My yoga moment

A few weeks ago, YogaGlo – an online yoga service for at-home practice – asked for stories sharing “aha” yoga moments. The Facebook call to action also said you could mention your yoga studio and they would share that link as well. I love my hometown yoga studio and thought, “why not?” Maybe inspire someone and give some love to Barefoot Studio – a win-win.

I submitted my story and had forgotten about it until this morning. I get notifications from YogaGlo when they update on Facebook. I liked the quote on the photo they shared: “The beauty of yoga is you never fail. You do what you can in that given moment. Nothing more, nothing less.” Then I realized that was my quote! They shared my lil story. (They did misspell my last name, but oh well.)

I was having a bad morning. This added some spring back in my step. Only, I’m strapped to my computer pretty much all day, so I’ll have to get springy and do some celebratory yoga later :)

Road trip!

I recently had the fortune of taking a week off from my hometown life and venturing out on the road.

Jerry picked me up in Cleveland, we played around at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ate a divine meal at Morton’s, and then journeyed across the upper Midwest, making our way to Chicago. Jerry drives a custom coach for a living. Riding in it for a couple days when he’s not obligated to his regular job duties is one of the best ways to see the countryside. It makes for the best view around.

Lovely view from way up in the air on my way to north.

Lovely view from way up in the air on my way north.

Some of my favorite sights at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Some of my favorite sights at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Two musical greats!

Two musical greats!

On our way out of Cleveland, look what I discovered!

On our way out of Cleveland, look what I discovered!

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Then we parked in Sandusky, Ohio – this beautiful little shore town full of history. I was so impressed at the landscaping work in and around the town square. And of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the above homage to the First Amendment. Once a newspaper girl, always a newspaper girl.

After exploring Sandusky, the plan was to do a little outlet mall shopping in Indiana, grab a good dinner and then make our way to the Sand Dune Park along Lake Michigan, just on the other side of Chicago. Shopping and dinner (at Timbuktoo’s – this different restaurant that definitely stands out in its hometown) were achieved. Jerry mentions Timbuktoo’s in the book we published about his life on the road. We chatted with the owner and gave him a complimentary copy. He was thrilled!
Because of a severe storm and downed trees, we didn’t make it to the park for final resting that day.

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We did, however, catch a pretty cool lightning storm over Lake Michigan in Michigan City just before the storm hit landfall. We sought shelter in the bus until the storm’s strength dwindled some. I wasn’t so calm as the bus shook a little from the high winds and I looked out the window to see toppled over port-a-potties. But I knew I was in good hands.

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The next morning, after crews got the trees cleared, we made our way to the sand dunes. Now that’s some calm after a storm.

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Hello, Chicago! Duty called Jerry away to Milwaukee for a day, so I stayed back in Chicago and enjoyed the city! First thing I did was go on a guided bike tour through the city and Lincoln Park. This was our first stop – the tour guide’s favorite view of the city. I met a neat family from Napa Valley, saw where Oprah resides and rubbed Abraham Lincoln’s shoe in Lincoln Park for good luck. It was a good day!

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I especially enjoy walking around Chicago and taking in the architecture and old homes.

I especially enjoy walking around Chicago and taking in the architecture and old homes.

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I love that skyline. The week ended with a couple of concerts with good friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better week and way to celebrate July 4th!

 

Summertime

It’s clearly summer, because I have what I call “summer brain.” You know, where mustering up the energy to fix your hair and look presentable on a work day is a good feat in these energy-sucking hot temps. And doing things like updating your blog fall by the wayside because a friend invites you to the pool or you’re living in the moment on vacation.

No excuses, I know, I know, just being honest. And certainly not complaining. Despite the heat, I love the laidback feel of summer.

I was lucky to enjoy a weeklong vacation roadtripping, enjoying new sights and spending a whopping five days in one of my favorite cities: Chicago!

I stuck to my healthy eating habits for the most part but also didn’t punish myself for indulging. It’s all about balance. That’s what I love so much about what I’ve gained from the clean eating challenge I completed back in April. No deprivation. No crazy, unattainable diet. Just real food for real living.

I want to write a longer post about my trip with some lovely images, but until then, I’ve got to get some sleep for a busy Tuesday! I’ll leave you with a new find that I’m digging.

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An herb saver that has saved me from the frustration of buying fresh herbs only to watch them wilt before I could use them up. Yay for small victories!

