Almost-Perfect Blueberry Muffins

By Katie, 5:01 am

This weekend I found myself with a surplus of blueberries. A very good position to be in, I assure you.

I turned to one of my favorite go-to cooking blogs – Smitten Kitchen – and found a recipe for “perfect blueberry muffins.” And these muffins almost lived up to that title. They were so very close.

The only thing missing? A drizzle of crystallized sugar on top. A blueberry muffin simply can’t be perfect without it! Next time, my friends!

Almost-Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 9-10 regular sized muffins

Ingredients
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (this makes the muffins – don’t skip it!)
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
optional: large crystallized sugar

1. Preheat over to 375º.

2. Prepare muffin tin by spraying with nonstick spray or lining with paper liners.

3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then add yogurt and lemon zest.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, stirring until flour disappears.

6. Gently fold in blueberries. Batter will be thick.

7. Fill your muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter. (An ice cream scoop works well for this purpose!) If using crystallized sugar, drizzle a little on top of each muffin.

8. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

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On another note, I wanted to share two pieces of good news. First, my biopsy came back normal! WOO HOO! Such a relief. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!

Second, a few of you asked how my kitties have adjusted to our new home, and I’m happy to report that they are loving it. Their favorite part? The windows, especially the ones looking out onto the back yard. Can’t wait to put a bird feeder back there!

Doesn’t Hamilton look so regal? He’s the king around here, that’s for sure!

What’s your favorite way to use blueberries? For me, it’s a tie between muffins and sprinkling them on top of cereal. Both are so delicious!

and/or

What’s your go-to cooking blog/website/cookbook when you need a new recipe?

Moment of Zen: Harry Potter Edition

By Katie, 5:54 am

All the Harry Potter mania this past week was pretty darn crazy, wasn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I happen to love the Harry Potter books (the first ones more than the last ones). Heck, I even took a course in grad school that used the characters in the series as a model for leadership (we read a book called If Harry Potter Ran General Electric).

Even so, some of this stuff is just nuts! Like a Harry Potter corn maze…

A certificate saying you were accepted to Hogwarts…

A Harry Potter quilt…

There are even real live Quidditch matches! (No idea how that works…)

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Harry Potter has left a huge impact on our culture.

Any Harry Potter fans out there? Anyone see the movie already?

Images Credit

Kids at the Pool

By Katie, 5:36 am

The winner of Julie Parker and Emma Kate Codrington’s e-book is Shannon from Shannon’s Food Run! We’ll be in touch with your e-book!

One of the perks of my new neighborhood is that it has a very nice community pool.

Last weekend Dave and I checked it out for the first time, and I loved it. I often have trouble really relaxing at home because I always feel like I should be doing something, but as soon as I hit that lounge chair I felt totally at ease, free to soak up the sun and a magazine.

 (Source)

Our neighborhood is very family-oriented, so there were lots of kids playing around the pool – some doggy-paddling between their parents, some floating around on noodles, some perfecting their cannonball dives.

One particular little girl caught my eye. She was maybe 6 years old and had long blonde hair pulled into a messy, sopping wet ponytail. She wore a hot pink two-piece swimsuit, complete with frills on the bottoms. And she was loving the pool. Like she was born to splash around in the water, like she was a dolphin in a former life.

As is the case with most children, she was completely consumed by the physicality of the experience; it was all about the heat of the sun on her face, and the refreshing cool of the water on her back. There was no room for inhibitions or self-consciousness; she was too busy having the time of her life. Her body wasn’t there to be looked at or judged or praised; it was simply the vehicle for experiencing life.

I thought to myself, there is so much I can learn from that child.

Life’s funny like that, isn’t it? We spend our childhoods constantly learning, learning, learning, only to grow up and realize those early years were already chock full of wisdom.

