Do I look older? Wait don’t answer that!
What a weird (and terrible) year to start a new decade. I should be on the beach in Mexico with a drink in each hand right now. And guess where I am? Typing this at my dining room table. My birthday trip was canceled, Mexico is closed, and I have been through all the stages of grief. I am finally in the acceptance phase, thanks to lots of encouragement and love from friends and family.
This time last year, I decided to approach my next birthday the way I approach life in general. With a list. Because that’s what I do. Make lists. Sometimes, I write something down on my list that I’ve already done, just so I can mark it off my list. I am just that weird.
My birthday to-do list was about growing, learning, having fun, and reminding myself to enjoy all the moments. Big and small. The end goal was to push me out of my comfort zone a bit. And as I write this, I realize, I probably did not push hard enough.
But the great joy and sense of peace that this birthday is bringing, lets me know that I still have time to move things off that list. Time doesn’t stop at 40. God is not done with me yet, because here I am, talking with you.
What I learned from my list over the past year is that not everything on the list got accomplished and that’s okay. The world is still turning. Some things will have to wait until the global pandemic subsides and some may never get done at all. And that’s okay.
Today is exactly what 2020 had planned for me, and there is not one single thing I would do to change it.
What should have been a beach birthday trip with my husband, turned into a week of presents, time with family, and a day of sun and swimming.
It took me forty years to build this life and I wouldn't trade a minute of it.
I hope to spend the next forty years accepting myself the way God made me, living a life driven by curiosity, and focusing more on what I want and what I know and less on things that don’t matter to me.
I hope the next decade is one for travel, beauty and full of grace, seasoned with a little salt.
We are all connected by food. We sit at our tables and eat together. We chat over coffee on back porches together. We celebrate new life and birthdays with food, and almost any celebration I can think of is centered around food. Together. With our people.
That together part has been taken from us. In an effort to recreate that sense of community, people are having virtual dinner parties and virtual coffee dates. I am grateful for the technology to have a Zoom coffee date with my girlfriends, but I can’t wait to meet them in person at Starbucks like normal people again.
Food is my favorite thing to talk about. It is my actual job. And though I’m really missing the together part. Together with friends. Together with extended family. I am taking some extra time to teach my daughter new skills in the kitchen and try new recipes. And that, my friends, is truly priceless.
Today I bring you part two of my blog series, “What is saving my life right now?” the food edition.
Q: Food: What is saving my life right now?
A: Coffee, help in the kitchen, and simple recipes.
Some days it is easier than others to look on the bright side. Today it’s easy. As a part of this quarantine process, extra time at home and extra time in my kitchen has allowed me extra time to develop a deeper relationship with my morning coffee. 2020 will forever be the year I remember as “the year I became a person who grinds her own coffee beans”.
Coffee has been saving my life for years, but grinding my beans is a whole new level. Bless me. I highly recommend it and will share that my favorite bean is the Starbucks Blonde Roast whole beans.
Help in the kitchen
Meal planning is at a new level. Making sure we have options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks AND THEN shopping for those items AND cooking/assembling those could easily be a full-time job. It’s a lot. And if I’ve learned anything in the past ten weeks it’s this:
1. It’s ok (and necessary) to ask for help.
2. My ten-year-old can do so much more in the kitchen (and in the house in general) than I gave her credit for.
A major bonus of staying home has been getting my daughter in the kitchen more. She can peel and cut cucumbers like it’s her job, she can make the most delicious cheese stuffed bread sticks (see video on Instagram for recipe) and makes her own breakfast and lunch most days of the week.
Three people in this house means plenty of hands to do things in the kitchen like plan the menu, shop for groceries, chop vegetables, load and unload the dishwasher, make snacks, and cook recipes.
So, get your kids (and anyone living under your roof) in the kitchen to help! It is life changing and very much lifesaving.
Here is the thing. I consider myself a simple chef. I refuse to even try a new recipe if (a) I have to buy a ton of new (or weird) ingredients or (b) if the ingredient list is more than 10ish ingredients. I prefer recipes that use normal pantry staples. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or complicated or time consuming to be healthy and delicious. It can be simple.
My favorite website for simple recipes is My Food and Family. I promise you; you cannot go wrong with anything here. The recipes are simple, practical, and delicious. There is even a Healthy Living section with nutrition tips, shopping basics, a tons of healthy recipes.
BONUS: Good Food News
I love a silver lining. And I think we can all use some good food news!
