Where did these two years go?! We’re almost packing boxes again. This is crazy!!
Several months ago I shared with you my big decision to say YES to a large Interior Styling project and since then, life has looked a bit different. This blog has stayed stagnant (despite the promise of a revival). My floors are a little messier. I am cooking bigger meals, less often. & there has been a shift. A shift of my focus, my heart and my hands. & it hasn’t included much of the internet. I have taken to my new Instagram to share tidbits of my life, but in an ever decreasing “face time” world, I have found myself seeking these real life interactions more than ever. Face to face work, not behind the computer work. & My work is steady, and it has nothing to do with the computer. To say this website is a few steps behind my real life work is an understatement, but one I am strangely proud of. Face to face work is what is filling my soul right now.
As we are ending the hardest chapter of our medical training life in a mere 84 days, life is going to change yet again. We still have no official orders back to Texas, but that is where we’ve been verbally confirmed for my husband’s next assignment. Despite all logical thought, I keep taking on projects that I know will make me smile–and they do. They are squeezed, squished and snuck in my three days a week without kiddos running around and I truly feel like I have found my life’s work, beyond mothering. I have so many color stories to tell. So much inspiration that needs to come out of my head and into a home. I love making homes beautiful. I love the challenge and the puzzle that each space is–and I love helping families create functional, beautiful spaces. Pretty & Practical is always my motto. & making spaces pretty & practical is what I LOVE to do. So that is what I am doing. & even though it is quiet around this internet space of mine, there is nothing quiet about my life. (Except my daily 5am yoga practice. THAT is quiet that is non-negotiable!)
So thank you for popping back in! Thank you for still cheering me on. Thank you for continuing to share my ever evolving message that finds its way from me to you on this blog, or most likely, Instagram. May you be ever-evolving & sharing your talents, too!
Much of my blogging & internet time has been replaced with books. Real books from the library. & a few inspirational magazines that I love. I have read a few books that I HIGHLY recommend–& you might enjoy them, too!
- The Fringe Hours (an excellent nudge toward making time for you, despite busy mama life.)
- The Four Agreements (a good reminder of how to “be a better person.”)
- Flow Magazine (an inspiring, creative haven)
- How to Raise an Adult (the BEST, BEST book I have read in a long time. This qualifies as one of the very few books that I want to own. It has changed me, how I parent, and how I look toward the future education of my children. If you read one book this year, let this be it! The second half is the best.)
How can you argue with THAT?!
As we wrap up our time here in St. Louis, I am a very mixed bag of emotions. This season has given us some pretty spectacular relationship lows (as most resident/fellow wives can relate, especially as you weather the eighth year of solo life + parenting). But our stay here has also been rich with programs and museums and nature to enjoy with young children. Have I mentioned how GREEN it is here?! It is really a very beautiful city, with a lot of complicated social issues that permeate the culture. I will look back on this time grateful to be in a place where we had so much to do, but very excited for what comes next for our family. I’m not sad to leave. I am elated/relieved/nervous about the end of 6 yrs of a surgical residency and two years of fellowship. It is time to be done. We must move on. I will most certainly be doing a Mom’s Guide to STL, much like I did for San Antonio before we left. We have done SO much here! & I can’t wait to update the SA one, now that we are in big kid land & all we need to be happy is grass and maybe some sticks, wildflowers to pick and trees to climb. Big kid life is pretty freaking awesome.
- The stylebabyLOG is still available! You can purchase here. I will be disabling purchasing as it gets close to our move & during our transition, likely through summer 2016. So if you need it before next Fall, now’s the time!
- My passion for child literacy is keeping my Usborne Book Group hopping! I feature a book a week & share what we love about it. You can join the group here–it is zero pressure. My only goal is to help you get awesome books into the hands of curious kids. If you’d rather skip the group and go straight to shopping, you can shop here.
- I am not booking any more Interior Styling projects in STL, but plan to open my calendar in San Antonio starting Fall of 2016. I have several projects lined up already, but you can email me if you’d like more information (or to get on my client list) anytime at shawna at styleberrycreative dot com.
Back in the day I used to do a lot of DIY tutorials around here. It’s been awhile since I walked you though one and after sharing it on IG & getting some “yes, please teach me!” feedback–I thought I would do a super simple one. I love easy projects. & this is such a great one for this time of year!
