A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Hello, friends! And Happy New Year! This post is a continuation from my previous one…although, it’s not entirely necessary to read that one to know what’s going on here. But if you did read the last post, you know that gratitude was the key word from 2017 and that there were a few important factors and challenges that played a role.

{I originally planned to have this as a three part series, but last minute decided to squeeze it into one last post…so I apologize in advance for the lengthy ramble! I am excited to share some new recipes with you hopefully next week!}

Other key players from last year were: meditation, mindfulness, and presence. And, in my opinion, those three go hand in hand. They’re connected.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

**Unless otherwise noted, the photos within this post were taken by Willow last year with her camera – she gave me permission to share them 😉

***I am in no way judging or pointing fingers at those who use social media daily. My life and “career” do not require my presence there, but I do recognize and understand those that benefit from social media. My message here is how my life changed by unplugging. Social media isn’t all bad when used with the right intentions, nor do I believe that those who do what I once did are bad. With that being said, here we go…

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Before we made that drive to take Abbey to her new person, I kind of gave a heads up in my Instagram Stories that I would be taking a step back to be with my family during this time. Little did I know that the whole experience would set off a chain of events that would eventually change my life.

Saying goodbye to Abbey was really hard for the three of us. It was a big adjustment and unplugging from social media was easily the best decision I made – it was a gift to myself and my family. Rather than throwing myself into distractions and mindlessly scrolling my IG feed, I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions – to essentially work through the process of grief. I allowed myself to fully BE there for Willow – to comfort her when she let me in and to be a strong, stable presence. When I say strong and stable, don’t be fooled, I was sobbing uncontrollably at times, BUT I was there every step of the way without a phone in hand. My eyes and ears were tuned into Willow and not a screen.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I pride myself in being present with Willow, Josh, and my family. When we’re together hiking, eating, playing games, reading, or just enjoying time together, I make a conscious effort to leave my phone in another room or turn it off. My time spent with them is in the moment and in tune with them…no longer thinking in the back of my mind about the comments I’d like to respond to or something I’d like to share on Instagram. It wasn’t always that way. I was guilty of snapping a handful of photos to try and capture that “perfect” shot of my meal (while it was getting cold or melting), or I was stopping every few minutes to try and get a photo of the scenery on a hike, or I had my phone in camera mode ready to get that action shot of Willow doing something. I’ll be the first to admit that social media was kind of like an addiction. I would get hit with the fear of missing out and feel the strong need to immediately open Instagram and see what people were up to, what they were eating or reading or buying or sharing. It was bad and I felt like I needed a detox.

I took this photo…obviously 😉 My sweet girl with her camera:

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I remember not long before I came to that realization, I was at a local tea house with Willow sharing a pot of chai – my phone was in my purse and as I was about to grab it to snap a photo of this precious moment we were sharing, I happened to glance around and EVERY SINGLE PERSON WAS ON THEIR PHONE. Eyes glued to a screen as if in a trance. The worst part was that all of them were in the presence of another person – sitting together at a table, yet so far away. I remember seeing a little boy looking bored out of his mind while his mother was busy looking at her phone. Now, I’m going to give that mother the benefit of the doubt and guess that maybe she was sending a quick text to her husband or replying to an important message that was time sensitive. But for the sake of the message I’m trying to send here, let’s say she was scrolling Pinterest, or Facebook, or Instagram. All the while sitting with her son as if he wasn’t there. How sad is that?

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Unfortunately, this is our society. Unable to live purely in the moment and so focused on the outside world that they lose sight of within, of those around them. Unable to just BE and enjoy the person you’re with or to take in a few minutes of silence. Our phones have become a security blanket and they’ve dehumanized many of us. I personally feel that our society over-documents everything…and I was definitely guilty of that. Whether it was posting everything I ate in a day, every activity (hiking, crafting, teaching, etc.), or anything that felt share worthy, it was uploaded to my IG profile or in Insta Stories. Nothing was sacred. I remember watching some accounts’ Stories and they couldn’t even walk down the street without videoing the view…or they were recording their feet while heading to their destination. Their stories were fully loaded with every moment of their day.

Our discomfort with confronting ourselves in the naked stillness of absolute quiet lead us to eat too much, drink excessively, socialize mindlessly, and engage in a host of activities out of a desire to simply avoid being still. This constant whirring in our minds creates disharmony and imbalance. The mind simply cannot function at its optimum level when it’s constantly under siege from endless opinions, criticism, and ideas. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

I would spend hours browsing on Pinterest, pinning recipes I’d like to make one day, or projects I had hoped to do, or ways to “improve” something. I was getting so caught up in things I’d like to do one day, rather than enjoying what I had in the here and now. Like many of you, I was being bombarded with allowing myself to be bombarded with hidden messages/things that I should be doing…that my current state (diet, health, life, etc) wasn’t enough. Not to mention, I’d sometimes lose hours out of my night browsing! I’m sure some of you know how that goes…you go on to search for a broccoli soup recipe and before you know it, you’re looking at funny cat videos or something.

Mindless activity. That was my habit. I had to be doing something.

One of our greatest untapped allies in life is silence. Most of us are terrified to enter it, believing it to mean nothingness just because it doesn’t involve some sort of doing. Being still in silence is uncomfortable for most of us not only because it runs counter to the diet of constant busyness and achievement we were raised on, but because it puts us painfully in touch with the emptiness within where our true self ought to be. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

I traded in my nightly Pinterest obsession and mindless Instagram scrolling for reading, meditation, or anything else that could be considered “me time.” Josh goes to bed early almost every night (he works crazy hours) and Willow is my night owl buddy until about 10pm, but then after she falls asleep, I focus on me. Well, that is if I don’t fall asleep with her! If that’s the case, I do my “me time” in the morning before she wakes up..I’m lucky that she sleeps in until 8-9am.

Willow caught me enjoying a quiet moment…

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

Meditation came into play when everything happened with Abbey and I felt a pull to go inward. It was something I had always wanted to incorporate on a regular basis, but I was really good about making excuses…and honestly, social media kept telling me there was a right way and a wrong way to meditate. BUT just like diet and lifestyle, TO EACH THEIR OWN. You figure out what works for YOU and do it! Ignore the outside chatter and recognize what feels good in your heart.

That was when I stumbled upon Insight Timer (an app) and it became a part of my daily/nightly routine. Taking a few minutes out of my day or night to sit quietly with a guided (or music) meditation changed everything for me. It woke something up inside of me and helped me to become my true self…my highest self.

