweet time to show up here in Montana -- but now it's here in full force! That means no more outdoor afternoon runs, no more killer midday hikes with the pups, and no more super-hot cooking methods at dinner time.

Our new house, as wonderful as it is, gets extraordinarily warm in the kitchen and living room. Add some hardcore oven time or even a stove top meal and suddenly the Best Husband Ever is a sweating, panting mess at the dinner table. To alleviate his discomfort as well as get myself out of the uncomfortable task of preparing dinner around a 400*F oven, days like this call for a no-cook recipe.

How about a twist on the same-old-same-old tuna salad? Tuna is super healthy for you -- it provides a hefty protein punch and brings along some vitamin B6 and those omega-3 fatty acids, strengthening the cardiovascular system, protecting the heart, reducing inflammation, and possibly even preventing cancer. How fabulous! (Learn more about tuna's health benefits at The World's Healthiest Foods.)

Given tuna's huge nutrition quotient, it's a shame that I grew up detesting the food. I could not stand canned tuna plain (and really, who can?), but even the standard tuna salad concoction turned my stomach. Still, I did not give up on the canned fish, and I'm thankful that's true. Otherwise I would not have been able create, taste, and adore this Tex-Mex twist on ye olde Tuna salade.

It's Too Hot! Tex-Mex Tuna Salad

6 oz. can light tuna, drained
1 T dried onion flakes
1/3 cup salsa (I used garlic lime)
1/4 cup sour cream (I used fat-free quark)
1/2 tsp cumin

Optional add-ins
1/2 avocado, diced
1 crunchy red apple (I used a cameo apple)
1/4 cup black olives, sliced (I did not use olives)

Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but ideally no longer than 2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips, over dark and leafy fresh veggies, or all on its own.

Serves 2.

Kaivalya, please don't forget to contact me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) come to collect your yoga-licious winnings! Also, our 10% discount code, KitchenCourage, is still valid at YogaDownload.com until June 30. You've still got two more days, so don't miss out!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

When a Treat Is Not a Treat

Happy Saturday! In our household, that means treat day and a trip to the farmer's market. Today the Best Husband Ever and I headed downtown and snagged some tasties. He went for his old favorite, a caramel roll, while I tried something new from the Black Cat Bake Shop -- a huckleberry scone. Huckleberries are native to Montana, and start appearing by the bushel at the farmer's market later in the season, hand-picked by the locals. I was very excited about trying a nifty new baked good that is so definitely Montana-made.

While at Black Cat's stand, I snagged one of their bread samples that I have been waiting to reappear at the market for some time, a small piece of Vermont maple loaf. Sadly, this was the first Black Cat item that did not match up to their products' usual high quality. It was quite dry and unremarkable, and I could not detect any maple at all. Maybe that's what I get for eating a purported Vermont-y bread in the Pacific northwest.

However, my huckleberry scone could not share that excuse. While the texture of the top of the scone was enjoyable (although not at all almond streusel-ed, as advertised by the Black Cat bakers), the rest of it turned out to be a letdown. Just like the bread sample, the scone was very dry. I thought the confection would be moist and brimming with ripe berry flavor, but I was wrong, alas and alack.

So it turned out that today's treat was not a food treat at all. Instead, my time spent with the Best Husband Ever, puzzling over an extremely challenging Scrabble game together, wandering the markets, and perusing the library's fiction selection, was the real treat. I am so grateful that he is my husband! He's brilliant, handsome, makes me laugh, is good with a computer, a lover of God, and absolutely the best guy ever. Plus, he's got a great tush.

On the way back to the car after our morning adventures, I spied this poster:

I suppose that's one way to honor a life that's come to an end! However, it got me wondering -- what is up with all the celebrity deaths of late? First Ed McMahon (age 86), then Farrah Fawcett (age 62), and now Michael Jackson (age 50). And honestly, why do we care so much? Is it because Fawcett and Jackson were young and their deaths feel more unexpected or tragic? Or is it because folks think that celebrities are better than the rest of the population?

Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but I'm a little tired of Michael Jackson's death (under dubious circumstances, no less) receiving more press and more tears than Neda Soltani's murder by sniper in Iran last Monday, or the 24 people who lost their lives in the seven bombings that shook Baghdad over the past week. Yes, it is sad that Jackson died so young, but does the singer's passing really deserve so much media attention? What do you think about coverage of Hollywood's highs and lows? As for me, I'd like to see more news that is actually news hitting the presses instead of a front-page gossip column.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Granola, Dessert, and a Joust -- Oh My!

I think that summer has decided to stick around at last! We are finally getting some consistently sun and warm weather here in the northwestern U.S., a fact of which I am very grateful. I've been getting out on my bike instead of driving my car in order to take advantage of these lovely days.

Hang on -- I'm wildly changing topics here! After I wrote the above paragraph, I noticed people outside the coffee shop I'm blogging from making horrible faces and looking up the street. Curious, I walked outside to see what they were gawking at. Apparently, a motorcyclist was just hit by an SUV. He's on the ground and yelling in pain while the paramedics and police are trying to help him and keep the busy street safe for both the biker and the continuing traffic. After coming back in and reading what I wrote about taking my bicycle out instead of a car, I'm reminded that I'm not invincible. We all need to be careful as we travel around, obeying local traffic laws whether we are moving by two wheels, four wheels, foot, or hoof (hey, it could happen). And always wear a helmet if your mode of transportation calls for it, of course. Be safe this summer, folks!

Whew! That was a rather intense interlude. I hope that accident victim is okay. They've just loaded him into the ambulance. How terrifying! I've got the chills. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled post.

As I was saying before that horrible interruption, summer has finally arrived in full force here in my corner of the galaxy. It's come a little later than the rest of the hemisphere, perhaps, but that just makes me appreciate the delicious weather all the more. Summery tastes have also pervaded the ingredients for this month's Royal Foodie Joust, hosted by the Leftover Queen. This round, submitted dishes must include strawberries, basil, and whole grains.

Strawberries are red and ripe and available by the bucketful at Costco, and we have a seemingly constant supply in our fridge. I stocked up on fresh basil, and prepared to get my whole grain on in order to compete, and I turned out an Italian-inspired parfait. This ricotta parfait makes a beautiful and light dessert on a hot evening, or a delightful breakfast. Also, the strawberry granola is quite versatile and can be enjoyed in the parfait as well as with your favorite yogurt or even all on its own.

Dolce Estivo: Ricotta Cream Parfait with Balsamic Strawberries

1/4 cup ricotta cheese (part-skim/fat-free if you wish)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T brown sugar OR 1/2 packet stevia
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Spiced Strawberry Granola (see below)

Mix the ricotta cheese, vanilla, and sugar or stevia. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the strawberries, basil, and vinegar. Allow the berries to steep for 10 minutes.

In a glass or dish of your choice, begin to layer the ingredients. Place strawberries over the bottom of the dish, then spread the ricotta cream mixture over the berries. Top the ricotta with a sprinkle of granola. Repeat this layering process until all the ingredients have been used. Garnish with a whole strawberry and a sprig of basil.

Serves 1.

Spiced Strawberry Granola

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 T canola oil
2 T maple syrup (I used sugar free)
1/8 cup diced dried strawberries
1/8 cup sliced almonds
sprinkle of crystallized ginger baking chips

Preheat the oven to 300*F. Layer a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and cover with a light coating of non-stick spray if you are using foil.

While the oven is warming, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until well blended. Spread the mixture on the lined baking sheet, pressing it down onto the surface to encourage the oats to clump. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown in color.

Allow the granola to cool completely before serving or storing.

Makes just over 1 cup of granola.

By the way, "dolce estivo" means "summer dessert" in Italian, as far as I can tell. And this parfait certainly is a quintessential summertime treat, both on the continent and in the New World! Enjoy the sun, folks, and be safe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We Have a Yoga Winner!

