April 15, 2014

Top Ten Things I'm Grateful For Today

Gratitude. It's a buzzword right now. The idea of gratitude is everywhere, it seems. And yet I'm not so sure there is actual gratitude everywhere, these days. Research says that grateful people live longer and happier lives. Spiritual teachers tell us that gratitude is essential to a fulfilling life. So, in the spirit of gratitude...this simple act of recognizing the things we are grateful for each day...today's Top Ten Tuesday list is...

Top Ten Things I'm Grateful For Today
10. My morning workout.
9. The first warming sip of my morning coffee. (And, well, really, that whole darn cup of coffee. And the second one. And, um, the Keurig and coffeeshops that brew that coffee for me. :-)
8. Fresh baked cookies. (Because, even if you aren't currently eating one, you can close your eyes and call-up the memory of biting into that soft, warm cookie and savoring the taste on your tongue. And that is always something to be grateful for.)
7. My strong and soft body that gets me through each day and every crazy workout, and bore my children, and lets me carry them and cuddle them, and bears the brunt of my occasional nasty thoughts and words about it without complaint.
6. Books. Books. Books. (And bookstores. And libraries. And cozy reading nooks. And...)
5. The warmth and brightness of the Spring sunshine.
4. The flowers and buds that are finally out and reaching toward that warm, bright sun.
3. An unexpected call and delightful conversation with a dear friend.
2. The warmth of my husband by my side...on the couch, in bed, and in life.
1. The two amazing children looking up at me. Every. Glorious. Day.

Until next time, take a moment to stop and smell the flowers in your life...and be grateful.

April 11, 2014

This Week in Food…Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Yogurt Dressing

Spring had finally sprung! Hurrah! Time to move more and eat lighter. Which means...it's SALAD TIME! Soooooo.....

Here's a yummy salad recipe. It's my new Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Yogurt Dressing. And it would be fantastic enjoyed as a nice, light dinner on a warm evening while relaxing on your back patio. It's pretty simple, maybe 15-20 minutes to prep. Feel free to tweak your salad ingredients with what you like-- though I really recommend the creaminess (and healthfulness) of the avocado, if you like them. You could certainly add chopped tomato, just get rid of the watery insides so it doesn't get soupy (or use grape tomatoes).

Also, tweak the dressing as you like it. The way I've written the recipe, you'll end up with something slightly sweet (because of the honey) and with a little southwestern flair (because of the cumin and cilantro). If you like more bite to your dressing, decrease the honey and up the cumin and maybe throw in some chili powder. You could even add a little taco seasoning in place of the cumin, if you like. I highly recommend getting your "base" going with the main ingredients listed and then add a little something, blend and taste; add more, or something else, blend and taste again. Keep this up until you get a dressing you love. That's what I did. Don't be afraid to play with it!!

Recipe adapted from thegardengrazer.com

Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Yogurt Dressing
1-2 Romaine hearts, chopped (depending on the size of your romaine heads and the amount of salad you want to end up with; I only used one.)
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
2 c. frozen sweet corn, thawed completely but still cool (you can thaw it quickly by dumping it in a bowl and covering it in cold water; let it sit for a few minutes then drain and use.)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
(optional: chopped, cooked fajita chicken strips...if you want chicken; but remember you've already got the protein in the black beans)

for the dressing
1 c. loosely packed fresh cilantro, large stems removed
1 small container plain Greek yogurt (mine was 5.3 oz), or about a 1/2 c.
the juice of 1/2 lime (really get all of the juice out of it!)
1 clove of garlic or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
3-4 tsp honey*
1 tsp cumin*

Prep your salad ingredients and put all of them in a large bowl. Mix gently to combine. Put all dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until thoroughly combined and a creamy consistency (it should be a nice bright green color). Tweak as needed. Once you are happy with the dressing, you can either dress the whole salad or dress the individual servings. (If you don't plan to eat the entire salad at one meal, I recommend dressing each serving and storing leftover salad and dressing separately.) Pour the desired amount of dressing on the salad and toss gently to coat everything in dressing. Enjoy!

