Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Latest: I'm livin' the tropical life...for a year!

Wow. There have been a loooooot of life happenings since I've last updated this little corner of the internet. And usually I ruminate and stress over the most *perfect* way to start anew when I've missed several months of blogging, but just to make it easy, I'm going to be nice and straightforward.

Hi. My name is Hope...I think my blog profile mentions that somewhere....yep, okay--check.

Next: I have a wonderful husband, 2 darling (but not always angelic) little girls, ages 4 and almost-2. We lived in Portland, OR for 3 years while my husband completed his residency after medical school and NOW...the greatest news as of late...we are living in AMERICAN SAMOA!!!!

We moved here just a month ago...almost exactly a month ago...and it's been the adventure we have hoped for so far, except still trying to get settled into a new (read: different, not "new") house starting next week. Most of our adventures will probably be shared via social media (Instagram, Facebook...), but I will try to post on here as well. You'd think with a blog on finding "balance" in life, that I would have a better balance on my journaling outlets! Right now I have a private family blog, this hobby "balance" blog, my Fitness Friday website (still in the works), and then there's the social media...aggghh. Too much sometimes, but I'm trying to find a balance ;-)

My goal is to back-date this blog, just a tad, to include notable events from our last year in Portland, in addition to any recipes or fitness tips that I feel super compelled to share. Then, I will include posts from our our first few days/weeks here in A.S. and thereafter continue to, hopefully, be a regular blogger once again. Was I ever regular? I must have been...maybe before kids, or at least before the second one...

Here is a sneak peak view of our first month! I forgot to post the picture with all the moving boxes....oops. Definitely not as scenic :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pumpkin Hot "Cereal"

During my "Whole 15" trial, I mixed up some canned pumpkin, fresh apple (cored), nut butter, seeds/nuts, shredded coconut, raisins, chia or flax seeds, hemp seeds, and some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and voila! A grain-free breakfast porridge that is super filling and delicious. I have made it again a few times, and this morning I decided to make a large batch so I could have it ready to enjoy every day this week for breaky. This would also be a great add-in if you are eating real hot cereal; I like some oatmeal now and then and this would be super tasty mixed in. You can totally get creative and add different fruits like blueberries, cranberries or various types of nuts/seeds.

Pumpkin Hot "Cereal" (big batch for single eater)

  • 1 (15 oz) canned pumpkin
  • 2 apples, cored
  • 1/2 C shredded coconut
  • 1/3 C (a few tablespoons) almond or other nut butter
  • 2 T chia or flax seeds
  • 2 T hemp seeds
  • 1/2 C mixed seeds/nuts (pumpkin seeds, sunflower, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • 1/2 C raisins (use more or less for desired sweetness)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
Combine all together in a food processor and blend to an oatmeal-like consistency (it will be more wet since there are no grains to soak up the moisture). Heat and enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Whole30 (Whole15...) Experience

Whew! I did it, folks.  

I completed a "Whole15"...which is my trial version of the "Whole30" program (AKA diet). I'm going to try to write down my experience here without investing too much time or thought, because let's be honest: THE WINDOW OF TIME AFTER KIDS GO TO SLEEP AND I HIT MY OWN BED IS PRECIOUS AND LIMITED. Aaaand I may or may not be in the middle of Call The Midwife Season 3 and hoping to fit in an episode since hubster is out of town...when I should be doing dishes...have I made my point? :-)

Here's how it all began:

Dinnertime, October 3, 2015

Me: "So...this is my last non-Whole30 approved meal...
Husband: "WHAT??!"
Me: "Yep. I decided I'm gonna give it a try. Starting tomorrow."
Husband: "That's so dumb. You're such a follower!"
Me: "I'm not a follower! Okay, a little. But only because I am curious to see how I feel during the diet and when I start reintroducing those restricted foods after I'm done."