One bright side of being quarantined is that recipes previously considered top secret, are now public knowledge. You can now recreate magical snack moments from your last Disney vacation or take a stab at baking those warm cookies you got at your last DoubleTree check-in.
Interested in a food virtual food tour across America? The New York Times is here for you. The Stingrays mac and cheese and the Brennan’s bananas foster are calling my name.
And my Fun Food News Award goes to my favorite food news story of the whole quarantine: Molson Coors and their delivery of Coors Light to a 93 year old lady who posted a picture of her holding a Coors Light and a sign that says “I need more beer!!”. She was doing her part to stay home, and they came through with 10 15-packs delivered right to her door. She is pandemic goals if you ask me.
Times are tough, y’all. Don’t forget to nourish yourself, not only with food but with grace and positivity.
I love to cook and try new recipes. Follow me on Instagram and check out my recipe section for some of my favorites!
I would love to know, what’ saving your life right now, friends?
There is so much on my mind right now. One minute I’m worrying about how to teach long division (4th grade math is for the birds), the next I’m daydreaming about the birthday trip I’m going to take when this all passes because my previous plans like all other things are…cancelled. I am trying to focus on positivity, self-care, and honestly – just taking it one day at a time.
Inspired by one of my favorite authors who closes every podcast with this question to her guest “What is saving your life right now?”, I thought that would be a fun series for my blog.
I’m excited to share the first blog in a series of three: Faith, Food, All the Feels.
Q: Faith: What is saving my life right now?
A: Quiet Time, Daily Devotional, and Journaling
Last fall, I started a new habit. A daily devotional coupled with journaling. Since mornings are the quietest time in my house and I am easily a morning person, the Monday morning following Daylight Savings time, I set my alarm for 5am and have never looked back. (Until quarantine that is. Currently, wakeup time has shifted to 7am, so one of my worries right now is trying to reset my body’s clock when this passes.) My morning alone time with coffee, my thoughts, and Jesus are truly some of my favorite moments in the day. As an introvert, this morning time is gold. I need it now more than ever!
I’m currently reading Jesus Calling Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young, and I would personally recommend it if you’re looking for a devotional. While it does have mixed reviews, I am a fan. I like the daily encouragement and the brevity of each read.
Over the past month, these are a few verses that have jumped out at me. Some helping bring a sense of peace, others reminding me to be thankful and also to look for Him in extraordinary circumstances beyond my control:
Along with these verses, I'm also using my journal to take notes about our experiences during this quarantine. My journal isn’t fancy. It’s simple, lined paper that is empty and ready for my thoughts. I am currently looking for a new journal, so if you have one that you love, please send me a link!
While quiet time with my devotional and my thoughts are allowing me a peaceful way to start my day, my inner introvert is on the struggle bus the rest of the day. Fellow introverts, if you have some great tips or tricks to find alone time or recharge during this crisis, let me know. I’m here for it! Some days I walk around the block until I’m dizzy, and I have also been known to leave the house in my actual car listening to a podcast pretending life is normal. I am currently considering a “time-out” chair for myself but I haven’t’ gone that far just yet. Stay tuned.
So my dear friends, tell me. What is saving your life right now? What are your introvert recommendations? I can't wait to hear.
It’s not very often that I feel like I’m witnessing history. But as I type this, I’m working from home at my dining room table sitting next to my daughter who is working on her second day of an Alternate Method of Instruction (AMI) packet. Meanwhile my husband, a high school teacher, is creating assignments for his class on Google docs in the office right next to us. All of this is happening on a Tuesday morning, in the comfort of our home.
I can’t think of anything more abnormal than school and work at home in our PJs (with no make up) on this gloomy day in March, while something called coronavirus, COVID-19, is wreaking havoc internationally.
Every day is new and unchartered territory. The stock market is at recession lows. Schools are cancelled. Working from corporate offices is cancelled. International travel, cruises, airline travel, and anything that involves groups of more than 10 is cancelled. Churches in the South…cancelled. Let that sink in.
Pretty much anything fun…it’s all cancelled. In the world of sports, this month will forever be known as March Sadness with all things sports related…you guessed it, cancelled.
While the introvert in me loves this idea of social distancing to keep the spread of the virus at a minimum, my sense of humor is excited for all of this to pass, so we can really spend some time laughing about the shortage of toilet paper and other strange human behaviors.
