Monthly Triumphs: January

triumphsIt’s the end of the month which means it’s times to look back and see what was all accomplished. I wrote about my hopes for the new year and what I hope to accomplish overall but I also like to break down some of those things into smaller, monthly goals. Seeing something through for 30 days feels much easier than seeing something through for 365 days. Plus it’s just nice to look back and find some good things and think, “oh yeah that month wasn’t all terrible crap.” Here’s what my January looked like:

  • I realized I have a big sugar problem and so I made the goal of going “sugar free” in January. There are four times I know I failed at this and for starting out I think that’s pretty good. All of those times involved going out for brunch or drinks. I did not have any of the sweets at work (there are cookies/cake/chips brought in twice a week) and I ate healthy, nutritious, meals at home. Overall I would call this a success. I don’t crave sugar all the time the way I used to. Sometimes I’ll see something and think “Oh I want that!” but that never happens unless someone physically hands me something. I’m feeling really good about being able to limit my sugar intake overall and subbing healthier options when I want something sweet.
  • I also started making a real effort at meal planning this month. I have a shared calendar with Vahid and my goal was to be able to plan meals for two weeks at a time. This way I would know exactly what I should get from the farmer’s market, what meat we needed to buy/eat, and take the guess work out of taking lunch (and thus not having to run out and spend $15/day eating). This was more of a miss than a hit. I never got two weeks planned at a time but I am averaging about four days at a time which is better than before which was at 5pm everyday going, “what’s for dinner?” So it’s a work in progress.
  • This month I started (a few times) doing the 200 squats program. Last year I had much more strength that I do currently and I need to build up a bit more base strength before I feel comfortable picking up my kettlbells again. So I started this to get the strength in my body back so I can start really working out without fear of hurting myself (which I have done before by not watching my form and using a kettlebell that was too heavy for me). Right now I am on week three as I had to start over a couple of times due to missing days. But it feels nice to come home and work out for a bit before settling into my evening routine. It’s only the start to much more!
  • I think my biggest triumph this month is picking a venue and a date for the wedding! Vahid and I finally agreed that we needed to get married this year and actually dig into planning and figure out our finances around the wedding, what our budget for it was, etc. Literally a week later I was in talks with a venue that fell within our budget wonderfully and includes many aspects that usually drive up the cost. Right now we are signing contracts and setting up a pay schedule but we have a date! I’m so excited for our September wedding and getting on to the other details.

What did you accomplish this month? What good things are happening for you?

Shot of Joy 11

Date night hair and makeup on point.
-getting my hair to hold a curl for more than one night – going out with friends – brunch late on a Monday morning – unintentionally spending the whole day catching up and laughing –

-surprise jams from friends that are delicious – being able to have only a taste of said delicious jam and putting it away – not craving sugar – but seriously I know some awesome people who make delicious things –

-feeling like I’m working with the universe instead of against the universe – having some potentially big things on the horizon – having what feels like a cascade of opportunities come my way – changing the way I think about things such as money has made me feel more abundant in my life –
Oh hey there blue sky.
-seeing the first whispers of spring – the sunny and kind of warm days – still being able to have a fire at night – spending the evenings reading and drinking tea – brewing jasmine green tea and having the scent of jasmine fill the house – getting back into the rhythm of working out and being more active –
I love my Himalayan salt lamps. It gives off such a relaxing rose glow that's so relaxing for your eyes in the evening.
What are you loving at the moment? What’s making you happy?

Making the Time

dates
Last week Vahid and I went out on a Thursday night for a date night. We got all dressed up and headed out for cocktails and a nice dinner at two places we hadn’t been before. We headed down to NW 23rd and had some amazing cocktails at The Fireside. The place has a great atmosphere and the drink menu is a great one. The food looked delicious, although we didn’t have any this time around.

We then headed to a place I seem to see all the time in Portland, Touché. I’ve been wanting to go there for the longest time but never seem to make the time to go there. Or rather whenever I see the building I think, “Oh yeah I want to go there for happy hour.” Then the thought fades away as the building fades from sight. When I saw a groupon pop up for the place I snagged it and mentally made a note for a future date night. The food was okay. I had a pasta dish with chicken in a tomato cream sauce and Vahid had a hazelnut crusted chicken breast served over rice and a cranberry dish. I really liked my food while I ate it but the next day when I was thinking back over dinner I didn’t find myself remembering it fondly the way I do a really good dish. I thought it was good but nothing too spectacular. I’d say it’s on par with The Old Spaghetti Factory which is a chain restaurant with much cheaper prices. Vahid’s chicken was a bit on the dry side and his sides were more flavorful than the main dish. We’ve made better chicken at home. It was a bit disappointing and I am glad we went there with a groupon and saved a bit of money.

What spawned our date night was actually my Christmas gift to Vahid. It’s a year of dates all pre-planned and where I could, prepaid for, and nicely sealed in an envelope. Each month is something we have never done before but have always wanted to do. It’s a way to experience more of Portland while also making sure we carve some time out for each other minus all the distractions that come from everyday life. There is only one month that is something we have done before but the locations are different and I just wanted to make time to do this summer as the season for this is incredibly short.

In February we are going on a brunch cruise down the Willamette River. Some of the envelopes contain something simple like January, a nice dinner a place we haven’t been and perhaps a show afterwards, some are adventures or day trips, some are going to places we always say we want to go but never make time to do so.

While I feel that I perhaps didn’t start the year out strong it’s hard to find something to do in the dead of winter. No one wants to go hiking when the trail is just mud and it’s raining and you’re wet and you are most definitely not having fun.

