Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Tablescape with Love Letter Napkins

Last week Paul and decided that after 8 years of not loving our current mattress that we were due for a new one. What better gift to ourselves for our upcoming Anniversary on Sept. 3rd, than the gift of a good night's sleep?! We've been tossing and turning for a while now. When we first got married and I moved into my hubby's existing home he had already purchased a new mattress not too long before we met so he wasn't ready to give it up which had me bouncing around between our bedroom and the guest room. So, this was our first time shopping for one together and when the one we chose arrived we couldn't wait to make the bed and then lay on top of it side-by-side. Lily had fun crawling all over it. ;) The first night's sleep on our new memory foam mattress was heavenly and it was such a great investment, I'm so glad we did it. While an exotic trip would have been fun to celebrate our eight years together, this will last far longer.

Since we were already in the spirit of celebrating our Anniversary early, I thought I'd whip up a casual, impromptu little romantic lunch for just the two of us after Lily had gone down for her midday nap (which is her longest one of the day). As a parent it's so important to take the time to connect one-on-one after hectic days filled with life's many demands. This weekend we got to do just that and the timing couldn't have been more perfect as I had just received a set of 4 beautiful Love Letter napkins in the mail from Uncommon Goods. It was another little Anniversary present I planned to give to Paul to open that we would use together in our our home for occasions just like this as well as entertaining another couple. Instead of wrapping them up, I just surprised him with a little lunch instead and incorporated them into our casual summer place setting.

First off, if you haven't heard of Uncommon Goods you simply must check them out! If you've ever tried to buy a gift for a hard-to-shop-for person, you will really appreciate their one of kind designs that you can't find anywhere else. They were founded in 1999 and are a privately-owned retailer headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. About a third of their collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials. I especially love that most of the items they carry are made in the USA and over half of what they sell is actually made by hand instead of overseas by machines so it has a real quality and authentic look and feel.

Whether you're looking for an Anniversary gift like I was, a Christmas present or even a birthday gift, you will definitely be impressed with the amazing selection they have to offer. Plus, a lot of the items are able to be monogrammed or customized so you can present an amazing personalized gift for the person you have in mind! I have been seeing a few neat products floating around Pinterest over the past few months and then realized while I was shopping the Uncommon Goods site, that's where they were from. I will definitely be shopping their site again soon as we approach the holidays.

Take a peek at these super cute love letter napkins! They are actual letters written by the likes of Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Jack London and D. H. Lawrence. While I loved using them as napkins, you cold also frame them or sew two together and make a one-of-a-kind pillow. :) They are made of lightweight cotton and are in classic black & white so they go with everything! You can see how I've paired them below.

Their lightweight texture is perfect for spring or summer I thought (but you could of course use them all year round). I like how they paired with soft pastel colors here in my table setting. I am a big fan of 'use what you have'. So when I decided to put together this spur of the moment little lunch for Paul and I, for both our meal and the table setting I used what I had on hand. Since I hadn't had an opportunity to pop by the store for some fresh flowers and I adore peonies, I used the realistic silk ones that live in Lily's nursery. I paired it with some seashell white dinner plates and beaded pale blue ceramic salad plates. We had just been to the market, so I thought the organic white peaches were a cute little touch in lieu of a place card holder since it was just us two.

In case you're wondering, we started with a fresh summer salad which included arugula, fresh sliced peaches, goat cheese, sunflower seeds and a papaya-poppyseed dressing-staples in our fridge. For our lunch we had pesto-chicken panini sandwiches with avocado slices. Our beverage was an organic sparkling probiotic drink in strawberry-acai-coconut flavor (I later added a few fresh raspberries to our glasses). It was the perfect light fare and we enjoyed the time to catch up and talk about our weekend.

As summer winds down and we move into fall and winter, I look forward to using these love letter napkins in new ways. I think it goes without saying that they'll be used in a romantic little meal for two on Valentine's Day and would complement red, pale pink or even hot pink nicely.

You can take a peek {here} to see each love letter in its entirety by each Author on the website. These are a fun lighthearted napkin that is not only unique but can act as a conversation starter during a dinner party.

Thanks for Reading!


*A big thank you to Uncommon Goods for sponsoring this post! All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Let the Birthday Party Planning Begin!

As a new parent, people tell you all the time to enjoy each moment because the time just flies by and next thing you know your child is heading off to College. I can honestly see how this is true. I have so cherished each day with my little sweetie pea Lily and I can't believe that in just 2 short weeks she'll be turning one! Even though some days can feel really long, in some ways I still feel like I was just holding her as a newborn in my arms just days ago.

Over the past few months I've been thinking about the kind of party I wanted to plan for her birthday because the first one is so special, not so much because she'll remember it or will be aware of everything (let's face it, she probably won't remember a thing), but it means a lot to both Paul and I to celebrate, enjoy and document the day so she can look back at it in years to come and see herself surrounded by our dear friends and family who love her. Not only is it her birthday but it's also the 1st Anniversary of the day we became parents too, responsible for this amazing blessing we get to call our daughter. Although her birthday falls on a Saturday (perfect I thought!), hubby thought he'd be out of town on business but it turned out in the end that the trip is now set for October. By the time we realized this, it would not have left me with the right amount of  time to send out invitations and allow guest to properly RSVP for her actual day, so we've now bumped the date forward two weeks into the middle of September which actually gives me a bit more time to plan.

