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Staying Active During Pregnancy (When All You Really Want To Do Is Sleep)

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

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Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of me when they find out I've kept up my running (somewhat and so far) throughout my pregnancy. I've been called everything from badass to hardcore to unstoppable, but none of these descriptors ring true for me. The truth as I see it is that there is one reason and one reason only why I've been able to complete so many half marathons during pregnancy. That reason? I was already regularly completing half marathons before pregnancy. I was already in the physical condition necessary to drag my body over 13.1 miles.

There's nothing I've done during pregnancy to increase my strength or stamina in that regard. Every single week, I've run a little less and a little slower than the week before. During some runs I stop and walk entirely. Other days I skip the run to take a nap instead.

Do I think my routine was pretty badass and hardcore before pregnancy? Absolutely. That's how I was able to break a 1:45 half marathon PR. But since I've been pregnant? I've been in maintenance mode. I have dramatically scaled back the amount of time and effort I devote to running. It may seem impressive to some that I'm still getting out there, but I firmly believe the ONLY reason I'm able to do so is because I worked so hard for an entire year prior to getting pregnant. 

Here are a few things I used to do regularly that I no longer do now: Run fast. Lift weights. Do ab exercises. Do HIIT training. Run on an incline. Go outside and run 10 miles just because I know I can and I like to move my body. I don't do these things anymore. I certainly planned to continue lifting light weights throughout my pregnancy, but I just haven't had the energy. I planned on running more throughout the week, but I don't have it in me. I can complete half marathons still because the muscle memory is there and because I run JUST ENOUGH to not lose my base level of fitness. For the most part, though, I'm not running a lot anymore. 

I'm not saying any of this to disparage myself and try to convince you that running a half marathon while pregnant is nothing. I'm just saying that the reason why I'm still able to carry my pregnant body across finish lines is because I worked my ass off and then some for the year prior to getting pregnant. It's just as simple as that. I worked harder than I've ever worked and thanks to that, I'm still reaping some benefits despite the fact that I've slowed down a lot. 

One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go out and run 16 miles. My body was in the perfect shape to do it and I knew that wouldn't be the case for long. I wanted a super long run so I could navigate and process all the complex emotions I was going through: I was so excited, so happy, so nervous. Until then my longest run was 15 miles, but I knew I had it in me. I had to take advantage of my body's capabilities while they were still available to me.

Could I go out and run 16 miles today? No way. I can still push myself through 13.1 miles in a race setting but as far as runs I do on my own, the energy level is just not there. To me this is the most interesting thing about people finding out I run half marathons while pregnant: they act like I'm out being superhuman but meanwhile most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. To repeat: most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. There's very little that feels superhuman about that. 

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm no longer a hardcore runner. My runs include walking breaks, pee breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and Let's Cut This One Short Today, I'm Not Feeling It breaks. It's important to me to try and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible despite wanting to spend my days napping and snacking, so what do I do? This is what I do.

I walk a lot. 

I take a weekly prenatal yoga class. 

When inspired, I do push-ups against the wall, tricep dips on the coffee table, and squats and lunges in the living room.

I run, but much less frequently. 

I walk up hills. 

I park far away.

I take the stairs.

I walk around the neighborhood. I walk the aisles of grocery stores. I walk up to Mt. Tabor. I walk. 

I have a few gentle prenatal workout videos.

Here's what else I do:

I rest. I sleep. I drink a lot of water. I make sure I'm eating plenty of calories. I listen to my baby and my body and cut workouts short when I don't have the right energy level. I avoid working out outside when the temperatures are too hot. I give myself a break because I'm growing a human and that counts for something. 

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This is why I feel a little strange when people act like the half marathons are some sort of HUGE accomplishment. It's not that I'm not proud of them — I am. I just don't want to give the wrong impression. Guys, I am telling you: when it comes to working out, I truly don't do that much these days. I don't have the energy to carry myself through long workouts. I adore my prenatal yoga class, which challenges my muscles but also feels a bit like a glorified nap. I love strolling around my neighborhood. On the days when I do feel like I have the energy, I love going for short runs. About once a month, I love completing a half marathon. For the most part, though, when it comes to my life day in and day out: I'm resting. I'm sleeping. I'm working. I'm in my robe on the couch. There is nothing badass to see here.

And right now, I think that's totally okay.

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Super Brain

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

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I'm a huge fan of the One Bad Mother podcast. Hosts Theresa and Biz are big advocates of taking the judgment out of parenting and instead trying to be supportive of each other. They always make a point of saying "You're doing a great job" to each other and encourage their listeners to extend that message to other parents. When you see a mom dealing with a child's temper tantrum at Target, for example, tell her she's doing a great job. Parenting — and life in general — is difficult enough without dealing with the judgments of the so-called "mommy wars." When we're kind and patient and supportive with each other, things work out better for everyone. 

In an early episode (it was episode 14 if you're interested) of the podcast, Biz and Theresa talk with author Anne Kreamer about what happens to the brain after pregnancy. They discuss how they don't really like any of the terms commonly used to describe the brain shifts that take place with a baby on board. They don't like Mommy Brain, Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brain, all of which have a derogatory edge. They decide to come up with a new way to describe the hormonal, emotional, and chemical shifts. The term they come up with has a much nicer ring: Super Brain. 

"Pregnancy and childbirth actually cause your brain to shrink in size," Kreamer says on the show before noting that it can take up to six months after birth for the brain to go back to its original size.

Theresa points out how absurd it is that "as you're gaining responsibilities and adding more things to your life that you need to be responsible for and take care of and understand, your brain is actually shrinking."

Kreamer goes on to explain that from an evolutionary standpoint, it was never meant to be a mother's role to deal with the demands of a job after childbirth; it was her role to deal with the demands of her child. A child's survival depended on the mother's ability to care for him or her. In our modern world, or course, there is the expectation of parents to return to work as quickly as possible after childbirth and to juggle the roles of the job along with the responsibility of raising a child. 

"It's like going back to work with both hands and your legs tied behind your back," says Kreamer.

The biological responses of parenting are not limited to mothers. Kreamer points out that in men, there is a spike in the nurturing hormone prolactin and a plummet in testosterone. Add in the effects of sleep deprivation (mothers lose an average equivalent of four months of work in lost hours of sleep when they are nursing, Kreamer says) and the result is this: "If 4 million babies on average are born in the States every year, that means that there are 8 million parents at any time in the workplace completely emotionally gaga."

Parenthood changes the brain biologically. These changes start taking place during pregnancy. It's become a big cultural joke to make fun of the way women have a tendency to get emotional or spacey or foggy during pregnancy, but I've found that it's less hilarious when actually living through it. It is a fact that I am not thinking as clearly as a pregnant woman as I did before I was pregnant. One of the very first things I did early in my pregnancy was accidentally shred a check that was sent to me. Since them I've had a series of follies ranging from misplacing my keys to not being able to remember why I walked into a room to straight-up being unable to focus on some of the tasks I used to perform well. Every day when my husband gets home from work, our kitchen is half cleaned. It's like the part of my brain that remembers to finish cleaning the kitchen once I start has just shut down. My whole life has become a series of half-finished errands and projects. I get myself to the store, but then I forget why I'm there. I sit down at my computer to write, but then my brain goes blank. 

