Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

I was inspired to write this by a friend…. she asked me a simple question the other day “how do you eat so healthy all the time?” Well it made me think… my first thought, ‘ha, uhm I am pretty sure all of the smores’ I consumed this summer do not fall into that healthy category!’ but then I answered “honestly, it is not that hard anymore, I just eat what makes me feel good, my body craves good food.” I can assure you…..it has NOT always been this way! Just a quick personal back story (and then I promise to get right to it!), a few years ago, I was struggling with extreme stomach pains, I went on a 4x a day medication. This medication made me feel tired and dizzy and I also had headaches a lot. I knew something had to change, I have always been pretty active, I enjoy working out, but my energy levels just really kind of sucked and I did not feel good. So I after some research, I decided I would start with changing my eating habits, focusing on minimizing processed foods. I figured it was easy enough and a good place to start. Well, I realized how much better my body felt from just that one small change and it motivated me to learn more, I was determined to get off from any prescription medication. I really made a lot of changes but gradually, over time, nothing super drastic and fast forward a couple years….I have now been off all medications for 3 years, I weigh the same as I did in high school, I feel the best I have felt in my life and 40 is staring me right in the face! Now my skin might be a bit wrinkly (thanks to high school tanning beds and tanning oils…gross!), I have cellulite in places that I have never had (thanks mom…genetics are amazing) but I know I am healthy.  I have the energy to workout 5-6 days a week because I am fueling my body with the nutrients I need and in reality that is what eating is for, fueling our bodies. Of course I still have ‘treats’ but for the most part, my body craves healthy foods because I got rid of all of the junk in my system, it knows what to do with real food and it likes it.

I could go on and on about all the bad foods, sodas, weight loss pills, energy drinks, etc. that are messing with our bodies but instead I want to focus on the positive things that I know, when I do consistently, make my body is happy! There are a million really, really good ‘eat clean’ and ‘get healthy’ websites and facebook/social media pages out there and a lot, by a lot, I mean millions of resources available and places you can go to find information on healthy eating (can someone say information overload?!?!?!)! The ideas and opinions are endless but the reality is that it all can be very overwhelming, especially if you are just trying to start somewhere to make a few changes to feel better. In my opinion, it is best to not over complicate….just make it easy!

So this week’s Top 5 are the five things that I do to fuel my body with the right stuff:

1) Always choose plain

Any time I am buying any type of yogurt, oatmeal, etc….I always buy plain. I know you are thinking really Tara….BORING…. but it is not boring at all! I add natural things like fresh fruits, veggies, raw nuts, raw local honey or fresh local maple syrup. It is so easy and incredibly delicious!  If you read the ingredients to the yogurt or oatmeal that has fruit added, it is downright scary! And then, the combine that with those that say fat-free and sugar free….the ingredients basically lists a bunch of toxic chemicals. I promise you that full fat and natural sugars (like the sugar found in fresh fruit) will not go right to your thighs!! Your body knows what to do with these things, our digestive system was built to process real food, not to process chemicals!

My favorite way to make yogurt or oatmeal, especially in the fall, is to cut up half of an apple (you can quick saute it in a pan with a little coconut oil and cinnamon or apple pie spice if you want it warm), add a handful of raw almonds (I am allergic to walnuts but those would be delicious too), sprinkle your spices and then drizzle raw honey…it tastes like apple pie a la mode! So so so easy, delicious and your body will absolutely love you! I challenge you to get creative, make your own recipes at home, it is really the best way to avoid all the added junk! Choose plain and then add your own seasonings! Have fun with it!

yogurt
Black coffee with ‘Apple pie’ yogurt

2) Probiotics and Apple Cider Vinegar

My grandfather always took probiotics and drank apple cider vinegar. I thought it was so weird as a kid that he would do this but now, I know why! When I had a stomach-ache as a kid, my grandma always gave me these weird chewable things….now these weird chewy things (also known as acidophilus) are popular again along with a variety of probiotics because we finally realized that our body needs good bacteria. Due to the nature of how processed all of our foods are here in the mighty USA, the natural probiotics have been removed from a lot of foods. This my friends is a huge factor in our obesity crisis as well as our pharmaceutical nightmare, we are prescribed meds to treat symptoms of meds, to treat symptoms of meds….it goes on and on. I know the term ‘healthy gut’ is all the trend right now but it really does matter! I do strongly feel that medications are so quickly prescribed without looking at nutrition first. There are absolutely times when medications are needed but so many times I see people on a bunch of medications for side effects of other medications…it is a vicious cycle.

There are many brands to choose from on the market when it comes to both apple cider vinegar and probiotics but a couple of things you need to look for when choosing what works best for you:

  • Look for Raw when it comes to apple cider vinegar, it should not be clear and it is often a little ‘chunky’ at the bottom. Don’t be grossed out by it, it will be ok, I promise J I mix my vinegar with a little water and just drink it quickly. If you have trouble with the taste, you can mix it with a little lemon and cinnamon…but really just add a little water and suck it up 🙂
  • With Probiotics, looks for some of these strains: Lactobaccilus plantarum, Lactobaccilus acidophilus, Lactobaccilus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum. There are a lot of different strains that provide benefits, but these are the ones that are the best in supporting your body’s natural biology.
  • You can also find natural probiotics in dairy foods like buttermilk, some soft cheeses, fermented and unfermented milk, and kefir, as well as fermented foods like tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and some pickles.
  • Remember all probiotics are not created equal, if they do not have live strains in them then they are really wasting your money so I would suggest doing a little research and also trying a couple out. I don’t want to recommend any specific brand since I think everyone’s bodies are a little different but I will share that I drink Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar every day in the morning and I also take probiotics every day. Currently my two favorite brands of Probiotics are Garden of Life Raw Probiotics (these are kept in the refrigerator) and I also like the ProBio5 by Plexus (mostly for traveling because they do not have to be refrigerated and they still have the good stuff).

3) Buy Non-GMO

Ok, ok, I know this is sounding trendy now but I truly believe, GMO’s are another contributor to our problem with obesity and overuse of medications. If you watch a few documentaries….it is scary. But for real, our bodies are having issues because they do not know how to process foods that have been genetically modified. It is super easy to find foods that are non-GMO…just look at the label or look for the word organic, if something is certified organic, it has to also be non-GMO. It is getting easier and easier to find non-GMO foods and I feel the more we support non-GMO company’s and farmers, the sooner this problem will be eliminated from our society. Again, I could go on and on but I will tell you 100%, when I cut GMO’s out or my diet, my body quit doing weird unexplained things (I will avoid a TMI moment here) and it has been happy ever since!

If you want to know more about GMO’s – I would suggest starting here:

http://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo/

gmo-free

 

4) Read ingredient labels

I try to stick to the 80/20 rule with ingredients of all of the food I eat. The rules I follow for at least 80% of my food are:

  • I must be able to pronounce all of the ingredients
  • There must be only 5 ingredients or less on the label
  • No ‘fake sugars’ or added sugars – sugars are hidden under a lot of crafty names…be on the lookout (see pic below)
  • Non-GMO and/or Organic
  • No processed flours
  • Very minimal added flavor, seasonings, sauces, no MSG, etc…you can add your own flavor from the spice cabinet!

Once you start actually reading labels, you will be surprised and maybe a little bit scared. A really good example is peanut butter…the only ingredient really should be peanuts….take a look and see what is in yours…it might be more than you expect! I know it seems like a simple task but if you do this and do it consistently, you will become more aware of what you are feeding your body and more aware of when you feel good and when you feel bad!! Everyone’s bodies react different to different foods so label reading is key to knowing what makes you feel good!

caloriesvschemicals
Can I get an Amen!
sugar-names_0
Just a few names for sugar….and there are even more!

