(Guest Post)The Best Laid Plans…

Hey everyone, I’m back from Winthrop and attempting to get on top of the laundry, a job that is never really done. A big thank you goes out to Kara tonight for helping me walk away from my blogging responsibility. I would tell y’all a nice story about how Kara and I met, but she already did that for me. Thanks Kara!

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Hey everyone!  I’m Kara and I will be your guest blogger today.  I met Leila back when we were both engaged and she introduced me to the Spokane Knotties.  I got married over a year after Leila, and she was huge in helping with with wedding planning and advice throughout the craziness.  She was even one of the Knotties who threw me a bachelorette party!

Oh… mah… gawd… I love Twigs… and my fellow Knotties!
Hailey, Tanica, Emily, Leila and myself

I run a tiny (workin’ on gettin’ bigger!) Lupus blog called Sisyphean Effort.  While my blog is geared towards fellow lupies, my main message is universal.  Sisyphus was that poor bastard doomed to roll a boulder uphill for eternity.  When he would get close to the top, the boulder would inevitably roll back down.  Of course, Sisyphus was a king and he was being punished and I’m no royalty… if you care to learn more, feel free to wiki it.
My point, anyway, is that it is very often we can feel like we’re making progress only to encounter setback.  My blog and my way of life is about accepting that, enjoying the ride, and continuing to try regardless of that big-ass boulder ending up on top of you.  We all feel like this, time to time, regardless if you have an autoimmune disorder or are a kick-ass marathoner (like Leila).

I was searching for a cartoon, seriously….
On a side note, you should all see 127 Hours.  It’s also funny that my GIS turned up a picture of James Franco.  More later…
My blog post is titled “The Best Laid Plans”.  And that would be because I intended to write a post on one of my new toys, a medium-strength resistance band I intended to add to my pool workout today:  Aquatic therapy is a very arthritis (and, therefore lupus)- friendly workout.  It’s also a great way to switch up your workout if you find yourself in a rut.
However, my brother-in-law was here visiting and I loaned him my pool key.  Then, I realized he would need a house key as well.  I put both on the pool keyring, leaving me with separate rings for my car/work and my home/pool.  After I got the ring back I never re-combined them.  And now it’s missing… Gol-darn boulder…
So, my new plan was yoga, which is nice since Leila hasn’t quite fallen in love yet.  Long ago, I would do P90X Yoga- a part of the Beach Body Workout.  Two car accidents (and two damn big boulders) later, I’ve lost the stamina to complete much of P90X.  In addition, my arthritis makes it difficult to do a few of the poses.  Then, I discovered these little beauties:

Three Minute Eggs- Because your body’s not square!
Rounded yoga blocks have helped tremendously with my form and fixes my issues with my hands in poses such as downward facing dog….

…and triangle pose…

…and corpse pose (one of my personal favorites)…

As Tony Horton says, he’s not in great shape because he can do a bunch of push-ups… it’s because he does yoga.  Yoga tones and encourages core strength.  I enjoy it because it slowly strengthens around my joints to support them.  I find that if I do yoga after bicycling or the elliptical my chances of a flare (arthritis acting up) is much less.  Yoga is great for all levels of flexibility, ability, and strength, not to mention great for clearing your mind.
To come back to James Franco… this is my favorite yoga DVD.
This is the star of the series (best shot I could find):

I’m really digressing… on my first guest post and everything!
My point is that yoga is hard to get into… especially if you’re a runner and you like “feeling it” immediately. In high school I was a hardcore tennis player and weightlifter.  As my lupus progressed, I yearned for ways to nurture my love of exercise. I actually fell in love with yoga with the P90X video– it was fast-paced and fun.  Others enjoy group experiences… that would freak me out as a beginner, but my goal is to be up for some hot yoga by winter!  Some studios offer brief individual sessions to offer personal tips, point out weak areas, and correct minor form flaws.  And let me say- yoga does NOT have to be super spiritual (or as I call it… hippie-dippie).  Find something you’re comfortable with and when you find something you like… STICK TO IT! I once went to a Piloga (Pilates and Yoga) class that nearly turned me off from both forms of exercise forever.  I left the class early.  Experiment, and STICK TO IT! Just like I’m sticking to my James Franco look-alike.

Now… what is stopping you from getting stronger, more flexible, and possibly- a more centered person?  I’m great at pep-talks if you need one!

**BTW, the blond beauty doing the poses is NOT me.  In the very first picture, I’m on the far right.

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Guest Post: The Smart Kitchen’s Bloody Mary Bean Dip

While I am enjoying some R&R in the mountains, I am very honored to bring you a guest post from Sarah, (aka Miss Smart). I started reading her blog, (The Smart Kitchen), over a year ago and immediately fell in love. After a brief courtship, if you will, her blog quickly bumped other blogs down my favorite’s queue, and hers took first place. After I started blogging I was thrilled to see her first comment on one of my posts, and I quickly ran to tell the hubs all about how the famous blogger, Miss Smart, was reading my blog. I could hardly contain my excitement! Enjoy her wit, charm, and fantastic recipe below.

