You are Enough

You are enough. Three simple, yet powerful words. Three words that need to be used more than they are. By me. And by YOU.

You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone – profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are. ~ Danielle LaPorte

Be unapologetically YOU.

My first name, Amanda, means “lovable; worthy of love,” yet I’ve struggled hard with feeling worthy and there have been so many days where I think I’m difficult to love. I’m not sharing any of this to fish for compliments or to be pitied, but rather to paint a picture of how society sets us up to dislike ourselves. That we need to fit within a certain box, otherwise we’re not worthy. This past year has been a game changer for me – tested me, pushed me, and opened my eyes to the heart of the matter. I want to share all of this with you because while I have felt a shift in my thinking, I know many still struggle.
I’m here to tell you that what you really need is to find peace within. To recognize that you are worthy at this very moment. You are ENOUGH. If you follow me on Instagram, you most likely saw the post I shared on my birthday along with this amazing poem:

“Never trust a mirror,

For a mirror always lies,

It makes you think that all your worth,

Can be seen on the outside,

Never trust a mirror.

It only shows you what’s skin deep,

You can’t see how your eyelids flutter,

When you’re drifting off to sleep,

It doesn’t show you what the world sees,

When you’re only being you,

Or how your eyes light up,

When you’re loving what you do,

It doesn’t capture when you’re smiling,

When no one else can see,

And your reflection cannot tell you,

Everything you mean to me,

Never trust a mirror,

For it only shows your skin,

And if you think that dictates your worth,

It’s time you looked within.”

~ Erin Hanson

Social media is a blessing and a curse. I have a love-hate relationship with it but lately it’s been getting better with adjusting my mindset. I have to frequently check myself and step away for my personal sanity, but I have watched it destroy others – to the point where they completely lost themselves or their self-worth hit an all-time low. 

My battle with self-love dates back to high school and got harder along the way with toxic relationships. I heard it all (from men and women):

“not skinny enough”

“fat face”

“big-boned”

“breast implants could help”

“not pretty enough”

“eyes are too big”

“too sensitive”

“needs a backbone”

I could go on, but it’s kind of depressing…and in the past. Disordered eating and body dysmorphia became a part of my life. Rather than looking within, I became obsessed with the reflection in the mirror and food…and not in a healthy way. It took a lot of hard work, time, and weeding out who I allowed in my life to get where I am today. Perfectly imperfect.


Going back to when I said social media is a blessing and a curse. When I talk about social media, I’m referring to Instagram (IG) because I left Facebook a few years ago as it wasn’t healthy for me. Instagram has connected me with so many amazing, inspiring, empowering people – some of them I consider my dearest friends, most of them I haven’t even met in person. And some of them are people I’ve known personally for years (former co-workers, school friends, family) – it’s a blessing to have an app to keep us in the loop of one another’s lives. To connect us. It feels good to be supported – to get a virtual hug, high-five, and the occasional “I’ve been there, mama” or “me too!”

Now the curse. The overly filtered, heavily edited, perfectly staged, selectively chosen pictures that are posted. Combined with the competitiveness and elitist attitude from some of the people…it can be a pretty toxic space…if you’re not careful. Did you know that I have received a quite few messages about how my photos could use some work or how to improve my blog or how to gain more followers? You probably didn’t. And while I try not to let that sort of stuff get to me, catch me on a bad day and I will over analyze everything and shut down. I’m not looking to grow my page or blog. To me, Instagram is my life in photos. Family, nature, food, and anything in between…I guess I consider myself a lifestyle page and to me, it’s kind of like a digital diary, an account of the delicious recipes I’ve tried, beautiful hiking spots, and my world…Willow. I post things that genuinely excite me or make me happy – I never post something as a way to impress someone or gain anything. Same goes for my blog – it’s more of a hobby for me. Something I genuinely enjoy because I write for me and if anyone happens to read my rambles, it’s just an added bonus. I don’t take the time to use a photo editor app or perfectly stage my food…nothing against those who do, for me, I just want to eat my food and I’ll occasionally snap a quick, in-the-moment pic, but that’s because I want to enjoy my food while it’s still hot or devour it before it melts. I can absolutely appreciate those gorgeous photos and even if I don’t photograph my food, I still make it pretty…does that make sense? But I need to digress because this rant is not where I intended this to go!

Back to curse. Not everyone on social media is genuine or compassionate. Just like in real life. It can be a selfish world and by that I mean, there are people who are only on there to benefit themselves, even if it means hurting others along the way. For example, there are accounts on IG who spend time commenting on random posts using fake compliments. Sometimes they’ll even go so far as to “follow” you and say, “I love your page” or “I love what you’re doing here.” All of this just to get your attention so that you’ll check out their page or follow them back. Ninety-nine percent of the time they’ll unfollow you once you’re following them. All they care about is growing their numbers. What’s sad is that I know a few people whom this has happened to and due to already low self-worth, it set them over the edge. They took it so personal, as an insult, that they became so depressed. If only people took others feelings into consideration before acting.


It is SO easy to get caught up in the comparison trap – those “perfect” photos can be intimidating and for some, they can be toxic. Here’s my message to you (and a reminder to myself):

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You can’t compare a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother to a twenty something college student. While age doesn’t matter, getting older changes things. Bodies are different, lifestyles alter, priorities shift. I remember being in college. I remember working two jobs while taking a full course load. I remember my body being totally different. I remember having more time to myself. BUT, remember, pregnancy and birthing a child is no joke. I look at my cesarean scar and stretch marks as gifts and while I may never have a toned, flat stomach again, I am damn proud of my body. I am enough.

I’ve even been bad about comparing myself to other moms – I’d see “perfect” posts and think, ‘I need to workout more,’ or ‘I don’t do enough when it comes to homeschooling,’ or a general blanket statement…’I need to do more.’ Heck, there are some days when getting dressed is about all we do and guess what? That’s enough. When I take a step back and look at my life, what I’ve accomplished, my goals – I’m proud and I think I am enough. 