5) 4×4 Fruit and Veggie Rule

This one is super simple but it works!! I try to eat at least 4 servings of fruits and 4 servings of veggies each day. When I feel snacky, I go first for a fruit or veggie if I have not got my 4 in yet for the day. Initially, when I started tracking how many fruits and veggies I was having each day, I was shocked to find out that I was sometimes only having one of each. I have always thought of myself as a pretty healthy eater but honestly, this is where I was lacking. I have found that when I make sure I get in the fruits and veggies before other snacks, I usually end up not eating other snacks because I am satisfied and full.  One way to make it easier is to cut up all my veggies and keep them easy to grab and always keep fruit visible! When you can see it, you will grab it first! Portion control is still important here…even with the good stuff!fruit

**disclaimer** I am not a nutritionist or an expert in any of this (but I do know a few good ones if you want references!!), I am just sharing what works for my body!

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read. I am hoping, through sharing my ideas, I can help you to challenge yourself to try to make at least one small change to feel better and have more energy! The bottom line is that there is not a magic potion, pill, shake, bar or secret trick to healthy eating, just eat real food and go from there! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or want other ideas! I love to share!! There is so much happening around us (these crazy politics though…can that just be over soon?!?!)… let’s all just be kind, lift each other up, encourage one another, choose happy and enjoy today!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

The Launch

The Launch

The Launch

I am finally ready to talk about it…I think 🙂 I am sorry for the overload of pictures.  This blog is for all of my mama (and daddio) friends with kids who have not yet graduated. It is a friendly warning and something NO ONE EVER prepares you for…THE LAUNCH! What is the launch you ask? Well it is when you launch your child, your baby, into the adult world. When you have kids, people prepare you for all kinds of things through the infant, toddler, tween and teenage years…you know what to expect, they write books about it, they have all kinds of groups for new moms, you have the ability to be super involved in every part of  your kid’s lives..….and then it happens….they Launch….. this my friends, will bring you the craziest roller coaster of emotions you have ever been on, you will not be prepared. It is such a cool yet crazy time, watching your ‘8 pound, 6 ounce Baby Jesus’ transition from child to adult in front of your eyes. You will feel happy, sad, proud, disappointed, love, rejection, calm, scared, lost, free, worried, excited, relieved….you name it, you will feel it!

alex_baby_me
How did we go from this….
alex_hockey_me1
….to this?!?!

This launch is similar to a rocket launch; years and years are spent building the launch pad to make sure every part of that base is ready for take off and just as much time spent training for what will happen during and after the launch. And then launch time comes, everyone is ready, the launch pad is solid and well built, everyone involved has been working so hard to get to this day and with the push of a button…take off….everyone holding their breath, hoping all the years of hard work and preparation pay off for that rocket to arrive smoothly and safely to its destination without major incident. You see, launch an adult child into the world is so very similar. You do all of the prep work, you prepare that foundation for them to launch, you train for endless hours as to what to do in the real world and then you have to push the button, you have to let that rocket, your child, launch.

I am still trying to wrap my head around it, I am not sure how I feel most days but it happened this year; my baby boy launched. It is still so strange to think of Alex, my big blue eyed baby boy, my super busy toddler who climbed EVERYTHING, my little (and then big) hockey player, my boy obsessed with construction vehicles and who loved all things fishing is now an adult. It is so so strange but here he is, adulting his butt off and I have to sit back and try not to mom my butt off on his adultness!

So for my own selfish purposes,  I decided the best way to deal would be to share the top 5 things this week that I was not prepared for when launching:

1) You will miss weird things.

You will miss things you never thought you would miss. You will miss the smell of them just being in the house (yes, even those disgusting boy smells….hockey gear is the worst!). You will miss the piles of laundry that one child can create (seriously though, it still amazes me how much laundry one child can produce). You  will miss the side hugs, the messy bathroom (again boys are gross), the random eye rolls, sitting on the couch with them, the TV shows they watch, the sound of them walking around, their grumbling voice in the morning when you are pushing them out the door to go to school. You will buy cereal at the grocery store that no one else eats but them and then realize you all of a sudden have a stock pile of cereal that no one is eating. You will make enough food for them every single time you cook even though you know they will not be there for dinner. You will miss driving them around (I know it is crazy when you’re in the middle of it all but I promise, you will miss it and all of the car conversations you have!) All of it, good and bad, you will have moments when you realize that your life is very different now that they have launched and you miss them, all of them, yet you will be very thankful for your time with them.

2) Parenting an adult child might be harder than parenting a child child.

Letting your child adult is so so hard. Watching them fail, falter, make mistakes, letting them make decisions without your influence….it is all hard. Honestly, I am surprised I have not bit completely through my tongue! But you have to trust that you have done your job and now your role as mom (or dad) has changed. Your job now is to guide, love, and support them through adulting, but we no longer get to be the boss of them! It is weird! I liked being the boss 🙂 We have to sit back and trust that in the back of their mind somewhere they are thinking ‘would my parents be ok with this decision?’ or ‘how would my parents make this decision?’. We have to hope that all of our hard work has paid off and that they will become respectful, kind, loving young adults who can make responsible decisions. We have to pray for them that they do not make a decision that is so bad that it affects them negatively for the rest of their lives but that they know it is ok to make mistakes, fail and fall and they know that they always have us here to talk to. We lay awake at night not because our babies are up crying or not sleeping but because we are worried about them. This part of parenting, the letting go part, is really really hard. I was not prepared.

3) The quality of time becomes way more important than the quantity of time.

I love every time Alex sends me a text, randomly stops by, requests homemade chocolate chip cookies, or comes for dinner.  Last week in my blog I talked about family dinners and oh my word, I never knew that they would become so meaningful. We have always had them and maybe I am guilty of taking them a for granted or maybe they just were not as enjoyable because let’s face it, dinner table with little kids can be a bit (ok a lot) stressful!! Now, once they start adulting, they all sit there and actually eat their food without lying under the table or crying about the food on their plates and they can have actual, normal volume conversations! I try to not be that crazy mom asking a thousand questions about what has happened over the past few days since we last talked but it is hard. I want to squeeze him up and be obnoxious but hold back, I reel it in and play it cool….I just realize that although my time with him is way less than what it used to be, I still have it, I am so grateful for this, so I will take a quality dinner date or a silly text or phone call any day, any time….I will enjoy every second of it, I will be thankful for every moment we have together, life is too short!

4) You get to have actual adult conversations!

It is so cool you guys, real conversations and they actually understand you, they get it! You can talk about money, politics, bills, people, movies, just random life stuff and they get it, they have intelligent responses, they carry on actual conversations and they understand why things matter to adults! It is the absolute best part, it is fun, take in every moment and don’t’ forget #3, it is quality not quantity!

5) They start saying ‘I love you’ to you again.

There is a period of time, the tween through the teenage years where they just kind of stop. They may not stop saying it completely but the passion behind it, the meaning behind it, is not like it was when they were 4 and looked up at you with those big eyes and said “I love you mommy’. It changes as they navigate tween and teenhood.  They say other things, like why are you so mean (which translates into thanks for loving me mom!)  or they say ‘love you’ halfheartedly because they think they should.  Once they launch, they reach this point when they realize, crap, I love and need my parents, I better tell them. When they say ‘I love you’ to you from the heart again, like that 4 year old or they give you a big giant hug that lasts a little longer than it has in years and you can tell it is a ‘I just really need my mommy’ kind of hug….it will melt you. Be prepared, you will be a puddle but you have to stay strong until they walk out the door for fear that your emotional disaster might scare them away!! I am just warning you it happens…you can prepare all you want, you won’t be ready…just a fair warning!

