Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Take a Hike! And I mean that in a good way!

I'm loving the nicer weather, especially since I have Layla this year to be active with me! She can be a little ball of energy so I like to take her places where she can burn all that off. My friend told me about a dog park near my house that we've gone to and had puppy play dates before! Layla loves going to meet other dogs and I think it's really important for her to socialize plus it just makes her happy :)

We're pretty lucky since we have a nice wooded part near my house with a creek and all sorts of trails. It's not nearly as busy as some of the other parks around so it's the perfect training opportunity for her! There's not as many people or dogs around to distract her so we practiced having her off the leash. I'm proud to say that she did wonderful! She stayed close by, didn't get into much, and came back when we called. I made sure to not let her wander that far without calling her back and eventually she would just check in with me out of habit! It was super cute because she would be running around then all of a sudden see something interesting, perk her ears up and look back at us as if to say "Is this okay?" and then wait for the go ahead from us.

I'm not going to pretend that training a puppy is all fun and games because it required a lot of patience and faith in her. I'm happy to say though that all our hard work is starting to pay off! She's blossoming into quite the lovely little lady and I'm so proud of her! The next step is to slowly transition her to more public places with more distractions to teach her to still respond to us even when there's a million more interesting things going on.

Okay, enough rambling about my puppy, back to the main point of this post. This past weekend my sister and I took Layla to the woods near our house for a hike/training session. It was beautiful out and the perfect temperature! There were plenty of hills and rocks to climb over that we all got a good workout. Even though we weren't really pushing ourselves the point is that we were off our butts and out in the sunshine enjoying nature! People may not always think of walking as a good workout but it's one of my favorite ways to just get outside and get my blood flowing. Now that I have Layla, it's even more of a reason of why I should be getting outside. It's just as important for her health as it is for mine. I can't wait until she's old enough so that I can take her running with me! Sorry Amanda but she's a much cuter running buddy :)

So maybe today you should shut off your computer and go outside to enjoy the day! Now that the weather is warmer and it's lighter in the evening, I like to go for walks after dinner. I've slacked off lately but it's something that I want to start doing again. It doesn't have to be every evening but I'm aiming for a few days a week. If you don't have a dog then grab a friend or take your ipod and just listen to your favorite music! I think you'll be surprised of how relaxing that can be, just shutting the world out for an hour or so while you walk around with your thoughts.

It doesn't matter what kind of workout you're doing, just as long as you're getting active and doing something that you love! I wouldn't go for runs or walk Layla if I didn't enjoy it! The fresh air can do wonders for you and those endorphins will cut your stress level.

So who's with me?? An easy way to get started is just begin to plan out some time over the coming days when you can incorporate more exercise in your life. If you're a gym rat and get plenty of exercise there, why don't you try doing more workouts outside? There's plenty of ways to transition indoor workouts to the backyard! I drive by a cross-fit gym on my way home and they're all outside now that the weather is nice. I understand that obviously there are certain exercises that require the machines inside but try to get creative and see what other stuff you can do outside. I don't know about you guys but the fresh air boosts my mood that much more on top of my workout. I have a much better run/walk when the weather is great!

Each day just add a little bit more time to devote to exercise and before you know it, that will become a habit! Just like anything else, give it 21 days and soon it'll seem like second nature. You'll find that you won't have to push yourself to get it started because it's just part of your day now. I know, it's easier said than done but I plan on doing a post about keeping motivation soon that I hope will help! For now though, I just have some pictures to share from this weekend! I hope they will inspire you to get moving!

Like I said, it was the perfect day to be outside!

Layla's favorite part of the day? Being able to swim in the creek! We ended up taking my car because I don't mind if she gets a little wet and smelly. The sacrifices I make to spoil her :)

Getting that hill workout in! Actually she would just panic if the bank would get too high so that she couldn't see us up on the trail. I have zero worries of this dog ever trying to run away, she doesn't like to let us out of her sight!

Checking in with us <3

We also brought one of her tennis balls and she spent a good chunk just running around in the creek chasing it while we played fetch with her. 

What are your exercise plans for this week?!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chicken Pesto Bake

This is one of my favorite chicken dishes because it has pesto. Surprise, surprise that I would like this dish! Except it's not a surprise at all because anyone who knows me knows that I love pesto and will put it on everything possible. 

I know that pesto isn't for everyone and that it can be high in calories but I love to make my own. That way I know exactly what goes into it and can control the ingredients. 

I found this recipe on Pinterest from The Recipe Critic and I've made it a bunch of times already!

So for this recipe here's what you'll need: 
2 medium chicken breasts
4 tsp basil pesto
4 heirloom tomatoes
4 tbsp mozzarella cheese
salt & pepper

1. preheat the oven to 400

2. slice the chicken breasts in half to make them thinner. place on a baking sheet with foil. 

3. season the chicken with salt and pepper. slice the tomatoes and place on top of the chicken. 

4. bake for 15 minutes

5. take the chicken out and top with mozzarella cheese. you can use shredded or slices of fresh mozzarella, both taste great! 

6. bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey 


I also had some help with writing this post. I can't get enough of my baby girl! She makes me so happy :)

Roasted Asparagus

One of my favorite things about spring is that all the fresh fruits and vegetables are in season! There's the cutest little farm by my house that grows all their own vegetables, plants, and flowers so I try to go there to support local farms. Since my sister is starting her own vegetable garden, she got a ton of plants to grow. I can't wait when I'll be able to go out in my own yard and pick veggies for dinner! We haven't really tried gardening yet so there's no guarantee that the green thumb runs in our family ;)

Anyway, they had bundles upon bundles of fresh asparagus for a great price so we scooped up as many as we could fit in the bag! The owner of the farm was so friendly and he even showed us some of the dogs he was breeding. They had the most beautiful and sweetest Rottweilers I've ever met and tried to convinced my sister to get a puppy but she said no :( yes I know I already have one adorable and loveable puppy but the more the merrier, right?

So to get over my heartbreak we made roasted asparagus with our picks from the farm. I actually didn't wait til we got home before I dove into the asparagus. Luckily it was already washed so I just munched on it raw while we drove home and it was delicious!

Okay so to roast the asparagus it's really simple!

1. preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. wash the asparagus, pat it dry, and cut the ends off since they can get pretty fibrous.

3. place the asparagus on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. bake the asparagus for 10-12 minutes until the it is fork tender

I had mine with chicken and broccoli!

What's your favorite part about spring?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Salad

I'm finally getting around to posting some salad recipes! I have no idea why it's taken me this long especially since I have at least one salad a day so it's not like I don't have plenty of recipes for them. One of my all time favorite salads is with roasted vegetables. It's simple and delicious! I think salads can get pretty boring for most people because they don't switch it up at all. I try to have a different version of my typical lunch salad every day so I don't get bored. An easy and fast way to do that is by incorporating some leftovers from what I had for dinner the night before. I've done it with sweet potatoe fries, lettuce wrap filling, any kind of vegetable dish, spicy chicken, ground turkey, homemade guacamole, tomato basil salad, you name it! The more interesting combinations I can put in a salad, the less likely I'll get bored with eating a salad day after day. In fact, I look forward to my salads for lunch every day. When I don't pack my own, one of my favorite places to go is Hello Bistro because they have so many different combinations and toppings available for your salad. It's a veggie-lover's dream!

Anyway, back to one of my favorite salads: roasted vegetable. I love, love, loveee the way the crispy and roasted vegetables taste in this salad and brings it to a whole new level rather than just having the raw vegetables. Don't get me wrong I love my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers raw on my salad but roasting them is a treat! My favorite vegetables to use for this salad are brussel sprouts and carrots but I've used other vegetables and it turned out great as well! Some other great options are: zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash, radishes (yes, I love them), turnips (again, I love them too), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, the list goes on.

You can either roast the veggies in the oven or saute them on the stove. If I'm using asparagus, butternut squash, or radishes I usually roast those in the oven because I personally like the taste better that way. The other vegetables cook great on the stove top though!

So first all you do is pick your vegetables for the salad and then chop 'em up. If you're roasting them in the oven usually I'll set it at 425 degrees and then cook the vegetables until they're fork tender. The butternut squash takes the longest at around 20-25 minutes but asparagus should be ready in about 10-12 minutes!
Like I said, sauteing works great too and that's what I decided to use with the vegetables today. I found these great tri-colored carrots that I thought added some nice color to the salad! They came in orange, yellow, and red which I had never seen before but they still tasted great.

To saute them all I did was heat some olive oil in a pan and then season the veggies with salt, pepper, and garlic. 

I love adding chicken to these salads for protein so I cooked some chicken too as the vegetables were roasting. The chicken is not necessary at all so if you want to leave it out this still makes for a great vegetarian recipe!

Even if you don't like vegetables you can't say that isn't one tasty-looking salad! I used a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette as my dressing and it paired great with all the flavors :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Okay to Have a Blah Day...or two

I wanted to write this post in case anyone was feeling this way or needed to hear this coming from someone else. The past two days I just haven't felt good about myself at all. My self-esteem can be a roller coaster going up and down with the way it fluctuates but I feel as though that's pretty normal. It's such a complex system that the smallest factor can switch it up. It's hard for me to pin point the fluctuations but I do remember that earlier in the week, Saturday-Monday to be exact, I felt great about myself. I was confident in the way I looked and felt good about my body. Then yesterday I just woke up and it was one of those days. I couldn't find anything to wear because I felt as though it all looked bad on me, my hair was all frizzy because it's been raining all week, I had a bad breakout, and I felt bloated and gross.

Now, I want to be clear: I don't always have days like this. I'm not depressed in the slightest and would never do anything to harm myself. It's just that sometimes I have those days where I feel blah. Usually I feel good about myself but there are times where I feel better or worse. It's human nature and it can be as simple as not liking what I'm wearing. I know that sounds superficial but the truth of the matter is that it affects my body image. If I have a day where I don't think what I'm wearing looks good on me then I will start to think that I'm fat. It breaks my heart because I hate feeling this way but it happens and I caught myself today. It's the second day in a row that I haven't been feeling confident and it's harder for me to try and bounce back. I don't know what it is but right now I feel like my dress isn't flattering, my hair is frizzy, and I still feel bloated. I caught myself today telling myself I was fat and I wanted to cry. Honest to God I was about to cry in the bathroom at my work because I just felt so bad about my body. Suddenly I wished so desperately that I was back at my lowest weight regardless of the fact that it wasn't healthy for me. I wanted to close my eyes and when I opened them, magically be 15 pounds lighter.