Remember Kitchen Courage's rocking yoga giveaway, donated by YogaDownload.com? Yoga is something that any person and every body can do, regardless of fitness level or flexibility. Each pose/flow/practice can be modified or intensified to suit the needs of the yogini. From my experience, you can't lose if you give yoga a whirl.

Unfortunately, not everyone could win YogaDownload.com's generous offer of a free one-year elite membership to their website. There is one lucky winner. Congratulations, Kaivalya! Enjoy your new all-expenses-paid trip to audio yoga download heaven! Please email me for details on how to collect your prize.

Thank you all for entering and, of course, for reading Kitchen Courage. Although there was only one membership to be won, don't forget about our exclusive coupon code. Enter KitchenCourage (one word) on the checkout page to receive 50% off each and every download that you make between now and June 30, 2009. Congrats once again, Kaivalya, and happy downloading to all!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Farewell

The day has finally arrived. Today, my folks depart and, after traveling south to visit some more family, will head home to their native New Jersey. Their stay here in the Rocky Mountain west has been surprisingly wonderful. Normally, we argue and bicker, due in no small part to my own over-sensitivity and general family-related crankiness. This time, however, despite a collective stay between my parents for more than a full week (a challengingly long visit for me), we had a lovely time. Overall, I really enjoyed them being here. Isn't that awesome?

My parents even participated in two of my eating disorder therapy sessions, since these mental illnesses are usually rooted in childhood issues and can arise from family dynamics and childhood issues. The sessions were very helpful, and I now feel able to relate to my mom in particular in a much more healthy and less self-focused manner. What's more, instead of being relieved at their departure, I instead felt sad and also excited for our next meeting. How the wheel turns. I blog amazed.

We began our final hours together by attending our church on Father's Day morning. Then, after singing, sermon-soaking, and schmoozing with friends post-service, my parents, the Best Husband Ever, and I enjoyed a brunch out. We decided on a diner-ish place, staying in line with my parents' tradition of a weekly Sunday morning diner breakfast, that the folks have enjoyed during past visits. I ordered a hummus plate (complete with olives, feta, pita wedges, and fresh veggies -- yum!), Mom ate a roast beef and crumbled bleu cheese sandwich, and the men chose traditional breakfasty items. As the hubby would say, nom nom.
The day's dad-exposure did not end there, however. We parted ways for the afternoon, enabling my parents to nap, the hubby to enjoy some much-needed weekend rest and movie-watching, and me to elliptical and read at the gym. I also made the most of my kitchen access by baking two loaves of peasant bread from my favorite cookbook of all time, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. As you know, I adore this book's bread recipes and so do my in-laws, so I took some over to the Father's Day dinner they hosted. I also baked a loaf for my own dad as a gift to share with my mom and the family they are with as I write this. As always, the bread did not disappoint. Can I get another nom nom?

The dinner itself was, of course, delicious. My mother- and sisters-in-law turned out some tasty flank steak -- and that's a huge compliment coming from me, because I despise steak. Still, I tried a few pieces and found it quite good. They also served a lovely potato salad, fresh veggies, rolls, and my own parents contributed some beautiful fresh strawberries, grapes, and -- my favorite -- cherries. Maybe the Best Husband's Ever's nom nom should go here, too. This certainly is turning out to be a lip-smacking kind of post.

Visiting and watching all the parents swap stories was so much fun. Even more fun, though, was taking some silly photos with my folks . . .

. . . and one of my sisters-in-law, who is also heading south today after a long visit with her own parents.

(We were being bunnies at our niece's behest. I'm not sure what kind of bunny the Best Husband Ever is supposed to be, though . . . .)

What a week! What a visit! What a wonderful family I've been blessed with, both by birth and by marriage. Let's hear it for the folks, folks.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Farmer's Market Kind of Family

Happy Saturday! This morning the Best Husband Ever and I had our usual treat day. We were joined, not in the usual, by my parents, who are visiting from my original homeland of New Jersey. We have all been seeing the sights, inhaling the smells, and, of course, taste-testing various foods and dishes across town.