One theory I have about this is that parenthood in general and first-time parenthood in particular is so overwhelming that there's absolutely no way I could prepare for it if I was still as focused on all these other aspects of my life. This is the time when we need to be making decisions about the things we need for our baby, the life we'll provide for our baby, the way we'll set up our baby's room, and more. As hard as I try to focus my attention elsewhere (and I realize I'm overstating everything here and of course I have been able to write essays and blog posts and perform tasks and it's not as if my brain has completely stopped working), my focus just isn't there right now.  It is more difficult than ever to pay attention to the topics being discussed at social events or the events going on in the world. 

My brain is being used for such a super-sized task that I agree the only correct way to refer to it right now is Super Brain. I have a Super Brain because, in spite of how distracted and crazy I sometimes feel, I'm still getting some things done. And though the responsibilities we're facing now are nothing compared to what we'll face in a few months, it's true that we are taking on a lot right now. Getting prepared to have a baby has to be one of the most emotionally (not to mention financially) overwhelming things a person can do. We are incredibly excited but we are also like: Whoa. This is a lot.  

I'm giving myself some credit because it IS a lot. The financial cost is a LOT, as any parent can attest. The emotional cost is a lot. We're going to have a whole new person living with us — not just any person, but someone who we want to have the BEST life possible. This baby is going to be our family for the rest of our lives. That is huge. That is monumental. If I get a little overwhelmed thinking about it to the point where I forget about some of my other life responsibilities, I think it's okay. I think it will all balance out somehow.

Whatever you do, don't ask if I have Mommy Brain or Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brian. I have Super Brain, plain and simple. (On an unrelated but possibly slightly related note, I also have a bum knee every since last week's fall. Between my shrinking brain and swollen knee, I'm doing all right for myself.)

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My Favorite Summer Ingredients

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I love summer because it means eating lots of fresh food. Whether it’s produce that came from the store, farmers market, CSA or berry farm, summertime produce is full of flavor and is generally super easy to prepare. If you want to get out of the kitchen, no problem — most summertime ingredients taste great either raw or grilled. Here are a few of my favorites. 

1. Berries

My family loves to go berry picking during the summer. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries: any berry, anytime, anywhere, and I’m happy. We are lucky to live in Oregon, where there is an abundance of U-pick farms. I love to eat berries plain, add them to a Greek yogurt parfait, mix them into scone batter, or enjoy them with ice cream. 

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2. Corn

Corn on the cob is such a perfect food because it’s fresh, flavorful, and fun to eat. I love corn when it’s boiled but I LOVE corn when it’s grilled. We recently grilled ours in the husk and found that it came off pretty easily after cooking, which is great because peeling away those corn “hairs” is often the one thing that makes an otherwise easy food seem like a bit of a pain to prepare. I like corn with a little bit of olive oil or butter and salt and pepper, but I also like it with no seasoning at all. Especially when it comes to sweeter corn, I think it’s just as good naked. 

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3. Tomatoes

It’s difficult to beat a garden-fresh tomato (or a handful of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes). I love them raw or in salads and I LOVE them roasted. I think roasted tomatoes make the perfect addition to pasta, sandwiches, eggs and more. 

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4. Peaches and Nectarines

I love peaches and nectarines. I think they have the perfect amount of sweetness to seem decadent enough on their own, but they’re also delicious when combined with ice cream, cobblers, or other desserts (especially if they're grilled). Blend a peach in a blender and throw it in a popsicle mold, add a layer of coconut milk, and you have yourself an amazing peaches ‘n cream pop (I learned this trick from Fit Girls Guide). 

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5. Zucchini

Zucchini is one of those foods that everyone always seems to have an abundance of in their gardens, and I for one do not complain when asked to take on some of the overfill. I love to spiralize zucchini and use either in conjunction with or as a replacement for pasta. I also love the taste of grilled zucchini. In my mind there are few things more perfect than a big platter of grilled veggies. If for whatever reason you’re getting sick of grilling things this summer, you can always slice zucchini up thin and bake in the oven for some delicious homemade zucchini chips. 

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Worth Mentioning:

watermelon, green beans, summer squash, pineapple. Yum!

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How to Start a Self-Love Revolution

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As I've mentioned many times in the past, I'm a big fan and follower of Fit Girls Guide, an online fitness community that promotes clean eating and self-love. For each monthly challenge with Fit Girls Guide, there is a new mantra. This month's is I Am The Revolution. I love this phrase because it encourages us to look inward for our own inspiration instead of seeking it elsewhere. 

At the same time, I know a lot of people are confused about where exactly to start when it comes to starting a revolution. Telling someone to "just love yourself" is not enough to get them going on a journey of acceptance and self-compassion. What does that actually mean and how does one practice it daily? 

I thought I would share a few concrete ways I started a self-love revolution for myself. This is a process that began four or five years ago and continues daily. I know this kind of revolution can seem daunting at first, but I think you'll see from the examples I'm providing that it can be a lot simpler than you might first realize.

1. STOP READING WOMEN'S MAGAZINES

This one pains me as a writer. When I was younger, I aspired to write for these types of publications. Also I don't want to miss out on the incredible writing I know lives in the pages of these magazines. (For the latter I have a solution: read the articles online.)

A lot of quality content can be found in women's magazines and I don't want to underscore this fact, but I also want to point out that the barrage of images — both from the magazine's photoshoots and the included advertising — are not healthy for even the healthiest woman out there. Flip through the pages of a women's magazine and the message you will find over and over again is that you are not enough. You're not thin enough or your hair isn't shiny enough or your fashion budget isn't big enough or your skin isn't clear enough or your body isn't toned enough or your nails aren't bright enough and so on and so on.

These magazines exist to sell  products. Magazines want you to believe that the pop singer with the flawless skin didn't get that way through airbrushing; she got that way because she uses X brand of makeup. That model's hair isn't the result of three hours with a hair professional; it's because she uses Y hair product. We would all be a little prettier and happier if we just bought this outfit or that eye cream or this self-tanner. 

Remove yourself from the cycle of comparison by just saying no to women's magazines. I used to read them religiously (probably at least five different magazines a month) and it's amazing what happened when I stopped several years ago. I no longer felt like I HAD to go get my hands on a certain beauty product because I was no longer aware of that beauty product's existence. I no longer looked at pictures of celebrities or models and compared them to the way I looked in my own life. Eventually, when I did pick up a magazine again, I was struck by the skewed ratio of quality content versus selling. I decided to become a person who didn't want to be sold anything. I decided to accept myself the way I already was, without X miracle beauty product or must-have outfit. Once I ditched the constant exposure to beautiful airbrushed models, I felt a lot less pressure to look a certain way and a lot more comfortable just being myself. 

