“Cooking is love made visible”

Cooking

As defined by dictionary.com, is the art of preparing food. The art, not the act, not the practice… The art of preparing food.

I love that. It’s rather poetic, I think.

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Risotto, beef and goat cheese spread, bruschetta and grilled mushrooms.

A few weeks ago I shared that I went to see a therapist; I initially went to see her because I was struggling to adjust and cope with Lucas living far away. I was very afraid that being in different cities would cause us to become distant. In my very first appointment I talked a lot about how I was constantly reminding him how much I cared, loved and missed him. And while he always said it back, I didn’t feel as though he put as much effort into doing the same for me. My therapist, Angelika, immediately introduced me to the 5 love languages.

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Surf & Turf with garlic butter and a green salad.

The 5 Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman. He says that there is no right way to express love and that each and every person expresses and experiences love differently. Chapman has broken down these ways of loving into 5 categories or love languages. Any given person may use one or all of the love languages at any given time but it’s very common to value 1 of the 5 languages above and beyond the others.

  1. Giving words of affirmation
  2. Spending quality time
  3. Giving/receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical Touch

As I described above, I highly value the love language of giving words of affirmation. I feel that it is important to tell someone how you feel. Perhaps this comes from my literature background or my theatre background, who knows. All I know is that words have a lot of power and meaning for me, so when I tell someone that I love and care for them, I really mean it.

Lucas, on the other hand, values the love language of acts of service above the others. He feels that it is more important to do something for someone as a means of showing love than it is to simply say it. He is an actions speak louder than words kind of guy.

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Pork tenderloin, asparagus and mango salad.

In his book Chapman explains that it is pretty common for couples to use love different love languages to express how they feel. The issue arises when one or both parties don’t realize that they are speaking different languages. Since learning about the 5 love languages I am have had a much easier time experiencing and expressing love. And not just in a romantic way, towards my family and friends as well. I’m more in tune now to what they need. For example, cleaning the kitchen for my mum means so much more to her than just saying to her that she’s great, although she also appreciates a the words when they are said.

As for me and Lucas; I was feeling down because he wasn’t reciprocating my words of affirmation, ie. He wasn’t expressing love in the language I understand best. Instead he would provide acts of service, for example, cooking me a romantic meal. Being a chef, cooking is Lucas’ favourite way of expressing his love. When I visit him at school Lucas spends most of the day deciding what he’s going to make for dinner. In the afternoon we go shopping and in the evening he cooks! We listen to music, we drink wine, we chat about life and he cooks. I offer to help but he enjoys cooking for me because that is the best way he knows how to express love. And man oh man, do I love him for that.

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Charcuterie board.

“Cooking is love made visible”

Anonymous

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Kitchen Experiment: Roasted Veggie Medley

A few weeks ago I shared that I had been doing some cooking! Regular readers will know that this is a scary thing for me. But I also shared that my last two Kitchen Experiments were successful! Wooo! I had also promised to share the recipes! So today I am sharing my Roasted Veggie Medley Recipe.

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I’ve only got the one picture (I’m no food blogger after all) but my oh my it does look yummy doesn’t it?! And it’s healthy too! This dish is a great side dish for any meal.

Roasted Veggie Medley

Original Recipe by Alex Folkes

Ingredients

Note: There aren’t exact measurements for this recipe. The “measurements” below fed 5 people and provided left overs. But make adjustments as you see fit. 

Two medium to large sized sweet potatoes

4 or 5 large carrots

2 large handfuls of green beans

Extra virgin Olive Oil (EVO)

1/4 cup of Veggie Broth

Spices: basil, rosemary, cinnamon, salt and pepper

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees

2. Peel and chop the sweet potato and carrots into cubes. Put into casserole oven dish.

3. Wash green beans, remove the end and put into casserole dish.

4. Coat veggies with EVO.

5. Shake spices over veggies. Distribute evenly. Amount of spices used is dependent on personal taste. I used more basil and cinnamon than rosemary. And I just used salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour the veggie broth into the mixture and stir. Just make sure all your veggies have some oil and spices on them. Then cover with tin foil and pop in the oven for 40 – 50 minutes. When the sweet potatoes are soft it is good to go!

Enjoy!

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I have seriously been neglecting the blog recently. Life has been exceptionally hectic over the past two weeks. I have had virtually no free time and in the free time I have had I’ve been watching The Mindy Project. Following the antics of Mindy’s made for tv life has become a full fledged obsession. mindyIn addition to binge watching the most hilarious woman on netflix, I have been running. A lot. In preparation for my race which is in 13 days! I have been working, a lot. We are launching into our spring run of shows here at the Opera. So the amount of parties and events that are happening is overwhelming. I have been reading, a lot. At this pace I’ll be finished my 50 book goal in no time! And lastly, I have been cooking! Not a lot, but more than normal!

