Moment of Zen: Birthday Edition

By Katie, 5:51 am

Happy birthday to the wonderful Hubs! Today Dave turns 27 years old.

 

Feel free to have some cake and ice cream in his honor. ;-)

Indian Mango Dal

By Katie, 5:01 am

Alternate title: What You Smell Ain’t What You Get

To be honest, I’m not always the biggest fan of Indian food.

I often find the smell of it to be a bit over-powering. I worry my taste buds won’t be able to handle it.

Despite these concerns, I put this Indian Mango Dal on the menu last week. And everything was going fine…until I added the turmeric.

Let me tell you, that spice has a strong smell. My kitchen was immediately overtaken by its presence. And I hated it. I started mulling over if we had any pizza in the freezer in case I took one bite of this dish and spit it out. I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it, convinced I tell you!

But my nose deceived me. Despite how strong the turmeric smelled, the flavor of this dish was actually quite mild. It’s like Indian food for people who don’t normally like Indian food. I licked my plate and took leftovers for lunch the next day, so I must have enjoyed it!

Indian Mango Dal
Adapted from Eating Well
Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients
1 cup dry yellow peas (the original recipe called for yellow lentils, but I couldn’t find them. I think there’s a chance yellow peas and yellow lentils are the same thing.)
5 cups water
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
cooked rice

1. Rinse yellow peas. In a large sauce pan, combine peas, water, 1/2 tsp salt and turmeric.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the peas have softened.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add cumin, garlic, ginger, coriander, cayenne, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and cook for another minute.

4. Add the onion mixture and the mangoes to the peas. Simmer until the mango has become soft, about another 10 minutes.

5. Stir in cilantro and serve over the cooked rice.

Anyone out there like Indian food? What’s your favorite dish?

Can Change Bring Happiness?

By Katie, 5:14 am

I have spent a lot of time in my life counting on a change to make me happy.

When my weight changes, THEN I’ll be happy. When I switch jobs, THEN I’ll be happy. When I get that new car/house/outfit/promotion, THEN I’ll be happy.

Guess what? I sort of believe that certain changes like that can indeed bring us happiness. They cannot, however, bring us joy.

The way I see it, happiness is variable and fleeting. It goes up and down based on our external circumstances, on what’s going on in our lives at any particular moment. In other words, all of those superficial changes we desire probably can bring us a certain degree of happiness for a certain span of time.

But joy is another story. Joy is steady and constant. It’s an unwavering sense of contentment and peace, and it doesn’t depend on if our circumstances at the moment are easy or difficult. Even when we’re unhappy, we can still feel the sense of peace and safety and hope that comes with joy.

There was a time I thought that losing weight or changing jobs or moving to a new city would make me happy. And actually, many of those things did happen and they did have an impact on my happiness levels.

But what I was actually searching for through all of those changes wasn’t happiness at all; it was joy. Now I realize that joy can never be created by a change in the external; it comes from a deep transformation of the internal. It has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with our perspective. It can withstand both the good and the bad changes that come our way in life.

Understanding this fundamental difference between happiness and joy means that I can pursue changes in life that I know will be positive for me without relying on them for my ultimate fulfillment.  I can withstand the ups and downs of my happiness while constantly maintaining a deeper level of joyful satisfaction.

When we focus solely on happiness, we can become prisoners to the next change in our lives. We’re constantly waiting for this to change or that to happen. But when we instead turn towards joy, we can anticipate changes with excitement without requiring them to sustain us.

Can you relate to my experience of waiting for something to change in order to be happy?

What do you think the difference between happiness and joy is?

This post was written as part of the Self Discovery, Word by Word series. This month we’re exploring the word “change.” Check out this post on Medicinal Marzipan for full details, including how you can participate too!

On Keeping Secrets

By Katie, 5:38 am

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m generally not a big fan of keeping secrets. (Surprise parties don’t count!)

