Summer is Here!

The first official day of Summer for the Northern Hemisphere of Earth was this past Wednesday, June 21st. It is the longest day of the year for us North of the Equator. This is the start of my favorite half of the year. I live for the Summer and Fall seasons. The produce, weather, activities, etc. are my favorite! Here are some thing I am looking forward to this Summer:

Seasonal Produce

I can not wait for all the produce that Summer brings. I love berries (especially raspberries) and tomatoes which are now coming into season! Other vegetables and fruits in my region to look forward to are Cherries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Melons, Stone fruits, Cucumbers, Squash, Corn, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Apples and Pears! Most of my meals during the summer are fresh and lack grains, which makes me feel more comfortable in the warmer weather. I feel like I crave more grains and fats in cold weather, while the Summer makes me want to eat lighter fare.

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Goals

With my life changes in motion this Summer, I have been reassessing my goals both personally and professionally. To recap… at the end of July, I am moving in with my partner in his city about 90 min away and will mostly telecommute for my last month of work.

First, I have much I need to accomplish before I finish up my position. I want to complete my role in these grants the best way possible. Leadership is a feather I really want to work on in these last two months. However, starting September 1st, I am planning to take a full month off from working. Our human resources manager highly recommends you do this between jobs. Although I may have more than a month off from a full time job, I want to make sure I take appropriate time off to plan out my next steps in life.

Plus, I could really use some time to just be a human and take part in passions I may not have felt I had time for the past few years. Perhaps take some classes for fun (yoga, Spanish, pastry, etc.) or explore the Great Lakes regain more before we may move we or travel to see friends and family. I mainly want this time for myself because leaving this position feels overwhelming and emotions like sadness and bewilderment have been coming up. I want to respect those feelings.

Fitness Changes

Recently, I have not been feeling great during or after my runs. It could be that I just need new running shoes, which I am looking for now. However, I am concerned I may be pushing myself too hard to do something that does not serve me at this moment in time. I had bumped up my running milage, but I am taking a step back for now. This change, however, actually means addressing my mindset as a runner.

Before I started running, I thought folks were crazy to run in the rain/snow/heat or to run very long distances. After… I questioned whether I had an addiction to the runner’s high. I think it is more that runners that can develop this mindset, which can happen with other people demoted to an activity and wanting to push themselves. This mindset though, is best described as “if I cut back I will lose my progress and have to start over.”

I have seen with so many folks on YouTube, Instagram, and even my friends ‘in real life’, that change is good. Doing the same thing all the time can get boring. Your progress can become stagnant. Not taking breaks can cause injury. Pushing yourself too hard when you are not enjoying it can cause stress. I still love running. I do not want to get to a point of hating it. So I am going to focus on other forms of fitness for the time being (i.e. yoga, strength training and maybe cycling) that I am appreciating.

What are you looking forward to this summer? Share in the comments below!

Life Changes

Honestly, I am not in the best place right now. These emotions always rise when I experience major changes in my life: family rifts, moving away to college, transitioning to graduate school, or living alone for the first time. It seems to have a connection with feeling as though I have no control over my situation.

I am going to get straight to what is going on. My position is losing funding at the end of August. This is not uncommon with grant funded non-profit work. I have known this for a while, but was hopeful that new funding would come up or I might be able to change positions at my institution. Unfortunately, I will be moving on.

My partner will be finishing his PhD likely at the end of this year or early 2018. It may not be the perfect line up for a transition, but it should work. Part of me knows this will be good for us. Overall, I will be happy to have one home, but sad to be leaving my institution and the work I have been doing.

All these emotions have influenced me to make poor health choices, which in turn makes me feel like I need to push myself harder than I should. I have been bloated and uncomfortable a lot lately. Emotional eating borderline binging has taken place. I have been hard on myself. I am not making life easy on myself.

I am working on these behaviors though. I do not like feeling poorly. I want to be happy. I know things will work out. When my partner begins interviewing I will have locations to look for a job in. I can find a part time or online position until then. Most importantly, I should use this time wisely!

I want to set goals, perfect my resume, minimize our belongings, do some recipe testing, enjoy life, travel, hang out with family and move a lot in the sunlight! My current office has no windows, so I am really looking forward to all the vitamin D.

Do you have any recommendations? How have you dealt with these kind of changes?

