woensdag 25 februari 2015

Chocolate and jelly bean surprises

Forrest Gump said: "life's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest was right, life is sweet and deliciously surprising. You never know what's around the corner. Sometimes it is a scrumptious treat and you have to bite through something bitter to get to the soft gooey middle. I do think life is more like Bertie Bott's every flavored beans as described in Harry Potter's books. Sometimes you get a snot flavor one. The Harry Potter fans probably understand what I am saying, but let me explain for those who have never heard of Bertie Bott. In the books, Harry Potter enjoys eating candy and the wizarding world has some unusual candies. Bertie Bott's every flavored beans are exactly that. Jelly beans in every flavor possible. From popcorn to licorice and from black peppers to canned dog food taste. What to do when you get a snot flavored jelly bean? You can either spit it out and let that bad experience keeping you from continuing on your happy journey or you can grit your teeth, swallow and trust that the next one will taste better.
Past week I was in Lisbon, Portugal and unfortunately I got an earwax flavored bean experience. My first reaction was to throw my hands up in the air with frustration. With that nasty lingering earwax taste in my mouth I walked around Lisbon. Lisbon is an old city full of beautiful historical places to see, good shopping and great food. I've been to Lisbon many times and have seen many of its tourist attractions. I never get tired of site seeing so I decided not to dwell on my situation, do some more exploring and went to the Lisbon aquarium. My frustrations completely washed away while watching the penguins spending their time washing, swimming and sunbathing. By looking at the peaceful way the fish swam around and observing their behavior it made me feel small. We live on a planet with so many beautiful creatures. I am simply one of earth’s many creations. Why should I dwell on frustrations, limiting my enjoyment of life and the beautiful things around me?
Something that really filled my heart with joy were the two otters at the aquarium. Do you know otters hold hands while sleeping so that they don't drift apart? These small adorable animals look after one and another. They don't give up and fight the strong current to stay together. It's a beautiful example of how to stay strong and don't let frustrations keeping you from enjoying your path. Accept that life comes in all flavors. Sometimes you are bound to get a flavor that makes you want give up. Remember that the next flavor could be surprisingly tasty. After the earwax flavor I have found myself enjoying a
pasteis de Belem flavored jelly bean.

With love, Ana

maandag 16 februari 2015

Burn baby burn: How to implement Tabata with your weight training

TRX suspended lunges
There are two moments everyday when I experience pure bliss. First, when I am on my way to work, get my morning coffee and take that first sip. You coffee addicts must know what I am talking about. It's almost like the time stops for a second and your world is only about you and your little cup of joy. Secondly, when I get off work, go straight to the gym, and work that body like there is no tomorrow. You gym addicts must know what I am talking about. That shot of endorphins get's you going every time. There is nothing more rewarding than the exhaustion of an intense workout. 

When it comes to sports I have one motto: " There are three magical words; mindset, rest, and variation." If you would combine these three, there is nothing standing in your way to achieve your goals. As I have mentioned before I have recently become the newest member of the TABATA fan club and I would like to share how I have implemented it with my weight training. The options for this type of training are endless, so think outside that weight training box. 

For this training schedule I have combined weight training with the TRX and Tabata to add that burn factor: 

Warming up:
- Treadmill: 10 minutes/ max elevation level. 

- Leg Press: 4 sets/ 10 reps
- Single leg Leg Press : every leg 4 sets/10 reps
- Seated hip abduction: 4 sets/ 10 reps

TABATA circuit 4 minutes

- Single leg squat: 4 sets every leg/ 10 reps
- Suspended lunges: 4 sets every leg/ 10 reps

TABATA circuit 4 minutes

Training on the cable column 
- Cable hip abduction: 4 sets/ 10 reps
- One-Legged Cable Kickback: 4 sets/ 10 reps

TABATA circuit 4 minutes 

- Planking ( left, middle, right)
- Crunches
- Bicycle crunches

Be happy,

donderdag 12 februari 2015

Cheesecake heaven

Difficulty level: Happy days.

The cake:
You'll need
- 400 grams of Marie biscuits or similar rich tea biscuits.
- 200 grams of cacao powder
- 1 table spoon of sugar
- 4 eggs
- a small amount of melted butter

Use a springform pan, this will make it easier to unmold your cheesecake. Line the base of your pan with greaseproof paper. Put your biscuits into a plastic freezer bag. Beat the living daylights out of your biscuits, but do not overdo it. Put the sugar, cacao powder and biscuits in a bowl. Add the eggs and melted butter. Mix everything by hand. If you do not want sticky hands you can choose to blend everything in a food processor or blender. Put your mixture in the springform pan to form the base of your cheesecake. Let your cookie layer rest in the fridge.

The cheese:
You'll need
- 500 grams of white chocolate
- 250 grams of curd
- 250 grams of mascarpone
- 250 ml of whipping cream
- 100 grams of white caster sugar

Melt the chocolate au Bain Marie. Beat the cream in a bowl. Add the curd, mascarpone, sugar and melted chocolate and mix it all up until you get a smooth batter. Divide the Cheesy goodness on top of the cookie layer. Let it chill and set in the fridge for three hours. You can do a little dance while you wait.

