One Week of Flats – And I Lived To Tell About It

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Shoes from: Nine West, Steve Madden, Target, Shoe Carnival and Sperry

Well, one major problem about being a working woman is dressing up for work. I used to absolutely love it. I don’t know if it’s me getting older or the fact that it takes so much effort, and I have so much to do (nobody’s got time for that!). Haha.

At any rate, I challenged myself this week to dress up – but wear flat shoes instead of those ouchy high heel beauties.

Let me tell you, this was a good challenge for myself. Being a little lady, around 5’ 4” tall, I really like having that extra height the heel gives you. However, after running around on them all day (press conferences, concrete floors…etc) they can really take their toll on your back, feet and just overall weary feeling.

So I did – picked out 5 pairs of cute flats in my closet (they literally get no wear and tear at all) and wore them with choice outfits all week. And my feet feel fantastically rejuvenated. Here are some benefits that I deducted from my little experiment this week.

Flats are practical.

In my job, I run around a lot. Press conferences, media hits. These are all punctual things – and if you are running a tad late – it is full on sprint time. Um – heels were not designed for running. I have darted down the hallways in heels, not fun and not good. So, flats are so practical if you are on your feet during the day.

Flats excel in inclement weather.

Do you live in a place that has testy weather? If you do, flats are a better choice. Like really, try walking down the sidewalk in a big city while it’s pouring down rain or hailing a cab in heels while balancing an umbrella. Not my idea of a grand old time.

Flats preserve your health.

I don’t want to have back problems. Do you? I am not saying high heels are bad all the time – but don’t wear them every day. Flats will give your body a rest from the unnatural state of standing in those spiky heels. A report in The Daily Mirror notes, ‘Heels cause problems because they force your foot forward, altering the angle of your body so your weight isn’t evenly distributed over the spine, which can trigger pain from your knees all the way up to your back,”

Flats can be super cute.

Okay – so, I have thought for a long time that flats are ugly. I love, love high heels. The designs are cute and they just look so feminine. But, flats can be darling. You can get girly ones with bows (no, you are not too old for that) preppy ones with little buckles or edgy ones with zippers – etc. You can find a flat to suit your fashion taste.

Live a little and take the flat challenge (this week or next!) It is worth it. Really. It is.

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Sunflower Seed Chicken Salad {Gluten Free}

This chicken salad is refreshing and seriously great. It is so easy to make – like really easy. And will last all week in the fridge (so you can have it for lunch many days!) I like to make my lunches before the work week starts. That way, I can just grab it and go in the morning. This little salad is perfect to take to the office for a quick healthy lunch. You may even have all the ingredients at home already (I did!).

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You will need: 1 can of chicken (or you can use 2 whole chicken breasts – cooked and chopped), 3 large celery stalks, ¼ yellow onion, salt and pepper, 1 tsp. garlic powder, ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, 3 tbsp. mayonnaise and arugula leaves.

First off, dice your celery and yellow onions. You can use a food processor for this; but, I like a little larger chunks in my salad – so just use a regular kitchen knife and cut them up in small pieces. Place in a mixing bowl.

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Dump in your canned or chopped chicken. And mix it into the veggie mix of onions and celery.

Next add in your mayo (if you are vegan – you can use Vegenaise®). Stir up your mixture, making sure the chicken is coated. Add in your spices – garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. You may even want to add in a little onion powder too. If you like it really flavorful.

Lastly, add in the sunflower seeds. I find that adding some kind of nut or seeds adds that earthy crunch you crave. And sunflower seeds remind me of the fall (which, I am so ready for!)

Stir and set on a bed of arugula. This lettuce, also known as, salad rocket is super good for you. Read more about it here. Rather than a peppery taste – the leaves are somewhat sweet. However, you can always use a different type of lettuce.

I like to sprinkle some vinaigrette on top of the salad for additional flavor. Paul Newman’s lite Italian is wonderful. Enjoy.

Coconut Flour Cookies {Paleo, Gluten Free}

These cookies are yummy and super easy to make. So, I had a sweet tooth this week. Sad to say, because I usually crave salty snacks like potato chips! But, these little cookies really hit the spot.

They are gluten free and paleo. Fab! They won’t mess up that diet plan or upset your tummy. Now, if you don’t like coconut, these are not the cookies for you. They were made from three types of coconut products. Yes, three – maybe I went a little overboard.

