Week In Review

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Sole-Society-Shoes It’s been an emotional week at home, with various bits of school drama happening and news that one of my mom’s close friends has breast cancer. It was a heavy week, even though we had a lot of good teaching and talking moments each day. I feel a bit fried though, and am looking forward to a glass of wine tonight, as I make lots of yummy juices for tomorrow’s event at Chartreuse. Anyone coming? 11 am – 2 pm? I hope so!!  A few things to share this week –

Newest obsession – my Sole Society Perin booties in Tan arrived yesterday, and they are adorable. Perfect heel height, fit, and the suede is pretty nice for a $79 pair of boots. I’ll wear these a lot as we transition into Spring.

What I read in January – Thanks to finally downloading the Overdrive app, which allows you to borrow books from the library straight to your Kindle or other reading device, I deveroued several books. Most of them were Young Adult, which tend to be quicker reads anyhow, but it felt good to start off the year reading more and scrolling through my iPhone less. The Lunar Chronicles are fantastic and fun, about a cyborg princess and the future of Earth, it sounds wacky but for a non sci-fi girl like myself, I’m really digging them. I’m already on the third book, Scarlet, and loving it as well. Start from the beginning though and read book by book, as the series are closely connected. Cinder – The Lunar Chronicles Book 1  and Scarlet – The Lunar Chronicles Book 2

Lunar-Chronicles I also read this beautiful book about ballet, love and life, titled Astonish Me. I couldn’t put it down.

When You Reach Me was another fun young adult book about time travel. A great quick read when you want something to get engrossed in this weekend.

I also finally started the Serial podcast and am only 3 episodes in, so no spoilers, but am I the only one who feels a little weirded out that so many are being entertained by this true crime “story?”

A few interesting reads I came across this week –

Can binge watching your favorite TV shows make you depressed? I’d say it can for a short period of time. Art and I both felt a little empty after we binged on House of Cards and Breaking Bad last year. Interesting phenomenon.

Big government control, or a much needed measure for the good of public health? Things are heating up in California over the measles outbreak.

And what I’ve been cooking up, or dreaming of cooking up in the near future –

This sounds like a Cosmo I can get behind, thanks to Ina of course. I can’t imagine hers being sickly sweet or tangy, like so many bartender concoctions or premixes are.

This Chipotle copycat lime cilantro rice is spot on, and I’ve whipped up a batch twice in the last week. A unique cooking technique I’ve never used for rice makes the texture fantastic.



Local Meet & Greet, Sip & Savor at Chartreuse

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Lee-Loves-Local_Feb2015_2 Hey guys, how are you doing this week? Me, I feel still like I’m easing into it, but since hump day is almost over, I figure I better try to swing into things and get a few points of business out of the way. First off, thanks for all your encouraging comments on Monday’s post, about closing old doors so that new ones may open. I look forward to 2015 as a year to relax and grow a bit more, and I’m grateful to have your support.

One way I’d like to continue to grow and branch out, is to continue to meet new faces and get myself out there. With that in mind, I’m thrilled to be partnering with a local business I’ve been a fan and customer of, for years, Chartreuse Home Furnishings. My friends at Chartreuse contacted me a few weeks ago about a possible event, and after hearing the details, I was more than eager to jump on board. In partnership with Lee Industries, they are putting on a small event to help support local, women-owned businesses in the neighborhood, and I’m honored that they thought of me. How does what I do as a blogger, tie in with a home furnishings store? Well, as a lifestyle blogger I cover a range of topics from style to food and wellness, and since a lot of what I talk about and support involves sustainability, and supporting small, local businesses, this seemed like a good fit.

Lee Industries, the company that Chartreuse has partnered with, is an US based company, dedicated to creating sustainably produced home furnishings. You can read all about their practices here, but a couple of great points that I wanted to mention is their use of 100% recycled fibers made from clear and white plastic bottles to fill all their back and throw pillows. Wood for the frames used by LEE comes from certified sustainable forests and are bonded with a soy-based resin and their springs are 80% recycled metal. Pretty cool, right? Beyond that, they make a beautiful designer level product, and for the event, all their custom made throw pillows and poufs are two for one.

I’ll be on hand to answer questions, sample some of my favorite fresh, cold-pressed juices, and even help you shop. Since a good portion of my home furnishings are from this store, including both couches, my pillows, the kid’s bedroom sets and dining room chairs, artwork and countless other things, I know my way around the store pretty well. Actual design professionals will be on hand to help you shop too though. You guys, this store is amazing! Think of all your favorite big-box furniture stores including Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, West Elm and even Ballard Designs, all under one roof, at much better prices! This is Chartreuse! Everything from their furniture to their accessories are on point, and the store overall is just immaculately curated. If I don’t want to spend money, I steer clear of Chartreuse!

Megan and Mindy from Spoon and Skillet, another woman-owned local small business, will also be on hand offering small bites from their delivery meal kits. Their business is simple, they prep and provide you with all the food, deliver it to your doorstep, and then you just have to cook it. Meals are guaranteed to be ready and on the table in 30 minutes or less. I can’t wait to taste what they have to offer.

To recap, here’s a rundown of the deets:

  • Meet and greet with me, answering questions and offering up my favorite fresh cold-pressed juices. This Saturday 2/7 from 11-2.
  • Spoon and Skillet will also be on hand to offer small bite taste samples from their meal kits.
  • Lee Industries, leading the way in sustainable furniture manufacturing, is offering a 2 for 1 sale on their poofs and pillows, which are gorgeous!
  • Chartreuse is basically your home furnishing dream store – so much inspiration and all under one roof.
  • Event supports small, local, woman-owned businesses!

I really hope I’ll see some of you there! No need to RSVP, just come on by open-house style.



