An Uncomplicated Life Blog: January 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Response To The Blogger & Influencer Shaming On Instagram

Last week, bloggers and influencers where brought to the courthouse of public opinion on their "fake" photos and lifestyles, and how that fakeness effects people. This is my surprising response to that criticism

Ohhhh, the internet! Never a dull moment exists. Last week was particularly interesting, especially for people like me who earn a living on it via blogging/influencing. Admittedly, I was late to the conversation. The proverbial brush fire started Tuesday afternoon and I didn't find out about it until Wednesday morning. Isn't that what always happens when you decide to take a night off from something?! I put my phone down for 12 hours and almost missed it! There's two points I want to discuss about the criticism bloggers/influencers endured. One is agreeing with the general consensus of my blogging community; the other, challenges it to it's core. Here's my response to the blogger and influencer shaming that happened on Instagram last week.

First, let me update you on the deets if you either 1) weren't involved in it (good for you!) or 2) have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm not sure where it started, because who can ever be sure of where things start on the interwebs, but here's the gist: a massive wave of criticism towards bloggers and influencers hit. They were called out on how fake, edited, staged and perfected all their photos of their "real life" are. From fresh flowers in every shot, to perfectly styled kids, to sun kissed bodies in bikinis on a beach in Ibiza, Instagrammers were taken to church not only on how fake their represented life is, but how it negatively impacts their followers. People feel less than. People feel as if their lives are a mess. People feel poor, discouraged, and even suicidal because their lives don't, and even can't, live up the the lives bloggers and influencers represent on social media.

So that's the Cliff Notes on the situation. Here's my two part response:

First, bloggers and influencers are in no way liable for how something (especially a photo) impacts a person's psychological state. Of course, outside of posting illegal or disgusting content - I'm thinking child pornography, racist content, etc here - it's not the blogger/influencer's job to predict where their followers have deep seeded issues that make them feel inadequate and alter their content accordingly. That would be an impossible job! If a photo of a child's birthday party that has beautiful flowers, a perfect cake, a well dressed child and cute balloons that spell out their name makes a follower feel bad because they can't afford a similar party for their child, the follower needs to unfollow that blogger. I can tell you that those photos are for inspiration for others' parties; not to make anyone feel bad about anything. 

There's an old saying that goes something like, "Try to please everyone else, and you've displeased everyone." If influencers catered their content to what won't hurt their followers most delicate feelings, their own personal brands would be impossible to build. Furthermore, while on the topic of delicate feelings, Instagram is used to create and show beautiful photos. That is the nature of it's very existence. Bloggers and influencers are paid to post beautiful shots of their lives with a product or a service. We're not paid to post what we look like when we wake up after being up with a kid all night, messy house in the background (that's what Instagram Stories are for!) So can we all agree that posted photos are the "best of" our life moments and not a typical screenshot of the day? And we do that because it's our JOB? We are marketers and advertisers that use our own life as a backdrop. Yes, we clean up our homes before we take a photo. Yes, I comb my kids' hair before I get out the DSLR to get shot of them. That's not me trying to make someone feel bad about their own messy home or child's dirty face, that's what I'm paid to do.

I took this photo on a day I actually wore makeup. And a real, wired bra. I don't usually do those things, but a paid shot called for it. #keepingitreal

Second, I think this is a perfect opportunity for us as bloggers and influencers to reflect on what people are trying to say to us. It's really easy to hear criticism like that and just wave your hand and say, "nah, that's your own mental heath problem and not mine so good luck with that!" But if you do that you're missing important feedback from the people you NEED to be successful. So what can we learn from this harsh criticism?

- People want less perfection and more realness. Yes, beautiful photos are important. They're important for our own brands and to the brands we work with. But perhaps we're starting to become unrelatable. Relatabliltiy is why brands hire us to begin with, and if you lose that, you're digging your own grave as an influencer.

- It's time to tone down the materialism. I can't tell you how many bloggers I've stopped following because all they do is push their affiliate links. They don't properly disclose when a post is sponsored by a company. People even push affiliates on Instagram Stories now! It's just a vomit of "buy this, buy this, this is the sweater I'm wearing, buy it here, I've linked my nail polish too so swipe up!" It's exhausting. And it goes back to people wanting more realness - if all you do is push sales, I don't get access to your personality. And your personality is why I follow you in the first place.

