oh. come. on.


oh, come on! 11.25

I’ve heard that saying:

“We plan, God laughs.”

This little phrase (which I discovered is a Yiddish proverb when I googled it to see if it started out “We plan” or “Man plans” and found both) rings true for me quite often. This is most likely because, in many arenas, I can be a planning-obsessed control freak. But, for the most part, I am okay when my plans go a little berserk– part of the fun of living is enjoying the surprises. I usually feel like the twists and turns take me just where I belong. Usually. After this past week and weekend, though, I may have coined my own phrase:

“I make plans to go back to school, which costs roughly what’s in my savings account.

My car breaks. My car gets fixed not quite fixed. There is no laughing.”

(which is too long for a catch phrase or a proverb, possibly)

Rather than relive the horror in freshly pressed words, I’ll share the letter I wrote to the auto repair shop (that shall remain nameless, for now) after I received their “How Did We Do?” email in my inbox. The good parts are highlighted.


On Saturday, 22 November, I brought my car (a 2001 Subaru Outback) into the Peter’s Creek location in Winston-Salem. I had a check engine light on, and a code readout from Advanced Auto. Since the engine computer code (P0303 Cylinder #3 misfire) has many possible causes, I agreed to have Powertrain Diagnostics run on my car to determine the underlying issue.

 I was contacted by John* with the results. He informed me what my car needed based on the diagnostics (from which I never saw a readout report). The issues were fairly regular maintenance on a car with 130K+ miles on it: air and fuel decarbonizing wash (of the “super special premium” variety), replacing spark plugs, spark plug wires, and valve cover gaskets.  I made sure to let everyone know I was not in a hurry, and could wait until Monday for the work to be done. After initial diagnostics, my car was in the possession of the shop for roughly 3 hours (called me with results at 13:34 and I received notice my car was ready at 15:56). I was quoted $656 and change. When I picked up my car, I paid $641.58 (after a $15 coupon) for fairly standard maintenance. More than half of this bill ($368.10) was for labor. (I understand that mechanics should be compensated for their specialized knowledge and am not necessarily upset with the cost, so hear me out).

After spending this money, imagine my surprise as I am driving my newly “repaired” car (complete with new spark plugs and wires!) to High Point and it begins to hesitate, shudder rather violently, and suck power (dash lights dimming) while moving between 35 and 40 mph and while idling at a full stop. Then, the check engine light begins to flash, and once I’d made it to a place I could safely pull over, the check engine light is illuminated permanently again. 


This is unacceptable. The shop was closed before I could call back and find out what was going on. I felt unsafe and uncomfortable driving my car. Sunday morning, I was able to contact my father, who walked me through the work done on the car based on my invoice, and had me double check the work. After checking the wire connections at the coil and then examining the connections of the spark plugs, I was able to determine that one of my “new spark plugs” was not properly replaced and had shaken loose (the boot was a good quarter of an inch from flush). After connecting the plug properly, my car handled well again, without any of the symptoms it had displayed the night before, and before I brought it in. After a test drive at city and highway speeds, it seems fine. Now that the car has been driven, started and turned off several times, the check engine light has gone off.

 I am unsettled at the fact that I had to double check the work, for which I paid $368 in labor alone, done on my car. 

 I will be contacting the shop directly as well. Thank you for your time.

*name changed to protect this very nice man’s identity. He was not the mechanic who did the work on my car.


My call to the shop resulted in some resolution: vouchers for several free oil changes, a check and re-check of all of the work performed on my car, and an apology. I never saw a work order or the supporting documentation diagnostics. I wasn’t given any refund for the services rendered. Since it wasn’t a problem with my car that they’d completely missed, I felt a little better. I only wish I’d waited to talk to my dad (who was at work when I consented to the services) before I’d agreed to have anything called a “Super Special Premium” anything done to my car. My parents always told me, if you have money saved, something will break (usually an appliance). I sometimes hate when they are right.


In retrospect, perhaps I was too nice to the gentlemen at the shop. But, I think everyone has a bad day and I shall not hold a grudge since I’ve had several good experiences here in the past. (Also, I’d like to think that someday my being too nice might come back to haunt me in the form of good karma?) I guess what’s left is this lesson: Let my Dad do all the work I need done on my car, ever. Forever. Dad never leaves things loose (since I’m his kid and all) and his labor costs are much more reasonable.  This lesson, oddly, can be translated in Yiddish, to:

“We plan, God laughs.”

(Now, back to finding/saving/potentially crowd-sourcing a little money for school.)


