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Love Fest

This past Sunday I went to Love Fest in Hampton. It was a 4-hour festival of dance, specifically Mixxed Fit and Zumba. There were scores of teams performing and teaching routines from the stage and plenty of vendors. It was benefiting The Lupus Foundation and The Natasha House which I personally loved.  I had a wonderful time with my friends and danced so hard I was sore for a couple of days.

I have always loved dance and prefer it over many other types of exercise. When I go to the Afro-Caribbean dance class, I generally go alone (and enjoy it) but it was refreshing to go with a group of women and be among a crowd of people with such an electric energy.

It was an important reminder during this wellness journey to get out of my comfort zone and do more fitness activities that challenge me. I could have easily assumed the event was primarily for teachers and decided it wasn’t for me.

But how do I know if something is for me if I don’t bother to try.

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Smiling at Love Fest

I had an amazing time and will try another Zumba or Mixxed Fit class soon. When I weighed in today (I lost .8lbs), I actually thought about everything I did this week and was proud that part of this loss came from sweating at live dance fest in a city I do not call my home.

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Open

I have found the more I move towards what I’m supposed to be doing–writing and focusing on achieving my wellness goals through plant-based eating, the more help I receive. I know there are some who advise to keep your dreams a secret but reaching out to others has been life-saving for me. I would never say not to be careful about naysayers or people who claim to “support” in word but never in action.

Although I have definitely run across people like that in my life, I have seen that it has been more worthwhile to keep opening myself up to people. In general, I think it makes people feel good to support you by buying your books, coming to your events and sharing ideas contributing to your growth. For the people who don’t, I think it’s best to wish them well and let those people fall away in their own time.

I keep finding with those who truly supported me, it revealed their character to me. It seems when you reach milestones in life, people either rise up and  support you or find a way to fade into the background. I have experienced some sadness but overall, when I started blogging  and then wrote my E-book journal, I experienced so much growth that it was worth a small amount of pain.

So I vow to remain open. Open to people. Open to help. Open to contributing to others’ successes.

When it comes to this, I believe there is no such thing as going it alone.

 

 

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Meatless Monday: Vegan Pesto Pasta with a Honeydew Lime Smoothie

Tonight, I decided to do things a little differently. Hubby and I are big smoothie lovers and I realized I’ve never featured any on my Meatless Monday posts. I decided to make pesto for the first time, too. I definitely had become a little too dependent on tomato and vegan Alfredo sauces so it was time to change things up. I got the recipe from greenevi.com and the Honeydew and Lime Smoothie was inspired by a YouTube video from Health with Kisha. I don’t remember her exact recipe but I remembered Honeydew melon and limes and I figured I could adjust according to my own taste.

We used a container of honeydew that was 1.17 lbs, the juice of 3 limes and blended it with ice.

Here’s Hubby hard at work juicing the limes for me:

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We used organic red lentil penne pasta for our vegan pesto pasta. We love the Explore Cuisine brand for red lentil and black bean spaghetti.

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Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS
  • Pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of fresh basil (tightly packed)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • salt, pepper
  • ½ lemon (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Prepare your pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile roast pine nuts in a skillet until lightly toasted.
  3. Add basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts, nutritional yeast, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to a food processor and blend until smooth. Mix pesto into pasta and add cherry tomatoes. Enjoy!
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Pine nuts toasting
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All the ingredients. I blended them instead of putting them in the food processor but the pesto still came out great!

Hubby has already said he wants to me cook everything again next week. I fell in love, too. The honeydew and lime smoothie was incredibly refreshing. I can see making that regularly especially when summer hits.

Let me know in the comments if there are any new plant-based recipes you have tried or want to try.

 

 

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Progress

In these last few months, I’ve learned how much I need accountability. Not just with my writing. I’ve always known a lack of discipline was a problem for me that bled into a couple areas of my life. I found last year if I took writing class or attended writing groups, I was more likely to–that’s right you guessed it–write!

I wrote last week about accepting the number no matter what it is especially for the purpose of accountability. I am still learning the lesson. This week I lost 2.8 lbs and I noticed I worked out much more frequently and strenuously the last couple of days before I weighed in. I realized I have a fear of not seeing a loss. I think that’s natural but the intensity associated with it leaned towards obsessive. I didn’t know there would be so many things to confront regarding acceptance but there it is.