2. EAT FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

I know I'm getting into tricky territory with this one. On the one hand, I hate the way that food is moralized and we're made to believe there's such a thing as good versus bad when it comes to the way we eat. This society puts way too much pressure on everyone, specifically women, to look a certain way and be a certain size and we're often sold the message that the only way to be happy is to not be overweight. I don't buy any of that. I think people should eat what they want to eat, wear what makes them comfortable, and live their lives the way they want to live their lives.

That being said, there is no denying the fact that for me, eating healthy foods makes me feel one way and eating unhealthy foods makes me feel another. Processed foods exacerbate my fatigue. Fresh foods and veggies combined with lean proteins and whole grains give me energy. Does this mean I never consume chips or cupcakes or other so-called "bad" foods? No! It means that balance is always my goal and I strive for a diet that relies mostly on healthy foods and minimally on less healthy ones. To me this has nothing to do with wanting to look a certain way. It has nothing to do with self-punishment. It has everything to do with checking in and realizing that I simply cannot finish off a plate of greasy nachos and feel great afterward. I feel weighed down, lethargic and listless — which is fine if those greasy nachos are an occasional indulgence and those post-nacho symptoms are an occasional side effect. When junk food starts taking over my life, though, it has a huge impact on the way I feel both physically and emotionally. I am far more prone to get an upset stomach or head after polishing off a cookie than I am after eating an apple. 

On the other hand, when I feed myself food that fuels me with the nutrients and vitamins and minerals my body needs, I operate better. My thoughts feel clearer. My energy is bigger. I feel more equipped to take on life challenges that arise daily. So while I don't turn down a piece of birthday cake and don't recommend that you do either, I also make a conscious attempt to fill my life with leafy greens and quinoa and tofu and almonds and garden-fresh veggies and berries. I do this because my physical and mental health depends on it. I simply can't love myself as much when I don't even have the energy to move. 

3. CULTIVATE YOUR OWN STYLE

There are a lot of style rules out there dictating that this type of body needs to wear this type of swimsuit and that type of body should avoid that cut of dress and if you weigh X, cover yourself up and if you weigh Y, go about your days half-naked. To me it's all nonsense. When it comes to putting clothes on your body, I think it all boils down to wearing what you like, what makes you comfortable, and what makes you happy. Period.

If you're 250 pounds and want to wear short shorts, don't let anyone stop you. If you wouldn't be caught dead in a dress even at a friend's wedding, own it. If you want to wear a bikini but are worried what others will think, screw what everyone thinks and wear it with pride. If you want to wear nothing but sweats and T-shirts, go for it. If you get dressed to the nines every day and wake up extra early to do your hair and makeup because that's what makes you happy, do that. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you comfortable. Wear what makes you happy. Follow trends if you think that's fun. Avoid them if you don't. Wear jeans. Wear skirts. Wear the skimpiest swimsuit imaginable. Wear a conservative pantsuit. Show your cleavage. Cover your cleavage. Wear something tight. Wear something loose. Wear something that elicits compliments. Wear something that nobody else likes. It doesn't matter as long as you like it, you are comfortable, and you are happy.  

4. TREAT YOURSELF THE WAY YOU'D TREAT A CHILD

This one is huge because women have a tendency to say horrible things to themselves. Every time you look into the mirror and tell yourself how fat and hideous you are, turn around and picture yourself saying those exact same words to a small child. Nobody — child or adult — deserves to be treated with hatred. Nobody includes YOU. You do not deserve to be treated with hatred. If you would forgive a child for accidentally breaking a plate, forgive yourself for eating an unhealthy meal that left you feeling depleted. If you can forgive a child for saying something inappropriate, forgive yourself for whatever missteps you made today. You can skip your workout and still be a wonderful person. You can weigh more than what society tells you you're supposed to weigh and still be a wonderful person. You can try on an outfit you don't like and refuse to tell yourself you have a gross body, opting instead to realize that all outfits fit all people in all different ways and this one just didn't quite work out. Hug the child in your life, hug yourself, and move on. 

Several years ago I read this piece by Sarah Koppelkam and it became the Bible for how I treat myself and others. Now that I am pregnant, I've been thinking about this concept anew. This is a short piece of writing and I encourage everyone to read it from start to finish. If you want a revolution of self-love and body acceptance, this is the way to get there. Use this as a guide for talking to your daughters and sons. Use this as a guide for talking to yourself. Memorize the words. Tattoo them on your body. Live them. There's your revolution. 

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Running Half Marathons With a Cupcake in the Oven

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

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In the years before I became pregnant, running became a huge part of my life. It was my go-to source of stress relief as well as my favorite physical activity. I've never been very sporty or athletically inclined, but in running I didn't have to be either. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other. In the year 2015, I ran a race every month, ranging from 5Ks to a half marathon. For 2016, I had two goals: to continue running a race a month for as long as I could, and to get pregnant. I knew that if I achieved both goals, they would cross over at some point and play into each other. So far this year I've run seven half marathons — one for each month — and five of them have been with a baby on board. I'm planning on running a few more, and then I'm planning on taking the last few months of the year off. I may do some light running during that time, but I definitely won't be racing. 

Before getting pregnant, I sought out a doctor who would support me with both my baby and my running goals. I was lucky to find someone I relate to and feel very comfortable around; I feel confident having her as my doctor and I think she understands me and what's important to me in a way that not everyone does. She ran throughout her pregnancies, so I knew she would support me during mine. 

Pregnant running is vastly different from non-pregnant running. The goal is no longer speed. My pace has slowed dramatically and it continues to slow each month. I'm also not able to attack certain obstacles (specifically hills) in the same way, or often at all. I never shied from a hill before I was pregnant, but now I slow to a walk every time I encounter one. I don't want to get my heart rate too elevated, I don't want to get overheated, and I don't want to get breathless. This means that I'm going slower (sometimes completely slowing to a walk), I'm skipping the hills, and I'm taking everything at a much easier pace. 

An unexpected side effect of all of this is that during pregnancy, running has actually become more fun. I'm no longer chasing any time goals, so I'm free to go out and just enjoy my runs. Whereas before I would become frustrated if I got tired during a run, now I just slow down, guzzle my water, take in my surroundings, and enjoy the fact that I'm out in the open air. I don't even pay attention to my pace anymore. I stop a lot during my runs to pee. Sometimes I'll stop in the middle of a run and have a snack. I've changed my routes to stick to flatter terrain. During my pregnancy runs, I've noticed more in my neighborhood than I ever did before. Now that I've slowed down, I see more.

Another benefit during my first trimester was that running helped to quell my nausea. There were a few days when I felt too sick to go out, but once I finally got out there I felt so much better. Running has helped me to keep in touch with my pregnant body. I haven't been able to easily maintain strength training or some other forms of physical activity throughout pregnancy, but walking and running are movements I've been able to keep up.

