Archive for August, 2011


My youngest sister Rachel and I have been struggling with getting back into the workout routine for awhile now. I really need to be able to work out in the a.m. and it was not happening.

Well, we have finally hit on something that works. Rachel and I have a deal, and it’s pretty genius.

We now have a regular schedule, which can be flexible, and we stick to it. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings we swim laps (we add 5 laps every day and we are now at 25). Saturday an Sunday we run or ride. We do change it up a bit. This Tuesday we slept in and ran in the evening because I was able to come home right after work (I’m doing a group project for a class, and we meet on Tuesday evenings).

But we needed a consequence. And it needed to be something that we could call each other on. So it was decided that if we don’t stick to our schedule, we can’t wear makeup, FOR A WEEK. To some, this may seem insignificant. And I don’t wear the full regalia as some girls do, but I love my tinted moisturizer and mascara is a must. It’s worked, amazingly enough. There probably will not be a day when we say “I don’t care, I’m not working out.” and it feels good. I’m a lot slower then I was before and I don’t have the same distance, but I ran a fourth of a mile the other day without stopping and it felt damn good. It also felt damn good to put my Smashbox on the next morning.

You Don’t Have To Be Hungry

I was having a conversation with a coworker last week. She is dieting (I despise that word) and said that she’s always hungry, but that’s how she has to be in order to lose weight.

I disagreed, but she would have none of it.

Depending on what you’re eating, you might need to be hungry, but it is possible to eat well and run a caloric deficit. The additional good news is that the foods you “can” eat to stay sated are the same ones that are missing the chemicals and ingredients that also make it difficult to lose weight.

Meals need to include carbs, protein, and fat. Snacks have more staying power if they have all three in good balance as well.

The new food guidelines aren’t bad as far as recommendations go (except that dairy and protein shouldn’t be separate, as far as I’m concerned), and what it all comes down to is this:

Eat more vegetables.

If you consider vegetables to be your meal instead of a side dish, and consider your meat to be a side dish or an added ingredient for flavor, you can eat more without packing in the calories. Snack on veggies and occasionally fruits. Have a handful of nuts — but just a handful.

When I was losing the “last 10 pounds” (which it actually was, until my weight and eating went haywire with chemo), I ate two cups of spinach as part of dinner every night.  That’s less than 20 calories and is a lot of food.

Don’t want plain or nearly-plain greens? Make a green smoothie.

Be creative! Try new things or old things in new combinations and permutations.

What do you do to keep yourself sated without gaining weight? Or what have you tried that didn’t work?

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

We had some phyllo dough left over (from a recipe that didn’t turn out well — you won’t be seeing it here!). What to make with phyllo dough but spanakopita! The recipe I ended up using was from

It didn’t come together the way the recipe suggested (I had three layers instead of two, which might be why it cooked longer than recommended), but it turned out to be quite tasty! I used a combination of fresh and frozen-but-somewhat-thawed spinach because that’s what I had, and it worked just fine. I also used about half of the feta (I don’t like feta in large quantity) and it was good. I think using as much as was called for would have been tasty as well.

In reading the comments on this and other similar recipes, there were many suggestions to take the time to really let the mixture cool before putting everything together (you’ll see that in the directions) and to make sure the spinach is well-drained. Otherwise, the phyllo gets very soggy. I did both and had no troubles with soggy phyllo. That said, it does take quite a bit longer to prepare if you let it sit out and cool, so plan for that.

What is interesting to me about this dish is that in general, I don’t like a lot of cooked spinach. For example, spinach lasagna needs to be somewhat light on the spinach in order to be pleasing to my palate. (I can eat raw spinach all day.) But in this, the spinach-heaviness doesn’t bother me a bit. Not sure why.



  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9×9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

This Week In Pregnancy: Weeks 31 and 32

I’ve been a blog slacker the past week or — apologies! Fighting a cold that’s going around campus (already!) has made my head foggy.

Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, The Kid has become even more active, which I didn’t realize was possible. We believe that s/he has flipped and isn’t breech any more, which is good! I had one good solid kick to the ribs, which supports this hypothesis. Most of the movement nowadays is more a sliding or rolling back and forth — a tennis ball moving from my right side to my left side and back is what it looks like!

My belly has gotten quite large and some movements have (finally?) started to become more difficult. “Scooting over” in bed is now called “Shamu shimmies down the boardwalk.”

Otherwise … there isn’t too much happening, really. Birthing classes are almost over — one more on Monday and that’s all. Still drinking a lot. All systems are still in good shape.

I’ve been a pretty thorough exercise slacker, which isn’t good. Need to change that up a bit…

I’ve played my trombone a few times, both practicing alone and playing with a small group. My kids at school have started playing. Through most of this, The Kid is quiet and still, which is not at all what I was expecting. Will be interesting to see if that keeps up when the community band starts rehearsing again.

That’s really all! Nothing exciting, really, but at this point in the game, I’m thinking that nothing exciting is a good thing…

Image isn’t everything, but it sure does help a lot.

It’s true. Outward appearance does wonders on a person. And I’m not talking about when I’m doing my monthly Cosmo reading and I look at women and their outfits and decide if they are witches or not by how they look. I’m talking about looking in a mirror and saying, “Damn, I look fine,” or “Oh sweet baby Jesus. I need help.” There’s a big difference in those two thoughts. A really big difference.

I had an emotional meltdown/breakthrough the other night and it all started with some new clothes and a spur of the moment closet clearing. I broke down and bought clothes that fit. I threw out all the clothes that are now to big (except a pair of jeans that were way too expensive, but are beautiful and I use mainly to wear on lazy days when I haven’t brushed my hair).

It wasn’t hard to get rid of them. What was hard was the realization that I needed to get them out of my closet because they were dragging me down. Those oversized shirts and baggy pants kept me looking, and feeling, sloppy. That’s a bad place for me to be. When I (think I) look good, I feel good. Then I eat better and I work out harder.

Is that weird?

New epiphany, but in a totally bad way.

Yup. It’s hit me again. This time though, it wasn’t a good epiphany. It scared the crap out of me.

Things at work have gotten really unpleasant. In the past month, four people have been laid off and three people have quit. My caseload has increased exponentially. My stress level has increased exponentially times a million.

And my eating has gone to crap. I haven’t been working out. I’m miserable at work and I’m hungry all the time.

Its not really a new connection, but it’s one that I hadn’t paid attention because it wasn’t an issue. Now, it is an issue. I am not handling this like a champ.

And now it’s the week of my birthday and I am eating out, damn near everyday this week. I became very conscious of my eating issue so I’ve tried to be really careful about what I eat while I’m out.

Working out has also come to a grinding halt. I’m working on that. I need a new schedule. But, now I have a new schedule and it starts on Sunday (which sounds like more excuses, but it’s really not. I also start school this week and my epiphany didn’t happen until a couple of days ago)

I refuse to go backward. I refuse to spend my money buying bigger pants. So I have to get busy.

PS: happy birthday to Janna, my best friend of 20 years!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Many people agree that our mindset on garbage needs to change.

Many mindful people do their part by recycling: paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastics — whatever their municipality will accept.

Many mindful people use reusable shopping bags instead of collecting tons of plastic bags.  Some who do use plastic shopping bags repurpose them for use in small trash cans.

Many mindful people use re-usable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.

These are the three most common “eco-friendly” actions that I’ve seen in general daily life.

These few actions include all three components of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mindset.

Unfortunately, except for economic reasons, most people practice a “recycle, reuse, reduce” lifestyle.


The first R is reduce because the best thing you can do for the environment (and ultimately, for your pocketbook) is to reduce consumption, especially of one-use, disposable items. In addition to the space they take up once they’ve been discarded, they all take an enormous amount of energy and natural resources to create, from harvesting materials to creating the object to packaging the object (go back to the beginning of the cycle for all of the packaging!) to transporting the object.