So that leaves me here, trying to have some perspective on this journey–the length, the ups and downs and the acknowledgement that it took some time to get here so it will take time to get where I want to be and even feel comfortable when I get there.

This week I took my first set of progress pictures. It helped me to appreciate where I’ve been and to get a little more excited about where I’m going.

Here they are:

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Before on the Left and After on the right

So that’s Thursday’s wellness update!

Your turn:

Have you made any strides in your health lately? If so, please comment. I would love to read about your journey!

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Already Learning

As part of a Facebook group I belong to (Weekly Parady), the next challenge for April is to not complain.

She issued this challenge yesterday.

I failed yesterday. Oh, and today.

The difference was the moment someone asked me not to, I noticed.

Not only in my speech but in my thoughts.

Pursuing writing and striving to make a difference with my wellness invites all sorts of doubts. Because there are no guarantees with either, my mind tends to wander toward a negative place when something doesn’t go my way or I run into a problem that I don’t understand.

I am looking forward to seeing how being more cognizant of the nature of my speech affects my thoughts and actions, if it leads to any major breakthroughs with my writing and my weight loss.

Hopefully, it’s not just for the remainder of this month. I want a lifetime of consciously deciding against complaining, no matter how many times I slip up and fall.

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Meatless Mondays: Baked Buffalo Cauliflower ‘Wings’

I have been craving buffalo cauliflower ‘wings’ for a few days now. I’ve made them before and this time hubby baked them. This particular recipe came from gimmedelicious.com. We decided to pair it with spinach and Yukon gold potatoes (not pictured–we have it on the side). The only things I do differently is bake for 15 minutes longer to achieve the level of crispiness I enjoy and use a Texas Pete Wing Sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower approx. 4 cups of florets
  • 1/2 cup milk for vegan: use water or almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour can sub gluten-free rice flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup Frank’s red hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp butter for vegan: use earth balance buttery spread

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Before Baking
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After baking the sauce into the ‘wings’

Instructions

  1. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or grease very well with oil. Preheat your oven to 425-450 F depending on your oven.

  2. Wash and cut cauliflower head into bite-sized pieces/florets.

  3. Mix the milk/water/flour and spices in a medium mixing bowl (set aside the hot sauce and butter for later). Mix until the batter is thick and is able to coat the cauliflower without dripping.
  4. Dip the cauliflower in the batter. You can do this one by one or in batches. shake off excess batter before placing cauliflower on the baking sheet. Lay the cauliflower single layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, flipping the florets over halfway through to get all sides golden brown and crispy.

  6. While the cauliflower is baking, get your buffalo wing sauce ready. In a small saucepan low heat melt butter and mix in hot sauce. Remove from the heat just as it starts to melt. Stir together and set aside.

  7. Once the cauliflower is done its first bake in the batter, remove them from the oven and put all the baked florets into a mixing bowl with the wing sauce and toss to coat evenly. Return cauliflower to the baking sheet and bake in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until reached desired crispness. Serve with ranch, blue cheese, or your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!

 

 

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Teaching

During this wellness journey, each week I feel like I am learning something new about myself. It probably helps that I am starting to write about it, too. I lost 1.6 lbs this week, which is fine because ultimately its about going in the right direction but I would be lying if  I said there isn’t some frustration.

If I don’t have a higher number, my first thoughts lean towards what I’m doing wrong  instead of trying to do more of what I am obviously doing right. So this week, I aim to begin doing that.

Focus more on what I’m doing right instead of what I’m doing wrong.

That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the mistakes. It just means I acknowledge them and direct my energy towards the habits that led towards my weight loss like an increase in exercise to include lifting. There’s a part of me that wants to wake up in a couple of months and feel and look like my best self. But the truth is my physical best self will take time and patience to arrive just as my spiritual and emotional best self will. One cannot be separated from the other.

I wish I had more to say about this week. I am learning how to slowly be more of who I am and I suspect that my frustration at the lack of speed is a teacher.

Teaching me patience.