So the hubby and I naturally had to treat my folks to our treat Scrabble day and the wonderfulness that is the farmer's market. In spite of the somewhat chilly weather, we convened at a coffee shop and ambled down to our market of choice (there are three, in fact -- two farmer's markets, and one people's market that sells goods and crafts instead of produce). I quickly gave my dad, the newbie of the group, the run-down on our usual order of operations. He joined me at the Black Cat Bake Shop, where I got a banana muffin with cream cheese frosting for the second week in a row, while he went for a personal-sized huckleberry coffee cake. Huckleberries are the definitive Montana fruit, so I thought that was a nice choice! The hubby of course purchased his favorite, a Bernice's caramel roll, and my mom also decided on Bernice's. She didn't stop at one treat, though -- she ordered a raspberry peach Scottish oat scone, a lemon blueberry muffin, and some oatmeal cookies. She did not eat all that at one sitting, but instead saved a bunch for later.

We headed back to the coffee shop and, after ordering some pots of tea, lemon iced tea, and a mocha, we settled in for a nice game of Scrabble. I know that my dad felt a little nervous about playing since, as he says, he's an engineer and not a big fan of word games. Still, my parents both put in a good showing. The Best Husband Ever showed us all up by played an 86-pointer, brilliant man that he is!

Following our game, we returned to the market. This time we simply browsed, strolling along with the crowds. We didn't purchase any produce, but I did try a sample of Black Cat's cheddar chipotle bread, and everyone but my mother tested locally made cheddar cheese and cheese curds. Yum! We also tried some strawberry rhubarb jam, which was just so-so. My mom purchased a pretty lighthouse suncatcher for her sister before leaving us to go on a quilt walk with my mother-in-law. Mothers unite!

I think a fun time was had by all. My dad, who had never been to any farmer's market before, was very impressed. And of course I always love perusing the stalls with my wonderful husband. (And taking goofy pictures!) What a sweet, sweet Saturday. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, blog friends!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bragging Rights

Family week continues! Only with a little twist. A new face is in town. Just in time for this Sunday's holiday . . . meet my dad!

My father rolled into town early Thursday morning, so he and my mom and I have been hanging out pretty much 24/7 since then. (We were joined by the Best Husband Ever after he got home from work, of course.) Although I often dread the descent of family, this visit has been quite wonderful. I've been far less tetchy with my folks than in the past, and we've spent some truly enjoyable time together.

And we've done so much! My parents are used to me living in places like Boston (where I earned my graduate degree in elementary education), which boast all sorts of historical sites and touristy activities. My current hometown (and, presumably, permanent home for the foreseeable future) has hiking. It's fairly intense hiking that would be a real struggle for my parents. And this city's idea of a historical site is a sign on the side of the road indicating that Lewis and Clark camped or fished or shook hands with the natives there. Not too impressive when compared to Paul Revere's home and the site of the Salem witch trials. Still, we've kept quite busy.

We have enjoyed espresso and other treats at one of the few, if only, truly Italian spots in town, where my east coast parents felt right at home . . .

We visited one of their favorite spots in town, Bernice's Bakery, for some lunch (my dad had their ham and cheese "faux coccia" sandwich while Mom and I both had a hummus and feta sandwich) . . .

. . . and cake ogling . . .

. . . picked up a short-term fishing license for my dad, who was eager to test out his new waders (he reports that the waders are, in fact, fantastic) . . .

. . . and the hubby and I hosted them for dinner (I made my favorite black bean salad with avocado and balsamic vinegar) . . .

My dad and I even managed to climb a mountain with Cody, where we met up with an unexpected flock of sheep and their shepherd who have apparently taken up residence of the mountainside . . .

. . . before meeting up with the hubby for dinner at another of my folks' favorite restaurants -- a make-your-own-stir-fry place -- while my mom treated herself to a sewing class . . .

Whew! I feel tired just writing about all that. And my dad has not even been here two full days! I expect that our pace will slow down a little as we enter the weekend, though, so I can regroup for my first day of summer work. We still plan to hit up the farmer's market for a treat and grazing tomorrow, which my father has never been to. And my mom is excited about a quilt walk that the city is hosting this weekend as well, so I think they won't miss me too much.

