October 30, 2012

KIick-It-Up-A-Notch Peas and Carrots

Question:  When I say "peas and carrots" what's the first thing that comes to mind?


Well, at least, that's what comes to mind for me.  Whenever I hear the phrase "peas and carrots" this scene from the movie automatically pops up:

Man, that's a great movie.  As an interesting sidenote, for those of you that don't know, my brother's name is actually Forrest (although, he was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest not Forrest Gump).

Anywho, today's post is NOT about the movie, but rather about the food combination itself.  At some point or another, I think that everyone has eaten the traditional peas and carrots combination.  But, if my experience is any indicator, peas and carrots are usually mushy (due to canned peas), bland (due to a lack of seasoning), and forgettable (generally "bleh" on the YUMM-O scale).

Well today that all changes! 

My recipe for peas and carrots is crisp (due to frozen peas), flavorful (due to the addition of roasting and garlic powder), and memorable (a solid 8-9 on the YUMM-O scale)...all the things a good vegetable side dish should be!

Kick-It-Up-A-Notch Peas and Carrots
Serves 4

1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bag frozen peas
1/2T Smart Balance (or butter)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2tsp garlic powder

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss with sliced carrots with EVOO and salt and pepper.
  • Place the carrots on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes until carrots are tender and beginning to brown around the edges.
  • While the carrots are roasting, place peas in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Boil 3 minutes, until tender.
  • Drain, toss with Smart Balance, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Once the carrots are roasted, add them to the peas and toss to incorporate.
  • Season with garlic powder and, if necessary, additional salt and pepper.
  • Serve warm.

This dish pairs perfectly with a side of brown rice/quinoa/millet and your protein of choice!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever put a spin on a classic recipe?  If so, I would love hearing about your creativity in the kitchen in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

October 28, 2012

Halloween Fun

Yesterday, Bo and I started celebrating Halloween a couple of days nights early by carving pumpkins with friends!  Believe it or not, this was my very first time to carve a pumpkin; so I was pretty excited about it.  Even though I cook all the time, I'm not really all that skilled at handling knives.  I've cut myself MANY more times than I would like to admit.  Regardless, I figured that Bo and I could tag-team our efforts and end up with a beautifully carved pumpkin...and all ten of our fingers in tact.  Thankfully, I was right!

Our friends Bethany and Andrew hosted the pumpkin-carving-shindig, and being the wonderful hosts that they are, everything down to the libations was Halloween themed.  I don't think that I would ever think of details like this, but they really do take a party from your average-holiday-get-together to something-really-memorable.

Details matter.
Note taken.

I also meant to capture a picture of the candy popcorn Bethany made, but it was all eaten by the time I got around to it.  I think she got her inspiration from Pinterest, and it was something like this.  


Once everyone had a drink and a few handfuls of popcorn, the pumpkin carving real fun began!

I was in charge of cutting the top off; and once I successfully did that, I handed it over to Bo for the dirty work (i.e. scooping out the pumpkin guts)!

Then we all started carving!  
Sidenote: In honor of my upcoming trip to Boston to visit my friend Colbi, AND to see the final installment of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, I found a template for a werewolf (I've always been Team Edward - not Team Jacob - but the templates for Edward and Bella were simply way too advanced for first-time carvers such as myself).

Mid-carving photo-op!
(Can you tell I was hot?!  My face was as red as a cherry!)

Almost done...


Bo and I were both really pleased with the final result.  
Our handiwork was pretty good - much better than expected - if I do say so myself.

All of our friends did amazing jobs too...we are one talented bunch!
By the end of the night, we had some pretty awesome pumpkins to display!


What does a werewolf + a Boo! + a kittie cat + and one grumpy pumpkin equal (=)?
Why one awesome night of FUN, of course!

Happy Halloween week everyone!

Question of the Day:

What do you do to celebrate Halloween?!  Do you dress up?  Go trick-or-treat-ing?  Carve jak-o-lanterns?  Watch scary movies?  Whatever it is, I would love to hear all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

October 27, 2012

Odds & Ends (& Something EXCITING!)

First things first, I apologize for being away from the blog for the last few days.  Things - somewhat unexpectedly - got a little crazy around here.  I ended up substituting for five different yoga classes this week, Bo was busy flying, and lots of other exciting things happened too...which, of course, is what this post it all about.  So, let's get to it!