Have you ever heard the phrase “you’re only as sick as your secrets”? That’s certainly been the case in my experience. In fact, I’ve often found that the act of keeping a secret is more painful than the secret itself.

(Source)

That’s not to say that sharing a secret is easy; it can be extremely difficult, especially if it’s been kept hidden for a long time. But at least for me, the relief of sharing has always outweighed the discomfort. It’s opened the door for healing, for moving forward.

Sharing a secret robs it of its power over us.

I’m not suggesting we all start plastering our deepest secrets across our foreheads. Of course we have the right to be selective about the people with whom we share. Maybe it’s only our spouse or partner. Maybe it’s only our closest family members. Or maybe we choose to share our secret anonymously with a community of strangers.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

A friend in college was the first person to introduce me to PostSecret, a community art project through which people anonymously mail their deepest secrets displayed on a homemade post card. These cards are then displayed on the PostSecret website, in an exhibit, or in a book collection.

The founder of PostSecret, Frank Warren, has said the only stipulations are that the secrets be totally honest and totally unshared up to the point of mailing them in. According to Wikipedia, “The secrets are meant to be empowering both to the author and to those who read it. Frank Warren claims that the postcards are inspirational to those who read them, have healing powers for those who write them, give hope to people who identify with a stranger’s secret, and create an anonymous community of acceptance.”

Here’s a selection of PostSecret post cards I grabbed from the Archives. (Note: If you go to check out others, be forewarned that some can be triggering for different issues.)

Kind of heartbreaking, right? And yet so many of us can identify in one way or another.

I fully support the concept behind PostSecret because I truly believe that just getting a secret out – somewhere – can be amazingly cathartic. It begins the process of breaking down the shame and the suffering that build up over the life of a secret.

But it can’t end with an anonymous post card. Something like PostSecret is a great place to start, but it isn’t the finish line. Because no matter what someone’s secret is – no matter how bad it seems or how painful it feels – we all deserve to connect with other people (and with our God) for compassion and support.

Of course, not all of the secrets are so deep and dramatic. I once heard an interview with Frank Warren in which he shared that the most common secret he sees is about peeing in the shower. Go figure. ;-)

Have you heard of PostSecret before? What do you think of the project?

AND/OR

Have you ever let go of a big secret in your life? How did it feel? Of course, only share the details you’re comfortable with.

Moment of Zen: Puppy Love Edition

By Katie, 5:47 am

I know I show a lot of love to cats on this blog (I mean, I wrote a rap song about them and all), but this week it’s all about the dogs. These puppy pictures have me wanting one of my own quite badly!

This guy’s name is Louie! He’s a dog who sits like a cat!

I just want to roll around on the grass with this little buddy! 8-)

 (Source)

Do you have a dog? If so, leave a link to a photo in comments so I can appreciate his/her cuteness!

One Thousand Days of Wedded Bliss

By Katie, 5:55 am

Today I have officially been a married woman for 1,000 days!

For the record, I had no idea this was the case until Dave told me. He’s the one who did the math. ;-)

I’ve gotta say, the past 1,000 days have been pretty darn incredible. That’s not to say that Dave and I haven’t had our disagreements, because of course we have. But overall we’ve only grown closer and more in love.

Last night I asked Dave to help me compile a short list of things we’ve learned over the past 1,000 days that have helped keep our marriage strong. Here’s what we came up with.

6 Lessons from the First 1,000 Days

1. It’s not always worth it to be right.

When Dave and I disagree about something, we try to weigh the importance of the matter. If in the end it’s more important to Dave, then I don’t put up a big fight. Example: I didn’t think Dave watching soccer on the computer was worth $40, but he really wanted it. So we spent the money.

Likewise, if it’s more important to me, then Dave usually concedes. Example: Dave wasn’t in love with the comforter I wanted for our new place, but in the end bedroom decor isn’t too high on his priority list. (We got this one, by the way! LOVE IT!)

