Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Little Gratitude for my Girl

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom.  I wavered back and forth on my career path.  Would I be a doctor or lawyer?  Perhaps an astronaut?  Maybe I'd be a reporter for CNN?  I couldn't decide.  But would I be an awesome mom?  You betcha!  I was raised by a stay-at-home mom who actually enjoyed spending time with her kids.  (At least she appeared to.) I feel like I had a pretty amazing childhood, especially looking back and realizing how little money there was for leisure.  We went on vacation almost every summer to the beach or Disneyworld, or both.  My parents made sure we never missed out. Maybe we didn't have the nicest clothes, or brand new Nike shoes every school year, but we had a huge piece of land on which to play Cowboys and Indians, fresh food on the table every night, and we always felt loved.  I could only hope I'd give my kids the same kind of life.

Flash forward to March 30, 2013 when Little Miss Charlotte arrived.  People always tell you that having a kid changes everything, but I don't know that I could've ever expected the changes to my personality that would develop over the next several months.  I suppose our children should make us want to be the best versions of ourselves.  Right?  Well, that's exactly what happened to me.  I realized after bringing her into our lives, that I wasn't who I wanted to be.  This little wiggly person who couldn't even speak had given me the inspiration I needed to do better... For myself and for her.  

For years, I'd always been rushed.  Late for work, late for parties, late for everything.  I'd get so stressed out about running behind that my stomach would get upset.  I've always been a procrastinator, (Just ask my mom. I was ten days late to being born!) so I always felt high-strung and in a hurry. I talked fast, walked fast, and truly did my best work under a deadline.  That might sound awful, but it was what worked for me.  However, having a baby to tag along everywhere, you just can't hurry.  I never want Charlotte to feel like I'm rushing her.  I want her to grow up in a home that values her time, where she is free to explore, even if it means we're five minutes late.  She LITERALLY has to stop and smell the flowers anywhere we go.  She takes my hand, pulls me to the edge of the sidewalk, and leans in.  It's the cutest thing ever.  Moments like those should be cherished.  I'm just now, at 31 years old, learning to slow down and "smell the roses".  What have I missed?  All those years rushing around too focused on the destination to enjoy the journey, what didn't I notice?  It's so beautiful to watch her discover her world.  I've decided that I will never rush her anywhere.  If we're late, so what.  She'll only be little once, and I don't want to miss a second of it.  More importantly, I don't want her to miss a second of discovery time.  

Part of being constantly rushed is the elevated level of stress I was always experiencing.  I couldn't turn off my brain or my body.  I was always busy doing something.  I'd go, go, go all day and quite literally crash into bed at night.  These days, since I'm learning to slow down, I actually take time to sit in the floor doing nothing and watch her play, or play with her if she wants.  This week, her favorite game is "shove mommy over and sit on her like a conquered mass."  We've been having so much fun!  Sure, I'm not going to bed quite as early as I'd like, but my priorities are a bit different these days.  I do miss sleep, not gonna lie.  But before I know it, she'll be too big to play with Mom, and she'll want to be left alone.  And that's when I'll take a nap.  ;-) 

As you know from last week's Gratitude post, I'm practicing yoga daily and starting to meditate.  I love my mom so much, but she was pretty angry at times during my childhood and would take her frustrations out on us kids.  I don't ever want to do that.  It's tough.  There are days when I'm in the wrong frame of mind, and I have to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that it isn't her fault.  It's not her fault that some guy almost wrecked into me on Memorial Blvd.  It's not her fault that some idiot was rude to me at work.  And it's definitely not her fault that the internet connection is too slow to do anything I want it to do.  Those little things that set a person off when they're already stressed don't matter anymore.  I'm learning to react slowly, which has made a massive difference in my mood.  If she spills something on the floor, I remind myself that she's just learning about gravity.  When she's being loud, I remind myself that she's learning new words and wants to practice.  I think we forget what it could be like at her age and size, seeing so many mysterious things and people around her.  I'm doing my best to see things from her perspective.  I don't want her to see Mommy as an angry person.  I want to be a guide to her in this world.  I want to teach her that there will always be upsetting times but we have to think before we react.  And judging by how happy and fun she is, I think she gets it.

