Monday, February 3, 2014

Happiness

Happiness.
It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.  In a good way, not in a you-only-appreciate-something-when-you-don't-have-it kind of way.

I like being happy.  That sounds like a silly thing to say, but I'm discovering that its not true for everyone.  Some people actually enjoy being unhappy.  Or being things that make them unhappy, like stressed or worried or anxious or negative.  That's not to say that I never feel those things, or that if you feel those things you can't be happy.  But thriving on those feelings will never, never lead to a road of happiness, at least not for me.

Lately, Nick and I have been enjoying TED Talks on YouTube.  Today, I watched this one-

Growing up, my parents instilled in me that I was smart, and that I could be anything I wanted to be.  But somehow, even through hearing that positive reinforcement over and over, I still don't feel like I'm living up to my full potential, whatever that is.  I could, and should, be doing more with what God has given me. But what? What special gift do I have that will make this world a better place?

Today I decided that gift is happiness.  Most days, I am just the right amount of annoyingly excited about life.  One of my most favorite things to do is to help the people around me be happy. To show people that they are seen, they are important, and that they deserve to be happy.

I'm going to start by taking the suggestions from the end of this TED Talk on how to create lasting, positive change...
-3 Gratitudes- trying to do this at dinnertime with the family
-Journaling- hence why I'm blogging! Need to get back to writing, pen and paper
-Exercise- I pretty much have this covered, so I'm going to add in something new I've been wanting to try!
-Meditation- need to work on this. Does being quiet for like to minutes while I drift off to sleep count?
-Random Acts of Kindness- LOVE this! Something I need to do more often.

It sounds so simple.  Too simple, probably.  All the best things are.  But I'm going to make happiness my intentional mission, and see how it changes both myself and the world around me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel

Its 5 am. I hustle across the AstroTurf in a ragamuffin group of middle-aged women who arise before the sun to swing Russian kettle bells in the name of fitness. We banter as we “choose our weapons” our trainer teases, and I step to the side to pick one of the larger, heavier bells.
“Are you training for something?” one of the ladies asks.
It’s a simple question, not loaded or judgmental.  My intended reply of “no, nothing in particular” catches in my throat. There’s no weight lifting competition or upcoming race I’m specifically preparing for, but saying no feels wrong. Inaccurate and incomplete.
“Yes,” I say simply. It comes out clear and strong, and gives me the motivation to complete a tough workout. We go about our businesses of swinging and cleaning and snatching this little round ball of metal that is training both my biceps and my brain.
That miniscule encounter stuck with me, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized why.  I couldn’t pinpoint what bothered me about saying no. It was true. But why then do I get up ungodly early and push my body until I’m upsettingly sweaty. Is it only worthwhile if there’s something I’m training for? Who would do this for no reason?


The moment of clarity came during another workout a few days later, as our trainer was challenging us to pick up a heavier weight for an exercise we do almost daily. He said, “If you’re coming here every morning and doing the same things with the same amount of weight, you’re like a hamster on a wheel.  Just going through the motions without needing to think about what you’re doing.”
Message received.  I was 47 times as healthy as I’d been a year ago, but had simply traded in my unhealthy hamster wheel for one that included working out and eating Paleo. It took me a while to get the hang of this new lifestyle, but then once it became easy I just jumped on to the Paleo-rific new hamster wheel. It worked at first- I’m down 30 lbs. in a year. But then I’d gone into maintenance mode, despite the fact that I still have about 30 lbs. to go.
 Just before “the question,” I’d decided that I needed to start doing something different. I was frustrated that I was working so hard, yet I could still have been mistaken for a Week 1 contestant on The Biggest Loser. Yes, I was better. But it wasn’t done challenging my mind and my body to get the results I wanted.
So, kettle bell friend, yes. I am training for something.  I’m training for life.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

thirty-one

What is it about birthdays that make me so retrospective? It's like my very own personal New Years resolution do-over opportunity, but with cake.