It’s cold out & the kids want to play outside. Their little faces get cold despite all the bundling & I don’t know about you–but I am not a big fan of scarves for kids. All that extra fabric and years of preaching “don’t tie ANYTHING around your neck” led me to a better option. Could I buy one? Sure. Maybe that’s what works for you. Go for it! But just as all my sewing projects come to be, I arrived here out of necessity. Do I love sewing? NO. But… (a) I couldn’t find the color I (they) wanted & (b) I could make it waaaaay cheaper than I could buy it. & I need a few. Quickly. So here’s how we did it!*
*I am a self taught sew-er and I am sure there is a better way to do this/explain this, but this is my version!
DIY KIDS GAITER
- fleece: I found ours on sale super cheap at Hobby Lobby (check the remnants bin!) & I bought 1/2 yard for each child. I let them choose their own patterns so they’d be able to pick them out of the pile of snow gear at school
- sewing machine
- measuring tape
- Cut fabric into a rectangle.
- For my 3yo, I cut a 17″ x 21″ rectangle
- For my 6yo, I cut a 19″x 22″ rectangle
- Fold fabric in half, so the short (17/19″) sides are touching, right sides together. This will be the seam up the back of the neck, as the longer length will make the circle around your child’s neck.
- Sew down the short side. Double check that the right sides are together before you sew.
- Now fold your “donut” so the seam you just sewed is half on the inside, half on the outside of your folded donut. (It kind of looks like a tortellini) The ends of the seam you just sewed will touch, causing the fabric to be open on one side and seamless on the top, where it will touch your child’s face.
- Check to make sure you can get the “donut” over your child’s head.
- Now it’s time to sew it shut.
- Fold the unfinished fabric under, top and bottom. Pin both folded sides together, as pictured.
- Sew up this seam. I used a zig zag stitch on my machine for this part & pulled the stretchy fleece fabric a bit as I went, so it was a little wider at the bottom than the top, for ease of getting over heads.
There you have it! Now my kiddos are ready for their winter adventures! I spent $1.85 on each half yard of fabric–from which I can get 2-3 gaiters– making these workhorses well under a dollar each. Since noses get extra snotty when it’s cold, it’s awesome to always have a clean one on hand.
Oh, & we made the headband she is wearing too! Click here for the DIY Non Slip Headband. :)
Hi Friends! Happy Friday!! Is is WHITE & SNOWY where you are?! We got our first round this week and it has been FUN! We love the snow and can’t wait for it to arrive. We are outside as much as we are inside when we are lucky enough to get a nice snowstorm and nothing can quite compare to coming back in & warming up with some delicious Hot Chocolate.
Last year, when I made all my big food changes, what I missed the most was a hot creamy beverage. I used to live for lattes. Weaning off them was hard but now that I am on the other side of my whole milk, double shot espresso lattes, I am never going back. I have finally found a local coffee shop that makes the most delicious almond milk lattes I have ever found, but I had never had success heating almond milk myself. Turns out, I was heating it too hot (my sweet barista just explained something about proteins breaking down past 140 degrees & such. More on that here). But enter cashew milk, and it was a whole new ballgame!
My friend Dr. Christine Maren turned me on to the benefits of cashews–not just in their natural state, but also blended into cream and soaked and made into milk. & they have become a staple in our family’s diet ever since. So when my parents gifted me a Vitamix last year, I couldn’t wait to get experimenting. As many of you know, high speed blenders have the capability to warm the contents if you blend it long enough. This is annoying and also totally awesome, but mostly the latter during wintertime! So I am going to introduce you to my perfected dairy free, gluten free, not-quite-sugar free, Cashew Milk Hot Chocolate. & I promise you will not miss that dairy. (or how it makes you feel!!) I have even tricked my whole milk loving husband into enjoying it. He swears he can’t tell the difference anymore & that…well…THAT pretty much speaks for itself! :)
CASHEW MILK HOT CHOCOLATE
- 1.5 cups of Cashew Milk (you can make it, but I buy the Silk brand at our local health foods market)
- 1/3 cup of chocolate chips (I prefer DF/GF Guittard & in this 1/3 measuring cup, I mix 1/3 milk chocolate & 2/3 dark chocolate chips–our favorite blend!)
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla (not pictured, whoops!)
- marshmallows (if you like them, we get DF/GF/SF Dandies which are too sweet for me, but my kids love them, of course)
- set high speed blender on the soup setting (as per your manual’s instructions) & let her whirl!
- serve immediately for the creamiest, frothiest hot chocolate!
Look at that beautiful, frothy finished product!
I can almost taste it. YUM!
This is THE BEST warm treat for those of you who are looking for a healthier, gluten free, dairy free hot chocolate! I am now a HUGE lover of vitamix hot chocolate. YUM!!
