Improvisational Cooking: Creative in the Kitchen

As a writer and daydreamer, I like to think that I am observational. I do have supreme organizational skills and can focus on smaller details, but last night, from the lack of sleep the night before, I was kind of a mess. I couldn’t stop yawning and was tucked into my bed by 9:00 PM on the dot. And I don’t remember much after that. After dinner, I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea to ease digestion and settle my stomach for rest, but I made it halfway through my cup last night before I realized it tasted funny. I never put the tea bag into the cup, so I was just drinking hot water and didn’t even notice. I think this says more about me and how tired I was yesterday than the tea, which is just awkward.

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Notice the tea bag in this photo! Evidence that I haven’t completely gone bonkers- yet.

Looking at this picture, I can see that it is not one of my “dark” days for my eyebrows. Yes, I have eyebrows. When I was teaching, I had a student ask me why I didn’t have any, which was discouraging. I happen to have alarmingly light eyebrows, lasting remnants of what was once shockingly white blonde hair from the ages of 3-5. I had no hair before that, prompting my mother to pierce my ears from the moment I left the womb and forcing her to tape little pink bows on top of my head. My hypothesis is that my light eyebrows and thin hair are the product of the same thing, but what that thing is, I don’t know. All I know is that very light, almost non-existent, eyebrows cause my already large head to appear larger. Some might even say that I have a five-head. It’s good that I can talk about it now.

The cold does not make waking up early and trekking it to the gym any easier. Since I’ve survived so far, my hope is that once it’s warmer-if it ever is- and the day’s longer, it will be even easier to wake up in the morning. My one complaint, other than the usual dreadfulness of hearing the alarm clock blast, is stepping outside into the frigid air and waiting eons for the car to warm up. I don’t even wait, I just drive, and by the time I’m comfortable, I’m pulling into the gym. Wah. It’s been good so far though and there’s no denying how much better I feel throughout my day once I’ve gotten that workout in!

My day started with a scoop of peanut butter, chopped banana and strawberries, rolled into a whole wheat tortilla. I would have snapped a picture, but the banana wasn’t looking too fresh- even though it tasted great- and I didn’t think it needed to be documented forever.

At the gym, it fueled me through a kettlebell and a dumbbell circuit. For each, I did 4 sets of 12 reps. Kettlebells included swings, deadlifts, shoulder raises, high lifts, and mermaid raises. For dumbbells, I made it through kickback rows, alternating shoulder presses, alternating bicep curls, alternating front lifts, and used the stability ball for overhead extensions and bench presses. Alternating weight, grips, and equipment- even for the same moves- help to keep your body guessing and makes a workout more effective. I haven’t done box jumps in a few days, so I went through 4 sets of 12 reps of those and did a short plank sequence before jumping on the treadmill for a two-miler.

I was feeling nice and energized after a shower and sat down to enjoy this bowl of oats. The night before, I mixed oats, cinnamon, raisins, dates, mashed banana, walnuts, and milk to make overnight oatmeal. I threw some blueberries in there for an extra health kick. The cold oats with my hot coffee made a nice dynamic duo and I was satiated until lunchtime.

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I was such a big fan of my lunch! I had more of these chicken meatballs- four is one serving and they are so SO good! I threw them into stir-fried veggies of peppers, carrots, baby spinach, mushrooms, and snap peas on top of some rice and mixed it all with a thai peanut sauce. It made my stomach happy because it was yummy and healthy! I rounded out my meal with a juicy orange. This time of year, it’s better to have an excess of vitamin C than not enough to stave off colds!

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Look at these bad boys. Aren’t they beautiful? I had high hopes for these fish tacos. I seasoned tilapia with a little Cajun seasoning, chopped it up and tossed them onto two corn tortillas with a medley of fresh veggies- baby kale, butternut squash, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms. I also drizzled some cheese and more of that Thai peanut sauce on top. Once I bit into it, it became apparent that the shells were not sturdy. Improvising, I decided the tortillas didn’t taste well enough to waste on my calories, so instead I took out the filling and ate it like a stir fry. For my grains, I had two pieces of whole wheat sour dough toast. The end result was a divine meal, even if it didn’t look as pretty as what you see now.

photo 3Reminder that food can still be fun and tasty when it’s healthy. It just means you- or the person who cooks for you- has to tap into their more creative side. I forget this sometimes, especially when it comes to the weekend, but I’m making more of an effort to try new recipes and home cooking rather than spending money on food out at restaurants. Half the time now, I find myself disappointed or thinking I could have made a dish fresher, healthier, and tastier, not to mention cheaper, if I made it myself at home. Maybe this means I need to have a dinner party!

