Green Smoothies

May 30, 2016

Recently, I’ve been trying to eat more Paleo (basically eat more veggies and less carbs). That wasn’t difficult to incorporate into my lunch and dinner plans, but breakfast really stumped me. My usual breakfast was cereal (usually Honey Nut Cheerios) with almond milk or oatmeal. Both are a very carb/sugar rich way to start my day that I wasn’t super happy with. My diet is further limited that I can’t eat wheat, eggs, or much dairy (I’m gluten-intolerant and eggs and dairy also agitate my digestive system). I tried a few other Paleo breakfasts – including a potato/sweet potato/onion/bacon hash and pumpkin/banana pancakes. Both were great, but time consuming to make — so not sustainable for regular workday breakfasts.

At the perfect timing for my life, one of the blogs I read posted about incorporating green smoothies into her diet. I’d obviously heard of green smoothies before, but I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before to try them for my breakfasts. My sister Kelsey makes a similar smoothie for her breakfast occasionally. But it started the wheels in motion and I’ve been green smoothie-ing for breakfast for a couple weeks now and LOVING it!

smoothie making 2 color edit1

smoothie color edit1

Part of the reason I hadn’t tried this sooner is that we didn’t have a blender (Drew broke ours trying to blend a spoon in it while making daiquiris for a party he threw a few years ago when I was out of town, lol!). I tried to blend my first smoothie in our food processor and that turned out terribly! I did a little research on small blenders perfect for smoothies and narrowed it down to these two: NutriBullet ($79.99) & Bella Rocket Blender ($24.99). The NutriBullet is a little more expensive and probably better for the long run, but since I wasn’t even sure I was going to like smoothies, I went with the cheaper, but still well-reviewed Bella Rocket Blender. So far, I’m perfectly happy with my choice! At just under $25, it has been working great (and I’ve been using it daily for the last few weeks). It is super easy to clean, comes with multiple cups, and even includes an extra grinding blade for grinding small seeds and such. I like that it is small enough to leave out for daily use and the design is simple and looks nice.

P.S. Feel free to use your regular blender if you have one! No need to buy a specific smoothie blender for this! I will say though, that the super easy to clean design of this is what has made me actually stick to it. If I had to take a blender apart every day to clean it, I wouldn’t do it (Drew washes the dishes in this house!).

There are a million ways that you can make green smoothies, but this is the recipe that I’ve found perfect for my daily use:

Banana Spinach Green Smoothie
makes one 16 oz smoothie

Ingredients: (feel free to modify as you wish!)
-1 1/4 cup fresh spinach
-1 cup unsweetened cashew or almond milk
-1 tsp honey
-2 tsp ground flax, chia, and hemp seeds
-1 Tbsp almond butter
-1/2 banana, frozen into small chunks
-2 strawberries

Other ingredient ideas:
-raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pineapple, pear, apples (fresh or frozen)
-coconut milk
-nuts or other nut butters
-cinnamon
-dates
-avocado
-vanilla
-cocoa powder
-oats
-coconut

Directions:
1. Place spinach, cashew/almond milk, honey, almond butter, and seeds (I usually pre-grind mine) into blender cup and blend until well blended. (I’ve read that mixing the spinach and liquid together first before adding other fruits helps to get a smoother blend and avoid small bits of spinach in your smoothie).
2. Add banana and other fruit or mix-ins as desired. Blend until well blended.
3. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts:
258 Calories, 30g Carbs, 8g Protein, 13g Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 190mg Sodium, 288mg Potassium, 5g Fiber, 11g Sugar

green smoothie1

I honestly can’t believe what a difference this has made so far in my routine. It is still quick and easy to make and drink (the small smoothie blender makes it so quick and easy!). It doesn’t take any longer than making and eating a bowl of cereal! But I feel SO MUCH BETTER! I’ve noticed that I have so much more energy lately and this is just such a refreshing way to start my day. I like feeling like I’m being better and healthier to my body. I’ve even started to crave and look forward to my morning smoothie — so much so that I’ve even had another for an afternoon snack some days! I’ve been drinking a bag of spinach a week!