Then the roaring panic started in my head telling me I was fat, that my dress would look good on my coworker who is skinnier than me, that celebrities like Amanda Seyfried or Emma Stone don't have as fat of shoulders as me. Yeah I know it sounds strange but random thoughts like that come into my head when I start comparing my body to others. But suddenly a small voice popped up over the commotion going on inside me and it said something simple: "I am NOT fat". I looked at myself in the mirror, calmed myself down, and agreed with that voice. Now, things aren't suddenly all peachy keen because I'm still not feeling my best but the important thing is that I stopped those negative thoughts. It's hard because it used to be such a habit of mine, tearing myself down that those bad thoughts were pretty normal. As I've said before, I'm human and those thoughts pop up in everyone's mind from time to time but the critical thing is how we choose to cope with those thoughts. I used to give in and agree with them which just spiraled down into a path of body-loathing. I eventually hit my breaking point where I couldn't handle all my negativity towards my own body. That's when I knew that I had to make a change.

Slowly I began to accept the fact that I was individually created for a purpose. I believe to my core that none of us are here by accident. We are all masterfully crafted by the hands of the one who loves us. That became such a source of comfort for me because it helped me to gain confidence in myself and my appearance. I made a conscious choice to stop judging myself because in the end does it really help me? No, no, no, no, absolutely not! God created me to be exactly the way I am and I'm going to celebrate that!

So yes I had a couple crappy days in a row but I made a conscious choice not to beat myself up over it. Just because I told myself I was fat doesn't mean that I am. Also, I absolutely hate that word. "Fat" is such an ugly and degrading term to me and I would never call another person that, except to myself which is another thing I'm working on. Like I said these days don't always happen often but I know the quickest way to tear myself down and it's to use that horrible word. So right now I'm deciding to ban that word from my vocabulary because I never want to say that to myself again or to/about anyone else for that matter and I hope I don't hear us calling each other that. Not even as a joke because I for one know how jokes like that can actually twist a person's perception and manifest into something much more serious. You never know what someone is going through so it's important to be sensitive and build each other up rather than tearing one another down.

In the end all these two days were just those negative thoughts trying to come back but I didn't let them. I'm happy to say that this morning I woke up feeling much better about myself because yesterday I told myself that today would be better. Your attitude can 100% influence the type of day you're having and how you feel about yourself. Once I got home yesterday I changed into my comfy clothes to relax and I told myself that those bad days were gonna end right then. And slowly I felt myself getting back to normal last night and today I feel back to my old confident self. I know that there will probably be other days where I'll be less confident but I'm not afraid of those days now like I used to be. Stuff happens and we have to learn how to handle life's curves.

I hope that other people can relate to this post and it's something I wanted to share in case other people needed to hear it coming from someone else. I want to be honest and up front with you guys which is why I felt it was important to share even my bad days. It happens but if we keep our eyes on our goal and remember that we are all beautiful, the bad days will get outweighed by the good! Stay strong and believe you can do this :)

xoxo Sam

Just in case you're having a bad day and need a little cheering up I decided to browse my funny pins to share one. This movie never fails to crack me up even though I've seen it 6,984,247,012,395 times. My humor board on Pinterest is filled with jokes and lines that never fail to crack me up. They're cheesy and silly but sometimes that's what you need! I promise I'll be sharing more, whether you guys find them funny or not :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quinoa Bowls

Dinners aren't usually that complicated or fancy at my house. My sister and I are all about healthy and easy recipes! One of my favorite go-to recipes is a mixed bowl of a grain, protein, and veggie. We always have those on hand so it's easy for us to throw these together. I've done rice bowls before my quinoa but is my favorite.

All you need is quinoa, a lean protein (usually chicken or turkey for me), and some veggies!

Saute the veggies while your quinoa and chicken are cooking. I just drizzle some olive oil in a pan and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and garlic! For this bowl I used brussel sprouts and mini heirloom tomatoes. I've been obsessed with those lately but I've used squash, zucchini, beans, and peppers in bowls before. 

Follow the directions on the box to cook your quinoa. I used a full serving (1/4 cup dry). 

Once everything is cooked, I throw it all together in the pan and add more salt and pepper to my taste. Let it cook for a couple more minutes to blend the flavors together. 

I added a little bit of feta on mine to top it off! Pesto is another favorite of mine that I'll use. I will pretty much put pesto on anything that I can. My whole bowl was under 350 calories and had 36g of protein! Not too shabby for a quick and easy recipe. 

