RECIPE: Spirulina Bites

These little bites are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals which makes them the perfect snack for a picky eater or a quick boost after a workout!

RECIPE: Spirulina Bites

Spirulina is one of our top superfoods that we always have stocked in our pantry as it contains an abundance of nutrients. Here’s the label from our Spirulina Pacifica bottle (we buy ours via Amazon):

SP_SFP_Pwd_16oz

Willow and I threw this together a couple of weeks ago and she couldn’t stop eating it right out of the food processor. She enjoys them rolled in coconut or finely chopped dark chocolate.

RECIPE: Spirulina Bites

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SPIRULINA BITES: {raw, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, vegan}

Makes 16 bites

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup raw tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds (ground or whole)*
  • 1 Tablespoon spirulina
  • 1 Tablespoon raw protein powder (optional)**
  • shredded coconut, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and/or chopped dark chocolate for rolling (optional)

*I occasionally grind my chia seeds in my nut/spice grinder to create a smoother bite, but it’s not necessary. Keeping them whole will give these bites a little crunch.

**I used Raw Power! Protein Superfood Vanilla and purchase it via The Raw Food World. I like this brand as it uses only superfoods, no fillers, gums, added sugar or sweeteners.

How to:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor; process until your desired consistency. If you like a chunkier bite, pulse it just enough to get the dates broken apart and ingredients combined. Run it longer for a smoother consistency.
  2. Roll into balls (approximately the size of a tablespoon) and roll in optional coconut, cacao, cacao nibs or chopped dark chocolate. Please note that the coconut butter will initially make these a bit oily, but this will change once the bites have had a chance to set.
  3. Place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and let them set in the freezer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Enjoy! Best if stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

RECIPE: Spirulina Bites

RECIPE: Spirulina Bites

*For the ones rolled in chocolate, I used Equal Exchange Organic (Fair Trade) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and chopped them up. I purchased them on sale at Whole Foods and love that there’s only three ingredients. They’re vegan and soy-free.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we go through 5-6 bunches of organic kale a week. My body literally craves it! Our favorite ways to enjoy kale: lightly sauteed, thrown in a smoothie, salads and kale chips!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to chip flavors and since we’ve been on a big ranch dressing kick lately, we thought ranch kale chips would be perfect! These are so simple to throw together and you can use the leftover ranch dressing for salads, wraps or veggie burgers…or toss it with another bunch of kale!

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

My little assistant helped me tear the kale from the stems, make the dressing and happily licked the Vitamix clean…and quickly grabbed for some when the chips were finally ready! I love having these on hand for a healthy toddler snack.

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

RAW RANCH KALE CHIPS: {raw, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, vegan}

What you need:

  • 1 bunch of organic kale
  • 3/4 cups raw cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours)
  • 2 Tablespoons raw hemp seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup + 3 Tablespoons filtered water*

*more or less depending on the consistency you prefer.

How to:

  1. Tear the kale away from the stem into desired size, wash, and dry thoroughly. If you have a salad spinner, I highly recommend throwing the kale in there to get the excess water off.
  2. Drain and rinse your cashews; add to high-speed blender.
  3. Add the remaining dry ingredients, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of water to start. Blend until smooth, adding more water if needed (or desired). I used an additional 3 Tablespoons of water to make it easy to pour, but not runny. Salt to taste.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with 1/4 cup of the ranch dressing – adding more, as needed, to evenly coat the kale. A thicker coating will will lead to longer dehydrating time. You can sprinkle extra salt, hemp seeds or dill at this time.
  5. Place the kale in a single layer on your dehydrator sheets. Mine filled two Excalibur sheets. Set the temp for 105-115° and allow to dry for 5-8 hours (depending on your dehydrator, temp, and thickness of coating).
  6. Store leftover ranch dressing in an airtight container (in the fridge) and kale chips are best stored in glass jars. ENJOY!

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

RECIPE: Raw Ranch Kale Chips

Thanks for stopping by!

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chickpeas

Anytime I’m able to sneak a little extra protein into Willow’s food, I do it. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about why we’re so protein obsessed and when it comes to Willow, we need to make sure she’s getting enough. Our naturopath concluded last year that Willow struggles with protein absorption, so her meals and snacks usually involve a little protein boost. She also used to struggle with moods and meltdowns frequently (several times a day), but when we began to keep up with her protein intake and more snacks, her moods became balanced and she could better convey what she wanted or needed. Amazing what a little change in daily routine will do. I’m working on a post that lists our favorite protein packed snacks and meals that are Willow-approved (aka picky eater approved)!

OK, moving on to this little addictive snack! We LOVE roasted chickpeas, especially when they’re crispy. The possibilities are endless with flavor ideas and ways to eat them – on salad, soup, pizza, pasta or just by the handful. I think it’s safe to say that roasted chickpeas are a favorite snack here in our house!

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chickpeas

In my quest to give these a little protein boost, I got hit with the idea to toss them in homemade vegan parmesan!

PARMESAN CRUSTED CHICKPEAS: {gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free, vegan}

What you need:

  • 3 cups of cooked chickpeas*
  • 2 teaspoons melted coconut oil (or low sodium veggie broth for an oil-free option)**
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Vegan Parmesan (store bought or my recipe below)
  • 1/4 tsp (or more) smoked paprika
  • salt to taste

*rinsed, dried thoroughly and I recommend removing the skins for an extra crispy chickpea! We prefer buying dried beans and cooking them up on our own as opposed to using canned or boxed – they taste so much better!

**I have tried both methods, but found that the use of coconut oil created not only a crispier chickpea, but I also preferred the flavor from the coconut oil mixed with the parmesan.

