Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Substitution

I pride myself for being a healthy eater. So I peeked into my refrigerator to find eggs and whole milk  for Alex (I don't believe in low fat foods). On the lower shelves there were veggies for Alex's soup and  fruits and berries for his daily yogurt shake.

Interestingly, I thought, most of the good food in the fridge was for Alex. So what do we eat?! Oh, I see cheese, and more cheese, leftover Four Cheese Ravioli with the buttery garlic sauce, and ice cream, of course.

Okay, I will not be judging myself for the apparent poor choices, especially since I have high cholesterol and heart decease in my family! So, from now on, the new me will have to develop a few habits to stay healthy and fit.

Habit #1
To substitute at least half of all the cheese, pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and any processed foods I eat with vegetables (and I don't mean French Fries or Onion Rings!).

On the way home, I stopped by the Trader Joe's and the Whole Foods markets. At first, I found myself taking the usual route around the isles starting at the wine section and then moving to the breads, cheeses, and... pastas, of course. So I stopped myself and turned back to the vegetable isle. This time I decided to pick up either kale or spinach, or anything in that family.
Choices are endless. The veggies are already cut and pre-washed. How easy can it be?!

So, today for dinner, I would have a plate of Alex's tomato soup, sautéed cabbage and a piece of baked salmon. Will it be satisfying? That I will have to see.

Did you know that one cup of spaghetti pasta with a sauce ranges anywhere from 350 to 1,200 of mostly processed calories. Meanwhile, if I sauté the entire pack(4 cups) in one tablespoon of olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, and any other favorite seasoning, that will be about 200 of healthy calories, packed with fiber and vitamins. (And that is for the entire pack!) 
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed my cabbage dish, a great substitution for pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes. And if today it is a cabbage dish, tomorrow I can do spinach, or kale, or brussels sprouts, or zucchini, or ... You get my point.

Now, in about three hours I got hungry, but that is actually a good thing. Technically, in order to keep our metabolism going, we should eat every 3 hours or so. And I am all for it - it is 5 meals a day! And the choices are really good too - oatmeal or whole grain cereal are great for breakfast, I also very much love a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and, later during the day, I can have whole grain bread with humus spread, greek yogurt, cottage cheese with honey, or even a small cupcake with hot tea...  

xo, Zuma A.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How To Stay In Shape During The Holiday Season

I don't know about you, but I always gain a pound... or five during the holidays. It is two months of the continuous holiday feasts and endless deserts! And while I fully enjoy eating and drinking, I do not enjoy sweating while tucking my muffin top inside my jeans, or being unable to zip up the jeans, or worse, dieting (I love food too much!).

Fact: every pound of fat equals to about 3,500 calories, and eating an extra desert per day for a week will give you just about that! What a sweet and delicious way to gain a pound! But in two holiday months, a pound per week can mean at least 8 extra pounds. And those 8 extra pounds equal to 28,000 extra calories.

In order to avoid the pain of working off so many extra calories for months in the New Year, my suggestion is not to gain them. At least some of them.

And I've heard that the best way to do that is to eat less and to exercise more...

Don't laugh! I know you have heard this before, but I also know that it is very easy and convenient to forget, especially during the holidays!

So no matter how cliche this sounds, I decided to incorporate into my lifestyle the wiser food choices, smaller portions, and regular exercise. Yikes!

Tomorrow, I will put together the food intake plan for the new me.  And please please pleeease do it with me! Together it will be more fun and with benefits! Maybe we will actually lose weight during the  holidays?..

xo, Zuma A.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Holiday Survival Guide: Saturday Night

Last Saturday, I had to drive from Beverly Hills to Orange County in the middle of the night. This was going to be an hour drive, and I was up to the task.

Of course, after driving 40 miles on an empty freeway, I started noticing that my eyelids were getting heavier. So what to do? I was about 20 miles away from home and I would hate stopping and taking a nap in some parking lot while I could be in my own bed in 20 minutes. So I opened a window letting the cold air slap my face and wake me up. I kept driving. A few minutes later I had to turn upbeat music on the radio, then pick up a gum to chew...

I was only a mile away from my exit, when I heard a loud drilling noise of lane lights and then an annoying beep and flashing light on the car's dashboard telling me to break the car and pull over. 

My God! Did I fall asleep? My heart started pounding from the thought of what could have happen just now... 

A minute later I exited the freeway and got home safely. 

