I recently started drawing Custom Pet Portraits. I had forgotten how much people and families love their pets. Their pets are like family members. Dogs and cats provide companionship, comfort and a lot of fun. Growing up, our family had two dogs and my sisters and my husband had cats in college. Unfortunately, the two dogs and one of the cats met an untimely demise. Trigger, our golden retriever simply went missing one day. Hermie, our miniature schnauzer suffered an accidental death. Piggy the cat never woke up. Sooza and LiLi developed cancer and had to be put down. My husband’s cat Saby just left the house and never came back. I was traumatized by these events. I haven’t gotten over the pain of losing them. Even though I love animals, I haven’t been able to get another dog.
My kids are always asking for a dog and I keep telling them “maybe when you are older…” However, they do play with their friends’ pets all the time. It is sort of like having fun without the responsibility.
Doors are intriguing and mysterious. Doors lead to curiosity… What’s behind that beautiful door? Is the house or building as amazing as the door itself? Are the people who live here as wonderful as the door? Doors are like book covers. You can’t judge a book by its cover. And you can’t judge a building by its doors.
On a recent trip to India, I was amazed at all the doors I saw. They ranged from very ornate to very simple. The first door featured below is from a courtyard at the Amber Palace in Jaipur. The color and intricate design makes this my favorite door.
Here are some of the other fantastic doors:
While I was marveling at the art and craftsmanship of all the doors we saw…my kids’ favorite door was the one to the Dessert Refrigerator!
Back in the day, my family used to watch TV shows together. Especially the prime time shows…Three’s Company, Wonder Woman, The Jeffersons, Love Boat, Seinfeld, Friends. All five of us, parents and three girls would gather around the sofa and laugh and laugh. Even my super serious and super cranky Dad! Saturday mornings were sacred for us kids. We watched shows like the Justice League, Buck Rogers, Scooby Doo…on Saturday mornings eating our Cocoa Puffs.
Nowadays, my kids watch YouTube, DVR TV shows and binge watch Netflix. It is such a different world. They are in constant virtual contact with their friends via group texts, FaceTime and social media. Everything they watch is ready and available and they don’t need to wait. I used to program our VCR for my favorite shows and MTV video premieres. I get it. But there are so many shows out there, that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. Some of my friends are addicted to Bravo, some to HBO and others to Netflix.
Luckily for us, my kids both recently discovered Stranger Things and The Office. So now, all four of us have a show that we can watch together (we fast forward the inappropriate teenager parts for my 10 yr old with Stranger Things). There is common ground and content that can work for the whole family. It takes a little bit of research and a lot of patience.
My thirteen year old son and my ten year old daughter get along well. They have different likes and interests and don’t fight a lot. Their biggest squabbles are what movies to watch on family movie nights and who ate the last ice cream bar. While I think this is great, I can’t help but think of my own childhood that was sort of like “Hunger Games” in comparison.
Looking back at my childhood, I have many fond memories. Having two younger sisters was a lot of fun. If I got into a fight with one sister, there was another one to take her place. As the oldest sibling, I ruled the roost and made the laws. I am two years senior to my middle sister P and almost 6 years older than J, the youngest. For years, I was physically larger and taller than both of them. Growing up with two younger sisters and two crazy parents can really sharpen a girl’s sense of humor and survival skills. We fought about all kinds of things…not just movies or ice cream. I don’t know when we started to joke about each other mercilessly or play pranks on each other…but it hasn’t stopped.
As a teenager, my room was covered with 80’s celebrities…JFK Jr., Duran Duran, the Soloflex guy. I subscribed to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and watched Elsa Klench on Style. I was just sooo cool. One day I came to my room to find that there were mustaches on several of my posters. That was call for extreme action. I marched to J’s room and beat up Mingy, her favorite pillow.
For some strange reason, we were obsessed with lip balm in the 80’s. Blistex in those round canisters was all the rage. Keeping interlopers from my Blistex was practically a full time job. I used my Blistex in a uniform and clockwise fashion, it was always clean and of course perfect. My sister J’s Blistex had an upside cone design. My sister P’s container always had fuzz, random bits of mystery flakes and looked like it was stabbed with a toothpick. If I didn’t hide my Blistex, I would find that one of them had dug a nail into the middle of the canister!
