10 Past Posts!

Friday, 6 May 2016





This is kind of a fake post.

Well, not really FAKE, but it might be cheating a little. I just wanted to re-share a few old posts that I've been re-reading lately...so THAT's what this post is, just posting some oldies.

This year so far has been pretty much entirely posts on my Healthiest Year Yet Goals...(I'm behind on those...I'll be doing all the updates in one post soon!)...and while I love sharing those and being accountable to you, I always love writing and sharing things that run a little deeper than that.

Have you read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? It's amazing. So inspiring! She personifies creativity a lot to help explain her thoughts on how creativity works and enriches our respective lives...and while that element was a little 'much' for me at times, the underlying messages were totally what I have needed to hear lately in the living-a-creative-life-regardless-of-your-excuses department, particularly with writing. I don't know if that will translate to more writing here, or just more writing behind the scenes in general, but I just know I need to write...and so I will!


SOoo...while I figure that out, here are some past posts from this here bloggity blog to peruse:


Dear Jocelyn (Posted 6 months after my sister died)

10 Reasons Why Having Three Kids is Awesome

My Mundane is Their Childhood

15 Unusual Ways to Brighten Your Day

How to Eat Healthy in 30 Years or Less: My Journey to Better Habits

5 Ways to Declutter Your Head

People and Their Own Kind of Beautiful

7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

The Case for Hard Copy Books (vs. digital)

The First Post!


March 2016 Goal

Thursday, 17 March 2016




So this month, it's back to an exercise goal for me! (in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge)

I have been feeling the need (again) to get my literal rear-in-gear in that department. It could be that swimsuit season is inching closer (ack! Insert all my shallow-and-superficial-but-very-real-panic here!). Could be that my posture keeps getting worse and worse, making my back a little grouchy. And also could be all this spring-like sunshine reminding me that there are fun, outside, active things in my future (hiking, and swimming, and sportsing, oh my!)...things I don't want to have to avoid because I'm not physically ready.

Whatever the reason, I'm to feel the burn, baby!

My goal this month is kind of hard to put into specific words. The bottom line is to exercise. The more elaborate version is to workout according to the Sweat With Kayla app on my phone. I'll tell you more about that in a sec, but I guess when it's all put together, my goal is:

To follow Kayla Itsine's workout program for the month of March, via the Sweat With Kayla app....(and, honestly, longer than that...but I'm just framing it in "monthly goal" words.)

Ta-daa!

It feels a little cheesy to me to use a work-out program but I'm feeling like I need someone else to be the boss of me right now to get me started. There's also a ready-made eating plan on there, too! Complete with recipes and shopping lists...AMAZING, right!?

Anyways, I'm sure I could make my own workout plan, and meal plan, etc. etc....but the energy I'm saving by letting her do all the work for me sounds SOOoo much more attractive at this point in my life. Maybe someday when I'm an Australian Health Guru (like Kayla Itsines) with oodles of time, it'll just be easier to do it myself. But not now, not yet. SO...I'm just letting Kayla tell me what to do.

And just as a side note: I just chose this app/program because...well, I wanted to. Ha! I needed the motivation of a structured program that will guilt me into using it because I spent good money on it. BUT! there are so many other routes I could have taken. I love Jillian Michael's workouts. Training for a race is good motivation! Even just going on a daily walk. Anything is better than nothing. So it's not really all-about-the-app. It's just about the exercise. I'll tell you more about the app in case you're curious, but the bottom line here is EXERCISE.

So, the app. It's a monthly subscription one, so kind of like paying for a cheap gym membership. There is a free week-long trial, though, so you can test-drive it before you commit for the long-term.

 So far, it's been three 28-min HIIT (high-intensity interval training) resistance workouts a week. Those are the ones that make you sweat and hurt. Then somewhere in that week you also do three LISS (low intensity steady state) sessions of about 30-40mins (like walking or steadily jumping on the mini-trampoline while watching Fuller House...ha!). There are also recovery sessions (stretching, cool-downs, etc.) to help with sore muscles. It sounds like a lot! But it's actually been just the frequency and variety that I need to keep me from getting bored too quickly (which is totally what I would risk if I decided my workouts myself). It changes as you go through the weeks, and I'm just in the beginner training sessions, so I haven't really gotten into the true HIIT workouts yet. It's also designed to be done in the comfort of your own home, which I appreciate since I live out in the country at the moment and nowhere near a gym.

