Have a laugh

July 22, 2010 § 5 Comments

My mom sent me an email filled with hilarious cartoon clips a couple days ago. Sometimes we all need to fill our days with more laughter…:lol:

Get a healthy body and mind with laughter!

Benefits:

  • Reduces stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) and increases health-enhancing hormones (endorphins and other neurotransmitters)
  • Good physical and emotional release
  • Get those abs by laughing, ’cause you’ll be working out your diaphragm, abs, and even your shoulders
  • Leave muscles more relaxed
  • Distraction to negative feelings (anger, stress, guilt)
  • Encourages more “light-hearted” perspectives and optimism
  • Helps you become a social butterfly! Everyone loves someone who smiles and laughs!

…and of course I can’t talk about laughter and not watch another one of Mary Poppins’ songs:

After having had a good laugh, I started my morning with a bowl of fruit yogurt madness:

Similar to Tuesday’s, but minus the French toast waffle sticks and replaced with a toasted Ezekiel Sprouted Sesame Bread with PB2.

Yogurt, banana soft-serve, mangoes, blueberries, and toasted bread. Hallelujah! πŸ˜€

Dinner was a simple one, which I already whipped up yesterday! Cold pasta salad!

This dish had whole wheat penne pasta, broccoli, chunks of mozzarella, roasted eggplants, chopped tomatoes, olives tossed in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper, lemon juice, honey, and white wine vinegar.

All I did tonight was microwaved some peas and made some carrot fries.

Yumyum carrot fries!

Don’t you just love simple, fast dinners?

Not to mention the pasta salad was cold and well-marinated since it sat in the fridge overnight. For once I wasn’t sweating in the kitchen while cooking! 😎

Off to Thursday night Farmers market now! Summer seems to be a big Farmers market season. Hope I’ll get some cheap finds!

Hasta la vista amigas(os?)!

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+ Do you guys have any good jokes to share? πŸ˜€

Do Yoga! Easy as 1-2-3!

July 20, 2010 § 35 Comments

Or simple as do-re-mi
A-B-C, 1-2-3, baby you and me, girl

Yes, everyone can do yoga, even if you are the most inflexible person on the face of the planet. My favorite pose out of thousands of yoga poses is easily this:

Savasana
Corpse Pose
(shah-VAHS-anna)

Savasana is a pose of total relaxation, in which your body is in the most natural and neutral position.Β It is mostly used at the end of a yoga practice for the body to relax its muscles after usage and for the mind to savor the blissful moments of yoga. In our high-stress, fast-paced world today, everybody needs a little savasana now and then.

Benefits:

  • Calms the mind and eases stress
  • Relaxes the body
  • Reduces headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
  • Helps lower high blood pressure

Well, it definitely is not called “corpse pose” for no reason! In this position, you should be as limp as a dead person, your breath so still that you can barely hear it yourself, and your muscles so relaxed that you feel like your entire body is sinking to the floor beneath you.

How to:

  1. Lie down on a comfortable spot (duh). Make sure you got plenty of space around you so you don’t feel cramped.
  2. Check the alignment of your body. Make sure your legs are angled evenly in respect to the mid-line of your body, and let your feet fall naturally to either sides. Your pelvis should be resting lightly on the floor. With your hands, lift the the base of the skull away from your neck and and release the back of your neck towards your tailbone (you can use a folded towel to support your neck too).
  3. Let your shoulders, arms, and back relax. Imagine yourself sinking. If it helps, reach your arms toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the floor, to help broaden your back and shoulders. Then release back down. Rest the back of your hands gently on the floor and release any tension.

[Source: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/482%5D

As simple as this pose may seem, it is harder than you thought. Sure, all you are doing really is lying on the floor in some sort of spread-eagle style, but willing your body for total relaxation is not such an easy task. After years and years of practice, I still struggle with Savasana. Sometimes my mind will be racing, thinking about what to wear for the day, what to eat for breakfast, and going through my mental to-do list. Sometimes my muscles are still contracting, subconsciously.

However, over the years I have developed a mental checklist before I delve into Savasana.