For the parmesan:

Makes approx 3/4 cups worth, so you’ll have leftovers; best if stored in a glass jar, refrigerated.

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chickpeas

 

 

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons raw hemp seeds
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unfortified nutritional yeast (optional, but I recommend)
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • salt to taste

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, pulse your cashews, hemp seeds, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt until it is finely ground, almost powder-like. If you have a nut/spice grinder, you can also use that (in small batches) which works better to achieve a fine powder-like consistency.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss your chickpeas with the melted coconut oil or veggie broth until evenly coated. Then add in desired amount of vegan parmesan and paprika if using. You can also add extra salt if you’d like. Stir with a spatula until well combined and then spread out in a single layer on your baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 15-20 minutes; shake the pan or stir around the chickpeas and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy.
  5. Remove from oven and ENJOY! You can also sprinkle them with extra vegan parmesan, like we did. Allow them to cool completely before storing away any leftovers. We store our leftovers in a sealed glass Mason jar.

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chickpeas

RECIPE: Parmesan Crusted Chickpeas

Thanks for stopping by!

REVIEW: September Favorites

Hello, friends! I don’t know about you, but September flew by faster than any month so far. Hard to believe that the holidays are fast approaching. You’ll be happy to hear that this post isn’t nearly as long as my Summer Favorites round-up! We didn’t try very many new products and my list of books and recipes is short and sweet. As always, if you have any current favorites, please leave me a comment below!

PRODUCTS WE TRIED & LOVED:

Kite Hill Yogurts >>

REVIEW: September Favorites

Kite Hill is a Whole Foods Exclusive brand @ $1.89/ea

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably read how excited I was when these hit our Whole Foods right around Labor Day. I’ve mentioned Kite Hill in a previous favorites post for their Soft Fresh Truffle Chive & Dill product. When I heard that they were coming out with a yogurt, I knew they were going to be amazing. I’ve purchased quite a few other dairy-free yogurts, but none blew me away. The texture was always off or they were overly sweet. When I pulled back the label of Kite Hill’s Blueberry yogurt, my eyes lit up. No curdled, chunky texture, just smooth, creamy deliciousness. I’ve tried all of the options (Plain, Vanilla, Blueberry, Strawberry and Peach) and loved every single one. I was never a fan of the fruit-filled or fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, but I have to say, these were outstanding. They didn’t require a lot of stirring/mixing up and the fruit actually tasted fresh. If you ask Willow, she’ll tell you Vanilla is her favorite…but she’ll eat around the fruit in the others.

REVIEW: September Favorites

PASCHA Chocolate: 70% Cacao {Organic, Allergen Free}  >> Another Whole Foods find and well worth the price…although, my mom purchased it (on sale) and put it in my shopping bag when I wasn’t looking. It is often times difficult to find chocolate that doesn’t contain soy lecithin, so I’m always excited when I find a brand that is soy-free. This chocolate is incredibly smooth and rich, but not intense like a lot of dark chocolate (I actually love the really intense flavors). What attracted me most to this company was how they use very few ingredients and all of it fair trade and organic. Their chocolate is also made in a dedicated allergen free facility, which is huge. Our Whole Foods carries two of their full size chocolate bars (as seen in the photo below) and their mini bars. On their website, I noticed that they offer several other options, such as one with maca, lucuma or Arabica coffee. The 70% cacao bar is Willow approved, but I’m pretty sure she’d love them all.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Yumbutter Organic Superfood Peanut Butter >> We’ve tried and loved their sunflower seed butter (mentioned in a favorites post a good bit back) and we finally got around to trying their peanut butter this month. SO good. Willow and I packed it with us to take on a recent rockhounding adventure and it hit the spot with Le Pain des fleurs Organic Buckwheat Crispbread.

Rockhounding treasures! LOTS of agates, Jasper and petrified wood.

Books I Read and Enjoyed:

I’ve read quite a few books over the last month or so, but here are the ones that stood out:

Cold Black Earth by Sam Reaves >> This was another Kindle First (free download) for me and it was a well written murder mystery. I only get to read after Willow is asleep and I found myself staying up until almost 1:00 AM because it was almost impossible to put down. I will admit, the book starts off slow, but stick with it…I promise it’s REALLY good. The author did a fantastic job pulling you in and there were times where my heart was racing and I was holding my breath. It takes place in a small town in Illinois (which is partly why I chose it) and is about a woman who comes back home after leaving the combat zone and a painful divorce in hopes to pick up the pieces. While back home, an inmate escapes from a local prison and murders begin. Just when I thought I had figured out who the killer was, I had to think again!

Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story by Mariam Gates >> Every so often, we take Willow to Barnes & Noble to browse and sit on the floor to read a few books. We stumbled upon this sweet book and had to get it. She was so excited to add this into our nightly routine – we do each pose as a family before cuddling up in bed to read some books. The illustrations are beautiful and the author does a wonderful job of inducing relaxation. The poses are simple and we find Willow doing them throughout the day on her own. Such a perfect way to end the day.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel >> My mom bought this book for us a good bit ago, but I just finished it last month. While the book is geared towards an older age group (5-12), I found it to be incredibly useful – I recommend it to every parent to read and reread. It’s a book to help with anxiety, stress and to help with concentration. It has definitely helped me to be more mindful over the last month. I’d like to share an excerpt from Chapter 2 (Parenting with Greater Mindfulness):

Presence enables you to be simply here – in contact with this moment. With these feelings and thoughts – open, curious, generous, and without an immediate opinion. Present with that small hand in yours. Present with the temper tantrum. Present with the daily school run. Present in all those moments of happiness, misfortune, routine, and everything in between. The more present you are, the less you miss. This is never a question of good or bad. Being fully present is enough.