I thought I'd leave you guys with this little bit of cuteness. Yes he's actually asleep and he stayed that way for quite some time. Such a snuggly goon, gotta love him!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sweet Potato Fries

I don't know how this was ever possible but I used to hate sweet potatoes. I mean I wouldn't even touch them let alone try and eat them. Luckily, it was just one of those things that you hated as a kid but grew out of it and found you liked it when you were older. Same goes for peas, pierogies, pepperoni, beans, fish, but not shrimp. No. To this day shrimp is basically the only food I will not eat. I'm up for trying anything once to see if I'd like it but I draw the line at shrimp. It's one thing I will never, ever, ever, EVER like. I'm not going to get into any details but it might have to do with the fact that my dad forced me to eat it until I was about 15 years old even though I kept telling him I didn't like it. 

Anyway, back to my evolved love of sweet potatoes. I don't know when it happened but I decided to give sweet potatoes another shot even though I had sworn them off and thank goodness I did because I love 'em! The best part? They're packed with so many nutrients compared to regular potatoes. I don't think I can go back to regular potatoes and don't mind one bit! 

Naturally I began exploring more recipes with sweet potatoes and always wanted to give fries a try. I had some at a restaurant once and fell even more in love with these magical little potatoes. Unfortunately, most like my experience with black-bean brownies, I could never seem to get the recipe right. Then I found this one where you had to soak the fries before cooking them and it made all the difference! I'm gonna be honest I don't really know what the soaking does so if you do then feel free to leave a comment explaining. All I know is that once we started soaking the fries before baking them, they turned out 100 times better! My sister and I make these fries all the time, especially since a bag of sweet potatoes is only $2 at Trader Joe's! 

So, now to the important part: how to make them! First you'll need...

3-4 medium sweet potatoes
1 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

You can pretty much add whatever spices you want and can put more/less depending on your personal preferences. I recommend using the salt and pepper but go ahead and change up the other spices if you want! I've seen recipes using cayenne pepper, cumin, or even cinnamon and nutmeg for sweet rather than savory.

1. preheat the oven to 450

2. slice up the potatoes. I made mine thicker like steak fries but you can make them as thin or thick as you like! Steak fries are my preference plus there's less fries to cut which saves me time :)

3. let the fries soak in cold water for about 30-60 minutes. I'm impatient and only soaked them for 30 and they turned out fine. 

4. This next part you can do one of two ways. You can either put the fries and the oil and spices all in a ziploc bag together and shake it or you can put the fries on the baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle the spices and mix it all up with your hands. I've done it both ways and both of them work just fine. It depends on whether or not you mind getting your hands a little messy! 

 5. Once the fries are all spiced up, place them on a greased baking sheet. 

6. Bake the little beauties for 20-25 minutes. Time varies on your oven and the thickness of your fries. 

The finished product! This is the perfect side dish to a burger, steak, or just as a snack! 

I also like to save some leftovers and put on my salads for lunch! 

Enjoy :)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

We Made It to 2014!

I can't believe that it's been an entire year since my whole world got turned around. I can still remember everything so vividly about that day. My memory is usually pretty bad and unreliable, but there isn't a single detail that I don't remember about May 8th, 2013. I honestly didn't think I would be able to say this let alone write this a year later but: we survived. My mom was on the edge of death and that isn't even an exaggeration. It was the most stressful time in my entire life and I didn't think we would be able to make it through but we did! All thanks to my mom's miraculous survival and recovery. I'm not gonna lie we're still going through a lot but we've all come so far and we did it together as a family. I want to share with you guys just what happened that day because it's important for me to talk about it. It's a healthy process for me to revisit it because it forces me to realize just how blessed I've been and that God is continually providing and healing my family. Before I start, I'm gonna be up front with my faith now because it's an important aspect of my life and got me through this time of my life. I believe in respect and acceptance of other beliefs so I don't believe in forcing my opinion or religion on other people. I keep my faith at a respectful distance but if people ask me questions about what I believe, I'm more than happy to answer! I just wanted to be clear that I have a relationship with God and I owe my family's story to His grace. He pulled us through it and continues to guide us in my mom's recovery.

Sunday May 5th, 2013.
I just finished my second half-marathon and I feel on top of the world. I'm elated that I was able to finish since in 2012 I had my shin injury and couldn't run. I pick up a snack from the finish line, wrap myself up in those shiny foil blankets they pass out so I look like a walking Chipotle burrito, and head to the family meet-up station. I beat my mom there so I waited a few minutes for her but I'll never forget the smile she gave me when we locked eyes. I can clearly recall it now as I type this and the memory brings a smile to my face. She is beyond proud and holds her arms out to me, practically wiggling with anticipation to give me a congratulatory hug. I have no idea what either of us said. All I can remember is the look on her face, the warmth of her hug, and her pride beaming in all directions. That's all I need to remember, though, because that in itself speaks for the type of mother my mom is.

Tuesday May 7th, 2013.
My mom stays home from work today. She woke up with the worst migraine of her life and she thinks that she slept on her neck funny. A couple years back, she slipped at work and hit her neck which messed it up pretty badly. It's an old injury that has flared up every so often so she thinks it's something harmless. She stays in bed all day completely miserable and there's nothing I can do to help her. Advil doesn't take away the pain, food makes her nauseous, and she can hardly move without being in extreme pain. Still, neither of us suspects it's anything more than her neck and she tries to sleep it off.

