New Years Resolutions for 2016

New Year’s resolutions.

I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about ‘resolutions’, but I’m just going to throw it out there that I’m a fan. I love goals. I love things to strive for. I love the idea of starting fresh and having my motivations written out so that I know what the heck I’m doing.

I made a couple commitments that I stuck to last year (about eating habits & time-wasting habits). I also made a few commitments that I really did NOT stick to (about exercising…woopsy).

This year, I’ve spent some good time reflecting on 2015 and know what I want to strive for for the upcoming year. Last year, I chose a word (courage) to define my year. I stuck to it for the most part…. but this year I want to take it a step further.

I am choosing, not just a word for 2016, but a quote that I want to remember when I’m afraid… followed by an array of resolutions. Here are my goals for 2016:

Quote to remember:
Well-behaved women seldom make history.” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

1. Speak my mind, even when I’m afraid to step on toes.
This goes along with my quote. I have come to the conclusion (through the help of my husband) that I have a side that most people don’t see. A side that is passionate, zealous & wholly committed to justice. But it gets snuffed out by my fear of what people will think of me… my fear of disagreement… my fear of ‘ruffling feathers’. But I am choosing this year to commit to courage (again) and stand up for others, for justice & not letting fear silence me.

2. Read at least one book a month.
My favorite. Hopefully it will be more than one book a month!

3. Exercise at least 3x / week.
An exercise tool that has helped me is the “7 minute workout” app on the iphone. Anyone can commit to 7 minutes of working out a day. I’m sure that seems unbelievably short for a lot of you gym buffs, but I would definitely recommend this to those that can’t seem to get up off their booty’s (like me!), 7 minutes is better than 0 minutes 🙂

4. Eat fruits & vegetables everyday.
If you’ve got any good recipes for tasty veggie sides, send them my way please.

5. Cut back on sweets.
I will continue with the no sugar/sweets before dinner rule and maybe kick it up a notch if I can…

6. Watch less TV.
Because this consumes way too much of my life. Nick & I are committed to no TV until the end of the month (except for ‘The Bachelor’ for me, because I just have to, and because it’s also a social thing). This will be hard for us, but will help us NOT do a 3-hour Netflix binge every other night.

7. Go on regular social media fasts.
I will have to commit to this, since I listed social media as my single biggest time-waster from last year.

8. Stick to my capsule wardrobe.
I am a minimalist and absolutely ADORED my capsule wardrobe last year… here’s to another 3 months of committing to only wear 32 items of clothing/shoes and NOT purchasing any new clothing!

9. Look presentable when I go out.
Because I am currently at Starbucks wearing yoga pants and a hoody. Time to act like a grown-up.

10. De-clutter everything.
Box up the excessive amount of toys, clothing and crap that accumulates in our itty bitty apartment.

11. Pray more.
This probably should be #1 on the list, since this is my life-line.

12. Invest in people. 
Because I love people. And because we are made for communion. If I learned anything from last year, it is that people matter and the best thing I can offer my friends, co-workers & everyone is my time. I don’t know where I would be without those who invested in me. Time to start making my relationships a priority.

Paleo Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

Ok, everyone, get ready because I am really excited about this recipe.

To get things started, I’ll begin by saying this:

I’m considering trying the Paleo diet for a month.

Ever heard of it? I hadn’t until recently. As most of you know, I’ve been desperate to change my & my family’s eating habits after learning to read labels more carefully… I am now understanding how much of said items are ok to have… I’m understanding what ingredients are absolutely NOT ok to have… and also learning which terms are regulated by the FDA & which are not (hint: the term “all natural” is not regulated… so beware).

My husband, although often thinks I’m being ‘over the top’ about healthy foods, agreed to try the paleo diet with me in a month or two after 1. I get a job (healthy foods are expensive, so filling our pantry with things like coconut oil & almond flour will cause an increase in our grocery budget) and 2. We’ve had time to prepare and read up.

