Pumpkin Spice Shake

IMG_3441If you’re missing pumpkin spice lattes and other treats in that crazy-sweet fall genre, you will love this smoothie.

I am under the impression that all of my smoothies are masterpieces, so I always have to check with multiple people, especially those who would rather take the Starbucks, to make sure it really is a winner.

-5 ice cubes
-Handful frozen pineapple (I buy fresh, chop it up and then freeze)
-1 scoop vanilla cinnamon Fit Protein powder from Whole Foods*
-1.5 cup plain almond milk
-5 shakes cinnamon, or to taste and 2 shakes nutmeg, or to taste

*If using a different vanilla protein powder, amp up the spices and add pumpkin pie spice if possible

Blend until it has the consistency of a frosty, keeping an element of iciness is what makes this as satisfying as a shake! I love it for a post work-out or late-night snack.

Enjoy!

 

Birthday Feast

My approach to cooking is very much rooted in over-confidence.

IMG_3402That’s why committing to 6 weeks of clean eating (and drinking) for the Alchemy 365 Challenge was the perfect motivator in discovering how many dishes I am capable of making. I have always believed recipes are up for interpretation, and now I have taken this farther and started making them up completely.

That’s why when my boyfriend, Brandon, asked where we could go for a 365-approved birthday dinner, I insisted on a completely homemade meal.

I think it’s a rule of thumb to not serve people something you make for the first time. But if you can’t tell, I really don’t like rules.

STARTERS

IMG_3394Zucchini fries
-3 to 4 zucchinis, I used 4 on the small side and that made a full pan of fries
-1 egg
– 1/3 to 1/2 cup flax seed (enough to cover fries)
-Spices or salt & pep

Cut zucchinis the long way and then chop to be the size of fries. Coconut/Olive oil on a cookie sheet and lay down fries. Brush with the beaten egg; sprinkle flax seed and any other desired seasoning. Bake at 375 for 15-20 mins.

Crab cakes
IMG_3375-1 pound lump crab, this can be super expensive so if you end up opting for a more imitation crab route, whatever.
-1 sweet potato
-2 eggs
-1/3 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup parsley
-1.5 tbsp garlic
-2 tbsp flax seed
-Sea salt and ground pepper as you please

Cook the sweet potato in a pot with water for ~20 mins. In the meantime shred up and chop the crab into thin pieces. Add the eggs, oil, garlic, flax seed, salt, parsley, and any other seasoning you want, and mix.  When the sweet potato is done, IMG_3391mash it separately and mix it in to the bowl.

From here, roll them into balls a little bit bit bigger than a golf ball; then flatten into small patties. The cakes can be cooked right away, or saved in the fridge. When ready to cook. use coconut oil (or oil of choice) in a pan, and cook patties until brown on each side, and flipping them like tiny burgers. I served with lemon and it was AMAZING.

MAIN COURSE

This was Brandon’s time to shine. From my understanding, here’s what we had going on.

IMG_3393Cajun salmon filets:

Cooked to PERFECTION in a cast-iron skillet on the stove. We used this amazing Southwest salt mixture from Arizona for seasoning.

Basically any combination of spice and salt will do. Served with lemon.

Spicy green beans:

Steamed in the rice cooker for 15 minutes. Place in pan and stir in olive oil, red pepper flakes, and 1 tbsp of soy sauce.

DESSERTAka Why We’re All Here

Paleo pumpkin pie:IMG_3392
-1 can of pumpkin
-Two eggs
-Two egg whites
-Can of light coconut milk
-Half cup almond milk
1 Tsp cinnamon
-1/2 Tsp nutmeg
-1/2 Tsp ginger
-1/4 cloves
-2 Tsp vanilla

Mix until it’s all well blended and pour into pie plate then bake for 35 min at 350 degrees. My pan was on the smaller side so it turned out a little odd. It won’t look like a ton of mix, but go for a bigger pan anyway so it cooks all the way through.

IMG_3376
I Am Malala supervised the blender

1 Ingredient Ice Cream:
-2 bananas
-Cinnamon to taste (for me, like 15 shakes)
-3 tbsp peanut butter
Peel and chop 2 ripe bananas and freeze for at least 2 hours, I did overnight. Place bananas in blender and blend for about 2o minutes.