This book goes hand in hand with my recent post – Unplug to Reconnect. It’s a gentle reminder to be present in this life – to become more focused and patient. I look forward to reading this again with Willow in a year or two. She wanted to read it now, but when she saw that it wasn’t quite a picture book like she’s used to, she lost interest. The book comes with a CD of guided exercises that I have not listened to yet.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson >> I am still reading this one, but I love it so far. I have my dear friend, Julie, to thank for the recommendation. It’s a young adult book that moves fast and keeps you on the edge of your seat. {Steelheart is book one in a series} The story takes place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic city (Chicago) where we learn about Epics (people with extraordinary powers – evil) and Reckoners (ordinary people who have made it their mission to learn about the Epics’ individual weaknesses and assassinate them). The main character, David, has made it his life’s mission to eliminate Steelheart.

What I’m watching:

I thought I’d start a section in these ‘Favorites’ posts where I share any movies, shows, documentaries that I’ve watched during the month. We don’t have TV service, not even basic cable, so Netflix and Amazon Prime are our sources of entertainment.

True Detective Season 1 >> Josh and I watched this together via DVDs (eight episodes). It is a HBO series and season one stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey…enough said. Ok, I’m kidding, but seriously, you can’t really beat that pair. With each movie/show that I’ve seen with either one of those actors, I am blown away by their talent. This show wasn’t any different – they become the characters – it doesn’t feel like acting. True Detective is a crime drama about two detectives, “Rust” and “Marty,” and a 17-year manhunt. It’s dark, at times very heavy, but nothing short of amazing. We got sucked into the series before the first episode was even over.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Other shows I’ve been watching on occasion via Netflix & Amazon Prime:

  • Bones season 10
  • Covert Affairs
  • Justified

Recipes we tried and loved:

We made a lot of repeat recipes last month, along with creating our own, but here are the few we fell in love with:

Plant Strong Vegan:

Sriracha Sweet Chili Wings >> Words don’t even begin to describe how amazing this recipe is. The first time we made this, I forgot to grab the sweet chili sauce while grocery shopping, so I had to improvise. I used Coconut Aminos Teriyaki sauce and a little avocado oil. Willow LOVED them! Broccoli is my absolute favorite veggie, so finding new ways to cook it makes me happy. And when your picky toddler approves, even better. No joke, Willow requests this all the time. For example, just today she said to me, “Mom, can Dad bring some broccoli home tomorrow so we can have sticky broccoli?” That’s what she calls it – “sticky broccoli” ❤ We’ve made this several times – using teriyaki sauce and the way Margaret wrote the recipe (using Sriracha and sweet chili sauce)….the spicier recipe isn’t Willow friendly, so we make her a separate batch using a mild sauce of some sort. We made homemade pizza last week and chopped up the wings for a topping, along with some homemade white sauce. I love these way more than cauliflower wings – the texture is incredible and her method is genius. The one thing we learned to do is to brush a little oil on the parchment paper before putting the broccoli on there – makes for easier flipping.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Broccoli wings using Coconut Aminos Teriyaki sauce and avocado oil. Served with organic basmati rice.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Homemade pizza crust using the King Arthur gluten-free pizza crust recipe (leaving out buttermilk powder), topped with homemade white sauce and Plant Strong Vegan’s Sriracha Sweet Chili Wings. Ahhhhmazing!

REVIEW: September Favorites

Creamy Hemp Pesto Alfredo Fettuccine with Oil-Free Roasted Garlic >> This was a three-part recipe and each one fantastic. Just more evidence that hemp seeds are truly magical. I also love that Margaret shared her method for roasting garlic that didn’t require oil OR the use of aluminum foil. The creamy Alfredo sauce didn’t use the typical cashews as a base, which was a nice change…and less expensive to make. I loved how well the pesto paired with the Alfredo – it provided a big pop of flavor and I was pleasantly surprised when Willow approved of this meal. We’ll definitely be adding this recipe into our pasta night rotation!

The Vegan 8:

Fudgy Coconut Butter Brownies >> I knew these were going to be amazing before I even made them. Brandi is incredibly talented at creating dessert recipes that are oil-free. While I no longer follow a strict oil-free “diet” I do like to watch my consumption. If you make these, definitely go the extra step and make your own coconut butter…she provides instruction on how to do that if you’ve never made your own before. The brownies are insanely rich and fudgy – If you love chocolate like we do, you will love these…I promise.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash with Black Bean Guacamole (Oh She Glows} >> My dear friend, Diana, has raved about this recipe a few times and we FINALLY made it and loved it. Insanely easy to make and a short ingredient list. Sadly, Willow did not try this as she likes things to be separated…black beans on their own, avocado alone, and “noodles” in either cheeze sauce or tomato sauce…so this was far from being a Willow meal. That’s ok, that just meant more for Josh and me! Don’t worry, she didn’t starve, we made sure to prepare a pasta dish for her.

REVIEW: September Favorites

Thanks for stopping by!

Unplug to Reconnect

I have been unplugged from social media for over a week now. One full week. It was never my intention, but after two getaways with my family where I didn’t use my phone for anything other than texting, I came to a sad realization. We, as a society (myself included), spend far too much time on our phones. We get so caught up in the lives of others or documenting our own, that we forget to just LIVE. I would feel the urge to grab my phone and browse to see what everyone was up to or I’d get anxious about the emails that I needed to respond to. It made me think back to what my life was like before social media. Years ago, before I got sucked into the online world of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and Googling everything, my life was very different. I used to spend more time reading, writing, creating, exercising and simply being more present in the moment. Since Willow was just a few months old, I began writing in a journal to her every night. I realized just how much things had changed when I opened her journal one night and saw that it had been two weeks since I wrote anything. But that wasn’t the only thing that changed.