Don’t let those perfectly clean, organized house photos fool you. I have to laugh because I’ll joke and say that I need to snap a photo as evidence that it’s possible to have a clean house. Truth is, our house looks like a tornado ripped through it…95% of the time. Dishes piled HIGH, mail strewn about all over the counter, Willow drawings scattered on the floor, markers missing caps, crumbs EVERYWHERE, and blankets + couch cushions thrown about. We have an almost five-year old child and three fur babies. Our home is cozy, lived in, and messy. When Josh comes home from work, he’s able to follow the trail of the events by looking at the house. So, mamas, look at it this way. A messy house is a sign of having fun. A sign of living. It’s a sign that you’re feeding your family well. It’s a sign that you’ve found more important things to do than scrub the floors or dust the shelves…you’re being a present parent! Just because your house isn’t clean and organized like those posts on IG, doesn’t make you any less of a human being. Remember…YOU ARE ENOUGH. I am enough. (P.S. – also consider the fact that those so-called perfectly clean, organized homes were probably in disarray moments before or after they shared a pic).

What you can’t see in the photo below is our kitchen! Ha!! And to be honest, this is considered pretty clean…


Do not compare a blogger’s food photos to your own. Most bloggers have really nice cameras and props. Some have special lighting equipment. Most make a living off of creating recipes and taking stunningly beautiful photos. It’s their “job” and passion. More than anything, those bloggers put in hard work and effort to create a beautiful shot. It’s really easy for me to get caught up in this specific comparison trap. Being a SAHM I’m forever multi-tasking. Trying to snap a “perfect” photo is next to impossible because either (A) Willow is pulling on my legs or arms asking me to come look at something , (B) Willow is begging to eat what I’m photographing, or (C) I don’t have a really nice camera (just an inexpensive point-and-shoot Nikon or my iPhone), nor do I have any props. Once again, NOTHING against those who have all of this. I am simply stating why my photos aren’t much to look at. I AM a foodie though. I love the kitchen, I love creating, and I love trying new recipes created by others. Will my photos do them justice? Maybe not. But like I said, my posts are like an account of what I’ve made and enjoyed. I personally struggle sometimes to even post food pics because I think to myself, “these aren’t good enough” or “this looks nothing like so-and-so’s photos.” Stop that. Stop that right now. I’m talking to myself and YOU. Because remember…YOU ARE ENOUGH! So post those photos if they make you happy!

I intended on snapping a before photo, but she couldn’t wait to dive in and honestly, this photo makes me waaaaaay happier than a bowl of banana ice cream…


Do not compare someone else’s journey with your own. – Whether its spiritual, health, healing, diet, lifestyle, etc…DO NOT compare the path you are on to another person’s. Do not minimize your progress or success to someone else’s. Keep the focus within. What we all need to remember is that each one of us is different. Bodies. Mindsets. Priorities. Resources. Finances. All of it differs from person to person. Family to family. I do feel that it’s nice to have something to aspire to and occasionally it’s healthy to use someone else’s story for inspiration BUT not as an end all. Not as an “I need this in order to be happy, healthy, or beautiful.” Keep checking in with yourself. Are you happy? If so, you’re on the right path. And remember, no matter the case, YOU ARE ENOUGH.

– I struggled for a while with my own spiritual journey. I’d be bombarded by posts from others sharing what I needed in order to be truly spiritual. I began to feel that I wasn’t meditating enough, praying enough, unplugging enough, reading enough, minimalist enough. In a nutshell, I didn’t feel like I was enough, that while I thought of myself as spiritual, I began doubting that I actually was. That I constantly needed more. Truth is, after taking a deeper look within, I began to see that I was enough and that what I held dear to my journey – to my spiritual practice – worked for me. I began to phase out what others were throwing at me and focused more on what worked for me. Once I stopped comparing my journey with others, I was more at peace. I am a constant work in progress; forever learning how to be the best version of myself without the influence of others.

– In line with this thought, everyone’s idea of veganism (or diet in general) is different and for us to belittle one another over minor details is silly. What I consider healthy for me, won’t line up with the next person. What’s important is that we do what’s right for our own body and mind. Realizing that it’s enough – you’re not less healthy or less of a person because you consume more fat or carbs than someone else. 

Holy bright!!!! I swear this photo is unedited! I attempted to capture Willow being super silly,  but just as I snapped the pic, she ducked down in her car seat…but I managed to capture how truly happy I was…


I have to share an excerpt from Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (seriously read her books, I’ve loved them all). The last paragraph on the page below is so perfect…


Do it for YOU. The second you start posting for someone else’s attention or approval or writing what you think people want to hear, you’ve lost yourself. You’ve forgotten what it’s all about. YOU are important and what you have to share IS important. So don’t post something because you think it will get a lot of “likes” or “followers” – post from the heart. Post what makes YOU happy. Post what sings to your soul. When you do that, the right people will be aligned with your path.When you get caught up in what others like or what the “trend” is, you stop being yourself. What YOU have to offer is ENOUGH. For me this also means taking frequent breaks or unplugging for a few days – I’ve learned to be OK with not replying to comments the day they’re left or catching up on everyone’s page. Those who matter will still be there when I return. I choose to take care of myself (and family) before anything else.

If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value. ~ Unknown


Do not compare numbers; in fact, ignore them. Just because you have less followers than someone else, does not make you any less important or valuable. Just because you only got 30 likes on a post doesn’t mean your photo wasn’t beautiful or meaningful. Know deep down that numbers mean nothing. Some of my absolute favorite pages/people have small followings and I adore them because their captions speak to me and their photos are  real, in-the-moment accounts of life. I enjoy interacting, engaging with other people and often times, the bigger pages just can’t keep up with comments or questions, which sadly, makes me less inclined to reach out to them. I love the pages that share unapologetically and a little bit of everything: food, personal, nature, quotes, motherhood…you name it. As long as they’re posting from the heart, that’s all that matters. So whether you have 20 followers or 100k followers, you need to remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH. Your worth is not determined by numbers. As long as you’re doing what YOU love, it is enough.


If you’re unhappy with who you are, what you look like, or where you are, I highly recommend digging down deep within and figuring out why. I say this because trying to change who you are or what you look like doesn’t always bring happiness, in fact, chances are, your feelings will remain the same. So choose to be happy now, not “when I lose 10 pounds,” or “when I get that promotion.” Embrace who YOU are and recognize your unique self and remember…

You are not your wrinkles, age spots, acne scars.

