BEST SELF, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH, NUTRITION

Hypocrisy of Thought

10/18/2016

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Reflecting upon our food journey thus far, I have to say that mindset plays such a huge role in our food choices.  I believe that as a society there are so many stereotypes and ideas that we have in our head about being Vegan that work against our best interest. In fact, to the degree that I don’t even like referring to ourselves as Vegan because of people’s prejudgments and instead opt to say that we follow a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet.  This typically results in confused looks and a response such as “huh?”, where I then usually follow up with “I eat Vegan”.  There are just so many strong assumptions that people make about being Vegan and I (as I imagine most people do) despise being put into a box.  

Some of the barriers to adopting this lifestyle are believing that you don’t get enough protein, that you can’t live without tasty meat, that cheese rules the world, that it would be too difficult and so on.  Often Vegans get labeled as “crunchy”, “granola”, “hippies”, and even as radical and judgmental.  I suppose there are Vegans that personify these terms, but there are non-Vegans that do too.  And as for the barriers for adopting the lifestyle, that is a whole other post.  Lol.  There is enough literature out there that shows the reality behind these myths, but in the end a Vegan lifestyle may not be right for everyone and I truly believe diet is a very personal choice.  

This is only one example of mindset though and it is not actually the one that I wanted to focus on, so instead of going down this rabbit hole, let me focus on my main intention.  A story from my life.  A story about my dear husband.

First off, I have to say that my husband is doing a tremendous job adopting this new lifestyle and completely supports it in regards to health and wellness for our family.  I am sharing this story not with the intention to throw him under the bus, but merely to make a point about the hypocrisy of our thought around food.  Despite doing well with the new transition, he still has a knee jerk reaction to the idea of eating vegetables.  Well, at least certain vegetables.

For example, I made cinnamon vanilla muffins the other morning and fed them to my kids and husband.  The kids gobbled them up, but my husband ate his slowly and inquisitively asked what it was made out of.  I stopped him and asked if he liked the muffins.  He hesitantly said yes that it tasted good, but insisted that he needed to know what was in it.  I said “Squash – it has squash in it.  Is that the answer you are looking for?”.  He grimaced and said yes.  I asked if that changed the taste of the muffin.  He said, “In a way, yes”.  

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So, I challenged him and said that it should make the muffin taste that much better.  I had just served him a homemade, great tasting cinnamon and vanilla flavored muffin made out of bananas, flaxseed, squash, coconut flour, applesauce, vanilla, and cinnamon.  That’s it.  Seven easily identifiable, pronounceable, and commonly known ingredients. 

If I had handed him a Betty Crocker Wild Blueberry Muffin he would have never asked “What is this made of?”.  And thank goodness, because then I would have to answer “Well sweetie…it has enriched flour bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), blueberries canned in light syrup, (blueberries, water, high fructose corn syrup), sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, modified corn starch, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate), salt, corn starch, distilled monoglycerides, citric acid, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavor, and of course, dried cultured cream*.”  Whew – that was a mouthful!

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Now I am not judging anyone out there who loves a good Betty Crocker Muffin.  It’s not my place to do so.  We each have one life and we get to chose how we live it.  This is not going to be a priority or life choice for everyone.  As long as we aren’t hurting others, then you do you and I’ll do me.  My point however has more to do with how we are being molded by large companies to ingest things into our bodies without questioning what it is.  As with anything, awareness is half the battle.  Being aware of what you are eating allows you to make a conscious choice.  It doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything you love all at once and declare your devotion to Veganism – that is not what I am saying.  It simply means that it might be time to crowd out a little of the bad by adding in a little more of the good.  

If you are interested in some great resources to incorporate more Plant Based Whole Foods into your life, here are three incredibly good books.  Each book has great family friendly recipes and discusses benefits of this lifestyle in easy to understand text.

