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It’s been 14 days

I wish I could say this whole cleanse up to this point has been a breeze, but I can’t. Exactly two weeks ago on July 26, I let the world know I was embarking on a 21 day Vegan cleanse through https://simplegreensmoothies.com/. I’ve done this cleanse once or twice a year for the last few years. I’ve written many blog posts about my experiences, which is different every time. What makes this one fun is that my husband, Bryan, decided to join me for a friendly challenge. This is his first time on the cleanse.

Week 1 was actually a breeze and it felt really great to be preparing and consuming these nutritious foods. Since I’m not new to the cleanse, I’ve gotten really familiar with the recipes and know which ones I like and don’t like. Of course, I stuck to the ones that I like, hoping Bryan would like them too. He’s a very finicky eater.

Week 2 is where we both leave much to be desired in how poised and committed we’ve been to the recipes. The most important thing about Week 2 is that it is the actual cleanse week. Not only are we consuming all vegan foods, but grains, lentils, and beans are omitted. Life certainly is less colorful without these foods. I also remembered that I did NOT like most of Week 2’s recipes.

Bryan has denied this, but I think his strategy was to simply not eat in order to avoid eating the food. There was no question we were mostly hungry this week. Have you ever been so hungry, yet didn’t want to eat the food before you? You usually hear that if you’re hungry enough, you’d eat anything. I was hungry most of Week 2, but didn’t want to eat. We did cheat a couple of times with onion rings. Onions rings are vegan. What can I say (palm bump on forehead)?

I’m hoping for greener (pun intended!) pastures in this last week. Grains, lentils, and beans are back. At least they’ve been back since day 13 because I couldn’t take another day without them. If this were an actual race, I’d be the one clawing and clinching to the finish line. I’m a little surprised by how I’m experiencing this cleanse. And to think, I was actually planning on going an extra week. No way!

All in all, it’s been a fun experience with Bryan. We’re both a little lighter too. We’re celebrating the last day of the cleanse by BREAKING the cleanse for our daughter’s birthday. She gave us the side eye a couple times as she watched us cheat. I type this in jest, but what example are we showing her? I know. Execution might not be perfect, but finish. Pick back up where you left off. Do your best, and even if you don’t, keep it moving.

I will lay this cleanse to rest for the remainder of 2020 once we complete this round. Here are some pictures of the beautiful food I made with my own hands. As an experienced cook, I tailored the recipes to my preferences and even combined some.

Citrus beet green smoothie
Swiss chard white bean skillet
Black bean zucchini tacos
roasted veggies served with basil pesto and brown rice (not pictured)
Baked hash cakes over a bed of mixed greens
Prep for lemon chia pudding; vanilla extract not pictured; chia seeds soaking in coconut milk
Herbalicious hummus with veggies
Filling for black bean zucchini tacos
Pineapple carrot green smoothie

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Sometimes things get worse before they get better

I type this post as I lay in bed awakening from a nap on this lazy Sunday afternoon. I rolled over and felt the urge to share my progress. If you read my previous post, you know on Monday, 4/13/2020, a nurse called to tell me I did not have COVID-19. SWEET! That news was relieving although I was not surprised. By Friday, 4/17/2020, I had spoken to 2 more nurses and my primary doctor because I was miserable and not feeling any relief in symptoms despite taking a full regimen of antibiotics and prescription cough medicine.

Esperanza plant. LPC

I want to be as perky and bright as the beautiful bells of my Esperanza plant… I’m not there yet. Yellow is one of favorite colors. The dress in the cover photo is one of only a few pieces of yellow clothing I own. Yellow is my go-to color when I want a pick me up and I need one right now more than ever.

I bought the Esperanza plant because it was planted all over the property of a beautiful house one of my best friends rented for us in Wimberly a few Father Day’s ago. Wimberly, located just outside of Austin, is considered the “Hill Country” and it has a woodsy, lush, and lazy charm. We spent the weekend with my husband and kids, my friend, her niece and nephew, and her parents.

I’m thankful to have pleasant memories such as those to dwell on and perk up my spirits. I think I’m on the way to the other side of this thing called bronchitis, but not without more medications.