You are not the number on a scale.

You are not your pant size.

You are not your grades in school or your degree.

You are not your job title.

You are not your mistakes or shortcomings.

Your worth is NOT determined by the amount of followers you have or the number of likes you get on a post.

You aren’t less worthy if you “fail.” Choosing to put yourself out there and be who you are is a brave action. Vulnerability is not weakness.

The most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognise your own worth. ~ Maxwell Maltz

I had an epiphany a couple of days before my birthday (which is what sparked this blog post) and it was literally as if someone finally turned a bright light on after being in the dark for years. I felt a sense of freedom that was indescribable. Rather than living in a state of fear or walking on eggshells, I am now able to approach social media with a new mindset. New eyes. New confidence. I used to fear what others would think so I would hold back (filter) what I share. This last year was a whirlwind of emotions and struggles with health, creativity, relationships, love, loss, and change. I learned to follow my heart, my gut, and listen to my body…and ignored what others said was the “right” way. Through this journey, I have lost a few friends (real and online) because they didn’t agree with my path. And that’s OK. Hundreds unfollowed me on social media in a week’s span and while it stung at first, I count it as a blessing. I’m being aligned with those who truly matter; those who accept me for who I am…all of me. I learned the difference between true friends and those who only “liked” me when I was either making their recipes – only “supported” me when it was convenient or only talked with me when my life was positive (when I kept my struggles to myself)…a handful of those people unfollowed me on social media and while I’m grateful for what I learned from them while we were “friends” I am also grateful to not have artificial friendships in my life. I have grown because of them. I have learned that I AM ENOUGH no matter what. If I’m in a creativity slump…I AM STILL ENOUGH. I believe in supporting my friends wholeheartedly, even if their path doesn’t align with my own. Even if I am unable to make their recipes or buy their products, I support them with my words and energy. Realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH and if for any reason you doubt your stance with someone, it is time to let go and recognize that you should not have to fight to be heard by a “friend.”

I’ll share one last bit before I end this loooong ramble 😉

Becoming a mother opened my eyes in more ways than one. I’ve grown more than ever during these almost five years and have come to really recognize my strength. During these years, I have also been criticized more than ever – whether by random strangers on social media or family. Everything from diet, choice to not vaccinate, homeschooling, and me being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I’ve been told that I need to do research, or I’m depriving my child, I need to listen to doctors, or get a part-time job. Yep. That last one really irks me. Get a job?? I may not punch in my hours on a time clock or receive a paycheck, but I hold many “job” titles and work 24/7. As with everything else, I’ve come to grow from the criticism or negativity. Why? Because I realize that my worth does not depend on what others think of me. And as far as being a mom, sure I have my bad days and moments of doubt, but I know deep down that I’m doing a pretty damn good job.


I think we all need to remember that we’re human. We might make mistakes, fall down, fail, do things we’re not proud of, but we are ALL WORTHY.

To anyone and everyone reading this, I’m sending you LOTS OF BIG hugs. Thank you for taking the time to read this to the end.

 

Celebration of Life: Remembering Eden

 

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Sometimes, someone crosses your path and changes everything around you. The way you view yourself, how you see the world, your attitude and priorities. Eden was that someone for me and I know for a fact that she impacted anyone and everyone she encountered. ❤

When Eden’s husband, Colin, emailed me to break the news of her passing, I did not expect to react the way that I did. I literally dropped to the floor and cried. It felt almost irrational considering my friendship with Eden never got the chance to go beyond emails and Instagram, but I think that goes to show just who she was – a remarkable, young woman. A true gift to this Earth.

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With Willow by my side while I was sobbing, I chose to welcome the tears and pain rather than wiping it all away. I shared with Willow what happened, briefly touching on her battle with cancer and we spent the next hour or two talking about Eden’s life – who she was and all that she did. Together, we watched the videos on Feed Life and I showed her some photos. Her response was, “Mom, she’s pretty.” More than you know, sweetheart. More than you’ll ever know.

A few days after the news, I felt the need to write about what Eden meant to me and remind myself about all that she taught me. I originally intended on keeping my thoughts private, but as I was pouring the words out on paper, I realized that the world needs to know who this beautiful human being was.

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I had the honor of interviewing Eden for my blog last year and through that interview, my admiration grew leaps and bounds. It also sparked a beautiful friendship. They say that not all superheroes wear capes and this is a prime example. She was the most selfless person I knew as her life was spent helping others – inspiring, teaching and impacting. Eden developed programs in Sri Lanka to help children and families and also co-founded Feed Life with her husband, Colin, where they provided the tools to live a healthy, vibrant, plant-based life. Everything I learned from Eden was not by way of preaching, but rather indirectly through example. I thank the universe every single day for connecting me with such an amazing human being and I wanted to write this post to celebrate her life.

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Eden

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When I first got word of Eden’s passing, I immediately felt guilt and anger. Not towards her, of course, but at myself for all the things I didn’t do or say – and for such a beautiful life being cut short. I remember being so impressed and amazed at all of her accomplishments, along with the list of projects and goals she had. It’s as if she was unstoppable – no limit to what could be done. Through Eden’s life and actions, she taught me rather than comparing yourself with others, to focus on what your gift to the world is. Your purpose. What makes your heart sing. To follow your passions and dreams.

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Eden also opened my eyes to finding the beauty in everything. It’s easy to dwell in the darkness, to get stuck in the negative mindset. Train your eye to find the light in all things. During all of my conversations with Eden, she never let on to just how bad things were. I knew she had cancer and I knew she had her struggles, but her words were always positive. Whether in her Instagram posts or our exchange of emails, I was always left feeling inspired and more often than not, she shifted my perspective or realigned my spirit. Eden was such a source of peace and encouragement – whenever I think of her, I am filled with joy and honored to have known her.