Unplug to Reconnect

After returning from our camping getaway, you might remember me saying how I felt overwhelmed. During our two days away, I had my phone off and out of sight. I didn’t get distracted by incoming texts, notifications from IG or Pinterest and I had no idea how many unread emails I had…until I turned it back on. Those two days were incredibly freeing. I found I was more present and mindful as a mother and wife. There was more eye contact, deeper conversations and just an overall increase in engaging interactions. Turning my phone back on immediately brought about anxiety with all the things I felt “needed” to be done. Then my overnight getaway to Seattle with Josh for the Trader Joe’s party opened my eyes even more. I was spending far too much time on my phone after Willow fell asleep that I was missing out on quality spouse time. After Willow fell asleep, we were doing our own things – he would read, play video games or fall asleep early, while I spent hours catching up online.

Before Willow was born, Josh and I did everything together. Not because we felt we had to – we genuinely enjoy one another’s company. We’d go grocery shopping together, cook together, watch movies together and just spend time together. When we became parents, our focus and priority became Willow – her health, happiness and well-being takes the top spot. We soak up all the precious time with her, but my time with Josh is just as precious. You see, Josh works 50+ hours a week and not your typical Monday-Friday 9-5 gig. His work week starts on Friday (12pm-10pm) and ends on Tuesday (4am-2pm). Hours are all over the place with long work days.The recent trip to Seattle made me realize just how important it is to have that time together. I was reminded of all the little things we take for granted, such as an uninterrupted conversation or cuddling up on the couch together to watch an episode or two of a series.

When i was smacked in the face with the realization that I was spending too much time on my phone, something had to be done. So, I unplugged. I turned off push notifications, told myself I wasn’t allowed to open the IG app, and only checked my email once a day (I would have cut it out all together, but emails are how I get notified of an Etsy sale). As the days went by, I found myself becoming less stressed and overwhelmed and more calm and mindful. I could feel creativity creeping back in and far less distracted. My days were filled with more joy, smiles, laughter and adventure because I was less worried about catching up. It was honestly freeing. Rather than reaching for my phone excessively to capture photos of food or something that Willow was doing, I was learning to just live in the moment and ENJOY.

Unplug to Reconnect

I highly recommend clicking on this link HERE – you’ll see some photos that show you just how much our society is heavily dependent on their phones, along with some pretty great quotes.

Here are some observations I’ve made, as well as things I’ve noticed within myself. If any of the following signs hit home, you might want to unplug for a bit. I honestly feel that all of us could benefit from unplugging, even if it’s for a day or two.

10 Signs you Need to Unplug:

  1. When you wake up, you instantly reach for your phone to check your online profiles – who “liked” or commented on your posts, who started following you or browse your Facebook/IG feed. I’ve been guilty of this. I used to be so good about saying affirmations or just taking a few deep breaths before greeting the day. Lately I find that some mornings I am too quick to grab for my phone to see what I missed. Most mornings I sleep in with Willow and don’t have time to even bother with my phone. I now realize that whatever I “missed” can wait. Unless it’s an urgent voicemail or text message, it can all wait.
  2. You can’t go a few hours or an entire day without checking your feed and/or online profiles. Really pay attention to just how often you’re reaching for your phone.    
  3. Your child has to repeatedly say, “look at me!” or has to repeatedly call for your attention because you’re too busy on your phone. I’m generally pretty good about staying off my phone while Willow is awake. I’ll occasionally text someone back, post a quick photo on Instagram or glance at emails, but I stopped browsing IG a long time ago and wait until Willow is asleep. Why? It hit me one day that I want Willow to look over at me and see me looking back at her. She shouldn’t have to hear the words, “Hold on” or “One minute.”  I don’t want her to know me as the mom who is glued to her phone. I want her to know that she is far more important than online profiles and the number of followers I have. I’ll never forget this awful play date we had last year. The mom had her phone in her hand the entire time – I think we made eye contact once during the few hours we spent at her house. She was consumed with replying to emails, texts and who knows what else. What saddened me most was her son’s behavior and how she reacted to him. He was screaming, throwing himself on the floor and clearly in need of attention. Rather than talking with him and figuring out what was going on, she took him up to his room for a “time out” and left him there for a good 20 minutes. Willow and I sat there awkwardly playing while she resumed whatever she was doing on her phone. That was the one and only play date we had with that family.
  4. You find your mood being negatively affected after time spent online. I will be the first to admit this has happened to me. Whether it was a hurtful comment, judgmental post or people unfollowing me, I no longer take it personal. There will always be haters and the amount of followers you have does not dictate your value or importance. Within the last month or so, I stopped looking at the numbers and post whatever I feel like. I tried running two separate accounts on IG, but it was time-consuming and I realized I’d rather attract people who were interested in all aspects of what I post. This works for me, but I can understand why people keep it professional. Along those lines though, when your online profile begins to feel more like a chore and less fun, that is a clear sign that something needs to change…or you need a break.
  5. You spend more time on Facebook/IG (etc.) rather than spending real quality time with the people in your life. I already discussed this earlier in the post.
  6. A large portion of your day/night is spent replying to emails, comments on posts or browsing the web. We co-sleep with Willow and after she has fallen asleep in my arms or on top of me, I reach for my phone and catch up. I had no idea just how much time I was spending on my phone until I timed it one night. Responding back to individual comments, questions, direct messages on Instagram and then browsing/catching up with what others were up to….are you ready for it…three hours. THREE HOURS. It was then that I realized that I can no longer use the “excuse” I don’t have time. Those few hours could have been spent meditating, doing yoga, exercising, writing, reading and a long list of other things I struggle with finding the time to do. Limit usage, for example, allow yourself to spend an hour to browse or respond to comments. Remember, it can wait – so don’t feel like it all has to be done in one sitting.
  7. Your phone joins you at meal time(s). I know many of you are guilty of this one. Josh and I don’t use the phone during meal times together, but I’m guilty of snapping photos of our meal before eating. I’ll be eating dinner with my family and in my head I’m planning out the caption to go with the photo. Rather than being present at dinner and spending REAL time together, my mind is elsewhere. Such a sad thing to admit.
  8. You feel the need to document everything online (what you ate, what you’re wearing, what you’re doing) – in other words, if you’re posting excessively. I’d like to think that I’m not one to post excessively. I try to limit myself to one or two posts a day, if that. Ask yourself, “Who am I posting this for?” and “Why?” Are you trying to impress someone or gain popularity? Think of social media as a way to inspire – a tool to spread knowledge or ideas. I recently unfollowed a page that was posting six or seven times a day….every day. It all felt repetitive and this person was sending the message that he/she spent ALL day on there.
  9. You feel the urge or need to respond to every comment or email right away. Guilty. When I started receiving more comments on my posts, I felt the need to rush to respond back. I know it’s not expected of me, but I like to respond to each comment individually. To let the person know that I read and acknowledged their comment/question. I later realized that it can wait. I can’t do it all – no one can.
  10. Your sleep is suffering. Are you going to bed too late and waking up exhausted? I was. There were a few nights where I was up until 1:00 am responding to IG notifications and/or emails and then waking up wiped out. Willow typically sleeps through the night, but sometimes she wakes up needing me. So, on those mornings, I was extra exhausted which lead to me feeling lazy, sluggish, grumpy and stressed. I’ve heard some people say that they charge their phone outside of the bedroom so as not to be tempted to check it so frequently OR spend the last hour before you go to bed phone-free. Use that time to meditate, journal or read a book.