Advair inhaler

I haven’t seen the likes of this device since my son, Caleb, was first diagnosed with asthma years ago. His medications have since evolved to different types of inhalers. I’m grateful Caleb’s asthma is under control, but because of his asthma, he would be considered high risk for contracting COVID-19. I worry about him as he goes to work at the Walmart near our home. However, he’s given personal protective equipment on his shifts and tells me he washes his hands often.

I never imagined one day I’d be taking the same medications Caleb used to for his asthma. I haven’t been diagnosed with asthma, but I have significant upper respiratory inflammation. I tend to be conservative with medication and prefer natural remedies where applicable, but I need some relief. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed a change yet since using the inhaler for 2 days. I do feel a little better as my doctor also prescribed another medication for the cough.

I’ve been telling myself it is necessary for me to take care of myself and I shouldn’t feel guilty because I’m sick. I do struggle with the demands of my job, especially when I’m not at my best. I took off work Friday afternoon and I’m still not sure if I will work tomorrow. I know my husband, Bryan, would prefer I take off another day. I will see how I feel in the morning.

The main things I’m doing right now to get better is listen to my body, take my medications, drink lots of liquids, continue to eat healthy, exercise, rest, and be comforted by my loved ones. If you’re in a similar situation, I recommend this regimen for you too. As with this whole COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes things get worse before they get better. One day this will be behind us and the world will be better. I’ll be better soon too.

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Self-Care 101: Lotion Up

Who else has dry hands due to the constant hand washing and hand sanitizing? And who else neglects to moisturize those hands after getting them all squeaky clean? With COVID-19, now more than ever we need to be vigilant about personal hygiene, but I’m not complaining. I’m here to remind you that self-care is as simple as lotioning up.

I’m guilty of washing my hands frequently throughout the day and then wonder why my fingers look like PRUNE STICKS hours later. I have no excuse either because I have lotions tucked away all over the house. I love the feeling of moisturizing my skin with a luxious, rich lotion after my nightly shower or bath. The lotion PLUMPS my parched skin back to life.

I’ve tried all kinds of lotions for my different body parts. The lotions/creams pictured are my favorite at the moment, but it could change next month. My full body is represented with these products from my lips (Eos), to my face (Andalou Naturals), to my to hands (Meyer’s Clean Day), to my body (Nivea), and to the heels of my feet (Shea Moisture Shea Butter and Vaseline).

I do have some other lotions not pictured. Anybody remember Avon’s Skin So Soft (SSS)??? My mom used to “sell” Avon products. I think she was more interested in getting products for her daughters and herself rather than “selling”‘ for a profit. When my mom was last in Austin over 3 years ago, she left me a tube of SSS for the hands. It’s in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Do lotions have a shelf life?

I’ve had a long history of dry skin. I’m no dermatologist, but I believe brown skinned people are more susceptible to dry skin. I learned early on from my mom the importance of skin moisturization although I didn’t really take it seriously for my face and hands until I was a young adult in my early twenties.

I love Olay’s slogan of “love the skin you’re in”. This one body is working hard to keep you strong, healthy, and alive. It’s magnificent, resilient, and efficient. Love it by keeping it healthy.

Take care of your precious skin. It’s a simple action that goes a long way towards self-care.

What are your favorite moisturizing products?

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Foods that heal me

I might be awaiting the results from the COVID-19 test I took on Thursday, 4/9/2020, but I’m not going to lay down and let this respiratory illness kick my butt. My husband, Bryan, helped cook our delicious Easter dinner, but I also want to share the meals I made this past week that have been helping me heal.

Easter Meal small plate April 12, 2020. LPC

I haven’t had much of an appetite today, but I made sure my family had a delicious Easter dinner. With the exception of the turnip greens and cabbage medley, these aren’t necessarily the foods that heal me, but cooking does help me feel better. And dinner was simple because I couldn’t do too much. I’m grateful Bryan stepped in to complete what I started. Ham, potato salad, turnip greens and cabbage, Mexican corn, and corn bread rounded out a delicious meal.

Chicken noodle soup April 2020. LPC

Chicken noodle soup does wonders for respiratory illnesses. I made this soup on Friday and this one BLEW my mind it was so good. It consists of my homemade chicken broth, roasted chicken, egg noodles(bought at an Asian Market), mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, fennel, red pepper, jalepeno pepper, and spices including turmeric and ginger. Do I really need to tell you why this soup is so nutritious? If you don’t know, look up the amazing wonders of each of the ingredients I listed. I have a big bowl of leftovers to carry me through a few more days.

