Fall & The Grateful Practice

pumpIt’s fall – the season for crunchy leaves, coats, leggings and pumpkin spice lattes. This season really warms my heart. It is my favorite season hands down. Its fun to see the pumpkin patches full of orange, plump fruit on the side of the road and oooh and awww over babies draped in head-to-toe fleece sitting plop in the middle of a sea of burnt orange pumpkins. Like seriously cute!

Fall envelopes me with cute ideas – I scour Pinterest for fluffy outfits and craft projects. This season fills me with a fervent passion to conquer. However, I tend to forget that fall is also a season of thankfulness. After all, after Halloween comes Thanksgiving. Turkey dinners simply should not be a standalone meaning for that precious holiday.

I practiced an exercise this week. Think of the things that make you angry and frustrated sometimes – and flip those trials into something you are grateful for. I know, it was a hard task; but, I did think of a few things that I wanted to share.

My commute into work. Driving in my car and sitting in a gridlock of traffic bothers me. I hate to admit it; but many times – it just makes me blood boil. People in fast, pricey cars cut you off in the merge lane (I speak from experience) and then people who are texting or talking on their phone can take forever to realize that a lane is moving. Yet, in this midst of this chore – I am thankful for my drive in. I get to pass the Pentagon, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol every single day. What a joy! There are many people who never get to experience this marble, monumental grandeur every single morning. So I thank God for that experience and my eyes that can see such wonder.

Walking my dog. I live in an apartment – so, literally every single time my dog has to go potty, I have to take him on an elevator and outside into the little doggie park. This can be a pain especially when it’s like 20 degrees outside and snowing or when I am just flat out tired from work and want to plop down on the couch. But, I thank God for my legs that are able to walk outside – for the ability of mobility and the beautiful feeling of the crisp, clean air I get to breathe. The pumping life that I breathe in and out of my life house!

Convoluted city living. Living in the city can be rough, we discussed traffic in a point above – but the living quarters are pretty tight too. Parking spaces are rare and – everything just takes much, much longer to complete. Maneuvering around DC can be pretty bleak. However, I am so thankful to everything that is proximity to me. One weekend, I can experience Gettysburg and the next, I can walk on the Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoy some fresh fish – prepared right in front of me. I can tour Mount Vernon or even walk on the West Lawn of the White House and experience a garden tour.

I encourage you to practice gratefulness this week. Think of three things that are the bane of your existence and flip them around to find something wonderful in that chore. Remember that a smile is a frown turned upside down.

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Baked Rosemary Cashews {Gluten Free}

Let’s talk about a simple, toasty snack – nuts! Not only are they high in Omega 3’s but they are very appetite crushing. This little recipe is simple and the perfect thing to set out for a dinner party or just out in your house during the upcoming holiday season.

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The blend of rosemary and 21 Seasoning Salute (Trader Joe’s) is mouthwatering. Believe me. Love, love this blend!

You will need: 1 cup unsalted cashews, 1 tbsp. dried rosemary, 2 tbsp. olive oil or melted coconut oil and 1 tbsp. 21 Seasoning Salute.

First dump all your cashews in a bowl and coat with your olive oil. Make sure they are covered – this is what makes the herbs stick to the nut.

Pour in your spices and stir with a big wooden or plastic spoon. (Did I mention that I absolutely LOVE Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. Please buy this little yummy spice. It can really add to any dish you cook up!)

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Spray cooking spray on an oven pan and dump your spice nuts into the pan.

Make sure the oven is set to 400 – you want it pretty hot so your nuts can get nice and toasty. Place the nuts in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the cashews are nice and brown.

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Set out and enjoy!

Fall Décor Idea – Chalk Wine Bottle Vases

Just wanted to share with y’all a fun little weekend project. Today is the first day of autumn. You should start thinking about harvest décor for your home.

This little craft is super fast and easy to make. It will add a little cute factor – without the gore of Halloween decorations.

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You will need: three wine bottles, chalk paint, chalk and flowers of your choice!

Make sure you take off the wine bottle labels. Just hold the bottle under a steady stream of hot water and tags peels off easily. I used a little dish scrub brush to scrap the paper off and get rid of the stickiness.

Dry the bottles with a towel. I painted the bottles out on my apartment balcony and used a paper grocery sack under the bottles (as not to get paint on the concrete).

Simply paint the bottles using a paint brush. You will probably want to coat the bottles with 2 layers of paint. The bottles dry super fast. So, I would let the first coat of paint sit for about 25 minutes and then paint another layer over it.

You will want your bottles to set overnight – for ultimate chalkboardness. Use some chalk to write a creative slogan on your bottles. I used the phrase ‘Boo.’ It is cute, simple and not too long. You could add one more bottle to your décor and spell our ‘Fall.’

Then place your flowers in the wine bottle (with water of course).

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.

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.

hamburger 3

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!

hamburger

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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