132 | fitness, faith & wellness weekly recap (and a little wedding planning)

Happy Monday everyone!  Is Spring here or what?  I am loving it and my crazy furbaby sure does too.  Thank you, Lord for the warmer temperatures, this island girl welcomes them with open arms.  This past week was very good to me and my peace of mind.  I am finally feeling like I am finding some balance in my life and I can breath easier. 

Fitness.  

~  The half marathon training continues to go along beautifully although with the running/strength training combo I find myself really stiff and having to stretch a lot.  On Saturday I woke up feeling stiff as a stick so a little bit of flow yoga and stretches did me really good.  You know your body is stiff when you grab the yoga mat right after you get up first thing in the morning.  Please disregard the crazy leaves in the background. :-)

~  I have to share with you the funniest link this week courtesy of the Runner's World blog Remy's World.  Not sure if you heard about the blogger who ran the Georgia Half Marathon without paying for her entry.  So Remy does a satire "shame on you" basically on this POST, titled "I Stole Stuff from a Running Store".

~  The weather held up pretty good so on Saturday I took the pup hiking to nearby Weston Bend State Park where Jack had a blast exploring all that new flora.  We even had a standoff with a fearless squirrel.  Those critters are fearless here in Kansas!  The hike was awesome and a bit taxing thanks for some super inclines.  But in all it was fun.

Love Jack's face "mom, can you stop taking pictures?"

Faith.

~  This weekend was one of spiritual fitness preparation too.  Many of you are familiar with the website (in)Courage and their annual (in)RL event-- an event dedicated to lifting each other up while growing as a community in Christ.  I participated two years ago (last year I couldn't because of my father's passing) and it was one of the most unique and amazing experiences of my life and made a few friends that have remained so after the event.  This year the event will take place on 26 April and I am looking forward to it.  So yesterday I spent my afternoon watching last's years event and it was such a blessing.  Love these girls and their mission.  
 
Wellness.  

~ March is not Thyroid Awareness Month but myself along with a group of bloggers concerned about thyroid disease and treatment are trying to bringing more awareness anyway we can, so make sure you read my post "A Day In the Life of a Hypothyroid Health Nut".  I was trying to be a bit funny but really, this is a serious matter as thyroid disease has reached epidemic proportions around the world.

~  Came across this article about the 25 superfoods that we must incorporate into our diet.  Check it out.  Some really good information.  

Everything Else.  

It's been a while since I talked wedding plans so let me get you up to speed real quick.  I told you that the wedding planning process is overwhelming to me and I know I have to start at least in June.  But my wedding coordinator asked me for an idea of where I am going with this destination wedding.  As I mentioned the wedding will be in Puerto Rico so a whole new concept was needed.  And this is my inspiration board. 


There are many interpretations to what an island wedding is or what it looks like.  For me a few words come to mind: RELAXED.   LUSH.   STYLISH.  I really like the West Indies feel that combines old world with a relax attitude.  There are lush plants, natural materials, and things that are local like good Puerto Rican rum.  Anyhow, this is where we are going.  And my grandmas-- the reason I moved the wedding from Minnesota to Puerto Rico-- are ecstatic.  They are ready to party. I love these women!  What do you think?  How do you like my concept?

And there you have it friends, my week at a glance.
How was your weekend?  How is the weather in your neck of the woods?



131 | coffee with friends no. 3

Hello, good morning.  I am so happy you received my message that today we are having our coffee gathering by the sea.  It is beautiful outside but the wind makes it a little cool, so I brought hot coffee and warm blankets.  Grab on and let's sit.  Oh, how I would love to actually be sitting with you by the sea as we talk about our weeks.  Can we pretend we are by the sea, regardless of our current location? :) Whether it is family or work, a secret dream of yours or your latest heartbreak, I want you to know I am here for you to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry.  So, if you were here, what you I say to you?


 If we were having coffee I would say that I am ecstatic to finally see some progress due to the changes I have made to have a healthier living.  It is not only the weight loss and how much better I fit in my clothes.  But the energy I have is great!  I feel better and I know that taking care of this temple He gave me is one of the best things I have done.  So here is to another week of progress!
 
If we were having coffee I would say that the more intentional I am about gratitude the more I feel my heart expand and the more I am aware of how epically awesome my God is to me and my family.  I am saying this because as I reflect on my dad's passing-- which is one of the two most significant event in my life-- I find that the anger I had with God has started to recede.  I am not proud of it but I have prayed on it and instead of focusing on the event I am focusing in thanking God that my father is no longer suffering from the cancer.  But most importantly that my father accepted Him completely before his death.  For I know that God welcomed him into His kingdom-- He let me know He did but that is another story.  So here is to being grateful not only for the good things but for the not-so-good ones that make us the people we are today.


