Our first visit home has been tentatively scheduled, and I intend to complete a race while in California.  Therefore, I began official training last week.  As my exercise during the past ten months has consisted of whipping eggs for cake by hand and maniacally mopping my floors, it was a challenge to complete the first week of my training plan.

Getting back to exercise is a great sign.  It means I have mentally settled in, and am ready to have a life. I currently am able breathe, eat, shower, and sleep with a degree of familiarity and routine.  It took long enough.  But now I am ready!

So I’ve been getting ready to get back to sweating (on purpose instead of incidentally).  I paid for a month’s subscription to the fitness center in a local resort.  Now I have access to a windy, shady spot to run on the dreadmill, use the elliptical and lift weights.  Although I prefer covering actual ground instead of running and going nowhere, running in the sun after 7 am really isn’t an option here.   I developed a training plan for my potential race.  I bought a huge container of Gatorade mix to hydrate while I exercise in 90-degree, 100%-humid weather.  I instituted a schedule of laundry that allows me to wash my exercise clothes between uses.  I am all set.

This week so far:

Sunday: 2-mile run, Sexy in Six Week 1 weights.
Monday: quick Jazz-class type stretch, a few Pilates exercises

The rest of this week, proposed:

Tuesday: 3 miles on the treadmill, SIS Week 1 weights
Wednesday: 20-minutes Pilates Mat Workout
Thursday: 7-miles at the local park
Friday: 3 miles, SIS Week 1 weights
Saturday: 3 miles

Ready, Set, Go!

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When your guests have just walked in the door, you are simultaneously fishing raviolis out of a pot of boiling water and scalding yourself with one hand and tossing salad with the other.  How do you come up with a plan for dressing said raviolis that will 1) require no complex ingredients and 2) elicit ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of pleasure from said guests?

Bonjour monsieur Béchemel.  

Essentially what you’d think of as ‘white sauce’, it’s not alfredo (that’s Italian, theoretically).  It’s Béchemel (pronounced bay-sham-ell, but snootier).  It’s a wonderful tool for culinary and entertaining emergencies.  It has saved my life and reputation more than once.  And you always make way too much and get to make blah meals incredible for a week straight with one pan of sauce.  

If you do a google search, you will come up with a billion results.  Here’s the recipe I loosely followed.  

For the ultra-quick preparation method, here are your mission instructions.  

Assemble: butter, flour, cream, milk

Tools: Pan, whisk

  1. Put butter in a pan over med-high heat.  Not a smidge, like a few tablespoons, at least.
  2. Let the butter melt and the foam subside.  Sprinkle in heaping spoons of flour with one hand while you whisk with the other.  Whisk the flour in.  Keep adding until there’s enough flour in the pan to absorb all the butter and you have a thick-ish dough, called a roux.  (pronounced like roo)
  3. Keep stirring this until golden brown, like two to five minutes.
  4. Begin streaming in cream and whisking into the roux.  (I used about a half cup)
  5. After you have added as much fat in liquid form and you conscience will allow, switch to milk.  Keep streaming in liquid until it is a sauce, though still thick and creamy.  
  6. Whisk in a pinch of salt and you’re done!

Béchemel goes on everything from pasta to eggs.  It takes any dish from Betty Crocker to Brigitte Bardot.  If you want to become a Martha Stewart impersonator, add some chopped fresh herbs (or dried) before serving.  If you’re serving children or husbands (culinarily the same thing, no?) you can add grated cheese.  

Third World Note: I love this sauce because I can get the ingredients in the third-world country where I live.  Canned media-crema from Nestle works great, but I can’t vouch for the success of canned milk.  You can also use chicken broth instead of milk if you like, but you must use some cream.  

Enjoy!

I’ve been indoctrinated since birth to eat sufficient green leafy vegetables.  No outright threats were made should this not occur, but dire consequences were implied.  (Thanks, mom.)  Therefore, my concience is soothed by consumption of a smoothie containing said guards against the evils of poor health.  My particular favorite for smoothies is spinach because you can’t taste it at all.  Here’s how I get my greens in the morning.

Green Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 2 Tbsp raw almond butter (crunchy or creamy, different from each other but both good)
  • 1-2 handfuls raw spinach
  • 1 serving protein powder
  • almond milk, sufficient to blend properly

Just throw everything in the blender with the spinach on top for best blending results.  I start with a cup of almond milk and add more if the ingredients won’t turn in the blender.

Drink, enjoy, and feel a little smug at how healthy you are now.

Ciao,

Amanda

There is no definable point at which a plan becomes a reality.  It is a gradual process.  One day,  however, you look around and realize parts of your life are very, very different and show no signs of stopping there.  Our plan to move has been many years in the making.  I can tell it’s now become a reality when I look at our near-empty living room.

It’s a unique feeling to see a space you thought of as ‘home’ for years looking empty and foreign.  There’re twinges of sadness, anxiety (what if we need to go back and now we’ve sold all our funiture), but also lots of excitement.  I’ve never been a minimalist by nature.  I’m actually more of a born hoarder.  I thought letting go of all the furniture my husband and I picked out at the beginning of our lives together would be immensely painful. However, where I expected to feel a sense of loss and emptiness, I actually feel eager and excited.  I absolutely love having less stuff.  I am focused less on the past and more on the future.  I highly recommend paring down.