When you need a spoon and a fork for your soup, then you’ve done good. LPC
Triple berry yogurt parfait April 2020. LPC

Gut health is so important because it impacts so many other areas of health that you wouldn’t think are connected to your gut. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ve learned there are many benefits to probiotics. And plain, organic greek yogurt is my favorite food for probiotics. I defrosted about 1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, added a dab of maple syrup, a packet of stevia, and topped with organic granola. This parfait certainly gave my immune system a boost.

Sausage, squash, spinach, and peppers medley April 2020. LPC

The nutritional benefits of powerhouse greens and fresh produce in general is almost endless. I strive to eat mostly plant based foods. I was craving spinach and remembered I still had some beautiful organic yellow squash to add. This dish also has red peppers which contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and onions, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth, and spices. This could be eaten with rice, quinoa, grits, or with no side at all. It could also easily become a vegan dish by omitting the sausage, adding extra greens and/or squash, and using vegetable broth or water.

Mango orange green smoothie April 2020. LPC

Of course, I drink a daily green smoothie, but when I’m particularly under the weather, I load up on produce with high concentrations of Vitamin C. In this batch, which produced 3 mason jars of smoothies, I added 2 cups of dethawed mangos, frozen bananas, an orange, chia seeds, flax seeds, collagen powder, ginger, almond milk, and organic spinach. My appetite was low today, but sipping on this green smoothie in the morning ensured I was hydrated and getting some nutrition. Drinking out of my cute owl jar also made me feel better.🦉

Cod sauteed with spinach April 2020. LPC

My main two choices for hearty fish are cod and salmon. I buy them fresh in large packs at Costo, then I portion and freeze in ziplock bags. We were done cooking and eating our Easter meal around lunch time. For dinner, I ate half of the portion of cod pictured above. I needed a good source of protein and Omega 3s and this cod is packed with both.

Hydration (water and teas) and sleep are a couple of other areas I’m also focusing on. I might be sick, but I’m doing all I can to get better. I’m looking forward to feeling better really soon.

What are you cooking this week? What are your favorite healing foods?

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2020 Health Chronicles

This time of year, I’m usually vegan, but I’m vegetarian for right now because I enjoy a little cheese and plain, greek yogurt on occasion. I’ve been craving a GOOD veggie burger. Alas, it’s that time of the month where eating out is not an option, so the next thing I knew, I found myself searching online for black bean quinoa burger recipes.

Homemade black bean quinoa burger. LPC
Black bean quinoa burgers with shredded cheddar & sauteed onions & jalepenos LPC

This recipe was easy & super tasty. Since this isn’t a cooking blog, I don’t normally provide the step by step instructions. You can do an online search for recipes yourself. My main goal with sharing my food is to inspire you to cook at home and enjoy more plant based foods.

I will say that sauteeing onions, peppers, and spices in coconut oil prior to adding to the bowl of drained, smashed black beans added a flavorful touch. I also added bread crumbs, an egg, and more spices such as cumin, chilli powder, smoked garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little dab of liquid smoke.

I’ve blogged about setting yourself up for success to achieve your goals. In like fashion, I prepared another one of my vegan staples for the work week.

Vegan hash cakes ready for the oven. LPC

I got the hash cake recipe from one of my vegan cleanses. I love them because they satisfy my savory and crunchy desires. I plan to eat these throughout the work week atop a salad with a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil. The ingredients for these hash cakes are similar to the black bean quinoa burgers in that they have quinoa and beans (garbanzo and peas). The difference is the hash cake recipe includes fresh herbs (parsley and mint….I used cilantro in place of mint) and the binder is chia seeds soaked in water instead of an egg.

Roasted carrots, macaroni & cheese, french green beans in balsamic glaze. LPC

For Sunday’s dinner, I made a pot roast for my family along with the sides pictured above. The pot roast (not pictured) looked divine, but I didn’t have any. The sides were delicious.