Teaching me grace.

I hope every fiber of my being is becoming the lesson.

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Relatability

I recently read “We’re Going to Need More Wine” by Gabrielle Union and I am well on my way to finishing Chrissy Metz’s new autobiography “This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today.” I enjoyed reading both books and one of the most powerful reasons for my enjoyment is the following: Relatability.

I know our society talks a lot about “authenticity” and “keeping it real” or “keeping it 100” but a lot of that conversation gets confused with oversharing or saying so much we end up not saying nothing at all.

Both of these books struck a chord with me. Yes, there were personal stories and moments where I felt like I was in the room with them as they were recounting their stories but I also felt like there was other stories that the reader will never be privy to and that is more than OK with me.

When Gabrielle spoke about the PTSD she still has regarding her rape or when Chrissy spoke about forgiving her stepfather for his physical and verbal abuse, I saw women who had done the work to push past the fear of sharing their stories because they knew the healing that could come from its release.

I found myself nodding as I read along. I could relate to some version of their lives: the rejection, things not always going according to plan (whether it turned out to be for the best or not), the insecurities, not fitting in, past relationship woes, standing up and standing out.

I believe readers can see themselves in the triumph and the perceived failures of Chrissy and Gabrielle. I know I did.

There were many takeaways intended for the reader but as a writer I took away a few key things:

  1. Your story is not over. As a writer/blogger, I have found that while I keep posting, submitting work, networking and taking classes, it’s easy to get impatient. When will I catch a break? Both Chrissy and Gabrielle weren’t born into show business. Both of them had to put in consistent work with no guarantee that their star would ever rise. As writers, I believe that is something we should never forget. Stay consistent. It’s not over until you say it is. And you say it is or it isn’t by your actions. You’re writing or you’re not. It may not be easy but it is simple.

2. Believe in yourself. Even when it feels like no one is reading, no one is watching or no one else even cares. If you don’t, who else will? People are attracted to confidence even if you have to fake it a little through the struggle. Sometimes, I am clinging so hard to this it feels is as my knuckles will burst through my skin. If God planted this affinity, this love, this all-consuming need to write within me, there has to be a reason, even if I don’t know what it is yet.

3. Do not be afraid to share yourself with the        world. After I read both works, I applauded      the gutsy nature of both of these         powerhouse ladies. I admired their humor and willingness to quiet the chatter of what other people say and let their voices be heard. As writers, as hard as it can be, there is undeniable value in telling the truth. It may manifest as ugly, scarred and heartbreaking but it deserves to be read in our novels, blogs, essays, poetry and short stories. We only have one voice.

Why silence it?

 

 

 

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Meatless Mondays: Sweet Potato Quinoa & Enchilada Bake

I have been holding onto this recipe from shelikesfood.com for a few weeks. I have never cooked with enchilada sauce so I was excited to try. I also have been a little rice and potato heavy so getting back to eating more quinoa seemed like a good idea. I definitely took longer than the prep time indicated but I dice vegetables slowly.

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Diced veggies: red and green peppers, onions and zucchini
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Sweet potatoes ready to bake with a little salt, pepper and olive oil
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All veggies with salt, pepper and olive oil ready to bake together
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All veggies with quinoa, black bean, corn and spices sprinkled with vegan cheese

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa
  • 4 cup cubed sweet potato, about 2 large ones
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup grated cheese, divided (I used vegan cheese)
  • 2 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Black pepper
  • Optional garnishes: cilantro, red onion, tomato, avocado, jalapeno

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Rinse quinoa and place it in a small pot with 1 cup of water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  On a large baking sheet, toss together the cubed sweet potato with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Bake sweet potato for 20 minutes.
  3. While sweet potato is baking, add all the diced bell peppers, zucchini and onion to a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Add the vegetables to the sweet potatoes, stir and make sure they’re in an even layer.  Place back into the oven 10 minutes.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Place the sweet potatoes and veggies into a large baking dish and stir in the cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, 3/4 cup of the cheese, enchilada sauce, spices, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Top with the remaining 1/4 of the cheese and place back in the oven until heated through and cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes.
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All done! I let it bake for 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

Hubby and I loved it! We chose to garnish it with avocado. It blended together well and it came out light.  While we were eating it, I thought it would be interesting to add mushrooms, too. I definitely look forward to making it again.

