It’s Just Me, Ranting: To Treat or Not to Treat

As a June birthday, I use to envy kids that had birthdays during the school year. I could sense their excitement as they walked into the classroom on their “special” day. A construction paper “crown” placed ever so carefully on their desk announced their new age. I would watch as those wonderfully, nurturing primary teachers would give a gentle hug and wish them a “Happy Birthday”. As I progressed through my elementary school years, bright paper crowns were replaced with construction paper chair back covers, creatively decorated with the birthday student’s name and age, and signed by everyone in the class. Often times, the birthday boy or girl would take over the special duties for the day, like walking the attendance and lunch count down to the office or being the ever so popular line leader. Faint memories of singing Happy Birthday come to mind as well. One thing that I don’t remember? Birthday treats.

I have taught at the elementary school level for 13 years. And birthdays have become a very big deal since I was a kid. Or maybe they have always been a big deal, but I have just developed a different attitude toward them. At times they overtake the whole educational process, and this has me thinking, “What is the best way to handle birthdays in my classroom?”

Now before I begin, I don’t want you to think that I am a party pooper. I totally understand and can appreciate the importance of such milestones. I do. I am also a parent to 3 children of my own, all  “graduates” of elementary school  and each having a “during the school year” birthday (I would say I planned it that way, so they could avoid the feelings of envy that I experienced, but that would be a lie). I feel at this point in my life I have perspective.  And the point I hope to make concerns the controversial birthday treat.

The school district in which I work has guidelines set  for birthday treats. They recommend treats like 100% frozen juice pops, frozen yogurt, or smoothies. This of course, is in addition to the “everyday” snack guidelines, which include items like pretzels, fresh fruit, and nuts. They have come a long way since the days when any birthday treat was fair game. Unfortunately, the guidelines are not always followed, so as a teacher, I need to decide between breaking the policy, or offending the family who brought in the “illegal” treat. It’s a tough call to say the least.

When a teacher takes option #1 (not following the policy), it can potentially cause a rift between the teacher and parents who do follow the guidelines. How could it possibly be fair that little Johnny’s mom had to knock herself out  searching and searching for a muffin recipe that was low on processed sugar and full of healthy fats while Susie’s mom just picked up cupcakes she pre-ordered from the bakery? I’m thinking little Johnny’s mom might be upset with both Susie’s mom and ME.

The decision also creates friction between teachers. Depending on the parents’ opinion of the policy, some teachers are criticized for following the rules and some are condemned for not. Therefore, some teachers become “much loved” while others become “not so loved”. I have been questioned by parents due to the fact that a previous year’s teacher allowed them to bring in a treat that was “not school approved”, and I wouldn’t allow it. It’s a tough position to be in, causing some resentment toward the teacher who didn’t abide by the rules. It’s very disheartening to know these feelings of “love” or “not being loved” have anything to do with the my teaching ability.

And what about the discrepancy between treats. How does Michael feel when his treat is a box of animal crackers, when Abby supplied pizza and a cookie cake for the entire 3rd grade just the week before? Or how about the student who is not financially able to bring in a treat? Or how about the parents who just don’t care?

The thought of an upcoming birthday treat can throw an entire classroom off kilter, especially in the primary grades. It’s all they can think about. Once the word is out that there is a birthday, the kids think of nothing else. Adding 3 + 5, or learning the “at” chunk is the furthest things from their minds until the treat is finally delivered!

So why not have the treat first thing in the morning? Well, sometimes the schedule does not allow for it. The art teacher frowns upon a class coming to class late, when she has planned a lesson that will take the entire class period. And if a treat is nice and sugary, like in the case of a 100% fruit pop? Kids have this way of reacting to sugar that doesn’t exactly encourage a mentality for learning. What’s worse than one student jacked up on sugar? 25 kids jacked up on sugar!

Birthday treats also take time out of the school day. While parents mean well, (and I was guilty of this) they don’t always think about cutting up that pan of brownies. Just try to find a knife in the elementary school. And how about the cleanup? 25 dripping popsicles create a sticky mess. So do crumbly muffins. Even popcorn isn’t so innocent. Then of course, the “extra treats” need to be delivered to the principal, the secretary, and any previous teacher the student may have had. It all takes time. And it’s not just on one day of the school year. Potentially, it could be 25 days of the school year. That is a lot of lost academic time.