I've been looking online (mostly pinning things to a private board on Pinterest) for some ideas on decor and games for the kids that will attend the party. I debated between holding the party at a venue or in our home. I don't particularly love the home we're in for entertaining larger crowds (it's a smaller, older home and the kitchen is cut off from the rest of the main living area) but I wanted to do what would be easiest on Lily and that meant being in our home where she has the comfort of her own crib to nap in right before guests arrive as well as afterwards without a drive home in between. It's also way easier for set up and take down of decorations and food transport/prep. This is actually the first large party we're hosting in this home. Since future birthday parties for her will likely be of a child-focused theme or character she is most interested in at the time, I wanted this one to be a bit more elegant as the majority of the guests will be other adults with just a few children attending.

You can take a peek at some of the images I've pinned below, they're serving as inspiration as I plan and begin creating some DIY decor after she goes to bed each evening. I've always loved the look of paper flower pom poms, paper fringe and pretty garland so I'm planning to make all of those on my own and the fact that they don't cost a lot is a huge bonus. I also have a lot of other original ideas that I'm hoping to incorporate and I'll be sure to share actual photos of her special day in an upcoming post in the coming weeks. Here are some photos that have me all excited about planning this party. How stunning is the two-tier cake in the photos at the top of this post?! If I can find someone to make this for me locally without it costing a fortune, I would love for this to be Lily's cake. *All image links are available at the end of this post.

There is just something so simple and yet so beautiful about paper fringe tassels. I'm going to make a garland out of them and I'm hoping to reuse some of the birthday decor in Lily's room when the party is over.

Peonies are my favorite flower but they're out of season. I'll likely include a lot of cream, blush or pale pink roses, some ranunculus and some white lilies since it fits her name. 

I've always loved the simple, shabby chic look of  mason jars filled with paper straws or flowers. I'm about to buy chalk paint for another project so I can use the leftover for the ball jars. They might even double as party favors for the adults if I choose to use them for flower vases-who doesn't love beautiful, fresh flowers?

At my baby shower last July, my mother-in-law gifted me with a lovely vintage high chair that was her son's (my husband's step-brother) and she it was a gift she has given me the okay to paint it and do as I wish with it. I've always known I'd paint it mint and this photo is my favorite inspiration. I love how it combines with white and pink. I'm hoping she'll love how this highchair was incorporated into this milestone party. :)

I still haven't narrowed down the exact menu but I do know that I'd like to have something a bit interactive such as a fro-yo bar or ice cream station where guests can create their own treat. 

Sometimes the simplest touches are the most elegant. In this case, it couldn't be more true. I love the look of a beautiful gold satin ribbon tied to the end of an over-sized pale pink balloon. 

In my mind, progression photos over 12 months are a must for a 1st birthday party. Little ones grow so quickly from newborn to one year old and change so much in that short time. I like the idea of polaroid shots or simple white bordered square photos strung with clothes pegs on twine as a little banner. I'm hoping to also reuse this banner or at least the photos in her bedroom to serve as extra decor afterwards.

I've never thrown a party with a 'sweets' table before, although we did have one at our wedding, it was nowhere near  as pretty as this. I would love to offer a variety of sweet treats for guests. I actually contemplated just doing a sweets-only party such as cake and ice cream. Hubby and I talked about this along with our budget and have decided to balance it out with savory eats so our guests don't end up on sugar overload. Plus, he felt our male adult guests might want something a bit more substantial. ;) I agree!

Another great use for mason jars is for drinking glasses. Since I was planning to serve sweet tea, bottled water and pink lemonade, these would be perfect with a few lemon slices. The custom labels are a sweet touch. Cute striped paper straws are a must!

We have a door in our kitchen that leads to the laundry room that I'd like to use as a backdrop for photos, a little area where guests can take photos-a photo booth of sorts. I haven't decided upon heart garland, streamers, paper flowers or other DIY decor. I'm still working out what I'd like to create but this one is so elegant that it's definitely a front runner. I'd like to incorporate brighter pops of color to fit our theme of white, pink, gold and mint.
Candy/ice cream cups are going to be a must for our party. While planning, I've been trying to find decor in an array of places other than just traditional party supply stores and websites to stay within our budget. I love these pretty designs from Poppytalk for Target, the rose cups are especially sweet. I stumbled upon them on a  Pinterest page for home decor Canada and love that they're just $3 for a package of 10! Since they're lightweight, I may have to have one of my Canadian friends back home ship me those rose and pink cups as I can't find them here in Florida. ;)

What first birthday party is complete without a smash cake for the guest of honor? I want to do something different other than a single candle for the cake topper such as an actual number one or the word 'one' or her name mounted on top. I want the cake to be simple but pretty and it will likely be white. One of the cake designs I really like is a cake fully iced with rosettes. I am toying with the idea of an ombre pink cake too.

