Wrapping up 2014 and Beginning a New Year

 

Here we are once more at the end of another year. This time of year can bring up so many emotions – anticipation, motivation, regret or simply the awe at how quickly time passes.

The start of a new year also represents a great opportunity to get organized and planful for the year ahead, which can eliminate stress and keep you feeling on top of your life.

Here’s a simple format that I follow this time of year to help me close out one year and ring in another:

Look back:

It’s hard to remember all that you did and all you accomplished in the past year, but it’s also important to look back to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements and milestones. I like to go through my calendar and review everything so I can remember what happened. List out the trips you took, vacations you had, celebrations and major accomplishments. It’s amazing to see all you did in 12 months! If you come across any disappointments or things that didn’t go well,  gather some lessons learned or think about how you might approach things differently next time. 

Important questions to ask yourself might be: What will you keep with you as you move forward? What can you let go of?

Look forward:

I love the planning aspect of a new year and the excitement of a blank slate, however I’m not big on setting one giant resolution for the next year. The thought of just one thing to focus on is too big and comes with too much pressure. Even the word ‘resolution’ implies pressure to succeed. Many people will come up with a guiding word that they’ll base all of their decisions and actions on. To me, that’s a bit too vague. 

Instead of focusing on things I’d like to achieve, I like to focus on several things that I can do everyday that will make a difference in the way I feel. What I’ve learned over the past many years is that how I feel sets the tone for everything I do. When I’m feeling good (in body & spirit), then I can operate from a much more peaceful and happy state. My parenting gets better, my relationships improve and even my productivity and level of contentment goes up. Doing things this way actually puts me in a better place to accomplish my goals than endlessly and single-mindedly striving to achieve them.

Most things I focus on from an 80/20 point of view. I don’t put pressure on myself to be perfect everyday, but I put an emphasis on doing a few things most of the time and I don’t worry when they don’t happen. I’ve personally found the list of things below work well for me. Your list might look different and I encourage you to explore what yours might include:

Overall things I do to feel good:

  • Yoga or some type of exercise
  • Quality sleep for as much time as I can get in. That usually means an early bedtime for me!
  • Lots of dark leafy greens everyday
  • Beginning my day with a glass of lemon water
  • Eating a balance of high quality fats and proteins with an abundance of vegetables. Less focus on grains. Refined carbohydrates and treats are limited.
  • Spending a little time each night before bed reading a good book (by far my favorite way to wind down)
  • Keeping my house/responsibilities somewhat organized and neat 
  • Indulging but making it count (mindless Hersey Kisses won’t do….but a family trip to get ice cream after hitting the beach? Yup. A piece of an organic 85% dark chocolate bar after a good meal? Oh yes.)
  • Spending quiet time at home with family and spending time out and about with good friends ( this goes along with learning to say no to things I’m not that excited about and saying a big YES to things I am)
  • Checking in and following my gut

General Trip, Event and Project Planning

I found that it really helps to take out a blank calendar and blank paper and sit down to do a little planning for the year ahead. I begin by writing each month out on the paper and leaving space to fill in events and items for that month (in my world, that means dance recitals, birthdays, holidays, graduations, reunions, etc).

From there I like to fill in some fun trips or little get aways we might be able to take by month. I might not plan out the actual dates but I like to save space in each month for what we might want to do. I also fill in projects we’d like to accomplish – we have plenty of house projects to keep us busy so we try to slot one or two in during the months we feel like we can accomplish them.

This isn’t an exact plan – I’m pretty sure we’ve never checked every single thing off that we planned to do, but it acts as more of a guide and keeps you organized on your priorities during the year. It’s also a great tool to visualize if you’re being too ambitious! 

Big Picture Personal Ideas and Plans

I like to think about some personal goals I have for the year ahead. I begin with big picture idea because it give me more room to maneuver without getting bogged down in details. So, I begin with general ideas and directions I’d like to move in (for example: I’d like to teach more yoga this year; I’d like to create a combined health and yoga program; I’d like to teach classes in the corporate environment, etc). I might even think about when I will start working on them, but again, my plan is pretty high level (Spring, Summer, Fall). When I get closer to these dates I get more specific.  

Money Plan

Money is a huge stressor for most of us so why not tackle it when you’re not in the middle of a money crisis? If you have big purchases you know you’ll make in the next 12 months, plan for them! Set a plan to put money aside each month to save up. Create specific savings or checking accounts that represent your big purchase (ex: house, car). That way you can specifically see how much you have and how much you’ll need to save. If you’d like to pay off a credit card, make a plan for how you can do that. I also find that it works well to group bills together by due date and have 1-2 specific days each month that you pay the bills. It takes some of the stress and pressure off all year if you’re ahead of the game and have a plan for what you’re doing.