Sorry for telling you all this during the holiday season, but I think it is very important, especially now, during the holidays, when we enjoy partying late with friends and family. 

Fact: falling asleep while driving is responsible for at least 100,000 car crashes, 40,000 injuries, and 1,500 fatalities each year.

Holiday Survival Rule: whenever behind the wheel and feel tired, NEVER think that you can fight the fatigue by tricks like opening the window or loud music. Those tricks work for just a short period time only, and the fatigue will sneak up on you without you knowing it! Just pull over and take a nap for a few minutes. It's so worth it!

Having said that, it does not mean that I slept in on Sunday morning - Alex has a habit of coming to mommy the moment he gets up, and at 6:30AM sharp Alex was up, and so was I. 

The only energy I could possible squeeze out of myself was a trip to the Trader Joe's to get groceries (and flowers!), and carve a small pumpkin with Alex (which means I will be doing most of the work!)

Feeling happy.

xo Zuma A.

*** If you love my blog, please Like me on facebook, share the posts! This is my labor of love, and it means so much to me when you send me a note and tell me how much you enjoy Living zBeautiful Mix. Thank you! Lots of kisses! ZA

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Everything: Scones

I have never been a fan of taste of pumpkin, not even pumpkin pie... not until I tried pumpkin scone at Alice's Tea Cup.

Obviously, it must be that I just never tasted a really good pumpkin dish before.

And the plan was born: every weekend until Thanksgiving I will cook or bake different pumpkin recipes. This makes six different recipes, just enough to not get sick of the pumpkin flavor.

Today I am going to kick off the challenge by making pumpkin scones. Hopefully they will come out delicious!

Shopping list:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 tbs sugar
5 tbs cold unsalted butter, grated or cut into pieces
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup heavy cream, (do not substitute!) plus more for brushing tops
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs

Also need two medium bowls, a sifter, grater, measuring cups and spoons. 

This recipe makes 8 scones. 
Preparation time, 10-15 minutes
Baking time, 16-18 minutes

Step 1: 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rack in the center. Meanwhile, place a parchment paper on a baking sheet, and set it aside.

Step 2:
In the medium bowl sift the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice,  and sugar. Cut in (or shave in) butter and mix with the flour mixture. Then, add the pumpkin puree into the mix and cut it in soft pieces with a knife and mix it so that the pumpkin puree would turn into flour covered lumps.

Step 3:
Using a fork, whisk together cream, vanilla, and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in cream mixture. Stir lightly with a fork just until dough comes together. NEVER OVERMIX!

Step 4:
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and pat the dough into a 5-inch circle about 1.4 inches thick. Using a floured knife, cut dough on the diagonal 4 times to form 8 triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with the rest of the cream. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool.

Alex liked the scones with the powdered sugar
Varuzh, Robert and I had to have the scones with butter and jelly
This was easy and delicious, and our home was filled with the sweet and cosy smell of the scones. Mmmm. I have to pat myself on the back for becoming a baking recipe pro. You should definitely try it!

xoxo Zuma A.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Search For The Great Pumpkin

From the moment I discovered "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", I made sure that every Halloween eve we read it with Alex. This book has made this holiday just so much more special! Who would Alex grow up to be I wonder? The optimist Charlie? Or the philosopher Lionel?  Or bossy Lucy?.. ok, not Lucy for sure! 

Well, I know which one of them I am. Well, was... I used to be Linus...  until I landed at the therapist's chair for two years. Now I am not... I just wish Linus was right, and the Great Pumpkin would rise out of the Pumpkin Patch and fly through the air with a bag full of toys for all the children, in spite of what everyone said.  

"So what do you think, Alex, " I had to ask, "does the Great Pumpkin exist?"


Good, Alex is not a hopeless dreamer like his mother!

"...But I wish!" Alex said after a long pause.

Oh, I guess he is just like me, only smarter! 

Anyhow, even though there is... most likely... no Great Pumpkin,  we still go to the Pumpkin Patch every year to enjoy the farm, the warm fall colors, the fun holiday spirit, and to get some pumpkins, of course! 
Tanaka Farms is definitely my favorite place for the Pumpkin Patch.

Thanks Karen for coming with us! 
Oh, look at the sky!
Awww this is cute!
We were treated by the gorgeous sunset. It is just too beautiful.

Will be making pumpkin scones tomorrow!

I feel the joy and holiday spirit and it feels good.

