The Happiness Project

I have a happiness journal that I try to write in on a daily basis.  But, if I am honest with myself I would acknowledge that I am on my computer more than I am with some dead tree hanging out on my night stand.  So…I have decided what better place to continue my Happiness Project than on my blog!  

My goal is to inspire others to find what makes each of us happy: the weather, a smile from a stranger, matching socks, a hug from your child, finishing a project…We are all different and celebrating our differences and what brings us joy will make us appreciate each other more.

The Happiness Project Guidelines

  1. There are NO rules!  I really dislike when someone imposes a set of rules on me.  I like structure but the word “rules” irks me!
  2. Focus on a few things that make me smile that given day.  Some days I might have a lot and some days it just might be one thing.  BUT, there is ALWAYS something that makes each of us happy!
  3. Write it out DAILY.  It’s easy to think of something that makes each of us smile but writing down our happiness solidifies the thoughts in our brains.
  4. Have fun!!!

I hope you join me on this beautiful journey of happiness!  I look forward to reading daily happies!

~Marci

Gluten Free Banana/Chocolate Chip Muffins

I like to lovingly refer to our household as “The Bubble”.  My husband is allergic to all poultry and egg yolk except when it is in baked goods.  My daughter is lactose intolerant and I have gluten and lactose intolerance.  So, meal planning and preparation is ALWAYS an adventure.

Since I am the one who mainly does the grocery shopping, meal planning and prep, I try to make my life as simple as possible and stick with foods you find in their natural state.  When we do need food items that are not naturally grown, I look for the least processed foods and try my hardest to stay away from gluten containing products.   So, it was in this vain that I found myself searching for some healthy snack and breakfast options.  In my quest, I stumbled across “Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet” by Erica Kerwien.  This book contains recipes that are sugar-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  I was stoked!!!

Since I have been sick the past few days I haven’t had the energy to cook or bake much.  However, my new cookbook was laying on the kitchen counter anticipating my return.  Yesterday, I had enough energy to use the Banana Bread recipe as a template for MY modified Gluten-Free Banana/Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Muffins are much more enjoyable to my young children than a loaf of bread.

Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The recipe in the book called for olive oil so I chose to use a Blood Orange Olive Oil that I purchased at my local specialty olive oil and balsamic vinegar store, Con’ Olio.  I knew this olive oil would give a nice citrus essence to the muffin.  I also added a handful of good quality dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips to the batter since I knew my children would enjoy the surprise.

Gluten Free Banana/Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons olive oil or any other type of cooking oil (I used blood orange olive oil)

3 eggs

2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup honey (I used a local honey, Round Rock Honey)

Handful of white chocolate/dark chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Preheat Oven to 350°F/175°C.  Line muffin pan with paper liners or grease pan.
  2. Using a whisk (fork is a good stand in), blend “dry” ingredients (baking soda, salt and flours) in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix “wet” ingredients together (oil, eggs, mashed bananas, and honey).  Add the combined “wet” ingredients to the “dry” ingredients.  To make sure the batter is thoroughly blended, use an electric mixture.

    Combined Ingredients

    Combined Ingredients

  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a small ice cream scooper,  fill muffin cups to 1/2 to 2/3 full.  This recipe was enough to fill 10 cups of my muffin pan.  I filled the other 2 cups with water measured to the same level so that the muffins would evenly brown in the oven.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until sides and top are browned and toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

    fresh from the oven

    fresh from the oven

  7. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling.

    Cooling

    Cooling

  8. To store, cover and refrigerate for up to a week (if they last that long) or freeze for up to a month

These muffins are great warmed up and topped with a little coconut butter, real butter, almond butter or even a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve with a warm cup of hot chocolate, tea or coffee and a side of fruit.  

My children loved them as their after school snack and again for breakfast this morning.

Enjoy!

~Marci

Homemade Almond Milk

My daughter and I have issues with regular dairy milk, so we usually substitute in coconut or unsweetened almond milk.  However, I want to minimize the additives  found in typical off the shelf almond milk so I decided to make my own this morning.

