Saturday, January 4, 2020

It's 2020, y'all!



It's a new decade! I'm not sure why I'm so stoked about this, but there's something about 2020 that is lighting my heart on fire. 

Aside from losing both Granny and Grandpa in the last four years, 2019 was easily the hardest year of my life. My health took a nose dive (hello, adrenal fatigue!), I learned more about handling an industry crisis that became a national news story than I could have ever imagined (at the same time, I discovered a passion for crisis communications) and I struggled so much in several areas of my life. 

I struggled with my weight, but what else was new? That's been the story of my life until since I was 8 years old. For those of you keeping track, that's about 25 years. A quarter century.

I struggled until I met Morgan. Morgan became my nutritionist. One of the gals I met at a leadership training lost more than 20 pounds between sessions and I asked her how she did it. She sent me a referral. I saw the testimonials and the photos, but could this really work for me? I drug my feet for a while and it probably impacted my progress. It was worth it in the end, even if I was more than a little skeptical. Eventually, the new habits stuck. Fast forward from June to October and I made real progress. I didn't believe it until I saw my progress photo. What in the world! 


I also fit into my coronation dress from 2005 and it looked better on me now than it did then! Talk about a wake-up call. Something is working.



I struggled to not use a credit card. After 16 months of really hustling, working three jobs and having no life, I paid off about $58,000.00 on January 31, 2019. I understand why Dave Ramsey advocates for suffering (well, my words, not his) during this process since it makes you so sick and tired of being sick and tired that you never want to go back in debt. Although the idea of being back in debt terrified me, I still had the occasional urge to put something on a credit card. A year later, I definitely don't. The idea of having debt again makes me sick. Never again. 

I struggled with feeling like I was enough. The words of an ex-boyfriend were in my head a little too often: I wasn't pretty enough. I wasn't skinny enough. I just wasn't enough. 
                                                                                    
You know what I have to say to that now? ENOUGH. I've had enough of all the things and thoughts that were holding me back. I'm just done. 

Enough. I decided that is my word for 2020. I'm enough to have the career I dreamed of and to have an amazing relationship. Enough pretending everything is amazing when it wasn't. Enough of habits and social circles that don't serve me and drag me down. Enough of the bullshit online that makes putting up a facade instead of being genuine acceptable. Who has time for that? 

I'm laughing because it seems like the universe threw so many grenades into my life in 2019. Was I THAT far off course that I needed these huge things to happen or go wrong to get me onto the right path?!

Finally losing the weight, becoming debt free, getting stood up (twice in one month...what is wrong with these guys?!), feeling stuck, losing sight of my identity outside of my career, being criticized by people who didn't know me at all, someone trying to make me cry at an industry meeting (fortunately, I’m stubborn and ornery and stood up for myself), finding some great online mentors, meeting an amazing community of people...it's for sure been quite a year. 

All highs. All lows. I would sure love happy medium right about now. 

As I write this, we are six days from my 32nd birthday. At the risk of sounding self-absorbed, I will admit that my birthday is my favorite holiday. It always has been. And a few months ago, I decided to start acting like it.
 
Birthday last year
That day I booked a five-day trip to Florida for my birthday. That day would have been Grandpa's 97th birthday and I took it as a sign that this is what my soul needed. So, I listened. My intuition never steers me wrong.

This isn't just any trip to Florida. I'm going to Rise!!!! What is Rise? To say Rise is an energizing personal growth conference is the understatement of the century.

I discovered Rachel Hollis when a friend started an online accountability group for the Last 90 Days in 2018. Last 90 Days is about living the last 90 days of the year as intentionally as the first 30 of a new year. I watched the daily videos and read the emails. It was just what I needed.

The Hollis Co released a documentary that played in theatres during this time last year and it shifted something in me. It was the realization that I wasn't living up to my full potential. What?! How could this be? I have the career I've always dreamed of and I’ve given up everything for it. Now, my neglected personal life was another story.

I signed up for her business coaching and it was amazing. So, when I saw there were tickets available for Rise ON MY BIRTHDAY, I immediately put it in the budget. If it's not in the budget, it does not happen because we don't do debt. 

