Moving on...

I created this blog in September 2005 in Dallas, TX at a time when I needed to find my voice. I remember typing the first words as a young woman in the twinkle-lit loft of my condo. At first, it was simply an outlet to stay connected to friends near and far and share the tidbits of my newly-married life. Soon, it became so much more...a place for me to share my photography and art, regularly practice gratefulness, and process the way my life was moving to a simpler one day by day.

When we uprooted our lives from Dallas to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I had captured 10 years of our lives in words, photos, memories, details. This blog is a treasure, a time capsule of a very important decade of my life where we were young and married, owned our own businesses, and had two children. 

Now, after a long hiatus, I know it's time to close the door on Dreams of Simple Life and start fresh on my new website.

Here's a list of my favorite things I've written here over the years. Enjoy!

Healthy homemade fruit snacks.

 modernparentsmessykids.com

modernparentsmessykids.com

Parents - do you feel like you're always feeding your kids the same thing?  Are you looking for new ideas that are healthy and unprocessed?  ME TOO!

I've tried a few times to make homemade fruit snacks for my girls.  My goal was to use a good quality gelatin and recipe without sugar in order to provide a different snack idea and get some extra nutrition into my little ones.  Finally, I've finally found a recipe that super quick and easy with a good texture that's kid-approved (even by my picky eater 4-year-old!)

I used this recipe from Modern Parents Messy Kids.  Here's how I personalized the recipe:

  • For my first batch, I used fresh-squeezed orange/carrot juice from Central Market.  If I'd had my own juicer, I would have juiced my own.
  • I used this gelatin but you could just use regular gelatin packets as well.
  • I added a bit of organic orange extract to mine, but as the recipe says you could also add vanilla extract. Next time I might try doTerra Wild Orange, lime or lemon essential oil.  I'll also probably add some powdered probiotics.
  • I used these adorable heart-shaped molds.  But for any extra that doesn't fit in the molds, you can just pour it into an oiled brownie pan and then cut into little squares once it sets. 

Overall, the recipe was super easy and I'm glad to have a different snack idea for my girls. 

Have you ever made your own fruit snacks?  If so, please leave and comment and share your recipe and flavoring ideas!

UPDATE:  These are definitely meant to be refrigerated and then eaten at home, not on the go - unless you keep them pretty cool.  We had them in the car for about 30 minutes and they turned to goo.   Eww.

Whole30 round 2 starts now!

You all know my love of Whole30 and how great it makes you feel to eat really clean for 30 days, to reboot and refresh. I completed my first Whole30 last year and have tried before to do another one, but I wasn't totally serious and prepared so it fizzled out. Now I'm officially doing another Whole30 starting today with my dear friend Ginny (affectionately known as "G") in Nashville. We're both excited to share this journey for the next 30 days! 

I went out with a bang last night with some bubbly Prosecco and the unreal melt-in-your-mouth croissant bread pudding from Stock and Barrel on a date with my hubby.  This morning I'm happily choosing veggies and eggs and clean meats, although I'm sure in a few days I'll be craving wine, bourbon, chocolate and peanut butter!

So here was my breakfast:

Spiralized butternut squash (that I spiralized yesterday and stored in fridge), pesto, sweet potato, ground beef, eggs, and a little avocado. I drank hot Yerba maté with a few drops of doTerra lemon oil. Felt very cleansing.

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I'm definitely planning on an iced coconut milk latté later today (unsweetened with cinnamon)!

Here's Ginny's beautiful breakfast: 

Kale, peppers, onions, garlic, eggs, and parsley.  Melon, blueberries, mint, and mint tea.  She said it took some extra time but it was worth it and that for her, it was different eating vegetables for breakfast.  But as a lover of all things French, she said, "In French breakfast is just 'petit dejeuner' (a little lunch).  I keep telling myself that."

Good call, G.

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Now do either of these meals look like deprivation? No way!  There are so many real food options, and I'm choosing to remind myself every day of that bounty rather than focusing on what's "off program."

Alright, it's out there now...I've written about it, so I have to keep going!  Anyone else doing a Whole30?  I'd love to know your tips and thoughts...let's cheer each other on!

Summatime.