*Note: The honey cuts the bite of the cilantro. I recommend adding it one tsp at a time and then tasting until you get it where you like it. I do not measure my honey. I just squeeze some in, a little at a time, and then tasted it-- so the 3-4 tsp is a guess at how much I use. Same thing with the cumin. I add about a 1/4 tsp at a time until I got it where I wanted it...which I think was about 1 tsp.

Until next time, happy (and healthy) eating!

April 8, 2014

Top Ten Favorite Workout Videos

I have been, off and on for most of my adulthood, a pretty heavy workout video user. Though there have been times when I worked out at a gym or only ran or walked for exercise (or was a couch potato), much of the time at-home workout videos have been a mainstay in my workout diet.

So I thought I'd share a few of my favorites from over the years…as well as this one little tip: if you have a great local library where you can check out dvd's (like I used to Ohio), the library is a fantastic place to tryout workout videos before you buy them…or just to mix up your workout routine--challenging yourself and your muscles and staving off boredom, with regular workout change-ups. I would simply research workout videos and create a list of ones I was interested in. Then I would put a couple on hold at my local library. I'd check them out and use them, then, as I needed to return them, I'd add others to my hold list or just randomly pull something off the shelves. It was great.

Workout dvd's can provide an excellent workout. They can make-up your entire workout regiment or act as a great supplement to a running, walking or cycling routine. Many are relatively inexpensive, they're always right there--just a few clicks on the remote away--and they aren't weather dependent, giving them a leg up on gym memberships and outdoor exercise. You can also do them with the kids right there. Let them join in the workout or give them something to do nearby. Then you're getting your workout in AND you're setting a really good example when they can actually SEE you sweating to the oldies (or whatever).

That said, here are some of the workout videos (or sets) that I have liked in recent years:

Top Ten Favorite Workout Videos
10a. Denise Austin Yoga Essentials. It's old. I don't even know if you can still get it. But I put it on the list because she might have newer ones that are good as well and I just haven't used them. I have done a lot of yoga videos over the years and I always come back to this one. I think Denise Austin can be pretty annoying sometimes as an instructor, but I always found this yoga workout both soothing and invigorating, both accessible for a beginner and challenging enough for someone who's practiced. It's basic. But it's good.
10b. Slim in 6. This is particularly good if you're new to working out or are just getting back into it (say, after a pregnancy). The workouts are simple and straightforward but effective. And it builds in workout length and intensity over time. But I still will use the initial (shortest) workout when I'm mixing things up with various dvd's.
9. Jackie Warner Xtreme Time Saver Training. Jackie can be mildly awkward at times but I think she gives a good workout and knows her stuff. And I'm down with anything that gets it done in 30 minutes.
8. Yoga Shakti with Shiva Rea. This is probably my favorite yoga dvd. You can customize your workouts with a menu at the beginning making it as long or short as you want and choosing what series of poses you do and don't want to do. Plus she's pretty cool.
7. Turbo Jam. This is the original set and add-on's from 6 or 8 years ago. It is fun and it makes you sweat. I would imagine that Chalene Johnson's newer stuff is pretty great too.
6. The Firm Body Sculpting System 2. I used to be addicted to The Firm workouts. And I likely will be again some day. I was working out with The Firm back in the days of VHS. This particular set is from maybe 10 years ago (it is dvd, though). Overall, I think they put together quality workouts, wether it's this set or another of theirs.
5. P90X. It's a major commitment. 90 days of one hour a day, six days a week, workouts. But it gets it done. And it's great for both women and men. My husband and I did this together a few years back. Good bonding time.
4. Power90 Fat Burning Express. This is a little one-off workout from Tony Horton's original Power90 workouts. But it's 30 minutes and for some reason I just love this little workout--it's fun, engaging, fast paced and filmed outside in Hawaii.
3. Transform Your Body with Brooke Burke: Strength & Condition. Do this if for no other reason than to look at Brooke Burke's body and think…she has lots of kids, maybe I really could look like that. Because that chick has one hot body. And it's a nice workout.
2. Jillian Michael's Extreme Shed and Shred. Jillian Michaels is a bit of a goof, but she knows what she's doing and she gives a good workout…pretty much always. I think this is a really good workout and I also like her original 30 Day Shred.
1. P90X3. This is my current pain-maker. Just like P90X workouts but in 30 minutes…which I find much more manageable in my life with kids. We just started it a few weeks ago (my husband and I are doing it together this time too), but I can already tell you that Tony Horton delivers once again.