The app's eating plan is based on the Australian food guide. The food is good! And you can switch your meals between standard, vegetarian, and vegan plans if need be. I might try the vegetarian recipes since I'm trying to increase my whole plant food intake and seriously decrease my meat intake...but so far the regular eating plan has been just fine (not crazy amounts of animal protein or anything), and easily adaptable if I want to switch out the meat for beans or leave out the cheese or whatever. So we'll see whether I officially switch over or not.

So there it is. I took before pictures, and will take after pictures, but you will never see them! Maybe. Probably. It's embarrassing to be half-naked on the internet. Happy March-so-far!



February Goal Summary (and a smoothie recipe!)

Monday, 7 March 2016


February is over! Like SO over. Ha.
Time to fill you in on how things went with my February Goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge.



(In case you forgot, my goal for February was to drink a green smoothie/green juice every day. Yummm....)

I don't really have anything mind-blowing to share about this month went. It was just good. I always feel SO much better when I'm eating more vegetables, leafy greens in particular. I have more energy, crave less junk food, and start craving even more fruits and vegetables. My digestive system is more effective and (ahem) regular. It's a win-win situation all around.

I survived a family road trip by drinking store-bought smoothies (Happy Planet ones are my favourite!) and there were a couple days throughout the month where I missed making a smoothie at home, but still had a big green salad for lunch so I still got those greens in me.

Having my greens in the form of smoothies and juice also kept me better hydrated. I'd like to think that it made my skin more "glow-y" but that might just be wishful thinking. Ha! AND, as a side note, I totally fell in love with cacao nibs this month. I loved having them in my smoothies! Total powerhouse for keeping me satiated and energized for hours.

So really, that's it. Eat your veggies! One way or another. Totally worth it.

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This green smoothie recipe is my favourite. You can seriously stuff SO much spinach in there and it still tastes like dessert, just like drinking a peanut butter milkshake. It's pretty healthy as-is, but I'll share my extra-healthy version with you, too, just in case you're interested!

Green Monster Spinach Smoothie from Iowa Girl Eats

1 frozen, sliced Banana
1 tablespoon Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt
4 cups Baby Spinach (or a little more/less)
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk (or any kind of milk)

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth. Enjoy!

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Green Monster Smoothie, Extra-Healthy Style (dairy-free, naturally sweetened)

Try the original first...then if you're feeling brave, try this one out. It's still delicious, but definitely has a more "wholesome" taste (which I loooove, but does take a little getting used to).

1 Banana (frozen optional, but delicious)
1-2 tablespoons natural Peanut Butter
2-3 cups Baby Spinach 
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 cup Almond Milk (or straight water, even! The banana helps add creaminess)
3-5 Medjool Dates (these are the big fat ones, usually found in the produce section...they are extra sweet and delicious so if you don't have them, you'll need to add extra 'regular' dates or use another sweetener like honey or maple syrup)
hint of salt (if the PB doesn't have any)
1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs, chia seeds, hemp hearts, etc. (you pick your combo)

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until very smooth!

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I'll often make a green smoothie just by tossing berries, kale and/or spinach, a banana, and some honey in a blender and it turns out just fine. If you have a really hard time with a "green" taste, definitely make sure to include something strongly "citrus-y" like pineapple or frozen orange juice concentrate...those help add a tang to the smoothie and make it extra-delicious! I'll be sure to share more favourite smoothie recipes as I find them. Happy smoothie-ing!



February 2016 Goal

Wednesday, 24 February 2016



Since January was a pretty intense month for goal-setting/goal-accomplishing, I thought I'd chill out a little and do an easier goal this month.



February's Goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge is: Drink one green smoothie (or green juice) a day.

Now when I say "green smoothie," I'm not necessarily referring to colour. I'm referring to content! My plan was to consume, one smoothie that has leafy greens all blended up inside(...or juice some greens and other things into a delectable green juice). Sometimes the smoothie actually turns out green! Other days I add berries and it definitely turns out more purple-y...or other weird colours. Ha!

I enjoy green smoothies... so the effort here for me is not in choking them down, the effort is in the consistency. Bonus: I have some favourite green smoothie recipes and I'll share a few with you soon!



But while we're on the topic of greens, lets marvel at their superpowers.

Seriously, though, right!? It seems like every time I'm reading about an incredible nutrient that does our body good (disease prevention, basic functioning, healing, etc), the list of foods that contain that vital nutrient almost ALWAYS say "dark leafy green vegetables." They are such a powerhouse of nutrition! And with good nutrition from whole food sources comes all sorts of amazing health benefits that we don't even understand...something about getting whole, real food into our body creates this synergistic magic while they have their own party in there and go to work nourishing our cells. *Pardon me while I geek out on how amazing food does amazing things for our amazing bodies. Gaaaah, it's so cool.*



Anyways, here are some quick internet reads on some benefits of eating your greens. Also enjoy the pictures of my green juice from today with totally irrelevant tulips and tulip petals. THEY WERE ALL SO PRETTY TOGETHER!
Be back soon with an update of how it all went!

