Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday: Gag-Fest

A little over three and a half years ago, I married the love of my life.  With his birthday falling this week, I felt like gushing a little about how fortunate I am, even though I know he's going to hate this post.  

We met through a work relationship when we both were in long-term relationships with other people.  The funny thing is that I never noticed him.  He was a commercial customer at my auto parts store, meaning we spoke on the phone almost daily but face-to-face contact was very rare.  I was horrible about getting his returns processed, and I'm pretty sure he was constantly annoyed by me.  It was strictly a business arrangement.  In September 2006, I left that job.  Of course, that meant that's our paths no longer crossed.  That December, my friend, Niki, convinced me to help work on the parade float for Jimmy's company.  I overslept, forgot to brush my teeth, and wore one of my many "funny" t-shirts... All to say, I was NOT expecting to meet my future husband that day.  What guy would be interested in a girl wearing a "Sex Panther Cologne" shirt, anyway?  (60% of the time, it works every time.). When we arrived at the shop to help load everything and head to the parade starting point, I think I "noticed" Jimmy for the first time.  He was rugged and handsome with wavy dark hair peaking out from under a red bandana.  Honestly, I didn't remember seeing him before.  So, yeah, I noticed he was hot, but I didn't know anything about him, aside from the fact that he built trucks for a living.  I was there to work, so I just ignored the attraction. We made banners and decorations, finishing the float just in time.  He asked Niki and I to throw candy for the kids, and that meant we were able to ride on the float during the parade.  I noticed him glancing at me and smirking occasionally while we waved at the onlooking crowd.  I started to wonder if he was interested in me.  

In the beginning...  Look at that wavy hair and those dark eyes.  Who could resist?

After the parade, he asked everyone who'd helped if we'd like to have dinner at his favorite Mexican joint.  Of course, we all appreciated free food and booze, so we obliged.  Over dinner, he and I got to know each other on a personal level.  We shared a pitcher (or two) of margaritas and laughed.  I found myself very attracted to this man who I'd never taken the time to know.  After dinner, being that we were both too inebriated to drive home, Niki drove us to my house to sober up.  After some TV and lots more laughs, at midnight she took us back to the restaurant to get our vehicles.  She dropped us off and quickly left us alone so as to not impede any private moments.  Ahem.  I was so taken by this kind, funny, soft-spoken, and insanely good-looking mechanic.  He was unlike anyone I'd ever met.  He seemed so gentle and calm.  It was quite refreshing. Before he walked away, he asked for my phone number.  I, of course, gave it to him.  He was a total gentleman and didn't even try to kiss me.  We parted ways, me smiling like an idiot.  I could hardly sleep that night due to the excitement I was feeling.  

The following day, we talked for three hours on the phone.  Anyone who knows him could tell you that he NEVER talks that much.  He's actually pretty shy.  So I took that as a very good sign.  We had our first date the following evening.  He arrived almost an hour late (classic Jimmy) to take me to a hockey game.   I was so impressed that he'd been listening that first night when I told his friend that I had always wanted to go but hadn't had the chance.  That was it.  We were inseparable.  

That smirk gets a me every time.  He can not be serious, not even for two seconds.

Over these last almost seven and a half years, he's been my encourager, my voice of reason, my supporter, my strength.  We have the easiest relationship.  I'm still waiting for that first big fight, but he's just so darn understanding.  We've been through a house remodel and didn't even try to kill each other, so I think he's a keeper.  

This.  Sigh.  Nothing sexier.

When our daughter was born last year, I fell even more deeply in love with him.  Watching him talk to her so gently, and seeing him teach her new things, I can barely contain my emotions.  He's the father I always wanted for my children... Calm, considerate, fun.  Charlotte looks at him like he hung the moon, and so do I.  He's the hardest working man I know, but always makes time for the important things in life.  He allows me to be me, even when it seems I've gone off the deep end.  He supports my dreams and always encourages me to strive for more.  He's the smartest man I know, but also the most humble.  He knows how to make me laugh through even the toughest situations.  I truly don't know where I'd be without him.  I am so grateful to have met and fallen in love with him.