Charlotte has made me think long-term in regards to my career.  I have a great job that I love, but I also have a passion for raw food and health.  Thanks to her, I've gotten off my butt and tried to make a better future for us.  I look around and see the health crisis in this country, and I'm so thankful for all of the health struggles I've ensured.  That led me to a place where I feel I belong in life.  Since her birth, I've gotten certified as a raw chef and instructor, joined a raw food meetup group, and made tons of new friends who are also working to improve our food culture.  I've been known to reach out blindly to other bloggers online for information or just to introduce myself and thank them for being there, which is something I would've been far too intimidated to do before.  My daughter has brought out the "fighter" in me.  

This world, especially the physical earth, holds so much more for me now.  Thanks to her, I'm learning how to have a more sustainable way of life.  We are gardening, composting, recycling, etc.  I want to leave the planet in better condition than I found it, and teaching the next generation to do that is of utmost importance to me.  

I've been changed, for the better, in so many ways in the past 16 months.  I hope that Charlotte looks back someday and sees what an impact her existence has made on me.  And I hope she develops the same love for life that I only discovered after meeting her.  Thanks, baby girl!  I love you more than you could ever imagine. 💓

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two Quick and Easy Summer Recipes to Help Beat the Heat

When it's 90 degrees and 100% humidity outside, having something cool and refreshing can really help to keep you from melting into a puddle of grease on the lawn.  With that in mind, I created my version of a favorite cocktail, but this one is virgin and full of healthy ingredients.  Behold, the 4-ingredient healthy mojito!

1/4 cup fresh mint
Juice of 1 large lime (or 2-3 small)
2 cups Coconut water
2 tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey (sweetener of choice)
Ice as needed

First, squeeze the lime juice and add into a mason jar or glass of choice.  Add the mint to the lime juice and, using the handle of a wooden spoon, mash and tear the mint into the lime juice to release it's juices and flavor.  Next, pour in the coconut water and sweetener.  Shake or stir to mix everything together.  Then, add as much ice as you'd like.  

This is such a great drink for sitting outside enjoying the sun, or for those times when you'd like to be drinking a spiked cocktail but are responsible for not allowing a toddler to drown in the kiddy pool.  
It's not the beach, but it'll do.

Next up, how about a spicy and creamy yet refreshing salad dressing to add to all of those freshly picked raw veggies you just pulled fon the garden?  That's what I decided to whip up Sunday evening after completing several DIY projects.  I just tossed things together into the Baby Bullet and voila!  A new favorite dressing was born.

Creamy Chipotle Lime Chimichurri 

Juice of 1 large lime (2-3 small)
2 tbsp cashew cream (soak cashews for 2 hours, rinse and drain, then blend with water, salt, and lemon juice.  It tastes cheesy and delicious!  Trust me.)
2-3 tbsp water
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tap cumin
3-4 tbsp fresh cilantro 
1" piece of dried chipotle pepper (optional if you don't like spicy things)

Blend until creamy and pour over your favorite veggies.  It's tangy and spicy with enough creaminess to help cool itselft.  Plus, the cilantro adds to the cooking effect.  

I think these two would pair together very nicely for a "south of the border" inspired dinner in the patio.  Feel free to add alcohol to your mojito... I won't judge. ;-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Update: July is in Full Swing.

Oh summer.  What's not to love?  Hot, sunny days and warm, clear nights.  Tan skin and dirt on my hands.  Flip flops and sun dresses.  Fresh food!

I'm finally reeping the rewards of my hard work.  This past weekend, I found my first two cucumbers resting in the shade of prickly leaves.  They're small and crisp,  perfect for salads.  Our okra is putting out a few sprigs every couple of days.  The tomatoes are on the cusp of turning red or purple.  And my squash is growing faster than I can pick it.  These are the days when I love living in Tennessee.  I hate the cold, rainy, miserable winters, but our summers are heavenly.  It's been hot and sunny for weeks now with just the perfect amount of storminess to keep things from getting too dry and scorched.  I refuse to put my toes away until October, and sleeves are nowhere to be found.  This is MY weather.  So, as you can imagine, I've been finding every excuse to play outside when I'm not working.  That means PROJECTS!  Not only is my garden rolling right along, but I've added some new life and beauty around the abode since my first update, and things are looking awesome.  This post will be picture heavy, but isn't that why you're here?  Check out how things are going, er growing, around my little city plot...
Heres what the garden is looking like these days.  Tomato bushes are busting out of their cages.  The cucumbers are conquering every inch of extra space they can find.  The squash is creeping into the neighbor's lot.  It's a thing if beauty.
More tomatoes.  And those are cantaloupe vines crawling along the front with several little yellow blooms emerging.  Somewhere in there, you'll see a couple of bell pepper plants so heavy with peppers that I had to stake them.
On the left...Pumpkins!  I've never grown pumpkins before, but I started these from seed and they're just taking off.  I'm so proud.  And on the right, le squash.   It's completely overtaken one of the nasturtiums I planted, but I don't even care.  The flowers are a pretty surprise when I lift the leaves to check for new growth.  In the back I have new snap pea sprouts just coming through, and okra in front of those.  Okra flowers are so beautiful.
Deep in the underbelly... Ha!
Nasturtiums.  Edible flowers, did you know?
Maters!  These are Cherokee purple and will be the best damn tomatoes you've ever tastes.  I swear.  They don't travel well due to their soft flesh, so you have to grow your own or find a local farmer who does.
Look at all those potential cantaloupe... Mmm.
Did I mention I've planted heirloom corn?  Take that, Monsanto!  I ordered seeds from an online seed bank for a purple and a yellow variety.  I can't wait to see what these babies do.