Speaking of cake, I've been on the hunt for some pretty cake stands that I can reuse again in the future for other parties and events but keeping with our color theme. I've also still been thinking about cupcakes for guests so I'm looking at some 3-tier stands for those as a possibility. Here are a few pretty ones I've found so far (in case anyone else is looking for a cake stand also):

I'd love to hear from you! Did you do something special for your little one's first birthday? What was your favorite party decor or most memorable moments from the big day? A party with close family + friends, a big blowout bash, a family day a the zoo?

Thanks for Reading!


Image sources: (1), (2)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9)(10), (11), (12)(13)

Friday, August 1, 2014

My Favorite Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks

Happy Friday Everyone! I hope you are enjoying what's left of summer. :) This time of year has always been a favorite but with all the new fall fashion coming out I have to say that it's getting me excited for a fresh, new season. I can still be found enjoying a sunny beach day with my family or getting together with friends for a fun backyard BBQ but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to cool, crisp, cozy weather and wearing layers which is a rarity here in Florida.

The fabulous Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is in full swing but it ends on Sunday, so just two days left! Come and do a little window shopping along with me and you can see what I have my eye on right now, you can click on the banner bar underneath each of my picks to link directly to the products. All of these items are on sale at fabulous prices. I'm actually narrowing down some choices for my hubby right now as my birthday is at the end of this month and he asked me what I'd most like. As much as I love surprises, sometimes it's just nice to get something you pick out for yourself.

If you haven't shopped at Nordstrom online before, it's a must! They have so many amazing brands and I have to say they make everything so easy with free shipping and free returns too! With an active 11 month old baby, it's actually far easier for me to shop online during her nap or bedtime then it is to pack everything up and head to a physical store to browse and try things on with her, I'd rather do it in the comfort of my own home. Besides, who doesn't love the excitement of anticipating a package in the mail? I love knowing that if something doesn't fit exactly as I had hoped that returns and exchanges are effortless. Let's start with shoes, shall we?

I love the polished and elegant look of a pointy toe when it comes to pumps and you can't miss with an ankle strap details or lace up version. For practicality purposes I find round-toe, flat equestrian style boots to be the perfect go-to during the cooler months. 

When I think of fall I immediately think of leather, layering, zipper details, thicker materials and darker hues. I like to add a bit of edge to a more elegant, feminine look especially for evening. Likewise, I enjoy adding a bit of glitz and sparkle to an otherwise casual  look like this gray sweater.

I love a well-structured handbag, larger ones that keep their shape are essential to a polished look. I have many that I've owned over a decade and they never go out of style. I also look for cross-body bags and clutches when I'm out for a casual day running errands but still want to look polished without carrying a lot. I like this leopard smart case for my iPhone, keys, a bit of cash and a few cards. This happy poppy color is great for summer and transitioning into fall.

Can you tell I'm a bit obsessed with gold right now? I love the delicate nature of the thin pave X bracelet and yet at the same time I really like the vibe of this wider V-bar cuff too. I'm a sucker for watches with a diamond bezel look but I'm also loving this one with the tortoise shell insert.  I'm not much of a necklace gal these days with a small baby who reaches for everything. You can usually find me wearing a pair of earrings, my wedding rings and a watch or bracelet/bangles (sometimes a combination). Since ear buds hurt my ears, I thought these headphones were a stylish option.

Ever since I began wearing makeup I've always gravitated towards a minimal, natural, neutral look that doesn't look as though makeup is being worn at all. Soft, clean skin is important to me so this is my secret weapon! It removes 30x the pollution and 6x the makeup vs. water and cleanser alone. I can actually see and feel a difference in my skin each time. Also, I can never get enough of a quality moisturizer, it just keeps skin looking healthy. I've heard amazing things about this Hollywood contouring cheekbone/blush kit. I want to see if it's as good as everyone says!

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

5 Decorating Trends for 2014 That I'm Loving Right Now

Every year I look forward to not only seeing what new fashion trends will emerge for fall and spring but also how home decor will change also, the two always go hand-in-hand. I'm also curious as to seeing the Pantone Color of the Year, this year it's Radiant Orchid which I've shown just a hint of in the image above. It's a bold color but I can already imagine it will be the color of choice for bridal bouquets and bridesmaid dresses as well as accents for the home. When it comes to decorating, I don't like my home or a clients to come across as too trendy. There is something special about combining carefully curated pieces over time with new found favorites.

Here are a few decorating trends for 2014 that I'm really loving right now.

