Monday, August 30, 2010

Meditation Monday

Did you have a fabulous weekend?

Mine was pretty low-key. I did a lot of training for my new fitness job on Saturday and Sunday. I don't think I ever revealed what that is on here because I wasn't really sure what the job entailed until this weekend's training :)

I'm now the "Group Fitness Coordinator" at a very large multi-location gym in the area. Trust me, the title sounds more important than it merits. I'm just the assistant to the Program Coordinator. I do whatever office tasks are required of me, check payroll for instructors, and make sure everything runs smoothly for almost 30 group fitness instructors. I will also be teaching three "Strong" classes a week. "Strong" is the gym's choreographed strength class.

I'm still working full-time and teaching at a private university and teaching fitness at another gym making the grand total = one full time and two part time jobs. At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to handle it, but last week I talked to three or four people with full schedules like mine and they assured me that it's all possible--I just have to make sure that I stay flexible to the schedule.

On Saturday, Wes and I also went to Bruegala, which is a beer festival put on by the local Jaycees.

Wes and the "homemade" beef sticks he bought at the festival. Slim Jim's and beef jerky make me want to gag at the smell. I told Wes what was in beef sticks, but he didn't seem to care. NOM NOM NOM.

At the festival, they gave us these extra-large shot glasses for sampling beer. You buy tickets and it's one ticket to sample one beer.

The next day we hit up the Mexican restaurant close to our new house. We hadn't been there yet, but since we figured we're gonna be repeat customers (Wes LOVES Mexican food and I LOVE margaritas!), we gave it a shot. It did NOT disappoint! A tasty tip for eating at run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants--order a side of pico de gallo to mix into a bland salsa. Tasty and fresh!

This evening I taught
PiYo, which is a pilates/yoga hybrid class that I recently got certified in. I'm LOVING teaching PiYo, but I want to get better at leading the "guided meditation" part at the end of every class (it's supposed to be a 5-6 minute relaxation/meditation portion).

I've taken a few Yoga classes that featured meditation, but I have a hard time remembering what the instructor said during mediation because I was SO RELAXED during that portion. The only phrase that sticks out in my mind is, once, a yoga instructor said to "relax the back in a natural arch as if a little bunny is scampering underneath your spine." Nutty or cute? I don't know...

To me, in a group-fitness setting, meditation is more about creating a relaxing atmosphere than guiding the mind through mental energy exercises and imagery. All I have is five minutes for the meditation portion! That's hardly enough time to "channel mental energy." Heck, that's barely enough time to relax the muscles much at all. For now, I'll leave the extensive guided meditation to the pros, but my question for ya'll is this--
What do YOU like to hear during yoga meditation? Any favorite phrases or sayings that help you relax?

Right now, all I've got is short stuff like...

"Take a deep breath in and as you exhale feel your body being consumed by gravity"

"Soften your breath and feel each shallow breath as it enters and leaves the body"

"Release the tension from your shoulders and feel them fall heavy to the floor"

"Inhale positive energy, exhale negativity"

When I first started leading the guided meditation, I'll admit, I felt a bit silly. But now it's gotten more natural and I really enjoy creating that relaxation space. Still, I'd like to improve on my "guided meditation" skills, so any suggestions ya'll have for creating a calm space in about five minutes are certainly welcome!

Also, I found this guided imagery mediation through a Google search for "guided imagery meditations" (yes, I AM search-lazy). I thought it was fantastic and this part especially struck a chord:
"And now, perhaps you'll see yourself surrounded by a lovely golden light. It covers every inch of your body while all the normal functions go on... you breathe very normally and your pores are open, and every normal function goes on. And that lovely, lovely golden light is a combination of all of the healing power of the universe, and all of the healing power of your own body, and all of the healing power of any med ication you're taking or radiation you're receiving, or anything you're taking... and that golden light can go anyplace you tell it to."

Gorgeous. Perhaps I will use this one in my own daily meditation. I usually meditate before/while falling asleep. Since I've started doing this, I've slept sounder, deeper and had more vivid dreams. If you need mental relief, I highly recommend 15-20 minutes of meditation a day. It's scientifically proven to relieve stress! :)

In case you're curious, for want more information on meditation, here are some of my favorite resources:

After teaching PiYo tonight--feeling relaxed, stretched and calm--I headed home and meditated....errr..chomped on this...