 

 

Natural Product Review – Keeping Your Home Smelling Fresh

I like many folks like to keep my home smelling fresh, ESPECIALLY because I workout at home and do not want it to smell like a gym. Also, with the long, intense winters around the Great Lakes region you do not get a lot of chances to air out your place for months. I have been trying to do this more naturally a few different ways using candles and essential oils. Although, keeping your home smelling fresh naturally could be as easy as picking up a pre-made room spray from a natural store like Whole Foods.

I chose to creating my own thing since a lot of the pre-made, natural room sprays I found were too similar to my perfume choices. I prefer to not blend in with the scent of my home.

Essential oils

I use essential oils in several ways:

  • If I need an invigorating shower I apply a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the floor before I start my shower. This is fantastic if you are sick, since eucalyptus is the scent of Vicks.
  • In the winter, I add it to the water in the humidifier. By morning, our bed room smells like rosemary. You could also get a diffuser.
  • I create my own room spray using water (8 oz.), rubbing alcohol (1.5 oz.) and essential oil of choice (15 drops). I really like the more herbal scents around the house, though I throw lemon or cedar in there to help with keeping bugs away.

I have found all of these options to be great! Yes, it takes more work to assemble the spray, but small bottles of essential oils take up much less space AND both Target and Meijer started having them on their shelves for very reasonable prices! The ones I have been buying are Natures Truth and they seem to run about $6.99 per bottle which lasts me quite a while since one drop goes a long way. Often find them on sale too. The same essential oils in other brands can run you anywhere from $8.99 to $24.99… ouch.

Scented candles

This are quite simple, select a scent, place it the middle of the room and light the candle. However, I have found some brands to be better than others.

  • My absolute favorite ones come from this woman at the farmer’s market who has a lavender farm. She makes her own essential oil, teas, beauty products, candles and more with the lavender she grows. She uses soy to make her candles because its plentiful in this region of the country.
  • We recently picked up a Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day lavender candle to go with our multi-purpose cleaner I mentioned in a previous home product post. They are also made with soy. It goes quite well with the cleaner and so far does not seem to burn too quickly.
  • Lastly, I love the Aromatherapy brand candles at Target! We have bought most of the scents, but Love and Peaceful are the ones we enjoy the most have have bought more than once. The candles last forever and are a mix of soy and paraffin waxes. I know getting paraffin wax treatments is considered questionably healthy, but I am not sure about burning it. These candles though have scents I have been trying to replicate in my room spray with essential oils.

How do you naturally improve the scent of your home?

Eating Seasonally

The farmer’s market is alive with fresh produce and I enjoy exploring all of it! My farmer’s market is open year round, but during the winter months (December – March) the options dwindle to apples, potatoes, kale and squash. While those are delicious items, having the sudden increase in variety allows you to create dishes you have been without for months. It also naturally leads me to a bit of weight loss.

When I had a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a couple of years ago it helped me get into better eating habits. That was the same year I dropped 30lbs! I had never eaten that much fresh food before, which is just plain WRONG! Though I did not know any better yet. Since then I have made it my goal to move away from a grain and fat focused diet to something that is much more colorful.

For instance, watermelon season has started and I have been blessed to have enjoyed 2 satisfyingly sweet watermelons already this season! Plus, the 4 lbs of strawberries I bought helped make the best unsweetened strawberry rhubarb chia jam, which I heaped on top of some cinnamon scones this past week. 😉 I was also fortunate to pick up a lot asparagus for extremely reasonable prices at the farmer’s market, 3 lbs for $5. I used them as the side to our Bet It All On Black Garlic burger.

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Eating more seasonally is more sustainable and healthy for our environment, communities and economy. Having every type of produce fresh year-round does not make sense. Each item has its season. When produce tastes better, I want to eat more of it and that is why it is included in my Spring Goals!

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Since every produce is available year-round, so check out this Seasonal Food Guide! What is your favorite produce right now? What seasonal recipes are you cooking up right now?

Relationships Take Work

Maintaining healthy relationships is important to having a healthy life. Now, I am not saying all my relationships are perfect. I have relationships that are in complete shambles, but I try to focus on maintaining a loving, supportive connection with my family and friends.

For example, my relationship with my father is not good. We currently do not talk. This relationship has brought me great stress and at times depression. I really wanted to move past the turbulent and abusive years of my childhood. However, I have come to realize I worked hard on that relationship for years and feel that he chose to not do the same. His actions and decisions hurt me and made me feel unloved for so long.

