Simple Cabbage Salad & Roasted Chicken Lunch

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Once you really focus on cleaning up your diet, it’s very interesting to listen to your body’s cravings. When you remove all the “noise”, like snacking mindlessly and eating to satisfy sugar cravings or your mood, you can hear your body telling you what it really needs. May sound like hocus pocus, but I swear it’s true. Lately for me, it’s cruciferous vegetables, coconut milk kefir, bone broth, and the activated nuts and seeds I made last week.

 I took all grains, legumes, potatoes, eggs, refined sugar, goat and sheep cheese, nuts, and seeds out of my diet a few weeks ago and have recently been adding things in one at a time over several days to see how my body reacts.

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I’m not following any one diet necessarily, other than strictly abstaining from dairy and gluten of course, because I already know I’m allergic to those. I’ve been focusing on getting a minimum of 6 cups of organic colorful vegetables per day, increasing my protein, and increasing the healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Basically, just trying to eat an extremely nutrient dense diet whenever I can.

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A bit restrictive yes, but when I really feel like eating something on that list (within reason), I do. The downside, or the upside I guess depending on how you look at it, is that now when I do that, I know exactly what foods my body doesn’t like. Before the “extreme clean” of my diet, I was eating those foods a few times a week. When you eat foods that your body is sensitive to on a regular basis and cannot process correctly, there’s no down time for you to understand the signals you’re being sent. Now those signals are blatant. Think of it like this: a clear bowl of fresh water (your clean diet) that you’ve just squeezed a drop of red dye (a re-introduced food) into. If the bowl was full of murky water, the dye would still have an impact, but how would you be able to determine what size of an impact when your body is already struggling to get the “water” clean?

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White potatoes make me swell within an hour, goat cheese gave me a horrible migraine, refined sugar makes my heart pound uncomfortably, makes my ears ring worse and dramatically increases joint pain. I can no longer tolerate nuts and seeds that haven’t been activated. Eggs seem to be OK I think (thank goodness!!). The jury is still out on gluten free grains and seed flours. Buckwheat and quinoa seem to be the friendliest. Digestive enzymes help. Even Paleo breads if I eat them too often cause an increase in joint pain and make me feel sluggish. My body prefers arrowroot over tapioca. I miss rice, but am waiting one more week to give it a try. I would have never been able to root through these symptoms had I not eliminated them for a while and then re-introduced them.

It may seem like a hassle, or a lot of work to do an “extreme clean” of your diet. And I’m not going to lie, you have to be pretty diligent. Truthfully, if I wasn’t having health issues with the Lyme Disease, I would have less motivation to really look at my diet. For me, my diet has a massive impact on how I feel on a daily basis. Trying to avoid the things my body struggles with, allows for easier handling of the LD symptoms and a more enjoyable life for me and everyone around me.

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I can promise you that working hard toward a healthy body and lifestyle whether you have a chronic illness or not is well worth the hassle. The hassle fades quickly and being diligent about your diet becomes a lifestyle choice. You won’t regret it. Understanding the link between how you feel and what you eat is huge. It can determine how you feel physically and emotionally and by understanding that and being mindful of it, you can greatly improve the quality of your life.

Simple Cabbage Salad & Roasted Chicken Lunch

*3-4 Servings

Cabbage Salad:

3 1/2 Cups of Cabbage, sliced thinly (your choice, you could even do greens)

1/4 Cup of Red Onion, sliced very thinly

Juice of 2 Fresh Limes

6 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar (or Pure Maple Syrup)

A Pinch of Ground Ginger (Or 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated)

In a medium bowl whisk the lime juice, EVOO, coconut sugar and ginger until combined and coconut sugar is dissolved, set aside. Slice the cabbage and red onion into a medium bowl and toss with dressing. Refrigerate while chicken is roasting. Toss again before serving.