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Do you have any recommendations of good resources for a Plant Based Whole Foods diet?  Have any questions or concerns?  I’d love to start a dialogue! 🙂

*Ingredients were taking directly from the Betty Crocker Wild Blueberry Muffin Box

**  After I posted this, I found where I wrote down the recipe and realized that I had messed up the ingredients list.  I have since corrected to include the correct 7 ingredients rather than 6.  🙂

BEST SELF, MY TRUTH

What I’ve Learned from Facebook Live

10/11/2016

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My older sister is a professional food blogger and authors the site Mama Loves Food (click to view).  With 5 young kids at home she balances the task of preparing, photographing, and posting about all sorts of dishes from barbeque chicken to homemade ice-cream, while also finding time to homeschool her kiddos!  Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  Lol.  

She recently expanded her repertoire to include Facebook Live shows in addition to the blog.  She began this venture with live cooking shows and eventually added a craft segment as well.

This summer, while on a 3 week vacation to Colorado she asked if I could step in to cover her craft shows during her absence.  Although I had no experience with doing Facebook Live, I knew the kids would have fun engaging in an hour of crafts and so I said yes.  We did three shows and although I feel like we were a hot mess, we had fun and seemed to get positive feedback from the audience.  April returned home and took over her show, but asked if we would like to do our own show once per week, as she was trying to increase her content on her site.

I discussed this with the kids and they both said that they would like to keep doing the show, so we signed on for an hour of our own.  We decided on Monday’s at 4 pm.  I figured this would give us enough time to walk home from school, but also not run too late into the evening to conflict with my husband’s arrival home from work.  We began a week or two before school started and eased into the process. 

I have full autonomy on picking the crafts that we create and typically try to come up with the ideas on my own.  I use my kids interests paired with an idea of what we have laying around the house that we could repurpose for crafts and have thus far been pretty successful at doing so.  My ideas aren’t always fully organic though, I use a lot of inspiration from things I’ve seen done by others and also crafts that I engaged in as a child – I just try not to replicate something that is already trending on Pinterest at the moment.  Additionally, I don’t want to be spending extra money each week purchasing arts and crafts supplies and as someone who strives to live relatively green, repurposing items that would otherwise end up in the trash or the recycling bin aligns well with who I am.   Furthermore, I try to pick a craft that can be completed by a range of ages.  Although my kids (current ages 5 and 7) are the ones that are completing them on air, I attempt to explain how they can be made easier or more difficult depending on the age of the child engaging.  In a perfect world I would create a calendar of our upcoming crafts, but the reality is that I wait for inspiration to hit and this can be as late as the night before or the morning of (sorry April!).  It is funny how an impending deadline can make creative juices flow. 😉

During these past few months working on the show I have learned a lot about myself and my own interaction with my kids.  It is extremely difficult to conduct an hour long live show with young children where you are supposed to successfully complete a task in a given amount of time.  Here are some of the wonderful takeaways that I’ve been gifted by engaging in this activity.

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1.  LET GO OF PERFECTION:  In order to have fun, I have to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and simply focus on spending this time with my kids.  Our focus is on making memories and nothing more.  It’s not about the outcome of the craft, it is about the time we spend together.  If I get frustrated that the craft is not turning out the way I envisioned it to, it will impact my behavior towards the kids.  I will find my blood pressure rising and my patience lowering.  This completely defeats the point of the craft.  

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2.  THIS IS THEIR CRAFT:  Although I am technically leading the show, this is their craft – not mine.  I do feel like I have an obligation to show the viewers what we are making and how we are making it, but I am realizing as we go, that my real value is showing the viewer how important the interactions are between us as parents and our children.  I am not a craft genius, but I am a pretty good mom and I think it’s important that we stress a community of fun and support.  I think it is important for all parents to remember that the reason we do crafts with the kids is for them, not us.  So, a pumpkin may end up having 3 eyes or a nose that looks like an arm.  So what? 😉

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3.  LIFE HAPPENS:  Last week on our show I had barking dogs and fighting children.  At one point I put my hands up and said something like “‘This is real life…this is motherhood”.  I’m not going to say that it didn’t bother me that my children were fighting on a live show – or fighting at all – but the reality is that this is life.  I can’t expect my kids to be perfect on air all the time.  They are not professional talent that is getting paid big bucks to create a motion picture – they are real kids, doing real crafts, with their real moms.  And I’m sure even the high paid kid celebrities throw fits themselves – they are after all kids.

