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Last week was crazy because my kids were home sick every single day, and we were juggling doctors’ appointments, cuddles, meds, and work.

This week was crazy because my kids were home sick every single day last week, and we needed to catch up. Michael and I also started on Monday our nutrition challenge with our CrossFit gym, which has meant a pretty drastic lifestyle change and a hell of a lot more time in the kitchen preparing things. Also? I took on a cookie decorating and photo slideshow job for a friend of mine, which ate up every evening this week.

Speaking of eating… (I did say “ate,” didn’t I?)

Let’s pause for just a second while we reflect on the fact that I TOOK ON A COOKIE DECORATING PROJECT the very same week I GAVE UP SUGAR AND CARBS. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. But I did learn that I have a hell of a lot more willpower than I ever knew, as I did not have one single bite, lick, or taste of neither the cookies nor the frosting. Oh, I wanted to. When I was done rolling the dough and cutting out the cookies, there is always just a teeny bit of superfluous dough that is not big enough to make another roll-out cookie. I usually pop that delicious, buttery dough right into my mouth as a reward for my efforts, but not this time. I shaped it into a small circular cookie and baked it up and let Nora have it a couple of nights later. And oh man, when I was working with that wonderfully sugar-filled royal icing, there were a couple of times when I MOST DEFINITELY wanted to lick that spoon before I put it into the sink. But nope.

So I’ve been very good this week. No cheats. But that doesn’t mean it’s been going particularly well. Last night, I was feeling mighty rage-y, and this morning I was not in the best of moods, either. I assume it’s my body going through some sugar/carb withdrawals, but if this truly IS “withdrawals,” they’re not as bad as I expected them to be. I love sugar and surely eat more than I should on the regular, so I would’ve expected the withdrawals to be tougher. And sure, I would love to grab a big sandwich right now, or eat a cookie, or pop a few M&Ms into my mouth—don’t get me wrong. But the actual CRAVINGS, so far, have not been awful, either.

One thing I have to note… have you ever weighed yourself on a Monday? After a weekend of a few beers, some wine, eating out at a restaurant, and some extra “treats”? DON’T DO IT. For the love of God, don’t do it. Normally, I weigh myself maybe once or twice a week, just to keep on top of it and make sure nothing crazy is happening. But NEVER on Mondays. This past Monday, though, I was forced to step on a scale to get my starting weight for the nutrition challenge, and I had to do it in front of my trainer, who recorded it. YOU. GUYS. I saw a weight I have not seen in years. It was a good 6-7 lbs. heavier than I’ve averaged the last several months, and 7 lbs. more than what I had weighed ON FRIDAY. I knew it wasn’t “real” weight gain (I didn’t go THAT crazy… BLOAT IS REAL!), but still… that was rough. The good news is that I’m already “down” 6.5 pounds on the challenge since my body did go back to (my) normal within a few days, which kind of feels like cheating. But it’s not like I purposely bulked up, so whatever. I’M not counting it as weight loss.

{Paleo Pad Thai – Very good!}

Anyway, back to the “nutrition” part of this… the first two days, I was freaking STARVING all of the time. I could’ve eaten just 10 minutes before—and rather sizable meals, too—but no matter, my stomach was already like W.T.F. GIVE ME MORE FOOD. GIVE ME CARBS. The hunger has leveled out and now I’m more just depressed by my lack of food choices. And I know I don’t REALLY lack food choices but it certainly feels that way. The diet itself is basically paleo, but with a few optional modifications (we can eat legumes in moderation, can have “natural” dairy in moderation, etc.). But the cleaner we eat, the more points we get—it’s not just a “diet,” it’s a challenge and there is competition involved!—so we’re trying to stay away from that stuff when possible.

