Wellness Wednesday: Sneaking in the Healthy

Green Smoothie Date - Chestnut Hill, PA

Green Smoothie Date – Chestnut Hill, PA

When I first began my healthy lifestyle journey, I found it difficult to include some of the most nutrient rich foods simply because I didn’t like the taste. Fortunately for all of us, we can re train our taste buds to like the good stuff - just as they’d been trained to go for the garbage.

It takes some time and deliberate, healthy choices – but mindful eating has the powerful ability to change your life from the inside out.

If you’re not quite ready to grab a head of broccoli as your afternoon snack with delight, sneaking in the healthy stuff works wonders. This also works for picky kids :)

  1. Smoothies: The easiest way to hide the most green veggies such as spinach and kale. You can also add chia seeds & flax seeds. Bananas drown out the taste of most other things. Pro tip: put this in a colored cup so that kids cannot see that its green.
  2. Oatmeal & Applesauce: The perfect place to add flax meal, chia seeds or spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.
  3. Marinara Sauce: Chop veggies very fine and cook right into your sauces.
  4. Pancakes: Mix in some flax meal and mash up bananas before throwing them onto the griddle.
  5. Eggs: Chop veggies very fine (think just the tree tops of broccoli) and bake into eggs, frittata style or in a cupcake pan. I enjoy spinach, broccoli & sundried tomatoes the most.
  6. Cream cheese: DIY veggie cream cheese by chopping thinly and mixing in. Try bell peppers, broccoli, carrots & chives.

These can serve as some good starting points to rewire your brain. Until then, Buen Provecho!

 

DIY Throat Lozenges

I reached a new level of crunchy mama yesterday, when I decided to make my own throat lozenges.  I’ve had a nagging sore throat for weeks and I’m over it.

DIY Throat Lozenges

 

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces raw organic local honey
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops of peppermint essential oil (or to taste, it’s very strong)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Combine honey & water in a saucepan & heat over a low flame – bring to a boil
  2. Cover while on low for 4 minutes
  3. Remove from the heat & let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Stir in the lemon zest & peppermint oil
  5. Use a spoon to drop small amounts onto a cookie sheet (Tip: Do NOT use wax paper like in my photo-it sticks!)
  6. Allow it to harden (about 30 minutes) or stick in the fridge to speed up process

Through Xavier’s Eyes: A Photo Journey Through Manayunk

Children are born with an incredible sense of wonder and curiosity. I am a big believer that if we join them in their astonishment of the everyday things we grown ups take for granted, we can cultivate a love of learning they can keep with them their whole lives.

We have always strived to make everything we do an adventure, even the grocery store can be a fun time if you stay present, talk through what you’re doing and make them a part of whatever you’re up to.

As a photographer, I always have cameras laying around so its been a normal part of Xavier’s life. I began explaining the buttons and dials of my Nikon D90 to him when he was about 1 1/2 and get more into detail as he asks more questions.

Showing Xavier Some Buttons

Showing Xavier Some Buttons

Children are able to understand and take in SO SO SO much more than we often give them credit for. Around age 2, Xavier started asking to hold the camera so I made sure my insurance policy was current and told him Of Course! I showed him how to properly hold it, where to look and what buttons to press and he took it from there.

Making Friends in Pretzel Park

Making Friends in Pretzel Park

The other day he woke up from him nap and asked to go on a “photo adventure” where I could push him around Manayunk and he could take pictures :)

Here is what Manayunk looks like through the eyes of Xavier along with his thoughts:

"My favorite old van on Baldwin Street"

“My favorite old van on Baldwin Street”

 

"The BEST Old Car Around - It's sooooo rusty"

“The BEST Old Car Around – It’s sooooo rusty”

 

"My Favorite Tree in Manayunk"

“My Favorite Tree in Manayunk”

 

"Oh Hello Friends! Would You Like Your Picture Taken?"

“Oh Hello Friends! Would You Like Your Picture Taken?”

 

"Look! More Friends on Main Street!"