Finding my fuel

What I love so much about the new way I’ve learned to grocery shop, fill my cabinets and cook is it’s about taking care of me. It’s been so freeing to make choices for myself when it comes to what I put in my body.

For a while I had been searching for a way to fill this need. I would read articles, pin recipes on Pinterest and pick up related books at the store. Then meal time would come around, and I’d reach for old habits. I would often stick a frozen meal in the microwave or eat the most convenient thing without giving much thought to where it came from or what was in it.

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The Arbonne 28-day challenge got me back on track. What I love about the program is it’s not about getting skinny or a quick fix. The opportunities to learn about what foods work for you and how to expand your culinary skills is so great! My friend started the challenge about a month after me. She had only ever cooked instant rice in a bag. Now we’re exchanging recipes, and preparing & cooking the best foods for us is part of our everyday routines. I had always wanted food preparation to be just another part of my day rather than some daunting task. Now it is. And I’m loving summertime in Arkansas with all the bountiful fresh produce!

The pure, safe & beneficial supplements from Arbonne that I use complement my diet and help my elimination organs to their jobs + boost my energy. My exercise regimen has been enhanced, too. I’m not doing anything different. I’m just finding I have more stamina and strength.

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Another day, another cooking adventure

Today is the first day of another 28-day clean eating/detox challenge. Oh, happy day! I am excited for my friends who just joined.

I enjoy so much responding to their texts, answering their questions and guiding them on this life-changing journey. I was so inspired during my first 28 days of this new way of grocery shopping/cooking/eating that I became an Arbonne independent consultant. The proprietary products – herbal detox tea, Digestion Plus probiotic blend, energy fizz sticks, just to name a few – go hand-in-hand with the program and complement the clean eating plan perfectly.

I never got around to making a meal on one of my weekly meal plans. Crispy Baked Quinoa Crusted Parmesan Chicken. Sounds good, eh? I got around to making it last night. It IS good.

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I need a professional photographer to shoot my food ;) Take my word, it was delish! And those pretty green leaves are straight off my basil plant that I’ve  managed to keep alive. Score 1 for my not-so-green-thumb.

The ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (free-range chicken, no antibiotics or hormones)
1/4 cup almond flour
1 cage-free egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tsp clean Italian seasoning (no MSG or sugar)
1 cup (dairy-free) mozzarella
1/4 cup (dairy-free) parmesan, grated
2 cups clean spaghetti sauce (no sugar)
2 tbs. fresh basil

Season chicken with salt & pepper, dredge in flour, dip in egg and coat in the mixture of quinoa and Italian seasoning. Place chicken on a rack on a baking pan and bake in preheated 400-degree oven until cooked and lightly golden brown – about 25-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a baking pan dish, top with cheese and broil until cheese is melted – about 2-4 minutes. Plate chicken and top with hot spaghetti sauce and fresh basil. Enjoy!

For dessert, I made vegan chocolate mousse. I love chocolate mousse and this option does not disappoint. Add in some fresh strawberry slices, and you have one sweet treat.

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Clarity of mind & body

From the time we enter this world, women are inundated with images – on TV, in the movies, in magazines – of what the ideal female body should look like. We hear our moms talk about dieting and see them trying the latest exercise trend. Then we get older, our bodies start changing, we start having the thoughts “am I fat? will this make me fat?” and we become each other’s worst critics. Nearly every women’s magazine has some sort of weight loss tip on its cover. We compare ourselves to supermodels, celebrities and athletes. We obsessively count calories, even if where those calories come from isn’t a priority. We judge people by how big they are on the outside rather than how delightful they may be on the inside.

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I’ve seen those dear to me suffer from eating disorders. I’ve had my own self-deprecating thoughts about my body. I’m guilty of exercising to compensate for an indulgence, eating a Nutri-grain bar and apple for lunch in junior high because I was afraid of becoming overweight, and frankly, just being too hard on myself as I tried to live up to societal standards.

For about two months now, I’m proud to say I haven’t had many (if at all) self-deprecating thoughts about my body. I haven’t felt the need to over-exercise to compensate for my diet. I haven’t found myself comparing my body to ones I know aren’t realistically attainable for me. I’m tall with long limbs. I can’t help genetics. I run but don’t win every race. I practice yoga but am limited in my twisting, back-bending and flexibility. I stand tall because I can. I keep practicing running and yoga because I can. I may never be the fastest or you may never see my picture on a yoga site displaying some advanced pose. That’s okay.