stress-relieving

My personality and the way that I care and invest in things makes me very prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. This was something I really, really struggled with during college as my health issues, low energy levels, un-settled-ness, stress of grades and performance, exhaustion from difficult and draining courses and late nights studying, difficulty making close friends, distance from family (etc…) really led me into a difficult mental and emotional state. (Thank goodness for Drew, I’m not sure I could have made it through without him!) Things have gotten much better over the last few years as I’ve developed a happy home of my own, no longer have the stress of grades/late nights of homework, are more able to explore my creative passions, and have my health issues more under control. But I’ve noticed that depression can easily sneak up. With all the stresses and many ways that life takes hold, it isn’t hard to get to the point of overwhelm and feel like you can’t handle it all. Family dramas, work burnout, stress of future unknowns, the physical/mental/emotional weight of various work and social commitments, there are a lot of things that can subtly get you down without realizing it until you are already there.

I feel like this is something I will always battle in whatever complexity (and maybe everyone does?), but as I get older, I’m really trying harder to safeguard my mental and emotional health.

For anyone else out there that might find themselves battling stress and overwhelm, here are a few calming and stress-relieving techniques that I’ve found help meI want to preface this by saying that I’m no expert, these are just some of my observations and I’m not perfect at having them all together either. I just wanted to share, in case this could be of help to someone else. These are not meant to be a cure for anxiety or depression, just ways to help keep a more positive physical, mental, and emotional attitude. If you are really struggling, seek professional help!