Open Possibilities in 2015

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d9a2a64b0b577942c770dc4d451df9c5 This morning I woke up without the tethers of a regular, steady job, and instead of feeling enthusiastically excited about open possibilities, I felt unsettled and anxious. After writing for Disney Baby and then Babble (both Disney subsidiaries) for the past 3 years, I felt it was time to move on. I am staying on as a freelance writer in their bureau team, and am able to pitch and possibly publish up to 3 articles a month for them. While this amount of flexibility is ideal, the thought of no longer having a steady paycheck make me nervous, as it always has. Art is the ever-supportive husband and is always encouraging me to have faith and believe in myself, and my ability to weave together opportunities for myself, seemingly out of thin-air, but the security of steady work is something I have always found comfort in. It is what has always drawn me back to working for someone else, even if I wasn’t personally invested or thrilled with the work.

I learned so much in my time writing for Disney, and grew a lot not only as a writer, but as an online writer in such a public space, which I came to find out is a completely different animal than just writing a personal blog. I did not come to this decision lightly, but I did try to come to this decision differently than how I usually make my decisions about work, since becoming a mother. For too long I have been unable to be objective about the way work and mothering intersect, and while they are of course interminably related once a woman gives birth, for once I tried to separate the two and just look at the work I was doing there, as a separate entity than my work as a mother. What I came to acknowledge, finally, was that I was burnt out. While my role at Babble had only been for the past 18 months, I had been writing at that pace and producing that type of content for almost 3 years now, writing upwards of 20 articles a month at one point, and 8 at the minimum, without ceasing. At the end, especially as I tried to get my health in order these past few months, I felt like there was little space left to do much else other than churn out content and try my best to run my family. Countless texts and emails from friends and family began with, “I know you have so much going on…but.” I needed to clear some space for myself, my family and friends again, and my blog here, and that meant letting Babble go. I tried to cut my workload in half, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option. I’m happy to have the opportunity to stay on in their bureau team.  ce830959e0e208ce965546c300a46494

So now what? Well, I would love to post more here, and add more meaningful content. That’s a big priority for me. I feel like finally, after doing this blogging thing for almost 7 years, I have some things figured out, and have a clearer idea of the direction I’d like to try. I’m not making any grand proclamations, but I have some ideas which I hope I can make work out. I hope I can have the confidence and stamina to make them work out, is what I should say. I’m also thinking that maybe I’ll become one of those people who have their drawers and cabinets neatly organized, I may get back to keeping a check register as well as a balanced checkbook. I may volunteer at the school more, as the kids love having me there. I may even clip coupons and go through our cable, phone and insurance plans, seeing where I can cut back and tighten things up. All the things we say we’ll do and try to do, but never seem to have enough time to do. I wasn’t making a ton of money atBabble, but I’ve always been set into a tizzy when income is decreased, as I’m sure 99.9% of the American population is. I already let our babysitter go as well, a decision I was sad to make, since she’s been with us for almost 8 years now. She’s pretty much a part of our family though, so we will keep in touch and I’m sure use her for the occasional date night.  2cef84afb00b1070ec25df95697c88a4

I’ll be 39 this year, and some days I still don’t know what the heck I’m doing with my life, other than trying to be a good mother and wife. Since all the women in my family who preceded me never really had the opportunity to at minimum, figure out their true purpose or calling in life, nor did they have any chance to actually pursue their dreams, the thought seems like an almost indulgent luxury. Something only afforded to women with trust accounts and authors with big book advances, encouraged to eat, pray and love their way towards enlightenment. Most days lately I just want to live simply, other days I want to create and leave my mark. Perhaps 2015 will be about discovering what I really want and can reasonably achieve, without all the mind clutter of having to continuously pump out words. I’m going to try my best not to jump into creating an Etsy shop or start any new businesses, something I’ve been infamous for when I start to get nervous about income and filling my constant need for busyness. I want to continue to do things but in a much more calculated and thoughtful way, not because I’m afraid to say no, afraid of missing out, afraid of getting left behind, afraid of not being busy. Can anyone else relate? I hope so, and I hope I don’t sound like some spoiled flatulent boob. I guess I should also stop worrying about what others will think, as I’m sure someone will think I’m a boob no matter what, and I should not care so much. Clementine-Daily_quotes25-1024x607

So here’s to new beginnings, endings and all that other stuff. This year, may I discover what I really want to be when I grow up, may I be there for my family in all the most important ways, and may I be the kind of woman okay with not being constantly busy.

What would you be if you could do or be anything? Are you doing what you dreamed of doing when you were little?

Image credit: 2 & 4 Clementine Daily, 1 & 3 From Up North



Week In Review – Looking Forward to Spring

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Earlier this month I had intention of writing a post on the 10 best pieces I added to my wardrobe in 2014. Pieces that I found myself going back to time and time again, therefore making their cost per wear an excellent return on my investment. I try to reflect on lots of things I did the previous year, including what worked and didn’t work in my closet, so that I don’t make the same mistakes, or alternately, continue to make smart choices. I was surprised when I went through photos on IG and ones I took here for the blog, that 3 of my pieces in the top 10, were from Loft.

I never used to venture in to the Loft much, finding their fit too mature and their styles too repetitive, but as I get older, it seems we’re both changing. They are getting more updated with their fit, silhouette and pattern mixing, and I’m more often leaning towards classics I can rely on, which tend to run consistent in sizing so I can purchase without always trying on. Of course I still have plenty of other favorite stores I like to visit, but since Loft is minutes from my home, and right next door to Peet’s, it’s always fun to visit on a semi-regular basis and see what they have in that’s new. Bonus is they seem to always have some great discount offer going on. Here are a few new pieces I tried on for fun today, after my workout. The whole store is 40% off, and so many of the pieces for Spring look fantastic, and actually remind me just a tiny bit of some J. Crew pieces. Excuse my disheveled appearance.