& hey–have you found me on Instagram yet?? Turns out, I really dig the microblogging thing. I can share all the little things that inspire me without ever sitting at my desk. It’s pretty fun! This week we talked a lot about food. & Kids stuff. & Yoga. FUN! Join me? IG: _styleberry_ I am there a LOT more than here. ;)
& two friendly reminders:
- the stylebabyLOG is back in stock. YIPPEE! You can find it right up there to the right, in the sidebar. Thank you all for your orders this week!! Every order that has been placed has SHIPPED! So look for those in your mailbox any day now. XOxo.
- You will now find also find direct links to my Usborne Books & More Website & a link to my Usborne Book-tique group on Facebook in the sidebar on the right, just under the new little glimpse at my IG feed. I am helping you peek inside a book-a-week throughout 2016, since the website doesn’t do these books justice & I want you to SEE exactly why we are SO passionate about these amazing books! All titles covered can be searched by name in the FB group, so you can use it as a resource whenever you’d like! You can join me here. Thank you for shopping with me!! & I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful books!!
Hey mamas!! After much anticipation (and hard work and legal paperwork and printing headaches…!!), I am finally able to share some pretty exciting news: the stylebabyLOG is BACK!
Well. For now. As I sat and really evaluated my business goals for styleberry moving forward, I have decided that I am going to make this the very last print run of the stylebabyLOG. I LOVE this product. I could not have survived my kids infancies without it. I believe in it and I have absolutely LOVED sharing it with you.
But it is time to close a chapter and move on to the next. This is what happens in business. You listen to your gut and follow your passions. & when they shift, and you see new opportunities that make you heart skip a beat, you listen. & that’s when all feels right with the world. :)
So whether you’re a soon to be mama who loves to be organized, or a seasoned mama who loves to write stuff down (because who can remember when you last fed the baby?!), or maybe you are a really great friend who is always looking for a unique baby shower gift–here’s your last chance at my beloved stylebabyLOG! When I am out of inventory, I will be out for good.
I want to thank each of you who have supported me over the last FOUR (ohmygosh!! How has it been that long!!) years since I first launched this third baby of mine. It’s been fun. & amazing. & so so rewarding. & I have absolutely LOVED it.
So thank you! Thank you for cheering me on & coming back here to share how much your stylebabyLOG has helped you. THAT is what makes it all worth the late nights and early mornings. Knowing somethings I dreamed up, made a difference for you. & hopefully, made life with a newborn just a but smoother.
So, one last time I can say, you can get yours by clicking the little yellow button below or in the side bar! When they are gone, they are gone. So stock up if you need to. I swear I will not have a secret stash. I have read way too much from Marie Kondo to ever do that! Thank you for the joy, stylebabyLOG. Now off to happy homes, you go! Xoxo.
Hi friends! Happy New Year! I hope you made your holidays as joyful as possible & enjoyed that extra time with your kiddos. I hope you’ve taken some time for YOU to sit and reflect on the opportunities you took advantage of in 2015 and made peace with those that you let go. I know I am not sad to see 2015 behind me, and am radiantly looking ahead at a huge year of change for our family!
Much of my reflection this year came back to this blog. I so want to be here, but there is a stumbling that occurs every single time. I have the best intentions…but then…life. Much like that goal we have to do that online yoga practice for ONE WHOLE HOUR…and then that big chunk of time becomes intimidating. So we come up with reasons why we can’t. & instead of accepting that all we have is time for a 20 minute practice, we skip it all together. & poof. A month goes by & we don’t move. Well, at least in one important area of life. This is one of those areas that keeps getting the shaft from me. My computer is now tucked in my closet since we downsized when we moved and there is no natural light and I really only have a few hours to myself with part time preschool this year and I want to do this and that and blah blah blah. You know the story. So this brings me to a decision that I made. How can I still be part of the creative community in a way that feels right and good and keeps me connected to all those who inspire me or help me feel connected to the community that I adore? & where can I share so many things that I want to share, but never do? Well. Instagram, of course!
Several years ago I made my personal IG private (leaving it for my friends and family only) and then blocked thousands of people who, as lovely as they may be, just didn’t need to see pictures of my kids with underwear on their head. My children deserve some privacy, too. But as the years go by, IG is continually the biggest source of daily inspiration for me. I have learned SO much from people that choose to share with me & I want to get back into the conversation. I have been holding back on my personal feed because I like business/personal boundaries & didn’t want to flood my friends with anything but kids pictures. But there’s more to my story. So my new IG…well..we’ll call it microblogging. (there’s a hashtag, but I have no idea if that is really a thing. HA!) I really don’t like sitting at my computer during this season, but I do love my iPhone, in moderation. I saw these words flash by several times this week and they’ve made me think–as so often, Instagram does.