Birthdays are special and they should be recognized! But as memory serves me, it’s not necessarily the food that creates the memories. It’s the recognition and the feeling of being special. I’ll continue to greet my birthday student with a “Happy Birthday” and give them a hug (or a handshake or a high 5…whatever the case may be). I’ll let them be the line leader. I’ll even make them a birthday poster. I’ll give them a Happy Birthday pencil. Because that’s what I’m hoping they will remember. And I’ll encourage my parents to save the treats for the birthday party. That would take the pressure off of us all.

 

 

 

The Simplest Oatmeal Ever!

Okay, maybe opening a package of instant oatmeal, dumping it into a bowl and adding boiling water is easier, but YUCK! You don’t want to eat that junk. Here is what I have come up with as the BEST oatmeal base ever! It fills me up without making me feel stuffed. In all honesty, when I eat this for breakfast, I don’t even think about food until lunchtime. That in itself is amazing. The whole grains of the oatmeal combined with the omega 3′s of the chia seeds create an awesomely healthy team.

Plus, this oatmeal is so easily dressed up! I have never eaten it “plain”. I always add a healthy fat (almond butter, peanut butter, walnuts, pecans, etc.) some fruit (bananas, fresh berries, chia seed jam), and often cinnamon, matcha tea or acai. Even chocolate chips if you are craving chocolate! Or, how about buckwheat groats  for a little extra crunch? The possibilities are endless! I am already dreaming of fall when I can add some pumpkin, pecans and maple syrup!!!

This oatmeal is chock full of vitamins and minerals! And, there are only 4 ingredients!

 

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Only 4 ingredients: 1 c. nut milk, 1/3 c. old fashioned oats, 2 T. chia seeds, and 1/8 t. sea salt!

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Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan.

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Stir until combined. Turn burner on high and bring to a boil.

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Once you reach a boil, turn burner down to medium low.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

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Wah lah! Chia Oatmeal ala Karen!

 

And here it is all dressed up and ready to be eaten! You cannot imagine the self control it takes for me to take pictures before I eat!DSCN4469

An oatmeal topper!

DSCN4405Cook whole grain of choice (amaranth, wheat berries, quinoa), add milk (coconut milk is awesome with this), and top with fruit, nuts and spices.

What other fun combinations can you think of?

 

In a Jam?

Or more precisely, do you know what’s in your jam? Do you know what exactly is in that  jar of Smucker’s Strawberry Jam perched so proudly on your refrigerator shelf? Obviously strawberries; but, do you know what else is lurking inside that familiar looking jar? Check the ingredients, and you will discover, that in addition to the strawberries, there is high fructose corn syrup (YIKES!), corn syrup, sugar, fruit pectin, and citric acid. Hmmm…..

Precisely the reason I prefer to make my own jam, which only has three ingredients: berries, maple syrup, and chia seeds. Each added ingredient provides your body with vitamins and minerals crucial to your health and wellbeing. Maple syrup is a good source of Zinc, and  Manganese, while chia seeds provide Calcium, Phosphorus, Dietary Fiber and Manganese. 

So how do these added ingredients affect your body? According to the world’s healthiest foods,

 Dietary Fiber is needed for

  • bowel regularity
  • maintaining normal cholesterol levels
  • maintaining normal blood sugar levels
  • controlling weight

Manganese helps

  • bone production
  • produce healthy skin
  • control blood sugar
  • protect against free radical damage

Zinc impacts

  • immune function
  • skin health
  • sensory organ health
  • male reproductive health

Calcium is needed for

  • bone health
  • regulating acid/alkaline balance
  • muscle and nerve function

Phosphorus

  • keeps bones and teeth healthy
  • eliminates weakness in the body
  • facilitates digestion
  • keeps kidneys healthy

Now compare that to the added ingredients in Smucker’s. Let’s see, we have high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, fruit pectin, and citric acid. There is no nutritional value in high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup or sugar. There is a minimal amount of fiber in fruit pectin, and while citric acid does have some health benefits, it’s the last ingredient on the label…meaning there isn’t much of it in there.

Yep. Now that’s why I make my own jam! And, this recipe is really quite simple. You too could have your own homemade jam for breakfast tomorrow.

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What a great way to use up some of the strawberries we overzealously picked (and consequently froze) in June!

