Wednesday, November 27, 2019

As women, we spend countless amounts of time in our lives focusing on the things about ourselves that we aren’t happy with. We stand in the mirror and get lost in the trans of our gaze. We see stretch marks and round bellies where we once carried our children, wrinkles and lines on our face that we developed from years of smiling and laughing, and a tint of shimmery gray around our hairline indicative of the wisdom that we have gained when simple moments turned into not so easy learning experiences.
Over the last few weeks I have been reaching out to women in my life who I see as beautiful in every way and asked them a very simple question knowing well enough that the answer would take thought, heart, possibly tears, and definitely soul searching. I thought that I would escape having to deep think myself, but someone turned the question around on me, so my answer is in there as well, at the end.
What quality about who you are makes you feel beautiful? I put no timeline on how long they were given to respond, and some took longer than others. My gut tells me that if I asked for a list of qualities they didn’t like, the response would be nothing short of immediate, but that was not the case. I wanted them to dig deep and the responses were astonishing.
I hope you enjoy reading what these incredible women had to say as much as I did…
What quality about who you are makes you feel beautiful?
Susan V.- My willingness to give to people. I am a giver not a taker and people who are giving are the most beautiful.
Andonia D. – I have always felt that my nature to be loving and caring has carried me through the times when my weight was scary high. I dip into the ways which I have helped people and affected their lives when I feel rejected or judged.
Jodi P.- My ability to connect with anyone. Quality is different from features, so I pick that.
Amanda H.- Empathy for people when I’m working with people. I see how much it can help that people feel listened to.
Marie B.- I’m pretty laid back and I try to create an environment that is nurturing for others. I love Jesus yet I don’t push Him on anyone. It is the Jesus in me, however, that others are drawn to. That is true beauty and love. I am grateful God gave me self confidence and an unconditional love for self and others. I am blessed.
Lisa N.- Having been through a lot myself, I am very sensitive and realize everyone is fighting their own battle. I have compassion and a desire to help and do good for others. I cry when I see people’s dreams come true and like to see people happy and feeling good; it’s infectious and makes me filled with hope and hope makes me feel beautiful.
Sandy S.- My heart, my loyalty, my empathy. I always appreciate my Irish eyes which have been passed down through generations. I love with every ounce I have left in me. I am loyal and 100% real and true but it is never reciprocated. I am empathetic not by choice, but it is who I am and it overcomes me. I love more and it makes me more loyal; huts me a ton because I take on emotions around me.
Alison- My nurturing instincts and my heart, how I always care about people who are close to me and love doing things for them.
Amy R.- I feel like being genuine makes me feel beautiful. No time for nonsense.
Courtney R.- I think we tend to lean towards outward appearance when we think of being beautiful, but if I had to say another attribute of how I feel beauty in my mind it would be how I think I make others feel and what I do to give back or help others… I’d rather have a beautiful and giving soul over physical beauty any day of the week.
Maggie- Being a mother, being a woman, a nurse. Being pansexual; polyamorous. Being Puerto Rican and bilingual. I can sing; I am relatively funny.
Kristen V- My slamming personality. I’m just not afraid to live unapologetically. 100% myself after years of quieting my personality and dimming my light to make others more comfortable. I’m loud… I’m super fun… I’m hilarious… and I’m not sorry.
Olivia- My bubbly personality. Pretty much how I love to be happy and make people laugh.
Grace T.- My sense of humor.
Julia- What makes me feel beautiful is being with people I love, laughing and allowing myself to just be in the present moment. Whenever I’m stressing about the past or future it robs me from the ability to appreciate what is right in front of me. When I can recognize life is beautiful, I feel beautiful.  
Allison N.- My willingness to always come to someone’s aid and help with something (some people think I’m crazy).
Lisa B.- I don’t sugar coat my brutal honesty and sarcasm.
Brittany C. - My silly, goofy, funny personality.
And lastly, thinking really hard about myself, I would have to say, what makes me feel most beautiful is my tenacious spirit; I give of myself unconditionally. If I am invested in something or someone it is with my whole heart. I look only for the good and work hard to make sure that I am putting in all I have, to give and that it is genuine and true. I love to see others smile and hear them laugh. I love to provide a space and time for people to be their authentic selves. Holding doors, paying for a stranger’s coffee, bringing people together, and leaving my footprint on the world truly feels like my purpose. When I stand back in the corner, silently, and watch everything unfold, that is when I truly feel the most beautiful.
I wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings. Don’t forget to be thankful for yourself and to eat that fourth piece of pie!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I still see that fat girl.

