Savoring Summer

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned with age (besides the fact that hangovers get worse as you get older) it’s that time seems to move much faster. The last month and a half has been an absolute whirlwind. In my mind, we are still in the first week of June. Considering my favorite holiday, 4th of July, is coming up next weekend, I clearly need to wrap my mind around this whole “June is over” idea.

We spent the end of May and early June traveling around Europe then I came back and got to spend a weekend in Lake Tahoe with some of my closest friends for a bachelorette party. Please don’t think I am complaining. I love traveling and new experiences. I just didn’t realize how fast time flies when you are eating, drinking and playing all day. It makes the work day go by sooo slowly. Do you think there’s any way I could get paid to always be on vacation? Side note: I aspired to be a trophy wife in middle school, no joke. It just made the most sense to me and infuriated my teachers, so I figured it was a great idea.

Back to real life, I am not a trophy wife. But, like my younger self, I do still love everything about summer. After some work travel this weekend, my schedule will open up and I am looking forward to slowing down and savoring summer. In an effort to act like I am still a kid on summer vacation hanging out at the pool all day and eating popsicles, I am hoping to take on fewer responsibilities this summer. Instead, I intend to experience this season and soak it up every day, because we all know summer will be over before we know it.

In an attempt to be less depressed about having to come home from our adventure in Europe, my husband and I made a list of the summer activities we want to do during the next few months. I don’t want to find myself saying, “Man I wish we would have done that this summer” once October rolls around. Of course, there needs to be a balance. I can’t say yes to everything, so I plan to be very intentional with my time and hopefully slow down to enjoy these fun activities our joyful, vacation loving selves deemed essential for summer:

  • Go to Picnic in the Park
  • Float down rivers
  • Go to Rivercats game(s)
  • Go Camping!
  • Visit Clarksburg for wine tasting
  • Go to Tahoe
  • Visit the Yuba City River
  • Grill oysters
  • Check out local breweries
  • Buy a vespa
  • Enjoy picnics on the Greenbelt
  • Fish
  • Beach days
  • Invite friends over for BBQ’s
  • Golf
  • Pretend we are in Italy and eat meat and cheese plates for dinner
  • Get local produce at the fruit stands
  • Go to $5 movies on Tuesdays to escape the heat
  • Have a water play date and sleepover with our nephew/niece
  • Go on the boat (waterski season!)
  • Make ice cream
  • Check out new locations to hike

What’s on your list of activities for this summer? I’d love to hear about them below!

It’s Okay to Like (Even Love) Yourself

Last night I had the privilege of joining one of my colleagues for a presentation on body image and eating disorders. The presentation was for Residential Advisers living in the freshmen residence halls, so it mainly focused on recognizing the signs of eating disorders and how to intervene using CAREfrontations. At the end though, my colleague led a 10-minute meditation focused on self-love and body acceptance. While our eyes were closed (and as I was trying my hardest not to lie down and fall asleep) he told us to silently tell ourselves 5 positive things about our body. He then proceeded to say, “It’s okay to like yourself”. After, we discussed how much easier it would have been to say 5 things we didn’t like or wanted to change about our bodies.

Let’s all say it again, “It’s okay to like (even love) yourself.” My brain stopped going at a million miles per minute after he said this, and I just sat there dumbfounded. The silence in the room made it seem like everyone else felt that way too. Let’s just say it was a drop the mic moment. How often are we actually encouraged to like ourselves rather than constantly search for something to change or improve upon? When’s the last time you thanked your body for something it did (maybe even just getting you through the day) instead of wishing something was different about your body? I’ll be the first to admit that my default is the latter. I have to actively try to turn off the negative body talk switch in my brain. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful with it, but I’m aware of it and that’s a step in the right direction.

