Happiness Blooms From Within

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Last night, before the sun went down, I watched as six robins flew freely about, singing and flocking their feathers in stray water puddles. I always love to experience the sight of robins after winter. There’s something magical about a change of the season. Spring is nearly here, and soon a mamma robin will be nesting right under my balcony from the same nest left year after year.

Today is my day off, and as I wait to see those robins again, I sip my coffee slower, not gulping it down to the last drop and jumping for the second cup. It wasn’t too long ago that I had stopped drinking coffee all together (a whole twelve days). Now I limit myself two to four ounces daily. It’s just enough to satisfy my craving, but not so much as to cause acid reflux or anxiety. It kinda sucks to get older and have to deal with acid reflux. After the new year something clicked in me and I decided to start making changes. A ton of changes. Call it my new years resolutions times two!

For awhile now I’ve been a mostly all organic grocery consumer, and very particular about what goes in my household as far as toxins go. But I guess this new year has challenged me more so. It became so that I was changing everything. I mean EVERYTHING! I got rid of our microwave and bought a new toaster oven. It’s actually amazing! I used my 40% off at Kohls to purchase a KitchenAid brand. I got rid of the last of our aluminum pots and pans and bought a really nice pair of All-Clad D5 Set of 2 French Skillets 9 Inch & 11 Inch which I bought at Williams-Sonoma, but amazon has them on sale often as well. Now my kitchen is stocked with Le Creuset and All-Clad cookware, and I completely love it! If you want to know more about this cookware checkout “A lesson on cookware” to see why I love these brands.

My changes didn’t stop there…

After my mom went through breast cancer treatment, I learned about wire-free bras so of course I changed out all my bras, too. Even all my candles are now only beeswax, though I’m craving to get some really good smelling soy candles. I found myself doing so much research about what’s healthy and what’s not. It was almost overwhelming. Henry said it’s just a phase I was going through after seeing my mom go through what she had and I believe that. It was hard, and maybe this is a way I cope. But, of course, my changes didn’t stop there…

I decided to make a dreadful doctor appointment to remove a mole on my back. No one wants to do this, ever. But it was here when I realized something. Right here, when I was cooking my oatmeal on the stove instead of the microwave, having Henry change my bandage on my back from where the mole was, and trying hard to overcome the sluggish feeling I was having after quitting coffee. I had realized that it was too much and I was frustrated because I couldn’t recognize my lifestyle anymore. I was trying hard, yet again, to be and do everything perfect. And that is a scary thing.

A huge part of me is glad that I made those changes though, because I learned a lot. I learned that I can overcome it. I learned that I can set limits on my coffee consumption. I learned that it’s okay to not be perfect. I learned that it’s a good thing to do things we are afraid to do, like make those doctor appointments and just go through with it. Because now I can be excited for our vacation to Florida and Door County to wear any bikini I want and not have to hide the mole on my back. Now, I can cook real food and reheat it without a microwave.

My decision to embrace these changes led me to a little spring inspiration. I took a shopping trip to the Jo-Ann store and picked up a copy of The Magnolia Journal (the only magazine where I’ve actually read all of it). I went with Henry’s mom and found a magnificent spider plant. My favorite houseplant for many reasons-one being a great air purifier. But while I was shopping I found a beautiful quote, “Happiness blooms from within.” Yes, it sure does. Happiness can be found by changing things in life, sure. But, don’t change too much, because we are who we are. Try changing things that would make your life better. And just remember, not all change is bad. Sometimes that change can bring new happiness into your life.

 

 

A Lesson on Cookware

Over the past several weeks my mom and I have been visiting with my new baby nephew. Between it being breast cancer awareness month and seeing my mom’s hair grow back after chemotherapy, and little nephew’s sweet eyes, I’ve somehow started to become one of those “crazy health geeks,” or maybe always have been.

All through my sister’s pregnancy we’d go over things like “what’s the healthiest bottle?” and “what’s the safest pacifier?” So many health questions begin when we are just little babies that it got me thinking about all the unhealthy stuff I was exposed to as a kid, such as plastic that was not bpa-free, nasty Teflon from pots and pans, possible lead in dinnerware, and even second-hand smoke.

We all have to eat in order to live. Health, in my opinion, starts in the kitchen. So I’ve done some research to answer many of my questions about cookware, dinnerware, and food. I’m still researching today. It can be exhausting, but the point is to never give up on learning something new, especially when it deals with your health.

Having a nice set of cookware is essential in a kitchen. It can also be extremely expensive. Luckily, Henry and I were in need of a new set after only two years of using a nicer set of hard-anodized pots and pans. Plus, my birthday was just around the corner, and well, that’s all I had my eyes on. Here’s what I learned…pretty much everything out there is bad for you. The good news is that there are some BETTER options to choose from.