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ultimate Holiday Survival Plan

It's that season again - cool crispy weather, golden trees, fun decorations, lots of delicious soul warming food,  pumpkin spice lattes...  I cannot believe that Halloween is just about ten days away.

Wait! What?! Ten days away?!!! That means that Thanksgiving is five weeks away, and Christmas is nine weeks away. Are you ready? I haven't even started!

Just the thought of all the things I have to do in almost no time made me hyperventilate. Thankfully, my body immediately switched into survival mode, and I took a series of deep breaths and started writing an Ultimate Holiday Survival plan. It must include making the Halloween costumes, Pumpkin Patches, decorating the house for Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, writing holiday cards, shopping, making gifts, cooking, baking, and trying to somehow stay in shape. Ok Zuma, keep breathing, every weekend has 48 hours. Get on it, starting now!

First things first - a trip to Roger's Garden's in Corona Del Mar. It is not just an amazing garden store, it also has a great Halloween Boutique. Well, it is a little pricy, but there is no harm in checking it out and getting cool ideas.

Oh, I love skeletons and I've got to try to recreate the bejeweled pumpkins. Next stop is to Strawberry Farms for the best Pumpkin Patch.

Here's the plan for the last ten days of October:
Tuesday 10/22 
Pumpkin patch (need 4 pumpkins)
Wednesday 10/23
Flu shot
Sketch/plan Halloween costumes
Thursday 10/24
Go to Joanne's for costumes fabrics and supplies
Friday 10/25
Finish hanging Halloween decoration
Movie night
Saturday 10/26
Pumpkin pancakes for breakfast
Horseback riding AM
Friend's wedding PM
Sunday 10/27
Carve Jack-o-lanterns with boys
Yay, friends coming over!
Monday 10/28
Have a green super food juice for lunch (instead of the lunch)
Replace light weight blankets with cosy down ones
Make Halloween flowers arrangements
Tuesday 10/29
Happy Birthday Mary-Ann!
Work on costumes. 
Wednesday 10/30
Finish costumes
Read "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" with fam
Thursday 10/31
Finally! Trick-or-treating with Alex
Did I scare you?

I can sense very busy days ahead.

Love love love the holiday season!

xo Zuma A.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Cleanse Part II: 5 Rules For Cell Phone Addicts

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? Well, I have, and it is no fun - I kept wanting to chew something desperately, wondering why did I do this to myself and if juice cleanse even good for me.

So here I was, phone less. It was 5AM and I was already feeling the separation. Apparently, as soon as I wake up from the phone alarm, I open NY Times app and check out the headlines. Then I check emails and texts I may have missed while sleeping. But today, since I don't have my phone, I have an extra 15 minutes to sleep... if I only could! What if I missed an important e-mail?! So I laid down for 15 minutes thinking - but then, why can't emails wait till I get to work? Is it really necessary to start sweating business at 5AM? Ok, I get the idea.  

Rule #1: No checking email and texts between 8PM and 7AM. 

At 6AM I am in my car driving to Downtown LA. Usually, this is the time when my sister and I catch up (luckily, she drives to work at the same time!) We talk about our day, we share thoughts and opinions, we argue if we get too stubborn, then we make up and talk some more... So what do I do now? Oh, I know! I can use bluetooth in my car to call her without even touching my phone! Bingo!.. That does not mean I failed the cleanse, does it? Bluetooth is safe and not nearly as stressful as having phone by my side tempting me to check it every time it beeps and, even worse, felling compelled to respond. No more!

Rule #2: When in the car, deliberately keep the phone away from the hands reach. Use blue tooth only. That's the law, anyways.

Rule #3: To avoid the temptation to check emails as they come, turn off the sound on email, text, Facebook, and twitter notifications. Check as needed only, and never do so while driving!

7:45AM - I was sitting in the crowded courtroom, waiting for my turn... for 45 minutes! Oh! I bravely fought the temptation to take my phone out and play Candy Crush, or Sudoku, or check Facebook updates. I do that all the time to kill time. Do you? So I dipped my hand into my magic Tory Burch hobo bag and fished out my... nook. What did you think I was going to get? 

Rule #4: Aways keep a newspaper, or a magazine, or nook to keep you company when have time to kill. 

Please understand that I am NOT becoming a technology hater. I cannot live without technology, and I should not! This is the way of our life.  I guess the point is to use technology for our advantageefficiencynecessity, but not to fill every possible minute with cellular ray stimulation. So instead of spending an hour driving to the bank to make a deposit, I can do it on my smart phone in a minute. Great use of my phone! Then, I have 59 minutes to do other things, like write a blog, or spend more time to cook dinner from scratch, or play a board game with the kids. 