If we were having coffee I would ask you if I am the only person that gets excited with a new devotional!  I am a huge fan of Joyce Meyer because she has a very "for real" approach to her teachings.  I have had one of her devotionals for many years and I have been looking for a new one and found of yesterday.  If is lovely and the devotions are true Joyce Meyer style. 


If we were having coffee I would tell you that I have an awesome fiancĂ© and soon-to-be family.  From his parents to his relatives and his kids, they are so amazing to me and have welcomed me with open arms from day one.  I feel truly blessed to have them in my life.  For someone from a small family, being welcomed into a big family like this is beautifully overwhelming and every time I am around them I can't help thinking that there is no better manifestation of His love than a loving family, and somewhere along the line-- even when I was a non-believer, I must have done something good to get this beautiful gift.  But then again, is it this not what we considered Grace?  As you can tell I am in a very reflective mood today.  Just taking account of the blessings in my life. 

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I am so inspired by the song Oceans from Hillsong.  It is so electrifying and such beautiful lyrics.  You cannot help feeling connected with Him when you sing it from the heart. 




If we were having coffee I would say that Spring has most definitely arrive here.  The chilly mornings giving way to beautiful afternoons just warms the heart.  I love spring and everything that it signifies.  I once heard a quote that went “Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”  And how right that quote is.  I think spring is a season of optimism with new life beginning and blooming all around us.  It's gardening time in our backyards but I also see it as gardening time for the soul.  Flowers and nature bring me joy.  At no time do I see the immensity of His love that when I am looking at the beautiful and intricate design of a flower.  Even in the diminutive details of a flower or a leaf God strives for perfection.  I think it is his way of giving us little reminders of His love no matter how small the object we are looking at is. 

  
Yesterday I found a small nursery here in Kansas and bought a beautiful potted hyacinth.  I am not much of a hyacinth girl but this one just called my name.  The girl at the nursery told me that white hyacinths mean loveliness and they say "I'll pray for you".  So my friends I am sharing my hyacinth with you praying that  you have a lovely week.   May God's light shine upon you and guide you this week and all of the days of your life.  Be blessed.

One final note before I leave: I am considering making the Sunday Coffee Gatherings a weekly linkup where we can all come together and fellowship in a relax environment.  What do you think? 


130 | a day in the life of a hypothyroid fitness nut (and why i celebrate small victories)

For those of you new here my name is Maria and I have been a hypothyroid since 2010 when I had my thyroid gland surgically removed.  The story is long but if you want to read go HERE or check out the sidebar tab "THYROID DISEASE STINKS".  As a former college track and field athlete and then someone who really enjoyed fitness as a whole, thyroid disease came with a different set of realities and changes-- the biggest one being that my body did not react nor behave the same way as it did when it had a normal thyroid function.  I went from being fit to someone who heard cruel words like OMG, when did you become the fat one? or Chick, you need to lay off the donuts. 

Within 30 days after having my surgery I gained 20 lbs. ballooning to 208 lbs. which was also 3 months before what was supposed to be the culmination of a dream of mine: running the ING NYC Marathon.  Yeap, that never happened.  My body went into full blown chaos and I felt horrible. 



But these days comments like that do not bother as much (although they still sting) because my main concern now is getting healthy and feeling like I do not have to struggle every single day.  It has taken three years after my surgery to finally start getting my system back into a semblance of normalcy which at time can be very fleeting.  Whenever I mention that a lot of my problems I have are because of hypothyroidism, I always this reaction from people as if saying "Right. Hypothyroidism".  And what I want to say is "Shut the hell up! Yes, that is exactly what it is! I really want you to walk in my shoes for one day and see how it feels when I am having a bad day".  I know people with hypothyroidism who are doing great, but others like me? Not so much.  And make no mistake, when it is bad I am a mess of painful joints, sluggishness, lack of motivation and emotional mood swings.  Here is how a day in my life goes: 


5:00 AM: Wake up, let the doggie out and take my Synthroid medication.  I have to take the medicine on an empty stomach and then wait one hour before I can eat breakfast or drink coffee.  Then I go back to bed.  You may be wondering at this point why doesn't she go for a run?  I am going to tell you why:  BECAUSE I HAVE NO FRIGGIN' ENERGY!  THAT'S WHY! One of the worse symptoms of hypothyroidism is chronic fatigue no matter how much you rest.  This is how I feel most morning {except I'm not that cute}:


 

However, if I do have the energy I usually go for a run.  But it is very rare for me to workout in the morning because I am dragging.  Which was a big problem when I had to do Army physical training with my unit.  My best runs and workouts are in the evening.  At that point my body is ready to roll for some major workouts.

6:30 AM: Wake up, do my devotions and feed the dog.  Take shower.