I learned that meditation doesn’t require sitting in silence for an hour…I can work with the time I have or how I’m feeling. Some nights I listen to a short 8-9 minute guided meditation and other nights I enjoy an hour long one.

Sitting in stillness for a few minutes through the day allows us to begin to be aware of our essence, enabling us to recharge. Taking a few minutes to sit and place our awareness on our breath provides a break from the barrage of information our minds are constantly asked to process. These few minutes in centering allow us to remember what really matters in life – connection to self and others. Despite having all the trappings of external achievement, if we don’t have connection, we essentially have nothing. ~ Shefali Tsabary, The Awakened Family

Meditation has helped to bring a sense of calm and peace to my mind all day. If I feel myself getting tense or worked up, it is easy for me now to stop and focus on my breathing…to bring myself to the present moment. I’m also able to meet Willow’s occasional meltdowns with calmness rather than chaos. The best part is that my practices have rubbed off onto Willow. Some nights we’ll lay in bed and listen to one together, at her request. Her favorites are any by Sarah Blondin’s: Live Awake. You can find her meditations through Insight Timer or her podcast. I’d have to agree with Willow, her talks are some of my favorite as well.

Here’s her profile on Insight Timer…

Throughout the day, Willow can sometimes be heard saying, “I want to enjoy the quiet.” She’s able to recognize when she’s feeling overwhelmed or in need of a recharge. And that means turning off the music and allowing her to just BE. Sometimes we’ll sit together and quietly read or literally just sit and take in the silence. She’s taught me a lot.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

You know what else I learned? I was so consumed with the fear of missing out that I was actually missing what it meant to really LIVE. TO BE. TO ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS.

All of those times I was trying to capture a perfect photo of a hike or Willow riding her bike, I was actually MISSING the moment. A moment that couldn’t be rewound. Nothing was sacred, until now. Today, my phone is either in another room, hooked up to the iHome speaker so we could listen to Willow’s Spotify playlist and dance, or on airplane mode. I’m noticing things that I once overlooked and I have a newfound appreciation for others. Scents are more magical, the snowflakes falling have an almost spiritual feel to them, food tastes better, and watching Willow do the things she loves is so much more meaningful. AND I’m doing them with her!

*This is not to say that I don’t take photos anymore, because I do – I’m just more mindful of how often or how many. And I use an actual camera most times instead of my phone to avoid any distractions.

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

My experience from 2017 makes me want to stand up and shout from the rooftops, “WAKE UP, EVERYONE!!!!”

What made last year even more special, was that my relationships grew stronger and deeper. The connections were more alive and spiritual. And the friendships that were strong to begin with became unbreakable. Everything just flowed. My patience became my super power and I felt almost unstoppable. Nothing and no one could bring me down because all that mattered (and matters) is what I think and feel. I was FREE.

My photo…

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

I feel truly blessed for the friends who have remained during the last four or five months. I remember feeling an intense fear of losing connections or friends by unplugging from social media, but in reality, stepping away allowed those real friendships to shine, for them to step forward. Was it sad to lose friendships? Absolutely. But then I had to remind myself that if there really was a friendship to be had, it wouldn’t be lost.

I know I’ve rambled…A LOT and I think it’s because 2017 was a huge period of enlightenment for me and maybe some of this will resonate with one of you. And others of you might think I’m just weird. Thank you so much to anyone who reads this to the end.

Other things I’ve learned:

  • Mindfulness, meditation, and probably unplugging from social media, does wonders for my skin and digestion (hello, happy gut).
  • When I’m away from social media, I’m more creative! More ideas come to mind and things just flow.
  • If it’s important, they’ll call you. There’s a beautiful thing about a text message…it’s a message to read and reply to when the time is good for you. Although I frustrate some people with my lack of promptness! We need to stop living with phones attached to our hips and stop jumping at every notification! Be a rebel and turn those notifications off sometimes 🙂
  • I don’t like the phrase, “I’ve been busy” or “I don’t have the time.” Truth is, we all have the time, we just choose to live it differently. And we’re all, in a sense, “busy” living, but if someone or something is important to you, you find a moment to send a quick text or an email. In my opinion, if you have time to post or browse on IG, FB, or Pinterest, you have TIME to reach out to friend or read a chapter in a book.
  • I LOVE writing and sending letters to people. I started doing that again this Autumn and I feel like it’s so much more personal and meaningful. The recipient knows that I sat down with a pen and paper with them in mind…I was fully present in the moment.
  • To become your true self, you need to focus on yourself. And to trust yourself! I was constantly second guessing or doubting things about myself, but this break away from social media has shown me that some of my negative habits were influenced in fact by social media. I eat differently, feel differently, and I’m a much different consumer. No longer taking cues or messages from photos/captions people post, I stay in tune with myself. If I randomly stumble upon a product and it looks good to me, I buy it…not because a big name account said it was good. I eat and drink things because my body agrees with them and not because it’s the “right” thing to consume. Over the last few years, social media taught me to fear oil. Guess what? I cook with it sometimes and my body doesn’t hate me. I eat all the almond butter I want and don’t care about the fat grams. I eat raw foods when my body feels called to it and if my body wants a nice plate of coconut oil roasted veggies, I do it. Oh, and potatoes? Yep, they’re pretty much a daily staple (carbs are life). It’s all about how it makes YOU feel, not doing what people say is the “right” way. I admit that I definitely don’t miss reading comments on bigger accounts that are riddled with criticism and judgement. I think a lot of times we fail to recognize that everyone is different. I also don’t miss the labels that take away from the fact that we’re all human. Part of being mindful in my eating, is passing along the same practices to Willow.

Also watching Willow’s love for creating and helping in the kitchen has increased because rather than striving for a perfect outcome to match the blogger’s recipe photos, she just gets to do her thing. Being mindful of how important it is to have her involved means more to me than anything else…and to watch the excitement and pride in her eyes is priceless. Here’s a pic of the gingerbread men she made (recipe courtesy of Natalie @ Feasting on Fruit):

A Year in Gratitude (part II)

  • Unplugging and disconnecting from social media doesn’t mean I’m selfish and disconnected from life. I had someone tell me I was being selfish by stepping away from Instagram – she went on to say that it would be easier if I was on there. I had to laugh because I think she was struggling with having to actually connect with me outside of social media…it was easier for her to broadcast to a wide audience rather than connect on a more intimate level. For me, I was growing tired of reading the robotic comments that didn’t seem to have any real emotion behind them. So for someone who was craving more personal connections, I realized that social media wouldn’t fulfill that need.
  • Lastly, I learned that by being more mindful and present, I was finding more joy in the simple things. A new book from the library, building LEGOs together with Willow, or a quiet walk through the neighborhood. I hold more close to my heart and don’t feel the need to take a lot of photos anymore to share (with essentially mostly strangers) on social media.

