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Saturday, August 30

September Whole30 Meal Plan // Week 1


Husband and I are starting another Whole30 on Monday, and I am honestly pretty excited. I am spending the long weekend looking at some new recipes, making meal plans and shopping lists (for you!), and drinking heavenly coffee with grass-fed heavy cream. Ha! 

A few changes from last time...

--> No more smoothies in the plan or during my Whole30. After reading this article and doing some research that sent me into a pretty substantial rabbit hole, I've broken up with my blender and removed smoothies from my diet. The bottom line from my research is this: no matter what you put in your smoothie or how green it may be, it's a direct sugar surge to your body. And sending a mainline of sugar to my liver first thing in the morning is most definitely not how I want to start my day. I still have the occasional post-workout smoothie (clean protein powder, almond milk, cocoa powder, avocado, ice cubes) and very  very seldom will use a smoothie as a meal replacement. (If you're interested, you can find some of my research on the subject here.)

--> I've long since changed my thinking regarding 'breakfast, lunch and dinner' and am completely on board with eating soup, chicken salad, or leftovers first thing in the morning and calling it breakfast. However, I think for people transitioning from a SAD or for those new to paleo, it is helpful to think of food in the terms of 'first, second and third meal' of the day.

--> We are tinkering with the ideas of cyclic low-carb diet and carb back-loading in hopes of improving athletic performance (especially me -- my cardiovascular endurance is pretty shot after having a babe). That being said, if that isn't your goal you can add in some fruits with your meals -- an apple with breakfast, refrigerated canned coconut milk + half a banana + a sprinkle of cinnamon. Just be sure you aren't using fruit as a substitute for dessert or to satisfy a craving for sweets.

 So... here is the meal plan for week one and the shopping list. I don't stick to this completely, meaning that I might eat leftover stew for breakfast and eggs for dinner, but this is the gist of what we are eating this week. If you want to prep on the weekends like we do, put the stew in the slow cooker, bake chicken in the oven for salads, make the coconut soup, and brown the ground meat for spaghetti. While that is cooking, chop up all your veggies for snacks and salads. We store veggie sticks in mason jars in the fridge and prepare our lunch salads in individual containers with the exception of the protein and dressing.

Happy Whole 30!

copyright Hiking in Stilettos

Wednesday, August 27

Working Mom 101

Being a working mom is difficult no matter how you slice it. Whether you work part-time or full-time, at home or outside of the home, it's a tough balance to find. And while by no means do I have it all figured out, I thought I'd share some of my tips for surviving and enjoying being a working mama.

1 - Use your slow-cooker:
Every week I make a stew or soup in my slow cooker. Sometimes it's a kitchen sink sort of thing (meat + whatever vegetables we have + fresh herbs) and others it's more planned. Either way, having dinner simmering away with minimal effort on my part is priceless.

2 - Tell your spouse when you need help: 
Not to get all mushy, but my husband is so great you guys. He is always there at the ready when I need help or feel overwhelmed with life. Anything from figuring out what we will eat for dinner to bathing Elliot or getting him to sleep to watching the babe while I workout, my man is there. And I've learned that all I need to do is ask. I think dads aren't always sure how to care for the new babe (and the new mama!) and will wait for us to tell them what we need. And us gals usually expect our men to be mind readers. What a set up for miscommunication! So get vocal and tell your man what you need help with. 

3 - Find time to spend in the Word and with the Lord:
This is essential for everyone, but especially during seasons of change. The Lord uses times of change in my life to sift out the bad and replace it with His good. During the most difficult times of my life, I feel the Lord changing my heart and drawing me closer to Him. Practically, I've been following along at She Reads Truth. For me, having the lovely study packs in hand is tangible accountability to find time daily to renew my soul, even if I have to wait until I put Elliot to sleep. Those ten or fifteen minutes in the Word do more for me than the extra ten or fifteen minutes of sleep. I also download sermons for my daily commute. 

4 - Let it go:
Find something in your life that is overwhelming you and just let it go, at least for now. For me that was stressing over cloth diapering. It was something I really wanted to do, but with my alternating schedule and off days, it was difficult to stay on track with washing every other day. And well, things got a bit... smelly. Also, E's sitter isn't on board with cloth diapering, so when I'm at work, he is in disposables anyway. So, I made the compromise to do natural, plant-based disposables on my work days and put him in cloth dipes when I'm home with him.