Summer is {almost} officially here, and the backyard is flourishing from all the recent rains.  The downside is that the flood waters have brought an insane amount of fire ants and mammoth mosquitoes which is a total bummer for playing outside.  But we're bound and determined to be outside a lot this summer and enjoy the bounty of this little piece of urban land we own.  This is the first year we've had a blackberry bush that stands upright - and we've already harvested several handfuls of luscious, tart berries.  Luci Belle loves checking on them each morning and making bouquets with our wildflowers.

The fairy ring we planted with gladiolus bulbs is starting to bloom and will hopefully be a fun play spot...if we can keep the fire ants away.  I'm using a doTerra peppermint oil/vinegar/water spray right now - we'll see if it works!

Here's our little plot of land in early June...

Besides that, we're seeking out all the swimming pools and splash pads possible to keep the little ones cool and happy! 

And of course there's already been lots of this....

...with fresh-squeezed lime juice on top.  If you haven't ever had watermelon with lime, JUST DO IT NOW.  Trust me.

What are you doing with your early summer days? 

Are you implementing any new traditions or activities this summer?

I'd love to know!

A simple photo.

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This photo stirs something deep in me...Maybe it's the simple food - Urban Acres produce in the Polish pottery bowl given to me by Gran on our recent North Carolina road trip, or my husband's rustic homemade pesto pasta that cost cents to make, or that it was all eaten outside on our deck with friends and wine in spring atop the tablecloth I scored at an outdoor market in India a decade ago.  So many favorite things, all in one little square.  

What is stirring your heart today? 

Inspiring things lately.

I was so inspired after watching video after video of Farm To Table Family tonight that I had to write this and share with you.  Here's a smattering of things that have been inspiring me lately to be more free, more healthy, more who I am.  Maybe they will inspire you too...

First, Farm To Table Family on PBS.  The light...the fun...the beautiful food...the simplicity and joy of cooking simple, healthy food for your family.  I'm in love with this little Asian family, and you don't even hear them talk.  Watching these videos has inspired me so much.  I tend to keep my kids busy while I'm cooking so I can just be a busybody and have that time to myself.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but something resonated with me deeply to see how much her children are involved in growing, foraging, and cooking and baking in the kitchen.  Not only licking spoons but scooping avocados, icing the cakes, kneading the dough.  We do let our oldest cook a bit, but I tend to get stressed when she's helping me.  A great pointer in this video - prep ingredients ahead of time in little bowls, then invite your child in to help.  So.  Much.  Smoother.  And Norah is old enough now to sit on the counter with me and be more involved, but until these videos, I still had her on the floor playing with Tupperware. 

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There are just too many good magazines out there, and I want to read all of them!

First, Organic Gardening is now Organic Life Magazine, and the first issue comes out soon.  We already subscribe to Organic Gardening, which has been so beautiful and always included so much more than gardening.  I'm excited to see the direction they take it now that it's changed.  Organic Life, get in my mailbox!

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Next, Taproot.  Gorgeous, just gorgeous.  I could frame the covers.  "Taproot celebrates farm, food, family and craft through writing, photography and the arts, both fine and domestic."  Um, yes, please.

Deeply Rooted is another beautiful, artistic magazine I've become acquainted with that I simply must read.   You purchase each issue separately, and it's more like a book.  "Deeply Rooted Magazine serves to be a light in the midst of the things that work overtime to steal our attention and affection away from God. Through our publication, we deliver incredibly rich content, written and created by published authors, pastors, real women, and talented artists."

And finally, Bella Grace.  I saw this magazine on someone's Instagram and went to the magazine's website to investigate.  I bought the current issue for a friend for her birthday and I'll admit, I wanted to keep it when I was flipping through the pages!  The magazine was a work of art.  "Bella Grace is a special publication devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary.  Our aim is to touch the souls of our readers through beautifully penned stories and striking photographs that capture life's beautiful journey."  Swoon.

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Be inspired today!

Whole30 - I did it!

Well, yesterday was day 30 of my first Whole30!  I made it.  And miraculously, I made it without any cheats, minus an accidental teensy taste of honey on a coffee spoon.   Oh, I got really close though.  Like that time I almost downed an entire box of crackers while preparing my daughter's snack.  And when we had our first Sunday of homemade artisan pizza at Urban Acres and I just stared at it longingly while my friends devoured theirs.