But what about expectations? When I send a text message to someone, I expect an almost immediate response, and I feel that others expect from me the same. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I supposed to check or answer a text while having lunch with a friend? I think we all know the answer to that. In fact, I should not even have my phone on the table as I always do. Having it on the table makes me pay less attention to a friend and forces my brain to multitask - just the presence of the phone in view subconsciously makes me think about emails or calls that may or may not come in. What for? If the phone is in my bag, I forget about it. 

Rule #5: Do not keep my phone in my hand unless I am using it, i.e. no walking to the parking lot with the phone in my hand, no sitting in front of a judge with the phone on my lap, no having dinner with family and friends with the phone on the table.

Wow! It was only 8AM and I already made so much progress!  I am that efficient!

From that point on, my day developed a full speed - I can only plan for a slow day, not that it ever happens! The idea of not using my phone became impossible - it is just the way of life in my universe. However, using the 5 Rules turned out to be very helpful. I became more aware and paid more attention to the humans around me, and, at the end of the day, I was calmer and less stressed than usual. Now the challenge will be to stick to these rules...

xo Zuma

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Cleanse Part I: Life AC (After Cellphone)

It seems it was only a few years ago... like 13... when I was in law school, my friend Joy brought a super cool gadget to class - a big and bulky cell phone. Her monthly plan was 20 minutes per month! I was amazed, nothing seemed cooler for me than walking down the streets of LA, wearing a well tailored suit and high heels, holding a briefcase in one hand and a cellphone in another, and talking to a friend or an associate on the phone. (For some reason this was the picture of the "cool me" at the time.) 

Boy, times have changed! Nowadays I traded the briefcase for a spacious Tory Burch hobo bag which usually has everything I may and may not need. My favorite outfit is now a t-shirt and jeans, and the cellphone I hold by my ear is a compact and sleek white iPhone 4S... which I NEVER EVER part with. 

True, many things have changed - we replaced address books with speed dials (so I don't remember anyone's number any more), we replaced handwritten letters with emails, we text, we tweet, we skype, and we connect with old friends from all over the world on facebook. Not only did we replace good old maps with navigation devices, but we also incorporated traffic reports into them. How convenient! 

Apparently, though, not everyone lives in my kind of universe. I had a case at the detention center recently, and the guards did not allow me to take my cellphone in. Seriously?! My phone has many research notes, my schedule calendar, internet, and it scans and emails documents too. What age are these people living in?! Well, knowing that I won't win the fight against the prison guards without possibly getting myself in trouble which would lead to missing important work, I parted with the phone and put it in the locker provided. 

Well, I survived, but it wasn't easy. Not that I really needed my phone, but I just was ... missing it... like a part of my body... I wasn't kidding when I said I never part with my phone. Do you? 

Ok, I thought, obviously this is not a healthy attachment. My phone is "a thing" (even if it talks to me). And I can't miss "a thing". I almost could not concentrate without holding the phone in my hands and glancing if texts or emails or tweets would pop up. Is it ADD? Is this addiction? Whatever it is, it can't be healthy. Does my attachment to my phone fragment my attention, stress me out, and compromise my quality of life? 

I am afraid that answer to all three is YES, and I have to do something about it! So I decided to do a "cleanse" and give my mind a break from my smartphone for a day... cold turkey. I mean, if a juice cleanse for a day is good for my body, a phone-less day should be good for my mind. I've decided! Tomorrow, my day should not be busy, so it will be a perfect day for this cleanse. I am only scheduled for a quick hearing, a doctor appointment, a few file reviews and meetings, Alex's Taekwondo practice, and a quick trip to the nail salon to change nailpolish. As a matter of fact, I will not use internet on my computer either. I'm just going to have a slow day to detox...

... but what if some kind of disaster would strike while I would be sipping tea and reviewing my files without my phone by my side to alert me instantly via CNN tweet?.. I guess I would have to find out about it when I get home and listen to the evening news. 

Fine, the challenge is set. I promise not to use my smart phone or internet for 24 hours starting at 9PM

Wait, does that mean I need to find a real alarm clock to set a wake up call? Do I even have one?..

I will give you an update of my experiment tomorrow.

With love always,

xo Zuma A.