Tell someone they are Beautiful Today!

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You never know how badly someone might need to hear that they are beautiful, strong, loyal, intelligent, hard-working, or just plain amazing.

Take a minute to send a note/email/text or better yet, look at someone in the eyes and compliment them!

And don’t let them tell you you are wrong.

When someone says it to you… accept it. Smile and say thank you. If it’s appropriate, I recommend hugging as a response.

Spread the love!

Dairy-free and Delish Coffee Creamer

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In my attempt to cut dairy from my diet, the biggest hurdle for me is that damn coffeemate/international delight/liquid sugar deliciousness. Just almond milk and sweetener was not thick enough. And it’s pretty hard to go from peppermint mocha to no flavor whatsoever. Except for “coffee” flavored… but who wants coffee that is just coffee flavored? (I’m sure some of you do. I’ve got you covered too!)

I found a few recipes but most were too complicated or not quite right. After some experimenting and a lot of almond milk, here’s my recipe base for the perfect dairy-free coffee creamer. The quantity is perfect for one of those salad dressing carafes that comes with the good seasonings mixes. Add-ins are listed below to make it your flavor of choice.

Xanthan gum is expensive, but… you use so little of it that it will last you forever and then some. Split it with a health conscious friend!

This is the one I picked up at my regular, local grocery store. There would probably be a better selection at a health foods store, but this was the only one I had available. It’s a good brand though!

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Basic vanilla creamer

  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (plain if you are anti-vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste (I did 4 splenda packets)

Toss all ingredients in the blender and thoroughly blend. Pour into carafe, mason jar, or a washed out coffeemate bottle! Creamer will have some trapped air bubbles that will settle out in the fridge over night.

Mix-in flavor options

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp extracts (peppermint, hazelnut, almond, coconut, etc)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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That’s it! Super easy. Have fun with the flavorings. If you have any specific requests, ask! I might be able to whip something up. Got a great mix-in combo? Comment below!

Meditation wrap up

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So I’ll admit that I didn’t follow my original plan to a T. But that’s ok! Meditation is a part of my daily routine now. I wake up each morning, start the coffee maker, and hit the yoga mat. Depending on the day I have ahead of me, I have been searching on youtube for the desired length meditation. For example, “20 minute guided meditation”.  Headphones have helped drown out any other sounds of the household (crazy cat).

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The benefits I have been enjoying are spanning the physical and the mental, work life and personal life. I mentioned previously that I am able to almost zone out and focus on a task, like grading 160 boring multiple choice tests, better than I ever have before. I am reading faster. I am running further without injury or strain. I am calmer and a million times more patient with both my two young children and teenage students. I am slower to anger and much more aware of my small, connected existence to the universe.

It has also been a nice foundation to my entire day! After meditation, I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit at the table with my phone and craft my daily to-do list a la Chalene Johnston. Her 30 day PUSH course is awesome and FREE! Highly highly recommend it. I am able to review my day ahead with a clear head after meditating.

I also love that it’s a tool to reboot if my stress levels get too high. I will spend 15 minutes of my lunch or after school with the door locked and speakers blaring. It’s not as easy if things get out of hand at home. Preschoolers don’t like to leave you alone for long. 🙂

I would encourage anyone to give this healthy habit a serious shot! It was hard at first, learning to calm my thoughts and be still. Don’t give up! It took me a good two weeks to get to the point where I felt like I was actually meditating. Since I started this journey, I have found numerous articles and research about mindful meditation helping in a range of situations, from breast cancer patients to inner city school children.

Tell me, did you try? How did it affect you if you did? Or are you going to re-commit? Don’t worry, the wagon is always there to jump back on.

Survival of the Fittest. A reflection.

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I am fortunate to live in a state that is not under any sort of vortex right now, and I ran outside yesterday with some friends. A mile of the the run was through some wooded trails, which is a challenge for me. Not only is it out of my physical comfort zone, it causes me some injury anxiety. But I did it, thanks to some encouragement from my fantastic friends.

The group spread out a bit throughout the trails, so it was fairly quiet. I felt my lungs work harder, my legs burn more than road running. With the beauty of nature around me, a thought crossed my mind. I am a high school science teacher by day, and I am always in awe of the intricacy of the human body and the complexity of the universe. So as I’m breathing in the atmosphere of our planet, I realize that I am made for this. Literally. Me, a living being, has evolved on this planet, from the elements of this planet, to suck in it’s air and use it. My bones and muscles are the result of billions of years of evolution to maintain core stability against the gravity of Earth. My eyes are adapted to see the range of wavelengths that just so happens to be the wavelengths of light that can get through our atmosphere.

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So what really is it to run 3.2 miles? 13.1? 26.2?Just doing what I am built to do. Testing evolution. Survival of the fittest. What amazing machines we are.

7 ideas for Romaine that AREN’T salad!

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I have a few things that are weekly staples on my grocery list: milk, eggs, bananas, etc. You have some of these too I’m sure! One thing I buy every week is a big fluffy head of romaine lettuce. It’s nutrient dense and yes, it’s versatile. Salad is always on the meal plan at least once a week, but I have cooked up a few ways to use it that don’t mean in a bowl with dressing.

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When I bring it home on Sunday I wash and prep it to keep it fresh. Best way to store lettuce (any kind) is to wash and dry in a salad spinner, then place in a ziploc bag with a slightly damp paper towel. And poke holes in the bag! Let it breathe! Your lettuce will keep for the whole week at least!