Here's to you, Jimmy.  Happy birthday, baby!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Funny, the sleep deprivation edition

It's been a long week.  I don't know how many times I've opened the fridge and stared into it waiting for my brain to remind me what I was looking for.  Or the number of times I've walked into a room only to forget why.  This is what happens when you have a very busy, very teething toddler who refused to let you sleep until the alarm goes off.  At 6am every morning, it's "hi!"  And we're up.  There's no settling her back to sleep at this age.  When she's up, the whole world must join.  It's fine for a couple of days, but right now, after five days of it, I'm losing my mind.  I imagine this is how it feels to burn brain cells as the result of years of drug use.  I actually made Charlotte's lunch this morning and then returned it to the fridge like she wasn't going to need it.  So, yeah... I already want a nap tomorrow.  The worst part of it all?  It's 10:30pm, and I'm not tired.  I spent all day drowsy, and now I'm wound up.  I think my adrenals may be shot... Again.  

Well, I've got an appointment for a "float" session at Float Nashville on Sunday.  Maybe 90 minutes in highly salted water and sensory deprivation will help reset everything.  We shall see... I'll post a review afterward.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday: Mothers's Day Edition

My little slice of heaven. 

This picture is perfect.  Not because I was having a good hair day, cuz, well... Look at it.  Yikes.  It's not that we all look super fit and sexy, cuz I certainly don't.  (I think my hubby looks pretty damn good, though.). The lighting could be better.  Our putfits don't really coordinate. But it's perfect because it was taken on the perfect day.  Those smiles are genuine.  The weather was warm, not too hot.  It was sunny, with just enough clouds to keep sunburns at bay.  We were all happy and having fun.

We woke up early, I made breakfast for the family, and my little brother came over with my sweet niece.  We enjoyed our pumpkin pancakes smothered in maple syrup along side tempeh bacon, bananas, and strawberries with a healthy serving of laughter.  It was a great start Mother's Day 2014.

Last year, Charlotte was only about six weeks old and we were still getting to know each other.  It wasn't a bad day, but it was stressful, to say the least.  My loving husband decided to take me to lunch at my favorite restaurant, The Wild Cow, for a wonderful vegan feast.  I ended up spending the entire meal with a nursing cover around my neck because I couldn't figure out if the baby was hungry, tired, or just crying because of the new scenery.  I was new to the whole "mom" thing and my solution to every cry was to stick a boob in her mouth.  Surprisingly, this worked 99% of the time.  After lunch, we went shopping at a huge, overly-crowded mall where I purchased two pair of jeans in my pre-pregnancy size.  Yay!  That was definitely a win.  But, when Charlotte started crying, we had to head home.  She screamed the entire 30 minute drive while I begged Jimmy to stop and let me soothe her.  I was convinced she'd been mauled by a bear in the back seat when I wasn't looking, but he assured me we'd make it home without her dying.  We did.  (Thank God for rational daddies in those first few weeks.)  This year, as you can imagine, I wanted things to go more smoothly.

After our breakfast and visit with my family, we met his mother, father, and sister for a gorgeous country drive to a nearby state park where we enjoyed a lovely picnic under the shade of huge oak trees, and hiked some of the prettiest trails I've seen.  There were waterfalls and cliffs, caves and flowers.  It was just about the most beautiful scenery one could wish for on a warm spring day.  The company was enjoyable, and other than a little fussiness due to extreme tiredness, the kid did great.  She was quite the trooper on our long hike along the river.  All in all, it was a perfect day spent with the people I love.  

So on this gratitude Tuesday, I'm thankful for my loving husband, my sweet and spunky daughter, my immediate family, and my awesome in-laws, who are all avid outdoors people even with my mother and father-in-law being in their late sixties.  They set such an amazing example of aging healthfully.  

My second Mother's Day couldn't have been more special.  My own mom got a hot, healthy, gluten-free, and vegan breakfast with her two local kids, and I was fortunate to spend hours in nature with my family.  I'm so blessed!

Now, enjoy some gratuitous nature photos from my iPhone:

Nothing sexier than a great daddy.


Another waterfall!  (I'm kind of obsessed with waterfalls.)

