Tomato, Avocado and Cucumber Summer Fresh Salad

cucumber tomato avocado saladI found this recipe for Tomato, Avocado and Cucumber salad on Pinterest about a month ago and I cannot stop making it.  First of all it’s easy to prepare, it keeps for several days in the refrigerator, and the ingredients are plentiful right now at farmer’s markets.  I had a friend who returned from a long trip and I filled a mason jar full of this salad along with a brisket Mr. Bee smoked and the Cream Cheese Lemonade pie from here, and welcomed her home with dinner!

Recipe courtesy of Natasha’s Kitchen:

1 lb Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 English cucumber, sliced and cut in halves
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 avocados, diced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
1/4 cup (1/2 bunch) cilantro, chopped*
1 tsp sea salt or 3/4 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
*Note: if you aren’t keen on cilantro, fresh dill is a good substitute

Mix everything in the bowl and chill for a few hours before serving.  I substituted limes for the lemons and used avocado oil instead of olive oil.

You can pretty much eat this with anything.  We’ve eaten it with brisket, chicken kebabs, hamburgers.  It is so fresh and perfect for summer!

In a Jif – Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

lean smoothie powderI enjoy smoothies as a boost in the morning or a low-calorie snack in the afternoon when I’m craving something sweet.  My friend and trainer, Jess, got me started on Xyngular Lean Protein Powder.  It mixes really well with water to serve up only 44 calories per shake with 10 grams of protein.  I add in either 4-5 strawberries or a 1/2 of a banana, and about 1/4 cup of ice.

I cram all the ingredients into my Magic Bullet mixer which conveniently comes with mugs and lids so it’s portable.  Costco and Kohl’s always run great sales on the magic bullet.magic bullet

Here’s something new I have been adding…peanut powder.  I know it’s been around a while and there are great brands out there, but when I saw that Jif was launching their version, I thought I would give it a try.

peanutbutter powder

 

It’s only 70 calories per serving and 1 gram of sugar!  Much less than creamy peanut butter. I added the plain variety (it also comes in chocolate peanut powder which would be awesome with strawberries, I think!) to my smoothie and it was very tasty. I added 2 TBL (a serving is 3 TBL) and it was pretty intense.  Very nutty, not sweet.  But, I think next time I would probably try only adding 1 TBL.  You can also just mix it with water to make spreadable peanut butter.  The bag says it can be added to recipes, too.

It’s $5.89 a bag so it is more expensive than jarred peanut butter, but less expensive than other competitors.  The manager at Albertson’s was very kind to help me find it in the store.  He said right now they are not stocking it in the peanut butter aisle, but near the frozen fruit to inspire people to make smoothies.  Not to be bossy, or anything, but I suggested he might want to re-visit this merchandising choice because the freezer section was the last place I would look for peanut butter.  He agreed.

Give it a try and let me know how you mix it into your smoothie.

Lunch with Leta

Lunch with LetaI met an amazing lady named Leta the other day.  She is friends with my super fun friend Jacqui.  Even though Leta and I attend the same church, we had never been personally introduced.  What is endearing about this story, unbeknownest to me, we already had a connection through my mother, Earnie.

Shortly after I published a story on my mother’s daily devotional, which you can read about here, Leta called me on the phone and left a message that said, “I want you to know that I have known your mother since 1957 and I hope we can meet so I can tell you about our friendship.”  Literally, one of the sweetest things I had heard in a long while.

I called my friend Jacqui to schedule a lunch with Leta hookup because apparently these two are the best of friends (hold on, Jacqui, because I may take your spot with Leta).  Leta was precious, beautiful and completely lovely.  She even had on a maxi skirt!

While noshing over chips and salsa, we chatted about how she knew Mother.  I asked her what she remembered most about Earnie.  She said, “her smile.  Earnestine was always smiling and happy.”  Then we got onto the subject of how Leta keeps herself so healthy.  Keep in mind she told me she’s known Mother since 1957…do the math (P.S. Leta told me how old she is, but southern ladies don’t share).  I was intrigued by her stories, so I asked her if I could share them with you:

Leta’s List

  1. Every morning she starts the day with a glass of water mixed with 1 tsp of honey and 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar with mother (she was emphatic it had to be vinegar with “the mother”).  I started this today, because, well look at her!
  2. She sits down in daily prayer and meditation with God.  This is really important because, if you recall, this is what Mother did, so apparently this ritual gets you right up there at the front of the lines to the Pearly Gates and a “first nighters” welcome reception with Jesus.
  3. She exercises and stretches everyday.  It could be walking or light weights, but she makes the choice to do this, no matter what.
  4. She eats fresh vegetables everyday, lean protein and no sugar (she said, “sugar is the devil.”)  Girl, I hear you!
  5. She loves to bake and share with friends.  Apparently, she has a pecan pie that has been auctioned for hundreds of dollars for charity.  And she makes our pastor peanut butter pie.  I’m going to figure out a way to get over to her house to teach me this recipe and score the frozen pecan pies she says she keeps in her freezer (along with some chocolate candy she makes for Christmas gifts).
  6. She volunteers to stay active and engaged with others.  She is on the team at church that prepares our church bulletins (i.e. church lingo for program/order of service) for each of the Sunday services.