Loft-Modern-Skinny-Jeans Modern Skinny Jeans in Blue Nova wash. One of my favorite purchases in 2014 were the Modern Skinny jean from Loft, in the dark rinse. Funny thing is, Loft scored lowest when I did my skinny jean review over 2 years ago. Their skinny jeans have come a long way though in fabrication, wash and rinse, and fit. I love this Nova wash for spring, with the slightest bit of distressed detailing. I think I may take them in slightly at the ankle so they’re a bit skinnier otherwise, a great alternative at half the cost, of the J. Crew toothpick jean. I did go ahead and purchase these today.

IMG_0420 Linen Baseball Tee another piece that reminds me of J. Crew, probably because J. Crew did this exact same linen cotton baseball tee last summer. I love this colorway and that it’s again, half the prices of the J. Crew tee.

Untitled-1 Skinny Pant Marisa Fit this pant has a great fit and bonus that it tapers all the way down to the ankle. The fabrication is great for office wear, so not so great for everyday running around with kids, but I think if you’re looking for a nice pair of dressier pants, this is a great bet. The substantial fabrication means that it will hold up and wear well, as opposed to a pair of cotton skinnies I have like this, which ends up looking a little sad and disheveled after a few washes. Isn’t the plaid sweatshirt I’m wearing with it so cute? They had a matching fit and flare skirt to pair it with for a bold look, but unfortunately neither piece is online.

IMG_0429 Cabana Stripe Short and Charmed Riviera Short I have a couple of pairs of Loft shorts and I love them. They are nice quality, the fit is modest without being matronly, and their fabrics and patterns just keep getting better and better. While I couldn’t buy myself to purchase shorts just quite yet, these will definitely stay on my radar as we head into Spring.

Slub Chambray Shirt honorable mention because this is still one of my absolute favorite pieces I’ve bought in the last 5 years even! This shirt is incredible; so soft and the fit is great, especially for those of you with a longer torso. I wear this shirt multiple times a week, and good news is they still have it stocked as we head into Spring. A true classic.

Loft-bomber-jacket Also, if you come across this baseball bomber jacket in-store, try it on because it looks so cute on. I passed on it for now being that I was already buying the jeans, but may go back for it. Such a great casual layering piece. Unfortunately it’s not online yet.

Being in California, Spring is always my favorite season to dress for because you can wear bright colors and patterns, and the weather is so nice you want to take advantage of dressing up as much as possible, before the summer heat sets in and all you want to do is wear a sundress. I always want to get excited about Fall attire, but seeing as how we are in the eighties all the way through November, we don’t have much to get excited about here.

Hoping you all have a great weekend and can spare a moment or two for yourself to do something nice. Maybe even some kid-free shopping. XO



How I Ditched the CoffeeMate, My Keurig and Caffeine

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FTLO-26 The question I get asked most often, when readers inquire about the change in my eating habits, is how I was able to get rid of CoffeeMate. From the way folks react with shock horror, when you suggest eliminating the nondairy creamer from their daily routine, you’d think they were more attached to the ritual of using CoffeeMate, than to the actual coffee itself. Many indicate they can’t fathom drinking coffee without the rich creaminess of CoffeeMate, and while I used to relate, as I glugged my cup 1/4 full with the stuff, I now wonder why you’d drink something you’d only find palatable with an add-in.

The road from CoffeeMate addict to straight black coffee drinker took some time, and I did some experimenting along the way. But I did eventually throw our Costco sized jugs of CoffeeMate in the trash, and then eventually switched to drinking decaf on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting or saying you have to go to as an extreme of a measure as I did, by eliminating caffeine all the way, but I hope that I can at least get you thinking about ditching the fake creamer, and maybe trying some better tasting coffee. I’ll start by saying that I was probably a lot like you – addicted to the taste of flavored creamers, and even more addicted to caffeine. I would drink multiple cups a day, at least 2 but some days 3, and would drink iced tea throughout the day, every day. If it was 10 am and I still had not had a cup of coffee, I was not a happy person and felt awful.

Why I ditched CoffeeMate

Why be concerned about ditching the flavored nondairy creamer? Well for starters, it’s made with hydrogenated oils, which is another name for trans fats, and reliable study after study have proven trans fats to be bad stuff. This isn’t conspiracy theory fear mongering stuff, trans fats are agreed to be dangerous to cardiovascular health by pretty respectable doctors and organizations, including the American Heart Association, which recommends cutting the stuff out of your diet as much as humanly possible (some trans fats are naturally occurring in animal products, but the hydrogenated kind found in CoffeeMate, is made cheaply and harshly with a chemical process).

Beyond the hydrogenated oils, it contains corn syrup, artificial flavors and other processed ingredients I can’t even pronounce. But this isn’t supposed to be a guilt trip, just a rundown of why I wanted to get rid of the stuff. Having never met either of my grandfathers because they died of heart attacks, and losing both of my grandmothers due to stroke and heart attack, cardiovascular health ranks pretty high up there for me. Even though I work out consistently and at the time ate pretty well, I really wanted to give it my best efforts to ditch things that weren’t only artificial and highly processed, but also things that I knowingly knew were bad for me. Heart disease clearly runs in my family, so this became a blaring red flag for me.

CoffeeMate alternatives

When I threw out my bottles of the stuff, I became desperate to find something to replace that sweet creamy flavor I had grown accustomed to drinking for years. I tried several brands of almond milk flavored creamer, soy creamer, coconut milk creamer. I tried bulletproof coffee, made with a concoction of  ghee or butter and other stuff, but it was too oily for me.  Eventually it was suggested I try good old full fat half and half, with a dash of real maple syrup, and for months, that was my go-to every morning. Every bit as creamy and tasty as my previous CoffeeMate, I was happy to swill my newly flavored cup of coffee, made with real ingredients. I tell this to anyone trying to make the switch to go this route first. If you don’t love it, give it at least a week and eventually your taste buds will change and will start craving the super sweetness every morning.
FTLO-3

Switching from my Keurig to a Chemex

After switching up my creamer, the next change to come was the process in which I made my coffee. For years we had been brewing out of a Keurig, and while at the time, the recent news coverage of Keurigs’ harboring mold and bacteria proved to be a little over-hyped, I did notice that my coffee just tasted funky most of the time. I was never and still don’t claim to be some sort of coffee snob, but even I was noticing a funky smell coming out of my pods, which transferred to my cup of brewed coffee. A sort of soapy smell, I actually returned several boxes of pods because they just wreaked.  I also was more often getting a lot of heartburn after I drank my morning cup of coffee, something I had experienced before but was growing in frequency, perhaps the older I got.