Secret video taping was also a constant danger in my house. My sister J would place a cam corder on top of the fridge just to tape us with morning face and bed heads. And forget about sleeping happily on tour buses while on vacation. She made sure to take multiple shots of me dozing with my mouth open and my head in an angle that gave me two chins.
My sisters also had a collection of fake bugs. I remember pulling back my comforter and finding a line of fake ants on my pillow. I also let out a blood curdling scream when I found a large plastic spider in my dresser drawer.
Before you feel too sorry for me, I was not so innocent growing up. I loved imitating my sisters, making up terrible nicknames and shaming them just for fun. Luckily, as adults, the pranks have died down. However, my sister J sent me a picture that my son had texted her. It was a picture of me asleep on the sofa with mouth wide open and my head at an angle that allowed my chin to double!
I have acquired the unwitting title of “Margarita Maker”. I did not seek this title, but everyone talks tequila with me as though I’m George Clooney and Randy Gerber. As a lifelong calorie-phobe, I have always been on the lookout for low-calorie drinks. Alcohol was never a requirement in my diet. Although in college, we drank a lot of beer at fraternities and boy this put me off beer for life. And, a group of us would go bar hopping as seniors and drink long island ice teas. Now one of those was all I needed because we ran and didn’t bother with dinner! We usually got pizza around midnight. Sigh, youth.
I moved onto vodka and pineapple juice in my early twenties. I was introduced to this drink by a coworker. After finding out that my new and cool drink was over 350 calories a serving, I lost interest…
Gimlets, either gin or vodka were my go to drink in my late twenties. My husband’s uncle, who drove a Porsche 911 made one for me and I loved them. It is what all the cool grown ups were drinking in the late 90’s. My early thirties were all about marathon training. I did not drink any alcohol then because those long training runs were brutal.
What bought me back to drinking was playdates with fellow moms. I remember a lot of wine playdates. I am not a wine person and therefore decided to drink something else. Somewhere in my kitchen was a large stainless steel cocktail mixer with a dozen drink recipes on. Just twirl to the drink of choice and the ingredients appeared on the side! Before this margarita immersion, the only margaritas I had were from that fancy restaurant chain “Chi Chi’s”! The super sweet, goopy, made with fake margarita mix concoctions that came in gigantic glasses.
I made the margarita recipe from my cocktail mixer. It was too sweet for me and had too many calories. I did experiment with some other versions, but I did not care for them. There are many, many margarita recipes out there. But I came across a simple recipe that is the best margarita I have ever had. It is refreshing, delicious and not too sweet. Just for the record, one of these is all I need.
The rule is…there are no rules! For decades, I had three rules that I ran by.
Once you start running, don’t stop until you finish your said miles.
If you can talk when you are running, you are not going fast enough.
No music, that’s cheating. I am a purist…thank you very much.
So, those rules worked in my twenties and thirties. Nowadays, I have a phone and GPS watch strapped to my left arm, water bottle or pepper spray in my right hand. And I will mention the metal plate and six screws in my right leg. (Fell down the stairs during my second pregnancy at 37 weeks, tri-malleolar fracture…that story is another post).
My younger self would have never believed it. But to be fair to myself, I am running longer and faster than I ever did. Aside from training for marathons back then, I usually ran twelve miles a week in my twenties and fifteen miles a week in my thirties. That is all it took to stay in shape back then. Aah, youth. I run over 25 miles a week now…Dear metabolism…thanks for nothing!
I have come to accept aging and all the rules I have to break to manage. I think breaking those rules and getting rid of my running vanity has made me faster and able to run longer. Apple music has made my hot and humid Raleigh runs so much more bearable. Stopping to drink water is just a necessity in our humid state. And talking while running is okay too because slow days are necessary to prevent overuse injuries.
A lot of my runner friends have asked me what I listen to when I run. I have no shame in liking these songs. Whatever works right?!