So many excuses, so little time. Lets break it down for a moment.

Running

giphyThis weekend I ran outside for the first time since I started training for my 5k. I was incredibly nervous. When using a treadmill I think it can be hard to tell if you have made progress or not. I knew I had improved but as the running intervals got longer I found it more and more challenging to keep going. I figured that I had reached my limit. WRONG. I had reached my indoor limit. My outdoor limit is a whole other thing!

So on Saturday I grabbed my friend Melanie and we hit the pavement. Having Mel there really helped because she motivated me to keep going. Yesterday, I ran outside again, on my own this time. I ran a short route that I used to do last summer. Back then I was out of shape and untrained. I couldn’t run the whole thing without stopping to catch my breath at least once. Yesterday I did the whole thing without stopping and at a decently quick pace! Thee cheers for progress!

Work

Very briefly, my job in lamest terms is fundraising. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a huge part of fundraising is donor appreciation. Here at the opera we appreciate our donors with exclusive events. Behind-the-scenes type stuff. I actually really enjoy working these events because it gives me the chance to get to know our donors and learn more about the works we are presenting on the stage. In addition to working all the swanky parties I also work some of the shows at the welcome desk. Basically I’m just there to trouble shoot questions and engage with the donors. Between the parties and the shows I’ve had a lot of late nights. But I don’t mind too much because I really like this aspect of my job and it’s only for a short period of time.

Reading

One of my many goals for 2015 was to read 50 books this year. It is nearing the end of downloadApril and I just finished book number 11! I am thrilled with my progress and I have really enjoyed expanding my literary horizons. In addition to reading 50 books I have been making an effort to pick books that are outside of my comfort zone. The book I read most recently was a memoir by a Canadian woman named Amanda Lindhout, the book was called A House in the Sky. True story, while working as a freelance journalist in Somalia Amanda and her partner were kidnapped and held for ransom for over a year. Her experience was a traumatic nightmare but *spoiler alert* she lived to tell the tale. This book was truly amazing. Terrifying and inspirational all at the same time. I encourage everyone to read this fantastic book.

If anyone has a good book recommendation I would greatly appreciate it! Share in the comments!

Cooking

Lucas’s mum just celebrated her birthday and I needed a way to say both happy birthday and thank you for accepting me into your family. But what do you buy for someone who has everything already (especially if your on a budget). Answer: you don’t. Instead you make dinner. So I made a pretty decent vegetarian meal featuring sweet potato, carrots, green beans, rice, soy beans and chic peas. I’ll be posting the recipes next week so stay tuned.

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And this week it is just me and Lucas so I made dinner last night. I forgot to take pictures but I made tomato stuffed chicken breast, sweet potato mash and an arugula salad. This meal also turned out to be pretty darn delicious! It feels good to receive praise for my cooking since I’m really not confident in that department. I’ve also made a few batches of cookie recently. mmmm cookies.


So there you have it! That is why I have been neglecting my internet wonder. But I will do my very best not to be so distant in the future.

What activities have been occupying your time recently? Share in the comments!

Catering by Chef Cugini

IMG_6092I’ve said it before and I will say it again, my boyfriend has mad skills in the kitchen. He is like Midas with food, every food he touches turns delicious. Obviously I am not the only one who has realized this because this weekend he was hired to cater for a private, in home, dinner party.

The party had 20 guests. Everyone was standing, moving around, socializing. There were no tables. So there was no main dish, instead it was 5 small courses that made up a one big meal. The theme for the food had a home cooked feel with fancy presentation, I like to call it “familiarly fancy”. As Lucas going to be very busy preparing, cooking, and plating 5 courses for 20 people he let me be his sidekick. I helped to plate things and I served the food and cleaned up. I must say we made a pretty great team.

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I have no idea how each meal was made but I can tell you what each dish was called and show you some drool worthy pictures. Maybe if there is some demand I’ll get Chef Lucas to do a guest post.

Course One: Martini Spaghetti & Beef Meat Balls

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Course Two: Roast Tenderloin Sandwich with Au Jus, Horseradish and Dijon. 