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4.  HATERS GONNA HATE:  I cannot get over the audience that April has created and feel honored to be able to engage with them.  There are people that tune in from all over the world including New Zealand, England, Canada, and Africa, and of course all over the U.S.  I try to give shout outs and check in with people because it means so much to me that people are watching us and creating a community over our love for children and for crafts.  Whenever we have on-air faux pas I have comments of support and encouragement.  I am so thankful for the love that is shared on this site.  That said, there are always a few comments that aren’t completely supportive and loving – such as “get on with it” or “this is boring”.  With those, you just have to laugh.  Again, I am not a professional talent getting paid the big bucks.  I am a mom at home with her kids doing a craft and streaming live through my phone in my family room.  So I try my best to use any feedback as constructive criticism and then shake off any negativity that it may bring.  I do love though how other viewers will sometimes go after the negative comments and stand up for me making comments such as “give her a break, she is mom doing crafts with her kids”.  I love this group!!

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5.  BE IN THE MOMENT:  My patience with my kids is tested during every show with the kids.  It turns out that the 4 o’clock start isn’t ideal because we have to rush home immediately from school and go right into the show upon walking in the door.  We are often frazzled and rushed when we get home and so even though we try to take a minute to settle we are typically a little more on edge than usual.  Additionally, unlike my daughter who loves doing the show, my son has decided that he doesn’t want to do them anymore – which I respect – so this throws a wrench into the dynamic because often he seeks my attention during the show.  I also feel pressure to engage with the audience and attempt to stay on task with my craft.  Being in front of a live audience I have to be very thoughtful of how I react to all elements – kids complaining, dogs barking negative comments, etc.  So I try to slow down in these moments, take a deep breathe and remember why we are doing this in the first place.  We are doing the show to help my sister, spend time together, and promote craft time with families all over the world.  That’s what it’s all about.

As a result of doing the show, this conscious mindfulness has spilled over into my everyday life.  Although I believe that I am a good mom, I will totally admit that I am often short with my kids and overreact, especially if I am putting my needs before theirs.  By doing the show I have been more mindful on air and off air of how I react to the kids.  I take more deep breathes when I feel myself getting frustrated.  I take a pause and reevaluate the situation.  Am I on my phone or computer and preoccupied with irrelevant tasks when all they want is my attention?  Or am I trying to prepare dinner and need to either have them engaged in the task at hand with me or explain to them respectively why I need focused time to complete the task solo.

There are lessons to be learned at every step in our lives and becoming more open and mindful to the opportunities to learn about ourselves and the dynamics within our relationships is imperative for self growth.  I will always be a work in progress, but I am enjoying the journey.  I have found that since starting the show I have been more mindful of my relationships with my kids.  I try to take more time to focus on fun and laughter.  Just as my focus of the show is more about making memories than making the actual craft, this is a motto that I am trying to emulate in my everyday life.

Instead of the walk home simply being about getting from school to home, I try to think about how we can use this time to create memories.  Sometimes it means stopping to climb a tree, but other times it is just about putting my phone away and fully focusing on engaging in an enthusiastic conversation with them about their day.  If I bring energy and excitement to the conversation, they seem to echo it right back and the details of their day spill out.  Not every day is perfect, but again my goal is no longer perfection – I just want to have more good days and more positive memories.  I don’t want my kids to think back to our times walking to school and think of me constantly nagging and yelling about being late or off task.  In those moments when I notice my muscles tensing, my voice raising, and my frustration growing, I try (key word here!) to take a moment, breathe, and change the direction of my energy to that of happiness and understanding. Because, in the end I want them to remember laughter, love, and an occasional tree climbing adventure.  

