The One With The Food: Quick, Clean, and A No-Bake Guarantee.

As the weather cools off and the evenings free up, I have found myself starting to cook more often.  There’s something about Fall that makes it one of the most peaceful and gratifying things for me to do!

I get asked quite a bit about my favorite go-to recipes and things to keep on hand.  So here we go!  I love to stay with a gluten-free, whole-food approach to anything I make at home.  These are three of my quick and easy favorites!

 

 

Grilled Pineapple, Onions, & Jalapeno

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Stay with me here.. It LOOKS very strange.  It’s actually very good and as a bonus, it’s adjustable!

Slice a fresh pineapple however you like it.  I prefer chopped.  Add a sliced jalapeno and chopped onion and grill until it’s slightly browned.  Trust me on this one.

 

 

Who doesn’t love pancakes?!  On to the next one:

Easy Egg-Banana Pancackes

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This one is just as easy!  I take two fresh eggs and mix them with a banana until it’s a relatively smooth consistency.  The eggs will allow the banana to set.  I grill mine over a little bit of coconut oil until they’re cooked through and drizzle with raw, unfiltered honey.  Perfection in the form of protein and potassium for breakfast.

 

The next one comes with a disclaimer:  These will be gone before they hit the counter.  It may be best to make these under cover of night before the other house mates catch wind of it.

 

 

Reptar Bars 

(Hey.. I had to think of something besides “Magic”..)

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Ground Almonds

Pumpkin Seeds

Pecans

Flaxseeds

Dried Cranberries

Honey

Coconut Oil

You can adjust this however you’d prefer.  I like to take a little of each in a bowl and add the honey and coconut oil until it’s pliable but holds together.  Spread the resulting mixture into a thinly oiled pan until they’re a little over an inch thick.  I cover them with wax paper and let them set for about an hour in the fridge.  This is one that may take some trial and error.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve ended up with something more like granola cereal instead.  No matter what, it will be just as good!

 

I hope you’ll try these and enjoy!

Translating Transformation- A Different Point Of View

How do you take on something that overwhelms you?
How do you turn doubt into determination?
How do you translate someone’s perception of you or your actions?
These are questions I’ve asked myself as I go through yet another shift in my Darah-fied life.  I keep coming back to the same conclusion:
Transformation isn’t about your image.  It’s about the image of everything else to you.
Let’s break it on down now!
Transformation isn’t about your image.  
How are we presenting ourselves as authentically as possible?  The truth of the matter is this-  Our ability to be authentic requires us to do some ridiculously tough but valuable work in looking at ourselves.  Human nature is to run from discomfort and one of the most uncomfortable things in life is to look at our own flaws while simultaneously displaying our own vulnerability in the form of.. well.. every bit of what makes us who we are.
Transformation is about the image of everything else to you.
It’s about perception. It’s all in the approach and how you choose to navigate things you see and experience. This is where the aforementioned questions come in for me.  Allow me to present a super detailed info-graphic**:
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**Not an accurate depiction of how it looks in my mind.***
*** Note to self: Work on design skills.
If you’re anything like me, an idea can quickly become a challenge.  This can be a good thing!  The problem is this:  If I don’t focus on how I personally approach that challenge, it can then become an obstacle.  The obstacle starts to seem insurmountable.  I start to realize how done I am with stressing over it and I’m back to where I started before I even began.
Lately, I’ve shifted my focus to small changes instead of giant ones.  This strategy allows me to maintain some balance while everything else is shifting.  While I have undergone some pretty sizable transformations in my 33 years, none of them have been without self-doubt, outright failures, and numerous “restarts”-  You know those Mondays where you promise yourself you’ll start fresh right after you enjoy a ridiculously lazy and gluttonous Sunday night.  I have done this using three key thoughts.
*Missing a personal goal isn’t failing as long as I’ve successfully tried.
*Try again.
*Smaller goals in daily life can be as simple as drinking more water than you did yesterday.
True transformation begins with looking at that line between our own view and theirs.  
True transformation shows us our strengths, weaknesses, and willingness to challenge them.

Overcoming Overwhelm: Five Key Steps To Visualizing, Organizing, And Using It.