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read and scroll through the picture overload. I am hoping, through my recent emotional roller coaster, I can at least prepare you for what’s ahead and encourage you that you are not at all alone! When it happens and you need someone, please call me, I will come with a Launch Emergency Kit…it includes coffee, wine, tissues, prayer, and  salty/crunchy/chocolaty snacks (you will need them all) and we can cry and laugh together! Here is the thing, remember you made it, they made it, you successfully raised your baby into an adult and with any luck, maybe just maybe, they will make this world a better place because of you 🙂

I have to do this all over again next year when I launch Andie into the adult world so I figure if I write my emotions down now and read this next year to try to prepare….wait, who am I kidding, I will still be a mess so someone please bring the Launch Emergency Kit…I will need it!!!

We only have one today, let’s choose happy and enjoy it!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

Crazy Life & Protein Bars

Crazy Life & Protein Bars

I’m back!!! It has been a very long time since I have even thought about writing again but I have had several people recently tell me they missed reading it and I remembered how much I loved writing so I decided to get back at it! The feedback I received on my last post was honestly very overwhelming, much appreciated and thank you all for all of the kind words you sent me about it! Today will be much lighter than the last time I wrote…I think we all need light right now!!

I hope you all have been well over the past several months; my life has been a complete whirlwind! I ‘launched’ my first baby into the real world in May (there is a whole blog coming your way on this soon about this….honestly,  I am still processing all of my emotions about my baby graduating high school!), we moved into a new house in June, spent the better part of July in Michigan enjoying my family cottage (the pic at the top of the blog is Ava in front of the cottage….I mean how beautiful is this?!?!) and working on the new house, spent August traveling for work, working on the new house and getting my girls ready for their last years at their current schools (Ava in 8th and Andie in 12th….yep that means 2 more graduations this year!) and September has really just been us just trying to figure out how to navigate this new routine between the new house, new schedules, and new territory of blending households….honestly it is a chaotic circus on most days but I love it and would not want it any other way! We somehow have kept a standing Sunday dinner time, which I thought, with 7+ people including three teens,  would be a bit like herding cats, but to my surprise, it has worked out very well, they all show up most of the time and it honestly has become the glue that holds my sanity together. As our babies grow, time becomes quality over quantity for sure and I am just trying to take in every minute I get (without being the super annoying mom with my millions of questions and too many hugs!!)

Anyway, with all of the chaos over the past few months, I have not had the time to spend in the kitchen creating and crafting my homemade protein bars as usual and because of the craziness,  I have had an increasing need to have a healthy grab and go snack on hand. I have shared some of my bar recipes in the past and for those of you who know me, I do not like the idea of processed anything but let’s be real, I just do not always have the time to make my own! So after researching as well as a lot of taste testing trial and error, I have found my Top 5 Protein Bars. Now, there is not one bar out there that is 100% clean, because in order to put them on a shelf, some type of processing occurs but these are the ones that I found that are close and I like them because for me personally, it is not about consuming a bar that has 50 grams of protein, I just don’t need or want that but for those of you that do….go for it!  For me, it is more about finding as natural of ingredients as possible (I need to pronounce them all!), no fake sugars, no GMOs and a good balance of proteins, fats, carbs of all good stuff that my body knows how to process and that doesn’t taste like cardboard or Styrofoam!

So here is this week’s Top 5:

1) Rx Bar

These bars are simply delicious and nutritious! Most all of the ingredients are listed on the front, very straight forward as to what is contained in each bar, all whole food ingredients! They are simple, no GMOs, no dairy, no gluten, no soy, no added sugars  – just egg whites, nuts, fruit and spices…. they use a lot of the same things I use when I make my own bars! Egg whites and nuts are the main protein source, 12 grams in each bar.  Dates and other fruits are the natural sweeteners versus fake sugar.  Personally, I like that there is not added protein powders in this bar. They are just simple, easy, straight forward…. my body does really well with processing all of that both mentally and physically! My favorite flavors are blueberry, peanut butter and coconut chocolate but I would highly recommend buying the variety box first to try them all out as there was not one bar in there that I did not like!!  Also, look for coupons for free shipping and discounts off boxes!

http://www.rxbar.com/

sample-pack-july-16

2) Go Macro

I am not sure what I like more about these bars, the actual bar itself or the story behind the company (check it out on their website, super inspiring!!) …either way, they make a variety of amazing and delicious bars that are organic, gluten free, non-GMO and they are also vegan. So for those of you that are not a fan of animal products, these are a great choice!! This company though….I love them, their mission, their values….all good stuff (they would be fun to work for…just saying)!

Their story is awesome, their core mission is perfect ‘The pursuit of health is a path of living in balance with ourselves and nature with products that have positive effects on the world’ (love this!) and the core principles of this company are:

  • Live long – Macrobiotic – A macrobiotic diet is the key to a long, healthy life
  • Veg out – Vegan – Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
  • Be Well – Wholesome – If nature did not make it, we do not use it
  • Community – Give back – Pay it forward. Give back. Change the world.
  • Tread lightly – Sourced Sustainably – Let us walk the earth softly with all living beings great and small, remembering as we go, that one God kind and wise created all.

Anyway, I have loved each and every one of these bars that I have tried so it is really hard for me to pick my favorite, it depends on my mood (and time of the month…sometimes you need chocolate!!!).

They also have a sample pack so if you’re feeling adventurous….I would go for that option!

https://gomacro.com/

family-bars-fan-w_ellie-2-sized

3) The GF Bar (The Gluten Free Bar)

Ok so I feel the same way about these as I do the bars above….I am not sure if Iike the bars or the company more but if I had to choose…these guys are based out of my home state of Michigan so I might be a little biased there 😉 Check out the website…it is a good one!

They pride themselves in all natural ingredients that even kids can pronounce and of course they are free of all of the genetically modified garbage! They are also are a Certified B company which means they care deeply about social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency….basically…they are good doers for keeping things clean!

Also, they have more than good protein bars, they have really good snacks too!! You can build a sampler pack online and I would highly recommend checking them out!

All of the bars have between 10-12 grams of protein and my favorites are cranberry toasted almond, oatmeal raisin and coconut cashew crunch!

http://www.theglutenfreebar.com/

gfb-sample

4) OatMega

These are a grass-fed whey protein bar for all of my whey loving friends J  Now, I will tell you, my body generally does not love whey protein but either it is the grass fed whey source that they so carefully use or the minimal processing, but my body seems to like these! This company has a pretty cool story too (I guess I am a sucker for a good story), each bar has 14 grams of protein and a good balance of fat/carb/protein from all non-GMO sources. For my GF friends, they are free of glutens too! My favorites are the vanilla almond crisp and the wild blueberry crisp! I wish they had a sample pack but you can usually find them in the health food sections of grocery stores!

http://www.oatmega.com/

 

5) Health Warrior Superfood Bar & Chia Bars

The main reason these vegan, plant based protein bars made my list is because they have a very unique variety of flavor choices as well as the chia based protein source! Chia seeds have so many good health benefits….I mean who knew when we were sprouting Scooby Do and Mr. T heads as kids that we could have actually ate the chia seeds and they would have provided us with some super awesome health benefits!?!?! These bars are well balanced with fat/carb/protein and although they contain a few more processed ingredients than the bars I listed above, I still think they are really good option. I have found them in the health food section of most grocery stores and occasionally at airports!

Also, a side note that has nothing to do with protein bars….I seriously do have a love of chia and I will be including a recipe for chia seed pudding in a blog soon because that is one of my favorite snacks!!

http://www.healthwarrior.com/

 

**Disclaimer** I am in no way sponsored by any of these companies! I just happened to find them and want to give them a shout out for making kick-butt bars! 🙂

So that is my top 5 this week. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read. I am hoping, through my trial and errors in protein bar tasting, that by me sharing my ideas, I can save you some money as well as spare you the grossness of eating bars that taste like a dirty shoe or chalk! I also hope that in this current craziness happening in the world around us that you can take 15 minutes to have a cup of coffee, relax and read something fun or inspiring! We only have one today, let’s choose happy and enjoy it!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Parenting after divorce. 