Did you know that beets are like turkey timers?  This one just popped right outta he ground when it was ready.  So cool!  My first beet ever!
Kale chips, anyone?  And stems for juicing, of course.  I picked all of this Saturday just to make room for more growth.  It's really gotten out of hand.
And more of Saturday's bounty.  
The strawberry table has gained some growth in the past month, and few "daughter" plants have sprung out.
Last years rescued plant is really taking off, too.
I was digging around and pulling weeds under my okra two weeks ago, and guess what I found... Four tomato seedlings that must've come up from last years plants!  Craziness.  Nature will always find a way, I suppose.  So, I gently moved them, and they seem to be doing just fine.  I'm hoping for some late season maters.  
Oh yeah!  And I threw together a little 4' by 4' raised bed for my watermelons.  On the left side, I planted two rows of carrot seeds, too.  It took, literally, twenty minutes to put this together. 

I've also been hard at work on my front porch project with a little help from my momma.  She has vision, that's for sure.  
We found these old, dingy, beaten chairs in the attic...
...added some paint and new fabric, and they're good as new.

I, also, have a dining set that used to belong to my grandparents.  It's nothing fancy, but solid. I decided to freshen up the chairs while I was in a painting mood, and they look so nice in white.
The little blue pots were also salvaged from the attic, just plain wicker baskets.  All in all, I've spent less than $50 to make my porch a place where I'd actually like to sit.  I planted some herbs in the blue pots, as well...dill, parsley, and basil.  I'm not quite finished.  I'd like to add some flowers and the perfect little table between my white chairs, but not too shabby for a weekend project, huh?  

There you have it.  July 2014, things are looking good and tasting great.  Next month, we should have a feast-worth if veggies to share.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gratitude Tuesday: Calming the Mom Brain

There was a time, in the days of pre-mommyhood, when I had time.  Yes, back when my mornings weren’t filled with wiping fresh puddles of urine from the bathroom floor and chasing a naked toddler who would rather streak than sit on her potty while Mommy runs her bath, and my nights weren’t a mad-dash to get everything done and everyone fed before10 PM, when I could go to the gym every night.  I’ve been a weight-slinging girl for years, but about three years ago, I discovered a class at my local gym that involved yoga, tai chi, and pilates as one workout.  It was my first experience, believe it or not, with yoga.  I fell in love.  I found it at a time in my life when my adrenal glands were burned out, and I’d been told that due to hormonal imbalances, I’d never get pregnant without some serious medical help.  I was already exploring detoxing, and new ways of eating, so I thought I’d give new ways of exercising a chance as well.  And when suffering from adrenal exhaustion, slower workouts are welcomed.  Of course, I got hooked quickly.  I bought my own yoga mat, attending classes two or three times per week, and added yoga videos from YouTube to my regular routine.  It was what I needed at a time when my mind was horribly cluttered with fear and anxiety.  I can’t say that I learned to meditate, but I did find a certain pleasantness in just being still and focusing on my breath while trying to master “pigeon” or “tree” pose.  It helped me to calm my anger when someone cut me off in traffic or things got too crazy at work.  I felt like I was on my way to being the person I wanted to become… calm, strong, peaceful.  Then, I got pregnant.