I would also like to acknowledge the cleverness of “March Sadness” and “coronapocalypse”. I’m here for the laughter. Which really is the best medicine. I’m also here for online shopping, so introverts please line up to grab this “Social Distancing Expert” pullover (also available in a t-shirt) from The Shop Forward.
If you’re trying to navigate how to work from home, homeschool your kids, and also not kill anyone, I am doing the same. Wine or beer may help – just sayin’. But what also may help is a schedule and/or a list of activities to look to when the wheels start to come off the wagon.
Productive things you can do:
Productive things your kids can do:
Productive things you can do as a family:
I hope when the ball drops in 2021, we will all lift our hands in praise and say we survived our hardest year. And we also survived The Bachelor: Listen To Your Heart. (Someone please tell me why...oh, why this is a thing. The world is hard right now and I am not here for this show. Can they cancel it because of COVID-19??)
We’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or neighbors. Maybe to borrow toilet paper. Or maybe to complain about your spouse. It’s fine. They probably need to vent too and they may be able to trade you toilet paper for eggs.
Stay safe friends.
My favorite Valentine’s Day candy is without a doubt the heart shaped Snickers. This particular Snickers tastes 100% better when it is shaped like a heart, than in its traditional bar form. Don’t believe me? Go try one.
Happy Valentine’s Day. And you’re welcome!
Wait, am I reading this right? Is this a dietitian peddling Valentine’s candy? I mean I guess I am, but I’m sincerely telling you that you can take my word for it, or you can try one for yourself. And I’m also telling you that I’m a human and I eat candy too. I will follow that by saying that I try to do so…in moderation. Because that’s what dietitians do. We encourage all foods. (Even Snickers.) In moderation.
That word - moderation - may be boring, but it's a huge component of a healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food. All foods.
When I say all foods. I mean it.
We cannot stay in ketosis for the rest of our lives. We cannot eat like cavemen from now until our nursing home days. (Can you imagine the nursing home diet orders in 2060? I am laughing out loud, just thinking about it.) Low carbs forever? No, thank you. We also cannot grow 100% of our own food, 100% of the time. We cannot avoid all GMOs, gluten, sugar, dairy, grains, and meat and cannot possibly keep up with Every. Single. Thing. that Kim Kardashian or Gwyneth Paltrow or fill in the blank famous person who doesn't have a degree in nutrition says is bad!
Because there aren’t bad foods. Just bad reputations about foods. Food doesn’t have to be put on a good or bad list. You do not get to be the Santa Claus of foods. Broccoli, nice list. Gluten, naughty list. You get the point.
Should we be eating more fruits and vegetables? Yes.
Should we eat less often? Yes.
Should we eat smaller portions? Yes.
Should we eat in moderation? Absolutely yes.
As the science of nutrition evolves, we are continuously learning new things. Researchers are currently looking at the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting and even how the bacteria in our intestines influence our health. It’s fascinating. And also, sometimes confusing. While the science is emerging in some areas. It’s considered more solid in others.
Other areas, including added sugars.
Current research shows, here in the U. S., more than 13% of our daily calories come from added sugars, and it's even more (17% of daily calories) for children, adolescents, and young adults. Yikes. Maybe you’re asking, why is that bad? Well, added sugars are simply a source of calories. That’s it. They don’t add any other nutrients to our diets.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published every five years, reviews current nutrition research and provides recommendations for the healthy U.S. population. The most current report recommends we keep added sugars to no more than 10% of calories in our diet.
So, what in the world does that mean? That means you have to do math, I guess. And some people hate math, so I’ll do a little for you.
If you’re eating 2,000 calories per day, 10% of calories from added sugars would be 200 calories from added sugars. Again, what does that mean? It means more math.
Carbohydrates (which is the category sugar falls into) have four calories per gram. So, 200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram is 50 grams of added sugar. That would be your maximum amount of added sugars per day if you were eating 2,000 calories per day. 50 grams of added sugar. But not all of us need 2,000 calories. Making that number likely smaller for a lot of people. 1,800 calories per day would allow 45 grams of added sugars and 1,500 calories a day would be about 38 grams of added sugars.
I would assume it’s safe to say that you don’t think of your food in grams. Who does? Making the new FDA compliant nutrition facts panel your BFF. This new format makes it clear and easy to see how many grams of added sugars are in your favorite foods.
If you look right below total sugars, there is now a line that shows you exactly how much of the sugar is added by the manufacturer - "includes Xg added sugars".