If you're not up to speed on what this eating program entails, check out the Whole30 website; it basically consists of adhering to specific dietary restrictions for 30 days as follows:

NO: grains, legumes (beans and includes peanuts/peanut butter), dairy, soy, caffeine, sugar of any kind (including artificial), pseudo-grains like quinoa, aaaand I think that's it.
YES: meat, fish, healthy fats/oils, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, and--thankfully--potatoes. Coconuts, too (is that a fruit?). I personally consumed a large amount of homemade coconut milk....mmmm.

So it's quite limiting. However, the intentions, I believe, are good for those who need to break away from some unhealthy habits or relationships with food or if weight loss is the goal. I was already at a pretty healthy place with clean eating, minimally processed foods, but I did want to challenge myself and see if I could overcome my instant gratification reflex with sweets. Even if it is healthier, like a "paleo treat" or some other clean eating treat...too much of those can obviously become a viciously addictive habit.

A few days in....

I realized after about day 3 or 4, that even though there are lots of delicious options and ones that weren't really too different than what I was already used to, strictly following these eating "requirements" for 30 days wasn't going to be very beneficial for someone like me. Here's why:

MAIN REASON: I'm still nursing my almost-one-year-old baby. After a few days, I didn't necessarily see a decrease in my milk supply, but I do miss the appreciated boost that I would get with eating some oats. With so many dietary "no-no's", it gave me a mindset that was like "It's all about ME. Me me MEEEE!!!!!" when really it should be more like this, "What I eat affects me AND my baby." I believe that a nursing mother should have more freedom to make intuitive food choices; if I have a craving for a slab of cheese (which actually doesn't really happen) or a piece of buttery toast (yes...this one speaks to me), then I think I should go for it! So long as it balances out my overall food intake and carbs for that day.

Reason #2:  I don't need to lose weight. I guess I have been one of those lucky pregnant ladies that apparently only gains baby weight and so I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight at about one week postpartum. I know...tough battle. I'm thankful for it, but hey, I've got loose belly skin that drives me a little crazy that never had the chance to regress with gradual weight loss, so there is always a trade off. Also, everyone wants to tone up and toning muscles doesn't always reflect on the scale....which is another point of curiosity--whether or not I would see any "tightening" or "toning" in accordance with my regular fitness routine. VERDICT, you ask?? After 15 days on the plan, I may feel slightly more trim around my obliques, but it very well could be my imagination :-) Nothing substantial, which shows me that how I was eating prior to starting the plan is acceptable in terms of maintaining a healthy and desirable weight. Everyone has different expectations, and mine have been met before, during, and after my "Whole15" experience. I know some Whole30'ers may argue: "but you didn't do it for the entire 30 days!! You would have seen more results if you would have stayed the course!" That may very well be true...but when I'm already at a comfortable physique, it just wasn't worth continuing when considering the "still nursing" factor.

Reason #3: Three words: too. much. meat. This diet had me eating a lot more meat than I was comfortable with. Several months ago I had made a conscious effort to consume and prepare meals with less meat/fish. We went from eating meat probably 5-7 times a week, to between 2 and 3, and at most, 4 times a week. It's difficult to find protein sources that aren't meat when you can't have beans or tofu/tempeh. A few times I would make protein smoothies (which are actually "discouraged" by Whole30) while using approved Whole30 ingredients, like chia or hemp seed. Okay, 2 or 3 times I did also "cheat" and put cocoa and dates together in smoothies. I know: for shame! But hey, a nursing mama needs her protein and to be hydrated!

Reason #4: I haven't noticed any difference in my faculties after 2 weeks, in fact, I actually had a couple of really "foggy mind" moments during the last 15 days that may or may not have been attributed to the change in diet, but otherwise I felt great before starting and I feel great now, too. So not much difference in that area.

Oh, one definite CON I noticed while on the diet: If I kept myself adequately sated, then I was perfectly happy to eat per the Whole30 guidelines. BUT--if I let myself get hungry (which happened a LOT the first week), then my first craving would be something super carby and NOT Whole30 approved. For example, I was driving home one day after running errands with the kids for a few hours and I suddenly found myself ravenous. I was super hungry and wanted to shove (in my mind) something like french bread slathered in butter or a huge chocolate muffin into my face. So I thought it was interesting (and not a good thing) that my first instinctual cravings were of that sort...because I think I probably--maybe--would have caved if someone had been like, "Here--I have some french bread slathered in fresh butter for you!". Probably an indication that my blood sugar was low or something....