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I thought I knew all about gratitude, but Eden changed the meaning of the word for me. Thanks to Eden, I acknowledge all that I’m grateful for each and every day. It’s the little things in life, small gifts from the Earth that I give thanks to and feel incredibly blessed. I have gotten in the habit of writing down or saying aloud, what I am grateful for each night before bed – which has also helped me be more present and mindful in life; refocused my priorities, along with who and what really matters.

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LOVE. A four letter word with BIG meaning. Eden helped me with self-love and the importance of not only filling yourself with love, but also spreading it to others. Words are a powerful thing and choosing to express yourself in a positive light, to shine on others strengths is a beautiful gift. In one of our emails we discussed one of my struggles and how I let others actions (whether directed at me or someone else) bring me down. She taught me to continue sending out good energy & love no matter what – to be a light to the world. Love is an essential part of life. And as I’ve learned from reading one of Eden’s favorite book (A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson):

“The way of the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one of two things: either love, or a call for love.”

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I know that I didn’t get the chance to tell Eden just how much she meant to me and all the ways she impacted my life, but I’d like to think that on some level, she already knew. She will be deeply missed by many and I know that because of her, lives have been changed for the better. I will forever carry Eden in my heart and one day, I will journey my way to Sedona, put my bare feet on the ground, feel the magic all around and know that she will be there with me in spirit.

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A huge thank you to Colin for helping me with the photos – her beauty and spirit shine through each one. If you’re not already following Feed Life, I encourage you to visit the website and learn more about their mission – Colin plans to continue the work they started together and I would love for him to get all the support he deserves.

My interview with Eden (August 8, 2014): Interview with Eden Elizabeth

Below is the slide show from her Celebration of Life service:

Love and light ❤

 

 

REVIEW: Summer Favorites 2014

I can’t believe how fast the summer flew by and I never got a chance….ok, I honestly kept forgetting, to post some monthly favorites. I’ve been noticing some fellow bloggers posting some of their favorite things each month and thought, what a fun idea! I love seeing what other people are using or eating – sometimes you learn about new things.

Over the summer I stumbled upon some awesome products that have become fast favorites. I’ll also share some of our old favorites from beauty products to food.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I’m a huge fan of using baking soda and apple cider vinegar in my hair as opposed to using regular shampoo and conditioner – I’ve been doing it for years and have noticed it has really improved the health of my hair. To learn more about this method, you can read an old blog post of mine HERE. This summer I thought I would venture out and try an actual shampoo and conditioner to change it up a bit. After browsing through EWG’s Cosmetics Database, I decided to try Hugo Naturals Smoothing & Defining Coconut shampoo and conditioner. I chose it because not only did it get an AWESOME rating on EWG (a ZERO, in fact!), but they also believe in giving back – they support Celiac Sprue Association, Farm Sanctuary, HealthRIGHT360, Leaping Bunny, LUNAFEST, Open the Cages, The Breast Cancer Survivors’ Network, The Orang Utan Republik Foundation, Vitamin Angels, AND Whole Planet Foundation. They’re seriously an awesome company – please check out their website HERE.

I absolutely LOVE this shampoo and conditioner. It smells great, but not too strong and leaves your hair feeling soft and clean – not greasy or dry.

Hugo Naturals

I loved their shampoo and conditioner so much that I had to try one of their bar soaps and oh, boy! I am in LOVE. The grapefruit scent is invigorating and feels so soft on the skin.

Hugo Naturals

 

Since having a kid, I’ve noticed that quick and convenient sometimes outweighs homemade. We do our best to make our own snacks, desserts, main dishes, and body products, but when you stumble upon a great ingredient list on a prepackaged item, I like to give it a shot. On our trip at the coast, we found a great breakfast item that I think would be great for traveling or camping. Gluten-free Organic Superfood Oat-Based Cereal. It’s packed with tons of superfoods, such as cacao, hemp and maca – and wow, it is delicious and fills you up! You can eat it hot or cold and use water or milk. I ate it cold with unsweetened almond milk. It comes in a few flavors – I had the Maca Double Chocolate flavor.

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Over the summer, one of Willow’s favorite on-the-go snacks were these Organic Veggie-Go’s. Her favorite flavor is the Mountain Berry Spinach – I personally love all three. We chose these because there is NO added sugar or preservatives, just fruits, veggies and spices. They’re great to take on hikes!

 

Another new find that has become a favorite of mine is this Stompin’ Good Seedy Buckwheat Molasses Bread by Happy Campers. MOLASSES bread?!?!? Being a molasses addict, I had to try it! I wasn’t too thrilled with the price, as it is close to $6 a loaf, but it’s a nice treat every now and then. It’s a hearty bread, reminiscent of a seedy rye. I enjoy it with some peanut butter or sunflower seed butter – Definitely needs to be toasted. I found this in the refrigerated section at Natural Grocers. Happy Campers is made in Tigard, OR in a gluten-free facility.

Happy Campers Gluten-Free Bread

 

Now here are some old favorites….

 

We’ve been using The Honest Co. 4 in 1 laundry packs for a couple of years now and LOVE them. No messy pouring or measuring, just throw a pod in the washing machine and you’re set. We’ve even taken them traveling, as there’s no bulky containers. Best of all, they’re not loaded with toxic ingredients or fragrances. The Honest Co. is another fantastic company to support. We’ve been getting their essentials bundle each month for a couple of years – we love their dish soap, hand soap, bar soap, lotion and MUCH more.

The Honest Co.

 

I get a lot of people asking what kind of bread we use and the answer is Silver Hills! Back in 2010, I worked side by side with Silver Hills at VegFest in Portland, OR and got to try their gluten-free options – I fell in love. In the past, the breads I had tried were dry, dense, or just down right disgusting. Silver Hills Gluten Free Chia Chia bread has become a staple in our house. Willow enjoys it with peanut butter or hummus. If you buy it, I highly recommend storing it in the freezer as it molds fast because there are no preservatives.

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So, there you have it! Let me know if you enjoyed this post and I’ll be sure to share more of our favorites in the future. What are some of your current favorites?!

 

Thanks for stopping by!