Step 1: After you’ve lied down on your back (as described above) and aligned yourself, take a few deep breaths. Inhale into your tummy, and exhale through your mouth. With each exhale imagine the tension and stress being released from your body.

Step 2: Starting from the top of your head, scan your body mentally to make sure every inch of you is relaxed.This is where it gets interesting, because what you think is a “relaxed” state isn’t really. Soften your forehead, your eyebrows, the root of your tongue, the wings of your nose, the channels of your inner ears, and the skin on your face. Let your eyeballs sink towards the back of your head, and give in entirely to gravity.

Step 3: Clear your mind as if you’re about to enter a deep slumber. But don’t fall asleep! It’s a tough trick to achieve the balance between falling asleep and maintaining an awaken mind. If thoughts arise in your head, don’t force it away. Instead, observe it as if you’re an outsider, and watch it subside. You’ll find that your thoughts are really like waves. They come and go, some large some small.

I like to do a little 5-min Savasana before I go to bed each night. Not only does it help me relax my entire body, it sort of “prepares” me for bed. Something like a “transition” from being awake to going to sleep. It tells my mind and body that it’s that time of the day to rest. I’m generally a very light sleeper, and I find that this little exercise before bed helps me fall into a deeper slumber 100% better! If I don’t do this pre-bed ritual, I’ll fall asleep but not be as rested.

+ Do you have a “pre-bed ritual” that you like to do?

After my Savasana of the morning, which follow my yoga practice, I needed some refueling to tackle the day. I’m glad to announce that Ms. Buddha Bowl is back! πŸ˜€

It’s a yogurt-cottage cheese banana soft-serve fruit bowl with french toast waffle sticks! Whew, long name. Okay, so from bottom to top:

  • ~ 2 tbsp plain nonfat yogurt (all that I had left 😦
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • banana soft-serve using 3/4 of a medium banana
  • sliced fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries
  • French toast waffle sticks

For the french-toast waffle sticks I used Van’s Wheat free/Gluten free Blueberry Waffles. I cut them into strips and dunked them into an egg white mixture of about 1/4 cup egg whites, cinnamon, vanilla, and a splash of almond milk. I cooked them on a pan sprayed with butter spray till crispy and browned. Yumyumyum! πŸ˜€

The banana soft-serve + cottage cheese + yogurt combo made the perfect dipping sauce for the french toast waffle sticks!

I don’t usually take pictures of my lunch, since they’re usually leftovers from the night before. When I do have interesting lunches I always share! But for now…

Hi, my name is Elaine and I’m addicted to jam + cheese sandwiches.

I was totally going to make a kick-butt dinner tonight, but I got home late and my laziness settled in. I usually just want to whip up something quick ‘n’ easy when the clock is ticking close to 7 o’clock.

+ Do you have a time that is “too late” to make fancy dinner that requires alot of assembly, chopping, standing by the stove, etc?

Needless to say, roasted broccoli is the staple quickie dinner veggie (for me at least).

I also had some more leftover roasted butternut squash.

But what made the dinner interesting was this:

Some sort of eggplant roll-up? So I got the idea of rolling up eggplant from Jenny (who is a big MJ fan btw :-)). I wanted to roast some eggplant. But I also wanted to eat the tempeh I got last weekend. I also didn’t want cheese.

Please don’t judge me. I don’t know where I got the crazy lady idea of rolling the eggplant with tempeh.

I cut up some TJ’s 3 grain tempeh into bite-sized chunks and microwaved them till warm. I then put one little chunk in the middle of each slice of roasted eggplant, topped with TJ’s Garlic Marinara sauce, and rolled them up with more marinara sauce on top. Oh, and don’t forget that my dinner was doused in nutritional yeast.

Like I was saying, please don’t judge me. It was delish and satisfied my “tempeh-tooth.” I must admit that the first time I tried tempeh I was slightly taken aback by its pungent flavor. But I’ve come to love it! I love the grainy texture and the slightly nutty taste. It’s filling and high in protein too!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with some crispy green seedless grapes.