If you are interested in checking out some of our past craft shows you can click on the link about titled “Craft Videos”.  At the time of this post we are currently airing on Monday’s at 4 pm EST, but are going to be changing our day and time shortly due to the kids upcoming Gymnastics class conflicting with our current time.  I’ll try to remember to update the post with our new day and time when available!

LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

Homesick // Watching from the Sidelines

10/07/2016

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Our move has certainly been an adventure thus far and I have embraced it.  I am enjoying all the new opportunities it has allowed for and love living somewhere new for the first time in my adult life.  I don’t often find myself homesick – not to say that I don’t miss my friends and family greatly – but on a day to day, I am really excited to be here.  That said, there have been a few times since our move that I have felt incredibly homesick and one of those times is now.

The first time I felt homesick was shortly after we moved to DC and was very unexpected.  We had decided to check out the church across the street which was the same denomination as the church that we attended in Oviedo.  Back home, we were deeply involved with our church. My husband was the president, I sang in the choir and played handbells for a while. The kids attended Sunday school, and we were very involved with smaller events and tasks on a regular basis.  It was a small church and it felt like a family.  My husband and I had gone to one service at the DC church while apartment hunting in January.  It was beautiful, old, and well established.  But now we were DC residents and walking into this gorgeous old historic building filled with faces I did not recognize made me feel extremely alone.  I had my family next to me, but every other face in the crowd was a complete stranger. I realized then that we were in a rebuilding phase of our life.  All the hours and days spent investing into our old church had to be done again.  Walking into that church was a reminder that a piece of my life was gone.

Now, I am not trying to sound dramatic.  It was only a temporary feeling of homesickness, but it wasn’t expected.  It is funny how emotions just creep up on you at times.

The second time I felt homesick was after the Pulse shootings in Orlando.  To have a major tragedy happen to our community so soon after the move felt almost paralyzing. Hearing all the graphics details of the event and playing it out in my head over and over took me to a very dark place.  It did not help that Pulse was a club that I had been to several times, so I was able to visualize the specific details in my head as newscasters reiterated the tragic story.  I actively scanned Facebook making sure my friends were okay and stalking sites as pictures of each victim were posted.  I felt so guilty for feeling relieved when the list was finalized and knowing that I wasn’t connected to any of the victims.  It broke my heart to think of their family and friends and knowing that they were likely doing the same thing but with different results. And here we were in DC.  It didn’t feel like there was anything we could do to help shy of donating blood and going to vigils.  If we had been in Orlando still, of course this situation wouldn’t be changed, but I could have offered my services to the counseling centers around town or been part of the human chain link fence keeping away the hateful protests of Westboro Baptist Church.  I could have been with friends. But I was here in DC and I felt alone.

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And now, sitting here with a major hurricane coming and all my loved ones in Florida.  There is nothing I can do.  We sit idly watching the news, keeping our Facebook open to check out posts from family and friends hoping that everything will be ok.  Questioning whether we made the right judgement call on what to do about our house in Orlando.  Feeling outside of it all.  Sitting on the sidelines, not being in the game.  Not being able to hunker down with friends or family, to help put up hurricane shutters, make frantic runs to get more water (and wine!), and fill up all the tanks with gas.  Feeling like an outsider looking in with nothing we can do to help.  Just sit.  Watch.  Wait.

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And again, I feel homesick because it is during these times where it feels only natural to be close to your loved ones.  This is the first time in my life that I’m not just a simple drive away.  These are my growing pains and I know they are good for me.  I’m growing as a person.  I’m learning to sit with this anxiety and work through it.  That is a good thing.  And one day I’ll have to send my kids off to college (or the next phase of their life) and these life lessons will help prepare me for the uncomfortableness of sitting on the sidelines.