What you will see is someone comfortable in the freedom she has from making eating & exercise choices right for her. People do the 28-day clean eating challenge for different reasons. I entered the journey because I physically wasn’t feeling good. I was tired of my stomach hurting, feeling gut heavy and bloated after I ate. I was tired of that awful crash feeling when I became hungry.

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When I first was into the clean eating challenge, a dear friend expressed concern about it leading to an eating disorder. A valid, solid point, she made. I can see how following an eating plan might lead down that unhealthy slippery slope. I keep that in mind constantly and check in with myself to make sure whatever choice I’m making is for the right reason and not some superficial, shallow standard.

Fad diets and those that use harmful chemicals in their products and food make me crazy. They don’t address real health issues. They appeal to women’s insecurities about being skinny. They condone the unhealthy culture that teaches it doesn’t matter what you put in your body. All that matters is whether it will make you thin. For a time, maybe. Who cares about long-term health?

There has been a lot of talk recently about gluten – it’s a made-up problem, it’s just a trend, there’s no scientific evidence that such a thing as gluten intolerance exists … celiac’s disease, yes, but gluten intolerance, no. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley & rye and lots of other items, is one of the substances you eliminate during the 28-day challenge that I support. Along with dairy, soy, whey and artificial sweeteners. These substances have been known to slow digestion and elimination as well as contribute to other uncomfortable bodily situations. I’m not claiming to be an expert. All I can tell you is by eliminating those things, I was able to restore my digestive functions, my scalp & skin conditions improved, groggy feelings disappeared, bloating after eating became non-existent and I noticed my thought process became clearer as well as my writing (which is a plus since that’s what I get paid to do for a living!). And best of all, because of the support + suggested recipes I received, I NEVER felt deprived. Food actually tasted better. I still follow the eating plan for the most part, and when I do have processed food, it doesn’t even taste good to me anymore.

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If you’re considering the challenge for weight loss, I share my mom’s story. My mom, who has become overweight for her small 5’4″ frame, recently completed the challenge. She lost 9 pounds over the four weeks. She called me yesterday happily surprised that she was down another 6 pounds, which means that during the week after the challenge was over she lost that additional weight. Mom is smart. She’s a math professor by trade and is an avid reader of all things. One area she keeps up with is the medical and health world. She pointed out she knows she will continue to lose weight because she eliminated toxins during the 28 days. And when you eliminate toxins, inflammation, excess weight and fat can dissipate.

In case this is your first time tuning in, the 28-day clean eating/detox program I tout uses Arbonne pure, safe & beneficial products + support from Arbonne real, genuine people like me ;). The Arbonne program is in line with Dr. Oz’s clean detox program.

Several friends have expressed something like this to me over the years: “I just don’t understand. I’ve been exercising and eating healthy. I just can’t lose weight.” I share with them and you the 411 on weight loss:

How and when weight loss occurs varies for each person. Everyone comes into the detox with a different level of toxicity, a different genetic history, and different hormonal patterns. For many, the body will not begin to reduce inflammation and release extra weight until it has found balance through the cleansing process. 

Excess weight is often a result of consuming foods that do not work for the body, resulting in poor digestion and toxic overload. Detox helps the body re-balance itself and help repair the damage done by years of poor habits. When you lose weight without doing this important foundational work, the weight loss typically doesn’t last. It also doesn’t bring about the increased vitality, that in the end is what we really want.

How you feel is a more accurate measure of success. Instead of numbers on the scale, focus on your energy level, sleep patterns, digestion, elimination, mood and clarity of thought. And that’s what it’s all about.

I have found I love inspiring others to find their gut bliss, happy place. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re interested or have more questions about this life-changing challenge. As one of my “bootcampers” said, “The stewing is a lot harder than the doing.”

Happy living!

 

Artist’s Way

I have so many things running through me right now. Ideally, I’d be in bed right now, but I feel compelled to write. I’m feeling the need to connect here, this public forum that has been right by my side for marathon training, on regular days, holidays and most recently on this clean eating journey I started nearly two months ago. Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been two months.

What has changed? So much. Aside from having more energy, clarity and a feeling-good body, I can actually now say with confidence that I’m a cook. That’s right. I can plan, shop and cook some pretty darn good meals. They may not be the prettiest. I’ll keep practicing my presentation skills. As with anything in life, you just keep practicing. Not until you’re perfect. I’ve never liked the saying: “Practice makes perfect.” Everything, every creature is imperfect in its own perfect way. No one can be you or do it like you. It’s your practice. Your journey. Your dance.