So why run half marathons while pregnant? First reason: I signed up for the races before I was pregnant. Secondly, why not? I was in strong enough condition to run frequent half marathons before I was pregnant and I wanted to maintain that level of fitness for as long as I could. So far, it's been doable. Each of my five pregnant half marathons has been a little slower than the last and I know they'll just get slower, eventually getting too difficult to keep up. 

If I could do it again, I'd probably focus more on slower distances like 5Ks and 10Ks. But I have no regrets about the half marathons I've run. I'm proud of all this baby and I have accomplished together. I'm excited to see what we can continue to do. And I'm thankful that my stress level throughout pregnancy has been manageable thanks to our regular runs. 

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DIY Day: Make Your Own Lotion

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It's been too long since I've posted a DIY tutorial. I've been wanting to make a new version of DIY lotion for a long time, but I kept getting tripped up by all the DIY recipes that called for beeswax. When making DIY beauty products, I really like to stick to recipes that only require basic ingredients that can easily be found at the store. Beeswax seemed to go beyond basic, so I kept looking for alternatives. 

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I finally stumbled across a few recipes that called for shea butter or cocoa butter and decided to try one of those instead. But then when I went to New Seasons, cruised the health and beauty aisle, and saw that not only did they sell beeswax, but that beeswax was significantly cheaper than both shea butter or cocoa butter. A big goal of mine when making my own products is to keep the costs low. So after all that time trying to avoid it, I ended up buying beeswax anyway. 

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I used this recipe from Wellness Mama to make my lotion. I love recipes like this that include optional ingredients because they can either be easily skipped or easily personalized. In my case, I skipped the vitamin E oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

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If you skip the optional ingredients, this recipe only requires three ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, and almond or olive oil. I found beeswax at New Seasons and I think it would also be available at a store like Whole Foods or maybe a farmers market where honey is sold. I thought it was going to be much trickier to find than it actually was. Also, I recently made a trip to Costco and stocked up on bulk-size honey (not needed for this recipe) and a gallon-size bucket of coconut oil, which have both come in handy when making my own beauty products.  

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Here's the full list of ingredients needed for this recipe:

1/2 c almond or olive oil
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c beeswax
Optional: 1 t vitamin E oil
Optional: 2 T shea butter or cocoa butter
Optional: essential oils, vanilla extract or other natural extracts to your preference
 

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Since the beeswax came in a big chunk, I cut it into small pieces before adding it to a mason jar. Then I added all the liquid ingredients to the same jar. 

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Add a few inches of water to a pot and turn it onto medium heat. Add the jar to the pot and let the water heat the oils. Shake the jar around from time to time until everything is melted. 

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Once melted, everything was completely liquified. I transferred the lotion to a small tupperware and let it set to room temperature. 

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Once it was all set, it had this perfect creamy consistency. I put a little on my skin and it felt smooth and soft. This three-ingredient recipe took all of about ten minutes to make and so far I'm loving the results. I definitely think this one is a keeper. 

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Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta

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Today I made my second recipe using Banza chickpea pasta and just like last week, I tried to keep things super simple to show how easy it is to throw a few ingredients together and create a healthy pasta meal. If you missed my first post last week, here is a quick refresher: Banza does not sponsor me or pay me, but they did send me six complimentary boxes of their chickpea pasta. The ingredients in Banza are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of regular pasta. To find out more, including where it's sold and how to order, visit eatbanza.com.

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This week I went for penne, which I thought would blend with the ingredients nicely. You may recall that last week I forgot to rinse the pasta after I drained it and it had some gumminess. This week I remembered and it was perfect. 

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Since getting pregnant, I've been using a lot of new resources for recipes. One of my favorite resources is the Ovuline pregnancy app, which is where I found this recipe for Healthy Mediterranean Pasta. It's a super simple recipe and easily adaptable (I used vegan butter instead of regular, kalamata olives instead of green, and I subbed in garlic powder since I ran out of garlic. I also used veggie broth instead of wine and added a little bit of the juice from the olives to up the flavor). 

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Fun fact: When I was a kid, I hated cooked mushrooms. The only way I ever ate mushrooms was raw and dipped in A-1 sauce. These days, cooked mushrooms are one of my favorite things. 

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I again cannot emphasize enough how much this chickpea pasta looks, tastes and feels like regular pasta. 

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Remembering to actually rinse the pasta this time made ALL The difference. 

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You'll notice there aren't any artichoke hearts in this picture. The artichoke heart jar turned out to be the bane of my existence. After trying to open it for what felt like hours, I finally had to throw up a white flag and wait for Mike to come home and help me. This was a low point for me as a feminist. 

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Damn you, artichoke hearts!

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All put together — rascally artichoke hearts and all — this dish is just as delicious as it is pretty. Minus the artichoke heart fiasco it took probably 20 minutes to make, tops. For a quick weeknight dinner that somehow tastes both decadent and light, this really hit the spot. 

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Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta

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Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make six different pasta dishes — all using Banza chickpea pasta. Let me start by saying that I am in no way being paid by Banza. As previously discussed many times here, the only payment I receive from this blog comes from my generous patrons at Patreon. I do not receive ad revenue or sponsorship. All the money I receive comes from people like you who decided to donate $1-5 a week. In return they receive perks like access to patrons-only posts that go beyond what's here on the blog and have the opportunity to request blog content. If you're interested, please check out patreon.com/kristenforbes.

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Although Banza is not paying me, they did send me something nearly as good as payment: free samples of their product! I was more than happy to receive a case of six pastas from them. I again want to say, though, that I am not being paid and I do not feel obligated to say nice things about this pasta simply because it was provided to me free of charge. If I tried it and didn't like it, I would have quietly thanked them and said nothing about it on the blog. But here's the thing: I tried it and I really liked it. In part to say thanks for sending it to me but in bigger part to tell you all about something I thought was straight-up yummy, I'm going to share my experiences with Banza here.

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For my first foray into the world of chickpea pasta, I wanted to make a ridiculously simple dish to make sure I didn't confuse recipe frustration with pasta frustration. I turned to something I've made again and again over the years because I love the recipe's simplicity, flavor, and super short prep time. I've made this one so many times I consider it a classic. It's the 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta from Oh She Glows. (By the way, I am definitely not affiliated with Oh She Glows, but I love the recipes.) This is one of those dishes that couldn't be simpler. All you need is pasta, avocado, lemon juice, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

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It turned out I had all the ingredients on hand except the basil, which I bought fresh at a Farmers Market hours before making this dish. Just to reiterate how amazingly simple this recipe is: all you do is cook the pasta and throw all the other ingredients in a food processor. That's it.

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Look how creamy that sauce turns out. So as I mentioned, I've made this recipe many times before — but always with whole wheat pasta or a few times with zucchini noodles (sorry guys, I can't bring myself to call them "zoodles" like everyone else. They are zucchini noodles. While we're at it, a best friend is a best friend and not a "bestie" and "totally" does not need to be condensed to "totes" and I think we can all manage "adorable" over "adorbs." But I digress.) My original point is this: I've made this recipe enough times to know how it's supposed to taste. If the pasta made it taste different, I would have known right away. 