1. Navy- While my own home does not currently have any dark hued walls, there is something so rich about darker colors that is making me want to paint a small space in our house. Even done sparingly they can really have an impact, especially in a small space such as a powder bath or used as an accent wall. We've seen a lot of white, gray tones and taupe tones over the years and while I love a neutral backdrop, navy has been calling my name. When I planned Lily's nursery last year before she was born I had not intended to use any navy blue as I wanted to keep it light and airy. It happened by accident as I fell in love with a peony printed crib bumper and sheet set from Pottery Barn that included white, two shades of pink and navy as the peony leaves. So, navy is now a part of her room and while it's still not completed (I've really dragged my feet in that room.*sigh*), I will be adding a few navy accessories to create a cohesive look. A couple other shades of blue that continue to be popular at the moment are peacock blue as well as cobalt. I really love both and they compliment navy well, particularly peacock blue. If you're not sure where to use it inside your home, perhaps it will compliment your exterior by painting your front door and/or shutters.

2. Mixed Metals- It used to be that if we wore gold jewelry it was not to be mixed with silver but times have changed and we can see that not only in fashion but also in home decor, there is a mix of using various finishes. It's no longer seen as tacky but trendy. This is not to say that you should mix and match hardware in a kitchen or bathroom but rather by bringing in other elements such as mirrors and smaller accessories. In other living spaces in our home where it has been commonplace to use only identically colored photo frames or artwork system components such as for a gallery wall using all black, all white or all silver frames for example, it's now acceptable to mix and match particularly with the metallic colors.

3. A Return to Tradition-There has been a focus on modern and eclectic looks for some time now, the web is filled with new option for modern, clean, minimalist decor but that is starting to change. There is an interest in the return to a cozy feeling at home furnished with traditional elements, for many of us adults they remind us of our childhood. Traditional design is timeless, it never goes out of style.

4. Vintage Finds-While the use of antiques and vintage pieces in general are nothing new (no pun intended), they have increasingly gained popularity as the way to finish a space. When decorating many people don't take the time or have the time to collect special treasures over the years from travels, etc., so adding vintage and antique pieces is a great way to add interest to any space. These special pieces are often the topic of conversation during dinner parties. Artifacts from days gone by as accessories become points of interest while rounding a space out. If they have been handed down from generation to generation in your family all the better! They help a space not feel too perfect and they also add character. One of my favorite ways to use vintage furniture other than for its intended purpose is to use a dresser as a vanity for example in a bathroom. It's so unique, you won't find it in anyone's else's home used quite that way.

5. Florals- When I used to think of floral printed fabrics and home decor it would conjure up images of grandma's house or the homes where sofas were covered in plastic. They just seemed to have an outdated feel. That is no longer the case though, there are so many beautiful floral prints available whether you're looking to dress your bed with a new duvet cover, accent pillows for a living room sofa or even a set of framed photography prints, everything exists from the most contemporary artistic version to vintage-style floral prints. Just like lace, ruffles and soft pastels, florals can add femininity to a space which is especially important for a home that has a lot of hard edges or has a masculine feel. Last year I bought my first pair of cropped jeans in light gray with a floral pattern in white, dark gray and light gray. I had a lot of fun coordinating various tops with my new pants-they were so different and added a fun vibe to my wardrobe.

Here are a few decor items I have my eye on right now that follow these 5 trends....

The look of faded black and white is also very of the moment and I'm a bit obsessed with this mirror in herringbone which is a bit more modern. I also discovered the same round mirror in a white bone which is so elegant and really very timeless, I know I'd keep it for a long time. I need to find a spot for it in my house! We're discussing some updates in our master bedroom so I'd love to place it over my dresser.

What are your favorite of-the-moment decorating trends for 2014? Have you implemented any of these that I've shared here in your home? I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for Reading!


*image sources: (1)(2), (3), (4), (5), (6)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Living Well: How to Eat Clean with 12 Simple Steps

Today's post on clean eating (as well as our last fashion-related post) were both reader requests that I wanted to address as I've been meaning to write these posts for weeks now but had fallen a bit behind. I've actually received a few messages from those in our Facebook Community as well as by e-mail asking me questions about both diet and exercise after seeing my instagram shares, previous posts I've written on the topics and things I've mentioned in passing on our Facebook page. Since there has been a lot of interest, there will be more posts of both to come!

Before I begin, let me start off by saying that this is my personal guide to eating clean. Everybody starts somewhere different along their healthy and clean eating journey, this is just how I choose to live. Since I was asked about my own practices and clean eating principles, they are what I'm sharing with you here today in the hopes that some of my ideas and tips can help others who wish to live a more clean lifestyle along with a regular reader who originally requested this post. Please note that while I'm sharing 12 steps to clean eating, you may not necessarily implement all of them at one time, in fact, I recommend not doing that. Making healthier choices is a journey, trying to do too much at one time can set you up to fail as you may become overwhelmed and just give up instead choosing old patterns. Take your time, it's a process, why not try just one of the tips then work your way to another, some naturally work together such as increasing water and decreasing and eventually eliminating soda. Everyone handles their journey differently and please note for me this was an evolution over the past 15 years not in a few months time.