- It's ok to not have overly styled photos; in fact, people want that. The comparison game isn't exclusive to just nonbloggers/influencers to bloggers. It happens between bloggers/influencers too. I look at some of the parties other moms throw and think, "Jeezus, how did you have time to throw all that together?!" I look at fellow "mom bloggers" who get to go on press trips to wineries or other pretty locations and think, "Who the hell is watching your kids?! Man I wish I had the help with my kids to do stuff like that." So this happens even within the industry. I just know that those bloggers are picking the highlights and the best photos to share their experiences with. 

A real life, live caption of a sponsored post with the product in actual use. My hunch is people want more of this, and less of the styled, white and bright perfection that's constantly posted. (Some of which is also on my account #fulldisclosure)

The Instagram backlash of 2018 contained some harsh criticism for bloggers and influencers. My response to it? Some of it was outrageously harsh. Bloggers and influencers can't be responsible for the happiness (or not) of their followers, and they need to realize their own agency to simply click "unfollow" if they start to feel down about what they see. On the other hand, it's important for influencers to take this feedback into consideration as they craft their content for the rest of 2018. I think a shift is coming. Followers are fed up with perfection. They're tired of materialism. Both of these have made bloggers and influencers unrelatable, and relatability is why we have these jobs to begin with. The smartest influencers, in my opinion, will consider this and adjust the way they share content moving forward.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Intentional Unscheduling

In a world where busy reigns supreme, sometimes intentional unscheduling is exactly what you and your family needs!

Transitioning from senior leadership level work to a SAHM and then later a WAHM was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I went from having my day planned out with so much work that was either my direct responsibility, the responsibility of a subordinate contractor or that was delegated to me that there was never any question of how I'd pass my hours in the office to a wide open schedule that was (and in many ways still is) dictated by toddlers' health and moods. I was used to being able to accomplish tasks on my to-do list; suddenly, my to-do list was entirely my responsibility to fill (or not). I learned that in order to get anything done, I had to make a schedule. I had to plan my own activities.

If you're feeling over scheduled, read this on how to simplify your life to become happier and more fulfilled

And then later, when this blog became profitable, I had to seek out relationships, opportunities and other means to earn a living. What was once handed to me by other people, I know had to craft and create on my own. I was entirely in charge of my own schedule. It's easy to over-commit yourself. There are too many people who are terrible at saying no, either at work or in their own lives. It's even considered "bad" to NOT be busy these days. What a bunch of rubbish! This is how I intentionally unschedule myself and the kids' lives in order to remain sane, happy and healthy. 

This post is actually a continuation of this post I wrote about how busy people think they're more important than others. And nothing could be further from the truth! I actually got a really mixed bag of reviews on that post; mostly, I think, from people getting defensive on their own busy lives. Hey I get it. Sometimes we don't even realize how over scheduled and busy we've become until we're completely worn ragged and the little things (or even some of the big things) in life no longer make us happy. We look at less busy people or happy people and judge them for not having "a life" or think "if I had ______ like that person, I'd be happy too but I'm stuck doing _____ and _____ all day long!" As hard as it is, when we're unhappy or judgmental or snarky or spiteful towards others, we need to turn that pointing finger around at ourselves and examine what's going on internally. I've found, it's likely that you're so busy you don't have time for hobbies or adequate rest or are forced to keep a pace that's plain exhausting. And that's plain miserable. 

Gotta make time for this!

Intentional unscheduling is a means of giving yourself some grace. It's actually scheduling in down time. It's saying no to a play date; to a business-related coffee date; to a night out. It's literally penciling in time to just BE. That looks different for everyone, but just being can be pursuing your own hobbies, taking the time to go to a new yoga/workout class, starting a garden, finishing that book you've been meaning to read for the last month, taking your kids to the park, or giving a new recipe a try. The BE part is whatever is relaxing to you and brings you joy.

This takes practice to begin with. You might need to actually write it in your planner or fill up an appointment slot with whatever BE activity you want to do. This is a great idea if you're someone who struggles saying no to things, because once it's scheduled, you really don't have to say no - you can say, "Shoot, I've already got something booked then! Let's get together another time, ok?" Boom, easy out and easy way to unschedule the not-so-fun things so that you can spend more time taking care of yourself.

Another facet of intentional unscheduling is not signing up for additional activities to begin with. When you do that, you have less and less you have to say no to! For example, many of my friends with similar aged kids already have their 3.5-4 year olds in soccer (or dance or swimming etc etc). Most of them have their kids in multiple activities. They spend their day racing around trying to get their kid to all the crap they've signed them up for. Nope. I'm not doing that. At that age, the kids aren't learning any real skills beyond socialization and most of the parents talk about how their kid cries on the field the entire time, after they've gotten up at 6am on a Saturday for a "game." Why do that?!