I will be the first to admit that finding balance is hard. My struggle is that I can’t do things half-heartedly…for me, I put all my focus and energy into whatever it is that I’m doing. Trying to do that across the board meant spreading myself thin. I could literally feel myself breaking apart. When I begin to feel overwhelmed or too anxious, I pull back from just about everything. Everything but being a mom. Making the decision to be a parent is a HUGE responsibility and it was MY decision…not Willow’s. I think as parents, we need to be more mindful and remember that WE brought our children into this world, that they deserve our undivided attention. I feel happiest when Willow is happy. When I know that I did the best I could, that I soaked up the moments with her. We’ve also made the decision to unschool, so over this last week, it has been a lot of fun being 100% focused on following Willow’s lead. Her passion for learning is strong and that’s something I want (and need) to keep feeding. I’ve done a lot of reading on mindfulness over the years and here’s a short list of ways to be more mindful as a parent…which is deeply connected to unplugging from technology.

Unplug to Reconnect

How to be a More Mindful, Present Parent:

  1. Put your phone away and spend actual time WITH your child.
  2. Turn off push notifications for social media, emails, etc.
  3. Turn off the TV.
  4. Let go of the To-Do lists.
  5. Always make eye contact while talking with your child.
  6. Get down on their level – play on the floor, sit next to them.
  7. Be a “YES” parent.
  8. Involve your child in day-to-day activities.
  9. Put yourself in their shoes.
  10. Forgive yourself.

I’m not saying that you can’t use your phone at all during your child’s awake time, but most definitely put a limit on your use. If you’re one to check your phone every 20 minutes, try limiting it to every hour or two. If you feel the need to carry your phone in your back pocket, don’t. You’re a parent and the people who know you, know that. Don’t feel like you have to respond to every text immediately or rush to the phone with every beep, or vibration. If it’s important, they’ll call you! Let go of expectations – rather than being consumed with all that “needs” to be done, realize that none of it is going anywhere…it will be there later. If you have deadlines to meet or feel pressure, don’t hesitate to ask for help – whether from your significant other, a close friend or family. Don’t use the TV as a babysitter. When you are spending time with your child, get down on the ground and play with them! Whether it’s doing a floor puzzle, building with Legos or digging in the dirt – they appreciate you joining in with them. Willow’s face lights up every time I grab crayons to color with her or when we build a tall tower of blocks together just to knock them all down. I do believe that independent play is important, but if they ask you to do something with them, don’t deprive them of that.

Unplug to Reconnect

Our little nature girl.

I was in Target the other day and the number of times I heard this mom say, “no” to her child was ridiculous. I’m not saying that we should spoil our kids and say “yes” to everything, but what’s the harm in a $1 pack of note cards or post-its? Avoid the power struggles and learn to pick your battles. I always think to myself, “how would it feel if that were said or done to me?” I’m pretty sure I would feel defeated if everything I brought up was greeted with a “NO.”

The one thing in the list above that was a bit hard for me at first, but definitely an important one, is to include your child in day-to-day activities. I am a perfectionist and sometimes I’d rather do something myself so it gets done in a timely fashion. As Willow has gotten older, I realize that everything is a learning opportunity, a chance to teach responsibility or new experiences. A meal that would take me 20-30 minutes to put together will now take an hour or longer, but Willow LOVES to help and it is all worth it to see the smile on her face. Same goes for when we started involving her in feeding our dog, Abbey. Willow runs to help and does it proudly. What used to be a quick 30 minute workout, now takes a good bit longer because I’m either teaching Willow a new move or we’re rolling on the ground laughing.