Until we start the actual paleo diet, I tried cooking a paleo dessert (&/or breakfast) to get us started.

First of all… look at it:

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I just made this yesterday and already love it.

A few things to know:

  • There is no sugar in this recipe. I repeat: there is no sugar in this recipe!
    Want it know what’s used to sweeten it? Dates. Just dates. & a few other fruits are thrown in as toppings (berries & bananas).
  • Her pictures are better than mine. I don’t have cute mini mason jars to show the layers of the parfait, but go to http://www.againstallgrain.com to get a better idea of what it looks like and about the paleo diet.

I absolutely love it and am SO excited to have found something delicious that is also healthy.

ENJOY 🙂

Paleo Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait

By: Danielle Walker – AgainstAllGrain.com
SERVES: 6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 6 ounces pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened raw cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced
  • 1/3 cup unsalted, natural almond butter
  • 1 cup mixed berries of choice
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine almond milk, dates, cacao powder, chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon and sea salt in a blender. Blend until very smooth, about two minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. To assemble the parfaits: Divide the banana slices between six 8-ounce Mason jars or bowls. Spoon equal amounts of almond butter into the jars, then top with equal amounts of the chilled pudding. Top with berries and almonds and serve immediately or refrigerate covered for up to three days.

Nutritional data (per 1 serving)
Calories 344
Fat 17g
Carbs 46g
Sugars 26g
Protein 9g

Healthy Habits: Wholesome Food I’m Loving

We’ve been making some healthy food choices this month and I am so excited to share them with you. Once again my two rules for wholesome eating:

1) No packaged food items that contain more than 5 ingredients.
2) No packaged food items in which I do not recognize an ingredient.

Try them and let me know what you think! And if you have any of your own, please share!

  • Breakfast: Bananas with Almond Butter
    Okay, so this Trader Joe’s almond butter is pretty expensive ($7.99… way more pricey than it’s PB counterpart, ringing in at $2.99). It took a while for me to cave and buy it, but I’m so glad I did. I don’t think I’ll be buying it all the time, but it’s a great treat every now and then. It’s much easier for me to get all my ‘almond’ nutrients in this way. I’ll grab a banana for breakfast and slather a spoonful of almond butter onto every bite. So good. (Ingredients: almonds, salt, <1% cashews)

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  • Snack: Homemade Guacamole with TJ’s Salsa Autentica & Avocados
    Okay, so first off, I know this is a cheater way to make guacamole (mixing avocados & salsa), but it’s quick and very yummy. AND I need to rave about Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica for a minute (I swear I don’t work for them). The only ingredients in the salsa are: tomatoes, fresh yellow chile, distilled vinegar (from corn), salt, onion. It meets my two rules!
    -1. I recognize every ingredient on the label.
    -2. There are 5 or less ingredients!
    Not to mention, it’s absolutely delicious.

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  • Dinner Side: Sweet Potatoes mixed with corn & black beans
    I never know what to do with my sweet potatoes (even though I ALWAYS buy them because they’re cheap and jam-packed with nutrients). This is a great way to incorporate them into your savory meals: roast them in the oven and mix them with corn, black beans & cilantro. It’s the perfect side to any Mexican dish. You can even add them to your tacos 🙂

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  • Dessert: Choco-Banana-Peanut Butter Ice Cream
    I am so in love with this dessert. I couldn’t think of a healthier dessert, honestly. We just threw frozen bananas, peanut butter, unsweetened coco powder, raisons, & a some chocolate chips (my own addition) into a blender and VOILA. ICE CREAM.

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Here’s my version. A bunch of different recipes of ‘banana ice cream’ variations can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/14/blended-frozen-banana-recipes_n_7058748.html

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

A quick sweet treat to enjoy!

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I made these last night and Nick and I both loved them. I can’t say that they’re healthy, but they DO have oats 🙂 They don’t have too much butter. AND you know everything that’s going in them (unlike packaged goods).