I am really looking forward to these each month, almost as much as Vahid is. I hope you’ll continue along with me as I share each new envelope and what’s in store for us this month!

Turmeric Mask

Let’s talk about turmeric. Turmeric is used for a myriad of things apart from just making delicious curry. Turmeric root powder is a bright yellow in color and is a wonderful natural dye. Turmeric is in the same family as ginger and as such has some of the same properties(1).
Turmeric face mask in the making.
Turmeric has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years. Some of the typical preparations for turmeric are teas, tinctures, and poultices. Many of the healing aspects in turmeric such as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, are attributed to curcumin, an active ingredient of turmeric. However some benefits attributed to turmeric are not attributed to the curcumin such as antibacterial and antifungal which makes turmeric as a whole more beneficial than curcumin itself(2).

In India turmeric has been used a common ailment for liver and stomach ailments as well as to heal sores when applied topically(3). The German Commission E has approved its use for spastic epigastric discomfort. When mixed in a traditional Ayurvedic treatment, it has been shown to relieve joint pain(2).

It’s even being used in medical studies. In December 2013 turmeric was beginning to be tested for its efficacy is helping to treat a myriad of diseases including: kidney, and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, IBS (irritable bowel disease) and even some cancers(4).
One of my favorite topical uses for turmeric is in a homemade face mask. Turmeric has wonderful brightening effects when used on the face. I like to use this mask when my hormonal acne starts popping up to keep it at bay.
Turmeric face mask in the making!

Turmeric Healing Mask

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric root powder
  • ½ teaspoon local, raw honey
  • fresh lemon juice
  1. Add turmeric powder and honey to a small bowl
  2. Combine enough lemon juice to get desired consistency
  3. Spread all over your face
  4. After 5-10 minutes, remove and follow with your favorite moisturizer. (Maybe also rinse out your sink.)

A few notes: I would advise that this mask be left on for no more than 10 minutes as it can temporarily dye your skin yellow. Trust me I know this can happen. I will also let you know that while cleaning this off it can be a bit messy and if you aren’t rinsing this off in the shower have a cloth to clean out your sink afterwards.

Also know that this mask can make you a bit hungry for curry for dinner too.

Sources:

  1. Chan, E.W.C. et al.; Lim, Y.Y.; Wong, S.K.; Lim, K.K.; Tan, S.P.; Lianto, F.S.; Yong, M.Y. (2009). “Effects of different drying methods on the antioxidant properties of leaves and tea of ginger species”. Food Chemistry 113 (1): 166–172.
  2. Mountain Rose Herbs. (n.d.). http://mountainroseherbs.com
  3. Chaturvedi TP (2009). “Uses of turmeric in dentistry: an update”. Indian J Dent Res 20 (1): 107–109.
  4. “Clinical trials on turmeric”. National Institutes of Health, Clinical Trials Registry. December 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2013.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

A spoonful of sugar ...

This month I’ve turned the focus back on my health (probably where it should have been all along). In the past few months I’ve let my attention turn towards other things and ignored what should have been big red flags regarding my health.

I decided in December that I just can’t do what I’ve been doing anymore. I spend a few months health focused and when things start going well I let little things slide and it becomes a landslide that ends with me eating junk food all the time. Besides the weight issue and vanity associated with feeling bigger than you should be I just know my body is older than it should be. I’ve lost some of that vitality and my energy is nowhere near where it should be. I fear that if I keep down this road when I am thirty, forty, fifty I’ll feel sixty, seventy, eighty and have a lifespan that reflects that.

Part of my problem is mental and emotional which I am making strides to fix. Part of the problem is I love to do so much in the beginning that the moment it fails I abandon it all and resort back to old, destructive, habits.

With Vahid’s help we’ve designed a plan to follow that will help cater to some of the issues I’ve been having. The first thing we decided to work on is eliminating sugar.

Do you know how hard it is to quit sugar? So hard.

I think if I was going to say I was addicted to something I would say it was sugar. I crave sweet things, I even have been dreaming about eating sweets. It’s crazy all the things that happen when you quite something cold turkey.

Now I will preface this by saying that I am speaking of processed sugar exclusively. I have a few drops of stevia in my morning bulletproof tea. I won’t pass up some fruit because of the fructose. If I am eating out I won’t be upset if a sauce has a few grams of sugar in it. One big exception I made this month was not worrying about it for our scheduled date night which falls in the middle of the month. I’m opting to have a drink instead of dessert but I’m not going to worry about sugar in my drink or in the food especially because it’s a date night.

I’ve done this before, I’ve been successfully eating unprocessed, whole, foods and limiting my sugar intake drastically. I’m successful for a few months but something happens that gets me off track. So I’m back with training wheels to get back to eating good food that is good for me.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

?Hippocrates

It’s true. When you are eating the foods you need to be eating for health you just function better. My head is clearer, I have loads of energy (even tiring out my 6 year old niece), and my body just works. I hardly get sick when I am eating good sources of protein, lots of wonderful colorful vegetables, a few fruits, and very little sweet treat foods.

So I’m starting with my biggest weakness. I know I am not successful when I change everything all at once so each month I am picking one habit to either start anew or re energize until I am fully back where I need to be.

I’ll be keeping you informed as always of my progress and what other changes are on the horizon to making this the year I become my healthiest self.

What do you focus on regarding health? What are your biggest weaknesses when it comes to maintaining health? Let me know what health changes you are working on!

(credit for picture: Tristan Martin via Flickr)