2. But sometimes it is.

Even though what I said above is true, it’s also true that I have a major stubborn streak. So sometimes I don’t give in just for the sake of not giving in. In those times, Dave has learned to look me straight in the eye and say, “Katie, I’m telling you this because I love you: you are wrong on this one.”  (Of course he says it very nicely!)

I always end up thanking him for forcing me to keep more of an open mind.

3. Being in the same room doesn’t count.

Our current apartment only has one “hang out” spot, so we spend many nights and weekends relaxing on the couch a mere five feet from one another. But just because we’re in such close proximity doesn’t mean we’re spending quality time together.

Carving out time where our focus is 100% on each other - no television, no computer, no cell phone – is so important to us.

4. Your struggles are my struggles.

Obviously, I’ve been totally open with Dave about my struggles with food/weight. Sometimes that’s made me feel like a burden to him, and yet he’s never once given me that impression. The way he describes it, we are 100% invested in each other. My struggles are his struggles and vice versa. 

5. Your checking account is my checking account.

I know some couples who keep separate checking accounts even after they’re married. And it seems to work for them. But for us, joint accounts are the way to go. I’ve heard that the number one issue married people fight about is money, which makes total sense. Dave and I both feel like we’ve been able to have genuinely productive conversations about our spending and our financial goals because our wallets are totally open books.

6. Clear the air.

I Hate (with a capital H) when issues get swept under the rug. That never makes a problem disappear; it only makes it fester and get worse. Plus then everyone ends up a thousand times more upset than they were at the beginning. So Dave and I do not do a lot of rug-sweeping; instead, we do a lot of air-clearing. So much better.

Here’s to a wonderful 1,000 days! Can’t wait to see what the next 1,000 have in store for us and our marriage!

What’s your #1 relationship tip?

In Celebration of What Our Bodies Can DO!

By Katie, 5:36 am

Well, I’m feeling a lot better than I was yesterday. I’m not nearly as discouraged, in part because of your awesome comments and in part because of this awesome video.

Indi Cowie is a soccer freestyler, which I had never heard of before watching this video. The tricks this girl can do with just her body and a soccer ball are pretty incredible. It’s a great reminder that women’s bodies are to be celebrated for what they can do, instead of just what they look like.

Take a quick look (it’s worth it even just for a few seconds), and while you’re watching take a moment to ponder the amazing things that your body can do.

What’d you come up with? What amazing thing has YOUR body done lately?

AND/OR

Are you/were you a soccer player? Do you/did you enjoy it? I was never on a soccer team, even when I was little. I wish I had been because I think a sport like soccer can teach you a lot about connecting with your body.

Stop the Madness: The hCG Hormone Diet

By Katie, 5:56 am

Have you heard the latest news from diet land?

I posted before about how women used to sacrifice their health for thinness, using methods such as swallowing tapeworms or smoking cigarettes for appetite suppression.

But clearly this phenomenon is not limited to the past; it’s still with us today, just in different forms. I was more sure of this than ever when a reader sent me this New York Times article about the latest quick weight-loss method: injecting yourself with the hormone hCG.

From the article:

Every morning, Kay Brown engages in a ritual similar to a heroin addict’s, or a diabetic’s: she sticks herself with a syringe. Only hers contains hCG, a pregnancy hormone.

Ms. Brown, 35, is not taking hCG to help her bear a child. She believes that by combining the hormone injections with a 500-calorie-a-day diet, she will achieve a kind of weight-loss nirvana: losing fat in all the right places without feeling tired or hungry. “I had a friend who did it before her wedding,” Ms. Brown said. “She looks great.”



Seriously?

First of all, the women engaging in this method are essentially starving themselves.

Second, they’re sticking themselves with a hormone that is derived from the urine of pregnant women.

Third, there’s no evidence this method even works for weight loss.

Fourth, these women are shelling out $1,000 a month for this.

Sigh.

