DIY Mother’s Day Gift “Basket”

Hello and Happy First Day of June!

This post from Mother’s Day is a bit overdue. With traveling and going on vacation for Brendan and my one year anniversary I just haven’t had the time to write. But, better late than never right?

I had so much fun putting this gift “basket” (jar, really) together for my mom this Mother’s Day. I wanted to give her something that was pampering but also practical for everyday use. Like me, Mom is into essential oils, natural face soaps, tea, and lovely candles. I wanted to include a few treats in this gift that she normally wouldn’t buy for herself (such as essential oils). While I put this together for Mother’s Day, you can make this for any occasion you want! So here’s a little peek at what I decided to include in Mom’s gift.

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Jar from Marshall’s 
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The smell from the candle, soap, essential oils, and tea was heavenly. 

I actually found a lot of these goodies at T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. Surprisingly, they have a great selection of natural health and beauty products. I have seen some of these brands at natural/health food stores, so I trust that they are good quality. I have used some of these brands before, like the Eucalyptus soap by PlantLife and the Cooling Eucalyptus candle by DW Home and I really liked them.

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I also tried my hand at making some homemade Bug Bite Salve. Again, I wanted this gift to be pampering as well as practical, so instead of making some body scrub that I knew my mom probably wouldn’t use I decided to make this bug bite salve. Mom loves to spend her time outdoors, so I knew this would come in handy. I bought the tin and most of the ingredients I needed to make the salve from Health Nut Nutrition located in Lynchburg, which is one of my very favorite natural health stores.

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While I had never used this brand before, I loved this little aromatherapy roller set from Tisserand Aromatherapy. Each roller has a special blend of essential oils to help you de-stress, give you energy, and aides in a restful night’s sleep. I bought this set from T.J. Maxx.

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I also decided to include some dried chamomile flowers (from Health Nut Nutrition) so that mom could make a fresh cup of hot, relaxing chamomile tea. I found the adorable muslin sachet from my local Co-op and then just included a little index card with instructions on how to prepare the tea.

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Earlier this year I took a free online course through Herbal Academy which introduced me to herbs and learning how to draw plant monographs. It included a bunch of wonderful resources and free print outs, such as this Tea Meditation practice. This Tea Meditation encourages you to sit with a cup of herbal tea, taste the rich flavors and complicated flavors and take time to relish in the moment. Then, take a moment to journal about how drinking the tea makes you feel – what does it taste like? Do you feel the tea working in certain parts of your body?, etc. Since Mom loves a good cup of tea and journaling, I figured this was the perfect thing to include. In addition to the chamomile flowers, I also included some of our favorite teas from Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea.

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And finally, I finished off the gift “basket” with some fun packaging! I found the cute bag at Marshall’s and the sparkly tissue paper from T.J. Maxx.

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I had so much fun shopping for my Mom and putting this little gift together! Hopefully this will bring you some inspiration for your next DIY gift basket. Have a lovely day everyone.

 

 

End of the Month Reflection

As I sit in front of the computer this evening reflecting on the past couple of weeks, I find it hard to believe that we are well on our way into 2017. Is it just me, or does it feel like New Years Day was just a few days ago? This month has been so full of change, happiness, and positive energy – just the start to the new year I was hoping for. I hope that the month of January has been as lovely for the rest of you as well.

I wanted to devote some time today to looking back at my goals and habits that I set for myself at the beginning of the month and assess how well I stuck to them.

I definitely met some of my goals – getting a job, recycling more, and doing yoga more often – but I ended up slipping on some of my healthy habits I was trying to establish. I started the month off strong doing 15 minutes of yoga in the morning and at night, I was journaling everyday, and making headway on my reading list. But then I started my new job and my routine got thrown out of wack, and I’m sad to say that I haven’t worked very hard on getting back where I was. So I think the month of February will be a great opportunity to do this.

During the month of February I want to get more serious about my yoga practice and dedicate more time to it daily. I want to start incorporating more fruits and veggies into my diet because, believe it or not, even though I’m vegan I definitely don’t eat all of the plants I should. I want to go to bed earlier so that I have more time in the mornings to read my Bible, do yoga, and eat breakfast before going to work. And I also want to write more – I want to journal, blog, and write letters and articles more regularly. These are just a few of my goals + habits though.

On another note, Roanoke continues to grow on me. Meeting new people and really learning more about the community is giving me a deeper appreciation for this city. I’m hoping that in the coming weeks I’ll have more to share with you about how I am getting involved in this beautiful little community and how I want to serve and make a difference.