Unplug to Reconnect

Excuse the poor quality of this photo and our mess of a kitchen, but here’s our sweet girl focused hard on helping with dinner.

I am far from being a perfect mom or wife, but I learn from mistakes and greet each day as another chance to do better. When you find yourself juggling a lot of tasks or responsibilities, it is important to find that balance. Don’t let the stress of it all get the best of you. There is absolutely NO shame in taking a step back, a break or unplugging from it all for a bit. For me, I needed to unplug from almost all of it to center my soul and reconnect with the people I love. If you’ve never disconnected from your phone before, do it. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Thanks for stopping by!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Beverly Beach {Oregon Coast}

***If you have zero interest in reading about our actual adventure and only care to see what we packed (along with tips), please scroll to the end.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015:

Most parents would opt for backyard camping or close enough to home for their first outing with a three-year old (and a neurotic rescue dog), but not us. Nope. Instead we chose to drive 3.5 hours to the Oregon Coast. Both Josh and I grew up camping with our families and I can’t thank them enough for exposing us at an early age because I truly believe that’s where our love for the outdoors began. So, we had a lot of faith that Willow would enjoy it just as much as us. We also started a little family tradition the year Willow was born…after Labor Day, we spend a couple of days at Beverly Beach. This time, we decided to camp and I have to say, it was the best idea ever.

Preparing and leaving for our trip had a few hiccups. First, Willow had a ROUGH week leading up to Tuesday. A handful of sleep deprived nights, lots of meltdowns, tears from all, patience being tested and pretty much sheer exhaustion. Which is why I failed to make the meals I had hoped to for the trip. So, instead of homemade chili, I bought a refrigerated container, instead of homemade soup, I picked up a carton of low-sodium organic tomato soup (could be worse) and I forgot to pack the chickpea flour to make chickpea “eggs” for breakfast. Oh, well. Life happens, we still ate some pretty fantastic food (which I’ll share below) and everyone was content…almost.

The second hiccup was that Josh had hoped to get out of work at noon the day we were leaving. Instead, he got out a few hours later and we didn’t hit the road until just after 3:30pm – which would have been fine if we didn’t have a good drive ahead of us. Speaking of the drive…I got carsick. Didn’t actually vomit, but got pretty close to it. I forgot about the LONG stretch of winding roads…lots of sharp curves. We pulled over a couple of times, I even drove part of the way hoping that would relieve the nausea.

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Ok, so the final hiccup of that day…when we finally arrived and picked out our site, it was dark! It took me about a half hour to finally get a text delivered to my parents to let them know we arrived safely and then I turned my phone off (no cell service meant we were completely unplugged)! We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and obviously still needed to set up the tent. I think it’s safe to say that we were all a bit hangry and tired, BUT we managed and went to bed happy. Well, almost. The unhappy being in our group was Abbey, our neurotic rescue dog. She completely freaked out when we zipped the tent up for the night. I had her bed set up next to my sleeping bag and she could not get comfortable. She was shaking so bad that I could literally hear her teeth chattering. She was pacing and obviously scared. So, I sat up with her until she calmed down and eventually she found comfort on top of my legs, on my sleeping bag. If it meant she would sleep, I was 100% ok with that! Willow on the other hand, was so tired that first night that she fell asleep almost instantly, without me reading a single page.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015:

I woke up first, to the sound of all the birds and then again to Willow asking to cuddle in my sleeping bag…a typical morning routine at our house (but minus the sleeping bag).

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Nothing better than waking up to this kid every morning!

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As you can see, I didn’t have much room to stretch my legs!

There is something about sleeping surrounded by trees, outside in fresh, clean air that brings about a sense of peace and rejuvenation. We took our time getting out from under the blankets since it was cozy and the air was cool. But we were super excited to start the day! No real agenda, just to walk to the beach and relax. I managed to make granola the night before we left, so our first morning we enjoyed The Vegan 8’s Double Chocolate Molasses Granola with some Kite Hill Vanilla Yogurt. Josh used our percolator for the first time ever and made a semi decent cup of coffee, but we didn’t bring enough ground coffee to make more the next morning.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

The Vegan 8’s Double Chocolate Molasses Granola and Kite Hill Vanilla Yogurt.

After breakfast, we got dressed, packed a bag with towels, snacks, water and the camera, then walked to the beach! It was incredibly foggy when we first arrived, but so beautiful. Willow was in heaven with sand between her toes, water to splash in, room to run and rocks to throw.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

All the moisture/humidity in the air made Willow’s hair a lot curlier and a good few inches shorter!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Willow was soaked and since it was on the chilly side, we wanted to get her into some dry clothes and also grab lunch so, we walked back to our campsite. Josh cooked up some super simple quesadillas using mini organic corn tortillas and vegan cheese. We also had some crackers and hummus before packing up to head back to the beach. This time we remembered to grab Willow’s buckets and shovel. The fog had burned off for the most part, but the winds picked up so, we cut our visit short after Willow got sand in her eyes.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Willow made me bring this hat and I’m SO glad she did because it was super windy…and not showering for a couple days covered up my messy hair.

Me: “Willow! Can you please take a picture of mama and dada?”

Willow: “Sure, sure!”

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

I think she got distracted by the ocean! Haha!!