I have to say that I am really proud of my parents. When I was living on my own in Boston and responsible for my own nutrition and health for the first time, I quickly put on a lot of weight due to poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle. I joined a gym, but found it hard to motivate myself to go. Not because I was afraid of the work and the sweat. No, I instead worried about what people thought of me. I believed that they were all criticizing me internally -- the fat girl, waddling on the treadmill, laboring over the stationary bike. Obviously, I was very insecure and wrapped up in a private world that was mostly the making of my own low self-esteem. Now, when I see heavier people at the gym, I don't criticize them -- I applaud them! It takes guts to sweat it out at a walk on the treadmill when there's a svelte runner sprinting along next to you. These people are brave, and they are warriors, and we are all fighting the same uphill battle for improved help together.

This week, I saw my parents join the ranks of those same warriors. We've been doing a whole bunch of walking, and my mom even joined me in their hotel's exercise room, walking for 30 minutes on the treadmill while I did some elliptical. And this morning, as I've already noted, my dad joined me on a uphill jaunt that was incredibly challenging for him. But he reached his goal, and did so with grace! Bravo, Mom and Pop! Thanks for having the courage to take charge and make changes, even when it's hard or scary or just plain annoying. You rock! I am so proud of you, along with everyone else who does the same, whether an Olympic-ready athlete or a new mother sneaking in 10 minutes sweat sessions here and there or someone who is trying out exercise for the first time. Keep on fighting, friends.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Girls' Lunch Out

My mom's Montana visit continued to great effect yesterday, despite me having to spend the first part of the morning getting my darn tooth fixed again. Hopefully it'll stick this time. After some errands at Costco and Target, we braved the rain and wind and headed downtown.

During the summer my home city hosts a free weekly event called Out to Lunch. Visitors can choose some delicious lunches from food vendors, buy a refreshing drink, and listen to live music. Mom and I hung out there for a short while, taking in the yummy smells and sounds. I couldn't partake of any of the food due to my still numb and aching mouth, but my mom enjoyed a slice of barbecued chicken pizza.

I managed to taste test the pizza, in spite of my sore gums. Just to make sure everything was on the up and up. I do what I can.

We also ran into some familiar folks -- my sister-in-law and our cutie of a niece. It was fun seeing their smiling faces on such a gray day, especially with our niece sporting that strawberry ice cream 'stache. My sister-in-law recommended a trip to Moxiberry for some boutique fro-yo to ease my tooth pain while filling my belly. The smoothie I created from yogurt, pomegranate juice, and fresh mangoes and blueberries made me doubly glad for our fortuitous meeting. It made for a delicious mastication-free lunch!

Oh! And I cut my hair! A lot!! What do you think? I'm loving it, especially when I sweat through a crazy workout. Do you shear your locks come summertime?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Orchid Alive!

I thought I had killed my birthday orchid!

Don't forget to enter to win a free one-year elite membership to YogaDownload.com!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Babies, Babies Everywhere

And not a one for me. (Yet.)

That's right, another new precious baby has been born in our family! My cousin had her first son, Jacoby William, on Sunday, June 14. Wow! He came into the world at eight, pounds, two ounces, and 20.75 inches. Not only is he a very handsome man, but he is sure to be a rabid Red Sox fan just like his mom and dad.

Jacoby is also very tech savvy -- he already had his own blog! Not that I protest, being a fellow blogger myself. If you'd like to see a little more of my brand new second cousin (er, I think that's correct-- my cousin's baby makes him my second cousin, right? hmm...) and catch his opinions on the latest news and trends, you can peruse his posts at his spiffy blog. My first second cousin, Nicholas, (whew this is getting confusing) also blogs here.

Don't forget to enter to win a free one-year elite membership to YogaDownload.com!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yoga Freebies? Yes, Please!