Last week I had a conversation with one of my closest girlfriends. She told me that she could not wait to share her accomplishments with me. She has lost inches and pounds and has put her heart and soul into setting goals and crushing them.

I was overjoyed for HER joy, but then she said something that we all have thought when going through a body change. “I just don’t see it. I still see the fat girl.”

I couldn’t reprimand her. I couldn’t get annoyed. I’ve been there. So many of us have.

Looking in the mirror and adjusting what we see is the most difficult part of change. We have a certain image imprinted in our brains of what we think we see rather than what’s right in front of us. We have spent years formulating an opinion of our physical self.

Although we may never be able to completely reverse our mental reflection, we definitely can alter it.

We can adjust our harsh opinions of ourselves.

Instead of getting in front of the mirror and picking at the parts of our bodies that we hate the most, why not make it our mission to fall in love with the things about us that make us the incredible humans that we are.

Make a list of all the things we find happiness in. Smile ourselves, pick out a great outfit, a swanky piece of jewelry, anything that will make our vibe shine.

We are all allowed moments of critique, that will always be a thing, but how about we make it our mission to turn it around faster than before?
Find love, find peace, and spread body positivity not only to each other, but to ourselves as well.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Does it make you feel like a hypocrite when you struggle to practice what you preach?
I’ve learned throughout my journey (I don’t call it recovery because I don’t personally feel like we ever truly recover from self-abusive tendencies, I believe that we learn the tools to channel our triggers in a different direction) that setbacks will happen.
It’s comfortable and easy to go back to our old habits, our old ways. Who wants that new pair of stiff shoes that squeeze your toes and give you heel blisters when you can slip your feet into that nice cozy pair of old shoes when you just need comfort?
It’s sad to say but when we take that drug, throw back that drink or purge into the toilet, it’s almost like saying, “hello old friend, I’ve missed you.” It is the easiest way to take whatever it may be, frustration, lack of control, sadness, anger, and soothe that pain.
When it comes to me, I’ve always turned to food restriction. Its not scary. It doesn’t hurt. I feel no hunger pains, it’s calming. It’s this feeling of yes, I can control this. I can figure this one out.  
I’m writing this blog almost two days in. I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to eat. I don’t have the desire to force my body to have to work to digest anything. It has nothing to do with how my jeans fit or what my body looks like with no clothes on. It has nothing to do with a number on the scale (I don’t do that shit anyway) or the size of my thighs. It’s emotional.
I woke up this morning feeling like that hypocrite. I was supposed to write a blog on a topic that I find so extremely important (I promise, that’s next on the list), I talked my friend through a binge/purge last night and expressed the importance on why she didn’t need to take that road, but here I am. As defiant as ever, spiteful towards only myself.
I did exactly what I tell everyone else to do and I reached out. I sent an SOS to my lifeline and within minutes I was on the phone letting it all flow. I told her how I couldn’t believe that I would even go down this route again especially since I make it my life’s efforts to throw everyone I know the rope to help pull themselves back to safety. She reminded me that it’s okay to have a setback. Its okay to use my struggle to help other people and it’s okay to take the rest of my life to work on it.
It’s easier for me now to recognize that my actions are only hurting and not helping. I have a faster turn around than I used to. What was then weeks before I would let go of the death grip I had on food restriction, is now days. I know what I need to do to bounce back, but I can honestly say it can’t be forced. It will be on my terms, when I am ready. The fork to the mouth is not the hardest part though. The hardest part is the work that absolutely must be done before I can move onwards and upwards. It is a little bit of talking it out, a little bit of working out a plan, and a whole lot of soul searching.  