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Hi! My name is Sarah and I live, play, and blog in The Smart Kitchen (and Austin, Texas). I’m a little crazy in the kitchen, but that just means I have more fun. I want to thank Leila for letting me pop over and share a twisted recipe with y’all. Come visit me sometime. 🙂

Leila and I formed our blogger bond over a number of things: we’re both teachers, swear by our Contigo travel coffee mugs, spill things when cooking,* are generally awesome…and, most importantly, have a shared understanding of the greatness that is Trader Joe’s Horseradish Hummus.
*Although she throws them away. I may or may not, depending on the situation.

I first had this hummus at the insistence of my friend Erin when I lived outside of D.C. Not really knowing what horseradish was, but being generally scared of it for reasons I’m still not sure of,* I was hesitant to taste.
*It might have had something to do with the horse crossed with a radish on the label? Maybe?

But I fell in love.

Over Christmas last year, I returned to the East Coast and was able to once again taste the surprising yumminess that is this bizarre sounding (and scary to most people) hummus, and, after endearing my father to it, declared that I would one day recreate it. Seemed easy enough, right? It couldn’t be more than horseradish and a can of chickpeas mixed together.
But I suffer from middle-child, “Look at me! Look at me!”* syndrome, and I can never settle for a simple. I have to take it over the top. So that got me thinking…where else does one use horseradish? And that logically led me to hangover cure for the masses, originated at the St. Regis in NYC and now found on brunch buffets the world over (and on most national and international flights): the Bloody Mary.
*Yes, that was a quote from 10 Things I Hate About You. Thanks for noticing.
I’m actually not that big of a drinker, so I have no idea how I knew to even associate horseradish with the tomato-based concoction, but I have since learned that its existence in the mix is actually a rather controversial topic. But I really couldn’t care less about that.
What no one can argue is the need for a little Lea & Perrins (or your other, perhaps more inexpensively purchased, Worcestershire sauce) and tomatoes. As I intended to make hummus, there was also no denying the need for a can of garbanzos.
Should you choose to use a different white bean, you will no longer have my permission to call it hummus. Instead, you must call it (the yes, more alliterative) Bloody Mary Bean Dip. Hummus isn’t hummus without a chickpea.
Cayenne pepper, minced garlic, salt, pepper, horseradish, and Worcestershire all go into the mix, along with an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce. Juice a lemon straight into the bowl for a little brightness to round out the flavor.
Technically, I guess we should call this a Virgin Mary hummus, as I didn’t actually put any vodka in it. But I’m not stopping you from doing so. It might make your party all that much more fun. [Or your Tuesday night. Whatever.]
The tomato sauce and the lemon juice make this a pretty smooth hummus. It’s not too thin for dipping, however, and it will thicken up with time and a little chill-out in the fridge.
[You can see that it will still grip the sides of a glass.]

Right now you might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, Sarah, but the one thing I know to be true is you can’t have Buffalo wings or Bloody Marys without celery.” Why, I couldn’t agree more.

OK, so this might not the be most practical way to serve it…it’s certainly fun, right? And all of your guests can bond over having to maneuver their hands and pita chips into the glass! Just think: it’s the new and improved “did my hand just graze yours in the popcorn tub” first date icebreaker!

Fine. Maybe not. But you should still make this anyway. Especially if you, like me, think that shrimp cocktail really just exists so that we can eat cocktail sauce.

Bloody Mary Bean Dip
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)

1 15 oz. can garbanzo or other white bean
1 8 0z. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (reduced sodium preferred)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish, according to taste
3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
celery sticks, for serving

1. Rinse and drain beans.
2. Combine beans with remaining ingredients in a food processor.
3. Process until smooth. [Mixture will be pretty “loose” but thicken up if stored in the fridge overnight.]
4. Serve with celery sticks or chips.

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Thank you so much Sarah!

What is your favorite brunch drink? How about your favorite hummus creation?

I’m a cappuccino gal myself. But sometimes to occasional mimosa will graze my lips. As for hummus, I can’t think of a dip I haven’t enjoyed. But the Trader Joe’s horseradish hummus really takes the cake. I cannot wait to throw Miss Smart’s Bloody Mary Bean Dip into my Cuisinart!

Guest Post: Carly Love!

Hi everyone. I’m enjoying a wonderful weekend with my best gals from college. Today’s guest post is from Carly, of Carly Love. I’ve been reading Carly’s blog for a few months now, and I love it. She reminds me of myself 🙂 Carly just picked up her life and is on an adventurous journey with her main squeeze. To find out what I mean, read more on her blog. And enjoy her post below!