I sat here for longer than I’d like to admit staring at a blank document- The cursor flashing like a four-way stop light, words ready to be typed once I figured out which ones to use and in what order to do so. The irony was not lost on me.
I’m writing about overwhelm and I couldn’t seem to step back long enough to just let it happen.  Therein lies my first point.
1.  Write down whatever five words show up first.  
It doesn’t matter what they’re about.  They could be about the morning or about something stressful in the office.  They could be about dinner last night.  From there, write 5 more that have even a slight relevance to them.
1st:
Cat
Breakfast
Drive
Blue
Wine
2nd:
Soft
Fed
Travel
Favorite
Break
In one step, I’ve gone from objects of every day life to concepts of things I enjoy.  Let’s take it a step further.
3rd:
Nurture
Health
Goal
Change
Companionship
This strategy can be applied to anything your brain reacts to as an attack.  We are wired to immediately deflect these in the form of doubt.  We doubt this will work.  We doubt we have the ability to overcome whatever is creating our stress.
2.  Visualize everything you can.  
Five apples into one bowl.  Five people into one car.  Five concepts on one hand.  It can be daunting to come up with FIVE things to write.  But visualizing the fact that you can count them on ONE hand will ignite a different part of your brain that involves that familiar fight or flight response to pressure.  Visualizing putting five big things onto one surface lets you know it’s manageable and definitely not as chaotic as you want to think it is.
Apples
3.  Count your steps.
This can be taken literally or figuratively.  There is a technique in anxiety and stress management called “grounding” that I’ve found to be highly valuable in dealing with those moments of overwhelming blankness.  You know the ones-  A crippling sense of absolutely everything and nothing going on in your head at once causing a massive short-circuit and a blown fuse.. Maybe that’s just me.
Literally, the act of stepping away to walk and regroup is highly effective.  As you walk, count.  As you count, just keep doing that.  You’re clearing your head to make way for something simple and naturally restorative.
Figuratively, you’re already over half way through the five key steps to overcoming your situation.
4.  Think of two things you look forward to having settled.
Being an extremely visual person, I consider myself lucky to see this as literally switching off as many lights as possible to focus on just one or two spotlights.  When we’re overwhelmed, it’s relatively easy for us to just shut them all off and walk away from a dark room.  We don’t have to look at it then and will somehow deal with the mess later.  The problem with this is in the build up.  That room is still there full of the mess that has yet to be sorted.  This is where the idea of pulling any two things out will help.
Consider it this way:  Organizing your tasks into a list by order of importance and deadline is the first thing to cross off of it!
5.  Give yourself a break.  
This can be the toughest step to take.  We are wired to be our own worst enemy.  It’s a primal nod to how we evolve as people.  If we didn’t challenge ourselves, we wouldn’t get past merely existing.  In a world full of constant static and distractions, it’s easy to let that natural self-challenge to become self-doubt instead.  There are two common and valid hangups with this step.
The concept of giving ourselves a break can seem counterproductive.
The question I get most often:
“How are we supposed to make progress if we are off taking a break?”
My question back:
“How are we supposed to make progress if we’re too exhausted from not taking one?”
Here’s what I mean:  We have to recharge.  We deserve to do it and trust that it is part of a strategy in reaching a goal.  We cannot reach them if we’re on empty.  Taking a break for even ten minutes of mindless Solitaire is more beneficial than we may realize.  It isn’t all or nothing.  It’s ten minutes of putting cards in order.
The biggest key I try to convey to any one of my peers struggling with stress and exhaustion is this:  You deserve to trust yourself and trust the fact that it will get figured out.  You deserve to slow down and let it.

This is PMDD

It’s a war without words as they’ve scattered with as much energy as you wish you had.
It’s a silent corner in the loudest room.
It’s chaos encased in an unmistakable shell of uncertainty.
It’s pushing and twisting every fiber of who you actually are and convincing you otherwise almost the whole time.
It’s elation when you see yourself and horror when you don’t.
It’s a plea for peace and a call for a fight.
It’s needing anyone to understand and being frustratingly relieved when they aren’t there to do it.
It’s the pain of feeling alone and the peace of knowing you aren’t.
It’s a quest for relief however it shows up.
It’s trusting that it will.
It’s a fight to breathe when you don’t want to anymore.
It’s a burden until it isn’t.
You’re a burden until you know you aren’t.
It’s a fight to see what’s worthwhile.
It’s a fight because YOU are.
It’s your struggle, your triumph, your will to use it.
It’s reality.
It’s not your fault.
It’s ok.
In my personal struggle, my hope is to somehow use the dominance of that pain to dilute someone else’s.  If you are suffering, please reach out even if just to exist with another person for a bit.  There is help and you deserve to find it.