I had someone the other day ask when or if I’m going to return to Instagram and to answer…I honestly don’t know! I’m just taking things day by day. If I wake up one morning with an urge to pop over there, then I will. But for now, I’m enjoying the interactions I have through this little blog of mine and the connections I have through texting, email and Skype. Willow keeps me present and on my toes…she also reminds me that true connections happen outside of social media.

Don’t let this girly dress and crown fool you…most days Willow can be found wearing her Spider-Man shoes and crawling around playing with Hot Wheel cars 😉

Thanks for stopping by! I promise my next post won’t be a novel 😉

A Year in Gratitude (part I)

I dedicate this post to my soul sister “weirdo” – may we always live a life filled with gratitude and find joy in the simple things. Thank you for waking me up, Karina. xo

I’m also dedicating this post to Tonya – you taught me about the beauty of unlikely friendships and to have faith. xo

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. ~ Zig Ziglar

Come January 1, 2018, Willow and I will have completed our first 365 days of writing in a gratitude journal together and if I continue down the path I’ve been on, January 1st will also mark 81 consecutive days of meditation for me. Two things that have helped me tremendously. This past year has been full of ups and downs, joy and sadness, love and loss. But more than anything, these last few months have been filled with positive growth, learning, and freedom. I honestly feel like a new person or as if I have been reunited with my soul…that I have become the very person I have aspired to be.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Those who know me well, know that I have always struggled with balance. Whether it’s biting off more than I can chew, spreading myself thin, or feeling like a failure, the one consistent thing was that I was exhausted in every sense of the word and felt like something was missing. Today, all I feel is immense gratitude and love. Love for life, love for where I’m at, love for the simple things, and a deeper love for family and close friends.

Our favorite kombucha from 2017 even fit with this post…Living in Gratitude from GT’S. Not only is the flavor incredible, but the bottle itself is beautiful. Especially this quote found on the bottle:

“When we root ourselves in gratitude, our joy grows and blossoms. It reaches up and branches out until a forest blankets the earth and fills the whole sky.”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

That quote on the kombucha bottle couldn’t be more accurate. I have found that when I am living in a state of gratitude (and not dwelling on the could haves, should haves, or negatives), my entire presence is overcome with joy…and my joy spreads onto others and vice versa. Which is why I have spent my last few months surrounding myself with those who live in gratitude and in the moment. Joy and gratitude are contagious.

We live in a very fast paced, go-go-go society and sadly, many of us have lost the beauty of stillness and being present. Falling into the habit of journaling with Willow, along with meditating, has taught me just how magical and necessary it is to be mindful. Both have taught me to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of me.

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. ~ Robert Holden

Every night, before we cuddle down to read and fall asleep, Willow and I sit down together in bed to share three things we’re grateful for. There were days where I wanted to hit a reset button or fast forward through due to the amount of meltdowns or challenges, but every single night had us focusing on the positives – the joys and things we felt incredibly blessed for. And every night, our heads hit the pillow with the rough day behind us. No longer upset or sad, but rather happy and at peace.

The other day, Willow asked to read through some of our earlier entries in the gratitude journal and a few things happened:

  1. We laughed…a lot.
  2. I noticed over time how Willow’s entries grew to be more meaningful and heartfelt.
  3. Lastly, I recognized some recurrent things that we were grateful for.

The things that came up repeatedly (and almost daily) were the little things, which in reality, were the big things: spending time with family; doing things together (reading, drawing, painting, dancing, hiking, etc.); good health; supportive + loving family and friends – both near and far. I am so incredibly grateful for my family and for the genuine friends in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I really am blessed to have relationships that feel equal and not one sided. This year I let go of those where I felt like a person of convenience and embraced those who lifted me up. Where the love and care came from both parties and not just me.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

Our first entry in the gratitude journal. Willow cracks me up with her replies the first few weeks. All about animals!

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

The theme throughout our journal was family and there was one big challenge we faced that really taught us just how important it is to stick together. Over the summer, we decided as a family that it would be best to find a new home for our dog Abbey. I saw the signs early on, but refused to face them because I loved her and selfishly wanted to keep her with us. Abbey was here for Willow’s first spoken words, when she learned to ride her tricycle (and bike with training wheels), Willow’s first camping trip, and when she started homeschool cohort. I associate a lot of memories with Abbey so this decision was definitely not an easy one. We weren’t just going to drop her off at a shelter or anything like that because despite our decision, she was part of our family. We adopted Abbey when she was 10 years old and I knew how hard it was to rehome senior animals – so after a lot of research, I found Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon. Which, as you can guess, was a group who found homes for senior dogs.

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I reached out to them via email and telephone and we began the process. I helped to write up a bio about Abbey, sent them some photos, and then we scheduled an appointment for a checkup for her with our vet. Here is when things got really rocky and stressful. We took her in for what should have been a routine dental cleaning, but we received a call about an hour after dropping her off that her liver levels were elevated. So they couldn’t do the dental – instead, we were sent home with several prescriptions and had to postpone the cleaning for another month. Throughout this process, I kept the rescue organization in the loop and they began to grow concerned about moving forward.

I prayed and envisioned Abbey in a loving home where she could live out her remaining life in peace and no longer shaking out of fear with all of the loud noises and commotion in our house (between two cats and a busy five-year-old). She deserved better and I would do everything in my power to see this through.

A few days later, I received a phone call letting me know that there was a woman interested in adopting Abbey and that she lived in a house on a few acres of land (fully fenced in). In the bio I helped to write, I mentioned that Abbey needed to be in a home without children, cats, or small dogs. This woman met the first two requirements, but I was told she had a black Labrador Retriever – so clearly not a small dog, but we’d need to see if they got along.

Well, we brought Abbey in a month later for attempt number two at a dental cleaning and just like the first try, we received a call saying that her liver levels were double or triple what they should be. I broke down. Why was this happening? Was this a sign to halt trying to find her a new home? Who would be willing to take her on with health issues and numerous prescriptions?

I prayed again and told myself that whatever happens, things will work out the way they were meant to. If that meant keeping Abbey in our home and making some major adjustments or waiting for the right new home to come along, we needed to be patient and have faith.