For the Chicken:

Preheat oven to 350

2 Chicken Breasts

Seasoning of Choice (I used EVOO, sea salt, garlic powder and Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle)

Roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the cabbage salad.

Chestnut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies & Other Stuff

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Yesterday I had a very productive day. I love those days! The days where you wake up at least somewhat refreshed, have a to-do list that’s pretty ambitious, and actually cross off everything on the list by the time you fall into bed.  I used to have many more productive days than I do now, I was full of energy. Now, not so much, but I can still look on the bright side. There are lessons to be learned from life’s hiccups. Good, joyful, lessons! Not just the painful ones.

Having a chronic illness really makes you view your life differently. Very little is taken for granted. So many tasks and things that never even crossed my mind for most of my life, now can sometimes take a lot of effort and can be very exhausting. The little things that I never paid attention to, are very vivid and have a much greater significance. My time, peace, and happiness is more precious now, as is everyone’s, but we typically don’t pay too much attention to that until some or most of it is being used up by something unpleasant.  That’s all in the lesson, I suppose. Learning to deal with each day that is given to you in the way that it needs to be dealt with, and being OK with that.

Well, after “dealing with each day that was given to me” in the form of a migraine all weekend, I was quite happy to wake up Tuesday morning feeling like I could cope with life without copious amounts of essential oils, ibuprofen, epsom salt baths, and ice bags. Yay!

So off I went with the dogs for a hike. There’s a 552 acre conservation area 2 minutes from our front door. It was foggy and gray so you can’t see much, but I promise I’ll take better pictures on a clear day. You can see beautiful farm land for miles and miles! This is the entrance. My goal is always to head all the way up into the hills and hike up to a water tower that’s up to the left. I’d say it’s about 3 miles round trip depending on which trail you take. Not too difficult, but a nice hike and good exercise.

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This is about half way up, looking down toward the entrance. Takes about an hour and 20 round trip. But I am a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of hiker and had to stop twice to catch my breath on a major incline.

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A few weeks ago after reading through Brittany Angell’s new cook book, Every Last Crumb (we’ll talk about that more in a minute), I purchased some Chestnut Flour. It’s been sitting in my pantry ever since, of course. Last week my husband requested his favorite chocolate chip cookies, but I put him off until this week because I wanted to try to figure out a grain and sugar alternative. So after my hike with the dogs I simply Googled, “Chestnut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies”.

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What I found was a recipe SO GOOD I’m pretty sure my world shifted on its axis a little. Perfect taste, perfect texture, perfect moisture. It’s as if chestnut flour was created for chocolate chip cookies. They are that good. I don’t know where James Trenda has been all my gluten-free and Paleo-ish life, but I’m so thankful Google found him for me!

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I used coconut sugar in place of maple sugar, and arrowroot in place of the tapioca because I’m abstaining from tapioca for a while and didn’t have maple sugar on hand. I also weighed all of my ingredients exactly like he advised. The dough will be thick, thicker than you think it should be, but simply press them out a little and all will be well. They are delicious warm or room temperature and are equally good today as they were yesterday.

You can find the recipe for James Trenda’s “Ultimate Chocolate Chip Paleo Cookies” HERE.

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I am still doing my grain free trial and trying to eat an extremely nutrient dense diet. That means, LOTS of organic vegetables, a good amount of organic grass-fed meats, and a wide variety of colorful organic fruits.

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 I fried up some organic free range chicken liver yesterday, as it’s important to also have organ meats now and then in a nutrient dense diet. I dredged it in a mixture of coconut flour, arrowroot powder, sea salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and then fried them in avocado oil.

Luckily for me, I love liver. For those of you that think it tastes like an old shoe…the key is not to cook it to death.

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After munching on those fabulous cookies and snacking on fried liver, I focused my attention on baking Brittany Angell’s  Baguettes.

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I keep this cook book on my counter because every day I think, today is the day I’m going to spend all day baking Brittany’s goodies. Which of course is wishful thinking, but one recipe every now and then is cool too. If you don’t have her new cook book, you need it. It is the grain free baking bible and I promise, her recipes will blow your mind.