Mercola.com- Leafy Greens Essential for Immune Regulation and Tumor Resolution
WebMD.com- Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables
World's Healthiest Foods- Collard Greens, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Romaine Lettuce, etc, etc.
The Truth About Cancer- The Cancer-Fighting Benefits of Leafy Greens
Tedx Talk- Minding Your Mitochondria by Dr. Terry Wahls
DermaDoctor- How Greens Gave Me My Glow Back


January Summary

Wednesday, 10 February 2016



Here it is! My summary of how things went with my January goal in My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge, complete with my life story, crappy iphone pictures, and endless gushing. Ha!

...But seriously, don't say I didn't warn you. This one's a doozy!

(February's goal announcement is coming soon! Though I'm proud to report that it's going very well so far. Yessss!)


I wasn't born organized.

My natural talents tend toward the creative and contemplative. And throughout my life, I've reinforced all stereotypes of having an active imagination: head in the clouds, idealistic, and messy. My surroundings often mirrored my thoughts: scattered, with the details overlooked, and hyperfocused on the beautiful.

I really tried to be organized. I made heroic and desperate (and occasionally successful) attempts to control the chaos in my environment. Despite a natural disposition toward being a little scattered and spontaneous, I actually thrive in a simple, clean environment and love the structure of a schedule. But it has always been a constant battle to keep it that way. And if anything "extra" entered my life/house/schedule at all, it just all came crashing down. Hand me a new baby? MESS. Influx of Christmas gifts? MESS. Sleep deprivation? MESS. Particularly busy week? MESS. And then I'd kind of recover and mostly get it under control again...until the next big thing, like, three hours later. EXHAUSTING. And I always felt in-over-my-head, with everything.

I always wondered if it was supposed to be SO hard. I knew I wasn't the only one who struggled with housekeeping and keeping my junk in order, some even moreso than me. But I also knew that there were also many who didn't struggle nearly as hard as I did. I've long suspected a mild to moderate struggle with ADHD, but still. I am a Special Needs Education teacher, by trade, and I know what kinds of strategies I needed to implement to manage it...I just couldn't find the time and space in my head and life to actually DO it.

Momentos, the process. Kleenex needed!

I read about decluttering and organizing often. No, A LOT. I liked paying attention to my family's habits and coming up with organizational systems that worked for us. But there always just seemed to be SO many things and people and demands ALL the time, I would get overwhelmed easily and everything would fall apart. And when I get overwhelmed my defence mechanism is avoidance. Soo...I ignored all the stuff until I couldn't anymore, then went nuts---decluttering and organizing like crazy!---until I burnt out and ignored it again. It all felt so ineffective and futile!

Vicious cycle.

Living simply and 'minimalistically' appealed to me, but I needed a bigger purpose than just "getting rid of everything for the heck of it." There just seemed to be some weird disconnect for me between having less...and the how and the why.

I often spoke about this kind of thing with a close friend of mine...who discovered, read, and then let me borrow her copy of "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo about a year ago now. I was hooked from the first few pages and read it in two days. 

THIS WAS IT. I could feel it.

Part of Marie Kondo's method includes decluttering by category, and in a certain order. So I started, and got through clothing, books, papers, and my kitchen stuff before we had to move houses. Even just that much felt SO good! Those categories were the things that affected me most on a daily basis so the difference in the way I felt was immediate. Packing those things up didn't even feel like work because they were all things I loooved and wanted in my life. Moving them to my next home was actually enjoyable, not the usual moving torture of omigosh-we-have-so-much-stuff-whyyy-do-we-have-so-much-stuff??? 

At least until we got to the things that I hadn't gone through yet; in which case it was utter torture again.

Once we moved, I had a baby and just didn't get around to finishing the process. The "too-much" feeling started creeping back in slowly in the fall, and I had a few painful realizations. I started noticing that I had lost sight of parenting goals I always wanted to accomplish, and generally the kind of parent I wanted to be. I just always felt too busy, or too drained, or too overwhelmed to do things that had always been so important to me to "someday do with my kids." And it was chronic, not just a short rough patch.

