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Cleaning Out the Skeletons in my Closets

9 Jan

Ever since I’ve read The Happiness Project, I have become completely and utterly obsessed with cleaning out my closets. I thought to myself, “I don’t have that much stuff and this should take no time at all!” I looked at it as fun, like the author Gretchen Rubin did. It would be a way to create more space and give away stuff that was no longer needed. Well, I’ve accomplished all of that, but it was much more taxing than I had anticipated.

The store Michaels was my saving grace with providing organizational tools. I got all of the items pictured below for less than $30, when I was about to spend that much on only two of the decorative photo boxes on Amazon. The memorabilia that I’ve been holding onto for decades, now fits into these pretty boxes; whereas, last month all of this stuff was in 3 large storage bins. Granted, I did throw out some stuff and give away some things, but I’m super proud of what I was able to achieve. Gretchen Rubin was right – I felt happy after cleaning out my closets.

My organizational tools!

My organizational tools!

When I was going through my closets, I found amazing stuff that I had long forgotten – memory boxes from old friends, letters from my cousin when I first moved down to Georgia, and short stories I wrote from my pre-college days (even from elementary school!). I used all of my new-found boxes to organize these wonderful mementos. The scary part was that I came across old pictures of ex-boyfriends, ex-friends, and my wildest college moments that I’d rather not remember. All of those items went into the trash. It’s not like I did anything criminal, I just would rather not hold on to that part of the past. As Buddha said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Breaking my Ego, Mending my Sole

2 Jan

Something I was extremely passionate about was taken away from me recently. Running was my life for the last two years. I had run two half-marathons last year, which unfortunately took a toll on my body. The doctor said “You may like running, but your body doesn’t.” That was hard to hear. After numerous doctor’s visits, MRIs, and x-rays, he told me that I had a severe case of tendinosis in my right foot and that it would be a long road to recovery.

When I found out that I had to stop running last year I knew I’d be able to run again, but I also knew that it would be long enough without running that I started to have a pity-party for myself. I did everything right with training – I didn’t pack on too many miles at once and followed the schedule, I ate healthy, and I cross-trained (not as much as I would have liked, but I did it). I liked running, but my body didn’t. That was so hard to grasp. I went to physical therapy, have worn a brace, and took steroids to alleviate the pain. More than two months later and I still have to rest and not run – doc’s orders.

Thanks to my uplifting friends, family and husband, and their encouraging words, I started to look on the positive side of things after a few weeks of no running. I focused on cycling, Jillian Michael’s DVDs (man, those are hard), and yoga. I spent time with my husband exercising, instead of running with my friends or solo. It’s still hard to believe that I can’t even run every once in awhile, but I’m slowly getting over my ego and trying to be more upbeat about my workout regime.

I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I believe that not being able to run for a few months is giving me the opportunity to bond with my husband and to work on not only strengthening my body, but also my mind and soul.

I observed some people at the gym today. One had a diet coke on her bike, another was cycling barefoot, an older lady was reading a book while cycling at a slow pace, and several exercisers were glued to The View. As I was cycling at my max level without my heart jumping out of my chest, judging watching them, negative thoughts went through my head wondering why my feet couldn’t be hitting the pavement at this moment instead of being enslaved to the static bike. This is where I had to turn up my music and peddle faster. Even though these other people in the gym didn’t seem to be pushing themselves to the limit, I was going to give it my all. And I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and other people – maybe this was the other gym members’ way of getting off the couch and feeling good about themselves. Who am I to judge? I started off as a walker and I need to remember that. This injury is bringing me back to my roots and keeping me grounded.

Have you ever experienced something like this that was earth-shattering at the time, but then you realized why it happened in the end?