Leta’s List is simple.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s easy to achieve each of these things, you just have to make the commitment that it’s important for a long, healthy and fulfilling life.  Leta is my new super hero and I know exactly why she and my mother were friends.  What a gift they’ve both passed on to me.  Here’s to more Lunches with Leta!

They’re not sexy, but a Netipot is seriously good for your sinuses

This is how my friend, Cindy, normally looks.   I love hanging out with her.  She’s fun-loving, kind, and we laugh about everything.   We call ourselves the “Thursday Girls” because we like to plan a day of fun once a month on Thursdays.

I’ve been battling a cold recently, and this funny story reminded me of her.  At Christmas, we hang out at her house and bake cookies for all the people we’re gifting for the holiday.  She usually feeds me something yummy for lunch and we burn a few batches of baked goods because we’re distracted with laughing.

Well, that day was a little different.  Cindy called and said she was sick with a cold.  Her head hurt, she couldn’t breathe.  What should she do to get better before her birthday wingding on Saturday.  I told her to sit tight, I’d be over in a jiff with my Netipot — just the thing that would cure her right up.

This is what Cindy looked like when she opened the door.  Girl, she needed help.

So instead of whipping up a batch of Christmas miracles…

We stood over her sink doing this…

If you’ve never used a Neti Pot, you’re missing out.  It is the BEST thing for colds and allergies.  They sell them in any drug store.  Their purpose is to rinse out your sinuses clogged with, well, mucous.  Sorry.  I said it.  I don’t like that word, either.  They are the number one best defense against sinus infections.  It’s super sexy on your desk at work.  Smile.

And I made an emergency run for this which is a must for sinus congestion.

Tip:  You can only purchase from behind the counter after presenting your photo ID, birth certificate and electric bill, swearing on the Holy Bible you won’t sell or distribute the meds to others.  I’m joking, but not really.

At 3:59 p.m. I got a report that Cindy was doing great.  I’ve saved another life.  Until tomorrow’s adventure.

How to Set up a Metamucil Bar

Sounds pin-worthy doesn’t it? You know you’re old when you have a “Metamucil Bar” in your kitchen. I found this cute galvanized plant stand at Target and thought it would be perfect to corral our vitamins, cat medicines and “fiber” supplements.

Nothing is quite as attractive when you have company over and while they’re sipping their champagne cocktail they take a gander at your “BM” meds.  Thinking to themselves “is this her house or a nursing home?”

So this doesn’t sound that ridiculous, let me share a nightly cocktail that Mr. Bee and I have been concocting before bed.  We mix a heaping tablespoon of Metamucil or Miralax with a package of Emergen-C.  The fiber helps reduce cholesterol and improve your digestion (and the Gastro said this makes your colon nice and healthy) and the Emergen-C is packed with all kinds of good-for-you vitamins and minerals.  I am curious to see when I go for blood work soon if it indeed lowers my cholesterol.  And, the vitamin C helps to prevent colds.

I found these cute Le Parfait French Terrines at the Container Store to put all my supplies…

Metamucil, Miralax and Emergen-C

I took a wooden floral container and stuck on a chalkboard label to house all our vitamins.  The little glass dish has kitty cat’s medicines, and a cute notepad.

Our supplies are neatly stored and displayed in the kitchen next to the sink without screaming “We are freaks about our colon health!”

Colon Chronicles

I turned 50 and with that comes many milestones.  For example, you should have a baseline screening colonoscopy.  This is especially important if you have family history of polyps or colon-rectal cancer.  Earnie had polyps and her mother died from colon cancer.  So I could start 2015 out with a shiny, clean colon I thought I’d book this adventure during spring break.  Here’s how the fun went down.

My procedure was for Tuesday, so the day before you are supposed to eat a liquid diet.  No solid food, but you can have yogurt, milkshakes, beverages (as long as they aren’t red or purple), hard candy and chew gum.  I started the day with coffee.  By lunch I was hungry so I had a vanilla milkshake from Whataburger.  Satisfying.  By 3 p.m., I was starving so I had banana pudding.  Ok, not so bad.  I was really wanting to chew something, but I wasn’t feeling weak or deprived.

