A Mile a Day for 30-ish Days: What I Learned

by Angela on September 20, 2020

I decided to do a mile-a-day for 30 days after following an influencer, Magen Reaves, who was posting about her own commitment to walk a mile a day for 30 days. I watched on her stories as more and more started tagging her about joining the movement, literal movement, and thought why not?

By this point in Covid, all my fitness attempts had gone out the window. I was gung-ho with at-home workouts in the beginning. It was easy, it was going to be short term until gyms and studios opened back up. Well weeks turned into months and the longevity of Covid settled in. With it came a sense of powerlessness and a sort of doom. Where was this thing headed? How LONG would it take to get back to normal? Will it EVER get back to normal? And I lost motivation. It was easy to just sit around the house, do my work, keep up with bare minimum domestic duties and that was about it. There was no need to get up and actually go anywhere.

I watched the number creep up on the scale and I saw my body changing before my eyes. I know we’re not suppose to focus on the number on the scale, but rather how we FEEL.  I can tell you that the number on the scale and how I looked in the mirror made me FEEL disappointed.  I had worked so hard pre-Covid to try and get in shape. I was still a work in progress, but I let myself down by undoing all the progress I had made. And it didn’t help that at 40-something years old, I knew it was going to be REAL hard to get back where I was. But I had to start SOMEWHERE, and this mile-a-day thing seemed like a smaller goal I would be able to tackle.

Well, almost….I made it to about 23 days. Then Labor Day weekend happened and I was gone the whole weekend for soccer tournaments, and it all went out the window. I guess I could add up all the walking to and from the fields and around to get food and our walk through Ikea, but that felt like cheating to me so I gave up after 23 days.  Yes, I gave up. But the journey did teach me some things as I move forward in this everyday road to healthy:

Baby steps are still steps in the right direction: Taking 20 minutes out of my day for quick walks were baby steps to getting me moving again. By having a smaller goal that was easier to achieve, I felt a sense of accomplishment that kept me motivated to continue towards my bigger goal of “getting in shape.”

Stop and smell the flowers: I almost mean this literally!  Some of my walks I was by myself and made a conscious effort to take in the sights, sounds and smells around me. So much of my day is in front of a screen.  I mean, my background on my laptop is mountain scenery, but it’s not quite the same! But on my walks, I would allow my mind to focus on the present and could feel the weight of the day being lifted. Mental health is just as important, if not more important, than physical health, and why can’t they go hand-in-hand.

Use a support system: Find your support system and use them to motivate you. Sometimes the only reason I walked was because my husband pushed me to go on a walk with him. When you have a support system to encourage you, achieving goals is easier.

Find a way to hold yourself accountable: For me this was posting about it on social media. I walked around my house for a mile one night because I wanted to be able to post about it!  Habit trackers in a notebook or on a calendar is another way you can “check off” your accomplishments. Even just talking to someone about what you are trying to achieve will motivate you to keep moving forward.

Be kind to yourself: It’s okay to miss a daily goal every once in a while, or fall short of a longer goal like I did. Life happens and sometimes we can’t do everything we want to do on our list. Forgiving myself for not being able to do it all is something I’m still working on.

The everyday road to healthy isn’t perfect. Some days will be better than others. Let’s just keeping taking our baby steps in the right direction.

Stay healthy!

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Sweet Dreams are Made of These

by Angela on September 9, 2020

I think it’s a well known fact that sleep is so important to our health. Adults should be getting 7+ hours of good quality sleep per night, yet over 30% of adults in the United States are suffering from short sleep duration (CDC statistic). Here are some of my favorite products (or ones recommended to me by a friend) to add to your sleep arsenal for a good night’s sleep:

  1. Nordstrom Moonlight Dream Pajamas – I bought this exact set after my fashion influencer friend, Thirty Something Fashion, recommended them as a great purchase during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. I am actually wearing them RIGHT NOW and they are so soft and comfy! My son did tell me I look like I’m from Polar Express, though.
  2. Mellanni Bed Sheet Set – Amazon has been my jam during this pandemic because ordering is easy, you can find EVERYTHING, and there’s free Prime shipping. So when I needed new sheets, a quick search pointed me to this sheet set that has an average rating of 4.5 stars with over 130,000 reviews (no that is not a typo). How can 130,000 people be wrong?! The sheets are inexpensive and soooo soft!
  3. Headspace App – I downloaded this app after my friend’s recommendation and I use it almost nightly. There are great soundscapes for rain and ocean waves, guided meditation, sleep radio, among other things. I can just push play and fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves.
  4. Deep Sleep Body Cocoon by this works – I happened upon this by chance when it came in my FabFitFun box and I love the smell. It has an earthy, essential oils scent (patchouli/lavender possibly), and I put it on my hands and arms EVERY night before I go to sleep.
  5. Spoonk Acupressure Mat – I bought this for my husband for Christmas to help with joint pain and relaxation/sleep. We keep it by our bed and each use it about once a week.
  6. Weighted Blanket – I personally do not use one of these but I know so many people who swear by them for both sleep and anxiety, so I am linking a high rated (4.6 stars) Amazon option that has 19K reviews.
  7. CBD infused pillow – This was another present I bought my husband to help with sleep and stress. I am linking to a more cost-conscious option here, but if you would like to splurge, this is the one I bought. Many claim that CBD oil helps with anxiety, aches and insomnia.
  8. Essential Oil Diffuser – I’m linking to the exact one I purchased here, but there are so many different styles to fit your decor. We have 4 of these throughout our house and use different oils for relaxation, energy, sleep, immune support and decongestion!
  9. doTERRA Serenity Oil – There are many sleep blends out there, but this is the one I use. I love the underlying hint of a vanilla scent. And of course I use it in the diffuser mentioned above!
  10. Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone naturally-made in our bodies that works with our circadian rhythm to prepare our bodies for sleep. This can be interrupted by things like stress, time changes and exposure to bright lights/screens. Taking a supplement like the one I have linked here could help get your sleep cycle back in rhythm.

So that’s what my sweet dreams are made of. I hope you find something here that helps you get a better night’s sleep!

Sweet dreams!

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Designed for Joy

by Deena on September 1, 2020

On a recent trip to Raleigh for a baseball tournament, my family and I took a detour to check out a friend’s new business location. Cary and business partner Kristen launched an artisan studio, Designed For Joy back in 2017 but had recently relocated to a larger facility. Living in Virginia this trip was the first opportunity we were able to visit the studio in person as opposed to shopping online. 

Cary, Designed For Joy Co-Founder
Image Credit- Designed For Joy

There was a sidewalk pop-up shop outside the store when we arrived due to the current COVIC pandemic. An array of beautifully handcrafted jewelry, colorful headwraps, leather handbags, rustic charcuterie boards and more, decorated shelves.  Thankfully, Cary was in the studio that morning and I was able to get a tour of the facilities. I’m not going to lie, my eyes teared up hearing the story behind the concept of the business and how it helps the most vulnerable women in Raleigh. 

The idea for Design For Joy came to fruition after Cary and Kristen participated in a mission trip to Rwanda. Inspired by fair trade artisan groups that were providing safe and faith based work environments for local women, these two inspirational women decided to create a similar experience in Raleigh. 

Image Credit- Designed For Joy

Designed for Joy is a non-profit organization that provides transitional work experience for women coming from trafficking, homelessness, time in prison, overcoming addiction or other vulnerable situations. Cary and Kristen focus on teaching each artisan creative skills like designing, sewing, and product creation. They also provide the women  business skills like resume writing, quality control and store management. Skills that will be invaluable when each artisan is ready to move on. The organization does all this and more while providing women with a living wage.