That little girl has become the role model for the rest of my summer. Starting now it is all about being in the present and absorbing the moment; it’s about the feel of being in the sun and water rather than the way I look in a swimsuit. It’s about re-capturing a joy that comes before – and goes beyond – our daily stresses and insecurities. I hope you’ll join me.

What life lessons do you think we can learn from children?

Let’s Talk Feminism, No Bra-Burning Required

By Katie, 5:33 am

I am a feminist.

When I was in undergrad, I was the co-founder and president of a feminist organization on campus. It was fun and sassy but also incredibly intellectual, and it quickly became one of the most active groups at the college.

Today that feminist organization is alive and as active as ever thanks to a current student named Teddi. I’ve yet to meet her in person, but I know we’re kindred spirits.

Here Teddi breaks down the myths and misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on the topic as well! _______________________________________________________________________________

It’s the f-word.

Feminism.

It’s a word you may not want to say on a first date. It’s a word that may make some of your friends cringe—especially your guy friends. It’s a word that is sometimes condemned in conservative circles, praised in academia, and thrown around by celebrities. It’s a term people love and hate, but especially love to debate. Tied up in it are countless arguments and assumptions. 

And it’s a word I love.

As the Student Director of our college’s Women’s Services & Gender Resource Center, I come in contact with countless students who are hesitant to claim the identity of “feminist” simply because they are afraid of how they might be labeled. While I understand this fear, it’s about time we get over it. So, before I even start talking about the “f-word”, let me clear up a few stereotypes:

I do not burn bras. I am not a lesbian (though I deeply care about LGBT rights). I enjoy baking, doing crafts, and dressing up. I don’t hate men. I believe in equality for all people and I care about the harsh expectations put on men in this culture just as much as I do women. My greatest dream is to one day be a mother. And yes, I am a passionate feminist.

Why? Most simply, because I believe that the war for equality is not yet won and because “women’s issues” are still at the heart of almost every social tragedy. Lest we forget, 80% of all human trafficking victims are women. In other countries, women are stoned to death or buried alive for adultery, forced into sex, and executed or exiled from their village if they even consider reporting rape. In the Congo, a girl is often raped before she is even six years old. 70 million women have undergone the practice of genital mutilation. Here in America, 7 million women suffer from eating disorders and 1 out of every 6 women will be a victim of rape or sexual assault.

When I read this laundry list of sad realities, it makes me realize that contrary to popular belief, to say we live in a “post-feminist” world is a false sense of security. Feminism is not an out-dated movement. It’s still very much needed. And if you are interested in or enraged by any of those issues above, then you are most likely a feminist.

According to Webster’s, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality for women.” I don’t see how any of us could argue with that.

What is your definition of feminism? Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

**Teddi is a feminist writer and blogger at She Was Write.

Good Things Come in Threes

By Katie, 5:09 am

Like blind mice.

And wise men.

And strikes.

And little pigs.

But perhaps the best thing that comes in threes, at least for me, is years of marriage.

July 2008

July 2011

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Dave!

The Numbers Game: How I Stopped Counting Calories

By Katie, 5:11 am

100, 2000, 180, 440, 70.

I used to be quite an expert on calorie counts. I knew the breakdowns for every single food I ate regularly, and for those I didn’t I was pretty good at estimating. I kept track of them on yellow post-it notes. You could say that I was obsessed with counting calories, although I never would have admitted that.

The truth is that I didn’t think my calorie-counting was a problem. That is, until a friend’s summer BBQ that I was invited to a few years ago. A friend’s summer BBQ that I did not attend. A friend’s summer BBQ that I avoided like the plague not because I had anything better to do, but because the idea of going to a party and eating unlabeled food prepared by someone else – food whose calorie counts were a complete mystery to me – absolutely terrified me.

Counting calories – or points or fat grams or whatever it may be – always seems pretty innocent at first. But for me, that innocence always quickly vanished and was replaced with obsession and dependence. When I counted calories, I had to know a food’s “stats” or else I simply wouldn’t – or couldn’t, perhaps – eat it. My entire day would revolve around the numbers, and my self-assurance came solely from how my meals stacked up against my total calorie goal.