Wednesday May 8th, 2013.
It's 3am and I'm taking my nightly bathroom break. As I leave the bathroom I hear a small voice ask, "Sweetheart, if you can find it in your heart, could you please get me some crackers?". She sounds so pitiful that there's no way I could refuse. Looking back, it breaks my heart because I realize just how much pain she was in. It's not that I didn't think she was in pain before, it's just she has an extremely low tolerance for pain and I figured she wasn't able to handle it as well as I could. I ask her how she's feeling and she says she's worse and that the medicine doesn't help at all. I go back to bed still completely unaware of what's about to unfold.

I'm dressed to go for my morning run. I check in her room to see how she is and she tells me that she wants to go to the hospital. I ask her if she wants to go now but she tells me that she's not ready and can't move yet because of the pain. She tells me to go for my run and see how she feels when she gets back. She's not in any better shape once I'm back so we decide to go.

The next part I can remember so clearly. The nurse assessed my mom and sends her for a CT scan so she can look at her neck. My mom lays on the bed in agony until the PA returns with the results. My mom is expecting cortisone shots for her neck and to be sent home. I can remember sitting there thinking about what I wanted for lunch once we got home, and the groceries we needed for the week. My life was so completely ordinary and routine before the PA spoke. This is the part where my memory fails because the first part I had no idea what the medical terms meant and then my mind went blank in shock. I remember the PA first saying something about a subarachnoid hemorrhage and my mind starts reeling. I think: "subarachnoid, isn't that an area of the brain? and hemorrhage sounds like something to do with blood...". I'm utterly confused for a few seconds and then I hear the doozy word that sends my stomach plummeting to the ground. I never thought that one single word could inspire such fear as it did for me that day. The PA says quite clearly: "caused by an aneurysm". Aneurysm?? But that wasn't possible. My mom was only 48 and she was completely fine before all of this. I sat there in denial as my mom looked over at me, in total shock. Then, I saw the fear sink behind her eyes as the reality hit her. She is a nurse so she understood instantly what was going on. I couldn't have given you the proper medical definition of an aneurysm at that time but I knew enough that this was a deadly situation and that my mom was in danger of losing her life.

I'm going to summarize the next part otherwise this post would be about 20 pages long. My mom was transferred to Presbyterian Hospital and miraculously survived her surgery and defied all the odds against her. A few weeks after her surgery we had to take her off the ventilator because we didn't expect her to recover and we were told she would not survive since she couldn't breathe on her own. The next morning after we took her off the ventilator, she was breathing on her own and pushed through. I couldn't believe it but here we are a year later and she's come so far. It's been the toughest year of my life and I can't even imagine what it's been like for my mom and sister. They have been the ones in the thick of it while she's been recovering these past few months. I'm so proud of both of them and they have impressed me time and time again. My sister has been so strong, encouraging and persevered in the face of all the challenges that have gone along with taking care of my mom. She's seen my mom through all her struggles and ups and downs since the first day. She has handled herself with such grace and maturity that I never would have expected. We were both forced to grow up in this situation because my mom needed us.

We owe a lot of our success to our family because we were able to lean on them in these difficult times. My aunt and grandma met me immediately at Presby Hospital and stayed there with me until around 11pm. They stayed by my side for 11 hours without even a thought and that's not even the end of it (they're also on my dad's side so they're not even related to my mom). Both of them came every day to the hospital with us, helped us figure out my mom's insurance stuff, comforted us when we were scared, and stood by us even when we thought that we hit our breaking points. My aunt and grandma are both such strong women and I respect them immensely. They helped my sister and I get through everything with my mom and I have no idea where I would be right now without their help. Their support and love kept me sane and I owe so much to them.

The point of this post is to celebrate my mom's recovery and the simple fact that she is alive. I remember so clearly the night when it hit my sister and I that my mom may not make it. I was sitting on my bed and Amanda came into my room and sat down with me. We held each other and cried saying that we didn't want it to just be the two of us, we weren't ready yet. My mom had this morbid saying that she wasn't going to make it to 50 because she had this bad feeling that something would happen. That's between her and God because I don't know what He laid on her heart, but obviously she felt something was coming and just didn't know what. We had always thought she was being dramatic when she said she wouldn't make it but in this moment, when we were holding each other, it was a mixture of desperate fear of losing her and frustration that she was always right.

I felt as though my world had come crashing down around me and I clutched at anything and everything that connected her to my life. She had left me a voicemail about a month before when she was driving down to visit my sister in Tennessee. Each night before bed I would listen to it because I just needed to hear her voice. I needed to hear her calling me sweetheart, saying she was calling to check on me, to have a good day at class, but most importantly that she loved me. Her last goodbye echoed in my mind on a daily basis. Before she was taken away by the EMTs to get transferred for her surgery, she had them stop so she could talk to me. Without saying anything she took my hand and whispered through tears "I love you, Sweetheart". I couldn't contain myself at that point and the tears flowed. I didn't want to lose my cool and cry in front of all those people but I couldn't help myself. From that point on, no matter what happened I knew that I would treasure those last words from her. Thanks be to God that didn't have to be the last time I ever saw her alive and well. She is truly a living walking miracle and a testimony of answered prayers. People can think what they want and argue with me but they didn't see my mom go through this whole process. I have never been so sure of my faith in my entire life after going through this experience. There comes a point in situations like this where you yourself fail and then from there it's all riding on faith. I hit my breaking point and after that I was leaning entirely on God because my human strength failed me.