  • Take care of your body. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, I’m gluten intolerant and have a couple other minor food sensitivities, and I get headaches really easily. Because of my low energy levels and digestive issues, it is super important for me to eat a healthy, whole foods diet (free from wheat, barley, and rye, and limited on milk, eggs, and sugar) and it is essential that I get a good amount of quality sleep (8-10 hours a night, doing my best to avoid waking up in the middle of the night). I also need to eat healthy snacks throughout the day (I get headaches when I’m hungry), take my vitamins, get more exercise (Pilates/yoga and walks around the neighborhood), let go of stress and keep up positive feelings. You might not have the same dietary restrictions as I do, but eating healthy, whole foods, getting good sleep, and exercising is important for everyone!
  • Let go. This can be a really hard one, but a really important one. There are a lot of things that can be toxic in our lives – family drama, bad relationships, bad workplace environment, stress from where you live, etc. These are often hard to control. But it is really important to do everything you can to not let these things affect you for the worse. Let go of the toxic relationships in your life, change your workplace, move to a less stressful environment, whatever it takes. Living in a toxic situation just tears you down mentally, physically, and emotionally. Maybe for you this is as simple as disconnecting/unfollowing/unfriending — removing the people from your life that make you mad/jealous, you don’t really know any longer, don’t bring joy to your life, etc. It could also mean curating the information that comes in — from news sources, social media, etc. Stop letting information in that just tears you down. In the same respect, let go of things in other areas of your life that aren’t working any more. Let go of goals that don’t work any longer, bad feelings, past hurts, disappointments, and as said above, people that aren’t healthy in your life.
  • Simplify. The things we surround ourselves with take up so much mental, physical, and emotional space in our lives. We often surround ourselves with so many things that they become a burden — a burden to clean, to put away, to find a home for, to take care of, to repair, to manage, etc. It is so freeing to get rid of the excess and to not feel so tied down to objects — keeping only the things in your life that bring you joy.  Clear out the junk, de-clutter, clean out your closet, get rid of everything in your house that you don’t use or don’t love. Less stuff equals more time, more happiness, and more joy. In the same respect, evaluate new purchases so that you don’t end up buying new things you don’t need.
  • Put some love into your home. I’ve found that one of the biggest contributors to keeping my sanity is having a nice, safe, comforting place to come home to in the evenings. It is a respite from a long work day and a place that I feel relaxed and safe. One of my biggest struggles during the beginning of my college years was that I didn’t have this place to come home to and feel settled in. If your home isn’t doing this for you, consider investing a little into it. Make it a place you enjoy coming home to at the end of the day (or all day if you work from home).
  • Make time in the day to focus on your passions. It is really easy to get caught up in the get up, go to work all day, come home, clean up the house, make dinner, go to bed routine, leaving no time left to focus on things you really love or enjoy. I’ve found that if I neglect my creative passions and personal goals for too long, I start to really feel depressed (and that my day job (or school when I was in college) is taking over my life). For me this means carving out a little time in the evenings (even just a couple times a week) to read, work on personal design work, decorate, paint, crochet, practice calligraphy, learn new skills, etc. During college I really didn’t have time to focus on a lot of these, or they were tied into my school work, so my “outlet” became cooking a nice dinner every evening. It was the one time of the evening that I could forget about the work I needed to do and just focus on preparing the meal. Whatever it is for you – set that time aside for it.
  • Fun counts. A friend of mine from work shared this bit of advice with me and I love it. So often we think “fun” things should take a backseat to more important life things. But if we don’t make time for fun, we end up feeling empty and depressed. For me, this means that even in the middle of a busy week, I need to make time to meet with my church group, have a movie night with Drew, get out of the house and explore the city I live in, read, watch TV, do something relaxing and refreshing, take a walk. Live a simpler and more intentional life, enjoying the here and now. This could also tie into your passions, and sometimes it does for me, but even your creative passions can be stressful and overwhelming sometimes and it is good to take a break from them to relax and watch a movie (or whatever).
  • Create a calm mind. By this, I mean taking the time to rest your brain. Making time for work, personal upkeep, creative passions, etc. can lead to a pretty busy and hectic life if we let it. Make sure to allow yourself a little down time for your sanity. Spend time in prayer/devotion, meditation, yoga/exercise, a peaceful walk around the neighborhood, journaling, time to read, to practice gratitude and reflect on your blessings, whatever this means to you. Just take the time to quiet other stimuli and practice solitude. Trust me, it is hard to make time for this, but it is oh-so-good for your sanity. I’ve found that often the only time I end up setting aside for this is when I’m in the car on my commute to work and back. But even just those few minutes of calm/silence can make a big difference in my day(s).
  • Create a calm morning routine. A nice cup of tea or even just warm water with honey and lemon is really nice to sip on while getting ready in the morning. Having a morning devotional, prayer time, journaling, meditation–whatever way it takes to start your day in a calm way (instead of rushing around like a crazy person to get to work or school on time!). Try not to check your phone/e-mails before work (otherwise I compose e-mail responses over and over again in my head until I get to work and can actually reply!). I struggle a lot with having a calm morning routine (I’m always so tired that I want to get every last second of sleep, meaning I often wake up too late and I’m in a rush) but I think this is one of the best ways to make sure you start your day off on the right foot.
  • Create a consistent evening routine. This can be different for everyone, but for me, I like to try to get in the shower by 9 p.m. and get in bed by 10 (I’m naturally a night owl, so this takes a lot of effort for me). Ideally I would then have a little bit of time to read and decompress from the day before going to sleep by 10:30 or 11 p.m. For you, this could also mean a quick pick up of the house, running of the dishwasher, wiping down of the kitchen counters, picking out your clothes for the next day, packing lunch(es), etc. Whatever it takes to get to bed on time and make the next morning/day less stressful.