Tell me about annoying things that have happened to you lately (please!).


plateaus, brick walls & ruts: real (metaphorical) obstacles.



Remember that time I told you about how I am always starting over?

Throughout my adult life, especially, one thing I have found myself starting over more than anything else has been maintaining my health and wellness, both mentally and physically. At some point in the past few years, though, I decided to quit quitting. As with most decisions that require regular execution of plans, there have been obstacles.


//states of little or no change following periods of activity or progress//

There I was: executing the plan, making good choices, and feeling good. Then BAM!, the journey to improvement just sort of stood still, despite all my best efforts. Getting stuck made me start to lose sight of any progress I had made. It took work to get here, but it still felt like stuck.

brick walls.

//large, immovable objects.//

My walls have been made of so many things: feelings, moods, choices, cookies, beers.. all kinds of things that piled up to block my way. When walls stood in my path, I saw no way around them. Instead of breaking them down or taking some alternate route (you know, building a bridge with smart choices like asking for help), I most often found myself in a cycle of self-sabotage or denial that only built the wall wider, taller, and several more layers thick.


//repetitive. monotonous. boring.//

The ruts are sneaky. Even when my routine is a good one, and it makes me feel strong, energetic, and balanced…it’s still a routine. The same old thing can make anyone downright bored. Itchin’ for a change or needing to shake things up a bit has, on more than several dozen occasions, drug me into a ditch that took some real tugging to get out of.

My solutions for the obstacles are not everyone’s solutions and they are not fail-safe. Failure isn’t always the worst thing that can happen, though.  It is, at least, a sure sign of trying. I only know what has worked for me. That is not to say I am obstacle-free, either. There may never be a time that being well does not require work. Just about everything worth having requires a little elbow grease, though. I try to see every obstacle as an opportunity to make a choice…because having choices makes me feel powerful and in control. I consider having at least two choices, both of which require a change:

On a plateau, I can choose defeat, falling down the side of the mountain by resorting to old habits or flat out giving up, or I can choose to climb higher,  making changes that push me, that challenge me, just a little. bit. more.

When facing a brick wall, I can choose to bang my head against it in hopes that I am knocked unconscious, or I can come up with the strategy for getting around it, over it, under it, or through it. I might be forced to face some ugly truth, to get to the root of my feelings, or to throw away the cookies. The choice, though, is mine.

When I’m in a rut, I can lay down and wait for it to fill up with rain, or I can climb out. The climb may be as simple as trying out a new recipe, changing up my fitness program, or a change of scenery for my work day (Starbucks, a friend’s kitchen table, my sister’s house at the beach, for instance). The climb may also require more work, like rethinking my schedule based on the season, my workload, and what my current fitness goals are.

Lately, as I sort of “confessed” in my post about making moves towards a career change, climbing out required taking a big step back. What’s the big picture? Am I moving closer to it, or further away? Mixing things up can be a little uncomfortable at first, particularly for a planning obsessed control freak like me, but– at least it isn’t boring.

fear is a liar, and i’d like a do-over.


I confess: I’ve always really liked school. I even tried teaching it once. I’ve collected a few degrees, and like I mentioned when I told you how I am always starting over, I often think of going back to school as a way to, well, start over. In 2007 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. After doing lots of what now seems like nothing, and an experiment with teaching (Teach for America is a topic for another post!), I went back to school in 2010, earning  a master’s degree in cell and molecular biology in 2012. It is now 2014 (just in case you recently woke up from a coma) and I want to go to nursing school.

None of this information, taken alone, is problematic. (I know, I know, woe is me, I got a great education, right?) The sum of the parts, though, that has proven challenging. When I consider what I have already done and then consider what I’m thinking about doing, this is what swirls around in my head the most:

  1. Debt. I am still paying for those first two degrees, along with the credit card debt I acquired as a stupid teenager… and in my early 20s.
  2. Qualifications. Any prerequisite courses for nursing school that I took, and earned excellent grades in, I took as an undergraduate between 2003 and 2007. That puts most of them beyond a statute of limitations (meaning I have to take ’em again!). This also conveniently reminds me how old I am, which brings me to…
  3. Timing. Feeling like it is “too late” to “start over”. This is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that I will be 30 years old on February 6, 2015.