To wrap this up I just want to say that life is so, so precious. I know I sound like an old lady lecturing someone much younger but really and truly each day is a gift and we have a horrible habit of overlooking that fact. This whole experience has taught me to slow down and appreciate the little things and let the minor matters roll off my back because I could be off a lot worse. I have learned how to count my blessings and love the little things. Trust me, those little things add up to a lot. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it or that I still don't take stuff for granted, it's just I've learned to slow down sometimes. You know that old saying "stop and smell the roses"? Well it's something we should all take the time to do! I'm so thankful for my mom's recovery and love taking the time to just enjoy life with her. It's so delicate and you never know what's around the bend. My life had been completely normal up until Wednesday morning when we found out what was truly going to happen. I know that people might always think "it can't happen to me" but honestly you never know what can or can't happen. Each new day I have with my mom and sister is a blessing and I thank God for all He has given us.

This was taken today! Doesn't my momma look wonderful?!

If I had to picture my favorite, though, it'd have to be this one! This pretty much sums up my life pretty accurately. It's a candid shot and none of us are ready for it not to mention the fact that my aunt is covering the lens to block out my sister because she knows it would annoy her! This is my life in a nutshell and I wouldn't trade it for the world :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

3rd Half-Marathon in the Books!

Three years ago, 13.1 miles seemed like such a huge number to me. I remember when my sister asked me Christmas break my sophomore year of college to do a half-marathon with her in May 2011. I said no automatically because it didn't seem possible that I could run that far! I gave it a couple days thought and decided that I didn't have anything to lose and that it would be a great experience to do with my sister. So I began training and never thought that I would be this far at 2014.

Looking back, I was not as prepared as I thought I was or needed to be during my first race. It's completely normal and expected because you don't know what you're in for. I was incredibly nervous and so intimidated the day of the race. Terrible thoughts kept running through my head like what if I got injured, what if my sister got injured, what if I got too tired and gave up, what if I got sick, if I was ready for this, blah blah blah. That's just nerves getting to you so ignore them! Trust me, if you believe in yourself and put your mind to it, you can tackle all 13.1 miles. Every single mile! Running is just as much a mental discipline as it is a physical one. Your mind will give up way before your body so there comes a time when you have to switch those bad thoughts off or you'll never get there.

The minute I crossed the finish line in May 2011, I was hooked. In the beginning I had told my sister that I would run one with her and then that was it. Well, here I am 3 years later and I'll be running it again next year that's for sure. I actually might even be doing the full marathon but if not, I know I'll definitely be running the half. I can't stop now because I love it! I love pushing myself and seeing what my body is capable of doing. We are so much stronger than we realize because most of the time we underestimate ourselves or are too scared to try. I'm here to tell you that you are strong! You can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you believe in yourself and have faith.

This year was by far the best one I've done! It gets better for me every year because it's a trial-and-error process where I learn what works for me, how to train better, and prepare myself more. It's also due to the fact that I know I can do it because I've done it twice before. I don't get nearly as nervous anymore because I treat it like any other long run which helps me deal with the pre-race jitters. Now, it's more of an excited anticipation! If you had told me back when I started that I would eventually be excited to run 13.1 miles, I'd have said you were crazy! But it's true and I can't wait to see what next year brings!

I wanted to share the highlights of this year's race and hope this encourages you to try something you never would have thought you could do! I'll admit the thought of 26.2 miles is really intimidating for me but I had also felt that way about half-marathon. Again, it's a mental game! I know that if I train well enough and prepare myself I could do a full marathon as long as I don't let those negative thoughts get to me.

We ended up finishing in 2:07:20 which my sister was really happy about since her goal was to run it in under 2:10. She was worried because she always thinks she's holding me back since we run at her pace but I could care less about that! I'm not as strict about times because for me it's just about running the race and enjoying it! I especially didn't care this year because it was just something I wanted to do with Amanda. I told her if all else fails, we just have to beat the winning marathoner, which we did! He ran the full marathon in 2 hours and 12 minutes!!! Can you believe that? I have no idea how people get their legs to move that fast because I know for a fact my short little legs could never do that. That's a fact, not just me being negative! Some people are born with the genetic blessing of endurance and speed. I'm not one of them but I'm happy with my ability to run under a 9 minute mile. Anyway, here are some pictures posted about the race:

I was so excited that the shirts this year were finally blue! I've been waiting for four years and it's my favorite color :) These shirts are also awesome to run in because the fabric is very breathable and keeps you cool. This might sound snobby but I refuse to run in cotton anymore. I just can't do it. After running in fabric like this I can't go back because I feel like my skin is suffocating. I've been too spoiled with good running clothes! The bonus is that you can find great shirts with similar material at stores like Target for a much cheaper price. I've gotten many t-shirts and tanks there that I'm very happy with!