Gotta make time for this too!

When my children are old enough, and can ask me to participate in sports or activities, then I'll register them for ONE thing per season. One. More than one and it's just exhausting for everyone to shuffle around all day long trying to make it to practices and games, etc. My stance on extra-curriculars is, when a child is old enough to tell me they want to do something, we'll pick ONE thing and give it a try. If they like it, we'll do it again. If they ever want to stop, we will. If they have multiple interests, we'll do one thing first, then when that season ends we'll do the other. After a day at preschool/kindergarten and playtime at home or on a play date, there isn't much time for more than that unless you want to over-schedule and exhaust yourself and your child.

Intentional unschduling is absolutely as simple and as challenging as it sounds. You have to say no to things. You have to intentionally leave blank spaces in your calendar - or, pencil in whatever low-key activity you plan on doing instead. You have to leave time for you to practice self care and to be with your family. We should not ALWAYS be busy doing things, multitasking (which I call half-a$$ing because multitaskers usually have a$$ everything they're doing) and being on the go. It's not a healthy way to live. It's an exhausting way to live. Intentionally unscheduling yourself will make you a calmer, happier, more rested person!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Best Wooden Toys For Toddlers

Plastic has BPA and musical/flashing light toys overstimulate young minds. Wooden toys have become our go-to for the best toys for our toddlers to play with!

Call me a mean mom; call me old fashioned; call me delusional. Whatever the case may be, I'm a huge fan of having wooden toys for my kids to play with. I've seen so many kids get desensitized by having nonstop LOUD musical toys with bright flashing lights. Not only is that not good for their mental development, it pushes me to the breaking point of my own sanity listening to that crap every day. I've also seen the disadvantages to the kids who have had wayyyyy too much screen time. At play dates, they're nearly incapable of playing and socializing, and all they want is access to their parent's phones. With so many toy "hoops and hurdles" we have to jump through and navigate as parents, I've chosen to limit my kids toys to *mostly* wooden toys. These toys can take the inevitable beating your kids will given them, promote creative play, and provided they're made in the US or Europe, they're nontoxic. Here are some of our favorite wooden toys, all of which happen to be available on Amazon so you can get them too, even if you don't have bougie kids stores near you! *Affiliate links used, which means I'll earn a small commission for purchases via these links at no additional cost to you*

These wooden toys are great for toddlers to play and develop skills with

Giantex Wood Kitchen Play Set
Perhaps you saw on my Instagram stories over the holidays, but this was Otto's second birthday present. Both boys (ages just turned 2 and over 3.5) LOVE playing with this thing. It's large enough for two toddlers to stand and play at, yet small enough for even a tiny playroom/nursery. It's also priced at just over $50, which is amazing! The downside? Assembly. I had my engineer stepdad put it together for me/the kids and it even took him about two hours. Definitely need a power drill and some patience!

Toy fruits and veggies
These go hand in had with the wooden kitchen play set. The boys make me all kinds of "dishes" and get to practice their fine motor skills "cutting" these apart and developing cognitive skills learning which ones go back together. My sister just so happened to gift the boys play fruits and veggies for Christmas, which is just a few days after Otto's birthday, and if you have a play kitchen, you absolutely need some of these fruits and veggies to go with it.
HABA Walk Along Tool Cart
What I like best about this is that it's a "2-4-1" toy. You get a walk along toy for younger toddlers (that's far more sturdy than any of the plastic walk along toys, I might add, and the wheels actually turn so they won't scratch your wood floors like a plastic walk along!) but then you also get the tool set that come with it. When they outgrow the walk along, they'll still have fun playing "tools" and building things. I love toys that grow with toddlers as they further develop skills!

Wooden Train Set
No lie: train sets reign supreme in this household. There's a whole bunch of things I really like about this set: 1) the train tracks are universal in size so if you buy more themed sets, they'll fit together 2) there are endless ways to configure this set so it will work with whatever size space you've got for your kids to play in 3) your kids will learn how things fit together, how to construct whole play scenes and about gravity with this set alone and finally 4) being made of wood, this set is damn near indestructible, which is great when pieces get thrown or banged together. You know, not that my sweet precious children ever do anything like that...

Wooden Train Track Set 52 Piece Pack
If you're going to get a train set, do yourself a solid and just order additional tracks right now. Pieces of the other/initial train set will get lost and this will keep the good times rolling. Literally. See how it's universally sized? Told you a wooden train set is awesome!