Those are great overall life goals to keep stress and depression at bay (for me at least), but what to do when you are really having a rough day? Here are a few simple things that help me when I’m in a really low spot or having a particularly stressful day:

  • Take a few deep breaths and read “Desiderata.” During one particularly rough time in college, my dad called me and read this poem to me over the phone, hoping that it would help me. He often quotes it, especially in that “the universe is unfolding as it should.” I find that when I’m having a hard time, re-reading it not only reminds me of him and that memory and that everything will be okay, but it brings a little more peace into my life. Here it is:

Desiderata
Latin for “things to be desired”
Max Ehrmann, 1927

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

  • Drink a cup of tea or hot chocolate. In the middle of the work day, I often can’t stop what I’m doing to do something more fun and creative if I’m having a bad day, so the best I can do is take small steps to improving my day/attitude. There is just something soul-warming about a nice warm drink to sip on. It can also make working on unenjoyable tasks a little more enjoyable.
  • Prayer, meditation, gratitude. Day not going well? Take a few minutes to pray about it. Or take a few minutes to meditate and shift your focus. Or spend a few minutes thinking about all the blessings in your life instead of focusing on your troubles.
  • Re-evaluation. Depending on your situation, this might not work, but often times the easiest solution is the simplist. Ask yourself “Does this really matter?” “Is this situation going to matter in five years?” If not, try to let it go. I sometimes get stressed about things that in the scheme of things don’t really matter. But I get invested and when things don’t go my way I get hurt. Other ways to phrase this are, “the less you give a damn the happier you’ll be” and “fill your heart with what’s important and be done with all the rest.”
  • Writing it out. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in certain situations that I keep re-living them over and over in my head, making me unable to move on with my life or focus on the tasks at hand. I’ve found that sometimes I just need to write it out to get it out of my head so that I can move on. Grab a notebook or open a Google or Word document and write it all out. Once you are done, close the notebook/document and move on to the next thing. You can also talk it out with someone, but I’ve found that is often too close to gossiping/complaining and can sometimes exaggerate the problem. We are trying to let it go (not give it new life with someone else). Write it down where only you will see it, delete the document at the end if you need to, and move on.
  • Read a book. This isn’t always an option (especially if you are at work), but if this is possible in your situation, take advantage of it. Pick up a book and get lost in someone else’s story. It is good to forget about yourself for a bit.
  • Make something with your hands. Paint, craft, crochet, garden, build something, whatever, but do something that you can feel good about making. This is such a positive mental booster.
  • Evaluate commitments. Is your stress coming from having too many plans, things to do, and places to be? Consider reevaluating your priorities and letting go of some commitments. Make less evening plans and spend more weekends free. Sometimes that simple solution is so great for your mental space. Maybe it isn’t too many commitments but some other thing that triggers your stress. Try to find a way to remove that stress trigger from your life.
  • Check some things off your to-do list. This one is pretty obvious, but again, sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Are you stressed because you have too many things on your to-do list, but you can’t re-evaluate any of those plans? Go through the list and circle the ones that will take you the least amount of time to do, then go do them as fast as you can. This applies to work tasks or home tasks. It almost never fails that there will be things on your list that will only take you a few minutes, yet they are adding so much stress to your plate to see another line item to-do. After checking off a few things you will already feel so much more accomplished and ready to tackle the bigger things on your list.
  • Spend quality time with someone you love. This one is also pretty obvious, but sometimes the best medicine is to forget about your problems and just hang out with someone you love. (Serotonin is an amazing healer, so spend some time in a long hug.) If you don’t have someone nearby who is free, call someone — a significant other, parent, sibling, friend, colleague, neighbor — whomever. Don’t let yourself get to feeling too lonely. (Loneliness is the root of all evil for someone prone to depression!)
  • Turn up the music. I usually just turn on my favorite Pandora station or look up my favorite song on YouTube, but I would love to sit down and compile a playlist of songs that bring me joy to play when I’m feeling down.
  • Remember that “this too shall pass.” Sometimes, we don’t have much control over the stressful situations in our lives. But, often times those things won’t last forever. As much as I wish I could say that I always lived in the moment and enjoyed each day, sometimes the best medicine is to think about the future when one day the stress that you are currently going through won’t exist. (This is mostly how I got through college. Telling myself it wouldn’t last forever and trudging through!) Make it through each day with your future goals in mind — be it a new job, a different career path, a new relationship, the excitement of starting a family, getting your debt paid off, going back to school, getting through a divorce, moving forward after a death in the family — whatever it may be, better days lie ahead!

