speechless gratitude

Swagsters, yesterday was OUT OF CONTROL.

I got a wild hair yesterday morning and decided to send a progress photo to my trainers over at Tone It Up!, Karena and Katrina. I’ve been following their plan since March, and I love it. They taught me how to eat in a healthy way, in a way that I could be proud of and in a way that left me feeling sure I was properly nourished. They also inspired me to get off the cardio machine and start weight training. And last but not least, the community they have built has brought so many amazing people into my lives. I’ve honestly never been part of a community of women that is so supportive and inspiring in my entire life. I swear to you, nothing has been the same since I joined this plan. Every part of my life has become more enriched thanks to them. I highly recommend joining the team to any girl who wants to manifest a happy healthy life for herself!

Okay, off my soapbox. (Disclaimer: This is my own opinion of K&K and the Tone It Up! plan. They did not ask me to review or opine in anyway. I’m just that happy with these ladies. ❤ )

So the picture. I decided to send it not because of the physical side alone, but because I was proud enough to do it at all. Does that make sense? I didn’t want accolades for the physical changes, I was just so pleased to be willing to share. The physical changes mean nothing if I hadn’t grown strong enough mentally to appreciate them and my hard work.

So I sent them this picture via Twitter and Instagram:

woohoo!

And much to my surprise, and pleasure, my trainers tweeted me back!

*starstruck*

I was so excited that they were as proud of me as I was. What a blessing!

The rest of my morning was mostly spent responding to encouraging tweets from this wonderful community. I felt very lucky and blessed. The sun was shining down on me.

That afternoon I was off to work. Shortly after I got there, my phone started blowing up. I had texts and missed calls and facebook messages and tweets like crazy. What was going on?! I thought. When I read the first text I got, I was directed to this:

say whaaaaa????

My trainers had featured me on their facebook page! And they mentioned my blog!

I was floored. I wanted to run out of my job immediately and spend all night tweeting and facebooking my appreciation and gratitude.

And last night I looked at my blog statistics and saw this:

average day?

Oh you know… from 50-something views to over 800. NBD.

Now, the next day, I am still riding the high of gratitude. This journey would be nothing without the support of my trainers and this community. This is what makes it fulfilling. The encouragement, support, love and kindness from everyone that responded to these posts yesterday is why I keep doing what I’m doing. When I’m feeling impatient, unmotivated and down, I can always turn to this community and I will immediately be uplifted.

I wish words could even do justice to love that has filled my heart right now. The love that came from you all. The love that I’d like to give right back.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In the yoga world, there’s an exclamation that is used to celebrate something with lots of love: Jai!

That’s what my heart is screaming right now. Jai! Jai! Jai! Namaste! Jai!

Much love to all of you, my Swagsters. You’ve really given me new life, new purpose, new affirmation, and I owe you everything I have.

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living simply

In another lifetime, (at least it feels like another lifetime) I lived in a tiny studio apartment in historic Henderson, KY. It was a little green house, and my friend and I lived in the upstairs unit.

our little green house

We lived on a quiet little street that lead you directly to the river and the downtown area. We had 2 kitties, Lily and Harry. We shopped at the world’s tiniest farmer’s market, where we were able to only buy cucumbers, various forms of squash, tomatoes and the occasional red pepper. Strangers smiled, waved and inquired after your well-being. We biked or walked all over our little town. We had a very small shared living space that consisted of a kitchen table, 2 big fluffy chairs, a radio and just enough space to lay down our yoga mats. Our apartment was so small, our clothes closets were actually in the shared living space. We didn’t even have a TV. Most days, if there was sound coming from our wide open apartment windows, it was NPR over the radio. It was so quiet. So peaceful. So simple.

Why am I taking you on a tour of an apartment I lived in 3 years ago?

Admittedly, I am feeling incredibly nostalgic lately. I’m realizing that there is a big part of me that misses my Old Kentucky Home (if you’re from KY, you’ll get that reference). I miss the southern hospitality. But above all, I miss the simplicity of the way my roommate and I lived. It’s not that life was simple, it’s just that whenever we returned to our apartment, it welcomed us with simplicity. It was as though the apartment itself was saying, “Shhhh. You’re home now. Relax. Everything is okay.”

Before I get in over my head, let’s all agree that I’m having an existential crisis right now. Many days in a row I have been asking myself “Who am I, really?” Am I Kentucky Jenny? Am I Connecticut Jenny? Is there a Constant Jenny that links the two together? How does a person know when they are being their Authentic Self compared to when they are being the Adapted Self?

I know right?! I overwhelm myself sometimes.

After much meditation, lots of yoga, lots of looking inward, and a tear or three or four, I feel like I might finally be getting somewhere. I’m getting to a little green house in Henderson, KY. I’m getting to a place that welcomes me Home and says, “Be simple. Live simply.”

