Take Heart

heart nail


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and with it, there are hearts on every surface. But February is also National Heart Month and a great time to think about how to treat that ticker better and give it a long life. In November, I had the honor of walking with Team Jenny at the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk here in Pittsburgh. It was a cold. blustery day but it was hard not to feel inspired seeing the teams walking in honor of family members, friends, and to raise money for complete strangers. In addition, I met some amazing Jenny Craig success stories- women who had changed their lives by getting moving and taking their health to heart (pun alert!).

See- here’s the team, shivering and ready to hit the road!

Team Jenny

Since we’ve been eating healthier around here, The Lady is dropping pounds like crazy and heading to the gym to get her sweat on regularly. I’m working a lot these days, but I’ve been walking to the office in the evenings, and I’ve had the benefit of some heart-healthy meals from her strict attention to detail! My friends at Jenny Craig sent over some heart healthy tips that I wanted to pass along and a delicious recipe:

o Add a Pop of Color: Fill your plate with foods rich in water, fiber and protein and lower in fat. This principle known as the Volumetrics® Approach to eating allows you to eat more food, feel fuller and add nutrients with fewer calories. For example, mixing non-starchy vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli and peppers, into your pasta dish will lower the calorie density and enlarge your portion.

o Move More: Physical activity is a key component to weight loss success and keeping your heart healthy. Increasing your level of activity will not only help you to burn calories, but it will also reduce stress. Try integrating physical activity into your lifestyle so that you’re exercising without even knowing it – run around with your children, park further away from the door or take the stairs. You can even do body weight exercises in your own living room during commercial breaks of your favorite TV show. Just move more!

o Manage Your Portions: You can still eat the foods you love, but when preparing meals just be mindful of how much you’re piling on. If you use the plate method, 1/4 of your plate will have a serving of a starch, 1/4 will have a protein and 1/2 will have vegetables, which you can pile as high as you like (without additional fat). Remember the first bite tastes the best, so no need to eat too much.

o Join a Heart Walk: Join Team Jenny at one of the more than 300 Heart Walks across the country this year! Make the commitment to join a Heart Walk and take a stand in the fight against heart disease and help save lives. Not really sure where to begin? Take it slow! Just remember to start with a 5-minute warm-up and finish with a 5-minute cool-down every time you work out and be sure to stay hydrated. Click here to learn more about how you can join Team Jenny at a Heart Walk near you.

o Break for Breakfast: While it may seem like just a little meal you skip at the start of your daily routine, breakfast is truly the most important meal of your entire day. Not only does it help to boost your metabolism, it also keeps your blood sugar stable throughout the day. So the next time you’re moving a mile a minute, take a moment to slow down and grab a healthy bite in the morning. Your heart will thank you later!


Try this simple, heart healthy recipe the next time you’re making breakfast. This dish also incorporates the Volumetrics® Approach (exclusive to the Jenny Craig program), by including fresh veggies. This principle, founded by Dr. Barbara Rolls, Professor of Nutritional Sciences and the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, allows one to eat more food and feel fuller on fewer calories by choosing foods rich in water, fiber and protein and lower in fat.

Jenny Craig’s Spinach & Green Chile Omelette







4 egg whites

1/2 cup nonfat milk

salt and pepper to taste

1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies

1 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/3 cup shredded spinach leaves

2 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream

nonstick vegetable spray



1. Spray large skillet with nonstick spray and heat over medium heat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, milk, salt and pepper.

3. Cook the egg mixture over medium-heat for about 3 minutes or until sides start to set.

4. Place green chilies, bell pepper and spinach leaves on one side of the egg mixture and fold in half.

5. Cook for an additional minute, or until vegetables are soft.

6. Cut omelette in half, top with sour cream and serve.


For more information on Jenny Craig, visit: http://www.jennycraig.com/. And, don’t forget to visit http://www.jennycraig.com/heart-walk to learn about how Jenny is supporting the American Heart Association’s My Heart. My Life. ™ initiative. Here, you will soon be able to sign up for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walks taking place in over 300 cities through 2013.

(SPONSORSHIP NOTE: I have received no compensation for this post or the included content.)


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I Took a Sick Day


I need this sweater while I spend my day recovering.

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Sometimes You Need A Muffin

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I woke up this morning with a case of the sniffles. I refuse to call it a full-blown cold, because I need denial to function. After a sudden three-inch snowfall, I also needed a muffin. Not just any muffin- I needed a donut pretending to be a muffin.

In a Pinterest frenzy one day, I came across this delicious looking gluten-free banana chocolate chip donut recipe from Janie’s Kitchen. Since we can have gluten and I don’t own a donut baking pan (yet), I whipped up the slightly altered, lazy, sloppy, less healthy recipe below into some heavenly warm muffins in a jiffy and knocked back two with a milk chaser before bed. Take that snow and sniffles!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins


  • 1 cup Mashed Ripe Banana (Roughly 2 small bananas)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Butter (Melted)
  • 2 Eggs (Room Temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Chocolate Chips (I used a bag with half peanut butter chips, because YUM)


1. Preheat the oven to 325F
2. In a large bowl, stir mashed banana, sugar and greek yogurt with a fork.

Mix until incorporated.

3. Add melted butter, eggs and vanilla extra and mix.
4. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the batter and mix

until just incorporated. Do not over mix!

5. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Grease muffin tins or use liners (I only had six

liners, so I did half of each- so fancy around here).

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes- they should start to get a

little golden on top and a sharp knife will come out clean

if you poke them in a non-chips region; they look a little

lumpy on top, but that’s what makes them delicious.

8. Makes 12 muffins- I filled the tins all the way to the top-

they only rise a little bit.

