How do we slow down?

Do you ever have those days where you are just pooped? You start yawning at the end of the day and you do not know why? You got a good night sleep (and in my case Chris said I must have slept well because I was not talking in my sleep all night). Yet, somehow you just have no energy whatsoever. I know for me it is often because there are too many items on my to-do list, there are too many things I want and need to do.

There are countless articles, blogs, and videos on the Internet that talk to us about how to slow down, how to prioritize our lives, and how to say no. So if it were so easy, why is it hard for so many of us? I have blogged a few times about wanting to suck the life out of my days. I like to get shit done, but does my relentless nature come at a cost? I hate the days when I am too pooped to run, or when Chris talks me out of a routine that I love (he likes me to have a down day from exercise at least once a week).

Take Monday night for example. It was 80 degrees and sunny and Portland and Chris encouraged me to sit outside with him after work and just enjoy the sun and warmth. It was hard for me to resist, because who knows how long it will be until we have another similar gorgeous day? Yet, even while sitting there enjoying the moment I kept thinking, “I want to go for a run, I want to go for a run.” Why? Why do I drive myself crazy about breaking a routine?

Then last night I was physically and mentally exhausted, so I tried to take a nap after work and I could not get warm and could not fall asleep. Again, no run and it drove me crazy. Part of it for me is I love the euphoria and feeling after a long hard run. I am dripping in sweat and I feel like I truly did something 100% for me and no one else. How much of our day is ever 100% for us? What causes the mental roller coaster for what we want (or think we want) and the choices we make?

I know none of these ideas are new, but the struggle is that sometimes there is so much on our plates that often what gets removed are the things that matter to us most. The things that ground us and keep us going. I know these past few days are anomalies for me. I am relentless and will duke it out with Chris so I can run and catch up on a book, but maybe that is not true for everyone. Maybe it is taking 15 minutes to meditate, or even for those of you with young kids having a long hot shower, and going to the bathroom solo. How do we slow down and make better choices?

Boston Marathon admiration

It is hard to believe that my day yesterday was so crazy that I missed the entire Boston Marathon coverage. After living in Boston for 4 years, I got addicted to the camaraderie and dedication of Bostonians for those running the marathon. In Boston they have an entire holiday (Patriots Day) where you actually get paid to take the day off and if you feel so inspired go and watch the marathon. Of course Patriot’s Day has nothing to do with the Boston Marathon, but it does have a nice way of working out for Bostonians. We did it a few times. If you get there early enough there are actually restaurants on Boylston Street (where the finish line is) and you can have food and drinks and sit on the sidewalk patio of a restaurant and watch the race in style. I can remember in the early days of Chris and my life together (maybe before we ever really knew where we would end up) we sat together, had brunch and watched the race.

Regardless of whether you are in Boston or not, or whether you watched the race or not, there is a charged excitement and energy around races like the Boston or New York Marathon. Just as there is with the Olympics or World Cup. These are races that show the triumph, drive, and legacy of professional and everyday runners that give it their all either year around as they train to medal in such races, or for those that are trying for their personal best. For me there is something gratifying about someone who works so hard to compete or even try to finish running 26.2 miles. When I saw that the man who placed first was just over 2 hours, I was reminded that he ran 26.2 miles in just over the time it took me to run 13.1 miles. He can run the same amount of miles in half the time that I can – AMAZING!

What inspires me about races like the Boston Marathon is the amount of hours of dedication it takes for these runners (elite or not) to prepare for such a race. Hours, days, weeks, months, maybe even a year back to last year’s race. It might mean giving up on drinks with friends, time with children or other family members. Possibly it means very early mornings to get in those long runs, or being outside in rain, snow, or sleet, or maybe if you live in a warmer climate dealing with extreme heats and dryness. Whatever the weather situation, the time of day, or the toll it takes on your body, training for a marathon is a dedication that not everyone can or wants to do. We are all capable of more than we do, but sometimes there are moments in life when we show that we can push ourselves beyond limits we never were thought were possible. There is also a kindness that other runners spread during a race – see this link for stories of how runners went above and beyond during or after the Boston Marathon.

Running is a sport like no other. This year’s race was cold and rainy. It shows how many people will come out and support you rain or shine while you spend from 2 (elite athletes) to 6 hours to finish running 26.2 miles. Dedication. Perseverance. Friendship. I admire everyone that ran Boston yesterday.

“I do what I please.”

Sometimes others remind us of someone from our past, maybe a family member, friend, or someone who we barely knew.  This woman reminds me of my grandma (Granny Smith). She is 97 years old. My grandma was 94 when she died, and I have to say this woman not only looks amazing, but she is determined and has a spark that I think is lost in our elders. Especially her line: “I do what I please.” Often we are the ones that take that spark away.