I happened upon an event hosted by local roasters Heartbreak Coffee, and it was that day I tasted my first true cup of coffee. Flavorful, rich but also subtle in taste, I literally had one of those aha moments and said to my friends, “So this is what coffee is supposed to taste like?!?” It sounds so silly and cliche, but that cup of coffee changed how I viewed coffee, and made me realize just how good coffee was supposed to taste, all on its own. There was no need to mask this flavor with creamers and sweeteners, as to do so would hide the flavor of the beans. And from that moment on I was a changed coffee drinker.

I took home some beans, and the next day I ordered a  Chemex. After doing some research, I found out that the Chemex’s unique filtration system and paper filters, were able to draw out the bitterness of most coffees, and actually made for a smoother cup of coffee. Lower acidity and bitterness also meant my heartburn could maybe find some comfort, because actually giving up coffee sounded like a silly solution to me ;)

While it took some getting used to at first, the Chemex is the only way I brew now. I know some people love French Presses, and I tried one at first, but it was still to strong, bitter and irritating to me. I brew with the Chemex because it not only tastes better to me, but it also is easier on me. I haven’t suffered from any heartburn or acid reflux since switching to a Chemex.

Another added bonus to me ditching the Keurig, was that I was able to help the environment a bit. While we did have a reusable pod, we rarely used it, and were one of the millions of people buying one of the billions of pods produced each year. Keurig pods are non-recyclable, and last year over 9.5 billion cups were produced, enough to circle the earth over 11 times. Even Keurig themselves admit they know this is a huge problem, and have made a company promise to have a recyclable pod available by 2020. That’s still about 50 billion pods away though. *Full disclosure, we still have our machine and keep it in the garage in case we have a big party at some point down the line, but in the last year, have found no need to use it yet. Friends and family would rather patiently wait for a cup from the Chemex. FTLO-7

The Chemex Process

I also get a lot of questions about the overall process of the Chemex, and most especially about the time factor. So many of us are so busy and impatient for that first cup of coffee that we’ve helped bolster a business making billions of pods a year. Yes, the Chemex process is more time consuming and labor intensive than a Keurig, and even a standard coffee pot, but it’s something I’m now used to, and have fit into my morning routine. I began with a small 3 cup Chemex, but eventually graduated to a 6 cup, which really only makes about 3 American size mugs of coffee.

  • You begin by placing the filter in the vessel, and then moistening it very slightly to preheat the brewer, this step is totally optional though. You then add in your desired amount of grounds.
  • You then add a small amount of preheated water to the grounds, just enough to cover them and allow the coffee to “bloom” and release its flavors.
  • Once your grounds have bloomed, you begin adding the rest of your water until the desired amount of coffee is ready. You fill the vessel up to 1/4 inch from the top and let it drip through. The whole process takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on the cup size Chemex you have.

While your coffee is drip brewing, make some bacon, pack the kid’s lunches, wipe down the counters, keep your self busy instead of staring at the dripping process. Once your coffee is ready, simply throw out the filter and rinse out the Chemex. Pour a cup and enjoy.
FTLO-14 FTLO-15 FTLO-17 FTLO-19 FTLO-22 As I said, the process takes upwards of 5 minutes, and yes, there have been mornings where I just didn’t have the time to make myself a cup  of coffee because I overslept or the kid’s schedule was just too busy. I survived and at the time missed the convenience of a regular coffee maker, but overall I’m very pleased about the Chemex. While I think the brewing method can indeed improve the flavor of the coffee, if you begin with crappy coffee, it’s not going to magically make it a good cup of coffee. So I always suggest you focus on investing in some good, quality beans so that you can begin to enjoy the true flavor of a good cup of coffee. FTLO-24 For months I was drinking Chemex brewed coffee with a high quality bean and still adding in my half and half and maple syrup. I eventually knew I needed to cut back some of the costs associated with purchasing more expensive beans, so I started moving over to more affordable, but still decent quality beans, and then eventually eliminated the added cream and sweetener all together. I say this time and time again, but your taste buds really do change over time and get accustomed to different flavors. I eventually grew out of the need for the fake creamer, then I outgrew the need for super expensive beans (although I do enjoy them still!), and then I eventually outgrew the need to have any flavoring at all.

Ditching the Caffeine

Again, I want to reiterate that I’m not suggesting you have to ditch everything from the creamer to the beans to the Keurig to the caffeine, even if you just ditch a portion you’ll be making improvements to your health, the environment and even just your cup of coffee. But going to a caffeine free life is a story worth telling, because months later I still can’t believe I made the switch.

After I did my first round of the 21 day cleanse, I noticed how much more energy I had, and how I rarely got the afternoon slump, something I experienced every single day before. After digging around, it appeared the coffee, and my need to drink it very first thing in the morning when I was still all groggy, was messing with my natural body rhythms and making me even more tired, instead of jolting me awake. So I decided to just stay off the stuff, and only drink it when a good cup of coffee presented itself to me, or when I really needed a good caffeine jolt.

You see, after drinking it for so long, the caffeine had pretty much lost its effectiveness on me, and I became immune to the stuff, yet I was still heavily addicted to it. When I went through those withdrawals, they were brutal, and so since I had gone 3 weeks without the stuff and felt decidedly better, I figured I may as well just stay off the stuff. I still drink truly decaffeinated coffee every morning, using beans that are decaffeinated with the Swiss Water Method, taking out 99.9% of the caffeine from the beans. Regular decaf still has anywhere from 7-20 mg of caffeine in each cup, and I’ll drink the stuff when I go to a coffee shop, but I don’t make it a regular part of my routine so I don’t get addicted to the stuff again.