I don’t believe, in our culture at least, we are taught to like our bodies. Yes, I’ve come across plenty of people that are overly confident in themselves, but that does not necessarily mean they like (or even love) their bodies. The diet industry and the media are constantly reminding us that we could be better. We could be stronger, thinner, faster…whatever the latest fad is. What would happen if a company released a “learn to love your body in 30 days” plan instead of a “get shredded in 30 days” plan? I’m sure this has probably happened, but it didn’t catch on like fad diets do because loving yourself is so much harder than trying to change yourself. It’s simply not encouraged or supported in society. I once read a quote that said, “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, would you have any friends left?” As a teenager constantly being sent messages about how my body should look, this really hit home for me.

I’ll be the first to admit that self-improvement and change are great. In fact, I crave self-improvement and actively seek it out. However, there needs to be a balance. It’s essential that we are still kind to ourselves and express gratitude for what we are now, in this moment. It’s still crucial to like (even love) ourselves while we are pursuing change. It’s a fine line to walk and can be very difficult. For some it’s very easy, but I would guess it takes frequent reminders and work for most people. A simple post-it note on your mirror with a positive affirmation can keep you from engaging in negative self-talk and boost your mood instead. I recently downloaded an app called Productive that helps you develop daily habits. I downloaded it to help me develop the habit of flossing my teeth (yes, I’m still working on that). After the presentation though, I added a daily habit in the morning and the evening to tell myself something I like about myself. It’s only been one day with this reminder, but it was extremely refreshing to take a few moments this morning to say something nice to myself and helped set my mood for the day.

I challenge you to tell yourself 5 things you like (even love) about your body. Then focus on you, as a person. What do you like about yourself? Say it out loud. Just be kind to yourself, because you have the ability to be your biggest fan.

If you tried the exercise and feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear what it was like for you below!

It's OK to like (even love) yourself.

Experiments in the Kitchen

I recently became very adventurous in the kitchen and tried a few unconventional things. I frequently see photos of food on Instagram and take a screen shot to remind myself to make it, then rarely actually end up making the food. For some reason, in one weekend I broke out of my forgetful shell and made a smoothie with cauliflower rice, a collard greens wrap, homemade mayo and cauliflower tabbouleh. Now, I realize some of those sound a little odd, please keep reading. I wouldn’t share them with you if they weren’t delicious.

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Smoked salmon, homemade mayo, shredded carrots, bell pepper and avocado wrapped in a collard green leaf

Cauliflower Chocolate Smoothie

I began reading about this little concoction about a month ago and was initially very skeptical. Given that my goal in life is to eat as many veggies as possible (kidding, but my veggie obsession might surprise you), the skepticism faded and I was convinced this would be delicious. I shared this idea with my student staff at a team meeting and they looked at me like I had gone off my rocker. This just added more fuel to my fire to join in on this cauliflower smoothie craze.

You may be asking, why the hell would I add frozen cauliflower rice to my smoothie? Well to start with, one serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese. Basically, cauliflower is AWESOME. If you need more convincing, it makes your smoothies super creamy. If you are convinced and want to try this recipe, I recommend making life easier on yourself and buying the frozen cauliflower rice (sold at Trader Joes).  If you love washing your food processor, unlike me, you can learn how to make and freeze cauliflower rice here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen coconut rice
  • ¼ cup frozen sliced bananas
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. flax seed meal
  • 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Enough almond milk to make it the consistency you want it

Add it all in a blender and make some noise! Pour it in a cup and ask someone to drink it then tell them they drank cauliflower. Mind blown.

Creamy and Delicious Homemade Mayo

1 recipe makes about this much! This lasted us about 3 weeks.

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Mayo isn’t unconventional at all. Making it from scratch when the grocery store has 5,000 brands and types though? I consider that pretty unconventional.  However, I don’t plan on ever buying mayo from the store again. I am not a mayo person. Aioli? Love it. But plain mayo has never been a condiment I need to have. Homemade mayo has converted me. After tasting it fresh out of the jar, I wanted to put it on everything.

An immersion blender is absolutely crucial and I cannot testify to using the slow and steady drizzle method with a food processor. I can testify to sticking the immersion blender stick into the mason jar, blending for 60 seconds and calling it quits though. My favorite part is probably that you then store the mayo in the jar, so there are no dishes. Win!