One Minute Day Maker

I woke up and managed to polish this morning’s edition of myself entirely too early.  This meant I had extra time to spread coffee-fueled, unsolicited morning greetings to a far less enthused group of peers.
This morning was different, though.  Perhaps it was due to a pending early exit for me to spend time with a wonderful friend this afternoon.  Or perhaps it had something to do with a particularly energetic morning soundtrack brought to me in part by Robert Randolph And The Family Band.
I came around the corner as an equally cheerful coworker came up hiding something in the palm of her hand.  Her smile lit up as she said with her signature giggle, “I thought of you this weekend.” She slid something across the file cabinet toward me;  a shiny new discount card to replace the expiring one she gave me last year.  I was elated.  It was thoughtful and the timing was absolutely perfect.
I looked at the card as I held it out and thought of such a sweet gesture dropping out of nowhere and into my day.  Something stopped me.
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Upon closer inspection, I realized I was smiling back at my beautiful friend Katie in her blue work vest beaming with pride for a job I know she loves.
What appeared to be an overly done spectacle of excitement over a discount card was actually a surge of spontaneous joy personified.  Someone took a minute of their day to brighten even a minute of someone else’s.  She had no idea whose smile she was handing me.  She does now.  (Let’s be honest- The entire department does now.)
These are the moments where our opportunities write themselves to show our intent.   We never know what will stem from a few seconds of time and thoughtfulness.  We know something will.
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Camp cabin = Impromptu hair salon

And just like that- My day made me.
There are countless chances in our days to do something for the person next to us.  I challenge myself and anyone reading this to follow one step:  Find something short, sweet, and intentional to do for another.
Refill a coffee cup.
Leave a quarter in the vending machine.
Tell someone how genuine you think they are.
What are your one minute day makers done both for you and for others?

The Power Of Progress: Using A Changing Life

September 27, 2010-  I was a nervous wreck.  I woke up after about 2 hours of sleep and thought about the day ahead.  Mostly, how much of it I wouldn’t remember.  My joints ached and my thoughts raced as I pulled on my 3x pajama bottoms and 4x tee shirt.  This was the day I’d cross the point of no return.  Really, the point of no more binges and nights alone with just Papa John’s and me.  No more thoughts of what someone would shout as I crossed the street.  I spent countless nights sinking deeper into a cage I’d created for myself.  I wouldn’t look forward to spending nights alone in my own thoughts.  I’d look forward to the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to be seen or share them with anyone else.
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“How am I going to lead these girls up a mountain hike?”-  Me

September 27 was the day I went in for a life changer called a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.  I’d tried numerous methods of weight loss and, as statistics seem to reflect, I spun the needle on the scale back and forth all while exhibiting symptoms of early heart failure and diabetes.  I was 26.  I was not ready to die so young.
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9-27-10-  The day of no return-  Still clearly not into looking at cameras.

I was told countless times all the ins and outs of the procedure and what it would require going forward.  I was excited and so completely ready.  Soon after recovery, I was able to start walking more comfortably and slowly began reintroducing healthier foods in smaller quantities.  I took any chance I got to keep moving as the excitement of melting out of my clothes took hold.  Once I could walk a full mile, I decided to try running a lap.  Then 3.  Then more.  I had the support of my friends and family and a particularly headstrong coworker who ran with me.  I felt lighter and physically able to do much more.  I started buying all of my clothes in thrift shops because I actually could now.  Gone were the days of hiding and fielding unsolicited rude comments by anyone who felt entitled to share.
For a while.
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Two months of progress- Two more months of still avoiding cameras.