Some of you may already know I'm really passionate about health. I am a former personal trainer having coached many people in the area of nutrition. While attending College I also managed a health nutrition store. To this day I still have many people that come to me asking about supplements, recipes and how to eat clean while still enjoying the taste of their food (I think that's the part the keeps most people from eating more healthfully, they fear it won't taste good). When I graduated, while I learned a lot and appreciate my Marketing Degree, if I had to do it all over again in terms of education I would probably have become a Naturopathic Doctor. Who knows, I still may one day.

Over the past 15 years since I became really interested in optimal health my ideas on eating healthy have changed. You see, everyone starts in a different place and make changes for different reasons. For me, I was raised by parents who ate healthfully and taught me how to cook. I think that is half the battle personally, when others prepare our food or we choose pre-packaged foods, we really don't know what we're eating. Learning how to cook and prepare simple meals is essential. I was also exposed to a variety of foods at a young age and dined in many authentic ethic cuisine restaurants to develop my palate and become more cultured food-wise. Thanks for that dad! ;) For me, there is no other alternative to eating the way that I do. Let's face it, nature has a pretty awesome array of colors, shapes, textures, fragrances and flavors to excite our taste buds. Eating meat and potatoes is just not an option for this gal nor has it ever been a staple in my home. I like how food allows me to be a bit of an artist too, I love to experiment with the presentation of my food when I have extra time, I think a pretty, colorful display is so appetizing.

When I originally became a personal trainer and spent more time working out, my interests were in consuming more protein, less carbohydrates (especially those that were refined), decreasing saturated fats and increasing healthy fats. I still follow that for the most part but I've added many layers to this over the years. Everyone has a different idea of what eating clean is. For some, it's avoiding pre-packaged and prepared foods, for others it's making everything from scratch, buying local and/or organic produce and then there are those who have determined that becoming vegetarian or vegan on top of these choices is best for them as it pertains to eating clean.

Now, with so much talk about GMO's (genetically modified organisms), many will avoid anything that could potentially be GMO/GE (genetically engineered). I guess you could say I'm pretty conscious about what I consume. With having been pregnant last year and now nursing Lily, I continue to be extra mindful about what I eat and drink. What do I watch out for? For starters I eat almost exclusively organic to eliminate harmful toxins via pesticide/herbicide use on my produce, it also ensures that it's GMO-free so I know it wasn't genetically altered. Why is this bad? Well, to put it simply the chemical pesticide which is a poison is embedded right into the seed of produce. That means, you couldn't wash it off if you tried, it's growing into the produce. There have been studies conducted already showing in animals how large tumors develop upon eating GMO foods, in addition it can create a whole host of other health problems. Look for the Non-GMO project verified label on anything that is pre-packaged. In addition to this, I really limit sugars and salt but do enjoy a bit of sea salt and Himalayan pink salt (they are really flavorful compared to iodized table salt). For a little sweetness I prefer raw honey, pure maple syrup or coconut palm sugar for baking as it is lower on the glycemic index. I avoid most dairy as I'm allergic (many people have allergy symptoms to milk and dairy but don't recognize the connection) but I make an exception for raw cheese (unpasteurized) but of course ate pasteurized while pregnant, I don't drink milk but instead substitute with Silk unsweetened almond milk but I do eat a bit of plain Greek yogurt and only eat meats that are hormone-free, antibiotic-free and free range, grass fed or in the case of eggs, that the hens were cage-free.

While I make a lot of meals from scratch, I like to use the word prepare, because a lot of what I eat is not heated or cooked in any way. Things like salads-veggie or fruit, bean salads, smoothies, raw nut butters like almond butter, seeds, etc., have no reason to be heated and have more nutrients as a result. If you're going to cook, baking or roasting is best vs. frying or even grilling (barbeques create char on the food which is a carcinogen as is lighter fluid that many often use when they grill-for that reason it is a treat for me and not a daily way of cooking). Let me say that I'm not vegan nor am I vegetarian but I would say that my diet is about 85% vegetarian with the remaining 15% open to fresh wild caught fish, poultry, beef, bison and lamb. I've  decreased the amount of fish I consume and ate almost none while pregnant as most contains mercury now, the safest bet is small fish like sardines. Between Fukushima radiation that has spilled into the Pacific and so much fish being farm raised, if I do eat the odd bit of fish it must be fresh, wild caught fish which is almost always Alaskan Salmon, specifically sockeye. I have a really good fish oil supplement that I take instead for DHA from Norway that has no traceable toxins or heavy metals. For hygiene reasons as well as personal spiritual reasons I do not eat shellfish or pork due to the amount of parasites both contain (the bible instructs not to eat various foods for a reason with a focus on shellfish and pork).

At this point, you're probably either wondering what the heck I do eat or perhaps feel overwhelmed by my exhaustive list. It's really not as daunting as it seems. For me, it doesn't end there though. A few years ago I started breaking out into hives and tried for a very long time to determine the culprit. It wasn't until I became a food detective of sorts and removed all food with preservatives, food coloring and more specifically MSG (to which there are hundreds of derivatives such as autolyzed yeast extract, carageenan, hydrolyzed soy protein, etc. and many more names) that I saw a dramatic improvement.