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You will need: 1 cup of coconut flour, ½ cup of melted coconut oil (or melted butter), ½ cup sugar (I used coconut palm sugar), 4 cage free eggs, 2 tbsp. of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Also, feel free to add loose chocolate chips or coconut shreds to the mix!

Simply add all your dry ingredients together. So combine flour and sugar and stir.

Melt your coconut oil and add to mixture. Crack the eggs in and stir once more.

Lastly, add in the vanilla and pinch of salt. Use a big ol’ fork to mix up your cookie dough. And, taste it. You gotta live a little. It will taste fantastic. I absolutely love the saying, ‘You only live once – lick the bowl.’ So true!

Roll your dough into little balls. They will not feel like normal cookies (not as moist). But, that is alright. You just have to live with the fact that paleo and gluten free food has a different texture.

Heat the oven to 375. Pop your cookies in (on a lined baking sheet) for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy your yummy sweet treat!

Let’s Roll – Remembering 9/11

Let’s Roll. Words spoken from a citizen hero on an airplane of death. Reading this statement this morning gave me chills. Driving into the nation’s capitol and reflecting on the sacrifices made on my behalf – on your behalf is truly humbling.

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The Washington Monument stands solid in the skyline of the city. The image of the Pentagon passes through my car window prism. It was in flames that fateful day. Men and women were taking their last breaths inside the fiery walls of that stone structure; lifeless bodies were stretched out on the green lawn.

Devastation and grief. Unimaginable sadness.

I hear the names of the victims being read – it goes on for hours. Innocent people. Lost. Smiling faces, filled with laughter – gone. In the blink of an eye. In the fall of our buildings. Their lives were snuffed out too soon. However, their legacy lives on.

With every wind filled ripple of the bold red, white and blue flag – we remember. We reflect on the strength of this nation. United we stand, lest we ever forget these brave patriots that gave all that day.

We cling tightly to their friends and loved ones. We must care for them. Tragedy is unwarranted. It is unimaginable. But, we, as a nation can still love through the pain. We can care through the hardship and bitter anguish.

We can lift our patriotism up to the heavens – and believe, trust. Let us never forget the pain of that fateful day – but walk boldly toward a more secure future.

God Bless America.

Strawberry Kale Salad {Raw, Gluten Free}

salad kaleI cannot take all the credit for this salad. Last weekend, I visited my mom and sister in Texas and learned this yummy recipe from them (of course, I changed it a tad to my taste).

Raw food is so good for you and so is kale. So, this little cold, refreshing salad is a homerun.

This strawberry kale salad is perfect for a side salad at dinner or just an addictive lunch bite. The sunflower seeds give it a little crunch and the apple cider vinegar really erases the potent taste of the rich kale.

You will need: 1 bag (or head) of kale, ½ cup raw sunflower seeds,  ½ zucchini, 1 avocado, 5 tbsp. Newman’s Own Raspberry Vinaigrette, 5 strawberries, 5 tbsp. apple cider vinegar.

First, dump your kale into a large mixing bowl. Pour your apple cider vinegar on top of the fresh kale leaves. This is an important part – massage the vinegar into the leaves with your hands. This may take about 10 minutes. (No joke, do not skip out on this part).

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Look at this beautiful salad!

After massaging the vinegar in, add in the raspberry dressing and massage once again for about 5 minutes.

Mash up aw hole avocado into a green paste. Once, it looks like unseasoned guacamole, add this into the kale mixture and massage once again.

I used a vegetable spiral slicer to make zucchini noodles. You only need about ½ of a zucchini; but feel free to add more to the salad mixture. Mix these in with your hands.

Add ½ cup of raw sunflower seeds. These do not have salt in them (so way better for you!)

Lastly, chop up tiny pieces of strawberry and gently fold them into your salad. Set in the fridge and enjoy for dinner, chilled. Or box it up for a little yummy work lunch the next day.

Turkey Avocado Parmesan Burgers {Gluten Free}

This past weekend, my dad came to visit me in Washington, DC. Not only did we venture out to a great, unique Thai restaurant, I also made him a little homemade dinner one night. Yummy burgers! They were gluten free of course. But, so great and moist.