So, without further adieu, you can locate me on Instagram under the name _styleberry_.
Have several goals over there:
(1) to add to the beautiful community of encouragement.
(2) to make you think. to make ME think. to share tips and tricks for making life flow a little easier. maybe you get inspired to do more? move more? cook more? explore more? make more? let’s learn from & inspire each other!
(3) to connect. so much of blogging is pseudo connections. Blog comments just don’t really do it for me. I am best nourished face to face, in moderation. But with IG, I can connect to real businesses and real places and if you are there and so am I, please say “hi.” St. Louis has an extraordinary local business community and it’s a pleasure to have so many mom & pop operations as part of my life here. I want to introduce you to them. & then I want to rave about more when we get back to San Antonio and I get to experience the opposite of Texas suburban life. Because living in the city now has helped me learn that suburbia is just not for me. :)
(4) to remind you that you aren’t alone. I promise not to sugarcoat. My life is challenging right now. I solo parent and am six months away from another big move that I will plan for and execute myself and I am hardly the picture of balancing it all. But I am trying to keep my positive voice. Let’s do that together. All we can ever really choose is our attitude, right? It’s ok to say “life is shitty right now, but here is what I am still grateful for…” and intentionally create a positive spin on what is less than stellar. Or sucks. A lot.
(5) to share the pretty. Decorating is what I love. It is what I love to look at. I can’t wait to share my projects, personal and professional, with you.
Head on over to IG @_styleberry_ to learn more about one of my new favorite quarterly publications, seen here!! Alongside my favorite local almond milk latte. :)
Helloo!! When it rains it pours. Suddenly flooded with fun opportunities, I have been busy, busy. In a really great way!
So you know I love books. If you read this blog regularly, you have seen image after image of me and my kids with books. It’s a small obsession of ours and we take reading very seriously around here. Our weekly trips to the library consist of picking 30-40 books to read, in addition to the titles we own, so I have been able to enjoy quite a bit of what is out there & see what really sticks with my kids.
One of the publishers we LOVE is Usborne. I always bought the activity books & a few titles from B&N but I always wanted more than I could find locally. I had NO idea they had consultants, who offered the entire collection, until recently. & after attending a totally online Facebook party that was run in the most beautiful way–I knew I had to be a part of it. Mostly, to build my own library up, but also to help share our favorites with friends. I never, ever thought I would sign up for something like this (because I do have a business to run!!)…but I did. Because books are EVERYTHING. & these books are something special. The more kids who have awesome books, the better. & they absolutely, completely saved me on my 2000 mile road trip with my kids last week. Seriously.
A couple weeks ago I hosted my kick off Book Bash. & while I will not be making this a big thing (I envision a Holiday & Summer online Book Bash) what I would like is to make myself a resource for YOU, to help you find the best books for your children that meet them at their reading level as they grow. My kick off with my friends was so fun & I got such amazing feedback–especially as the books arrived in homes around the country–that I wanted to bring it here. So I am hosting a second Usborne Holiday Book Bash just for my blog readers, this week!
SO…Please join me on Wednesday December 9th at 8:30pm CST for a fast and fun online party, completely on Facebook! I will be continuing to kick off my partnership with Usborne Books & More, publisher of many of our long time FAVORITE books (I couldn’t fit them all on the stack in the picture…). I cannot wait to share some of our tried & true, most loved titles with you—just in time for holiday travel & gifting! There’s no better gift than something wonderful to READ on Christmas morning!!
Usborne Books is the 2014 Children’s Publisher of the Year, offering over 1700 books for babies through young adult.
This is the perfect excuse to stock up on gifts and fun activities that keep kids entertained and boost brain power in the process! We’ll explore some best-sellers, newly released titles, and recommendations personalized to YOU and your families. Books start at $5. I thought about sharing some here…but I am going to save all the good stuff for the night of the Book Bash. You can catch up the following day if you miss the event. December 10th will be the last day to order to ensure Christmas Delivery–so if you are looking for something last minute–I’ve got you covered! & I will be doing some fun things in my personal Usborne Book-tique year round to keep you sane and your libraries fresh.
