Ten-Minute Tacos

I’m in grad school. I think I’ve established that with you all already. But what that means, if you haven’t done it before, can seem like “Oh, so you read every now and then,” right?

Skip down to if you’re just here for the tacos

Let me tell you what my day looked like today: Alarm goes off at 6. I always turn it off instead of pressing snooze and let my body decide if it needs more rest or if we can jump into the day. I dozed back off and woke up at 6:15 – time to get up. That means I got all my rest (I’ve been waking up this way about a year now, and it really eases the morning tension I see so many folks walk around with. I do, I should also mention, aim to get to bed before 11; actually, 11 is pushing it way “late” for me, so the 6 a.m. isn’t such an issue. I admire the 4 a.m.ers that talk about how much they can get accomplished that early. Nah. I’m good. 6 works for me haha!) so I stretch in the bed before my feet hit the floor, then after brushing teeth and washing face I set out for a jog. The air was a little crispy this morning, so that served as my morning coffee – because I don’t drink coffee. I did 25 minutes in a walk/job mix. When I get home I take Champ out for his walk, because dogs need exercise too (but I can’t get my heart rate up with him stopping at every bush and hydrant). When we get back, Champ eats and I set out to transform myself into a working adult – shower, lotion, dress, mascara, you know, nothing fancy. Typical. I whip up my morning smoothie. Today was 2 scoops of almond protein powder, 8 ounces of almond milk, a tablespoon of chia seeds, half a banana and a dash of cinnamon. I may have thrown 2 or 3 ice cubes in there since warm smoothies make me want to url. I pack my lunch and head off to work. The drive in this morning wasn’t bad. When I left my place the car clock read 8:11; I parked at 8:28. Then catch up on emails, break for a little Facebook interaction, water, tea, emails, reports, audits, answer questions, voicemail catch-up, water, water, socialize with colleagues, water, emails, lunch, water, audit review, more socializing, more emails, meeting with faculty, answer questions, before I know it, it’s 5:15. I’m home by 5:40ish, walk Champ. It’s Wednesday night, which means I have class, back up at the university I’d just left, at 7:15. I’m so hungry I could eat a baby. Thanks to all the water I had countless bathroom visits, and I’m on E. Insert: ten-minute tacos! I whipped up those bad boys, changed my clothes and dashed out the door a little past 7. Ugh. Always running late for this class! Class is over at 8:30. Then I’m off to Vertical Joe’s to take a 9 p.m. cardio class, “ATL Bounce,” which uses the new trendy kangoo jump boots. Except, I lied. Tonight I didn’t make it to Bounce. I came straight home. And I’m drinking a glass of wine. Whatever Don’t judge me! But usually, yes, that’s what I do. I actually needed to prepare lunch for tomorrow and getting home at 10:30 to do that didn’t feel like a good idea. And since I’m trying to limit how much I eat out, missing Bounce for once wasn’t going to break me.

Ok. The tacos. When I tell you they’re easy, listen. I mean, you just don’t get easier than this.

What helped was I had a container of pre-cooked quinoa in the fridge. Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber and protein. Get you some! I make a big batch of it, with no seasonings so it’s versatile, throw some in an airtight container for the fridge then freeze the rest. That’s really the only part you have to prep with these things.

The rest is cutting up produce. The sauteed kale and spinach was in a pack I got from a foodstand next to my job. But you can use whatever greens you have on hand. If it’s just kale, or only spinach, or even mustard greens, I mean really it can be whatever. But try to incorporate some greens in every meal. Your body will thank you.

After chopping up everything, while the greens were sauteeing I just threw everything into a taco. When I took the greens off heat, that’s when I added the cooked quinoa. There’s no reason to recook it. What I love about quinoa is it adapts to whatever you flavor it with. Since the greens had flavor, I tossed the quinoa around in the greens so the grains could soak up all the juices – Voila!

What I love about these tacos is there is plenty of superfood goodness to keep you fueled and full. The quinoa and avocado make it filling; the sauteed greens get you your fiber, and the fresh tomatoes and mango were a pleasant delight and contrast with the greens. Yum! And fast.

No lie. I turned on the eye on the stove at 6:31; I was eating by 6:42 – that includes adding it to the plate.