I have agonized over these points for so long now, I would be hard pressed to identify the first time I thought about earning a nursing degree. Chances are those prerequisites would still be valid if I’d made that move back then. In fact, if I’d sucked it up then, I would likely be a nurse already, and not writing this blog from my couch in my gym clothes. What happened between now and whenever I first ignored the things I wanted to do? Fear.

fear is a liar

I have been so afraid of falling down, of taking a risk, of all the “what ifs”, that I’m not sure I ever even legitimately researched what earning a nursing degree would take, where to start, and how to pay for it. I landed in a puddle of excuses and nearly drowned in them. In fact, I probably nearly drowned in more ways than one (so much crying has happened in the past year of my life I’m surprised my boyfriend hasn’t had me committed). As it turns out, fear can take over even a smart, rational person’s thinking and eventually, make it feel as though you have no control over your very own life. I was feeling very much out of control.

Coming from a place of fear, it always seemed clear to me that I’d “screwed up” and wasted precious time making all kinds of choices that haven’t entirely fulfilled me. But after a moment of clarity, an odd hour or two of bravery, a lot of googling, more crying, and just the right amount of support and encouragement  from my family and friends, I decided to dive in. Now that I’ve decided, it feels damn good. It suddenly feels like the winding path I’ve chosen has been precisely what it took to bring me to this place, this present, my right now. What I do with where I am is up to me. The control is mine again. And, as my beautiful and wise sister tells me:

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

See you on the other side.

the dishes made me do it.


muffin pans

Cooking and eating clean, hunting down new recipes, trying out healthier, cleaner twists on classics– these have become my hobbies (good thing exercise is my other hobby). In support of these hobbies, and in a seemingly natural transition that followed my departure from graduate school, the restaurant industry, and roommate living, my boyfriend and I have slowly begun to stock a kitchen full of gadgets and appliances (and a kick ass home gym). We add to our kitchen collection at just about any gift-giving opportunity and/or Tuesday afternoon when we discover a recipe for something that “requires” that we own a mandolin (ahem, zucchini & spinach lasagna). Somehow, though, we managed to go without a muffin tin, or much of anything baking related at all for going on 4 years. Perhaps this is why I ate so many vegan cookies from Whole Foods? Perhaps savory cooking took priority? Well, if clean and savory was my past, clean baking might be my future. And the dishes made me do it.

Not long after my mom brought the muffin form of pumpkin bread along for a visit to Winston-Salem, a visit during which I ate her muffins and then proceeded to say things like, “Man, I really need a muffin tin” (hint hint), something magical happened. And by magical, I mean my Momma sent a Temp-tations bakeware set right to my door. Now, I had a loaf pan, muffin pan, rolling pin, tart pan and bonus Texas-sized muffin pan– and a storage problem. Thank you, Momma and thank you QVC. 🙂

Well, now I had to make muffins. 

So I did. I started with banana chocolate chip muffins made with whole wheat flour and coconut oil.  Then, I made mini broccoli omelette muffins and whipped up  another batch of pumpkin bread, but as muffins this time. And now, because those poor muffin pans have laid empty too long (for 3 days!), I’m on to apple cinnamon muffins with coconut flour.

clean apple cinnamon muffins

12 muffins // 25 minutes // gluten-free //

what’s in it?

  • coconut oil spray
  • 1 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/2 c. coconut flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour, which I bought at Harris Teeter)
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, diced (optional)
  • 1 oz dark chocolate chips (optional)


how to.

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare a muffin tin (with liners or lightly spray with coconut coil spray). The rest is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Combine the apple sauce, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, and honey in a medium bowl. Stir to combine, breaking up egg yolks.
  2. Add coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Stir to combine. (Fold in apples, chia seeds, and chocolate here if you’re using them).
  3. Spoon into muffin pan, filling each well about 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick placed in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins (or 11, if you make a jumbo muffin for “quality control taste testing purposes). Serve ’em up warm with cup of tea; store in a resealable bag in the fridge for later. These are a great light treat to have with fresh fruit or alone– and even with chocolate and the extra apple added, thy are around 100 calories a piece (113 according to the recipe I plugged into MyFitnessPal).


paleo apple cinnamon muffins

The finished product! (We do not have pretty counter tops. I know.)


This was my first adventure with coconut flour and certainly won’t be my last. I’ve been reading the resources and information on Whole30 and found their grain- and legume-free explanations interesting. I’m not Whole30-in’ it up entirely, and this recipe technically falls outside the rules (see Sex With Your Pants On) but it did inspire me to look into all things Paleo, which I admit, I have been rather skeptical about.

  • Have you cooked or baked with coconut four?

  • If so, did you choose it for its flavor, its lack of gluten, or just because a recipe called for it?

  • What’d you make?