About 4:30 p.m. I delivered food to my niece since she just came home from the hospital having her new baby.  I went by Rosa’s Cafe and got two giant fajita platters.  Miss Bee was holding them while we drove and I kept looking at her like she was a piece of meat in the tiger’s den.  Gosh, I really wanted to pull over and eat a giant tortilla stuffed with meat.

6 p.m. was show time.  It was time to start part one of a two-step process. I thought I’d stage this photo of the Suprep Bowel Prep Kit (how else could you describe this) with roses in the background since it’s the finale of the Bachelor and I’ll be watching it while I “prep.”  I read the patient “Guide to the Gates of Hell” manual and its mission statement is pretty clear:  Patient will produce copious amounts of diarrhea.  What does the person look like that had to write this?

My gastro did the fast-sell on this version of colon prep to me while I was getting my pre-procedure consult.  She said she taste-tested it and it was by far the best tasting “solution.”  That should have been my first clue when it was referred to as a “solution” instead of a drink or cocktail.  I remember when Earnie and Mr. Bee did this they had to drink an entire gallon of prep so this couldn’t be that bad.   Looking back I should have been suspicious when she said she taste-tested it.  Just how much did you taste to come to this conclusion?

You pour one bottle into a cup, fill it up with water and drink it.  Down the hatch.  After the first big gulp, I was thinking how in the hell am I am going to finish this, then drink it all over again later?  Kinda like you can’t explain how labor pain feels — well I can’t describe how awful this tastes.  Vats of salt marry a swamp?   It was grape flavored which I have detested since the early days of Earnie medicating me with grape-flavored cough syrup from the 60s.  I avoid all things grape — candy, suckers, gum, drinks.  This was hard work.  But, I pushed through it.  I thought I was going to barf at the last big gulp, but I didn’t.  Then you have to follow this with two more cups full of water over the next hour.  I paced myself, drinking the first cup within 30 minutes, then the last cup over the remaining 30 minutes.  I wasn’t feeling too full or queasy, but I was cold.

Within 15 minutes the party started if you know what I mean.  This went on for about 2 hours.  By 8 p.m. I went to bed, because I needed to get up at 2:30 a.m. to do the second part of the prep.  I set my alarm, but didn’t need it because my stomach sounded like the sinking of the Titanic.  As if on cue, my bowels knew part two was about to commence.  I got up and did the whole thing over again.  By 4 a.m. I was done and turned in because there was nothing more to produce.  Frankly, I was so tired I didn’t care if I pooped my pants.  As I drifted off to sleep I kept thinking when I wake up I will be that much closer to a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.  Oh, and I made a press release:

Woke up at 6 a.m. for a quick shower. Got to the endoscopy center at 6:30 a.m. to check in.  They started an IV for sedation (which is the reward in all this) and wheeled me back to the procedure room.

As I was wheeling by the staff break room, I could see my doctor wolfing down a sausage biscuit.  Damn him.  I said, “I see you!”  I also spied a box of donuts on the counter with hot coffee.  Damn all of you.

I chatted with the CRNA who was administering my Michael Jackson sedative.  As I felt the drug making its way into my veins, I told her it was nice to meet her, she had pretty hair, and to have a super day.  I wanted to be voted Miss Congeniality of patients that day.  You know things like, “that lady with the glasses, wasn’t she the cutest?” or “I heard Dr. Gastro say she had the prettiest colon he’d seen in a while!”  What? Don’t judge. I like to be noticed.

I woke up in the recovery area and the first thing I told the nurse apparently was that I was going to eat a cheeseburger.  Doug said I made this proclamation several times to anyone that would listen.  I was drinking a cup of coffee and asked for coffee.  I asked for my glasses and the nurse nicely told me I already had them on.  This drug is amazing!  You have no memory of a 30-foot long tube exploring your colon.  You do get as a party favor a set of super cool pics of your colon for your scrapbook, flatter abs, and you loose about 6 pounds of poop.

Mr. Bee rewarded me with a cheeseburger later for lunch.

Was it really that good or was it because I hadn’t eaten solid food in 48 hours?  I don’t know. And I don’t care.  I am polyp free, which means I don’t need to see Dr. Gastro for another 10 years!

All kidding aside.  This is a really important procedure to have.  Despite the mild discomfort of the prep and incessant diarrhea for about 4 hours, it was totally worth it.  There are other things worse than this.  Like having colon cancer when you could have prevented it by not being such a wieney.