7:30 -12:30: Have breakfast. Go to work.  Meal 2.  Meal 3 (3 hours later).  Go home and walk the dogs for 20-30 minutes.  Go back to work. 

** I feel the need to mention that I eat 5-6 SMALL meals a day, you know... before anyone asks me why I'm pigging out if I want to lose weight.


By the time 1:00 PM arrives I have lost whatever little energy I gained from breakfast and lunch.  Usually I grab an energy drink however, I stopped taking those about two months ago.  The other option is coffee and I am trying to keep that to 1 cup a day in the morning, so you see: I'm sucking wind by then. 

If I have a meeting pray that I have energy and that the mental fogginess that comes with this disease has not taken over because it does not matter how much I try to concentrate, part of my brain is not going to be at that meeting.  This was very problematic when I was initially diagnosed with Grave's Disease and then after my thyroid was removed.  Mentally and emotionally I was so bad that I almost resigned my Army commission (of course it didn't help that my boss at the time thought I was making this up and started every freaking conversation with the words "now, don't get emotional about...").

 
Here is the funny part, around 3:00 P.M. I start catching a second wind and my energy is usually back after that... for the most part.  This is why I do any major projects in the afternoon and why I workout during the evening.  I am like the Energizer bunny in the afternoons and I love it because it is also when I take my dog for his long walks so I need to have the energy to do that.

I go for my runs around 6:30 PM and then head off to the gym.  If I am doing another type of cardio in the gym, I am there no later than 7:00 PM.  This is when most people are winding down for the day but this is when I am just getting started.  I tell you one of the advantages of working out this late?  The majority of the machines at the gym are empty at those hours.  This is my time to bring it and leave all in the gym. 

Now, workouts do not always go as planned especially if I am having joint pains.  I am not talking about arthritis here.  I am talking painful joints that hurt to move even sitting down.  This is one of the worse symptoms for me YET it is the best symptom for me to know when my hormone levels are off.  More than anything other symptom I get from this disease, joint pains is my measure of how my system is doing.


By the time I make it home from the gym, I am starving... like I could inhale my food.  One of the tricks I have learned to avoid this and the overeating that usually can follow, is as soon as I leave the gym I start drinking a protein shake.  This immediately helps me with that "feed me, feed me, feed me" frenzy mode my body goes into.  By the time I prep my food and sit down to eat dinner, I am ready to eat slow and what I need-- not what all I can possibly shove in my mouth in 5 seconds.  Then after a shower and relaxing time either reading or watching tv, I am ready to sleep.  I usually go to bed around 10:30 PM, this has always been my normal time to go to sleep even before my thyroid problems.  


The weirdest thing for me is that about three nights a week I wake up around 3:00 AM and then can't go back to sleep.  Just wide awake.  Usually this lasts about 30 minutes and then I start getting tired so I am back to bed... only to wake up at 5:00 AM and start the cycle again. 

So yes, when I say that one of my many aches, pains or weight gain may be because of my hypothyroidism... IT PROBABLY IS.  I am not making it up or making excuses.  I love to workout and being fit but sometimes the body has another plan and it does not give me a choice.  I have to stop and rest.  Sometimes I am stubborn and push through.  This never turns out good especially as it relates to joint pains.  But in this fitness journey as a hypothyroid there are a three important things I have learned and have helped me.

1.  Do your research when it comes to the right workouts.   This is a lot of trial and error.  Whatever fitness plan you start, make sure you tweak it for your situation and ensure it is right for you.  Workouts like Crossfit and such do not work for me.  I have to rely on workouts that are more gentle to my body.  Believe it or not running without overdoing it has worked for me which is why I continue to do it-- plus I love doing it.  I personally need cardio to lose the weight.  No way around it. 

2.  Diet.  My diet is 95% gluten free and it has made a tremendous difference.  I am not as slugging and have more energy.  Plus it has made it a bit easier for my body to start losing the weight.  Get rid of processed foods, refines sugars and ditch the soda!  When it comes to cruciferous veggies and goitrogens, do not stay away from them completely.  You can still enjoy them cooked them to reduce the goitrogens and in limited amounts.  I know this may be controversial for some. But again: this is what works for me,

3.  Weight loss.  It takes time and as you know, it is a yo-yo for the most part once you are hypothyroid.  You seem to find the balance between your meds, exercise and diet, only to have your hormones levels go out of whack again.  It is a fine science trying to lose weight with this disease but you must have patience.