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The process of cooking chickpea pasta was the same as cooking any other kind of pasta. While it was boiling in the pot, the chickpea pasta looked exactly like ...  any other pasta.

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We can all agree that as appearances go, this pasta is distinguishable from any other, am I right?

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Here's where I messed up slightly. After draining the pasta, I neglected to rinse it as instructed on the box. We all already know I thought the overall result was delicious (hence an entire blog post about it), but I will say that I'm going to be sure to rinse the pasta next time I use it because it had a slight gummy starchiness to it — not enough to turn me off the dish by any means, but slightly there. I don't think this was the pasta's fault, though. I think this one can be chalked up to user error. 

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Look how creamy and green the final product is. The next time I make this, I think I'll add some peas for an even brighter pop of green throughout. 

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A little fresh basil on top and voila: dinner is served. You guys, this was really good. I know it looks just like pasta, but guess what? It also tastes just like pasta. If I was serving this to someone without mentioning what it was, I don't think there's any chance in the world they'd ask if it was made from chickpeas. It simply tastes like pasta. With this creamy avocado sauce, it was perfection. 

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Let's get into what this pasta actually is (Again remember I'm not at all paid for this — just sharing the info). Banza ingredients are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. A 2-ounce serving contains 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber (as well as 30 percent of your daily iron, which is great news for someone with anemic tendencies like me). A 3.5-ounce serving (which is in line with what most Americans eat) contains 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 43 grams of net carbs (plus 50 percent of your daily iron, whoo hoo!). Average pasta per 3.5-ounce serving contains 13 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 71 grams of net carbs. So in the end, Banza pasta contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs. This makes it a much more filling and light choice than regular pasta — and it tastes just as good.

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This would have worked perfectly well as a main dish, but we wanted to take advantage of the warm weather and do some grilling as well. We both had grilled artichokes, Mike had grilled steak, and I had grilled tofu. Combined with the avocado pasta, it ended up being an incredibly tasty and satisfying meal. I can't wait to try more recipes with my remaining five boxes of Banza. In the meantime, I'm eating the leftovers for lunch and still loving every bite. 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Avocado-Egg Salad

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Today I want to share the easiest, yummiest, healthiest egg salad recipe you could ever imagine. Egg salad has been weighing big on my brain lately because I've been craving it off and on for the last few weeks. Two weekends ago Mike and I finally made a special trip to Fred Meyer to get a grab-and-go egg salad sandwich, only to discover that our Fred Meyer doesn't make them anymore. Not only did they not have the sandwiches, they've apparently stopped making egg salad altogether. There were no tubs of egg salad to be found in the deli case. We picked up some potato salad instead. It was not the same. 

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A word about egg salad, and then a word about eggs in general: I don't crave egg salad very often. It is not a dish I could happily eat every week. But when I do get a hankering for egg salad, it is a craving so specific and so compelling, I will think about it for weeks. The worst part about egg salad is that it's a gamble. There is bad egg salad (which for me means the super mayonnaise-y kind) and good egg salad (the kind worthy of a fancy tea party). Bad or good, there is no substitution or replacement for an egg salad craving. 

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Eggs and I have developed an interesting relationship. I've discovered that I really love eggs — but only when I eat them rarely. They're not a daily treat for me. I generally feel healthier when the bulk of my meals are egg and dairy-free. However, going completely egg and dairy-free does not work for me. My body craves cheese. My body craves eggs. Certainly not every day, and sometimes not every week. But when I do crave dairy or eggs, I make sure to honor that craving. If you've followed my blog for awhile you know I'm a huge advocate of listening to your body. I am a longtime vegetarian, but I don't believe everyone was meant to be vegetarian. I'm a sometimes-vegan, and I definitely don't believe everyone was meant to be vegan. I think we're all meant to honor our bodies in whatever way that means for us as individuals. For me, eating eggs once a week or so works perfectly.

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This past weekend was hot in Portland. Temperatures reached up to 100 and the last thing either of us felt like doing was cooking. We still wanted to eat, though. I know there are people who are like, "It's so hot, I'm not even hungry!" but, uh, no. I can always eat. It was the perfect weekend to whip up some homemade egg salad. As I mentioned, I'm not a big mayonnaise fan. So we looked around the kitchen, threw a few things together and whipped up this amazingly easy and delicious avocado-egg salad. We are definitely not the first people to make egg salad using avocado, but we didn't use a recipe and just winged it. The results were delicious. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: AVOCADO-EGG SALAD

INGREDIENTS:
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 avocado
Lemon juice (I like things super lemon-y and used a whole lemon, but the amount is up to you)
Sprinkle of sea salt
Optional ingredients: parsley, basil, chives, dill or any other herbs (we kept things super simple and didn't use any)

DIRECTIONS: Once the eggs are cooled, peel them and smash them with a fork in a bowl. Add the avocado and smash together. Add the lemon juice and sea salt. Combine well. That's it! Serve with bread or crackers. This is probably enough for 4 servings, but we ate it all at once as a meal instead of a snack. 

The texture is creamy. The flavor is fresh. In my opinion, it tastes better than original egg salad. Using avocado instead of mayonnaise really lightens things up, so it's healthier than the original, too. The recipe is a win/win. Let me know if you try it!

 

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Cupcakes & Cocktails

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

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Mike and I hosted a Cupcakes & Cocktails party for Memorial Day and not surprisingly, he was in charge of the cocktails and I was in charge of the cupcakes. For his part, he infused vodkas (and gins, I think? I dunno — this wasn't my area) with ingredients like mint, black pepper, dill, cucumbers, basil and jalapeños. I personally haven't had a drink in 2016 but the crowd drank up his concoctions and seemed to love every sip.  

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

There was nothing "healthy" about this party, and I for one think there's some value in that. We're in another cycle where a lot of news sources are picking up stories about "the dangers of clean eating"  that suggest a rigid adherence to healthy eating leads to orthoexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating right. I've written in the past about the problems I have with these types of articles, which I think unfairly link clean eating with eating disorders when in fact the disorders are a result of overzealous rigidity and not the clean, healthy lifestyle I know and love. The lifestyle I know promotes balance and moderation, not severity. 

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

I think the best way to counter this popular view of clean eating as something dark, dirty and dangerous is to live a balanced life in which food is never the enemy. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, we empty our kitchen compost daily. I am the queen of whole grains and there's nothing I love more than a good tempeh or tofu. Nine times out of ten, I'll choose salad over fries. I'll choose water over soda. These daily choices make it so much sweeter on those days when I do go for the fries or the brownie or the root beer float or the nachos. I have those days too. They're infrequent and therefore they're special. I enjoy them without guilt or shame, which is how I think life should always be enjoyed. 

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

So maybe I fight back by making cupcakes. This is my way of showing the world: here's something I love. It's not particularly healthy, but I made it with my own hands and it tastes good and it brings me joy to share it. And I know my husband gets joy from sharing his fun cocktails, which also have no nutritional value but have the effect of bringing people together and offering refreshment on a hot, sunny day. And I know we'll eat salad for lunch today and everything balances out. 

