Easy “Mounds/Almond Joy” Protein Balls!

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I have always loved Saturdays. Lately my saturday’s consist of my favorite Zumba class in the morning, a session with my personal trainer, my weekly grocery shopping trip, meal prep for the week, and maybe an outing or dinner with friends!

Today I decided to try a couple new recipes! One is a breakfast casserole which I’ll post in a bit, and the other is a recipe for protein balls! I’m not sure who created the original recipe, but I tweaked it a bit. You could do all sorts of tweaking for different flavors, but I love this Chocolate, Coconut, and Almond combo! Took me around 10 min. max to whip these up, and they only use one bowl!

Here it is!

Ingredients:

2 scoops of Chocolate protein powder (I used Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein that I get from Thrive Market)

1/3 c. Coconut Flour

1/3 c. unsweetened shredded Coconut

1/3 c. Creamy Raw Almond Butter

2 Tbsp. Coconut Butter, melted (I use Artisana Organics, also from Thrive Market)

1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. unsweetened Almond Milk

2 Tbsp. MCT Oil.

A couple drops of Almond Extract

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together until it forms a sort of dough! I used one of those fancy little cookie dough scoopers so they were all the same size, but you could use just a regular spoon and roll them out. This recipe made 12 protein balls. I plugged this recipe into my nutrition tracking app, Cronometer, and it came out to 102.5 kcal per ball with 5.4 g protein, 2 g net carbs, and 7.6 g fat.

You could do all sorts of fun things with these to make different flavors! Enjoy!

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Just Eat the Cupcake Already!

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I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile. Mostly because I’ve had a hard time deciding exactly how much of the dirty details of my struggles I want to share with you, but also because I’m really not sure where I stand on this. This topic of moderation. Of making a commitment to yourself to eat healthy and exercise, but also of allowing yourself to enjoy a treat here and there. I’m still working on figuring out what works for me as I am working on getting my nutrition in order. There is so much out there about health and wellness which makes it really challenging to find truth.

In addition to wading through the muck of what to eat, when, how to prepare it, how much – GAHHHH! – there’s all that stuff about mindset and body image. All of the crud in the media about what a woman should look like, or what a woman should be. And what people don’t realize, is that no matter how much weight you lose, no matter how many hours a week you exercise, and no matter how “clean” you eat; until you master your mindset, there is an ongoing dialogue in your head of things people have said that have shaped how you see your body. And those seem to stick even harder than those “last 10 pounds”. The children who matter-of-factly told you, “you’re fat”. The ex-boyfriends who commented on how “you look much better than before”, and “it’d be a shame if you gained it all back”. The people who told you you could be fit and overweight when you expressed interest in a new physical activity, or the friend’s dad who asked if you were “making it” on a group hike. And then, sometimes, the positive comments, as well-intentioned as they are, are more poisonous than the negative ones because then it becomes a game. And if you reach a plateau (which you most likely will if you’re a woman and if you have even the tiniest bit of stress in your life) and the comments stop…..in rush the insecurities. These thoughts don’t go away no matter how much weight you lose because they stem from something much deeper. They stem from how you view yourself, your own self worth, your identity. I’m still working on this one, and I only now think about what I say to little girls because I know how much of an impact words have, however well they are intentioned.

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I know that there are so many girls and young women who battle this on a daily basis, and on a much more serious level than I ever have. I am grateful to have had a childhood in which the comments didn’t phase me. I’m grateful that I always had my violin, and that my extensive music studies kept me occupied and focused on something greater. I’m grateful that I face these battles as a grown up, and with a support system and a host of resources. But not every young girl or young woman is as lucky as I have been, and I truly feel this is a battle we can help young women fight, if only we are more careful of what we say to them.