This week’s Top 5 is very personal and not something I talk about often but it is just something that has been on my mind and I feel really led to share. For those of you that do not know, I am divorced. Yep, I am a divorced mom with three lovely teenagers.  Seriously, it is still so hard, even after 6 years, for me to actually say or write those words, every time I have to circle the word or check a box on a medical form or any type of personal paperwork, I have to remind myself that yep, I am divorced. When I got married, I never in a million years imagined I would be divorced, it just doesn’t happen in our family. I am pretty sure no one ever does, it is never in ‘the plans’, it is never a life goal…but it happens, yes it happens to happy couples, troubled couples, good people and bad people…it happens…and it happens for so many different reasons.

Over the past six years, things have been very up and down, lots of highs and lows, lots of laughter and tears, but through it all, my ex and I have somehow been able to put any personal issues aside and make sure our kids know that they are very much loved by us both.  We have been able to set rules and consequences that apply at both houses, we have reassured them time and time again that they had nothing to do with the fallout of our marriage and we try to make sure that they know that they are our priority. Have we been perfect….nope! (really, really far from it!!!)  Have we totally screwed up…..Yep! (more than once!!) But I think that goes for all parents, divorced or not, when you’re raising kids, you screw up sometimes and it is totally ok! We just try to learn from our screw ups and move forward because the absolute reality is you CANNOT change the past, what has happened has happened, but what you can change is how you handle the same or similar situations in the future.

In talking with my kids on different occasions, they have shared stories of several different friends who are from broken families who live in constant chaos. It really breaks my heart, I know my kids hurt and I am honest with them in that I do not know what it feels like to grow up in a house with divorced parents and we talk openly about it.  My kids, all in their own ways, have thanked us for ‘keeping the peace’ (for lack of a better term). But they have said things such as ‘thanks for talking to dad to get our schedules worked out’ ‘I am so glad you don’t fight with dad like that’ ‘thank you for never worrying about what we bring to/from dad’s house’ (followed with an example of some crazy experience a friend had)…but it is so very apparent, that if kids are living through a divorce, the only way for them to feel somewhat normal, is for their parents to act like adults. Yes I said it, it is our responsibility to parent the children we made together, as adults. No pettiness, no bitterness, no anger….all of that has to go out the window, and for real, we are divorced…so really what is there to fight about at this point.. and the reality…we both were wrong, we both screwed up, we both gave up, we let things fall apart. So now, the kids have to deal with it and it is our job as parents to help them.

**Disclaimer -I do not consider myself to be any type of expert** but for this week’s Top Five, I am sharing the top five things that I have learned in co-parenting children of divorce. Maybe this will help some of you or maybe this completely doesn’t apply to you at all, but I felt led to share. Some of these I have learned the hard way, some I have learned through trial and error, and some, now that they are teenagers and are pretty good at communicating their thoughts and feelings, I have learned from listening to my kids and really understanding what is important to them:

1) Never, under any circumstance talk bad about the other parent in front of the children

This is one that I think really has to be the #1 priority. It is just not ok. Your kids love you both, they desperately want to make you both happy, you once loved each other, you made these children together and it is just not at all worth it to break their hearts even more than they are already broken by talking bad about a person that they love. IT IS NOT OK. To them, you are both their heroes. It is horrible as an adult when someone is talking badly about someone you love dearly, so why would we do that to our kids? If you have something you have to say, find a good friend or family member or counselor to vent to, get out what you have to say and then drop it! Venting too much, it gets old, really it does get old. Sometimes it is necessary, but just don’t dwell on it! What has happened in the past has happened, all you can do is learn from your mistakes, pray about it and move forward. Dwelling on the he said/she said bull@$*# (insert song lyric J)…it is just not healthy….especially in front of those darling children that you made…together. So just be adults and talk it out when and where it is appropriate.

2) Let the kids have ‘their stuff’

My kids all have their favorite ‘stuff’. It used to be blankets, pillows, toys, certain underwear (I kid you not…), bikes, etc that they loved to take with them back and forth, now it is more teenager ‘stuff’ electronics and clothes but you know what, we have always let them take whatever they want, every single time. Now sometimes, my car or their dad’s car was packed full (it was somewhat comical because our girls are both ‘bag ladies’ so it looked like someone was moving…there was lots of stuff!!) but it was never a fight.  We could see that this ‘stuff’ was what comforted them. This ‘stuff’ was really not ‘stuff’ at all; it was so much more to them. I am not even entirely sure what it reminded them of, sometimes it would be the most random things, but I do know that there were several nights when I drove a blanket over to their dad’s house or he drove a favorite pair of pants to my house…because we knew that it was so much more than that. We know that it really really sucks for them to have to live between two houses so we do what we can to make it the ‘least sucky’ as possible.

Every child is comforted by different things, denying them these things when they are with their other parent is really doing nothing but setting up that parent for failure and no one hurts more than the kids. If you are worried that if they take their ‘stuff’ to the other parent for fear it will get lost, ruined, etc….let it go…I am telling you it is not worth it…you will lose soooo much more than that ‘thing’ by not letting your child have the things they love with them. Imagine as an adult, if someone took one of your most cherished ‘things’ away from you every time you left the house (your favorite shoes, your favorite coffee mug, your phone, your purse…whatever it is that makes you feel comfortable and secure) just because of their own agenda….think about how it would make you feel. Not good….just let them have their ‘stuff’ 🙂

3) Let yourself be sad and happy…and let your kids be sad and happy

Divorce is emotional. It is hard on everyone. This is very personal but I tried to hide my sadness and put up a happy front to my kids because I thought, that me showing them that I was ok would help them be ok….boy was I wrong. They needed to know I was sad, so they felt comfortable sharing that they were sad. They needed to know we were all hurting, they need to see it and know it is ok for them to feel the same way. On the flip side, they need to see the happy moments too, and know it is ok for them to have happy moments! I will never forget a conversation with my youngest who was really upset and in talking to her she explained why…she was so torn because she had a fun trip with her dad and step-mom and didn’t want to talk about it for fear that she was happy with them. Holy cow…it stopped me in my tracks and I of course explained that I wanted to hear all about it and was super happy for her and that it was totally ok to be happy. She felt guilty for feeling happy…what was I doing wrong…that was my first thought. But what I realized was that I was not showing her that I was happy with some areas of my life as well and that it is totally ok to be both happy and sad with your parent and for your parents. She taught me a lot in that one conversation.  If I can share anything, it is to encourage conversation and show emotion. I am naturally not someone who openly shows a lot of emotion, I am a huge internalizer (probably the biggest reason I am divorced…well that and the fact that our relationship was not God-centered) but I have gotten better and I know how important it is for the kids to be able to express their emotions. I even say things to them like, ‘I know this really sucks for you, I am not going to try to tell you I know how you feel because I did not go through what you’re going through but I want you to try to tell me why you’re frustrated’ (or angry, or quiet, or….)