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

I am obsessed with food in the sense that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, and eating. I love finding delicious recipes. I love playing around with seasonal produce. I love discovering the flavors and textures my tastebuds respond to most. And though I spent my younger years being obsessed with food in a less healthy way, I now refuse to play the game that requires me to feel bad or guilty for eating a certain type of food or equate my self-worth with the items on my plate. There are times in life when you just want to eat a cookie and I refuse to believe there's anything wrong with that.  

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

So I make cupcakes. Sometimes I make really healthy cupcakes, the kind where I swap sugar for mashed banana and oil for avocado or unsweetened applesauce. Other times I make the full-sugar, full-fat, fully loaded versions. I think there's value in both. More than anything, I think there's value in gathering with friends on the patio on a warm day to enjoy food, drinks, and company. In fact, I think experiences like that are the most valuable thing in life. 

Eat cupcakes. Eat kale. Ride your bike all morning and sleep all afternoon. Order the salad instead of the fries. But every once in awhile, order the fries instead of the salad. Ditto for dessert: satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit at the end of your meals. Then one day, go for the ice cream sundae. Enjoy every bite. This summer, enjoy the heck out of corn on the cob and fresh watermelon and big fruit salads and spinach and artichokes. Equally enjoy an ice cream cone or salt water taffy or s'mores here and there. 

Look around. Notice the people with you. Notice the environment you're in. Notice your mood. Notice your comfort level. Are you with people you love? Are you enjoying the scenery? Are you happy? Are you content? This is what matters. Whether you had a "perfect eating day" or you scarfed down cupcakes at a party, this is always what matters.  

P.S. Even those these weren't particularly "healthy" cupcakes, they were all vegan and six out of seven of them were gluten-free. I hate excluding friends with food restrictions from enjoying the foods I make and I love experimenting with ingredients to try and make dishes that work for everybody. 

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It's "Bikini Body" Season

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

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'Tis the time of year when magazines are splashed with headlines about achieving the perfect "bikini body." Like most things geared toward women, "bikini body" is a made-up term designed to make women feel like they are not worthy of wearing a certain type of clothing unless they have a certain type of body. As the cartoon above so aptly illustrates, this is nonsense.

If you have a body and you want to wear a bikini, wear a bikini. If you have a body and you don't want to wear a bikini, don't wear a bikini. If you want to become physically active and eat healthier foods as a means of feeling better about yourself, do that. If you want to work on toning your body as means of achieving a physical goal, do that. If you want to accept yourself exactly as you are even though you ate three cupcakes today, do that.

But whatever you do, don't buy into this story that's sold every year to women — the one that tries to convince us we need to change who we are in order to fit a certain ideal about how we're "supposed" to look. Wear what you want to wear. Do the physical activities you enjoy. Eat the foods you want to eat, aiming for a balance of healthy foods and treats in moderation. Put on a bikini no matter your size or situation. Or if you don't want to put on a bikini, don't. You're in control of your own body. You get to decide.

I'm a big fan of saving the energy most people put toward worshipping celebrities and instead investing that energy on the people in my own life — and myself. It means a heck of a lot more to me to listen to my mom and friends than it does to listen to a movie star I've never met/ will never meet.

That said, if you MUST look to a celebrity for guidance, here's a list of celebrities making body-positive statements that don't promote unhealthy ideals. If you're feeling low on confidence, steal some of theirs.

And for eff's sake, NEVER bash another woman for how she looks in a bathing suit or any other type of clothing. If you do, guess who will hear you? Your 12-year-old granddaughter will hear you. Your 8-year-old niece will hear you. Your friend who's struggling with her own body image will hear you. And then guess what you are? Part of the problem. A big part of the problem.

“I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family — I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
--Kelly Clarkson

“I’m healthy and happy, and if you’re hating on my weight, you obviously aren’t.” 
--Demi Lovato

“Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart or not a leader. If someone told me that I was stupid or that I wasn’t a leader or that I wasn’t witty or quick or perceptive, I’d be devastated. If someone told me that I had a gross body, I’d say, ‘Well, it’s bringing me a lot of happiness.’”
--Mindy Kaling

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone."
--Minnie Driver

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”
--Jennifer Lawrence

 “I think that whatever size or shape body you have, it’s important to embrace it and get down. The female body is something that’s so beautiful. I wish women would be proud of their bodies and not dis other women for being proud of theirs.”
--Christina Aguilera

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”
--Adele

 “My main beauty tip is don’t say that negative thing when you look in the mirror. It just isn’t healthy. That lack of beating up on ourselves — that’s my new mantra. Happiness is the best makeup; a smile is better than any lipstick you’ll put on.”
--Drew Barrymore

 “You know, it gets easier and easier. My fears came true: people called me fat and hideous, and I lived. And now I keep living.”
--Lena Dunham

 “I refuse to worry about something that I could not change … I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”
--Kristen Bell

 “While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful.”
--Pink

 “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter] because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
--Kate Winslet

"Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between. It's not easy though because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box ... Think outside of the box ... pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you."
--Tyra Banks

"I keep telling myself that I'm a human being, an imperfect human who's not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure."
--Emma Watson

"My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body. I want women to know that it's okay, that you can be whatever size you are and be beautiful inside and out."
--Serena Williams

"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini — put it on and stay strong."
--Jennifer Love Hewitt
https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

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From Krike's Kitchen: Simple Watermelon Smoothie

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It's important to me to include some super simple recipes here because I think there are few things more annoying than looking at a recipe and realizing it requires a ton of ingredients and a lot of steps. When it comes to cooking (and life in general), I think simpler is better. A recipe with only a few ingredients costs less in both money and time. 

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My husband and I agree on many things, but I love watermelon and he is not a fan. I generally buy mini watermelons because they're small enough for me to eat on my own over the course of a week or so. I think watermelon is the quintessential summertime food but he doesn't like the flavor and texture.

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Imagine my surprise when Mike actually SUGGESTED we make watermelon smoothies for breakfast one morning. "But you don't like watermelon," I said, and he explained that a watermelon smoothie is not like eating a piece of watermelon. Excited to have him on Team Watermelon in any capacity, I didn't argue.

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We used frozen banana in the first batch of smoothies and found the banana flavor way too overpowering, so we switched it up and used strawberries the second time around. Much better.

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You know what else my husband doesn't like? Cucumbers. I'm married to a man who doesn't like watermelon OR cucumbers. But he's always full of surprises: just as he makes an exception for watermelon smoothies, he also happily tolerates cucumber-infused vodka. 

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Luckily, watermelon and cucumber nearly sums up ALL the foods Mike doesn't like. Having a partner who happily eats everything I make, no matter how kooky, is priceless. It makes it a lot more fun to experiment around the kitchen when I know he'll want to sink his teeth into whatever I end up making — and even more fun to collaborate together in the kitchen.  