FRIDAY FEATURE: Interview with Kendra

Since joining Instagram, I have met a long list of amazing people, some whom I’ve grown to really admire and become friends with and others who have inspired me to become a better version of  myself.  I first started my IG as a way to share photos of my daughter with family and friends who live far away – since I ditched Facebook last year (due to unhealthy drama and unsupportive people), it has been the only form of social media I participate in. I used to be on Facebook to keep up with friends and family and to share, not only our life, but also healthy tips, tricks, recipes, etc., so I made the decision to combine two of my favorite things (my daughter and health) and try to break the myth some people carry that vegans are extreme, malnourished, and only eat salads. Branching out has made me more confident as a person and I have learned so much from others that I follow on IG.

 

My experience with Instagram makes me so happy that I would like to feature some of my fellow inspiring vegans! I’ll be doing a series of interviews and my hope is that you’ll learn more about veganism, health, natural living, and check them out on Instagram!

What if I told you that one of my best friends is someone I’ve never met face to face?! Sounds crazy, right?! Well, I started following kguarasci4 on IG back in January and we became fast friends. If I remember correctly, we connected over the typical pediatrician drama that comes with raising vegan kids. She is my soul sister and I would be lost without our daily text messages! Kendra is a mom to two beautiful girls with another baby on the way…AND she’s going to school. Not quite sure how she does it, but that’s just one of the many ways I admire this girl!!!

MY INTERVIEW WITH KENDRA:

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Gorgeous glowing mama – Kendra!

 

When did you go vegan and why? What was your ‘aha’ moment?

“I went vegan a little over a year ago because of an ‘aha’ moment of, “Wait. I wouldn’t eat my cats, why are we eating chickens?” I’m not sure why it never clicked until then, but it just sort of hit me and then my mind was made up! I only ate turkey, cheese, and chicken occasionally. I hadn’t eaten red meat in probably 20 years – and neither one of my girls have ever eaten it.”

What’s the hardest part about being vegan?

“The hardest part is the strange behavior from everyone I’m surrounded by. People suddenly become health experts questioning your protein intake…whether you are always hungry….and simply, just always thinking you are weird. I also have a hard time because of the girls. I have some relatives who make fun of us and some who try to sneak “normal” food to my girls. They worry my girls won’t “fit in” by going along with the crowd. I want to raise confident little girls who are proud of who they are and can stand alone if needed!”

What is your favorite go-to meal?

“My favorite go-to meal is spaghetti! Some organic noodles, sauce, and some fresh veggies! It’s quick, a family favorite, and cruelty-free!”

A big fresh salad with herbs from the garden and her go-to meal - noodles with sauce.

A big fresh salad with herbs from the garden and her go-to meal – noodles with sauce.

Any words of wisdom for anyone new to veganism OR on the fence about making the transition?

“My words of wisdom…knowledge is power!!! Do some research – research factory farming, GMOs, zoos, animal testing – and also research how easy it is to eat a plant-based diet and still get all the calcium, protein, iron, and more! There is a tremendous amount of knowledge at your fingertips!”

fresh ingredients

What’s your favorite cruelty-free product? Why?

“My favorite cruelty-free product right now is Dr. Bronners…I use it for cleaning, bathing, and laundry!”

What has your experience been like raising two vegan kids? And have you ever questioned whether or not it was the right choice?

“It’s really hard raising the girls vegan. The girls love it and are healthy, but it’s family and everyone else that make it challenging. I have never doubted my decision, but it’s hard when family, friends, or pediatricians think you are being neglectful! It makes my heart happy to know that my girls are extremely healthy and no animals had to die for that.”

Sister love

Sister love

What’s your favorite natural healing remedy (for anything like colds, headaches, upset stomach, etc.)?

“My favorite remedy would be essential oils and apple cider vinegar (ACV). It’s all natural and I think they work better than meds! I truly believe that our bodies have what they need to heal…we just have to treat them right!”

If you could travel anywhere, all expense paid, where would you go? Why?

“If I could travel anywhere, it would be to Sicily! My great grandparents came over on a boat when they were 18. We still have a large amount of relatives over there that I have never met. I am totally fascinated by my family trees and would love to meet them!”

Favorite way to relax and unwind?

“My favorite way to relax…I have a few right now…I love to be outside walking, gardening, or just swinging on our swing and being! I’m also addicted to Pinterest!”

Fresh basil from the garden

Fresh basil from the garden

What inspires you?

“I am inspired by my girls, nature, love, friends, family, adventure, change, and anything that keeps me moving forward!”

Something you couldn’t live without?

“Hmmmm, something I couldn’t live without? My girls and the baby in my belly! And coconut oil!”

Is this your first vegan pregnancy? If so, how is this one different from the previous two?

“Yes, first vegan pregnancy and it’s different because my doctor doesn’t understand. She thinks I should eat cheese and yogurt for my calcium…ugh! It’s different because it’s new and sometimes new is scary. I just keep doing lots of research along the way and I believe this is my healthiest pregnancy yet…GMO-free and vegan!”

Favorite quote?

“Not all who wander are lost” and ” All good things are wild and free”

NotAllWhoWanderAreLost_10

 

What are your go-to resources for veganism and/or natural health and living?

“My go-to resources are books, Pinterest and blogs!  A few of my favorite books right now on healthy living and being vegan are: “Vegan Pregnancy” *  “The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy” *  “Eating on the Wild Side” and “Prescription Alternatives”.  I also love finding blogs and posts about recipes and real people using “alternative medicine” and living/raising little ones vegan!”

A typical morning in your household?

“Typical AM – we usually get up by 7am and head to the couch. Emma (my 17 month old) has to be by me for at least the first 15 mins of wakeup!  Then we turn on the tv usually some Curious George or Mickey Mouse and make smoothies! Before I had Emma and Ava was really young I was really good about no tv…now most days I just need a free hand and it helps!  After smoothies we brush teeth, get dressed and do a few chores (clean blender, laundry, paint a room…I am really random with my projects LOL). Depending on the day and whether we either head out to run errands or go outside to play!”

Smoothie lovers - Emma & Ava!!

Smoothie lovers – Emma & Ava!!

Have you noticed any changes in your health or well-being since going vegan or using a natural approach to health/healing?