Added sugars, confusingly enough, can be listed on a food label as other things besides sugar. When reading the ingredient statement, here are a few examples of common ingredients to look for: agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, cane sugar, cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, fructose, sucrose, turbinado sugar, molasses, maltose, malt syrup, invert sugar, honey, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltodextrin, and fruit juice concentrate (depending on how it’s used).
How does the amount of added sugars in your diet stack up?
Limiting added sugars is a fast and easy way to help you make room in your diet for other foods that offer more nutrients. Reading food labels and making simple swaps is an easy place to start.
At the store, compare food labels and choose foods with lower or no added sugars. Try looking at and tackling your added sugars one meal at a time. Is your oatmeal sweetened with sugar? What about your yogurt? Are there lower sugar versions you could try? Or maybe your added sugars are in the liquid form? From coffee creamer to sweet tea and soda, some simple swaps to your beverage choices could be all that you need to cut back your added sugars.
Remember the guidance does allow some added sugars (moderation!). Pairing moderation with mindfulness and listening to your body will take you a long way. It might even take you to Walgreens to buy a heart shaped Snickers this Valentine’s Day.
If you enjoyed the read or have questions, please let me know. I would love to hear from you, and as always, thanks for stopping by.
Happy Valentine's Day.
To keep our credentials, dietitians are required to have 75 hours of continuing education every five years. Most medical professionals have similar continuing education requirements as do several other career paths including teachers, real estate agents, and lawyers. We all understand why. BECAUSE THINGS CHANGE. In our collective fields of study – things change, a lot. The way teachers teach (and the things teachers teach), the laws that govern our states, the science of food and nutrition, advances in medical science – they change! So of course, yes, we need continuing education to stay well-informed.
Personally, I make time for it. I schedule it. I sign up for it. It’s on my radar. Professional development. Check.
So why then, is personal growth and development not on my radar? Or spiritual growth and development? Hooray for you if it is on your radar! But as an adult, it hasn’t always been on mine.
I don’t know if it has to do with maturity level, life experiences, a mid-life crisis (perhaps?) or all of the above. But the idea of personal growth didn’t resonate with me until I went back to school in 2016. During that time, I didn’t have an extra minute to devote to personal growth but the amount of time I spent on school made me realize that if I had time to pursue a Master’s degree, while working full time and being a wife and mother too, then I had time once I was done with school to work on my personal and spiritual self.
And that’s what I’m doing now. Or trying to do. I’m figuring things out as I go. I’m listening to podcasts, I’m reading books, I’m challenging myself physically and spiritually. I’m making lots of lists because they bring me joy (and also motivation) and trying to figure out what my next decade will look like. (Happy New Year by the way!)
Most of the podcasts I listen to are women who inspire me. These are women I’ve never met inspiring me to be my best self every day. (Thank you, BTW, Jen Hatmaker, Gretchen Rubin, The Big Boo Cast, and Jamie Ivey...because I'm certain all of you read my blog.)
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing John Register, a Paralympic athlete, speak at a work conference. I was so engaged in his inspirational story that the only notes I took down during the entire hour-long presentation were this:
Inspiration leads to motivation.
Motivation leads to action.
Action leads to results.
Those will either inspire or create your new normal every day.
If you look at the narrative that John provides, these women are doing just that for me. Leading, inspiring, and motivating. I see this narrative that he describes as a continuous cycle, and I envision us all like little dominoes. Focusing on and changing ourselves for the better, can help motivate and lead to changes in others. That’s really very powerful when you stop and think about it.
As I move through 2020, focusing on myself, I am hoping to accomplish these #20for2020 goals this year, inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin:
I will leave you with this quote from Brené Brown, another inspirational stranger in my life.
“People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis’, but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” – Brené Brown
Cheers to a new year of being who you’re supposed to be, friends.
January 1, 2019 seems like at least 100 years ago.
2019, at times, was a blur. It was full of big events including a surgery, big excitement including a first trip to Walt Disney World, and I’m very happy to report, big success in the form of new habits.
My 2019 New Year’s resolutions included reading more books, becoming more tech savvy, and implementing a new morning devotional routine.
I would like to credit one of my favorite authors with helping me put several new practices in place this year. If you haven't already, check out Gretchen Rubin's website, podcast (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) or any of her books.
One of Gretchen’s tactics for making habit changes is this: “Identify the problem.” This first step has been a game changer. It’s so simple, and so obvious. But it really has worked for me in 2019.