I can’t actually go back to Henderson. I can’t go back to that apartment. I can’t go back to the life I had there. But I can let simple be the essence of Constant Jenny.

This is probably an anticlimactic post because I don’t have a game plan. I can’t say to you, “These are the changes I am implementing.” I could say, “I haven’t watched TV in 3 days.” But that’s not the point. This is the kind of thing that happens organically and isn’t exactly tangible. What I can say is that this morning, for the first time since I moved to Connecticut, I feel like Me, capital M-me. It’s a feeling that words can’t do justice.

It feels simple. It feels good. It feels like home beyond geographical restraints.

Do you do anything that helps you remember who you really are? Meditate, pray, journal, etc?
Have you ever asked yourself these questions?  
What are your thoughts on living authentically?

I realize I’m not asking simple questions today, swagsters. But I invite you to explore this with me. We look outside of ourselves for answers more often than not, when sometimes, the answer is within us all along, if we’re just willing to go inside and listen.

ION and Om Street Yoga

Stay-cation is only just started and it’s already more amazing than I could’ve asked for.

Caitlin, Heather and I parted ways a little while ago, and now I’ve got about 2 hours til Holly’s train arrives. Instead of going to full into detail, I’m going to give you some pictures of the fun I’ve had in the past 24 hours.

Dinner at It’s Only Natural

Chalkboard tables are the best!

passing the time while we wait for dinner

Cait’s Katy Perry charade.

side salad with lemon tahini dressing.

dinner before: “cheese”burger and sweet potato fries

dinner after: it never stood a chance

Om Yoga in the Streets and breakfast at Hartford Baking Company

sangha, spreading compassionate practice

brought my protein pudding with me and enjoyed a delicious cup o’ joe

Heather, Cait and I just chatted our little hearts out. I have to say that I am really feeling a deep sense of gratitude right now. I have some very amazing women in my life. Our conversations always lead me to discovering something new about myself. People that help you know yourself on a deeper level are people you simply must keep around in your life.

Forgive me if I’m short and sporadic this weekend, I will try to check in as much as I can. However, these are the moments I live for, these are the days that all my practice of being healthy, strong and happy get to be rewarded. This is the stuff of life, and I have every intention of being there for it.

the heat wave

Happy hump day Swagsters!

Usually Wednesday being hump day doesn’t really do much for me. Working in the restaurant business kinda steals that away from you. But this week, I get a rare opportunity to enjoy this weekly phenomenon because after work on Friday, I’m officially on stay-cation until the following Tuesday! Yippee! I have lots of fun things planned starting with dinner at my all time favorite restaurant It’s Only Natural, in Middletown with two of my all time favorite people: Heather and Cait. Maybe you’ve heard me talk about them once or twice. 🙂 The next morning we’re going to a huge outdoor community yoga class in the middle of West Hartford Center. Saturday is also the day that my college best friend Holly comes to town! I can’t believe I haven’t seen her in nearly 3 years. Time flies, sometimes. Holly pretty much made my college experience amazing. We live very far apart now, she’s working on her PhD in Columbia, Missouri and is around my area attending a professional conference, so I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to see her. We have a lot of fun stuff planned as well, and I can’t wait to share it all with you! (Speaking of my college, Murray, KY was just named the Friendlies Town by USA Today Best of the Road 2012! Hooray Murray and MSU!)

Moving forward…

Let’s talk fitness. I feel like my workout routine is beginning to shift just a bit. It seems to have begun to do so pretty organically, on it’s own, and the past couple days I’ve been mulling over the ways in which I’d like to refine it. I’ve really been into doing BodyRockTV workouts lately. I love how intense they are, I’m always panting like a dog afterwards and even though they only last 12 minutes, I feel like I just worked for an hour. The problem I’ve encountered is that as much as I love to do high intensity almost every day, it’s a lot on the legs and after a couple days of HIIT, I need a break. But that’s the truth about HIIT workouts. They are called intense for a reason and your body needs adequate time to bounce back from that. So, for the sake of adding structure to my weeks, I’ve officially decided that for now, I’ll do two HIIT days followed by one yoga day. If I’m feeling it, I may throw in some upper body focus on yoga days. Rinse and repeat. I like the idea of this. It seems like a nice mixture of strength and flexibility!

So… it’s really hot. Again. I hate winter, I really do, but it’s hard not to wish summer away when I break a sweat making coffee in the morning. You’d think Mother Nature would be a little more considerate of those of us who don’t have the luxury of central air!

Because of this current heat wave, there is no part of me that wants anything to do with hot food. My lunch was hot yesterday, and it was sure tasty, but afterwards I knew that I had to keep it cool for the rest of the day. When it came time to think about dinner there was only one real option: salad. But I didn’t want just any average salad. I wanted something that was going to be interesting and memorable. Immediately I thought of that mango, coconut and pepper marinade sitting all cool and inviting in my fridge. But it’s kind of thick, so the bag of spring mix lettuces I had, I knew, wouldn’t stand up to it. What to do, then?

