How to Love Food Yet Keep an Hour Glass Shape

I learned a long time ago, how to manage my weight while at the same time, being able to almost eat whatever I wanted, not feeling deprived or prevented from eating any certain food group.

My mother, when I was about 12, got me into my school’s track & field, solely for the purpose of learning how to effectively control my weight & shape via healthy exercise. ¬†In our American culture, where fast food is everywhere and so tempting, and processed food makes up the bulk of our grocery markets, I’m so glad she had the whereabouts to teach me something that is now seen as drastic in order to stay in shape for life: exercise and eating generally healthy.

She told me that when practice was especially hard, to picture someone’s body I adored (Catherine Zeta-Jones became it for me ūüôā ), and know that shape was my prize. ¬†Nevermind that she and I have completely different body types, it was such a great motivator – picturing the body I wanted, but then love of the sport took over, and I found myself genuinely enjoying running and racing hurdles. ¬†That was basically the goal, for me to learn to appreciate and enjoy the feel of exercise and taking care of my body, as well as to understand the award and results for doing so.

Something I’ve seen rampant in our country is that exercise becomes some kind of idol, or center of our life. ¬†For women in particular, don’t take exercise or weight lifting so seriously that you cross over to a masculine extreme.

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Female Masculinity…

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This is another beauty of the French woman… she still keeps her shape womanly and soft with a bit of lean muscle – she doesn’t lose her breast tissue in the pursuit of gaining strength that appears like a male torso.

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The French typically have a laid back view on beauty, exercise and eating, they aren’t trying too hard with it – a view we Americans would do very well to integrate into our mindset. ¬†As far as beauty goes, it is a very relaxed approach almost sometimes a little unkempt, but always sexy in a very French way. ¬†Most French girls don’t even own a brush! ¬†When I was young, and even now, I didn’t and don’t actually brush my hair, and I have one hair brush that I never ever use packed away in the storage under our sink. ¬†I comb it when its detangled and wet, but never brush it out.

American women approach exercise out of fear and with great stress, leading most to give up because they’re already overweight and don’t see results fast enough to keep their motivation. ¬†We typically are found going after workouts with too great an ambition – after a New Year’s declaration or seeing ourselves in¬†reality in our social media pictures. ¬†Instead of a steady, peaceful pursuit of health, it becomes a stressful chore to add to our to-do list – workout 3x per week… or else!¬† You can’t lose weight when stressed and under such pressure, but you can easily lose your motivation and perspective on life and its pleasures.

Americans tend to be at both ends of the extreme Рeither never exercising or exercising being their life center where they literally run around all day in work out clothes (guilty to some degree, at least with the workout attire).  The French only really wear their workout clothes when going to the gym or when actually working out.

Another thing I’ve realized is that Americans work out from the anxiety and¬†pressure to be thin. The French exercise from the desire and pleasure to be thin… one is forced,¬†the other is a natural, peaceful habit.

There are very few overweight women in France, I’m sure you’ve heard that cliche.¬† Its true for the most part. ¬†When they start to feel their clothes getting tight, they up their daily exercise by simply taking the stairs, walking extra in their daily routine, and determinedly, eating less or avoiding dessert for awhile.

A word about dessert.

When the French eat something decadent, they try to avoid cheap imitations or processed and packaged sweets. ¬†It just isn’t worth it to them, they value dessert more than that. ¬†All those empty calories for something that doesn’t even taste that great compared to the real, homemade/handmade, exquisite little pastry or sweet, it just isn’t worth it. ¬†As a result, because the dessert is heavier or more rich in taste, they naturally eat a lot less or they begin to feel sick (as it should be when one overeats). ¬†Only one dessert a day is considered enough, and it is enough because it meets a very real need for the craving of deliciousness and pleasure, while at the same time, being satisfying enough that you don’t even think about eating more of it. ¬†The French don’t deprive themselves by sticking to strange and restrictive diets that produce temporary results at best. ¬†They don’t really do diets at all, but approach food as a pleasure to be enjoyed.