I want to see a bright side to this craziness, and I am thankful it’s constrained to a select group of people and hasn’t gone mainstream.

But honestly, reading this article and writing this post has made me feel incredibly discouraged. I put a lot of time and effort into spreading the word that diets don’t do anything except make you feel bad, and that the pursuit of the stereotypically ideal body type is ruining our ability to live our lives to the fullest. And then I see stuff like this and just want to curl up into a ball. :cry:

Have you heard of this new weight loss method yet? Can you provide me with any motivation to keep up the good fight against stuff like this?

Tea For Two…or Sixteen!

By Katie, 5:01 am

Last weekend I hosted a very special event.

A bridal tea! Sixteen lovely ladies gathered at the Red Brick Tea Room in Red Lion, PA to celebrate my cousin’s upcoming wedding.

The beautiful bride. :-)

The tea room was absolutely adorable.

And the four-course meal wasn’t too shabby either! We started off with orange-glazed scones, complete with jam and clotted cream.

Then a delicious salad with pineapple and toasted almonds.

A trio of mini sammies: brown sugar bacon and egg on sesame, poppyseed chicken salad, and green pea, roasted pepper, and Parmesan on crustade.

Not surprisingly, dessert did not disappoint. Toasted coconut cheesecake, a sugared lemon cream puff, and a citrus poppyseed square (which was my favorite!).

The bride received many wonderful gifts, including a slow cooker courtesy of yours truly.

All-in-all, it was a lovely afternoon! I’m so happy for my cousin. :-)

Have you ever been to a tea room?

AND/OR

What’s your favorite bridal shower game? We played one where the ladies raced to find different items in their purses – it was pretty fun!

Kitchen Pantry Granola

By Katie, 5:50 am

In order to save money on our grocery bills, I have been making a concerted effort to make more “staples” myself at home. My primary do-it-yourself project has been granola; I love to sprinkle it on yogurt for a little added crunch, but the stuff is pretty darn expensive!

So almost every weekend I’ve been making a batch to last me throughout the upcoming week. The best part? All of the ingredients are ones I regularly keep in my kitchen pantry!

Homemade granola is actually ridiculously easy and amazingly adaptable. Makes me wonder why I ever paid for the pricey stuff.

First I combine some old-fashioned oats with whatever combination of nuts and seeds I’m using in that batch. Then I add canola oil and a touch of honey for sweetness, and stir it all up.

Spread that onto a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed lightly with non-stick spray.

Then I pop that into a 300º oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout the cooking process. Unfortunately this isn’t a fix-it-and-forget-it thing, since it’s quite easy to burn the stuff. So I always watch it closely, and take it out when the oats have turned a nice golden brown.

After removing the mixture from the oven, I immediately turn it out onto a clean piece of foil to cool. (One time I left it on the same piece of foil, and it didn’t harden properly.) Once it’s cool, break up the clumps and add any “extras” – I usually do dried fruit and/or chocolate chips. Then just store in an airtight container!

One of my favorite breakfasts. :-)

Kitchen Pantry Granola

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, etc.)
1/4 cup seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. – I omit these if I don’t already have them)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey or agave (could reduce if you don’t like it as sweet as I do)
handful of dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
handful of chocolate chips (optional)
aluminum foil

1. Preheat oven to 300º.

2. Mix together oats, nuts, and seeds. Pour in oil and honey; stir.

3. Spread mixture evenly onto a baking pan that’s been covered with foil and lightly greased.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout the process. Watch mixture carefully, removing when the oats have turned a nice golden brown.

5. Turn the mixture onto a fresh piece of aluminum foil and allow to cool completely.

6. Break up the clumps and add dried fruit, chocolate chips, or any other mix-ins you like.

7. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Some possible yummy combinations:

  • tropical mix: add shredded coconut and dried pineapple or papaya
  • Thanksgiving mix: use pecans, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and white chocolate chips 

 What are your favorite granola mix-ins?

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