Of course, as far as flavor goes, I didn’t have much time so I kept it basic. But that doesn’t mean they were bland! I’m a garlic lover. For me, onions and garlic are the staple to any savory meal. You just can’t go wrong with them. It was a no-brainer for me. Had I more time, I would have added some bell pepper, maybe squash and zucchini mix, or asparagus. Really, any greens you’d like to add you can plop in those tacos! And for seasonings, I like to play with mixes. I have a smoked chipotle rub that probably would’ve set those tacos off! It really depends on what kind of flavor you’re going for, but in tacos you usually can’t go wrong with chilli powder, salt and pepper, and a topping of fresh cilantro.

So, here you go! Enjoy!

Ten-minute Tacos

1 cup cooked quinoa

2 whole wheat tortillas

2 handfuls of spinach/kale mix (or preferred greens)

1 T olive oil

1/4 C yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

1 Roma tomato

1 avocado

1/2 mango

Dash of salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet set to medium heat and add your olive oil. Add the onion and garlic cloves until the onions are transparent. Layer the kale/spinach mix on top of the onion garlic mix and stir to combine. Lower heat slightly so your greens don’t scorch. You want them soft but not wilted – the more you cook, the more nutrients you lose!

While the greens are cooking dice your Roma tomato, avocado, and mango into pieces.

When greens are ready (about 2-3 minutes), remove from heat and toss in the quinoa and stir until it combines with the juices from the green mixture.

Heat the wheat tortillas on one side to make the torillas soft and bendy (about 30 seconds on medium heat – any longer and you’re going to have chips!) Then load those babies up! Greens/quinoa on first, then avocado, tomatoes, and mango – Serve!

You will notice I did not add seasonings to this recipe. You may add salt and pepper to taste (I recommend sprinkling a tiny bit to the greens once you remove them from heat), but I was actually content with the natural flavors not to have to do this.

You will also likely enjoy some salsa on the side. I downed these boys right before class so I didn’t have time for another plate, but I looooove salsa. And guacamole! YES! But, these are ten-minute tacos for a reason!

That’s all folks.

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So, here it is 10 o’clock and it’s time to go to bed. Except my internet won’t let me be great because I’ve been trying to send a picture of these tacos from my phone to this laptop for.. oh, about 30 minutes now. Guess who won’t be getting out the bed at 6:15 tomorrow morning!

If you try these out, I’d love to hear how they went for ya. What did you like, what did you do differently, what did you omit/add? Thanks for checking in!

So you have an education… Now what?

I’m about to finish my third degree, and while that is an awesome feat to accomplish I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the challenges that I see it comes to individuals with higher education degrees. Even the term “higher education” can be deceptive, and as an employee of a higher education institution, I have an interesting perspective about how it all fits into greater meaning.

To me, intelligence is crazy attractive. But, can one be “intelligent” having earned the bear minimum education? Are there also educated dummies walking around with multiple letters behind their name? Yes, and yes.

One thing I’ve noticed from working at my institution (granted, I’ve only worked at one higher education institution, but I can’t imagine they are much different in many aspects, including the one I’m about to discuss) is the politics involved. The word politics has grown to put a bad taste in people’s mouths. But, to be clear, my reference to politics is the use of authority to dictate procedure, in a top-down fashion, and absent of shared opinion. In short, politics govern the policies and procedures that get dictated to those who rarely have a seat at the table to offer input on the that which will directly affect them.

I’ve seen politics affect when employees will be paid, how much of one’s check will be devoted to healthcare, and whether or not individuals qualify for overtime. I’ve also seen the affects of politics as it pertains to the student body – verifying one’s lawful presence to attend a public research institution, who gets admitted versus who doesn’t, and more recently who gets to graduate and who doesn’t.

It bothers me that current policy has been adjusted to focus on numbers primarily; that quantity has replaced quality.

How many students are graduating from college because they’ve just been shuffled along? Far too many, and the number is rising. It makes me question whether we’ve moved from putting value on education, or just assigning a diploma that verifies you know how to complete something. I see too many students as seniors, which indicates by this point you should have established a sound ability to communicate your thoughts in writing, who cannot form a complete, professional thought. It’s concerning, to say the least. Are students paying thousands of dollars simply to exit as ill-prepared, surface-deep, unproductive members of society?