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Hi everyone! My name is Carly and I blog over at Carlylove, where I talk about life, love, and all the speed bumps and adventures along the way!

I was thrilled when Leila asked me to write a guest post for her! Although I write about my life of LOVE, I definitely did not always have such a positive spin on life, and didn’t have an ounce of love for the most important person in my life: me.

This pretty much sums up how I used to feel about myself!

As a teenager and young adult, I struggled with disordered eating, a skewed perception of my body and self, and some serious negative talk.

After getting help with my Eating Disorder, I still struggled with the task of loving myself. Not only was this the more difficult task to master, it was the most important; how can you enjoy life living every day hating yourself?

I wish I had a formula for how to love yourself, but it is a personal journey, and there is no clear way there. I do however have a few reasons WHY you should love yourself.

1. You wake up every morning with a choice: love yourself or hate yourself. It’s YOUR choice! It takes more energy to hate yourself, so start loving yourself and use that energy to pick up a new hobby! You might even discover you’re good at something 😉

Source 

2. Think about the reason you don’t love yourself. For me, I was angry at myself for not being skinny enough. Take whatever reason is holding you back and make a plan. How can you stop focusing on the negative or the “problem”? Since my weight was my issue, I stopped weighing myself and tuned into how I feel! Would you tell your best friend that they were fat/stupid/ugly/not good enough? Probably not, so don’t talk that way about yourself!

Source

3. As cliche as it may sound, you ARE awesome! Stop comparing your deficits to other people and start recognizing how many unique attributes you have, no matter how small they may be. You’ll see, you’re a pretty awesome and unique person.

4. Because once you start loving yourself, others will follow! Awesome attracts awesome! It’s just a law of physics.

What’s something you do to love yourself?

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Thanks Carly! Carly’s journey is very similar to my own, and I know how difficult it can be to see yourself in a positive life. Right now my therapy is running. I never thought I would say it, but the endorphin rush is killer! Running gives me a sense of pride and some major body confidence!

Guest Post: Kelly from Once A Month Mom!

I am delighted to have my dear friend Kelly, from Once a Month Mom (OAMM), write today’s guest post. Kelly and I met a few years back while planning our weddings, and quickly hit it off.

(Tanica, Kelly, Becky, Me & Linda in Walla Walla)

Kelly is one of those people who will bend over backwards and do anything to help a friend in need. Not because she has to, but because she cares. So when I put out a desperate plea for guest posts, Kelly quickly offered to write one. Read below to find out how you can eat whole foods without sacrificing tons of time or your entire paycheck.

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Is it all worth it?

Contrary to popular belief you do not have to be wealthy to enjoy fresh, local and organic foods. Although there are items to which you will pay a premium, it’s about finding the balance with the items you can save on and spending a little extra. There’s also a huge advantage to planning ahead and watching the sales.

I have always been into food and grew up in a wonderful family where we cooked together and made some great meals. I was also fortunate to grow up in a wonderful part of California where local and fresh food were in abundance. I moved to Colorado 11 years ago and through college I did my best to eat well, but who am I kidding, I was more focused on having a good time than what I was consuming. As I started to grow up, move into a house, and start my marriage I began to realize that working on my body meant not only moving and exercising, but working on what I put into my mouth.

We gradually began to eliminate all items with high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and overly processed ingredients. NOTE: All food is “processed” in some way, picking it out of your garden and bringing it to the table is a process. However, pumping it full of added vitamins, minerals, sugars and chemicals for added preservation and to maintain taste is not what I want in my food personally. We began reading books like The China Study, anything by Michael Pollan and watching movies like Food Inc and gearing up for the release of Forks Over Knives.

When I became pregnant with my son, my desires changed even more and I wanted to make sure that all the nutrition we were both getting was nothing but the best. I had my moments, but for the most part I did exceptionally well. As Connor began to eat solids, I made all of his food and found that even when we bought canned food for convenience, he hated it. Interesting how the tastebuds of someone so small and innocent can know the difference.

If you are interested in making changes towards a more wholesome style of living, one of the first things to do is to look into joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Share farm. Simply head to this website, enter in your address and see what’s around you. Another great way is to head down to your local farmers market and ask about shares. CSA’s can range from produce, meat, herbs, mushrooms, poultry, milk, eggs, you name it! In our CSA, we get vegetables, fruit, and eggs. Our share comes to about $30 a week. Sounds like a lot? Well not quite when you think about what I would spend at the local grocer for organic eggs, $5.99, fruit $6-9/lb, and veggies $4-8/lb. I’m also saving a trip to the grocery store by picking up my share on the way home from work weekly. There are even some shares out there that deliver to your door! Find what’s available near you! Here’s a sample of what we received in just one week of our share:

You can also start a garden!! Look how pretty mine was last year…
I
I’ll spare you the details of how it ended up for a different. But the herbs came out great!
Yes I know that bananas are not local to anyone here on the mainland, so how do you know what to spend money on for organic vs conventional? The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful list which ranks produce from best to worst in terms of exposure to pesticides. Save your money on items such as avocados, onions, and asparagus. And splurge on items like blueberries, celery, apples and potatoes.