Pre-race selfie with the sis!
I loved that my sister and I were able to run it together again this year. It's so great to have someone with you to motivate and keep you going during the race. Since she's my number one running buddy, I wouldn't want to run it with anyone else!
Little brrrr-itos! (get it? we were really cold...)
We made it! The first year I ran it, I couldn't figure out why they gave us these plastic coverings at the end. I thought there was no way that could keep me warm but boy was I wrong! That little burrito blanket is my favorite thing once I'm at the end and it's surprisingly super cozy!

My dad surprised us at the finish line this year! He's usually away on vacation this time of year with my step-mom celebrating their anniversary, but he was home this year. It was great having someone to meet us at the finish line since my mom wasn't able to come this year. I'm so blessed for everyone's support!

I love to cut the logo from the blankets they give us and keep it as a souvenir and reminder for what I'm working towards next year! 

My collection of medals is growing! I have ones from 2011, 2013, and now 2014!

The best part of the day? Recuperating from the race. It's so important for you to let your body rest and make sure to refuel, refuel, refuel! You lost valuable energy and electrolytes during the race so your body is going to be begging for those back! I remember last year I was so caught up in all my food issues that I only allowed myself a banana at the end of the race and I didn't even eat the whole thing. Even though I had burned over 1,100 calories I refused to treat myself at the end of the race. You want to know what I ate after the race today? A banana, blueberry bagel, and a quest bar. I was proud of myself because I had zero anxiety about it and didn't feel guilty at all because I earned it! When we got home I made sure to have a protein-packed lunch and treated myself to frozen yogurt in the afternoon! The same went with dinner-- I made sure to load up on the carbs and protein so that my muscles had fuel to recover. I made sure to eat back every single calorie that I burned during the race and my body was very happy for that! My muscles felt great the next day and I was re-energized and ready to go. And don't forget about the water! I most likely had about 70-80oz throughout the course of the day once I got home and that's not including what I drank before and during the race. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Finding Your Healthy Place

Getting to a healthy place in life is never easy but it's a journey that has taught me so much. Not only how to properly nourish and fuel my body but to gain a healthier mindset as well. I've shared my story about the struggles I went through with my self-image and it's still a work in progress but I'm in a much healthier place. It took time, patience, and hard work. Two years of it to be exact and it's still going. I've hit walls, had days where I wanted to give up, and days where I backtracked. It was so hard but it's made me stronger and shaped me in many different ways. So please don't give up if you're trying to take better care of yourself because you're worth it. Every single moment of every day you owe to yourself to get better. Whether it's overcoming an eating disorder, low self-esteem, trying to lose weight, or trying to eat healthier, you can overcome those bad thoughts. Trust me they floated in my head for years telling me I wasn't thin enough, pretty enough, that I had to look like someone else, or pointing out my flaws in the mirror. It will get better though. Trust me. You're strong enough and I believe in you! We are so much more capable than we realize if we just put our mind to it and have faith.

When I began I was at rock bottom. I hated the way I looked and felt so ashamed of my body. I just wanted to hide and cover myself up. Summer 2013 I didn't step out once in a bathing suit and that's because I was too upset with myself for gaining the weight back even though it was weight I needed. I felt so fat and couldn't stand to look at myself in the mirror. I thought my friends and family would notice so I didn't want them to see me in a bathing suit. I was afraid that they would judge or criticize me and see all the flaws that I saw. So what did I do? I buried my feelings and took the easy way out by ignoring my issues. But eventually I realized that it wouldn't solve anything. That wouldn't make me feel more confident or better about my body so I decided to do something about it. I was sick of feeling that way and tearing myself down, and knew the day had finally come when I was going to fix it.

First off, you have to change your way of thinking. I started to look in the mirror and instead of critiquing myself I started to find things that I did like about myself. It could've been the most random things like the shape of my eyes, the color of my hair, or the natural curve in my waist. In the beginning, it felt forced and that I was just doing it to make myself feel better. Kind of like when people would compliment me and it just sounded like empty words to me because I couldn't see what they saw. But you know what? It was sincere and I did mean it but it was just my skewed perspective at the time that twisted the words I was saying to myself. Where my problem truly lies is my perception of myself, and that's what I've learned to change.

In order to do that it was so simple: I started to be nice to myself. That's all it took to get me started on this journey. To other people that might seem obvious or natural, and they may not even understand how I wasn't nice to myself but saying negative things constantly about my appearance has been normal for me since probably around 12-13. I'm not sure when it happened but I feel as though around then is the usual age when girls and boys start comparing themselves to others. Anyway, once I began being nicer to myself that's when I noticed the change. Think about it. You need to hear those words from yourself more than anyone because you yourself are your biggest critic. So when you have the validation from yourself that you are beautiful, your confidence will grow. I learned that seeking validation from other people will not get me anywhere. I only need the validation from my Creator and myself. Putting your energy in seeking out the validation of your self-worth and looks from other people will only disappoint you and leave you empty. You have to learn to draw your confidence from yourself, don't look to others to boost you up. That will only set you up for failure by placing your self-esteem in the hands of others. For so long I thought that if enough people said nice things about me then I would feel good about myself. But what use was it to hear those compliments if I would just turn around and tell myself mean things? The change needed to come from inside me. Sure, it's nice to hear good things coming from other people but don't use their words as the foundation of your confidence.