I'm 31 today.  That sounds so... more than 30.  I'm not saying old, because apparently saying you feel old offends people.  I am saying that it's just starting to feel like I should have some things figured out and a few goals to aspire to.  Different than a bucket list because I hate the idea of bucket lists.  There's just something so glass-half-empty about them, like every time you complete something you have to take it out of the bucket, and when those things are all gone you automatically go too. 

A "Life To Do List" works better for me. There is something so satisfying about putting a big check mark and a nice, thick line through something I needed to accomplish.  And yes, you need both the big check mark AND the slashy line.  It's more final, and that way I both check it off AND cross it off my list. And I have never started a to do list that didn't end with about 15 more things I didn't originally think of.  To do lists are living, breathing, evolving little entities that can always be amended and readdressed.

I figured out on the last day of my twenties that what doesn't work for me is having a big, ambitious list of things I want to accomplish with time deadlines.  Kid you not, I had an Excel spreadsheet of all the things I was going to do on the long, slow lead-up to 30.  Monthly, weekly and daily goals each on their own tab, with empty boxes begging to be crossed and checked. I don't even think I got through Month 1. Not because the tasks were so outrageous- they are all things I really should be doing.  Somehow, having to constantly check in and monitor my progress felt frustrating like I was always behind and trying to catch up. I was only disappointing myself, and that was not on the to do list.

Overall, this has been a year of huge growth for me.  I settled in to a new job that I absolutely love, working with people who I enjoy immensely and have learned so much from.  I've focused my weight loss and started correcting a life-long of bad eating habits into Paleo-ized yumminess. Kids are great and growing and becoming people I would like even if I hadn't birthed them.  Nick is amazing and the absolute best partner and husband. We have traveled a bit, played a lot and served others some.

Here's the very start to my Life To Do List. Some of the things I know will never be crossed off, because they are not things I can "master," just get better at every day.

Carrie's Life To Do List (just the beginning- not in any order of importance)

  • Travel to Europe with Nick
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Say things I need to say in a thoughtful, caring, direct manner even when they are tough to say
  • Become a college professor (its always been my secret ambition.  Either a college professor or a judge.  Judge= mystery, drama, and a slimming black robe.  What's not to love? I think college professor is more realistic at this point.)
  • Volunteer for an organization I truly believe in
Again, just a start.  Realistically, there are two that I could accomplish this coming year- half marathon (scheduled for Jan 2014!) and volunteering.  There are at least small steps I could make toward each goal, and about 1,000 more things I will think of to add.

YOLO my peeps.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How Pinterest is Ruining my Child's Bedroom

Scanning my Pinterest "Casa Ideas" feed yesterday, I started imagining what my house would look like if I incorporated even half of the ideas I've pinned. Every nook and cranny of our 1200 square feet would be covered in something made from a pallet, hand-painted, lettered or modge-podged.

Even better, most of my pins are decorating ideas for the kids bedrooms.  Nevermind the curtains I bought about three months ago and still haven't hung, or the circle of pink paint still peeking out behind the smoke alarm that needs to be edged. I'm paralyzed with a Pinterest-induced decorating injury. Pinterest is ruining my child's bedroom.  Here are my musings- sarcastic with a twinge of truthfulness/mommy guilt...

It's not enough for children's rooms to have matching sheets and pillow cases. You must have a theme. "Blue" is not a theme. "Blue Ponies With Sparkling Rainbow Tails Prancing In Spring" will suffice.

There absolutely must be a loft with a secret hiding space for your child to escape the pressures of their daily, stress-filled life.

Wall decor should consist of a photo collage and pithy sayings about how much you love your child.  Include song lyrics that will be playing on the oldies radio station by the time the child is old enough to actually read them.

Definitely include a play kitchen crafted out of an old cabinet. And it should be retro and painted a cute color and have a homemade ruffly curtain. But it shouldn't actually be able to cook anything because that would be completely over the top. 

All good mothers know how to make hand drawn pennant banners. Alterable for seasons and changed weekly. 

Never NEVER throw away toilet paper rolls or shoe box tops. Gasp! You could have hand crafted bunk beds for fairies or something else completely useless and inane. 