Praise the young women in your life for their radiance. Their kindness. Comment on how amazing it is when they pursue what they love with passion. Tell her that she lights up the room when she smiles, and that she is respected for the way she carries herself with power and grace. Tell her she looks so healthy when she’s sweaty from the gym, with no make up, and a messy bun. Or when she’s flushed from mucking a barn or caring for her animals. Encourage her to pursue physical activity whether it’s dancing, lifting weights, running, or a team sport, because she’s given this one body, and using it to move and explore is a sign of gratitude. Encourage her to eat healthy nourishing foods, and enough to satisfy her, so she can be strong and vibrant. And tell her she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Because there’s no stopping a woman who is vibrant and supported, nourished and encouraged.

And for goodness’ sake, eat a friggin’ cupcake once in awhile!

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MMMmmmmmmMatcha Latte

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I’ll let you in on a little secret. I played hooky today for the first time in…….a long time. Well, I didn’t EXACTLY play hooky, I just rearranged the handful of students who decided to stick around during Spring Break. Which means I’ll have an extra long teaching day tomorrow, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for a whole day off today. I’ve spent most of the morning being lazy, working on my brand new website, and getting some business taken care of.

I’m currently in the process of writing a post about moderation and balance in a healthy lifestyle, but I’m working through some writer’s block, and deciding how many dirty little details I want to share with you about my personal battles.

I’m toying with the idea of giving up coffee for awhile to see if that will help with some inflammation and improve my sleep, but the coffee lover inside is very resistant. So, instead of having a second cup this afternoon, I opted for this light, sugar-free Matcha Latte! It is refreshing, flavorful, and you won’t be drinking a ton of calories. You can make it hot or cold, and with just about any kind of milk! I use unsweetened almond milk.

Ingredients:

1 tsp Matcha – I am toying with brands right now. Currently using Matcha Love Organic from Thrive Market, and I love it!

Hot Water

1 cup milk of choice

4 drops (or so) of organic Liquid Stevia

Directions:

Whisk the Matcha powder with a little bit of almost boiling water in a small bowl (I whisk with a fork, but you can get fancy schmancy and get one of those cute little bamboo whisks). Blend with your milk of choice and the stevia drops in a blender. Pour over ice, heat in the microwave, or steam with a steam wand! The blending step is not necessary, but I can’t stand clumps of Matcha at the bottom of my cup!

Enjoy!

 

 

Butterflies and Butternut Squash

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Happy Easter!

I absolutely love this season! I love the sunshine, budding trees, wildflowers, and the new beginnings the season brings. I love the birth of baby lambs and kids at the family farm, boughten chicks, Butterflies flitting, bees buzzing, and the excitement of Summer plans being made.

This has been a gloriously fun weekend so far – I spent all day yesterday running around San Francisco with Angela Nunnink Photography taking pictures for my business and my blog! I can’t wait to share with you the new and exciting ideas I have rolling around in my head, but everything in due time…..for now, I’d like to share with you some easy ways to get veggies in. I know it can be challenging for a busy lifestyle, and honestly, sometimes salads just don’t sit well.

Roasted Butternut Squash Zig Zags:

I make a big batch of these about once a week. I’ll probably get sick of them as we move out of winter, but right now they are heavenly to me. And though I used to look down on people who bought pre-cut veggies, I am so beyond that now. My life is crazy, and I welcome time savers with open arms.

Ingredients:

4 containers of Butternut Squash Zig Zags from Trader Joe’s

A drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Ground Cayenne Pepper (I like mine spicy!)

Directions:

Spread the Zig Zags evenly on a large, lipped(?) baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (you could also try coconut oil, or avocado oil). Sprinkle with your desired amount of Salt, Pepper, and Cayenne. Roast in an oven set to 400 degrees Convection Bake. Don’t go far. They’ll cook pretty fast, and you’ll want to mix them up a few times! This gives me about four and a half or five fist-sized portions which I split up throughout the week.

