merry day after christmas

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Merry Day After Christmas! We are in Oklahoma enjoying family, eating/drinking our way into a comatose state, and freezing our tushes off. (All of that complaining about our frigid 59-degree Newport Beach winter season? I take it back. It currently feels like -134 degrees here in OKC.)

Hey, if you plan on laying low by the television for the duration, check out my beauty segment on Marie Osmond’s talk show tomorrow, Thursday, at 12pm/11am central on the Hallmark Channel. I have yet to see it myself, so we can all virtually cheer and/or cringe together. Good times, people.

Happy holidays, friends!



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It’s Going To Be a Mighty New Year

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The past three months have been a bit unusual. Buying and renovating a house is obviously stressful. Joyful and exciting, but stressful. Until we moved last week, D had been leaving around 6am to meet with contractors at the new house, followed by a full day at work, followed by stopping by the house again to check up on things, and finally arriving back home around 7 or 8pm. In a nutshell, he wasn’t seeing the kids very much, if at all. I, on the other hand, took on a slew of extra writing assignments to help fund said renovation, and was up to my neck in deadlines while taking care of the kids from sun up to sun down (barring school, of course), and basically losing my mind just a little bit.

I feel like we both have been failing at the parenting gig for the past two months. I’m not proud to say that the kids have watched (way) too much television, played (way) too much on the iPad, and frankly, haven’t received the undivided attention a 2- and 6-year-old need. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve said (through a clenched jaw), “What? What do you want? Can’t you go play??” to little Wita while she whined incoherently. (How about some attention, mom? Maybe play with me for a minute or two instead of breezing past me, looking for your to-do list? HOW ABOUT THAT?)

(Mom guilt is in FULL FORCE over here.)

Well, the good news is that we have moved into the house, and although our house project list is still lengthy, we are at least together under the same roof in the mornings and evenings.

Last month, one of my favorite internet dynamos asked me to be one of the inaugural cast members of her new website, Go Mighty.  Go Mighty is all about life lists, and achieving your goals via connecting with people who can help and/or brands that will support you. I chose 10 ten things from my life list that I’d like to accomplish (listed here), and it wasn’t long before I heard the awesome news that Olay had decided to fund one of my goals.

You guys, this is the dickiest thing ever, but when I heard that the goal being funded was “discover 10 cool places in my town,” I was annoyed. At first, all I could think about was how much it would would pull us away from our weekend home projects, our daunting to-do lists, and in general, things that need to get done. How could those things be accomplished when I’m schlepping my family around Newport Beach for, like, 10 weekends in a row?

And then it dawned on me. We need this. As a family, we need this SO HARD. We need get out of the house, away from the to-do lists, and spend time together as a family. No paint stores, no rearranging furniture while the kids zone out to Nick Jr., no no no. Just real, quality time discovering new places and experiences as a family.

I’m so excited about this. The kids really deserve it, and I hope it makes up for our lame lameness over the past few months. I wrote my first post here, and will be posting updates on my Go Mighty page starting in January. (You should sign up too, by the way. You never know who’s out there, waiting to help you.)

Oh! Important part. Feel free to share some of your favorite spots around coastal Orange County…we’ve been here for 10 years, so we’ll need to dig deep for some new discoveries.

Family time. Ready, set, BREAK.



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Thoughts

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I recently found Wito’s school photo retakes in his backpack. Sparkling eyes, a huge toothless grin…it’s very difficult to look at them right now. I think of the Sandy Hook victims’ school photos…how many of those sweet children were missing some of their baby teeth too? Did they smile shyly or with boisterous accord?

I don’t know what any of the victims look like. I still can’t watch the coverage. I can barely get through any of the articles.

I just…I just can’t.

***

Wito’s first grade holiday program is tomorrow morning. How am I going to shove these feelings of sadness down into the depths of my stomach while I watch children of the exact same age sing holiday carols? How will I keep myself from dissolving into a mess of tears?

I’m not sure.

***

I watch Wito’s teacher during pickup after school. I want to hug her, to tell her how immensely thankful I am for her, but I know I will start crying. Instead, we exchange quick glances as I grab Wito’s hand.

She knows.

***

I make dinner in the new kitchen while the Christmas tree flickers in the corner and Bing Crosby croons “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio. I wonder if the holiday season will now, always and forever, be a horrible time for the victims’ families.

I don’t want to know the answer.

***

We all grieve in different ways. Some silently, some loudly, some calling for change in policies and social stigmata, some with wallets…I choose to believe it all comes from a good place, and we should be accepting of how people choose to deal with tragedy, not throwing jabs at each other.

***

Even though it seems cruel, life moves forward. For the better? I hope. I know it’s become painstakingly clear what truly matters.



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Supplements and Beards and Rick Bayless, Oh My!

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You all, I don’t even know how to begin this post. Really truly, SO MUCH TO SAY.

Let’s talk about my quick trip to New York last week. It was utterly fantastic. I was invited as a guest of Nutrilite to attend a two-day meeting about health, fitness, and supplements. To be honest, I probably would have attended this meeting if it was in a Motel 6 in Tucumcari because the above-mentioned subjects are tops in my book. Supplements have always intrigued me, and after much research, I started taking a few on a daily basis earlier this year. (I talk about the specific supplements I take in the latest Mama Said video, if you are interested.) Combine that interest with my current half-marathon training, and I was giddy at the thought of getting one-on-one time with fitness experts and doctors.