Anything can be used as a book shelf. Rain gutters, spice racks, or JUST A PLAIN OLD BOOK SHELF. 

If you don't put a tree and a chandelier in your child's room, you want them to be illiterate and boring. 

Pallets are like Gods little gifts to home decorating.

Parents who dress their children in matching clothes don't love them. And all clothing should be altered with ribbon and buttons that you magically have stowed away by little elves who sew them on perfectly. 

You must somehow feature your child's name on the wall so they don't become confused and think they are sleeping in the wrong room.  The shame.

There must always ALWAYS be an art piece that includes the child's fingerprint. That way, in case they commit a crime later in life and need a print to compare it to, you're prepared.

Instead of teaching children not to draw on walls, lets make chalkboard paint hip, slap it on an accent wall, and let their little inner Piccaso emerge.

Finally, decorating their room is not enough. Once the above is completed, construct from scratch an outdoor tree house or fort. The only rule is it must be two stories, look completely real and be cuter than your actual house. And have all the aforementioned decorating ideas included. Pallets not optional.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Weight Loss and Motherhood

Sweat and tears and kettlebells and lots and lots of coconut oil and meat and veggies...


...and all that hard work is paying off.

As he has grown from a backpack-toting baby to a dashing toddler, and I've dropped 60 lbs. And counting.

It's a 60 lbs. that I'm familiar with as I've "lost" it before. Eight years ago, just before our wedding. It's been a carousel ride since, gaining and losing and two babies hopping on the carousel for a ride and gaining and losing again.

Recently I had a realization while trying to brush the teeth of my two-year-old, who was in the midst of a screaming fit (which made trying to brush teeth really fun.)

Weight loss is like motherhood.

First, for most women, we talk about it long before we start trying. Then comes a new birth, a reordering of routine. Just as you settle into normal and everything starts to feel habitual, some new  stage or celebration comes along and throws you off axis. Like all moms, you examine what's happening, reevaluate your approach, and come at it from a different direction. And sometimes you realize that you just have to grit your teeth and wade through this stage until its over.

I like the analogy even more because seriously committing to losing weight means I have to find the patience to crawl, then walk, then talk. And just like having a new baby, acknowledge that I have things to learn.

Despite not feeling "qualified" to dispense advice (about weight loss OR motherhood) here are some of the lessons I continue to teach myself that apply to both...

1. HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Anything and everything is easier with people who have your back.  I will never forget the first night home from the hospital with my first baby, my mom and sister came and spent the night.  We had a tiny, one bedroom apartment so they slept in the living room on a couch and Lazy Boy.  No one slept much. But knowing that they were there for ANYTHING we needed was the absolute best feeling in the world.  Weight loss is the same.  We do Sunday night dinners at mom's house every week, and there is always, always a Paleo option for me.  My husband could not be more supportive- often pushing me out the door for a run on the weekends when my working mom guilt is raring full-force.  My friend Amanda forwards weekly Paleo meal plans and texts me regularly to check in on my "peaks and pits." Could I be successful without them? Yes. Am I better and is it easier with them? YES!

2. AT LEAST PLAN TO HAVE A PLAN
I love/hate planning. I HATE the tedious task of sitting down to do it, and how my mind goes into overdrive trying to accommodate all the "what-ifs." But I LOVE when the plan is set, I have a goal, and I can readjust as I move forward.
No doubt the most successful tool in my weight loss journey this time has been meal planning, and shopping with a list that (gasp) actually corresponds to the upcoming meals! I know, right?  Where I'm lacking now, in both weight loss and motherhood, is a long term plan.  I know what I'm having for dinner every night this week, but I don't have a long-term weight loss goal with milestone markers along the way. I know where my kids are going to be tomorrow, but I have no idea how we're going to afford a bigger house with a backyard someday.  I need a plan for a long-term plan.