The balance:
You'll need
- Dark chocolate
- powdered sugar
- Choose your fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries. Whatever you like. You could also go for passion fruit. Cheesecake and passion fruit share the same color pallet, this makes this combination less visually appetizing than the other fruits I mention. You can also combine fruits. It is your party as they say.

This is possible the most important part of the recipe and yet the easiest. Carefully remove your cheesecake from the baking tin.  Add your choice of fruit. Make sure you cover the surface of your cheesecake with fruit. Grate the dark chocolate and decorate your cake with it. Finish it off by adding powdered sugar.

Digg in!
After eating all this you might want to read our next post on how to burn that fat. Burn baby Burn!
With love, Ana ♡


woensdag 11 februari 2015

The happystepz food scale

I absolutely love LOVE cheesecake and just the thought of it makes me drool. Not everyone is sold on cheesecakes and that is probably due to the fact that there are so many bad cheesecakes out there. What makes a bad cheesecake? In this case not his attitude. A bad cheesecake makes you queasy just after tree bites or feel like you ate a ton of bricks. Cheesecakes like other 'heavy' pastries are meant to be eaten in moderation but when rightly prepared you don't feel like you've ate a cement truck. The definition of a good cheesecake is a piece of pie that is well balanced, smooth and velvety. The keyword is balance. You need acidity as a contrast to the heaviness of the cheesecake and lets not forget the importance of the biscuit layer. Soggy or tough cake is not a good companion to the cheese.

This recipe is my version of a good cheesecake. It is well balanced and oh so delicious. Before I share my recipe, for future references I have decided to add my own scale of measuring to indicate the difficulty and amount of work required to make a recipe. This was quite a challenge because how can I classify something as difficult or easy? What comes naturally to me may be a nightmare for someone else. I believe cooking and baking is something to be enjoyed, not something to stress over. If a recipe does not turn out the way you wanted, salvage what you can, order pizza and try again another time. That is why all my recipes and their level of work are based on how much cooking experience, patience and determination is required to make it. Not on how well you bode in the kitchen. Truly anyone can cook, even you!

The happystepz food scale

Easy peasy:
Even the Carrie Bradshaws of the world who use their ovens to dry their sweaters can do this.

Happy Days:
These recipes require a bit more attention and time, but it is still child's play.

Put your back into it:
Just like Ice Cube said: “You can do it, put your back into it.” This only means you need to take your time. Do not rush through the recipe. Remember a little hard work never killed anyone.

The Einstein level:
Do not worry I will not be asking you to pull a Heston Blumenthal. This recipe requires a certain skill set. Keep in mind skills can always be learned.

Everything comes to you in the right moment. Be patient. The cheesecake recipe will be posted tomorrow.
With love, Ana ♡


zondag 8 februari 2015

Having a bad day? Make a trip down memory lane

Buddha's words "What you think you become, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you create", are to me THE life basics in three short sentences. It is basically all you need to know in order to create the life you want. We are all creators and our current reality is a mirror of our thoughts and feelings. Once you are aware of that, there is nothing standing in your way to deliberately create. 

If you create your reality with your thoughts and feelings, does that mean that you have to be the happiest camper alive all the time in order to get your desired outcome? That might be a bit unrealistic. Some lessons need to be learned in order to get some happystepz ahead. Those unavoidable lessons a side, sometimes there are days when you are stuck in an unhappy funk for no reason. We all have them. Waking up in the morning while you still feel like sleeping. No signs of the chirping and singing birds who are usually celebrating a new day with you. One peak at the grey clouds outside is telling you the sun is not going to shine anytime soon, neither on this rainy day nor in your heart. My funk is really at the lowest point when I skip my daily "singing and dancing in the shower pretending I am at a karaoke bar" one man show. When your day is starting like this, matters often go from bad to worse. It's what I call the law of attraction in action. 

How to get out of the funk and back into the flow? Your mind can break you, but it can also make you. It means that it's up to you to turn your funk around. If you can't find your happiness in the now, relive your past moments of joy. Make a trip down memory lane. Personally I have some different mood lifting packages that work every time. Mine include:

- "When I lived in China" pictures and video's. Even though it's been ten years, these pictures still make me smile, the video's still  make me laugh and the love of those friends still give me an intense feeling of happiness today. 
-"Singing and dancing failure" video's. Unfortunately BUT fortunately there are many video's of me where I dance a bit weird or I passionately sing a song where I got the lyrics all wrong. 
- "Last vacation" Spotify playlist. Always make a separate playlist for your holidays because it brings back so many memories if you play it again on the funky days. 

These things not only lift your mood, but thinking about these moments also make you appreciate all that you've already created in life, so build from there. Gratitude is your new attitude. 