There will also be prize drawings during the book bash, so make sure to RSVP right away to stay in the loop on opportunities to earn raffle tickets! (Click GOING on Shawna’s Usborne Holiday Book Bash event page so you don’t miss out!) Looking forward to “seeing” you online soon! :)
When we moved into this rental, our very first rental, I took seriously every word of The Nesting Place and made it home, ASAP. We knew we were only here temporarily, so I went crazy when we first moved in. Within two months, my house was DONE. I mean, nothing left to hang & no wall left to paint (so grateful for a landlord who said “go for it!” when I offered to repaint the whole thing…!). It was so weird. I had planned and planned and gathered all my supplies and decor to make this as seamless as possible. & since we knew this was just a short season in our lives, there was no need for tweaking & I was certainly not going to buy any furniture or much decor to make this place “just right.” What we had worked and worked pretty well. But I was DONE. I was usually never done. But here I was. There was nothing left to decorate.
& then I stopped creating in the way I am used to. It’s taken me a good year to realize how much of myself I lost during that dark year, but now that I am resurfacing, I can see how I redirected my energy. Reading Big Magic opened my eyes to just that. My creativity was never dormant. It was still alive. I had just used it all to create my Paleo-ish kitchen. Food got all my energy. & back then, that was ok. I had something new to learn about and focus on.
But as I started to get the hang of the whole Paleo thing & learn my shortcuts and favorites, I yearned for more.
& at the very time I was reading pg 37 in Big Magic, the part on saying yes or no to creative inspiration & what happens when you choose one or the other, I was presented with a big opportunity. A friend from school who had been to my home, and raved about it, asked me to help her decorate hers. Like, she wanted to hire me to do it.
Woah, woah, woah. This was all floating in my head and exactly what I envisioned when I ramped things back up again when we moved back to Texas, next Summer. But I hadn’t finalized my business plan or my process or built my spreadsheets and I have not yet wrapped up my stylebabyLOG business (psst! back in stock in a couple weeks!!) and…and…and…
…I said yes.
So here I sit, a couple weeks into the largest design project I have been a part of, on the largest budget I have ever been able to play with and it is SO MUCH FUN. I have learned so much along the way, but mostly, that this is exactly what I need to be doing right now. I LOVE making a house a home. I LOVE curating pretties for a room. & I LOVE making a highly functional space, that is easy on the eyes. Pretty & practical. Business and creativity. Everything I love all wrapped up into one job. That doesn’t feel like a job.
You guys. I think this is IT.
So I thought I would finally share Caroline’s room, to bring some decor back here. It’s been awhile. :) When we left her beautiful nursery, she asked me specifically for a Rainbow Room. As we narrowed down the specifics, and colors, she asked for one wall “the color of Elsa’s cape.” She’s since declared herself “totally over princesses” and purged her room of anything related to Frozen, but the wall is still there. Not the color I would have chosen (turquoise! coral!) but it is her room. & I wanted her to feel ownership over her space. So alas…welcome to Caroline’s Rainbow Room. This is quite possibly the cleanest it’s ever been. Don’t be fooled…this girl is a tornado and she can’t keep a room clean for more than five minutes. She is a maker and her hands are in projects all over the place. You can see them all over her colorful walls! Just the way she likes them. :)
I think the biggest thing I learned about decorating a “rainbow room” is to keep the rainbow in the accessories. Everything major is neutral. All you need is little pops of color!
I insist both my kiddos have my favorite DIY bookshelves for their books. I love that they can see all the titles. If you are not into DIY-ing them, you can always get a ledge from Ikea!
Oh, this QUILT!! I saved up all of Caroline’s special favorite baby clothes and found the perfect keepsake. Each strip of fabric on this quilt came from an outfit, sleeper, blanket and even her beloved playmat that she used as a baby! It is so, so special to me.
Have a daddy that works a lot? Yeah. We do too. Most days she doesn’t get to see him. So they write notes. This is just a frame with some scrapbook paper cut to fit behind it. Glass works awesome with dry erase markers. & pom poms make great erasers.
& below, that’s a thumb tack (decorative furniture nail, to be exact), a ribbon & some clothespins for the most recent art. Lifesaver.
I learned the hard way that simple art supplies create the best work. One kind of marker. One kind of paper. The mess stays a bit more contained. You’re welcome.
For her second birthday, I painted and scrapbook paper-wallpapered this gorgeous dollhouse. I found it on sale on one of those awesome GILT sales & it is still so well loved. We even expanded to the basement, recently. We LOVE it. & they have awesome customer service. We learned this when this was set on the opposite side of the dresser and she accidentally slammed the door shut on the open dollhouse and it was a catastrophe. Like, major breakdown. But we all survived. Thanks to PlanToys and their excellent replacement service!!!