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What I’ve Learned

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since starting to take this health journey a lot more seriously over the last month. This week, I lost 1.4 lbs. Hubby and I have been down this road before but for some reason, I’ve wanted to be more open and accountable this time around. Several months ago, we started weighing in every week but when the weight began going back up, I closed myself off and shunned the scale.

Like a lot of people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with the scale. I would weigh in too often, like twice a day at times or weigh in with my sister and have her tell me because I couldn’t bear to look at the number.

Weird but true.

It took me years to internalize that it was a number. And yes, the number is an indicator but not the sole predictor or the end all be all of anything. It also took a long time to accept I was the kind of person who pretended nothing was really wrong as long as I avoided it.

Of course, I would land right back at the beginning of yet another journey.

This time around, I am embracing the number no matter what it is. After all, it can change according to how I am treating myself or time of the month.

In the Bible, Paul says that there is a thorn in his side even he could not heal. He could heal others but not himself. I am not Paul or anyone else but Kristina. And this is something I can take away from myself, even if PCOS or my genes declare it will be harder for me.

I’ve learned that hiding or running away from it doesn’t change anything about my health.

In fact, it just reveals it, puts it out on the main stage and shoves it awkwardly out into the light.

 

 

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Belief

One of my writing goals for 2018 was to pitch an idea once a week to a publication. This week, I decided to really look at how often I was really pitching. I think I have only pitched once or twice. Instead of hanging my head low, I’ve decided to evaluate that goal. Does once a week work for me? Have I organized myself to meet this goal?

When I even take a cursory glance at it, the answer is No.

When I go deeper, I had to ask myself why I have not met the goal. I have been able to keep up with my blogging schedule, publish my first E-book journal, “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” and take writing classes. In addition to the rigor of everyday life, I am aggressively attacking my health goals.

But none of those realities are excuses. I now have more time in my schedule to see how I can start making the time to pursue freelancing opportunities. It’s been a wonderful side effect of writing in my journal every morning. In addition to writing my prayers and gratitude, I’ve also included a to-do list. Writing it down has gifted me with tremendous clarity on the parts of my life I neglect.

Part of this clarity can be attributed to belief. Before establishing a morning routine, I didn’t believe I had time to write and pray just for me. I didn’t “believe” I was a morning person or and I believed I was a night owl. My transition is not miraculous but it is a result of sticking to the habit which created my new beliefs.

  1. I believe I am the type of person who goes to bed early and wakes up early, too.
  2. I believe I am the type of person who makes time for exercise.
  3. I believe I am the type of person who schedules time to pitch editors and other blogs.
  4. I believe I am the type of person who more often than not, finishes what she starts.
  5. I believe I am a child of God who loves and works hard who intentionally makes the time to achieve her goals, has fun and gives herself a break when she needs it.

I believe all of these things.

I believe it is enough.

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Meatless Mondays: Ninth Street Bakery

Today, we were on the road back home from seeing family and we decided to stop at Ninth Street Bakery for lunch. It was a few blocks from Duke University. We almost tried the Luna Living Kitchen Chapel Hill location but then we both said it was best to try something new. I was intrigued by a bakery offering several plant-based options. As soon as we walked in, we knew we were in for a feast. The smell alone was enough to buy out the store. Trying to be gluten-free saved me in this bakery. I could have walked out with a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread under each arm. Anyway, on to what we ate.

I ordered the Thai curry bowl, the savory hand pie (don’t think the flour was wheat) and a side salad. Jeff had the dal lentil soup and the savory hand pie. We loved every bit of it. The freshness and the flavor impressed us both. We left feeling satisfied and didn’t think of eating for hours afterwards. It has been incredibly encouraging to find healthy, plant-based options out on the road. It totally dispels the idea that you can’t be responsible for your health even if you travel frequently.

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Thai curry bowl for me.

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Dal lentil soup for him.

 

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Savory hand pies for both of us!

We would definitely come back again. As for next Monday, I already have a recipe in mind that I am excited to try!