All of this that I have gone through is why I now celebrate small victories: the morning I wake up full of energy, the days my hair does not fall when I brush it, when I lost 1 lbs. instead of 5, when I was able to have a completely happy day without an emotional mess.  These are things most people take for granted but I bet you, if you ask a hypothyroid they do not.  When you have a bad day, it is like living with a debilitating disease.  What am I talking about?  It is a debilitating disease at time and it takes a toll on everyone around them.  It is no joke and it annoys me when people make jokes about hypothyroids or snide remarks about the disease.  So the next time someone tells you "I am hypothyroid" do not dismiss them and be thankful you are not walking a mile in those shoes.  Believe me when I tell you-- you do not want to.

129 | its looking like spring (13.1 trng wk 2)

Hi guys!  Well it is time for half-marathon training check-in number two.  Everything is going good so far and the running is coming along beautifully, albeit a little slow and it is making me impatient.  But I keep telling myself that eventually speed will come.  For now I am happy to have finally left the 14:00 mins. per mile pace and to remain in the 11:00 mins. per mile.  In general, this week was pretty much the same as last week with the exception that on Wednesday I had to throw in a strength training rest day in the mix.  I was so tired.  It is not that I was not motivated.  It was dead bone tiredness all of the day.  I slept 9 hours straight; the type of sleep that you go to sleep in one position and wake up in the same position.  So the body definitely needed rest.



The running in the mornings has allowed me to experience some awesome scenery and I have even taken Mr. Jack the Wheaten on some runs with me.  I tell you, nothing gets me more pumped up than a gorgeous sky in the morning.  I hope I continue to run without foot problems. 


The nutrition part is going really good and since last week I have lost 4 lbs. which is great and so much more than my goal of losing 2 lbs. per week.  This is a total of 10 lbs. since I started this new meal plan.  You know what has made a difference?

1.  Cutting all of what one of my favorite bloggers () calls CRAP:
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Refined sugars
  • Artificial sweeteners and colors
  • Processed foodlike products}.  
After last week's horrible withdrawal that gave me the shakes and headaches, this week I am feeling much better.  And except for Wednesday's bout of tiredness, I've been feeling more energetic.

2.  MyFitnessPal app.  I am not much of a food journaling person but my Army nutritionist recommended it so I gave it a try and wow, it is pretty remarkable what you can find out about your eating habits when you see it written down.  Apparently I have been eating about 200 calories less than I have to which can cause the body to go into starvation mode.  So been paying more attention to what I eat.  And to celebrate all this success I rewarded myself with this super cute Lululemon top.  I actually bought it a month ago and saved it until I could wear it.  That was my motivation.  Hey whatever works, right? 

 

no, not bad form.  just different exercises. :)

oh, yes... cool down.  then me ready to hurl after an intense workout.

This week my favorite workout was an intense 30 minutes shoulders workout that left me feeling like I wanted to hurl.  Probably because that was proceeded by 30 minutes of fast hills on the elliptical. I had to hunch over to take my breath after I was done (thanks to my buddy for laughing his butt off and taking the snapshot).  This week I am probably more motivated because I am seeing improvements not only in the body weight but also my strength.  I am kicking some major tail lifting extra weight especially in the upper body.  Now if only my lower body can get with the program. 

I tell you what.  This Puerto Rican hold everything from the waist down so it takes an act of Congress to get my lower body in shape.  One of the ways I like to mix things up is checking out new exercises to add to my routines.  And it so happens that this month's Oxygen Magazine features my girl Amanda Latona on the cover and she shares the exercises that have helped her attain that world famous lower body.  


if I ever had a girl crush, she would be it! lol

As you can see, little baby steps progress shows me that I am approaching this training the right way for me.  I am motivated and with a few tweaks for next week (including adding a multivitamin) I am ready to rock week 3 and see what progress I make!!!  Alright peeps, you have a good weekend and don't forget to stop by on Sunday for our Sunday Coffee Gathering No. 3!  It will be a fun chat!

Joining Fitness Friday,  Workout Wednesday and Finish Line Friday. #BESTFOOT.

128 | island flavors: ancho-guahillo chile shrimp

 

One of my favorite foodie related things about having grown up in a Caribbean island is the many culinary influences that eventually make their way into our local cuisine.  It is always pretty funny-- and annoying at times when people assume Puerto Rican food is like Mexican food: hot and very spicy.  And they could not be further from the truth.  Yes, my island's cuisine has some spicy dishes but mainly Puerto Rican food is all about flavors than it is about heat.  We use lots of aromatics and spices to add flavor not spiciness. 