Hubba!  Hubba!  More hot guy pictures.  Oh, wait, that's my man.  ;-)

I took this shot while resting on a rock and nursing Charlotte.  There's something so relaxing about nursing in nature.  It brings me total joy.  

Someone was getting sleepy but still wanted to eat dandelions.

If you live near Manchester, TN, you should definitely check out Old Stone Fort.  It's a hidden gem. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Raw Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Basil Alfredo

If you love Italian food, but hate the crash that happens after carb-loading on spaghetti, you'll love this.  If you're a busy person who still wants to eat healthfully in a hurry, you'll love this.  And if you're just a fan of really tasty food, you'll love this!  

Raw Zucchini Pasta
(Serves 2-3)

4-5 small zucchini

Raw Creamy Basil Alfredo

1 small zucchini
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon sea salt (or more)
Dash of cayenne pepper
Using a spiral slicer or vegetable peeler, shave the first 4-5 zucchini into noodles.  Set aside.  In a blender, add all sauce ingredients and blend into a smooth cream.  Pour the sauce over the noodles in a large bowl and mix.  You could eat it just like that, or you could add some fresh greens, sliced mushrooms, chopped artichokes, black olives, red bell pepper, etc.  This is a great basic recipe that can be expanded in innumerable ways.  Use some creativity and see what happens.  

I placed mine on a bed of local greens and tossed some chopped red bell pepper on top, then sprinkled Herbamere over it all.  Delish!  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dessert Recipe: Raw Vegan Mint Chip Pudding

Sometimes, the best recipes happen by accident.  On this beautiful Mother's Day, I enjoyed a vegan picnic lunch with family at the Old Stone Fort State Park where we saw waterfalls and toured a museum of Native American history.  It was a perfect day.  However, after discovering a tick in my nether-regions, I thought I deserved something decadent.  

I looked around my kitchen for something creamy and sweet.  Nothing caught my eye.  Then, Charlotte spotted the bowl of ripe avocados on the table, pointed and grunted, and I knew.  Believe it or not, I've never made avocado pudding!  I know, crazy for someone who loves raw food.  It's a staple in most raw kitchens, but for some reason, I just prefer my avocado savory.  Today was different.  One spur-of-the-moment thought and a grunting toddler led to my new favorite dessert...  Mint chip pudding!

Raw Vegan Mint Chip Pudding

1/2-1 whole avocado (Charlotte stole part of mine, so I had 3/4 of one.)
1 banana
2 dates
2 tbsp chia seeds 
1 cup almond milk (more if needed)
1 tsp vanilla extract
5-6 drops peppermint essential oil (I think 1/4-1/2 tsp of extract would also work)
1 tbsp cacao nibs (or chocolate chips)
Stevia to taste

First, put the dates and chia seeds in a bowl and mix with the almond milk.  Stir and allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes so that the chia seeds can expand and the dates can soften slightly. Once the chia mixture is gelatinous, add it to a blender with the avocado, banana, and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.  Then add the vanilla extract, peppermint, and cacao.  (It'll be fairly sweet, but this is where you'd add stevia if you wish.  I added 2 scoops of the powdered stuff to make mine super-sweet.)  Blend for just a few seconds to combine the flavors and break down the cacao nibs or chocolate chips into tiny pieces.  It makes enough for about four dessert servings, but I think mine will just be dinner.  Haha!  I, actually ate a small cup of this and put the rest in the freezer to turn it into ice cream.  We shall see how that goes.  

This recipe was even Mom approved.  And she's an omnivore!  I'm serious, the noises she made when she tasted it were far from G-rated.  I'm sure you'll agree once you've tasted it.  Wow!  Sometimes, I amaze myself.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday (and a recipe too!)