Remember that having a bad day (or even a sequence of bad days) doesn’t mean you have a bad life!

What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for how you de-stress and stay positive? I love this article on 10 ways to de-stress your day, hour by hour. I once read a book that said you should write a positive, affirmative letter to yourself to read when you are feeling down. Another idea was to take a dresser drawer and fill it with things that bring you joy — a scrapbook of your favorite photos, a list of inspiring quotes, your favorite chocolates, bath salts for a relaxing bath — and whenever you are feeling down, open the drawer and enjoy some of your favorite things. I haven’t tried either of those, but they sound like good ideas. Please share your thoughts, I’d love to know what helps you!

Again, these are not meant to be a cure for depression, just ways to help keep a more positive physical, mental, and emotional attitude. If you find yourself in a dark place, please see a doctor or mental health professional! Depression can be a very serious illness and you aren’t alone in your struggle. 

happy-2014

Are you excited for the New Year? I’m always incredibly excited to start a brand new year. I’m a pretty self-reflective person all year, but there is just something special about starting over in the new year with goals and plans and dreams of what lies ahead.

I’m particularly excited about this year because it will be my first full year out of school. I’m pretty excited about all the new possibilities in life now that school doesn’t take up the majority of my days.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might recall last year’s New Year post. I didn’t set a lot of goals for 2013, but the ones I set were pretty big ones. 2012 was a big year for us, considering we got married, Drew graduated, advances in work and our business happened, but it was a hectic year in school for me filled with some health issues and the start of some financial issues. Our goals for 2013 were for me to graduate from college, find a job, drastically change our health and diet (I went gluten-free and cut out a good deal of other not-good-for-me-stuff) and to drastically start on changes in our financial life by embarking on Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I’m happy to say that in 2013, we did a really good job at sticking to our goals and changing those things.

2013 (recap)

-Big Health Changes. I went gluten-free, and once I did, I found that gluten (or at least wheat in particular), had been the cause of a lot of digestive problems for me. Once I cut it out of my diet, I immediately noticed that I was no longer having major digestive issues and I’ve noticed a huge change in my energy levels. I feel like I have much more energy and I feel less sluggish. In addition to wheat, I cut out white sugar (I try to only use honey, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, or raw sugar as sweeteners, but even those I use rarely), milk (I still eat cheese and a few other dairy products, but just sparingly. I use almond milk to replace regular milk), soy, most corn products, and any other overly processed foods. I try to limit my grain intake of the grains I do eat (brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, etc), and eat a lot of meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. I’ve been at it for an entire year now, and it is amazing how much better I feel and how much the health issues I had have really minimized (read more about the issues I had in my last years New Year post). I have also lost about twenty pounds over the last year. I’m really passionate now about eating intentionally for your health and would highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you have health issues! I found that once I rid my house of the foods I shouldn’t be eating and ate healthy for a few weeks, I stopped craving foods I shouldn’t eat and it became easy to stay on track. Now, I don’t even really have to think about it, eating healthy is definitely a habit for me, rather than a challenge.

-I graduated from Tulane with a BA in both English and Studio Art! I also had my work in my first art exhibition, my BA show at Tulane! Both of these were huge events for 2013, and I’m so happy/relieved to have them in the past. College was a really stressful time in my life and I couldn’t be happier to have those days over with. I’ve so been enjoying the less-stressful lifestyle of being out of college.

-We made major debt pay-off progress! We started the Dave Ramsey debt snowball plan at the beginning of the year and our goal for the end of 2013 was to have Drew’s car and credit card debt paid off. We paid his credit card debt off last spring, and even with some set backs (like $4,000 worth of dental work for Drew) and me not working for most of the year, as of this month (January 2014) we will have the car paid off! I can’t wait to write that one last check! I’m really happy with our progress so far and I’m excited to step it up and get cracking on those student loans in 2014!