To what end is education valuable? Who determines what value is and what it isn’t?

Earning a degree in higher education can open doors to you that otherwise would not have been. Earning a degree past high school teaches you invaluable lessons like diversity, humanity, socialization, time management, and the importance of deadlines. Completing a post-secondary education degree has provided a strong foundation for many to continue on to bigger and better.

An overwhelming majority of graduates, however, do not even use the material they learned in college. With the exception of professional degrees (think professions like law, medical, dentistry, etc.), lately I’ve questioned more and more whether the value of the time, effort, and money I’ve put into pursuing a degree is wholly worthwhile.

Do you learn theories and perspectives of others, to regurgitate said “knowledge,” or actually develop a meaningful contribution toward society? I think both can be answered yes and no.

My first master’s degree, in education with a focus on Adult Education, was no walk in the park. I read no fewer than 20 articles per course in a given semester. Can I recall any one, just one, of any of them? No. I do remember the theories, which I guess I could develop into my own meaning and how I will apply that education to further my career goals. Or, is it all just a waste of time? I won’t deny that graduate school is hard work. It takes dedication, time management, critical thinking, and a juggling of multiple tasks. But, at the end, sitting here now on the cusp of completing my second master’s I cannot help but inquire, “What’s it all for?” Just to say I did?

Well. This post is less one to offer a solution than it is to present the questions. I don’t have the answers. I can say I’ve known some extremely intelligent individuals who completed only high school, as I will admit I have worked with some blatantly unintelligent individuals with PhDs. They are, perhaps, experts in their area of study, but blindly insignificant to larger matters of the world.

I do believe education serves a purpose. Like I mentioned earlier, those core values one develops from being on their own the first time, learning to prioritize between desire and responsibility, managing one’s time when multiple demands are thrown at once – these skills don’t just get cultivated by reading about it; you have to go through it.

So are those skills worth the hundreds and thousands of dollars of debt our country’s educated are finding themselves in?

Congratulations, you can add this to your resume!

Resumes can’t be converted into money in the bank, however. And, isn’t that what the end goal is? Or to hold philosophical conversations? Perhaps both.

I’ll let you decide.

Living with Less

One of the most recent audiobooks I completed was “Investing with Purpose” by Mark Aarsdma. Initially, I thought the book was going to teach me the fundamentals of investing, but what it actually did was drop little jewels of investing knowledge I needed to receive before I should even think about investing.

I decided this year would be the year I’d start investing, but, as with all things, I didn’t want to jump into it blindly. I needed to do my research, engulf myself in material, learn the lingo and theories, etc. I’m a planner. It’s rare that I just jump into anything. I think this model has kept me from making a lot of decisions I’d regret.

One piece of advice that will be the basis of this post is:

“One of the most powerful things you can do for your future is consume less in the present and invest more in the future… it makes the difference between a lifetime of treading water and a future of growing resources.” Continue reading

No excuses, M,kay?

I started off on a fitness journey – seriously – last year. I guess it was a new year’s resolution, which I typically don’t do. But I wanted to commit myself to a better lifestyle, for good.
I don’t have “small” genes in my family. To the contrary, I have an inherent fat gene that loves to pronounce itself, unfortunately.

I’ve been fighting against it my whole life.

Which leads me to the issue I take with body shaming. Most folks’ makeup include factors beyond their control. And it’s not fair to criticize one’s place in their journey. You never know what someone is battling.
So back to my commitment, I decided to start eating better; which mainly consisted of eating out less, incorporating produce more, and limiting processed foods. I wasn’t vegan yet, but the decision was definitely a step in that direction.
I also upped my fitness game. I’ll be honest. I hate working out. Ask my girl I used to work with together with our personal trainer. I practically bitched the entire time.

But I’ll finish hahaha Kickin n screaming.

So I had to alter my relationship with fitness. It felt like a struggle because it felt like work. And I didn’t like working so hard for results that took too long to see. For what? Just to be sore in the morning and say I did? Nah son.
I respect folks that have that “beast mode” in them. Admire it, really. You know the ones that actually look forward to the gym. Yea, that’s not me. BUT I know my faults, I know my body, and remember that fat gene I was talking about? Yea, that’s not just gonna go away by eating fruits and vegetables and grilled chicken or tuna. Trust me. I tried. And I was starving. So I was cranky. And anyone who knows me without food knows it’s not a good idea – for me or those around me.
So I reshaped my idea about fitness. I have to be active. I have no choice. So if this is going to happen, I need to make it something that I enjoy doing that serves the same purpose.