Sure, if you buy a water bottle, that cycle is perpetuated for production of that bottle, but it is still much less than the alternative.  Using myself as an example, I bought a few Klean Kanteens three or four years ago. Let’s say three. I have no idea how much I paid for them, so I looked up current prices for the three bottles I have:

  • I have two of these (one with a loop cap and one with a sport cap, though the design is different from what they have now): $17.95 each
  • I have one of these: $25.95
  • Total: $61.85

I pack lunch for 186 school days. I take the big bottle (40 oz.) and one of the small ones (27 oz.), so that’s 67 oz. per day. Most bottled water comes in 16-oz. bottles, so rounding down, that’s four bottles of water per day. Four bottles times 186 days equals 744 bottles per year that I didn’t buy or throw away just from using reusable bottles. And that hasn’t even counted in all of the other times that I use them. And that’s only for one year.

A 24-pack of 16-oz. store-brand water bottles is on sale at a local grocery store this week for $2.77.  If I stocked up enough to use for the year, I’d spend $85.87.

So in one year, I’d save the earth from the production, transportation, and disposal of more than 744 plastic water bottles, as well as saving at least $24.02. The second year, since there would be no cost for water bottles, it’s all savings.

Similar exercises could be done with a myriad of products. Disposables are the most obvious choices (plates, silverware, napkins, paper towels, tissues, diapers, etc.). Other items to consider reducing the purchase of include clothing/shoes, accessories, and electronics. Also consider how your grocery items are purchased. Snack-sized or 100-calorie packs both use much more packaging and are more expensive per ounce than their more bulk-packaged counterparts. With reusable containers, it is easy to open a package of chips, cookies, etc., and divide it out into servings.


The second-best way to conserve resources and money is to buy reusable items. Hard plastic, glass, and aluminum bottles and storage containers work well in the kitchen. One step further: buy foods in packages that will be reusable — most notably, jars.

Buying items second-hand not only saves money but also gives another life to items otherwise headed for a landfill. While there are a few items I don’t feel comfortable buying second-hand (underwear, bathing suit, furniture with pillows/cushions for examples), I have gotten many great deals on buying items second-hand, from books to clothes to a dining room set to a defibrillator for my training center. And, just like new items, there are brick-and-mortar stores as well as online stores where you can shop.

Selling or giving away instead of trashing (or recycling) is another way to help keep good objects in circulation and out of a dumpster. I have come to love Freecycle, where I have given away things I was pretty sure no one would want (and they did want!) and received things that other people were happy to get out of their house.

Having a compost bin/pile enables people to reuse peels, cores, and other parts of many foods instead of tossing them in the garbage.

Note: if you’re going to reuse plastic bottles, don’t reuse the ones that you buy water in. They’re not made for reuse and break down faster than those marketed for reuse. Of course, I prefer reusable bottles that aren’t plastic at all (and if you’re going with aluminum, make sure they’re not lined), but I understand that not everyone is concerned about such matters.


The last of the three Rs is recycle. If you already have it and need to get rid of it but can’t sell it and can’t give it away, recycle it. There are recycling programs for all sorts of materials beyond your basic paper, plastic, aluminum. I’ve seen websites for a variety of electronics, running shoes, pens, books. I’m sure there is much more out there that I haven’t stumbled upon.

Make sure that any products you’re using at home that can be recycled actually get in a recycling bin.

What’s your take? Does any of this concern you, either environmentally or financially?

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

Today’s recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian*. We were looking for a recipe to use up some cabbage. Cabbage is tasty, but all of the recipes I’ve ever made with it are somewhat work-intensive. The Big Man prepared this meal, so I can’t comment to the preparation, but I can tell you that it was tasty!

As for the ingredients, we didn’t have enough leek, so the end result was a bit less flavorful than it should have been. I made a pot of vegetable stock (recipe from the same book) and froze it in cubes a while back, so we had homemade broth — yum! We used whole wheat penne pasta, because that’s what we could find without serious hunting. And I am generally not a fan of parmesan sprinkled on top of anything, but it went with this dish really well.

Cannellini Beans with Cabbage and Pasta

Serve this wonderfully rustic dish piping hot on a cold day or at room temperature when it’s warm outside. Flavorful stock is key here. The cavatelli is my first choice, but any small pasta is fine. Use oil and omit cheese to make this a vegan dish.