I’m having the most trouble with meat, which as you can imagine, is a huge part of the paleo diet. I’m not a huge meat eater normally, although we do usually have it at least a few times a week. But when I eat meat it’s usually IN stuff. I’m eating shredded chicken in a rice dish, or ground beef in sauce for spaghetti. Or meat in tortillas, or inside of a BUN. Now, all of those lovely “wrapper” foods that help disguise the meat for me are prohibited. I ate a chicken breast all on its own for lunch yesterday and it was… grossing me out.

Then Michael and I made burgers (with cauliflower “rice” and roasted veggies) for dinner last night and we, of course, ate them bunless—and with mustard, no ketchup!—and I’ll be honest, I was just miserable about it. I questioned multiple times yesterday why I am doing this to myself. I’m not even unhappy with my body, I just think it could probably be better and wanted to take on the challenge to experiment. But I was thinking to myself, There is no way in the world that I am going to be able to sustain this type of eating long-term, so what is the point? Might as well just give up now!

I talked myself down off of that ledge (for now), and we are on Day 5. Of 35. The struggle is real, my friends. But I’m hoping I can get into a groove. There is so much PLANNING and PREPARATION involved, and I knew that going into it—you should’ve seen the size of our grocery list last weekend, *cough* $245 later *cough*—but it was a different story to live it. I’m hoping we can take some of the lessons learned this week and apply them to next to make it easier on ourselves. More variety in recipes (and just more of them in general—we need to COOK lunches, not just dinners). Bigger batches of everything we make so that there are healthy amounts of leftovers.

A CHALLENGE, indeed. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I talk about it. But tips from any of you veteran paleo or Whole30 folks are always appreciated.

Switching gears…

I realized I never updated with a post about the outcome of my hair. I didn’t end up doing any color/highlights this time—maybe next!—but I did get a healthy cut. When she first started cutting, I looked down at the floor and said, “Is that all you’re taking off?” Surprised, she said, “What? You think I should do more? It’s a good 3 inches.” But my hair still looked so… LONG. But we stuck with her judgment and I like how it turned out. It wasn’t a huge, drastic change but it was definitely noticeably lighter and easier to manage for me, which makes sense since it was a cut that was so long overdue.

Anyway, here’s the “before” again, followed by the “after” pic:

Again, no actual color change (lighting is just way different between the pics). Maybe I’ll get more brave with my next appointment and go for something more different. I do like this, though, so we’ll see. :)

On a side note, I have been using doTERRA’s hair products (they contain essential oils) for about a month now and I LOVE. I have never really had any particular loyalty to hair products in the past, I just bought off the shelf at Target, things that were on sale. I received the doTERRA hair products as a reward—so for free—and I think I’m going to have to fork over the cash to use them from now on. They are paraben and sulfate free. I’ve tried other “natural” shampoo and conditioner and they made my hair feel… dry or something. The only natural conditioner I used before didn’t seem like it was really conditioning, but this one does.

And kind of a funny anecdote to add to this testimonial, but important nonetheless. This time of year, I typically have MAJOR problems with static in my hair. Change my clothes? Static. Wear a sweater? Static. Put on or take off my coat? Static. It has been inescapable in the past, just something I need to deal with in the wintertime. Since I’ve started using the doTERRA shampoo and conditioner? No static. Not once. No kidding. Anyway, I liked the products a lot even before my haircut, but now I LOVE them since I’m using them on healthier hair.

Any and all questions about essential oils or doTERRA… email me at heatherdriveblog at yahoo dot com. There’s still a really great promo going on, and I’m going to be placing another one of my own orders in a couple of weeks. As always, I’d love to get you the wholesale discount!

And with that, I will sign off for now. Happy Friday, all. Enjoy the weekend.

 

Since Sunday, we’ve had a horrible run of sickness in our house. It started last week with a little bit of runny noses, and then Vivienne developed a sporadic cough on Saturday. On Sunday night, she was up in the middle of the night with a fever, just wanting to be rocked and held and snuggled.

