September 29th, “Trust your instincts today and know when to say no. It’s too easy to pig out.”

It’s uncanny that my FoodScope seems to know everything about me! This slice of cake was calling my name at work.

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I already devoured its siblings two days ago, but this lone blueberry chiffon cake from Paris Baguette survived. I don’t like seeing food go to waste and was very tempted to eat it. However, my FoodScope said, “no,” and rightly so.

Last night, I had two giant slices from this whipped cream wonder.

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I know that it’s not, but to me, this is the “healthiest tastiest cake” out there. The lightly sweetened egg sponge is light and fluffy and filled will fresh fruit. I could have easily had another piece this morning!

The afternoon before that, I had this mocha masterpiece. I didn’t take a picture, so I recreated it for you.

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My instinct was telling me that I needed a cake break.

September 27th (Part 2) – “motivation zooms” for your workout

If you’re waking up to the sound of the garbage truck, you know that it’s early! I let myself sleep in for another 5 minutes before I hopped out of bed, brushed my teeth, put on my shoes, and bolted out the door. I didn’t even have to change my clothes because I wore my workout clothes to bed last night (which is also a good way to prevent delays in the morning!).

When it’s early like this, I try to get moving as quickly as I can so that my brain can’t register that I want to go back to bed. I usually do things like feed the cats, make my bed, clean, and other physical chores to help my body wake up. Last night, I stayed at a friend’s house and didn’t have anything to do, so my 1 hour walk to the train station was the warm up for the day.

It was pitch black outside, and the air was still warm from the heat wave the night before. This was rare for a city that is known for its fog and summer-less summers. The moon and stars lit my way through the hills and valleys and I was happy for the company. I haven’t appreciated the city much lately, and this was a welcome surprise. The city felt calm, quiet, and mysterious which brought me back to my youth. When I first started jogging the city streets, I didn’t have an IPOD to accompany me. Back then CD players were popular, so it wasn’t very convenient. Instead, I would watch sunsets and sunrises with a gentle chorus of sea lions barking at the wharf. This was where I learned to love jogging. I was constantly challenged crawling up 30% grade hills and rewarded with inimitable views. In the tranquility of dusk and dawn, the problems of the day disappeared  and I was present in the world.

September 27th (part 1)– “motivation zooms” for your workout

Dare I say it? I’m not sure that I trust this horoscope! How can it guarantee that I’ll be motivated?

This is what I’ll do TODAY to get motivated for tomorrow:

  1. Leave my car at work and take the train. From the train station, I’ll walk 3.5 miles (or more). Tomorrow morning I’ll walk another 3.5 miles back to the train station. The cold air will wake me up!
  2. Do some extra stretches before going to bed
  3. Schedule a jog for tomorrow with my running buddy
  4. Sleep early so I can get up EXTRA early.

If you’re wondering why I am preparing for my work out tomorrow by doing extra exercise today, it’s to get the momentum going. If I go home, eat a big dinner, and lay around on the couch, will I really be motivated to get out of bed early the next day? Probably not. It sounds like a lot of effort to have to do a pre-workout before working out, but that’s actually what gets me excited to start the next day. If a little exercise can make me feel good, a more serious workout will make me feel GREAT!

This is also another variation of the small steps that life coaching advocates for. Once we remind ourselves that, “Hey, this isn’t as bad or difficult as I imagined,” we’re likely to give it another try. Expecting to achieve your goals without taking the necessary steps to get there is the equivalent of running a marathon without training for it. You’re very likely to fail!

You might think that I’m totally nuts with my exercise theory, but it has worked for me for over 20 years.  I didn’t grow up doing sports nor did I join any teams as an adult, but I’ve been lucky to have been able discipline myself. Throughout the years, I’ve had long periods (even months) where I didn’t do much, but I knew I would get back to it and I did.