Handcrafted Charcuterie Board
Image Credit 627 Photography / Designed for Joy

The holidays are a few months away. I hope you visit Designed For Joy’s website, Facebook page or Instagram. You won’t be disappointed in anything you purchase. Each product sold has the name of the artisan who made it on the tag and comes with a card sharing the Design For Joy mission. 

Personally, I walked away with a bag full if Christmas gifts that I’m sure my recipients will love and with gratitude that we were able to help support others as they “rise up”.

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Healthy Banana Mini Muffins

by Angela on August 27, 2020

Sugar-free, oil-free, whole wheat banana muffins that are kid-approved? I’ve got you covered!

I took a muffin recipe and made some healthy substitutions that got the thumbs up from both of my kids. So what substitutes did I make to give this traditional favorite a healthier edge?

Whole wheat flour instead of white flour – This is an easy one. Whole wheat flour hasn’t been processed and stripped of the fiber and nutrients like white flour so you get more fiber, iron, calcium and protein. I’ve found for baked goods, it doesn’t change the taste too much so the kids hardly notice.

Honey instead of sugar – The rule of thumb is you can substitute 1:1 BUT you need to reduce the liquid in your regular recipe and add baking soda to balance out the acidity of honey.  I think honey is sweeter than sugar so I’ve always found I can get away with a lot less honey than the 1:1 ratio.  It has a lower glycemic index (GI) which means it doesn’t raise blood sugar as quick as sugar, but it has slightly more calories, so that’s another good reason to reduce the amount.

Applesauce instead of oil – This substitution fascinates me but it’s never let me down. Again, this is a 1:1 ratio and no more saturated fats in your recipe and a lot less calories.

All this results in a deliciously sweet and moist healthier version of a traditional banana muffin recipe. So give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Healthy Banana Mini Muffins

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Servings: 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease 24 mini muffin tray with cooking spray or coconut oil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix whole wheat flour, applesauce, eggs, mashed bananas, baking soda, honey and cinnamon.
  • Blend until mostly smooth (small banana pieces in the batter are preferred).
  • Spoon batter into muffin tray, filling each about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes.
  • Cool before removing from tray and store in an airtight container (up to 5 days), or freeze in ziploc bag.

Notes

*Can replace applesauce with melted coconut oil.
*Can replace honey with maple syrup.

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Grilled Ranch Chicken Kabobs

by Angela on August 4, 2020

This is hands down the easiest, and most delicious chicken skewer recipe I have found. No overnight marinating is necessary so I can choose to make it last minute and still have dinner on the table at a reasonable time. And something about the ranch dressing makes the chicken tender and juicy. Grilling season is one of my favorites because that means less pots and pans to clean!

Grilled Ranch Chicken Kabobs

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cubed

Instructions

  • Mix all marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Add cubed chicken, toss, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  • Thread cubed chicken onto skewers.
  • Grill skewers for 8-12 minutes, turning occasionally, or until chicken is no longer pink.

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Relief

by Angela on July 20, 2020

It’s been a rough week for me. I don’t know what triggered it, but my Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) has been a nightly struggle for me lately. If you suffer from this, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, let me tell you what it feels like:

Imagine every single nerve ending in your legs buzzing with static electricity every time you try to relax or sleep.

Or imagine having an itch on your leg, your foot, your nose…whatever is the most annoying possible itch you could think of . Then imagine NOT being able to scratch it.

Or you know the shivers you get from nails on a chalkboard? Imagine that same shiver coursing through the nerve endings in your legs while you’re trying to sleep.

Get the picture?

I remember the first time my RLS feelings were validated. I was at an OB appointment when I was pregnant with my second child. My doctor was this sweet, little, old Middle Eastern man whose office was in an old house where the walls were covered with flowered wallpaper and the floors creaked when you walked down the hall. After the doctor’s exam, it wasn’t unusual to find yourself in his old office getting some parting advice. This particular day in his office I mentioned to him about jitters I was getting in my legs every night. He immediately exclaimed, “Oh that’s Restless Leg Syndrome!” Then this cute little old man stood up and showed me how to do calf stretches against the wall to help! 😂 That was the day that I finally had an answer to something I thought was just all in my head!