“Look! More Friends on Main Street!”

 

"What are you working on little buddy?"

“What are you working on little buddy?”

 

"HEY! Do You Guys Have Chocolate Croissants?"

“HEY! Do You Guys Have Chocolate Croissants?”

 

"Hey Jimmy!"

“I really like that blue door, Ma”

 

"Heyyy!"

“Heyyy!”

Aren’t all these smiling faces nice to see? We love Philadelphia :)

Holiday Toy Guide -2014

Play Is the Highest Form of Research

Play Is the Highest Form of Research

When I buy a toy for the house or as a gift, it has to meet some criteria:

  1. Be able to be used for several years and have many functions
  2. Encourage imagination play
  3. Be sturdy/indestructible

I still highly recommend these items from my previous list for children ranging in age from 1-5, but this year we are expanding our skills and honing in on the details of our play, which include tasks such as planning, critical thinking, teamwork and testing/rebuilding.

Here’s what’s on our wish list:

  • Magna Tiles or Mag Formers
  • Lauri Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set
  • Elenco Snap Circuits Jr. Kit
  • Playhouse/Dollhouse – This should be wooden & plain so it can be whatever your child wants it to be. One time it can be a fire station, the next a barbie mansion. They can also spend hours decorating the house with supplies you already have (paper, glue, glitter) Melissa & DougEtsy, or check local consignment stores!
  • Ikea has a number of great, cheap items for open ended play:
    • Fundera Building Blocks
    • Playmats
    • Balance Beams
    • Art Supplies & sturdy Easel
    • Doll furniture for your play house

Happy Shopping!

 

 

Urban Adventuring: Antique Car Museum

In our home, we strive to keep the innate love of learning alive. One way we do this is by fostering Xavier’s passions through child led learning (CLL). Some may call this type of education unschooling or homeschooling, but I like to think of it simply as learning from our everyday experiences in the world around us. A trip to the grocery store can easily turn into learning about farms, animals or even math. You never know – you just go with the flow.

One of Xavier’s passions happens to be antique cars. He loves everything about them from their smell, to comparing the differences with cars today & seeing how things worked before better technology was present.

Typically we just pull over when we see antique cars at auto body shops and ask the people working if we can look around. This always ends with X sitting in the cars, turning them on and pressing all the buttons :)

1947 Oldsmobile in Broomall

1947 Oldsmobile in Broomall

 

Andorra Auto Body

Andorra Auto Body

 

Andorra Auto Body

Andorra Auto Body

When I discovered an antique car museum right here in Philadelphia, we had to go!

Playing with Our New Mercedes - The Kid has good taste

What: Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

Where: 6825 Norwitch Drive Philadelphia, PA 19153 (near the PHL airport – behind all the car rental/drop off places)

Hours: Closed Mondays. Tues – Fri: 10:00AM – 6PM: Sat & Sun 10AM-4PM

Cost: Kids 8 and under: Free  Adults: $12 

Surrounded by hundreds of antique cars housed in a warehouse style building, you can walk around, look inside and learn about each car. Unfortunately you can’t sit in any of them – except the one behind the front desk.

Simeone FoundationThere is even a small store inside where you can purchase die cast model cars to add to your growing collection if you want.

Antique cars

 

FullSizeRender-2

This weekend on 11/29, they are having their final Demo Day of the season from 12-2pm. You can vote to select which 3 cars viewers will get to see race out back on their track.

Demo Day Flyer

 
 Hope you enjoy!
 

School for Spirited Kids

Last week we started a new chapter in our lives, X went to school! For the first time in his almost 4 years on this earth, he was dropped off somewhere without us. Eeeeek!

End of his 1st day dirty feet

End of his 1st day dirty feet

It has been a difficult transition for us all – but because spirited children experience things differently than others, a few key tips have helped ease us into this new routine.