Little did I know that it was only the tip of the iceberg. So, after missing my flight from LAX (405, you are dead to me) and finally arriving in New York Monday evening, I got a few hours of sleep before our meeting on Tuesday. When we arrived at our meeting place, we were whisked up an old elevator to the David Bouley test kitchen. Ohhhhh, this kitchen was really special, you guys. Music playing, a library full of books, copper pots gleaming, and many chefs expertly preparing meals.

The guests all marveled at the surroundings while getting to know each other, and in my case, catch up with some old blogging buddies. (That’s an entirely different post. In our free time, Angella, Ali and I managed to shop in Soho, visit the Freedom Tower, see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and do the prerequisite Times Square tourist shuffle.)

This photo is one of my favorites because everyone seems to be all “yes, this is a lovely meeting and we would enjoy learning more about supplements,” and then there’s, uh, me.

SUPPLEMENTS? I LIKE SUPPLEMENTS! AND TEST KITCHENS! AND FOOD! LET’S CHAT.

Shortly thereafter, we donned aprons and hit the kitchen for a few hours of cooking classes – how to truss a chicken, filet a fish, and make a perfect chocolate souffle.

(Again with the happy. Test kitchen! Food! Bearded chef!)

Friends, I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly call attention to the abundance of facial hair going on in this particular kitchen. In fact, when walking into the room for the first time, I whispered to Angella, “um, there are a lot of beards in here right now.” Namely, Ryan and Evan.

Many of you know that I have a Pinterest board entitled Beard Porn, and I felt it was my civic duty to capture a photo for my board. In between classes, I grabbed the two chefs, explained my Pinterest board, and asked them to give me their beard-porniest look. They complied.

What great sports they were. We need to make that photo the most pinned beard photo ever.

After they gave me a dose of Blue Steel, the team treated us to the most delicious 7-course meal ever. (For lunch, people. 3 desserts! Insanity.)

During lunch, I sat with Tom Sturgeon from Nutrilite and pretty much drilled him about the brand and their line of supplements. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I hadn’t heard of Nutrilite before the meeting, so I was super surprised to hear that they are the world’s #1 selling vitamin and dietary supplement brand. (Their top 4 sellers are the Daily Multivitamin, Concentrated Fruits and Vegetables, DOUBLE X® , and Balanced Health Omega-3.) Additionally, Nutrilite is fully committed to total quality control of its plant concentrates from seed to tablet: it offers the only global vitamin and mineral brand to grow, harvest, and process plants on its own certified organic farms in California, Washington, Mexico, and Brazil. Like that. A lot.

Later on that evening, we had the chance to talk to some health and fitness experts. Dr. Kip Johnson, Sean Foy, and Dr. Micheline Vargas. I still can’t get over how fully engaged these three were in regards to my health. I’ve unfortunately been dealing with some lower back pain from running, and I swear Sean was going to fix the problem right then and there. He spent so much time getting to know my exercise routine and nutrition, and had SO many tips to help eradicate my back issues. I left that evening with a whole new arsenal. Again, another post.

The next morning was a big one for me. Chef Rick Bayless was going to give us a private cooking lesson. RICK BAYLESS, PEOPLE. Not only am I a huge fan of Top Chef Master, but Chef Bayless was born and raised in Oklahoma City (like yours truly), and moved on to Chicago (like yours truly). D and I loved eating at Frontera while we lived there, and he’s always seemed like such a great person. Imagine me sipping on my tea early in the morning, only to see Chef Bayless about three feet from me. (I think something to the effect of “ohmygodrickbaylessisrighttere…there isrickbaylesswhatishedoingiaminaweahmygahhhhhhh came out of my mouth.) Now, it was kind of funny because a few of the guests didn’t know who Rick Bayless was (CRIMINY!), so I was sure to tell everyone about my borderline obsession with his cooking. After a few of the ladies gave me the proverbial kick in the pants, I walked right over to introduce myself. He was really lovely – we chatted about Oklahoma and Chicago, all while trying to soak up some of his cooking genius.

During the cooking presentation, Chef Bayless really stressed the importance of cooking with color – the top 5 reasons why good health begins with a daily dose of color are phytonutrient protection, energy, weight control, mental health, and variety. It’s so important to get multiple servings of fruits and vegetables every day (actually between 9 and 13, whoah), and cooking with fresh produce is huge. However (and a BIG however), I just can’t get that many servings via food every day and hence the supplements.

What’s your take on supplements? Are you getting all you need from food alone? You know I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well as what exact supplements you’re taking, if you are. (p.s. – If you are interested in nutritional supplements, but don’t know where to start, this 13-question assessment can point you in the right direction.)

Lastly, I’m leaving you with Chef Bayless’s recipe that he prepared for us that morning. Super delicious and super easy. Thanks to Nutrilite for such a fun and enlightening trip to New York!

Swiss Chard (or Spinach) Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile (serves 4)

12-ounce bunch of Swiss chard (or collared, mustard, or beet greens), thick lower stems cut off
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, fresh rendered lard or bacon drippings
1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
About 1 teaspoon chile flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
Salt
12 warm corn tortillas
About 3/4 cup Smoky Chipotle Salsa or Guajillo Chile Salsa—or bottled salsa or hot sauce, for serving
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like feta or goat cheese, for serving

Directions:

Cut the chard crosswise in 1/2-inch slices. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until browned but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes, stir for a few seconds until aromatic, then add the broth or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the greens. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the greens are almost tender, anywhere from 2 minutes for tender spinach to 7 or 8 minutes for thick collard greens—Swiss chard needs about 5 minutes.

Uncover the pan, raise the temperature to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is nearly dry. Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.

Serve with warm tortillas, salsa and crumbled cheese for making soft tacos.



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