Saturday School — Lavender Oil

Saturday School:  Oils 101
Today’s Topic — Lavender

I’ve shared that one of my personal goals in the new year is to learn more about essential oils and how they can help me achieve physical and mental wellness.  So I thought on Saturdays I would share some interesting tips on the various oils through Young Living.

Today’s report will be on Lavender — known as the “Swiss Arm Knife” of all the essential oils.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has a fresh, sweet, floral, herbaceous
aroma that is soothing and refreshing. Because it is the most versatile
of all essential oils, no home should be without it. Lavender is an
adaptogen, and therefore can assist the body when adapting to stress or
imbalances. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before
bedtime, yet has balancing properties that can also boost stamina and
energy. Therapeutic-grade lavender is highly regarded for skin and
beauty. It may be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and
skin irritations. The French scientist René Gattefossé was among the
first to discover these properties when he was severely burned in a
laboratory explosion. Lavender may also be used to enhance the flavor of
foods.  It takes 27 square feet of lavender plants to make one 15 ml. bottle of oil!

An easy way to use the oil is to put a few drops into your palms, rub your hands together and inhale the oil through your nose.  Then rub the oil on the back of your neck and on your ear lobes.  It’s also a great oil to take with you to massage appointments.  Ask the masseuse to mix the oil with their non-scented carrier oil and you will have a spa like experience.

But there are many more ways to use this mighty oil…

  • It eases dry, irritated skin (so basically right now in the dead of winter)
  • Calms nerves
  • It’s a mood balancer
  • Helps with allergy relief — this is a big one.  I have really been having trouble with my allergies lately.  I’ve been putting a small drop of oil just underneath my nose and it helps me to breath easier and not feel so stopped up.
  • Aids in burn healing
  • Nosebleed relief (a common problem during a dry winter)
  • Eases sunburn pain — this would make a great oil to put in your beach bag
  • Soothes common cuts and bruises — I’ve been putting it on my dry cuticles and cracked thumbs at night before bed.

Recently, Miss Bee was complaining of menstrual cramps and just feeling blah.  I rubbed her abdomen with a few drops of the oil, mixed it with some non-scented lotion and massaged her feet, and put a heating pad on the low setting on her abdomen.  I looked over at her about 10 minutes later and she was sound asleep.  That’s a great testimony to me that it helped her achieve relaxation.

You can purchase Lavender oil directly here through Young Living.  You can either purchase it at the retail price or become a wholesaler and save 24% on your purchase.  My wholesaler ID (2373462) is below to help you with processing your order.  Next week, I’ll be back to show you some gorgeous pics of the Young Living farm.

Meet at the Barre

Smart Barre just opened a studio right around the block from my house.  I scheduled a class to find out more about it.

Here’s the information posted on their website.  Smart Barre practices concentrated movements that function as deep sculpting tools to strengthen and lengthen muscles. As a total body workout, the class fuses principles of ballet, Pilates, and yoga to target body areas in which women struggle- the core, hips, thighs, seat and arms.  A traditional ballet barre is used to help maintain balance and provide resistance, however, you don’t need a tutu in this class to achieve the long, lean look of a dancer. In addition to the barre, light weights, a playground ball, and a cushy mat are used. An efficient, upbeat workout, you will find it a “smart” use of time.

 
One of the things I like is that all the scheduling is done online, you can even put their app on your smart phone so you can register on-the-go if you aren’t in front of your PC.  You reserve your spot in a class then walk right in.  No waiting in line to pay or explain your situation.  The windows of the studio are frosted so no creepy people are looking in.  The studio is painted a fresh, serene shade of blue.  The lobby has lockers for your belongings, a changing room, and complimentary white fluffy towels.  The studio is just off the lobby.  I also noticed it smelled clean like a day spa.
 
The room looks just like a ballet studio — mirrored walls so you can check your format and alignment — with a ballet barre.  All the equipment is provided for you.  Beside each mat is a ball, a stretchy resistance band, 2 and 3-pound hand weights, a strap and a mat.   The people around me were friendly, all ages and various fitness levels.  I chatted with a few ladies who said they started doing the classes in the last 6 months and had the same concerns I had — hip tightness, lower back aches, muffin top, and bra fat — let’s just call it what it is, okay?  They have noticed improvements in all those trouble areas.
 