1. Nature Preschool. We chose a nature based school housed in an environmental education center situated on over 340 acres with more than 3 miles of hiking trails. In their daily curriculum, they learn first hand about the natural world around them, stay active, get tons of fresh air and form an adorable community. This allows X to have the serenity of nature which eases sensory stimulation while also giving him more freedom with his body than a typical school where children are asked to sit still more.

2. No Fuss. Because of Xavier’s super strong emotions, we do not make a big deal about anything in our house – hence not having one of those 1st day of school photos where your kid is holding a cute homemade sign. The less fuss, the more smoothly things go. The more excited I get, the more upset X becomes. Happens every time.

3. Prepare. Like any other transition, Xavier (and probably most other kids and adults) feel better if they are familiar with what will be happening. Over the summer we visited the grounds and hiked the trails many times so X would feel confident in his new space. We also read books about going to school and talked about the routines he would encounter. I highly recommend The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. We have the ritual of kissing each other’s palms every morning now :)

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Get there early.  Being the first in the room is always helpful in any gathering of people for us. It allows him to take in the space and the few people that are there and connect with them one on one for a moment. That connection plus the ability to get comfortable in the new setting as others begin to trickle in make it less overwhelming.

What are your tips for sending kiddos to school?

 

Don’t Look Away

I have this wonderfully powerful yoga teacher who sometimes asks us to stand face-to-face, heart-to-heart with sweaty strangers during class. People who we see often but probably smile and otherwise ignore. He tells us to look into each other’s eyes, and don’t look away. Don’t laugh, don’t fidget, just look at each other, notice one another and be there in that moment with that other person.

Surprisingly enough, this can be a very difficult exercise for many of us to do. It wretches us from our comfort zone and asks of us something we are not familiar. Something we may think is weird. Because normally we would look away as soon as eye contact was made.

But why?

For me, it brings up all the things we routinely look away from in our everyday lives, and perhaps don’t even realize we do it until we are chest-to-chest with sweaty strangers. Perhaps it takes a moment outside of our comfort zones to allow learning to happen. A feeling comes up and instead of noticing it, thinking about its purpose and reflecting upon it –we push it down and pretend not to notice the sensation it left us with. Why? Because it may be uncomfortable. It’s different. Instead, we ignore it and we lie to ourselves and pretend – – and we busy our lives and our bodies and our brains with things and people that don’t quite fit, just so we don’t have to deal with our truths – whatever they may be. Because they might be ugly.

My Truths

Over the past 3 years, I have had the continuous feeling of being stuck in my life. Stuck in an overpriced mortgage, in a house that is no longer adequate for my family. Stuck in a neighborhood that wasn’t quite ‘me’. Stuck in a stressful financial situation that has no quick fixes that I so desperately want. Feeling stuck is shitty. It leads to feelings of helplessness, which is even shitter, and then some spats of depression. The circle of shit could go on and on if you let it.

At one point during those 3 years, when the majority of my major to do’s had been checked off, I was left with only myself. I was at a personal tipping point, a crossroads, and I knew that I had an important choice to make. I could add more items to my lists and continue to distract myself, or I could choose to sit with my emotions.

And I consciously chose – for the first time in my life – to not look away.

No more distractions. No more projects. No more senseless relationships. No more busying of my mind. Instead, I chose to just be present, and sit with myself and whatever feelings came up–without acting on any of them.

I continued to sit with the uncomfortableness of it all, for an uncomfortably long time.

I think of it like having a friend in emotional pain – perhaps someone grieving or going through a depressing time. There’s not much you can physically do to help your friend get through this time, but you can BE with them. You can sit with them, hold their hand – hug them, mostly in silence – but your presence can be felt as you quietly support their emotions. It’s kinda like that. Walk next to your big emotions as they come up, be with them, without trying to fix them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I was sad. I cried a lot – sometimes I didn’t even know why I was crying, but I cried anyway. And I allowed that to be okay.

Then, one day the crying slowed and I had this sensation of clarity that I had never seen before and all of the sudden everything felt simple. I peeled myself off the floor and gradually began making decisions – BIG, life altering decisions in mindful ways. It felt right, and it still feels right.