But as I sit here waiting I pray that everything will be ok, because that is all I can do.  So instead of worrying about it any longer, I’m going to go make myself some tea, take a warm bath, and try to get some sleep.

Wishing everybody in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas the best as the storm approaches.  And prayers to all those affected in Haiti and the Bahamas.

UPDATE:

I wrote the above sentiments last night as a way of letting go of my anxiety about the upcoming storm and my inability to do anything to help prepare.  At the time I was unaware of the path the hurricane would take.  The storm is on it’s way through Florida.  It has already passed through South Florida and is making it’s way through Orlando.  So far, my family in South Florida avoided any damage.  My Orlando family and friends all seem to be faring pretty well too, but we are still waiting for the storm to pass completely to assess any damage.  Thank goodness! 😉

BEST SELF, NUTRITION, WFPB LIVING

Good Eats // Plant Based Whole Food Style

10/05/2016

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This past weekend we came across a new restaurant that we adore! I mean seriously, it is awesome! In truth,  I had been there one time a few months ago with a friend and loved it then too, but because we aren’t in walking distance to any of them it fell off my radar. Plus, at the time we were not focused on plant-based living and so despite coming home raving about it, my husband’s enthusiasm to try it was less than stellar.

This weekend though, the timing was perfect. We went to Bethesda to visit some friends who were in town from Orlando. After meeting up with them we walked around the area to check out the downtown scene. We passed a restaurant that we considered eating at, but decided we would walk around for a bit first to build up an appetite and I am so glad we did!

Within 10 minutes our stomach’s were grumbling and we decided rather than walking back to the other restaurant, we would simply head home and cook dinner there. But on our way to the parking garage we passed by a place called Sweet Green that peaked our interest. We decided to poke our heads in and check it out.

The atmosphere was great and reminiscent of the farmhouse style.  The walls were donned with white vertical subway tiles and planks and the decor was a mix of pipes and butcher blocks.  There were fresh veggies everywhere and greens lining the shelves.  

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The concept of Sweet Green is fresh and healthy bowl creations.  They have the option to design your own or you can choose between a warm bowl or cold bowl of their creation.  The cold bowl is essentially a large salad and the warm bowl contains greens and some sort of a warm grain.  The kids chose the Apple, Pears, and Cheddar bowl, which has mixed greens, organic cheddar (which is not plant based I know, but baby steps), basil, kale, pears, apples, and balsamic dressing. My husband had the Harvest Bowl, which is made up of kale, wild rice, local goat cheese (which he asked to omit, but they didn’t hear him so he just ate it as is), sweet potatoes, toasted almonds, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette.  It also came with chicken, but he chose to substitute a Vegan falafel instead. And I chose the Shroomami – which is Vegan! – and full of wild rice, kale, basil, sunflower seeds, beets, been sprouts, tofu, and a warm portobello mix with a yummy miso sesame ginger dressing.  It was AH-MAZING!!!  Seriously.  So good!

We ate these bowls up so fast! The kids loved it, my husband loved it, and I was having a not so secret love affair with my own bowl!  It hit all the right notes. We talked the entire way home about how good it was and how we wanted to work to recreate these meals for ourselves.

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In fact, we liked it so much, the very next night we decided to go again! We left feeling completely energized about our choice to focus on a whole foods plant based diet. Being introduced to these bowls opened up a real possibility of meals that we could easily create at home and we were committed to making it work.  My husband noted that instead of feeling like he is constantly having a salad for dinner, he feels excited about the bowls because they seem like a hearty meal.

