Kudos to the Kitchen Kid

Last January, the greatest thing ever happened: my oldest kid took Culinary Arts in middle school.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it certainly did change my life for the better in a real and meaningful way.

As someone who is committed to preparing fresh, healthy meals at home week in and week out, I know how exhausted many of you feel with the daily mealtime drudgery.  I mean, it’s like this family of mine needs to eat every.single.day.  And it’s not just the food prep and clean up that’s tiring; the meal planning is a job in and of itself.

In our home, we have the dreaded “Sunday Question,” which is: “What do you want to eat for dinner this week?” The way I figure it, if all five people in my family contribute a meal suggestion, I’ve just lightened the meal planning load I carry.  It also ensures that everyone will eat at least one meal without complaining.

It’s the little things, isn’t it?!

By cooking five meals per week at home, we have enough food for leftovers for lunch (both Mr. Balance and I work from home) and one other evening meal of leftovers.  This is our cost-effective way to eat as healthfully as possible.

Back to my kid….

When he took Culinary Arts last Spring semester, he learned not only practical kitchen skills, but he also got excited about helping to prepare family meals. He now fully prepares at least one meal a week by himself.  I’m usually around for him to ask questions, but as he has practiced his cooking skills, he needs me less and less.


We’re now working on expanding his repertoire.  His favorite meal is a tuna, pasta and veggie bake, but he made that so much I had to limit it to every other week at most.  He’s been on a crustless quiche and fritatta kick lately.  I’m helping him feel more confident about veering off-recipe and finding the fun in cooking by combining flavors.

I could say that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is the wonderful bonding experience it provides us.  Or I could tell you that the best part about having a kid interested in cooking is that he’s developing life skills that will serve him well once he leaves the nest.  But let’s be real: the best part about having a kid interested in cooking (and capable of doing it himself) is that I get a night off.

Of course, the look of satisfaction and pride on his face when his meal is ready, and he serves it up to his parents and siblings is pretty gratifying, too.


Good health and great happiness to you!

How to Do a Pull Up- Step Five

Are you ready?

Can you feel the excitement?

After all of your hard work over the last month is about to pay off.

To recap what you’ve done:

STEP ONE- Flexed Arm Hang

STEP TWO- Slow Descent


STEP FOUR- Mixed Grip

I know you’re ready for it!


Start with one.

See how you feel.

See if you can add ONE more.

Go ahead.  You can do it!


What’s next?  Keep working at the pull up.  Even if you try it every other day now (rather than every day like you’ve been doing), see if you can add one rep each week.  You’re using muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, chest, abs, and legs.  What a great full body exercise!

Learning to do a pull up is a WAKE UP CALL for your kinetic chain.  You have to have all of your muscles firing together in order to be successful.  If you can carry over this awareness of muscle synchronicity to other exercises in your workout, you’ll develop a stronger, better coordinated, more efficient body.

And isn’t that what we’re all aiming for?

Want to make my day?  Leave me a comment and let me know of your pull up success.  I want to congratulate you on your hard work!

A Child’s Wellness Wisdom


“Mama,” she said,  “my body is telling me it needs to be outside in nature.”

My four year old daughter said that to me when I picked her up from preschool recently.  I was so struck by the clarity of her expression of her needs and by the wisdom they represented.  How many adults do I know (myself included) who can articulate what their body needs at any given moment?  Not many.


And so we headed off to “The Peacock Park” (officially Mayfield Park), a 21-acre nature preserve very near our home, to spend some time outside.  I had been meaning to get to a local hiking trail all week, but busy-ness and stuff kept getting in my way.  It took a four year old to get me to do what my body had been telling me it needed for days.

“Mama,” she said, “let’s go into the woods where we can walk, walk, walk and breathe, breathe, breathe.”


Whether through intuition or experience, The Stowaway knew that walking in the woods helps her breathe deeply.  My kids hear a lot of talking about the importance of breathing deeply, but to hear my child make the explicit connection between walking in the woods and expansive breathing made my heart leap….and not because I need a parenting pat on the back, but because she is wise all on her own.

“Mama,” she said, “when my feet are on the earth my insides calm down.”


Obviously, flip flops do not good hiking shoes make.  But this child of mine prefers to be barefoot in almost any situation.  Her ability to relate this feeling of literal groundedness and the peace it brings made me gasp.

“Mama,” she said, “I’m feeling a little tired.  I’m going to rest on this bench.”


Rest?  You mean, like do nothing?  By admitting she was tired– and having no shame attached to that state of being– and devising a plan to let her energy stores rise again, The Stowaway displayed the wisdom of rest.  For all of the time and effort people put into good nutrition and vigorous exercise, we forget about the importance of restorative rest.  You owe it to yourself  to slow down when your body needs you to do so.