We use avocado oil for pretty much everything we cook. Why? Because you can get a massive jar of it at Costco for an amazing price. Seriously though, I would get a Costco membership just to be able to buy this oil. It has a super high smoke point and is very light in color and flavor. Light oil with minimal flavor is important for homemade mayo. If you want to give it flavor, you can totally jazz it up! I’ve seen chipotle lime mayo, garlic mayo, basil mayo. I plan to adventure soon but for now, let’s stick with the original.

Creamy and Delicious Homemade Mayo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup avocado oil
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1-2 tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt

Add all ingredients in a wide mouth, pint size mason jar. Stick the immersion blender to the bottom of the jar and blend for about 30 seconds. It will come together very quickly. Then push the blender up and down until it all mixes together. It should take about another 30 seconds. Dip your finger in a lick!

What have you been experimenting with in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about it below!

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Cauliflower Tabbouleh on the right. So fresh and light!

Insights I Learned through Pursing a Health and Wellness Coaching Certification

I recently completed an 18-week Health and Wellness Coaching course through WellCoaches. I spent 90 minutes a week on a teleclass with individuals from all over the country.  It was an amazing experience. I didn’t realize that by taking the course I would also be learning more about myself than I ever have and would be forced to dig deep into my own health and wellness.

I’ve always been interested in this topic and have a Masters in Public Health in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, so I went into this thinking it would be a breeze…maybe I was a little over confident. While I did pick it up quickly, I realized that health and wellness coaching is an entirely unique skill set. I believe the skills I learned and insights I had throughout the course are transferrable to other aspects of my life, so I wanted to share what I learned with you all!

Listening, really listening is really hard

Sometimes my husband will be telling me a story and throw in a curveball like, “The Pope pooped his pants” just to see if I’m listening. Most of the time, I will nod my head and make some sort of “yeah I’m listening” noise, although I’m really thinking about what food is in the fridge that needs to be used soon. He gets me every time. I should have realized that I was a poor listener in those situations, but I never truly realized how terrible I was at listening until I spent 90 minutes learning about the different levels of listening. Let’s be real, I probably only really listened to about half of the lesson. There are three different levels and it’s safe to say that I still haven’t graduated from the first level aka I’m easily distracted.

My take away from the lesson was that “Level 1 Listening” means you are not giving that person your full attention and you are more focused on yourself than them. Have you ever heard someone say something then either in your head or verbally related it to something about you or an experience you have had? Until taking this course, I had no idea how frequently I did (probably still do) this. It’s so easy to get sidetracked and relate their experience your own instead of deeply listening to what they are saying.  A good listener would not relate it back to themselves. They would reflect what the other person said back to them. There a variety of reflection techniques, but the jest of it is that you are letting the other person know that you hear them and are clarifying how you interpreted what they said.

I’ve been really focusing on becoming a better listener and let me tell you, it’s hard! I deeply admire individuals that are good listeners and value my conversations with them. Having a conversation with someone that is truly listening to you and reflecting what you are saying is an incredible experience and doesn’t happen enough, in my opinion. There are so many distractions these days, from phones to overbooked schedules, so I challenge you to join me in putting that aside and becoming a better listener.

Focus on the positive: Your strengths and learning experiences

I’ve always considered myself a positive person, maybe even overly positive and annoying to some people in certain situations.  However, the concept of strengths-based coaching was entirely new to me. Wellcoaches teaches you how to leverage clients’ strengths and best experiences to help them develop confidence and self-efficacy to change their behaviors. For example, let’s say an individual wants to quit smoking and they have done so in the past, but are smoking again now. The coach would say, “What allowed you to be in successful in the past?” not “Why did you start smoking again?”  Another question could be, “What was your best experience with quitting smoking in the past?”  Essentially, you are helping the client realize that they have the strength within themselves to lead healthier lives.