126 // the blue heart of an island girl

I am an island girl. An Aquarius.  Blue hues and water are in my nature.  I crave the color that reminds me of the clear blue Caribbean waters that saw me grow.  I miss the sounds of the waves, the clarity of water as it tickled my toes.  Blue makes me happy therefore I surround myself with those colors that put a smile on my face.
 
all photo captured with VSCO CAM app
 

 



125 // a tea lovers guide to cacao bliss (plus a recipe for tea infused madeleines): tisano review

In a world where people discard much of what we eat, it is refreshing to find a company who has redefined capitalize in the concept of "using every part of a plant" to create an innovative product with mass appeal not only to those of us who love tea but anyone looking to venture into trying teas for the first time.  I am the first to tell you that I am a tea purist in the sense that I do not believe in putting anything in my teas.  All it does is mask the beautiful mouth of the liquid, thus defeating the purpose. 


 
When it comes to teas, I am more partial to black teas (hello Churchill's Toddy deliciousness) or green (like a beautifully delicate Fukamushi Japanese Sencha).  So when I was asked to try the Tisano Chocolate Teas I immediately was intrigued because it sounded so different.  When give the opportunity to choose the flavors, I went with the Rose Cacao Tea and a sample of the Chai Cacao.  I am not sure what I was expecting  but it certainly was not the beautiful array of cacao shells and dried rose petals.  My friends will tell you I am a sucker for a beautiful tea (meaning the leaves). 

 

Now, this is a good time to address the fact that Tisano is not a tea in the sense of the word.  Allow me to go tea-geek on you for a few second.   In order for a tea to be technically considered as such it must come from camellia sinensis plant.  All of your white, black, green, and oolong teas come from this plant; they are just processed differently to reach the different levels of oxidation that make each tea so unique.  So, by definition other herbal teas or rooibos are not technically teas.  And that means that by purist standards Tisano teas are NOT teas perse.  

Tisano teas are made from the cacao shells.  This is something they capitalized on when they realized that 12% of the cacao beans was lost to the shells.  They didn't know what to do with them so they set out to do some research and found that the cacao shells absorb a lot of nutrients from the cacao bean and thus contain many similar health properties as the cacao beans themselves. The shell is also very high in magnesium and potassium and Vitamin.  This is pretty darn awesome if you ask me, right?



So, what does this tea purist thinks about this Rose Cacao tea? I brewed this tea at the recommended temperature and ended up with a beautiful golden liquid that was very fragrant thanks not to roses but to the cacao shells.  The roses however, gave it a floral mouth that combined with the "chocolaty" fragrance as you drank made for a pretty good sip of tea.  I was a deep chocolate flavor so I was kind of skeptical because while I am a chocoholic... not so much in my tea.  But was pleasantly surprised because while these two notes create a depth of flavor, it is also very delicate and comforting.  This is a tea that would be great anytime of the year.  And in all honesty-- and not because I am a purist-- but to add anything to this tea would be to ruin the delicate taste of it.  

Now, you will think I am crazy but the minute I tasted this tea I thought of food.  This is a tea that would be perfect to have when you are eating a little bite of something a little sweet.  I emphasize a little because anything overtly sweet would mask the tea flavor.   I am all about afternoon teas and delicate cakes with my tea so I decided to go crazy and put a twist on my favorite French cookie: madeleines.  If there is a cookie that is delicate enough to complement this tea, the madeleine is.  So I share with you my recipe for Rose Cacao Tea Infused Madeleines:




These delicate cookies browned a bit too much (probably because of the tea addition but that did not take from the delicious flavor.  Here is why I decided to go with a baked good: because there are no tea leaves therefore the baking process will not cause the madeleines to turn bitter, which can happen if you "overcook" tea leaves.  The rose cacao taste worked really good with this rather spiced madeleine recipe.  All the flavors really complemented each other and which eat bite you could taste the subtle hint of the tea flavor.  You may notice that unlike most madeleines, I skipped the lemon zest because I thought it was to bright of a note for this tea and I was right.  In all, this turned out great and I think, using the Chai latter (which I also sample) would take these cookies to another level.  That is one recipe I will definitely try. 

So, have I gotten your attention?  Then go ahead and give this tea a try!  The awesome people from Tisano have given me a discount to share with you all.  When you use the code TISANOLICIOUS15% you save 15% on your order.  This offer ends on 3/31/14.  How awesome is that?!  But it gets better, the I'm Fit Possible blog is hosting a Tisano giveaway where you can win a 4 oz. tin and 2 samples of Tisano! Click HERE for more details.  I really do hope you give this tea a try because it is something different from your usual tea but still really delicious. 

CONNECT WITH TISANO
  |    | Website  | #tisanolicious


I Am Sharing with other tea lovers:  A Return to Loveliness ~ http://www.adelightsomelife.com/    Tea Cup Tuesday~    Tea Cup Tuesday ~ http://www.marthasfavorites.com/  Tuesday Cuppa Tea~ http://www.antiquesandteacups.info/  Friends Sharing Tea~ http://blog.bernideens.com/   Share Your Cup Thursday~   Home Sweet Home~

124 // a day at the nelson-atkins museum of art

On Sunday, I was in Kansas City and after I was done with the errands I had to do I decided to check out the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  This visit has been on my list to do since I moved here and I am beyond thrilled I was able to experience this.  As a history major, museums are one of those places that as a friend mentioned to me recently "puts me in the zone".  His way describes it nicely, my silly self describes it as "going geek".