Lots of people say they count calories to be healthy, but in my case it was anything but. Perhaps you can relate.

The good news is that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a calorie-counter – three months, a year, ten years, whatever – it’s still possible to let it go. It’s still possible to live a life that doesn’t revolve around food labels and a nutrition calculator.

Here’s how I did it.

How I Stopped Counting Calories

1. I realized that forgetting wasn’t the goal.

When I first decided to stop counting calories, I thought that I could just wake up one day and…stop. As if the numbers would simply have dripped out of my brain overnight. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

So I think the first step is to accept that the goal is not to erase the knowledge of calorie counts from your memory. That just isn’t going to happen; I won’t be surprised if I go to my grave still knowing the counts for things like apples and bananas. When you obsess over something for years, your mind can’t simply forget.

The better goal, then, is to reach a point where the information contained in calorie counts simply isn’t important. You might know it, but you rarely think about it because it isn’t meaningful; it has lost its power over you. For me, re-envisioning my intent in this way felt more realistic and helped me make progress.

2. I embraced incremental changes.

Coming off of years and years of counting calories obsessively, I really struggled to move away from it all at once. I was in the beginning stages of trusting my body, and I knew that too much too soon would create anxiety and throw me off the path. So I embraced a gradual approach; I stopped tallying up one snack, then one meal, then one full day of food, etc. Going through the stages helped me to see that not counting calories didn’t mean I’d immediately blow up like a balloon.

3. I practiced mindfulness…a lot.

Mindfulness – a state of awareness of and presence with our thoughts, our actions, and ourselves – has been absolutely key to my ending my relationship with calorie counting (and it really was a relationship…a dysfunctional one). I had to be fully aware of my tallying thoughts in order to intervene and intentionally turn my attention elsewhere. That would have been nearly impossible with my brain on autopilot.

I actually started studying and practicing mindfulness before I actively worked to stop counting calories, and going in that order worked well for me. So if you’re really not sure where to begin, mindfulness could be a good place. There are tons of resources out there – including exercises and practice ideas – which are extremely helpful.

Essentially, what it came down to for me was that calorie-counting was a burden, an imposition, a prison even. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had to. But in reality, I didn’t have to. And now I don’t.

Have you ever counted calories? Do you now?

Moment of Zen: Awkward Family Photo Edition

By Katie, 5:32 am

This week I had the pleasure of discovering a little website called Awkward Family Photos. It made me laugh because I have so been there. I wish I had had the time to find and scan in one of my family’s awkward photos for you – my mom had awesome 80′s hair and I wore lots of neon!

I believe most, if not all, of the pictures on the site are submitted by the photo stars themselves. Which of course means that when we laugh, we’re laughing with them instead of at them. ;-)

Love this patriotic duo.

Matchy-matchy!

That poor dad looks so uncomfortable!

Super cool!

That cat is classic.

Time for a serious pose.

Anyone else get a total kick out of awkward family photos?

A Friday Giveaway!

By Katie, 5:37 am

When I was in high school, quote books were all the rage. Every girl in school had a pretty little notebook where she’d jot down all of the inspirational quotes she could get her hands on.

Unfortunately I didn’t save my old quote books, but I do still love the idea of using quotes for inspiration and encouragement. No matter what struggle I’m facing, there always seems to be a quote or mantra or clever phrase that sums up exactly what I need to hear in an articulate and meaningful way.

So I was thrilled to learn about Julie Parker and Emma Kate Codrington’s beautiful and inspirational  e-book. It’s filled with original quotes and bright illustrations that just leave you feeling good.

See what I mean?

I personally want to have some of these pages printed and framed. They would make a great inspiration wall!

Want to win a copy of the e-book for yourself? You can enter up to three times.

1. Leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite quote, phrase, saying, mantra, etc.

2. Share this giveaway in some way – Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. – and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

3. Become a member of Julie’s Beautiful You site, and leave another separate comment telling me you did. You can sign up here, it’s free, and I can personally testify that the e-newsletters are great!

You have until Tuesday, July 12 to enter, and I’ll pick a random winner on Wednesday. Good luck, and happy Friday!

Some Thoughts on Trusting My Body

By Katie, 5:09 am

I remember when I first learned that trusting my body was the key to breaking free from an obsession with food and dieting. “Well, that’s the end of that,” I thought. “Because I just don’t, won’t, can’t do that.”

Fortunately I didn’t actually give up that quickly.

I recently heard someone define trust as a belief that we are loved. That connection between trust and love really struck a chord with me, as it made sense for several areas of my life:

  • I am able to trust my significant other when I  believe that he genuinely cares about me (which is different from believing that he will never hurt me – which isn’t realistic and also isn’t real trust).
  • I am able to put my faith and trust in God when I begin to grasp the notion that God is all about love – it’s what God has, it’s what God does, it’s who God is.
  • I am able to fall backwards in that trust game when I am confident the person catching me loves me enough to ensure I don’t end up with any broken bones. ;-)

 (Source)

How, then, can this conception of trust – this belief that we are loved – be applied to our relationship with our bodies? For me, it boils down to this: I am able to trust my body when I believe it won’t betray me. And I believe my body won’t betray me when I reach the understanding that the way my body naturally looks and feels is the way it’s supposed to be.

Reaching a place of trusting my body first requires that I regard it with an attitude of love and kindness. You can’t trust something that you hate.

It’s also useful to remember that trust isn’t a one-way street; no, trust needs to be mutual. So if I want to trust my body, I first have to pave the way for my body to be able to trust me…trust me not to starve it, or stuff it, or over-exercise it, or under-exercise it, or just beat it up in general.

Trust is a belief that I am loved. Trusting my body is a belief that when I show my body genuine love and care, it will show me those things right back.

What does “trusting your body” mean to you? Do you ever find it difficult or challenging to do?

Operation Stand Tall

By Katie, 5:09 am

If I had a nickel for every time my mom told me to sit up straight, I’d be a wealthy lady. If I had another nickel for every time I didn’t listen to her, I’d be twice as rich. :-?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a sloucher. Sitting at the computer, writing essays or research papers or blog posts, my shoulders inevitably creep up until they’re practically touching my ears. I’m like a little Hunchback of Notre Dame in front of my MacBook.

Honestly, I never thought twice about it; my poor posture was little more than a means of annoying my mother. That is, until a few weeks ago when I saw a photo of myself taken at a public event I attended. There I stood, socializing and networking, all the while with my upper back totally rounded. It looked awkward. Uncomfortable. Unattractive.

 (Source)

I did a little research, and turns out there are a lot of good reasons to work on my posture, besides just pleasing my mama. They include:

  • less back pain (especially important for someone who sits at a desk all day long, like me)
  • increased circulation and blood flow (which means increased energy)
  • facilitation of deep breathing
  • less stress on the joints
  • more positive image (I’m a strong, confident woman, and I want to carry myself in a way that reflects that!)

So I’ve started what I’m calling Operation Stand Tall to improve my posture. I’ve been working on my core strength – lots of planks and supermans – so that the middle of my body doesn’t get so tired so easily.

I’ve also been making more of an effort simply to remember to think about my posture, which for me is half the battle. Every day at 3:00 p.m. – a time when my posture is usually quite poor – an alarm goes off on my phone to remind me to sit up straight. Dave’s also been using Operation Stand Tall as an excuse to channel a line from 30 Rock. “Shoulders back, Lemon,” he says in his best Jack Donaghy voice. :-)

My posture still isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s getting better!

Any other slouchers out there? Any tips for helping me improve my posture?

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