At first, it will seem like the bananas are not making much progress- do not worry. I walked away so that I wouldn’t be tempted to add water.

When it starts to have a creamier consistency, add your flavors (I did PB and cinnamon) and continue blending until it looks like a shake. From there, pour into a tuperware and freeze, again for at least 2 hours.

This is the new cure to my sweet tooth!

There you have it, the absolute tastiest food, all guilt free. I am a big believer in eating what you want and how much you want, but knowing exactly what you are eating. When you start focusing on ingredients and where your food comes from, your taste buds change with your perspective.

In my opinion (and in Brandon’s), this meal wasn’t about restriction, or what wasn’t on the table. While nutritious, it was all filling, delicious, and fun. That’s how food should be-especially a birthday dinner. If healthy food doesn’t taste good, it makes skipping the donuts and pizza an uphill battle.

Can’t wait for you to try these recipes (and make up your own) and hear what you think!

Celebrating Sydney

Every single detail of that day is crystal clear. And for someone with a brain game app that I can’t remember to play often enough to see results, that’s huge.

Visiting Lake Mills with family and friends on September 18th, 2015
Visiting Lake Mills with family and friends on September 18th, 2015

The story of losing Sydney Tabakin on September 18th, 2010 will continue to be told, and will continue to reach more hearts with every reverberation of sorrow and laughter. It’s muscle memory- ingrained in our minds, tattooed in our hearts (and sometimes elsewhere), and rolling off our tongues with the same authenticity and emotion it created 5 years ago.

We have also proven the stories of Sydney’s life will live on, each one unique to the storyteller and their relationship with Sydney.

For the last five years, we have focused on the love and the loss; but the story we need even more than that, is this-

“We are so lucky,” I told myself just after a usual bout of clumsiness interrupted my zen thoughts about the 11825824_10153343871535668_1028002565700626142_nweekend to come and left me clutching a stubbed toe. It’s a phrase I repeat often. “Thank your body for each and every moment of this practice, we are so so lucky,” I tell my yoga students as they awake from savasana. In every situation it seems to apply. And on the eve of the 18th, my excitement for seeing the luckiest people I know- those who knew Sydney- overpowered any distractions or setbacks.

Just as I expected, my weekend was filled with the best friends I could imagine, laughing until I couldn’t speak, all purple ereything, and more long island ice teas than I knew possible {aka 11 gallons}. I had referred to this weekend as a reunion, and that’s exactly what it was. A celebration of life and the friends that make every encounter unforgettable.

Just as we all had different experiences and relationships with Sydney, each person who could and could not be there this weekend is a part of a whole. While the empty space created by a loss like Sydney can never be filled, this weekend brought back a sense of vitality so many of us had been missing. We didn’t all choose to be a part of the tragedy that occurred 5 years ago, but we chose to celebrate life this weekend, and we continue to choose each other. 

We choose who we catch up with, what grudges we hold, and what this special weekend will look like in 30 years. We decide how many times a day we can be inspired to say, “I am so lucky.”

Sydney's parking spot, September 2010
Sydney’s parking spot, September 2010

The people we surround ourselves with and what we make time for reflects what we value, and this weekend was no different.

At the time of the car accident, our friend group was beginning senior year. Decisions about our future demanded our attention and pressure continued to set in. At the same time, we chose to be present; to engage with each person around us and make the most of our last year in the same place. We knew how to balance and prioritize what mattered most.

Now with many of us as nearing or starting out in a new chapter, it can be easy to lose sight of what we’ve accomplished, who we have inspired, and what we know.

The stories of Sydney are nowhere near done, the only difference is the next story of how she impacted your life isn’t is the past tense, it starts today.

5 Ways to Revamp the Workday

IMG_3282As Labor Day wraps up, there are backpacks being zipped up, PB&J’s getting sliced into squares, and butterflies circulating as many wonder what a new chapter will bring. This marks my first fall without classes, schedules, and bus schedules occupying my mind.

Rather than partaking in sorority recruitment, I was supporting a few chapters from afar. I swapped back to school shopping for a weekend outdoors filled with celebration and family. I entered the famous “first day” knowing what it would bring. Until I remembered I was in complete control of what I would bring to it.