I’ve also begun to view goals as learning experiences. Every session with a client you do weekly goal reviews and are supposed to ask questions like, “What was your best experience with this goal?” or “What did you learn from pursuing this goal?” It’s easy to get down on yourself for not accomplishing a goal, but viewing it as a learning experience takes away the failure aspect. Since we, as humans, tend to have a negativity bias, it’s crucial to change clients’ mindsets about goals. Let’s say someone wanted to run three times for 30 minutes, but only actually ran once for 10 minutes. They might enter the coaching session feeling pretty bummed about the goal, but coaches can help shift their mindset so they leave feeling motivated and excited for the next week ahead. Maybe they didn’t meet their goal, because they realized they actually just hate running.  Rather than continuing with that goal then, they can switch it to something they enjoy and look forward to trying again instead of quitting.

You don’t have to have a wellness coach to practice this strategy in your own life. Although if you’d like one, you know who to reach out to 😉 You can have these conversations with yourself in your own head. If something you were hoping to do didn’t go as planned, look at is a learning experience instead of saying hurtful and shaming things to yourself. Focus on what went well. Ask yourself what was the best experience with the goal, not “why can’t I ever do anything right”. Be your advocate and friend. Support yourself and remind yourself that you’re awesome and capable of amazing things. Because, YOU are.

Interested in learning more about your own strengths? This VIA Character Strengths Assessment is a fun way to do so! http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

My 2017 Intentions

You should know something about me. I’m a self-help junkie. It started back in my high school years when Copperfield’s Bookstore was right around the corner from my high school.  Going to Copperfield’s and reading what I wanted to read instead of some classical literature that was deemed “required” sounded so much more appealing to me. Luckily, it was pretty easy to ditch class (go Crushers!). I wouldn’t go as far to say that I was a truant student, but I did find it incredibly fulfilling to head to Copperfield’s and Trader Joe’s (also in the same shopping center) instead of going to class on occasion. While I enjoyed the cookbook and fiction sections, I usually gravitated towards the self-help section. Some of the books I found were quite ridiculous (Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days!), but most fascinated me. I would grab a book, then plop on an overstuffed chair and hope they didn’t notice that I was only planning on reading a few chapters and didn’t have any intention to actually buy the book.

Looking back on it, I should have known then that my future self would want to pursue a career that focuses on motivating people to change their behaviors. That would have been too easy though. Instead, I spent four years getting a degree in Human Development and to this day have no idea how, when and why children development. As long as they are walking and talking, they are cool by me. I think I eventually figured out what I wanted to do though, because I was constantly checking in with myself. Basically, I feel like I treat myself like my own science experiment. I tried turning my husband into my science experiment, but he was resistant to my powers.

I frequently ask myself, “What would happen if I did this?” Then, I proceed to determine if it would be worth it to try whatever crazy idea came to my mind. I usually just keep my findings and experience to myself (because I assume people get sick of me talking about this stuff), but I decided it would be beneficial to share my newest experiments, aka my 2017 intentions, with you. I like the term intentions more than resolutions. These are things I intend to do in 2017 and hopefully forever if I feel like they add value to my life. Sure sometimes my actions might not match my intentions, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. Scientists don’t give up on their research; they tweak something and try it again.

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I plan to share my journey through these intentions with you sporadically throughout the year. You may be asking yourself if I intentionally planned to publish this post at a time when most people have sadly given up on New Year’s resolutions. Nope, it just took me this long to post it. My promise to you is to honestly share how my intentions are going and not fluff anything up. For example, I’m currently failing at relying less on technology, because I just got a new phone and am now finding it difficult to disconnect. Knowing that I set this intention for the year is always in the back of my mind though, so my little self-help voice reminds me to just disconnect and walk instead of check my email at the same time.

Do you have any intentions for the year? I’d love to hear about them below!