One of my goals this year was to read at least one book per month. Around April and May, I had exhausted the list of books I was interested in reading. It wasn't that I didn't have time to read. I would find myself in the library feeling completely overwhelmed (shocking I know). Sometimes, coming home with at least six books only to find…I had zero interest in any of them.
Asking friends for recommendations sometimes played out and googling “Top books of ______”, worked some too. But it was requiring a lot more research and energy than I was interested in putting forward.
I channeled my inner Gretchen Rubin, and thought "What exactly is the problem here?" Finding books I was interested in.
There are probably several things I could've done but the obvious one to jump out at me: Join a book club! And then later in the year, another solution: find a reading partner. I’ve done both this year and am happy to report (drumroll please), I read a total of 17 books this year! (My goal was 12!)
If you like to read and are looking for recommendations, I thought I would share my 2019 reading list (in no specific order):
If you’re looking to read more in 2020 and need a little help (or whatever it is your resolution is), take the Gretchen Rubin approach and first, identify the problem. It's a great way to get you on the path to new habits next year!
I hope your 2020 is full of joy, health, and happiness.
Happy New Year, friends!
I saw a meme on Monday that said, “Just remember: it might be Monday but it’s a short week that ends with pie and shopping. We can do this.” And I’ve never felt more understood in my life. This is easily one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a short work week for me that involves cooking, food, and family. It’s finally ok with the world to decorate for Christmas. AND black Friday is within reach. Who could ask for more?
Today I’m sharing my Black Friday shopping tips AND my first official Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Edition. So, grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice), a blanket, snuggle in on the couch, and keep reading!
The first year my sister and I decided to shop on Black Friday was a BIG learning experience. We went completely unprepared with purses too big, shoes too hot, no game plan, and spent at least two hours in line at Kohl’s together solving the world’s problems. You live, you learn.
If you’re planning to shop in person this Friday, here are my top 5 tips for a successful Black Friday:
Speaking of shopping. I put together a few fun gift ideas for the chef in your family, including links to each. If Black Friday shopping at the store is not your jam, then you’re just one click away from starting your Christmas shopping! Congrats, and here goes:
That’s it for the very first Faith, Food, All the feels Holiday Gift Guide! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
I wish you all a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Travel safe, be safe with your food, and please download the app “Is My Food Safe?” to help you answer questions like “Is it done yet?” and “Time to toss?”. It’s an excellent tool for any home cook.
My final tip to you: "Stuff your turkey, not yourself." I saw this on Instagram last year and thought it was cute. Practicing mindful eating this week may help you stay on track with your health goals.
Teal probably isn’t the first color you think of when you think of Halloween but, the color’s popularity this October is on the rise. Is teal the new orange? It just might be! The Teal Pumpkin Project®, which started in 2014, is a colorful way to raise awareness around food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. With estimates of one in 13 children having a food allergy, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), it’s pretty likely one of those little monsters, superheroes, or princesses at your door this year will have a food allergy. Wouldn’t it be cool for them to see support from a stranger? I think so too! That’s why I’m participating in the #tealpumpkinproject and hoping you will too.
Here’s what you need:
That’s it! It’s easy, it’s fun, it's inclusive, and it adds a fun pop of color to your front porch!
Click over to FARE’s website or follow them on Instagram for more information on the project and additional allergen resources:
This week, I’m sharing my dinner menu and some fun tips to get your family engaged at meal time in honor of National Family Meals Month™! As a Mom, and a dietitian, I am so excited to be a part of this movement to raise awareness around the benefits of family meals.
Fun Facts on Family Meals (1)
I thought it would fun to share my menu this week, including short cuts or tips when it comes to meal time for our family and also some tricks to get your family engaged at mealtime.
Monica's Menu, Meal Tips and the Rules of Engagement:
Monday: Jambalaya with corn on the cob and sliced fresh veggies.
As you are settling in to your back to school routine, September is the perfect time hit the reset button on family meal time or tweak your routine just a little. No one knows better what will work for your family than you. If dinners are hectic with too many schedules to work around, maybe breakfast or lunch would be easier? Do that. Make that work. And have fun!!
I love this recipe for a family meal: appetites, eaters, food, time & place!
If you’re with me, Raise Your Mitt to Commit™ to one more meal at home per week. That’s it! For more information about this movement, follow The Food Marketing Institute Foundation at https://www.fmi.org/family-meals/our-mission
I hope you enjoyed the read and would be happy to hear any meal tips, tricks or fun things your family does at mealtime too?
(1). Food Marketing Institute: https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month/meals-matter