When we got back to the campsite, we just bummed around – Willow did some digging in the dirt and running around while Abbey continued her neurotic ways and didn’t eat for 24 hours. This dog just doesn’t know the meaning of relax! Lots of pacing and any movement on our part made her sit up. Not to mention all the birds and squirrels drove her nuts!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Sipping on some Humm kombucha!

Dinner that evening was:

While I got dinner started, Josh worked on getting the campfire going. FYI, Willow is NOT a fan of fire. Not one bit. We were able to distract her enough during dinner, but as soon as dinner was done, she wanted to hang out in the tent.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

This happens every time I ask her to smile for me…cracks me up!

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Do you see that Abbey actually has her eyes closed?!?! A rare moment captured on film.

I very rarely drink, but Josh found these pretty fantastic kombucha beers by Unity Vibration. Made with organic ingredients, raw, gluten-free AND vegan. You know my love for kombucha – one sip and I was sold. It’s pretty much kombucha with a bite. We’ve tried the Triple Goddess Raspberry and Triple Goddess Ginger…I’d have to say I prefer the ginger one, but the raspberry was delicious, too! Not gonna lie, they’re expensive, but this was a special occasion. We found them at Whole Foods in the beer department.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Klean Kanteen filled with water (and a Herbivore Clothing sticker); In the bowl – rice, chili, cheeze sauce, guacamole.

Willow and I relaxed in the tent while Josh sat by the fire and finished reading his book. Abbey couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to do. Sometime after the sun set, Willow asked me to read her a book and passed out not long after. I’m beginning to think we should just live in a tent out in the woods! If you were to ask Willow, I’m sure she’d agree…or maybe she was a fan of the later bedtime.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Thursday, September 10, 2015:

After a second smooth night, we had a quiet breakfast and took our time packing things up. Willow ate her favorite cereal – Love Grown Foods Chocolate Power O’s and also had some apple slices. Josh and I had some granola and a slice of Happy Campers Cravin’ Raisin Cinnamon Spice Bread (got it on sale at Natural Grocers) that we quickly “toasted” using our camping grill.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

We made some adjustments packing-wise for the way home because the way to the campsite was incredibly cramped and I didn’t secure the bungee cords very well…which meant things toppled over onto poor Abbey in the very back. So, we set up a cozy area for Abbey on the other side of Willow and loaded the back of the car and front seat with everything else. I can always be found riding next to Willow in the backseat – been doing that since she was born and it works for us…makes for super smooth car rides.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

It worked out much better for all of us when we moved Abbey to the backseat next to Willow.

On the way home we had to make a stop in Newport at the Gluten Free Place to pick up a couple of treats. The baker there makes everything soy-free and always has a few vegan options. We grabbed a couple of Almond Joy Scones and some amazing chocolate chip cookies. I failed to take a photo because the camera was packed away and my phone was dead. But trust me, it was delicious! The trip home went fast with one stop to use the bathroom. Back in Bend it was 90 degrees and when I turned my phone on I saw that I had over 200 unread emails….and was reminded of all the projects I had to work on. I quickly sent my parents a text and shut it off. I immediately wanted to go back on vacation where the only responsibility I had was being a mom! Coming back from a vacation, no matter how short, is always hard. But we’re getting back into the swing of things, tackling one load of laundry at a time and slowly chipping away at all the emails.

Tips and what we learned:

For those who haven’t been camping before, or haven’t tackled the adventure yet with a toddler, I thought I’d share our essentials and what helped us! Along with what we will pack for next time. This campsite was at a state park, which meant we had bathrooms with toilets that flushed and running water. So, your essentials list will vary depending on where you camp. Some sites might even have electricity…ours did not. Beverly Beach State Park was clean, decently quiet and was $21/night for tent camping.

What we packed for our Essentials: {For 2 nights}: Our families did a great job stocking us up with some awesome camping equipment for a wedding gift six years ago so, the only thing we had to run out and buy last minute was a lantern. I highly recommend grabbing a big Rubbermaid bin to store the “kitchen” things.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Going clockwise: Large cooler; Coleman Camp Grill; Battery operated lantern, one of our large hydroflasks full of water, percolator; Large Rubbermaid bin with “kitchen” items, such as plates, bowls, cups, pots, pans, paper towels, etc.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

Our cooler was filled with apples, kombucha, granola, gluten-free bread, hummus, celery, chili, cheeze sauce, guacamole, unsweetened almond milk, yogurt, tortillas, cheeze and the photo on the right is peanut butter and maple syrup (rather than bringing along entire containers/jars, pack smaller portions with just what you need).

  • A large cooler (we have an awesome 5-day one that kept everything super cold for the duration of our stay)
  • Ice/Ice packs. We froze some water in empty sparkling water bottles and they stayed frozen the entire time, which kept our cooler super cold.
  • Plenty of water (we filled all of our Hydroflasks, Klean Kanteens along with grabbing six large Trader Joe’s bottled waters).
  • A lantern
  • Flashlights/headlamps
  • Spare batteries (for the lantern and Willow’s light up octopus)
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Tent and poles (I joke about this because one year my Dad forgot the tent poles while we were camping…we ended up sleeping in the truck).
  • Ground cover to place between the tent and ground to help with wetness/moisture
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Extra blankets
  • Towels (we packed beach towels, wash cloths and dish towels)
  • Toilet paper (you never know! thankfully they were really great about keeping the bathrooms stocked).
  • Camp stove/propane (you could easily cook directly over the campfire, but since we knew Willow wasn’t a fan of fire, we brought the stove).
  • pots/pans
  • cooking utensils
  • bowls, plates, cups, silverware
  • Small cutting board and knife
  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags/recycling bags
  • Honest Company baby wipes (came in handy for quick wipe downs at the end of the day)
  • hand soap
  • dish soap (we ended up not using it. Instead we just rinsed, wiped and dried)
  • Plenty of extra clothes…especially for your child!