Almond Milk

  • Soak (Sprout) Raw Almonds in water 8-12 hours or overnight
  •  After soaking, rinse/drain almonds in colander under cold water

    Straining the soaked, raw almonds

    Straining the soaked, raw almonds

Working in Batches

  • Put 2 cups of filtered water and 1/2 cups of almonds in blender.
  • Optional: Add splash of Vanilla and sprinkle of stevia to sweeten
  • Blend 50-90 seconds until all almonds have been broken up and liquefied.  I used my Blendtec Blender
  • Pour almond milk either through strainer/sieve, nutmilk bag or cheesecloth into a glass jar that can be tightly sealed.  Since I only had a strainer/sieve on hand, that is what I used.
Pouring almond milk through sieve.  Residual pulp leftover

Pouring almond milk through sieve. Residual pulp leftover

 

  • Use a spatula to press any residual milk through sieve. You will have pulp leftover in strainer/sieve.  You can either use this pulp at later time to dehydrate to make cookies with or even blend further into a nut butter.  I put mine into my Earthmaker compost bin.
  • Repeat steps until all almonds have been used to make milk.
  • When jar is full, tightly close and place in refrigerator.  Use within 3-5 days.
(4) Pint and A Half containers of Homemade Almond Milk

(4) Pint and A Half containers of Homemade Almond Milk

Tips:

  • Making Almond milk is 4:1 ratio Water to Almonds.
  • Make sure to use RAW organic (if possible) almonds.  Not salted or roasted
  • Filtered and, if possible, distilled water is best.
  • A nut milk bag is probably your best option of efficient milk extraction.  Can be reused-just wash in top rack of dishwasher.

I used this milk to make a chia pudding recipe which I will post later and a favorite smoothie recipe of mine for lunch:  Chocolate Covered Strawberry.  I could  truly taste the difference.  The smoothie was more delicious with homemade almond milk than using store bought.

Please let me know if you attempt to make your own almond milk and how you like it.

Marci’s Green Smoothie Recipe

Here’s a great Green Smoothie “starter”.  Make modifications to fit your dietary needs. Blending the greens in a high powered blender works best to minimize any chunks.  I use my Blendtec Total Blender.

Add extra water to thin out smoothie if it is too thick for your taste.  Also, if just starting with green smoothies, start with mix of 50/50 greens to fruit.  Gradually decrease amount of fruit and increase greens.

Step 1:  Blend the following for about 60 seconds until smooth

  • Put 2 Cups Filtered Water into BlendTec Total Blender
  • Small Amount Stevia
  • Juice of  1/4 Whole Lemon
  • Add 2 cups combo of Organic Spinach/Kale (or any other greens like chard, collard, purple kale)

Step 2:  Add the following to blender and blend again

  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Small organic apple
  • 1 Cup organic frozen berries (masks the color)*
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • Couple ice cubes

*You can substitute any fruit in.*

Marci's Green Smoothie

Marci’s Green Smoothie

Bootylicious Workout

Earlier this week, I had a very hectic schedule so I did many of my workouts from home.  If you’re time crunched, money strapped, or just need an efficient lower body workout, then this is the workout for you!

Some of my exercise equipment: stability ball, foam roller, medicine ball, ab wheel, BOSU, TRX Bands

Some of my exercise equipment: stability ball, foam roller, medicine ball, ab wheel, BOSU, TRX Bands

These exercises can be done with just your body weight or you can use a BOSU ball, stability ball, TRX bands, medicine ball or ab wheel like I used.

Bootylicious Workout

BOOTAY!

BOOTAY!

Warm Up: 50 Mountain Climbers

  • (25 ea. leg) Walking Lunges with Trunk Rotation- Can use weighted medicine ball.  Make sure to keep knee directly over your ankle.
  • (25) BOSU Squats- Beginner modification just use bodyweight.  Advanced-turn BOSU over so you are standing on the flat part of the BOSU and ball part is on the floor.
  • (25) Hamstring Curls on stability Ball- Lie on your back.  Feet on the ball, toes pointed to ceiling, lift hips up in bridge.  Keeping core tight, use your heels to draw ball towards your butt while still in bridge.
  • (25) Ab Rollouts with ab wheel.  Can also be performed using stability ball.
  • (25) Jump Squats.  Beginner modification: Just squat with bodyweight remembering to push butt back like you are sitting in a chair.  Keep your knees directly in line with ankles.  Advanced: Use TRX Bands.
  • (15) Burpees
  • (25) Mountain Climbers
  • (45 Sec.) Wall Sits.  Keep back flat against wall by tucking in pelvis.  Get low like you are in chair.  Intermediate/Advanced:  Add weight to your thighs.
  • Run Tall Flight of Stairs- 10 times.  If you have small flight of stairs, run 20 times.
Sweat= Great Workout

Sweat= Great Workout

Rest 1 minute after circuit.

Repeat circuit 1-2 more times.

A Blender’s Sad Tale

As my friends and family are aware, I am a huge proponent of smoothies.  They are a great way to get in your macronutrients for the day.  So, I usually start off my family’s day with a healthy, protein packed, nutrient dense smoothie for breakfast and sometimes usually one for lunch.