Roanoke really has so much potential and I am excited to see it grow and thrive in the years to come. How awesome it is to be placed here right now at this time of growth and development and to know that I have the opportunity to help progress that change. I know God has me here for a reason and I pray that He will help show and guide me to the areas I can be of service.

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And with that I say so long January! You’ve been grand.

 

Winter Wellness

Recently my blog posts have been focused on health, wellness, and nutrition. Health is something that has become increasingly important to me over the last 5 years and I have come to realize that I have a fiery passion for all things to do with nutrition and holistic healing.

As my blog continues to grow and develop, I want to do more series focused on health and wellness – whether that be my journey to veganism, holistic healing, or nutrition. If you visited my blog recently, you might have seen my series titled “Vegan Views” where I share my thoughts on a plant based diet, animal equality, and other issues related to a vegan lifestyle. Well, today I am excited to share a new series with you called “Winter Wellness”. Here I will be sharing my tips for naturally strengthening your immune system to help ward off the cold and flu this winter.

I will start by saying that by no means am I a professional when it comes to nutrition or holistic medicine – that’s not what I studied in college. However, I have done some research, read a lot of books on health and wellness, and am simply sharing what I have found works for me.

Today I wanted to share some of my “must-haves” that I always keep on hand to keep sickness at bay during the long cold winter months.

The last time I had the flu was in 2012 and the last time I had a cold was 2014 (knock on wood?). I have never gotten the flu vaccine and since I started putting more focus on my health and what I put into my body, I have realized that I am sick less often.

I didn’t really start caring about my health until my freshman year of college, but even then I didn’t always put my health first. With classes and homework assignments, I was lucky to have time to dash over to the dining hall to get something to eat. Since I had poor sleep habits, didn’t eat the healthiest, and was surrounded by roommates and classmates, I did unfortunately get sick a few times during the course of my college career.

My grandma has always been a big advocate for natural vitamins and herbal supplements. So she kept me informed and stocked up on what I needed to keep my immune system strong while I was in school. My roommates always laughed at me for having a drawer full of supplements, but there were a couple of times when they came to me when they were sick asking what they should take to make them feel better. Sadly, they didn’t realize the importance of strengthening their immune systems B E F O R E they got sick.

I do take a few different supplements, however I think it is of the utmost importance to eat a variety of different fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains, to make sure you are getting the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs. I take supplements because sometimes I still fall short on the vitamins my body needs, and also because it packs an extra punch when the cold weather comes around.

Here’s a quick list of what I typically keep on hand during cold and flu season!

  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Ginger Aid Tea (Traditional Medicinal)
  • Echinacea Tea (Traditional Medicinal)
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Kombucha Tea
  • Lemons
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Red Pepper
  • Sauerkraut
  • Raw Almonds
  • Raw Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Wheat Germ
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Ground Cinnamon

Supplements: 

  • Probiotic
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E

By no means does this list include all of the foods, supplements, spices, and teas you should keep on hand for cold and flu season. This is just what I happen to have right now and foods I typically lean toward eating. I also take a ginger shot weekly to help give my immune system a boost, and I drink plenty of cold pressed juices to get all of the benefits of the fruits and veggies that I need.

These foods contain antioxidants, vitamin C, Probiotics, anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin A, vitamin K, and B vitamins just to name a few. While I could go into more detail about the health benefits of each item on my list, that would be quite the long post. So, if you are interested in learning more specifically about each item, you can do some of your own research :). I may try and do more posts in the future that include more detail about the health benefits of these foods.

What are some of the must-haves you keep in your pantry for winter wellness?

 

 

 

 

 

Not Your Mom’s Vegan Baked Potato Soup

When I decided to go vegan in November I was sad at the thought of not being able to eat my mom’s baked potato soup again. I loved it when she would make this soup on cold winter evenings – rich, hardy, and so creamy, it was the perfect dinner to warm the heart and the soul. I gave up meat 5 years ago, so I was used to cooking for myself when I still lived with my parents. But this was one of the only meals of my mom’s that I still ate and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give it up.

The other day I had a craving for a nice big bowl of that potato soup, so I decided to take my mom’s recipe and adapt it to a vegan version! I was a little hesitant to try it at first since I can’t stand vegan cheeses (or at least the few I’ve tried), but I was actually pleasantly surprised with the way it turned out. Did it taste exactly like my mom’s? No. But it did taste very similar and it’s good enough for me to have and not feel guilty about putting dairy into my body.

