These are ridiculous pictures; definitely not the best and pretty cheesy set up. I nearly didn’t post them, because I thought maybe people would think ugh, terrible photos Lauren! What were you thinking? Then I remembered that most of y’all that read this blog are nice people and that it is my personal blog to keep track of all the little moments that make me laugh — including really silly photo set ups. So here we are, on Valentine’s Day, being total posers because I am the Queen of Hearts and Chris is my King of Hearts (I know, I know, it wouldn’t kill him to smile), Nate is totally ace and Alex is always the joker! This is me and these are mine, my silly, nerdy family that I have no other option but to love.
Last month, I completed the 4-week Slim with Tina online Kickstarter course and read her book by the same title. You might remember when I started, my goals weren’t about weight loss or dress sizes, but about adopting a healthier lifestyle. So how did it go? Thanks to Tina’s program I started yoga again, was out and running in the snow, whipping up delicious new meals for my family, spending less time fretting over meal planning and generally feeling better inside and out. I didn’t weigh myself or take measurements at the start, but I have noticed a difference in the way my clothes fit and a new energy and positive opinion of myself (that’s not based on size or comparing myself to others). I also kept a food diary that really opened up my eyes to emotional eating habits (like sneaking a biscuit just to spite my naughty children). Here are the top things I picked up from the course that have stuck now that the programme is completed.
1. Drink more water. Yep, we all know this. I’m terrible at this for some reason. Honestly, it has been so cold in the house and the water out of our tap is cold enough to give you brain freeze. So I’m not really into that. Tina suggested that I leave a jug water out to get to room temperature–simple and genius idea! Also, herbal teas count (not caffeinated black tea though) and I’ve found ginger tea to be my new favourite thing to warm up with.
2. Cut down on sugar (especially hidden sugar). I started the course thinking I had a pretty healthy, homemade diet, and I did except for all the things I ate off the books. You know, little nibbles here and there that you kind of forget you are actually eating. A lot of these things tended to be processed and contained more sugar than I assumed. And of course coming out of the Christmas season there were a lot of treats like cakes, cookies and chocolate in the house as well. I’ve replaced all sugary treats with fruit, occasionally make healthy treats (like these) and do keep good dark chocolate on hand for when the craving really strikes (a little nibble of Green & Blacks Fair Trade Dark 85% Cacao bar is so good, I couldn’t go back to a substandard chocolate bar anyway!) I also read the labels much more carefully and know exactly what I am getting in my diet. Beware of low fat items because they are often loaded with sugar!
3. Cut down on refined white flour. I have been reading a lot about gluten and benefits of a gluten-free diet, as well as articles that say it’s not really a big deal unless you have an actual intolerance or allergy. I’m still trying to figure out where I stand, but in an effort to rid processed food sugar, so goes a lot of white flour. It has been fun trying out replacements that really do add interesting texture and flavour to meals. We’ve added buckwheat semolina, quinoa, brown rice, and wholemeal pasta to our diet and have been experimenting with cooking and baking with ground almonds, buckwheat, spelt, wholewheat, rice flour and other gluten free alternatives. It’s fun to try new things and we really haven’t missed the sliced white pan.
4. Get outside and move more. I’m definitely a winter-phobic. Despite my 8 years in Boston and 6 years in Dublin, I’m a South Texan girl at heart and feel totally out of place when the temperature drops below short-shorts and flip-flops weather (which is all the time in Ireland, what am I doing here!?) I’ve also never been a terribly sporty person. So when I say I went running in the snow, it’s a big freaking deal. Once I started eating healthier, I had an energy boost and the confidence to start running again. After a really stressful day of toddler wrangling, I would usually look for comfort in cake, but now I find going for a run or walk much more therapeutic.
5. Be kind to myself and others. Tina’s book is really great at illuminating some of the cultural traps we fall into that perpetuate a disordered relationship with food. We don’t treat our bodies with the respect they deserve and can be very cruel to ourselves when looking in the mirror. I’m trying to avoid allowing negative comments to float around my brain, whether they be about me or snarky celebrity gossip. It doesn’t do anyone any good to tear people down. The more positive I feel about myself, the more I want to eat healthy food because I realise I deserve good health, not just a sugar rush.