” YES!!! So many changes…for years I was a huge “addict” to anything!  I smoked cigs, drank a lot of alcohol, and was on a few different meds for anxiety. I had horrible phobias (terrified to leave the house if snowing??) and panic attacks. During my 38th week of pregnancy with Ava, it got so bad I couldn’t sleep from my anxiety.  After she was born I went back on a med for anxiety and that was one of my light bulb moments…I stopped about 3 days later and realized I needed to change my ways. It took me a good 2 years and another baby to really get it! I feel amazing today! NO anxiety and tons of energy. I am hardly ever sick and this winter was the first time I drove in the snow in over 7 years! I am a huge believer that my diet and all natural approach is what turned everything around.”

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest myths about being vegan?

“Myths about being vegan…ugh where to begin…that you can’t get enough calcium, protein, iron and that you are starving. These are the most common I hear…along with people always making weird “bacon” comments which I am still baffled by. I haven’t had any meat or dairy during this pregnancy and my last blood work showed all of my levels to be excellent! A little research goes a long way…psst plants have vitamins and nutrients too!”

 When the time comes, how will you teach your kids about why you’re vegan?

“Teaching the kiddos about why we are vegan…I will probably just be really honest. I don’t sugar coat much anyway…I will tell them that we don’t eat cows because we wouldn’t eat Lilly or Vinny – our cats! I mean I think my kids will get it…we have tried from a very early age to teach love and compassion and I try very hard to use a gentle parenting approach. I think being vegan will just come natural and make sense to them when they are old enough to understand the word.”

Best advice anybody ever gave you?

“Best advice…hmmm…probably just, “go with your gut” – I truly believe in intuition and I try really hard to listen to it!”

As a mother, of soon to be three kids, do you have any words of wisdom for new parents or parents-to-be? Things you’ve learned along the way, or things you wish people would have told you?

“Oh, words of wisdom…research everything!!!! And also to do what feels right and natural. Every day is a new challenge and struggle – we all have our good days and bad days! Don’t listen to what everyone else says…some kids don’t sleep, some are picky eaters, some go through a biting and hitting phase, some will use a bottle to fall asleep until 3 (yes these are my kids haha), but its ok!! As a parent you just have to survive some days and show your kids love!!!!! And if something doesn’t feel right to you, change it, research it, or seek help!! You are in charge of your kids!!! I think the number one thing is LOVE…everything else is secondary!”

L_For_Love by Eduardo M

THANK YOU, KENDRA!!! It was fun to learn a few things about you that I didn’t know before – thanks for being my first interview in the series. Love ya, darlin’!

***If you’re interested in following Kendra on IG, you can find her @ kguarasci4 – she posts photos of great quotes, her adorable girls, delicious food, and healthy tips!

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

****L for Love image by Eduardo M

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Superfood Juices by Julie Morris and My 3-Day Juice Detox

Let me first say that I LOVE to eat, therefore, I do not believe in diets. In my opinion, if you lead a healthy lifestyle and take care of your body, there is no reason you need to deprive your body of food and it’s ok to indulge every now and then. I do, on the other hand, feel that cleanses/detoxes can be extremely helpful – even if you eat really healthy. We are all surrounded by toxins, internal and external – whether it’s air pollution, toxic personal care products, or stress and negative thinking. In my case, my biggest toxin source is stress…and sleep deprivation. Buying our first house, moving for the umpteenth time, and running around with a high-energy toddler made for many stressful days. After thumbing through Julie Morris’ Superfood Juices book, a light bulb clicked on and I decided to plan out a mini juice detox – what better way to try a handful of her amazing recipes!

You can buy this book on Amazon for only $10.71!

One of my first cleanses (five years ago) was supposed to be a seven-day one – using psyllium husk, bentonite clay, and homemade veggie broth. I was crying by day three and since I was doing it alone, I gave up. Apparently, and luckily for me, that was all my body needed because I overcame the majority of my food allergies (pineapple, banana, tomatoes, garlic, peanuts, yeast). I caved so easily and wanted a “real” meal because I didn’t have someone there to hold me accountable…Josh wasn’t a part of that cleanse. So, I was happy when he wanted to do this one with me!

We sat down and wrote out our shopping list to do the 3-day juice detox and came up with a menu and planned out Willow’s meals. I couldn’t believe all the fresh organic produce we needed for just three days!!! Luckily, Josh works at Trader Joe’s 🙂 Also, lucky for us that we had the superfoods (cacao, maqui powder, spirulina, wheatgrass powder) on hand, so our money was only spent on fresh organic produce.

Trader Joe's haul for the next three days!

Trader Joe’s haul for the next three days!

Morris gives sample detox menus and puts them into 5 categories:

  1. Quick Reboot
  2. Detox & Flush
  3. Slim & Tone
  4. Strength & Stamina
  5. Beauty & Anti-Aging

We decided to come up with our own modified menu, combining a few of the categories, but tried to choose juices that fell into Detox & Flush, Slim & Tone, and Quick Reboot. The amount of recommended juices a day fell between 5-8, depending on which category of detoxing you wanted. We decided to make six juices a day.

  My 3-Day Juice Detox:

Day 1: I woke up super excited to start the day, especially since I had a full night’s rest…if you follow me on Instagram, you know how awful the past month has been sleep-wise. I finished my first juice, Coconut Spirulina, and felt energized! As the day went on, I went through ALL four of the stages of cleansing, according to Julie Morris…not sure if that’s normal, but I hit every one of them. Empowerment, Doubt, Struggle, and Euphoria. At least I went to bed feeling empowered and anxious to start day 2. Here are a couple of my favorite juices from the day:

Coconut Spirulina - we loved this one so much that we had it at least once each day. No actual juicer needed for this one - so simple to make.

Coconut Spirulina – we loved this one so much that we had it at least once each day. No actual juicer needed for this one – so simple to make.

Watermelon Goji - stunning color and the flavor was amazing! I chose to blend the goji berries after they steeped in the juice.

Watermelon Goji – stunning color and the flavor was amazing! I chose to blend the goji berries after they steeped in the juice.