The thing I’m learning about vegan foods is that you can’t expect it to taste exactly like the non-vegan version. The goal is to try to make the dish taste as similar as possible, but make it your own. And that’s the key: treat it as it’s own separate dish! I usually avoid fake meats and cheeses because they gross me out and to me that defeats the purpose of why I went vegan (for my health) because these foods are so overly processed. But sometimes you just need some good comfort food, and I’m very happy to have this recipe on hand.

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Not Your Mom’s Vegan Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients: 

1/3 cup Earth Balance butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups of non-dairy milk (I used cashew)

2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 green onions, chopped

3/4 cup of Daiya shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Tofutti dairy free sour cream

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Chopped green onion for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a stockpot, melt vegan butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in potatoes and onions.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in cheese, sour cream, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.
  5. Serve with green onion garnish and a side of locally baked fresh bread. Enjoy!

Also, I just realized that 3 years ago today I started my blog! Yay! 🙂

2017 Goals and Intentions

Hello 2017!

Yesterday was a wonderful start to the year for me. Brendan and I visited a new church, we went to a family Christmas/New Year’s party, and then went to my parent’s house to do Christmas presents with them.

Since I was out all day yesterday, I decided that today is the day I am really going to start focusing on my goals and intentions for 2017. I started my morning with reading my Bible, checking notifications on my phone, 15 minutes of yoga, finishing off a bottle of water, drank a ginger “flu” shot, and now I’m sitting down with my cup of coffee while I write this post.

One of my goals this month is to establish a healthy morning and night time routine. I am guilty of taking forever to get out of bed, then drinking my morning coffee while ignoring my water and mindlessly surfing the web. And I tend to do the same thing after dinner, snacking and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth.

I’d really like my mornings to start by spending time in God’s word, 15 minutes of yoga, and then drinking plenty of water while I read or blog. And then at night I’d like to spend my evenings journaling, 15 minutes of yoga, and then bed. One thing I know for sure I need to work on is being more mindful of when I am checking my phone. I spend way to much time on my phone and not enough time reading, writing, blogging, and doing anything else creative.

A N Y W A Y …

I have a much longer list of goals for 2017 than I have in years past. And as the days go on I’m sure more will come to mind that I will add to the list. But I wanted to share with you the goals I have written out now – I’ve heard that sharing your goals with others helps keep you accountable. So here it goes!

 

2 0 1 7  G O A L S  + I N T E N T I O N S 

  1. Practice more yoga (daily if possible)
  2. Buy less, Waste less, Recycle more
  3. Shop local more often (Farmers Market/Co-op)
  4. Get involved in the local community
  5. Wear less makeup
  6. Incorporate more natural beauty products
  7. Journal almost daily
  8. Blog Weekly
  9. Read 45 books
  10. Get a job
  11. Waste less food
  12. Meal plan/prep
  13. Find a home church
  14. Take a yoga class
  15. Check out library books > Buy books
  16. Write letters to people more often
  17. Look into taking nutrition/health classes

In addition to these goals for the year, I’m also going to continue with writing out goals and healthy habits for myself each month. That way I have smaller goals to work on that are more attainable and less daunting.

I am feeling so motivated and inspired to make a change in 2017. So I’m going to let go of the things that have been holding me back and I am going to start taking the steps I need to in order to be the person that I want to be.

Let’s fill 2017 with love, laughter, positive vibes, and change!

Year in Review: 2016

This year has been a whirlwind of milestones – graduation, getting married, moving to a new city, my husband’s new job, getting a kitten, and going vegan to name a few. While these were all joyous moments for me, I had my fair share of stress and suffering. But don’t we all?

Before I go any further with my year in review, I want to say that I am so tired of hearing people say that 2016 has been a terrible year. I’ve been hearing people say they are ready to put this year in the past and never mention it again. Really? While there have been some devastatingly heartbreaking events this year, the year itself is N O T bad. I would encourage you to focus on all of the good that happened in 2016 rather than dwell on the bad. A negative attitude will get you no where and accomplish nothing in life. Don’t be fooled into thinking that things will instantly get better in the new year. Just like losing weight and getting in shape, it takes hard work and dedication to make a change. So let’s learn from the mistakes of 2016 and move forward to a more positive and uplifting 2017.