4) Learn to say you are sorry…to both your ex and your kids

Have you ever had to apologize to a teenager?!?! Oh my word….it is HARD! Saying to a teenager, I truly screwed up, I should not have talked to you that way, I am so sorry…..it is hard. Back story on that, I had a day, a complete emotional melt down, I was just tired, exhausted and pretty much was done adulting for the day…and my teenager came at me with some unrealistic expectation and I honestly came unglued, I am not proud of how I reacted, it was totally out of character for me but I screwed up…and I knew I had to admit it. We sat down, we talked together, cried together, hugged then laughed at the fact we both were acting crazy. But we did it, and you know what, I know for a fact it set in because it still gets brought up on occasion even though it was a few years ago and what is remembered is the fact that I apologized and we cried together. I also have had some not so great moments with my ex and I have learned that it is way easier to apologize when I truly screw up. I read a quote ‘holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’ ….uhm yep, that hits the nail on the head! There is zero reason to hold on to anger, if you are wrong, be respectful, apologize sincerely, drop it and move forward. If you disagree, just respectfully agree to disagree and move on, it can be that easy. If the other person chooses to hold on to anger, it is their choice, not yours. Choosing happy is way more fun anyway!! 🙂

5) Don’t sweat the small stuff

You and your ex will have very different ways of parenting, different house rules, different things you feed the kids, different clothes you let the kids wear, etc… If it is not a ‘deal breaker’ in the big picture of life, as long as the kids are being cared for, they feel that they have the autonomy to make decisions and they feel loved, all of it is good. If one parent allows more technology time than another, leave it alone! If one parent lets the kids eat junk food all the time and you are set on non-GMO organics, then leave it alone. If you want the kids to always wear clothes that match and the other parent lets the kids dress themselves…perfect! Kids learn quick, they know what rules apply! All of this will help them develop into who they are supposed to be and they will eventually develop their own preferences and their own taste in clothes, food and fashion and it is our job as parents to support them and love them. There will be a day when you have no control over what they eat, what they wear, how much tv they watch, etc… and you know what, it is all good stuff! They will be way better off if they don’t have to listen to their parents bicker over silly rules and french fries! If there is something that is driving you absolutely crazy, I encourage you to give yourself 24 hours (the good ole 24-hour rule), pray about it and then address it with your ex (alone, NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS!!)….I will bet you that it will go WAY better than you ever imagined it could!

So that is my top 5 this week.  I am hoping through my mistakes and failures, that sharing this will maybe lift up at least one person who may be struggling through their own situation! I am truly thankful that my kids have a fabulous father who makes this co-parenting thing a heck of a lot easier because after all…it does take two people! I am thankful that we are able to look past everything and be able to just be parents to our kids. Today, I challenge you as parents, especially if you are parenting children through a divorce, to be real. Be real with yourself, be real with your kids, choose your actions, pray about your reactions, be kind and try to enjoy this short time we have here on earth. Just keep in mind, you have no control over other people’s actions but you can control your own actions and reactions….

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

Breakfast Bliss

Breakfast Bliss

This week’s Top 5 is a little different than the usual! I am sharing with you my top 5 breakfasts that can be made in 5 minutes or less (well almost…)  I absolutely love to create and cook healthy foods. My mission is to find a healthy way to make good tasting, nutritional food spending less money and time than buying prepackaged grocery store food.  I could go on and on about prepackaged foods but the reality is most of them are full of a lot of chemicals and hidden fake sugars…empty non-nutritional calories. I found this picture and it sums it up so perfectly!!

caloriesvschemicals

It really is super easy to create your own meals with very little prepackaged/processed foods.  I wanted to share with you some of my favorite quick breakfast ideas that are high in protein and nutrients but low in complexity and time 🙂 I will keep it short and sweet!

Here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Eggs & Toast

I know, I know…eggs & toast seem like a given, old idea but here are a couple new ways to make eggs:

Just a couple notes first:

  • I use only organic and free range eggs, it is important and worth the extra $$ for my family (google it…or don’t if you don’t want to know the gross details). I buy local when I can and also like the Nellies Cage-Free brand that can be found in most grocery stores if I can’t buy local.
  • There are a few varieties of sprouted breads, I am a fan of Food for Life brand in the picture below, it is usually found in the organics freezer section at a store. There are several other brands from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc…I just don’t have one close so this is my favorite! Just look at the ingredients and make sure you know what everything is….I prefer brands that do not have any type of flour added.

 Microwave Egg Frittata with Sprouted Grain Toast

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp cottage cheese
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers & fresh spinach

*Scramble all up with a fork in a microwave safe bowl. Micro for 1 minute, stir, then 1 more minute and BOOM…super tasty eggs cooked to perfection! (time may vary)

**You can use any veggies that you like or no veggies at all or you can cut them really small to sneak them in for your non-veggie loving kids J The cottage cheese alone makes the eggs super fluffy (thanks Gram Jean for teaching me that trick!)

***I use coconut oil on my toast versus butter, try it, it is delicious!eggs&toast

Boiled Eggs with Toast and Fruit

This seems easy enough but my mom taught me a super easy way to boil eggs! Put eggs in a pan and add just enough water to cover them. Put a lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Then turn burner completely off, leaving the pan on the stove for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water and then peel! They will be cooked perfectly and peel easily!boiledeggs

Egg Muffins

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper and onion (sometimes I add leftover broccoli or other veggies)

*Scramble all together, fill 12 muffin cups and bake on 350 for 10 min!

**2 muffins equal one serving and you can store in the fridge for the week, they heat up in 20 seconds in the micro to enjoy them throughout the week EggMuffins3

 

2) Protein Pancakes

Every now and then, I just need a good pancake! I made this creation and I absolutely love it and they are a hit with the kids which we all know can be tough getting the kids on board with healthy eating J Here is the double batch recipe:

  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scoops vegan vanilla protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp Buckwheat flour
  • Optional – topped with almond butter & pure maple syrup

*Mix all ingredients together and cook a couple minutes on each side.

**See the pic for the brands I use of the protein, buckwheat and almond butter. The important things here are that the almond butter should be only almonds, no added junk! The maple syrup should be from a local farm/health food store if possible. And also, just a little FYI, buckwheat is not really wheat at all, it is actually a fruit seed. Buckwheat flour is just super fine ground up buckwheat. I love buckwheat for so many reasons, it is a great source of high quality protein that is naturally easy to digest, it is packed with antioxidants, it grows super easy so it is easy to find it chemical free, it is non allergenic and naturally gluten free for all my gluten sensitive friends! pancakes

 

3) Yogurt

Yogurt is always a quick and easy breakfast but here is my trick: I always buy plain yogurt, never, ever any added items and then add my own. When it comes to buying yogurt, I prefer Fage, Siggi, Stonyfield or Noosa brands. Here are a few of my favs but really they all start with ½ cup of yogurt, add fresh fruit, spices and raw nuts or seeds, then drizzle with honey of maple syrup if you need a sweetener. It is super simple and it saves you from so many fake sweeteners and junk calories!

Blueberry Chia Yogurt

  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 6-10 raw chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Drizzle raw honey or pure maple syrup

 

 Apple Pie Greek Yogurt

  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ chopped apple
  • ½  tsp apple pie spice blend or cinnamon
  • 6-10 chopped raw almonds
  • Drizzle raw honey or pure maple syrup

yogurt

 

4) Protein Oatmeal

I make the oatmeal similar to the yogurt recipes above however I add about ¼ cup extra water to make it runny and then add a scoop of protein powder to add that extra kick of protein! My absolute favorite is chocolate coconut oatmeal so I have shared the recipe below, it reminds me of the coco wheats that my gram used to make for me when I stayed at her house….total comfort food yet super healthy!!!  You can make the blueberry chia or apple pie recipes above and replace the yogurt with oats and protein powder (I use the garden of life vanilla plant protein for those ones versus chocolate).

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal

  • ¼ cup quick cook steel cut oats
  • ½ – ¾ cup water
  • 1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder (I use shakeology)
  • 1-2 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 6-10 chopped raw almonds

*Cook oats in microwave for 1-2 minutes until tender, add in the rest of the ingredients and enjoy…yep it is that simple! If you need it a little more sweet initially, you can add raw honey or maple syrup but as you get your body used to not having sugars…you will not need to add any sweeteners 🙂

 

 

5) Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal Bars – say what?!?!