Sure enough, I got a call saying that the woman who was interested was still willing to give her a new home and that the liver issue and prescriptions weren’t a deal breaker. I cried a mix of happy and sad tears. Happy that Abbey would be moving on to a better suited home, but sad because it meant we were going to have to say goodbye. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.

So we set a date in September to drive to Corvallis to meet – For us to meet Tonya (the potential adopter) and her black Lab Milly. The drive there was filled with heightened emotions and I began doubting our decision…and I seriously hated myself. I remember asking for a sign to tell me that we were making the right decision and not even 20 minutes later, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I remember my heart breaking while crying tears of peace. Since we had Willow in the car, I had a lot of internal conversations going on because I didn’t want to make things harder than they were for her. I told myself that if I didn’t like Tonya’s energy, we wouldn’t go through with it. And to be honest, a part of me wanted things to fall through – I was hoping to not like her so that we could drive back home and be the family I wanted to be. Sad, right? Like I said, I hated myself.

When we arrived at our meeting spot, I lost it. Tears couldn’t be stopped and I kept hugging and telling Abbey just how much we loved her. That just because we were letting go of her didn’t mean that the love wasn’t there – it was because we loved her that we recognized she deserved better. We ended up really connecting with Tonya and I could just feel the love she has for animals. She is very passionate and her dogs are her babies. Abbey warmed up immediately to both Tonya and her dog, Milly, so I knew that this was us saying goodbye to Abbey.

The next couple of weeks were some of the hardest that we faced as a family. I thought we broke Willow. Daily meltdowns, anger, and I felt like I didn’t recognize who she was anymore. Everything was a fight – getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, leaving the house, cleaning up. All battles that I just didn’t have the strength to fight. So there were quite a few days of staying home in pjs in tears. Most days I beat myself up for being a failure to Abbey and for breaking my daughter’s heart.

What got me through? Josh listening to us cry about how much we missed Abbey and allowing us to fully process and grieve. Recognizing that we were all hurting and struggling meant that it was so important to be there for one another. To be an ear for words that needed to be spoken, a shoulder to cry on, and provide an embrace when the words wouldn’t come out. The biggest light was Tonya. We connected really well at the meeting that we exchanged phone numbers. She would text us daily with updates – letting us know how Abbey was adjusting along with an occasional photo. As the weeks went on, we really got a sense of how well Abbey was doing – as if she was thriving and getting to be the dog she was meant to be. She was exploring the land, becoming good buddies with Milly, and being spoiled by Tonya and her husband with lots of car rides, walks, and treats. One evening Tonya and I spoke on the phone for over an hour and that was when my heart was filled with tremendous peace. I knew we made the right decision and that Abbey was incredibly lucky to be with Tonya. All we ever wanted was for her to be a happy dog and Tonya has been able to make that happen. Every now and then I’ll get hit with a wave of “why couldn’t we be that home?” but more than anything I am grateful for the way things ended up. Abbey in a perfect home and Tonya gaining another baby AND I gained a friend. While it took us quite some time to fully process all of this, there were too many signs pointing to the Universe aligning our paths – that everything happened exactly as it was supposed to.

{Little similarities that made it all the more obvious our paths were supposed to cross: Tonya’s black Lab’s name is Milly….growing up, I had a black Lab named Milly. Tonya’s previous dog was named Maggie…my first dog’s name (the one before Milly) was named Maggie. And our shared love for dogs – they aren’t just a creature who walks on four legs, but rather, they have our hearts. They are family.}

From September to present day, I found myself mentioning Abbey and Tonya in our gratitude journal pretty regularly. Tonya set me free from the thoughts of being a failure and showed me that we tried all that we could to be a home for Abbey. Joy has replaced my previous feelings of sadness and pain – when I close my eyes, I can almost see Abbey’s energy and see a dog at peace – she is where she is supposed to be. And for that I am GRATEFUL.

GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE.

This year has taught me a lot. To find magic in the little things. To be be more aware and in tune. To recognize just how incredibly blessed I am. These last few months have been filled with so much beauty and joy and I can without a doubt say that going to bed with a heart full of gratitude has aided in that shift. I wake up with a grateful heart, which is how each day should be greeted. Now I see that there is SO much to be grateful for…that listing just three things each night has become difficult because I could easily write a full page. I highly recommend grabbing a notebook to start this daily/nightly habit. Just a few minutes out of your day can create big changes in your life and mindset.

I have really enjoyed watching Willow grow throughout this journey and seeing her recognize just how lucky she is has been amazing. I can see the light in her eyes when she talks about the things she is grateful for and that makes me a proud mom.

I recently asked Willow, “What do you think about writing in the gratitude journal? Do you like it?”

Her response: “I want to keep doing it when I’m 18 and 20!”

A Year in Gratitude // Be Sol-Ful Living

I’m looking forward to the next year spent in gratitude. What were some things you were grateful for in 2017?

Stay tuned for part two where I discuss meditation, mindfulness, and presence.

Thanks for stopping by! Wishing you all the very best in 2018!

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Where are my crispy cookie fans at??? Willow won’t be joining us at this cookie party because she claims these are too crispy for her…yet she will plow through those Simple Mills cookies like nothing, which are waaay crispier than these. Life with a five year old (insert the eye rolling emoji). She will, however, eat this cookie dough by the handful. Not that I’ve let her do that or anything 😉 I personally love how these have a perfect crispy exterior and a tender, chewy center. They belong with a nice glass of almond milk or a cup of coffee.

*EDIT: Willow has decided that she loves these cookies…like I said, life with a five year old!

But let’s talk about the flavor, shall we? This time of year I can’t get enough of all things ginger and all things peppermint. I ran out of time to finish trialing my gingerbread cookies, but these we’ve Josh and I have been enjoying for the last month and a half. They even got the thumbs up from my non vegan friends, which is a huge win in my book! Peppermint + chocolate + espresso powder = holiday heaven! Don’t worry, for those who aren’t too big on coffee or coffee flavor, this has a very subtle coffee accent and more of a rich chocolate-y minty flavor.

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PEPPERMINT MOCHA COOKIES

{grain-free, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, oil-free}

Makes 24-28 cookies

What you need:

  • 1 flax egg (1 Tablespoon ground flax + 3 Tablespoons water)
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond butter*
  • 1/4 cup (heaping) fair trade chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cacao powder**
  • 2 generous teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract/flavoring
  • Optional: crushed candy canes

*I have tried these with coconut butter as well, but prefer almond butter.