Friday, October 11, 2019

People ask me all the time why I do what I do. The easiest answer is “because food is love,” but there is so much more to it than that. Food tells us a story rich in history and for me, it is reminiscent of time when life was simple. Food can be a way we travel back to memories of our childhood, special events and sometimes all it takes is one bite to loosen up something within us that enchants our soul.
Growing up a “first gen” kid comes with stories you couldn’t make up if you tried. Funny moments of conversations getting lost in translation, watching the gentle juggle of families trying to balance “old world” traditions with “new world” style. Harnessing the culture that was left behind and building a life in the land of opportunity.
I never grew up dunking Oreos in my milk. I don’t even think I knew what an Oreo was until I saw the infamous “twist, lick, and dunk,” commercial on TV. My grandparents would take an out of the way ride to the Italian imports store to buy things like Nutella, Aranciata, and Stella Doro cookies, which at the time could not be found in a regular grocery store.
 The “S” cookies were always my favorite. I loved going on a scavenger hunt through the cabinets to find these simple, yet delicious confections and dunk them, knuckles deep into a glass of cold milk, and once I got older, into a hot espresso after Sunday dinner.
Opening the oven today and smelling those beautiful cookies reminded me of my grandmother. Her “perfume” consisted of scents of lemon zest, vanilla, almond, and anise. These cookies are my memories. They are my laughter, my tears, my skinned knees, and my elementary school plays. They are my warm hugs, by back seat road trips, and my favorite childhood songs. They are my home.
So why do I do what I do? Because how magical is it that a little sugar, some flour, eggs, and a swirl of a wooden spoon could be such a reminder of so much love.

"S" Cookie Recipe

For two dozen...
4 Eggs plus 1 for wash
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
Zest of 1-2 Lemons (to taste)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cups Olive Oil
4 Cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix flour and baking powder and leave to the side.

In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil until well combined. Slowly fold in flour and baking powder, I do this in three stages. Your dough will be smooth and have a stiff texture but may still stick to your hands. (My personal tip, add a little oil to your hands for rolling and shaping).

Line your cookie sheet with foil. Start with a small handful of dough and roll into snake shape and form and "S" before placing onto the foil. Leave about an inch between each cookie as they will expand as they bake. 

Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

If you want to ice them, use that lemon that you zested and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of juice and combine with 1/2 Cup of confectioners sugar and whisk until smooth. Dunk cookies or brush on the icing. Don't be afraid to make them pretty with sprinkles or colored sugar. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I’ve been asked recently to write a blog post about the cost of buying healthy, whole foods versus processed or fast foods and I was shocked by the research that I found that it’s actually not that expensive on a day to day basis, but like anything else it will add up.
On a daily basis, a 2,000 calorie diet, broken down to price per calorie actually only averages $1.50 a day but for a family of four, that results in an increase of about $2,000 per year. That seems like a lot, I know, but look at the things we spend $1.50 on every day without hesitation- most drive-thru cups of coffee are at least $2.00 per cup.
I personally find that the biggest bang to my wallet is when I have to “double cook.”
Are my children going to eat my roasted vegetable quinoa salad, or stuffed eggplant? Probably not. Actually, that’s definitely a hard no. In a dream world maybe, and yes there are probably meals that will meet in the middle and we can all enjoy, but those are few and far between.
What seems to help out a lot is figuring out the best places to shop. The big-name grocery stores could carry hefty price tags but they also run more sales than stores like Super Walmart or Target. Smaller stores that require a little elbow grease like Aldi keep shopping prices low with their own store brand named items. They keep their employee costs down by having their shoppers bag their own groceries and ensure the customer return of their carts since you used a quarter to use one in the first place.
Also, my biggest tip would be to buy in season. You’re not going to buy a watermelon, in Connecticut, in October… well you can, I did, and it cost me $9.00 versus in July when they were $5.99. Also, my July watermelon was red and sweet, and my October watermelon was barely pink and resembled the taste of a cucumber. Why? Because it wasn’t in season.  Follow what’s fresh, look for corn, zucchini, plums and berries during the warmer months- apples, root vegetables, and winter squashes going into the colder months. Again, this is subjective to where you live.
Food prepping and meal sharing is always a good idea as well and can be a ton of fun.  Gather a small group of your friends, everyone pick a dish to cook for the week. Pack up enough for each of them to get one serving per family member and swap them! It’s like those chain letters from back in the 90s but with meals. Four friends means you and your family get five meals for the week since you’re included with your own meal.
I personally spend more money on groceries than I do on anything else and sometimes I just get annoyed, but there are ways to make it easier. It is going to take work, time, and a little creativity, but where there’s a will there’s way!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When your body gets to your mind, self-love is tough to find.