& some of the specifics that I know you’ll ask about:
- Duvet: Pottery Barn Teen
- Bed: Pottery Barn Teen Outlet
- Dream Colorfully: Pottery Barn Teen Outlet
- Herringbone Quilt (it’s made out of her baby clothes!) & Custom Name Pillow: Anna Joy French
- Flower LED Lights: Ikea
- Wall Shelves: DIY
- Victorian Dollhouse: PlanToys
- Desk stool: Target
The rest of the fun treasures have come from years of collecting from all over. :) & I cannot find the paint chips for her room. If you really want them, I will dig. But I am not sure I’ll ever use either of these colors again…so I tossed them! ;)
& Lastly, because books are everything (!!), the chapter book series on her dresser is her current favorite, Magic Treehouse. It’s a really great chapter book for young readers that covers a vast array of Non Fiction topics, but is a fictional series. We could not possibly love it more! She’s on book 46, and is so sad to be almost done. I highly recommend! We got a great deal on ours through Scholastic. We also love the thorough non fiction Fact Trackers that accompany the series, that provides a deeper look into some of the subject matter. Definitely her favorite books, so far!
It was the dead of winter. The holidays had passed & I was left with the January gloom. But this year, it was more than my usual post-holiday blues. My house no longer glowed from the Christmas lights and I was staying up late, not accomplishing much and living on lattes. Granted, this has been a really rough couple of years on our family, as anyone in their eighth year of a surgical residency/fellowship training experience will tell you, but something more was going on. & I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
I started looking at my life and what I could change. Why was I feeling so run-down? How could I make some small changes to feel better? Where could I find knowledge I could trust? How could I even find the time and energy to make my life better right now, as we’re going through one of the toughest seasons of our life as a family?
I am a one woman show around here, and my kids deserved a better me. It was scary & felt like a lot of work to make some of the changes I had in mind. But it was time. I could not live like this any more. Latte to latte. Crashing in between. Flopping into bed feeling unaccomplished at night, then beyond irritated to be woken up in the morning by a child that really, just wanted a hug. Or a granola bar. Either seemed annoying at a pre-dawn hour, when I had stayed up too late. I was not a pleasure to be around and I needed something to change in a really big way.
The first change, as I talked about before, was my sleep overhaul. I gave up my beloved nightowl habits and started getting up early. It started with a six am wakeup and every week, I pushed that up fifteen minutes. It took some tinkering with, but I learned that for whatever reason, my body’s rhythm doesn’t like an alarm in the 5am hour. I can’t get out of bed. But 4ish? That’s my sweet spot. I get up, without engaging with my phone, and drink my 24oz cup of (sometimes lemon) water while I am getting ready. My reward is my cup of coffee (a 6oz pour-over style is all it takes anymore!) & I am ready to do what I need to before my early riser is up to join me.
These days I am a 4:30am kind of gal, who is in bed by 9:30. I know, I know. I would have laughed at myself so hard a couple of years ago. But seriously. Having quiet time to myself (and that cup of coffee!) before my kids get up has been life changing. It also provided me with the time to read. To learn. & to understand why my brain was feeling so foggy. It may seem insignificant, but this sleep change really has been instrumental to my “lifestyle overhaul” if you want to call it that. It’s when I carved out the time to learn.
I am not going to walk you through the true “why” of a Gluten Free or Dairy Free Paleo-ish diet. I am not an expert. I have taken the time to read a lot, from sources I have deemed trustworthy. Together, they have opened up my eyes to nutrition in a way I was never open to before. Forget fads, forget the word “diet.” Healthy living is really a lifestyle, in my opinion. & I wanted to understand the WHY before I could dive into the HOW. Here’s what I read–some are books I checked out at the library & some are great articles that you can read now:
- Wheat Belly–for a fascinating understanding of what wheat does to your body, and an explanation of the inflammation response that can be so problematic. “Inflammation” is a buzz word amongst everything I read–basically I aim to consume foods that decrease or don’t increase inflammation. This book describes, on a very deep level, how the new version of wheat we consume today, causes inflammation.
- It Starts with Food–by the creators of the Whole30 program, which is an elimination diet that helps you determine what foods make you feel good/bad. I have not done Whole30, but I do try to eat in a way that closely mimics the Whole30 guidelines. An important quote that I LOVED from this book was “The food you eat either makes you more healthy, or less healthy. Those are your options.” and that has been a real factor in my daily food decision making.