I made the choice to a few years ago to stop putting so much energy into one relationship that after decades was only progressing into a weaker state. It was a burden on my other relationships and myself. To be honest, it still has negative impacts, but in a diminutive way. I no longer feel drained of everything I have to be able to provide other people with love.

I appreciate those who somehow stuck through all my drama with this and I became aware of how much a relationship can influence your daily life in so many ways. Healthy relationships are critical to a happy life. Maintaining these take work. I am a firm believer that you get what you put into something. I can not expect for people to keep in touch with me if I just sit there. Is it easy to connect with everyone, no.

I use to think Facebook and other social media was the best way, but who is to say that a post will be seen by everyone in your networks on such platforms. I also stopped really using Facebook years ago. I want to call or video chat with people more if I can not meet with them in person. I also want to try to figure out how best to communicate with people, maybe decipher their love language so I can speak theirs.

The thing is, if you do nothing there is no relationship. So all relationships take some work. Then to keep some relationships that are important to you healthy you may need to do things that you do feel are your strong suit to maintain them. For example, I feel I am terrible at giving physical gifts and showing my appreciation for the physical gifts I am given. Stuff is just not on the top of my list for what is most important to me.

By list I mean, if the house caught on fire what would I take with me. My loved ones and the memories with them are so much more valuable to me, but who is to say that for someone else it would not be their grandmother’s handmade tablecloth or husband’s leather jacket that they wear to feel connected to them when they are away or after they have passed.

To get back on track, I see that some of the people need my appreciation in ways that I feel are part of my weaknesses. I am working to improve that though because I care about them and want to show that. This is the work I am talking about. It may not seem easy to me, but completely worth it.

How do you work to maintain relationships?

 

Post Bulk Update

Currently, I still feeling stronger than before the bulk, but tired from all my work trips. And although I have indulged a bit during these work trips, I have maintained weight and size since I last spoke of my bulk. My digestion feels much better from the switch to more produce than grains. The focus on protein and carbs through fruits and vegetables has me not experiencing bloating so regularly.

I have also stepped up my cardio routine and am up to running 4 miles instead of 3 every weekend. I was getting in 5-7 miles per week when I last spoke to you and now it is 6-8 miles per week. In addition I am doing a circuit of HIIT once or twice per week with my strength training.

Now with the conferences I have been able to keep up with workout out and doing yoga, but I have been also able to get in a lot of walking which likely has helped with any extra calories consumed due to the snacks provided.

I feel like I am on a good track to maintain my strength even with all the unhealthy opportunities over the past 2 weeks. However, I am looking forward to returning home today and eating as gut friendly as possible for a while. This week I am planning to consume sauerkraut, tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha and maybe yogurt. Plus, I am going to try to not eat outside my meal times.

Hope you had a great week!

Natural Product Review – Pest Repellants

Happy Mother’s Day!

I am in between my work trips and want to share with you a way I use all natural items around the house. As I have said before, my partner and I live in two different cities with household issues not everyone loves to talk about. Our place in the city I work in is a “garden level” room, i.e. basement. Spiders are an issue and man are they big! Then in the city he works in we have a 2nd story apartment across from a river. We have assumed our neighbors must poorly store their food, so not only have we seen a lot of spiders due to bugs around the place, but mice have been an issue.

Honestly, putting out to the world that we have had mice made me nervous because I had been taught it was something that made you dirty/messy, but we do not seem to have control over the presence of mice. We keep things clean and store our food in airtight containers. However! We were able to find brilliant natural solutions that does not involve traps or killing of any critters. 🙂

Pantry Bugs and Roaches

These are really all about proper food storage and cleaning up after yourself. First, you NEED air tight containers or at least bag clips like the ones from IKEA. Second, after you cook and eat, wipe down your counters and table, then sweep up at least the areas where food was prepared and eaten. Pantry bugs especially love to hang out in your flour or sugar, so air tight containers are a must! Though, I also store them in the fridge at one of our apartments which keeps them safe as well.

Mosquitos

It is not as big of an issue in the Great Lakes region as it was for us growing up in Missouri and Louisiana along the Mississippi River, but you can still run into them in July and August. This year we are investing in a citronella plant for our balcony. I was talking with one of our neighbors who I noticed NEVER has cob webs hanging around, like the rest of us and she said it was all thanks to that little bush they bought. It keeps the bugs away and therefore keeps the outdoor spiders away. I am looking forward to finally enjoying that balcony.