The first thing my midwife told me?  “Don’t lay on your stomach.”  Considering how much time I spent face-down on my mat, I was lost as to how to continue with yoga.  Bummer.  I looked into pre-natal classes, but they’re really expensive!  And most of them were at times that wouldn’t work with my schedule, anyway.  (I’m thoroughly convinced that people have this notion that prenatal yoga moms don’t have jobs.)  That was when I just said, to heck with it.  I gave it up.  I continued lifting weights and doing some cardio.  I ran almost daily until about halfway through my second trimester when I felt like I was shaking things loose in there.  I felt good.  I can honestly say that I had the easiest, most comfortable pregnancy of anyone I know.  (Notice I said “pregnancy” not “labor”.  That’s a whole other story.)  But I did miss yoga.  I couldn’t wait to get back to it. 

After Charlotte was born, I was so caught up in the little moments… my own kind of mental yoga, I suppose.  I was really living in the present more than I ever had.  Each coo, cry, or wiggle was fully tended to and appreciated.  It felt so amazing to spend all day caring for her.  After I went back to work last summer, I started to crave some of my old routine.  It would be a few months before I made it back to the gym on a regular basis, but I started using some hand-weights at home and doing short workouts a few times per week.  Also, I would add bursts of high-intensity exercise into my day at work.  And after I gained back some strength and flexibility, I heard yoga calling to me again.  By then, though, the class that I’d been enjoying prior to my pregnancy had a completely new schedule and I couldn’t attend any of their class times.  Another bummer.  But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.  As they say, there’s an app for that.  I downloaded Pocket Yoga and Yoga Studio on my iPhone and started using them for a quick workout on my lunch break or a longer one before bed.  Awesome stuff, you guys!  You can pick the duration and type of yoga sequence you want.  Whether it’s strength, flexibility, balance, or restorative, they’ve got you covered.  I’m sure there are a bunch of great yoga apps out there, but these are the two I stumbled upon.  After a few months, I’m back in my groove and feeling better than ever.  I’ve even been known to take a quick break and work on my pre-handstand positions.  This time, I’m taking it very seriously.  I’ve made it a goal to learn to meditate, but I’m having a very tough time quieting my mind.  I did a 30 minute video from YogaByCandace on YouTube Saturday afternoon while Charlotte napped, and followed it with a guided meditation video (that you obviously don’t actually watch, cuz that would be dumb).  I’m not sure if I managed to clear my mind or if I was just trailing off to sleep, but when it was over, I couldn’t even describe the calmness I felt.  It’s what I imagine being high feels like, but without paranoia or the munchies.  I’ve been trying to meditate for a couple of months, but Saturday was the first time I think I actually managed to do it, even if it was just for a couple of minutes. 


I’m not sure what I want to gain from yoga and meditation, but I know I want to be in control of my thoughts and my body.  I have a superficial goal of being able to do a handstand, because who are we kidding?  That would just be bad ass.  I’ve been a slave to my anger and insecurity for my entire life, so I want to take control of those thoughts and stop letting them decide how I react to situations.  There are times when the dogs chew on something they’re not supposed to, or Charlotte puts a stuffed animal in the dogs’ water bowl or toilet.  I want to be able to address those situations with compassion and a calm head.  I know my yoga and meditation practice will help.  It already has.  Before I respond, I now take a breath and ask myself, “can I change this?  Will being mad help anything?”  I don’t want to be an yelling mom.  I want Charlotte to learn to be a peaceful person from me.  If nothing else I teach her sticks, that’s the one thing I hope does.  We live in such an anxious and hot-headed world.  I just want her to be able to deal with other people in an intelligent and calm way.  I want her to be a better person than I am.  For that to happen, I have to become the type of person who teaches her HOW to be better than me. 


I’m so gracious to have been led to yoga when I was.  I’m new to this world, but can already see changes in myself.  I plan to continue down this path and work at it until those changes radiate from me… and then I’ll keep going. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Creamy Hemp Vinaigrette (Raw and Vegan)

I just threw some stuff in the Baby Bullet tonight and created a very tasty dressing for my salad.  And I don't mean "tasty in a healthy way."  I mean, really good by any standard.  So, I figured I'd share it with you guys.

Creamy Hemp Vinaigrette

2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, but helps to make the dressing extra creamy)
1/4-1/2 tsp agave, honey, or other sweetener  
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground mustard
Sea salt, to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy.  

I had mine over some delicate romaine lettuce that I picked straight from the garden, and it was amazing.  This is right up there with my favorite tahini dressing, and if you follow me on Instagram, you that's a big deal.