A Matter of Balance: A Woman's Quest for Health, Harmony & Kick-ass Heels

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A new meaning to the order 'low maintenance'

Shop near my hut

My closet

I could really go for a hot shower right now. But I didn't order any hot water this morning. It's as simple as placing a call and it will be delivered to my room in a bucket. Not quite what we're accustomed to in the states, but this is a five star hotel in Ghana and that's how they roll here.

It gives a new meaning of low maintenance. Forget the hair dryer or the flat iron (what the heck was I thinking ?). DEET has become the new fragrance and a bottle of Purell the most fashionable accessory.

I've always considered myself to be low maintenance. I've worked in Appalachia where showers could not be taken daily, and pitched my tent on top of ants while rafting down the Colorado River.

I'm not a stranger to roughing it, but this is truly an eye opening experience. When you see the devastating level of poverty people live at on a daily basis somehow the flat iron looses its importance.

Yesterday's tour of two slave castles was humbling, numbing, and draining. Perspective. Reflection. Discussion. We absorbed it all.

Still I may just order that bucket of water for later.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Open your mind and go with the flow

My home away from home

One of the important things about traveling is being able to change up your routine. Travel always requires flexibility. It's what makes it a less stressful and more enjoyable experience.

Sampling the local cuisine, for example, is essential to the travel experience. Although I hear 'possum on a stick' and other road kill may be on the menu at some point so I reserve the right to change my mind on that. I've also been warned about the 'grass cutters' which sound an awful lot like large rodents and I'm just hoping that's not on the breakfast menu tomorrow. Those who know me well will chuckle to learn that hot dogs were one of the items on this morning's menu (nope, couldn't do it).

A finicky eater as a child, I now practice the 'when in Rome' approach, or should I say 'when in Ghana' 'mostly thanks to my travels with dad and his encouragement. I distinctly remember an evening on the Champs élysées when I insisted on going to Burger King (I know surprising, but I was in High School at the time).

There have already been quite a few twists and turns on this journey and it's just begun. And to be honest, I'm not sure I was prepared for some of what I've seen so far, but more on that another time.

In terms of going with the flow, it would be easy to get frustrated because things are always changing, or because something doesn't work like it does at home. Open your mind and adapt a flexible perspective and you will soak in the sights of a lifetime.....

Here are a few from today.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Packing in progress.....

Some of the important stuff for my carry on

I actually kind of like packing.  It's the UNpacking I'm not particularly fond of. Maybe because it involves lists.  As you might expect an avid list maker such as myself makes quite a few lists before traveling.  I sort of took over the spare bedroom a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip.

Here are some of my favorite things to bring in flight:

  • Good head phones (not just the ear buds. Love these pink ones in the pic above)
  • Gum
  • Snacks - almonds and Luna Bars
  • Pashmina - no matter what climate I'm traveling to, always bring one and it always comes in handy
  • Rose water spray - this is an old bottle in the pic, but I keep making my own and refilling.  Great way to freshen up!
  • Clarins Beauty Flash Balm - awesome stuff for a long flight. A little pricier than I usually spend on cosmetics (probably around $32 on Amazon), but I save it for traveling.   
  • Hand sanitizer - I don't usually like to get crazy with the sanitizers, but good to have on the plan
  • Journal & book - but then again I don't go anywhere without those items
  • iPad - of course!  Gonna fill it up with good books and movies tonight

What's in your carry on?

Bon voyage!

Paperwork is in order

You can get travel size ANYTHING at Harmon's

There IS a method to the madness
Travel yoga mat, umbrella & Yale tote.  Three musts for me!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Best foods for your adventures and workouts

Fuel for your adventures!

Whether you’re tying on your running shoes, pumping up your bike tires, or packing your gym bag, you should also be considering how to fuel your body for your workout. What you eat before you exercise directly affects your workout: how you feel during your workout, how hard you can push yourself, how long you can go for and how you feel afterward. Particularly for those of you who exercise to keep those pesky pounds at bay, it’s important to realize that you need to fuel yourself with quality food choices in order to set the stage for sustainable weight loss. Heading to the gym with an empty fuel tank isn’t going to get you very far!