To preface, I am notoriously known for destroying anything electronic—think laptops, iPhones, garage door openers, cameras.  You get the picture.  Blenders are no different for me, I use them so much that I have burned out motors of lower end models within months and a mid range model in less than a year so several years ago I decided to purchase my first higher end model, a Vitamix.  After a year of use and dissatisfied with its performance for my needs, I decided to get a Blendtec Total Blender.  Since October 6, 2011, I have had a daily, fulfilling passionate relationship with that blender.

This past Sunday was no different except for THE EXPLOSION that happened on my counter.  I was in the process of destroying making a typical smoothie (you can find the recipe here) in my Blendtec blender (my life’s true love) when all of a sudden I heard a gurgling sound and then saw black plastic pieces shooting out from underneath the blender container.  Since I stay calm panic in these kinds of situations,  I immediately turned off the motor and  yelled for my husband to come help me.  Surprisingly, no liquid was leaking out from the bottom of the container.  After using our investigative skills, we determined the seal had  loosened and the strength of the motor base chewed into the container and seal.

After 1058 uses, first Blentec Total Blender container is destroyed

After 1058 uses, first Blentec Total Blender container is destroyed

For those of you not familiar with these higher end blenders, they have a high horsepower to make sure to grind up all those big leafy veggies, fruits, nuts within seconds.  After 1158 uses, I had finally used up my blender container-such a SAD, SAD day.

Seeing my distress, my AWESOME husband immediately got onto Amazon.com and ordered me another Blendtec Total Blender container and the Blendtec Wildside container.  However, I would have to wait until Wednesday, today, to receive it.  WHAT?!!!!  Smoothies are truly an integral part of our clean eating lifestyle so I didn’t know how I would manage.  Thankfully, I had a backup plan.

Orange, Carrot, Apple Juice made with Breville Juice Fountain

Orange, Carrot, Apple Juice made with Breville Juice Fountain

I decided to use my outstanding Breville Juice Fountain every morning for a nutritious juice for the family before work and school.

Although we ordered new containers, I did know that my blender was still covered under the AMAZING warranty Blendtec provides, but I had to wait until Monday to call-again, sadness.

When you experience a problem with an item you invested A LOT of money in, the customer service experience can really make or break your future relationship with the company.   I have to say that my experience solidified my relationship with Blendtec products.  As soon as customer service opened on Monday, I called.  In less than 5 minutes on the phone with a very friendly Blendtec customer service representative, I had a new container sent to me free of charge.   She also reassured me that the motor was perfectly fine and my replacement container would be here within 3-5 business days!!! HOORAY!!!

I momentarily contemplated if I should cancel my Amazon.com order, but I decided against it–it’s much better to have 3 containers to use!  So, today my containers from Amazon should arrive and I am counting down the minutes I can blend again!

Dairy Free Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

We have a great local coffee place that makes these outstanding all fruit pineapple coconut smoothies but my wallet needs a break.

Because my daughter needs to be dairy free, I decided to make my own dairy free version.  

Here is the winning recipe that accompanied my children’s dinner this evening.  Children mentioned that it tasted even better than the local coffeehouse’s version-Win!!!

Dairy Free Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

Dairy Free Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

1 Can Organic Coconut Milk

1 Small Banana (optional)

2 Cups Frozen Pineapple (if using fresh pineapple, use less coconut milk)

1/4 Cup Dehydrated, Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut

2 Tbs Chia Seed

Raw Turbinado Sugar (optional and to taste)

Place  all ingredients in order listed.  Fill blender with ice.  Blend.

Team Kristi

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We all exercise for a variety of reasons:  improved overall health/fitness, to lose weight, to manage stress, to heal.  I exercise for all of these reasons.

This past Sunday, 3/3/13, I exercised to celebrate the life of a close friend and to heal.

I met Kristi Appenzeller through the MOMS Club of Pflugerville several years ago.  We instantly clicked.  She was the kind of person anybody would want to know and who could make you feel at ease with who you were.  Kristi was a wonderful wife and mother to her two young boys and was very involved with her community, family and friends.

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Kristi Appenzeller- wife, mother, daughter, friend

Kristi was a “Fighter” and when she was diagnosed the first time with breast cancer she met the challenge and kicked the sucker to the curb.  Then, she was diagnosed again with a rarer type of breast cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and went through a lot of treatment in a very short time.

I have a Microbiology degree with an emphasis in tumor biology, experience in cancer research and have educated cancer patients and their families.  During our numerous calls and texts, Kristi and I  would talk about her treatment plan, drugs, nutrition, etc.  After a difficult battle and fight, Kristi succumbed to the insidious disease on August 15, 2012.  I lost my friend.

But, Kristi still had a community who loved her and a family who had the enormous task of paying off the medical bills.  So, on 3/3/13 the MOMS Club of Pflugerville, TX organized a 5K run/walk to celebrate Kristi’s life and honor her memory.  All proceeds from the event went to pay Kristi’s residual medical expenses.

