Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Things I'm Lovin' - Food Edition

Before I throw a "you should eat this!" food list at you, I feel like I should explain where my interest in food comes from as of late. It really stems from two places...

Reason 1) Six months ago, over the summer, I went through IVF as many of you know. I decided almost on a whim (with the encouragement of a few) to eliminate Gluten and Dairy from my diet. I wanted to feel my best going through something that can be quite intense on a body. I continued my new way of eating well after IVF and our transfers only because I found it provided significant results: better mood, healthier system, and a feeling of self-control, all with little effort on my part. I was surprised that cutting out something made me feel significantly better rather than trying to add in more (greens, exercise, meds). 

Over the Holidays, I was very lax on what I ate and how much Gluten/Dairy came across my plate. I noticed the effects almost overnight. My skin began to break out, I felt bloated - not that I had necessarily gained any weight - but my joints felt achy in the morning, and I knew there was a better way for me to eat.

On yet another whim, I decided on December 31st that I would start #whole30 on January 2nd. I saw a few food bloggers posting about it and decided I would give it a try. For the first 4-5 days I only ate vegetables, meat, and a few nuts. I cut out fruit, rice, quinoa, peanut butter, dark chocolate...all things I would normally eat. The first week was rough - I had a temper and felt sad/whiny. BUT by Saturday the 7th, I felt strong and compelled to keep going the entire30 days! I have now added a limited amount of fruit (mostly berries) back into my diet but that's really the only change from the first week.

The #whole30 challenge has encouraged me to try new recipes with new ingredients which I have found very exciting and motivating. There was no way I was going to last on chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes for dinner for 30 days.

Reason 2) The new recipes/new ingredients mentioned above leads me to the second reason for the list...

As I mentioned in my New Year's resolution post, I'm trying to cut out impulse purchases. SO instead of browsing around Target or T.J. Maxx, I have started browsing Whole Food aisles, looking for random ingredients like macadamia nut oil, chile chipotle peppers, and nutritional yeast. I'm filling my urge to "shop" while making healthier food for Paul, myself, and Roswelle - a win, win or sorts (gotta start somewhere)!

One could argue I'm probably spending the same amount of money in the end (esp at Whole Foods) but Paul and I have made the collective decision to never make financial cuts when it comes to the food we eat. Buying healthy, sustainable, life-giving food will improve our life quality...eek, I'm starting to sound like one of those annoying podcast people... I think it's time to get to the food list!

I have a mediocre surface level understanding of the significant health benefits of the food listed below. I encourage y'all to do some of your own reading if any of these items seem particularly interesting to you!

Clockwise-ish from top left:

1) Macadamia Nuts/ Macadamia Nut Oil - The Macadamia nut has the highest level of Omega 3's, which many nutritionist are saying we don't get enough of in our diet. We get plenty of Omega 6's however, maybe too much. I've recently limited my intake of walnuts, pecans (which are high in O-6's) and significantly increased consumption of fish, raw macadamia nuts, and macadamia nut oil (I suggest replacing any recipe calling for vegetable/canola oil with macadamia, avocado, or coconut oil).

2) Ginger - Another immune booster and anti-inflammatory agent, I pop a knob of ginger in my shake every morning.

3)Pasture-raised eggs - There always seems to the next best thing with food, and for us, it's pasture-raised eggs.  Organic eggs are great, but the chickens are often kept in confinement. Pasture raised eggs are from you guessed it, pasture raised (roaming) chicken. Doesn't that just seem better? 

4) Sardines - Speaking of Omega 3's, I have a personal goal to eat sardines once or twice a month. It can be difficult to stomach for some, but I've find them very manageable when on a seed cracker with a little goat cheese. A dairy cheat for me, but I consider it worth while to get the nutritional value of sardines into my diet. Sardines are also high in calcium which can be difficult to come by when eating dairy free!

5) Taza's 80% Dark Chocolate - Just enough sweetness and high in antioxidants, but it's also bitter enough to keep me from eating the whole bar. Also Taza's chocolate is made locally here in Boston and it has a distinct texture that I really like!

6) Green Juice w/ low sugar - I read an article in W magazine interviewing the nutritionist to Gwyneth Paltrow, Frank Lipman. He says that green juices, if you are going drink them, should only have 5grams of sugar or less per bottle. I have found this extremely difficult to manage, as an apple which is commonly found in green juices, has 19g of sugar on it's own! However I have found 2 that get close enough -- Evolution: Sweet Greens with 10g of sugar & Suja: Uber Greens with only 6g of sugar per bottle!

7) RAW nuts - Go RAW y'all. Skip the roasted almond butter, peanuts, or cashews and grab the raw version instead. This will ensure you are getting the most nutritional value out of your nuts or nut butter. 

8) Tumeric - The super spice/seasoning of 2017. The health benefits and healing powers of this little plant go on and on and have been on several health food lists lately. I've even seen a coffee shop offer a tumeric latte!

9) Nutritional Yeast - I just used this for the first time last week. Some things just seem too good to be good for you...and this was one of them for me. A golden flaky powder that is supposed to taste cheesy when cooked? How can this be good for me? But the flakes are high in B vitamins, notably B12, and considered to be an antiviral, antibacterial immune booster. My favorite way to use it is over steamed broccoli or meat sauce/spaghetti. Many friends use it on popcorn as well! The Bob's Red Mill brand carries it and can be found in most grocery stores.

10) Home-made Bone Broth - Our grandmother and great grandmother will roll their eyes at us for making this a "super-food" or "super-fad" because they have been making it for generations. Either way, this is something I suggest adding to your rotation of cooking. The collagen/gelatin extracted from the bones is extremely restorative - even wrinkle resistant!