 

The ingredients are simple: 4 cups of your favorite berries, 4 T. maple syrup, and 3 T. chia seeds!

The ingredients are simple: 4 cups of your favorite berries, 4 T. maple syrup, and 3 T. chia seeds!

Place berries (mine were frozen) and maple syrup in a pot of put on high

Place berries (mine were frozen) and maple syrup in a pot on the stove and turn burner on high.

Boil until berries get soft.

Bring to a boil, and monitor closely until berries get soft.

Smash berries up until they reach the consistency that you prefer. I like some chunks in my jam!

Then smash the berries until they reach desired consistency. I like some chunks in my jam!

Add chia seeds and stir.

Add chia seeds and stir.

Simmer (turn down heat) for about 20 minutes.

Turn burner down to medium low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Pour into a jar and refrigerate. I'm not sure how long it will keeps, as mine disappears within a week.

Pour into a jar and refrigerate. I’m not sure how long it will keep, as mine disappears within a week.

Yum!

Yum!

I have made the jam using all sorts of berries and even rhubarb! I love what it does for my breakfasts.

An oatmeal topper!

Mixed Berry Chia Jam with PB on Chia Oatmeal!

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Rhubarb Blueberry Chia Jam with Almond Butter on Chia Oatmeal!

Strawberry Chia Jam and PB on Ezekiel English Muffins

Strawberry Chia Jam and PB on Ezekiel English Muffins!

I love it when I can provide my body with the nutrients it needs to perform its very best! And this is a tasty way of doing it!

Healthy Swaps

Sometimes I think people don’t eat healthy because it feels like too much work. I am here to prove you wrong! Here are 5 super simple swaps (I love alliteration) you can make to healthify (I love making up words) your life. So go ahead, indulge that sweet tooth. You will have a hard time wiping the smile off your face knowing you are providing your body with a ton of nutrients, while simultaneously indulging in yumminess.

1. Trade in your ice cream for some frozen bananas. No kidding and don’t knock it until you try it. Even if you claim to not like bananas, you need to give this a shot! Take a look at the carton of ice cream hiding in your freezer and you will probably find a long list of ingredients, some of which you can’t pronounce and some of which you probably don’t even recognize.  So what’s a person to do? I mean who can ignore an ice cream craving? Well, I have some super good news for you. You can make your own ice cream with only 2 ingredients: frozen bananas, and almond milk. No. Kidding. And you can even shake it up a little bit by throwing in a little cacao powder if you would like chocolate ice cream. Sometimes I even throw in a spoonful of nut butter to really send it out of the ball park. As long as you have frozen bananas, you can have your own delectable treat in less than the time it takes you to go to the store.

2. Swap your Jiffy for something not so iffy. Yep, another scary ingredient list. Instead, throw some peanuts into your food processor and you can have your own peanut butter made with only 1 ingredient (provided your peanuts have only one ingredient). And of course, you can add a little sea salt if you prefer. And I do. Want crunchy peanut butter? Save some peanuts to add at the last minute. And if you’re wondering…yes! You can throw in some cacao powder and maple syrup to create a sinful little spread.

3. Create your own candy bar. I have evolved into a chocolate snob. It started with Hersheys when I was young and didn’t know any better. Then, in college, I moved on to Dove dark chocolates. Perhaps it was the appeal of the messages inside the wrappers. From there I discovered Ghiradelli. I simply could not resist the caramel filled dark chocolates. Next came Lindt. That was in an effort to become more healthy…you know, when dark chocolate became a health food. Then when I became vegan, I discovered Endangered Species. Little did I know I could create my own chocolate bars at home with as few as 3 ingredients. Equal amounts of cacao powder and coconut oil, and a drizzle of sweetener like agave or maple syrup. Spread the mixture on some parchment paper, and stick in the freezer. Again, it’s easy to become creative here. Sprinkle some goji berries, or nuts or maca powder on before sticking in the freezer to liven things up.

4. Brownies. Dates + walnuts + cacao powder = raw brownies. Throw in some hemp seed for a little extra umph. Want frosted brownies? Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil with 1/3 cup cacao powder. Add sweetener of choice, and BOOM! Frosted brownies baby!