It's FINALLY my kind of weather!  Here in middle Tennessee, it's been sunny and 80-degree temperatures for the past few days, and it doesn't look like that cold mess will be making another appearance any time soon.  Thank goodness!  I was ready to pack my bags (with nothing but flip-flops, bikinis, and sundresses) and move to a tropical island.  This was the coldest winter I can remember, and if it's the new weather pattern for Tennessee, I'm definitely moving south.  But now, with the blue skies, light breeze, and hot sun, it seems like a distant memory.  With that in mind, I give you this week's gratitude list:

1.  Beautiful weather!!  I waited (not so) patiently for it to arrive, and now that it's here, I'm taking full advantage.  Stroller rides for Charlotte and long walks for momma, weekends spent in the garden or back yard, eating big beautiful salads on restaurant patios... These are few of my favorite things.  
2.  Spring flowers and greenery.  This area of the US is one of the most beautiful, but ONLY in spring and summer if you ask me. Our falls bring a week or two of pretty colors, but then make way for a blanket brown, dry, crisp leaves.  I understand the need for seasons, blah, blah, blah, but that doesn't mean I like the change.  However, when spring arrives in full force here, it's truly worth the bitter months of frigid rain.  Pink dogwoods and white Bradford pear blooms abound, and I'm reminded of why I've lived here so many years.  It's incredibly beautiful.

3.  Babies!  No, I'm not pregnant.  Charlotte keeps me busy enough without having to wonder if she's trying to smother a younger sibling with "love".  I'm talking about the new additions to my employers' "nature preserve".  The landfill where I spend my days is a no-hunting zone, so every spring we are blessed with fawns and goslings, too many to count.  They are a sign that winter has finally gone and spring is here to stay.  I love driving slowly in or out of the gate while watching the momma geese swim with four or five tiny gray specks following her, or the mother deer leading her clumsy offspring into the tree-line to find berries.  Watching other species demonstrate the same caring and loving attitude toward their children that I feel for mine is just one of the many reasons I stopped eating animals.

4.  Clover.  I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm kind of on a roll.  I've found no fewer than 15 four-leaf clovers in the past two weeks, and 3 five-leaf!  I didn't know that was possible!  I don't think they really equate to luck since I'm still a full-time employee and not sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere while my handsome husband drives around in a brand new Aston Martin, but it does make my inner 5-year-old giddy.  I've always been good at finding them, but this year, I've set a record.
5.  Rain.  I know, I know... It sound contradictory after my whole "I hate the winter" rant, but once it's warm and green, the light rain can feel so calming.  It seems to clear the air of negative energy (and pollen), and give way to brighter, sunnier days.  Plus, now that my garden is planted, I'll need some help getting that gorgeous food to grow.  Lord knows I don't have the greenest of thumbs.  My cactus in my office is barely clinging to life.  True story.

6.  Green smoothies!  After juicing my breakfast for a couple of months, I'm back in my smoothie-phase.  It's just quicker, and things have seemed rushed lately.  (The rush seems to have coincided with a certain little girl mastering the art of walking.)  I love the variations I can come up with in a hurry, and knowing that I'm starting my day with a big boost of nutrition keeps me focused throughout the day.  Charlotte has even been enjoying them on our way to grandma's house.  I'm so thankful that my health was challenged before I ever became pregnant so that I could learn how to raise a healthy child.  She will eat almost anything!  The kid loves veggies, and for that, I feel truly blessed.  

Since I'm honoring my love of green smoothies, I figured I'd share one of my favorites.  I don't use a "recipe" per se, but these are more like suggestions.  Feel free to alter it in any way to suit your taste buds.  Besides, a green smoothie is only good for you if you actually DRINK IT.  

Banana Strawberry Basil Breakfast Smoothie

1 cup almond milk
1-2 frozen bananas
1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
1/4-1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1-3 stalks celery, chopped
2 dates
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of cayenne pepper

Optional toppings:  dried mulberries, sprouted buckwheat, cacao nibs, dried coconut flakes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend away.  I love the taste that fresh basil adds to this smoothie, and it pairs so well with strawberries.  It's a very cool and crisp tasting drink that's perfect for hot days.  If you don't have or just don't like celery, use a cup or two of spinach, or even kale.  If you don't have dates, use a tablespoon of maple syrup or some stevia.  It's a great basic recipe to start adding some green into your mornings.  I like to add my vanilla protein powder and a scoop of Perfect Food Raw for an extra boost.  Give it a shot and see what you think.

Until next time, give thanks, eat green and live lean!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Funny!!

If I every feel like I'm restricting myself in my diet, just go ahead and shoot me.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.  My meals are artwork for my taste buds to admire!