Change is as constant as we make it. Here’s how I’m keeping things fresh for fall-

1. Know your stuff: In college when I had mostly major-focused courses and found myself often surrounded by Ad/PR peers, it was easy to live and breathe strategic communications. Being up to speed with agency news and marketing campaigns boosted my confidence in classes and my abilities.

However, working for a business consulting company has shifted my lens to HR and organizational development, an area I would otherwise know little about. As a result, that confidence I found when voicing my opinions about brands or ads doesn’t make as many appearances. So I have to work to uncover it again by reading Harvard Business review, LinkedIn pulse articles, and staying tuned into conversations even when I don’t understand the context. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but rather rediscovering what you know is already there.

2. Get your Z’s: I need to sleep. It’s not negotiable, no matter how many times I tried to argue it was, with all-night study sessions as my proof. That was then, this is now, End of story.

3. Be an expert:  I am in a unique and fortunate situation- I am the only one in my position, team, and department- I am Work Effects marketing. While I get to lead projects, vision cast, and make decisions, I lose the brainstorming and collaboration that comes from another perspective.

Like any millennial, I assumed the internet would have the answer to my hopes and dreams, and IMG_1835have made bloggers and writers worldwide my coworkers. By researching the best ways to produce webinars, tricks for hmtl coding, and staying updated with marketing news, I can present and execute ideas with the same confidence as I would after bouncing and rebuilding my idea off my cube-neighbor.

4. Take productive breaks: Skyway walks, creative writing bursts, and taking the time to have lunch away from my desk energizes me to stay focused the rest of the day. Not giving my body time to move or my brain time to run wild, I end up taking a break via Instagram, which has proven to have no positive impacts on my work.

Sometimes, I feel guilty for being “off task,” but if getting a burst of social interaction will make it easier for me to find spelling errors before I email hundred of consultants, then everyone wins. Furthermore, I almost always return with better ideas, solutions, and approaches. We need a little white space sometimes in order to see what’s in front of us.

5. Let passion lead: This one’s simple- go where there is energy, and bring your energy to where there isn’t. As a 1-person department, if I can get the dept to rally around something I am really excited about (lolz like that is hard) and I can get the key decision makers excited about it, soon enough it comes onto my plate. Direct towards passion and energy, and you direct towards quality.

Sometimes my projects get logistical and tedious, but bringing positivity to the task and taking productive breaks (ahem ^^) I can get them done faster and with more attention to detail- meaning rework’s time to shine has passed.

It won’t work perfectly everyday, but I’ve learned to stop waiting for perfection. I’d rather practice trying new things, fall down a few times, and find progress than wait for the perfect day, project, opportunity, job, or people to fall into my lap before I make moves. Let’s do it, September.

Brand of the Month- Lorna Jane

I like to consider myself a smart consumer. Aware of the details of the companies I support, I buy local when I think it matters most, and I’m conscious of the marketing and branding that attracts me to a product or organization. When I’m not doing those things, I work on being modest.

But I’m sure I’m not the only one who falls into this group. Social media, especially Instagram, is often at the root of this connection. It’s a way for a consumer to get a feel for something greater than products, you get an idea of what it would be like to work there and in the best cases, you IMG_2793feel like you’re a part of that family. Due to the pace of social media, consumers can get updates and information without waiting for the next production of a major commercial.

Active wear outfitters, Lorna Jane captures this power perfectly.

As lululemon, Under Armour, Athleta, and many more brands gain traction and headlines, there needs to be a way to stand out. This means standing out on social media too.

On Instagram, brands are able to learn more about the followers as well. Lorna Jane has chosen to focus on broadening the demographic of who could see themselves in their clothes. This becomes even more strategic and meaningful when you think of their competitor lululemon’s controversies with body shaming. it may just be a photo, posted on one day, but when the message resonates, it’s worth one thousand words.

IMG_3059Lorna Jane came on my radar when the Minneapolis-based studio Alchemy started carrying it. Seeing as I don’t own any LJ clothing (yet) I had no reason to build a personal relationship with their brand.

However, they have made an active lifestyle accessible and welcoming to all, which is a personal goal of mine as well. They have said yes, we are a lifestyle brand, but we’re also human.