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You can find it online and at select book stores for around $25 and it’s only $9.99 for your Kindle. It is worth every single penny and then some.

Eating “Paleo” has its controversies and people will argue back and forth about what a real Paleo diet looks like. My opinion is that your diet should “look like” what makes you feel healthy and heals your body. Who cares what it’s called or whether you eat legumes or quinoa, brown rice, or potatoes, or no grains at all and live on kale?  The important thing is that you figure out what’s wreaking havoc on your gut and get that out of your diet. Then, add in nutrient dense foods that will heal your gut biome and change the way you feel for the better. If you need to abstain from grains for a while or even forever, along with other inflammatory foods, it’s a Godsend to be able to have a piece of bread or baked item every now and then that won’t make you feel like hell.

That’s where Brittany Angell’s, “Every Last Crumb” comes to the rescue.

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Activated Seed & Nut Trail Mix

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One of the many benefits of paying attention to the food you put into your body is of course, better health. One of the downsides to doing a lot of research and reading about health, food allergies, and disease is that all of that information can be extremely overwhelming. Soon, you feel like there’s nothing you can eat that won’t upset your body in one way or another. Well, now you can add raw nuts and seeds to that ever-growing list.

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I’ve known for a while that there was negative information “out there” about eating raw nuts and seeds and how they are very hard on our digestive systems. They were created to survive in harsh conditions and then be able to sprout when the sun and rain makes an appearance. When we eat them raw, the phytic acid that is beneficial for their survival is not beneficial to us. It binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation and doesn’t allow for nutrient absorption. When your stomach and intestines are continually being irritated by foods your body cannot digest or foods you are sensitive or allergic to, your immune system suffers greatly. And when your immune system suffers, your entire body is affected.

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You may be thinking, but I feel fine when I eat raw nuts and seeds! But here’s the issue. Our guts are in a battle. They’re in trouble. Your gut is the center of your immune system and ours are a mess which is proven by the astronomical amount of humans with auto immune diseases, cancer, hormone imbalances, IBS, Fibromyalgia, mental disorders, stress disorders, and all kinds of other issues. It’s a domino effect. The more we ignore our guts and continue to put things in them they can’t tolerate, the more out of balance we become. We may not have that immediate reaction of “Oh! What I just ate made me really ill.” But little by little your body becomes overwhelmed and soon you feel “off” or “wonky” or “achy” or “fluish” more than you think you should, or you get sick a lot with colds and other things like migraines, strep throat, seasonal allergies, sinus infections, swollen glands… That’s your body telling you something is wrong. By really paying attention to what you feed it and how you treat it, you can go a long, long, way to feeling better.

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Help your immune system, help you. And for crying out loud, don’t believe everything you hear in the mainstream media. For years we’ve been reading about how fantastic raw nuts and seeds are for our health. “Eat a handful of almonds a day! Add nuts and seeds to your salads! Add them to your morning smoothie! Use nut flours to bake with! Use nut butters, they’re excellent for your body! Get your protein from nuts and seeds!” All of these statements have truth. But only if you’re able to digest the nuts and seeds properly and actually benefit from their nutrients. Otherwise they’re actually harming you, not helping you.

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Soaking nuts and seeds and then dehydrating them is simple. SO simple. I bought this dehydrator on Amazon. It was $73.79 (free shipping with Prime) and is very versatile. You can use it to dehydrate nuts and fruits, make fruit leather, make meat jerky, dry herbs…all kinds of things. And it’s incredibly simple to use, clean, and store.

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It’s BPA free and even has temperature settings already sorted out for you on the lid. The heating element is in the lid and covered so there’s no messy clean up like the old dehydrators with the exposed heating element on the bottom.

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It’s relatively quiet. Sounds like a low fan. I’ve run it all night for two nights in a row now with zero noise irritation or issues. It has 5 shelves and you don’t have to rotate them for even drying.