Note: you can do this with any kind of veggie! I tried Acorn Squash, Peppers and Onions (throw some cut up sausage on there for a one-pan meal!), Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower, etc.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

I absolutely LOVE roasted sweet potatoes! Although I usually stick to my protein/fat/greens meals in the morning and afternoon, I like to add a sweet potato or some of the above Butternut Squash to my dinners. The healthy carbs help me to feel satisfied and ready to rest without making me feel bloated or “too full”. I like regular orange sweet potatoes, but my absolute favorites are Japanese Purple sweet potatoes. You can find them in the Organic section at Trader Joe’s – can you tell I love this place?! – they don’t always have the purple sweet potatoes, so I grab them when I can.

Wash your desired amount of sweet potatoes. Roast whole in a 400 degree oven set to Convection Bake. Keep an eye on them. They’re done when you can poke them easily with a fork. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the sweet potato. Serve the orange sweet potatoes with a dab of butter and cinnamon for a yummy dessert, or just wrap them with tin foil and pop them in your lunch box. Try to pair them with a little bit of fat and a lean protein so you don’t spike your blood sugar.

Take an afternoon to listen to some music or a podcast, dance around your kitchen, and just cook a whole bunch up so you have enough to last you the week! It makes eating healthy much easier when you have good, yummy options on hand, and you’ll save a bunch of money not eating out or grabbing take out!

 

 

 

Pretty Little Paleo Cake

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There has always been something lovely about Palm Sunday, and today was no exception. In addition to beautiful sunshine and clear skies (although we did have a little sprinkle), I got to spend the day in the company of friends – out in nature, hiking at Hidden Falls Regional Park, and noshing on charcuterie and homemade jalapeño poppers, planning and plotting all the parties and gatherings we’re going to have, and sharing our travel adventures.

But, I also got the itch to bake, and since I steer clear of refined sugar and flour (aside from the occasional wedding or birthday cake), I decided to experiment with making a Paleo cake! I have been exploring what it is like to eat foods that could be gathered, foraged, or hunted, as well as working on some functional training with my personal trainer (kettlebell swings, rope smashes, bodyweight exercises…..)

This little cake seemed to be well received at the gathering I hosted this evening, and I promised to share the recipe, so here it is:

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For the cake…..

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. Blanched Almond Flour
  • 1/2 C. Raw Almond Butter
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 3 TBSP Organic Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 C. Mashed Sweet Potato (the original recipe called for pureed Pumpkin, but Sweet Potatoes are my favorite! Just bake whole sweet potatoes in an oven set to 400 degrees on Convection Bake until they’re soft inside, then peel, and mash)
  • 1/4 C. Raw Cacao Powder
  • 1 TSP Baking Soda
  • 1 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 TSP Salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using parchment paper, line an 8″ cast iron skillet (I used my little 9″ by 3″ cake tin because I wanted to make it fancy pantsy).
  3. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, mix for several minutes until well mixed (I had to smash the almond flour lumps with a wooden spoon).
  4. Pour batter into prepared cast iron skillet or cake tin, and smooth the batter.
  5. Bake for 25-27 min. (I think mine went in for about 30)
  6. Cool completely before icing/frosting.

 

For the Chocolate Ganache…..I doubled this recipe to make it extra ganache-y! Mmmmmm

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used half Lily’s Stevia Sweetened, and half something that was lying around the house from Whole Foods)
  • 6 TBSP Cream (I used Organic Cream, but you can use Coconut Cream to make this non-dairy!)
  • 1/4 TSP Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  1. Place ingredients in a double boiler, or in a heat-safe bowl over a pot of hot water.
  2. Mix gently over medium heat until all of the chocolate is melted. It should have a somewhat thick consistency.

 

Once my cake was cooled, I cut it in half (I have this little cake slicing tool that works wonders – I think it’s from Wilton). I ladled about 1/3rd or so of the ganache onto the first layer, placed the second layer on top, and spread the rest of the ganache over the top and sides of the cake. I didn’t mind a rustic look, so I just smoothed it with a butter knife. I topped my little cake with raw walnuts to dress it up, but you could serve yours with warm berries and fresh whipped cream or adorn it with candied violets or rose petals (if you’re not so worried about the sugar). I was able to cut the cake into 14 small slices, but for cake lovers, I would suggest you eat two.