The Dance by Artist Andrea

The Dance by Artist Andrea

Call it the Artist’s Way. I’m about to delve into that book, which supports and nurtures the artist in each of us. Writer, photographer, painter, musician or even cook – I believe we all have a creative spirit inside itching to show itself. This blog and my recently adopted eating/cooking habits have taken me out of my comfort zone, and new doors are opening. I had no idea how much the artistic spirit inside me needed to get out.

Ideas are flowing, and I’m practicing the art of letting go – letting go of expectations, phrases like “I need to … ” “I should be …” “I wish …” and my proclivity to make excuses for things that happen in my life. Being honest and taking responsibility for my past, present and whatever may come – I think that’s the path for me.

Inspiration

Every morning (or late morning like today ;) ) I wake up and brew a cup of green tea. Since completing the 28-day clean eating challenge, I’ve been enjoying the Arbonne herbal detox tea in the evenings rather than morning & night and starting my day with the Yogi Tea green blend. I like the inspirational quotes attached to the herbal good stuff.

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Sometimes it’s these little things in life that turn out to have such meaning for us. Our lives aren’t instantly transformed through quotes we read, prayers or devotionals, but their cumulative effects over time can help us embrace rather than resist challenge and change – the inevitable things in life.

These sayings and ideas have helped me embrace new opportunities and deal with doubts as I take on a healthier lifestyle. Not only am I trying to pay more attention to my health, I’m also striving to inspire and be a leader for others. Doubts can cloud our minds and souls, and I’ve struggled with those impending thoughts this week. Just when my mind becomes too foggy with doubts, I see or hear something that reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing and the view is clear again.

I was sad to hear of Maya Angelou’s passing this week. Like so many others, I have sought out her beautiful prose & poetry for advice, inspiration and comfort.

I love this advice she gives in the “note to self” that was shared on CBS This Morning the other day:

“The person may have keener eyesight, a better ear, the person might have a more live body and can dance, but the person cannot be more human than you.That is very important because that ensures you that you are a human being and nothing human can be alien to you. You will be able to go around the world, learning languages, speaking to everybody, because no one can be more human than you or be less human. They can be meaner or crueler, or sweeter or prettier, younger, richer, but they can’t be more human than you. Remember that.”

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A few of my faves

Since setting out on this clean eating path, I’ve tried lots of new things and expanded my culinary horizon. Some things I’ve loved and some things I haven’t been so crazy about. Like blanching Swiss chard to then roll them with a brown rice/veggie mixture. The whole process was awkward and time consuming.

Ah, maybe I should try again. I do like Swiss chard, but for now they will find a home in my green smoothies.

I’ve become smitten with these items that are now my kitchen staples:

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Coconut oil. I bought a jar last year but never committed to seeking out ways to use it. It went bad. My bad. Now, I use the tropical butter for toast, scrambling eggs, cooking and adding flair (and healthy fat) to my morning smoothies. AND did you know by cooking with coconut oil, you’re helping to moisturize your skin from the inside-out, boost metabolism and increase energy?

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Pumpkin seeds. I just thought these were things you roasted once a year after carving your Halloween pumpkin. My friends, these are my new go-to nuts for snacking, salads, side dishes or pretty much anything. They are deliciously crunchy. AND they’re loaded with B vitamins and collagen-repairing vitamin C. Score one for beauty!

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Flaxseeds. These tiny seeds (you can buy them whole, but I like ‘em grounded) are an easy way to add incredible benefits to your diet. They contain fiber, omega-3 fatty acids & lignans – a cancer-fighting agent for men & women. And since they’re so tiny you can add them to anything! I like putting flax in my smoothies, salads, rice, homemade protein bars – you name it!

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Brown rice syrup. This gooey goodness is better than sugar & honey. Yes, I know, honey can be good for you, but brown rice syrup is a bit lower on the glycemic index. So if you’re trying to watch your sugar intake, it can be a better option. And it’s really, really tasty! My tummy’s growling just thinking about it. You can bake with it, pour it over breakfast food or even add it to your tea. About every two weeks or so, I make a batch of homemade protein bars using this sweet stuff. Mixed with my pea-plant protein mix, almond butter and rolled oats … BAM, I have some tasty + nutritious snacks at the ready!

Happy eating!