There are so many things I hate about social media, but I love how it brings strangers together as friends. We are six days from being together in an arena in Florida, but I already have many new friends from across the nation. Friends that are so positive, lift each other up and want each other to succeed. This is exactly the type of community I want to be part of. 

I believe everything happens for a reason. When you're going through hell, just keep going. Hopefully, you'll learn something.

The list of lessons from 2019 is a mile long and for that I'm thankful. As hard as it was, I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't be where I am today without it.

So, to all the folks who told me I was boring, wasn't good enough, and said "I'm sure you're a really nice lady, but I'm going to shoot the messenger anyway," …

Thank you.

Thank you for unleashing something in me that I didn't know was there. 

I am so excited for the new decade. The possibilities are endless, and I am thrilled to see where the next few years take me. Bring it! (But please, be kind! This is not a challenge. LOL)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

For a protein smoothie that tastes more like dessert than health food, check out my Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie!


Like most of my recipes, it starts with experimenting. A little of this. A little of that. I love when recipes are flexible and customizable since everyone has different tastes.

The start of a new year brings added motivation to reach new goals, but why does it only have to be on January 1? I started listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis earlier this fall and she talks about living the last quarter of the year like we do the first 30 daysof a new year. The concept is called 'Last 90 days.' It's inspiring and while most days did not go according to plan with my fitness and nutrition goals (hello real life!), I made more progress than I would otherwise. Why give up on yourself and stuff yourself full of cookies just to start over in a month? Be kind to yourself. Yes, sometimes this means going for a run and not eating those cookies; sometimes it means taking a nap after work.



Moving your body is a necessary part of the fitness equation. However, don't overlook the nutrition aspect since it accounts for about 80 percent of your progress. Treats are okay, but cannot happen every hour on the hour.

Finding the time to eat healthy is hard, especially with a demanding career. It's essential to make it simple (otherwise it does not happen in my world). I love starting the day with a protein smoothie. It's easy and portable, and I can drink it while getting ready.


Pack healthy snacks to avoid mid-day temptations in the break room. Apples, cheese sticks, chocolate milk (single serves are fanastic), crackers, and beef jerky are a few options.

Like most of my recipes, this one is customizable to your preferences. I love to sneak extra protein in wherever I can, so I choose Fairlife milk for my smoothies (almost double the protein!). Regular milk is also a great option since both have the same nutrients. You can also use whichever milk chocolate protein powder you prefer.

To make this into a dessert, just add a scoop of chocolate ice cream for a protein milk shake.

Cheers to a great day!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

Ingredients
1 cup               Chocolate Milk (I use Fairlife chocolate milk)
1 scoop           Milk chocolate protein powder (I use 1st Phorm Level 1 Milk Chocolate)
1/2                  Banana
1 tablespoon   Peanut butter
1 teaspoon      Vanilla extract
Ice for texture




Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to the blender with ice
  2. Blend (I use the milk shake setting on my blender)


Easy, nutritious and delicious way to start the day.

PS - If you love chocolate peanut butter, check out these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Farm that Built Me

I can remember where I was when I heard Miranda Lambert's song 'The House that Built Me' a decade ago. I was in New Mexico for a six-week dairy program between my sophomore and junior years of college. I vividly remember one of my classmates saying how the song is so relatable to many people because we all have that house we grew up in that helped shape us into who we are today. At 20, I didn't think too much of it. At 30, I do.


For me, that house was a two-story white farm house with a kitchen overlooking one of the cow pastures. It was full of cow decorations, Mary Moos and so many family photos. If you didn't know better, you might think the dairy farm had moved indoors. Today, you'd think that of my place. It was where my brother and I grew up. It was where we learned about hard work. Actually, a lot of that also took place in the barn, on the tractor, and in the driveway where we would lead our show cows around.

That house. That barn. It was home. It always will be.

However, that wasn't our parents house. As the kids of very busy parents who both worked in the airline/aviation business, we were lucky to have dairy farmers for grandparents. Although the milk cows have been gone and the stantion barn empty for years, you couldn't convince me that Grandpa wasn't overjoyed the day two Holstein heifers arrived back on the farm as our first 4-H projects.