Watermelon Chicken Chopped Salad

The first time I had watermelon in a salad was at a brewery in San Diego and it was an amazing flavor combination. The crisp and juicy texture of watermelon works so well in salads and provides a burst of flavor in each bite. Last week at work we had a giant box of fresh arugula leftover after a cooking class, so I didn’t hesitate to shove as much as I could in a bag to take home. As a result, this delicious salad was created. It has all the right textures, flavors and is a great way to welcome the upcoming warm summer nights.

Watermelon Chicken Chopped Salad


 

Serves 2

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Ingredients

  • A few generous handfuls of arugula or mixed greens
  • 2-3 Tablespoons good quality olive oil (the dressing is very simple, so the oil’s taste will shine through)
  • 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ½ cup of cooked chicken (you can use leftovers, rotisserie chicken or grill it fresh- whatever works for you!)
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 cup seedless watermelon, diced
  • ½ cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • Balsamic glaze (store bought or make your own)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Mix olive oil and white balsamic vinegar together. They won’t completely combine, but just give it a good whisk.
  2. Toss lettuce with dressing, salt and pepper.
  3. Pile lettuce on a plate and place toppings in a row on top of the lettuce or just throw everything all there!
  4. Drizzle balsamic glaze over your masterpiece.

 

The Weekly Grub + Making Veggies the Star

I’m sure someone already said this to you recently, but holy cow when did it become May!?! I can’t even believe that May is already here, but I do enjoy the beginning of any month. I love change and the first of the month always feels like a great opportunity to adopt new habits, lose pesky bad ones, make new memories and try new things.

One of the many things I am looking forward to in May is the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies that the warmer weather will bring. Luckily we live in an area where fruit stands and farmer’s markets are around every corner. Seasonal and locally grown produce take your taste buds to a whole new level, which is why I think they should be the star of any meal.

We often plan our meals around meat. I’ll be the first to admit, meat is absolutely delicious. I told my Italian language teacher in Italy that American BBQ was my favorite food. She looked baffled by my response. That’s how loyal I am to meat. However, I firmly believe that fruits and veggies always deserve a fighting chance. If you ask me to bring something to a party, please know that whatever I bring will involve fruits and veggies (Kevin likes to tease me with this Simpsons clip when I do). I especially like hosting, because I get to be in charge of the menu and I usually give a heavy focus to fruits and veggies. Being that you are at my house, you have no other choice but to eat the food I serve you. Therefore, I will make sure I contribute to your 7-9 daily servings of fruits and veggies. You’re welcome 🙂

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One of my favorite ways to force help people eat their fruits and veggies at parties is with make ahead salads. I’m currently on the broccoli salad train after seeing one on the cover of the most recent Cooking Light. I bought the ingredients and set out to make it, not entirely stoked because I thought it required blanching the broccoli. (It’s typically recommended that you closely read a recipe before starting to cook or bake, but I’ve never been that great at following directions.) After I got the pot and my ice bowl ready, I quickly checked the recipe and realized that you just leave it raw. What?! Mind blown. I immediately knew this recipe was going to be a winner. I served it along a slider bar with numerous toppings and the bowl of broccoli salad still got devoured. This just goes to show you that if you make veggies look and taste good (and don’t give people other options) they will get eaten. As BBQ season embarks upon us, I want to challenge you to give fruits and veggies a fighting chance at your spread. Make the salad the most talked about dish, serve grilled fruit kebabs for dessert and start changing the way people see veggies.

The Weekly Grub

  • Sunday: Carnitas quesadillas (with peppers and onions)
  • Monday: Grilled chicken, broccoli salad and corn
  • Tuesday: Shrimp fajita lettuce wraps
  • Wednesday: Watermelon, feta and chicken salad
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Out!

The “Only healthy thing we consumed on Picnic Day” Broccoli Salad

The best part about this salad is that you can change the ingredients based on what you have on hand. I have included apples, used sunflower seeds instead of almonds, added basil…get creative!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup  2% or whole fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets (about 1 bunch)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced strawberries

Preparation

Combine yogurt and next 4 ingredients (through pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Stir in red onion, broccoli, and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 1 hour before serving.