Family Reunion

Does a vacation mean you need to lose all your gains or stay so on track that you can’t lighten up and have a little fun? Of course it doesn’t. Come with me, here’s a few tips and strategies as I embarked on my annual family reunion. . .

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Fail to plan and plan to fail; start making a list a couple of weeks out of what you’ll need. No need to go overboard but it’s very helpful to have the essentials on hand. I divide my list up into a few categories: clothes/outfits + workout wear/sporting gear, food, kitchen utensils and in this case beach stuff I will need.

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Hallelujah! I managed to get 5 glorious days away. Leaving on a Wednesday I pre packed as much as I could that Sunday, knowing Monday and Tuesday would be very busy at work with preparation for my absence. So, come Wednesday morning I was ready to go with minimal last minute packing. It was a dreary day with lots of rain on the horizon. I didn’t care; I was going to the beach, the rain was a sign that my stress was about to wash away.

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Off we go!

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And it rained all the way up. The “Jag” loves to be in control especially behind the wheel and I hate to drive. So fine baby, have at it. Let it rain; I relaxed, read, conversed and had quite a pleasant trip up. The weather had cleared slightly upon arrival.

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Over the years our family reunion has been at a few beach destinations but the last 10 or so we have made our way to Neptune Beach, a quaint and beautiful strip and stay at a delightful hotel The Sea Horse Oceanfront Inn. I have a no elevator rule when I am at the beach and it had better not be more than 2 stories high. I find the old Florida style resorts to have the most charm and despise the overbearing high-rises.

I have to unpack immediately and organize everything especially since we would be there for 5 days and I cannot live in clutter. We had a little more rain that evening but no one minded as the rest of the family members began arriving.

Meet the Family. . .

the Parents

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It all started with the parents although they no longer make it to the reunions because they can’t handle the heat like they used to.  This is a dated picture circa 1991 but one when they were all together. Both my and the Jag’s parents were good friends and had a lot of great times together.  Mine are on the left and the Jag’s are on the right. We lost my dear mother in law Marion in 1999.  I am thankful I had 13 wonderful years of knowing her.  She is depicted as a guardian angel on every family reunion tee shirt.

the Jag & his Bros

Bros

Chuck and Kenny, the blood is thick.  Chuck is one year younger than Rick and Kenny is 11 years younger

Sisters in law

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The Jag’s 2 sisters Becky (2 years younger than Rick) and baby sister Jay (14 years younger) bookending and sister in-law Suzy in the middle

Brothers in Law

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You already met Chuck and Kenny, that’s Dave (belongs to Jay) in the middle

There are 3 nieces, 1 nephew and 6 great nieces and nephews

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I’m an only child and I inherited this entire wonderful family through the Jag

Come late Wednesday evening most everyone had arrived and the fun began.

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Since it’s a flip flop state of mind all week the girls immediately showed off their pedicures.  Hmmm, I think the naked nails are Jag’s and he somehow slipped into the picture.

For dinner every night it’s Finnin’ which means each family fends for themselves getting take out from their restaurant of choice and we all eat together in the courtyard.  Of course we have a block of adjacent rooms on both floors.  Now, there are no kitchens or grills at the Sea Horse so bummer, no cooking.  I do enjoy a break now and again but you must be prepared.  Where there’s a will there’s a way. . .

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I don’t like eating breakfast out, unless you’re lucky enough to find a quality spot so I cook our breakfast in the room using my trusty toaster oven to cook up bacon or sausage

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and my hot plate for some scrambled eggs,

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a side of fruit and voila breakfast is served!

After breakfast I need some activity.  In the past I have searched out gyms and there is even a CF box about 6 minutes from the hotel. This year I decided to take a break. Thursday morning I ran beach sprints from trash can to trash can, they were placed in between lifeguard stations and I guesstimated them to be about 100 yds. Sprint 100, walk 200 and I repeated that for about 2 miles.  Friday and Saturday mornings were a power yoga class not 50 m from the hotel.  Then it was time for some fun in the sun

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Now if you’re going to use sunscreen get a natural or organic one — they won’t have the harmful chemicals in them that the conventional ones do.

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After some energizing boogie boarding it was time for lunch . . .