There you have it. Ten great workout dvd's. The next ones on my list to try are Focus T25 (and maybe the Insanity workouts) with Shaun T, Chalene Johnson's ChaLEAN Extreme, and the Physique 57 workouts. Plus I'm interested in this kettle bell workout: http://www.shopkettlebellkickboxing.com. You can check out my Health and Fitness board on Pinterest here: http://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/health-and-fitness/ for some other ideas/articles/whatnot for fitness information and inspiration.

Do you have any favorite workout dvd's? If so, I'd love to hear about them so I can add them to my list.

Until next time, happy sweating.

April 4, 2014

Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad…I am so in love!

Here's a great little summer dish. A perfect side for whatever you've thrown on the grill. A great dish to pass for that neighborhood BBQ. A lovely salad to just make up and leave in the fridge for easy lunches on a hot day. It's Ramen Noodle Salad.

Now, I'm not sure this dish actually qualifies as clean eating, despite the word "salad" in it's name…what with the ramen noodles and the seasoning packet. But it is so seriously good that I could have eaten the ENTIRE giant bowl of it. Seriously. When I made it last week I could not stop eating it. It might actually be a little addictive. So, don't say I didn't warn you...

Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad
2 pkg uncooked ramen noodles
2.5 oz sliced almonds (or just a big handful)
3/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. finely chopped onion (whatever kind you have)
1 bag broccoli slaw
2 ramen noodle seasoning packets
3/4 c. oil (use what you like; I used canola oil)
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. sugar
optional chopped grilled chicken

Combine the first 5 ingredients in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients, mixing well with a whisk until sugar completely dissolves. (Note: I went a little light on the oil and sugar measurements; also note: you could use a little sesame oil as part of your total oil measurement.) Pour over noodle mix. Top with chicken, if desired (I kept mine all veggie). Mix to combine. Refrigerate 1-4 hours depending on how crunchy vs. soft you like the noodles. Mix again before serving. Enjoy!

Notes: I ate some of the salad right after making it when the noodles were still totally crunchy and loved it that way. If you like the crunch, only refrigerate it for about 30-60 minutes before serving. That's enough time for the flavors to meld a bit and to chill the salad, without losing the noodle crunch.

Until next time, happy eating!

P.S. This is also a perfect, simple dish for kids to help make. My almost 3 year old did most of the work on this one.

April 1, 2014

Top Ten Mantras For My Life Right Now

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! (actually on Tuesday…score!)

Lately I've been thinking more and more about what I want my daily life to look like and the person I really want to be. I sometimes feel as if I get so caught up in just getting things done, that I'm not really living my life. It's so easy to do, you know. It's such a slippery slope. You're being a productive citizen. You're taking care of kids and a house and work. You're busy. Then you can wake up one day and wonder where the time went. And wonder who you are.

As much as we don't know who we are yet as teenagers, I feel like so many of us are closer to our authentic selves then than we are in midlife. Maybe that's because most of us have the luxury as teenagers to be entirely self-focused. And we don't feel the heavy weight of responsibilities or have the laundry list of to do's.