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You can Google how to soak raw nuts and seeds or use this resource like I did. Super simple and straight forward.

I soaked raw cashews and raw sunflower seeds because that is what I had on hand. Last night I also soaked and dehydrated raw pumpkin seeds. The resource link above will give you an easy timeline guide. I try to time my soaking so that I can dehydrate over night.

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The cashews needed 18 hours of dehydration, while the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds only needed about 6-8 hours.

The beginning stage of dehydration.

The beginning stage of dehydration after soaking for 2 hours.

After an 18 hour dehydration.

After an 18 hour dehydration.

They have a nice crisp, snap to them when broken in two.

They have a nice crisp, snap to them when broken in two.

Crunchy and delicious after only 6-8 hours.

Crunchy and delicious after only 6 hours.

Once the nuts and seeds have been dehydrated you can use them for nut and seed butters, grind them for flours, use them in smoothies, make your own nut milk, snack on them, and bake with them. Just allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Activated Nut & Seed Trail Mix

1 Cup of Activated Organic Raw Cashews 

1/2 Cup of Activated Organic Raw Sunflower Seeds

About 1/2 Cup of Dried Cherries

About 1/2 Cup of Dried Blueberries

About 1/4 Cup Organic Raisins

About 1/2 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/2 teaspoon of Organic Ground Cinnamon

About 6 grinds of Pink Himalayan Salt

Toss to combine and store in an airtight container.

RESOURCES:

http://yumuniverse.com/soaking-and-dehydrating-nuts-and-seeds/

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-benefits-of-soaking-nuts-and-seeds

http://www.vega-licious.com/soaking-nuts-seeds-and-legumes/

http://wholelifestylenutrition.com/recipes/appetizers-snacks/is-soaking-nuts-necessary-how-to-properly-soak-your-organic-raw-nuts/

http://blog.radiantlifecatalog.com/bid/69542/That-s-Nuts-A-Complete-Guide-to-Soaking-Nuts-and-Seeds

Simple Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt

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It’s January 13th and I’m already done with winter. That’s a new record for me. The loathing of gray skies doesn’t usually start until around the end of February. I do love snow, of which we’ve had very little. Without it, winter is gloomy and gray and rather unpleasant.

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Yesterday the dogs and I took one look at the weather and stayed inside in our pajamas and hung curtains. Hanging two sets of curtain rods and curtains with tennis elbow took some time. Have you ever had tennis elbow? Well let me tell you, I have a very high pain tolerance, but this? The pain that a simple little tendon and elbow can cause is shockingI have no idea where it came from or why. It showed up like an unwelcome visitor and doesn’t want to leave.

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Once the rods and curtains were finally hung, we (I) rearranged a few things, cleaned up the big mess the dogs (I) made and whipped up a batch of coconut milk yogurt. I need something to eat for breakfast or to snack on that doesn’t involve a meat or vegetable. I’m off eggs, all grains, legumes, nuts, white potatoes, and refined sugar for a while. When you already can’t eat gluten and dairy, that doesn’t leave you with many quick choices outside of fruit, vegetables, and meat. You have to get creative and plan ahead.

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 So after sleeping in this morning after the long and painful elbow day yesterday, I had to get “creative”.

Mango, blueberries, banana, kiwi, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pomagranate, seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes.

Mango, blueberries, banana, kiwi, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pomegranate, seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes.

There weren’t meat and vegetable dinner leftovers for me to eat and I just could not stomach yet another vegetable smoothie. Yesterday’s breakfast was leftover home made chicken soup that I also had for lunch. Dinner last night was a challenge and ended up being a half an avocado, an organic hot dog (cooked in the microwave!), a baked sweet potato, and a quarter of a banana. It won’t hurt my feelings if you have a look of displeasure or even disgust on your face after hearing that.