**I have found that different brands of cacao powder produce different shades of coloring (lighter and darker). I have been using Holy Kakow (a Portland, OR company) and my baked goods turn out really light.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Make your flax egg in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients until well combined (almond flour, coconut sugar, espresso powder, baking soda, salt).
  4. In a double boiler over low-med heat, warm the almond butter and chocolate chips until the chocolate is melted. Be sure to stir frequently with a spatula. If you don’t have a double boiler, simply use a glass bowl (or other heat safe bowl) and place over a smaller saucepan/pot of simmering water.
  5. Once the chocolate chips and almond butter are melted together, pour into the dry ingredient bowl, along with the flax egg, maple syrup, and mint extract. Stir until well combined and everything sticks together into a nice dough. Since almond flour brands vary in texture, your dough might seem a bit dry (not holding together) and if that’s the case, you can add a little more almond butter or maple syrup. ***If you would like an extra pop of mint flavor, add a tablespoon or two of crushed canes to the dough.***
  6. Next, you can either form small balls and gently flatten a bit OR roll the dough out and use cookie cutters. If you go the route of rolling out the dough, I suggest doing so between either two pieces of wax or parchment paper. No need to chill the dough! I used small star cookie cutters and got 28 cookies. The more you flatten (the thinner the cookie), the crispier they get.
  7. Leave about an inch between cookies and bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to set on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Once cooled, you can top these with frosting, drizzle with icing, dip in melted chocolate or leave as is. ENJOY!!

Store any leftovers in an airtight container…can be kept in the refrigerator if desired.

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Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!!

Thanks for stopping by – I’m sending out lots of extra love to all of you!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

Hi, my name is Mandy and I’m REALLY late to the pumpkin game. I had to squeeze it in before Thanksgiving was over because pumpkin will then be a thing of the past and we’ll be bombarded with all things Christmas and minty. Truth is, I’ve actually created a handful of pumpkin goodies this season, but obviously haven’t been very good at sharing them here – I guess I’ll be prepared for next autumn though! I’m a pro at having fun and making a mess in the kitchen, but not so good at writing down measurements, photographing, and sitting down to write a how-to post. I’m making an early resolution for next year to be better about that. Heck, since Willow is so good with writing and spelling these days, maybe she can type them up for me 😉

(super quick…I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for all of your lovely comments, messages, and emails concerning my previous post. You guys are the BEST!)

The idea for this recipe came to me while falling asleep one night…like many ideas. Luckily I jotted things down before I passed out. Raise your hand if that’s happened to you! You say to yourself, “oh, I’ll remember it” and then wake up to everything all fuzzy. Good news is that this only took two trials to make it a reality! In the past, I had always made my crusts with either walnuts, almonds, or a combo of both. The idea that came to mind was for a buttery, almost cookie-like crust to be paired with a creamy, tangy filling. And how do you achieve a buttery richness without actual butter or oil??? PECANS!! And the addition of coconut butter just takes it over the edge. Baking the crust also helps bring out the butteriness and gives a nice slightly crispy texture.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH PECAN COOKIE CRUST

{vegan, grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free}

WHAT YOU NEED:

For the crust:

  • 2 cups raw pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons softened coconut butter*
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt (optional)

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked for 4 hours)
  • 1/2 cup COYO plain yogurt**
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons softened coconut butter*
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch Himalayan salt (optional)

*NOT coconut oil. To soften the butter, you can either place the jar in a bowl of hot water or gently warm some in the oven while preheating.

**I have not tried this with any other coconut yogurt. I LOVE COYO because they don’t add sweetener, gums, citric acid, or natural flavors. I also love how thick their yogurt is! If you do use a different brand, you might need to add a little more cashews.

HOW TO:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Add the pecans into a food processor and pulse into fine pieces. Next add the remaining crust ingredients and pulse until a crust-like texture is formed (should stick together when you squeeze it with your fingers). If it doesn’t seem to hold together, then add a little more softened coconut butter.
  3. Press the crust into the bottom of a springform pan until evenly spread out and gently pierce with a fork all over. I used this 7″ pan. You can use muffin/tart tins if you don’t have a springform pan*
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the crust is golden. If using muffin tins, check at the 5 minute mark. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. While the crust is cooling, add all of your filling ingredients into a high-speed blender and mix until smooth. You can adjust the sweetness level (or salt) if desired. Once the crust is cooled, pour the filling over it and smooth out with a spatula. I also gently tap the pan against the counter to release any bubbles.
  6. Transfer the cheesecake to the freezer to chill for about 6-8 hours (best overnight). Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then slice and enjoy! Great topped with cinnamon, coconut whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer.

*If using muffin tins, use a strip of parchment paper in each cup before pressing in the crust. This will make for easier removal once the cheesecake is set (see photo below).

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

For blogging purposes, I used most of the crust in my 7″ springform pan and the remaining to make 12 mini tarts. If you do use a springform pan, I probably wouldn’t go any bigger than a 9″ because it would be a fairly thin cheesecake (crust and filling). Had I used the full recipe in my 7″ springform pan, there would be a generous layer of crust and thicker filling.

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

And here’s what the little tarts look like…I went heavier on the crust with these because I LOVE crust ❤

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Cookie Crust

I have another recipe coming (hopefully sooner than later) using this crust and it may or may not involve chocolate…stay tuned.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to those celebrating!

Thanks for stopping by!

October 2017 Favorites

Hello, friends!! Happy November!

Good news…I’m typing most of this from our computer (cue happy dancing)! Bad news….I can’t upload photos to the computer, so we’re dealing with low quality phone pics again, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!


Before I dive into the highlights and favorites from October, I wanted to share a quick story. About a month ago, I received an email from WordPress telling me that the card they have on file expired and that I needed to update it if I wanted to renew my site. At that point, I was on the fence about where I was headed – I was in the middle of debating whether or not to continue writing in this space. You see, I was feeling a bit lost, unworthy, and unmotivated (in regards to this blog). Definitely not a good place to be. One night, before bed, I asked for a sign to tell me what I should do. The next morning I woke up to two new subscribers to this little blog of mine and took that as my sign to continue here for the time being. SO, thank you, to those two new subscribers. I was surprised to see that, considering I’ve only published two posts over the course of six months. I’ve renewed my site for the next year and I guess we’ll see what happens. My hope is that I’ll feel more motivated to actually share some of the recipes I’ve created over these last several months! I really do love to write and have done a lot of it outside of this space, but I think it just took some time and gentle reminders from friends as to why I even started this blog. Thank you to those who continue to read my rambles and support me here, it really does mean a lot. ❤

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OCTOBER FAVORITES:


ZUCCA SPICE >> Osmia Organics | Artisanal Soap >> My friend, Jen, sent me a beautiful ‘Happy Autumn’ box and in it was this delicious bar of soap. I almost didn’t want to use it because it was so perfectly and wonderfully packaged AND I wanted to be able to smell it forever! But I’m using it and loving it…A LOT. It’s incredibly creamy with a gentle lather and doesn’t leave a perfume-y, intoxicating scent on your skin. The aroma is warm and cozy in the shower (literally screams Autumn…kinda like pumpkin spice latte meets the woods) and you’re left with soft, happy skin. It looks like they’re all sold out of Zucca Spice, but I’ve got my eye on a few other scents!