Next Tuesday, Things I'm Lovin' - Home Edition will be up!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Couple Portraits: Joel & Molly

I met Molly and Joel about 2 years ago when they joined us in our living room for a weekly bible study. A warm, talkative - esp Molly ;), and loving couple - Paul and I instantly enjoyed their company. Through those two years they have shared their ups and downs with our community group - the sudden loss of his father, their wedding!, and now battling testicular cancer after only 1 year of marriage. Joel was diagnosed back in November, has undergone surgery, and is currently braving chemotherapy which started less than 2 weeks ago. Molly reached out to me asking if I would take their pictures before facing chemo and most likely Joel losing his hair. Of course I said YES. When a friend is going through something like this, it's hard to find the right things to say or do, taking their pictures was the least I could do for them.

Joel and Molly have been through more than most in the 2 years I have known them, but they continue to hold fast to their faith and each other. They are building a strong foundation for the life ahead them. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Things I'm Lovin' - Personal Style

Over the next three weeks I'll be writing a series "Things I'm Lovin'" covering three areas: personal style, food, and home. These are items I use almost every day. The last thing I want to do is give you more things to buy right after Christmas, however my guess is that 1-2 items from each list will interest you.

Now for the first list! When I'm in the house with a toddler, I prefer to dress in a way that I can be ready to go out and about anytime of the day. I have used or worn these items almost everyday so far in 2017. And I love that a couple of these items allow me to transition seamlessly from a yoga/spin class to a brunch with girlfriends or Paul (an ideal weekend morning, however for me, leaving the house is typically a trip to Trader Joe's with Roswelle in tow!). 

Promoting activity, versatility, and self-love...these items literally keep me going.

Links and explanations of products are listed below:Everyday Style in January

1. Convertible Cozy Fleece Pullover ($132): I received a similar convertible cape for Christmas from Paul's mother (from Lulu, but no longer available) and it is something I wear almost everyday. I'm basically wearing a chic blanket. Long enough to pair with leggings or yoga pants, this versatile piece can be dressed up or down. It's my favorite item of clothing at the moment!

2. Love Your Melon Pom Beanie ($45): I couldn't write it better myself, so I took this beanie's story directly from the website: "On a mission to improve the lives of children battling cancer since October 22nd, 2012, Love Your Melon began with the simple idea of putting a hat on every child battling cancer in America. After achieving the original goal of donating 45,000 hats— one for every child battling cancer in America — Love Your Melon set a new goal of donating one million dollars to pediatric cancer research and providing immediate support to children and their families. Fifty percent (50%) of profit from the sale of all Love Your Melon products is given to Love Your Melon’s nonprofit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer." 

3. S'well bottle ($45): In an effort to declutter my life, I'm now using one bottle for water. The S'well bottle is mostly used for water (hot or cold) but has also worked as my fruit smoothie bottle! I love the clean, fresh look of the white (thank you, Emily, for gifting me this!)

4. Sakroots Charging Wristlet ($38): Sure, I carry way more than a wristlet during the day (picture: human camel) but with all the things I have to remember, it is nice to have only one thing to grab for myself which carries my keys, phone, cards, and will even charge my phone. I live in a state of "less than 20% battery charged" most days so this little gadget is handy for me. And it's cute to boot!

5. ghd Classic Curl Iron ($160): I feel my best when I take just 15 minutes in the morning to get ready for the day, that includes adding a few curls to my hair. Definitely an investment compared to my old Conair curling iron, but this iron heats up in less than 20 seconds and the curls last ALL DAY, if not 2 days, due to it's special heat technology. Recently, my hair hadn't been holding any curl, so this new iron is a game-changer for me.

6. Gold Stacking Rings ($14): Simple, inexpensive, and shows I gave myself a little extra thought in the morning. It's all in the details, sometimes. 

7. S.W. Basics Lip Cream ($12): In the middle of winter, nothing takes a beating more than my lips and skin. I drink plenty of water but it isn't enough to combat the below freezing temps and dry air in Boston. I received this lip balm in a Petit Vour box last January and I'm still using it!

8. Tieks ballet flats ($175): These flats LAST. I can tear through some flats but my pair of Tieks have lasted me 4 seasons of city-living with little wear or tear. Staying with the theme of decluttering my life, these are my chosen flats for everyday life.  Yes, they are very expensive, but arguably worth the money.  

9. Origins Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay ($26): My girlfriend told me she liked the results of the Origins Rose Clay mask, so I gave it a try and it's now my favorite. It evens out my skin tone and the act of putting on a mask at night makes me feel like I'm giving myself some love, which probably has the most to do with the good results. I use the mask maximizer spray and drink-up mask (pictured above) on a regular basis as well.

10. Honest Organic Body Oil ($10): I used this body oil over the weekend at my girlfriend's and immediately ordered it when I got home. I'm not a fan of lotion, mostly because of typical ingredients, but a bottle of organic oils fits the bill. Feels great going on, preferably after a shower, and lasts all day. I highly suggest!!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Newborn Portrait: Baby Michael Alexander

Professionally, it was an exciting end to 2016, as I said yes to more and more photography shoots. Through all the experience, I'm learning that my passion lies in photographing newborns. As much as this hobby of mine developed over the past two years, I'm eagerly anticipating even more growth in 2017.

And so, meet Baby Michael! When photographing an 11day old baby, as Michael was, I prefer to go to the home of the baby, where he is in his environment with familiar smells and sights. This also allows the parents to have everything they need to properly take care of their new, little one. Everything about this particular shoot was sweet and soft: adoring parents, baby toes, and a very comfy baby!

Enjoy the sweetness!