5. Mr. Misty made with love and no added sugar. Sorry Dairy Queen. I have discovered I can make my own Mr. Misty at home. And, with fewer ingredients, may I add?! Pun intended. Throw some frozen cherries into a blender cup. Add coconut water and then squeeze in 1/2 of a lime. Blend. Slurp.

5 1/2. I know…I said 5, but I simply couldn’t resist sharing an easy caramel recipe. What do you get when you throw medjool dates in a food processor, then drizzle in some coconut oil? Yep, you got it! Caramel worthy of dipping your favorite apple slices into.

What I love best about indulging in these sweet treats is that I feel good about eating/drinking them! And I feel like a genius because I can pronounce all the words on the ingredient list.

Feeling Kinda Green

I’m trying to keep up with all the goodies in my weekly CSA box. And that my friends, is easier said than done! Each week I receive a plethora of leafy greens. Therefore, I am forced to become very creative so nothing goes to waste. Just look what I accomplished with my spinach this week! All I did was put some frozen, peeled bananas (about 1 1/2 bananas) in my Ninja individual blender cup, add a big handful of spinach, a little handful of mint leaves freshly harvested from my herb garden (from a previous CSA box), and about a 1/2 cup of almond milk. Add a dribble (probably a teaspoon) of mint extract and blend it altogether. For really impressive presentation, sprinkle some cacao nibs on top! LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

Mint Shake ala Karen

Mint Shake ala Karen

 

 

Mornings

I am a morning person. I don’t remember if this has always been the case, but it most certainly is now. I’m not even sure when I first admitted this to myself, or when I actually voiced it out loud, but it is true; 6:00 in the morning beats 11:00 at night. Any. Day. Of. The. Week. (Weekends included.)

Looking back, I think my love affair with mornings coincided with the arrival of my first baby. Mornings suddenly became golden. My husband, being the stand up guy that he is, always took the first feeding of the night. (And yes, typically there were only 2 feedings a night…a bonus of having 9# babies!) I then, took the early morning shift, as I did not have a job I needed to rush off to in the morning.

I remember rocking each of my babies (3 born within 28 months) in the dim glow of dawn, thinking how lucky I was to be a mom. I just sat, and rocked, letting my mind wander aimlessly.  I would even prolong bringing them back to their cribs, as I was so enthralled with studying their facial features, and cuddling them in my arms. In these moments, the rest of the world ceased to exist. I actually mourned the end of early morning feedings.

Then as my babies turned into toddlers, I treasured morning time in a totally different manner. Before they woke up, I savored my alone time. It was quiet and peaceful in the house. Life with a 1, 2 and 3 year old was hectic at times. But in the morning, I had time to single task. And, if I were lucky, I would be able to settle in with a cup of coffee and watch a little GMA, celebrating some quality “alone time” before the pitter patter of tiny feet crept down the hallway.

Now my children are all college age, and most of the time, I have the whole house to myself. During the school year, I treasure the mornings when I awake well before the crack of dawn to go out for a run before my school day begins.  I have time to gather my thoughts and plan my day. In the summertime, I savor the mornings when I awake without the aid of an alarm, and the world is still quiet and peaceful. I take time to reflect and write. I have even loosened up my fitness schedule to bask in the solitude of the day before the craziness of  life begins.

And each morning I look forward to this special cup of tea. Recipe created by Kathy Patalsky of Healthy.Happy.Life.

 

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Some green or black tea…

Goji Berries

A handful of goji berries,

Fresh Lemon

a squeeze of fresh lemon,

Something spicy...a few sprinkles of cayenne!

a few sprinkles of cayenne,

A little something sweet...I used raw honey.

and a little something sweet…I used raw honey or maple syrup.

Wah lah! Here you have it...Goji Berry Tea!

Wah lah! Here you have it…Lemon Goji Berry Tea! Very addictive!

And the piece de resistance? The plump little goji berries left at the bottom of my cup!

And the piece de resistance? The plump little goji berries left at the bottom of my cup! To die for!

 

I so appreciate mornings! How about you? Are you a morning person?

Salads (Only the title is uninspired.)

A few weeks ago, my in-laws invited the fam to join them for lunch at one of their favorite restaurants. As always, I scoured the menu ahead of time, scoping out what my eating options would be. Veganism does have its challenges when eating at a mainstream restaurant. The pickings were pretty slim. It looked like I might be limited to some side dishes, and even those were questionable, as you can never be quite sure how they are being prepared. Clearly, I have developed a bit of a paranoia about such things.