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Lunch and dinner are much easier and restaurants abound within walking distance – over the years I’ve tried them all and narrowed it down to my favorite two. This was an octopus salad with a homemade lemon vinaigrette.  Yum!

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the fun continued throughout the afternoons

The Girls

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And dinner, well sometimes you have to splurge a little

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who can resist Shrimp n’ Grits from the North Beach Fish Camp

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the evenings were capped off with nightly poker tournaments

On the last night we all cram in one hotel room and watch a slideshow of the weekend’s best moments saddened that it’s almost over but knowing that some great family memories were made

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All good things must come to an end and the 5 days flew by. I came back rested, refreshed, re-inspired and ready to get back to my day to day life. Vacations are a much needed necessity and not taken often enough by most of us. The last several years mine have not been far away from home or exotic but the quality of  them and the company is what is important.  Like anything else it is what you make it. . .

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Bacon, Eggs & Grits

There are many different and delicious things one can have for breakfast but it’s only fitting I start with my favorite–basic as it may be–and I’m sure it will also be quite a few of y’alls. . . …

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Nothing suits me better on a weekend morning that a nice hearty plate of crisp bacon, sunny side up farm fresh eggs and a helping of grits with a dollop of raw butter.  Makes me happy.  Grits?  They’re not Paleo?  No, they are not and I gave them up for quite some time when I was annoyingly strict Paleo on a much needed healing journey.  But they’re back in my life bigger and better than ever and they’re not just any grits. Once again with the “questionable” foods, it’s the quality and the preparation method that matters most.  Along with someone’s level of health.

The majority of the corn grown in America is vastly unhealthy, GMO and  sprayed with pesticides.  The typical supermarket versions of grits are overly processed, bleached, enriched, ground too fine and tasteless.  Don’t eat those.  I have searched the south (and a few other places) for the best grits.  First off they must not be GMO, preferably organic and definitely stone ground.   They’re not to be found in Tampa, FL but in this age of the internet I can get nearly anything delivered to my door in a timely fashion.  Just so with these Anson Mill organic heirloom grits.

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My favorite are the Antebellum coarse white grits.  They do make a quick grits which I will use on occasion when time is of the essence.  The most important step is the soaking.  It doesn’t require more time just a little forethought.  If I’m having these for breakfast before going to bed I put them on to soak. When I get up in the morning, they’re ready to go.  If I’m having them with dinner, I put them on to soak when I wake up.  Done.

Why soak them?  It reduces the cooking time, the trauma to the corn during cooking and makes them more digestible, creamier and just more delicious.

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For the Grits

1 cup stone ground grits
3+ cups water
1 tsp sea salt
2-3 tbs raw butter
freshly ground black pepper

You’ve soaked your grits; turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer (not a boil) stirring constantly.  This should take about 6 – 8 minutes, reduce the heat to low and cover.  Now, about every 10 minutes, give the grits a stir adding a little extra hot water if you’re able to stand your spoon upright.  Add the salt halfway through the cooking time.  Cook over low heat for about 50-60 minutes or until tender and creamy.  To finish them stir in the butter or serve individually with a healthy dollop.  Add more sea salt if desired and the pepper.

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For the Bacon

2# nitrate, nitrite free bacon

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Heat a cast iron skillet on medium for about 3 minutes before placing the bacon in it; when the bacon just barely begins to sizzle turn the heat down to medium low which will allow it to brown evenly turning every so often.

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As pieces are finished remove to drain on paper towels adding bacon and continuing until all is cooked.

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Pour out some of that rendered bacon grease into a Mason jar which you can store in the refrigerator for later use.  Keep about 1 tbs or so in the pan to fry up the eggs.

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For the eggs

1 dozen farm fresh eggs

Keep the heat at medium low and crack your eggs into the bacon grease

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I’m a sunny side up girl myself and I cook mine until the whites are just barely opaque, no flipping.  Hubby likes his over easy; if you do, gently flip the egg allowing the underside to cook for about a minute and then carefully remove so as to not break the yolk.  If you like the yolk hard throughout just cook a little longer.

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Over easy

Enjoy!