Now is a great time to take a moment to consider what your best pre-workout fuel might be. Here are simple guidelines to send your energy soaring so that you can feel great, and get the most out of your workouts and summer adventures! 

a) Timing is key. Ideally, you want to eat 45 minutes to an hour before you workout. Your body requires energy to digest your food. So . . . when your body is digesting your latest meal there is less energy available for your workout. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give your body a chance to digest before diving into your workout. I recommend eating up to 2 hours prior to your workout. You also want to choose foods that are easily digestible (read on!). If you need to eat immediately before your workout an easily digestible piece of fruit such as an apple or banana is a great choice.

b) Choose foods that are easy to digest, but also offer long lasting energy. For your pre-workout meal it's important to chose your foods carefully. A white bagel will give you a quick blast of energy, but will then cause a serious energy slump in the middle of your workout. This will also leave you ravenous after your workout. Conversely, a meal of whole grains like quality granola or oatmeal will keep your energy high for a long period of time. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and veggies are good choices before your workout. These foods are easy to digest so your body can devote more energy to your workout. They'll also deliver a high quality and sustainable energy to your body that will keep your fueled and satisfied during workout and beyond. 

c) Include a healthy fat in your pre-workout meal. Healthy fats such as avocado, chia seeds and quality oils will keep your body satisfied for long periods of time. Healthy fats slow down the digestion rate of other foods, which allows you to workout for longer without needing to stop for a snack.

d) Avoid high protein/high calorie energy bars and powders before your workout. When it comes to exercise many of have been taught to think protein, protein, protein. Though protein is important, you don’t necessarily want to focus on protein prior to your workout. High protein energy bars and powders can be hard to digest, which will slow you down and cause fatigue and heaviness during your workout. They’re also high in calories, which can sabotage your weight loss efforts (unless you’re an extreme athlete who’s active for many hours)

Curious to know some of my favorite pre workout foods?
Oatmeal, fruit & nuts: This is a quick and simple choice that is will digest easily well, offer long lasting energy and give you a punch of energy that will get you started on your workout. 

Whole Grain toast & Avocado: Throw some quality whole grain or sprouted grain toast in the toaster, slice up some avocado and voila, a perfect pre-workout meal! This combo will keep you satisfied and nourished for many hours. 

Smoothies: A fruit smoothie with some avocado or chia seeds is like liquid energy. Your body doesn't need to spend as much time digesting so the nutrients and energy can go straight into your blood stream.

Don't forget to pay attention to your food choices during and after your workouts too!Now that you've started to consider fuel for before your workouts it's a great time to think about your food choices during and after. I will reveal my secrets in my upcoming 30 day nourishment challenge. This series of audio classes will send your energy soaring for the summer and build your nutritional foundation so that you can do everything that you love! 
"It's important to remember that everyone is unique. Be sure to check out this FREE guide to start listening to your unique body."

 Tamara Jacobi is the Manager of Jungle Lodge and a Holistic Health Coach. To learn more about her please visit: www.tailwindjunglelodge.com, www.junglegirlhealth.com

Friday, July 20, 2012

An unprecedented evening

Last night was unprecedented. Not just because I didn't have any plans or commitments, that happens even though I know some of my friends don't believe it.  But because I had the house to myself. I mean totally and completely to myself.

Rich and Megan headed out for an overnight outing for college orientation. I'm the traveller In the family, There have been many times I've been away overnight, but the reverse has never happened in my almost nine years of marriage.

I've never been very good at entertaining myself. As a kid even when I played Barbies I was itching for my neighborhood gal pals to come over to join in the fun.

I contemplated calling upon my gal pals (the grown up version) to see who was up for a cocktail. When I first learned the dates of orientation I even considered hosting a girl's night (kinda like when your parents would go away and you'd have a party). Of course there were plenty of chores to be done, work to finish, and preparations for my upcoming trip to finalize.

I opted for none of the above.

I donned my pj's, poured myself a glass of wine, and tucked into my latest Netflix, something that Rich would never want to watch. It was all quite reminiscent of my single days.

The house seemed eerily quiet, but I did find the solitude more soothing and enjoyable than I did in my Barbie playing days. Not only have I gotten better at being alone, I sometimes even crave it, and I recognize how essential it is for my well being, for balance. I've also discovered over the years that being alone doesn't mean lonely.

Even so, I'll happily go back to sleeping on my side of the bed tonight.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creating a new habit

This weekend I took a Restorative Yoga Workshop.  I love restorative yoga.  It's like nap yoga with lots of toys.  I always feel, well, restored, afterwards.

I was on the fence about going and made a last minute decision, which resulted in a mad dash across town and a frantic search for a parking place.  Not exactly the yogic mindset I wanted to go in with.

As always, Kathy ended the class with the Legs Up the Wall pose.  She swears that this is THE pose to do daily and that the benefits of this pose go on for pages versus the usual paragraph or two on most poses.

She recommends five minutes every night.  Life changing, she says.

Ok, so I'm going to give it a try.  If I can't spare five minutes to change my life, well then I'm watching too much Bachelorette. 

Of course I think that every time I leave Kathy's workshop.  And nothing much happens because I have forgotten by the next day.  