3. ADVICE FROM STRANGERS ARE JUST THEIR UNREQUITED DREAMS
People will offer their advice whether you ask for it or not.  I've had strangers at Costco comment on my children's behavior.  That sucked.  I've had strangers comment on my weight.  That sucked more. Even now, down 60 lbs. from where I was, people still have opinions that they feel entitled to share.  "Don't lose too much more weight," was my recent favorite from a friend.  I know it comes from a good place.  But I didn't ask. And I have a feeling that your desire to comment on my weight has more to do with you than it does with me.

4. SOME DAYS WILL SUCK
I love my kids.  But some days, I can think of a thousand things I'd rather do than bath time.
I like working out. But some days, when my alarm goes off at 4:30am, I want to kill it.
The great thing is, most of the time I'm totally into eating Paleo and swinging kettlebells and playing Lalaloopsy.  But it's worth the acknowledgment that some days those same tasks will seem torturous.  Those are the days that I have to force myself to fall back to the plan I've made, to remind myself why I'm doing this, and, sometimes, to smile and fake it.  That sucks too.  But it gets better.  It always does.

5. THERE IS NO FINISH LINE
Just like motherhood, there is no finish line with weight loss.  Sure, you may reach your goal weight or send a child off to college, but that doesn't mean the work is over. It means a whole new set of things to worry about and problems to tackle. This realization for me was a big one.  In my mind, I imagined reaching this imaginary goal weight, and settling into a blissful new life, just with smaller, cuter clothes. 
Fact is, this is a journey- one that even when I reach my goal weight will continue to need care and tending and patience and attention, just like my children will and just like I do from my mom.

Nothing Earth shattering, I know.  But these little reminders are the things that creep into my head when what I WANT to do isn't jiving with what I KNOW I should do.  I'm still figuring it out. 

But most importantly, I'm enjoying the journey(s).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

California Coastal Cruise

Over Spring Break, we took a 7-day California Coastal cruise with about 20 members of my family.
It was a great vacation.  I was looking forward most to having absolutely no time commitments- no meetings, no set schedule, no decisions bigger than whether to lay out or read.
The night before we left, I was sitting on the floor of the kids room amidst a sea of clothing (nothing like packing at the last minute!) and Agirl burst into tears.  "I don't want to leave our house for SEVEN DAYS!" she wailed. It was so sweet. After picking a few special toys to bring with her and looking with Daddy at a few places we'd be visiting, she went to sleep seeming excited.  Ryguy was adorably oblivious, and looking forward to wearing his Elmo backpack.  
We embarked (I love that word! so fancy) on Saturday morning and hit the buffet for lunch.  I was anticipating eating Paleo being difficult. For the majority of the trip, sticking with meat and veggies was pretty easy.  I ate a little more dairy than I do at home (cheese, cream in soup, etc), and picked three nights to have dessert. Easter Sunday was a bit of a chocolate fest. Overall I felt really good about the choices I made and didn't feel deprived.  Helped that my crazy intense sister and I hit the gym most mornings, and one of my favorite shore trips was a workout with my husband- more on that later.
Sunday afternoon we watched our enormous cruise ship pass underneath the Golden Gate bridge from our balcony- that was a very cool experience. It was Easter, so the ship had a cute Easter activity fair with an egg hunt, face painting, and other fun games. We stayed on the ship Sunday night (despite the fact that the boat was docked in San Francisco overnight) to have dinner with the entire family- it was not only Easter but also my Dad's birthday.
Monday we ventured into San Francisco with my sister and her husband for exploring and our ultimate destination- Ghirardelli Square. The kids loved the seals on Pier 39, and Auntie Erin bought them both chocolaty treats at Ghirardelli.
Next we docked in Santa Barbara- Nick, Ryguy and I stayed on the boat and Abby went into town with her Nana and cousins.  The boys and I swam and napped- very relaxing day.
Then my favorite port- Catalina. Nick and I got engaged in Catalina almost seven years ago and haven't been back since.  We were looking forward to sharing it with the kids.  My favorite house on the island, Holly Hill House, is under construction but we took a picture with the kids with the house in the background in a spot very close to where Nick and I look one seven years prior. After searching the beach for seashells and playing mini golf at the best mini golf course EVER, we got ice cream at Big Olaf's and called it a day.
That night on the ship, I went with my cousins to watch the last Twilight movie at the "Movie Under the Stars." It's a giant movie screen above the pool on the top deck, and they lay out pillows and blankets and serve popcorn, pizza and warm cookies.  Too, too fun.
Thursday we docked in San Diego, and thanks to my gracious parents we left the kids with them and had a day-date. We started with a run from the pier to Petco Park- about 3.5 miles roundtrip. Usually when Nick and I run together, I alternate between feeling like I'm sprinting to keep up with him and checking my NikeRun app to see how far we've gone.  That day, though he'd never admit it, he pulled back a bit and we ran in-step, sharing good conversation and enjoying the sights.  I never thought exercising would be one of my favorite parts of vacation, but that run definitely tops the list.
After one more relaxing day on the ship, we were back home. The week went by so quickly, and living on a boat just a few doors down from my parents and aunt and cousins was more fun than I could have imagined.
I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was...
Agirl's was having dinner each night on the "little fancy restaurant on the ship." We had diner every
Ryguy's favorite part was "going on the HUGE tender boat."
Now that the world has stopped swaying (it took a few days!) we're settling back into regular life. And  have this picture to remind us of our awesome vacation-



