Peachy Legs

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As the summer comes to a close that also signifies the end of peach season;  it saddens me every year.  The sweet, juicy peach is one of my favorite fruits. I’m rather picky about my peaches and IMO the best ones hail from Georgia.  If you’ve every traveled through the state during the summer and stopped at a roadside stand you’ll feel like you’re in heaven as you bite into the warm peach with the juices running down your chin.

For those that live on the other coast, California has some lovely organic peaches to rival the Georgia beauties.  The cross country trek can take quite a toll on this delicate fruit; in this case you are better served going local.

I go so far as to have them delivered from Pearson Farms and I must confess I will eat a non organic peach although they are sustainably farmed and “every step is taken to minimize the use of pesticides.”  Yes, I know–we all have our weaknesses and peaches are one of mine.

My favorite way to eat these delightful delicacies is in the raw or with a splash of cream.  But I went a little crazy and bought several this year and found other ways to include them in my meals.

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Start with 4 pastured chicken legs, skin on.  Make sure they are not conventional as those poor little birds never got to walk and their wheels have smaller muscles despite any growth enhancing substances they may have received.

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Make the marinade

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Place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 2-4 hours

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Make the salsa

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Grill covered over direct heat for 35-45 mins or until no longer pink

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Remove from grill

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Serve with your favorite side and enjoy!

Recipe & Ingredients

4 skin on chicken legs
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tsp shredded orange peel
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp dried)
2 medium peaches (Georgia preferred although South Carolina has some fine ones)
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 ripe avocado (1/2 if using large Florida avocado); peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup purple onion, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice

Preparation

To make the marinade combine wine, orange peel, orange juice, olive oil and rosemary.  Whisk well, place chicken legs in a resealable plastic bag, pour marinade over and refrigerate for 2 – 4 hours turning bag occasionally.

In the meantime make the salsa; pit and chop the peaches leaving the peel on and place in a bowl.  Add the red pepper, avocado, onion and lime juice.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade.  Place the chicken skin side down directly over medium coals and grill for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink turning once and brushing with reserved marinade halfway through cooking.  Serve with the salsa

Peaches n’ Cream

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Wow.  It just doesn’t get any better than this.  And the sheer simplicity of it. . .

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Start with the freshest locally grown peaches you are able to find or have shipped

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Pour raw cream over them and sit back, relax and enjoy the pleasure of the last of the peaches this season. . .

 

WAYTF?

What are you training for?

I first heard that acronym when I became an immediate fan of CrossFit Football and attended one of their amazing certifications. No, I have never played football in my life, have no desire to and don’t even really understand or like the game. I’ve been a football widow for more seasons than I can count. So, why CFFB?

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Because it meets my goals—it’s what I’m training for at this point in my life. I want to look good, feel good, be as strong, powerful and functional as I can be and kick some ass if I need to. CFFB focuses on training for strength, power and speed which is exactly what a field sport athlete needs and what an individual like myself wants—to maintain muscle, strength and power which will enable me to continue to do the things I love in my later years.

I don’t really care about endurance. I can still sprint a decent 100 m for a 54 year old woman and that’s good enough for me; I have no desire to run a half marathon or even a 5K for that matter. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just not what I am training for.

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Short prowler pushes will do the trick!

So, your training methodologies should reflect your goals. And defining your goals will determine your training method. If you’re like a lot of people you just want to be in better shape and are training for we call GPP (general physical preparedness). Others refer to that as “general fitness” or as defined by CrossFit “proficiency in the top 10 fitness skills: cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.”

What exactly is CrossFit? It’s a core strength and conditioning program long used by the military, law enforcement officers, firefighters and athletes. They need to be in tip top shape and prepared for anything that comes their way. It is fast becoming the workout of choice for the general populace aka “average individual”. Why? Because it works, and while most people do not face the emergencies or critical situations of the former it better prepares them to handle the daily stressors of life and carries over to their career and relationships.

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What it is not is the typical workout you see in the “Globo Gyms” where boundaries are placed between strength and cardio, the focus is on isolating muscles rather than movements and the insistence is on endurance exercise as the primary choice for fat burning. That mentality is still living in the 80’s.