Spaghetti Squash topped with olive oil, salt, pepper and marinara.

I'm craving fall squash even though it's only the beginning of September. Spaghetti squash (SS) just fills that void (AND is full of fiber and nutrients). I just sub it in recipes in place of real spaghetti or it's even yummy just tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper.

My quick n' easy cooking secret for SS: I poke a few deep holes in the squash and microwave it on high for 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the squash. BIG squashes take a little longer). When cooked, I cut in half, scrape out the seeds and then fork out the strands. This microwave approach not only cooks the SS perfectly, but it also softens the skin and makes for easy cutting.

Well, off to meditation and moonsleep I go. I have a LONG day of work and teaching tomorrow! Have a terrific Tuesday, darlings!

Q.O.D. (question of the day): Do you meditate? What's your favorite meditation or affirmation? Any "guided meditation" phrasing suggestions for my group fitness classes?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fun Friday: Back to School Edition!

I say I'm back, then I don't blog for 2 days--baaaad blogger :)

Well, Wednesday was the first day of school (and teaching at my new job). I've been teaching college students for two years and group fitness for almost seven, but I still get those first-day-of-school-jitters on the first day of a new class (academic or group fitness).

Did you know that it takes less than THREE seconds for someone to form a first impression of you and less than 30 for that impression to be set in place? AND, once that first impression is set in place, it can take MONTHS to undo/alter that impression! First impressions count--especially when your paycheck depends on someone else liking you as an teacher/fitness instructor.

For the first day of school, I packed my lunch--PB & J, banana, and rice-cake crisps.

I commute 40 minutes to work, so I leave the velcro rollers in until I get to work, I park and then take them out. Can you imagine passing me on the highway looking like this? :)

Fruit snacks for the "ice breaker" activity. Gotta bribe 'em early!

Thursday was Wes and I's FIVE year anniversary. I absolutely can't believe it's been five years already! We aren't yet married, but it doesn't bother me (yet lol). I joke with Wes and tell him that every year he waits to marry me, I'm mentally adding one carat to the engagement ring.

I'm just kidding with him. Ring or no ring--we've been through so much together and I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else but this man who makes me laugh everyday. Awwww. I'll save the story of how we met for another day. It's a good one though ;)

Our first picture taken together. We had been dating one month. We look so young!

Us, two years later, where we fell in love--Charleston, SC.


For this Fun Friday's recipe, I'm sharing an after school snack fav--Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is my closely guarded, top-secret recipe (if you consider "top-secret" widely available on Allrecipes. lol). Okay, okay, so this recipe for chocolate chip cookies so soft they melt in your mouth isn't all that secret, but I've been making them for almost 10 years now and they've never met a tastebud that they didn't like!

The "secret" in the dough is a box instant pudding (unprepared), which gives the cookies flavor and fluff. You can use any flavor of pudding mix and chip: White chocolate pudding and white chocolate chips with cranberries is good. I've also done chocolate pudding with dark chocolate chips--delish! If you can find it, try using "cheesecake" pudding in the dough--heavenly!

I will warn you though--this cookie dough is highly addictive. Eat at your own discretion :)

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Allrecipes)

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown. *NOTE: I've found 9-10 minutes is the best amount of time for these*
  4. Let cookies sit on the cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to cooling racks.

I made this batch for my favorite Communication staffers/faculty and my PiYo class. Rave reviews! :)

I love my stand pink mixer. I've wanted this KitchenAid since I was 12 years old! It has seen many a chocolate chip cookie in its day.

For this week's Fun Friday playlist, I've got a good variety of up-tempo stuff for your listening pleasure. Click the hyperlinks to hear the song on YouTube.

1. Like It's Her Birthday by Good Charlotte
(I'm not even going to launch into how much of a GC fangirl I was back in the day, but their NEW single is pretty bi*chin')

2. Yeah Ya Know (Takers) by T.I.
(I have a feeling this one is going to be in heavy rotation this football season)

3. Bed Intruder Song by Antoine Dodson and The Gregory Brothers
(This viral YouTube/iTunes hit is all kinds of politically incorrect and just unethical, but its catchy as hell. You can see the original news story here)

4. Night by Night by Chromeo
(This recent electronic single is filled with 80's beats and goodness)

5. Turn on the Radio by Reba McEntire
(Gotta love that sassy red-headed county vixen! I was distraught when her TV show ended, but at least the re-runs are on every night of the week. This country song is catchy!)

Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend, friends! I'm getting these lazy, sleepy-time pups out of bed to take them for a walk, then off to school I go!

Q.O.D. (question of the day): What's your favorite "after-school snack?" Do you get "first-day" jitters at a new job or class? Have a song/video you're digging right now--leave a link the in the comments! I'm always looking for new music!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Smile" Moments

"Happiness research" is fascinating. If I wasn't in the field of Communication, I'd definitely get my PhD in Psych and study rainbows and sunshine all day :)

In case you're curious about happiness research, this article lists the top 5 most reliable "findings" in happiness research. Powerful stuff--it's worth a read!

As #1 on the happiness research list says, "We control about 40-50% of our own happiness." It's true, we can choose our own daily outlook toward the world! I also totally agree with #5, that "Happiness is in experiences, not stuff." That which makes us happy is not always tangible. For me, it's the memories of little things that made me smile during the day.

Over the last two weeks, I've had a lot to smile (ugh, and subsequently, stress) about, but I didn't get a chance to blog about all of it. I thought I'd recap a few of my "smile moments" today. As you know, my daily goal is to delight in the "little things." The idea is that eventually, you will learn to focus on the positive so much that you will "tune out" the nagging, little negative things and become more happy.

These are the "little things" that made me smile recently...

Our "last meal" in our old apartment: Vegetarian Corn Tacos. I was trying to use up produce and odds and ends that we had so I threw some avocado, cheddar, tomatoes, onion and Black Bean and Corn salsa on a corn tortilla and called it dinner. I thought it was going to be nasty, but it turned out tasty. I was pretty impressed with my Chopped-esque improvisation :)

I'm in LURVE with wall decals. They are easy to apply and remove, and are a great alternative to paining walls (I like photography, but I'm no painter!). I got these at Meijer (which is like Walmart). I had a homemade fruit smoothie to celebrate my artistry lol.

In my typical Saturday fitness class fashion, I brought snacks for my morning weights class participants. We all need a little pick me up first thing on Saturday morning!

To congratulate me on my new job, Wes got me this super cute lunch box. It's SO me! NOM NOM NOM is somewhat of a catchphrase for me.

I filled it up with a PB and J, kettle chips, and a 100-cal rice krispie square. NOM NOM NOM!

Wes' parents came into Chicago this past weekend, so we drove up to visit in the Chi-town. After seeing all the other lovely blogger-pics from the Healthy Living Summit, I was stoked to go see the sights...albeit a week late.

Buckingham Fountain, Wes and I.

Walking to the Shedd Aquarium. It's a gorgeous building in the sunlight. There was fabulous Chicago weather that day too--not too hot with a nice breeze!

Inside the Shedd Aquarium, there's all this elaborate oceanic-inspired architechture. I've been to Chicago numerous times, but I'd never been to the Shedd, and I must say---I was IMPRESSED!

They had non-aquatic animals, too. Like these monkeys in love ;)

And this lurking little croc.

Piranha are glittery! As we were walking by the piranha tank, I overheard a woman behind me say to her little son, "Wow, that's it, huh? It doesn't look like it deserves it's own 3-D movie, now does it?" She was referring to the recent trailer for that C-grade 3-D film coming out.

This little guy was just chillin at the bottom. Freakin' cool pattern on his body!

Super Ray! Check that out that mouth!

Just gliding by gracefully.

The "show" tank at Shedd is spectacular! You could see the boats in the harbor!

Hands down, the coolest thing at Shedd is the baby Beluga whale. This isn't a good picture, but here I was watching in the mother and baby "play" together. It's neat to see how similar all mammals are. These two were just chasing each other around and the mother nuzzled the baby. So sweet!

Penguin waddles make me smile on the inside :)

Orchids at Shedd--my favorite flower.

No aquarium experience would be complete without some tropical-colored coral and anemone! It's crazy that these two sea creatures live in peace and and have evolved to co-exist with each other. If only humans could take a cue!

I hope you have a wonderfully happy Tuesday! Remember, that happiness exists everywhere--in experiences, little everyday moments and daily attitudes--we just have to work toward embracing and harnessing it :)

Q.O.D. (Question of the Day): What "smile moments" have you had today? Any little things made you smile? What's your favorite aquarium creature?