That became dancing, running, and poling. Not all at the same time, but those three things.
I love to dance. Zumba, reggae, and House are my favorites to get me moving so I started there.

Look what a pinterest search for “zumba” returned! It’s just too easy, y’all.

zumba

Running. Aw man. I hated running. Hated the idea of it. Hated treadmills even more. But I knew running was great cardio. I started off just going 5 minutes at a time, alternating with fast walking, 3-4x a week and slowly increasing the length of time I ran consistently. I got up to running 30 minutes straight and damn near beamed from ear to ear with pride. Because I was never a runner. And I’d hated it. But I created a bomb playlist, and that kept me going. Eventually, I didn’t hate it anymore. I actually looked forward to it!
I still needed to incorporate strength training in my routine somewhere. Because I wanted to return to pole I knew I’d need to build my core, upper body and flexibility back. So I found videos on Grokker and incorporated strength training moves into my weekly routine, usually 2-3x per week. I like Grokker because you can find videos on whatever fitness topic you want – yoga, cardio, HIIT, etc., and can do them in the privacy of your own home. I was in grad school, which took a great deal of my time, so carving out time for going to a gym was not realistic. Every minute was valuable.
I purchased the basics I’d need to be able to do a variety of exercises at home – a yoga mat and a plyo mat (more support for the back), 2 sets of dumbbells  (1 light, 1 heavy), an exercise ball, and eventually added in resistance bands.

I haven’t run in a while (few months). Actually had to pull back on it because of knee pain. But walking is Still as effective, and actually (according to several readings I’ve come across is as effective and healthier because it’s gentler on the joints)
Walking became therapeutic for me. It was quiet time. I completed two audiobooks while walking, first thing in the morning, for 30 minutes every morning. Not only was I getting in activity but starting my day off that way really changed my attitude before work. I actually had More energy. I’m in bed no later than 10:30 is the goal to be up by 6:30 and out the door by 6:45. I’ll admit it’s been more challenging in the cold. I haven’t been as consistent because I hate cold. Don’t judge me. I’m human.
The point is, you have options. If you suffer from what most Americans do of “I don’t have time” syndrome, see if you cam realign your priorities. Go to bed earlier. That may mean not watching that late show. So you can get up earlier. Your body will thank you. I promise when you finish you won’t wish you’d stayed in bed. I’m not a coffee drinker, and actually realized I was far less tired when I started my day with a workout.

You really can do a full body workout without equipment. That’s even a category on Grokker! (FYI I’ve been a member on Grokker for a while but I don’t recall paying for it. If when you go on you have to pay, you can easily find the same videos on YouTube. Bam.)
There are some no-fail standard exercises you will see repeatedly. If you’d like to start your own routine but not ready to commit to a gym or (like me, hate gyms) create your own workout with these. You got this! No excuses, k? I have no fitness background. None. All that’s required is a desire to do better.  #startsomewhere

Burpees
Pushups
Plank
Squats
Jumping Jacks or Inch-worms (for warm-up)
Mountain climbers
Crunches
Lunges
High-knees (great cardio!)
There are so many variations in exercises there’s no limit to what you could possibly do.
These are some of my favorites I always try to incorporate. And by favorites I mean in execution. Because, remember : hate working out. Would rather be napping or reading. But, goals. Or whatever 😁

So, below I’ve uploaded some at-home workouts you can do to get you started. Maybe even mix them up! Throw in some booty shaking (twerkin, mind you is great exercise!), or even salsa – between JLo and Pitbull, just start with a radio station of either of them on Spotify and you’ll be good for at least 30 minutes! I started by finding ideas on Pinterest, that has now grown to several boards targeting the workout area I might be interested in – total body, core and abs, upper and arms or lower body – feel free to follow me on there so you get updates on my pins!

I hope this helped some. Let me know what you do! I’d love to hear back from you and even share workout ideas.