The very next day I ran around town in search of extra large salad bowls and a huge stainless steel (9 quart!) mixing bowl to mix up our chopped greens and bowl components.  Last night I attempted my first bowl.  Since my husband seems to be the hardest to please and raved about his bowl, we decided to attempt our take of the Harvest Bowl.  With our rendition we stuck to 100% whole foods plant based and skipped all cheese and meat.  I baked sweet potatoes medallions, whipped up a batch of homemade falafel patties, chopped kale and apples, and cooked up a big vat of wild rice.  I even toasted my almond slivers.  I threw the components together (minus the falafel) in the big silver bowl, added the balsamic dressing and thoroughly mixed them together.  I then added the goodness to each dinner bowl and topped them with falafel.  

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Although the end result was obviously not identical – mainly because removing goat cheese takes out a powerful flavor source – we LOVED it!  SUCCESS!!!! The bowls were eaten up in no time and without any nagging on my part!  Woohoo! [#momwin] As always, I asked for feedback from the crew, which included making the apple chunks bigger and the falafel patties smaller.  Simple.  Done.  Yay!

And as silly as it may seem, eating in these new big bowls was such a high for me.  I’ve had the same bowls for probably 15 years, so having these fun new uber large bowls was exciting.  Not to mention having a family that was completely enthusiastic and excited to eat what was in them!  I feel so lucky that we came across this restaurant and even though we are working to emulate their creations we completely plan to be loyal patrons of their establishment too!  Their motto is “Inspiring healthier communities”….swoon 😉  If you have a Sweet Green in your area, I highly recommend checking them out.  

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I am super stoked to try out another bowl creation of our own tonight!  And I should also mention that I made enough to make extra bowls this week (easy food prep!) and I’m literally chowing down on another Harvest Bowl for my lunch as I write this!  YUM!

LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

Here Comes the Rain Again

09/29/2016

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It rained today.  Yes.  Rain.  So, I should be used to this right?  I’m a Florida girl after all.  Rain is my middle name (not literally).  But today was different.  It was cold.  Yes, cold rain!  What is that?  I know rain, but my rain is warm.  Hot even.  Warm buckets of non-stop rain, I can handle.  But cold?  No, this is new.

I know this makes me seem like a baby.  I can’t handle rain you ask.  Is she being serious?  Well, no.  Not really.  It is not the rain that actually bothers me.  The rain doesn’t truly bother me at all.  It is the realization that the cold is coming that terrifies me. The cold, which I know nothing about.

Sure. I’ve gone on vacations where I have seen snow.  Heck, I love to ski.  But living in the cold?  Never.   Every day we are closer and closer to this thing you call Winter.  You see, the Winter I know allows me to go to the beach in December and don a light sweater in January.  We grit our teeth and make it through a week of 30 degree weather and call it the hardest winter yet.  On the weather channel, when all other states in the US are covered in blue, Florida is still red.

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The overwhelming emotion that I am feeling is not all bad.  There is still a part of me that is really excited for Winter.  It’s just that I don’t know what to expect.  And I keep hearing people say that winter here is dreadful.  Dreadful!?!?  Really?  Don’t tell that to a new girl!

There’s a piece of me that romanticizes the Winter.  That is eager to throw on my boots and my jacket and to brave the cold.  To snuggle up and drink hot cocoa (plant base, sugar-free of course)!  I dream about moving to the mountains and skiing for half of the year.  I lead myself to believe that I will have a love affair with Winter as if it’s been the missing link in my life.  My future goals are based around me loving Winter!

But what if I don’t like it?  What if I hate the cold?  What if I can’t tolerate it?  What do I do then?  It’s like realizing one mile into a marathon that you hate running.  You still have to get through the next 25 miles.  And then to give up the dream of running.  Or perhaps somewhere in those 25 additional miles you fall in love with it?  I don’t know.

And so, honestly I’m scared.  And that is manifesting its way into a little bit of panic this morning as it rains cold rain.

So I breathe.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  And remember it’s only a season.  It may end up being the best season of my life.  And if not, it will teach me things about myself.  Things I would otherwise not know.  And so, it is a gift.  Winter is a gift.  The rain is a gift.  And for gifts we are grateful.  And this is what will get me through the new season.  This, and a whole lot of layers 😉