Other beans you can use: It’s important to use firm beans that won’t break apart when tossed with the pasta, like cranberry, appaloosa, pinto, or chickpeas.


  • salt
  • 1/2 head cabbage, preferably Savoy, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 pound cavatelli, conchiglie, or orecchiette
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium leeks, including some green parts, washed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 springs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained but still moist
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender; use a slotted spoon or a small strainer to fish it out; drain and set aside. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook until tender but firm, 7 minutes or so, then drain it.

Meanwhile, put the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot or the butter is melted, add the leeks and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, and the wine if you’re using it, and cook for another minute, until almost dry. Add the stock, beans, and reserved cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the flavors blend and everything is well-heated, about 5 minutes more.

Combine the bean mixture and the pasta in the large pot and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve.

[Modified recipes available in the book include: Cannellini Beans with Spinach and Cavatelli; Cranberry Beans with Artichokes and Cavatelli; Chickpeas with Cabbage and Pearl Couscous.]

*The link is not an affiliate link, nor am I an any way connected to Mark Bittman. I just love this book.

This Week In Pregnancy: Week 30

Not too much happening these days, which is totally OK.

Appointment with my midwife on Tuesday went well. I had many questions — some medical things, some logistic things — and they are all taken care of now. One very noticeable difference between the OB and the midwife is the amount of time spent. We will routinely sit and talk for an hour or more. How many visits with an OB would be needed to add up to one hour? I know that if I have questions, she’ll answer them thoroughly, and that if I have more questions, it’s OK.

I also know that I’m not going to receive any intervention that isn’t necessary. Things aren’t done because of convenience (or inconvenience, as the case may be). Some of the hospital stories I’ve heard have been … less than savory. (This is not to say that all OBs or hospitals are bad or anything like that — just that many of them have rules of operation that are based on money, convenience, and/or a “CYA” attitude and not so much on women and babies. It also is not to say that all midwives are fabulous.)

It’s been fun listening to people guess the sex of the baby and explain why they guess what they do. I think mostly it’s fun because I know the right answer 😉 The shower is in two weeks, and we’re planning to spill the beans there.

We went to our first birthing class Monday evening. It was fine. Went over some basic anatomy and physiology, side effects of pregnancy (though much to my dismay, she didn’t happen to mention ways to deal with most of them, just that they’re normal), things that are reasons to go to the hospital right now to be checked.  Watched a video.  Learned some breathing techniques and some massage techniques for use now and during labor. Future classes will include birthing positions, more breathing and massage, stages of labor, medicine (including painkillers) and medical interventions, and breastfeeding.

Overall, it should be useful. It has been so far.

That’s about all, really. Things have been pretty low-key, which is just fine with me!

On Being Helpful

I love it when people ask me for information, especially when it’s about something I am passionate about. (Double bonus when it’s a question I know the answer to!) A few people have sought me out recently, both in person and online, asking for information about scattered topics: exercises they could do for a specific goal, the skinny on certain products and/or chemicals, what things might be useful to do/give for a person with cancer. I like to be helpful 🙂

I also enjoy receiving random comments and e-mails from people saying, “This is my story. I’m changing my ways. I thought you would appreciate it” or “Thanks for the inspiration.”

What I appreciate about these people being inspired — whether it’s by me or someone/something else — is that they are taking action. I ranted about being inspired vs. being impressed a long time ago. While that blog post was in the context of cancer, it applies across the board: being inspired by something includes the spark that gets you moving, whether it’s health, fitness, work, family, relationships, whatever.

So if you’re making changes and want to share with an enthusiastic audience, send me your story! I love reading them!

And, as a reminder, if you have a story that you want to share with the blogosphere, I’m taking reader submissions to post when The Kid makes its grand arrival. These don’t need to be “Biggest Loser” types of changes or successes. Any positive change that you’ve made and stuck with and feel good about is good!

Any of the above can be sent to heather at secondchancefit dot com.

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