My previous reasons for eating clean were to remain fit, keep my organs healthy and maintain high energy. I still continue for those reasons but now I eat this way for my own body plus my baby girl's and to keep illness, disease, hives and allergies at bay. Everyone has different reasons for changing their diet such as discovering they are borderline diabetic or maybe they learned they have Fibromyalgia like my mom was diagnosed with 20 years ago when nobody really knew what it was (by the way she pretty much cured herself with a ton of walking, lots of water and eating in a more clean way). Some wish to eat clean to lose weight and that is great. What has always saddened me is to see people try to lose weight by living off of brand name weight loss products and foods which remove sugar and fats but replace it with a ton of chemicals and are essentially not real food. These toxic chemicals accumulate in our body's fat cells as they are unrecognizable and essentially cause us to gain weight!

You most certainly do not need to do exactly as I'm doing when it comes to diet, and again to reiterate, this has evolved over a 15+ year timeline so how you decide to change your diet today (if you are planning to) will likely start out one way and change months or years down the road as you research and learn more about optimal health on your own and listen to your body. Whatever your reasons are for desiring to eat in a more healthy and clean way, I've got a bunch of great tips that I hope you'll find really helpful and simplify the idea behind clean eating. Beyond all of this, the most important thing you can do is read books that educate you on food and nutrition and allow you to make smarter decisions, we must take responsibility over our own health, nobody else will do it for us. A classy woman makes caring for her mind, body and soul a priority and makes the best possible choices with the knowledge she has.

12 Simple Steps to Eating Clean:

1. Eliminate Pre-Packaged Foods-One of the easiest ways to eat clean is to remove pre-packaged foods. Most pre-packaged foods are filled with what I call white death: sugar, salt or white flour, preservatives, food coloring, artificial flavors, GMO's, hormones, antibiotics and a whole lot of other nasty things. This is not to say that you should eliminate everything that comes in a package. Granola-based cereals with few ingredients can be great, plain Greek yogurt without sugars or artificial sweeteners is another example. You can always add your own fresh or frozen fruit to it or a natural jam sweetened with juice vs. sugar for example. If you have a choice between buying pre-made items or making it fresh, always make it if you can! Great examples of this include: almond butter, guacamole, salad dressing, etc. These are a cinch to make from scratch and you'll know exactly what is in them.

2. Increase Your Vegetable Intake-Both fresh and frozen veggies are great choices, I would not recommend canned vegetables as they sit for a while and are in a metal can that most likely contains a chemical called BPA in its lining which is a hormone disruptor. Fresh, local organic veggies that are in season are best. Take advantage of produce when it's at its peak. Put an emphasis on greens and more bitter veggies. Kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens and spinach are all excellent choices. For salads I rotate between mixed greens, kale and my personal favorite-arugula also known as rocket greens-they have a fantastic peppered flavor. Try to eat a variety of colors, textures and flavors. Sweet veggies like roasted beets and sweet potatoes for dinner replace my need for dessert so it's a win-win.

3. Go Organic, Grass-Fed, Pasture Raised & GMO-Free-Whether consuming produce or animal products, be sure to eliminate all of the unknowns by buying those without antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed fed to the animals and ensure the animals are not living in feedlots but have the ability to roam freely. It's not only better for the animals quality of life but you know the conditions are cleaner so there is less disease also. When we vote with our wallet, we increase the demand for such products which will drive down the cost. If you cannot buy all organic, start with what you eat the most of and also consider the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists which outline which produce with the highest and lowest pesticide load. Personally, I began with the dirty dozen list and slowly added to it with the produce we ate the most of and we are now almost 100% organic.

4. Replace Saturated Fats with Beneficial Fats-This might be a shocking fact for some, but our brains are made up of 70% essential fatty acids! We require fat for our brain to function properly but it needs the good stuff. Saturated and trans fats are the ones we wish to avoid. The oils I recommend are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Flax seed oil. You can use any of these instead of butter or margarine. I love spreading coconut oil when it's in its solid state on toast topped with my favorite jam. Since it can be heated to high temperatures over 400 degrees, it's the perfect choice for both baking and cooking. Do not heat flax or olive oils as it changes their composition and actually turns them into a bad fat.You'll want to avoid: Canola, Vegetable oil (corn, soy, sunflower), peanut oil, etc. Since canola, soy and corn are over 90% genetically modified, unless you're buying organic, you can guarantee it's GMO-free. The best way to consume beneficial fats and oils is in their raw state. So, if you make a pasta dish, add it in after you are finished cooking to preserve and protect the oils as you are garnishing your dish. Stir frying, deep frying and regular frying pan methods of cooking are not a part of a clean eating diet.