The biggest challenge is to really want to do it. Sure, work out buddies and fancy gym memberships are great motivators, but what happens when that friend is sick or the gym is closed? If you have experienced addiction personally or know someone who’s gone through it, I think you can understand this: YOU have to want to do it. No one can change the way you feel or convince you to get help. It might be a time when you hit rock bottom, or just a day where you are tired of being tired. I know, I know, that’s not helpful if you can’t relate to that. However, the thing to remember is that once you do decide that exercise is important in your life, there are plenty of people and resources out there to help you.

If you are curious, I’ve shared some of my tips below. I eat, drink, and get sick just like anyone else. What I’ve come to learn is that it’s all in the timing. The key is to set myself up for success the day before. This means that when I commit to 1 day of exercise, I am really committing to 2 days.

  1. START EARLY – the earlier the better. The only people I know that can get a fitness routine going are people who do it at the beginning of the day, before they get distracted with the rest of life. That means you must PRIORITIZE fitness. On some weekends, I’ll even wake up, work out, have breakfast and go back to sleep.
  2. SLEEP and REST – If you haven’t gotten enough rest or are sick, DON’T push yourself. It puts extra strain on your body and will prevent you from recovering! This morning ,I slept in my car (outside my job) for 40 minutes because I didn’t get enough sleep, so there is no shame!
  3. EAT WELL the night before. Yes, I know, you should eat well all the time, but it’s especially important at night because your food is digesting while you sleep. Chocolate cupcakes makes it so hard to wake up the next morning!
  4. NO ALCOHOL OR DRUGS the night before. Do you honestly think you can get up tomorrow?
  5. AVOID CAFFEINE as a stimulant to boost your exercise. A caffeine high can help you feel energized and run like the speed of light, but you will pay for it the next day. It pushes your body beyond what you’re really capable of and you might injure yourself. It’s happened to me and it sucks!

You’ll notice that I don’t mention anywhere that you should deprive yourself. If you want to drink, go drink. If you want pizza, have pizza. It’s just not wise to do it the night before you plan to work out. =)

September 25th – is good day for “decorating the home,” and “completing unfinished work early in the day.”

Today’s horoscope is taken from a Chinese zodiac reading. If you’re unfamiliar with zodiacs, you are not alone!

Zodiacs and horoscopes are similar in that they are both determined by when you were born. There are many differences between the two forms, but one of the key traits is that zodiacs are defined by your BIRTH YEAR (of the lunar calendar), whereas horoscopes are based on your BIRTH MONTH (of the Gregorian/Solar/American calendar). If you want to learn more, I found this website useful.

What I like about zodiac readings is that there is often a good time to clean/decorate your house. Today was such a day! Lucky me! Well…it could have been, had I started earlier in the day as it instructed me to!

I TRIED to finish a cabinet project for my bathroom. I bought a used cabinet from Goodwill about a month ago in hopes to transform it from a dull brown to a vibrant red I would love. I started sanding it a few weeks again, but haven’t touched it since. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up early enough and by the time I was ready to get to work, it was already a 97 degrees, way too hot to do anything but eat ice cream on the couch.

Instead, I cleaned and rearranged my workspace, both of which were long overdue. The before and after might not look very impressive, but I sure feel different in this space!

For me, decorating also means putting up some new paintings. I worked on these two bulldogs tonight. They still need more work, but I think it’s a good start!

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I plan on sending these to a friend who lives a couple of states over. The paintings are inspired by his two French bulldogs, so I think he’ll appreciate them.  Meanwhile, I can enjoy them in my space for another few days.

September 23rd – “Homemade beef pot pies may take longer to prepare, but at least you’ll be able to control what goes in ’em.”

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If you’re wondering why my horoscope is telling me to make pot pies, it’s because it’s a FoodScope. Apparently horoscopes can not only help guide you in how you should behave at work or how you should exercise, but also what to eat.  I like looking at these other types of horoscopes because it is a good reminder that we shouldn’t do everything in a vacuum.  Our choices at work, at home, and in what we eat ALL play a role in our overall happiness and well-being. What we put into our bodies can affect our moods, which in turn can have a big impact on how we make decisions. If you’ve ever known anyone who gets hangry and starts yelling at people for no reason, then you know what I mean!