‘Je deprime donc je chocolate.’

“When I’m down, I chocolate.”

Refuse to buy packaged sweets if you can, we only do so extremely rarely, like if they are on an amazing deal and I get them for free. ¬†Last week, I actually did obtain a box of Hostess Cupcakes, the first I’ve bought probably ever, but it was only because they were part of a “meal deal” where my buying ham & cheese gave me the cupcakes for free. ¬†I already needed the deli meat and cheese, but the added free fattening desserts were a treat. ¬†My son was delighted, but he understands we only do that for rare occasions… packaged sweets like that are usually never in my pantry. ¬†Go figure in America they tempt you with buying the things you actually need (protein meats and cheese) and give you their packaged crap for free to try to get you addicted. ¬†If you never usually buy them, they’re never a real temptation.

I’ve never read the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano, but I’ve heard great things about it, and the few things I have read fit right in line with everything I’m telling you in this post. ¬†A quote from Mireille perfectly describes the difference in the American stressful mindset of food, versus the relaxed French perspective,

“French women think about good things to eat;

American women typically worry about bad things to eat.”

The French¬†eat carbs… but don’t overeat or stress. ¬†I couldn’t find any studies in particular, however, I would guess that the cortisol levels in American women vs French women is much higher, as is the newly medical term, The Hurried Woman Syndrome. ¬†American women push themselves, constantly trying to be more competitive, to be perfectionists, to be the Super Mom… aggressive, successful, and in general, more masculine in nature. ¬†Compared to the laid back approach of the parenting style and life of the French woman, the American woman is far more stressed and more than likely at risk to use pharmaceutical drugs in order to achieve peace of mind about her life. ¬†This has even been noted as a reason why French women age better than American women, almost seeming to never appear old. ¬†Yes, they take care of their skin immaculately and admirably, but it stems from a no-nonsense view of stress, as well as valuing their sleep each night (getting 8.5 hours compared to the American 6.5) so that cortisol levels don’t build up over extended periods of time.

They also have a natural awareness of calorie intake – if they eat something full of carbs they eat something light later, if they eat a dessert that was a lot of calories or particularly heavy, they modify their diet the next day to balance it out.

A few things to remember in starting the Fall off right:

  • Potion size difference… always remember that ours in America, is out of proportion. ¬†Never finish all a restaurant gives you to eat, eat 1/4 to 1/2 and save the rest.
  • Eat an incredible breakfast.
  • Eating slower… actually enjoy the eating experience as a pleasure – taste and love the food you eat
  • Only eat really good food – avoid the empty carbs and sugars and processed crap of packaged foods as much as you can.
  • Cook for yourself! ¬†Learn to LOVE to cook and bake your own treats… it will give you an appreciation of the process and art of food.
  • Eat a little dark chocolate everyday, never deprive yourself of chocolate. ¬†As a woman, this is a sin.
  • Don’t be afraid to drink a little wine – I usually do in the Fall and Winter, and then for some reason (maybe the extreme heat here in Texas) I abstain pretty well in the Spring and Summer.
  • ¬†Joie de Vivre! ¬†Embrace the exuberant enjoyment of life!
  • Have healthy snacks always available, especially fruit, plain greek yogurt (add your own sugar) and cheese.
  • Stay away from diet foods, sugar free foods, sodas (at all costs). ¬†We drink sodas rarely, adding ice into a soda is a great trick to water it down, making it actually healthier in albeit, a small way.

“Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. ¬†God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. ¬†This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

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Half Chinese, Half French, Mimi Thorisson is an Amazing Woman : A Kitchen In France – A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse

france2I love finding new inspiring and artistic cookbooks, the kind that draw you into the person writing it, the books where you can clearly hear their beautiful voice coming through – letting you inside the inner workings of their life, hearing their unique opinions, experiences, and consequently, being taken into part of their heart.

Mimi Thorisson does this exactly, in her cookbook titled, A Kitchen in France, released recently on October 28, 2014.  She is an amazing woman, wife to Icelandic photographer Oddur Thorisson, mother to 6 children (with one on the way), and master creator of a wealth of recipes!