5. Incorporate Juicing & Green Smoothies-I'm a big fan of juicing. Why? Because you are getting a concentrated amount of vitamins. minerals and nutrients from produce which goes straight into your bloodstream since there is no fiber to slow it down. If you've watched the juicing documentary 'Fat, Sick and nearly Dead' you can see that juicing alone as a fast of sorts can produce amazing results. Believe it or not a tall glass of fresh pressed vegetable or veggie-fruit juice can actually fill you up. Once your body gets what it needs nutritionally, it no longer feels deprived an constantly hungry which is the main reason for overeating and always feeling hungry. I'm a believer in fiber too so I use my Vitamix to make green smoothies which essentially pulverize the veggies down into a liquid, it powers through seeds and thick, fibrous stalks like kale stems in seconds. This is perfect for on the go. One of my favorite morning smoothies which I shared on instagram many weeks back is kale-orange juice-banana and if I want a little extra zing, I add some fresh ginger. There are thousands of ingredient combinations to make the smoothie or fresh juice blend of your dreams and they are so portable and easy to drink on the go making it the perfect snack or meal. The Vitamix is a bit of an investment compared with a traditional blender but it is so much more than that and it is commercial grade, it's what all the restaurants use plus they last forever and have a phenomenal warranty and it essentially eliminates the need for a counter full of small kitchen appliances-I highly recommend it! Here is the one that I have. I use it to make fresh fruit sorbet, as a food processor to make Lily's baby food purees and also for turning grains into flour such as oat flour with the dry grains container and many more uses.

6. Increase Your Fruit Intake- Yes fruit has sugar, some diets advise you to avoid it for that reason, however fruit has a lot of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for optimal health. Berries in particular are a powerhouse of antioxidants. The key is to eat less high-glycemic and sugary fruits and replace with those that are not quite so sweet. Bananas are quite sugary but a granny smith apple is more tart, so it's all about balance. Berries are perfect, they are not overly sweet, pineapples are filled with enzymes to help break down and digest your foods and melons, particularly cantaloupe help alkalize the body so it's not in an acidic state as acidity is known to promote disease. One piece of fruit per meal or less is ideal, you don't want to live on fruit all day. Some forget that avocados are a fruit-they have a little bit of protein, a whole lot of good fats and very little sugar.

7. Decrease Your Meat Consumption-While meat has needed protein which is the essential building blocks of muscle, eating too much meat can really cause your body to get clogged up and meat is highly acidic, not a state we want our body to be in. Meat also contains saturated fats that are best to minimize as they are hard on our heart and can contribute to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. You'll likely find that by decreasing the amount of meat you consume that you'll actually have more energy as meat takes a lot more effort for our body to digest. It's also important to note that meat often times is recalled and has a high probability of e.coli.

8. Buy Foods With a Short Ingredient List-Eating was never meant to be so complicated that a single power bar or even salad dressing contain 50 ingredients (most of which we cannot pronounce and if we can, don't know what the heck it is). The answer is simple-buy foods with as few ingredients as possible. Obviously eating produce is the best as there is only one ingredient. When it comes to on-the-go snacks I tend to reach for nuts (look carefully as many have added oils, salt and gasp...BHT! That's a toxic chemical used to preserve the nuts. I always buy raw, unroasted and unsalted nuts. I do have a few go-to bars that I like and have between 2-5 ingredients, Larabars and Kit's Organic bars, I love the variety of Larabar flavors but they are not yet organic so I stick with the banana bread and coconut cream flavors. They are the perfect 200 calorie snack and filled with nuts, dates and fruit. I would rather choose an item with 3 ingredients that has healthy fat and natural sugars than choose a 100-calorie snack pack loaded with processed junk that appears to save you calories but fills your body with chemicals it doesn't recognize. I can promise you that this way of eating will never allow you to come out ahead, it's a psychological mind game the food industry plays with consumers.

9. Reduce Salt & Sugar-Eliminate or reduce both sugar and salt but please don't replace them with artificial sweeteners and forms of MSG instead of salt! Sugar has been my personal weakness, I have a sweet tooth so finding great alternatives to really sugary things over the years has been a mission of mine. I'm okay with natural forms of sugar such as that from fruit which my body recognizes but still try not to go crazy with those either. I do like cupcakes and cookies but I just make a smarter version of them now. As mentioned above, I favor maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and raw honey. I used to use agave nectar but not anymore as it's linked with adding visceral fat to the liver even though it's sort of natural it's actually quite processed. When I buy foods with some sugar in them, the list must say cane sugar as regular sugar often times is genetically modified from sugar beets-sneaky right? Sea salt is full of minerals as is Himalayan pink salt unlike table salt otherwise known as iodized salt so it's best to replace it. Some use iodized salt for obtaining iodine however you are best to take an iodine supplement vs. rely on salt for the source as sodium increases blood pressure and is stripped of all vital minerals when it's processed. Sea kelp is a great source of iodine as well as many other nutrients. Once you start incorporating more fresh and/or dried herbs and spices to your cooking, you'll rely less on salt as a flavor enhancer. I am a huge fan of garlic so our house is always stocked with several fresh bulbs and I like to eat a few raw, freshly peeled and pressed cloves with at least one meal per day-it adds a great kick to so many foods. While finding better alternatives, a smart bet is to get used to the real taste of food without the need for additional sugar and salt, we consume far too much as a population.