Wooden Building Blocks
Real talk: This toy likely expires at around age 4, definitely by age 5. My 3.5 year old still loves to build things, but that could easily be a personality trait with him. My two year old is still wildly entertained by building blocks. These have a longer shelf life because of the different shapes and the colors (plain building blocks are probably boring to your child before age two), so that's why I really like this set. Anytime you can prolong the attraction to the toy, I'm all about it.
Wooden Rocking Horse
If you've seen our rocking horse, perhaps in an Instagram photo or in the background of a blog photo, you know that ours is more "classic" than this one. We actually found it refurbished at an antique store in Fredricksburg, TX. This one is fairly similar to what we have in our playroom, except it has a nice tall back for your toddler to rest on, which is likely slightly more safe than the historic version we have. Plus, the colors in this are great - and we have one colorful playroom (color happens to be the theme in that room).
Race cars and racing ramp
Do you know what is LIFE to toddler boys? (I'd say girls too but since I don't have any, I don't know...) Racing cars! My kids could honest to God race cars for several hours straight each and every day. In fact, they actually do. My two boys can play together racing cars for hours on end. If you read my blog posts, that's likely what they're doing while I write, in fact. This set is cool because it comes with a track and the cars can go forwards and backwards until they reach the finish line.
Wooden Town Vehicles Set
Just like I recommended you buy additional train tracks for a train set, I recommend buying additional cars for the race track. These are cool because they bring some variety. Both my two and 3.5 year old knows what a police car, fire truck and ambulance is so these are a big hit because they've seen them in real life and that makes them more animated and real for my kids to base their imaginative play off of.
There are so many great toys for kids to play with out there, it's mind blowing! You don't have to sit them in front of a tablet or an iPhone and you certainly don't have to put up with those horrid noise making toys. Wooden toys - easily found and purchased via Amazon - are affordable, durable and a great option for toddlers who need to develop critical thinking and imaginative play skills.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Our Wedding Day Story

A look back at our wedding day on our 4th anniversary

I was absolutely one of "those girls" who had her wedding planned before she had even met her future husband. Guilty as charged on that one. In fact, I had not one but two weddings planned because I couldn't decide which one I liked better. I remember being at work and gmail chatting with my friends about weddings when I was in my mid-twenties. We'd send each other Style Me Pretty links with dresses, floral arrangements, laugh at hideous bridesmaid dresses and ohhh and ahhhh at ten layer cakes. When my time finally did come around for my wedding, I looked at my husband on the night he proposed to me and said, "Ok, I have our wedding all planned! Do you want a black tie winter wedding or a garden party summer wedding?" He said winter, and the very next day I was on the phone with the venue I had picked out for my winter wedding, getting our date locked in.

We had one of our friends officiate, and did the Scottish "tying of the hands ceremony" with my husband's family tartan

It's a good thing I was so prepared, because I called a year early and there was still only ONE date left at the Saint Paul Hotel for a January or February wedding! I scooped it up and had a contract signed with them within my first week of being engaged. Getting the date locked in was my immediate task - as a former event planner I was well aware how quickly the best venues get booked. After that though, I was pretty relaxed about everything but my dress and slowly and calmly planned the rest of my details over the year of our engagement. The wedding colors were black, white and gold which made planning really quite easy!

Grand staircase at The Saint Paul Hotel

Ahhhh, the dress! That's a story. We got engaged and then moved to Dallas two weeks later. Needless to say, I had no idea where to shop, nor did I have anyone to go shopping with (yet). My sister flew into town to take our engagement photos and I knew this would have to be the weekend I got my dress. A friend recommended we go to Neiman Marcus and since I had zero other ideas, we went there first. The sales gal was delightful and so was there selection of dresses! Unfortunately, so were the prices. Hubs and I agreed I could spend $5,000 on the dress. So of course, the dress I fell in love with was more. I called and asked if I could up the budget, and he obliged me. Sister and I headed up to the cafe in Neiman's to celebrate my new found poverty. And then...

I was a full five months pregnant - could you tell?!

Fast forward six months. I find out I'm pregnant. One of the first calls I made was to Neiman's to discuss my dress! I kid you not, I think I called Neiman's before I even called a midwife or OB. She walked me through the process of what would happen next: My custom gown couldn't be "returned" but it could likely be altered. So we would wait until two weeks before the wedding and start alterations then. They ended up having to rip out the whole top of the dress and re-make it. I needed an extra inch and a half of bead work for the waist, and it just so happened that another gal had ordered the dress but didn't want the bead work on hers, so I got it. I mean, talk about luck! In the end, my over the budget dress cost us another $2k for alterations to fit my 19 week baby bump.