Inspiration in the Kitchen

29 Nov

My inspiration to blog

My blogging journey started when people would constantly ask me what I was eating as a vegetarian. As I tend to do, I would elaborate in great detail about the meals I was cooking and how easy it was to whip up a dish each night. People were fascinated that I could eat burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, burritos, and stir fry, among many other things, while all of it being completely vegetarian. They wanted the recipes and since I don’t measure ingredients and always change an already-prepared recipe, I had no way to share my passion for healthy cooking to the masses. Plus, I wanted to convey a deeper message than just passing on a recipe, which is why I try to always add a little story or more information on the ingredients in my posts. Since then, I have expanded my blogging world and started writing about other topics that come across my mind. But, vegetarian cooking is where it all really began and it is what inspired me to start a blog. Even though I like to post pictures and I write about running, it still always comes back to the kitchen.

This post is in response to WordPress’ Photo Challenge of what inspires bloggers.

You May Say I’m A Dreamer

13 Nov

The Daily Prompt at WordPress asked bloggers today to take a line from a song that we love or connect with and to make that our blog post title.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

– John Lennon from “Imagine”

Every time I hear the song “Imagine” I either tear up or actually cry. This song has always resonated with me. The lyrics break down little thoughts that I’ve had and wondered about many times before.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

In my opinion, Lennon is asking what if we were to just live in the present moment and not worry about each other’s beliefs. I also wonder what it would be like if we all worked toward a common goal of peace and love, instead of arguing about who is wrong or right about their world-view.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

We divide ourselves with imaginary borders when it’s completely not necessary, if you really think about it. It’s nice to think about no divisions and boundaries and just living in harmony.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

I get chills when I just read these lyrics. My grandmother has always told me that I’m a dreamer, and maybe that’s why I appreciate this song so much. I’ve always hoped for a better world and a more positive future, and this song helps me believe that there are others out there like me.

Change It Up: Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous Recipe

12 Nov

change/CHānj/

Verb: Make or become different.

Noun: The act or instance of making or becoming different.

Change is a word that is part of our everyday vocabulary, yet has developed more meaning over the course of the last four years.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

– President Barack Obama

My friend who ran the Athens half-marathon with me dedicated her race to President Obama because his message inspired her to make drastic changes with her health and life four years ago. The President isn’t the only one who is trying to create such a positive message. When Googled, the first result that comes up for the word “change” is the website for the organization change.org. Their website says:

Empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see.

And they ask “What will you change?” That’s a wonderful question. People complain about their lives in different ways – their job, their relationships, their income, and the list goes on and on. But we all have the ability to change those aspects of our lives, right? That’s the beauty of it all – of this world and this life.

A few months ago as I was getting ready to write down my grocery list for the week, I realized I was tired of making the same old meals and needed…you guessed it…change. I decided that since eggplant had been on sale lately, I’d find an easy recipe with eggplant. I found a few that had the genius idea of steaming the eggplant in the microwave to save on time. Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous was what I created and I wanted to share it on Meatless Monday to help others make a change in their routine and choose a healthier alternative to eating meat. I have made this recipe now a dozen times, each time trying a new ingredient or a new method. This variation seemed to be the biggest hit, but please share if you find another way to make it!

Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous Recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 (15 oz) can chick peas, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can no salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes (original recipe), undrained
  • 2 1/4 cups cooked whole wheat pearl couscous
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Steps
  1. Combine eggplant and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and zucchini; sauté 6 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add eggplant mixture, chick peas, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, basil, and canned tomatoes to pan; turn down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add raisins.
  4. Serve over couscous; sprinkle with cheese.
The idea for this dish came from this recipe.

HOPE for My Future in 20 Years

3 Nov

The Daily Prompt from yesterday had a second portion to it – write a letter to yourself in 20 years. Here it goes…

Dear pushing-50 Ali:

There are things that I hope for the future, like seeing a female president in my lifetime or that there is more peace than war. But those are general wishes for a better world around me. They are things that I can’t entirely control. There are some things that I can keep in my reach and scope, which is why I’m writing this letter to the future me. I’ve outlined below some things that I hope for us 20 years from now:

I HOPE that the future me:

Has kept an awesome 401K so you are still on track to retire at a decent age. You and your husband are the type of people who can fill a day without getting bored. Remember the Snowpocalypse in 2011? Where everyone was getting bored being cooped up in their houses for a week straight, but you and Kevin were living it up? That’s probably what retirement is like and we need that.