Failing miserably at my December goal was the straw that broke the camel's back. Clearly, if I didn't have enough whatever (time, energy, focus, sleep, etc.) to fill my soul up like I knew I needed to, then there was just too much going on in my life, period. To be fair, December is always a busy month, but still. It was just glaringly obvious to me I needed to clear some things out. I knew I had the tool: the Konmari process had already shown great promise in my life for proven change and results. I needed to finish it through to the end to make room for the things that mattered to me.

I am an excellent procrastinator. This I know about myself! If I didn't feel the pressure of a time crunch, it wouldn't get done all that quickly. I also knew that the first few categories theoretically wouldn't take too much time since I'd gone through them already once before. So I decided to officially make it my January goal: finishing the whole process in one month.

I knew it was kind of crazy...which was the point, really. I figured it would give just the right amount of pressure to encourage me to work on it every chance I got. BUT it was super-crazy! My head is still spinning from the intensity of it all. BUT WOW. It was totally worth it.

I finished everything up to the photos/momentos category! I didn't get it all completely done in my one-month deadline. My house, however, looks and feels completely different.

I never would have been able to take this funny picture (and show it publicly) of my rolling baby getting stuck under the couch. There simply would have just been too much stuff around and I would have been too embarrassed to show anyone!

Besides my not-so-little stack of boxes labeled "Photos" and "keepsakes" and "momentos" (which I keep chipping away at every chance I get), everything else has been touched and questioned as to its joy-quotient. I have furniture I've given away and some still to sell because I no longer have the stuff to fill the drawers and shelves(!!!). I'm still tweaking where I think things should belong, and I think I'll probably do one more pass through and let more things go now that my "joy-detector" is more fine-tuned and sensitive than when I first began. Then I'll take pictures and show you!


The biggest change has just been the space...physically (because less stuff = more space, duh), time-wise (less time spent cleaning up all the stuff) and mentally (less time thinking about all the stuff and what to do with all the stuff and how to ignore all the stuff). I have more space in my life! I'm surrounded by the things I love. And I suddenly have the time to pursue---wait for it---the things that bring me joy. Ha.

I mean, I still have four kids 6 and under, and I'm still (happily) not a perfectionist...so my house is not neat as a pin all the time...we actually live in it, you know! But the words "this house is a mess right now!" describe the exception, not the constant state of things. And it takes less than a half hour to bring everything back to ground zero, even at its new "worst." It feels comfortably tidy most of the time and that feels unreal and amazing.

My kids play better with fewer toys. I honestly enjoy tidying up (in the traditional sense) at the end of each day, putting our loved belongings back in their places. I can sit and read in a clean house often, and don't feel so overwhelmed with my "to-do" list that I can't fathom taking the time to do soak up my kids. My routines for myself actually stick. I can embrace the creative and beautiful messes that life hands out...without feeling like it will take over my whole life or push me over the edge. And I have the space to work through the challenges I inevitably face.

But I think the biggest lesson of the whole process, the thing that makes it life-changing, is learning to listen to that inner voice within yourself that lets you know when something is going to bring you joy, and when it is not. It starts with things...(Which clothes make me feel great? Which books do I truly need on hand to read again and again? Which photos uplift me and act as soul-filling reminders of happy memories?)...but it extends to things like which activities/hobbies to pursue, which social engagements to embrace or turn down, which people to invest your time into, and what thoughts don't belong in your head. It is not easy to be faced with all of the reasons certain things make you uncomfortable, or sad, or weighed down with guilt...but the wrestle and resolution is worth the 'heart work.' Think of it like the best conversation you've ever had...with yourself! A little difficult, but honest, revelatory, and healing.

I know now that how I 'live with less' and manage the things in my life is by always asking myself what brings me joy, what I love. I hold and cherish those things close, and kindly and gratefully dismiss the rest with a remembrance for the lessons I've learned from their presence.

And why live with less than 'too much?' Because surrounding myself with joy, and finding joy in the things around me, sounds like the kind of life I want to be living. 

These two were keepers. Joy-sparkers for sure.

January 2016 Goal

Friday, 29 January 2016



I figured I'd better hurry and announce my January Goal because I'm supposed to be summarizing how it all went in, like, three days....SO! Here it is.


Have you heard of the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo? If you hadn't, I'd be a little surprised...but only because those who have read it and tried her system just can't stop talking about it. So yes, I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard someone gushing about it and if we know each other in real life, it's probably me...(blush).

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing expert. She's also cute, and little, and wears white most of the time. She's a self-professed born "tidying fanatic," spending her spare time growing up organizing and throwing out her family's things without asking them (haha!). But she hasn't just stopped there. She's made a career of it, and has used her extensive experience and natural talent to create a decluttering and tidying method that, like she says, is life-changing. (spoiler alert: it totally is!)