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Course Three:  Grilled Balsamic Portobello Mushroom, spinach and red pepper Sandwich 

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Course Four: Woodland Mushroom Risotto with parsley and Parmesan cheese

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Course Five: Mini-Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Sweet-Potato Fries

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It all looked and tasted AMAZING!!! I broke my no-dairy and no-deep fried food rule for the day because it was all too good to pass up. The guests seemed to enjoy the food and the atmosphere that an in-home catered event provided. Hopefully this is the first of many paid gigs that he gets. Now just for fun, some more pictures of Chef Lucas and his creations!

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Kitchen Experiment: Dairy Free Tuna Salad

Yesterday evening I came home to an empty house. This is a very rare occurrence for me. In fact I cannot even remember the last time I was alone for an extended period of time (other than yesterday) and that is exactly the way I like it.

When I am alone I only have 3 possible states of being: Antsy, depressed, snacky. Being antsy isn’t so terrible, sometimes it can result in uber amounts of productivity. But feeling sad and sorry for yourself is not pleasant at all. And being snacky totally defeats the purpose of all the hard work I’m doing at the gym.

Last night I was feeling antsy. I am in the market for a new pair of sunglasses so I thought about going to the store and trying some on. But the store isn’t exactly close and with no one home I’d be using public transit which is slow and frustrating. Then I tried to convince a friend to come with me (she has a car – I know I’m a terrible person), but she wasn’t up for it. So I scratched that plan and moved onto fitness!

After perusing the group exercise schedule I decided that if I had a quick dinner I could make it to the 7:30 pm BODYPUMP class. This is a weight class based on the concept of lighter weights and more reps. I decided to try it out because weights training is being hailed as the best way to get strong and lean ect. ect. But I am clueless when it comes to anything other than the treadmill so attending a class seemed like a good idea. Well let me say this, that class was a challenge but I loved it (except for the squats – nobody likes squats)! I used the lightest amount of weight possible but my body was still aching! This obviously means that I am not strong and I must continue to go to this class.

Anyway, the title of this post is Kitchen Experiment so let me get to that (finally – gosh I love to talk). As I said I needed a quick dinner: Leftovers! Except NO! The only leftovers in the fridge was pizza which is delicious but covered in cheese (which I am not allowed to eat anymore) and it is not good pre-fitness food. Eventually I decided to make a tuna salad sandwich. Normally this would mean mayonnaise and cheese and tuna, not this time, healthy Alex is here to stay. So I made a healthy, dairy free, tuna salad.

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Most exciting part?! I didn’t follow a recipe. This baby was all me. I just did what felt right. Usually this heads disastrous results but my tuna salad was a huge success! Creamy, healthy, fueling power food.

Dairy Free Tuna Salad

Ingredients

1 can of tuna

2 table spoons of olive oil

1/2 tea spoon Basil flakes

1/3 tea spoon Garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from 1/4 slice of Lemon

1/2 an avocado

 2 slices of your choice of bread

Instructions

  1. Open your can of tuna and drain. Place in a medium sized bowl and mix using a fork.
  2. Mix in the olive oil, basil, garlic power, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. There is no need to follow the measurements exactly, adjust according to your taste buds. For a creamier tuna salad, add more olive oil.
  3. Toast your bread, I used 12 grain.
  4. Mash the avocado in a bowl using a fork. After the bread is toasted spread the avocado mash onto the toast. Pile your tuna salad on top of the avocado and enjoy!

Notes: From here you can do whatever you’d like. I added hot sauce to one of my slices and it was fantastic. Next time I am going to experiment by mixing the avocado in with the tuna. I also toyed with adding some little baby tomatoes. Also, eating the tuna on its own is an option. The opportunities are endless. In total this mean only took about 5 minutes to put together. Enjoy!


How would you dress up your dairy free tuna salad? Share in the comments!

Kitchen Experiment: Raspberry Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, me and the kitchen are not good friends. Wow that rhymed! But seriously when it comes to cooking, baking and making food, I am not in my element. But that doesn’t stop me from experimenting every now and again. Sometimes my kitchen experiments are a hit (check out my awesome protein balls, or my salad in a jar trick) annnnnnd sometimes they are a big miss (learn from my guacamole disaster).

Today my kitchen experiment falls somewhere in between, it’s good but some refining is needed. So what did I attempt to make this time?! Well it’s in the title… Raspberry Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding! Please keep in mind that I am not a photographer or a food blogger and so the pictures do not do it justice. In fact the whole thing looks rather gross in the pictures. But I swear it is actually delicious!

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I follow a lot of fancy food bloggers (who are much more kitchen savvy than myself) and chia seeds are all the rage right now. They are rich in anti-oxidants and are super-duper nutritious, despite their tiny size. Because chia seeds are essentially flavourless you can add them to basically anything for added protein and fiber. Salads. Smoothies. Baked goods. Or you can make into a pudding!