This house. This farm. This is the farm that built me.

The hardest thing I ever did was leave. It gets easier every time, but I'll never forget that nervous feeling the summer I jetted off to New Mexico to a small town I had to find on a map because I didn't know where it was. 'What was I doing?! They could use my help at home. I only know one person in this program. What did I get myself into?' All of these thoughts passed through my mind while boarding the plane in Salt Lake City on the second of three flights to Clovis. Leaving that summer opened many doors into the dairy industry for me. It reassured me that I could stand on my own two feet in a place where I knew no one; that sure came in handy later when I moved to Indiana. And Grandpa? He was always sad to see me leave. It broke my heart everytime. And everytime he would say, "I'll be waiting for you. Good bye!'


It's hard to describe exactly what growing up on a farm does to you. Between the new show calves that have yet to grasp the concept of walking on a halter and the frustration caused by equipment breaking as you are trying to beat the rain because you've got hay down in the field, something happens. Something special. And it definitely doesn't feel special at the time. At the end of the day, it's building perserverance. It's building grit. And it's building character.

It's also building tight-knit families and communities.

I never could imagine what life would be like without the farm or without my grandparents. Then Grandpa passed away at 93 and I fell apart. And in February, we lost Granny. I haven't really talked about it. I haven't known how. Even as a writer, I couldn't find the right words. They were the backbone of our farm and of our family. They shaped us into the people we are today and gave us the best gift of all: a love of farming.


As farmers, we talk about the number of generations involved on the farm. It's something to take pride in. Passing it to the next generation can create challenges, but it's the perserverance, grit and character that keeps each generation going. Milk prices are terrible. Many farms are struggling. And yet, they can't quit. I hear ya. Once it's in your blood, it feels like losing yourself to lose the farm. Fortunately, we didn't.


Before I was old enough to remember any memories, I was riding on the tractor with Grandpa, grocery shopping with Granny and tagging along on random adventures. Before long, it was ingrained in me. I'm beyond thankful to be involved in the dairy industry.

June is National Dairy Month. It's a time to celebrate the dairy community, our cows and the amazing product produced by an industry that creates so many jobs on and off the farm and impacts the community in a big way.


For me, June Dairy Month is a time to reflect back on what brought me to where I am today. It was my Grandpa. My 4-H leaders. My family. Our dairy community. Our farm. It truly takes a village, especially to raise a 4-H kid. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

My Grandpa's legacy is something I strive to carry on each day. It drives my work, my passion for dairy and the kind of person I am. So many families in the dairy industry could say the exact same thing. And that's also part of what makes this community more of a family.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Almond Crusted Tilapia

If you are looking for a dinner option that is light, filling and delicious, you'll want to add this Almond Crusted Tilapia to your menu rotation.


Many people create New Years Resolutions each year and many of those go out the window before January is over. Especially those weight loss and fitness goals. If losing a few pounds is on your 'To Do' list this year, check out my weight loss series here. Losing weight is HARD. There is no short cut and no quick fix. It takes time, patience and a lot of perseverance. Last year, I lost 30 pounds. I wanted to increase my energy and more importantly, my confidence. I'd struggled with my weight on and off since I was 8 years old and it took more than 20 years to find the real secret to losing weight. Now I'm down to the last few pounds and onto the lifelong journey of maintaining it. Like I said, no quick fix.



While exercise is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle, about 80 percent of the battle is nutrition. Planning meals ahead of time gives you more control of what you are eating and also saves you money at the grocery store since you are only buying ingredients you actually need.

If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender or similar device to chop the almonds.


Almond Crusted Tilapia



Ingredients

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Tilapia filet
  • Coating (use for multiple filets): 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, 2 ounces almonds, thyme, rosemary, pepper




Directions:

  1. Add almonds, garlic powder, grated parmesan cheese, thyme, rosemary and pepper to food processor. Grind until finely chopped
  2. Coat tilapia filets evenly with Greek yogurt and then with almond mixture
  3. Broil fish on high until crust is crispy and a golden brown. Check on it regularly to prevent it from burning or drying out. After 5-7 minutes, I start checking on it every two minutes. 