It all sounds like a lot of work but if you give yourself an hour of uninterrupted time, you can get through this, and it’s actually a lot of fun. I’d love to hear if you use this format or if you have a different process for planning for the new year!

Cheers to 2015! May your year be healthy and full of happiness.

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Why you should be selfish this holiday season

‘Tis the season for unselfish giving, unbridled generosity and selfless acts of heroism. This conjures up ideas of standing in freezing cold midnight lines waiting to snag that perfect toy and barreling through the Holiday season with a fake smile plastered on your face while you bake cookies and buy the perfect present for the 300 people on your Christmas list. No time to sleep? There’s always January!

This is no longer the warm and cozy holiday season you experienced as a child. Oh no, this is the get-down-to-business-super-mom-decked-in-red-and-green-and-going-to-save-the-day type of holiday now. Ugh, exhausting.

For your sanity and well being, this year must be different. This year, YOU get to go on the very top of your list. That’s right, be selfish! I’m giving you full permission.

Here are 3 reasons why being selfish will give you the calm, serene, peaceful and joyful holiday season you crave:

1. Selfish is the new generous. You are your family’s #1 asset. Not sure what I mean? Oh, hello Santa Claus, cookie baker, chief present shopper, wrapper and bow tier. Hello all the million other things you do for your family every day. Killing yourself by neglecting your own needs and running yourself ragged does nobody any good. By taking care of YOU, you are giving your family a gift. They get the fully present, calm and happy mama you want to be. And in turn, you get to fully experience the peaceful, joyful moments you want.

Not sure how to do this? Try more online shopping and less running around. Only say yes to the parties and obligations that you truly want to go to. Keep everything simple from the decorations to the presents and the parties. Give yourself some time and space each week to recharge and do something just for you.

2. Eat clean and be serene. There are two places in your life that get uprooted and can wreak havoc on your life during the holiday season: eating and sleeping. The parties can cause you to overindulge in the wrong things which make you sick and tired. And the stress of the season and all you have to do can ruin a good night sleep. Reframing these two areas as your top priorities for yourself is the ultimate act of self care. Giving yourself the gift of healthy, beautiful food and quality stress-free sleep will keep you energized and healthy (as well as keep the holiday pounds off).

Not sure how to do this? Take some time to plan and prepare simple but healthy snacks and meals for yourself, always thinking of it as a gift. Listen to your body and don’t get caught in the sugar roller coaster. Develop a nighttime routine that is calm and peaceful and make it a priority every night.

3. The holidays start with you. How’s that for selfish? But it’s true. You have more control over the holidays than you think. Your kids will look to you to control the tempo and pace. When they see an overly stressed mom trying to force every ounce of joy out of the season, they too will feel tired and stressed (without even knowing it). Take a deep breath Mom, and your kids will too.

Not sure how to do this? Reflect on what you’d like the season to be all about. What are you truly craving? Prioritize. Slow down. Focus on serene. Then, only do the things that fit into your plan. Listen to your intuition and create a holiday that nourishes and fills your soul.

Originally published in LexFUN December 2013 issue

 

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The 80-20 rule and why you should live this way

I’ve just shepherded off my girls and my husband to dance so I can sit down in the quiet of the house on this rainy morning and write this post. After a busy week and previous weekend, I needed this quiet and down time.

I often think of the fall as a slower time of year because that’s what I’d like it to be, but in truth it’s not. In our modern lives, I don’t think there’s a time of year that we don’t fill up with activities, events and things. We’re addicted to being busy. 

Ask yourself this – even when you do have a moment of down-time, what do you do with it? Do you pick up your phone and scan Facebook? Do you call a friend? Do you fill those moments with…something? Anything? I find myself picking up my phone to check my email even at a red light. It’s almost automatic and it’s a terrible habit I’m working on breaking.

In our busy, everyday lives we push aside all about the little things that make us feel good – rest, exercise, good food, quiet and quality time with people we love. It’s all glossed over to make room for all the activities and responsibilities that feel way more important at the time.  We work, work, work until we get a vacation and then we collapse. 

It’s too much and I can wager a pretty good guess that if you’re a reader of this blog, it’s not the way you want to be living.

Ready for something new? I have something I want you try:

Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? It states that 80% of the outcome is determined by 20% of the effort. In other words, by focusing on a small number of important things that will make the biggest difference in your life, you can effectively change the way you’re living and feeling. 20% of what you do can account for 80% of your happiness.