Enjoy!

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Bloom Where You Are Planted

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For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have seen this adorable little Desk Calendar in my stories! I keep mine on my gorgeous little 1920’s vanity that my dad got me for my 17th birthday, and I absolutely adore starting my mornings with beautiful and inspiring words! Plus, it’s revolving, so no need to get a new one for each year!

You can get your own here:

Bloom Desk Calendar

Afternoon Tea at the Casebolt House

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What a day! There’s always something about Saturdays. Maybe it’s the play and excitement in the air, the relaxation the weekend brings for week-workers, or the time and space to explore and have adventures. I know it’s Saturdays like these that I’ll look back on with Gratitude, and look forward to with excitement!

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On top of glorious weather, I got to spend the day in the city with some of the most talented and passionate women I know, sharing afternoon tea and fun. One of the ladies in our society opened up her home to us (San Francisco’s historic Casebolt House), and graciously served and doted on us. She was a beautiful example of someone who uses their gifts and talents to bless others.

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Our day began with a social hour, then on to a program prepared for us by another member of our ladies’ society,who is a retired law enforcement officer. She talked about learning to be Miss Congeniality, dealing with difficult people and difficult situations, and changing cortisol levels/boosting confidence through assuming a “superhero stance”. We also received uplifting words from Madam State Regent, encouraging us to take the future.

Our brunch was a lovely array of tea sandwiches (my favorite being a homemade mango chicken curry encrusted in sliced almonds), homemade deviled eggs, stuffed endive, cups of broccoli salad or veggies and dip, crostini with blue cheese, sliced cucumber with cream cheese and smoked salmon, lots of lovely scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, and delicate petit fours.I stuck with mainly vegetables and protein, but I did have a little sandwich, and I decided I wanted to try a mini lemon bar, and a petit four. I went in to today knowing that sweets don’t make me feel great, but if there was something that really appealed to me, I would try it, but buffer it with protein, healthy fats, and fresh vegetables. And I am thankful that I have moved out of the place of feeling like I am a slave to treats.

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The rest of the afternoon we spent lazing about on the purple velvet sofa, soaking up the sun, and giggling over paging mishaps and panties.

On my plate: Endive with a sort of cream cheese spread, cucumber slices with a cream cheese and horseradish spread and smoked salmon, a mango chicken curry tea sandwich, 1 whole deviled egg, broccoli salad, veggies and dip (in my teacup!), a mini lemon bar, and an almond petit four.Processed With Darkroom

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My afternoon ended with a search for the perfect birthday cake for my dad. I decided to walk to the new Ginger Elizabeth location with the hopes of finding a cake there. They didn’t have one made, but I did some of my Valentine’s Day shopping, and ogled the pink La Marzocco espresso machine ♥️
Cakeless, I decided to head over to Tartine Bakery, one of our family’s favorites. I shared a Lyft with a couple other girls, but once the other two were dropped off, it became apparent that my driver was a bit too desperate for a Valentine, so I decided to take Uber back to the Casebolt House after I found the cake 😬 I decided on Tartine Bakery’s Dark Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé Cake. I’ve tried it before, so I know it’s decadent and just perfect.

Ginger Elizabeth’s pink La Marzocco! And Rose Hot Chocolate?! I have yet to try it!Processed With Darkroom

Although it sounds like I had an indulgent day, I started it out with a homemade no-fruit smoothie packed with protein, fiber, greens, and healthy fats, stuck to mainly protein and vegetables at lunch with a couple bites worth of indulgence, and finished the evening with a salad I picked up in Davis on my way back – mixed greens, steak, beets, squash, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, and instead of dressing, I asked them to toss it with a little EVOO ☺️ So yummy, and it made a great, quick dinner while I babysat my little cousins!