Friday, March 22, 2013

21DSD- Wrap Up

I perform well under pressure.  Challenges bring out the best in me.  I was made for competition- even if its between me and my own willpower.

Back in October of 2012, I completed a Whole30.  It was an amazing experience. Before that, I truly believed that I knew everything I needed to know about losing weight.  I'd successfully lost 80 lbs. about eight years ago and had attended more Weight Watchers meetings than a recovering alcoholic. But something still hadn't clicked, and the weight came back on over the years.

The Whole30 really taught me for the first time how my body reacts to food, not just that I needed to take in less calories than I expended.  The concept of "equal calories" and good fats altered my approach to food.  I started treating food like fuel. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I truly internalized what I was learning.

Like any lifestyle change, after a few months some old patterns started to wiggle their way back in.  Nightly treats were the thing I noticed most- despite the fact that there were now Paleo-ized versions of desserts (and therefore in my brain somehow healthy instead of just healthier) the progress I was seeing almost daily during the Whole30 had slowed to a near standstill. 

It was time for another reset, but the majority of my diet (treats aside) was still Whole30 compliant.  I'd read about the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) on one of my favorite blogs PaleOMG. the 21DSD is a very strict version of Paleo, requiring that you cut out almost all sugar- natural or otherwise.  Obviously, that means no food with added sugar or sweeteners, honey and maple syrup included. It also means no fruit with the exception of one green-tipped banana or green apple per day.

Honestly, it was rough in the beginning.  About 9 days in (the day before that time of the month) I was having a super craving for chocolate.  And I gave in.  I enjoyed in moderation a Paleo-friendly dark, dark chocolate bar and moved on. 

In the beginning, I thought the 21DSD was just going to be another period of substantial weight loss.  Again, I didn't really expect to learn anything new.  I was wrong on both accounts.  Did I lose weight? Yes! 8 lbs. Not as much as I expected, but still enough to drop me down into One-derland.

Did I learn something new? Yes! My body for sure did. I've learned how to be satisfied after dinner without a treat. That breakfast shouldn't include chocolate chips on regular occasion. And I wish I could adequately describe how lean and less bloated I felt without sugar in my diet.  That was truly eye-opening.

I finished my 21DSD last Sunday, and yesterday met with a coworker who hadn't seen me since January.  His reaction was something I want to keep in my pocket to pull out when I'm having a moment where I need to remember why I'm doing this.  His first reaction was, "Wow, you look incredible!" During the meeting, he was honestly sitting across the table from me, staring at me like he didn't know who I was and finally said, "I never realized before, but you look like my sister-in-law." This person is someone I respect and admire, and he's one of the most blatant and straightforward people I know.  To have him react that way reminded me of how far I've come, and also that I want to keep going.