I have so many favorites, but here are some tunes with a fast beat that take me up those hills:
Fantasy, Aldo Nova
Original Sin, INXS
Evenflow, Pearl Jam
Magnificent Seven, Clash
Legs, ZZ Top
Dr. Feelgood, Motley Cru
Kickstart My Heart, Motely Cru
Iron Lion Zion, Bob Marley
How Do U Want It, 2Pac
Renegades of Funk, Rage Against The Machine
No Church in the Wild, Kanye and Jay Z
Bullet the Blue Sky, U2
Happy running to you all! I will have my Chickpea Fry recipe in my next post!
When was the last time you tried something new? Something you never imagined you would do or even like? The last new thing for me was becoming a vegan three years ago. So, it had been a long since I did something new until a few months ago. My husband kept bugging me to try art classes at the Art Museum. My response to him was “Meh…” I thumbed my nose at the idea. I liked my comfort zone and didn’t want to leave. Then he left the colorful brochure from the museum on my desk. I was signing up the kids for art classes and ended up reading about the adult classes. I signed up for a paper art class. I am an artist and illustrator. I knew nothing about paper art. In this class, we had to use four pieces of card stock to make a three dimensional scene. We used X-acto knives to cut designs into the paper. It was really cool and really fun.
I didn’t think much about the class after taking it. But slowly I started noticing paper. There are so many cool things made with paper. Cardboard, fast food packaging, various food product packaging, electronics packaging (iPhone boxes), gift boxes and greeting cards. Paper is such a beautiful material. There are so many types of paper from shimmery card stock, plain white watercolor paper to stiff solid colored card stock. I got a variety of these papers, an X-acto knife and a paper trimmer and I have been having a lot of fun since. Paper art is not the same as illustrating, painting or digital art. The art class made me think of designs in a whole new and different way.
I have included some cards that I have made further in the post. My cards are for sale at my Etsy shop (My Etsy Shop). I encourage you to try something new. Get out of your safe zone and just do it! You never know what you might like, what might inspire you and where it will take you.
My kids told me the that their Dad makes better grilled cheese and better chocolate milk than I do. How can that be possible? Well, he adds extra cheese and butter on the sandwich and extra chocolate in the milk of course! As a family, our diet is mostly healthy and we eat out only once or twice a week. However, I often find Oreos, Doritos, premixed chocolate milk, yogurt with candy pieces and ice cream of all varieties when my husband B. goes shopping. I can’t even go on about the secret weekend donut/dessert runs. These take place early in the morning on weekends when I am still asleep or out for a run.
I have told B. that taste is acquired for healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits. While sugar is readily accepted by kids. Kids have more taste buds and their taste buds are more sensitive. Taste involves not just physical signals but sensory ones too. (Accounting for Taste) We find food to be tastier if it is plated nicely on pretty dish or a fancy spoon. Food appears attractive when it it is presented with garnishes. We are already bombarded with images of unhealthy foods that are loaded in fat, calories and sugar. And those images are not of fresh, whole foods that are unprocessed fruits, vegetables or grains.
With each meal, I try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable. I would like my kids to be exposed to these tastes everyday. Taste can be changed. For example, people with health issues that are forced to cut back or sugar or salt, find the foods they used to eat previously taste too salty or too sugary after a few months. The more we eat certain foods, the more we get used to the taste.
While I can’t stop B. from buying junk food, I do have solace in the fact that taste changes with age. (Taste changes with age) As we get older, the number of taste buds adults have decreases. Adults have around 10,000 taste buds and kids have 30,000. And, we are more inclined as adults to try new foods and new tastes. Grown ups look at food not only from a taste perspective, but a health perspective also. I am confident that my kids will eat better as they get older. Both of them now eat tomatoes, lettuce, onions, olives, broccoli and green beans which was unheard of just a few years ago.
I can assure you that I am not the food police in our house. With a Dietetics and Nutrition background and I know how to counter the unhealthy food. I let them eat the unhealthy food, but in limited quantities. Big desserts in our house are for the weekends only. I adopted this rule from one of my daughter’s classmates who was lamenting how horrible her life was without weekday desserts. Before you think I am a mean and awful Mom…during the weekdays, my kids drink chocolate milk for breakfast and lunch. I pack a little something sweet in their lunch like a small cookie or chocolate. And they eat a PB&J for lunch everyday at school (their favorite). I know they will remember the “dessert on weekends only” with great fondness…hardship makes us stronger…right?!
The following recipe is a vegan Hot Artichoke Dip that even my kids love. It is low in calories and big on taste. I hope you like it.
Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip
2 cans of quartered Artichoke Hearts (14 oz cans)
2 T Vegan Mayonnaise (I use “Follow Your Heart” Veganaise)
2 T Nutritional Yeast
1 t Garlic Powder
1 t Salt
Drain the artichokes and add them to a food processor. Add the Veganaise, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt and blend until smooth. If your dip is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water or several as needed. Empty into a serving bowl and microwave for one minute or empty into a pan and heat until hot. I like to eat mine with veggies, toasted baguette slices or toasted pita/chapati/naan.
A friend of mine assumed that I only consume organic food made from scratch. That is very far from the truth. Unless you grow your own food, you are eating processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are minimally processed and meat substitutes and nut milks are heavily processed. Most of us don’t have the means or the knowledge to grow our own food. Although I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, I certainly do consume my fair share of seitan, pea protein, nut cheese and some soy based products. I just don’t have to time to make my own. With an active family and schedule, I don’t feel bad about that.
Fruits and vegetables do not have to be organic. I used to follow the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) Dirty 15 rule because it ranked produce with a percentage of pesticides found after harvesting. But, according to the Journal of Toxicology (article), some pesticides are more toxic than others and they are not all equal. So, I try to buy organic when possible. But, sometimes stores are low in organic inventory or the non-organic produce looks fresher than the organic. A good washing of non-organic fruits and veggies removes most pesticides. Simply eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial along with a balanced diet.
My husband and my kids are not vegan. They consume mostly organic eggs, milk, chicken and fish at home. But, the kids get fast food when they are out with friends and we go to restaurants that do not serve organic meat and dairy.
According to the Washington Post, there are two main differences between organic and conventional animal products. One is what the animals are eating and the other is the level of Omega 3’s. I do care what the animals are eating and not so much about the Omega 3 levels. (article)
Organic milk, eggs and meat come from cows that are pasture raised and grass fed and free range chickens that are not fed animal or poultry by-prodcuts. I just feel better buying organic animal products, but when we go out…
As long as you are eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit and grains with some protein (animal or plant based), you are on the right track. If that diet includes organic foods, even better! I would love to be the perfect, puritanical, organic, and unprocessed vegan but I’m not and I’m okay with that!
1 Medium Yellow or Red Pepper, washed and deseeded
2 T Garden Gourmet Basil Paste (or fresh basil if available)
2 T Olive Oil
1/2 t garlic powder
Salt to taste
Cook burgers according to the package. While they are cooking, add olive oil, basil paste, garlic powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well. Chop mushrooms, peppers and tomato into one inch pieces. When burgers are done cooking, cut them into one inch pieces and add them and the veggies to the mixture in the bowl. Mix well so the dressing coats all the pieces and serve. This recipe serves two.
It is the middle of January. While I haven’t been perfect in checking off everything in my New Year’s to do list, I am on the right track.
On getting enough sleep: I have made it to bed at 10:30 only once in the past two weeks. My bed times have been between 11 pm and 11:30 pm.
On managing my time: I am doing better on this one. I have been finishing about 90% off my daily to do list. However, I haven’t started meditation yet. I did download several apps to help me do this.
On getting back to my usual running pace and mileage: This one is going well. I have managed to get back to doing physical therapy. I am back to my usual mileage and the physical therapy is going to get me back to my usual pace.
Trying to improve my habits is going to take time and won’t happen overnight. Small steps will lead to my goals. I have to remember that each day is a fresh start and a chance to improve. It’s funny that I am so disciplined in certain areas of my life such as my Vegan diet, exercising and managing the household. But I slack off with sleep, time management and physical therapy.
I am entering everything I need to do into my calendar. This way, my schedule is on every device: iPhone, iPad and Mac. I have got reminders and alerts on items that involve others. The calendar will help me become more mindful of what needs to get done. Hope your New Year plans are going in the right direction also!