Actually, I think pudding is an inaccurate description of what this is. It sort of has a jelly consistency. So I am more inclined to call it textured jell-O. Bottom line: No matter what it is called it is healthy and pretty darn good.

I’ve seen a ton of chia seed pudding recipes online but this morning I decided to wing it instead of following any one particular recipe. See the recipe below!

Raspbery Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding (textured Jell-O)

Serving Size: One

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of Chia Seeds

3/4 cup of plain Almond Milk

1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 a table spoon of sweetener (I used agave nectar) *optional

1 cup of frozen raspberries

Instructions:

1. Mix together the chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla, and sweetener in a small mason jar

2. Let sit, covered, in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes

3. Add the frozen berries and let sit for an hour or so. I let mine sit in my bag while I was on my commute to work. This allowed for the berries to thaw out and for the seeds to create the jelly texture. But, you could also let it sit in the fridge, just be sure to leave it be for at least an hour.

Note: Some people prefer to have their chia pudding sit overnight but I think that might be overkill.

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I think my experiment turned out pretty well! I feel full and I it tasted good. That being said I add too much vanilla. I must have added nearly a full table spoon which made the vanilla flavour very very overwhelming. I adjusted the measurement in the recipe above. I also think other frozen berries would work out quite nicely. Next time I think I’d like to add some chocolate chips to the experiment. Just for kicks!

Have you ever tried chia seed pudding? How did yours turn out? Share in the comments!

PS. Have you seen the google image today?! It is st. Patrick’s day themed! Adorable!

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C is for Cookie

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a nice, enjoyable weekend. Mine was particularly busy for no particular reason. I guess I don’t do much socializing on the weekdays due to my commuting so I try to cram in a lot on the weekends. It doesn’t spell out rest and relaxation but as the old saying goes “you can sleep when your dead”.

On Friday I met up with some university friends and we went to this super neat bar Spincalled Spin. If your from Toronto, this place is on the corner of King and Spadina. Basically this is a bar… filled with Ping Pong Tables! Yup, you heard me right. Ping Pong. You rent a table for an hour at a time and go nuts! Drinks were flowing, pub food was being enjoyed and pong was being played! My friend Peter invented this great game where 6 of us could play at a time. It was such a blast! Skipping ahead to Sunday for a moment, I read The Lovely Bones this weekend. It was a quick and easy read and super emotional but I also found it wildly frustrating in a lot of ways. Keep your eyes peeled for a book review!

Anyway, back to Saturday! I was working at the Opera house in the afternoon. Basically my role is to engage with the opera goers, ask them their thoughts on the show and give them information about the upcoming season. It’s actually kind of fun because I love talking to people but it makes for a long day because the opera we currently have playing is 5 hours long! So I do my job during pre-show and intermission but while the opera is playing I am chillin. After work I had plans for a girls night sleepover. However, when I woke up on Saturday morning I had this strong desire, no, this strong need to bake cookies. Considering the kitchen disaster that I created on Thursday morning, you would think I would be avoiding the kitchen like the plague. But no, I was compelled to bake and bake I did. I am a big lover of oatmeal chip cookies. The chewey-gewey mixture is pure heaven. So I adapted a recipe from Radiant Dust. Shena, the author of Radiant Dust, claims that these are the best oatmeal chip cookies EVER! And I could not agree more. These were a huge hit with Lucas and with my friends at the girls night. In the future I am going to use different types of chips and maybe even add some raisins! See below for the recipe and find my adaptations in pink!

Super Addicting Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened — I used salted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar — I didn’t have a full cup so I used extra white sugar to compensate
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt — In hindsight I should have cut this because I used salted butter. Now I know for next time. 
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats — I only used 2 1/2, it all depends on preference.
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or mint chocolate chips, or dark chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips… let your imagination run wild…) — I used 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of peanut butter chips — It was a pretty delicious combo!

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, and chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. (I miss-read the instruction about heaping spoonfuls and made really, REALLY big spoonfuls which resulted in giant cookies! Not a bad thing but it increased my baking time by at least 5 minutes)
  3. Bake for 11-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Note: a rookie mistake is to leave the cookies in the oven for longer since they may not appear to be “done” at 11 or 12 minutes. Don’t leave them in! They will continue baking on the hot baking sheet once you remove them from the oven.)
  4. Eat at least one cookie warm. It’s okay to accidentally ruin one with the spatula while transporting it from the baking sheet to the cooling rack. This is your “test” cookie and should be taste-tested in order to ensure that the rest of the batch is good.
  5. Eat the rest of the cookies for dinner. (I did follow this instruction… but I was at a sleepover with friends so I had help and it was totally appropriate).