Overall, it was a good experience and I'm glad I did it. It will be really interesting to see if I feel any different once I reintroduce some of the restricted items back into my diet. For example, tomorrow is my FIRST DAY off the Whole30 (Whole15...ahem) and I will be eating a piece of brown rice toast (so excited!) and then for dinner later we are going to sushi, so I will be having more rice. By tomorrow night or the next day, I should be feeling whether or not rice affects my body adversely or not. I'll slowly (somewhat...) do the same thing with reintroducing dairy (which I know already makes me feel bloated so I steer clear for the most part), wheat, and peanuts.

Some things I'll walk away with are definitely a continued appreciation for eggs (which I love and didn't burn out on, thankfully), avocados, sweet potatoes, homemade mayonnaise--which I didn't expect to like much, and citrus juices so I could make an "approved" vinaigrette for my salads. I think I'll eat my sweets and treats more sparingly now, too, since I do feel that my cravings for something super sweet have decreased a bit. Which means that I will be preparing or baking them less, which = less time in the kitchen, which = more time with my kiddos or husband or doing another needful task at hand.

Probably the biggest takeaway and benefit from this experience, was learning and training to be more of a mindful eater. For example, instead of grabbing one of my kids' pretzels or finishing their half eaten quesadilla, I wouldn't--because it wasn't Whole30 approved. But now that I'm off the program, I'm hoping that I'll maintain that same self-discipline and still not eat the quesadilla because I didn't make it for me, I made it for my daughter.  I'm sure I was pulling in a lot of excess calories with bad snacking habits! I baked cookies, muffins, biscuits and made pancakes for my family over the last couple of weeks and it definitely took some self-restraint to dismiss the temptation to lick the honey spoon or try the cookie dough or nibble some of those baked creations once they were done--but I did it. Here's hoping I'm on my way to being a more mindful eater!

Would I do it again?? No...not entirely. I would definitely cut the sugars and treats out but stick with some of my favorite go-to's that were not Whole30 approved, such as my quinoa, occasional Greek yogurt, oats, tamari sauce, and sneak in my fave cocoa and honey combo! I also like me some lentils and beans as a protein source when eating a vegetarian meal. Because really...when it comes to health and nutrition, my secret ambition is to eat like a centenarian ;-)

Okay, that is all and it took more time than I wanted, but I had to give a full and fair review on something that took some considerable mental focus. Now I'm excited to be expending that energy doing another worthwhile project that is badly needed: deep-cleaning my house!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Flat and Chewy Honey Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not the greatest pic, but I don't have time to whip out my nice camera and take glorious photos of food.
Not at this stage in my life, anyway!
I've been on a quest to make cookies with less refined ingredients with additional power ingredients (like chia seeds) to make them somewhat healthier with a boost of nutrients...but hey, it's a cookie! It's supposed to be a treat :-)

Here's a recipe I've been tinkering with and I have a couple of good versions. This one creates a flat cookie that's SUPER chewy. I actually haven't tasted it yet (but neighbors and hubby loved them!), since I've doing a trial version of the Whole30 diet (no sugar, grains, dairy, etc.) but I'm probably only going to do a Whole15...HA! I'm still nursing, and I'd feel much better about eating less meat and overall just following my intuition when it comes to what foods I feel my body needs. Which, yes, includes a little bit of everything banned by the Whole30 diet.