Be happy,

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woensdag 4 februari 2015

A little piece of happiness

Last week I bought an awesome pencil sharpener and it reminded me of all the cool stuff I used to have in my pencil case back when I was in school. What I loved most about school was goofing around with my friends. Laughing about the little things that had happened just a few moments prior. Coming up with silly nicknames for each other. Gossiping about absolutely everything. When the bell rang and we had to go to class the fun never stopped. Trying but failing not to joke and talk during class. With the teachers’ stern gaze upon us what else could we do than to write each other notes. I loved writing notes to my friends during class. Telling them that the teacher was wearing the same clothes again! Writing down in code about the cute guy sitting just a few tables away from us. Describing in detail how I envisioned my future. All my notes have some kind of doodles or drawings on it. Those drawings were the cherries on top of my happy pies. My friends and I had so much fun passing around those little crumpled up pieces of paper. Happy memories.

There is no longer a need for secret notes. But the joyful feeling you get from such a tiny thing reminds me that happiness can come from the smallest of things. A bird flying above your head, a small flower growing in you garden, the purr of a kitten, a grateful smile or a small doodle on a piece of paper. Getting a text or an email does not have the same feeling as receiving a little hand written note. That is why this week I will be writing all my fabulous friends little notes and for old times sakes I will add some of my funny doodles. Just because it makes me happy and I hope it will make them happy too.

Here is my digital note to you, my dear readers.
Dear happiness frontiers,
I hope you are all having a great and wonderful year so far. I believe you are amazingly strong and can do anything you set your mind to. This quote from the 90s TV show Buffy the vampire slayer always makes me laugh. I dare you to quickly repeat this wonderful Willow line: "A doodle. I do doodle. You too. You do doodle too."

With love, Ana


zondag 1 februari 2015

Work it to the bone: Ten basic work out tips

Do you remember that scene in last years movie 'Hercules' where he is chained and breaks free while screaming "I aaaam Hercules!"? He is Hercules, the man with the extraordinary power, the man with the legendary name. When I say Hercules, the ones who know the story will think of power. I am, not Hercules of course, but one of what I call, self-motivational speakers. When I hit the gym to do strength training, in my mind I become one of these legendary figures that I associate with power. While lifting weights my mind goes "I am Herculesss", and the weights go up in the air like they are feathers. That is wishful thinking, but it makes exercising a whole lot easier because I believe in their power, and therefore in mine. Motivate that mind and your body will do the rest.  As a gym junky by heart I have done all the don'ts before I discovered the do's.  I am by no means a fitness expert, but I love to give you tips that worked for me. So let's get started with some of my basics.
1. Confucius once said: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." That counts for everything you do. A workout will feel less of an effort if you enjoy doing it. If you are an outdoorsy type, don't spend hours on a treadmill or elliptical indoors. If you like swimming, don't go running because you have to.
2. If you are adventurous, do step out of your comfort zone and try things you have never done before. You haven't failed until you quit trying.
3. Rome wasn't built in a day. Start slow, be patient and manage you expectations. Results will come just make sure you have got the basics right. Set a realistic goal and always keep that end result in mind, even when things don't go the way you want to. Think about where you want to be and do it. Procrastination won't give you that lean body you are hoping for. Better be sore than sorry.
4. Get informed. Being the next hit on Youtube in a video called "sports bloopers" or "the guy/girl and the flying dumbbells" might not be the fame you are aiming for.
5. Dumbbells are your new best friends. If you want a result that lasts you need to combine cardio with strength training so you can build lean muscle mass, which elevates your metabolism and burns more fat, even when you are not working out.
6. Ass to the grass. Target your largest muscles if you want to boost your metabolism by doing squats, deadlifts and lunges.
7. Team up. To get the best out of yourself team up with the "gym" expendables. The best of the best is your new daily crew. The Usain Bolt of your gym will make you run faster, and the Ronnie Coleman of your gym will make you lift weights like you never did before.
8. Dare to do different! For the best results change your workout routine frequently, preferably every 4-6 weeks. If you lack inspiration there is a lot of information and schedules that you can find online. Join Facebook groups such as Womens/mens health, FitnessRX for women.  Most fitness gurus have websites, Instagram or Facebook where you can follow them and get the tips you need. I personally combine weight training sessions with kettle bell training, the TRX or the Tabata app that I have downloaded on my phone.
9. Go and get TABATAnized! I am very impressed by the results of this high intensity interval training that consists of eight rounds of ultra-high intensity (bodyweight) exercises in a 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off interval. The duration of one Tabata circuit is four minutes and the exercise options are endless. Mountain climbers, jump lunges, push-ups,  you are like a kid in a candy store,  just mix and match!  
10. Abs are made in the kitchen.  Your car does not run without fuel, so make sure you put high quality gas in that tank. I have the 90%-10% principle, which means I eat 90% clean and give myself a break the other 10%. Balance between the right carbs, protein and healthy fat will get you lean.

Be happy,