I have posted this recipe before and I seriously love it. These do take more than 5 minutes to make but having them prepped for a quick grab and go breakfast is perfect! They go great with coffee, they feel like you are having a not so healthy treat but they are packed full of nutritious goodness! If you need them to be a little sweeter, you can add a drizzle of raw honey after you cook them. Also, I keep them in the fridge and warm them up in micro for ~20 seconds. Oatbars

 

And if push comes to shove…..find a healthy cereal! Just look out for added sugars and crazy ingredients 🙂

cerealjoke

I challenge you try at least one of these over the next couple weeks and get creative! In my mind, recipes are meant as a guideline to give you an idea and for you to add your own special twist to it! Start your day out right, enjoy your breakfast….it makes it easier to choose happy over hangry!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂

Tara

 

Diving headfirst into 2016!!

Diving headfirst into 2016!!

Happy New Year! 2015 came and went! I have spent the past few days reflecting on 2015 and I am thinking the one thing that has affected me the most is the fact that I now have THREE, yes… count them 1, 2, 3 TEENAGERS! Two are graduating within the next 18 months and one is technically an adult (GULP!)  I cannot describe the feeling, in my mind they are still these crazy cute adorable babies with big blue eyes!! I am in complete denial! This whole ‘mom of 3 teens’ is completely impossible since I am only 29l!! 😉

What a difference 10 years makes!!!

Before we get into this week’s top five, I need to talk about this a little more. Honestly, it kind of consumes my brain space way more than I ever imagined. Being a mom of teenagers is just as confusing as actually being a teenager!  My emotions are all over the place, we are all a mess, we all cry at the drop of a hat, we get mad or frustrated about things that most ‘normal’ people would not and we laugh about the craziest things! None of this makes sense!!

Can I just take them back to being 5, 8 & 9 when they were pretty much self-sufficient yet I could still control their every move? At the time, I remember wishing they could stay home alone or that they could drive to take the burden of taxi mom away but what I didn’t realize then was how precious of a time that was! That they were old enough to do so many things, young enough to still think I was one of the coolest people ever and still at a point in their lives where I could tell them exactly what to do and protect them from almost every weird crazy thing in the outside world. Fast forward to the lovely, strange world of teenage years….NO ONE WARNED ME!!! Or maybe they did and I choose to not listen because there was NO WAY that my teenagers would EVER act like ‘THOSE’ teenagers or that I would at all be emotional about it or that I would ever be ‘THAT’ mom who shouted things out the window as their child was driving away like ‘I LOVE YOU, PLEASE BE CAREFUL AND CALL ME AS SOON AS YOU GET THERE’ (in front of all of their friends)!!!  Hahahahahaha well….the joke was on me!! Now don’t get me wrong, I think my kids are turning out to be respectful, productive little human beings but they still have A LOT to learn…lots of myelination still needs to happen for them!

I am trying to embrace my new role as mom of teenagers which no longer includes telling them when to take a bath, brush their teeth, eat dinner, go to bed (well sometimes they (Alex) still need reminders ;)), what clothes to wear, what our plans are for the weekend are, etc.. I now have the roles of hormonal counselor, how to deal with broken relationship/ friendship heartaches advice giver, family schedule master, frequent ‘make the right choices’ and ‘please drive safely, no texting’ reminder lady, lay awake in bed thinking through all of the absolute worst possible scenarios until each one of them walks through the door at night thinker, daily life encourager and cheerleader, and the very hard but it is a must…the ‘letting-goer’. Letting your child make decisions, mistakes and letting them learn things the hard way is one of the most difficult parts of all of this parenting of teenagers.

Now don’t get me wrong, every stage of parenting has its pluses and minuses! When my friends that are now just having babies or have crazy toddlers are struggling with all the new baby  and toddler stuff…I know, understand and appreciate how tough all of that is!!  I guess maybe in my mind looking back it was easier because it was expected. (I use the term ‘easier’ VERY lightly friends!!) It seems that just no one tells you how much more exhausting mental/emotional parenting of teens will be than hands-on parenting of babies, toddlers and small children!!! No one tells you that when you think diapers and formula are expensive that you have no idea what is coming when you have to feed 3 adult sized children (and all of their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends…basically like a pack of ravished wolves) who have crazy high metabolisms. Or no one tells you that you will miss being able to tell your children exactly what to do, who they can hang out with, how to do things, when to do things…somewhere along the line, they tune all of that out, they want to be independent thinkers and you have to hope and pray that all those years of hands-on parenting have paid off….it is just the most crazy out of control feeling and I am holding on for dear life !!! #yesIhavecontrolissues

Some things still apply to all stages of parenting:kids funny

Our family is far from perfect, in fact we are probably pretty dysfunctional but it is our normal, at the end of the day no matter how much the kids have been bickering with each other, no matter who is mad at who, no matter what the ‘disaster of the day’ was….we all have each other’s backs and have learned how important kindness, grace and forgiveness is, we all love each other and have learned how to show love, we have a lot of personal inside family jokes and we know how to laugh and smile through the good, the bad and the ugly. These things are important in the big picture of life and I have to remind myself daily that we will all be OK!

Now, after I wipe away the tears from today’s emotional teenager roller coaster…Here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Coconut Oil Coffee

I know, I know…this sounds crazy! But it is one of my absolute favorite treats! I am an absolute coffee lover and a religious black coffee drinker. To me, anything in my coffee just covers up the tasty goodness of the coffee (I have shared my favorite coffee brands in past blogs if you want to know my favs!). But adding a some coconut oil to my coffee as my afternoon treat has become one of my new favorite things. It tastes so delicious and creamy and has some amazing nutritional benefits (google it…you will find lots of articles!), it provides  a little does of healthy fat/protein for my afternoon snack, curbs my sweet cravings and of course gives me a little midday pick me up.

This is how I make it ~ Brew a cup of hot coffee, add 2-3 tsp of coconut oil (*see disclaimer below J), add both to mini blender, blender for 30 seconds (**see my second disclaimer!), pour back in my coffee mug and BAM! A hot cup of deliciousness!CoconutCoffee

*Not all coconut oils are created equally! Look for organic, unrefined and pure (it should smell like coconuts!) A few good brands are Nutiva, Trader Joe’s, Garden of Life…just read the label!

**Super hot coffee in a blender may cause a small explosion and giant mess (I mean, I have heard this can happen, I wouldn’t know from experience or anything!! haha)…let it cool just for a minute or so or add half of the cup of coffee to blender with oil and then pour the blended mixture over the black coffee to fill your cup back up (it will then look like a pretty latte…and you will feel fancy!)

2) For The Love

Ok so THIS BOOK….Hilarious, uplifting, emotional, spiritual, every mom should read it if you want to laugh about the everyday life of just being a mom. I completely have a girl crush on Jen Hatmaker…not in ‘that’ kind of way but in a ‘I really want to be friends with her’ kind of way J She just gets me….well maybe she doesn’t even know me (yet….) #Iamnotastalkerreally….but if she did, I am sure we would be besties….LOL   Anyway,  I could go on and on about this book, I have now read it 2x through and pick it up every now and then to just read a chapter because I love it so much! Instead of going on and on…here are a couple exerts…and the link for you to go buy it because I know you want to! #ForTheLove #JenHatmaker

From Chapter 2 ‘On Turning Forty’

“I am experiencing trauma and am unsure what to do. It blindsides me constantly, assaulting me when I am unaware and uprepared. Every time, I am left reeling and need to lie down to recover. I never get used to it, and each time it happens is like the first time.

I keep seeing someone’s old lady hands sticking out of my sleeves.