I took advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual exam. I saw my oncologist last month. My primary care physician walked into the office asking me if I’m still doing Zumba. Everything looks great….just waiting for the blood work results. I talked to my doctor about how I work hard to stay healthy.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting through my mail. I had a paper bag full of paper for the recycling bin. It’s difficult to explain, but since the time I was in graduate school (2009-2011), I’ve lost interest in sorting through mail. I think during the time, since I had to narrow my focus to survive my grueling schedule as a working mom and student, I decided to put the mail on hold. I left it to my husband, and although he means well, he isn’t nearly as detailed as I am.

Sorting, reading, and filing the mail continues to be something I’ve ignored over the years. I could blame it on graduate school and having a demanding job and family. Whatever the case, it’s time for this habit to stop.

In an effort to improve my whole health in 2020, other goals of mine are to improve my financial health and get on top of this mail.

What are you cooking up this week? What are your top goals for 2020? How’s your progress with sticking to your goals?

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For the caregivers

Thus far in 2020, I’m being brave and accepting the realities in my life. I’m a caregiver. I have no choice, but to be brave because it’s vital for me to live in honesty and authenticity. I’m not a caregiver to a parent who is aging, as you would expect, because my mom passed away two years ago. My biological father and stepfather passed away several years before my mom. My mom was 78 years old. I’m a care giver to my husband, Bryan, who is just 54 years old. I’m just 46 years old.

Could I have imagined this in my life at this time while raising a family? Absolutely, not. I’m not bitter or disillusioned either. It goes without saying that I love Bryan. I will do whatever I can for him. I’m deeply grateful I have the capacity to manage all I do because I’ve often prayed for God to give me the capacity and He continues to do so. I’m coming to terms with yet another challenge I must endure.

It does sting a little to add the title of caregiver to my list of roles because it requires me to let go of dreams and plans for how I saw my life. I remember a year ago when I was planning to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed, one member of my team was describing how wonderful her mom was with catering to her as she recovered from getting her wisdom teeth removed. She indicated I would enjoy being catered to. I vividly recall telling her that in my life, I’m the one who takes care of people not the other way around. I’m her mom! This employee, and about half of my team, fit the millenial demographic.

It is what it is. I’m built to be strong. And Bryan is my rock when he is well. He did take care of me for those days of recovery after my wisdom tooth surgery. He could drive at the time too, which was helpful. When I was in the thick of my breast cancer treatment, he took care of me. We’ve taken care of each other over the years. That’s what marriage is.

I’m not interested in wrestling with my circumstances. I’m interested in learning from the light lessons, increasing my mental, spiritual, and physical capacity, and finding joy in the seemingly smallest things.

So if you’re a caregiver of any age, to any one, I know what that means. I choose to focus my energies on encouraging you (and myself) to be brave. Stay encouraged. You are the best person to care for your loved one. But take time for yourself. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s so true.

Little things count towards self-care like taking a warm shower, cooking (or buying) healthy meals to nourish yourself while you care for others, calling/texting a friend, unplugging, listening to inspiring music, researching support groups online, and taking time off work, to name a few.

If you’re a caregiver, you’re not alone. I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself. Please share any tips for me in my journey. 😀

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The Green Glow: Day 10 Citrus Crush

I CRUSHED this 10-Day smoothie challenge. I closed out my final day with two smoothies: Carrot Cooler for breakfast and Berry Blast as an after dinner night cap. I didn’t have pineapples or grapes for the Citrus Crush, so I’ll try the recipe another day.

Believe me, it crossed my mind that the drink in my glass should be wine, but alas, I don’t have any.  My green smoothie was a much healthier option any way.

For fun, this next section will be in “question and answer” format.

  • What was your favorite part of the 10-Day green smoothie challenge?
    • I enjoyed interacting with the other participants on the live facebook group. There were about 14,000 people participating.
  • What was your favorite green smoothie on this challenge?
    • This question is hard because they were all good. My top 3 were Beginner’s Luck, Pineapple Dream, and Carrot Cooler. Pineapples was a common ingredient in each. I love pineapples.
  • How difficult was it to keep up with the challenge?
    • It wasn’t difficult. If you count the time it took to read the manual, shop for the ingredients, prep the produce, blend each recipe, and transport the prepared smoothies, it still wasn’t difficult.
  • What else did you eat?
    • I ate my normal foods and snacks. 
  • Was this 10-Day green smoothie challenge a diet or detox?
    • No
  • What didn’t you like about the challenge?
    • I didn’t have all of the smoothie ingredients so although I had a smoothie every day, I didn’t try every recipe. I missed 2 recipes out of 10…the ones with grapes. Grapes are expensive right now.
  • Did you lose weight?
    • No
  • Why did you do the challenge?
    • I did the challenge to set the tone for my 2020: “health is wealth”, “new year, better me”, “self-care is a priority”
  • What advice would you give to someone new to green smoothies?
    • Prep, prep, prep. Make your smoothies in advance and always have one ready in the fridge.
  • What did you learn about yourself?
    • I can do whatever I put my mind to do.
  • What’s next?
    • I may move on to a 7 or 21 day vegan cleanse.