How to make blackberry jam

Homemade jam. There's really nothing like it. Just the idea brings back memories of Mom and Granny canning at the end of each summer. It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to try my hand at it and turns out I'm not too bad at it. You'll love this Blackberry Jam recipe!


Blackberries grow like weeds in our pastures, and while our cows love their treats from the garden, they seem to leave the wild blackberries alone. It may be the thistles. Smart cows.



Jam is easy to make and you can make it year round. I love to use extra fruit from canning to make jam, but have also been known to use frozen fruit. Frozen fruit is readily available in the freezer aisle and tastes just as good in jam. This is actually what I usually give to people as Christmas gifts.


Blackberry jam is perfect as ice cream topping, on toast, in PBJ sandwiches and anywhere else you need something sweet. I made a marinade with blackberry jam and barbecue sauce last week for chicken and we loved it. Very versatile.

Mom's secret is to add a small amount of butter to the berry and sugar mixture while it is on the stove to reduce foaming.

This makes about 8 cups of jam.


Blackberry Jam


Ingredients

  •  4 cups crushed blackberries or 8 cups of whole berries (frozen or fresh)
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pouch Certo Premium Liquid Fruit Pectin
  • 1 tablespoon butter



Directions

To prepare jam:

  1. Start with about 8 cups of blackberries
  2. Crush berries
  3. Use a dry measuring cup to measure crushed berries (you should have about 4 cups of crushed berries) and sugar and place in a large pan or stockpot
  4. Mix sugar and berries together
  5. Add 1 tablespoon butter (This reduces foaming)
  6. Cook on medium to high heat until it comes to a rolling boil
  7. Set a timer for 60 seconds
  8. Add the pectin 
  9. Stir continuously for 60 seconds 
  10. Promptly remove from heat
  11. SEE DIRECTIONS ON PREPARING JARS BELOW BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT STEP
  12. When jam is done cooking, remove jars from the baking tray and place rightside up on a towel on the counter
  13. Use a funnel on the jars and a ladle to add jam to the jars
  14. Wipe the rims of all jars
  15. Place lids on jars (always use new lids; you can reuse jars and bands after cleaning and sanitizing them, but not lids)
  16. Tighten bands on jars
  17. Turn jars upside down for about 10 minutes
  18. Turn jars rightside up
  19. You should hear the lids "pop" (seal)
  20. Let jars cool on a towel on the counter


To prepare jars: (Do this as the same time as jam is cooking)

  1. Place a baking tray over 2 burners on the stove
  2. Add jars upside down
  3. Add enough water to cover the rims of the jars (ensure that there is enough water throughout the process; you may need to add more)
  4. Turn the heat on high for both burners
  5. Periodically move the jars around so they heat evenly (be careful, they will be hot)


Enjoy the jam!



Thursday, January 4, 2018

Healthy New Year Recipe Round Up


Welcome to 2018! If you are like nearly 40 percent of Americans, you set some New Year's resolutions to improve your life in some way this year. Did you know that only 8 percent actually achieve those outcomes outlined in their resolutions? 8 PERCENT!

Striving to live a healthier life is a common resolution set by many. If this includes you, check out these healthy recipes to start the year off on the right foot. Don't forget to add your favorite workouts, enough sleep, and some scheduled downtime to round out your healthy lifestyle.

If losing weight is on your bucket list this year, you've come to the right place. Weight loss is tough. It has been a personal struggle since I was 8 years old. 2017 turned out to not be an ordinary year and with the help of a personal trainer, I lost 30 pounds. It was a complete overhaul of my workouts and the way I eat. I'm not done yet and realize that maintaining the weight loss will be a lifelong adventure.


For tips on losing the weight, check out these posts.
Planning for weight loss
The secret to weight loss
What happens when you get injured
10 Healthy Recipes

Let's talk nutrition - since it is about 80 percent of the weight loss equation. You cannot outrun your fork and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to meal plans since everyone's body responds differently. Try out different things and find something that works for you and your lifestyle to achieve your goals. A tip for everyone: add protein to each meal.