It apparently is very common during pregnancy, but some of us suffer it long after that ship has sailed. For me, sometimes the feeling comes when I’m sitting with my family watching TV at night. A quick relief is to have some nice, caring soul sitting next to me to “chopsocky” my legs which usually helps. Or I find myself on the floor stretching out my legs while watching TV. But when it comes at night at 12, 1, 2am and the rest of the house is sound asleep, it ends up being a long night of tossing and turning, stretching my legs in bed, flexing and relaxing my muscles and repeating all over again.

So it’s not a surprise that RLS sufferers scour the internet for the perfect RLS relief. Some things I’ve come across during my research:

  • Lower your caffeine intake. I drink 2 cups of coffee a day. In the grand scheme of caffeine drinkers, I don’t think it’s an overabundance. And I’m not sure the alternative of quitting caffeine would be better for me, so I don’t go there yet!
  • Increase exercise. This could be what’s triggering my RLS right now. Exercise has been few and far between for me. Seems like an easy enough solution. Yeah, I’ll work on that.
  • Place a bar of soap under the sheets at the bottom of your bed. Say what? I know it sounds weird and super hokey, but I have no shame in saying I’ve tried it. Desperate times, desperate measures. I guess it worked? I definitely don’t swear by it but I’ve read it has something to do with the ingredients in soap interacting with the body chemistry.
  • Increase magnesium. Magnesium is important for nerve and muscle function, so magnesium deficiency would cause problems with nerve impulses, muscle contractions and cramps. Ding, ding, ding! I haven’t added a magnesium supplement to my RLS arsenal yet, but it’s definitely on my short list. In the meantime, I came across this Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil that has given me some GREAT results and very restful nights!

Why does it seem to work? I don’t know the science behind it, but oil is rapidly absorbed so when I rub it directly on my legs, maybe it’s an immediate, targeted relief. It can sting a little like razor burn (more on my calves, less on my thighs….maybe because they’re thicker, haha!) and it has a “sticky” feel, similar to the feel of salty, ocean water on your skin, but the relief I get from it is worth it. I spray it on my legs and rub it in right before bed and get a good night’s sleep.

This is not an ad but the link I have included to Amazon is an affiliate link. This is a product I found during my own online research, read about it, ordered it from Amazon and really liked it. So I wanted to share with other RLS sufferers out there.

Next on my research list…how to get rid of those spider veins!

Stay healthy!

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Chia Seed Pudding

by Angela on July 13, 2020

One of the easiest breakfasts I make on the regular is chia seed pudding. 3 simple ingredients, I can make the morning of and let sit for a bit, or I can meal prep and make enough for a few days. While my basic recipe is actually my favorite, I changed it up recently to try some mix-ins.

  1. 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  1. 1 cup milk + 1 Tbs. maple syrup


For my mix-ins I blended the milk and syrup with one each of the following:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Stir and keep overnight in a mason jar or other air-tight container. Stir and top with cinnamon or fresh fruit before serving.

Chai Seed Pudding

Quick and easy breakfast. Can be made ahead of time!
Servings: 1

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries optional add-in
  • 1/2 cup blueberries optional add-in

Instructions

  • Add 1/4 cup chia seeds to a glass jar.
  • Add milk and maple syrup to chia seeds. If adding mix-ins, blend frozen fruit with milk and maple syrup before adding to chia seeds.
  • Stir and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight until chia seeds have absorbed some liquid and softened.
  • Stir and top with cinnamon or fresh fruit before serving.