The class was doable.  There were a few times I had to stop for a second because my fat was screaming, “don’t let me out,”  My heart rate was up, but I wasn’t winded.  In fact, I found it amazing that a tiny repetitive move I was doing with a leg lift could make me feel like I just did a sprint.  What I liked was that the time flew by.  The music was up-to-date direct from their own ipods, so no cheesy gym music (you know, a Brittany Spear’s song but not sung by Brittany.  That gets on my nerves).  About the time you think you can’t do one more lunge, the instructor switches to a different movement.  When I was done with the class, I felt great.  All day.

 
This morning I feel a little sore, but nothing drastic.  The instructor recommend coming at least three times each week so your body never fully recovers between sessions that way you are always working on the core and muscles to keep them guessing.   After 10 sessions you are supposed to see a difference in your ability and maybe even your body’s shape.
 
Smart Barre is a trademark, so if you don’t have this company in your neighborhood look for something similar.  It is definitely a great way to get in shape.

A river ran through my massage

Last August, for my birthday, my family gave me a spa treatment at the European Skincare Institute.  I finally used it yesterday to gift myself with an 80-minute hot river stone massage.  I’m the kind of person that does very little research on what you are going to do to me.  I’m very trusting.  It sounded soothing so I just made the appointment and showed up.

While I waited I prepared myself a cup of herbal tea.  Cinnamon sounded good.  I sat and sipped my tea while I completed the “in take” paperwork.


Skye was my massage therapist.  I am not sure if this was her “stage” name because I also heard someone introduce themselves as “Sunny”.  Skye got me all set in a room that was dimly lit with candles and Enya playing in the background.  Before we started she explained the benefits of this type of massage.  Ancient civilizations believed that hot stones were beneficial in healing in many ways, especially for cleansing the body, relaxing the heart, grounding the soul and soothing the mind. Shaman placed stones on or near a body to facilitate healing.  Native American women would place a warm stone on their belly during menses and they used heated stones in their sweat lodge. The Roman baths involved hot water and the
cooling effect of lying on marble tables.  Japanese priests that fast wear sashes in which they put three stones to help slow the digestive process.  Since I had just finished planting 80 annuals in my garden, I knew this would prevent the lower back ache I always get the next day.

Skye presented me with a tray of small white bowls.  In each bowl was a stone inscribed with different words — Believe, Prosper, Peace and Harmony.  She asked me to select the stone that most described what I wanted to achieve during the treatment, holding it in my hand to allow the stone to run through my mind and body.  I chose peace.

She started with the massage and after she got my muscles warmed up with essential oils she started with the hot stones.  They were heating up in what looked like a giant crock pot.

I was laying face down and had my eyes closed so I really have no idea the size of the stones.  She started with a line of them down my spine.  I was thinking this was relaxing and different.  Then I noticed the weight of the stones seemed to increase.  At one point it felt like she was putting hot lava rocks on my back, but she assured me they wouldn’t burn my skin.  If I felt they were too hot, she would either swap one out for a smaller rock or would put a towel on my skin, then the boulders stones on top of the towel.  As the massage progressed I eventually had a line of stones down my spine, all along the back of both legs and tiny stones between my toes.  I knew the massage was therapeutic because my nose was dripping like Niagara Falls. 

After it was over, I walked out of the room like a mole coming into the sunshine — all squinty and puffy eyed with rosy cheeks.  She gave me a glass of lemon infused ice water had me drink it and advised me to follow up with two more when I got home.  I felt so relaxed when I left, different than any massage I had ever had.  I felt a little nauseous when I got home and I know it was because she had released toxins that had built up in my muscles.  The water helps to flush these toxins out.  The best part when I woke up this morning my back felt great.  Skye also recommended a new product to help with achy muscles.  I’ll share what it is in a future post.  I tried it last night and OMG I love it.

Summary:  I liked the massage.  I found myself focusing more on the stones rather than the relaxation of the the massage probably because the process was new to me.  Now that I know what to expect I might be more relaxed during the massage.  Regardless, I felt wonderful today.  So my verdict is that a hot river stone massage is worth a try.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

oven-roasted-cauliflower

I think I might buy stock in cauliflower farms.  Can you marry a cauliflower?  Tonight I was testing the recipes from Pinterest, and this one was in the queue — oven roasted cauliflower and it was a hit.  Like, licking my plate, wishing I had more, hit.

It was lemony, garlicky, with just a few bites of caramelized crunchy
tips from the olive oil.  And the Parmesan cheese at the end, adds just
another zest.  I think this would be the perfect side to grilled chicken or salmon.  One medium-sized cauliflower served three people generously, so if you want to make it for a dinner party you might want to cut up two heads of cauliflower.

Now go out to the grocery tomorrow and make this.  Follow me on Pinterest for the recipe, or click above for the direct link to the recipe.