Food/snacks we brought:

  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Peanut butter
  • maple syrup
  • Homemade granola
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Tortillas
  • Chili
  • Tomato Soup
  • Leftover (cooked) rice
  • Veggie burgers
  • Follow your Heart Provolone Slices
  • Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s
  • Silver Hills Chia Bread and Happy Campers Cravin’ Raisin Cinnamon Spice Bread
  • GoMacro bars
  • Gopal’s Power Wraps (curry)
  • Sweet potato crackers
  • Organic raisins
  • Unsweetened banana chips
  • Numi tea bags

How to camp with a toddler:

Simple. Bring a little bit of home with you. For Willow that meant a few favorite bedtime books, blankets, lovies and her light up octopus. I brought some crayons and coloring books, but we didn’t need them at all. Since Willow is a huge fan of being outdoors and we spend a lot of time hiking and exploring, this wasn’t a huge adjustment. Let them have their own flashlight. Kids love feeling like they’re in charge of something. Also, get them their own sleeping bag! For Christmas, Josh’s sister got Willow this awesome sleeping bag with her name sewn on it…she thinks it’s the best thing ever and it made her feel independent, like a big girl. We packed the Ergo because that is Willow’s comfort. She likes to be close to me so, this came in handy walking to and from the beach. Lastly, let them be a kid and get dirty! This is where the plenty of  extra clothes comes into play.

Vegan Camping with a Toddler and Neurotic Dog // Be Sol-Ful

(Left): Willow’s headlamp, Ergo carrier and I reused an empty container of face wash and filled it with non-toxic/vegan hand soap. I actually always bring a travel size container of hand soap when we travel anywhere because I don’t trust soaps in hotels (etc.) especially because it’s usually anti-bacterial soap…not safe for you at all! (Right): A few Willow essentials – dinosaur book, blanket, light up octopus and her favorite lovie (Sandy the turtle).

Camping with a dog:

Every dog is different and from what I’ve learned, not every dog is a camping kinda dog! We brought an extra long leash to attach to the picnic table (or tree) to allow for more “freedom” to walk and roam while also being safe within our sight. You have to adhere to leash laws and in this case, I’m glad we had to have her on leash because I’m 100% positive Abbey would have chased after every single squirrel. Bring their food/water dishes and some treats; we also brought a towel for her in case she needed to be rinsed off. Kind of like camping with a kid, bring a little bit of home with them, too. In this case, we brought her bed…which she didn’t use as she preferred sleeping on me on my sleeping bag. Finally, poop bags and lots of patience!

What we would pack for next time:

You live and learn, right? Well, in this case, we camped and realized a short list of things we’d bring for our next trip. We will invest in some camping/sleeping pads to provide some extra cushion between the sleeping bag and ground – we have an air mattress, but it’s not big enough to hold all three of us comfortably. A hatchet to chop the fire wood (help create some kindling), ropes to secure our camping hammock, calming essential oils, Abbey’s Rescue Remedy (she clearly needed some help calming her anxiety), more ground coffee, we’ll pack our French press for a better cup of coffee (or learn how to properly use the percolator) and definitely invest in a rooftop car carrier to help provide more room inside the car.

If any of you camping pros can provide any other tips or tricks, please share in a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

RECIPE: PB&J Oats

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written a blog post! This summer is flying by and it’s been a hot one, which means less time experimenting in our little kitchen. We ban the use of the oven once the temps get into the 80’s (we don’t have AC) and we’ve had several days of near or above 100, so I guess you can say we’ve been living off of quick meals that require little to no cooking. But I do have a super simple recipe for you today!

Peanut butter and jelly will forever be that classic combo – it brings me back to being a kid. For me, it’s a favorite comfort food. Recently, I made Natalie’s (of Feasting on Fruit) PB&J Popcorn and not only was it amazing, but it was fun to make and eat! She has a ton of creative kid-friendly snacks and treats that are picky eater approved…and by picky eater, I’m talking about Willow 😉 Natalie inspired me to use this classic comfort food combination in our breakfast oats and it’s quickly become my go-to when we’re not drinking a smoothie.

PB&J Oats {soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, oil-free, vegan}

Serves 1

What you need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your choice of milk)*
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 heaping TBSP creamy unsalted peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract**
  • pinch of Himalayan salt**
  • 1 TBSP fruit sweetened jam/jelly
  • 2 tsp chia seeds**

*Can use water in place of milk, but it won’t be quite as creamy.

**Optional ingredients

How to:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine your milk, oats and peanut butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Lower the temperature a little once it starts bubbling/boiling. Cook until liquid is absorbed or until your desired consistency is reached. I cooked mine for about 12 minutes, but our stove isn’t the best (everything takes longer to cook).
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt, if using.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chia seeds and jam. I used organic blueberry jam (apple juice sweetened). Oats fill me up fast, so this recipe makes enough for me to share some with Willow.

We’ve made this several times and Willow talked me into adding some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips one morning and I have to say, it was delicious! Other toppings that are great with this: hemp seeds, sprinkle of coconut sugar, shredded coconut and cacao nibs.

RECIPE: PB&J Oats // Be Sol-Ful

Stay tuned later this month for my summer favorites round-up and some exciting announcements! Hope everyone is having a great summer!

Thanks for stopping by!