What's next? I'm asking myself the same thing.  I'm trying to figure out a goal weight for myself, since that number will now be something attainable and realistic. And I'm going to continue to challenge myself both in diet and in the gym. That little voice in the back of my head that was once a self-defeating reminder of why I couldn't reach my weight loss goal is now the motivating force that drives me to compete against my own limits and will power and continue to succeed. I'm discovering the balance between quieting that voice down so that it doesn't overwhelm my thoughts and defeat me, but leaving the volume turned up just enough to challenge me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ryguy- TWO!

He's officially and irrevocably two.
TWO!
Not a baby, not a little boy.  Smooshed somewhere in between in a magical world of toddler-hood-ness.
It's a daily surprise of emotion and bundles upon haystacks of energy and curiosity. His kind, precious little voice is emerging more every day. My favorites are "Love you, Mama" and the sweet, sweet sound of him calling his sister's name. That little voice that will repeat the same phrase over and over and over again until anyone within earshot validates his contribution and repeats it back to him word-for-word.
He loves all things boy- cars and Cars, trains- Thomas especially, and throwing or kicking anything that he's able to pick up or roll. He can just as easily hang with his sister, and has soaked up the name of every Disney Princess and plays fairies or Lalaloopsy upon request.
His laugh is infectious, teetering just on the edge of completely fake because it's so loud every single time. He's figuring out how to be funny- a well-placed flash of the eyes, and loves meeting new people and giving high-fives.
I wonder if its only because I'm his mom that I can see the little wheels spinning in his head as he figures out this big world springing into his consciousness. There are things he understands perfectly without having to be told, things that frustrate him, things that surprise him, and things that he wants to do completely on his own without any help.  
He's sweet and spunky, moody and magical. I had no idea two years ago that we were having a little boy come into our lives, and now I can't imagine my world without his gentle hands and untamed cowlick.
We love you Ryguy. You break the mold of fantastic every day and I am privileged to be your mom.













Sunday, December 30, 2012

Swirling in 2012 Goodness

It's that time of the year.
You know, the time AFTER the most wonderful time of the year.  That weird week where Christmas music is still playing and we're still pretending like we can still eat whatever we want because its still the holidays and we say, "Hapy New Year!" with the same merry-christmas-gusto but it just doesn't sound the same.
It's also the time when we reflect on the past year- what was, what could have been, and what will be.

What Was...
*Biggest jolt on my Richter scale: Our family job situation. I went from newly-promoted manager at a cable company to manager at a police department. Big, huge, life-altering shift. Husband went from youth minister to stay-at-home-dad. Also huge and life-altering. Both happened (without coordination) THE SAME DAY.
*Our eldest started school. And dance class. And talking back. THE SAME DAY. I'm kidding.  But it did seem that within a matter of weeks we went from a toddler to a bona-fide school-age child who knows songs we didn't teach her and comes home every day with fabulous crafts.
*Our youngest went from crawling and babbling to running and talking. And having opinions. And deciding what nights its fun to go right to sleep and what nights to keep us up and dancing around like monkeys until he finally wears out and gives in.
*I decided that talking about losing weight was getting old, so I started doing something about it. I've lost 40 lbs this year. 40 lbs! And I wake up at 5am and workout like a crazy person and I love it.
*Oh, and I turned 30.  And put on a 5K for my birthday. Just realizing that I may not have blogged about that. It was awesome!
*Family trips- Disney stay-cation in May, Yosemite for Thanksgiving, Phoenix with Agirl in December

What Could Have Been...
2012 could have been a thousand things other than what it was. I can think back on what I could have done differently- how I could have been a better wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister... but overall, this little sphere of happy, healthy people is perfect. Its better than what I would have envisioned. Without going all Jesus-y, it is the humbling experience of abundant blessings that I could never have come close to earning. Which leads me to...

What Will Be...
Oh, 2013. I have high expectations and simultaneously absolutely no expectations at all.  I imagine a year of growth for us all as we continue to adjust and readjust. A few plans- a family cruise in the spring, 12 5K's for me with an inspiring and very fun girlfriend. Some hopes and dreams for our marriage and family and blog and career- things to work toward. Things I will write down and work toward and share as they unfold.