In order of events, here are some of my highlights from 2016:

  1. Getting to live with my Maw for the first half of the year – Growing up I always thought it would be fun to live with my grandmother. And it just so happened that I needed a place to live while I worked in Lynchburg and my Maw so graciously let me live with her for a year. God really blessed me during that year and I will always treasure the time I had living with Maw.15801304_1291306717575341_47967898_n
  2. Working as Editorial Assistant for Lynchburg Living and Lynchburg Business Magazines – Right at the start of the year I had the opportunity to work part-time as the Editorial Assistant for two local magazines while the Managing Editor was on maternity leave. It was a wonderful two month experience and just the right amount of work while I was also juggling wedding planning.
  3. Furthering my yoga practice – During the course of the year I completed three yoga challenges and even won a prize for the first challenge I did! These challenges helped get me into a routine and encouraged me to do yoga on the daily.
  4. Premarital counseling – Brendan and I did premarital counseling from February-May this year through Thomas Road Baptist Church. I was a little skeptical about it at first and thought it would be a bunch of mushy gushy stuff, but it turned out to be an awesome experience for the both of us. Not only did we lay it all out on the table and learn more about one another, we learned what marriage is really about that it takes a lot of faith and hard work to make a marriage great. So thankful for Pastor Jay and the time he invested into us.
  5. Bridal shower – On April 23 my Aunt Sarah threw me a wonderful Bridal shower and her new house. It was such a sweet time with friends and family and totally helped ease some of the wedding planning stress. 15820778_1291307190908627_387934203_o
  6. Bachelorette Party – My maid of honor Krista planned the sweetest and most thoughtful Bachelorette party for me on May 7. Since I’m not into the party-scene and alcohol drinking, we spent the afternoon at the cutest Irish tea shop where we had tea, finger sandwiches, and desserts. Then we went to do some pottery painting and ended the evening with dinner at Isabella’s Italian restaurant. So thankful to have that time with my girls. 15820555_1291307377575275_2008136560_o
  7. Graduation – I technically graduated from Liberty University in December 2015, but on May 14th this year I was able to attend my commencement ceremony. And the best part? I was able to be with Brendan who was also graduating. Both of our families were there and we were all able to celebrate together. It really made those 4 1/2 years of studying worth it. 15800964_1291307520908594_1669025728_n
  8. My Wedding Day ❤ – On May 21 I got to marry the love of my life and have my dream wedding! Yes there were a couple of hiccups here and there, but I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. Even though it was calling for rain, we had some blue skies and were able to have the ceremony outside in the garden of Oak Ridge Estate, just as I had envisioned. It was a beautiful, God honoring day filled with friends and family to help us celebrate. Truly the best day of my life. 15801169_1291307894241890_1048087388_n
  9. Honeymoon in New York City – Brendan and I spent 5 glorious days in my very favorite city for our honeymoon! I’ve always known that I didn’t want to spend my honeymoon at the beach or on a cruise, and we both love cities so much that New York City just made sense. I couldn’t think of a more romantic place to spend with my love. We were able to go to the top of the Empire State Building, see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, go to the top of the One World Trade Center, spend an afternoon in Central Park, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. The only downside was that I got food poisoning on our last full day in the city and I spend the day in bed. But hey, I’m focusing on the positive here. I survived and Brendan took good care of me. What a wonderful husband. ❤ 15820129_1291307777575235_1810800617_n
  10. Moving to a new city and into our very first apartment together – On June 1st Brendan and I moved to a new city and into our very first apartment together in Roanoke. I got the downtown apartment I had been dreaming about and we had fun exploring the city this summer.15785554_1291308680908478_692262730_o
  11. Birthday Getaway to Richmond – For my birthday this year Brendan took me to Richmond for the weekend on a little getaway. While our time there was short, it was honestly one of the best birthdays I’ve had in years.
  12. Adopting Cheetah – Mom and Dad always have a lot of kittens at their house, and this summer there was a very special little orange tabby that I had my eye on. Brendan and I debated whether we should wait to get a kitten, but once we saw Cheetah I knew that we needed to bring him to live with us. Adopting Cheetah has taken a lot of adjustment, sometimes he’s downright annoying, but we are so thankful to have this little fur ball in our lives.15857231_1291309717575041_748629662_o
  13. Going Vegan – I’ve been vegetarian for 5 years now and have been feeling the pull towards veganism for quite some time now. On November 1st, World Vegan Day, I decided to go vegan for a week to see if I could do it and how my body would react. It’s now the end of December and I’m still vegan. While I’m not perfect, I want to try my very best to stay on a plant based diet and adopt an overall plant based lifestyle. Right now I’m going strong and don’t want to turn back!
  14. Traveling to Georgia – In mid November Brendan and I had the opportunity to travel to Georgia (my first time) to visit our friends Brady and Lora. Brady and Lora got married just a few days after we did and moved to Georgie in May. Brady is now the youth pastor of church in Georgia and we were able to see his ordination when we visited. What a blessing these friends are and I am so proud of everything they are doing for the Lord. 15824602_1291309580908388_645042082_o
  15. First Christmas together – And last but not least, Brendan and I were finally able to be together on Christmas as we celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple with Brendan’s family n Delaware. We had a wonderful few days spent with his family, and we were even able to bring Cheetah along with us! 15820736_1291310160908330_1489587202_o