My failed attempt at being a foodie

There are two types of people in this world: people who have a natural instinct for cooking and people who do not. Sadly, I am the second type of person. I can’t cook. No, that is an understatement. I cannot do anything in the kitchen at all, I am useless. If I’m being kind to myself I would say I make a pretty mean bowl of stove popped popcorn… But that basically sums up my cooking abilities.

Most of the time I don’t really care that I can’t cook. Lucas did some time in culinary school and he is super passionate about food, so I am fairly content to let him make me delicious eats. But every so often I feel a desire to be creative in the kitchen, this most often occurs when I am scrolling through pinterest or reading some of my favourite food blogs (because although I rarely make food, I love to look at it… that’s not totally weird right?!)

So yesterday I was reading a post from one of my favs, Eating Bird Food by Brittany Mullins. This girl is adorable and she comes up with some fantastic healthy recipes. Once I made a roasted broccoli quinoa from a recipe that she posted and it was actually so delicious! Turns out I’m not completely useless if I follow instructions. Anywhoo, Brittany recently posted a breakfast recipe for guacamole on toast with an egg and after reading it I just knew I had to try it! The guac recipe that Brittany posted called for frozen peas and some other fun things that I didn’t have at home so I decided to cut my losses and just make regular plain guacamole for my toast and egg.

The following is an accurate account of the internal dialogue I had with myself while cooking this morning:

Oh my gosh! I have 20 minutes before I need to leave the house! I have time to make breakfast today. I should make the guac on toast with an egg thing! Alright google, how do you make guacamole??

Mash an avocado. Easy, okay.

Sprinkle some salt, awesome I love salt.

1 table spoon of lime juice. oops… that’s more than 1 table spoon, whatever I’m sure its fine.

Minced onion. Well I hate onion and I have no idea what minced means so lets skip that…

Hot chiles, also minced. What is this mincing? Regardless, I don’t have hot chilies. Skip!

Cilantro. Disgusting. Skip!

Ground black peper. Finally, something I can add.

Tomatoes. Pulp and seeds removed and chopped… I like the pulp and seeds so I’ll keep that stuff in. Chop chop.

Wow that egg looks perfect, way to go alex. You rock, you kitchen goddess. Guac on toast, egg on top of that! mmmm here we go!

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You all know whats going to happen next. You read the title of this post. It was disgusting! Just horrid! Absolutely awful. Obviously my recipe variations did not translate into magnificent food, instead it was a slimy, bitter, salty mess. At this point I have 3 minutes to eat and get out the door, so I hastily scraped my guac into the garbage and ate my egg on plain toast. For the record the egg actually was perfect. Next time I promise to follow the recipe and I probably wont attempt to be creative in the kitchen at 7:00 am ever again.

Have you ever had a foodie failure? Share in the comments!

New Year, Same Me

It’s that time of year again, the time when most of the population resolves to lose weight, save money and become an all around better person.

That’s right, it’s New Years Resolution Time!!!!

Last year I made a conscious decision to NOT resolve to do any of those things. No, I would not allow myself to attempt that which many others have failed at year after year after year. Instead I resolved to make some realistic changes in my life:

Learn how to appreciate red wine: CHECK  checkmark-clip-art When I was in Italy I visited three different wine vinyards and learned all about the way wine is made. Then I got to sample! By the time I got back on Canadian soil I was converted to a red wine lover.

Write more: CHECK checkmark-clip-art This one happened a little late in the year, but it happened and still is happening! Got to love blogging.

This year I am sticking with my trend of realism, although I may dig a little deeper for 2015. Here goes nothing…

2015 New Years Resolutions 

Learn to cook: download I am not exaggerating, I am quite literally useless in the kitchen. I can make a decent egg on a good day but my abilities start and end there. So this year I want to figure out this cooking thing and make myself something delicious.

Embrace the now: download I have a tendency to forget about what is happening here and now and focus too much on what I don’t have. This means I under-appreciate what I have and I can can’t enjoy life just the way it is. Seeing as my life is pretty darn great, embracing the now is something I need to keep working on.

Run a 5k Race: download I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to resolve to lose weight, and I’m not. This is different. Resolving to lose weight is open ended and vague. Resolving to run a race is specific and there is a clearly defined measure of success. I’m aiming for late spring, check back for more on that.

Share in the comments! What are your 2015 New Years Resolutions?