1.  We FINALLY received orders!  

For those of you that aren't familiar with military lingo, orders are the official paperwork that tells you when you will be detaching from your current base, and when you are required to report to your new base.  Thankfully for us, we got lucky!  We will be detaching from Jacksonville, FL at the very end of November, and will have to report in Whidbey Island, WA sometime in December.  Our plan is to spend the month of December visiting family and enjoying the holiday season.  Then we will jet on up to Whidbey before the end of the year!  Truthfully, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect situation.  Once again, we are blessed.

2.  I recently discovered the cutest little health food store - what I would call a "local gem" - in none other than small-town Orange Park, FL.

For the past nine months, here I have been thinking that Orange Park had nothing of the sort; and then, the other day before yoga class, I overheard one of my fellow practitioners saying that she works in a health food store right down the street.

Seriously, how did I miss this?!

Anywho, I decided to swing by and check it out.  It was amazing!  Stocked to the brim with local produce, whole grains, vegan/vegetarian fare, and herbal remedies.  Now THIS is my kind of store!  I only wish my mom or friend Paige were here to go with me...they both love this sort of place.

Wall-to-wall grains, cake mixes, and cereal!

Organic and/or local beauty products...if only they weren't so expensive.

(By the way, the Endangered Species is my absolute favorite brand of chocolate.  The best bar - in my opinion - is the 80% cocoa one.  But the 72% Dark Chocolate with Blueberries is a close second.  

Almond/hemp/rice/oat milks and protein powders.

3.  We bought me a NEW CAR!

We are now the proud owners of a 2007 Honda CRV!  We got a great price on the car, and it has less than 50,000 miles on it.  It also has leather seats, cruise control (a HUGE update for me), heated seats, all-wheel drive (which, was a MUST for Whidbey), an Ipod dock, and much, much more.  Needless to say, I am THRILLED!

4.  My hair keeps on growin'!

I am hoping that by my birthday at the beginning of the new year it will officially be back down to my shoulders.  For the longest time I felt like my hair was growing at a snail's pace, but now when I compare pictures from my last birthday to now, I am amazed at how much it has grown.  If you don't believe me, see for yourself below!

January 8, 2012
October 27, 2012

I feel like it will DEFINITELY be back down to my shoulders by the time I hit the big 2-9!

Question of the Day:

Are there any "local gems" where you live?  If so, what are they?  Do you visit them often?  What makes these places special enough to call them a "local gem"?!

Ally and Bo

October 22, 2012

Book Review: Women Food and God

Have you ever read a book that articulated something you have been thinking - or feeling - in a way that finally clicked...you know, gave you that "AH-HA!" moment that you have been waiting for?!  Well, I just finished reading exactly that kind of book, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you today.  The book is Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth.

No matter how sophisticated or wealthy or broke or enlightened you are, how you eat tells all. 
After three decades of studying, teaching and writing about our compulsions with food, bestselling author Geneen Roth adds a powerful new dimension to her work in Women Food and God.  She begins with her most basic concept: The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive.  Your relationships with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation, and, yes, even God. 
A timeless and seminal work, Women Food and God shows how going beyond the food and the feelings takes you deeper into realms of spirit and soul - to the bright center of your own life.

Yes, back in 2010, Oprah Winfrey had Roth on her show.  In fact, after reading Roth's book, Oprah vowed that she was through with dieting - forever - as in, never again.  I don't know about you, but if something as simple as a book could get Oprah off of her decades-long diet rollercoaster, well then, I'm intrigued.  After reading the book myself, I can understand Oprah's reaction.  Practically every other page of my copy is dog-eared, lines upon lines of Roth's words are underlined, and the margins are covered with my written reflections, reactions, and responses.

Roth says, "every single person has a shtick with food and therefore everyone should read this book." 

The take-away is this, whoever you are, READ. THIS. BOOK.