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We got our Thai basil from an Asian grocer near our house, but any type of basil will work for this recipe. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: SIMPLE WATERMELON SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups watermelon
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used an almond/ coconut combo)
Handful of mint
Handful of basil
Sprinkle of chili powder or cayenne

DIRECTIONS: Throw everything into a blender or food processor. Blend well. This makes enough for 2 servings. 

 

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Let's Talk About Tempeh

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I feel like I've been receiving a lot of questions about tempeh lately. Tempeh is a soy product in the same family as tofu with a firm texture and earthy, almost nutty flavor. It is a good source of both protein (31 grams per cup) and fiber (14 grams per cup) and works well as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets.

The problem with tempeh is that most people have no idea what to do with it. It's one of those foods that doesn't add a lot of flavor if you just throw it in with whatever else you're cooking. It can taste plain and feel dry when cooked and a lot of people get turned away from the weird, bumpy texture and even weirder brownish-gray color.

The first few times I made tempeh, I was not a fan. (This seems to be a very common story; I've heard it echoed in many blogs and cookbooks.) I sliced it up, cooked it in a pan with a little bit of oil and a sprinkling of spices, and thought: Oh, blah. The tempeh I made was probably the exact dish hardcore carnivores picture when wondering why anyone would ever give up meat for something so tasteless. 

Then I took a cue from Fried Green Tomatoes and realized that when it comes to tempeh, the secret is in the sauce. Tempeh that is either cooked in the right sauce or marinated in the right marinade tastes unbelievably good. I have a friend who works at a meaty BBQ joint that serves tempeh and he told me, in an almost conspiratorial whisper, "I never would have believed it, but the tempeh is REALLY good."

If you've have bad luck with tempeh or you just don't even know where to start, there is hope. Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh for the maximum amount of flavor.

 

Make tempeh bacon.

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The tempeh bacon I like most comes from the cookbook More Peas, Thank You. It's not available online, but many others are, like this one from Happy Healthy Life. Tempeh bacon is sweet, savory and crispy. Does it taste anything like "real" bacon? No. Do you really want it to? Tempeh bacon is its own thing. It's perfect as a protein-packed side for breakfast or thrown into a veggie BLT. You can also crumble it up and put it on top of salads a la bacon bits. 

Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.   

Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.

 

Make a tempeh marinade.

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I'm in love with the Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook. That recipe is not available online, but here is a similar Balsamic Maple Glazed Tempeh recipe from Meghan Telpher. I'm telling you guys: saucy recipes like these will make a tempeh lover out of anyone. It's delicious in the same way meat is delicious to meat lovers: it just tastes good.

 

Saute tempeh with bold flavors.

 

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The Simple Vegan Caesar Salad recipe from the cookbook Supercharged Foods: Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian is one of my favorite things on this planet. It includes tempeh that's sauteed with olive oil, soy sauce and garlic, and it is to die for. Once again it seems that particular recipe is not available online, so instead I'll direct you to the Vegan Coach for your choice of gravy, peanut sauce or sesame sauce to saute with your tempeh. The thing about tempeh that I've discovered is that if you cook it plain, it tastes plain. If you toss it with bold flavors, it soaks them up. Tell your tempeh to go bold or go home.

 

Try these five tips for making amazing tempeh dishes. 

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Head over to One Green Planet for the step-by-step lowdown on making perfect tempeh. This includes everything you need to know about removing it from the package (trickier than you might think!), pre-steaming or simmering, choosing a shape, marinades and dry rubs, and cooking times. 

Get outside the tempeh box. 

 

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What else can you do with tempeh? You can do just about ANYTHING with tempeh. You can make tempeh lasagna with cashew cream sauce or kale avocado wraps with spicy miso-dipped tempeh or tempeh picatta. You can make barbeque tempeh sandwiches or General Tso's tempeh or tempeh tacos. You can make teriyaki tempeh or a BBQ tempeh bowl or vegan whole wheat pizza with roasted veggies and tempeh. Make a summer tempeh sammie. Make a blackened tempeh salad. Make a tempeh "bolognaise" spaghetti sauce. Make whatever your little heart desires. Just remember: no matter what you do, make it bold. 

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Mojo Slump

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I grabbed the photo above from the Women's Running Instagram page. It summarizes my current life well.

Here are the topic titles I originally bounced around for the post: 

Not Feeling It
I'm Tired!
Meh

I've been a little low on the mojo front lately. This isn't to say I haven't been taking care of myself, but I've been pretty exhausted and a little burnt out. As a result, I've had to let a few things go. This is one of those things that happens in life sometimes. My work load has been bigger these past few months, which is not something I want to complain about but definitely something I've had to factor into my schedule. Last night I did something I haven't done in a LONG time: stayed up working on a deadline. It was a nice reminder that I am not in college anymore and I do not enjoy staying up past a certain hour at my age. 

So what's to be done when we hit a lackluster slump? To me, a loss of mojo always signifies that it's time to go back to the basics: basic meals, basic workouts, basic schedule. I know myself well and I know there are times when my energy goes through the roof; during those times I can make  multiple-course meals and conquer new workout routines and load up my days with to-dos. During slumps, though, I know it's more beneficial for me to keep it simple. One-pot meals. Walks in the sunshine. Lots of self-forgiveness because I know I'm operating at a lower level than I normally do, and I also know that's okay.

And maybe that's the most important piece of all of this: to recognize where I am right now, to accept what my body and mind is capable of right now, to make the modifications I need to make right now, and to feel completely okay about not being an absolute badass at the moment. I don't need to be an absolute badass all the time. I'm allowed to be a softer person when that's what I need to do.

Right now, that's what I need to do. I'm fixing myself healthy meals. I'm going for light runs. I'm doing significantly less strength training than I normally do. I'm napping significantly more. I'm working a lot. I'm letting some daily household to-dos slide. Normally when the sun comes out, that's my time to thrive after a long winter fighting against Portland's darkness and rain. This year, it's working out a little differently. This year, this is my time to be a little more tired and to take it a little more easy. This is my time to listen to what I need — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And what I need right now is pretty basic: I need to eat good, nutritional food. I need to move my body. I need to get enough rest. I need to meet all my work deadlines. And the rest? The rest has a way of working itself out, especially since I happen to be married to the most helpful and supportive person on this planet. 

So I'm covered. I'm doing what I need to do for me right now. I know my energy will return again and I know it's okay that I'm a little low-energy right now. I think the important thing for anyone going through an energy slump is to continue taking care of yourself in whatever way you can. And always, always be nice to yourself. You're no less awesome when you're a sleep zombie than you are when you're a half marathoner. Embrace it all.  
 

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DIY Day: How to Make Sugar Cookie Foot Scrub

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As a runner, my feet are not in great shape. It turns out that pounding them on pavement day after day does not leave them soft and luxurious. My feet are dry, rough, hard, scaly — whatever horror you're picturing, that's what my feet look like. (As a runner I've also had my fair share of black toenails, but that's another story). The story today is that my feet are in rough shape and I wanted to whip up a foot scrub to help exfoliate them.