Let me begin by saying that whatever preconceptions I had about this museum were thrown out the window the minute the building housing the museum came into view.   This marvelous neoclassical structure is pretty impressive and the ground are beautiful.  When I saw the statue of Rodin's "The Thinker", I knew I was in for a great day. 

 

photos via Franklin Arts
 
Inside, the building is as magnificent as outside.  Large columns, marble, limestone... the sheer scale and grandeur of the inside details were created to impress and to let you know there are amazing things ahead.  My iPhone photos do not do this building justice so the two pics above from Franklin Arts should give you a better idea of how amazing this place it.  One of my favorite areas was the indoor courtyard where one can grab lunch.  I felt like I was in some Italian villa.  It was so pretty.

photo courtesy of Nelson-Atkins Museum
This museum is recognized (though I did not know it) one of the finest general art museums in the United States, and it currently houses collections of more than 33,500 works of art.  Because of the vastness of the collection, you literally create new connections and unique experiences at every turn.  From Egyptian to Greek and Asian art, from Native American to African art, there is something to please everyone in this museum.  

I am not a Hindu not Chinese art fan... or so I thought, because after yesterday, I am in love.  This museum is so big that they managed to build a Hindu and a Chinese temple replica inside actual museum building and it is stunning.  And the center piece in this temple is the statue of the bodhisattva (or Goddess of Compassion) Guanyin of the Southern Sea.  She is just... awesome.  As you turn into the room you face this massive carved wall as you enter the exhibit room.   It is in the background but it commands attention. 

 
Guanyin of the Southern Sea, Liao (907-1125) or Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) Chinese

Here is some information from the museum's website:

"This polychrome wooden figure of Guanyin is possibly the best-preserved and most magnificent sculpture from this period of Chinese Buddhist art. A bodhisattva, unlike a Buddha, refrains from entering Nirvana until all sentient beings have attained enlightenment. Guanyin, the bodhisattva most associated with compassion by Chinese Buddhist followers, is depicted here in a pose of royal ease. Gentle and calming, the Guanyin bodhisattva would appeal to patrons in need of emotional support and guidance. With coloring dated to no later than the mid-16th century, the sculpture’s vivid tonal intensity adds to the bodhisattva’s emotional approachability.  Apart from the right forearm and a small outcrop on the rockery, the figure and base were carved from the trunk of a single tree."

Whether it is the facial expression or the attitude of confidence this statue has or the flowing lines, one thing is for sure-- this was my favorite sculpture in the collection.  I think there are times when one comes across a work of art that makes you feel like "wow, I am not worthy of all this beauty" and this was one of those moments. 

The amount of ancient art is astounding also and there is so much to see that I know I will be back again and again until I can see everything it has to offer. 


Now, as a girl who loves beautiful things I am drawn to architectural and design details and the next few images are of my favorite areas and painting in the museum.   This room below-- what can I say but STUNNING.  This is a replica of a sitting room in one of the grand home in the Quai des Celestines, in Paris circa 1720.  In the late Baroque style called Regency, I loved this room because the aesthetic is much clean than previous Baroque styles.  And the intimate petite room is very elegant and aristocratic thanks in part to the serpentine lines of the furniture and architectural details like that stunning medallion above the chandelier.  I felt like I was in the pages of Architectural Digest. 

 

Within a museum, paintings is where my heart resides.  And while the Monet paintings in the museum  were beautiful, these were my favorite.  On the left a portrait of Madame Freret Dericour by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis just caught my eye because it is very French to me.  It is very classic and I just love how she just looks alive.   It is so pretty.

One of my favorite moments in the museum was seeing a portrait by American artist John Singer Sargent of Mrs. Cecil Wade (right and detail below). 

 

 

He was considered "the leading portrait painter of his generation".  His portraits always remind me of the novels of Henry James, especially Portrait of a Lady.  This particular painting was exquisite and refined.  And there is so much going on in her expression: refined, yet reserved.  Austere yet innocent.   This portrait was one of his first significant commissions.  

Now, if you asked me what my favorite painting in the museum was, I have to say this one: Saint John The Baptist in the Wilderness by Caravaggio.   It is dramatic and intense thanks in part to the contrast of shadows and light.  But it is the brooding sort of melancholy in his face is just spellbinding.  To use the word spellbinding is really big but that is exactly what this painting does for me.   I just could not stop looking at it. 