October 2017 Favorites // Be Sol-Ful Living
CHEWY CHOCOLATE BROWNIE COOKIES >> Feasting on Fruit >> Willow had been asking to make these ever since I showed her Natalie’s video…and since it involved a lot of chocolate, she was super happy to help make them! We skipped the walnuts (since we’re avoiding them for Willow) and ours didn’t turn out nearly as dark as Natalie’s, BUT they tasted delicious! Definitely brownie-like, chewy, fudgy, and not overly sweet.


CINNAMON STREUSEL ZUCCHINI BREAD >> Feasting on Fruit >> We made this not once, not twice, BUT THREE TIMES!!! It’s seriously that good. So good that we shared some of the second loaf with friends (non vegan) and they all asked for the recipe. I think this is my favorite recipe of Natalie’s…and I’ve made quite a few of her creations, so that’s saying a lot! If you were to offer me something chocolatey or a slice of this zucchini bread, I would take the bread every time. I loved lightly reheating a slice in the oven to go with my tea and I’m not ashamed to admit that I ate some for breakfast one morning with Willow.

October 2017 Favorites // Be Sol-Ful Living

October 2017 Favorites // Be Sol-Ful Living

TRADER JOE’S VEGAN KALE CASHEW & BASIL PESTO >> Josh brought this home from work a couple of weeks ago and it has become our new favorite! Yes, I know we could make our own, but when a store carries a legit pre-packaged item (no citric acid, sugar, gums, etc.), I like to support that. It tastes super fresh and packs a lot of flavor. We even got Willow to eat some, which is huge. Things we’ve tried it with: Simple Mills crackers, fresh veggies, Trader Joe’s lentil noodles, potatoes, and homemade pizza.

October 2017 Favorites // Be Sol-Ful Living

TESSEMAE’S ORGANIC KETCHUP >> I feel so silly for putting store bought ketchup on my favorites list, BUT it’s seriously good. I’m all about making things from scratch, but I’m always on the hunt for healthy, convenient options when you’re in a pinch. Most store bought ketchups contain sugar, citric acid, and other random additives that we avoid….So I was excited to find an alternative that was free from all of that! It’s sweetened with dates, but doesn’t taste like dates – I promise. I don’t use ketchup very often, but Josh and I were talking about it randomly one day and suddenly craved it! I’ve been loving it with roasted potato wedges. I found it in the refrigerated section at Natural Grocers.

October 2017 Favorites

Easy DIY Halloween Luminaries >> This was such a FUN craft to do with Willow!!! She even asked to make a couple for her favorite Natural Grocers and Whole Foods employees ❤ Be prepared though to get sticky and messy! The YouTube video is insanely cute and worth the watch. We bought some of those LED tea lights from the dollar store, repurposed some tomato sauce and salsa jars, and found tissue paper on sale…so this was a really inexpensive project!

They look more yellow (as opposed to orange) in the photo below, but I think it’s because of the yellow tea light inside the jar.


INSIGHT TIMER >> I’ve been working a lot more with focusing on my personal path, digging deep, and letting go of the things hindering my growth. One of the things that has helped tremendously is the free app, Insight Timer. There are countless guided meditations, talks, and music for various areas (sleep, inspiration, calming, refocus, etc.). I try to take time to listen to music or a guided mediation twice a day and I’ve noticed tremendous change in my overall attitude and well-being. The best part is that even Willow asks to listen to some of the sessions (she loves the singing bowls most). There was a period of time last month where I was struggling with insomnia and the sleep meditations really helped to calm my mind and get me ready to sleep. I highly recommend it!

OUR ANNUAL ADVENTURE TO DEVILS LAKE! This is about an hour away from us and we love to go before they close access for the winter. We weren’t prepared for as much snow and hiked to the lake in regular hiking shoes (Willow wore rain boots) and forgot our gloves at home! But there is nothing better than being surrounded by tall trees, fresh snow, and stillness. The only noise is from the gentle rippling stream and an occasional bird. Absolute peace. Here are some of my favorite photos from the day:



VEGAN CREAM CHEESE ALFREDO >> The Vegan 8 >> Brandi does it again! Another delicious (almost drinkable) sauce that I want to put on everything. She’s kind of the queen of heavenly sauces – I had already made her garlic afredo sauce from a few years ago and loved it, so I already knew that I was going to really enjoy this one! Brandi is so good about seasonings and flavor and she’s taught me to have a heavier hand when it comes to using spices/herbs…a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs in this recipe was so perfect. Incredibly creamy, rich, and went so well with everything I paired it with! The first night we poured some over cauliflower and purple sweet potato. The next night I dipped roasted potato wedges in it. SO GOOD!

October 2017 Favorites
October 2017 Favorites

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH ICE CREAM >> Feasting on Fruit >> Natalie has introduced me to a new favorite way to use roasted butternut squash! My brain always goes to soup – in fact, we’ve made butternut squash soup at least four times this season already. So when I saw this new recipe waiting for me in my inbox from Natalie, I was intrigued. Roasted butternut is the way to go – roasting brings out the flavor and natural sweetness of this divine squash. It’s what we do for soup, so it made perfect sense to me to roast it up for this delicious ice cream! And oh, goodness. It WAS delicious! So cinnamon-y, creamy, sweet, and she was right when she said, “cold + cozy.” We topped ours with extra (lots of extra) cinnamon and chopped pecans. I can’t wait to make it again!

October 2017 Favorites

HOLIDAY CHEERS >> HEALTH-ADE KOMBUCHA >> I found it! I finally found it!!! And I know it’s not the holiday season just yet, but I couldn’t resist. Thank you, Whole Foods, for carrying this!! I tried finding it last year, but didn’t have any luck. This is definitely one of my top 3 brands because the sugar content is super low….this entire bottle has 4g. I love the cozy, but not overpowering flavor (ginger + cacao + allspice) and slight sweetness. I think I need to stock up on more next shopping trip!