 

Day 2: Like the first day, I woke up ready to go and excited to try a new juice! We were feeling great until we had to run a couple of errands and all the food smells in the air – it was as if my belly was screaming for a warm meal. It also didn’t help that it was rainy and chilly here…which usually calls for a nice bowl of soup. But I was determined to see this through, no way was I giving up! We had our lunch juice and shortly after, we both got a bit hangry and irritable…even more so after our dinner juice. It didn’t help that we while we were drinking cold juices, Willow was enjoying warm meals! But then we had our last juice of the day, Berries & Cream, and holy, yum!!! It took a lot of effort to make, but it was so worth it – we made extra so we could share with Willow. When I say a lot of effort, it was because we didn’t have the proper tools and tried to do it our own way…which made us both grumpy. For this specific recipe, Morris said to use the “freeze-thaw” method, but since we didn’t have cheesecloth, we attempted another way and it was messy. I’ll spare you the photos of our disaster, but after the first attempt, we decided to just throw all the ingredients in the blender and then strain it. Our juice looked nothing like her beautiful photo, but it was SO good! Here are some of the juices from the day:

Spirulina Watermelon - we both loved this one! So full of flavor and the heat from the cayenne was perfect.

Spirulina Watermelon – we both loved this one! So full of flavor and the heat from the cayenne was perfect.

Electrolyte Chia Lemonade (with just a tiny pinch of raw organic stevia powder) - I was hesitant about this one at first because that was A LOT of chia seeds, but we both loved it! Slightly sweet, filling, and packed with nutrients.

Electrolyte Chia Lemonade (with just a tiny pinch of raw organic stevia powder) – I was hesitant about this one at first because that was A LOT of chia seeds, but we both loved it! Refreshing, filling, and packed with nutrients.

Electrolyte Chia Lemonade

Willow was so fascinated by this juice, she had to play with it for a bit 🙂

Berries & Cream

Sitting outside watching the rain POUR down and sipping on a Berries & Cream juice. A great way to end the day.

 

Day 3: I woke up with a flat belly and excited to start our last day of juicing! Josh hopped on the scale to see the progress so far and suggested I do the same. I’m not one to use scales…in fact, I avoid them, but to keep track of results, I weighed myself before starting this detox and again at the end. Seeing the progress was amazing and I think that gave me all the motivation I needed to power through the day. Out of all the days, Day 3 was the easiest for me – I think because I kept reminding myself that it was the last day and I loved the way I felt. Not once did I feel bloated, which is my issue some days, I felt light and for the most part, energized. All, but one of Day 3’s juices were amazing (Spinach Pear) and I attribute it to a bitter cucumber….it ruined it for me, so bummed. I’ll definitely try making this one again, but taste the cucumber first to make sure the peel is up to par. Here are some of our favorite juices from the day:

Hands down, the Spinach Hemp was my favorite juice over the three days. Slightly creamy from the hemp seeds with just a touch of sweetness from the celery. If you love celery, this is definitely one for you!

Hands down, the Spinach Hemp was my favorite juice over the three days. Slightly creamy from the hemp seeds with just a touch of sweetness from the celery. If you love celery, this is definitely one for you!

Willow tried to steal it from me!

Willow tried to steal it from me!

This slightly sweet Green Apple Kale juice was super refreshing!

This slightly sweet Green Apple Kale juice was super refreshing!

We saved the Cacao Pear as our last juice of the detox and it totally felt like we were cheating! Slightly creamy, sweet, and hit the spot. Oh, and Willow approved!

We saved the Cacao Pear as our last juice of the detox and it totally felt like we were cheating! Slightly creamy, sweet, and hit the spot. Oh, and Willow approved!

 

Julie Morris definitely made our juicing experience a good one – the addition of superfoods to regular juices really enhanced the flavors and nutrient content. We loved how she broke everything down in her book about all the wonderful benefits of juicing, the ingredients and their benefits, different juicing techniques, tips, and what the different categories of detoxes provide. I especially loved how she explained what to expect during your detox – made me feel a bit more normal with my fluctuating emotions! I’m so happy that we chose to use her recipes for our detox because we got to try a nice handful of her creations and we know which ones we’d like to incorporate into our day-to-day lives. You don’t have to do a detox to use this book, it’s filled with 100 juice recipes that would be fun to experiment with over time. I HIGHLY recommend picking up her book, Superfood Juices, you won’t be disappointed.

Our little herbivore thumbing through the Superfood Juices book!

Our little herbivore thumbing through the Superfood Juices book!

Here is the list of juices that we tried:

  • Coconut Spirulina
  • Watermelon Goji
  • Spirulina Watermelon
  • Electrolyte Chia Lemonade
  • Lime Greens
  • Veggie Classic
  • Berries & Cream
  • Spinach Hemp
  • Spinach Pear
  • Green Apple Kale
  • Cacao Pear

This 3-day juice detox cost us approximately $140, which is just a bit under our weekly grocery budget. It’s definitely expensive and even more so for people who don’t have the superfoods on hand. I felt so amazing by the end of Day 3 that I would have continued on with a longer detox, but we pretty much used up all the produce!

The results….

My clothes felt a bit loose, my skin was glowing, I felt light and energized, AND I lost a total of 5 pounds over three days (Josh lost a total of 7lbs). I didn’t have any specific cravings during this time – I usually crave carbs or chocolate, but on the last day, I was craving an apple…so I was pretty excited to make the Green Apple Kale juice – it satisfied that craving really fast! I’m nervous to go back to “normal” and eat an actual meal; I need to remember not to eat until I’m full and to watch my portions – didn’t used to be, but lately I’ve become a stress eater. I’m hoping to continue on this sort of “high” and incorporate juices, such as the Electrolyte Chia Lemonade or Coconut Spirulina, into my daily routine – and I imagine we’ll do another juice detox in the near future.

This experience also taught us that we’d eventually like to get a different juicer, so if any of you LOVE yours, please share what you have!

 

Thanks for stopping by!!

Lots of love,

Mandy

 

 

 

 

Time for some changes…

Hello!!!

I’ve decided to make some changes to the blog…for starters, I’ve changed the name to Be Sol-Ful. For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is the name of my little business that I hope to get off the ground soon! I’m going to take a short break from posting to clean up the blog and make some changes to the appearance – my hope is to make it easier to navigate. In the meantime, I’d love to hear if there’s anything my followers/readers would like to see more of. Recipes? Vegan tips? Natural health? Let me know!