The Yoga Connection

Like most things, my yoga practice has truly shown me the way. It has taught me how to sit with the uncomfortable things in my life and when you’re ready for them, the ah-ha’s will come flowing in.

They say that the pose begins the moment you want to get out of it – and I completely understand this now :)

Wiggling my way into the more difficult asanas and then staying in them when I want to fidget or collapse, breathing through the uncomfortable feelings and bringing a sense of calmness and ease to something that feels so uneasy has shown me how to sit with the uncomfortable things that pop up in both my body and mind in daily life. It’s shown me that I CAN! I practice it on my mat so when it happens off the mat, I am equipped to handle it. This is yoga and this is why I love it!

The Lessons

Choosing not to distract myself brought up many things that I had simply been ignoring. Some big things, some teeny things, but things none the less, taking up valuable real-estate inside of me. You can run from things, distract yourself from things and ignore them – but I assure you, they will continue to show up in different forms until you make the decision to not look away.

Wellness Wednesday: Got a Sweet Tooth?

I was always a salt person, until I met Mike. On one of our first dates he told me very explicitly, “I will share everything with you that I have…except my dessert” and he was 100% serious. Nearly 10 years later, he has turned me into a sweets person and boy do I LOVE a good after dinner sweet tooth – especially in the summer time. But I also like to fit into my clothes :)

The more mindful and deliberate I am about my eating habits, the better I feel – both mentally and physically. I am not one for diets or food restrictions, but more about moderation and consuming whole, real food.

So I bring to you the perfect solution!

Nom nom nom

Banana Chocolate Chips

 

Sweet, simple and oh-so-satisfying.

About 12 organic, dark chocolate chips (from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s) is equal to 1 serving which is 4g fat and 80 calories. Not bad! Raspberries are also fun to do this with.

What are your favorite ways to indulge a sweet tooth?

Brunching in Manayunk

I have lived in Manayunk for nearly 7 years. Manayunk (allegedly meaning Native-American for ‘where we go to drink”) is a small section of Philadelphia, just outside of Center City. Some refer to it as the Hoboken of Philly and I would have to agree. The rent is cheaper, the commute is easy and Main Street has a lot to offer people of any age or demographic. I have been here as a single chica, a married young couple and now as a family-so I have literally seen it all.

There are so many great places here that I want to share my personal favorites with you. Today, let’s talk breakfast/brunch. My favorite meal of the day, it’s hard to go wrong with these yummy choices.

Xman & His Volo Fix

Got Volo?

Volo Coffeehouse: Come in for the rustic ambiance and fascinating people watching. Stay for the perfectly toasted bagels and rocket fuel-like La Colombe coffee. What to order: An everything bagel toasted with veggie cream cheese, a chocolate croissant to accompany your vanilla latte, or the grilled chicken panini with perfectly spicy mayo. Free wifi and outdoor seating makes for morning bliss.

Winnie’s LeBus: A Manayunk staple, LeBus offers healthy, locally sourced options for your morning meal. Don’t forget their famous bread and sparkling mimosa menu. Get here early or you’ll have a wait ahead of you. What to order: Banana walnut pancakes, thai turkey salad, mimosas & bloody marys. Plenty of outside seating right in the heart of Main Street.

Greg’s Kitchen: Right at the beginning of Main Street, across from the fire station, you can smell the aroma of Greg’s cooking. New to the Main Street scene, you can find Greg himself cooking up some tasty eats. What to order: Challah french toast, bacon pancakes and a giant bowl of tater tots. It’s a small place with no A/C so grab a seat outside or near the doors if possible. Sometimes the wait is long, but that giant bowl of tater tots makes it all worth while.

Derek’s: A little more upscale than the others, Derek’s offers an interesting take on the standard brunch menu (weekends only). What to order: Banana’s foster french toast, chicken and corn quesadilla and get ready for the best part – mimosas and bloody’s are $3/each every Saturday and Sunday until 3pm – so drinking your brunch is totally acceptable.

Happy Brunching!

brunch meme