Hurt so good

pole

So, I got my first pole injury tonight…

I know. Maybe “injury” was too strong a word. But, this captures what happens in pole. There will be bruises and scars. There will be pain. There will be challenges. But, we keep going anyway.

My obsession with pole started back in 2012. I was introduced to the pole world by my long-time friend, Stephanne. She  invited me out to a “recital,” of which at the time I had no idea what the meaning was; I just went to support. Because I love her, and that’s what love does.

To say that I was amazed would be an understatement. I was blown away. The ladies I saw perform that night – from the beginners to the veterans – was inspiring and empowering. I was moved, and I didn’t even know much about pole beyond what I’d seen at strip clubs. To my surprise, my admiration and respect only grew.

Fast forward, I showed up at an open house she invited me to, and again, love made me do it lol I said, “Ok. Let’s see what this “studio” thing is all about.” Step and I have been friends since the very first day in high school. I knew her background lol We ate hot fries, chocolate chips, and Fruitopia together! But what I saw in her was strength, confidence, and sexiness. It was contagious. I wanted that too!

Open House day – the studio put on a SHOW. They gave you a taste of the different classes they offered, from fitness classes like zumba to sexy pole choreography. I was hooked. I signed up for a series where I met some beautiful ladies who are still friends of mine to this day.

Fit Candy Studio was my first pole studio, and to this day I call it my pole home. The ladies there are outstanding, but what made it home was the culture of sisterhood. Everyone is encouraging, uplifting, and positive. The owner, Kee, is a gem among gems. I can’t speak more highly of her. She’s a sister, a friend, and an inspiration. She’s built her studio from a foundation of love, is a strong believer in her higher power, and a bombshell, ok?! If you ever see her perform, your breath will be taken away. What I love most, though, is that she is so incredible, but so approachable, accepting, loving, and welcoming. She has built that studio with her spirit, and you feel it from the moment you walk in. The sisterhood in that place can’t be faked – it just is: genuine and real.

For me, FitCandy was the only thing keeping me on the eastside – Yes, I love it just that much! But I needed to transition to the city. I work in the city, I was always in the city, I had a house that was just too big for me and my dog; we needed to make a move. BUT if you’re on the eastside of OTP-Atlanta (Decatur/Lithonia/Conyers) and you’re a lady (sorry; no boys allowed – women’s only fitness playground!), do yourself a favor and follow them on Facebook so you know when the next open house is. I’m telling yo. If you don’t get all the feels after being there your first 15 minutes I want you to let me know!

Oh, and I’m not advertising for them, by the way lol Just giving my honest to goodness testimony.

Since moving to the city, making the drive to Conyers was challenging. It might not be so hard if I didn’t hate driving. But when I tell you I hate driving, listen. I am willing to turn my work parking pass in (18 minute commute to work) for a MARTA breeze pass which will take my commute to about 25-27 minutes. (I know, I know. Less than 30 minutes. That’s why I moved to the city!)

I went on a pole break when I started my Master’s in 2013. Pole is not the type of hobby you can jump in and out of like Zumba and not miss a beat as long as you have rhythm. Pole takes practice, practice, practice. That’s the only way you get better. That’s how you get stronger. The skills and techniques build off one another. It’s very much a commitment to growth type sport. Take a few weeks off if you want- what you could do effortlessly will be “Why can’t I get it?!” moment the first session back.

After I got into my school flow I was ready to pick back up with pole. I missed the burn! (oh yea, I think I mentioned pole is painful. You get over it. Or at least I do. You gotta hurt for the werk!) I found a Groupon for Polelateaz. The address wasn’t too far from my condo, so I tried it out for 30 days. I liked the versatility in their class offerings. My primary purpose up front was to get into a regular cardio routine, which they offered. Then I sampled some pole classes. With the encouragement of a few ladies I’d met and made friends with, I decided to join. It felt different. Not as warm and fuzzy for newbies as FitCandy, but I enjoyed their selection – I had enough dose of challenge, sexy fitness, and flexibility courses to keep my attention. I started a pole series with a couple ladies I’d met there, and enjoyed it for a while. The drop-ins were more appealing to me, though. They kept a wide-ranging rotation of classes to sample from yoga-inspired to fierce cardio, floor work to twerk workshops – crazy cardio!