October 2017 Favorites
 
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BOOKS:

Here is what I read and loved from mid-September through October! (Not pictured: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown – I loaned my copy to my Mom). I HIGHLY recommend reading it.

October 2017 Favorites
I read Light is the New Black for the third time and I swear it helps to refocus and recenter me every time. I know I’ll read it again and again.

I also wrapped up A Court of Thorns and Roses series and just, wow. I was SO sad to finish it and even struggled to get into another book afterwards because Maas did such an amazing job sucking me into the world and its characters.


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Have you watched anything good lately??? It’s been a few months since I’ve watched anything on Netflix or really anything besides an occasional YouTube video, but last week my parents watched Willow for a few hours so Josh and I could start the second season of Stranger Things! Gah!!!! It is so good. We’re hoping to finish it up this week or next.

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I’ll leave you with this photo of my little Wonder Woman ❤

She only knows about Wonder Woman through reading books and has become obsessed with her…so it was no surprise to us when she asked to get a Wonder Woman costume.


I hope you all have a wonderful November!

Thanks for stopping by!

Summer Favorites 2017

**I meant to share this post a couple of weeks ago, but apparently forgot to schedule it!**

Hello, everyone! It has been quite some time since I’ve written anything in this space – and I’ve attempted a few times to sit down and pour out some words…only to delete it all. It was a heavy summer filled with loss, hard times, and frustration and the fact that our computer is on its last leg didn’t help much. Yep, I’m typing this post from my phone…totally not fun, but it’s helping to force me to let go of “perfection.” All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone and aren’t edited. These words were typed in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep. 

{{I’m dedicating this post to Jen, one of my best friends. Thank you for always inspiring me and pushing me in ways you will probably never realize…I don’t think I will ever be able to fully express my gratitude.}}

This was definitely not a normal summer for us – usually we went on a new (or revisited an old favorite) hike each week, but with all of the wildfires, we were forced to stay indoors for most of it to spare our lungs.

BUT it’s officially Autumn and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m ready to pull out the heavy blankets, cozy sweaters, and let go of summer. I’m ready to welcome change in every sense of the word. Before I say goodbye to summer, I wanted to share a quick…or not so quick recap of my favorites!

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**If you’re used to reading my “favorites” posts, you’ll know they’re always organized by products, recipes, etc – this post is not. I’ve compiled my favorites here in the order they happened or when they were tried. If I continue with these posts, I’ll definitely go back to a more organized fashion! Hopefully by then our computer will be nicer to me!

SUMMER FAVORITES 2017

We flew to Vermont in June to spend a couple of weeks with Josh’s family and to get away from tourist crazy Bend! Felt good to visit with everyone. While there, we took a road trip to Rhode Island to spend a day with Jen and Tyler!!! (Seriously my favorite people) It’s truly incredible to spend time with people who just get you. Conversations flow and it’s definitely nice to not have to explain your reasoning behind certain choices (lifestyle, diet, etc) because for the most part, our values align. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m grateful to have them in my life.


Playing KUBB with Josh’s family! Even Willow got into it! If you haven’t played this lawn game, definitely check it out! Loads of fun!

Spending a couple of hours at The Montshire Museum of Science in Vermont. It’s amazing to watch your child light up with excitement to learn. I think she needs a microscope for Christmas…she literally spent 30+min using it!


Another highlight….FINALLY getting to meet Jen and Mike (and Eily + Taco) in real life! They came through Bend in July and we got to spend a few days with them. Feels like we’ve been friends forever and I know we will be. If you’re not familiar with their Etsy shop, Compassionate Paws, definitely check them out. 


Teaching Willow how to play UNO. Let’s just say there were a few days of nonstop games. So fun!

Josh and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary with a hike! My parents were so kind to spend the day with Willow while we finally got to complete this gorgeous hike at Clear Lake.

While in Rhode Island, Jen sent us home with some goodies and this tea became my favorite. I loved it so much that I shared some with my Mom. 

Vegan Lemon Sauce with Basil >> The Vegan 8 >> Yet another fantastic recipe from Brandi! So rich in flavor with the perfect lemon tang and the basil is a lovely addition. We used potato noodles (made with our spiralizer) instead of edamame noodles. I used leftover sauce on roasted veggies the following day. SO good!

FERRERAW ROCHERS >> @mindful_moose eBook >>  Jess and I have been long time friends on Instagram and I was so excited when she released this beauty of a book! Lots of delicious recipes. It’s no surprise that our first choice was a decadent chocolate recipe. Willow and I had a blast making these and my entire family approved!

CRISPY ROASTED CURRIED CAULIFLOWER >> @thefitforkfeed >> Lindsay shares my love for cauliflower and curry so I obviously jumped on this recipe as soon as she shared it on her page!! She shares a lot of amazing recipes within her posts on IG – I would highly recommend giving her a “follow!”

Oh!

And Wildbrine’s fermented Sriracha! We love how it’s raw and doesn’t contain things like citric acid, “natural flavors,” sugar, etc. It tastes SO fresh!

Poor photo, but I can’t say it enough, I wish everyone would watch this documentary! Such an eye opener and I really enjoyed the variety of doctors interviewed and how it didn’t feel like a preachy film. I learned a lot!

Watching the solar eclipse with Willow and my Dad! Thanks, Mom, for making that awesome setup for Willow to ease my worried mind!

MAPLE WALNUT CREAM CHEESE >> Veggie Inspired Journey >> I could cry. The photo somehow got erased from my phone!! But if you click HERE, I’m hoping you can see the photo I posted on IG. This was a huge family hit (entire family, including my Oma). We paired it with banana bread and Willow ate a good bit by the spoonful! Haha!

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Buddha Chocolate Coffee Fudge Cups. Oh, my. Paleo, vegan, and worth every penny. And it’s an Oregon company! We found this at Market of Choice here in Bend and they were sold out of all the other options by this company….which made me believe it had to be amazing. I can’t wait to try other products!

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Remember how I said Jen sent me home with some goodies?? Well, she included some books (the bottom three in the stack below). I spent all of my summer with my nose in a book and these were my absolute favorite! The Outlander series is incredible and while I’m dying to start the fourth one, I decided to take a little breather and read something else! Ha! I have reviews for most of these on Goodreads. Are you on there??? If you are please let me know! And if you’re not (and you’re a big reader), definitely check it out!

I just have to add…Lily and the Octopus has my heart. SO GOOD!!! Even Josh read it and loved it!