There I am, just going about my work , and BAM. Old-lady hands typing.  Reaching for my dishes and KAPOW. Old-lady hands cooking. These hands are quite confusing, with their veins and sunspots and loose skin. What in the actual heck? Whose grandma hands are wearing my jewelry? More specifically, how did my mother’s exact hands relocate to my body?”

From Chapter 9 ‘Hope for Spicy Families’

“Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That their childhood is mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I am mostly patient and they are mostly obedient, great. If we are mostly nurturing and they turn out mostly well-adjusted, super. Every childhood needs a portion of lame, boring, aggravating, and tedious. Good grief, life is not a Nickelodeon set. They need something to gripe about one day.”

I wish I could share the entire book, but there are laws and things against that and I would not want to offend my new BFF 😉 so you just really need to buy the book, make a cup of coconut oil coffee and curl up next to the fire and be prepared to laugh, cry and feel encouraged….You will LOVE it and if you don’t…well then you can blame me for making a horrible recommendation and talk about how horrible it was to your friends and I will just smile, show grace, love you anyway and continue to type with my old-lady hands! #ForTheLove ForTheLove

3) Homemade Protein Bars

Over the past year, I began experimenting with making my own protein bars because:

  • protein bars are expensive
  • they are full of unnecessary junk
  • it is all a marketing ploy, no one needs 780 grams of protein in one bar
  • most of them taste like the sole of a shoe or they are so full of fake, artificial sugar that you can literally feel the aspartame destroying your body
  • because being in the kitchen and creating fun things is my therapy

Now there are some really good ones on the market and I will buy them from time to time when I am in a rush, traveling or just am not in the mood for bar making (I will share my favorites in another blog) I have had some horribly failed attempts but I have also had some really, really good ones so I wanted to share a couple! Each of the recipes below are for a single bar (they take less than 5 min to make) but you can double, triple, quadruple the recipe to make more at a time if desired! Also, you can see they all really have the same/similar base ingredients so have fun with it and get creative! I have several others I have tried but these 3 are my favorites:

 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 heaping tbsp ground raw almonds
2 tsp raw cacao chips

Chocolate Coconut
1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp unsweetened raw shredded coconut
2 tsp ground raw almonds

Coconut Cashew
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp finely chopped raw cashews
1 tbsp unsweetened raw shredded coconut

~Melt coconut oil & honey, add in protein powder and the rest of the ingredients, blend well. Form into shape of a bar and place in the refrigerator to chill (letting the coconut oil & honey setup) and then enjoy!

*I microwave the honey and coconut oil for 20-30 seconds to melt.
**When it comes to protein powders, there are a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones (I will do a top 5 of my favorites another time!!) but for this recipe I use Garden of Life brand or vegan Shakeology
***Message me if you have questions on making any of these, I would love to help!

thrivebox
My Thrive Market order for bar making (and coffee !)

4) Paper Plates

My environmentally friendly friends don’t freak out….I am talking about paper plates and fitness! I know it sounds crazy but you really can do all kinds of things with paper plates for core, arm, leg and ab work and how accessible, cheap and easy to find are paper plates!?!?! #noexcuses

Here are a few of my favorite moves (they probably have technical names but these are what I call them). Challenge yourself to complete all 4 for 1 minute each x5 rounds!

Swimming Frog Legsswimmingfrogs Start in plank, pull legs up toward chest, push legs out to side, back to regular plank, then pull knees up again

Single Arm Pushouts (Double arms are good but I don’t want to be liable for any faceplanting so work your way up to that!)plankspushuouts

Start in plank and push one arm out as far as you can and then slide arm back, focusing on maintaining good plank form, not moving lower body and keeping your butt flat. Switch sides after 30 seconds

Drawbridgedrawbridge

Start on back in elevated bridge position, slide both feet out, keeping your booty off the floor and then slide feet back toward butt. Modification is to slide legs out/back one at a time.

Kingpin lunges (get it…the bowler lunge reference)Kingpin lunges

In single leg squat position, slide opposite leg out to side and then behind you into a ‘bowler’ position. Repeat on same side for 30 seconds then switch.

I expect all of you to be busting out some mini paper plate workouts on your lunch break, when watching tv or at a party…people will think your awesome (or weird…but they will talk about it for a long time J)

 5) Amazon Prime

Oh Amazon Prime…I love and hate you all at the same time. First, I need to thank you for saving my butt on so so many last minute gifts! This past Christmas would have been a total bust without you! I have great intentions of being ultra-organized but seriously, 2 day shipping is THE BEST and worth my entire membership fee to just have that benefit! But what I did not know until this year is about some other awesome benefits of Amazon. I may be the only one who didn’t know all of these things but I was excited when I found out! (I know there are more, but these are my favs!)

~ Music – there are thousands and thousands of songs you can download for free, create playlists, listen to suggested playlists and really just meet all of your musical ADD needs! With teaching fitness classes this has been my $$$ saver! I am always looking for new music and I was buying it from iTunes, a few songs a week so when I do the math, I will be making money each year by having Prime Music!

~Movies/TV shows – I HAD no idea. Thankfully I have smart teenagers who informed me that not only did we have access to hundreds of movies and TV shows on Amazon but that we didn’t need to rent them because we could watch them all for free with our streaming devices (with 3 teens, this house is full of them…iPads, iPhones, Mac Books, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast…I will stop because honestly, this list is ridiculous…maybe we have a problem!!!)

~2-Day Shipping – did I mention 2 day shipping ?!?!?! #lifesaver

~Product suggestions – so I totally know that this is a trap, a way to get you to buy more, but I fall for it every time because whatever software/robot/gnome/elf that they have making suggestions sure does a nice job of telling me what socks would pair perfectly with my order of new workout shoes J I fall for it more than I should but I am not ashamed to admit it and how could I say no when I love the feeling of new socks and I can have them delivered to my door, in 2 days, for free!!

Anyway, I know it has been around for a while but kudos to Amazon for continually making Prime better for their members, providing great customer service and hiring super tech and fashion savy elves/gnomes to make sure that my new socks and shoes are delivered to my front door just in time for my next workout!

*In no way am I being paid by Amazon to promote them, however that would be totally awesome if I was!! #AmazonPrime

 

Thank you all for taking a few minutes of your day to read this! I just want to leave you with one last thing because it is the New Year and I know a lot of people set goals to improve their health and fitness, I am making it to my goal to help others by sharing some of my tips and tricks with health and fitness so this is the last year they have to set those goals!!! Last year, I crushed some of my personal goals, one of which was becoming a certified fitness instructor. When it comes to health and fitness,  I am not claiming to be an expert by any means but I am very passionate about it and just love to share what works for me in order to help others take back control of their lives!!! When I changed my lifestyle really focusing on making health and fitness a priority for me, I learned that I really enjoy life so much more because I feel good! I would love for everyone to feel this good and I want to show you that it is possible through all of our crazy busy lives and schedules! Here is the truth, there is no magic pill, potion, machine, device (seriously though that ab stimulator electric belt thing makes me laugh every single time!) that will make you fit and healthy…YOU have to do the work! It is only through regular exercise (which can totally be fun!!), getting outdoors and enjoying this world we live in, and learning that healthy food is fun, easy to make and tastes amazing!! Listen, you don’t have to eat only lettuce, spinach and kale to be healthy! There are a lot of incredible food options out there! Throughout this next year, I will working helping others by sharing tips through my blog, forming some mini goal setting/accountability groups as well as some hardcore, serious (seriously fun and motivating J) GoalDigger groups or personal coaching where we will set personal health and fitness goals and I will be there to motivate, encourage, provide guidance and lift you up to feel empowered to take back your health and live life to its fullest! Stay tuned for more details!! Goals

Next week I will have a special version of Top 5 with Tara…It will be my healthy breakfast edition focusing on my Top 5 nutritious and tasty breakfasts that are ready in 5 minutes or less! Have a great weekend!