Black, white and gold color scheme. My flowers had gold glitter twigs in them - some of my favorite details my florist included

I asked the sales gal, "What if I had a completely beaded gown that couldn't have been altered?" To which she told me, "You'd have to put the dress on consignment and start from scratch." Meaning, you'd have been out of luck and out of about $10,000. I damn near fainted at that possibility!

Our cake had fresh flowers and was covered in sugar crystals. It was vanilla with raspberry and creme filling.

Back to our wedding - the dress turned out to be the most dramatic thing that happened. The Saint Paul Hotel is one of two 5 star hotels in the Twin Cities and did a wonderful job catering our steak and seafood duet. They also did our cake which people still talk about how good it was (the secret? Not too sweet!) and when we cut it, it was the gender reveal for Henry. Our photographer did a great job and was fun to have around. My DJ was on point and everyone was dancing. Besides the surprise pregnancy and near dress failure, all the other details fell into place perfectly.

Why not have a gender reveal when you surprisingly get pregnant a few months before your wedding?

I literally got the wedding of my dreams to the man of my dreams. There isn't ONE thing I'd do differently. Well ok, maybe one. I spray tanned before the wedding and now looking at photos I think about how orange I look, but that was the "look" back then. Other than that, I love how classic everything was and how even in another 15 years, I won't think how "dated" things look. That was my goal: A classic, timeless wedding. Four years to the day later, I still love looking back at photos and thinking about how fun that day was. Happy Anniversary dear husband!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Minty Mediterranean Quinoa

A healthy, protein packed vegetarian meal full of Mediterranean flavors

Last Thursday I posted about why I'm a semi-vegetarian, what that means and why it's important for my personal health and the health of the planet (it's the post just below this one if you're in a scrolling mood). Changing your diet can be overwhelming at first, but once it becomes normalized it becomes a habit and once it becomes a habit, you're set in your new healthier lifestyle! I mentioned that I eat a ton of quinoa, and this minty Mediterranean quinoa is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.

There are two big factors to this meal tasting amazing: 1) you HAVE to use fresh herbs (mint and parsley) and 2) go light on the feta. I'm a massive cheese lover and support eating cheese at any and all times, but feta has such a strong, distinct taste that it can overtake a dish. Too much feta in this minty Mediterranean quinoa and it goes from being a light, fresh tasting meal to coating your mouth in a thick feta film that I personally find water won't rise away.

Minty Mediterranean Quinoa
- 1 package quinoa (16oz)
- 1 package grape tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1/2 of a small to medium red onion
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (red wine vinegar would also work)
- 1 15oz can garbanzo beans
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon dried onion
- 1 6oz container of feta cheese
- salt and pepper

How to best cook quinoa
Start by making the quinoa. I find that if I follow the directions on the package, it turns out mushy. The best way I've found to make quinoa is to do slightly less than a 1:2 ratio (one cup quinoa to slightly less than 2 cups of water). Bring the water to a boil and salt it, then add the dried onion. Cook  covered on medium low heat until the water is gone, then turn off the heat and let the quinoa "steam" in the covered pan for another half an hour. Your quinoa will turn out fluffy and not over-cooked this way, and flavored perfectly with the salt and dried onion.

While the quinoa is cooking, chop up the cucumber in bite size pieces, halve the grape tomatoes and finely chop the red onion. Add to a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Pick the parsley and mint leaves off the stems and finely chop them, adding them to the bowl. In my opinion, the more fresh herbs the better this dish is! Mix together and let marinate while the quinoa cooks and cools.

Once the quinoa is room temperature, add the garbanzo beans to the mixing bowl. Fold in the quinoa. Mix in about 4-5 ounces of the feta (you can always add more or leave the extra for people to top their individual bowls). This dish can be served room temperature or it can be made ahead and served cold from the fridge. It will keep for about 3-4 days in a sealed container in the fridge and easily serves 4-6 adults.

Want more healthy vegetarian recipes? Check these out:
Crock Pot cream of mushroom soup (great for eating or for casseroles)  

Healthy vegetarian quinoa recipe
Like it? Pin it!