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“Happiness is a thing to be practiced”

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Disclaimer: unless you are a string musician, a nerd, or so bored out of your gourd with nothing else to read,  this may not interest you!

Well, it was time. After years of outdoor summer festivals, and a few of my youngster years not knowing how to best care for it, it’s time for a Violin Cleaning. Also, as this is a new age for me, of working towards my goals, shedding the bashful girl inside, pushing my own boundaries, and expanding myself as a musician and teacher, it is fitting that my violin should have a makeover, too! 🎻

A friend and colleague highly recommended Anthony Lane Violins (www.laneviolins.com) in Petaluma, and since I’d always rather go with a privately owned business, I decided to give him a call! I told him I was desperate and needed to get in ASAP, and he was able to fit me in right away!

A little bit about my violin: I searched far and wide for my instrument. I tried nearly 100 Violins from large shops, privately owned shops, as well as from Bay Area makers. I even tried a violin in Paris, but none of them sang for me. When I was performing in the Emerging Artists Program of the Mendocino Music Festival in 2007, I met and played with a Violist who happened to work at Heaney Violins in Mountain View. I told him about my search for a violin, and I told him exactly what I was looking for. An instrument with a rich, deep, vibrant tone. Something that sounded like chocolate. He told me he had a couple Violins at the shop that I should try. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the day I found my violin. My mom and I took a day trip over to Mountain View, and I got started trying out violins, but none of them sparked anything in me until this one was brought out. I picked it up and played it……and cried…….I knew it was the one for me by the way it sang for me (maybe that’s what it’s like to find your soulmate).
I think I remember someone once saying that our instruments are not a part of our history, but we’re a part of theirs. Sometimes I wonder what stories my violin would tell if it could speak. From the time of its making in France in the mid-1700’s till now. Had it been passed down in gypsy families? Maybe it was the prized possession of a lonely aristocrat? Or maybe it belonged to normal people like me through the ages, offering its history and beauty everywhere it goes. In all the years it has been mine, this realization didn’t hit me until now. It may not be a Guarneri or a Stradivarius, but it is my responsibility to preserve and care for it to the best of my ability, so that generations after me can enjoy all it has to offer.

Before:

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Rosin caked up on the fingerboard and the body. Gross. Tony said the back was in really good condition. Also, my fingerboard was worn down from the years of playing. This is a thing that happens, and it needs to be leveled out from time to time. Tony checked the seams to make sure there were no openings, and said he would fine tune my bridge, although he said it looked like it was in good condition. He also suggested that we replace the tail gut, and the E string fine tuner. I had no idea that these things impact the sound, but apparently they do! Strings I was using: Evah Pirazzi G, D, and A, and Pirastro Oliv Gold E.

After:

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I KNOW RIGHT?! I could not sleep a wink the night before picking it up! Which didn’t serve me well when I had to actually get up and go. And believe me, I did everything I possibly could to speed up the falling asleep process – a bubble bath, hot tea, my Audrey Hepburn inspired silk sleep mask, you name it! I ended up having a marvelous day, though, despite the lack of sleep, and plenty of coffee kept me going.

Tony spent a good hour with me getting my violin ready to play. He taught me how to correctly string the instrument, and warmed each string up by rubbing and pulling the strings to accelerate their settling time. We both took turns playing it with our different bows, and Tony experimented with three different E strings in order to choose one that fit my instrument. We tried the Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold that I brought (it came with the set that I ordered), and he also tried a Jargar E, made in Denmark, and a Pirastro Eudoxa E. We decided on the Eudoxa which really seemed to open up my sound. Tony also spent some time adjusting the sound post which he said is really solid. I was so happy to hear how impressed he was with the solidity of my instrument, and how it has been so reliable all these years. He taught me a bit about how cracks in instruments are patched up and showed me where mine has been repaired in the past. We listened to some Western Swing, and talked about teaching and the joys and challenges it brings. I left a happy girl with an instrument I am so excited to practice (I can actually play Perfect 5ths somewhat in tune now haha). It took some time to coax my sound back out – I think my violin was a little bit miffed that I put it through all that – but once it came back out for me, it was sweeter than ever 🙂