So – let’s make things simple. You likely can’t do everything you want to do to stay healthy and happy, but if you focus on a small percentage of high impact activities, it’s going to make the biggest difference in how you live and feel on a daily basis.

For me – my list of 20% looks something like this. These are the things I concentrate on day in and day out to live and feel healthy, engaged, active and happy.

My 20%: 

  • Eat clean , high quality foods 80% of the time and don’t stress about the other 20%
  • Get good sleep
  • Limit stress by building in down time in my day
  • Spend quality time with my family and friends
  • Practice yoga
  • Do work that feels important and inspiring to me.

Everyone’s list will be different. What does your look like?

My hope is that when I run the next Clean Food Challenge in November, I can help make a habit out of eating clean high-quality foods for anyone who has that on their list of 20%. 

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Tips for staying healthy this fall

It happens so fast….that first wind blows, school starts and BAM, everyone has a cold. 

Your rhythm changes in the fall – you’re likely up earlier and busier each day with schedules and routines and a faster pace. It can be a hard transition to make when we jump so quickly and sometimes your body isn’t prepared for all the business and the newness of the season. We need to consciously nourish ourselves in a purposeful way so we don’t find ourselves depleted and susceptible to sickness.

In Ayruvedic medicine, it is thought that what’s happening in nature is also happening inside our bodies. Fall is ruled by the vata dosha which is characterized by qualities that are dry, light and cool. Think of the cool wind blowing outside, the leaves changing colors and then drying up and falling. Similarly, we can feel a wave of emotions in the fall that pick up internally, just as the wind picks up outside. And we might start to feel our bodies drying out with dry skin or chapped lips. To counter that, it’s good for us to balance things out by changing the way we’re eating and taking care of ourselves in the fall. Here’s how:

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they’re being healthy and eating raw, cold salads throughout the year. At this point in the year, your body is craving and needing warming foods to keep it hydrated and nourished. Still craving salads? That’s great! Use heartier, greener lettuce and top your salad with cooked vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Mother nature knows just what it’s doing by providing the exact foods needed to support our bodies. Roasted root vegetables and heartier produce taste delicious cooked and will keep you warm and toasty on the inside. Soups and stews are amazing time of year and they balance the dryness of the season. Don’t be afraid of the heartier and heavier meals – they will keep you nourished and healthy.

You should also swap out cold beverages for warm teas and drinks, which is probably what you feel like anyway. Feed yourself what you’re naturally craving. Your body is so smart – listen to it!    

(Find some great fall recipes over on my Pinterest page)

Follow the lead of the sun. I’m a big believer in this one! As the seasons change and it gets darker earlier, plan to go to bed earlier too. When the sun is settling earlier, it makes so much sense that you should start to wind down earlier and take advantage of the extra darkness. The extra sleep will help you to keep your immune system strong, healthy and active.

There are so many of us completely stressed out women running around to accomplish this or that or the other thing. All day, every day. And we never take time for ourselves or do anything meaningful because there’s always so much to do. This daily frantic pace is going to leave us worn out with nothing left to give. So, even though I know it’s hard – SO hard – please take a minute and figure out something meaningful for you to do….something that has no other purpose except to make you happy. No feeling guilty allowed.

Please fill yourself up so you can be brimming with energy, positivity and good vibrations. THIS, more than anything else will keep you healthy in mind, body and spirit.

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Easy, healthy Taco recipe

 

School started today for my littles so I’m officially back in the swing of things. I started my morning by cleaning out my desk, printing out new calendars and creating a plan for the next few months.

Speaking of plans, creating one for easy school lunches and dinners always feels like it needs to take on more of a priority this time of year – like I need to step it up, in a big way. Ahem, I’m officially boycotting the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Let’s see if my kids survive….

I spent a long time yesterday updating my Pinterest page with healthy dinners that I can pull together quickly. New recipes like that are great but when it comes down to it, the best ones are the tried and true, like Tacos. Who doesn’t love taco night? But please, do me a favor and leave the days of Old El Paso behind …

Here are some great add-ins to make taco night healthier and more delicious:

  • First off, homemade taco seasoning is the way to go. If you’re not making it, you’re missing out. It’s way more flavorful and doesn’t have that strange orange color and the over abundance of salt. I use this recipe and love it.
  • Eat it as a salad or use a 100% corn tortilla wrap and you’re making another healthy choice. If you need that crunch, add a few chips to the side, but you’re better off not going with the store-bought taco shell.
  • Add in healthy greens like chopped kale or swiss chard instead of iceberg lettuce
  • Take the flavor up a notch and add in some extras like sweet potatoes, corn and black beans.
  • Top with salsa and chopped avocado and you’ve got a healthy, filling and delicious taco!