When it comes to meat such as beef and poultry, similar to Leila, we’ve begun to eat more vegetarian meals to help our waistlines and our wallets. I do buy local and organic beef and poultry. I choose to spend the extra money to know where my meat came from and knowing it was treated in a humane manner with no exposure to chemicals or antibiotics. I choose to buy locally because I know that if anything should happen to my meat or if something is not right I know who to contact. I buy in bulk, I buy at least four chickens at a time and we are slotted for ¼ of a beef side this year as well. Buying in greater amounts can be sticker shock at first but we’re saving over $3/lb on our ground beef especially, and $2/lb on our chickens. Again you can look up local producers in your area here.
BBQ Chicken Pizza made with local poultry

Read your labels, there are some generic brand pantry staples out there that are listening to the consumer and coming out with natural and organic items. For example look at this pasta:
This is a name brand whole wheat pasta. Doesn’t look like a lot of ingredients does it? But who has Thiamin Mononitrate and Niacin in their pantry to whip up some pasta? Didn’t think so. Yet, this box of pasta costs roughly $5.
This is a generic brand, organic pasta at my store. It was $3, and contains ONE ingredient, flour. I believe they forgot water and egg, but still, there are ingredients I can relate to. And because I haven’t had time to make my own pasta just yet, this is what I feel comfortable buying for the convenience.

On the left this is your basic generic store brand tomato sauce, it was on sale for the same price as non-organic and definitely worth the cost. On the right, organic apple cider. This is your discretion, again read the labels and know what’s inside and make the choice that’s best for you.

DIY isn’t just a channel or a fad, its about saving yourself money in every aspect of your life. This last summer I was a canning mad woman. Tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, pears, tomato sauce, and pickles oh pickles. For around $20 you can get a boiling canner, a the canning bible, and start canning yourself. It’s pretty foolproof, don’t be scared, give it a try. Just this last March, I decided to make my own vanilla extract. I’ll tell you how it turns out in September but I think it will be delicious. Who needs a gallon of extract? I do. I go through 2 ounces of extract a month approximately. I pay about $5 for those two ounces, so for me a gallon of vodka for $23, vanilla beans for $40, and free jars, was totally worth it. You don’t have to make a gallon, but I would strongly suggest you give it a try, vanilla has an extremely long shelf life and is a fantastic hostess gift or for the holidays.

Lastly bulk freezer cooking has become a standard in my meal planning with our family. Last fall a friend introduced me to Once A Month Mom, a blog dedicated to freezer cooking. I did a few menus and I was completely hooked. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I had cooked in bulk before but never like this. I began to compare our grocery bills from previous months and saw the savings just adding up. My first month I saved $300! I found myself still adjusting the menus to support my family and our approach to no processed foods and more real food. Interestingly enough, they put a call out for contributing writers for a new whole foods menu. Guess who got picked?  ME!  (Here’s a link to the recipes I’ve posted to date.) But the most exciting news is that, starting tomorrow, there will be a monthly Whole Foods Menu to cook from! There are also Gluten Free/Dairy Free, Diet, Traditional and Baby Food Menus for you to choose from. Provided in these menus are: A complete menu with breakfasts, lunches and dinners that will last you approximately one month or more, a complete grocery list for the recipes chosen, labels for your freezer packages, and a full instruction list to get you through a power cooking day. Wait, that’s not the best part…the recipes are completely adjustable to the number of people you are serving! Just two of you? Great! Power cooking with two friends? We can handle it! Yes I love to cook a fresh meal, but I work full time and if dinner isn’t done in 30 minutes, on a weeknight, it’s not worth it to me. Therefore these freezer friendly meals have come in quite handy for our family. Not to mention when I have a client go into labor, my husband can have a healthy meal ready in no time.

I like to call myself an educated consumer now. I am aware of what I’m putting into food and creating for my family. I make a conscious effort to read labels, buy as local as possible, and buy organic when feasible. Being an educated consumer is a constant learning process, and I believe one that will be never ending. There’s no reason you shouldn’t start today.  Take it one step at a time.  It’s not an overnight change, it’s a lifestyle.

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

** All pictures are courtesy of Kelly @ Once a Month Mom. Please do not use.

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Thanks Kelly!

 Do you shop your local farmers market or get a CSA box? Have you read any of the books Kelly mentioned, or seen any of the films?