Listen, completing this challenge makes me a RAWKSTAR for sure!

What goals have you crushed so far in 2020?

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The Green Glow: Day 9 – Berry Blast

My day was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture AT ALL of Day 9’s green smoothie – Berry Blast. The recipe consisted of simple, familiar flavors -mixed berries, banana, almond milk and spinach. I’ve been using mixed greens all week and added ground flax seeds and fresh ginger.

What I did do at home, after I gobbled up the YUMMY tacos my husband, Bryan, made for dinner, was sip on a soothing cup of warm, spiced almond milk with a hint of turmeric. It hit the spot. It’s almost like hot chocolate, but not. I enjoyed it in my kittie mug.

The kittie was bathing in my spiced almond milk. LPC

Sometimes, the real test of a challenge is towards the end of it. I had to deal with an irritating situation at work that started at the end of Day 8 and it has caused me some stress.

Taking healthy food options with me to work like my green smoothies prevents me from succumbing to emotional eating. If I do have a piece of candy (like I did today), I won’t go too far off course because I’ve already fueled myself with healthy options.

Today, I packed for work: the rest of my veggie bowl with sriracha sauce, yogurt and berries, an apple, mixed nuts, pork rinds, and the STAR, my lovely Berry Blast green smoothie. Those goodies fueled me for almost 10 hours of work. I’m not messing up my progress over emotional eating.

I’ve set myself up for success. It all goes back to planning and preparation. Both points I mentioned in previous posts. I can honestly say I will complete the 10-Day green smoothie challenge tomorrow. You know how I know??? Because I have two green smoothies waiting for me in the fridge.

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The Green Glow: Day 8 – Mango Madness…again

Yup!!! I’m at the point of the challenge where I’m making repeat smoothies. The point of this 10-Day challenge is not to follow the plan exactly, but to add one healthy habit to my day. It doesn’t matter which green smoothies I drink, what matters is that I drink a green smoothie. And I have been indulging in these DELECTABLE healthy combinations every day.

The journal of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -Lao Tzu

The hardest part of most things is getting started. Once you get going, then you wonder why you hadn’t started sooner. You just need to get over the wall in your mind that’s keeping you from your goal(s). Just start. Just do it. Then you’ll be fine.

What steps have you taken towards your 2020 goals?

Plaque on my office wall. LPC
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The Green Glow: Day 7 Carrot Cooler

Today was my “Monday” after a 3-day weekend and I definitely needed my smoothie boost on my way to the first meeting of the day. Day 7’s green smoothie contains peaches and grapes, and since I didn’t have either, I made Day 8’s Carrot Cooler.

Here’s a combination I would never think of on my own: pineapples, carrots, strawberries, spinach, and coconut water. I added ground flax seeds and a knob of fresh ginger. The Carrot Cooler was so YUMMY and a nutritional POWERHOUSE that sustained me through my morning meetings.

To maintain a healthy habit, or any goal for that matter, it’s important to be flexible. I didn’t have peaches or grapes to make the Day 7 smoothie. Instead of beating myself up for not following the plan exactly, or giving up on the challenge altogether, I simply moved on to a recipe that contains fruits I do have. That’s a pretty simple example of being flexible, but so important. When you’re flexible, it can really be that simple.

The older I get, I find life rarely works out as I plan. That hasn’t stopped me from planning because I do plan for a living and in my personal life. However, in the big picture, I know I’m not really in control. Being flexible is less stressful and allows me to let go of what I can’t control. And I often find myself pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

How’s your progress with achieving your 2020 health goals?