This then gets me to wondering if my life today (the life that has me rushing out the door each day, driving all over town, hurrying my kids along, "running" to the store, and checking things off my list) really reflects my values and that "authentic self". Just the other night my husband and I were talking about how fast our kids are growing up and how we don't want to miss it because we have stuff to do. We know these are the best years of our life and we don't want to miss them.

We talked about actually writing down our mission, vision and values for our family, just like we've done so many times before for the businesses we've worked on. Then figure out how to make our daily family life better reflect that. But how do you still get the stuff done that needs to get done (like laundry and grocery shopping and birthday present shopping and school and cooking dinner)? I don't have the answer yet. But I'm working on figuring all of this out for myself. And while I'm doing that, I've find one tool that helps me a lot. Mantras. And, especially, mantras with touchstones that help me remember those mantras throughout the day.

And that's what today's top ten list is all about. A mantra is a sacred utterance. A truism. An instrument of the mind. A prayer just for you. For me, it's a way to remind myself, amidst the craziness, what is really important to me. So I've captured here ten of the mantras that help me in my life right now. I have also found that having touchstones for these mantras-- physical reminders of them-- helps me, in the moment, remember what is important.

I have a necklace that simply says Writer to remind me that is what I am. And I have bracelets that say only love today, to remind me that that is what I want to give out to the world; and live hands free, to remind me that I don't want my kids' memories of their childhood to be of me with an iPhone in my face; and If you want to be a writer, write. (see photo below) These are things I look at-- maybe when I'm getting frustrated and am about to yell at my child-- and remember, Nope, I'm not going to yell. I'm choosing to live from a place of only love today. Or I hold up my phone to check Facebook and then see my live hands free bracelet…so I put the phone down and focus on my kids instead.

Maybe one or some of these mantras will resonate for you. Or maybe they'll inspire you to find ones that do. Then find or make a touchstone for yourself. Even if you just write it down and hang it on the fridge or put it in your wallet or the car.

So here they are, my top ten mantras for my life right now:

Top Ten Mantras for My Life Right Now

10. If you want to be a writer, write.  …or…  Just do it.
9. I am peace. I am love. I am wisdom. I am happiness.
8. Slow down.  …or… Don't do. Just be.
7. Be here.
6. Just listen.
5. Choose joy.  …or… Enjoy today.
4. Live hands free.
3. Let it go.
2. Only love today.
1. Breathe.

Thank you to some of the folks whose wisdom has added to this list for me this last year, like Ashley at lilblueboo and Rachel at handsfreemama and Disney's Frozen :-). For more inspirational mantras, thoughts and quotes, check out my Pinterest board, Yeah, that's about right, with some of my favorites. You can find it here: Amy Lorbach on Pinterest: Yeah that's about right. And, if you're looking for a little more inspiration to make some changes in your life, listen to this song by India Aire: India Aire- Break the Shell.

Then, when in doubt, (when you really need a pick-me-up) watch this and set your piggies free: Sesame Street Set Your Piggies Free. Just because it will make you feel better (and because walking barefoot in the cool, green grass is both very grounding and very freeing).

Until next time, be inspired.


P.S. Mantra number 9 is great for deep breathing exercises. Breath in a two count on "I am peace. I am love." and breathe out a two count on "I am wisdom. I am happiness."

P.P.S. You can find the leather live hands free and only love today bracelets here: http://shop.handsfreemama.com. And the writer necklace and bracelet both came from etsy shops…etsy is a great place to find--or have specially made--your own touchstones.

March 28, 2014

Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen…A Great Little YA Summer Read!

Here's a quick little book recommendation for you…

I recently finished Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen-- a recommendation from my YA novel-devouring, 17 year old niece. It's my first Sarah Dessen book (she's quite prolific) and I will read more. I found this book very sweet (in a good way, not syrupy-sweet). A quick and easy read. And well written. Dessen's writing style is engaging and she has good pacing. Her characters are smart and sometimes surprising.  And, as you know, I love these YA books that take me back to the feelings of being a teenager.