It has been a very, very good year. I am very, very, very blessed and very, very, very, VERY excited to see what 2013 will bring.
Sparkly wishes and heartfelt prayers for your family's 2013!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paleo Recipe Roundup

Now that I've wrapped up my first official Whole30,  I'm transitioning to Paleo- which is pretty much Whole30 compliant, with the occasional Paleo-ish-approved treat mixed in.

Another revelation- not only am I having a total and complete love affair with real food, but I enjoy cooking!
Ingredients to a perfect cooking experience:

  • Lots of time.  More time than I need with no deadline or rush or hungry children caterwauling about how they haven't eaten in (gasp!) four whole hours! The travesty!
  • Favorite new cooking buddies- wooden spoons, Vidalia onion chopper (seriously LOVE IT!), lots of cutting boards, amazing set of kitchen knives that were seriously underused before this experience.  What I need- a food processor!
  • All ingredients on-hand, with no last minute trips to the store
  • Pandora app on the iPhone- I'm like 12 years late to the party, but I just downloaded it and I love it! Michael Buble and I are an excellent chef/musician duo.
  • Huge glass of water- instead of nibbling as I cook, I drink water to stay full and distracted.

I've literally spent hours combing through the Internet finding recipes that are both Paleo and easy enough for someone just getting into cooking.  I am so, so excited to link up to the following recipes- each one has been made from scratch by me and whole-heartedly approved by my family. Below find the link to the recipes and my notes about any substitutions or hints- these are from some of my favorite recipe sites, so be sure to peek around and see what sparks for you!
  • Squash Hash- Scroll down- this is the second recipe just below the second picture. I've made this using both butternut squash and sweet potatoes and it was incredible both times.  This is my favorite breakfast- I like the hash bordering on dark brown/burnt and the egg yolks runny.
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup- YUM! Really really amazing.  For the chicken, I used the suggested spices and put the chicken in the slow cooker for 5 hours on high, then shredded the chicken and used it in the soup. I skipped the poblano and jalapeno peppers and only used diced green chiles to make it milder for my kids. And plantain chips- DOUBLE YUM! (I found some at Trader Joe's in the chip section, not the dried fruit section)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon- simple and delish.  Made me fall in love with brussels sprouts and goes with EVERYTHING. Especially this...
  • Primal Meatloaf- Made this pretty close to recipe but topped with tomato sauce and sliced yellow onions.  Awesome and reheated great.
  • Southwestern Frittata- this is a fantastic dish to make over the weekend and have for an easy, yummy breakfast all week.  I'll reheat and smash half an avocado on top.  Also, these ingredients are totally interchangeable for anything from the same family.  For example, I took this to a brunch and used bacon, pancetta and diced green chiles with the onion and sweet potatoes, put a little coconut milk in the eggs, and it was incredible and raved about by non-Paleo-ers.
  • Salmon Cakes with Ginger Mayo on top of Red Cabbage Slaw with Tangy Carrot Ginger Dressing- Made this for my family over the weekend since I thought it was a little ambitious, but man was I pleasently pleased at how super dazzling and decadent this felt.  I made the slaw earlier in the day, put the cakes together and "fried", and then topped with the ginger mayo.  Everyone ate every bite.  Making this for my next Paleo dinner party.
  • Pumpkin Cashew Curry Chicken with Coconut "Rice"- LOVE this.  Both tasted great seperately and together.  I'm so glad to have a rice substitute. And I wish I would have quadrupled the chicken to freeze and eat every day for lunch forever.
  • Last but not least, a Paleo treat.  Humor me. Avocado Chocolate Pudding- I know! Note that I ate this after 37 days of no treats or added sugar. The real find came the next day after it had set in the fridge overnight- it seriously tasted like fudge.  Now I make it, spread it on a plate like fudge, and let it set in the fridge.  Amazing.
There are so, so many more recipes that I'm enjoying, but these are my most favorite-iest favorites. Hope you find something that looks yum and encourages you to try something new!