-I started working! In September of 2013, I started my first out-of-college job, as the Web & Publications/Communications Coordinator for a local church. I really love what I do (mostly graphic design, but other web/media work as well) and I couldn’t ask for better people to work with. God really blessed me with this opportunity and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to make money in a truly enjoyable and rewarding job.

-Drew also switched jobs, somewhat. Drew is still doing pretty much the same thing he has always been doing (being an IT Director in charter schools), but while he used to work in a contracted company for the schools, now he works directly for one of the schools he has always worked in. This brings along several benefit perks and means he isn’t stretched quite as thin between schools as he once was. He is still, of course, working for our business, P.S. Designs, as well.

2014 (goals)

-Better Life Balance. When I was in school, classes took up my days and homework/studying/paper-writing/novel-reading took up my nights. Now that I’m working, work takes up a good part of my day, but there is still time left in the evenings that I never had before that I can now use to focus on things I really want to do. Reading, blogging, craft projects, cooking, decorating/home projects, painting, etc! I want to try my best to make the best use of that time I have and enjoy it while I can. Learn what I have time for and what I don’t, what is a good use of the time I have and what isn’t. I want to try to keep a good balance between work and activities I enjoy, so I don’t get burnt out of my job as easily as I did with school. I also want to continue to make time to cook healthy meals, time to exercise, time for church/bible study, etc. I want to continue to be healthy in a well-rounded way.

-Expand Learning & Education in Different Ways. Now that I’m out of school, that doesn’t mean that my learning process stops. I want to continue to learn all of my life, and now is the perfect time to really focus on doing that in different ways. Reading more, maybe joining a book club, continuing to paint and build my body of work, learning even more about the design software I use every day, getting better at using my Wacom tablet, taking a calligraphy class, etc.

-Incorporating Exercise into the Everyday. Just developing a better exercise routine in general, whether that means more stretching/floor exercises in the mornings before work, attending more Pilates classes, going on more walks/runs in the neighborhood, playing Frisbee/tennis at the park, just making exercise a more natural part of my life.

-Focus on Our Marriage. We do already, but I really want us to take the time to really enjoy this time in our lives. We will only get so much time together just the two of us before we decide to start a family, so I really want us to cherish these moments as a couple before we expand our crew and the chaos grows!

-Gluten-free Baking. Now that I’ve really gotten good at eating only the foods I really should, I would like to expand my cooking repertoire of what I can do with those ingredients. Trying different recipes, different GF flours, experimenting with gluten-free bread and doughnut making, healthy snacks, etc. I would also like to educate myself better on different foods and their nutritional contents. I would also like to get better at buying/eating organic.

-Debt Pay-Off. Drew had to take out quite a bit of money in student loans to get through college. Our goal for 2014 is to completely pay off the loans in Drew’s name and begin to pay on the ones in Drew’s parents name. I have confidence that it is going to be a good year for our debt snowball plan!

-Consistent Branding and New Opportunities. Last but not least, I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve for 2014. A few things I’m interested in trying out, creatively expanding into. I don’t want to give all the details away now, but you’ll see. Part of that includes creating a more consistent brand for myself as an artist/designer across all areas and media (my blog, art portfolio, social media, etc.). I’m excited for the opportunities this year has in store and where those creative opportunities could lead!

***

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

P.S. It is a bit of a tradition to share my old year recap and new year goals on here. See here for 2013, here for 2012, and here and here for 2011.