Ciao~ πŸ˜€

A taste of childhood, a taste out of the world and HOW WE SHOULD LOVE OUR KNEES

July 14, 2010 § 18 Comments

I’ve gone too long without Overnight oats, and I finally rediscovered my love for it yesterday morning.

The night before:

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • a spoonful or two of yogurt
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • half a mashed banana
  • dash of salt
  • drops of vanilla
  • sweetener if you like

The morning of:

  • BANANA SOFT-SERVE!!!! (with half of frozen, sliced banana)
  • protein brownie batter
  • chopped almonds and walnuts
  • blueberries

A taste out of the world.

I’ve been seeing protein cakes everywhere on the blogworld since months ago. I don’t know why I waited so long to give it a try. I followed April’s recipe, but didn’t half applesauce nor pumpkin on hand. Therefore my recipe looked more like this:

  • 15 grams of chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp of sweetener
  • 1 tbsp flaxmeal
  • 3 tbsp liquid egg whites (or 1 egg white)

I stirred everything together in a microwavable cup, as instructed, and microwaved for 1 min…

Out came moist, fluffy, chocolatey protein cake!

With some yogurt and almond butter, this dessert is out of the world.

My Kardea bar number two was the Cranberry Almond, sampled last night with the boyfriend being a taste-spotter too! πŸ˜€

His reaction: “Mmm..there’s a strong flavor! But I don’t know what it is!”

Me: “It’s almonds, silly. Haha.”

Upon first bite I was hit by the intense almond flavor. And by intense I really do mean intense. LOVE IT! I couldn’t really taste the cranberry part though. Perhaps the almond aroma was too strong that it masked the tangy taste of the cranberries. Or maybe I was enjoying the almond taste too much to really notice the cranberries. Conclusion: I MUST try it again to see if I can taste the cranberries, and also to chow down the almond-packed bar! This definitely was another taste out of the world!

It was unbelievably hot these past two days. We almost never turn on the air conditioner, but last night it was so unbearable that we just had to turn it on for 30 min or so to cool down after all that cookin’ in the kitch.

Today’s high was 100 degrees. 100 degrees!!!

I drove home from work in an oven my car that had been roasting in the sun all day (I really need to remember to put those shade on my windshield from now on). I stepped into a muggy, warm house. Naturally I had no desire to stand watch by the stove or the oven. All I wanted was something chill and sweet.

I started off with a slice of watermelon. Just then a lightbulb went on in m head.

Watermelon milk slush

  • 2 cups watermelon, large cubes
  • 1 cup milk (I used soymilk)
  • 1 tbsp honey (or any other sweetener; this step is also optional if you have super sweet watermelon)
  • LOTS of ice!!!

Blend in a blender till smooth. Pour in a cup/bowl (or just drink straight from the blending cup :-D). Smile and enjoy!

A taste of childhood.

This is something that reminds me of home (Taiwan) because you can see street vendors selling these all over the place during the hot summer season (along with banana milk, papaya milk, avocado milk). This drink definitely cooled me down effectively! πŸ™‚

Okay, so I liked about the not cooking part. I did bust out the pan and light some fire. Just for these eggs.

If you haven’t tried fried eggs with soy sauce yet, you MUST! It’s an order! My grandma and my mom would make these for breakfast all the time.

This is again a taste of childhood.

I also had some celery with olives and a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese and called it dinner.