Once I began to appreciate myself and praise the things I liked about myself, I found that it was easier to find more things I liked. Suddenly, I could find more things I liked than I disliked. Anyone who understands the struggle of low self-esteem can understand that this is a pretty big deal. Not only did I find less things but it was the sheer fact that the good outweighed the bad so that I could push my insecurities aside. They don't rule over me anymore. Yes they still pop up often as is normal and expected. Even the most secure person can get thrown off their game from time to time. We're all human and it happens.

Again, this was a slow process and took months for these steps. The key is that you take little steps and don't focus on the big picture. If you keep your sight set only on your ultimate goal, chances are you won't get there. Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't keep the main goal in mind, it's rather that you have to set little goals along the way. Ones that are achievable in a shorter amount of time so that it can keep your motivation and confidence to keep going. For me, it was adding on a few things I liked about myself each week or forcing myself out of my comfort zone like wearing my jeans again or using less make-up. It taught me to see myself as I am and to accept that reality. I found that accomplishing these little goals along the way got me much farther than if I had just tried to do it all at once. Your mind needs time to heal. I was so hard on myself for so long that changing this over night wasn't gonna happen. I ran myself into the ground with all my unhealthy words that it would take awhile to heal those wounds. But it is possible. It takes patience, strength, and love but most importantly faith. You have to trust and believe in yourself.

I'm confident at this point that I won't go back to where I was last summer. For one, the thought of a bathing suit doesn't scare me to death anymore. I'm actually looking forward to getting some color on my pasty skin! This thought comforts me because I trust myself to take care of me now. My prayers have been answered and I'm proud of myself for how far I've come. Like I always say, it's still a work in progress but at least I'm making progress! I still have days where I feel like I'm not or that I'm going backwards but those are just those negative thoughts trying to make their way back in. I'm done with letting those thoughts take hold of me because I keep my goals in mind and send up a prayer when I need the strength. I have all the faith in the world that you can find your healthy place, too!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Grilled Chicken & Roasted Beet Burger

One of my favorite things about Trader Joe's is the sample station they have in the back because I'm always finding new things to try out there! Seriously, I've learned a ton of new recipes and combinations just from their suggestions. One of my most recent finds are the chicken burgers and Trader Joe's definitely didn't let me down! Actually I don't think they ever have and I doubt they ever will. It's by far my favorite place to shop for groceries and it's surprisingly a lot cheaper than the local store by my house.

Enough about my love for Trader Joe's but what I wanted to share was the delicious dinner we put together last night! At first I was upset because we didn't have any tomatoes to put on the burgers. For me, tomato, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup are all staples for a good burger. I ended up settling for roasted beets since I hoped those would be a good substitute for tomatoes but I was surprised with the results-- I actually liked it better than a tomato! I know beets aren't for everyone but if you love them like I do, try using them on your burger next time. Beet veggie burgers are a recipe that I have tucked away that I eventually want to try making. For now, though, I'll just settle with having them as toppings on my burgers.

The burgers were really simple to make. All we did was defrost them and then grill them on our cast iron skillet til they were cooked through. You can also bake them in the oven or cook them outside on the grill!

So here's what you'll need:
1 Chili Lime Chicken Burger from Trader Joe's
1 whole wheat sandwich thin
3 slices of roasted beet
handful of lettuce

I like using the sandwich thins because it's the perfect ratio of bun to burger. You don't get left with all that extra bread fluff that takes away from the taste of the burger!

If you're a Trader Joe's fan like me, I would also recommend getting their hot 'n sweet mustard. That's the mustard I always use as a topping. It's my favorite and I use it in a number of recipes! It's great for mustard glazes on chicken and salmon, which I'll eventually get around to posting. 

I know this has nothing to do with chicken burgers but it was just too cute not to share! Later after dinner, as I was laying on the couch, Layla found a new spot. The little goon jumped up on the couch with me and passed out on my back. You gotta love that face! 

Banana Wraps

There's a possibility that I might be moving into a new snack phase with my latest discovery: banana wraps! I've seen versions of banana roll-ups and different kind of fruit wraps before so I decided to try making my own creation. My first wrap had: one low-carb wrap, small banana, PB2, and fig butter! I decided to leave it as a whole wrap and eat it like a banana taco instead of cutting it up into little roll-ups. For some reason, the banana taco appealed to me more. I also made another one last night and this time I used strawberry jelly with the PB2 and crushed some of my favorite cereal flakes to add an extra crunch and it was delicious! I think I'm gonna try using almond butter next!

This is such a simple snack to make and it would be great for breakfast too!

I love these wraps from Tumaro's. They have so many different flavors to choose from! I've also gotten whole wheat and whole grain before but I like this wrap too with the chia seeds. 

All you do is spread the PB2 and jelly then wrap up the banana! Like I said I also crushed some of my favorite cereal flakes but you could also add chocolate chips, granola, sliced almonds, or whatever crunchy toppings you have on hand! 

Roll it up so you have a banana burrito. You can also slice it up into little roll-ups but I like to leave mine as a whole wrap. 

Voila! Super easy and the perfect snack to hold me over. I think this would be great for breakfast paired with plain Greek yogurt. I'll have to try that soon!