Opted to start a family. Twenty-something Ali is not entirely thinking about this now, but one day you’re going to want children of your own that you can take care of and love.

Practiced more philanthropy, whether it’s volunteering or donating more money. You always say you’re going to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving Day or that you’re going to clean the trails in the park on the first Saturday of the month – but you never do. Twenty years is a long time to keep making false promises, so let’s stop talking the talk and start walking the walk, lady.

Eventually did more stuff on your bucket list. Hopefully, you have taken that photography class, have traveled to Europe and back to Australia, have helped Kevin play at more open mic nights because he’s an amazing musician, or have written your own cookbook with your own recipes (even if it’s crappy…I mean if Teresa from Real Housewives of NJ can do it, so can you. You’re probably trying to remember who that is, which drives home my point even further.).

I feel like those goals are attainable, so let’s look back at this letter every year and make sure things are getting done around here.

Also, one more thing, I hope your parents’ genes come into play, because when they were 50, they looked like they were 40. Hopefully you look that fabulous and are that fabulous!

Love,

You from 2012

Trick-or-Treating, Runner Style

1 Nov

The last time I went trick-or-treating was when I was in middle school, which was about 15 years ago (ugh, I feel old saying that!). I also haven’t handed out candy in about 10 years because of living in apartment complexes, and now living on a busy road. I feel nostalgic of the days that I used to dress up and go door-to-door, or see the little kids in the neighborhood come to our door in their best spooky or funny costumes. Last night on Halloween, I went on a great run after work. My Halloween run let me experience the decorated houses and celebration of this great American holiday. I saw people outside their houses putting up last-minute ghosts, graveyards and spiderwebs. Here’s a house that caught my eye, although I think I would have been too terrified to go up to this one as a kid.

Spooky, Decorated House on my Halloween Run

On this run, I also came across this old train track. It’s so picturesque, yet eerily desolate.

Railroad Crossing on my Halloween Run

My Halloween run was way more fun-spirited than my run on Sunday. It was freezing out on Sunday, even though I went midday. On top of the cold, no one was out on the road so it was deserted and everyone had their house decorated in a really creepy way. I don’t know what was scarier – the house with the big clown head dangling from it or all of the Mitt Romney signs. That will be my one political comment for the year. There was one house that had a fake person dressed as Jason laying against a haystack…or I think it wasn’t real, but I actually had to look back a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t moving! Not to mention, a black cat crossed my path at the end of this run. I’m usually not superstitious  but after all of these things adding up, the cat was a super bad omen. So, I was relieved when my solitary run on Halloween was enjoyable and child-like, opposed to it being like I was trapped in a horror movie.

When I finished my run, I went into the gym to stretch and the news-coverage of Superstorm Sandy was on the TV. I just want to say that my heart goes out to all of the victims of this crazy storm. The majority of my family lives in New York, and my poor cousin has had to work 16-hour shifts as an emergency worker at the electric company. She actually took the phone call of the guy who had the trampoline stuck in the wires, which is the picture that has now gone viral.

Trampoline Stuck in Wires from Superstorm Sandy

Luckily, most of my family kept power and no one was harmed, however the same can’t be said of strangers. I’ve been keeping these families in my thoughts, hoping for good things to come their way soon.

So, back to Halloween night. Since I don’t get trick-or-treaters and I don’t have kids, I dressed up my cat and dog (as seen in a previous post).

Punk rock Dali and Ali

Kitty Punk Rocker

Which I felt like was borderline animal cruelty until I saw this website of other people dressing up their pets in full costumes – one looks like they even spray-painted their animal?!

All-in-all, it was a great Halloween that turned out to be pretty healthy with my great run…AND I didn’t even eat any candy corn, which is surprising, right?

What did everyone do to celebrate Halloween this year?

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