FTLO-37 I still love a rich and frothy latte or a creamy cup of coffee as a special treat, but now it’s not something I crave every single day, multiple times a day. I’m embarrassed to admit, but there were plenty of days in my previous life, where I would visit a coffee shop two times a day for a hit, or brew multiple pots of coffee, some at 10 o’clock at night because I was trying to fight sleep. Taking my coffee so simply now has not only reduced my cravings for the rich sweetness of coffee-house beverages, but it’s also saved me a lot of money. I also listen to my body more and actually rest, when it’s trying to tell me to rest. While I rarely get the afternoon slump, I do make myself get more sleep at night because I know I’m gonna be running on my own energy throughout the day.

I’m no saint, and this is just one part of my overall day, in which I have plenty of cravings and make plenty of “bad” decisions, but I’m happy to finally have this whole caffeine and CoffeeMate addiction thing figured out. Let me know if you have any questions.

Are you a CoffeeMate addict, or have you been able to ditch the stuff? How did you go about it?

All photos by the Yung Bean Photography



Daily Style – Windy Season

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IMG_9647 Skirt - ASOS last season but so many great midi skirt options at ASOS!, Sweater – Club Monaco, Heels now on sale for $50!- ShoeMint, Reversible Faux Leather Tote - Nordstrom; Necklace – Madewell; Bracelets – Madewell & Alex & Ani  IMG_9634 While the East coast got ready for Juno, otherwise known as Snowmaggedon, us here on the West coast were dealing with the annoying Santa Ana winds. The farmer’s market was half shut down on Saturday, tree branches were ripped off trunks. and hair was flown all about. Other than whipping up some seasonal allergies and dirtying lawns, our seasonal annoyances are pretty minor in comparison to some. Another thing that comes along with the Santa Ana winds, are heat, and so by the afternoon, once we got home from church, I stripped off this outfit and got into some shorts and a t-shirt.  IMG_9652 On another note, I think I need to become one of those woman, now that I’m approaching forty, who changes out her purses with her outfits.  My kids are getting older, ideally I should have a few more minutes of free time in the morning to take care of such a task, right? Because once I get stuck on a purse, I tend to stick with that purse until it falls apart. And at this rate, this thing will be lasting for years to come. So until I become one of those ladies who seems to have it together enough to match her purse with her outfit, you’ll probably be seeing this one over and over and over. Helps that it’s reversible too, although that lately has been seeming like even too big of a chore. I thought things were supposed to get easier as the kids get older? Why don’t I yet have enough time to switch out my handbags, or at least reverse them when need be? Where is my daily schedule going astray? IMG_9639 Of course I hope you know I’m joking.  IMG_9666 IMG_9661 Happy Hump Day all. Hope it’s a good one and you’re staying warm and dry, or wind-free, wherever you are.  IMG_9655



Post 21 Day Cleanse – Now What?!?

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21Day-Cleanse_Banner Going through health challenges for an extended period of time, even seemingly minor ones, is one of the most humbling of things we can go through physically. At least it was for me, and because of the roller coaster ride of health I was on last year, it greatly altered the simple notion I had previously held, that “just eating real food” would work equally well for everyone. After my repeated cases of strep throat last year, and before my official autoimmune diagnosis, I knew something within me was just off, and so I ventured on my first cleanse. I swallowed a lot of my words during that period, because after experiencing just how much better I felt off of certain food groups I previously thought I was immune to, I started to learn that the one size fits all approach to eating wasn’t right for everyone.

After my last cleanse, we almost immediately left on vacation, where, if you followed along on Instagram, you’ll know I ate my way through that island. It was glorious and I wouldn’t take it back for anything, but those 8 days of intensive eating with almost daily consumption of alcohol at lunch and dinner, left me back at square one in terms of feeling tired, foggy headed, gassy and bloated. I really missed the spark of energy and fire I had felt during the cleanse, but had no idea what to do to get it back, other than go back on another cleanse. As we entered the holidays, that seemed like a bad idea. Because the purpose of the cleanse is to eliminate common triggers from your diet, so that you can feel great, you’re also ideally supposed to slowly introduce items back in, so you can identify what foods don’t work for you. Kind of like how we introduce solids to a baby for the first time. I went about it the wrong way, and could have saved myself some guess work had I just been a little more patient with jumping head first back into all the non-cleanse foods. IMG_0316

So if you felt remarkably better during the cleanse, chances are, some sort of food that you eliminated from your diet is causing you to feel less than stellar. To figure out what that is, we need to go through what they call a reintroduction phase. I’ll explain more below, but basically, don’t get ready to celebrate tomorrow by guzzling down every food you stayed away from for the last 21 days. We’re going to want to take this slow.

Jumping Back Into Life

If you’re not keen to go through the re-introductory phase, and just want to get back into living, that’s fine, I understand. But if you did like how you felt during the cleanse; less bloated, more energy, increased alertness, better digestion, chances are you will want to hold onto those feelings for as often as you can. You’re probably not into the idea of cooking every single meal from scratch for the rest of your life, but would like to strive for some long term change in overall eating habits. From my own experience, I have a few tips to offer you.