Losing weight is about finding a balance you can live with. Not everything has to be 'clean eating' - although everyone seems to have their own definition of what clean eating is. Balance side dishes with the main course. Portion size is also very important in keeping calories in check. The 80:20 method is a good rule of thumb; eat healthy 80 percent of the time and leave some room for the occasional indulgence. This can help prevent binges on your favorite unhealthy treat.

The trick that worked for me is managing the margin between calories consumed and calories burned. Recording food in the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, which links to and interacts with the FitBit app, makes it very easy to do this daily without much extra effort or thought. You just have to keep yourself accountable. If you eat it, record it. No exceptions. Keeping promises like this to yourself boosts confidence in the fact that you can do this! You can lose the weight. It takes (a lot of) time, patience, and determination. Don't give up if you have an off day - it will happen! - or if you fall off the wagon and certainly don't beat yourself up about it. Just get back on track immediately. You got this.

Here are some recipes from my friends' and my recipe boxes to get you started:


Breakfast:
Ham, Potato and Cheddar Quiche
Low Carb Egg Muffins
Southwest Breakfast Casserole
Spinach Tomato Veggie Omelet

Salads:
Berry Chicken Salad
Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad with Peanut Sauce
Southwest Fajita Steak Salad
Very Veggie Pizza Pasta Salad

Soup:
Slimming Vegetable Soup


Sides:
Garlic Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Southern Slow Cooker Green Beans
Pineapple Baked Beans 
Rainbow Fruit Salad
Spicy Roasted Zucchini


Main Courses:
Caramel Apple Pork Chops
Cocoa Chile Pork Tenderloin with Triple Cherry Sauce
Grilled BBQ Chicken
Lemon Pepper Tilapia
Low Carb Salmon Patties
Rosemary Baked Halibut
Sesame Ginger Steak Cabbage Boats
Sweet & Sour Chicken 


Crock Pot:
Chicken Taco Bowls
Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Wings
Crock Pot Beef Brisket
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Slow Cooker Honey Dijon Ham
Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken 










This post was sponsored by The Glass Barn, which is funded by the Indiana Soybean Checkoff. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

What happens when you get injured

Everything was going so well. You were on point with nutrition and your workouts were going flawlessly - until you got injured. A pulled hamstring or worse can derail the best of goals and intentions.

So what do you do now?



There are two options: (1) throw in the towel and go back to your old ways of eating and not exercising, or (2) modify your approach.

In an effort to up my running game, I joined a running club late this fall. Like-minded people, scheduled runs - it was like a grown up cross country team. Perfect! What wasn't perfect was pulling my hamstring during a 5K holiday lights fun run in early December. Definitely nothing fun about that! Each run in the following days just didn't feel right and I could not figure out why I was in pain.



Here are some steps to take if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Consult a medical professional to assess if it is a minor injury that will have you on the bench for a few weeks or if it is more serious.
  2. Maintain your routine. If you are still able to do other types of physical activity, substitute those for activities that aggravate your injury, which leads to point three...
  3. Modify your workouts. Let's use the hamstring example for simplicity. Running hurt, but short walks, upper body and ab workouts did not. Find ways to move your body that strengthen it without bothering the injured area. Your doctor or a personal trainer can give you some tips on this if you are not sure what you can do.
  4. Continue your nutrition plan. An injury does not have to derail your fitness goals. Nutrition is a major component in the equation. Continue meal planning and eat healthy, nutritious meals. You will feel better.
  5. Start slow. When you get the all clear to start again when your injury heals, start slow. Do not attempt a six mile run on the first day back. This part takes some restraint, but you will thank yourself later


Keep moral high and prevent your mindset from assuming the worst, even if the diagnosis is not good. Find new methods to achieve your goals in the meantime. You might even find new cross training activities you enjoy.


For more weight loss advice, check out these other posts:
Planning for weight loss
The secret to weight loss
10 Healthy Recipes