Flat and Chewy Honey Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 C liquid coconut oil
3 T room temp butter (optional. Added for crisp)
1 egg
2 T ground chia seeds
1/2 C liquified honey
1 T vanilla
1 C coconut sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 C spelt flour
1/2 C rolled oats
1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Mix liquid ingredients together
  2. Add chia powder and mix well
  3. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl, mix, then add to wet ingredients
  4. Mix all ingredients well and fold in chocolate chips
Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on pan for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely (they will be floppy unless cooled properly). Of course you can eat them warm, too!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015



Adapted from and photo credit by BodBot

warm up: split stance pec mobilization with staff
2 x 8

warm up: walking pull backs
2 x 8

warm up: overhead lunge walk
2 x 8

3 x 20 seconds

hand stand (or shoulder-press) push up
4 x 8

kneeling hip extension
4 x 8

side bridges - straight arm, elevated leg, isometric
3 x 20 seconds

isometric no-equipment bicep curls
4 x 20 seconds

running - 70% sprints
3 x 400 meters

cool down: calf wall stretch
2 x 25 seconds

running - 100% sprints
4 x 100 meters

cool down: standing quadricep stretch
2 x 25 seconds

cool down: lunge stretch
2 x 25 seconds

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Body-Weight Barre Workout

I've been getting into Barre workouts lately. And by "getting into" I mean trying YouTube videos in my living room :-)  However, I did formulate this workout below especially for my Fitness Friday peeps: 
  • First position: heels together, toes 2-3 inches apart. Each exercise x 30.
    • Squat half-way down and come up (playground ball between legs recommended) 
    • Squat pulses - "down an inch, up an inch" 
    • Swivel hips (hula) from standing to fully lowered position and return to standing 
    • Repeat hip swivel in a fixed seated position 
  • Fourth Position: like 1st position, but one leg behind the other with heel to toe. 
    • Squat slowly all the way down and return. Repeat x 30
  • Leg Series; hands on bar. Each exercise x 15. 
    • "Deli Slicer": 
      • From standing, open right hip to place knee and ankle at approx parallel (knee slightly higher than ankle)
      • Move right knee to bar (or elbow) with toes pointed. 
      • After leg reaches bar/elbow, extend leg behind you
    • Leg Press:
      • From standing, bend right knee and press behind you to straighten (ankle flexed)
    • Straight Lift:
      • From standing, flatten back (more space between body and bar), and raise right leg and extend behind you. Full range of motion encouraged. 
    • Straight Pulses: 
      • Same as previous lift, but pulse at raised position; "down an inch, up an inch"
    • Hamstring Bend and Reach: 
      • From standing, bend right knee and reach leg behind you from raised to lowered position; toes pointed. "Swooping" motion. 
    • 90 Degree Pulses: 
      • From standing, raise right leg behind you and form 90 degree angle with your knee. Pulse: "down an inch, up an inch"
    • Repeat series with opposite leg.
  • Arm Series; legs in pliĆ© squat position. Engage/contract arm and core muscles. Each exercise for 60 seconds, total = 5 minutes.
    • Cross punches
    • Rows (slight forward bend)
    • Triceps (extensions and presses behind you)
    • Biceps (uppercut and hook punches)
    • Scarecrow: Arms extended to the sides, 90 deg angle, rotate wrists up and down, keep elbows fairly stationary. 
  • Finale!
    • "Spiderman" push-ups
      • In, regular push-up/plank position, bring right knee to right elbow while bending left elbow. Repeat with left knee to left elbow while bending right elbow. Repeat 15 times, pausing for rest if necessary. 
  • NOTE: During squats, tract the knees over 1st and 2nd toes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin choc chip cookies

It seems that I try a different pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe every year (thanks to Pinterest) and I tried a recipe last week that is calling me, begging me, to make a second batch very soon. Like today. Or tomorrow...I'm also waiting for a baby, so whichever one comes first.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
{my new favorite}

Slightly adapted from this delicious recipe.

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1/4 cup sugar (instead of this, I used 4 drops liquid stevia, 2 T coconut flour and added 2 T water or milk...weird, I know :) 
1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a combo of semi-sweet and Hershey's milk chocolate chunks). 
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these)


Mix wet ingredients (including pumpkin) in large bowl.  Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda in smaller bowl. Add dry ingredients slowly to wet ingredients & mix well.  Add chocolate chips and stir until well combined. 

  1. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350* for 9-10 minutes. Let cool on pan for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool entirely. Store in a sealed container...if they last that long :)