By often featuring quotes, photos, and signatures of the founder, it creates a motivating connection you would normally expect from the best friend you call after the best and worst days.

B2C Brands don’t always have a choice anymore; social media is more of a given than a strategic idea. But how it’s approached is where the strategy comes in, and the difference is made. It’s the why and how that fascinates me, and makes me applaud brands like Lorna Jane. Furthermore, it makes me tag other followers that I know will appreciate the grams; or (as seen above)screenshot their Instagrams and send them to my friends.

They know we are paying attention, so they are doing the same.

 

Minneapolis with Mountains

Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.
Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.

It started as a “I wish we could.” Scrolling through photos of previous Yoga on the Rocks classes, imagining a city comparable to Minneapolis surrounded by mountains, and dreaming of a lifestyle that permitted guilt-free weekend travels. It’s very similar to how many of our friendships started. Being tied together by previous leadership positions, interests, and mutual friends then transitioned into seeing each other almost every day for 6 am yoga sessions, then to lunch/happy hours, life dilemma debriefs, and most significantly, for no reason at all.

Just as quickly, plans for our Denver weekend materialized and the countdown began. There’s something so powerful about travelling with like-minded people, driven by the best question “why not?” Our long weekend was filled with hiking, yoga {on paddleboards and on land}, being too enveloped in conversation to read the books we brought to the pool, shopping, brewery-runs, lots of eating, and explaining that we weren’t a bachelorette party despite the wedges and lipstick. It may not be everyone’s ideal, a sentiment I am used to, but that’s how you know you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. No complaints over here.

While there’s enough Insta’s to create a travel brochure, one of my greatest takeaways from this weekend was the concept of mental souvenirs. Some would call these memories {eye roll included} but I would call them boring.

Always one for the you-do-you mentality, I decided to go for a run after our paddleboarding adventure. Much IMG_2869to Alyx’s dismay, I left my phone behind with the defense of being able to run in Europe and not get lost prepared me for the moment. Sidebar, I actually got lost for hours during my first run in Rome, but that didn’t seem relevant at the time.

Following a paved trail close to the beach, I stumbled upon an archery range, wildlife signs, and secluded houses. Feeling the heat of the Colorado sun, I picked a stopping point in the distance, which happened to have an amazing view of the mountains, hills, prairies, valleys, and houses all leading into one another. As your classic millennial, my first thought was I wish I had my phone. But my second thought was how refreshing it was to be present. To see and savor instead of snap and share. This view is my mental souvenir.

As the weekend continued, I found connectivity wasn’t just in the scenery of Colorado. Everyone we met was warm and inviting, taking genuine interest in what brought us there. While we may pride ourselves on being products of the “Minnesota Nice” mentality, their authenticity set it apart. We also quickly learned that every CO resident who isn’t born there is considered a “transplant,” a term everyone insisted we would soon identify with.

Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca
Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca

By the time Friday night fell behind the peaks, we were exhausted from hiking Mount Sanitas and touring Boulder. Normally, when I suggest waking up at 5 am on vacation I get shut down very quickly, and people start to question why they went on vacation with me in the first place. Luckily, this group of yogis could agree sunrise at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was a non-negotiable.

Once we arrived for Yoga on the Rocks {or #CPYontheRocks}, a 4-part series of guest led yoga classes in the amphitheatre, we knew all the planning and travelling {and PTO use, holla} was well worth it. Much like the 6 am classes we frequent, the venue was filled mat to mat and energy was bouncing between the peaks, despite the early start time. Our instructor for the day, the Minneapolis CPY-role model Joel, added to the unforgettable feels. From making us laugh—“Reach your arms forward like you’re seeing your favorite niece or nephew at Christmas. You don’t have a favorite, but they’re your favorite”—to creating a greater purpose for the group of 2,000 yogis—“Dedicate this practice to a friend who doesn’t know you’re thinking of them, a friend you need to tell ‘I love you,’ a friend you need to tell you’re sorry, a friend that doesn’t know they are beautiful”—which I committed to my first yoga friend, my mom.

There are too many photos to share, and even more stories to tell, and in reality I lost your attention a few IMG_2966paragraphs go, maybe got it back for the photos, but the Netflix tab at the top of the screen is going to trump sooner than later. It’s not everyday that we can plan trips and make choices that to others may seem extreme. I have had to answer the question “You went to Denver for a yoga class?” many times. On paper, yes, yes we did. But I don’t think it takes a health, yogi, or outdoor enthusiast to agree that this was so much more.