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Tomato Zucchini Risotto

by Deena on July 7, 2020

This is my whatever vegetable I have too much of recipe. I love my vegetable garden, CSA boxes and farmers markets – but sometimes I end up with way too much of something – in this case it happens to be zucchini.

white plate with tomato zucchini risotto

Tomato Zucchini Risotto

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 8 cups Organic Vegetable Stock
  • 1 bunch Fresh Scallions
  • 2 -3 Zucchini
  • 10.5 oz Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 12 leaves Fresh Basil (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp butter

Instructions

  • Dice zucchini, cut cherry tomatoes in half, and chop scallions
  • In a large pan heat a bit of olive oil and cook scallions for about 1-2 minutes until softened. Add 1 TBSP of Italian seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Add rice to pan. Stir until rice is lightly toasted (approx 2 mins). Add 1 cup of stock stirring until liquid has dissolved. Repeat until you've used all of the stock (about 30 mins). Rice will be creamy. Stir in 2 TBSP of butter at the end.
  • In another pan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil and add diced zucchini and 1 TBSP of Italian seasoning. Cook until brown – maybe 6-7 minutes. (note: I like mine charred/blackened)
    tomato and zucchini mixture in one pan risotto in separate pan
  • Add tomatoes, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar to zucchini pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
  • Add tomato and zucchini mixture to the top of risotto (rice) and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  • Optional: add more red pepper flakes for heat

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Here Comes the Sun

by Angela on June 29, 2020

I’m not sure when spring ended and summer began. It’s been a weird year so far, to put it mildly. But here we are in northern Virginia facing 90+ degree days, finding ways to venture outdoors, and planning, canceling and re-planning (hopefully not re-canceling) beach vacations. So what better time to share some of my fun in the sun items I’m loving right now!

1. Here Comes the Sun graphic tee from Pink Lily – lightweight polyester blend with cute graphic to celebrate summer.

2. Goodr Sunglasses – My teenager started wearing these when he joined the cross country team. I bought myself a pair because they’re inexpensive ($25), they DON’T SLIP, and I feel cool. 😎

3. Super Goop Everyday Lotion – SPF 50, clean ingredients and comes in a large pump version that sits out conveniently on our counter 24/7 for my fair-skinned boys.

4. Super Goop Antioxidant Body Mist – SPF 50, ready for the beach and did I already mention clean ingredients?

5. Super Goop Glowscreen – SPF 40, sheer tint for my face to round out my Super Goop arsenal.

6. Cerave Daily Facial Moisturizing Lotion – SPF 30 that I apply every single morning for daily facial sunscreen.

I’m wearing a medium but could have gone with a small.

This is not a paid ad despite what it looks like! I just love my Super Goop products!

As cool as the teenagers in their Goodrs!

Happy Summer!

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Million Dollar Spaghetti

by Angela on April 29, 2020

In the middle of a world pandemic, the need for comfort foods (and comfort leggings, comfort naps, comfort chocolate…) is strong. Today I was definitely feeling the need for comfort food, so queue the baked spaghetti.

There are a lot of “Million Dollar Spaghetti” recipes, so I combined a couple based on ingredients I had on hand and came up with a winning combination. In lieu of store-bought shredded mozzarella (couldn’t find it anywhere), I actually shredded mozzarella cheesesticks instead! Hey, you do what you gotta do when cooking during covid! I was also able to “hide” whole wheat spaghetti in this dish since it was smothered with so much cheesy goodness. The kids didn’t even notice they were eating “ugh, brown pasta”. 🙂

I hope this recipe brings you comfort like it did for us!

Million Dollar Spaghetti

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. spaghetti noodles
  • 4 Tbs. butter divided
  • 1 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella divided

Instructions

  • Cook spaghetti as directed, drain and mix with 2 Tbs. butter and 1/2 jar of sauce.
  • Brown ground beef with garlic and onions.
  • Add remaining sauce to meat mixture.
  • In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, sour cream and half the shredded cheese.
  • Place remaining pats of butter at bottom of casserole dish.
  • Layer: 1/2 of noodles + cheese mixture + remaining noodles + meat mixture.
  • Top with remaining shredded cheese and bake at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted, approximately 30 minutes.

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