My goal for the month of January was to finish "tidying" (translation: decluttering and putting things in their place) in one month following the KonMari method (the nick name for her process). Here's the quick summary of some of the basics of her method:

1. Declutter by category. Gather everything from that category from around your house and put it in one spot on the floor (or bed or whatever). 

2. Hold each item in your hands and ask yourself the question (that is now iconic): Does this spark joy? She has elaborated on this feeling as something that lifts you up, that doesn't weigh you down with obligation, guilt, feeling burdened, ambivalence, etc. The whole idea of her method is that you are not focusing on getting rid of things (negative), but focusing on what you want to keep and surround yourself with (joy-sparking things!) and letting the rest go. 

3. Your things want to be of service to you. If they no longer spark joy in your life, thank them for the part they have played and let them go by discarding them (donate, sell, throw out). Also praise and thank the things in your life that are useful to you and spark joy. Side note: this is the part that makes people roll their eyes...the whole treating-things-like-they-have-feelings thing...but it's weirdly therapeutic.

4. Store things vertically whenever possible (including folded clothes in your drawer---her folding method is famous!). This creates more space, makes everything visible at a glance, and allows you to take one thing out at a time without disturbing everything else.

5. Finish in a short-ish time frame. She recommends 6 months or less. This way you can really feel/see the motivating difference between the "before" and "after." 

6. Discard until you feel your "click" point. Sometimes that means going through the whole process a couple times until you have *just* the right amount of things for you and your home. It's different for everyone.

7. Don't judge it until you've tried it, all in. Okay, this one is actually just ALL ME, not from the book. Haha! But seriously, though...

And that's basically the gist. It's been an insane month so far, and I can't wait to tell you all about it.

Not my photo! From here.
Also, I was going to post links to my favourite articles on the topic, but it will have to wait until my summary-for-the-month post. But seriously, if you want to know more about other people's experiences with it, just Google "KonMari method" or the book title. SO much out there. She also has a new book out called "Spark Joy" that is basically a reader's digest version and/or elaboration on her first book. I've read both!

Keep your eye on Instagram for sneak peak photos over the next few days!

December Summary: My Healthiest Year Yet Challenge

Tuesday, 26 January 2016




So.

This is late.
It also goes down as the month where I tell you I FAILED MISERABLY at my goal for the month of December 2015. (sob!)

(If you're new, I'm doing a year-long challenge to improve my overall/comprehensive health...and calling it "My Healthiest Year Yet." Click the link, catch up, join in!)

My goal for December was to spend 20mins a day in spiritual study. I think I did it, like, five times the WHOLE MONTH. Five times! I am so embarrassed.

But don't feel too uncomfortable on my behalf! I'm actually (kind of) glad I tanked. I mean, it's super awkward to have to come out and tell you how awful I did at the goal that actually has meant the most to me 'depth-wise' so far, but it's given me a really great learning opportunity. I mean, seriously: How can I do so horribly with a goal that I know benefits me more than any other? One that I know I need, that holds the most weight and meaning to me, overall??

No, really...
Those were the questions I was asking myself and thinking seriously about once I realized how not-far I had gotten with my spiritual goal. And not asking in a self-loathing kind of way...just in a reflective (and kind of baffled) way. I mean, I have my excuses, sure (We were all REALLY sick with everything you could imagine, one right after the other, and it threw our normal schedule out the window...taking sleep, intentions for good-habit-making, and all my organized pre-Christmas plans with it. Sleep deprivation and hurried preparations, distractions. We traveled after Christmas, I just forgot lots, blah blah blah blah blah...and I did little things to try and throw a little dirt in the bucket here and there, like listening to a talk, so it would "add-up"...or something...? Haha!), but in all reality it was kind of a wake-up call, and became one of my main motivators for the goal I chose for January.

I know there will always be rough and busy seasons where I can't do everything I want and have to scale back. But I would hope that I will always have the perspective and self-discipline to do the things I need to be doing, the true essentials. I, personally, put my relationship with my God in THAT category...and if I "don't have the time or energy or focus" to do it, then maybe there are too many unnecessary things going on that need to be removed to make room for the things in my life that are truly important to me, that honestly nourish my hungry soul...even if they're not really all that fun or sexy or glamorous. Because if you want a metaphor, veggies really aren't all that glamorous either...but...

So here's to a new start. I'll officially announce January's goal soon! Like, hopefully before the end of January!? Hahaha...It's been amazing so far and I'm excited to tell you ALL about it.
(Hint: 'sparks of joy' are flying all over the place...)