Recipe adapted from Paleogrubs.com

will run for muffins.


will run for muffins nov 2 2014For roughly the past two years, I’ve set aside a few hours, usually on Sunday afternoon, to prep my meals for the week. While some food is best cooked to eat, and I still spend some time cooking during the week, on Sundays I prepare anything ahead of time that I can.

My reasoning is simple: I do better with a plan. I make smart choices for myself ahead of time and only keep good food in my house to make sure that I eat good food. Alas, sometimes having a plan is just not enough to keep my inner binge-eater at bay. I push it a little further with meal prep to make sure there is very little work involved in the plan’s execution. The truth is, when it actually comes time to eat, if there isn’t something healthy ready to go, I have been known to black out in a fit of hanger and eat all of the peanut butter for lunch. 

I get pretty bored eating the same thing over and over (except, it seems, if that thing is zucchini & spinach lasagna.. yum!). Disinterest in my prepped food can easily put me in my car on autopilot to Chick-fil-A if I’m not careful.

The struggle is real.

So, this week, a little burned out on my tried-and-true meal plans, I spent a little extra time on Saturday night hunting down new items for this week’s menu. (If you check out the “read this” menu at the right side of the page, you’ll see a list of sites I frequent when trolling the internet for clean, healthy recipes!) This week’s winning combinations include:

  • for the morning. coffee. always coffee. followed up by quick old fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 a diced granny smith apple, cinnamon, and a swirl of 100% maple syrup
  • around noontime. piles of fresh colorful produce and butternut squash soup
  • afternoon snack: the other half of my breakfast apple with these banana chocolate chip muffins
  • early evening. turkey meatloaf, steamed broccoli, and roasted garlic mashed cauliflower (…which will have to be the subject of another post soon!)
  • pm snack: Greek yogurt w/ blueberries and a sprinkle of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch!

Today, I took some time to portion out oatmeal, wash and portion out produce, slice and dice a few things, and to cook the meatloaf and the cauliflower mash. Then, I made muffins. I made 12 muffins.

What’s that you say? There aren’t 12 days in a week? Oh snap!

Even though they are low in calories, made with fruit and whole wheat flour, eating the “extra” (ahem, 5) today could have easily become an issue. So, I took a little Sunday run to get away from the muffins for a while and regroup. 5 miles and a little under 50 minutes later, all I wanted was a shower. It is dark now, and I am happy to report that there are still a dozen muffins in this house. But I bet I can convince Rob to knock it down to 10 for me before the day’s through. 🙂

Alright, let’s make muffins y’all. 

 what’s in it?

3  ripe medium bananas

1/3 c. unsweetened apple sauce

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour 1

3/4 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

2 T. earth balance buttery spread

1/3 c. raw honey 2 or light brown sugar

whites of 2 large eggs

1/2 t. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 oz mini chocolate chips or chocolate of your choice

coconut oil spray

how to.

First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prep a muffin tin (or loaf pan, etc. depending on your desired final product) with coconut oil spray.

Things to do, and set aside. Peel the bananas and mash them in a bowl with a fork or the wire beater attachment of your hand mixer.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

Getting so much closer to muffins now. In a large bowl, combine buttery spread, honey 3 , egg whites, bananas, apple sauce and vanilla. (If you’re using sugar, cream the butter and sugar together first, then add the rest. ) With a hand mixer, beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Carefully add flour mixture to your wet ingredients and blend at low speed until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Avoid over mixing.

Bake at 325 on center oven rack for:

  • 25-30 minutes for muffins.
  • 50-60 minutes for a loaf pan.

Keep an eye on baking time since honey browns faster than sugar. When a toothpick comes out clean, you’re all set! Now, go run while they’re cooling! 🙂

I promise to start taking pictures of the cooking process!


recipe adapted from: skinnytaste.com

  1. White or brown. I’ve recently learned the difference. Thanks, Happy Herbivore
  2. The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup brown sugar, which I replaced with honey for a cleaner recipe. (Read more about clean baking substitutions at TheGraciousPantry.com
  3. When measuring honey, prep your cup first with water, a little oil, or egg to prevent it from sticking! 

zucchini & spinach lasagna.


This lasagna is loaded with vegetables. It is not loaded with carbs, though–it has no noodles. I am willing to bet that you will not miss them.

After I first discovered this recipe, I made this dish every week for a month and a half. Over those six batches, I tweaked the recipe I’d started with to make it suit my needs 1 better. Tweaks included: using less cheese (8 oz versus the 16 oz the recipe called for), adding spinach to the ricotta mixture, swapping out beef for turkey, or leaving out meat entirely.