Then, just as I was getting comfortable with the thought of a wild rice pilaf and broccoli, I spotted a salad which I thought just might fill my tummy AND satisfy my tastebuds. For lack of a better name, I’ll call it the Bar Harbor Salad. Or perhaps I will call it that because that’s what it was called. The description read:

Chopped salad, dried berries and honey- roasted pecans tossed in a blueberry- balsamic vinaigrette. Crumbled blue cheese served upon request.

I quickly decided this would be the direction that I would go, as it would allow me to order a regular entree, avoiding the appearance of a food freak or snob. It actually sounded quite tempting. Unfortunately, what arrived from the kitchen was anything but satisfying (visually or tastually-made that word up). The chopped salad consisted of wet leaves of iceberg lettuce in shades of pale green and white. The dried berries (all 10 of them…yes, I counted), were minuscule, and the honey roasted pecans? Well, I had to dig under the wet lettuce leaves to find the tiny chopped pieces. I am pretty confident in saying that had I gathered all the little pieces together, they wouldn’t have even constituted a whole pecan. Thank goodness, I had the good sense to order the dressing on the side. Typically, I love anything balsamic. Not so much this time. The dressing was runny and syrupy sweet. No zing to it whatsoever. Very. Disappointing. Obviously I didn’t request the blue cheese. (Although for entertainment purposes, it would have been interesting to see what arrived.)

After that experience, I understand why some people hear the word salad and run in the other direction. My taste buds were not tickled, and my belly was rumbling within minutes of eating it; I was not satisfied in the least. All the way home, I fantasized about what I would eat for my post lunch snack, which was going to happen the second I walked in the door.

Now you need to understand. I love a good salad! I really do. I actually crave good salads. And what makes a good salad? Well, for me, it needs to start with a leafy base. And the darker the better. I prefer kale and spinach, but I do enjoy any of the leafy greens that appear in my CSA box each week.

Next up, my salad needs to have some staying power. I don’t want to be hungry an hour or two later. My favorite salad filler of late is hummus (and homemade hummus at that). But, if there isn’t any hummus lurking in my refrigerator, I will throw in some beans…chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, even butter beans. It doesn’t matter. Just open the can, rinse, and liberally sprinkle on top.

If I have any grains laying around I sprinkle some of them on as well. Think quinoa, millet, wheatberries.

Then I add veggies. This is a great way to clean out your vegetable drawer. If my salad is predominantly kale, I enjoy grated beets (raw) and carrots. If my salad is a little more mainstream, I will add veggies like cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, corn, peppers, or tomatoes. Sometimes, I have leftover grilled veggies (let’s hear it for mushrooms, onions, and zucchini) that I can add. The more colorful the better, both aesthetically and nutritionally!

Then comes the dressing. I ditched bottled dressings a few years ago. But, I have found that balsamics send my tastebuds into ecstasy. Or, I love massaging my kale with avocado and fresh lemon juice, and then sprinkling it with sea salt or sea kelp.

I have developed an addiction for flavored balsamics!

Somebody has a problem! There is even one bottle hiding out of sight.

Finally, I sprinkle some raw seeds or nuts on top: sunflower, pepitas, pecans, even hemp. If I really feel like living life on the wild side, I’ll add some dried or fresh berries. Some salads require a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley for extra flair.

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CSA spinach with freshly picked strawberries, onions caramelized in balsamic, and a handful of pecans!

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Kale and red lettuce, topped with grated carrots, red cabbage, homemade hummus, and cilantro. Then a healthy drizzle of cranberry pear balsamic.

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Spinach and red lettuce covered with cucumber, red pepper, corn, grated carrots, a dollup of homemade hummus and a few sprigs of cilantro. I can’t remember what flavor of balsamic I put on this.

Kale massaged with 1/2 avocado, 1/2 fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Kale massaged with 1/2 avocado, 1/2 fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Then loaded with tomato, red onion, orange peppers and a few pepitas.

Now (insert name of anonymous restaurant here), these are salads made with love!