Quinoa is an awesome choice for vegetarians (or semi vegetarians like me) because it's an ancient grain that's a complete protein. It's also gluten free, so it meets a variety of dietary needs! You could keep the feta on the side and this dish would be totally vegan, too. It's exciting to see people become more aware of what they're putting into their bodies, and make better choices for themselves and the environment. This minty Mediterranean quinoa is a great recipe to support healthy eating!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A Semi Vegetarian

What eating "mostly" vegetarian food means and looks like on a day to basis

I can't remember if I've said it on here before (probably so) or just my social media channels (definitely so) but I consider myself a 'semi-vegetarian.' There were a few years in my late teens/early 20's that I was fully committed to it, and when I was pregnant with Henry the smell of meat literally made me heave and gag. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don't like and am floored (no really, FLOORED) when I see people post their food pics to social media accounts and an entire meal has not a single vegetable in it. Not one. And then they wonder why they're overweight... But I digress! Back to what a day in the life of a semi-vegetarian looks like, and why I think it's important to eat a plant-based diet.

Fish tacos at our favorite Mexican restaurant
Veggie-friendly snack with a massive protein punch!

But first! Why I think eating (mostly) veggies is so important. I went through yoga teacher training in the spring/summer of 2013. Part of that training involved keeping a journal of what you ate, and how it made you feel. We did this for no other reason than to getting connected to how what you put in your body directly impacts how you feel, and this journal made us take note of that and gave us a written record of it. I know anyone with any decent amount of science education will tell me that you can't prove cause/effect from one person's journal, but I noticed a strong correlation trend between eating crappy processed foods and being bloated, gassy and fatigued. By the end of yoga teacher training and the end of my four and a half months of journal entries, I began shopping at Whole Foods and organic coops - my attitude towards food had completely changed.

A month after I completed yoga teacher training, I was surprised to learn I was pregnant with Henry. I downloaded a pregnancy app I can't even remember the name of and would play around in it several times a week. I was flabbergasted at the photos women would post of the junk food they "craved" and would binge eat. We're talking Cheetos, Doritos, endless fast food runs. You name something that isn't real food but instead just a pile of chemical compounds mixed together in a factory, these women were eating it en masse and feeding it to their unborn children. I was horrified. Then, of course, my pregnancy with Henry forced me to become a vegetarian, as anything with meat made me gag at the sight of the muscle-y meat fibers.

Growing our own veggies to consume

On a philosophical level, the third and final nail in the semi-vegetarian coffin was a handful of environmental documentaries on Netflix. What The Health, the Inconvenient Truth series and a number of others went into detail the havoc eating excessive meat does on the environment. From feed to animal waste, meat consumption is more catastrophic then emissions from cars, jet fuel and daily energy consumption like lights, heat, air conditioning, etc by as much as 10 FOLD. The fact of the matter is, if you're a heavy meat eater, you're a massive detriment to the health of the globe. And I don't know about you, but I'd like my grand kids to play in clean lakes, see glaciers and not suffer from massive, consistent environmental events like Hurricane Harvey.

All that said, what the heck does semi-vegetarian mean? Am I just half-a$$ing it? Yes and no. For me, it means eating MOSTLY vegetarian food, but allowing myself to listen to my body and consume meat if I'm feeling that I need it. I eat legumes, eggs, quinoa, fish, cheese, yogurt, and nuts regularly. Chicken and beef twice to three times a week. That means one meal twice to three times a week, not days with multiple meals full of it, making it rare. Pork is a couple of times a year event. We had a ham for Christmas, which is the only time I have ham, and I have bacon 2-3 times throughout the year beyond that. The reality is that the pork quality in Texas is sub-par to the upper Midwest so I don't miss it at all! The beef here, on the other hand, is delicious and a strong reason why I continue to eat it. It's all local and grass fed and holy yum. Even out of town guests comment on how good beef is here!

I think semi-vegetarianism works because it's flexible. There isn't a hard rule that I have to order a veggie burger when we go out (even though I love those and often prefer them!) I can revert to the things I learned in yoga teacher training and listen to what my body is asking for. The bulk of the time, it's asking for veggies.You'll notice in my daily schedule that I'm not a breakfast eater and I know that's "bad" to some nutritionists. To that I say, "meh." My husband wakes up hungry and it's all I can do to be awake and stomach my coffee! #notamorningperson.