Anyway, back to the pot pies. Coincidentally, I just talked to a friend about making mini shepherd’s pies this week. The one I had at the Renaissance Faire was so good, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Is it really just a coincidence that my FoodScope told me to make pot pies or is there something bigger going on? I’ll let you decide.

Anyone who has watched me cook before knows that I’m not very precise.  I don’t like cooking that requires too much accuracy, so most recipes I’ll be posting will be pretty forgiving or fail proof. I try to be a little more attentive when I’m baking, but for everything else, I tend to eyeball measurements.

Here is recap of what I did last night:

First, I made a quick pie crust dough and filled the muffin tin. I put the dough in the refrigerator for about 15 mins. Then I took them out and blind-baked them for 6 minutes.

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Next, came the mashed potatoes topping with simple ingredients: potatoes, butter, milk, and salt.

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Then, I made beef filling. It’s just beef, onions, veggies, and some spices. Next time, I will add more carrots and peas to bring more sweetness to the pie

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Finally, I filled the tins with the beef and potatoes and baked it for about 12 minutes. I only topped half the pies with potatoes because I was planning to freeze the rest of the pies. Mashed potatoes don’t freeze well and when you defrost them, it can become a runny mess!

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Simple and delicious! I can’t wait to see what else my FoodScope tells me to make!

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Here are the full directions and recipe below. The original recipe is here. If you compare both, you’ll see that I omitted a lot of the ingredients.

 

Dough

1 ¼ cup flour

½ cup butter

¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup ice water

 

Filling

Some oil for the pan

1 lb. ground beef

½ large onion or 1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon ground pepper

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flour

½ cup beef broth

1 ½ cup frozen vegetables (preferably carrots and peas)

 

Topping

2 to 3 medium potatoes

Some milk

Some butter

Some salt

 

Equipment Required: 12 cup muffin tin, 1 large pan, 1 small pot

 

Directions

For the dough:

  1. Grease your muffin tin with oil or butter.
  2. Cut up the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour and salt.
  3. Once combined, add a little water at a time until everything sticks together.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 semi-equal pieces (I usually break the dough in half, half again, then thirds).
  5. With your hand, roll each piece into a ball, flatten them into discs, and put them into the muffin tin. Press firmly on the sides and bottom to make sure that the dough covers the tin as even as you can.
  6. Refrigerate while you make the filling and topping.

For the topping:

  1. Put some water into a pot and bring to boil.
  2. Peel the potatoes, then rinse, and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  3. When the water is boiling, put the potatoes in the water for about 15 minutes. The potatoes are ready when you can easily cut the potatoes with a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes, then using the same pot (so you can save yourself from having to wash an extra bowl) add some milk, butter until the mixture is creamy to your like. Add salt to taste.
  5. Keep potatoes covered until ready to assemble

For the filling:

  1. Heat your pan, add some oil, and brown your beef (about 3 minutes) – At this point, also preheat your oven to 425.
  2. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and salt
  3. After another few minutes, add flour. Let it cook until some of the water is absorbed and it’s sticky.
  4. Add beef broth and vegetables. Cook for a couple of minutes so that the mixture is still wet, but not runny.

For the assembly:

  1. Take your dough out of the frig and put dried beans into each muffin tin. This will help keep the dough in shape. We are going to blind bake (or bake this without filling), so the dough will puff up a lot if there is no weight on it.
  2. Bake dough for 6 minutes
  3. Remove tin from oven and carefully remove beans with spoon
  4. Fill pies with beef filling and top with mashed potatoes.
  5. Return to oven and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are a little browned.
  6. Cool tin on wire rack until you can safely remove the pies without breaking them (about 20 mins?). I used a butter knife to jimmy them out of the tins.

September 20th and 21st – “Pretty much everything is open up for negotiation…Have a list of what’s acceptable and isn’t and don’t stray from it.”

At past jobs, I’ve consistently put intrinsic rewards above extrinsic rewards. I loved learning, working on meaningful projects, and becoming friends with my coworkers. I needed to believe in what I was doing and enjoyed being in the company of people I cared about and respected. What this also meant was that I consistently took lower paying jobs than what my skill level offered.

