The Balance in my Life

Balance isn’t an easy thing.  Or at least it’s not easy for me.  I’m typically an all or nothing kind of person.  I remember my mom once describing me as intense and she’s absolutely right.  Sometimes I really like being intense because it allows me to feel the greatest joy over the tiniest of details.  But as a result, it makes balancing my time pretty difficult.  Everything I do takes just a little bit longer because I want it to be perfect.  For example, when I clean the bathroom, I think I spend just as much (or more) time on the outside of the toilet as I do on the inside.  And, when I’m typing up a document, I probably invest equal amounts of energy on the formatting as I do on the content.

So, like I said earlier, balance is difficult for me, but lately I’m realizing there’s one area in life in which I feel particularly balanced.

I think you may know by now that I love food.  I actually think this is a genetic trait.  I come from a family who not only plans meals and desserts, but also looks forward to them, enjoys making them, has a wonderful time eating them, and then spends years on end recounting our memories of favorite dishes.

I can’t quite decide what I love more – cooking or baking.  I’ve come to find out that a lot of people are afraid of baking because of the exactness required.  (That’s probably one of the reasons I like it so much…)  So, typically I get the most feedback about what I’ve baked.  But, I think I get equally nice feedback about the things I’ve cooked.  Let me show you a few things I’ve been up to in the kitchen lately.

We spent a weekend at Guemes (which is the San Juan Island where Kyle’s family has a cabin) with our friends Aaron and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is a foodie, too, so whenever we are up there, most of our planning efforts go into our meals, snacks, and drinks.  We feast like royalty when we’re there.  We made homemade pizzas for dinner one of the nights.  This is the “Best Pizza in the World” as dubbed by my sister, Katy.  (You could probably also call it Spinach Artichoke Pizza.)

Aaron and Elizabeth made a pepperoni and basil topped pizza and I also threw together a Green Salad.  And, of course, this meal went oh-so-nicely with some red wine.

(We had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert, too.)

The next morning, I made Monkey Bread for breakfast. Mmmm…

Those are just quick samples from that weekend because I wanted to show you a few other endeavors.

For my birthday, I finally got a non-stick pan!!  If you don’t have any, you really need at least one.  I christened mine by making meatballs.

I liked the way the oil looked in this picture, but I think it looks weird to see all of the raw meatballs, here’s another look to see the nice sear they got on each side.

I’ve since made a couple meals worth of bacon in this pan, but my favorite experience was frying homemade eggrolls.  (Sorry – we didn’t take any pictures of those.)

Sometimes when we eat, there’s little to no cooking involved.  Just cutting and arranging.  That was the case with this meal (with the exception of steaming the artichokes and melting the butter.)

(This wasn’t necessarily my favorite photo from that night, but in an effort to be succinct in my photos, I chose this one beause  it shows all of the elements of our meal.  In case you’re wondering what the little glass dish is on the salami and cheese plate, it’s ricotta.  I’m addicted to it lately.  It started back with some Sicilian Bruschetta I made and extended on to some Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza (and a pesto pizza, for that matter).   And now, as you can see, it has ended up just being a spread to go along with bread and salami.  Yum.)

So – I like cooking, but as I mentioned, I also love to bake.  Kyle and I decided to skip our weekly Saturday morning trip to the gym today (and will probably do something outside in the sun later), which gave me time to whip up these Bluberry Pecan Scones for breakfast.  (I used a little whole wheat flour for some extra texture and color – and I suppose nutrition,too.  There’s also a little lemon rind in these.  I didn’t have any fresh lemons, so I used dried and they came out fine.)

I chose to make a latte to go along with mine (which always tend to come out a bit more like a cappuccino because of the way my machine steams the milk.)

I can’t wait to eat one tomorrow.  They’re usually good for the next couple of days, although I don’t think they’ll last that long.  Kyle had 2 this morning.

So….

You’re probably wondering where the balance is, right?  It’s not that I’m balancing my cooking with my baking, although as I posted these selections, I am now aware that I think I do a decent job with that.  🙂  Rather, the thing I’m feeling balanced about is that as much as I love food and love planning meals, enjoying them, and dreaming about them after they’re eaten, I find myself craving the good-for-me stuff because I’m really trying to take care of my body.

I’m convinced that I’m in the best shape of my life right now than I’ve ever been.  I think my body shape hasn’t changed much over the years, but the difference I see now is that I actually have strength and endurance for physical activity.  Kyle got me Jillian Michaels Shred workout DVD for Christmas and I’m sure that’s what jump started this serious workout business.  I’ve always tried to stay active, but this year, I’m finally challenging and pushing myself in my workouts.  The Shred is an incredible workout if you’re looking for a challenge at home.  (Don’t “phone them in” as Jillian says all the time, because making it to Level 3 is the best feeling ever.  Level 3 is the top level and I think it’s the best of the three workouts.)

At the gym earlier this year, Kyle introduced me to the Erg (aka the rowing machine).  It makes for an awesome full body workout.  Over time, I’m seeing my splits decrease in time and my calorie burn go up.  It’s an incredible feeling.  As is being on the treadmill.  I never used to think I would like the treadmill so I never did it.  Kyle introduced me to it a few months ago.  At first I just walked on an incline, but now I’m running more.  In fact, the last time I ran on the treadmill for a gym workout, I ran for 45 minutes.  (In case you’re wondering, since the scenery doesn’t change much when you’re running on a treadmill, I use a machine that has a built-in TV and watch the Food Network so I don’t get bored.)

Finally, I’ve started running outside, too.  I worry about my knees a bit, but I think having built up some of my muscles recently, my knees are feeling stronger.  The best part for me, though, is that I feel strong in the cardiovascular sense.  So when I run now, my breathing doesn’t feel out of control.  I’m frequently finding myself getting into this groove where I think I can run forever.

It’s an amazing thing to feel your body get stronger and healthier.  When I eat, I’m craving nutriet rich (and protein rich) foods.  And when I treat myself, I feel like I’ve earned it.  (There’s even been some nights that I honestly felt hungry for dessert – not just that I’m craving sweets, but that my body needs more fuel!)

(On a semi-related note, if you’re looking for inspiration to get healthy and fit, try watching a few episodes of the Biggest Loser.  Kyle and I are totally hooked this season.  We’d only ever seen bits and pieces of the episodes in the past, but this year we started with the season premier and have been faithful followers ever since.  It’s definitely inspiring.)

(And, I would also like to take this aside to publicly thank my husband for opening my eyes to new forms of exercise.  I used to strictly be a “Pilates DVD – long walks outside – and hour-long cardio sessions on the bike or the eliptical at the gym” girl.  Now, I have so many choices, there’s no way I would get bored with my workouts!)

I have to admit.  This food/exercise balance in my life feels pretty food.  And fun.  (I guess I consider both areas hobbies and interests.)  Now, if only I could figure out how to get more of that balance in other areas of my life…

I guess that’s what life is all about though, right?  We figure out balance as we accrue more and more experiences.  I just can’t help but think about what an impressive array of interests and activities God has provided us to experience.