But then, I was very pleased to remember that I had a delicious batch of creamy yogurt and a plethora of gorgeous fruits waiting for me. A lovely morning surprise on a gray sky day.

Who cares about winter? I’ll just have Spring for breakfast.

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Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt

3 Cans of Full Fat Organic Coconut Milk BPA Free

3 Tablespoons of Pure Maple Syrup (or 2-3 TBS of Organic Raw Honey)

2 High Quality ProBiotic Capsules (Opened and powder shaken into milk)

1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Unflavored Gelatin 

Poor the coconut milk into a large bowl and whisk to remove any clumps. Add the maple syrup and whisk well until completely combined. Add the probiotic powder and whisk well until completely combined. Next, scoop out about 1 cup of the coconut milk mixture into a large glass measuring cup. Sprinkle 1/2 Tablespoon of the gelatin at a time, whisking quickly so that it doesn’t clump. Continue until you’ve added all the gelatin. As you pour the gelatin mixture back into the coconut mixture, whisk briskly to combine. Make sure it is combined very well and is not all resting on the bottom of the bowl.

Poor into yogurt containers, turn the yogurt maker on, and allow to rest and warm for 12 hours. Halfway through the process. Pick up each jar and swirl to combine the clear liquid that settles at the bottom. Replace and cover for the remaining time. Refrigerate over night before eating. 

*I have also added a Tablespoon of Pure Vanilla Extract and the contents of 2 Vanilla Beans during the whisking process for vanilla yogurt. Very good!

Buckwheat Pancakes with Sweet Cherry & Blueberry Sauce

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Good morning. I hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing, peaceful, Sunday.

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I also hope you reserve Sunday as your breakfast, fun-day.

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There should be one day a week where you throw caution to the wind and allow yourself an amazing, indulgent, breakfast.

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Let your vegetable smoothies, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal get you through your week.

Sundays are special.

Sundays are for comfort and peace and for starting the morning off with something beautiful.

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Buckwheat Pancakes with Sweet Cherry & Blueberry Sauce

*Gluten free, dairy free, grain free (buckwheat is a seed)

*Makes 12 medium to large pancakes

2 Organic Eggs, Separated

2 1/2 Cups of Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk (or milk of choice)

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup of Organic Buckwheat Flour

1/2 Cup of Organic Coconut Flour

1/2 Cup of Tapioca Starch (or Arrowroot)

1 teaspoon of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 teaspoon of Organic Coconut Crystals

1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt

Separate the eggs and beat egg whites to stiff peak. Set aside. Measure the buckwheat, coconut flour, tapioca starch, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium sized bowl and whisk. Add the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Carefully fold in egg whites.

Heat a griddle on medium and oil. I used bacon fat but you can use avocado oil or coconut oil also. Spoon batter onto hot griddle and cook for 4 minutes or until bubbly on top. Flip and cook for about 3 minutes.

Top with dairy free butter, pure maple syrup, and Sweet Cherry & Blueberry Sauce.

Sweet Cherry & Blueberry Sauce

*Serves 2-3 

*The amount of fruit and thickener used will vary depending on the amount of people you’re serving

1 Cup of Frozen Organic Sweet Cherries

1/2 Cup of Frozen Organic Blueberries

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Sugar

2 Tablespoons of Water

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Dissolved in 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Cool Water

Heat the fruit, coconut sugar, and 2 Tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly drizzle the Arrowroot mixture into the fruit stirring. It will thicken upon cooking. You want it of drizzling consistency. If it becomes too thick, just add a teaspoon or so of water to loosen it.

Peace & Health ~ And a Few Other Tidbits

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Happy New Year!

I absolutely love the refreshing start of a new year. So many possibilities lie ahead.

Do you make a New Year’s Resolution list? I typically make one every year. I really enjoy looking back on the previous year and thinking about all the great things we accomplished and all of the challenges we faced. Then I sit down with pen in hand and scribble down a few things I’d like to focus on more throughout the following year.