Spiders and Mice

This really is our most common “pest” in both our homes. I personally do not have an issue with some spiders around, but I am concerned with possible infestation of and poison-ness spiders. Spider bites can be scary. Now, taking care of the other bugs do help with spiders, so that is why I started off with those. For this, I keep two things around:

When the hedge apples start popping up in the farmer’s market or I find a osage orange plant, I get about half a dozen of them to place in different corners of the apartment. In the 2nd story apartment they dry out and we keep them around all year. In addition, we use lemon and peppermint essential oils, drops of them, in the corners of the apartment and behind or under furniture. We have noticed a significant difference in the amount of spiders since starting to use these around our apartments.

Mice

Story time, about a year after moving into our apartment, my partner saw his first mouse. He had never experienced mice before and immediately felt panicked and stressed. Naturally, with that state of mind he just did what ever he could to get them out. After some research though, we found some more humane options.

  1. We tried traps to catch them un harmed, HA! Those clever mice escaped in no time.
  2. We tried to block where they were coming in and they just squeezed through our or CHEWED through.
  3. I tried sweeping and mopping daily to make it seem like an unappealing place. They would just come in to have a little walk around the apartment!
  4. Lastly, I saw hedge apples at the farmer’s market and a sign that said, “Naturally keep mice away!” I thought, if this works, we do not have to move. THEY WORKED! Ever since we bought some and left them one in each room, we have not seen or heard a single mouse! THANK GOODNESS!

Please share any natural pest control methods you use! Also, if you are a fan of Bob’s Burgers like we are… Hugs Not Bugs!

 

 

Traveling Again

Sorry, short post this week. I am amidst a lot of work travel again so I am hitting trains, planes and the road with my yoga mat and a new set of resistance bands. I will be staying with family or at AirBnBs for all my travel so I will get to prepare some of my own food as well as go out to eat. I love trying the local grub and staying active, especially when attending conferences.

Meals

Out

Confluence Kombucha: I meet up with a dear friend for a walk and gut healthy lunch. We shared a Kombucha flight and I had Kimchi and Thai Green Curry soup! AMAZING! If you love fermented food, you should try this place if you are in St. Louis, MO.

4 Hands Brewing: Guava King beer and Mussels

In Minnesota, I am not quite sure yet where I will go, please do let me know any suggestions you may have!

Home away from home meals

Breakfast: Oatmeal made with whole milk, cinnamon and dried fruit

Lunch: Tuna with flax seed and rice crackers

Afternoon snack: Mango and kiwi

Dinner: Tofu tacos or Garlic asparagus pasta

Fitness

I’m looking forward to playing around with these bands so I can better add them into the workouts I make up myself!

Fun

While in St. Louis for a conference, I have the chance to meet up with family and friends. Then in Minnesota I get to check out a Twins baseball game and maybe a musical performance. On top of these fun things I get to visit all the local museums, which I love to do!

Check out my Instagram for travel posts!

Sugar: Marketing Impact

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I want to “discuss” (because it is not like I am sitting with you to talk about this) the how companies are impacting what we consume. I will just present my thought in main points, but I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

I Feel:

  • You can see sweets are in your face EVERYWHERE! Next time you are in the convenience store or grocery, pay close attention to what is eye level for you and children. What is the most accessible and visible products when you first walk into your grocery store?
  • Sugars (processes, artificial and natural) are included in ingredients lists for things that it does not even make sense to have sugar in it. Look at the ingredients of the snack and packaged food items in your pantry:
    • How many of them have sugars in the list of ingredients?
    • Where is sugar on the list? Is it within the first 5 ingredients? Should it be so prevalent in the item you are looking at?
  • Sugar is not the devil, but companies are making it out to be. Most companies have their profit in mind, not our health. If adding certain ingredients creates a product that you can get hooked on, they will do it regardless of whether it is good for people to be consuming it.
  • Snack foods and sugary beverages do not solve the world’s food problems.