I grabbed coffee at my favorite, Acre Coffee in Petaluma, and Lamb with Asparagus and an arugula salad for lunch at Sugo Trattoria. I will need to go back within the next few months to have my Bridge replaced, so if any of you are up for a day trip, let me know!

And one of my all-time favorite quotes:

“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin” – John Lubbock

 

 

No More Rose Colored Glasses

This post isn’t nearly as depressing as the title sounds, I promise!

Tonight I celebrated approximately 20 hours of exercise in 2018 by braving the gym floor (solo) in my new Nikes! I have always been terrified to do anything other than cardio or group fitness at the gym for fear of looking stupid, but I’m slowly gaining the confidence and knowledge to go it alone! Hiring a personal trainer was one of my 2018 intentions, and it has proved to be such a good experience! I’m excited to be learning how to work out in a way that will help me achieve my goals, and it is super helpful to have someone show me how to work my body in a constructive way, and text me what to do and when to do it 😂

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But tonight I want to talk about something a little more on the deep side. How do you handle depression or sadness when it pops up? Although 2017 took me all over the world and offered me amazing experiences, it was also packed with loss and personal struggles (let’s just say my rose colored glasses were rudely ripped off! Haha), and while I’m in an incredible place of learning and growing, sometimes those ick moments pop up and I don’t really know what to do with myself, or how to tackle them in a healthy way. Tonight I’m thankful that I had a clear head. I opened my audio Bible app to find today’s study on why God allows suffering, texted my best friend, put on my Nikes, and headed to the gym to do the list of exercises my trainer sent me. It did the trick, and really showed me how grateful I am. To be alive, to be able to move and learn and grow and see and be.

That is all ☺️

So often people keep all the junk in. We think we’re the only ones who deal with it, but we’re not. We all go through times of trial and suffering. Let’s take the lid off and lift each other up! What are some things that help pull you out of “the depths of despair”? How do you cope with negative emotions when they pop up? Message me! I’d love to hear from you!

26 For My 26th

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Pictured: My lovely Cream Cheese Danish with candied citrus peel marmalade from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. I could hear the angels sing. Choosing to save treats for special occasions makes them that much more fun and exciting!

I am back to real life after the holidays and an amazing 2 weeks celebrating my 26th (I unintentionally milked my “birthday month”, and I’m not ashamed of it! haha) I was careful of what I ate, and kept up with my workouts through this time, although I did allow a treat here or there, with Christmas and Christmas Eve being feast days. Loved the food, but it didn’t leave me feeling so great!

I was so blessed this year by my family and friends who treated me like a queen! I enjoyed an incredible Prime Rib dinner with two of my besties at our favorite steakhouse. They showered me with gifts and love, and we shared many laughs over a bottle of Rosé. If all of that wasn’t enough, the steakhouse presented me with a box of truffles handmade by the chef, and a gift card! I think we’re planning on spending all our birthdays and half birthdays there 😂

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Pictured: Fitness progress from September 30th – January 13. Not extreme changes – some people don’t notice any…that’s ok – but since I started out at a healthy/average weight/body composition, my focus is on cultivating a healthy mindset, building lean muscle, and developing healthy exercise and eating habits. I did not feel comfortable in my own skin in the photo from September 30th, but thanks to coaching, journaling, doing exercise that I love, choosing uplifting podcasts instead of music on my commute, and starting to practice intuitive eating, I love the skin I’m in, and I’m thankful for the body I have and all that it allows me to do.