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Who does not love fresh avocados and Parmesan? I found a little gem recipe on Pinterest and created a fresh, healthy alternative to a juicy, greasy burger. And, drum roll please – my dad actually liked it!

These sweet little burgers are great. You can make them in no time at all. The ingredients are simple and it takes like 5 minutes to make your patties. Use the grill or a stovetop. I used a stovetop, because; unfortunately don’t have a backyard for a grill. But, we got to enjoy the outdoor balcony while dining.

You will need: 1 pound ground turkey (or chicken), ½ chopped yellow onion, 1 mashed ripe avocado, 2 tbsp. garlic powder, ½ cup fresh grated parmesan, salt and pepper and (this is optional) some gluten free bread crumbs.

I needed the bread crumbs to use as a binding agent, because turkey does not hold together as well as ground beef…etc.

All you need to do is dump the ground turkey (thawed out, if frozen) into a mixing bowl. Chop your onions up in tiny pieces and add them to the meat mixture. Then add chunks of chopped avocado to your mixture as well. Use a fork to mash up the blend.

Sprinkle in the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and mix these in again. Use your hands to make little round hamburger patties.

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Set the oven stovetop to high and spray a big cooking pan with some cooking spray. Slowly add your patties to the hot pan and cook for about 8 minutes on each side (or until lightly brown). You want to make sure the patty is cooked all the way through.

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After your patties are done – add them to a gluten free hamburger bun with all the fixings. And enjoy your little slice of gluten free summer heaven! You can also pair this meal with a great glass of Red Zinfandel and a homemade salad!

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DIY: Chalkboard Table {For Kids & Adults}

This little table was so easy to make. It barely cost me any money at all. For one, I found the table on the side of the road. So, it was free. If you are looking to make homemade furniture, sometimes checking at various dumpsters is the way to go.

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I would also suggest going to thrift stores like Goodwill for some cute, inexpensive furniture. You can find real gems at places like that. Though, the top of this table was weathered, it did not matter (because I was going to paint over it anyway!).

All you need to do is purchase chalkboard paint for this little craft. You can get this at any craft store for about $6. Or you can buy it online, here.

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Chalkboard paint is super easy to use. Benjamin Moore has a good little instructional write-up on just how you should use this type of paint.

All I did was wash the weathered surface of the table. Let it dry and applied about 3 coats of this chalkboard paint. You want to apply about 2 coats and let the table dry for about an hour and then apply your last coat.

I let the entire table dry overnight before I attempted to draw anything on the surface with chalk. Somewhat skeptical of the promise of a functioning chalkboard, I was super surprised at how well this works.

Kids and adults will like this little table. For kids, they can really geat creative and draw pictures with multicolored chalk sticks. For adults, have a wine and cheese party – and label the cheeses with chalk on your little table. Or use it for an herb garden and outline the pots with chalk and/or label one.

You can even paint a wine bottle with the paint – and use it as a vase. Your choices are really endless. Have fun with this little project.

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Contemplating Gettysburg, War & Sacrifice

etty 3The air was thick yesterday at Gettysburg. It was a rainy, chilly day – maybe that contributed to the depth in the breeze or maybe not. Maybe just maybe it feels this way every day on the battlefield. After all, this farm pasture saw young and old men fall and take their last breaths. Terrified but out of duty, they fell and gave their all. This hollowed little town saw so much death, pain and blood.

Bus ride, museum ticket and movie – I was a tourist in my backyard. However, those things really did not do this battleground, now graveyard, justice. I learned so many facts and figures yesterday in my mini trip to this historic site. Though truly fascinating, these facts did not take away from the weightiness of the death. It was all around us.

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Rows of nameless stones lined the cemetery – buried with a number and no name. Chills. These nubs of white stones meant something to somebody. They represented a life, snuffed out too soon. Unidentified or just forgotten? I guess we will never know.

The picture of Abraham Lincoln standing in the middle of that eerie, lifeless cemetery is not only humbling, it’s heroic. It birthed a feeling of longing inside me – for a leader who cares about lives. Someone who cares about the ultimate sacrifice.

I could not help but think back to high school senior year of speech class to Robert Ingersoll’s solemn words from a speech addressed to the Memorial Day audience in 1866 in Dresden, New York:

“These heroes are dead. They died for liberty—they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or storm, each in the windowless palace of rest. Earth may run red with other wars—they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.”