Polelateaz’s instructors are serious about their art. From dance to stretch, tease workshops and pole, I was impressed by every instructor in that facility. It felt clique-y to me; being an introvert it was difficult for me to want to converse outside of being polite, but once I open up I’m warm bubble of Heyyyyy. Polelateaz rarely made me feel I could step into that zone outside of my regular classes and series. If I tried a new class for the heck of it, I felt brand new from scratch all over again.

School started to become a little more hectic. In addition to that, I was losing my love for pole, so I decided to take a break. At the moment, pole was feeling like a chore, and if you know anything about graduate school, the last thing you need is another thing you have to do. So I took another “pole break”, for about a year and a half (or maybe a little more). Until now.

I finished the program that took so much of my time this past summer. And these days I just want to get back into pole life. Almost aching for the challenge again. And the way I operate, once I meet a challenge, it really bothers me not to be able to again. Imagine that.

I used to hate doing pushups. And could only do 5 (regular; not “lady pushups”) with correct form and no stopping. I worked up to doing 10 straight, then 15, then 20. I was PUMPED. I love achieving goals. I don’t need outside pressure – I put enough on myself!

addiction

So when I reached level 4 at Polelateaz and could do a number of spins, conditioning moves, and do them fludily, it was a big deal to me. The thought that I’d have to possibly start over was unsettling.

My good friend has been interested in starting pole classes. I promised her I’d support and join if she’d start, and that I’d start at level 1 (partly for support, but also partly because I feel like I need to after being gone so long!). She was my motivation to start again. But we had to find a place that was convenient. Remember, I don’t like to drive! After doing some searching, I saw several reviews about Vertical Joe’s. I liked that it was less than a 20 minute ride from my place. And an even shorter distance for my friend. They offered a promo that allowed us to try out the dance workout and pole classes – score! We could do both, try samplers, and didn’t have to commit a lot upfront.

So, that’s where I am now. So far so good. The instructors are awesome. Their enthusiasm and talent are pretty freakin on point. My friend and I were talking earlier about the instructors and said, “I love Bunni”… “I know me too”… “but Allure too!” .. “I know right! I love her! And…” lol it just keeps going, so suffice it to say, we love all of them! Shout out to Southern Comfort in ATL Bounce! FiyaStarta (I believe she’s the owner; she’s at least the president) has an awesome team of staff. Everyone is helpful, and friendly, and professional. I appreciate that. It helps me want to come back and keep going.

So, yea. That’s a real quick run through of my pole journey. It’s definitely a journey. And this time it’s my goal to keep going. Even when it gets hard. Even when I have reasons not to. To face the challenges.

pole-work

It’s that challenge, that grit, that focus that keeps me going. So, I’ll heal by Sunday I’m sure, then I’ll be back to hurting somewhere else by Wednesday. That’s how this thing goes. I won’t die from it. But I will grow from it – and that, I can’t explain it. It’s addictive. You may just have to experience it for yourself.

I’ll post videos of my progress/fails as they come. I’ll laugh. Cry. Fall. Get up. And do it in 6 inches or higher and boy shorts. Because, that’s our uniform. hahahaha

If you’ve never tried pole fitness I invite you to try it out. Start with a Groupon whereever is closest to you. Just see how you feel. Go in with an open mind and ashy legs (by the way, ash is good; ash will save your life. When you’re trying to stick to the pole, the last thing you need is lotion! So, yes my picture above I’m ashy. And that is why.) What I can promise you, if nothing else, is your respect for stripper life will dramatically increase. This ain’t no games, folks. Climbing a pole is work. Twerkin in 7-inch platforms is work. Keeping your cool, and your hotness, in a bra and thong is art. Respect the chrome. Tip your strippers. And be respectful. Some of us do it for fun; some of us do it for sport; some do it to make that money honey. The why, frankly, is none of anyone’s else’s business. What’s not ok is shaming. Body shaming. Work shaming. Judgement at any level is not ok.

At the end of the day, I believe this is a discipline that will only develop through the years. I’m just as in awe as I was on day one. Sooooo, let’s see if I stick in it – cause Oooooo, the burn! Go ahead. Try it! #startsomewhere 😉 See you on the floor!