I ate it for lunch. I ate it for dinner. I fed it to my mom and dad, but only because it was pushing 4 days in the refrigerator and it would’ve gone to waste if I hadn’t shared. (I have since learned to freeze half of it so I don’t have to share it if I don’t manage to eat it all by myself.)

serves: 8   •   prep: 40-45 min   •   cook: 1 hour   •   and worth every minute

what’s in it?

  •  1 lb. 93% lean beef or lean turkey [^2]
  • [^2] : Or, leave out meat altogether for a vegetarian meal.
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
  • 3-4 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 8 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and cooled

 how to.

Let’s make sauce. In a medium sauce pan, brown your meat.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Drain browned meat remove any fat (a wire mesh colander works well here). Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onions for about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40 minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

While your sauce gets saucy, slice zucchini into 1/8″ thick slices. A mandoline comes in handy for uniform thickness. Lay your slices flat, lightly salt them, then set aside for 10 minutes to draw out moisture. Blot the excess moisture with a paper towel. Then, using a gas grill or a grill pan, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak up excess moisture.


Preheat oven to 350°.

Prepare the cheese mixture. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, spinach, and egg. Stir well. (I’ve made this a few times and I’ve started to put all of this in a food processor to make it highly spreadable.)

Assemble. In a 9×12 casserole dish, spread enough sauce to thinly cover the bottom. Place a layer of sliced zucchini over the sauce. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the zucchini, then top with a thin layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat these layers: zucchini, ricotta mix, shredded mozzarella. until you run out of ricotta mix. Top your final layer with the remaining sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella.

Bake. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.


Leftovers reheat nicely.

If you let it cool completely, this dish works well for portioning out for lunches/dinners throughout the week.

I highly recommend serving this with a salad of the Caesar persuasion. I like a heap of romaine tossed with Bolthouse Farms Caesar Parmigiano. This line of dressings is amazing). Since it is yogurt-based and naturally sweetened (with pineapple juice!) this Caesar is a low-calorie (45 calories per 2 Tbsp), low-sugar option that is tasty and won’t completely negate all of the vegetables you’re about to devour. Let the cheese do that.


 recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

  1. I aim to eat as cleanly as possible. I limit my intake of dairy, animal sources of protein, added sugar, added sodium, and preservatives. 

pumpkin bread.

    pumpkin bread
 This bread has become popular of late in this house. My parents came to visit us a few weeks back, and my mom brought the muffin version of this with her. I ate her muffins.
     Then, this Tuesday, Rob had all of his wisdom teeth out after two of them managed to land him in the emergency room on Saturday.  What do Rob’s teeth have to do with this recipe? Well, first because he couldn’t open his mouth more than about an inch, and then because he had surgery, Rob’s normal diet has been replaced with pain killers, antibiotics, and all things soft: pudding, jello, grits, soup, shakes, yogurt, and juices. Our fridge and pantry were fully stocked with this mushy menu after visits from both of Rob’s parents, who came bearing groceries. I usually prep my food for the week on Sunday, and I baked a loaf of this bread…for me. 
     Despite the fact that “all of Alex’s bread” was not an item on the “list of soft foods to try” provided with his post-op notes, over the course of the week, a certain wisdom-toothless little mouse who shall remain nameless finished off the entire loaf, nibble by nibble. (Okay, I had a few nibbles, too.)
     Moral of the story? This bread is extremely yummy, extremely moist, and pleasing to fully functional and challenged mouths alike. Also, I put chocolate in it, and that obviously made it irresistible. I am pretty much constantly thinking of other yummy things to add to this recipe. More incarnations to come.

what’s in it?

  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1⅔ c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. melted coconut oil
  • ¼ c. cold water
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ c. dark chocolate chips*
  • ¼ c. blueberries*

* optional, but recommended. the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to what you could add to this bread.

how to assemble the deliciousness

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a loaf pan (or a muffin tin).
  3. Mix dry ingredients.
  4. Mix wet ingredients.
  5. Marry wet with dry.
  6. Fold in berries/chocolate chips (and/or nuts, dried fruit…).
  7. Pour into your prepared loaf pan or muffin tin.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees according to the times below.

baking times**

  • for bread (one loaf):  65-80 minutes
  • for muffins:
    • (12) = 35-40 minutes
    • (24 mini) = 25 minutes

 **honey browns faster than a batter made with sugar; for the bread, start on the low end of baking time and check the center with a toothpick/fork for done-ness.

yields: 12 muffins or 1 loaf (how many slices is up to you!)                                 prep time: ~5 minutes

 recipe adapted from kitchenstewardship.com