 

As you can possibly already tell, this was  lovely surprise to me.  I have been in museums in some of the biggest cities in the world, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art rivals many of those because of its vast and unique collection.  And that admission is free, is even more amazing to me.  this really is about sharing beautiful art and masterpieces with the public.  Is my new favorite place to visit in Kansas City.  I cannot wait until the weather gets warmer to have a picnic in the lawn because it is beautiful also.  There is another wing of the museum called the Bloch Building which is a modern type of structure.  But I am leaving that one for next time.  For now I will just enjoy the memories of my day at the museum.


123 // coffee with friends no. 2


Good morning.  So glad you joined me for coffee today.  Go get yourself a cup of coffee (or tea) and get comfy.  While you do that I will be here sipping on this cup of latte.  So, how have you been?  What is new with you?

Hello ladies, welcome to our virtual coffee gathering.  I hope some more girls will show up but in the meantime, why don't we relax and catch up on life?  What's on your mind?  If you were here having coffee with me what would I tell you?



If we were having coffee... that I just finished reading the most wonderful book titled AHA by Kyle Idleman.  I picked up this book when I was in NC and I read most of it on the flight back home.  I did not finish it until this weekend because this book really made me face some things in my life that I need to deal with.  And with that realization comes a need for action.  And let me tell you, when a book moves you to do this, it can pretty scary.  The book basically looks at those AHA moments, or alarms that God sends you in life to let you know when something is not going  according to his plan, and it explains this concept in the context of the Prodigal Son story.  It truly was an amazing book. 

-eAZSuTV6YBo/Upz2DPAQ7WI/AAAAAAAAG3c/2FaHWIMpyxw/s320/AHA.JPG

If we were having coffee... I would tell you that with my new half marathon training I've had to change my runs to the morning.  But it has allowed me to see some gorgeous sunrises this week.  It is in those moments that I am in awe of God's greatness and creation.  I sometimes have to stop and just smile.  This is when I feel closest to Him. 


no filters.  just pure God's awesomeness!

If we were having coffee... I would share that I found this picture on a blog the other day and it really made me stop and think about my talents and how I use them. 


I sometimes feel that I am mean o use my talents but... I am not sure what my talents are to be honest.  I keep praying for clarity and discernment that I can find out what they are before it is too late.  Doesn't it really made you think about how we use the talents we have?

If we were having coffee... I would tell you that the new ABC tv shows Resurrection and Believe have two thing in common: creepy little kids being chased by even creepier adults.  Can we talk about this for a second?  Is it me or suddenly everything on tv is paranormal.  Witches, vampires, werewolves... And this makes my choices tough because I am a chicken when it comes to stuff like that and I personally think that is inviting negative vibes into my home that I do not need.  And then the alternatives are Scandal, Betrayal and Revenge.  I found myself watching Betrayal one  night when it suddenly hit me: I am cheering for cheaters to cheat on their spouses and get together because-- ok, get this-- it's so romantic.  Ummm... what is wrong with this picture?

If we were having coffee... I would tell you that one of my friends asked me to help her with an iPhone project for her photography class and I said yes. She took a bunch of funny pics of me and snugglebug extraordinaire, Jack (who so needs a haircut).  These are my favorites and love the filters she used.  Nothing better that snuggling with my boy.  But my friend pointed out something that kind of made me tear up.  She said: "Maria, for the first time you are smiling with peace.  It is not a forced smile or one that doesn't reach your eyes.  I can see you are making your way out of the tunnel that sadness put you in".  And it is true.  I am seeing life in a whole new way and I am so thankful for Him who never leaves me alone.



Yes, that's right no makeup.  I didn't realize it until we started.  I sent these to my mom and she loved them.

If we were having coffee... I would tell you that wedding magazines and sites are pretty overwhelming which is probably why I have not started planning my wedding yet.  How do people do this?  I can so see why this is a multi billion dollar business.

If we were having coffee... I would tell you that I love small town peeps.  There is a farmer who makes fresh eggs deliveries every week.  Well, I was not home this week when the delivery happened so she emailed me to tell me that she had left me the eggs in the front porch and to pay her the next time.  Yeah... not in the big city.  I love this small town kindness.  This has been one of the rewards of moving to a small town in Kansas.  Getting to know the locals to the point that if I walk into the general store, they already know what I need.  I have never experienced this and I love it. 

If we were having coffee... I would tell you there are signs of spring popping everywhere, even as winter decides to be stubborn.  I always love the transition of seasons because it is nature's way of saying NEW POSSIBILITIES AHEAD. 

There was something else I wanted to tell you but I forgot.  You know how it goes.  Oh well, it will have to wait until our next coffee date.  I hope you can join me.  I do enjoy this little break from the week.  I hope your week is beautiful and blessed.  Until next time. 