Yesterday thunderstorm clouds descended over the hill that our house is perched on, rumbling and flashing and making my living room decidedly cozy. Cozy . . . and perfect for some yoga. So I whipped out a 90 minute David Farmar class that I downloaded from YogaDownload.com and stretched, twisted, and sweated my way through a practice that left me feeling absolutely delicious. I've been doing more running, biking, and weight lifting of late, which are all wonderful, but have been neglecting my yoga. It felt heavenly to return to the mat.

Which brings me to my super-fabulous announcement! YogaDownload.com, a fabulous website that sells downloadable audio yoga classes with corresponding pose guides, wants to bless you, my lovely readers, with some yoga freebies! I enjoy downloading audio yoga practices from the net, but YogaDownload.com offers the highest quality sequences that I have experienced. I highly recommend them! Their classes span every level, from introductory or stretching-based classes to advanced flows that incorporate inversions and contortions that bend both the mind and body. The website even offers meditations, pre-natal yoga, and yoga for cyclists and runners. Some of my favorite classes include:
  • Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga #1 (90 minutes)
  • Yoga for Runners (60 minutes)
  • Core Yoga #1 (both the 30 and 60 minute classes)
  • Morning Flow #1 (60 minutes)
  • Power Yoga #2 (75 minutes)
If you're unsure about buying either an individual class or purchasing a subscription, the site has free 20 minute practices (and one free 70 minute power yoga class!) for your testing pleasure.

To further enhance your yogaficiation, YogaDownload.com would like to offer Kitchen Courage's readers a 50% discount on all purchases at their website. Simply enter the coupon code KitchenCourage (one word) on the checkout page any number of times between now and June 30, 2009 to receive your discount!

But that's not all. The fine folks at YogaDownload.com would also like to give away one Elite Membership to a lucky reader. That means that you would have unlimited access to all of YogaDownload.com's classes, meditations, and music for a full year. Wowza! I almost wish I didn't already have an Elite Membership so I could enter along with you all.

Interested? Want to get your yoga on YogaDownload.com-style? Here's all you have to do. Simply leave a comment here at Kitchen Courage (or send me an email) describing your current yoga practice, how you would use the giveaway, and how yoga has benefitted you. For a second entry, post a link to this announcement on your blog or website and post a sepearte comment once you've done that. The deadline to enter is Friday, June 19, 2009, and the winner will be chosen via a random number generator.

I can't wait to read your yoga stories! And don't forget, the 50% discount is for everyone and should be active even as I post this and will remain so through the end of June, while the membership giveaway will be decided this coming weekend. Good luck, and happy yoga-ing!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Treat Day, Mom-ified

This morning, Josh and I kept our Saturday morning ritual -- snagging a treat then heading to a coffee nook for eating and Scrabbling. Today I tried out a new farmer's market yummy -- check out this amazing Black Cat Bake Shop's banana nut muffin with cream cheese frosting. So delicious, especially with my Mango Indica tea. Nom nom.

But today wasn't just any sweet treat Saturday. This time we were joined by my mother, who was a natural at enjoying a baked tasty. She snagged a mini loaf of blueberry bread from the farmer's market (the hubby got his usual, a caramel roll). I tried a bite, and it was a little dry but still nice to eat. Not as nice as my "muffin" (is a muffin still a muffin if it's not bald?), though, which was moist, flavorful, creamy on top, and -- well, just about perfection. It was quite lovely having my mom join us this morning, and it makes me excited for my dad's arrival next week.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Baby Mine

Okay, okay, so I don't have a newborn baby of my own as the title of this post indicates. I do, however, have a brand new nephew, and I got to meet him for the first time yesterday! Two of my out-of-state sisters-in-law are visiting for the weekend, and one of them brought along her hubby and five week old son. This baby is just about the sweetest boy ever, and I got to cuddle with him quite a bit over the last couple of days. Everyone else did, too. I wonder if the kiddo felt a little like a football, getting passed from arm to arm. But we all cherished our baby time, even the Best Husband Ever . . . and even my mother!