 

Yoga Day #2

Day #2 is in the books! After my first yoga class, I left thinking that things could only get better. And they did. For example, upon my return for class #2:

  1. I knew exactly where the Mind Body Spirit room was located, so I didn’t  waste time waiting outside the room where I thought the class was going to happen, but didn’t. (This allowed #2 to happen, so read on.)
  2. I arrived early enough to find a spot at the back of the room. Last week I sacrificed my 19 year old daughter to the front row, while I squished into the second row.
  3. I wore sandals. Big time saver here.
  4. I didn’t bring my mat along; and this, believe it or not, was a good thing. (Turns out the mat I purchased was a “pilates” mat, regardless of what the description on the packaging said.)
  5. I got to talk to the instructor a bit before class started (giving up my rookie status).
  6. I was somewhat aware of the routine once I walked into the room.  Not as much awkwardness this time.
  7. A few of the positions were familiar. (Notice I said familiar…definitely not comfortable or natural…yet).
  8. I was aware of how the class would progress. (In other words, I knew if I made it through all of the stand up positions, eventually I would be able to sit on the mat. And if I made it through those positions, the last 5 minutes of class would make the previous 55 minutes totally worth it!)
  9. I knew where the mat cleaner and towels were. And I knew where the towels were to be deposited after use.
  10. I mostly did not even notice the familiar music emanating from the Spinning Studio next door. (Last week, I could have sworn it was calling my name.)

Next week I hope to learn how to breathe. (Of course I know how to breathe, what I mean is, I hope to become aware of my breath.) I understand that’s kind of important in the yoga world. ;)

inhale, exhale, breathe

complete body awareness

find my inner peace

Homemade Iced Coffee (complete with homemade almond milk)!

We (coffee and I) met when I was quite young. My grandpa and I would sit around the kitchen table dunking grandma’s homemade molasses cookies into steaming cups of coffee. Of course my cup wasn’t really steaming, as it was mostly milk and sugar with a little coffee mixed in, but you get the idea.

Then we lost touch for quite a few years. Up until I was 30 years old, I didn’t even know how to brew a pot of coffee. (I know, I know…) But when a couple of friends bought a local coffee shop, The Blue Moon, the romance was rekindled. I started out cautiously, drinking sugary sweet lattes reminiscent of my childhood coffee experience. (Snicker’s Bar Latte, anyone?) The Blue Moon Cafe became a regular stop on my way home from the Y.

Quite a few years after this, Starbucks came to Neenah.  My coffee habit became an obsession. I would find any excuse possible to pick up a coffee treat. My drink of choice became skinny vanilla lattes; hot in the winter, iced in the summer. And when red cup season arrived? Hello Skinny Peppermint Mochas!

A few years ago I became vegan, so I traded the “skinny” for  soy. And I traded Starbucks for Aspen Coffee and Tea, a locally owned coffee shop. They introduced me to the best Bhakti Chai Lattes EVER. They even managed to convert my husband over to “adult” hot beverages. Thank goodness…I was getting worried that I would spend my golden years drinking alone!

Most of the time, however, I make my own coffee and tea at home. Going out for coffee and tea can get quite expensive. Plus, I am kind of a control freak when it comes to knowing what I am actually eating or drinking. I really like to recognize my ingredients. And I like using natural sweeteners. Good thing I have become capable of whipping up some treats at home.

Now that summer has arrived, it’s time to bring out my homemade iced coffee adapted from Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows. They take a little preparation, but are super easy to make (providing you have the right “tools”) and unbelievably yummy. Tomorrow at this time, you could be enjoying your own iced coffee!

I put the ground coffee and water in a glass jar, and put in the refrigerator.

I grind 1 cup of coffee beans (medium grind) and place in a quart size jar. Then I fill the jar with water and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning I strain the grounds using a nut milk bag.

The next morning I strain the grounds into a bowl using a nut milk bag as a straining device.

And there you have it!...coffee concentrate!

After rinsing the jar out, I pour the concentrate back into the jar for easy storage.

Walah! Coffee concentrate! (The concentrate can also be used to make ice cubes.)

Next…I make some nut milk!

I soak a cup of almonds overnight.

I soak a cup of almonds overnight so they get nice and plump.

I then put the nuts in the Ninja with about 4 cups of water.

I then put the nuts in the Ninja with about 4 cups of water.

Blend it until it's hard to see any almonds.

Blend for a couple of minutes.

Strain using a nut milk bag.

Pour into a bowl, using a nut milk bag to strain out the almond pulp. Rinse out the blender.