6. Bulk up meals with green veg, not starch. This kind of goes along with cutting down on processed white flour. I realised so much of my meals where carbs or startch that was easy to prepare and fill up on. Now I fill my plate with as much green veg as possible and have a little of everything else too. I find that when I prioritise the veg, my portion sizes also go down. I feel just as satisfied (maybe more so because I’m putting the effort into much more flavourful meals) but a lot less full of bad stuff. Instead of eating pretty pathetic and bland ham sandwiches for lunch, I’m eating salad of baby spinach, avacado, tomatoes, peppers and nuts. I’ve also swapped uninspiring breakfast cereal for wholemilk yogurt, homemade museli and fresh fruit. It’s a lot tastier than malted wheat squares!
7. Have fun with food and enjoy nourishing my body! One thing I liked about Tina’s approach is that it isn’t guilt inducing in the least. It’s about learning to love food and learning what food is meant to do for your body. I think calorie counting and points can make you feel like you’re giving up something in order to loose weight or that healthy eating is a chore.The boys and I had fun in the first few weeks looking for new fruits to try making treats with ingredients I’d never heard of. Luckily healthy living is pretty trendy right now so there’s lots of resources and great recipes out there. I feel good about the direction my family is taking and excited about the health benefits we’ll reap, so any short lived enjoyment I might have gotten from a bag of crisps is suddenly gone. Junk food does taste like junk now and I find myself seeking craving healthier options. The kids are also getting really into learning about healthy food.
I definitely recommend the programme for anyone looking to make a lifestlye change. The book and course cover the same material, so if you are not able to join the online course or want to get started right away, I highly recommend the Slim with Tina book. It gives very clear, simple explanations of why we need to eat a balanced diet and how our body uses the different food we eat. I’ve always wanted to learn more about nutrition, but found that many things I read were for people with a scientific background and I got lost in the terminology. Finally I feel like I have an understanding of what’s happening inside my body and why I am choosing the food I eat. There are a lot of great recipes for every meal that are very easy to follow and delicious!
The Slim with Tina Kickstarter Course is conducted through a private Facebook group. To be honest, I’m not crazy about FB groups because it can be easy to miss a post or to come to a conversation long after it has ended. But I did find the group support aspect really helpful. It keeps you honest and allows you to ask questions directly about cooking with different ingredients or to share successful recipes, as well as clear up confusion about nutrition. Tina shared sections of her book, inspirational quotes and tips, recipes and gave us prompts for discussion or personal reflection. You don’t need to read the book to be on the course, but I think it helps to reinforce what the group chats are about. It’s also a good reference once the online course is completed.
If you’re interested in joining the next course, it starts March 24 and costs €49. It would be a great way to spring clean your lifestyle and get ready for sunnier days!
This is such a sweet, unexpected moment between my two boys as we walked Nate to preschool (and I let them go off just far enough to snap a picture before I became Mother Hen, it’s a busy road). They held hands for the entire 15 minute walk and after we picked up Nate, they held hands coming home. Sometimes the try to kill each other (obviously, they’re siblings) but most of the time they are really good friends. It fills me with so much joy watching them together, but sometimes it makes me a little jealous because I don’t have any siblings of my own. When people ask how we managed to have two little kids so close in age, all I can think is that it doesn’t matter how, but why. We wanted our kids to be close in age and close to each other. So far, they’re doing a pretty good job of being pals.
Minted recently contacted me to ask if I’d review some of their products in a wish-list style post. My first thought was to just link to the site and say I want it all. Because seriously, I do. My friends and family know I love a good personalised Christmas card and birthday invite. And I am a stationary hoarder, and proud of it! I never realised how many cute products Minted has — journals, party decorations, photo backdrops, art prints and of course personalised stationary.
As I was going through the site over the weekend, on day 8 being stuck inside with pre-school-itus (you know that nasty bug that kids get when the first start school that never goes away), I was feeling some major cabin fever and started imagining all the adventures we’ll be going on over the summer. I’m re-learning how to ride a bicycle and keep imagining throwing the kids into a bike trailer and hitting the road for an adventure to the beach or woodlands or wherever my legs can take us. Nate’s just starting to write and is getting pretty good at doodling, so I think these journals would be so much fun to take with us over the summer to record all of our adventures.