Here’s the recipe I use in my house and it’s a huge hit in my house:

Easy Healthy Tacos
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound high quality ground beef (or turkey)
  2. 1-2 cups chopped kale
  3. 1 sweet potato, cooked and diced
  4. 1 cup of sweet corn (or corn from 1 ear)
  5. 1 can black beans
  6. 2 Tbsp homemade taco seasoning
  7. 100% corn tortilla shells
  8. 1 avocado, chopped
  9. jar of salsa
Instructions
  1. Cook ground beef in large skillet over medium heat until browned. Add in 1 Tbsp of water, chopped kale, sweet potato, corn and black beans and cook until healed through. Stir occasionally to keep from burning and add more water if the mixture seems dry. Add 2 Tbsp of taco seasoning and stir to evenly coat.
  2. Divide among tortilla shells or eat as a salad. Top with salsa and avocado.
Notes
  1. You can find a good homemade taco seasoning recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Taco-Seasoning-I/
Inspired Healthy Life http://www.inspiredhealthylife.com/
 

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Cherry Kale & Pineapple Smoothie Popsicle

It’s cherry season! I love cherries and as soon as they hit the local stores, I keep them stocked in my house. They’re an awesome post-dinner, TV watching snack and a great addition to any BBQ.

I am so excited about this cherry new smoothie I’ve been making! It’s so incredibly refreshing on those crazy, hot summer days. I can’t get enough, I’ve made one nearly everyday for a few weeks. It has the tartness of a margarita with all the antioxidants you could order up. Just. So. Good.

My kids began asking for sips of my smoothie which gave me the idea to make them into popsicles. Kids will eat ANYTHING in popsicles, I’m finding. Something about flavored ice on a stick and they all come running.

Have you ever read the ingredients on a box of store bought Popsicles? It’s such a bummer. High fructose corn syrup is usually a top ingredient. You can do so much better without much effort. Popsicles are so easy to make.

I found great BPA free molds I love on Amazon, and I just poured my smoothie in and popped them into the freezer.

The verdict? My kids were covered from head to toe in popsicle juice. They loved them. And I was secretly giggling to myself thinking, they’re eating KALE in a popsicle! They had no idea.

I find that this is the perfect afternoon snack: a refreshing smoothie for me that gives me a boost of energy just when I need it and a healthy popsicle for the kids. Total win-win.

(Note: the green smoothie above was made with Rainier cherries, which are lighter in color so the green of the kale took over. I’ve since begun making them with frozen cherries I bought at Whole Foods. Makes for a quicker and colder smoothie).

Cherry, Kale & Pineapple Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 3-4 large kale leaves
  • 3/4 cup water (less if you’d like a thicker smoothie consistency)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice

Blend together and enjoy as a smoothie or pour into molds for popsicles. Enjoy!

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How to have a great summer (in 3 easy steps)

 

I am still reeling from the busyness of the end of the school year with graduation and recitals, birthday parties, hat days and wear your favorite color to school days and….I just have a preschooler! I can only imagine what it will be like in a few years.

I have a hard time coming down from a few weeks like that. It’s like I’m on energy overload and I just need a big, deep breath but sorry, toobusytotakeone! Maybe next week! I’m finding that I’m sleeping less, checking my phone more and staying really busy without getting much done.

That’s the mode I’m in when I find myself checking my phone every few minutes while I’m pushing the kids on the swing set or piling them into the car to do errands that don’t really need to get done. Blah – that’s not what any of us need.

Ok, deep breath. Slow down.

This summer I have a new plan I’m testing out. I’m dropping the ‘busy mom routine’ I find myself falling into and I’m getting back to some serious basics, like giving myself exactly what I wish for this summer.  It almost feels indulgent, except that I know it will allow me to more fully enjoy and have fun with the girls even if I spend hundreds of more hours singing ‘Let it go’ in the driveway.

Here’s the very simple plan I’m following:

1. Set a direction. What do you want most of this summer? Time, energy, adventure, date nights, time with friends and family? Make this about YOU, not your kids, not your family and not about expectations from others.

2. Write down a few intentions: With a direction in mind, write down a few very specific things you know you’d like to accomplish this summer. They can be fun activity based plans, professional goals or basic intentions for the summer. Keep it short and sweet so you don’t get overwhelmed by your own list.