  • Limit how much and how often you eat the most common triggers – dairy, gluten, refined sugar, alcohol & caffeine. Just by being mindful of reduction of these top food sensitivities, you will likely feel loads better.
  • Try to stay off caffeine, so when you really need it, it will do its job. Switch to a true caffeine free brand, one which uses the Swiss Water Method process and guarantees your beans to be 99.9% caffeine free, or try a coffee alternative like Crio-Bru. When at your favorite coffee shop, order a decaf or even half caf, this way, when there comes a day when you really need a jump start, the caffeine will affect you differently and actually do what its intended to do. Going back to your old caffeine ways are likely to cause your coffee to lose its effectiveness over the course of time, and you may start feeling the afternoon slump. If you do go back to caffeine on a daily basis, try not to drink it first thing when you wake up, but let your body wake up on its own, naturally, then drink a cup. Here’s an optimal time schedule for caffeine consumption.
  • Consider switching to raw dairy items, or goat’s milk dairy products as they are less likely to cause an upset stomach. They are more expensive and options are limited, but by saving for special recipes or cravings, you will automatically be buying less often, and eating less, if you only have 1 type of cheese on hand as opposed to 5…yes, we used to be a house that on any given day has 5-7 cheeses on hand.
  • Continue to shy away from sugar, and use natural sugars at home when cooking.
  • Keep your alcohol tolerance low. You’re likely to notice that after being spirits free for 3 weeks, your tolerance is noticeably lower. Try keeping it that way by limiting alcohol consumption, so that 1 -1.5 glasses of wine hits your sweet spot, instead of 2-3.
  • Consider maintaining the morning ritual of a juice or smoothie, at least a few times a week. This is a great and quick way to ensure you get some sort of nutrient rich morning meal quickly, as lets be honest, how many of you skip breakfast because you’re so busy? And it is also easy on the digestive system.
  • Get enough sleep! Simple enough, yes it is. I know we are all busy, and some are busier than others, but no amount of dietary changes and exercises will fix your health, body, mind and spirit, than getting enough sleep. Watch one less show. Shut down the computer, put your iPhone in the kitchen, and read a book instead to relax you. Just sleep more!
  • Continue to be prepared by meal planning and having plenty of healthy options on hand throughout the week. And keep the junk out of the house.

IMG_0314 Reintroduction Phase

Now, if you felt remarkably better on the cleanse, and are committed to figuring out exactly why, then let’s get into the Reintroduction Phase. The Clean Program and Whole 30 both offer similar, but slightly different ways of reintroducing common food triggers, and you can read about them both in this Clean Program document pg. 4-8, and the Reintroduction Plan on Whole 30 site. The biggest difference between the two programs is that the Clean Program focuses on you first testing out dairy and gluten, as those are the most common food triggers, and Whole 30 has you add in legumes and non-gluten grains. Basically, it goes like this.

  • Day 1-3 introduce gluten, while keeping the rest of your diet cleanse friendly. Add in simple forms of gluten, like pasta, a “clean bread” that has gluten but doesn’t have added sugars, dairy, etc. Eat gluten 2-3 times a day so you can see how you feel. You want to focus on only adding in gluten instead of additional non-cleanse items, so you can see if its truly gluten causing you any issues.
  • Day 4-6 take out gluten again, and now introduce a simple form of dairy while keeping the rest of your diet cleanse friendly. Again, focusing on single or minimal ingredient dairy items like a glass of milk, a few pieces of cheese, a plain cup of yogurt, and eat dairy 2-3 times throughout the day. See how you feel.
  • Day 7 reflect on how you feel, any reactions you may have had, and how severe they were. Were the reactions severe, so that you may want to avoid for the long term, or were they mild and not enough to change your lifestyle? Only you can decide this. If you suspect you may have other food sensitivities beyond these two common triggers, continue on with this reintroduction process until you have your triggers figured out.

Eating healthy for the long term is really a journey of self-discovery, and one you have to tailor to your own personal needs and lifestyle. I can continue to babble on about what’s worked for me, and offer suggestions, but I’m human and have had my fair share of missteps, and what has worked for me may not work for you. It’s a process and trial and error, so don’t give up and be patient with yourself and the road you’re traveling.

So with that being said, the only other bit of advice I can offer you, is to take your health seriously and make time for it. Sure, if you feel great most of the time, and you did the cleanse to really just lose some post-holiday bloat, I get it and don’t want to encourage you to fix what ain’t broken. But in talking to thousands of women now for the last year and a half, it seems that many of us are suffering in some way or another, either very mildly or pretty severely. If you participated in the cleanse, and didn’t feel as great as you’d hoped, or even after all these changes still feel like something is amiss with you, than take it further and start figuring out what’s going on. I recommend a simple CBC blood work panel to test for basic thyroid function, possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies like Vit D and magnesium, and anemia. If any levels are out of normal range, push for further testing and answers. Most blood tests are at least partially covered under the most basic of insurance plans. Once you have some answers, consider taking supplements to help make up for deficiencies. So often in the real food world of health and diet, you will hear and read that you don’t need supplements if you’re eating the right foods, and that is simply not true for everyone! So don’t feel like some real food failure, if you decide to take some vitamins and supplements. I take selenium, magnesium, and a probiotic daily. I also just ordered a basic multi-vitamin which I’ll begin taking as soon as it arrives. IMG_0315

What I Personally Learned This Go-Around

I learned a couple of things this time around, than I did the first time. Here’s a few key points and healthy habits I’d like to personally keep on track with for the rest of the year. Let me know what yours were in the comments.

  • Don’t follow up a cleanse with a vacation right away. Last time, we left within days of me finishing the cleanse, and it led right back to lots of unhealthy habits, including almost daily consumption of some sort of sweets and alcohol.
  • I have really fallen in love with smoothie making this time around and want to continue with them because they are such a quick and easy way to get a quick snack or meal in. I also learned to focus on keeping them low in sugar by always focusing on the 3:1 ration of veggies to fruit, and adding in plenty of healthy fats and proteins. Hemp seeds, nuts and seeds, coconut oils and nut milks have been crucial to my smoothie success, and keeping them healthy and yummy tasting.
  • Meal planning is crucial! Having others join me on this program, and rely on me for the meal plans each week was an essential part of the process this time around. I was bored to tears the last time, and also really sick of cooking, so for the entire last week I pretty much subsisted off of salads and ground turkey. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and basically made me go buck wild with take out and all at once diving right back in to all the foods I had just avoided the previous 21 days. Basically, in many ways all that work was in vain. This time though, I feel completely recharged and invigorated about cooking! I say this with the utmost sincerity, it has renewed my love of cooking and trying new recipes. I’m so happy about this. Today, I could pretty much eat whatever I want, and while it’s nice to not feel limited, I also don’t feel like I’m about to be unleashed onto the world like a kid in the candy store.