We all have days that are harder than others. We stare in the mirror picking apart our bodies, change our clothes multiple times before leaving the house, think the most dreadful thoughts about ourselves that we wouldn’t dare speak out loud to our worst enemy. Remember how we’ve discussed that we are more than a number on a scale, we are also more than the “physical imperfections” we see in the mirror, although when we take in all of the things that make us amazing, those “physical imperfections” aren’t really imperfect at all.

Have you ever avoided things like social events, family outings, or even intimacy with your partner? I have. It all comes at a time when I can’t seem to find the love and appreciation for myself that I deserve, and that other people see in me. When I really take a big step back and evaluate my “why” the answer is always the same.

I get lost and I just don’t feel important. I’m willing to bet that when most of us push ourselves to the side, it’s for the same reason.

I get lost in the shuffle of a new school year or too many work projects or even just the mundane routine of everyday life. I am a natural born care giver and that comes with its own set of self-care rules. I tend to live by “well, if everyone else is taken care of and everyone else is happy, I am too,” but in all reality, that is just not always enough.

I’ve learned along the way that it is okay to ask for help and that help comes in many different forms.

Maybe the housework is overwhelming. It’s okay to ask your kids to fold some towels or help with dinner. Maybe you’re foregoing a little bit of fresh air or some quiet time because you’re always rushing home to meet your child off the bus or to sit behind a thousand and one cars in the pick-up line. Ask another mom friend to take a day when she gets the kids and another day when you get them. Help each other out, it takes a village, remember? Maybe what you need is a special night out with your partner or friends. A night to dress in any way that makes you feel like a beautiful human and not a yoga pant wearing coffee hound and enjoy a nice meal and some conversation that doesn’t sound like the background noise of the Disney channel.

This is my “why” and it may not be yours but most importantly, figure out what that is and then start to plan to fix it.

First make a list of things about yourself that you love. I know, I know, it sounds crazy but trust me, you’ll shock yourself. Someone asked me to do this about six months ago when I was in a pretty low spot and I’m pretty sure that not only did I have a few choice words for them on the phone, I flat out refused. I remember I went and laid on my bed, grumbled about how there would only be like, two things I could think of, and fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided to give it a shot. A real shot. I was so skeptical that I would think of anything of value that I wouldn’t even give this list its own piece of paper- I used the back of my electric bill envelope.

Well about forty-five minutes later, I was flipping that envelope in every direction trying to find more room. I thought of about sixty things I loved about me from finding joy in things like Christmas lights to holding tight to traditions that have been passed to me from my grandparents. Most importantly it helped me to remember that taking care of myself is important because I am important.

So, if you feel lost, it’s okay to take a day to aimlessly wander around, but after that, dig deep and figure out what it is that you need. Reach out to a friend, make that list, find your importance and make a plan to bring self-love back to your life.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Nothing feels more like Fall than walking around the apple orchard, picking baskets of all different varieties of apples and coming home to make a hot and steaming apple dessert.

Although I would never refuse any slice of apple pie to come my way, I make a horrible apple pie. It looks beautiful, like the cover of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine, but cut it open and I have hard crunchy apple soup. It’s just never been my thing.

Apple crisp though, now that’s a different story. Everyone around my table doesn’t even wait for it to cool. They scoop spoonfulls of piping hot apple crisp into their mouths, but I like to cool mine off with a scoop of really creamy vanilla ice cream.

I start out by measuring my servings by using one apple per person so in this case, five people, five apples, which should leave you a little for breakfast the next day unless you’re me and then you’ll have it for a late night snack.
                                    Walnut Oat Apple Crisp

                                    For the Apples:

                                5 Gala Apples, skinned and cut into cubes

                                4 Tablespoons of butter

                                5 Heaping Tablespoons of brown sugar, light or dark

                                1 Tablespoon of Cinnamon

                                Mix all together and put into a casserole dish

                                For the Walnut Oat Crumb:

                                2 Cups of old fashioned oats

                                1 Cup of brown sugar, light or dark

                                1 Cup of chopped walnuts

                                1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

                                1 Tablespoon of flour

                                1 Stick of cold butter, cubed

Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the mixture, or a fork if you don’t have one, but the easiest way is to pulse in a food processor.

Spread evenly over the apples and bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees. Top with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just eat it right from the casserole dish with the serving spoon… no judgment here!