Monday morning, full-blown illness for Vivienne, with sad, sick eyes and all. Nora was feeling a little under the weather but still wanted to go to school so we sent her. Vivienne stayed at home with me and I took her to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with an ear infection. And by the time Nora got home that night, she was DOWN FOR THE COUNT. I guess she was falling asleep on the floor at Mary’s at around 4:00, and then fell asleep in the car again with Michael on the way home. Nora had a fever as well.

I thought we just had a little bout of sickness on our hands, but four days into it—with the kids home ALL WEEK now—it’s pretty intense! This is more than just a little cold, I fear. We were back at the pediatrician with BOTH of them last night. After almost two hours in the office consisting of breathing treatments, raging ear infections for Viv, new antibiotics, and swab tests for RSV and influenza (still waiting on results), we were on our way back home to tuck the two sickies into bed for the night.

It has been exhausting. I don’t think we’ve ever seen them this sick, and the fact that they’re both like this at the same time makes it a little extra miserable. Last night, Nora was crying and whimpering in her sleep and we felt so helpless. It’s a chorus of hacking coughing in our house and sometimes, all I can do is look at Michael and laugh a little. Because although it is NOT funny, there’s just nothing else to do at this point.

This morning, we are MAYBE turning a corner? At least for Viv. I’m afraid to be too hopeful, since I thought this same thing at first yesterday but then we went back down the slippery slope of fever and horrible coughing and excessive tiredness.

Michael and I have been trading off, in and out of work all week. I’m falling behind and it’s frustrating but all I want is to be home with my babies.

Needless to say, I am practically bathing in essential oils, just praying that Michael and I somehow escape the umbrella of plague that has come over our house. Fingers crossed.

 

I haven’t really liked my hair in a long time. It had to have been at least before getting pregnant with Vivienne. During pregnancy, I kind of just let it go, and then afterward… well, I lost damn near all of it during postpartum shedding. It was so bad that I seriously had bald spots up near my face. Awful.

The other aspect to this whole this is that I’ve been “between” stylists. I had the same stylist from the time I was six years old, all the way through until a couple of years ago. He was really affordable; I think he gave me a price break since I had been with him for so long. But it got to a point where he was impossible to get an appointment with, I’d have to wait for months. And I don’t know, I’m not the kind of person to schedule a haircut many months in advance, or even on a regular basis—I like to be able to just call when I feel like I need it. So anyway, the last time I called him, the receptionist told me that there weren’t any appointments available for like 2-3 months, and that she’d have him call me back to see if he could squeeze me in. I never heard from him. After that, I was decided to be done.

Then, I started going to the same stylist my mom had switched to. I liked her, she was nice. But she always gave me really boring, straight cuts. And the last time I went to her, she cut my hair completely unevenly. It was enough that it was really obvious. I called her about it and she was apologetic, asking me to come in so she could fix it. I went in, she said she fixed it, and then when I got home and really washed it and dried it again, it was STILL uneven. So I decided I was done with her, too.

I went to a new stylist—recommended by a few women I know—this past spring and it was fine, really. But it was expensive, more than I have ever paid for a haircut. I didn’t even get any color! Sometime after that, I realized… why didn’t I go see my friend, Colleen? One of my suitemates from college became a stylist and I have never been to her because I couldn’t justify it when the stylist I was already seeing was so much cheaper. But now, I’m a real grown up and I suppose I can pay for a real grown up cut. :) And I’m sick of hunting around for a new stylist, so I’m going to see her on Saturday!

I’m long overdue for a change. So I’m getting the itch to do SOMETHING. Should I color? Should I chop? I’m not really sure. I’m leaning toward the latter, for sure, but I’m not sure if I’ll chicken out.

Here’s where I’m at. Pardon the awkward selfie.

At the very least, I need some fresh layers. But… any inspiration to send my way?

Right now, it’s feeling very “heavy,” so I’m tempted to take off a good chunk of length. But how much, and styled how? I need something that’s pretty low maintenance, too, as I have basically zero extra time to be fussing with my hair in the mornings.