9. If you end up with some spare batter and can’t wait 15-20

minutes, put on your flannel pajamas and throw it in a mug

in the microwave for five minutes, then eat that with a fork.

I am not recommending this lifestyle, but you have to do what

you have to do when you have the sniffles.

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Step One- Handle My Money

In 2012, I had a lot of adventures- trips to Napa Valley, New Orleans, and Florida, which made great memories. The Lady has also racked up some medical bills while waiting out a settlement from a car accident that could take years to complete. Because I hadn’t saved up for most of them ahead of time (not a smart plan, for future reference), they also added to the bills piling up in 2013.  I admit, I am no whiz with money. I have what I call “poor people skills” from years in underpaid theatre gigs and school and law school- I can make do with just a bit and survive. But, I’d rather not have to use those skills. I’d rather spend this year learning how to be an adult about the money that I have.

First step- open the mail. The Lady and I both have some bills that we know will have to wait while we pay for the must-haves (rent, electricity, gas, food, etc.). I bought a cute little table to pile the mail by the front door, with an idea that one day a giant ship full of money would come in and we could open everything and pay it. Instead, the mail overflowed the table. It got tucked into a giant fruit bowl. It wound up in tote bags stuffed in the spare bedroom- aka, The Land That Time Forgot. It took two actual important pieces of mail that we missed to change our strategy- both of which ended up costing us even more money because we didn’t read them when they arrived. In a flurry of oh-my-god-what-have-I-done, I gathered all the mail in a giant pile on the dining room floor, along with a marker and a pile of file folders. We still don’t have that ship full of money, but the new rule is that mail gets opened at least once per week and placed in its folder. Whether we have the money to pay it or not, we have to look at it.

Next, I needed to get an idea of where the money needs to go. I downloaded this free Excel debt spreadsheet and entered in everything (including the old bills that we don’t have the money to attack yet). It gave us a big picture number. And to be honest, we owe a LOT less than I thought that we would. Then, I tracked down the interest rates and payment amounts for each bill. The spreadsheet lets you decide whether to use the popular “debt snowball” method or pay off the highest interest rates first or even set your own order. Then, it tells you when you’ll have the debt paid off, assuming that you keep paying at the same rate. Minus our student loans (which we will be paying for decades), it turns out that we can pay off everything else (including The Lady’s car!) in under 2 years. Whew. I feel so much better knowing that I haven’t buried us that deep. We decided to hold a weekly “team meeting” on Sunday nights to go over the mail, any bills that we paid off, and any new ones that we see coming down the road so that neither of us have to stress about it during the rest of the week and so that we can stay on the same page about planning.

Finally, after looking at how close we are to getting rid of some of the more tedious bills, I decided to try to bring in a few more bucks to get ahead of this even faster. Even ten hours a week at a part-time nights/ weekends gig will bump up our paid-in-full date by almost six months. I hit the CraigsList part-time ads, sent out a round of resumes on Friday  and by Monday I had two interviews lined up. I accepted the first job I was offered and I’ll start training this Monday night! Progress! I accepted a temporary gig through April, just to give myself an escape date if I start to feel overwhelmed, schedule-wise. Besides, it’s miserably cold outside and I might as well have a little more cash on hand when the weather warms up.

We’re a year away from being in a really great place, even with a newly reduced paycheck from the latest Social Security increases, and a slightly higher health insurance premium. And for once, I don’t feel panicked about where our money is going. I’m counting on you to keep me honest this year. I’ll check in and let you know how this new system is working (or not working) as time goes by.

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Bring It On, 2013

I’m in full swing- making lists of resolutions, goals, projects- for a brand new year. I love to have a fresh start whenever I can get it. The Lady and I covered our bases with a full round of traditions- we put away the Christmas decorations on New Year’s Eve, put coins on the windowsill, ate 12 grapes at midnight, opened the door to let out the old year and bring in the new one, cooked collards and black eyed peas with pork and sauerkraut, left a candle burning overnight to light the year in, and held a “team meeting” to get on the same page about goals, chores, and money for the year.

Our luck bases are covered. A new calendar waits on the wall for us to fill with adventures. And sitting in the fridge- one leftover bottle of champagne. We plan to pop it open on February 1 to celebrate starting strong in January. I feel ready.


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‘Tis the Season- Small Town Variety


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November 28, 2012 · 12:37 am

What’s Up, Doc?

Halloween may have ended where you are, but we still have trick-or-treaters to expect tomorrow. I stayed home with a cold today, sipping hot tea and hot chocolate and hot soup and losing the willpower battle to dip into the peanut butter cups. I’m not sick often. In fact, I’m smug about how healthy I am most of the time. It’s one of my more irritating qualities. When the Lady moved in, all the medicine in the house had expiration dates sometime in 2010. So, of course, when I do get sick, I insist on putting on a full homebound routine, with flannel and a stack of tissues nearby.

I’m sure there is a study somewhere showing that our mothers were wrong and you don’t get colds from being outside in cold weather or rain. I’m no medical professional. But I did head out to celebrate Halloween last weekend without a coat. Some friends of mine throw an annual bash with around 350 guests in costume and an open bar. It’s notorious. There’s a secret recipe punch, a dj, and enough “slutty ______” costumes to make a girl blind.

In my twenties, I tried for “sexy,” I suppose. But I’m a settled-down ladyperson of a certain age now, and there is no way I’m going to wear a costume that makes me cold or painful heels that I can’t dance in. Instead, on a last-minute shopping spree, I found a bargain on giant sweatshirts. It started with The Lady’s idea. She wanted to dress up as a well-known book character.

Easy peasy- one giant white sweatshirt, some rabbit ears and a bunny tail, and some vampire fangs. So, what does Bunnicula’s date wear?

Yep. That’s me. A Bunnicula victim/ carrot.

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