I spent my actual birthday doing what I love most. I started it out with a Zumba class and a session with my personal trainer. After that, I spent the afternoon getting hair and make up done, and working with http://www.xandrajanephoto.com on a Victorian inspired, enchanted woodsy shoot. I finally got to wear my Black Poplin Victorian style Corset from Dark Garden Corsetry in San Francisco, and I had an absolute blast. Alexandra and I warmed up after the shoot with homemade mochas before I headed down to The Chef’s Table for dinner with my family. We enjoyed a lovely meal, and topped it off with cake from Ettore’s (Princess Torte for me, of course 👑). The next day was spent with some of the amazing and inspiring women in my life. A group of us took my aunt’s van to Napa where we enjoyed morning pastries and coffee at Bouchon Bakery, soaking in the beauty of the French Laundry Culinary Gardens, wine tasting at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, shopping around Saint Helena, and dinner at the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (grass fed cheeseburger FTW! And their Brussels sprouts are amazing!). I stuck to veggies and protein for dinner, but I did taste a cheesy biscuit, and savored chocolate from Ginger Elizabeth which I got as gifts for each of the ladies. Overall, a dreamy weekend full of the people and things I love the most. I know there are many people who don’t have this opportunity or freedom, so I consider myself incredibly blessed. The value of my blessings is by no means lost on me.

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Pictured: Hair and Make Up by Alexandra Iriarte – check her out on Instagram and Facebook! 2018 is a year of trying new things for me, and this was the first time I tried winged eyeliner!

My dream is to use this blog as a means to connect with others. Even in our uniqueness, our battles are not so different, and if you feel like you need a friend, or an afternoon coffee and a chat, I want to encourage you to reach out! I have been so blessed to have found so many wonderful resources that have helped me through my struggles with body image, self-worth, frustration and bitterness, etc., and would love to share those with you. So, in honor of entering a new age, and working towards becoming more of the woman I was made to be, here goes:

26 things I’ve learned in my 26 years. 26 things that are true for me, and 26 things that are most likely true for you, too. 26 things that I hope will bring you a laugh, some encouragement, a bit of inspiration, or just something to relate to. You’ve probably heard all of this before, but here goes:

~ Working out is a miracle drug. Endorphins are real, and I’m starting to reap the benefits of a body free of pain (don’t try to go to the bathroom in stilettos after doing your squats and lunges, though), and plenty of energy to get done what I need to get done! Start slow, and do what excites you. Your interests will expand as you get stronger!

~ Ladies, don’t invest in a man unless he puts in the effort to prove to you that he needs you in his life. He should make an effort to call you, see you, treat you, and pursue a future with you. If he doesn’t, he’s not the one, and hasn’t earned your affection, loyalty, and attention. You just do you! Have fun, and throw yourself into all the things you love! You are stunning, just the way you are, and worthy of the love and devotion of an honorable man. Period.

~ Sun protection. Rain or shine! And if you have no clue what the best routine is for your skin, seek out the advice of a professional! Trust me, it’ll be worth it!

~ Take time to journal thoughts, emotions, and prayers. Don’t forget to write down what you are thankful for, even if it’s just the basics like being able to walk, being able to see, or having food in your belly. I’ve spent too many days feeling sorry for myself and the losses I’ve experienced, and not enough days celebrating just being alive and well!

~ Turn off all notifications. This was one of my 2018 intentions, and it’s worked wonders for me! Those little red bubbles get incredibly distracting in a world that is constantly online. Now, I only check social media when I want to. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

~ When you make self care a priority, it comes back to you in every aspect of life! This can be prioritizing gym time, making space for a bubble bath and a book, treating yourself to a nice coffee, saying no to a night out in order to have some quiet time to yourself to get caught up on life, or saying yes to a cute outfit that makes you feel great. It’s ok to seek joy and fun in life! And if you don’t love and respect yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

~ Be grateful for the wonderful people in your life. Be present in your time with them. Enjoy the moment. You are here, now! Not thousands of miles away, or months ago.