I’ve taken to Pinterest and saved a few things, but I’m really hoping that Colleen will have some ideas and expertise to help, too!

 

I don’t “do” resolutions.

I can’t even remember a time that I actually tried to make a new year’s resolution. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t done things to better myself over the years. I suppose I always have ideas and goals—both short-term and long-term—in the back of my mind, and depending on what it is, I will take a step closer to it whenever I can, chipping away at it, or I will think it through over time and finally make the leap when I’m ready. I don’t need a new year to motivate me to do something.

When I look back on 2014, there are a few things that stand out to me—things that I did for myself last year—that were really GOOD. Positive changes, sound decisions. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are things that changed my life.

Perhaps the biggest was my job change. I started setting that plan into motion at the tail end of 2013, and I worked pretty hard at it until all of the pieces eventually fell into place in March. There were events that occurred at my old job that made it so that I didn’t want to work there anymore, and in a lot of ways, that was really sad for me. I had a good thing going there for quite some time, and then it turned kind of sour. A few months after I left, things improved there again, so it begs the question—should I have stuck it out? Would I have been happy there again?

The thing is: I have no regrets. The path of my career has always been pretty well defined. I have never had to make any excruciatingly difficult decisions, because doors always seem to open for me when they are supposed to. In this aspect of my life, I think that things really do happen for a reason, and as a result, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m working with great people—not that I wasn’t before—and I have more flexibility for my family. I’m growing as a professional. I’m being given valuable opportunities. I’m doing good work, and I like that work. It makes me happy.

On a more personal level, the best thing that I did for myself this year was to start CrossFit. I’ve been going consistently, three times per week, for five months now. I get up in the morning and I go. I don’t ever dread it. I don’t ever consider skipping it (in fact, I feel HORRIBLE guilt if I do miss it, even if for a good reason!). Sure, it’s torture sometimes and there are times that I’m suffering through the workout—and I sure do suffer afterward, sometimes for days afterward—but I finally found something that I love. Or I’m just a masochist and have a strange addiction, but whatever. It’s working for me.

Let me digress for a second… Nora comes to CrossFit with me sometimes, before preschool, and she’ll sit and tinker on the iPad while I work out. For the longest time, I thought she was just playing with her games and learning apps but then I started to discover surprise photos in my Photostream (like the one above!). She takes stealth photos of me (and others) at the gym, which is just hysterical—especially when they are halfway decent and not just a huge blur. And even more so when they have cool filters on them. She cracks me up. Once, she even came home from school with a picture she had drawn, which she later explained to us, “It’s a picture of Mommy lifting weights at the gym.”

So clearly it’s made an impression on her. I love that. It sort of makes me more proud than anything else.

Anyway, I can do things now that I never thought I could do. I have conquered a rope climb—something I couldn’t even do in gym class in elementary school. (But I do need a LOT more practice to do it consistently.) I can also do hand stands now, a skill that eluded me until last week. I just couldn’t do it, and it was mostly a mental thing. I was always afraid I was going to drop myself on my head. But I kept trying and five months later, I got it. These are really small things—I’m still nowhere near a CrossFit “star,” in fact I still feel like a fraud half the time! But they are goals that I’ve accomplished, in addition to just getting off of my ass.

In the short term, another thing I plan to do relative to CrossFit is a nutrition challenge with my gym. It’s something else that I pretty much swore I would never do—after all, one of the primary reasons I work out is SO THAT I CAN EAT. But that’s the thing about CrossFit, I guess, is that you always kind of want to push yourself further and further. CrossFit has changed my body, but not as drastically as I would’ve hoped (at least not yet). And I’ve actually GAINED a few pounds since starting (even though my clothes still fit fine and everything). I’m curious what will happen if I combine the exercise with a modified diet. So we’ll see. That starts January 19 and it goes for five weeks. I’ll probably be posting about it again at some point because I’ll need to chronicle it one way or another so that I’ll remember that a) I CAN survive it, or b) I should never do that again. :)