There they were: in the span of an hour, four giant Truth Bombs Of Wellness were dropped on me my by a four year old.  Maybe if we adults stop overthinking everything and tune in to the wisdom of our mind-body connection, we’ll all be better for it.

Good health and great happiness to you!



How to do a Pull Up- Step Four

How’s it going?  Have you been following along on our Pull Up challenge?

If not, go back to the beginning, and get yourself caught up:

STEP ONE: Flexed Arm Hang

STEP TWO: Slow Descent


And, for today, we’ll move on to STEP FOUR: Mixed Grip

Aim for 8-10 repetitions of the mixed grip hang + slow descent.

Practice daily!

By next Thursday, you want this to feel smooth and easy.

Stay tuned for the final video, STEP FIVE: The Real Deal, next Thursday!

Leave me a comment to let me know how you’re doing!

Let Loose the Lion


In my recent series about aqua yoga, I focused one of my posts on the benefits of pranyama in the pool.  Truth be told, pranyama– yogic breath work– is a relative newcomer to my regular practice. Much of my yoga experience is in fitness-based studios, and it was only when I deepend my practice by becoming an aqua yoga instructor and then undertaking a certification as a prenatal yoga instructor did I really learn about this important component of a yoga practice.  After all, without the breath, yoga is just stretching.

Today I want to focus on one of my favorite asana– Simhasana or Lion’s Pose.  As someone who has suffered from TMJ facial stress and its accompanying headaches for nearly two decades, the breathwork that is part of Lion’s Pose gives me release and relief.


  • While sitting with my hips on my heels, I splay my hands on my knees as if flaring my claws.
  • I take a deep inhale to grow the spine long, and then I exhale forcefully (and loudly!), trying to open my mouth and eyes wide.  My gaze focuses just beyond the tip of my nose.
  • My tongue hangs down.  Shoulders fall heavy.  Spine stays tall.
  • I am fierce!
  •  Continue the “roar” until the inhale naturally begins.

I like to repeat the lion’s breath 3-5 times, seeing if I can roar louder and longer each time.

Practicing Simhasana at the beginning of my session allows me to begin with a clean, clear head.  It also helps me to feel strong and capable as I begin my practice.

Lion’s pose has a benefit for those concerned with vanity and aging.  The deep, forceful exhale with mouth open and tongue extended engages the platysma, a muscle on the front of the throat.  Working the platysma keeps the skin of the neck firm and youthful in appearance.

Mostly, though, roaring like a lion with a tall, strong torso makes you feel like a beast who can conquer anything.

Good health and great happiness to you.

How to do a Pull Up- Step Three

If you’re just joining us on our quest to FINALLY learn to do a pull up, I recommend starting at the beginning:

STEP ONE- Flexed Arm Hang

STEP TWO- Slow Descent

Once you’re feeling strong and in control with those moves, go ahead and try


Go for one good-form chin up to start.

Your goal is to keep working each day so you can do 3-5 good-form chin ups by next Thursday, when we’ll talk about STEP FOUR: Mixed Grip.

Leave me a comment to let me know how you’re doing!

Comrades Update: I’m in!


It’s official.  I’ve lost my mind.  I’ve registered for Comrades Marathon.

I’ve been talking about my idea to run Comrades with my dad and how I’m planning on training for the 90KM race through South Africa’s Valley of the Hills.  I spent the summer building my base of mileage, enjoying a few classic summer road races, and preparing for my triathlon this weekend.  Although Comrades has been on my mind regularly for the last few months, there was nothing I could do until September 1st.

Entries opened.

I entered.

I’m now committed.

I find myself an equal mix of thrilled and terrified.  I’ve read so many blogs and forums about Comrades and the powerful experience each person seems to have by participating in the event.  I’m impressed by the camaraderie of the participants, whose banter gives off a strong sense of comradeship despite the limits of online communication.  I’ve read about the tremendous crowd support, the airing of the race on national tv– all twelve hours of it, and the thrill of participating in the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon.  I’m excited to be a part of the Comrades community.

But, hello….any race that has this as their motto:


Well, either they need a new PR firm or they aren’t joking around.

I’ve read enough about Comrades to know that it’s the latter.

Let’s review the race profile for next year’s “Down Run” course:


My quads hurt just thinking about it.

The good news is I still have more then eight months to prepare.  My training is coming along well for the Dallas Marathon in December.  I still plan to take a few weeks off at the end of the year, and then the first five months of 2016 will be All Comrades All The Time.

I’m pretty darn excited about it.  It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m ready.  I can’t wait to put in the hours of training, and I can’t wait to have it pay off.

I am certain, however, that at more than one point on the way from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, I’ll be spit-shouting “izokuthoba!”

And it will be worth it.