5 - Spend some time outside:
Whether its a few minutes on the front porch on Saturday morning, sitting in our hammock chairs in the early evening, or a walk around the neighborhood, getting outside is key for me. On my off days I spend a lot of time inside taking care of E and getting our household in order. Spending just thirty minutes outside soothes my soul, provides a change of scenery for both me and little Elliot, and gives us a chance to soak up some vitamin D (even if it's overcast, you actually get more vitamin D outdoors than in a well-lit room!).

It's not much but it's a start, and everyday I am learning. None the less, little victories sometimes mean the most.


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Thursday, August 21

Whole30 Prep Work: Recipe Testing

{Baby E likes talking about vegetables and the benefits of eating a rainbow.}

I am gearing up for my next Whole30, starting in September, so the next couple weeks I plan to try out some new recipes in hopes of breaking up the mundane and finding some simple, busy-schedule-friendly ideas. I will post the meal plan next week or so if you want to follow along and complete the challenge with me! {You can find the meal plan for the last Whole30 here.}

I have been feeling pretty tired and rundown and just generally 'bleh' lately, so I decided that another Whole30 was in order. {And yes, 'bleh' is a perfectly acceptable medical  term.} For me, this means cutting out the following things:
-- Heavy cream in my coffee 
-- My nightly square of dark chocolate
-- Corn chips on the weekend
-- Red wine on the weekend

I think the dairy, grass-fed though it is, is making me congested and potentially causing some bell bloating. The corn chips, which are my vice, completely blow my low-carb diet out the window, so I think it's time to remove them, and giving up chocolate/sugar and wine for a month is definitely a good thing. 

All that being said, I'm trying out some new recipes over then next couple weeks. With a full time job and five month old taking over my life, I need to find some simple, easy to prepare recipes that I can make ahead of time. For me the key to success is preparation. Here are a few recipes on my list:

This would be good for breakfast or lunch or even dinner paired with a mixed green salad!

Homemade Almond Milk - Against All Grain
This is something I've been meaning to try for a while, so now seems like the perfect time. I will be drinking my coffee black during my Whole30, but sometimes a little almond milk is a nice addition.

Chicken Pesto Meatballs + Marinara - The Clothes Make the Girl
I'm a big fan of zucchini noodles, and with all the fresh basil in our garden, I really want to try a paleo pesto, so this recipe sounds right up my alley.

Shirred Eggs - Against All Grain
I'm always looking for ways to spice up my regular breakfast of scrambled eggs and chicken sausage, and this recipe sounds like a winner.

Check back late next week for the first week's meal plan.

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Jekyll Island 02

Part two of our weekend trip to the Georgia coast...

 The sunrise over the ocean was so lovely, with the long boardwalk and the natural beach making the perfect backdrop. I love the rocks separating the sand from the bushes and palm trees. At high tide, the water covers the bottom steps of the boardwalk.

We took little E to the salt water pool a couple times during the trip, and he learned how to splash! He had fun splashing himself in the face, getting startled by it, then laughing. I love that kid.

My sister in law was married on the hauntingly beautiful Driftwood beach, which reminded me of Hunting Island (one of our favorite camping destinations). The ceremony was simple and sweet, and the reception was perfect. Good food, sweet memories with friends and family.


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Tuesday, August 19

Jekyll Island 01

Our little family spent a long weekend at Jekyll Island last weekend to celebrate K's little sister's wedding, and let me tell you it was so lovely! We left on Thursday and came home on Sunday, so it was a slight whirlwind of a trip, but it was great nonetheless. 

Elliot loved splashing in the salt water pool and walking on the eerily lovely driftwood beaches. We explored the historic district on Saturday, and I fell completely in love with the big, sprawling trees covered in Spanish moss. We took our Stokke Scoot that the folks at Stokke so graciously gifted us, and it was perfect for strolling along the old streets. I love how E can see everything and still face me! I would really like to make a return trip in the fall or winter when the heat isn't quite so overbearing. 