Because I regularly work out, most the time my body is asking for protein. You might be surprised to learn that getting your protein in vegetarian sources is really easy! One of my favorite snack/"brunch" (I call it brunch because it's my first meal but many people are already on a morning snack by now) options is Oikos Protein Crunch yogurt. It's an amazing source of protein for us veggie lovers because it has 17g of protein and 6g of fiber per 5oz cup! It also doesn't contain any artificial sweeteners so I feel good about the protein I'm putting in my body. Here's the schedule of what a day in the life of this semi vegetarian looks like:

7:30am - coffee, with half a stevia packet and a tablespoon or so of half and half
10:30am - (after yoga) Ningxia Red drink, Oikos Protein Crunch yogurt
1:30pm - avocado, muenster cheese, tomato, bib lettuce, salt and pepper on flax bread; pickles and water
5:30pm - dinner ranging from fish tacos to homemade minestrone soup to veggie pizza or tofu curry if we get take out
8pm - carrots and pretzels dipped in hummus

High protein snacks are key for athletic semi vegetarians like me. I love Oikos Protein Crunch after a good yoga class to fuel my muscles. Dinner is really where I have the biggest variance for meat consumption. I love making quinoa salads with various veggies and herbs but I also make my toddlers casseroles with ground beef in it occasionally, and I'm not making two different suppers so I'll eat that too. That's the glory of semi-vegetarianism. It's flexible to work with different diets in the household but still errs strongly on the side of mostly vegetables so that I feel good in my body, about my body, and about what impact my body is making on the environment. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

DIY Non Candy Valentine's Day Gift

When chocolates and teddy bears rule the market, dare to be different and make your own DIY Valentine's Day gift that delivers a heartfelt message

I love me some holidays just about as much as I love me the color pink and all things girly. I blame the fact that my house is full of males - even my dog is a boy! And while I love holiday decor, putting up pink hearts all over my home... Just isn't appealing. Don't get me wrong, I think it's cute, I'm just not sure if it's cute in MY home. That's why I love to make my own Valentine's. I get to be crafty and decorate things with doilies and hearts and sparkles but my home remains a more mature space to live in. Check out this easy non candy Valentines Day gift you can make your spouse or loved one(s).

Not that there's anything wrong with gifting chocolates and teddy bears. Heck, maybe your spouse wants those things! But we've always tried to do Valentine's Day a little more heartfelt, even when we were just dating. Homemade Valentine's, love notes scattered around the house, that type of thing. I think by the time February rolls around, we're sick of sweets from the holidays and our anniversary is Jan. 18, so we want to keep gifting simple (and affordable) after the Christmas and anniversary rush. Enter this DIY non candy Valentine's Day gift: The homemade love note jar.

Wanna check out what I made last year? It's right here and would go great with this love note jar if you're super crafty! 

What you'll need:
- Mason jar or some sort of cute container 
- colored paper
- scissors
- pen (colored ones like these make it more fun)

Cut the paper into heart shapes by making a stencil out of either regular printer paper, sales inserts from the newspaper, or card stock. Trace the hearts onto the colored paper and cut them out. Make sure to cut INSIDE the line so that your heart comes out without ink on it (see photo below). Write sweet messages to your spouse or loved one with the fun pens. Here's some ideas to get you thinking:

- your favorite memories with them
- the best vacation you two ever went on
- the best bottle of wine you two ever shared
- an inside joke only you two would find funny
- the moment you knew you loved him/her
- the thing you love best about your relationship
- the quality they posses that you admire most

The list goes on and on and the possibilities are endless! Make sure you get enough paper to write out all the wonderful things about your loved one to fill up your jar. Fold the hearts in half so that they'll fit and the message won't be readable from the outside. This way they'll have more fun diving in and reading all the great things you have to say about them.

Once your done, decorate the container with ribbon and put a tag on it with reading instructions. You could put it on their dresser and have them read a note a day, or you could hide the hearts around the house and have them find them, putting them in the container when they're done reading them. It's up to you, and there's no wrong way to do it! You'll make your loved one's day and likely make them feel better about themselves, too. Happy Valentine's Day!

This easy DIY is a great gift for a loved on that doesn't involve candy for Valentine's Day
Like it? Pin it! DIY non candy Valentine's Day gift

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Word Of The Year and Goals

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Taking a minute to set up my 2018 for success!

Welcome to 2018! Who else is excited that the holidays are over and is ready to get back into their regular routine? *raises hand* In April of this year, I'll have been blogging for four years. That's crazy to me. Normally, two or so years into a job and I'm bored silly. Usually I spend my spare time looking for a different job. But four years have gone by in an instant as a blogger! Sure, there are the mundane tasks like promotion threads and bookkeeping. Every job on earth has those daily mundane tasks! But by and large, this job has been the best fit I've ever had. Cheers to 2018, a new word for a new year as the guiding principle and some goals. It's funny; I wrote almost this whole post and then deleted it all. I had a totally different direction I was going to take and then, after my gut had gnawed at me for a solid half hour, I thought nope! No Paige, don't do it. Don't sit here and lie about things. Be honest in this goal setting and word guidance. So that's exactly what I'm doing. Read on to reveal more about the lies I wanted to tell myself!