Speaking of recipes, if you love really good food, you need to visit her recipe page of her personal blog – it is mind-blowing and will transform your view on cooking!

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Mimi and her family moved from a small apartment in Paris, to a bigger ch√Ęteau¬†out in the¬†serene & breathtaking French countryside and to slow pace of Medoc, France. ¬†She was amazed to find how much she loved just enjoying her children – being there watching them grow up, all the little things like hearing a bird chirping, the slowness of life¬†– and having the time to actually cook.¬† As a woman who’s worked in the research field while my son was a toddler, it was a constant struggle to find a balance… and part of why I started this blog (other than to vent creatively) was to document my food journey with my son & family.¬† Things like the decadent Traditional Chocolate Tart – something I couldn’t believe I was able to accomplish – or the homemade (completely from scratch) Eclairs… these things never would’ve happened when I was so busy balancing the working life, deadlines, and goals as well as trying to be a base mom… making sure my son got the basics covered.¬† I never had to time to relax in a bookstore with my son playing¬†in the children’s section while I read amazing cookbooks or looked at beautiful magazines.

Hearing her voice come out in reading her cookbook (where she talks about things like this) was like giving words to my own, and more than likely many other mothers’, who’d gone from working full time to working from home/stay at home parents.¬†¬†Hearing her appreciate the simple things was to me, a stark¬†reminder of how Americans parent so differently than the French.

Her life that she reveals in her cookbook was just so interesting.¬† Growing up with a Chinese father and French mother (and grandmother who cooked for all their holidays spent in France)¬†she lived a life full of gustatory delights from Hong Kong to the bistros of Paris.¬† Her father and her had a tender, special relationship, much centered around appreciating good food.¬† She writes about his particular¬†love of food affecting her¬†– being a very picky eater… how he was so patient, and would spend a lot of time trying to get her to try new things or buy very special delights just for her.

I get almost sentimental thinking about their relationship – my father is what I’d consider, a “foodie.”¬† Ever since I was little he’d take me to the supermarket with him (and he would go to special, out of the way whole foods and organic stores that were 40 miles away from our house¬†at times) and always¬†try to get me to try new foods.¬† I remember being 4 or 5 and trying my first ever cherry tomato at his urging – I was completely taken, and ever since then I’ve loved a fresh tomato slice on many different things.¬† He would also buy me special little foods or delights – things that my mother did in her own way, but his was just a different taste than hers.

Some of our favorite times now that I’m a cook and a wife/mother, is when he comes over to our house for dinner, or I bring over baked goodies to my parents house, and we just enjoy the home-cooked/baked food together.

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I love Mimi’s love of¬†the kitchen – I love how she shows that it brings people together… nothing is as important as bringing children and their parents together, and the table (and very good food) provides a wonderful opportunity.

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She has such style.

She has such style.

 

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She has an entire section on Winter foods in her cookbook, it is so inspiring and such a gift to us – check it out at the bookstore, you won’t be sorry!

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Her adorable take on the importance of butter…

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Loving chocolate like I do, I found a recipe in her cookbook on the Chocolate Tart with a special Salted Caramel Sauce!!  Adding it to my list to make this week for Thanksgiving.

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Thank you Mimi, you are incredible.

All pictures taken by Oddur Thorisson

Mimi Thorisson Blog & Website

Ambiance is Addicting

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So I’ve been transforming our back office/storage room in the house into a studio where I’ve been making clothes.¬† The picture above is of a kitchen, obviously, but it’s ambiance is somewhat what I want to capture eventually in my work studio.¬† I would never normally paint the walls any sort of pink, but for creative girlish & feminine clothing, it gives the right sort of ambiance.

Think of this as a virtual mood board.¬† ‚̧

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qphknagXqA

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Delicious Eclairs Homemade!

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Best Homemade Pastry Ever!

