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… 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!

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:



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!

Can I get an Amen!
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 🙂



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!


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!


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!


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!


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!!


**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 🙂


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!!


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



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 🙂


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 🙂



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!

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


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