‘Twas a beautiful, satisfying meal! πŸ™‚

~~~

So you saw my overkill of words in my title. I was only going to do a post about knees, but a post without food just seems…weird. I know I want to have some food pictures and talk about food, and I know that you want to see some food gossip as well. In the end I thought, what the heck, I’ll just make it an extra long post with an extra long title.

Hope you don’t mind.

Anyways, the story begins when I went on a run yesterday morning. I noticed a discomfort in my knees that I am all too familiar with. On good days, my knees wouldn’t act up, but on bad days like today, my knee joints felt like they need some gear oil.

Due to my excessive running and sports during high school, I have unfortunately worn down the cartilage in my knee joints. Being the skinny thing I was back then didn’t help either, since my muscles around my knees were not strong enough to offset the harsh impacts on my knees.

Yes, excessive running can cause some injuries to the knees, especially if you don’t let your body rest between your running days. However, little did most people know that healthy knees start with healthy walking.

Ever since we learned to walk as a baby, our feet and legs have been the main support of our bodies whenever we want to bring ourselves to places. We rely on our legs, and yet we take them for granted.

The Science Behind the Knees

Besides the dense bones that make up most of the structure and support of our bodies, we also have plenty of cartilage that help support and cushion, especially around the joints. For example, the bridge of your nose is made of cartilage, as are your ears and part of your knee joints.

The cartilage residing in the knee joints is called the meniscus. The meniscus helps stabilize the knee joint as well as provide cushioning between the joints.

What happens when you walk/run excessively or incorrectly is that you’re wearing down this protective shield between the tibia (your shin bone) and the femur (your thigh bone). The discomfort or pain that you feel when you run is caused by the two bones rubbing against one another.

One doctor that I went to (he was a practitioner in Traditional Chinese Medicine) told me that knee problems, regardless whether you’re a runner or not, usually start from how we walk. He said that most people embrace the “wrong technique” in walking.

To find out if you walk “correctly,” answer the following question:

When you walk, do you:
a) Take big strides and land on the back of your heels with your knees straight?
b) Take smaller strides and land on the front of your heels with your knees slightly bent?

If you answer (a), then you are probably walking incorrectly! When you land on the back of your heels when walking and with your knees straight, it causes too much impact and force on your knees. Alternatively, if you land on the front of your heels with your knees slightly bent, you lessen the impact.

Now after a year of no running and proper walking, I can actually start running again! Of course, I try to limit my runs to maybe two times per week, since I want to give my knees ample amount of rest between runs.

If you suffer from these knee problems, I suggest that you lay off running for awhile, and opt for low-impact exercises instead. I’ve listed below some great exercises that can help strengthen your knee muscles.

1. Chair knee lifts. This is by far the simplest exercise you can do to strengthen the muscles around your knee joints. You can do this while reading, watching tv, blogging, eating? Well, pretty much whenever you’re sitting down on a stable chair. Sit in a chair so that half your thighs are not resting on the chair and your lower legs are perpendicular to the floor. Your feet should not touch the floor. With both hands, grab the underside of your chair lightly for stability. Slowly raise your lower legs up until they’re parallel to the floor, then slowly lower them back to the floor but not resting on the floor. Do this until the muscles around your knees feel sore. This exercise helps build muscle and strength around your knees without putting any stress or force on the knees, which is what you want!

2. Biking, elliptical machine, or stairmaster. Pretty self-explanatory. You always feel that burn on your quads and near your knees.

3. Yoga. There’s a reason why some people turn to yoga as therapy for spine injuries, body misalignments, and such. This thousand years old tradition offers the most natural way of healing the body. Some poses that strengthen the knees include:

There are also a couple of poses that can help relieve some of the tensions in your legs and knees

Even if you don’t get discomfort in the knees, these exercises are also great for prevention! If you feel that you get discomfort in your knee everytime you run, perhaps it’s time to lay off on running for awhile and turn to alternative exercises (such as these!) that are gentler to the knees. Remember, your knees are going to have to last you for the rest of your life. Cherish them, protect them, love them.

Sometimes we take our bodies for granted, and before we realized it, we’ve already damaged it beyond repair.