This year I’ve chosen two words to pray about and focus on.

Peace

&

Health

Peace, because I think far too often we get caught up in the craziness of this world and allow the chaos of it and other people to get us off track. Before we know it, we’re being pulled away from what’s really important and life just seems to rush by in a cloud of running around and living life to “just get things done or get it over with”. I hate that. As a Christian I know that I have all the peace I want if I could just slow down, take control of what I do and do not want, learn how to say “no!”, and enjoy it without feeling guilty. So much of what stresses us out, makes us dread a situation, or makes us feel like there’s never enough time, is all because we didn’t put our foot down when necessary or handle our time properly. Peace is a process and I want more of it.

Health, because for me it’s a struggle.  Every day I am at some level of “sick” and although some days are certainly better than others and typically I function quite well even when feeling sick, I’m going to spend even more time focusing on the holistic, natural, healing of Lyme Disease. Much of this can be done with food, exercise, natural supplements and natural antibiotics. I’ll keep you posted and share what works for me.

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On top of my two favorite words for 2015, I also make a little list of things I want to spend more time focusing on. Not a list to stress me out or overwhelm me, or make me feel bad. Little reminders of things I think have room for improvement:

1. Use my time more wisely.

2. Be more mindful of the words I speak and think. No more dwelling on an issue.

3.  Pray more. About everything. All the time.

4. Really think about the “should-s” and “have to-s”. Necessary?

5. Choose wisely. All things. People. Situations.

6. Love more. Praise more. Laugh more. Relax more.

7. Let go of the heavy things.

8. More Joy.

So that’s it. Nothing fancy, or outlandish, or anything anyone cannot accomplish. But they are all things that sometimes fall by the wayside when we allow life to get messy or we forget who is in control.

I would love to hear your resolutions if you make them! Or things you like to focus on for a new year.

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 “And every day, the world will drag you by the hand yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”

~Iain Thomas

Happy New Year to you and your families. Exciting things are ahead! Here’s to a healthy, joy filled, peaceful, 2015!

Lemon Blueberry Snack Bread

1/2 Cup of Coconut Flour

1/2 Cup of Arrowroot Flour

1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

4 Eggs

Zest of 1 Medium Lemon

Juice of 1 Medium Lemon

1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter (maybe coconut oil…I haven’t tried it)

1 Cup of Frozen Blueberries

Frosting:

*You can also blend coconut sugar in a high-powered mixer (vitamix) to make coconut sugar powdered sugar. I did not do that for this recipe just for aesthetic purposes. I wanted a white frosting rather than brown. I think if you use the coconut sugar then the whole recipe would be considered “Paleo”. But Paleo itself is a rather relative label.

About 1 1/2 Cups of Corn Free Organic Powdered Sugar

Juice of 1 Small Lemon

About 2 Tablespoons of Melted Dairy Free Butter

Depending on how juicy your lemon is, you may have to adjust the dry or the wet ingredients a bit. Whisk thoroughly until thickened and of spreading consistency. Not too runny, you only want it to lightly drip down the sides.

December ~ The Fastest Month of The Year

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I hope your holiday season was all you wished it would be and that you were able to spend it with the people you love. It just seems to speed right by, doesn’t it? Ours went by in a blink.

It was a month mixed full of all kinds of busy and crazy. You may remember the “tree issue”.

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Once that was under control Tony and I ended up under the weather for two weeks.

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 He’s working in hospitals now and I think he’s bringing home all kinds of germs we’re not used to.

I’ve stocked him up on all natural Thieve’s essential oil spray, lozenges, and hand sanitizers in hopes that he’ll kill all the bad germs before he gets in his car to come home. When sick germs come in, I end up with a Lyme flare up and it’s a big hassle because it lingers much longer than a normal cold or flu and the symptoms are highly unpleasant.

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(photo courtesy of Essential Wellness)

Thankfully, about 3 days before Christmas I was up and out of bed and able to catch up. I even managed to finally make a decent batch of coconut milk yogurt! Two in fact. One plain and one with vanilla bean.