Auden, our teenage protagonist who recently graduated high school, hasn't slept at night since before her parents divorced, and fills most of her time with homework and books…and lives mostly in her own head. Now she's been invited to spend the summer before college with her dad's new family in a small, quaint beach town. There she stumbles into the teenage life she's always avoided…friends, boys, and the social world. There she meets Eli. And there she finds herself suddenly sucked into her father and stepmother's shaky new world. At first her new-found engagement in the real world is an accident, but soon it becomes a purposeful quest. And soon, Auden is awakened…and sleeping at night once again.

Along For The Ride is not a never-heard-before story. But Dessen does a good job with her version of it, offering you a relaxing, enjoyable reading experience and a great little YA summer read.

P.S. I hate the cover art on this book because it does not accurately capture the characters and this really bugs me. Just sayin'.

P.P.S. I am now reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave. What a change! It is so well written, but so disturbing and depressing…haunting, really. It definitely forces you to acknowledge that your problems are truly first world problems. And, multiple times in the first 100 pages I double-checked the author's picture because I couldn't believe it was written by a man (no offense to male writers or Chris Cleave-- actually it's a compliment to Chris Cleave-- but it's written from the perspective of two women and is so well done). I am also simultaneously reading four other parenting/life books all of which I will likely share with you once I'm done because I am loving them (and being challenged by them). I wish I could take a month and let the house and all of my responsibilities go and do nothing but read. :-)

Until next time, happy reading!

March 26, 2014

Top Ten Favorite K-Cups

It's Top Ten Tuesday! Hurray! (I know it's actually Wednesday, but just go with it…)

This week's top ten list is pretty simple and straight-forward. As I'm sure you've gleaned from my blog, if you read along with any frequency, I am a coffee lover. A borderline coffee junkie. I love coffeeshops. I love coffee. I drool over a Starbuck's Nonfat Latte. And I savor a straight-up medium roast with room for cream at my local Cocoa Beanery. At home I brew with my trusty Keurig.

I drink a lot of flavored k-cups at home. Regular in the morning. Decaf in the afternoon. I top it off with half & half…and on the weekends, a little whip cream. In the coffeeshop I shake in some cinnamon too. But my husband goes no-flavor on the coffee and then adds flavored creamer (he likes the Bailey's creamers). I also drink a fair amount of tea…both iced and hot. And brew those with my Keurig as well.

We order k-cups in large quantities…giant boxes of warmth and happiness delivered to our doorstep every few months. We order mostly from Keurig.com…sometimes from Green Mountain. I also will randomly pick up boxes from Target or Bed Bath & Beyond or Macy's (one of my favorite flavors isn't available through Keurig.com…which is annoying).

Anyway, that's the long way of saying: I drink a lot of coffee and therefore may be a reputable source for k-cup recommendations. :-)

So here you go: My Top Ten Favorite K-Cups

        Top Ten Favorite K-Cups
10. Bigelow Green Tea with Pomegranate (my husband's favorite for iced tea…just brew over a big glass of ice…it's too sweet for me, but he loves it)
9. Barista Prima Decaf Italian Roast (my husband's favorite decaf) and Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve Dark Roast Extra Bold (my husband's favorite regular); he also loves Wolfgang Puck's Jamaica Me Crazy (which has a light coconut flavor)
8. Folgers Gourmet Selections Vanilla Biscotti
7. Donut Shop Decaf Medium Roast Coffee
6. Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice Light Roast Coffee
5. Twinings Decaf Earl Grey Tea
4. Celestial Seasonings Decaf Green Tea (I do this one both hot and iced)
3. Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Light Roast Coffee
2. Green Mountain Hazelnut Decaf Light Roast Coffee
1. Gloria Jean's Macadamia Cookie Medium Roast Coffee

Let me know your favorites and I'll add them to my list to try!

Until next time, happy brewing!