The CrossFit prescription is “functional movements, constantly varied and performed at high intensities.” The methodology is a hierarchy of effort that builds as follows; nutrition lays the foundation for fitness and health—as well established through the recipes on this blog. Participants are trained to run, bike, swim and row at short, middle and long distances building capacity in each of the three metabolic pathways or energy systems. Basic to advanced gymnastic movements establishes functional capacity for body control and range of motion. Olympic Weightlifting develops control and produces power. Athletes (everyone is an athlete) are encouraged to explore a variety of sports as a vehicle to express and apply their fitness as well as enhance activities of daily living.

Let’s take a closer look at the CrossFit prescription. . . 

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Functional Movements:

The body does not work—in life or sport—in isolation so we do not train that way; compound movements with application are the main focus. Bodyweight gymnastics movements, Olympic Weightlifting and cardiovascular modalities are used. Machines are not —there are no padded seats in life. Instead we use barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sandbags, tires, sledgehammers, ropes, rings and other objects limited only by the imagination.

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Constantly Varied:

The above are then utilized in various combinations, rep schemes, intervals and rounds; changing constantly so the body never knows what to expect. Programming is not random but designed to support this and sometimes per iodized.

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Performed at High Intensities:

This is not to be confused with sacrificing form and range of motion for increased speed. Nor are beginners encouraged to work beyond their capabilities. You are encouraged however, to dig deep, put aside any preconceived limitations and give it everything you have.

The workouts, for the most part are short in duration—but very effective. They change people and bring forth amazing transformations. Athletes are a breed that will usually do whatever it takes. CrossFit brings forth this mentality within the average individual. Many come in deconditioned, overweight, with little self esteem and can barely walk 400 meters let alone run or sprint it. The intensity often needs to be scaled appropriately and introduced gradually. Importance is placed on proper form and technique.

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In beginners, improvements are usually seen within the first 2 weeks of training. First, their form improves, they get comfortable with the movements, and they are able to do more reps and then more weight. A distance they could barely walk, they can now jog, run or sprint in much less time. Their body composition begins to change. They are more aware of what they are putting into their bodies as fuel. They start liking themselves better, they become more confident, it begins to affect their relationships, their careers and families. CF creates an environment conducive to empowering you to choose the life you want to lead. It is not a place where machines are used – it is a place where you turn your body and mind into a highly functional and efficient machine.

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A Community develops and grows

While this enlightenment is not new to the fitness arena the enormity of it in this type of training is. This is CrossFit—and what it can do for your life. If you are an athlete in a specific sport there are variations of the general program that will take your game to a higher level. If you just want to be in the best shape of your life, it’s all you need.  We’ll delve deeper in future articles but in the meantime give some thought to–what are you training for?

Zipper Peas

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Zipper peas? I’d heard of them but never cooked them so I asked the farmer at our local organic Urban Oasis to tell me a little about them. “Well, zipper peas are a southern pea that is planted after the weather is warm, often after the spring peas are past down here in the south. They are named that way for how the pod opens.”

I couldn’t wait to try them since I love the seasonal field peas in general.  I bought a couple of bags (they conveniently had them shelled) and wondered how I was going to cook them.

Well how else? With bacon of course. . .

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Saute the bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels, crumble and reserve for later use

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It helps to have a several jars of stock in your freezer making it easy to just take out what you need.  You can substitute store bought organic stock but I’ve found none that compare to the homemade version.  Chop up the onions, carrots and garlic.

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Saute the carrots and onions in the bacon grease until slightly tender, add the garlic and saute 2 minutes longer

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Add the peas and stock and bring to a low boil, reduce heat cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes longer or until peas are tender and liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.

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Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with reserved bacon.

Recipe & Ingredients

2 cups fresh shelled zipper peas (can sub other varieties)
3-4 slices pork bacon
2 carrots chopped
2/3 cup chopped vidalia or sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 cups chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

In a medium saucepan fry the bacon until crisp then drain on paper towels.  Crumble and set aside.  Saute the carrots and onions in the bacon grease until slightly tender; add the garlic and continue sauteing until for another 2 minutes.  Add the peas and chicken stock and bring to a low boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 30-45 minutes until the peas are tender and slightly thickened.

Spoon into bowls and top with the crumbled bacon.