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm Back!

I'm back like Ahrrrnold!

After a two-week hiatus (which, in blog time is equivalent to two mini-epochs), I've returned from the land of the lost, the dead, and I'm back to the future blogging :) I missed you all and I definitely missed reading a lot of other fabulous blogs too! Thank you to all who left comments on my vacation posts! It was a crazy fun trip and I'm thinking that it should become a yearly tradition!

So much has happened in the last two weeks, so let me share my insanity with you. It's the "good" kind of insanity, so no worries :)

First, I got and started a new job as a Communication instructor here...

I had to read and make lesson plans for this...

And then, at the LAST minute, we got our MOVE on...

I loved our tiny apartment, but our living situation had gotten pretty sketch (meaning, our neighborhood had turned into a literal ghetto in a span of one year's time). Since we'd moved into that place, we've called the cops no less than 10 times on various suspicious activities. It's also become a haven for gangs and host to gang violence. I swear it was a nice neighborhood when we moved in over two years ago!

With our lease up, I called our landlords (this sweet older husband-wife team--LOVE them!) and told them we needed OUT of our apartment. They totally understood and didn't blame us for wanting to move immediately. They told us that they had a house for rent and they would knock $500 off the rent price if we moved in there (It pays to be on good terms with your landlord!). So we looked at it...

And totally took it! Our landlords said we could move in anytime and not pay rent until September, so we wasted NO time moving. The next day...

Stuff everywhere.

Craziness and clutter give me anxiety--this was a REALLY hard thing to look at for a few days.

Since we moved the big furniture first, I had to use a folding chair for a make-shift nightstand!

When I say we moved last minute, I mean, we looked at the apartment on Thursday and moved in over the weekend! This is NOT something I would EVER recommend to anyone. Pain. In. The. A**!!! We had no boxes, no time to pack. We pretty much lived like vagrants for a week. Our "moving strategy" was:
  1. Buy some tubs.
  2. Pack as much sh*t as we can in the tubs.
  3. Throw the rest of the stuff in the back of Wes' pickup.
  4. Move on up to the (west)side. It's no high rise apartment, but it's a ginormous step up from the ghetto :)

On the plus side of moving last minute, I got some good exercise--lift, move, put away, sweat buckets, repeat. Can't beat that good old fashioned late-summer-heat-filled LABOR to get the blood pumping and sweat dripping. I drank so much Gatorade last weekend, I thought I was going to start sweating beads of blue and green.

Of course we also had to "bless" the new house with some "Indian Spirit" (which is all kinds of politically incorrect and bad for the environment since it's aerosol). My sister gave this to me when I was visiting in Texas. It says 100% Legitimo on the can so it better work! lol.

With a view like this every morning, I think we made the right choice to move.

Still, I'm gonna miss that little mouse house that we called a home for the last two years. So many memories were had in that little place--tears, arguments, celebrations, birthdays, holidays, heartaches and parties. I remember when we first moved in...

The building we lived in.

Yep, that's purple shag carpeting you see there, folks! At the time, I thought it was "kitschy." I soon found out that it was just NASTY.

I raised two puppies in that little apartment...

First came Beaufort.

Then came Daisy.

I learned about the beautiful and annoying snow of central Illinois in that apartment...

And I learned how to live with someone other than myself ;) Awwww...

After thoroughly cleaning the old, sad, empty apartment, I said my goodbyes. I almost cried. Is that normal?

I feel like when we leave a living space, we leave part of our selves--our energy and some of our memories, the positive and negative ones. I'm a sap, and I get sentimentally attached to places and things. I know this move is a step up in life--a graduation to bigger and better things--but I can't help but feel a little sad and nostalgic too.

I'll post pics of the new house soon, but I need to get more stuff put away, pictures hung, and furniture bought. This place is so much larger than our other apartment that we have TWO empty rooms!

ANNNNNND, if all that wasn't enough, I got hired for ANOTHER new job--a fitness-related job! I'll tell you more about it soon, so keep checking back! Between two jobs and a move, I've done enough paper work to last me a LOOOOONG time!

Craziness aside, I'm back and will be writing regularly-scheduled posts, so come visit B Foxy Fitness again!

Q.O.D. (question of the day): Do you feel sad/nostalgic when leaving one living space for another? What's your "moving strategy?" What's your favorite place that you've ever lived (city or building)?