Heading out to walk the Kristi K. I changed my shirt at the event with the new event t-shirt

Reflecting before the walk

Reflecting before the walk

The turnout was amazing!!! I chose to walk the race with my friend, Sarah, over at play2learnwithsarah who was also a close friend of Kristi’s.  I normally would run 5K’s but walking provided me the opportunity to reflect on my time with Kristi and feel her spirit with me every step I took.  As we neared the finish line, Sarah’s husband told me that people don’t slow down at a finish line they speed up. I didn’t want to lose the connection I was experiencing with Kristi.  By the time my foot passed over that line,  I was at peace.

Posing as we cross the finish line

One of the most touching moments of the event was the tree dedication and Bruce Smith singing “The Fighter (Kristi)”.  The song was written for Kristi and the tree was placed behind a bench at Lake Pflugerville so that any time we came to the lake you could sit, reflect and feel Kristi’s presence.

Kristi’s Tree dedication and Bruce Smith singing “The Fighter (Kristi)”

I am honored to have known Kristi and feel my life has been forever changed by her.  I love you, Kristi!  Thank you for being with me every day and in every thing I do.

Strawberry Limeade Slushie Recipe

Strawberry Limeade Slushie Recipe

Who hasn’t gone to their local fast food joint and purchased one of those delectable high calorie slushies?  I know I have and my children particularly enjoy them.  However, those “fruit” slushes are loaded with sugar, artificial food coloring, calories and high fructose corn syrup (HCFS).  Do YOU REALLY  want your child bouncing off the car walls or wasting your daily caloric allotment on that drink?  I know I don’t, so yesterday I came up with my healthier version of a Strawberry Limeade as part of my children’s after school snack.

Strawberry Limeade Slushie

Slice Enough Limes to make at least 6 ounces of juice when squeezed

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Pour the Juice into your favorite blender- Mine is the Blendtec

Add 4-6 ounces water

Toss in a HANDFUL of either fresh or frozen strawberries.  Preferably organic.  I use frozen since I can reduce the amount of ice I need and because strawberries are not grown locally year round.

Add Stevia or Turbinado Sugar to taste

IMG_8166

Fill blender with Ice

Enjoy the puckering taste of limes and strawberries and hear the delighted squeals!

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Confidence

CONFIDENCE

That dreaded word.. The word I think we all struggle with at some point.  I know I do.  I have come a long way from being extremely self conscious as a child, teen and young adult to the person I am now: fairly confident with my body, my mind, and my personality.  But, it has taken me DECADES and I still struggle with it each day.  For instance, I had a really “off” day on Sunday.  I just wasn’t “feelin’ it” and didn’t like the cranky person I was.  So, for me, exercising is my mood lifter/stress buster/sexy maker.  After I hit the gym, my mood totally lifted and I was back to “feelin’ it”!

You’ve all heard/read the stories of those beautiful models and talented actors/actresses who said THEY BATTLED with their self-image throughout their childhood and you thought to yourself, Come on! Seriously?! Having self-confidence does not discriminate between those who are the epitome of what we strive to be and the “regular” person.

So you may ask yourself:  How do I become more confident, like who I am, and be happier with me?  I don’t have the golden ticket for you, but what I do have is what works for me during those moments of self loathing.  Maybe you can take a few tips and tricks and see how it helps you!

Find Time For Yourself:  Take some time to think about what truly makes you happy, energized, stimulates your brain, etc.  Schedule that time like you would any appointment.

Here Are Some Ideas: 

  1. Reading
  2. Gardening
  3. Cooking/Baking
  4. Writing
  5. Creating

Exercise:  The endorphins (“feel good” chemicals) released during/after exercising have been shown, study after study, to make you feel so much happier.  

Have Sex:  This is self-explanatory.  You may think how can I feel sexy when I am not feeling confident?!  Well, do things to set the stage prior to: candles, relaxing bath, aromatherapy, exercise.  Basically, anything that revs you up.  And we all know everyone feels great and more confident afterwards.  If you are not in a relationship, give yourself some self loving.

Get Outside:  Exposure to sunlight has been known to make us happier

Play With Your Pets or Kids:  Being silly and showing affection to others always makes you happier

Get Enough Sleep:  The amount varies person to person

Socialize:  Hang out with people and not just with any friends and family but those people who lift your spirit.

There is no perfect formula to improve your self-confidence and it will vary daily, but you can CHOOSE to do small activities to improve your mood and mentality.  If you do it consistently, then YOU WILL FRAME YOUR MIND TO BE MORE CONFIDENT.

WHEN YOU FEEL CONFIDENT, THIS IS HOW YOU WILL FEEL:

awesome