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Le Creuset cookware is fabulous. It’s cast iron with a beautiful glaze that allows no harmful chemicals to leach through into your food. WAY better than any aluminum pots and pans. All pieces are made in France. I purchased mine here…

Le Creuset of America 5 Piece Signature Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Set, Hibiscus

HOWEVER, don’t get carried away with the bakeware sets that are stoneware because they are NOT made in France like the enameled cast iron, which means you don’t know how much lead is in the glaze, technically. This is why I suggest Fiesta dinnerware and bakeware. They are made in the United States, Lead-free, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safer, even oven-safe! They also come with a five year warranty against chips or cracking. They are beautiful in color, and the bottoms are smooth so you can stack them and not worry about scratching. We bought ours through Kohls during a 30% discount! Lead-free is loosely stated, however. I must mention this. I trust these dishes, yes, but there’s still an extremely tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny amount of lead naturally, or may be. See the confusion here? That’s why I say, it’s all about making “the healthiest choice.”

Now, I’m not going to go on and on about all the reasons I didn’t choose any other cookware because I literally could go on and on. But, I will tell you all the main points which are exhaustively stated everywhere nowadays, which is a good thing! Aluminum pots and pans are bad for cooking, especially when they are scratched and peeling or when you cook with tomato-based sauces. The tomato-based sauces in spaghetti, tacos, chili, etc. react with aluminum and leach into the food, hence into our bodies. Stainless steel may be better than aluminum but it can leach Nickel into foods. Cast iron can leach iron that’s not really the real form of iron our bodies need, however for someone who is anemic there might be benefits. Ceramic coated pots and pans are just a joke. Then, you have all ceramic, I mean the REAL all ceramic like Xtrema, which I was going to buy, however, I noticed they are not made in the United States and they are extremely fragile and expensive, so I crossed it off my list. Maybe for others this is a good choice.

This is how I came to Le Creuset cast iron. We bought the 3-piece set from amazon and packaging was excellent! It’s made in France, lifetime warranty, been around for years, are heirlooms, and they pass the hardest test for lead in California. Apparently there are higher amounts of lead (though extremely lower than low) are in the red and orange colored glazes (the blue and purple don’t have that higher amount). Now when I say “higher amount of lead” I don’t mean it’s bad, I just mean there’s more than the other colors, but still so low in amount that it “probably” will never leach into foods. This again, is why I say, “choose the best option.” Now, I’m no expert, just a regular consumer looking for the best option out there. If you disagree with me, I’d love to hear your reasoning! There’s always something new to learn. I am truly in love with my Le Creuset set and Fiesta dishes.

My favorite piece by far is the Dutch Oven. I’ve cooked Chicken Rice Soup (Grandma’s recipe) so far, Yum! Always use wooden utensils, too. I ditched all the plastic and went with wood and silicone, though, I’m still curious on silicone. Le Creuset cookware does get hot, which is why we bought a silicone handle for the skillet and saucepan. For the dutch oven, you’ll need hot pads! This type of cookware has to be slowly heated (never higher than medium heat), which does take time when you are hungry, but it’s a price you have to pay for assurance that nothing bad is going into your food. The skillet I’ve used for cooking chicken breasts, and the saucepan for slowly steaming veggies. So much more to cook!

My Simple Four-Ingredient Smoothie!

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When I was attending the University College, my mom would make two smoothies every day. One for her and one for me. I’d always catch her for a few minutes before she left for work. I loved the way I felt drinking the smoothie, even more how I felt hours afterwords, awake, alert, and satisfied.

When the sun rises and the birds start chirping, an appetite for food begins to grow. So, why not start your day off the right way with something healthy and nutritious like a breakfast smoothie.

With all the recipes out there it can seem really frustrating to even begin getting ingredients and to decide which blender to get (I use a Ninja). It can be extremely overwhelming to some, but let me tell you, with the right mind set, it’s easy as pie! (And no, I do not add pie to the smoothie!)

My mom’s recipe was from the Paleo Diet and called for….a raw egg! I know, gross to some including myself but I ate it, and really loved that recipe. The egg added protein that the body needs. Now that I’m on my own, I’ve learned to mix ingredients that I want in the smoothie…no raw egg.

To start, I’m not a nutritionist. I’ve just learned more about foods and the ingredients that make up those foods, and I’m learning more every day. Basically, I’ve learned what not to eat anymore to feel good. Bread is one of those foods that makes me feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy himself, bloated and feeling five pounds heavier. That’s why I avoid breads as much as I can.

Here’s what I put in my Potassium-filled, breakfast (or anytime) smoothie…(I always have more leftover). The measurements below can make two yummy smoothies. Adjust to taste. This smoothie tastes like blueberries, coconut, banana, and a small taste of pineapple. My mom doesn’t care for the banana as much as I do, so just give it a try. Everyone has different tastes, but this is a smoothie I enjoy…

  • 2 cups wild blueberries
  • 2 organic banana(s)
  • 6 Tbsp organic shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup coconut water (with pineapple) OR Organic Vanilla Almond Milk

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20150622_13403820150623_115732You can always modify or add to the recipe to satisfy your hunger needs. Also, I use Organic Vanilla Almond Milk for breakfast instead of coconut water because it adds Calcium and Vitamin E to the smoothie, along with a gram of protein. When I use the almond milk, however, I usually will substitute the banana that way I have a great taste of blueberry, coconut, and almond. Add more Coconut Water if the smoothie is still a bit frozen from the blueberries. If you make more than what you need for one smoothie (like what I do), put the rest into a frozen Popsicle tray and eat later as a yummy frozen treat!