Just in case you aren't convinced, here is a L-O-N-G list of my favorite quotes from the book.  If these quotes don't perk your interest, well then, I give up.  Here goes:

  • About God - "And I believe in love.  And beauty.  I believe that every single person has something they find beautiful and that they truly love...And I believe that if you follow this love all the way to its end, if you start with the thing you find most beautiful and trace its perfume back to its essence, you will perceive an intangible presence, a swath of stillness that allows the thing you love to be visible like the openness of the sky reveals the presence of the moon." (Pg. 25)
  • Ending the War - "But fixing ourselves is not the same as being ourselves...The relentless attempts to be thin take you further and further away from what could actually end your suffering: getting back in touch with who you really are.  Your true nature.  Your essence." (Pg. 32-33)
  • Beyond What's Broken - "Realize that brokenness is learned, not innate, and that [your] work is to find [your] way back to what is already whole. " (Pg. 65)
  • Breath by Breath - "The problem isn't that we have bodies; the problem is that we're not living in them...Change happens not by hatred but by love.  Change happens when you understand what you want to change so deeply that there is no reason to do anything but act in your own best interest.  When you begin to inhabit your body from the inside." (Pg. 120-121)
  • Being Hot Fudge Sundaes - "It's never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale.  We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around   When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels." (Pg. 174)
  • Breath by Breath - "There is no way back to the body; the body is the way.  You leave and then you return.  Leave and return.  You forget and then you remember.  Forget. Remember.  One breath and then another.  One step and then another...And it doesn't matter how long you've been gone; what matters is that you've returned...Soon you begin wondering where you've been all this time.  How you wandered so far.  And you realize that torture isn't having these arms or these legs; it's being so convinced that God is out there, in another place, another realm, that you miss the lavender slip of moon, your own awakened presence." (Pg. 125)

Question of the Day:

Have you ever read a book that said something in a way that you had an "AH-HA!" moment?  If so, I would love to hear all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

October 18, 2012

Cranberry Citrus Muffins

"Bo and I can't seem to get enough of the Cranberry Orange Bread that I made...This bread has an incredibly delicious muffin-like texture that [we] loved!  We have eaten this bread simply with butter, crumbled it over yogurt, crumbled it over ice cream, and now used it as a topping for a smoothie.  In fact, I can't wait to go to the grocery store this weekend to buy several more bags of cranberries just so that I can bake another loaf."

So, that's exactly what I did.

Except this time, instead of making a loaf of bread, I was inspired by the "muffin-like texture" to actually make, well, muffins!  
And just let me tell you, these muffins are D.I.V.I.N.E.!  
As in, without a doubt, worthy-of-being-sold-in-any-of-the-world's-best-bakeries, DIVINE!

In order to make the muffin recipe work, I had to tweak my inspiration-recipe even more so than last time.  The end result is worthy of being called a recipe all its own.  So, without any further ado, here ya go!

Cranberry Citrus Muffins
Serves 12

2C organic all-purpose flour
3/4C sugar
2 stevia packets
1 3/4tsp baking powder
1tsp (scant) salt
1/2tsp baking soda
3/4C orange juice, with pulp (if possible)
zest of one lemon
1T vegetable oil
1T applesauce
1 egg
1 bag of frozen cranberries, left whole

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together dry ingredients (minus lemon zest and cranberries).
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (minus lemon zest and cranberries).
  • Fold in the lemon zest and cranberries.
  • Fill nonstick-sprayed muffin liners to the top with batter.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes, and again at 35 minutes, to ensure that the muffins don't burn.
    • Note: My oven bakes notoriously slow.  Therefore, if you have a fast-baking oven, 30-35 minutes might suffice.  Remember, however, that this batter is dense, and will take more time than some other muffin recipes to bake through.
  • Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and placing onto a cooling rack.
  • Once fully cooled, muffins can be frozen for up to three months.

Aren't these muffins beautiful?! 

I wish my mom lived closer because I would bake a batch specifically for her.  She loves cranberry orange muffins, and I KNOW that she would love these!

Oh well, I guess that leaves more for Bo and I...hehehe. :)

...by the way, is it considered lunch if I just eat two Cranberry Citrus Muffins?...

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite kind of muffin?  Blueberry?  Chocolate Chip?  Cranberry Orange?  Bran?  Lemon Poppyseed?  Truly, the options are practically endless!

Ally and Bo

October 17, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus

Since early September, I've been suffering from a SERIOUS "book hangover." The culprit, of course, was Tiger's Destiny (The Tiger's Curse Series: Book 4).

And that's the problem with a really good book.  