~ Never say never. You never know what life will bring you. I’ve been faced with trials and challenges I swore I would never face, and I believe that is because God wanted to humble me, and teach me to have compassion for others.

~ Take care of your smile. A well-tended-to smile can help you feel like a million bucks. But even more important is a smile from the heart, and a smile behind the eyes.

~ Date yourself! Sign yourself up for a class, go get your nails done, or take yourself out for coffee or lunch. Enjoy being alone with yourself!

~ Make your girl-friends a priority, and honor your time with them! If you’ve found your tribe – a group of women who encourage, love, challenge, and inspire you, you’ve found gold. And I’ve truly hit the jackpot in this department!

~ Eat smart, but enjoy your food! Focus on how the food makes you feel over time, focus on colors and textures. Enjoy bitterness and spices. Enjoy the process of cooking your food and making it aesthetically pleasing on your plate. Take out dairy for a week. Try an organic green tea instead of your morning coffee. Be grateful for the opportunity to eat nourishing food, and eat in a state of peace.

~ On the subject of food; log everything you eat! Even if it’s a 600 calorie slice of cheesecake, or if you ate your weight in mixed nuts. Just be aware, and have grace for yourself. The key is consistency, not perfection!

~ Stand up for yourself and what’s important to you. It’s ok to have standards, dreams, and desires. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel silly for having them.

~ If your plans crash and burn, just be grateful, and enjoy the journey (I still struggle with this one, but I’m learning). The people and the opportunities that are meant for you will always be there, and you never know what kind of bullet you’re dodging. Nobody said it would be easy, but everything will work out.

~ Be genuinely happy for others, even if they have what you’ve been desiring for as long as you can imagine (nope, I don’t always feel this, but I’m trying). Chances are, you have things they’ve always wanted, and we all have struggles. Don’t let your heart harbor envy. It will only eat you up, and prevent you from connecting with people on a deeper level.

~ Dream your wildest dreams. Ask to try on that $17,000, 3 carat diamond bracelet with the marquise cut clasp from Tiffany & Co. You are a princess! Start claiming your birthright. You may never own that bracelet, but you are absolutely worthy of trying it on and enjoying how it sparkles on your wrist! (This is a real thing that happened, and it was pure magic)

~ Hold your head high. Smile at people as you pass them. Say hi, and ask them how their day’s been!

~ Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty. To purge your closet, or scrub the grout in your bathroom floor with comet and a toothbrush.

~ Travel opens doors to a whole new perspective on life. Take every opportunity to travel. Talk to the locals. And be thankful for Home when you’re back. It’s true what they say.

~ It’s totally OK to want to feel sexy, flirty, pretty, fruity, and absolutely stunning. It’s OK to doll yourself up. But know that you ARE these things with no make up in your grubbies, or hot and sweaty from a hard workout! And own that!

~ It’s also ok to say no to a date, a night out, or an event if you don’t feel up to it. Honor your intuition, the rhythmic cycle of your hormones, and trust your gut. And don’t let anyone give you crap about it! Everything will work out ☺️

~ Prioritize sleep, and develop your own nightly rituals to help you wind down! I like to take an Epsom salt bath, light a pretty smelling candle and some incense, 3 drops of hormone balancing essential oils on my neck, turn on ocean sounds, and cozy in with a book. This doesn’t happen every night, but I sleep better when it does!

~ On the subject of dreams: let them marinate…let them simmer. You don’t have to jump to achieve them all at once. Keep working at it, keep dreaming, keep pushing forward. They will come someday. Maybe not in the way you planned, but they will come.

~ Try to look at the ways God has answered your prayers. I have always asked God for children, and while I don’t have babies of my own yet, I have nearly 50 children in my life on a daily basis who challenge, inspire, and bless me.

~ A little bit of lipstick goes a long way 💋💄

The End. 🌹