Since becoming a clean eater, it's been a long time since I've used straight-up sugar in a recipe. Today I'm getting out of the sugar-free zone by using not just one but two kinds of sugar. As sweet as the ingredients in this recipe are, remember this scrub is going on your FEET so you're not tempted to sample the goods. 

As usual, my goal was to keep things as simple as possible and find a recipe with five ingredients or less. I also wanted all the ingredients to be something I already had in my pantry so I didn't need to make a special trip to the store. The recipe I found comes from So ... Let's Hang Out. 

Here's what you'll need:
2/3 c granulated white sugar
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1 T vanilla extract

Here's what you do: 
Mix everything together with a fork or whisk.

That's it! This recipe couldn't be simpler. (Remember how simple it is next time you're tempted to buy one of those $8 sugar scrubs at the store). If you want to put the scrub in a mason jar and make it look all cute, definitely do that. If you want to keep things simple and throw it in a tupperware container, definitely do that. No matter how you package it, this is a project that takes under five minutes to make. 

And the result: a sweet, grainy scrub to exfoliate your feet. As a bonus, it smells delicious.

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5 Yummy, Healthy Ingredients To Throw in Tacos or Fajitas for Cinco de Mayo

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.
 

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I've always loved Mexican food, but I've drastically changed the way I prepare and consume it in recent years. Where there were once huge piles of cheese and sour cream you'll now find handfuls of fresh veggies and beans prepared with minimal oil. Mexican food can get really heavy when it's fried and drenched in meat and cheese, but it can also be prepared in a way that's super fresh and light. Focus on fresh veggies, skip the globs of cheese and get your healthy fat fix through avocado or homemade guacamole. Opt for baking, roasting or grilling over frying. To make things even healthier, skip the salty store-bought chips and bake your own by cutting up whole wheat or corn tortillas. If you're feeling ambitious, make your own salsa. There are so many swaps you can make to turn a Cinco de Mayo fiesta into a healthy event. Here are some ideas for taco and fajita fillings to get you started.

 

1. Walnut Taco “Meat”

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Note: I’m not including any real meat in this list because I don’t eat meat and haven’t eaten meat for over 20 years. I have nothing against people who do eat meat and encourage you to use whatever fixings you love, but I it would be a little ridiculous for me to recommend meat because I don’t even remember what it tastes like at this point. With that said, this is going to be a plant-based list.

I’m a fan of soyrizo and other types of veggie crumbles, but sometimes buying fake meat makes me feel like I’m getting something more processed than actual meat. I used to be a diehard Morningstar Farms lover, but familiarizing myself with the huge ingredients list on the back of the box made me wary. These days I prefer making my own not-meat products, whether it’s black bean patties or tempeh bacon. Walnut taco “meat” is one of my favorite things to make recently. It has the texture of regular taco meat but a flavor all its own.

I was first introduced to walnut taco “meat” when I made taco fiesta potato crisps from the Oh She Glows cookbook. She doesn’t have that basic walnut taco meat recipe on her site, but she does have this lentil-walnut taco meat recipe. For something more basic, here’s a walnut taco meat recipe from Food.com. Or for a fun twist, try this walnut taco meat with sundried tomatoes recipe from The Naked Avocado.

 

2. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

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Portobello mushrooms are a magical vegetarian ingredient because they have a meaty texture without being meat. I'm sure a lot of omnivores associate summertime with grilling burgers and steaks, but when I think of summer I think of grilling corn, peppers, and portobello mushrooms. There's something in particular about mushrooms and tortillas that seem to go really well together. Try this grilled portobello mushroom fajitas recipe from The Scramble or try this garlicky grilled portobello mushrooms with smoky tomato-chile salsa recipe from The Splendid Table. 

 

3. Cauliflower

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Wait a minute, what? Why are we combining cauliflower and Mexican food? What's next, black beans in our brownies? First of all, do not knock black bean brownies until you try them. Secondly, cauliflower is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can take on the flavors of just about anything you combine with it. This is why cauliflower is widely known among parents as a secret ingredient to throw in meals to make healthy food undetected by kids. Cauliflower is now a popular ingredient in eggs and macaroni and cheese, and it's replacing starchier carbs in cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower rice. Here are two delicious cauliflower variations to try out: a buffalo cauliflower tacos recipe from Buzzed and a roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos recipe from Epicurious.

 

4. Chickpeas

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Chickpeas are another one of those miracle vegetarian ingredients that can be flavored in a lot of different ways and cooked to get a really crispy texture. Spicy roasted chickpeas are great as a snack on their own and delicious when thrown into a tortilla, too. Try this roasted chickpea & broccoli burrito recipe from Thug Kitchen or this chickpea tacos with guacamole recipe from Coffee and Quinoa. 

 

5. Sweet Potatoes

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As followers of Fit Girls Guide know, sweet potato street tacos can be life-changing. Sweet potatoes are super easy to make. For a really fast variation, cut into cubes (don't worry about the skin), microwave in a bowl with a splash of water for a few minutes, and transfer to a pan to cook with a little olive oil, spices, onions and garlic until done. Try this sweet potato and black beans fajita recipe from BakeSpace, this sweet potatoes and avocado tacos recipe from Love and Lemons, or this sweet potato and pinto beans taco recipe from Thug Kitchen. 

 

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DIY Day: Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

I've been waiting for the day when we run out of our store-bought laundry detergent. As a general rule, I like to replace commercial products with homemade ones whenever they run out. It's been my big project of 2016. Today we finally ran out of laundry detergent, so it can be added to my list of DIY products. 

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A lot of the recipes I found online called for Borax. There seems to be a divide in the DIY community about whether Borax is truly safe or not, though most have come to the conclusion that it is. Since the whole point of making my own products is to eliminate as many toxins as possible, I decided that I wanted to find a recipe that didn't use it. Not only did this prevent me from having to go out and buy a box of Borax, it also set my mind at ease. (But that's just my mind! A lot of people swear by Borax. Do your own research and make your own choices. I'm never here to tell people: Do these things this way. I'm here to tell you: Do things YOUR way.)

 

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The Borax-free recipe I found is from Mommypotamus. Here's what you'll need:

3 bars castile soap
6 cups washing soda
Optional: lemon essential oil

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Here's what you do. Cut the soap up into small cubes. (Notice how much it resembles cheese and offer some to your partner, but obviously tell him it's soap before he eats any.) Throw the soap into a food processor and add the washing soda. Blend. You may need to put a dish towel over the food processor in case a fine mist rises while you blend. I have an awesome food processor (thank you Mom and Dad!) so this was not a problem for me. 

Put the blended soap in a container. Use 2-3 tablespoons with each load of laundry. If using lemon essential oil, add about 5 drops separately with each load. I didn't get any lemon oil, but apparently it is a nice degreaser if you do. 

So I just finished my first load of laundry using the new detergent. My clothes seem as clean as ever. I'll keep you posted about how it holds up going forward. 

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