We Can Do More:

  • Easiest thing, make different choices.
    • Educate yourself. This can be as easy as watching Jaime Oliver’s Sugar Rush, That Sugar Film or the documentary Fed Up.
    • Learn to make simple healthy food. Not enough time? Consider how you can make it work for you.
      • Slow cookers can save you time.
      • Pre-chopped vegetables and fruits may cost more, but could be worth the time saved.
      • Keep it simple. Salt, Pepper and Olive oil can create a lot of great flavor to your protein and vegetables.
    • Reduce or stop purchasing processed foods.
    • Request products at your grocery with simpler ingredients (5 ingredients or less) and that do not contained additives of which you have no clue what they are. Did you know you can submit requests for certain products in your local store? I even submitted a request at my local Whole Foods and they listened! 🙂
  • Contact your politicians to voice your priorities.
    • They should listen to their community to vote on legislation and make decisions
    • If they can propose groceries stop distributing disposable bags, then they should be able to propose a tax on junk food and beverages or change up requirements of how stores are set up.
    • They could impact what is provided in schools.
  • Get involved at your child’s school.
    • Provide whole foods for your kid’s snacks and lunches.
    • Talk with the science teacher about a field trip to a farm or garden to help the students understand where their food comes from.
    • Members if the PTA at some schools can work to make changes to what kind of foods children are provided.
  • Contact brands with the number/email on the back of the package and provide your feedback on the ingredients they use.

The research I have been doing for this blog has me chanting, “I want to be more active in my community regarding this topic, I expect more from the food provided to me and I can not sit by anymore listening to the statistics of our country’s health crisis. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.”

So now what? I take action. I continue picking up that phone to call my city representative, making requests at my local grocery stores, purchasing whole foods to make simple, healthy meals, taking advantage of opportunities when someone asks me about what I am doing to feel so great and writing posts for this blog to show people it is possible on a budget. I want to impact people in a positive way, the same way I have seen people change how they feel about science in my work at the museum everyday. Positive experiences are long lasting. I hope my passion and actions are providing that to others.

 

Lesson Learned: Spring Slim Down Challenges Do Not Support Me

I have debated a post like this because I do not like to focus on appearance or size. Why? It causes me to have pretty negative thoughts, but slimming down is an important part for many folks to get healthy. I like to promote doing what makes you physically and mentally feel good. When I feel good, I like the way I look. So for me its all about feeling good. Getting to that state happens when I take care of and support myself.

Knowing what does not serve me

April typically kicks off all the challenges for Summer and media ploys toward looking your best in your swimwear. I loved participating in these until I made the connection that the language used by these challenges had me being unfairly negative and harsh toward myself when I did not meet “my goal”. A typically an unrealistic goal which was generated by the expressions from the challengers. I believe for many they can be a great way to kick start getting healthy, but I question how some of these events may be designed.

The wording specifically could be used to market products to you, while hindering you feeling good about the progress you have made. This is what I noticed in myself. I wanted all the stuff they were selling and the body they said I could have if I follow everything they instructed me to do, but then the statements made caused me to feel like the amount of progress made was not enough. So no more Summer body challenges for me. Lesson learned.

Coming off my bulk

If you do not know, bulking means that you eat more calories than you need to maintain your weight so that you gain weight. This weight gain can be in the form of both muscle and fat. I was bulking from November to February. The time of the year you typically eat more any way due to all the winter comfort foods and holiday get togethers, so I figured it to be the best time to bulk.

I am currently changing how I eat after my bulk during the Winter. I took about a month and a half to focus on eating when I felt hungry to halt any over eating habits I had developed during the bulk. I have definitely put on muscle, but also fat. I gained about 6-7 lb. during this time. I now want to stop gaining weight though to see how much muscle I have really put on. I notice I am stronger, but this was really the first time bulking so I am trying to learn what process works best for me to gain strength and hopefully maintain it without becoming over weight again.

I am taking a step back from all added sugars, as well as changing up the distribution of fat, carbs and protein. My calorie in-take will remain the same now that I am back to maintaining. I have seen in the past that when I focus on eating my carbs in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced the amount of fat by more frequently skipping out on fatty additions (mainly the fried foods, extra cheese, sauces, dressings, nut butters, etc.) and get out of the habit of consuming dessert, I see a more lean body. So to summarize, same amount of calories, but replacing the more frequent treats with high quality, real food.

I will plan to do an update in a month to let you know what I have learned from my first bulk and especially whether or not my strength was maintained. Hope you have a beautiful Earth Day!