The wedding itself was perfection, and we are so incredibly happy for the newlyweds. Weddings make me all sentimental about the day I tied my life to that amazing man of mine. I love being a part of that day in other people's lives. I think it is so very romantic to promise eternal companionship, to say 'I will daily choose you above all others for the rest of my life.'

 More pictures to come!

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Saturday, August 9

My (First) Five Practical Ways to Live More Simply

I mentioned a few days ago the weight of my heart to focus on living a more simple life. I'm reading this book, but my type-A personality and restless spirit need some action. So I've started with these five things...

1 - Clean out your closet
For me, I decided this will mean getting rid of half of my clothes, or at least attempting to. I have set a limit of keeping only 50-75% of my current wardrobe for a few different reasons. One, I don't need the same wardrobe that I did three years ago. Two, I really don't need six different pairs of black pants and six different pairs of jeans. Even though each pair has its own characteristics, I really don't need them all. Three, I probably only wear about 50% of the clothes that I own.

2 - Recycle old magazines
I am currently going through all my back issues of Whole Living, Domino and clinical pharmacy magazines and cutting out the articles that I want to keep. I am filing them accordingly and placing them in a special folder in our filing cabinet and recycling the remaining magazines. Holding onto these things for pure nostalgia doesn't make sense. These magazines are just sitting in the floor, taking up space.

3 - Get moving
I have found that my mood often improves with even just a little exercise. So whenever I am feeling worried, anxious, stressed or just plain grumpy I either take a walk with my boys or complete a short metcon.

4 - Focus on someone else
Each week I am challenging myself to do something for someone else. I find that this takes my focus off of me and my problems, worries and stresses and more often than not leaves me more thankful and peaceful as a result. It's easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget the needs of those around us. It could be a friend, family member, neighbor or even a stranger. Carry in groceries for your elderly neighbor, donate to your local food pantry, volunteer with the youth group or children's ministry at your church, whatever you can think of, just make sure you do it sincerely!

5 - Postpone purchases
If there is something I want, a pair of shoes, a clothing item, something for the house, I have started waiting three days or a week before spending the money. This makes me really think about my purchases and prevents me from buying things on impulse.

Here's to making changes, new habits and a much simpler life.

copyright Hiking in Stilettos

Monday, August 4

Paleo Basics // Kitchen Sink Beef Stew

Life has been pretty hectic lately, so my slow cooker has been working overtime. If I do nothing else, each weekend I at least roast a whole chicken in the oven and put a beef stew in the slow cooker. This guarantees us lunch and dinner for at least two days with a minimal amount of effort on my part. (Therefore leaving me with a little more energy to devote to baby wrangling.) 

When it comes to the beef stew, I basically just throw in whatever is on hand: a lovely grass-fed roast, aromatics like onion and/or garlic, hearty vegetables like butternut squash or sweet potatoes, lighter vegetables such as bell pepper, summer squash or zucchini, roasted eggplant, and fresh tomatoes and spinach, and lots of fresh herbs. There honestly isn't much of a science to it, which is also the beauty of it! This is a recipe you can really only mess up by cooking the roast too long. So, a word to the wise, don't overcook. Grass-fed beef takes about thirty percent less time to cook than its conventional counterpart. Also, if you choose a tougher cut of meat, as we often do since feeding a family can get pricey, make sure to marinate your meat in acid (vinegar, red wine) and cook it slowly - on low!

Kitchen sink beef stew (variation no. 1):

2-3lb grass fed roast or London broil*
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small sweet onion OR about 1/2 package frozen diced onions
2 cups homemade beef or chicken stock
1 package cubed butternut squash (one of my Trader Joe's favorites!)
about 1/2 cup bell peppers (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup roasted eggplant (or raw!)
2-3 medium fresh organic tomatoes OR 1 large can organic diced tomatoes 
lots of fresh oregano and thyme
salt & pepper

Rinse your meat and pat dry with a paper towel. Season well with salt, pepper and a bit of granulated garlic and/or onion for good measure. Set aside. Place your onions and minced garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker, and pour in your stock. Then layer in your hearty vegetables, butternut squash, red potatoes or sweet potatoes. Place your roast on top of the vegetables and add in the bell peppers, eggplant and fresh tomatoes. Top the entire pot with diced fresh herbs, about 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme and 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano. Cook on LOW for about 4 to 4&1/2** hours. After four hours, remove the roast and shred it with two forks. (Place one fork in the center of the roast and hold it with your non-dominant hand, then use your dominant hand to shred with the other fork.) If the roast is not done to your liking, cook for 30 more minutes. Give the stew a good stir and serve as desired. We like ours with cauliflower 'rice' or just by itself!