That Awkward Moment

When it comes to exercise, I am one of those people who gets so caught up in my own mind and workout that I rarely notice other people around me. That’s not to say that I’m rude and will walk on top of someone lying on the mat doing their girl crunches (HAPPENED TO ME AND MY HAIR WILL NEVER BE THE SAME). Or that I take dumbbells straight out of someone’s hand- also happened to me and I took them right back thank you very much. I’m also not above being a little bit of a show-off when I see some hot shot walk over, grab a pair of dumbbells, and start making the loudest, unnecessary sounds possible. Yes, hi, you’re interrupting my Britney jam-time and you’re not lifting that much.  I then choose ten to twenty pounds heavier than they have and perform the exercise with ease and keep my feelings to myself. My point is, that when I’m working out, I don’t care what people think of me. I hope I look like a hot sweaty mess because that means I’m doing a good job.

Sorry, my hair is tied into a wet knot on top of my head and my eyes have goggle imprints. It’s because I just got out of the pool. My make-up is smudged, face beet-red, and I look like I might pass out at any moment because I just ran on a treadmill in this heat-infested hellhole because the snow and cold kept me inside all winter long. This is in no way a means to brag, it’s just a fact. I rarely even notice any of this unless I happen to pass by a mirror and have a look at myself. 

The real kicker is when I might have been walking uphill backwards after a long run and the one neighbor you don’t really know at all walks by me and now thinks I might be crazy. This is all speculation based on the look he gave me and the fact that I almost walked into a tree, after I faced forward again. To be fair, that also could have been because I was mumbling screaming Let It Go under my breath very loudly. Regardless of what this person’s impression of me is, I don’t care. I’m just happy warm weather is approaching and it’s possible to step outside for more than thirty seconds. I’d rather dodge cars and squirrels than be stuck working out in a gym six days a week where I have to keep from hitting someone with a kettle bell or be hit.

Attack of the Snake-Worm

As I was wandering around campus today in search of iced coffee because for some awful twist of fate, it’s HOT HOT HOT in October. Everyone knows that October is not supposed to be hot or cold. It’s supposed to be cool, so that you can survive wearing a cozy sweater and high boots during the day and at night pull on the sweatshirt and yoga pants, get yourself a warm cup of tea, and curl up with a good book  homework. But since it does happen to be warm and despite my princess-like narcissism, I cannot in fact control the weather, I was in hot pursuit of an iced coffee. And there’s a Dunkin Donuts on campus, so really it was almost as though I had to do it.

As I was speed-walking over before class, I almost stepped on what could only be described as either a gigantic worm or a very tiny snake. Don’t be fooled. Even a small snake, is a vicious snake. Perhaps even more so because it’s so small you can’t even see it coming. 

Good thing my natural instinct is to always look down when I’m walking, so as to avoid any awkward eye contact or hesitant wave, and I caught the snake-worm in my sight before I stepped down on it, wearing a flip flop. Snake-worm juice could have sprayed on top of my toes…

Since I was in a sort of rush, I was walking at a fast clip, and in a difficult feat of natural athleticism, I was able to twist myself out of the way, almost fall over into the grass, but still run away from the snake-worm pretty quickly. I only screamed once as I didn’t want the snake-worm to hear my fear.

Fear that would have been justified because when I was about to step down on it, the snake-worm flounced its body up in the air and made a hissing noise at me. I’ll admit the hissing noise might now be a product of my imagination, however, looking back I do remember some sort of squealing coming from the snake-worm, so I will stand by it. 

For future reference, if you find yourself about to step down on a snake-worm, just let it win the sidewalk and continue walking on the grass. You have to respect an animal that small who can physically lift itself up towards you without the use of arms, legs, or even a head really. I mean a worm (probably a snake) is literally just a tube of goo. Props, snake-worm.

Then, I was across the street from the Dunkins and kind of running because I was afraid the snake-worm was chasing me when a butterfly flew into my face. I actually can’t be sure that it was a butterfly and not for instance, a small bird, (it was probably a bird) because it hit me in the cheek and I only had a side view of it. So hard, I might add, that I think it left a small wing-mark on my face and blinded me from seeing its true identity of a bird. I can’t be sure though because I wasn’t about to stop anyone to one, admit that a small bird flew into my face and two, ask if said face was red.

By the time I got to Dunkins, I was so traumatized that I ordered two munchkins to go along with my iced coffee because I pretty much deserved it after getting attacked by a snake-worm and bird. Pumpkin and chocolate.