Enter: Jicama.

hello, lover.

I was impressed with my own genius on this one. Crunchy, light, and just a little sweet, jicama makes the perfect base for a summer salad.

I had planned to use the whole jicama, as it’s not very big, but as I got to slicing/shredding, I had a huge mound of salad after getting through just half of it. I also decided to shred some brussels sprouts into the mix. I almost never eat brussels sprouts any other way than crispy, roasted and lightly dipped smothered in ketchup, but I felt like going raw tonight was my only option. The last two components of my salad would be toasted coconut and tofu. Here’s what I ended up with:

the heat wave salad.

I call this baby The Heat Wave Salad, for more than one reason. First off, it’s PERFECT on a super hot day, when cooking seems like it could only lead to your own spontaneous combustion. Secondly, it’s SPICY thanks to the marinade.

This salad was so. good. It was so satisfying for being so light. I loved the raw, shredded brussels sprouts and definitely plan to eat them this way more often. The jicama was amazingly refreshing and the flavor profile of this marinade continues to blow my mind. Enjoy, swagsters!

The Heat Wave Salad
1 serving

1/4 block of extra firm tofu, pressed.
2 tbsp coconut flakes or shreds
1/2 medium jicama
4 brussels sprouts, stems removed
3 tbsp Cindy’s Kitchen Mango, Coconut and Pepper marinade

Cut your tofu into bite-size pizzas and place in a ziplock baggie with 1 tbsp of marinade. Set in the fridge to marinate while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Shave, shred or slice (to matchstick size) the jicama and set in your salad bowl. Cut the brussels sprouts in half, length-wise and then shred, working from the top of the sprout to the bottom. Place in your salad bowl and toss with jicama by hand. Pour the remaining 2 tbsp of marinade over jicama and sprouts, toss once more and set to the side. In a small skillet over med-high heat, place coconut shreds and toast until aromatic and browning. Careful not to burn! Once toasted, pour over your salad. Finally, remove tofu from the fridge, spray your skillet with non-stick spray and sautee your tofu. Careful, the hot pan may cause your sauce to spatter a bit. I took a few hits to the arm but nothing major. If you’d rather, use a new skillet that isn’t already hot as to avoid potential burns. Sautee tofu until it is crispy on all sides and pour over the top of your salad.

Eat, swoon, and look longingly forward to your next opportunity to munch on this baby.

Last thing for the day Swagsters… if you’re going along with me and listing 3 reasons you’re proud of yourself every night, keep going strong! I know it’s awkward at first, but it’s such great practice. It’s important to remind yourself you’re praiseworthy every day!

meditations on a sunday

Happy Sunday, swagsters! What’s on the docket today? I’m going to work before too long. Since it’s Sunday and we’re open for brunch, I have to be there earlier than normal. I made sure to get up extra early today so I could get in a quick workout and still have time to relax.

Sometimes I think it’s kind of backwards that I get up early so I can have time to relax in the mornings, but it is so necessary to me! Back when I started doing yoga, I learned something about myself: I thrive when I can move slowly. It gives me the space to be always aware of what’s going in within myself, the space to do more than just react to what’s going on around me. It’s so important to me to ease into my days. After my morning workouts, there is nothing I appreciate more than having plenty of time to make my breakfast, sit and enjoy a couple cups of coffee and do some internet errands. If I wake up and I have to rush, it kind of sets me off for a day of feeling frantic, and I find that I have a harder time thinking things through than normal. I’m just more reactive, and being reactive is a sure fire way to trigger my anxiety.

My approach to life is exactly the same as the yoga classes I taught: slow, yet strong. There’s beauty in taking the time to explore the present and appreciating the journey from moment to moment. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that there is no strength, or ability to be strong. Yoga taught me to be okay with struggling, because struggles are not permanent. I use to always say in my classes, “Find comfort in the discomfort.” Focusing on breathing and relaxing into the moment, no matter how much you want the moment to be over, is such a great skill to take into life. Once the tough moments ease up, the feelings of accomplishment and inner strength are so rewarding.

It’s interesting, because I’m in a line of work that calls for that reactivity that I loathe so much. I try to look at my job as a practice, though. As long as I have to be there, I might as well try and better myself for it. As much as I prefer moving slowly and with strength, life doesn’t always give me that liberty. Sometimes you have to move fast, sometimes you have to just fly by the seat of your pants and trust your gut. But you always have room to breathe. You always have room within you to create space, calm and peace. The outside world doesn’t have to take that away from you.

I’m going to leave you all with that thought. Practice your awareness today, your ability to breathe calmness into any situation.

I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’m planning to recap a week of swag-building, my wellness challenge at work and plan for the upcoming days as well. So start thinking about what goals you have for yourself this week!

Also if you’re interested in some food porn, check out yesterday’s post about National Macaroni Day!