After squeezing out all the liquid, pour the milk back into the blender. Then add dates (2-4), a few shakes on cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend again until dates have disappeared. Then strain one more time.

After squeezing out all the liquid from the nut milk bag, pour the milk back into the blender. Then add  a couple of dates, a teaspoon of vanilla, a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. You could probably throw in some cacao powder, or or even tumeric if you aren’t planning on using it for iced coffee. Blend again until the all added ingredients are unrecognizable. Then strain one more time.

The end product! It does separate, so shake/stir before using.

The end product! It does separate, so shake/stir before using.

Rich and bubbly almond milk! And only 6 ingredients.

Rich and bubbly almond milk! And only 6 ingredients.

Then, fill a glass with ice cubes, or “coffee” cubes. Add your coffee concentrate (about 1/2 full) and then fill to the top with almond milk! Taste. If you’d like it a little sweeter, feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Personally, I drizzle a little maple syrup or agave in.

Yum!

Yum!

Embracing Perfectionism

perfectionism

one word,  yet a complete line

symbolic of me

Embracing perfectionism. And when I say embracing, what I really mean is squeezing the living daylights out of it, wrestling it to the ground, straddling it, pinning down its arms and giving it an ultimatum: “Stop messing with my life. Or else!”. (And no, I haven’t figured out the “or else” part yet.)

I readily admit that I am a perfectionist. That’s not really much of a secret. It has been a tad bit more difficult admitting that my perfectionism has not served me well in life.  It has been a crutch and an excuse. It has placed limitations on my life. Now that I have acknowledged this, I understand exactly why it needs to go. I am ready to give perfectionism a kick to the curb.

Some aspects can hang around, however. As long as they don’t get into trouble. I really like my food pantry (everything neatly stored in glass jars). And writing (editing, revising, editing, revising…you get the point.) And my spice rack (alphabetical order). And my clothes’ closet (winter clothes, summer clothes, short sleeves, long sleeves, cords, long pants, capris, work clothes, play clothes, and all arranged by the color of the rainbow). Okay…this one may be a problem.

For as long as I can remember, I have been eager to please. Now, I admit, this hasn’t always been a bad thing. It served me well during my childhood. I was always a good kid, doing what was asked of me without questioning authority. But to this day, I still tend to avoid conflict at all costs, because I don’t want anyone to be mad at, or think poorly of me. The problem with this is, I have never learned how to deal with conflict in a healthy manner. My way of dealing with it has been by avoiding it. I find myself clamming up when my opinion differs from others or I am criticized. I do what is expected of me, even when I don’t believe in what I am doing, simply because I don’t want to make waves.

Being average terrifies me. There is nothing special about being ordinary. When I was in school, anything less than an ‘A’ was perceived as a failure. A ‘B’ was devastating. It was never about what I had done well, but what I hadn’t done well. Whatever prevented me from attaining perfection became a thorn in my side. And while at times, it pushed me to be my best, it was not always the healthiest route.  Unfortunately, I have carried this mentality into my adult life as well. Professionally, it pushes me to spend way too much time on things that are not crucial to my success as a teacher. Personally, it prevents me from taking part in activities that I cannot excel in, as I tend to avoid anything with a risk of failure. There have been numerous times in my life that I have given up on something before I even began.

Perfectionism has impacted my ability to establish meaningful relationships. I am hesitant to let people see the real me for fear that they may not like what they see. I have a difficult time opening up to others, as I fear rejection. I struggle to let others see the “imperfect” me. Therefore, I tend to keep others at a safe distance. Some of my relationships are very superficial because of this.

Now for the most embarrassing admission. I am highly critical of others. Of course I am old (wise?) enough to keep the comments (or at least most of them) in my head, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have the thoughts. Perhaps it’s because I am so critical of myself. Perhaps it’s because it allows me to feel better about myself. Either way, it’s not the way I want to live.

So now, I am choosing to acknowledge and lovingly embrace that …

life is not black or white.

it’s okay to have disagreements.

sometimes life (and my house) gets messy.

the process is more important than the end result.

failure is an opportunity to learn.

I am unique and special JUST BY BEING ME.

comparing myself to others is an exercise in futility.

not everybody is going to like me. Yikes! This is a tough one. But, as long as I am living an honest, caring life, I just need to let this one go.

I don’t need to be perfect to be loved.