PS: That’s something new we’re trying in our house: only eating sweets that we make ourselves, rather than purchasing packaged sweets (we can’t be okay with eating something when we don’t recognize half the ingredients).

Enjoy!

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PS: I notice that the cookies look kind of dry in the photos… they are really really not.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
yields 24 cookies

1/2 C butter
1.5 C white sugar
1/2 C milk
4 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
3-3.5 C dry quick-cooking oats

Directions:

*note: I cut the recipe in half and made 12 cookies… still came out great.

  1. Add the first four ingredients into a 4-quart sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and hold for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add peanut butter into the hot mixture and stir until melted.
  5. Add in vanilla. (almond extract is good also, but I only use 1/2 teaspoon almond and 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla).
  6. Mix in the oats and drop by tablespoons onto wax paper.
  7. Leave in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before eating.

slightly adapted from: http://dessert.food.com/recipe/no-bake-chocolate-oatmeal-cookies-23821

My Capsule Wardrobe

So… I have a slogan. And it’s probably one you’ve heard before: JUST DO IT.

Yup. That’s my slogan. I stole it from Nike. I realized recently that when I spend too long contemplating something, it never happens. So I decided to finally try what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: the capsule wardrobe.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten exceedingly overwhelmed by my closet. Not just overwhelmed… defeated.

Luckily, no one knows how insane my side of the room looks, other than my husband. Pretty much as if there was an explosion at Old Navy, to be succinct. I’m not creative and I’m not good at utilizing my clothes well. Consequently, I end up wearing nothing but workout clothes (because it’s the “I don’t have to try” look). Here’s a little peak at a pile of my clothes:

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BLEH. Just looking at it, I can feel my heart rate go up. That is really too much. Oh and with all those clothes, guess how I typically dress? like this:

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So I started reading about “capsule wardrobes” (which is totally a thing right now) and I decided I had to try it.

A capsule wardrobe can be defined as “a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you love to wear.”

The main goals are to spend less time meandering through your clothes and more time doing things that matter. It’s to declutter and do more with less. It aims to create a closet that is NOT overwhelming & disorganized, but one that is clean and filled with flattering wardrobe. Plus, there’s the added bonus of living in simplicity.

Music to my ears. I could not wait to do it!

A lot of sites give different rules. Here’s how I decided to do it.

There is typically one capsule per season, so I created one with 34 items to last for the next 3 months.

What’s Included: dresses, bottoms, tops, outerwear, shoes.

What’s NOT Included: cocktail attire, workout clothes, accessories & PJ’s.

Here’s MY capsule in case any one wants to try it with me!

I will be using 34 items in the span of 3 months:

10 Tops
three patterned
two semi-patterned
five solid
two cami’s (I’m not counting these since I treat them as under-garments)

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6 cardigans/jackets
all neutral colors
one jean-jacket

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9 bottoms
one pair of jeans
two pairs of shorts
two pairs of black leggings (different lengths)
one pair of grey leggings
one black maxi skirt
one knee-length white & navy skirt
one pair of black pants

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3 dresses
one patterned
two solid

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6 pairs of shoes
one pair of boots
one pair of wedges
one pair of flats
one pair of tennis shoes
two sandals (one not pictured)

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Things you should know & tips on getting started:

  • I donated a lot of my old clothes, but I also stored some.
    It’s good to get rid of clothes you never wear. But I also kept some, which made me less intimidated by this project… knowing that I wasn’t tossing everything out helped me actually do it.
  • Try sticking with neutral colors as much as possible.
    Trust me. Patterns can get exhausting. And so can bright colors. Neutrals match with everything. I noticed most capsule wardrobes are filled with neutrals!
  • Start a wardrobe from scratch if that excites you.
    I used clothes I already have, but a lot of bloggers donate and sell old clothes & use the money to buy new pieces that complete their capsule. Do whatever suits you!