This is not to say that I have been doing what I loved this entire time.  I took jobs that I could find some intrinsic value in, but it wasn’t exactly what I loved. I have been financially independent since I was 17 and needed work that paid me enough to cover ALL my living expenses, bills, college tuitions, and those awful used cars I kept having to buy new transmissions for. I was responsible for myself and didn’t have a back-up plan when things didn’t go right.

My situation now is quite different. I am debt-free (yep, I paid off that $55K I owed for graduate school) and enjoy the luxury of having enough financial security that I can take a little time to decide what I want to do next.  Does that mean that I should go and “do what I love?” I’m not so sure about that. After reading an enlightening book called Do What You Love And Other Lies about Success and Happiness by Miya Tokumitsu, I’m not convinced that I want to continue putting time in any job that doesn’t compensate me well for the work I do. Click here for her interview if you want to get a better idea of what the book is about.  I no longer dream about having a career, or working long hours on some exciting project that is intellectually or creatively challenging.  All of that sounds too exhausting! To help me clarify my direction, I took a second look at my priorities.

A year ago, I prioritized things that I valued most in my life and I think it’s still the same today:

  1. Health
  2. Intimate relationships (my significant other and pets)
  3. Learning
  4. Relationships
  5. Work
  6. Finances
  7. Family *I’m sure at a future date I’ll explain to you why they are at the bottom of the list.

I’ve changed a whole lot over the years. Ten years ago, work and learning would have been on top, with everything else falling to the wayside. Fifteen years ago, I prioritized my intimate relationships and finances.

For work-specific values, I’ve definitely made some changes:

Last Year:

Flexible/part-time

Local/remote

Creative

 

Today:

Good pay

Local/remote

Easy and low stress

 

Time and energy available to spend with my significant other and pets, work on my garden, and exercise

It feels a little disappointing that I put “good pay” and removed “creative” from my lists, but hey, how am I going to get myself out of this rut I don’t don’t change anything?

September 17th and 18th – “Get out on the weekend for more sun and fresh air.”

I finally did it! I went to my first Renaissance Faire and it was everything I imagined it would be! There were fairies, ladies, minstrels, pirates, belly dancers, and more! Aside from the delectable shepherd’s pies, extravagant costumes, and a half naked Scotsman jousting, my favorite part of the outing was watching the Dirty Laundry wench show. The inappropriate wenches successfully entertained spectators by telling SUPER NAUGHTY jokes, groping volunteer performers, and not respecting anyone’s boundaries. Their energy level was amazing and I would kill for their improvisation skills.   img_8414img_8438

September 14th – “Start small today…Sometimes reaching smaller goals is much more valuable than reaching the big ones.”

Today I wrote my introduction to this blog. I’ve been putting it off for a few days because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go, but I made a decision. Writing was daunting at first, but got easier once I started.  

The latter part of today’s horoscope is worth highlighting. It gives good advice that is echoed in many life coaching theories: start small. I’ve understood this for a long time, but it’s been hard to put into practice. What helped me today was the reminder that, “sometimes reaching smaller goals is much more valuable than reaching the big ones.”

September 10th – “may be intense, so do what’s doable”

I had a small tea party planned for Saturday, the 10th, so I went for a slow 5 mile run on Friday. I’m really glad I did because I had a baking emergency the next day. I got up a little earlier than usual to make scones and messed up the first batch right away. The second batch didn’t turn out so well either, but at least I gave it my best. The recipe and directions looked SO easy, but doing it in real life was not what I imagined.  I have been obsessed with the Great British Bake Off (known as The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.) and I put together a tea party for 5 of my friends in order to live out my baking fantasies. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would definitely have given me last place in the technical challenge because none of the scones were the same width, height, or shape.  By the time I was done with my avant-garde scones, it was time to head to the party. Ten pots of tea and 4000 calories later in biscuits, cake, cucumber sandwiches, popovers, tarts, and madeleines, I was not motivated to do anything else except for lay on the couch. I definitely had an intense day of eating, so I did what was doable. Nothing!

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