It seems there’s an endless to-do list when you move, especiallly to another country.  So how does one maintain sanity in an empty-ish-but-somehow-still-untidy house with endless lists of errands, phone calls and packing tasks to accomplish?  One sweats out the stress!  I’ve learned supremely well in this stressful season that skipping workouts is not helpful in the long run.  When you stop taking care of your basic needs, the end of your motivation and staying power is near.

I am about to try Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training.  I obviously don’t have time for a lot of working out so each minute has to count.  I also don’t have a gym membership anymore, so a workout can’t require a lot of equipment.  Bonjour home workout dvds.  (Netflix has all the new good ones and some oldies you can check out).

Now that I’ve downed my green smoothie and coffee for the morning, I’m ready to sweat.  Hopefully, the workout will leave me all sweaty and de-stressed and ready to make a dent in my super-long to-do list.

I’ll keep you posted.

Ciao,

Amanda

I view my kitchen exploits as relevant to the overall topic of this blog.  Therefore, here’s a sample of my culinary niche.

I am currently following a diet meant to reduce the overgrowth of Candida, a yeast normally present in the digestive system.  Sometimes, due to various factors such as taking antibiotics, this normally friendly digestive tract resident tries a hostile takeover, to the detriment of the billions of other microbes.  In order to put my personal Candida tenants back in their place, I am eliminating the foods that promote their growth.  For six weeks, I am avoiding sugar (in any refined forms, including honey, agave, etc.), yeast, any grains not in whole form, vinegar, fruit (save one piece per day), peanuts, dairy (save yogurt) and anything fermented.

One side effect of a Candida eliminating diet is a craving for sweets as soon as the yeast starts to die off.  I have been experiencing this compulsion the past few days.  Therefore, in order to quell my cravings and strengthen my resolve, I have adapted a classic oatmeal cookie recipe to be candida-diet friendly.

I looked at several oatmeal cookie recipes and the one I came up with is as follows:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the following, all at room temperature with a mixer:

  • 0.5 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup xylitol

Then in a separate bowl mix:

  • 1.75 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 0.75 tsp baking powder
  • 0.75 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp nutmeg
  • 0.5 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to wet.  Stir in:

  • 3.5 cups oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut.

Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet and flatten.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Take them out of the oven when they are starting to get light golden brown.  Let cool a few minutes, then set on a rack to cool completely.

Now that my sweets cravings have quieted down for the moment,  I can concentrate on making dinner.

I divide my life, as relevant to this blog, thusly: fitness, food and miscellaneous interests.  In today’s post I will begin an account of my fitness history and habits.

I like to think of myself as a naturally active person with varied activity-based interests.  However, I must admit that more appropriate terms may be ‘schizophrenic’ and ‘short attention span.’  I have always been a physically active person and through rigorous testing and with plenty of outside confirmation, I have proven true my hypothesis that unless I keep up a minimum level of exercise, I become rather bristly and unkind.  Therefore, I am always doing something.

I have concluded that for my best health and well-being, I have to incorporate cardio, resistance training and stretching.  Balancing all three is tricky but necessary.  I don’t like feeling strong but stiff, or else supple but weak.

At one time, I was convinced I had to do everything at least three times a week to have a minimum of fitness.  I scheduled it all out using complicated spreadsheets and schedules from my gym, dance studio and running buddies.  I ended up scheduling something like four hours a day for exercise.  A smidge excessive, you say?  I concur.

At this mature (snort of derisive laughter) stage of my life, I try to incorporate a variety of activities on a regular, though not necessarily weekly, basis.  If I have a big event coming up, I will spend more time training for that activity and reduce time spend in others.  However, I find I like a varied and balanced fitness portfolio, which is why I have largely given up participating in orchestrated events like races and rides.  I had that stage: when racing was so exciting and training schedules were new and promising.  But having done it all the way up and through a marathon, I must admit the mystique and allure have left the building.  Races are fun, but I have bigger priorities at the moment, namely, keeping balanced, sane and moving to anther continent.

I will have to devise methods of keeping said balance even in foreign surroundings.  I believe it will be, to quote J.M. Barrie, “an awfully big adventure.”

Tomorrow’s Post: In Which I Dance
(An Accounting of My Current Fitness Habits, Part II)

The journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step. 

— Lao Tzu

Among the highest order of my aspirations is to see and understand as much of the world as possible.  Such a thorough educational experience cannot be achieved with a few cruises and resort stays.  It can only be had through years of traveling to and residing among native residents of various foreign lands.

My proverbial first step is to move to Belize, a small Central American nation north of the equator with a population hovering near 330,000.  I intend to continue to cultivate healthy eating and fitness habits despite less-than-conducive settings.

I anticipate relocating to the town of Santa Elena, Belize within 6 months of today.  This blog will chronicle my relocation and adaptation of my current healthy living habits to new circumstances.  On these pages I plan to publish the following

  • Amusing (or possibly aggravating) anecdotes
  • Assorted wisdom & observations
  • Travel-oriented reviews, recommendations and experiences

Follow me!

Tomorrow’s Step: In Which I Begin: An Accounting of My Current Life and Habits as They Relate to This Blog