Acorn ring made by Tamara of The Striped Cat Metalworks >> You guys. Have you seen her creations? I’ve been following her for a while on IG and have admired her craftiness….when she posted about this acorn ring and that a portion of the sales go to help the squirrels, I had to order one. And guess what? When my order arrived I was so surprised to see a little ring she made just for Willow! You can absolutely feel the love she puts into her work.

Circle Creations: 3 Cami Bra Package Deal

I will be the first to admit that I am “cheap” with some things. Bras were one of them. In the past I would get them from Target or Kohls…and I hated every single one. They were uncomfortable or broke after a few washes or wears. Finally, last month, I said, “I’m done. I NEED to find a bra I can get behind and one that is made with organic materials.” I immediately went to Etsy and ended up finding a shop in Oregon. I was SO hesitant to invest more than my usual $10-20 per bra, but I took the plunge and ordered a three pack! After reading every single review, I chose to order up from my usual size small and I’m glad I did. I AM IN LOVE WITH THESE BRAS!!!!! Hands down the most comfortable bra I have ever owned – I honestly forget I’m even wearing it. They’re beautifully and wonderfully made, they were shipped fast, and I feel good supporting a company who uses sustainable materials. Click HERE to view these bras. Also know that they offer them for sale individually for $36.

Nothing new, but being silly with this kid is my favorite. And this was probably my favorite Instagram post in a long time. It felt good to not care what people think and to really connect with people. I seriously had so much fun reading the comments and thank you to those who played along!

Homeschooling a kindergartner now! Woohoo! Crazy how fast time flies. She’s not a baby anymore!


3-Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Pots >> Feasting on Fruit >> If you have a major sweet tooth AND you love chocolate (who doesn’t???) then you need to try these!! They’re fluffy, dreamy, crazy rich pots of deliciousness. And believe me, you’ll only be able to take a few bites…it’s that rich.

Favorite local shop! Forge Humanity. Beautiful space, amazing people, and every single product goes to support a cause. For example, this book I bought Willow helps give 10 people clean water for a year! If you’re ever in Bend, Oregon, definitely stop in! 


Vegan Lemon Bars with Spiced Tahini Caramel >> The Vegan 8 >> This is a recipe of Brandi’s from 2014!!!! And I finally tried it last month for the first time. If you know me, you know I’m addicted to tahini. BUT for those of you who are not, rest assured these aren’t strong in tahini flavor. Definitely rich and a small square is plenty, but that bite of spiced caramel is heaven. It truly makes these bars fantastic and pairs so perfectly with the lemon. This was absolutely with the wait and will definitely be a repeat recipe.

Coconut Secret UnGranola Bar: I. Am. Hooked!!!!!! Found these at Market of Choice and I was so excited! I should add that Willow is obsessed with them too! I love that they’re grain-free, soy-free, cane sugar-free (sweetened with coconut nectar), and they use fair trade chocolate!

Also, these Chaco sandals are the best. I have worn nothing else (literally every single day) for the last five months and I’ll be sad when I have to break out socks. I have worn these on 5+ mile hikes and normal every day wear – so comfortable!

Went on a date with Josh to Salud! All raw and everything is delicious! We found a coupon for buy one get one half off so we took advantage. We love this spot, but prefer to save money and eat at home. Our meals were amazing though (as usual). Plus it feels good to support a local business who cares about health!

Addicting. That is all I will say….


Chocolate Monkey Bread >> Feasting on Fruit >> I’ve never actually had monkey bread before and after having this version, I don’t think I need to try another…because it’s amazing!! Fudgy, gooey, balls of brownie. BUT it’s fruit sweetened, grain-free, and vegan (of course). This was gone in a flash and we’ll definitely make it again for soon!

The Fit Fork Feed : Everything Bagel Crusted Cauliflower >> She shared this recipe on her Instagram…if you can’t find it, let me know and I’ll tag you in her post! I hope this works…click HERE to see her IG post.


Favorite movies that Josh and I saw in the theater:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  • Wonder Woman 
  • Baby Driver

As always, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me some of your favorites from the summer! Books? Movies? Recipes? Moments? 

Thanks for stopping by!

❤️

RECIPE: AIP Banana Bread Pancakes

I have been trying to make a good AIP pancake now for months. I’m talking since way back in September. And when I say ‘good’ I mean so good that Willow doesn’t even miss the chocolate chips. When I presented this trial to her a couple of weeks ago, she hesitated to take a bite, but when she did, her face lit up. After three pancakes worth, she said, “these are my favorite! Can you keep making them??” YAY!! I finally did it! And the best part was that she didn’t even ask where the chocolate chips were, she just kept eating.

AIP Banana Bread Pancakes
In past trials, I’ve thrown in chocolate chips to make up for the gummy or mushy center…or to cover up the strange aftertaste. Thus defeating the purpose of AIP! After adjusting a few key ingredients, there is no need for masking flavors and I actually prefer these without maple syrup to keep the sweetness level lower…but I totally add a TON of extra cinnamon on top!

Every time we make these, our house smells like freshly baked banana bread for the rest of the day. It’s wonderful!

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AIP Banana Bread Pancakes
AIP BANANA BREAD PANCAKES

{grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan}

Makes 7-8 small pancakes

What you need:

  • 1 cup tigernut flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda*
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar*
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
  • pinch Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup gum-free coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider

*The combination of baking soda + cream of tartar is to replicate baking powder. Being on an AIP diet means staying away from commercial baking powders as they tend to contain cornstarch. If you’re not following an AIP diet, use 1 teaspoon of baking powder instead of the baking soda + cream of tartar.

How to:

  1. Start heating your pan over low-medium heat. I tend to keep it at notch 4 with my electric stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients; breaking apart any clumps of tigernut flour.
  3. Next, stir in the mashed banana and coconut milk. Finally, add in the apple cider vinegar and stir until just combined. This batter will be very thick.
  4. Add about a teaspoon of coconut oil to your hot pan and scoop small amounts of pancake batter into the pan and smooth it out into a circle with the back of a spoon. I personally like to use an ice cream scooper to make pancakes. With this specific recipe, I fill the scoop halfway because I find that they’re easier to flip when smaller.
  5. Allow to cook for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Unlike usual pancakes, these do not bubble up or get super dry edges to indicate when it’s time to flip. Depending on what pan you use, you might have to add more oil.
  6. Enjoy with maple syrup, fresh fruit, and extra cinnamon!

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 AIP Banana Bread Pancakes

Let me know if you give this recipe a try! Either come back and leave me some feedback or tag me on Instagram @be.sol.ful

Thanks for stopping by!