Do not wait till you feel pain even when walking. We are all young now, but think about whether you still want to be active and healthy 50 years from now!

The boyfriend plays Chef

June 15, 2010 § 12 Comments

There’s nothing more glorious than going home after a lonnnng day in lab to find hot dinner ready on the table for you.

This past weekend my boyfriend volunteered to cook dinner on Monday night. I had no idea what it was, but only that it involved canned tomato soup, tortillas, salsa, shredded cheddar cheese, and ground beef (we used the vegan version of course). These taste soooo much like real ground beef it actually scared me a little at first.

I didn’t leave the lab till almost 7pm last night, and I was starving by then, but then I remembered I won’t have to cook that night πŸ˜€ And I came home to this:

Vegan Taco Bake [adapted from Campbell’s recipe book].

It tastes as good as it looks and smells! I was so impressed with this dish because it definitely hit the spot. The texture and the taste reminded me of lasagne, except the “lasagne” part was replaced with tortilla strips. I wasn’t sure whether the tortilla strips were supposed to be crunchy or not, but I enjoyed them nevertheless like I was eating pasta. The only thing that was lacking in this meal was veggies, so I threw together a salad on the side.

I’m obsessing over arugula right now!

A salad isn’t complete with some light, refreshing dressing:

Spicy honey mustard dressing made of plain nonfat yogurt, honey, and some spicy Dijon mustard (1 tsp?). Loved it! πŸ˜€

My plate, with the tortilla taco bake in the background. I was haaaannngryyy so a 2nd helping of everything was DEFINITELY in my tummy yesterday too! One can never get too much veggies right? πŸ˜‰

There wasn’t much dishes to do because Dmitri washed all the dishes already by the time I got home, and the kitchen was specklessly clean. Not a sight of tomato sauce or runaway piece of vegan ground meat was in sight. What a sweetheart ❀

The usual shenanigans happened after dinner, each of us glued to our own laptops. I usually spend my evenings catching up on emails, blogs, etc…stuff I usually don’t have much time to do during the day. Dmitri’s always either studying for the Math GRE or reading/doing problems for his Math summer research project.

Some “sneaky” pictures he took…

So last night, he asked me a Math question that he came upon while studying his GRE.Β  Me, of all people. This is exactly what he asked me last night:

I must have stared at it blankly for a whole 5 seconds or something. How does integrating go again? Oh right, the natural log of 1-x. Just so if you’re interested, here’s how to solve it:

I didn’t realize my Math was soooo rusty till then! I actually felt stupid then and almost made me want to go dig out my old math textbooks and start doing calculus again. Almost.

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Dmitri: You see, the natural log of -1/2 is undefined! It goes on to negative infinity.

Me: Ok…so…? [slightly confused]

Dmitri: So the textbook here says it’s solvable, and Mathematica (a Math computational software) shows a graph too! I don’t understand! Help me!

Me: You’re asking ME?!Β  YOU’RE the math major! I’m only a Biology major!

Well if I am sure of anything, it is that all that Math talk got me hannngrryyy again! I remembered that I had lots of frozen bananas in the freezer, so I did what a normal girl would do when she has that many frozen bananas: banana soft-serve!

[keyword: happy banana]

Since I already had my food processor out, I went ahead and made some homemade Laraballs, all thanks to Jessica for this amazing recipe! Mine included dates, cranberries, shredded coconut, walnuts, and flaxseeds. They form such cute little balls that I could have gobbled them up just right there, right then, standing in the kitchen. Of course, I practiced good self-control πŸ™‚

A snapshot mid-eating, a bowl of banana soft-serve, plain yogurt, and a cute lil’ Laraball. Derish!

Well, continuing along the lines of fake meat, I had some more for dinner tonight.

Two Lightlife’s Smartdogs on a toasted whole wheat bread, a bed of arugula (told you I’m obsessed with this stuff), ketchup and mustard. Yep this girl did NOT want to cook today. I think I got spoiled yesterday when Dmitri made dinner. πŸ˜›

The only “cooking” I did was steaming some cauliflower on the side.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had these dogs. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give them a 6. Not my favorite products around, but good once in awhile and easy to prep (a la microwave). At only 45 calories and 8 grams of protein per link, these are pretty good “go to” processed food when you’re too lazy to cook.

Well I’m gonna call it a night. Perhaps some light reading here and there, sneak in a little Glee, and do some snackage! πŸ˜€ I’m liking how it sounds already! G’night!

P.S. Sorry if you just got nerded out again. Can’t help it. πŸ˜›

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+ What would you pair you banana soft-serve with? Any toppings?

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