- Why I am a Pegan–or Paleo Vegan–& Why You Should Be Too! by Dr. Mark Hyman— This is SUCH a great article, packed with links to other articles to help understand some of the scientific findings behind why considering food as medicine is so important. I spent a lot of time on his site, reading his articles.
- How Soy Can Kill You and Save Your Life by Dr. Mark Hyman–a really balanced overview of the claims and data. I choose not to eat much soy, if any at all.
- Got Proof? Lack of Evidence for Milk’s Benefits by Dr. Mark Hyman–a great synopsis about recent data on dairy consumption. He has several other articles on his site on the topic worth reading.
- 3 Important Reasons to Give Up Gluten if You Have an Autoimmune Disease by Amy Myers— A great overview. Dr. Myers has so much great information on her website. I gathered a LOT of my information from her thorough explanations.
- 4 Steps to Recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Dr. Amy Myers–I like how this article is organized. She is all about autoimmune disease and gut health, and how to fix them both!
- Calcium, Vitamin D & the Milk Myth by Dr. Christine Maren–Christine is one of my dear friends, and THE person who I credit for all of my dietary changes. She shares the most informative articles on her Facebook feed and her blog has taught me so much about all the things I care about, nutritionally. She also has a passion for childhood nutrition, which is a major bonus for us health nut moms!!
- Wheat and Endometriosis–A super fascinating spinoff hypothesis for those of us who deal with monthly flaring of Endo symptoms. My experience below!
So…NOW WHAT. WTF do I eat?! Is that what you are thinking? Because that is pretty much how I felt. I shouldn’t eat bread and pasta and crackers or peanut butter and milk and cheese and yogurt and and and…the list seemed to go on. Um. That’s mostly, with some added meat/vegetables, all I ate. So whaaaaaat do I do?
There was a quote in one of the food documentaries that I watched that encouraged people to make food changes with this mindset: “Instead of focusing on what you are cutting out, just focus on the really amazing things that you are adding in.” Then it went on to say that eventually you’d grow to like the new, healthier things so much that they would naturally take the place of the junk, and you wouldn’t even want it anymore.
& I believe that to be absolutely true, based on my experience.
The very first thing I did after I decided that I was going to make the big lifestyle change, was get two new cookbooks. For the first month, I ditched every single recipe in my evernote folder and ONLY cooked out of:
What this did was introduce me to absolutely delicious new foods, and in the process, cut out all dairy, gluten and sugar, because the recipes I was using were all “safe” and free from the ingredients I was trying to avoid. These two books also walked me through new ingredients to me–like coconut sugar, arrowroot powder and coconut aminos. Danielle Walker is a gifted chef, educator and photographer, so while the books are filled with BEAUTIFUL & inspiring images, They are also full of really helpful explanations of all the “new foods” that replace the old staples. My daily menu looked a little like this: Eggs for breakfast, leftovers or a meat + vegetable for lunch, dinner was a new recipe from the book.
I gutted my fridge and pantry and sought to only buy “compliant” foods. This was going to be a huge experiment and I didn’t want to derail my results by accidentally eating something that included the ingredients I didn’t want to have anymore. I snacked on GF crackers and avocado. I carried nuts everywhere I went. I started forcing my body to live off of healthy fats, instead of so many grains.
A HUGE change for me was when I ditched my 2x/day lattes and forced myself to drink my coffee black, with a tiny splash of cream to start. Eventually I weaned off coffee completely, but I decided that I do just really, really love coffee. So once I didn’t need it anymore, I added it in a tiny bit at a time to get to a comfortable amount, daily. It’s always been my vice, but this was a cleaner version. Philz Silken Splendor, black, is my favorite!
Over time I have added in recipes from trusted blogs like:
Well. A lot happened. & it’s really, really wonderful to be on the other side of this lifestyle experiment. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and she was devastated. I swore to her, up and down, that once she gets through the really hard couple of weeks of eliminating all the gluten, and emotionally accepting the fact that all those foods associated with holidays and big events are no longer part of her life, that she would not want any of the foods that trigger her symptoms because she would feel so good. I so strongly believe this to be true. I do not, for a second, miss the bread and pasta and milk that I used to consume, ever. It plain and simply, made me feel like shit. & I didn’t know I could fix it until I did. I have undergone testing, and while I do not have Celiac Disease, there is no doubt that I have a sensitivity to Gluten. & once you start really learning about what it does to the body, I think it would be safe to say it would be a good thing for most people to avoid it in its current state.