It must be family week or something because, in addition to my visiting in-laws, my New Jersey-dwelling mom flew in today. We spent the late afternoon catching up, taking some silly photos, getting her thoroughly covered in exuberantly shed dog hair, and taking a walk around the neighborhood in the late afternoon sun. This is her first visit since we bought our house, and she put her much-welcomed stamp of approval on the abode. I tend to get super stressed when my folks roll into town, but it's great to see her. I've missed my mom!

This evening we headed over to the hubby's parents' house for some baby juggling, a really blessed hangout time, and, of course, a delicious dinner. One sister made a yummy orzo with herbed feta, and there was also grilled chicken, grilled bell peppers (one of my new veggie favorites!), steamed broccoli, and strawberry-crowned angel food cake for dessert. Does that sound amazing or what?

I brought my own contribution to the meal, and felt heartened when it received rave reviews all around. As you probably have realized by now, I love hummus. I also like to make hummus, and to create unique twists based on the basic chickpea spread. Tonight, I toted some olive Food Should Taste Good chips to dip in a tub of homemade curried mango hummus. I simply added chunks of mango to my curried hummus recipe -- which is one of my favorite versions of hummus already -- and melted in happiness at first taste. Light, sweet, and spicy all at the same time, this is a knock-your-socks-off kind of concoction. Perhaps not as sweet as a newborn nephew, but it takes a close second.

Curried Mango Hummus

1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 heaping spoonful minced garlic (or to taste)
3 tsp curry powder
3 T lemon juice
1 cup diced mango
a squirt of hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
water as needed

Throw all of the ingredients except for the water into a blender or food processor. Blend until fully combined, adding water incrementally if the mixture is too thick to process properly. Enjoy with crackers, chips, fresh or grilled veggies, grilled chicken, salmon, or just straight up. Smile and prepare to swoon in taste bud delight.

Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life In a Box

Today the local elementary schools closed their doors for the last time until September (well, late, late August, really). That means I spent the day saying farewell to my students, organizing the classroom, and packing up my desk. In the nine-ish months that I've spent working with kids with behavior issues, I feel that I've learned and grown so much. And yet, somehow I've managed to accumulate fairly little in the way of stuff. I could fit all of the contents of my desk into a single printer paper box.

So what did I load up my cardboard box of work love with? In the way of items I put in my mouth, I had a can of chicken noodle soup for a (literally) rainy day and a bowl to eat it out of, some special Malaysian candy to reward my students with a protein/granola bar or two, tea, Airborne, cough drops, peanut butters, and a newly opened pack of gum. I stashed my toothbrush, a framed photo of the Best Husband Ever and I, gear for inclement recesses (rain boots, hat, gloves, and an umbrella), a lint roller, and a notepad that I barely used. Into the box also went a few dictionaries that my teacher was getting rid of that I thought might be useful in a future mainstream elementary classroom or a homeschooling situation, even though neither one of those is an imminent prospect. I don't even know if I want to homeschool our theoretical children, but I figure that dictionaries are good to have and I can always donate them if not.

What else did my first year working in education full-time hide in my desk? A couple of children's books I picked up at the beginning of the year, educational computer games (think Oregon Trail and Zoo Tycoon) that I had brought in at the start of the school year for our classroom computers), and a pink monkey that one of my kids gave me on Valentine's Day. That's not to mention my calendar, binders of information on Mandt restraint methods and remedial reading programs, documentation of my evaluations and of next school year's start up procedures, and my I.D. badge.

Not a whole lot of stuff. But what I'm really taking home this summer is much larger, much more lasting, and far more important than stuffed monkeys and peanut butter and children's thesauri. I get to take with me a vast increase in confidence, both as an educator and simply as an adult. I have new skills to help the most difficult children learn and practice appropriate behavior, and I have a new passion for this often draining but never boring or unimportant work. I developed a new caring for kids, especially those like my own students, who live in broken or absuive or (if they're lucky) group homes. I'm even taking away a yearning for motherhood that I have never experienced before.

In September of last year, I never would have guessed that I'd miss my class when they hopped on the bus home for the last time, or that I would find myself laden with so many blessings from a job. I feel content and flabbergasted and privileged all at the same time as a result of this past school year. Isn't life sweet sometimes?