Didn’t join in, but want to? 

Grab a friend or your partner and follow along whenever you’re ready. Join our private Facebook group and ask questions. Everything you need to know is right here in the cleanse review post, and the subsequent meal plans can be found here in Week 1, Week 2, Week 3. Meal plans, shopping lists, even print outs so you can take them with you and scribble on them, all right within those posts. The Facebook group is a great add-on, as we often shared other recipes and tips, and really just commiserated about the experience. It was an awesome community this time around, and I’m excited to keep it up, as a regular forum for support.

Any general questions you have about this process? Please feel free to ask away, and if you were part of the cleanse, please share your experience with others! Thanks to all who took part in this process, and I truly hope that in some way, it was beneficial to you all.



Caramelized Onion & Chicken Gluten Free Flatbread Pizza

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Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-7 A couple of months after I completed my first 21 day cleanse, my friend Mary decided to give it a try. She had been suspecting she had some food sensitivities, so she figured it would be a good way to rule anything out. Lucky for us, a couple of weeks in, she got a bit bored with the cleanse food she had been eating, and decided to get creative in the kitchen, hence developing this kick ass gluten free, dairy free and sugar free pizza. This is the perfect indulgence to eat on the home stretch of the cleanse, and remind us that not all hope in humanity is lost. We will make it through these last few final days.   Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-1 Of course you don’t have to be taking some vow to eat like a saint to make this little number. This is perfect for anyone who is just interested in cutting down on their dairy intake, or for someone how is truly gluten and/or dairy intolerant, and want to feel like a normal human being again. We all know a significant time without pizza starts to make one feel not only deprived, but down right deranged. Or is that just me? Because I ordered Z Pizza for the kids the other night when Art and I were going out on a date, and it took all my strength to not make out with that pizza. Forget I said that. Start by gathering your ingredients.

A little background; Mary has three sweet boys who, unfortunately, all have some pretty monumental allergies; basically all the common allergens including dairy, wheat, gluten and eggs. I mention this not to divulge Mary’s personal business, but to tell you that she has A LOT of experience with products and cooking this way, therefore, she knows her stuff. When I’m looking for the best gluten free pasta or dairy-free cheese, I go to Mary. She’s an expert because it has quite literally, become her job the last 9+ years.  Let’s begin, shall we?
Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-2 Begin by caramelizing your onions. Sort of like spinach, you start out with a massive amount in the pan, but they cook down quite a bit so don’t be alarmed at how many onions you’re cooking up. You also won’t use these all for 1 pizza, but it’s great to have leftovers for making pizzas the next day, or topping on salads, chicken breasts, you name it. Cooking the onions is the longest process of this recipe, so once that’s done, you’re on easy street, especially on round 2.  Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-3 Mary’s trick to making the “crust” hearty and stable is to layer two tortillas, with some cheese in between the two, before you begin laying on your toppings.  Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-4 Spread out your onions, then your spinach, artichokes and of course your chicken. Then top with the rest of the cheese. A note about the artichoke hearts by the way. Mary suggests you use marinated artichoke hearts because they give the pizza a bit more flavor, but the plain kind that comes in a can also works.

Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-5 This is what the dairy-free cheese looks like before you toss it in the oven, and as you can see below, the cooked version doesn’t look all that different. Mary suggests going by time versus the melty factor of the cheese, because if you wait for the cheese to get all gooey and melty, chances are you would have overcooked the rest of your ingredients.  Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-6 Feel free to drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top, but just an option. The pizza on its own is pretty spectacular so don’t feel like you’ve got to load it up with sauces to make it pop. Slice it up and don’t feel guilty if you eat the whole dang thing.  Caramelized-Onion-Chicken-Pizza-8 If you want to make this at home, see below for the printable recipe. And enjoy!

All photography by Mary of Yung Bean Photography 

Caramelized Onion & Chicken Gluten Free Flatbread Pizza
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A hearty and filling gluten free and dairy free pizza.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into half rings
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 brown rice tortillas
  • 1 cup rice cheese (Daiya brand preferred)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • ½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped into 1” chunks
  • 1 cup leftover chicken, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • balsamic vinegar (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Over medium-high heat, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy bottom pan. Once the pan is hot, add the sliced onions and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir to coat the onions evenly with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly across the pan and let cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. If you notice the onions begin to dry out or starting to burn, lower the heat a bit and add a 1-2 tsp of water to the pan. Once the onions turn a rich, brown color, turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. Place one brown rice tortilla on a large piece of parchment paper. Evenly sprinkle half the rice cheese over the tortilla. Top with the second tortilla (the double layer makes the “crust” more sturdy to hold up to the toppings.
  4. Layer the toppings on the tortillas starting with baby spinach, then the chicken and artichoke hearts, followed by the remaining rice cheese on top. Sprinkle on some dried basil and oregano all over.
  5. Place the pizza with the parchment paper directly on to middle rack of the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. (Rice cheese does not melt like regular cow cheese so you won’t be able to use the “melt” factor to gauge when the pizza is ready to come out.)
  6. When the edges of the tortilla become browned and crispy, slide the pizza out onto a plate or cutting board. Optional: drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Slice and enjoy!