Join me! I will write another post at the end of the three months to let you know how it went and what I learned 🙂

Has anyone ever done this or is thinking about trying it? I would love to hear thoughts!

My Word for 2015: Courage

This year, my friends and I decided that, instead of resolutions, we would each pick one word that we want our year to be defined by. The simplicity of one word, we hope, will be more effective than a resolution… to be remembered and exuded in everything we do.

For 2015, my word is courage.

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I know we’re a few months into the new year, but I finally began making my collage today (what you see above) that I will put up on my bedroom wall to remind myself to be courageous. It will also remind me of the things I desire for this year… things as little as reading, journaling, yoga, coffee & bubble baths… things as big as being vulnerable, loving my husband sacrificially, parenting my son whole-heartedly, and leading where I feel called to lead.

More than anything, I realized it’s going to take courage to become the person God’s created me to be.

  • I want the courage to be creativetry things that I’ve never done before.
  • I want the courage to be me in every situation without fear of what others might think.
  • I want the courage to initiate reconciliation & conflict resolution (I’m terrible at this).
  • I want the courage to parent my son whole-heartedly without concern of how others might do it.
  • I want the courage to ask for what I want & to stop apologizing for things I don’t need to be sorry for.
  • I want the courage to make time for myself and pursue hobbies I love.
  • I want the courage to share my faith with anyone & everyone I interact with.
  • I want the courage to speak up against injustice & allow my voice to be heard.
  • I want the courage to lead where I feel called to lead.
  • I want the courage to be firm in my decision-making, without looking back.
  • I want the courage to forgive whenever I feel wronged.
  • I want the courage to obey God’s voice when I hear it.

What word do you want to define your year by?

Clean Eating (March 2015)

During one of my MOPS meetings (about a year ago), we had one of the moms talk about nutrition & how to find food that’s more wholesome for ourselves and our kids. This woman had a master’s in nutrition and was also a licensed dietician, so I’m going to give her total credibility here.

There are two points she made about grocery shopping that really stuck out to me and, to this day, has completely changed the way I look at packaged food.

1. Make sure that every ingredient on the label is recognizable to the average grandparent.

2. If any packaged food item has more than 5 ingredients, it is considered “once in a while food” (aka junk food).

WOW, right? That means those nature valley granola bars you love so much are actually considered junk… crazy. Here are some ways I’ve attempted to eat more wholesome foods (every item on this list abides by the two points mentioned above):

  • For my morning: Plain Greek Yogurt w/granola
    You have to be careful with this one because flavored greek yogurt ends up adding 10 g of sugar on average per serving, which is crazy. Use plain greek yogurt and add granola, fruits or even honey to sweeten it up. yogurt
  • For my sweet tooth: Dates
    Delicious, healthy and hits that sweet craving.
  • For my salty snack: Plantain Chips
    This is my new favorite snack from Trader Joe’s. The only ingredients are plantains, salt & sunflower seed oil. They taste amazing and are much healthier than potato chips. (oh and it’s only $1.69 for the package)

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  • To go with dinner: Lentils
    Also another trader joe’s favorite, this is the perfect dinner addition for the whole family (including joshua). It’s healthy and packed with flavor, especially if you cook it the way the package suggests (with chicken broth or vegetable broth & white wine).

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**Side note for sweet coffee lovers: Natural Bliss Coffee Creamer
So this obviously can’t be considered healthy, but I think it makes a decent substitute for all the other sugary creamers. Of course plain old milk or half&half is probably best. However, for those of you that are used to sweet creamers, this is probably your best bet. The only ingredients in this creamer are milk, heavy cream, sugar & vanilla. Most of the other creamers are packed with ingredients you won’t recognize.

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The 30-day Yoga Challenge

As I’ve been trying to find ways to ease back into working out, I have found a routine that has (so far) been working wonderfully for me.