As I stated yesterday in my post about Portland, I absolutely fell in love with Tula Gluten-Free Bakery and their Lemon Ricotta Muffins. So delicious. I just couldn’t live without them. So as soon as I was back home, I looked into making my own. Luckily, I found this recipe from With Style and Grace blog (one of my favorite gluten free blogs!) and it did not disappoint. She was also inspired by Tula Bakery.

muffins color edit1

This recipe adds blueberries which are a great addition! I love the lemon and blueberry together and the ricotta makes the muffins dense and moist and just so good! If you are a muffin lover (which I definitely am! I grew up making blueberry muffins all the time!), then you must try this recipe!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins (Gluten-Free)

makes 12 muffins, recipe originally from here 

Ingredients:

-1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I ran out and substituted part gluten-free flour mix and part organic local brown rice flour and a little xanthan gum and they turned out great. If you aren’t gluten-free, you could also use regular wheat flour.)
3/4 cup sugar (I used local organic raw cane sugar, but you could also use turbinado sugar or granulated white sugar if you must.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2-3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Turbinado sugar for topping

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center.
2. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, water, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg.
3. Add the wet to dry mixture and stir just until moist.
4. Grease muffin cups or add liners to muffin cups.
5. Fill each muffin cup half way. Add about 4-5 blueberries to each and then top it off until it’s about 3/4 or all the way full. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the muffins.
6. Bake in a 375° oven for 16-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.
8. Enjoy!

DIY Make-Up Brush Cleaner

March 27, 2013

It’s been a while, huh? I’ve missed blogging this semester. I have so many things I want to share, but this semester just leaves no extra time to do so. Just over one more month until school is over and I graduate! I can’t wait!

This week is my spring break, and although it is just as busy as any other week with schoolwork, I thought I would at least drop by for a minute and share a quick tip that I did last week:

cleaning your make up brushes1

I haven’t been wearing make-up very often lately. I used to wear it everyday, but with the late nights and early mornings of college, I’m just not getting enough sleep. Even if putting on make-up only takes five minutes, right now I have a million other better things to spend those five minutes on (like sleep!). My weekends this semester have mostly been spent on my couch reading school books and writing papers, so even on the weekends I haven’t been getting very dressed up for anything.

Anyway, I wore make-up almost every day over Christmas break with all the family get-togethers and pictures being taken. At that same time, with the winter weather making my skin really dry, I had a strange reaction to the face cream my dermatologist had put me on and one of my eyelids got really red and itchy.

Fast forward a month or so when Drew and I were going to a Superbowl promotion concert here in New Orleans. I got out my make-up bag and put my make-up on without even thinking anything of it. The next day I woke up to my eyelids all red and swollen. At first I thought I might be developing an allergy to my make-up. I’ve worn Bare Minerals make-up since I very first started wearing make-up in middle school and I really like it and didn’t want to have to switch to anything else. Then I remembered my red, itchy eyes at Christmastime! I thought it might not be the make-up, but maybe just the brushes holding in nasty germs! So I started by replacing my mascara with a brand new tube and then did some research online for a good DIY make-up brush cleaner. This is what I did:

DIY Make-up Brush Cleaner

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
1 tablespoon white vinegar

1. Mix all ingredients in a cup or bowl.
2. Wash each brush thoroughly in the mixture. Mine were really dirty, so I made a fresh batch of this for each brush. If you do this regularly, you might not need to make multiple batches.
3. Rinse each brush clean with warm water.
4. Squeeze the excess water out of each brush with a towel.
5. Shape the bristles into the correct shape.
6. Lay flat on a towel to dry.

counter ready1

clean and dirty water1

This is how dirty the water was after slightly washing just ONE brush! How gross! There is no telling how many dead skin cells and who knows what else was all up in those.

lay out brushes to dry 21

I can’t believe that I had never thought to wash my brushes out before! I had been using these same brushes for the last 8-10 YEARS without cleaning them at all! I will now be doing this regularly!

make up1

Since I wanted to make sure that my make-up was clear of any leftover germs from my eye issues, I also took a slightly damp towel and cleaned out the lids of each of my make-up containers as well.

Drew and I drove home this past weekend to see my little sister, Jillian, in her high school musical and I wore make-up the whole weekend without any red, itchy, or swollen eyes! I’m so happy to have easily fixed the problem and I don’t have to invest in all new make-up. Plus, the brushes are so much softer now too!