I think a lot of times, the best decisions do not make sense. Your bank account may not remember agreeing to it, your calendar may feel abused, but opportunities like these are driven by that “gut” feeling. For you, maybe it’s not a yoga class at Red Rocks, but whatever it is, stop consulting external factors and just say yes. Why not?

The Cleanse to Clarity

cleanse quoteI never understood doing a cleanse. I tried various juice cleanses—usually a loose interpretation of a recipe combined with what I had immediate access to—always with the subconscious knowledge that it would last less than 24 hours.

So a few months ago, right at the end of the semester, when I was faced with the opportunity to do a juice cleanse, I was surprised to hear myself say yes.  The difference, however, from the previous attempts and my 3-day Juice So Good cleanse was the intention. I had just completed the most difficult semester of my college career, and only had finals between me and graduation. I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and more than anything, wanted to leave that emotionally and mentally draining tunnel behind me in my path. Previously, everything about a cleanse sounded miserable; but suddenly, everything about it made sense.

I headed over to the Apple Valley CorePower studio, where the cleanse was kicking off with a detoxifying C2 vinyasa class. We started the practice by writing on a post-it the reverse of the negative track that plays in your head. If you’re one to think I’m not enough, a mantra could instead be I am loved. We then slid the post-its under our mats and let that mantra guide our practice and set the tone for our cleanse.

The next three days and eighteen juices still stand out in my mind. I found cleansing isn’t about deprivation. IMG_1831It’s the conscious process of giving yourself exactly what you need without the sugars, vices, additives, stress, people, thoughts, and stories that are no longer serving you. It’s taking the power away from every external factor and bringing it back to yourself. It’s diminishing those tracks that inspired the mantras on our post-its, and recognizing that negative thoughts only exist because we allow them to.

Sure, it’s only juice—mind you, a main ingredient is love—and it’s only three days of our luckily long lives. But the intention behind this process made it memorable and impactful enough to still inspire a blog post three months later.

Speaking as someone who rarely does this, it’s usually the experiences where we actively put ourselves first that stay with us the longest. I am fascinated by the way our bodies and minds communicate; how reaching new intensity or mindfulness in a workout can lead to similar breakthroughs the next day at work. How going on regular walks can help calm our thoughts when we’re stuck in traffic. And as a result of this cleanse, how bringing only good into our bodies can inspire, motivate, and strengthen us to oust the bad from our daily lives.

So what’s your story? The track that plays over and over that only positivity and self-love is strong enough to silence? What is your vice? What is no longer serving you? And most importantly, what is the reverse? What do you wish you could remind yourself of on a regular basis? What would you infiltrate your body and mind with if given the chance? Do it today.

p.s. the post-it that reads “you deserve life-giving love and support” stills sits on my dashboard. 

Injury to Insight

IMG_2433I knew it was only a matter of time, like a final destination for fitness. Carrying weights to and from my mat for four years, I was amazed one had never slipped out of my grasp. I worried it was too good to be true, and played out worst case scenarios in my head, figuring if I acknowledged the possibility it couldn’t happen {which I do with many things, and have found as normal as it sounds in your head, these thoughts always get weird and concerned looks}.

That’s why last week at 5:30 a.m. I wasn’t genuinely surprised when a dumbbell slipped out my hand and landed firmly on my pinky toe. What I was surprised by was discovering how much credit that little guy deserves.

I was able to teach my 6:00 a.m. sculpt class, but modified with far less demonstration. I limped around my office barefoot {after a few tears were shed in my commute} and although I’d love to skip the pain in the future, I got much more than a great excuse to work from home out of the experience-