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I always make two bags, one for the large outer leaves that I keep whole and one for pre-chopped lettuce. Why? I use it for more than salads! I used to end up with a half head of romaine every week; not enough for a whole family sized salad but enough to do something with. So I improvised and cycle in these regulars for my whole family!

  1. Use some of the chopped romaine in a wrap with leftover meat from last night’s dinner. A little vinaigrette and it’s lunch!

  2. Or if you are feeling anti-carb, use a large leaf in place of the tortilla. Stuff it with some tuna salad and cucumber. Cool and crisp.

  3. Wilt it into some whole grain pasta. Yes, like spinach or kale. Romaine breaks down more easily so turn the heat off first then dump some of the chopped stuff in there and let the steam from the pasta soften it a bit.

  4. Chop it super fine and it makes a pretty garnish. I like to roll up just a piece of the larger leaf and slice extremely thin to make ribbons. Looks nice on pretty much anything!

  5. My hubs and kids will eat it on a sandwich if it’s not too think of a layer. One way to get around this is to put a layer of two or three larger leaves between cheese on a grilled cheese. It will get softer and thinner, the taste mellows a bit, and the grilled cheese just looks prettier.

  6. Grill it! Okay, this one is like a salad, but it’s different and delicious! You actually need to leave it on the stem for this one, but take off any larger, loose leaves from the outside. Spray with a little olive oil, and toss them on the grill. They will only need a light grilling, and I put them around the outside of the grill to avoid over doing it. Rotate then remove. Perfect in summer!

  7. Keep some of the long, thin, and stiff inner pieces and use as a fancy appetizer base. A dab of crab salad and a halved grape tomato look lovely and are easy for guests to pick up and eat!

Have another idea? Comment below!

Small Changes we ALL can do to be happier and healthier in 2014!

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Many times the overall process of “dieting” and weight loss can be overwhelming. A before and after shot that is a year apart might be super impressive, but the thought pops in: “I can’t do that. She/he probably changed their whole lifestyle!” And the year… that’s a long time. I get that.

It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming though. Of course, if you have the drive and commitment to totally revamp your lifestyle then please do it! For most people though, we need to take baby steps. Ease our way in. Unfortunately that usually leads to disappointment as small changes often bring about little to no change in the short term and let’s face it; Americans aren’t too interested in the long term. We want to do the minimal amount of work but get the large payoff. Fit bodies that you see on various instagram feeds for “fitspo” (fitsporation = fitness and sport inspiration) feature models and athletes that dedicate HOURS a day to wellness. It is a fine goal, but I wish more of them would show more real people with real lives, families, and jobs. We need to be motivated by other things than looking hot in a sports bra. Truly, that is not what matters, and just like those victoria’s secret models, the fitness models are a very small percentage of healthy and fit humans and should not be looked at as an ideal.

Recently Howard Schatz’s photos of female Olympic athletes revealed how different and amazing we women look even at peak performance levels. Yes, they all train differently, but every one of those women are considered the best of the best. And they don’t all look like lingerie models.

In 2014, I challenge you to think about your health and fitness goals. Stay away from anything aesthetic. Instead, focus on what you want to be able to do. Run a 5k. Play with my kids without getting tired. Get through a work day without getting tired. Decrease my blood pressure. Increase my immune system. Be more productive at work. Sleep better. Have better sex. Whatever. Just try to stay away from “I want to be hot! Bikini season!!!!” I have a daughter, and I’m a high school teacher, so I feel a personal responsibility to promote fitness for health and not for looks. And to spread the word that while a few small changes in our daily lives might not make us fitspo material, your quality of life will improve.

A few small changes to our daily lives that ANYONE (yes, even you) can make are:

  • drink water as soon as you wake up
  • stand on one foot when brushing your teeth to practice balance. switch feet morning and night.
  • use coconut oil instead of butter in most recipes, even spread on toast.
  • whole grain/ whole wheat breads/pasta/rice instead of white
  • cut out or cut back on soda. (switch back to regular instead of diet if you are just cutting back. Diet = chemicals = two thumbs wayyyy down!)
  • sit up straight when at your desk or driving your car
  • take the stairs
  • park farther away
  • Unplug when you eat – no phones/email/social media. Better yet, if the weather is nice, eat outside! Listen to nature/traffic and people watch.
  • Meditate. Even 10 minutes a day helps calm the mind and focus throughout your day.
  • drink a glass of water before you eat every meal. You’ll eat less and chances are you need the water.
  • Use more herbs/seasoning and less butter/cream/cheese in your recipes.
  • breath deeply and consciously a few times a day. I like to do this at red lights.
  • walk your dog twice a day. Jog/walk in mailbox intervals. “today I am going to jog one mailbox further than yesterday and walk the rest.” Your pooch will thank you too!
  • Laugh. Every. Day.
  • Pick a full body exercise and do a set while the coffee is brewing. Push ups, burpees, planks are all good choices. Every couple of days add one or two reps to the set. You’ll be surprised how much stronger you will get with 25 pushups every morning.

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. Pick just ONE or TWO and just try! See how you feel! Good? Great! Try another one. Before you know it, you might get the ball rolling to full-on wellness enthusiast. That’s how it happened to me. 🙂

Let me know what you are going to try in the comments below! Or have another idea to add to the list? Share it!

❤ Amy