Inevitably, that really good book makes it incredibly hard to find another book that grabs your attention and makes you want to read again.  With that said, over the last month I have picked up no short of half a dozen different books, only to put them down again after reading the first 20-30 pages.  They just weren't good enough to follow-up Tiger's Destiny.

Until now.

I just finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it was AWE-some!  I think the fact that it falls into the "fantasy fiction" genre didn't hurt either.  That certainly helped it's case in following up one of the books from my favorite series of all time (of course, I'm talking about the one and only Tiger's Curse Series).  So, without any further ado, here's a synopsis of this newly released must-read!


The circus arrives without warning.  No announcements precede it.  It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.  Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements.  It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. 
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors.  Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing.  Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.



For fans of The Time Traveler's Wife and The Tiger's Wife, The Night Circus will be an automatic hit.  Much like The Time Traveler's Wife, the novel jumps back and forth through place and time during the 19th century, "and that dislocation mirrors the magic afoot in the circus tents.  Points of views shift, narration and tangential vignettes occur, and the short chapters are more cinematic in their pacing than literary." (Source)  If you like novels that jump around while narrating from different times and perspectives, well then, Morgenstern's book will be right up your alley!

If you are drawn to stories rich in detail, background, and description (much like The Tiger's Wife), then the telling of The Night Circus' decades-long duel will be a perfect fit for your reading pleasure.  Uniquely, the duel is not punctuated "with wands or light sabers - but via [Celia and Marco's] heartfelt creations and manipulations - a maze of clouds, an ice garden, a living carousel.  They one-up each other until they fall madly in love. (Source)


The Night Circus is a relatively slow read.  Much of the book is constituted by elaborate descriptions of the circus and its main characters; and if for no other reason, that means that this book is a perfect fit for some readers and a total misfit for others.  If you are a reader that craves action and dialogue, well then, The Night Circus might not be the book for you.  However, if you appreciate descriptive narrative and enjoy learning about what's going on in the hearts and minds of a stories' protagonists, then this book should be a perfect fit!

Finally, some of the books biggest potential questions are left unanswered...untapped...undiscovered.  In some ways, I am inclined to say that Morgenstern played it a little too safe.  So many of the questions related to love and loss are left untouched.  I was left wondering - or rather, having to figure out on my own - how two orphaned children that were raised without love or affection could so naturally have the ability to love one another.  Is love innate?  Is it learned?  How are children that were unloved for so long inherently able to love one another so perfectly?


Regardless, in the end I was happy to have read The Night Circus.  It was fun.  It was beautiful.  It was a love story...albeit an imperfect one.  And, thankfully, at the end of the day, it pulled me out of an almost month-long "book hangover"!

Question of the Day:

What's the best book you have read recently?  I NEED suggestions!

Ally and Bo

October 14, 2012

Northeast Florida Yoga Fest

Yesterday I had the honor of teaching in - and helping to organize - the 2nd annual North Florida Yoga Fest!  Since I wasn't around for last year's inaugural event, I didn't quite now what to expect.

But let me tell you, this event was OFF-THE-CHARTS AMAZING!

Savasana - Corpse Pose

Hundreds of yogis and yoginis circulated throughout the days' events.  There were children as young as 7 and 8 year's, as well as men and women in their 70's, all practicing on their mats at the same time.  It was truly AWE-inspiring!  The event also raised funds for Off the Mat, Into the World: a non-profit organization founded by yogi Seane Corn that uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and to ignite grassroots social change.  100% of the funds raised will go directly to Off the Mat, Into the World!  According to the donation page this morning, almost $5,000 were raised for the cause: power of yogis/inis UNITE!

Savasana - Corpse Pose

The North Florida Yoga Fest is a collaboration of the Northeast Florida yoga community  to share yoga with everyone regardless of age, size, or ability.  Our mission is to preserve the integrity of yoga and share all the practices in a playful, loving, and  non-intimidating environment.  Yoga studios from all over North Florida come together once a year to bring you a family friendly yoga festival with some of the best teachers and classes in one place!!
Chandrasana - Crescent Moon Pose

Chandrasana - Crescent Moon Pose

Look at those two cutie pie's practicing Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svanasana) with their mother!  Just imagine, by the time they are teenagers they will both be rock-star yoginis!