I challenge you to choose to one happy thing every day for 2016!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy J

Tara

Week 3: Get Outside & Choose Happy :)

Week 3: Get Outside & Choose Happy :)

Welcome back friends and happy December! I cannot believe it is December already, November completely flew by! I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  I took a couple weeks off of blogging due to my busy schedule and family in town for the holiday. I have to say I absolutely loved the November weather! I am not sure how it has been where you all live but here in DE it was beautiful and the fall colors seemed to last extra long this year….falls colors always make me smile! (And smiling is my favorite 🙂 ) It was almost 70 degrees on Thanksgiving and I completely enjoyed the outdoors with lots of hiking over the long weekend! And how cool was the movement by REI to challenge people to #OptOutside on Black Friday versus standing in lines at silly stores with turkey crazed people to buy things we just do not need!! It definitely will be my new tradition!

November just really flew by for me, I think it is because my schedule was all out of whack with the kids having days off, Alex turned 18 (gulp…I am not ready to talk about that yet!!) and we had dentist appointments mid-week. I don’t know about you, but we do sooooo much better in this house with schedules. Things become pretty comical when we are off schedule, my favorite is listening to my kids try to do the math of what time they need to get up when we are leaving the house at a different time than on a normal school day. On a normal school day, everyone is out the door by 6:45am but last week, we had dentist appointments at 8:30am, so I told them we needed to leave at 8:00am.  This is apparently a CRAZY concept… this change in our regularly scheduled programming causes everyone to forget basic math skills!! Here is an example of one of my conversations:

Child: ‘Mom, what time should I get up so I am ready by 8:00?’

Me: ‘How much time do you normally need to get ready?

Child: ‘An hour.’

Me: ‘So, I would say 7:00 then.’

Child: ‘Do you think that is enough time?’

Me: ‘Is it enough time on a regular school day when you give yourself an hour?’

Child: ‘Yeah, I guess. Can you wake me up at 6:45?’

And I had 2 more conversations similar to this one with the other children. It happens every time, I have chosen to enjoy it and smile about it versus being annoyed because I know someday I will miss helping my kids with basic math story problems!! In case you are wondering, everyone was up and ready….with time to spare! Haha

 

Here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Protein Pumpkin Muffins

As promised, I have created a pumpkin recipe worth sharing! These are super easy, no white flour or white sugar…just all delicious healthy goodness! I hope you have a chance to make them, they are perfect on a crisp morning or for an afternoon snack with a good cup of coffee (invite your friends for coffee and make these, they will think you’re a super chef and it will blow their minds when you tell them they are healthy)!!!!

Just a few notes about the recipe:

Almond meal is easy to make by just using a food processor to grind raw almonds! If you don’t have one or you just want to buy it, I recommend the Bob’s Red Mill brand.

You can replace the buckwheat with almond meal or coconut flour, I like to use buckwheat in my recipes because of the high quality proteins in buckwheat (plus saying ‘buckwheat’ makes me smile).

Not all coconut oils are created equally! Look for organic, unrefined and raw (it should smell like coconuts!) I generally use Nutiva brand that I order from Thrive Market but there are A LOT of choices at the supermarkets, just read the label!

Protein Pumpkin Muffins

1 ¼ cup almond meal

¼ cup ground buckwheat

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp cinnamon

3 eggs

¾ cup pure pumpkin puree

3 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup raw honey or pure maple syrup

½ cup crushed raw almonds

 

Preheat oven to 350. Mix eggs, melted coconut oil, pumpkin, vanilla, honey. Then fold in dry ingredients. Portion out mixture into 9 muffin cups and sprinkle crushed almonds on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

PumpkinMuffins

2) Curls Rock by Catwalk

For all of my curly or wavy haired friends, this is a product I have been using for a long time and I just still absolutely love it. I do not have thick hair but I have a lot of fine curly hair. Several of the curling products weigh down my curls or make them ‘crunchy’. Personally, I am not a fan of crunchy curls, I prefer soft curls and this product is perfect for that. I have tried soooo many products, I am always looking for the next best thing but I always end up back on this one so if you have not tried it, I would highly recommend it!

Catwalk

3) Yogi Tea

DELICIOUS! If you are a fan of hot tea, Yogi brand makes some really super delicious flavors and they are on the ‘good list’ for using Non-GMO, organic ingredients, they do not add unessecary junk to their teas and they have an awesome philosophy of ‘Feel Good, Be Good, Do Good’! They have a cool little story on their website if you have time to check it out yogiproducts.com. They make teas for everything from sore throat or congestion, to relaxing at bedtime to detoxing to digestive support….really just a lot of goodness! My favorites are Egyptian Licorice, it completely curbs my sweet tooth cravings, Bedtime, it helps calm my always racing mind, and Throat Comfort, it really does some magic when you have a sore throat….and it is sore throat season so I recommend keeping it on hand! And another bonus, each bag of tea has a little inspirational message on it and I mean…who doesn’t love that?!?!

 

4) Relentless Jake’s YouTube Channel

It is time to talk fitness! As most of you know, I am pretty passionate about health and fitness! I just love to feel strong, healthy and energized!  A friend once told me if you have time to eat, you have time to work out so don’t make an excuse, just schedule it in your ‘things to do’ every day and get it done! Ever since then, workouts have just been part of my everyday life! I have found that no matter how busy I get, I have to not make excuses regarding getting a workout in because as soon as I do, everything starts falling apart around me! Working out is definitely my source of energy to keep up with my crazy schedule, my even more crazy kids and it is my main  outlet for stress relief!

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to Jake by a friend of mine (thanks Kris!) during a quick trip to Chicago. Jake is a personal trainer who has a super awesome training facility that he runs in downtown Chicago and he also has an amazing YouTube channel where he posts a workout of the day. Although I absolutely love to go to the gym or fitness center to workout, there are days in my crazy busy schedule (especially this time of the year) when I just cannot get there and have to get my workouts in at home between getting the kids off to school, work and then before starting my semi-professional, poorly paid, teenager taxi service that I run in the evenings ;). Jake’s videos are high energy, fun and seriously, you will be done with your workout before you even know it! So for all of you that prefer at home workouts or you have days you just can’t make it to the gym, you need to have a little bit of Jake in your life! He makes getting stronger fun! Here is his YouTube channel link for you to follow: RelentlessFit365

 A few fun pics from my Chicago visit 🙂

 

5) Wayfair

If you are looking for a place to get some super awesome deals on household items…Wayfair is amazing and they have free shipping and returns! I ordered a new office desk and rug for by office in the picture below for $150 total for both…delivered to my door for free! I have also ordered kitchen items, bedding and some shelving from them and have been super happy with everything I have ordered. I did have to make a couple returns because I ordered the wrong color and it was super easy! I also had an issue with FedEx stating my desk was delivered when it wasn’t and I called their customer service and guess what….I was connected immediately to an actual PERSON!! I forgot how important and awesome it is to talk with an actual person when calling customer service and I will tell you, they sent a new desk out, that was delivered within two days and they called me to follow up that it was delivered. I have just been super happy with this company and good customer service goes a LONG way! They also offer 10% off your first order so if you have not checked them out yet…now is the time, especially as we come upon ‘shopping season’ Wayfair

 

That is all for this week! I am testing out some super fun new recipes to share, working on writing a new fitness class for my SD Fitness friends and trying to get this house looking ‘Christmasy’ while really trying to just enjoy every moment! Have a great rest of your week!

I challenge you to choose to live in the ‘front row’!

ChooseHappy

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy J

Tara