I know for some 2016 has been a very trying year. I had my ups and down as well, but through it all God has been so good to me and my family. We have had great health and so many blessings to celebrate. My prayer for 2017 is that we would all show love and kindness to one another, treat others as we would want to be treated, and focus on all of the good and positive things in our lives. Don’t fall into a pessimistic attitude where all you can focus on is the bad and the negative in this world. Remember, we live on a fallen planet full of sinners and that’s why we all so desperately need Jesus. He is the Light of the world. Right from the start, I want to place 2017 into God’s hands and have Him strengthen me and guide me.

I will be posting my goals and intentions for the new year on the blog later this week. I would love to hear what some of your New Year’s resolutions are! 🙂

Goodbye 2016, you’ve been grand!

Until next year my lovelies ❤

Vegan Views Part 2: Animal Equality

When I first started learning about what it meant to be a vegan, I thought that people only became vegan if they were hippie animal lovers. And while it seems that caring for animals plays a big part in why people become vegan, that’s not the only factor. People go vegan for their health, for the environment, AND for the animals.

My main reasons for wanting to go vegan are health related. However, I do care about animals and I hate the way the meat industry treats animals, especially livestock and poultry.

There is one aspect of veganism that many people believe in that I have to disagree with, and that is animal equality.

While I choose not to eat animals, for my health and because I don’t like the thought of an animal being killed just for my pleasure, I don’t think that everyone should have to give up eating meat. I’ve seen and experienced first hand animals that are raised for meat that have a happy, healthy life. Of course, they do get slaughtered in the end, but at least they were treated well during their life, unlike factory farmed animals.

I worked at my college’s campus farm last summer and we had some chickens that were being raised for meat. Unlike the birds that are raised for big meat companies, these chickens were pasture raised, and had access to the fields where they could eat grass and bugs. We also fed them non-GMO feed. I enjoyed taking care of these chickens, watching them grow, and seeing their personalities develop. But I was disturbed by the fact that I knew they were being raised to be slaughtered. And while I was uncomfortable with that, my coworkers all ate meat and it didn’t bother them. I was very grateful that my boss was kind enough to let me stay home from work on the days they slaughtered and processed the chickens. While I don’t want to eat meat and I don’t want to be a part of slaughtering animals, I don’t think that it is wrong to eat animals, as long as the animals have been taken care of and treated with respect during their life.

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The whole idea behind animal equality is that the animals should have the same rights and respect as humans. And while I do agree that the way the meat industry currently treats animals is absolutely cruel and so unnecessary (serious changes need to be happening in the way people raise livestock and poultry), I believe that humans have rule over animals.

As a Christian, I believe that God has blessed us with plants and animals to help us survive, and while humans didn’t eat animal flesh to start with it is clear that God placed man above animals. The Bible says “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’.” – Genesis 1:26 (NIV).

When you look at scripture it is clear that Man and animal are not the same. While we do share similar body parts and characteristics with animals, we were not created equally and we did not evolve from animals. God created man in His image, that is why we are superior to animals. And the reason that humans and animals seem similar in some respects is because we were both created by THE Creator. But just because we are superior to animals does not mean that we should torture them or abuse them. Animals are a gift from God, and should be treated kindly, whether they are your pets or being raised for you to eat.

My heart goes out to the suffering animals, and I really do care about them. But we need to put other human beings first – we need to care about the millions of unborn babies that are aborted every year, the homeless people that are shivering on the streets, and the malnourished children in Africa and other countries, etc.

So whether you eat meat or you’re vegan, remember to treat animals kindly. And more importantly, always put people and their needs above that of animals.

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