I had a new body still covered in the skin from a 200 pound prison that had disappeared.  I learned to dress myself differently to highlight what felt good to me.  Most of all, I learned to embrace that I was about to become a patchwork quilt and a story in organic form.  I named it my Franken-body.
Still-  The comments trickled but still existed.  One particular evening, I approached my car post-grocery shopping and a lady with short blonde hair, a blue Geo Metro and a camel between her teeth urgently requests to me, “Walk faster, fatty!” as she waited for my front row parking spot.  I obliged without saying a word.  It didn’t hurt so much as it shocked me.  I was no longer a size 28.  I was a size 12- One size smaller than the national average.  From that moment, I started to really pay attention to how differently people treat others based on appearance only.  My size no longer mattered to me as much as my reflection of how one should be treated did.  I vowed at that moment to always pay attention in every way I could.
A year passed and I had entered the world of dating.  I was 28 and hadn’t ever experienced such a thing.  It was exciting and uncomfortable in the best way!  I learned more than I ever thought I could about life through stepping all over the edge of my comfort zone.  I’d been hidden away by several in the previous years only to be acknowledged privately.  I was relieved I didn’t have to hide.. But more relieved I didn’t have to be hidden.   It was an interesting experiment in the handling personal relationships.  I learned to forgive more and stand up for myself to those who suddenly treated me differently than they had before.  I learned to develop what I wanted and how I wanted to achieve it.  I learned that it was okay to trip and fall all over my decisions because they didn’t hurt so badly anymore.  They were supposed to be there to teach me.
In the past 7 years, my life has introduced me to greater love than I ever imagined, greater loss than I was prepared to experience, and the greatest lessons along the way.  While I’ve lost count of how many scars I have or how much weight I’ve gained or lost, I have started to view it all as a part of exactly who I am and who I’ll become.  I embrace each curve these scars take just as I embrace the new ones that fluctuate with the weight I gain and lose.  Through heartbreak or happiness, they are still there changing right along with me.  I’ve had numerous doctors ask if I’d like something to lighten the dark lines where the stitches were or to cover them up.  I knew I’d reached my purpose when my first question back to them started being a genuinely confused yet poignant, “Why?”
I’m reminded of them each time I pull on my favorite dress and actually like that it reveals part of the patchwork quilt I’ve become.  I’m reminded of how far things have come each time I wave and my beloved bat wings keep waving long after my hands have.  I have my moments of regret and insecurity.  Somehow though, I’ve been able to use my experience to pull away from the dark pages and into the silver lining of the entire book.  I have no idea how I got so lucky, but I’m constantly learning why I did.
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I’m reminded that I have a story to tell and I’m reminded of how lucky I am to tell it.  I am still judged harshly just as we all are in different ways.  I’m surprised, though, at how beautiful our imperfections can be.  The jagged edge of what used to be a fuller body is now quite literally the signature on the work of art.  We don’t often get those opportunities in life.  The body I had once created as protection has become one I’ve gotten to remake as a canvas.  It serves as a personal daily testament to the power of progress and it’s a constant reminder to keep using that.
Thank you for being a part of my story.  How do you tell yours?

The Sweetness of Break Time

The office candy dish-  Something so simple and petite-  A tiny accent in the corner of a giant, marble desk.
The glass dish has become somewhat of a staple for the buzzing lobby of our corporate office.  Here’s the thing-  It didn’t begin that way.  In my position, I get to be in the center of a large multi-level office.  My vantage point is filled with beautiful granite and marble, soaring windows, and a serene view of our own private pond.  I hear the soft undertone of deals being made and deadlines being set.
Each person is navigating their day in the same space with the same ultimate goal in vastly different ways.
 
As I settled into my job, I quickly realized how many different personalities crossed my desk each day.  They would walk up with enough time to breathe, vent their frustration, take in the views, and quietly move along after an impromptu pep talk.
The most common complaint in the corporate world has to do with differing personalities.  We are challenged to not only get along with an wide range of opinions and work styles, but to do it productively.  These differences affect really every aspect of our work day from projects and deadlines to the ability to work independently in peace.  In my office, there were conflicts coming in at an alarming rate.  The morale was dropping as the complaints and tension soared.  Something interesting and refreshing happened, though.  The fulcrum-  A 5 pound bag of Tootsie Rolls.
Tootsie
I filled a glass vase to the top.  The corner of my desk transformed into a peaceful space I lovingly dubbed “The Zen Zone”.  The objective- Grab 5 minutes, a Tootsie Roll, and some perspective.
Before long, the jar was depleted and ready to be refilled.  We now gauge our days on a scale of 1-19 Tootsie Rolls.  We laugh more.  The frustrations turned into stories.  They turned into sharing about families and pets complete with photos.  My coworkers started to relax even for a moment by stepping out of their spaces to share this one.
Employees-
In your daily work spaces, how are you interacting with your coworkers?  How does your personality or experience evolve in 40 hours of sharing it each week?
 
Employers-
What ways are you contributing to employee morale?  What policy changes might you consider to alleviate stress from the human side of your work space?
My challenge to everyone is this-
Find one easy, streamlined tool to center your space.  We can find ideas for such things by listening between the words of your coworkers and employees.  Check out Pinterest for fun office ideas.  Better yet, collect various ideas and go for a vote.  The effort to extend something purely beneficial to your peers is ultimately beneficial for your company.
What will become your “saving vase”?