Just look at all those three-legged doggies!

Later in the afternoon, I served as one of twelve teachers in the "108 Sun Salutations to Benefit Off the Mat, Into the World" class.  Although it's blurry, below is the photographic evidence that I did, indeed, teach on a stage in front of hundreds of yogi/inis!

My, oh my, that was both thrilling AND a bit nerve-wracking!

Just look at all of those gorgeous Downward Facing Dogs!

Anjaneyasana - Low Lunge

Shining the heart towards the heavens in a gentle backbend!
Opening the heart space can feel SO yummy!

If you don't want to take my word for how AWE-some yesterday was, then here are just a few examples of what people had to say about Yoga Fest on Facebook last night:
  • "Amazing group of energy today!  Thank you to all the yoga fairies who sprinkles their pixie dust under the bridge today!
  • Awesome event! HUGE thanks to all! Organizers and participants!  Offering gratitude!!!
  • You all did SUCH an amazing job!  Thank you!  Peace!

Talk about words of praise!  

Although I won't be in Jacksonville for next year's Yoga Fest, I can only imagine that it will continue to grow and grow, and become more and more empowering for practitioners all over North East Florida.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of it this year, and know that I will take this passion and beautiful energy with me as I head to Whidbey Island, WA in a few weeks.

JAI Jacksonville yogis/inis!
(P.S. Jai means "victory" or "victorious" in Sanskrit.)

Question of the Day:

What's the most recent event you have attended in your community?! (i.e. Fall Festival?  Summer Concert?  etc.)

Ally and Bo

October 12, 2012

Cranberry Chai Smoothie

Fall in Jacksonville, FL is a bit schizophrenic.  For example:

Three days ago the high was 71 degrees.

Yesterday is was 89 (90 with the heat index)...and Bo asked me if I wanted to go to the beach.  
Yes...it is mid-October and we talked about going to the beach!

Some people might be thrilled with a mid-October day that is 89 degrees.  
I miss the Aspen leaves changing to bright yellow in Santa Fe.  

I miss dressing in layers.  
(My poor scarves, coats, and boots are gathering layers of dust.)

I miss wanting hot oatmeal in the morning.  

I miss craving pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  

Oh wait, I still crave those things...even when it is 90 degrees outside!   

So what is the solution to both respecting weather schizophrenia AND quenching my food cravings?!
Why, a smoothie of course!

But not just any smoothie.  
This smoothie is cold enough to cool off even the hottest summer day, AND is exploding with antioxidant-rich fall flavors.


Cranberry Chai Spice Smoothie
Serves 1

1 very ripe frozen banana
1/2C unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4C Oregon Chai Sugar Free Chai Tea Latte Concentrate
1/4C homemade cranberry sauce (I used half stevia, half sugar)
1/2tsp xantham gum
3 dashes of cinnamon
3-5 ice cubes

  • Place all ingredients into a high speed blender.
  • Pulse a couple of times to begin blending ingredients.
  • Blend on high for 30-60 seconds until fully incorporated.
  • Serve chilled, and topped with chunks of homemade Cranberry Orange Bread (Optional, but HIGHLY recommended!).

Bo and I can't seem to get enough of the Cranberry Orange Bread that I made.  In case you were wondering, I did make a few changes to the recipe, including:
  • using White Whole Wheat flour;
  • reducing the sugar to 3/4C;
  • using lemon peel in place of the orange peel (Hey, I use what I have on hand!);
  • substituting Smart Balance for shortening;
  • leaving the cranberries whole instead of chopping them;
  • not adding nuts; OH and,
  • cooking it for 1 hour and 15 minutes (instead of 55 minutes...it took FOREVER to cook through!).

This bread has an incredibly delicious muffin-like texture that Bo and I loved!  We have eaten this bread simply with butter, crumbled it over yogurt, crumbled it over ice cream, and now used it as a topping for a smoothie.  In fact, I can't wait to go to the grocery store this weekend to buy several more bags of cranberries just so that I can bake another loaf!

So, if fall is having a difficult time coming out where you live, think about smoothies.  They are the perfect marriage for warm weather and fall flavors. :)

Question of the Day:

Do you ever make your own smoothies?  If so, what are some of your favorite flavor combinations?

Ally and Bo