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I also worked on a few more home made body products to add to my mom’s gift basket.

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(Sugar, sea salt, jojoba oil, lemon essential oil, and turmeric)

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(Avocado oil and coconut oil)

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(Hand scrub with epsom salt, coconut sugar, peppermint and lemon essential oils, and olive oil)

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Even after being ill for a couple of weeks Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas turned out to be very relaxing and  a lot of fun.

Christmas Eve Brandon had to work so we picked my mom up and looked at all of the Christmas lights around town. People can get so creative.

This is my friend Julie’s house. Just gorgeous inside and out!

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(photo courtesy of Julie Chattin Taylor)

This tree was a sight to see. Not a branch without a light.

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(photo courtesy of Julie Chattin Taylor)

I set aside the guilt and stress of not having the time to bake all of my traditional cookies and candies after my husband said, “Just relax and do what you can. Forget the rest.” Relax? What’s that? I hate to see traditions fall by the wayside. It was a challenge but once I embraced it, it was full steam ahead.

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I made two types of candy only. Peppermint Bark and my Powerhouse Candy Bars. Easy peasy.

Christmas morning we didn’t start the festivities until 11:00 and enjoyed a nice brunch before opening packages.

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It was such an enjoyable, relaxing day. Brandon and Josh have been best friends since the 3rd grade. We were happy he was able to spend some of Christmas day with us in between his family stops.

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Santa is always very generous with the stocking stuffers. There’s always overflow so he leaves the rest in gift bags on the floor.

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We kept the gifts under the well-behaved tree.

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This is Brandon multi tasking. On his phone with AT&T setting up my new phone while opening a gift.

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It took us 3 hours to open gifts in between chatting and fiddling around with already opened gifts. It was nice not to have to rush or hurry. Christmas day and time with family and friends should be savored!

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Once gifts were opened and things were organized, we couldn’t believe we were ready to eat again. Somehow the holidays allow for bigger stomachs.

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Early evening brought a delicious Korobuta ham, roasted asparagus, steamed potatoes (because I forgot to roast them) with ham gravy, kale salad, and a cauliflower and broccoli gratin. There’s also supposed to be a beautiful home made cranberry sauce…but that was forgotten in the fridge.

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The forgotten sauce… with cranberries, coconut sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and clove.

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We fell into bed with satisfied tummies thankful for the love of family and friends and incredibly thankful for the blessing of being back home near our son.

Morning brought a quick house clean up, Tony hiked the dogs and we prepared for another wave of guests. Brandon was on call for work so came back and forth to visit when he could.

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Somehow we managed to eat even more food. We had a great time visiting with Tony’s sister and her family and Tony’s mom.

Yesterday we lounged and enjoyed the quiet day. Brandon came over to help us with some technology stuff. We’d be living in the technological dark ages without him. And then we headed out into the snow with the dogs for a refreshing walk.

Today Tony and Brandon are skiing as we have finally had our first real snowfall.

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(photo courtesy of Brandon Policani)

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(photo courtesy of Brandon Policani)

As for me…well. It’s 11:30 AM and I’m still roaming around in my pajamas. Going to do a little this and a little that and get the small list together I make every year for my New Year’s Resolutions. Do you do that? I love it. I love new beginnings and fresh starts and things to look forward to. Plus, I think it’s good for us to do an inventory of the previous year and see if there’s anything we’d like to add or tweak or purge.

One thing we’re really looking forward to is the big gift we bought ourselves for Christmas.

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A therapeutic hot tub. It will be installed Friday morning. 60 jets, seats that massage the back of your thighs, reflexology foot jets…you name it, it’s got it and I cannot wait to lounge in it and watch the stars and soak up all of that fresh night air.

Happy Holidays from Tony and I and may the New Year bring an abundance of health and God’s blessings to you and your loved ones.

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