  1. Express gratitude– There is a laundry list of cliche quotes to express this sentiment, so please choose whichever you like, and then recognize how lucky you are for each and every functioning body part. I had no idea my pinky toe contributed so much to my walking and overall fitness game. I also took the time to acknowledge how much worse any injury could have been and the frustration and pain that brings an individual. As I a ask my yoga students to do often, take a deep inhale and exhale, and say I am so lucky.
  2. Walk a mile– Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able-bodied, in good health, or free from chronic pain. Limping through the skyways on my way to work and getting odd looks from polished men and women in suits, I was surprised by my reaction. I wanted to explain to each stranger my situation, all the while realizing I was living just a few days in many people’s lives. No, a bruised toe doesn’t compare; but I think if an experience opens your eyes to those around you in any way, you should soak that in. I don’t think we give these daily warriors enough credit.
  3. Take a moment– Anyone who knows me well can tell you I am rarely an advocate for rest; until I started working full time, I operated under the impression that more than 5 hours of sleep a night was an optional luxury. However, I knew I needed to take time to rest, elevate my foot, and slow down, even if it meant losing my FitBit Weekday Warrior Challenge that week.IMG_2350
  4. Pay attention– bruise or bone injury, never assume something is completely healed. It’s  important to continue being aware of how different movements and factors can impact the injury. For example I haven’t worn ballet flats since due to the pressure on the toe, and I wore cross training shoes in yoga for a few classes to provide extra support.
  5. Modify whenever needed– I have noticed in and out of classes for years that yogis tend to hate modifying. I think there can be a stigma surrounding modifications that you’re not working as hard, rather than recognizing that every body comes with a different story. I started to understand this pressure more, as I once again wanted a chance to explain myself. This is only a problem that comes when we stop focusing on our practice and start having a wandering eye that leads to comparison. A well known yogi once said “you shouldn’t even know the person next to you is wearing,” that’s the level of presence to strive for.

Injuries, accidents, and things out of our control will happen. It’s what we make out of each and every experience that guarantee the health and happiness we can tend to take for granted. Namaste group, please keep your dumbbells in line.

Savasana at Sunset

Think of how many times a day you hear “should.” Maybe it’s not even spoken; but it’s small talk with the person in the position you want, it’s scrolling past the Instagram of the to-die-for vacation, reading about the tireless and dedicated volunteer, and you think I should be there, that should be me, I should do that.

“Should”s can be positive too; those same thoughts can be the voiceIMG_0736 that reminds you of your calling, your passion, your joy that got lost in the shuffle. It all comes back to our intention.

The health and fitness world is often associated with this S-word. If you’re not a part of it, you should be; if you are, you shouldn’t be eating that donut. However, these are just stories that we have created; and rather than motivating us to change, they paralyze us in our patterns.

This week, I had plans to attend an outdoor yoga class at Lake Calhoun (aka everything I could ever want out of an evening). But it was a hard day at work, plans were complicated, my head was throbbing, it just didn’t seem easy.

Instead of giving into these excuses, stories, and complaints, I did my best to counteract them.

IMG_2257I walked home from work instead of taking the bus to clear my mind, I biked to Calhoun instead of driving to avoid traffic jam stress, and I met my best up-for-anything friend, Rebecca, for outdoor yoga because I knew that’s what would make me happiest.

As I laid my mat down among one hundred others, I realized I wasn’t here for myself, for Rebecca, or for the workout. As I exhaled my busy thoughts and released stress through my sweat, I was helping the strangers around me do the same. They reminded me to stay present, to twist a bit deeper, to take a courageous variation, all by doing so themselves.

Just as my walk and bike ride weren’t driven by a desire to please my FitBit, the intention of this IMG_2268yoga practice was to celebrate the community that is passionate enough to convince a yoga studio if they hold a donation yoga classes outdoors, the mats will follow.

That’s the beauty of a yoga practice, whether it’s done individually or in a class format, you need nothing other than yourself. It’s not contained to the walls of a gym, or a 60-minute format. Yogis are invited to set an intention before each practice, making every moment purposeful, unique, and rewarding. It’s your own, and at the same time, it is a part of something so much greater than yourself.

Yoga, nutrition, and fitness are never what I should do, they’re what I can’t not do. Find yours by silencing the “should’s” that don’t resonate—No, you do not need to run a marathon just because your neighbor did. Yes, that donut mentioned before is a fantastic idea {in moderation}— and follow what brings you health and happiness, the two are almost synonymous. Find what you can’t not do, and make time for it. You deserve it.

For more information about future Savasana at Sunset classes, click here and if you want to unroll your mat with me, find out more here Namaste.