The journals are $16 each and allow customisation of colours within each theme and the option of plain, lined or graph paper. You can choose ring binding or grommits and can include a photograph in the interior pages or just add custom text. They can also be turned into adorable planners or address books.
I’m not sure if sleep-away camp even exists in Ireland, but it is certainly a rite of passage in the US. I’ll admit, most of my letters from my first sleep-away camp experience were pretty moany. But I’d like to think if they were written on cute wriggly worm stationary, it would have softened the blow for my poor mom when she read how miserable I was. (Side note: we eventually learned that Girl Scout horse riding camp was not for me, but co-ed beach camp with cute councillors that introduced us to Nine Inch Nails and TMBGs was totally more my scene. Go figure!)
Kid’s stationary is customisable as well, with colours ways, backing paper and shape options for each design. The price depends on the quantity ordered and type of paper you select. It starts at $35 for 15 pieces. You can also get other coordinating products like envelopes and address labels.
And of course, if we are going to have a summer of adventure, we need a map, a spirit animal and a good slogan. Being in Ireland, there’s only one option for this!
The art prints are gorgeous and have something to suit all tastes. Some, like the Adventure Map and Rainy Day prints, are customisable (I changed the locations on the map to Nate Lagoon, Alex Falls, Mommy Marsh and Dad Rock Ridge). You can order the prints in premium or museum quality paper and even have framing options. The price really depends on the size and style of the print, but Minted have very helpfully included a guide to help you decide.
Minted asked me to review their products and kindly offered me a credit so that I can try out some of these designs in real life, but as always, my opinions are my my own. Check out Minted.com for lots of inspiration and fantastic products. I wish I could get married again for more coordinating stationary! And love, of course.
Whether you’re spoiling a loved one or yourself this Valentine’s Day, you can feel a little bit less guilty by making these delicious and nutritious Chia Seed and Cacao Energy Balls from Tina Murphy’s book, Slim with Tina. I found this cute heart shaped box in Tiger Stores, perfect for filling with sweets and personalised it with polka dot alphabet stickers from Target.
A few months ago, I would have laughed in your face (and then stuffed my face with Reese’s) if you told me that healthy chocolate treats were good and tasted good. But these high-energy balls are both. They may require a trip to the health food shop for the ingredients, but there’s tons of great recipes you can use them in. It’s worth the investment (and if you don’t want to take my word for it, pick up Tina’s book!)
Chia Seed and Cacao Energy Balls
150g almond butter (or other nut butter, I used Meridian Crunchy Peanut Butter)
1 tsp cinnamon
150ml maple syrup (or honey)
1 tbsp milled chia seed
1tbsp milled flaxseed
2tbsp raw cacao powder (what’s the difference between coco and cacao? check this out)
2 tbsp oats
Heat the nut butter, cinnamon and maple syrup in a pan for a minute until it is soft and easy to blend. Then add all the other ingredients and mix well. I put the bowl of mixture into the fridge for a few minutes to let it firm up again so that it is not so sticky to make into balls. On a tray lined with a silicon baking sheet, I spooned out my mixture and let it set in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Then I rolled each into a perfect ball. Let chill for a couple of hours and then store in an airtight container lined with greaseproof paper. If you’re giving them as a gift, you might want to pop them in the freezer for a while so that they hold up during transport.
To make the hearts, I used a silicon candy mould. As the mixture is initially quite sticky, I spooned some messily into the mould and then put it into the freezer for 5 minutes. Once the mix is firmer, you can push it into the mould easier and smooth out the top. I put it into the freezer for another 5 minutes and then carefully popped them out of the mould and put them on the baking sheet with the calls.
For variations, you could roll the balls in dessicated coconut, top with goji berries (that’d be lovely for Valentine’s Day) or top with sesame seeds.
*I made my balls quite small because I am sharing them with the boys and they only need little treats. They are quite rich, so if you find your are making them too big, you can always reshape as the mixture never firms up all the way.