These words, now etched into my memory, I recited in my head, walking through this solemn battleground. Relics of a past life and time. Dairies of brave men to their children, mothers and their wives. Eloquent words now encased in a shrine of remembrance. Words once thought in a living, breathing mind – now read, cherished and echoing in a new generation.

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I will forever remember this tour, this place. Tracing steps and paths of the past are significant. They make you realize the men that have sacrificed all – for some. America was birthed out of passion, sweat and blood lest we ever forget. And, the men and women who place their bodies, just flesh and blood houses, in the face of deep evil daily should be praised and respected.

Paper Crowns Torn; Crown of Thorns Embraced

Life. The human life – breathing, living, flapping wings of life is perfectly gorgeous. The thought of life should excite the soul. Human contact, laughing and loving is what we were fashioned for – by the hand of the living God. We were formed to give love and collect it. And what a joy it is to collect the perfect love of our beautiful Savior. What a complete joy!

Like stepping stones in fresh, wet grass – his mercies are new every morning. He whispers in a voice like the lapping, salt laden ocean and sprays us with new direction and solid vision. Pupils, dilated with the excitement of his beauty, we think about life, this life we were given.

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“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

The butterfly rebirth. From filthy state to fragile wings. We were endowed with so much beauty. The beauty in the everlasting heavens above and the splendor in the presence of the Christ.

Vessels of a living, breathing God. A God that walked on earth, took the scornful death and heinous treatment for us. That’s the truest picture of beauty there ever was. Chills. It sends chills up and down my spine. It engulfs me in a wave of amazement. Paper crowns torn. Crown of thorns embraced. Hurt in human life, pain in death, triumph over the grave – and pristine forgiveness and elegant hope.

Dancing, forgiving hope. A hope that washes our faces and kisses our foreheads. This hope places sandals on our worn feet and oil on our tangled, matted tresses. Hope of life – in his death.

May we ever embrace his hope. Breathe in and out – fill your lungs with his goodness. The air circling your clay vessel shape. Life. There is always life and hope around you. It’s made possible through the sacrifice – so we might live full.

The 5 Best Affordable Lip Glosses

lipssticlI don’t know about you; but, finding a good, affordable lip gloss is a real challenge. I have a stockpile of dollar store gems and, frankly, unusable chap sticks too. I’ve gone through a trial and error stage. Buying several kinds and marking the good ones and chunking the bad ones.

So, you should take this little list to heart. I will not lead you astray when it comes to affordable lipgloss. Seriously, these types below are good for day time use – as well as, for that formal party! They are ranked from #1, being the best to #5 my least favorite (but, still admirable and worth a try!)

1. Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker

Now, you don’t have to let your childhood slip through your fingertips. Buy this popular flavor and get a great daytime color. You typically think of lip gloss as sheer; however, this little stick of goodness has a really beautiful light color to it. So, you will get the yummy taste of Dr. Pepper and that hint of red hue. And the $1.99 price tag at Walgreens really can’t be beat!

2. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer

A little bit more pricey at $3.49 (but, c’mon way affordable) is the lip shimmer. These are made from 100% natural ingredients including vitamin E and coconut and sunflower oils and they come in 5 different colors. Wow! This is a gloss that I make sure is a staple in my purse pocket.

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No joke. This is currently in my purse!

3. Bare Minerals ‘Marvelous Moxie’

Okay – this is $18. It was a Christmas gift from my mom; but, it has become one of my favorite lip glosses of all time. It is available in many, many shades of color. It’s lasts a really long time. I use this gloss a lot – and still have not had to buy a new one (from Christmas!). It is worth giving a try.

4. Bath and Body Works ‘Ultra Mentha’

Hello breath freshener and lip gloss in one! At $7.50 a bottle, this little gloss is perfect. It is a peppermint flavor that will give you a lasting breath-freshener! I discovered this little gem in high school and love it to this day. If you are a mint lover, this is the gloss for you.

5. Benetint

So, this is not a gloss – but it is awesome. It will color your lips for a long lasting stay. Created by two sisters, they truly know what women want – all day color. You can get a sample size for $8. And trust me, you really don’t need more than a sample size to begin with!