A few days ago, I attempted to start my “Yoga Studio App”, which I have done before and loved. But somehow the app was being funky with our Apple TV. So I went onto YouTube and found “The 30-day Yoga Challenge”.

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It’s slow-paced, it’s at home, it’s FREE, it’s structured, it’s yoga & the workouts are anywhere from 15-30 minutes each. Perfect for a mom and exactly what I’m looking for.

Join me will you?

PS… There are two “30 day yoga challenges”. One is with Erin Motz & the other is with Adriene Michler (the latter appears to be a bit more rigorous, but both are not very intense). I am partaking in the less rigorous one. But both seem good.

Here is day 1 of the yoga challenge I am participating in (also found at http://www.doyouyoga.com/course/the-30-day-yoga-challenge/):

Healthy Habits: A little bit is better than nothing

I realized recently how terribly tied I am to perfectionism… and this, my friends, has resulted in plenty of missed opportunities.

For example, I really need to workout. As I mentioned in my last post, I literally have not exercised since Joshua was born. I know a lot of you health nuts are revolted by that… but I have had such a hard time committing and, moreover, being okay with doing a little bit rather than a lot.

I am so used to the mindset that if I don’t workout for at least an hour or two, it just wasn’t worth it. But that mentality needs to die if I am ever going to do anything. It has been the same way with my time in prayer and reading the bible… I need to be okay with doing a little bit rather than a lot because, in all reality, that’s all I can commit to at this point in time. And a little bit is certainly better than nothing.

With that, I am going to share with you what I’ll be committing to… hopefully all my nothings will turn into somethings. Here are my healthy habits for the year:

1. I will be reading through the bible in one year.
I found this simple book to help me go through the bible in a year, which I have never done before. There is a reading schedule that shows you what to read each day. I love the schedule that they’ve created, as it alternates from old testament book to new testament book. There are a couple pages for each week, giving you a historical context and asking questions that help you understand and learn from the reading. I am excited to have some sort of structure to help me actually read my bible.

IMG_5708A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year”- Diane Stortz

2. I will be doing 15-30 minutes of yoga in the mornings.
I don’t have time or money for an actual yoga studio right now. But I DO have something awesome: The yoga studio app. You can customize your own class, choosing level, style, time length, etc. I’ve done it before and it is absolutely wonderful (& bonus that it connects to our Apple TV from my iPhone). I believe it was $3.99 at the app store, but it’s money well spent.

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3. I am continuing to plow through my reading list.
Do you guys remember that reading list I made? Well, I am pleased to inform you that I’m making a tiny bit of a dent in it 🙂 I have just finished reading “What Alice Forgot”, which I absolutely loved and am now starting two new books: “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin (literary fiction) and “Encounters with Jesus” by Tim Keller (Christian Non-fiction). Both are wonderful and reading on my spare time has continued to rejuvenate me and keep me happy 🙂

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Easy Fall Chili

Nothing says fall/winter like coming home for dinner to a nice steamy bowl of hearty chili 🙂

I always used to steer clear from making chili (even though I love it) because, as I often witnessed, it generally takes forever to make and requires a ton of ingredients.

Good news: I found the easiest & simplest chili recipe that turned out amazing. It took 20 minutes and only 5 required ingredients (I added a few of my own I had on hand). It turned out beautifully. My husband and I both loved it and we had leftovers for days.

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Easy Fall Chili

servings: 6
prep + cook time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 3 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans beans, drained (black beans, kidney beans, a combo, or whatever you like)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • (optional: 1 C frozen corn)
  • (optional toppings: shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro, etc.)
DIRECTIONS:
  1. In a large stockpot, cook ground turkey over medium-high heat until browned, stirring frequently.  Drain the excess grease. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the onion is cooked and softened.
  2. Serve warm with additional toppings if desired.

recipe slightly adapted from: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/5-ingredient-easy-chili-recipe/