Other variations we enjoy include:
butternut squash + roasted eggplant + bell pepper + tomato + kalamata olive
sweet potato + zucchini + bell pepper + tomato + cilantro + lime
red potato + roasted eggplant + tomato + thyme + kale (add in for the last 15 minutes)
butternut squash + cauliflower + curry powder + spinach (add in for the last 15 minutes)

Honestly, you can really throw in whatever fresh or frozen vegetables your have. Frozen diced onions are an easy time-saver for this and many other recipes. Also, I buy organic sweet bell peppers in bulk during peak season, and slice and freeze them for later use. Just remember to layer your stew as follows: aromatics (onions, garlic), then stock, then hearty vegetables (potatoes, butternut squash), then your meat, then lighter vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, summer squash), then top with fresh herbs.

*For more cost-effective cuts of meat, marinate for 12-48 hours in an acidic mixture. I like 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons coconut aminos OR 1  tablespoon aminos and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tsp each of dijon mustard and minced garlic. Marinate overnight for best results.

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**I know that sounds like a small amount of time, but trust me. I've eaten one too many overcooked grass fed roasts in my day, and four hours will most likely be sufficient. 

Sunday, August 3

Sunday Truths // Living Simply

I've never thought of myself as rich. Middle-class, yes, but never rich. As an adult, I have a good job... and hefty student loans as proof. I have a house and a car (with their respective payments!) and all the other things that a 'grown up' should have. I am beyond thankful for my worldly possessions and recognize that I have much more than many others. But I never thought of myself as rich.

Probably because I have bills, and a budget, and a retirement fund. Probably because I can't go out and spend money without thinking about it, because I can't shop at designer stores or by a house in the mountains. I mean, the Kardashians are rich, not me.

But you guys. I am rich. Not just in the traditional sense. I definitely have more than enough, but I also have knowledge, resources and access. I have so much access to the gospel that it's somewhat absurd. Podcasts, sermon notes, churches on every street, online bible studies, countless books, websites, theologians, a Bible app on my iPhone and iPad, not to mention my hard copy Bible. I am surrounded by access to the gospel, praise God.

But here is the nagging question... 
If I am surrounded by access to God's word and the truths of His promises, why does my life look like everyone else's in America? 

There are people in other countries who literally hang their lives on the gospel, and they often have only a paper and pen copy of the Word. Shouldn't I, who have so much more access to knowledge, so much more ability to dive into the Word, hang my life on the words of those pages all the more?

Jesus tells us that it is harder for a rich person to enter His kingdom than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. He also tells us that many will believe that they are following Him, when in truth they are slaves to money. I have always been so sure of my salvation, but in putting those two truths together, I can't help but wonder if my first-world problems are keeping me from the deepest truths of the gospel, keeping me from living a life that points only always and directly to my Maker. 

I don't have the answer. Right now I just have a restless heart and a desire for more.

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On top of this wrestling in my heart has been an insatiable desire to live more simply. I have a few practical ways of making this happen, but for now I am starting with this study. I am also deleting my Facebook account, {attempting} to get rid of half of my clothes, and finally recycling a lot of old magazines that I hang on to simply because of nostalgia. I am savoring every moment I get to nurse my baby boy, the afternoon sunlight in the trees, and my husband's strong, handsome face.

The stress, the anxiety, the over-extension has got. to stop. I was created for a purpose, and that purpose is so much greater than many of the things I spend my energy on. I want to be an encouraging and serving wife, a supportive and uplifting mother, and a godly woman of faith. I want my life to be a legacy that points to the God who created it all. 

I hope you'll join me.


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