Hope everyone is staying healthy and warm!

 

sunshine

A Personal Struggle

I have found that the best writing comes from the heart – where true passion lives. Where compassion and emotion are found, you will also find absolute truth. People can relate more to honesty and real life than fictional fairy tales. It makes me sad that some people think that they have to struggle in silence, put a fake smile on, and pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. We are all human and I think that sometimes we don’t cut ourselves enough slack and allow ourselves to really feel emotion because we are so worried about what someone else might think. What I am about to share is a secret about myself that almost no one knows – I have been struggling with this for years and am now ready to talk about it, no longer ashamed because I now know that I am not alone…thanks to someone I met earlier this year – someone who has become a wonderful friend, a soul sister. Let me first say that in no way am I trying to attract attention, nor am I fishing for compliments. My hope is that by sharing this I might reach someone else who might be struggling, too – and to also show that we don’t always know what someone else might be going through.

be kind

We are all guilty, in one way or another, for wanting to change something about ourselves, whether it be to lose a few pounds, change our hair color, or wanting a smaller nose. For me, every time I look in the mirror, I want to change everything. Every time I look in the mirror, I see someone hideous looking back, someone riddled with flaws from head to toe. I quite literally cannot name one positive attribute. When I look in the mirror, I see every wrinkle, every blemish, every acne scar; I see a nose that is much too big, eyes that do not fit my face, horrific skin, a big belly, rolls of skin, and thunder thighs covered in cellulite. Because of this, I avoid mirrors as much as humanly possible.

But I find so much beauty in everyone else.

To most people this may sound bizarre – which is why I stayed quiet for so long. When I would make comments aloud about my flaws, I would hear, “Don’t be ridiculous!” or “You’re crazy!” Truth is, I was ashamed because I felt completely alone in my thoughts. I was surrounded by beautiful, healthy people who for the most part seemed confident. But then I met a girl through Facebook who quite honestly, changed my world. She was a complete stranger, someone who I connected with almost instantly, someone who accepted me for every flaw and struggle and still wanted to be friends. I owe her so much for showing me the strength I didn’t know I possessed.

cs lewis

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) often shows up when you’re a teenager. Well, that’s exactly when it started for me. Up until senior year, I was a fairly confident and happy kid – didn’t stress too much over appearance. Like most teenagers, I went through periods of not liking how I looked and compared myself to other girls, but nothing out of the ordinary. But that all came crashing down with a few hurtful words. There was a guy that I really liked – and while today I cannot even tell you why I liked him – back then I was smitten with him. I fully admit that I was just a stupid teenager.  One day, one of his friends told me, “You’re not pretty enough or skinny enough for him.” At the time I weighed 100 pounds.

Words are powerful. Words can break a person.

Those few words sent me spiraling down. I began obsessing about my weight, how I looked, and depression started setting in. This is when the negative body image started. Since then I battled depression for years, was on an anti-depressant for at least seven of those years, I struggled in silence with the demon in my head. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I saw a beast, someone not worthy of anything. I had a hard time leaving the house because I felt that ugly and thought for sure everyone would be staring at all of my flaws. I would change clothes at least three or four times a day – searching for the outfit that covered my body up enough. BDD consumed me and swallowed me whole. I would find a million excuses to stay home so as not to face the outside world. Between my senior year of high school up until the time I met my now husband, I only seriously dated one person. I just didn’t want to get close to anyone.

My rock bottom happened when that serious relationship ended in 2003. That is a whole long story in and of itself, but what you need to know is that it wrecked me. I have my CA family to thank and my then running coach for snapping me out of it. He threatened to kick me off of the team if I didn’t shape up. Not his exact words, he was genuinely concerned. I was down to 89 pounds at that point. You see, that team meant a great deal to me because I was running for someone who was losing his battle to Leukemia. If it wasn’t for that, who knows where I would be. While living in CA, I began to see a therapist and continued therapy when I moved to Illinois and then Oregon. I knew that I needed to work on me, to get better – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Seeing and talking to someone helped more than words can describe – I recognized where my depression, anxiety, stress, and unhappiness stemmed from.

Recently I have learned that there are varying degrees of BDD – some struggle more than others and more often than some. Every day is a battle, but some days are easier. I know that I will never be cured or free from the struggle, but I feel like I have gotten better. I have my husband and daughter to thank for that. Since having Willow, she has shed some light onto who I want to be and how I need to be. I want to raise my daughter to have a healthy body image and in order to do that, I need to set a good example. Can I tell you how hard that is?!? We don’t use the words fat, skinny, thin, chubby, or any negative words around her. Inside I am saying that I am fat, but I keep it to myself or say it when she isn’t around. I know that I can’t protect her or shelter her forever from the harsh reality that there are cruel people, but I have to do my best to instill healthy self-esteem. I want her to be able to look in the mirror and smile. Kids and teenagers can be downright mean so I need to build her up as much as possible without being conceited. Not to mention the way media projects beauty – it’s hard sometimes not to compare yourself with the models you see in magazines and on television. I do applaud those celebrities who have been honest and shown their true colors, what they really look like. More often than not, they’re more beautiful before all the airbrushing and Photoshop.

To this day, I still have downfalls, usually triggered by a look on someone’s face or an unkind word. I’ve been called thick, round, and people have commented that I have gained weight, but I can safely say that I will never again be that unhealthy, severely underweight girl anymore. I have too much at stake – people I deeply love and care about – and people who care about me. This is not to say that I still struggle some days with leaving the house or wish I could change the way I look…those will be every day battles. I hate the camera and am extremely critical of any picture of myself – I am very quick to point out flaws. But here is one quick bit of info that I can laugh about now – after college I learned that the guy who brought the BDD out is actually gay – so it was never about me personally.

I will leave you with this – think before you speak and do not judge without knowing someone’s full story. You never know what that person may be going through or the hurdles they have jumped to get to where they are today. Be kind. Listen. Be empathetic. Smile. You would be amazed at what a simple smile could do.

smile