But it was worth it.  I'm so glad I completed my first Whole30.  Even more than the physical benefits, I feel more in control of my desires and less controlled by food. 

I finished my Whole30 before we had a big dinner at our house last night and tried some potato salad and a bit of Mexican chocolate cake and fruit cobbler for dessert.  A few bites into the desserts, I couldn't take any more sweetness and didn't even finish it.  

This morning, I had my first coconut milk latté post-program and used only 4 drops of Stevia instead of the usual 12.  So I'd say that's progress!

Here are some other great things I experienced while on Whole30:

  • I definitely lost a few pounds - probably around 5.  {Kinda wish it had been more, but I'm being gracious with myself and remembering I just had a baby 5 months ago.  Baby steps.}
  • I learned to enjoy beverages unsweetened.  {I'll probably continue drinking coffee this way and just lightly sweetening my tea lattés.}
  • As I mentioned before, I feel much less controlled by food, and cravings have greatly diminished.  Eating less fruit and enough healthy fats and proteins really helped with this.
  • It was fun doing this with my husband and our close friend Amber.  I highly recommend doing the program with a close friend or someone who lives with you - makes it a ton easier!
  • It was just a good thing to exercise more discipline.  I don't believe that we should live with our food choices highly restricted all the time, unless of course we have to for medical or health reasons.  God gave us a bounty of things to eat.  And the funny thing is that even though there are restrictions on Whole30, what we have to eat is still abundance.

These were the hardest things about it:

  • No chocolate!  No smoothies!  No ice cream!
  • I got really sick of berries with nut butter and coconut flakes.  But it was a good snack when I needed one.
  • Having friends in town and not being able to drink wine with them or eat pizza.   It was a shift in thinking to realize I didn't have to be eating and drinking what they were eating and drinking to have fun.

Here are the favorite things I ate on Whole30:

First, cilantro mayo.  Wow, I never knew how super easy it is to make your own mayo!    I used it more like a sauce and added it on my eggs or meat just to give it a little zing.  You could also make your own chicken salad.  Having an immersion blender and a wide-mouth mason jar like the recipe says was perfect. If you don't like cilantro, just leave that part out!

Here's the recipe from this @whole30recipes Instagram post:

Cilantro Mayo

  • 1 egg at room temp
  • 1 cup of avocado oil or light olive oil
  • 1 T vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground mustard
  • 1/4 t garlic powder or minced garlic
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  1. Crack egg in a wide mouth mason jar. (Perfect to store the mayo in)
  2. Slowly add oil and let separate.
  3. Add vinegar and seasonings.
  4. Place immersion blender in the jar all the way to the bottom and mix until white and fluffy. Should only take 30 seconds or so.
  5. Add cilantro and blend until roughly chopped.

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This was my favorite snack on the program - apples sliced into rounds topped with homemade almond butter and unsweetened coconut flakes.  How many times have I had apples and nut butter?  But never sliced into rounds!  Something about it made it seem more special, like a chip.

Here are the two best dinners I had on Whole30...

First, Fried Plantains with Chipotle Lime Chicken & Chipotle Lime Slaw - unreal!  It was a little sweet, salty, creamy, so amazing.  Here's where I got the recipe.

The other amazing meal was PaleOMG's Pizza Spaghetti Pie.  Seriously so easy and perfect for right now when spaghetti squash is in season!

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But mostly, we just kept it simple.  Here's my last Whole30 breakfast on day 30 - simply Applegate chicken apple sausages and 2 eggs fried in ghee.

What I'm going to do moving forward:

  • Keep eating Whole30-ish.  I love how I've felt without grains, and I don't miss dairy or legumes in the least bit (except maybe peanut butter, but I can live without it).  So I'm going to move forward with a low glycemic diet concentrated on pastured meats, healthy fats, lots of veggies, and low glycemic fruits. 
  • Definitely feel like I ate a lot of sweet potatoes on Whole30, because I could. I'll probably limit these a bit more.
  • Get a Spiralizer!  I really need one of these.  Healthy, low carb noodles every day!
  • Add back in my Vanilla Creme Stevia, but in smaller amounts.  I'm a little embarrassed to say I was putting about 12 drops in one single coconut milk latté.  But I'm not going to feel badly about using a few drops in my hot beverages if I want, and it doesn't affect my glycemic index.
  • Start drinking Dandy Blend.  I've wanted to try it for awhile but it comes partly from grains, so I couldn't try it on Whole30.  But it's a great non-acidic and low glycemic coffee alternative that tons of people love, plus there are the health benefits of dandelion.
  • Bake a lot less, only when I really want to, rather than being controlled by sweets cravings every single day.  If and when I bake, use dates and coconut palm sugar as much as possible.  I think I'll even try using dates in my coconut milk ice cream recipe next time instead of maple syrup.  Occasional (rather than several-times-weekly) gluten-free pancakes will probably be only lightly sweetened rather than slathered with syrup!
  • Continue doing my weekly yoga - It's been a great complement to the Whole30 program.  And add in some Pilates online with Robin Long.  LOVE her website and perspective. 

So there you have it, folks.  I definitely see myself doing another Whole30 in the near future.  It's just so helpful to have a program to regain perspective and discipline when you need it.  And the community of folks doing Whole30 and sharing recipes makes it even better.  If you're considering doing it, I'd be happy to answer any questions or help in any way!

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Whole30 - week one recap...

One week into the Whole30, and I just keep thinking about how amazing I feel.  Yes, amazing.  I understand how this program can change your life if you let it. 

The first few days, I definitely felt like I was dragging and craved chocolate and pancakes and carbs and carbs and more carrrrrrrbs.  But by day 4, I started to feel a huge difference.

A few observations so far...

  • I actually feel full.  Before, I felt like I was constantly eating because I was always hungry and never satisfied.  After a full meal, I felt like I could always eat more.  But not now.  It's wonderful to have the feeling of fulness again.
  • I'm not eating as much fruit.  I love fruit and think it's here for us to enjoy.  But I was definitely eating a ton of fruit before to satisfy sweet cravings.  Now my body actually craves more protein and fat rather than fruit.  If I do want fruit, I want it with nuts or coconut on top.
  • The above meal was probably the most satisfying I've had so far - a grilled grass-fed beef burger {seasoned only with salt and pepper} with guacamole on top, and a side of homemade slaw.  For the slaw, I threw together red cabbage, shredded carrots, diced peppers, chopped cilantro, and raisins, and tossed it in vinaigrette {olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper}.  It was perfect.
  • My hair and skin look better. 
  • My clothes fit better.
  • I have more energy.
  • It's ridiculous to feel deprived on this program.  With a plethora of healthy colorful food at my fingertips, how could I ever complain?  How selfish would it be to whine about not having chocolate?  Poor, poor pitiful American.  In this culture where nothing is ever enough, and we're used to getting what we want, it's good to restrict once in awhile.  And even that is abundance.
  • When someone calls it a "diet," I jokingly reply, "This isn't a diet, it's a program."  But seriously, I will never be on a "diet" again in my life, as to me that means empty promises and crazy restrictions that could never be effective long-term. 
  • Being more restrictive with what I'm eating on this program, I actually think about food less.  I feel much more freedom, like food doesn't have a hold on me.

And here are some "tricks" I've discovered so far that have helped tremendously...

  • Plan ahead and make sure you have the right "on program" foods you need at all times.  Don't be unprepared, because minor freakout moments will occur, and the cravings will begin again.
  • I can see one of the main keys to succeeding is making sure you have enough protein and fat in your diet to keep you full and keep the sweet cravings away.
  • Keep it simple, but also be open to new recipe ideas.  @whole30recipes on Instagram has given me some great ones - cilantro mayonnaise is absolutely delish, and I love the idea of "eggs in a hole" using a bell pepper.
  • Have something that's a "treat" that's not really a treat.  For me, it's an iced {decaf} coffee with coconut milk and cinnamon. 

Over the last week, I've watched people eat pancakes, cookies, and cake, and miraculously, I feel no jealousy.  I have no desire for those foods right now and would rather eat the life-giving foods I'm eating to feel vibrantly healthy.  Of course, I know I'll eat them again at some point, but for now, this is just what I needed to regain perspective, enjoy the simple food God has provided, and treat my body the best I can.