10. Increase Your Water Consumption-One of the best things we can do to keep our body clean is to drink more water as it has a cleansing and detoxing effect. Too much of anything is not good and can actually wash away your enzymes and good internal bacteria so a safe range is 8-16 cups per day (8 oz size) that's 2-4 liters. I know people who drink more than 2 gallons per day and they are sick all the time because they're washing everything away. It will keep you hydrated which in turn allows your organs, especially your liver and kidneys which get flushed in the process. It also keeps your skin hydrated too which creates a more beautiful and clear complexion and less appearance of wrinkles. Water is essentially youth in a glass. If you are working out or in extreme heat, you'll want to drink more to compensate for perspiration. Not just any water will do thought. Tap water, while tested by your local city, is often filled with chlorine and fluoride which are neurotoxins. In our home we invested in an alkaline ionizing water filtration system with a reverse-osmosis component to remove the fluoride. It's something we saved up for and prior to that used a Brita filter for a couple years and then transitioned to buying gallon jugs of alkaline water from our local health food store. If you find water boring, here is a post I wrote sharing some easy and refreshing ways to add some flavor. My favorite way is to add some cucumber sliced and mint sprigs for a refreshing spa water.

12. Eliminating Bad Beverages-This one may be easy or difficult for some depending on your lifestyle. For many, a glass of wine to end their week or evening is a ritual and yes there are benefits to red wine such as the resveratrol component however alcohol in general is dehydrating and taxes the liver causing it to work far harder than it has to. For an already junked up liver that needs detoxing, this just complicates things. Other drinks such as liquor and fruity cocktail drinks along with beer increase not only your calorie intake but more specifically your sugar consumption which does nothing to further along any efforts in clean eating. A treat here or there such as a celebratory glass of champagne is how I tend to do things (except for right now as I'm still nursing Lily and of course didn't consume alcohol while pregnant). Clean eating is not about complete deprivation so on occasion to have a glass of wine isn't going to completely derail your efforts. Everyone must make this decision for themselves but it's important to know that it slows the metabolism way down also.

A larger issue than alcohol is actually soft drinks and energy drinks. Did you know there are 16 teaspoons in just one can of Coke? That is more than a full day's allotment of sugar, that is for sure! I believe that beverages can be as big of an issue if not more so than food. They are quick  and easy to consume on the go and are filled with empty calories. Don't even think about replacing the sugar with the diet version which is filled with aspartame, splenda, acesulfame potassium and the like which are chemically made artificially sweeteners that have been proven to cause not only cancer but digestive issues not to mention the fact that they actually cause your body to crave sugar-the very thing you're hoping to avoid! Many people have a juice habit they have to kick. I'm not talking about fresh squeezed juice from a juicer but the kind that comes in a bottle pre-made. Some believe it is healthy because after all, it's juice and comes from fruit, right? Anything purchased from a store has been sitting in a cold case or on a shelf for a while and there is little nutritional value not to mention that it's devoid of any enzymes after having been pasteurized. Fruit juice is full of sugar, so it's best to consume the fruit to include the fiber. If you are going to make fresh pressed juice, focus more on veggie intake and consume it immediately after juicing for maximum benefit.

For many, when it comes to clean eating, the argument is that there simply isn't enough time to eat healthfully but the alternative is bleak. We can either put in the time now and eat the way we know we should or spend our time sitting in a doctor's office or worse later on in life. Plus, eating fresh, raw and clean just feels good. When our body gets what it needs, it's happy and functions the way it should, causing us to enjoy an overall better quality of life. Cooking and preparing meals as well as snacks does not need to be complex. I assure you that you can create fabulous meals without sacrificing too much time in the kitchen and they will be meals that your family will enjoy. It may involve changing one's palate over a few weeks while retraining the taste buds but it will be time well spent.

Lastly, if you want a great book recommendation, honestly there are so many to choose from on clean eating, but I'm currently reading: 'Eating on the Wild Side' by Jo Robinson. It is a fabulous read. Why? Jo shares the best versions of the food we eat, which have the most nutrients such as purple carrots vs. orange carrots and why baby carrots are a waste of time. Moreover though she reveals the combinations of foods that work together to produce the highest nutritional content and how best to consume the produce we buy. Definitely a book for you library!

Coming to the end of writing this post I'm realizing that many of you might want examples of specific meals and snacks that represent clean eating or perhaps a look into what I eat daily. This post would have been insanely long if I had included those too so instead, this post will serve more as clean eating basics or guidelines if you will (my own anyway). I'll follow up with some recipes that you'll enjoy and are easy and quick to make so stay tuned for those. :)

Once again, please let me reiterate that each person must ease into any new way of eating and of course if you have health issues, do consult your doctor. Food is truly our medicine though so it beats any chemical pill that could be prescribed.

Now it's your turn....share with us in the comments below what you're doing to eat more clean these days.

Thanks for Reading!


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