Word of the year: Sustainability
The first word I chose this year was NOT sustainability. It was initiative. Like I was going to harness some serious driving force and become the next Huff Post... While I love the word initiative and plan on taking initiative in 2018, it can't be my guiding word. While every other blogger is spitting at you, "I have so many amazing projects in the works!" and while a limited few might hold themselves to the deadlines on those projects, the reality is that you'll end up seeing this: "Well, life got in the way of me reaching the goals I had for this blog" or "Hey, I haven't blogged in 6 months, any followers still there?!"

The reality is what my husband, who's in sales, preaches EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. "Under-promise and over-deliver." (Honey, if you're reading this, you read that right. I'm actually saying you're RIGHT!) That, my friends, is how you build a successful business. I'm not going to say I'm going to build a shop that you can shop from, or launch an e course or redesign my site. Nope, I'm just planning on staying the course this year. A solid mix of lifestyle, gardening, parenting, recipes, DIY and sponsored content delivered to you on Mondays and Thursdays. That I know I can do. Launch a shop and discover world blogging peace, not so much. Maybe something will happen where I can up my posts to three days a week - who knows - but it won't be less than 2 days a week and it will be a well rounded concept of lifestyle content. Anything beyond that will strictly be a bonus for me and this site.

2018 Goals - Blog
- Photography: My professional photog sister recommended a wide angle lens for my Canon EOS Rebel T6 DLSR camera. I have the 50mm lens and the lens the camera came with (never use that one). I love the 50mm but it's always soooo zoomed in that it can really make taking photos challenging. This lens was a whopping $129 and I'll be able to get bigger shots. Which is cool because I want to improve my photography big time this year! If I can find a local class or a blog conference that has a special photography unit, consider me signed up. I look back at the photos I took in my first 6 months of having a DSLR and what I produce now, and it's night and day. I'm excited to see how my skills grow this year.

Some of the first DSLR photos I shot in manual mode (barely in focus and awkward angles):

- Make social media more personal: I started about halfway through 2017, but will continue on my "let's make social media fun and actually SOCIAL again" crusade. That means #realtalks on Instagram Stories, unedited candid photos on my Instagram (even though they are shot with my fancy camera - nothing is staged!), and good, relateable content shared to my Facebook page. I'm exhausted with bloggers who are always happy, always chipper about motherhood, always placing flower crowns on their and their children's heads for damn photos (seriously, 2017 was the year of the over-used f'ing flower crown, amirite?!)

Want in on that goodness? Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and let's get social!

2018 Goals - Personal 
- Grow some of our own food: I started a veggie garden in October of 2017 and we ate arugula and mustard greens. My herb garden was actually attended to and provided us with all the basil, sage, rosemary, mint, thyme and parsley we needed all year long! As I write this, the root veggies are still in the soil, and I hope to harvest them in a few months and turn the garden over into "summer" veggies - varieties that can take our intense heat. The boys love helping me plant and water and I think it's important to teach them where food comes from, especially since we're urban dwellers - it's so easy to get disconnected from our food sources. It will be interesting to see what it's like to garden when it's 110 outside by mid-morning... I'll just take it as it comes!

Some photos I took this past summer/fall, after I got better with the DSLR:

- Read a book a month: This is actually "sustaining" (see what I did there) from 2017. I started to read for fun again, and it's made SUCH a difference in my happiness and creativity! The other day I wasn't feeling well so I decided to hang out on the couch and watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Holy crap, I watched two and a half episodes and lost about 20 IQ points! When I read before bed, I sleep better and wake up in a better mood. My brain is stimulated and I feel like a more well rounded person. I read 8 books in 2017 and don't think 12 should be a problem to complete this year.

I know, a whopping two goals for this blog and for me personally. But I really think people "over-goal" themselves, then feel like a failure when they don't meet those goals. Or they're so busy hustling to make things happen that they forget to enjoy themselves and take time each and every day to just simply BE and enjoy the moment. I don't want to over-schedule or over commit myself in 2018. I want to stay active on this space, enjoy the posts I write and the photographs I take, and enjoy my life overall.