122 // hello: i'm a sugar addict (new half marathon & strength training plan week 1)

Hello peeps!  Well, tomorrow is going to be crazy busy, so I'm posting this today.  Another week has gone by and I am beyond ecstatic about how week 1 of my half marathon training is going!  the running + the strength training proved a bit of a load because I tend to workout in the afternoons after work.  But the first few days proved how unwise that decision was especially when work gets really busy.  So, I have to defer to my Army default: running in the morning and strength training in the afternoon.


For those of you who do not know, most Army units do PT (physical training) in the morning.  But there are units or posts where you can do PT on your own (kind of a honor code).  Since I arrived in Kansas in April I have been doing PT on my own which works great because I am not a morning person. The good thing about running in the morning is that while it may take me a bit longer to warm up the muscles, I have more energy.  Plus seriously, I have been given the gift of seeing some gorgeous sunrises.  


In easing into this half-marathon plan with lower miles in the front end allowed me to work on my pace, managing to go from a 13:00 minute average pace down to a 11:00 average.  And I am thrilled about it because my foot cooperated with this pace.  Stretching after running is something I rarely do (I know, horrible) so I am also getting better at that.  I noticed how, unlike the times I do not stretch, my legs are not stiff through the day... and as Martha Stewart would say that "it's a good thing".

But can I tell you a secret?  I am totally IN LOVE with my strength training routines because they are a combination of exercises I know with some new variations to challenge my muscles.  I really like working my lower body but working upper body is my favorite.  Loving, loving, loving these routines.  Something about working upper body makes me feel like I am tough...lol.  The exercises on the photos above are my new favorites.  LOVE them!

Now, can we talk about the food portion of this plan?
1.  First a funny story. Remember me complaining about the frequency and amount of food I have to eat in this plan?  I even emailed my coach about it and she laughed but explained why this was important.  So for the first three days I basically force fed myself.  But on day 3 I woke ravenous, like I could eat a horse and his baby pony too!  Holy mollie!  Suddenly I feel like my life revolves around food.
2.  Second, I am a sugar addict.  Because my processed sugar intake went down to like nothing, I had the worst sugar withdrawals ever!  I've never considered myself an addict but this week proved me wrong.  From day 1-3 I experienced headaches and shakes... like seriously: the shakes.  It was the weirdest thing ever!  By day 4 I was feeling better.  Now, my coach is an angel and she does allow me to have 1 poptart post workout with 1 scoop of protein shake (mixed with water).  I know.  You probably have the same expression on your face that I did when I read the word POPTART.  But it turns out that a poptart after a hard workout works.  HERE is a good article on this subject.   And all I am going to say is that I never loved a poptart more.  Haha!
3.  Third, let's talk coffee.  Y'all know I am a coffee fiend.  I love my coffee; Seriously, the phrase "I drink coffee for your protection" was invented with me in mind.  But here is the thing, for the past four days I have not needed my coffee in the morning.  Maybe a sip or two but once I eat breakfast, my desire to drink coffee goes away.  Hmmm.

 

 In all how did week 1 go? I'm actually pretty happy with accomplishing the goals of week 1.  There is something to be said for structure and having someone to motivate you when you are working out.  So, week 1 is in the books; BRING IT ON week 2!

Joining Workout Wednesday.   Fitness Friday. Finish Line Friday.

121 // half marathon training wk1 goals (plus some spiritual fitness too)

Today started my week 1 of the half-marathon/weight training and so excited!  I actually went running this morning because tomorrow is an all day at work that I just know will leave me zapped.  Run went good although it was a bit too cold and my muscles just were not wanting to warm up.  As you can probably tell from the picture, I am a bit type-A when it comes to information and like my information visually organized.

This training program looks pretty busy but the good thing is that I am used to most of these exercises and know how much exertion they will cause.  Because of that I am breaking down my days by doing my runs in the morning and strength training in the evening. 


I also started a very specific nutrition plan that is going to test me because of the constant "grazing" every 2 1/2 hours.  I just do not eat that often (which is probably my problem) so I have to get used to that especially breakfast.   But I am going to have to keep telling myself that this is for my own good, right?  

But my goals are not only physical but also spiritual.  And you can say I am trying to buff up my heart and my soul.  So this week I am reading a new book I bought about the story of Esther.  

I love to read books about women-- and men, who God uses in unexpected ways to prove His power and show His love for us.  And boy, it does not get more unexpected than Esther.  So, I am really looking forward to the lessons in this book and how through the story of Esther, I can learn more about the unexpected moments in my life. 

What about you?  Any goals for this week either fitness, nutrition or spiritually related?

#bestfoot 
follow through friday (monday edition)