 



Daily Style – Jump for Joy

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IMG_9577 Jumpsuit – Splendid; Flats – Shoemint, Clutch – St. John, old; Bracelets – Madewell and Alex & Ani

Women typically have a love/hate relationship with jumpsuits, as in we love the concept and how they look on the hanger, but don’t usually love how they look on our bodies. Or how they feel for that matter. They can pull in the wrong places, riding up in areas we’d rather something not ride, and be too short or too long. But if you find a jumpsuit that fits you well, and is cute, you’ve pretty much found the holy grail of outfits, because the inherent beauty of jumpsuits is how easy they make it to get dressed. No mixing and pairing outfits together, just like a dress, a jumpsuit is a one-stop shop in terms of getting dressed in a hurry.
IMG_9584

I was pleased as punch to find this jumpsuit, with it’s smart faux leather details and contrasting colors and fabrics, not only fit me well, but was so dang comfortable to boot. So comfy in fact, I wore this to church, and then proceeded to wear it all day long, even to watch a movie with the kids and head to a friend’s house for a casual dinner. I wore it with flats yesterday because my feet were a bit sore from dancing the night before at my friend’s 40th birthday bash, but I’ve worn this piece with heels and it looks remarkably put together and dressed-up for such a seemingly simple outfit. Back to shiny gold accessories, and I feel ready for just about any occasion.  IMG_9590 So are you on the pro, or anti jumpsuit team? Do you own any jumpsuits, or have you given up on trying to find one that fits well? If you like the idea of a jumpsuit, don’t give up, as if you keep searching for one, you’re likely to find one that fits well and looks great, eventually. It only took me 38 years, but proof is in the pudding. I am obsessed with this thing.



21 Day Cleanse Week 3 Meal Plan & Shopping List

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21Day-Cleanse_Banner As we head into the final week of the cleanse, I want to stress how much this week should be about relishing in how far you’ve come, and NOT GIVING UP! For many of us, we may be tired from all the cooking thus far, which is why I really debated making a meal plan for this week. I didn’t want to add unnecessary pressure to create gourmet meals in this final week, but when asked, many seemed to appreciate the guidance of a meal plan, even if every single day of the week wasn’t followed to the letter. If anything, they also appreciated having plenty of menu ideas to fall back on, after the cleanse ended but we still wanted to eat healthily. So my advice to you, take a couple of these ideas and run with them. Make double batches, eat plenty of leftovers, and just make simple meals with menu items like the turkey meatballs and simple sides of veggies and quinoa or rice. I found myself eating a ton of salads during this final week the last time I completed the cleanse, so if salads are your jam, stock up on lettuce and plenty of simple fixings. Make one roast chicken tonight to have shredded chicken for mixing in salads throughout the week, or even buy some canned salmon or chicken. Get creative with basic ingredients, but also keep it simple.

I’ve provided a few juice and smoothie recipes, but have also provided basic ingredient pairings on a couple of days, to sort of help foster smoothie making independence, if that’s a thing ;) My mom and dad bought a juicer 6 months ago and for goodness sake, they still haven’t used the dang thing because they haven’t decided on a juice recipe book to purchase, with a complete instruction manual on what and how to juice. It’s not that complicated or scary, just have fun with it and know that most smoothies and juices can always be salvaged with a little tweaking in post-production. So have fun and don’t be afraid to try new variations and amounts. I’ve provided a link to a simple diagram of basic smoothie ingredient combos. Feel free to toy around with the quantities of said ingredients until you get the combo right, but keep in mind to always strive for a healthy low glycemic balance of a 3:1 vegetable/fruit ratio. For every serving of fruit you add in, complement it with either 3 servings of vegetables or other type of healthy fat/protein like coconut oil, a nut butter or healthy add-ins like hemp seeds, chia seeds or raw nuts. Also keep in mind, the best way to keep these healthy habits going for the long term, is to get comfortable and confident so that you can make these things without a recipe. So go forth and conquer smoothie and juice making land!

I think I’ve caught all the subs this week, but again, if I’ve missed any, please go ahead and make any necessary subs for dairy, sugars, soy or wheat. There’s a recipe for a pizza on Thursday night with no recipe link, but that will be published here on Wednesday, so stay tuned. Later in the week I’ll be writing a post with tips and advice on easing back into “the real world” and adding in some of the foods we’ve eliminated, to check for intolerance and sensitivities. I also think it will be a good idea to keep the private Facebook group going, as support to those interested in eating well any day of the year, so even if you haven’t participated in the cleanse so far, feel free to join if you want info on great products, recipes and tips for eating healthfully throughout the year.

And if you want to refresh your memory on the last two weeks of meals and grocery lists, you can see the full meal plan from week 1 here, and week 2 here.

 

Carrot Beet Juice Rice cakes with avocado mash & cucumber slices Garlicky Spaghetti Squash with chicken, mushrooms & kale Repeat am snack Bombay Bowls sub coconut nectar for brown sugar & use white sweet pot
Hands Down the Best Smoothie Handful baked sweet potato fries + cashew cream Warm Pear & Chickpea Salad sub coconut nectar for honey Repeat am snack Turkey Meatballs from It’s All Good, with steamed veggies & brown rice
Cacao + Cherry Smoothie replace bananas with 3-4 dates 1/2 avocado + grain free crackers like Jilz or plantain chips Quinoa + White Chicken Chili Repeat am snack Baked Chicken with Spinach & Artichokes sub ghee for butter
Protein Packed Almond Smoothie Apple slices + 2 tbsp almond butter Leftovers Repeat am snack Carmelized Onion & Chicken Pizzas
Coconut Berry Smoothie 1/2 avocado + brown rice tortilla wrap Mustard Garlic Brussel Sprouts with quinoa or brown rice & leftover meatballs Repeat am snack Zucchini Rolls with simple green salad
Tropical Twist Smoothie Handful of dates + cashews Curried Brussel Sprouts with Chickpeas + Sweet Potatoes Repeat am snack Sesame Citrus Tilapia, sub lemon for orange & coconunt aminos for tamari.
Carrot Beet Juice Raw veggies + hummus Canned Salmon Nicoise Salad over greens, with kalamata olives, capers, celery & cucumber Repeat am snack Leftovers

Download the 21 Day Cleanse Week 3 Meal Plan here
Download the 21 Day Cleanse Week 3 Grocery List here

Previous 21 Day Cleanse Meal Plans:
Week 1
Week 2

Previous 21 Day Cleanse Grocery Lists:
Week 1
Week 2