Lastly, I discovered essential oils last spring. It has been a fun journey, an exploration of the ways I can modify our daily lives to cut out a bunch of chemical and artificial crap and replace them with essential oils. I’m not saying we’re living perfect, natural lives—not at all—but this was a change that was relatively easy to make, one that I could start small with, and then build up more over time. I now make a lot of our own household cleaners and personal care products like bug spray and hand sanitizer. I use them to help with itching, headaches, skin care, sore muscles (of which I’ve had MANY), canker sores, pimples, bug bites, congestion, and the list goes on and on. I diffuse pretty much constantly, now at home AND at work… and even in my car. To help with relaxation, mood lifting, easing anxiety, you name it.

Using essential oils has been eye opening. Definitely helpful. And really, really fun. Over the last nine months, it has become more than a “lifestyle change,” it’s become a hobby. I love them and I want others to love them, too. I always want to share them with anyone who will humor me and listen! I’ve helped friends, family, and strangers with various things, too, all through essential oils. That’s been rewarding in and of itself.

On that note, shameless plug since it’s so relevant to all of this… I’m co-hosting another introduction to essential oils webinar this weekend—Sunday, January 11 at 9:00 p.m. ET / 8:00 p.m. CT / 7:00 p.m. MT / 6:00 p.m. PT. There is a fantastic promotion going on right now, too, for anyone who has ever considered getting started with essential oils. It’s literally the most generous promotion doTERRA offers all year. I’m also placing my own monthly order this weekend, and am always happy to add items to my own order for others to try—and extend my discount (25% off) to you, too.

For an invitation to the webinar or information about oils, to ask questions or whatever, feel free to email me at heatherdriveblog at yahoo dot com.

Of course, my family and our health remain my greatest blessings. I hope that goes without saying. I cherish our time together as best I can. I try to be conscious of it, knowing that time is fleeting and our kids are only going to be small for a short period of time. I’m conscious of it, but try not to dwell on it, because oh.my.god it’s so sad to think about sometimes.

A year is long, but all too short as well. I’m still (mostly) the same person I’ve always been. But I’m also in a very different place in my life than I was 12 months ago, even if I didn’t make the most drastic changes ever. A new job is pretty big, but the other things… they are just a couple of the many decisions I made over the course of 2014 that became pieces of the puzzle of my life. Who knows where they will lead me long term, or what it will look like at the end of 2015.

It’s interesting to think about.

It’ll be fun to find out.

 

Happy New Year!

So many blog posts to catch up on, and so little time. But I figured that I could at least kick off 2015 by posting a couple of the recipes that I actually got around to taking photos of during the holidays.

We had plans to get together with my grandma and aunt the weekend before Christmas. My mom was making us a nice dinner, and she asked if I could bring a dessert. I wanted something festive and fun, but also needed something easy—my to-do list was long at this point, and there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Red velvet is Christmasy… but a cake was not in the cards. But cookies? I could handle these.

They turned out a little less chewy than I would’ve liked—they were pretty firm—but I think I may have overbaked them a little. It’s tough to gauge “browning” on a bright red cookie! :) Next time, I will take them out of the oven a couple of minutes earlier. Also, my first batch of cookies that came out of the oven was kind of rough looking, with “sharp,” jagged tops on them (you can see a few of those over to the right and bottom of the platter in the pic). For the subsequent batches, I used the palm of my hand to flatten out the cookie slightly before baking, and that helped make them prettier. All in all, a good cookie—and unique!

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: The Nifty Foodie)

Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. red food coloring
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set this aside.

3. Using a stand mixer, mix together the butter, sugar and vinegar for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and food coloring and mix until just blended.

4. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Using a spatula, mix in the white chocolate chips.

5. Using a medium sized cookie scoop, scoop the dough out onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie for baking. Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

 
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