3. Schedule it: If it’s not on the calendar, it’s probably not happening. Life gets so busy! Prioritize yourself and get something concrete down on paper. I printed out a google calendar and filled in the dates and I plan on hanging this up somewhere I can see everyday.

Seriously, so easy. So easy in fact that I can’t believe I haven’t done this before now.

I just did it for myself and I’m feeling so organized and intentional about the summer. I have a few professional goals that I know I need to make room for, a few fun days/nights scheduled for some time for me, lots of white space for fun with my kids and a bunch of date nights planned with my husband. Bliss.

Try it. Be intentional. Let me know how it works for you.

 

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3 Things You Learn About Yourself by Doing a (Whole Foods) Cleanse

“I would never do that!”

“So what DO you eat?”

“I’d try it if I didn’t have to give up my coffee”

That’s what I typically hear when I talk about a cleanse. Most people are completely intimidated by doing a cleanse, and rightly so. The number of gimmicky diets and cleanses on the market have skyrocketed in the past several years and they can be intimidating and downright unhealthy.

I’m a big supporter of whole foods cleanses. I’m talking the  fill-your-belly-with-real-and- delicious-food-and-not-starve-all-day-long type. Think you could never do it? I bet you’d surprise yourself.

I just finished the most amazing week with nearly 30 woman supporting and cheering each other on throughout the 7 Day Clean Food Challenge. For one week, these women challenged themselves to cut out processed foods along with foods that typically inflame the body, giving themselves a chance to clean out and get a fresh start.

The results were empowering and inspiring and left these women feeling energetic and healthier. When you’re that in touch and aware of your body and your food for a whole week, it’s almost impossible not to learn a few things.  Here are 3 things (you might be surprised) to learn about yourself by doing a cleanse: Continue reading

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Dinner tonight! The Quinoa Bowl

I love these things! Quinoa bowls are the answer to a healthy, fast and easy dinner you can prepare with whatever you have in your kitchen.

They are for the days when you’re trying to corral kids into the house at 5:00pm with school bags, lunch boxes, art projects and the mail falling out of your arms along with no idea what you’re having for dinner.  They’re for the days when you want something fast and healthy but don’t feel like cooking a big meal, and they’re for the days when you want to feel nicely full without feeling like you ate a big, unhealthy meal.

They have become such a staple in my house that I make some variation of them several nights a week. I like to make extra and eat the leftovers for lunch and heck, I’ve been known to eat them for breakfast too. Here’s the beauty of them:

  • They can be different every time you make them
  • You can use whatever ingredients you have in your house
  • You’re only using 1 to 2 pans, which means less clean up for you

The basic formula is simple. Use mostly veggies, add in healthy grains, lean protein and top with a few tasty extras.

Step 1: Cook your quinoa (or other grain)

Step 2: If using chicken, begin by sauteing over medium heat.

Step 3: Add in chopped veggies, leaving the leafy greens to last

Step 4: Finish with some extras – a sprinkle of lemon juice, a dash of tamari, feta cheese crumbles or an avocado.

The variations are endless!

Craving Italian? Try quinoa, onion, garlic, swiss chard, and tomatoes. Finish with parmesan cheese over the top.

Craving Mexican? Try quinoa, onions, peppers, black beans, avocado with salsa over the top.

Craving Asian? How about cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, peanuts and tamari or soy sauce?

My favorite could be called the Kitchen Sink – quinoa and all veggies I can find topped with fresh lemon juice, roasted red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.

You’re going to love these. Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite kind is!

 

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Thoughts on eating and living well

I’ve been thinking about food an awful lot lately and testing recipes like mango lettuce wraps and sweet potato and black bean tacos to get ready for the 7 day clean food challenge. Delicious.

This way of eating has become routine for me and it’s made me realize how far I’ve come. I’ve spent years now reteaching myself how to eat in a way that works for me and allows me to feel energetic, light and strong. I have no idea how many calories, fat grams or protein I’m supposed to have a day. I eat what my body craves (which has certainly changed in the last few years) without guilt or worrying. It drives me crazy when you read in magazines that women ‘should’ eat 1200 calories a day. What? How can one approach work for everyone?

To be truthful, for years I worried about every single bite that I put into my mouth. I ate too much, and then too little. I mentally calculated how much I’d have to work out to burn it all off again. It was exhausting and awful and I hated every minute of it.

Over the past few years of studying nutrition and figuring how what works for me (and what doesn’t), I’ve developed my own theories and approaches that are more relaxed and allow me to enjoy life from a healthier and less stressed perspective and I wanted to share them with you.

Continue reading

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