I can remember when my brother, sister, and I had to have the conversation with my grandma that we no longer felt comfortable with her driving anymore. She was probably mostly fine, but what scared us the most was her defense mechanisms, they just were not as responsive as they were in her younger age. We feared for others on the road. Either it was because of her slower speeds, or that her car basically drove on its own. You barely had to tap the accelerator. It was a 1977 Chevy Caprice Classic, with less than 60,000 miles, which basically means she drove it about 2500 miles a year, or 48 miles a week. This was in the early 2000’s and her car was over 20 years old – and basically my age. We knew we had to have her stop driving and sell her car. A tough conversation with a woman who was extremely independent and had lived alone for the past 40 years after her husband had died.

This video reminds me how much more we can do to help those that are aging feel like they matter, that they can help others, and that as long as it is not dangerous to themselves or to others, we need to make sure they can continue to live and do the things they are capable of doing. Just remember we are all going to be old someday too, so maybe the Golden Rule needs to be applied in these cases. The video is part of a movement called: “I Like Giving.” Enjoy and be grateful for the elders in your life, the ones that can still boss you around, and those that may not be here, but have left you with memories.

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Random recipe: Coconut Beef & Broccoli Rice Bowl

One of the better recipes we have had in a long time. Chris even used the sweet sticky rice instead of our normal stable of brown rice. It was flavorful, light, and memorable. Definitely a meal you could even make once a week. The next time we make it I want to make it with flank steak. We used skirt steak this time and we have a different flank steak recipe where the steak almost melts in your mouth. I would like to see how this recipe would compare. Oh, and it did not take us 6 hours to make.

Coconut Beef & Broccoli Rice Bowls [From Love & Olive Oil]

Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sweet sticky rice*
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 pound flank, flat iron, or skirt steak, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Thai seasoning
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets (about 3 cups florets)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • fresh cilantro, for topping
  • toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine rice with 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. Pour rice and any remaining liquid into a saucepan. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 10 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; keep covered and let stand for at least 5 minutes.
  2. While rice is cooking, toss sliced steak with Thai seasoning until evenly coated.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When pan is very hot, add 1/3 of sliced beef, spreading into a thin layer. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes per side or until beef is starting to brown but still slightly pink the middle. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining beef, adding more coconut oil to the pan as needed.
  4. Return skillet to heat. If necessary, add a bit more oil, but the residual drippings from the beef should be enough. Add shallot, garlic, and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add broccoli and cook until bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, sugar, and lime juice and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until broccoli is tender and sauce is thickened and reduced. Add beef and cook, stirring to coat evenly with sauce, until heated through.
  6. Divide rice among 4 serving bowls. Top with beef broccoli mixture, then sprinkle with fresh cilantro and sesame seeds and enjoy.
*Sold as Sho-Chiku-Bai sweet rice, or sometimes just called sweet rice, white sticky rice can be found at specialty grocers and Asian food stores. You can substitute other types of rice here if necessary (sushi rice is the closest in terms of stickiness), just follow the cooking instructions on the package, replacing 3/4 cup of the cooking water with coconut milk.

Random recipe: Three Ingredient Fudge Bites

I love finding a dessert recipe that is free of white sugar and is mostly good for you. Oh, and of course that tastes good. We recently found a recipe that has three ingredients. Chocolate chips, coconut milk and coconut oil. That is it. Hard to believe, but they are oh so good and of course rich too. With just the two of us, we split the recipe in half (below is the full recipe). Even then it took us a few days to finish them. We topped a few with shredded coconut, a few others with coarse salt, and left some plain. My favorite was the coarse salt. It added just the needed amount of salt to cut the richness.

The Easiest 3-Ingredient Fudge Bites

YIELD: 24 fudge bites
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (dairy free, if needed)
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the coconut milk and coconut oil in a small pan, and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally to ensure the coconut oil melts fully, and the milk warms evenly.
  3. Pour the hot coconut milk/oil mixture over the chips, and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until totally smooth.
  4. Line a mini muffin pan with liners, and grease liberally. Fill each liner to the top (a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate).
  5. Sprinkle sea salt on top (or any of the other toppings listed below). If using caramel, drizzle 1/2 teaspoon on each fudge bite, and use a toothpick to swirl.
  6. Freeze (1 hour) or refrigerate (2-3 hours) until set.

You can store your finished fudge bites in the fridge or freezer. As you may guess, storing them in the fridge makes them a little softer, and the freezer makes them slightly firmer. They never freeze. They will melt if left out on the countertop.

The chocolate chips are key to the quality of the fudge, so use Ghirardelli or Guittard (if not vegan), or Enjoy Life (if vegan).

Optional Toppings

Let me know what you think!