I started by putting a post it on my bathroom mirror.  Then I programmed it into my phone daily with a reminder to pop up. Ain't technology grand?

Last night I did it, and consequently slept well.  Let's see if I can go two for two!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Putting Life Into Perspective

Today's Guest Blogger is our lovely intern Lauren Falco. Check out what she has to say about gaining perspective.


There are often moments in life that just put everything into perspective; light bulb moments that make you realize just how fortunate you really are.

My light bulb moment came in March when I traveled to Washington, DC with a group from my college during my spring break on a service trip. When I first signed up for the trip I was really excited to be doing something good and to get the chance to meet some new people. However, as spring break grew closer and closer I became anxious and annoyed with myself for not thinking through the fact that I was giving up my precious time off from school to go live with people I didn’t know for a week in a different state, doing stressful and time consuming work. A few of my close friends were going away to Florida for the week and all I wanted was to go with them. I had a serious moment when I considered blowing off the trip all together and saying my Great Aunt Emily died. I don’t have a Great Aunt Emily.

Mustering up every ounce of courage and positive energy I could find and throwing myself into the unknown of the trip was the best decision I have made in a long time and it turned out to be the best experience of my life.

We woke up every morning by 7am and drove in our big blue van to So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E), a food pantry and soup kitchen, where we served breakfast and lunch to hundreds of D.C.’s homeless and worked to spruce up the facility. Working at S.O.M.E opened my eyes to the size of the homeless community in our nation’s capitol. I have to say that I was appalled. I think that when most people think of Washington, D.C. they think of all of the beautiful monuments and museums and cherry blossom trees, which are all there, but under the surface of the majesty of the city, is struggle and despair.

The first day we served breakfast at S.O.M.E was extremely disconcerting for me. I like to consider myself a person who is pretty well rounded, but watching some of these people enter through the doors, waiting to be served coffee and French toast was an experience I will not forget. My most poignant memory of my experience at S.O.M.E was when one of the regular volunteers asked a man how things were going, and he replied, “I have a mess of things going on in my life, but…I’m OK.” I realized how small many of my problems are and how easy it is to lose sight of just how fortunate I really am.

I will be going on another service trip with this program from my school in December and will be traveling to Ecuador. I look forward to having another life changing experience and the opportunity to help others and also help myself become a more grateful and accepting individual.  

Monday, July 09, 2012

Packing a punch in the morning

Sometimes it's hard to get back into the routine after a holiday weekend, or was it a holiday week?  So it's important to kick off the week right.  I love experimenting with smoothies and it is the best way for me to get my protein for breakfast.  Eggs are great, but I don't always have the time or inclination to whip up an ommlette.

Of course I have my favorite for shakes  which come in chocolate and vanilla and are great on their own. (Let me know if you want to order one and I'll spring for the shipping!)

Often, I like to create my own.  Sometimes they come out great, and other times, not so much.   Never did embrace that smoothie I made with the pumpkin puree.

This morning I used:

Coffee - I used about a half a cup
Frozen Banana - I finally learned it's best to take the peel off and slice it up to freeze.  I did that last night so it was ready for this morning
Almond Milk 
Almond Butter - a spoonful
Some crushed ice

Hit it with the immersion blender for thirty seconds and YUM! 

It was really delicious and has kept me satisfied all morning (including through my workout).

I love getting inspired in the kitchen so if you have any smoothie suggestions, please pass them along!


Friday, July 06, 2012

Unplugging for a solo adventure

 Why is it so hard to unplug?  

Since I generally work on the mornings of most holidays, like the 4th, I decided to try something radical and take the following day (yesterday) off. 

I mean really OFF.

About two years ago I cut my six day a week work schedule down to five days a week. It was revolutionary.   I spent that extra day learning routines, catching up on paperwork in my home office and then filled the rest of the day with chores, the usual stuff.  It didn't occur to me that while I wasn't actually going into work, I was still working.  Of course some of it was that day to day stuff that's necessary to keep our heads above water, but even so, I was totally plugged in, on top of and "managing everything."  

What would happen if I put the out of office responder on the email and took the day off.


I decided to take a solo adventure and escape to the NY Botanical Gardens, some place I'd only seen in movies, despite being only 40 miles from  my home.  Plus it's only $10 if you just want to spend the day on the grounds, but I splurged for the $20 pass so I could see the featured Money exhibit (which I adored).

I disappeared for a few hours amid the beauty of the gardens, soaking up the sunshine.  With no agenda I could write, sit and take loads photos of flowers. 

It was heavenly.  And even though I see there are lots of emails in my inbox and a stack of dirty laundry,  it will all still be there this morning, while I immersed myself in an afternoon of bliss.