As far as specific changes I have seen:
- Brain Fog– mine disappeared. Like, I could finally think clearly all day. That was a VERY real symptom for me and was very present in the hour or two after I ate or drank a latte. Wheat Belly explains this phenomenon (lack of blood sugar stabilization, is the short answer). There is even a book, that I have yet to read, called Grain Brain. I am SO glad it’s gone–and is one of the first symptoms that returns if I consume something with wheat in it now.
- Bloating–every night before I went to bed I used to look at my distended belly and wonder where the flat one I had in the morning had gone. Well. That problem is certainly not a problem anymore. Cutting gluten has resulted in pretty much no more bloating for me–all day long!
- No Food Cravings-Since I don’t have the glycemic swings that I used to, I don’t crave much. Certainly not sweets. I will say, that I do sometimes crave vegetables though! That’s a new one.
- Stable weight & endurance-I never started this to lose weight. I am at a good place in that department, and I exercise regularly. I used to run out of steam during my workouts and I have found that my endurance has improved since the change in nutrition. I don’t count calories and I don’t really measure portions. I eat what I eat, move a lot and everything stays pretty much the same, except I keep getting stronger. :)
- Endometriosis-This was a shocker for me & something I didn’t read about until I was several months into this lifestyle change and noticed a marked reduction in my monthly Endometriosis symptoms. The cramping wasn’t as bad and my periods lightened up a bit. It was awesome. Since I gave up Gluten and most Dairy at the same time, I am not sure which to attribute the changes to, but I don’t want to go back to the other side!! It’s certainly worth an experiment if you suffer from the monthly endo pain that just plain sucks.
- Tastebuds-Mine have changed. Big time. Some of the things I used to enjoy, I just don’t anymore. There isn’t a drink at Starbucks, even the coconut milk version, that I enjoy. I can taste the wheat in things that used to taste good to me if I choose to have a bite here and there. Even some fruit is too sweet for me these days. It just proved to me how much our bodies adapt to what we feed them. When sweet potatoes are enough, sugar that is often loaded on top, tastes awful. I really believe we can teach our bodies to love food in its natural state–we’ve just been consuming it in certain ways for so long that those ways, sweetened and artificially flavored, become the norm. But they don’t have to be!
IS IT STILL WORKING?
I like to call the way I run my kitchen “Paleo-ish” for a specific reason. Strict rules are hard to follow. I like some things in moderation. & my whole family is from Wisconsin…which means that I really happen to like cheese. &…we like the occasional ice cream or donut date as a family. So I have added back in foods here and there to balance it all out so it doesn’t feel so rigid. I do my best to not eat gluten and I don’t drink milk, but we have balance. Sometimes, I’ll have a little bite of something that breaks all the rules. My kids still eat whole grain crackers & bread. My husband still insists on having real milk in his hot cocoa, despite my claims that cashew milk tastes just as good. & we still use a little organic raw sugar in our favorite cookies. But mostly, we eat really, really healthy. Do my kids always love it? No. But I make them take a “no thank you bite” so maybe, a little at a time, they can learn to love the things I do.
One of my favorite reads, recommended by my sister in law Kim (who also happens to have a business that helps overwhelmed women create a new normal & transform their lives through simple food & lifestyle changes,) is The Plantpower Way. They have a really gentle approach to nutrition that celebrates real food in a beautiful way. & what I really appreciate is the encouragement of balance. I don’t think anyone can argue that our goal should be to add as many plants as we can to our diet. That seems like a no brainer. My family adds meats and nuts and seeds, too. & sometimes, cheese. & occasionally ice cream and donuts. I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of our life. But we do our best, and learn as much as we can, and make the choices we do with the knowledge we believe to be true and valuable.
As we start to see powerhouse medical programs like The Cleveland Clinic roll out new ventures like The Center for Functional Medicine, I think there’s going to be more focus on preventative care that includes nutrition as a core element of treatment for disease. My husband, who is a cardiac surgeon, sees the debilitating effects of heart disease on a daily basis. He often shares his frustration about the lack of heart disease prevention resources/education & desire for patients to take their health seriously. The gap between doctors and food seems to finally be getting some attention as we see more Integrative and Functional Medicine physicians seek certification and produce data to help those of us who really care about using food as medicine to prevent whatever we can. But it does take discipline and a lot of effort, in a world that often makes it really, really hard to eat good food.
So that’s when I rely on my favorite Maya Angelou quote to sum it all up:
Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, DO better.
Do you have a favorite Paleo/Vegan/GF recipe?? Let’s get a thread going! I’d love some new meal inspiration! :)
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