Our family loves to eat… and cook, but I’ve honestly never been strong at baking anything, I don’t know why, but baking has always seemed more of a mystery to me.¬† When we were at the bookstore about a month ago, I saw this cookbook cover and was immediately taken in by the eclairs.¬† They are hands-down my favorite pastry, and I couldn’t resist looking at the recipe to see how exactly they are made from scratch.¬† Pretty easy… I thought.

 

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The recipe was done by a woman who had worked in a professional French bakery… she clearly knew her way around pastries.¬† I thought I’d let you readers in on our adventure through making √©clairs… it took longer than I imagined it would, but it wasn’t really hard at all!¬† They make for an impressive dessert for a party, and you can always make them into Cream Puffs if you’d rather serve them that way (it is the same recipe).

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The Cook

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The Ingredient List (You can print it!)

So… you make the eclairs in the order that is on this page: the Pate a Choux (crisp breading), the Cream Filling (the St. Tropez cream was her own version of the perfect pastry cream… I absolutely LOVED it… much lighter than the traditional version), and then the Chocolate Ganache (which is much much tastier than just melted chocolate… it is only 2 ingredients, but you’d be surprised how hard it is¬†not to eat before using on the pastries).

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To make the dough, you first have to cook it on the stove and then bake it – so it’s really cooked twice… which creates the hollowed out inside, and crispy texture of the pastry – perfect for easy filling.¬† Below is how it should progress:¬†add flour & salt to the melted down butter, mix until it pulls away from pan and forms dough, and¬†the 3rd step is mixing in the eggs one at a time until the dough is nice and shiny:

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Then you pipe the dough into a bag with the tip cut off (or pastry bag), and make the eclairs a little bigger than a hot-dog size onto a greased or foil-covered pan

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Bake at 425’F for 10 minutes then lower it to 350’F for another 25 to 30 minutes until the pastries are dry inside and not still wet (they should visibly turn light golden).¬† You then leave them in the oven (with it turned off of course) with the door propped open so that they can dry out longer

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You can use a knife to gently poke a hole into the tip, or like the chef in the cookbook did, slice through the éclair completely to make almost like a sandwich.  Since some of mine came out not as wide, it was easier to slice them through.

The St. Tropez cream really is unique, it is basically traditional vanilla pastry cream mixed with a whipped cream.  We had a lot left over Рwhich was great!  We used it over our coffee for the next few mornings Рit was quite a lot!  (Use the directions in the video attached if you want to know exactly how to make it Рit is not hard, but it is easier to watch)

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You have to cook the Vanilla Cream first & also chill it in the freezer, Vanilla Extract works just as well as Vanilla Bean

 

 

After the vanilla cream is chilled for at least 30 minutes, you can literally just whip up heavy cream in a bowl to create a beautiful, light, fluffy whipped cream that you then add into the thicker and heavier vanilla cream – once mixed it is a divine combination!

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Chocolate ganache can be quickly made by microwaving your chocolate chunks or chips, then adding the heavy cream and mixing with a fork.  Dip the filled eclairs and allow to dry thoroughly on a cool table or counter.

Enjoy your heavenly homemade Eclairs!

Video used in making our pastries (perfect instructions… and she makes the St. Tropez cream):

Inspiration

A few beautiful things….

Anthropologie, the store that inspires me always.  When you walk in you are met with the intoxicating smell of their Volcano candle, which is heaven.  They also play delicate & intriguing music in the background, not uncommon to hear a little Madame Peyroux.

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When in doubt, do it from the celing

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Stripes & their Signature Vase

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Newlywed Cookbook & Beautiful hand-painted bowls

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I love that cookbook. Very good recipes inside.

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Turning Displays for all kinds of beautiful knobs & handles

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White Kitchen & Colorful Dishes

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Wooden Spoons for Decor

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Hand Painted Plate

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This soft grey sweater with lace

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Anthropologie hires an artist at each store that creates all the displays and artwork inside on the walls & windows.

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Interesting Ideas, almost every book was open to a chapter page

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Listen to this: