Sunday, July 20, 2014

5 Decorating Trends for 2014 That I'm Loving Right Now

Every year I look forward to not only seeing what new fashion trends will emerge for fall and spring but also how home decor will change also, the two always go hand-in-hand. I'm also curious as to seeing the Pantone Color of the Year, this year it's Radiant Orchid which I've shown just a hint of in the image above. It's a bold color but I can already imagine it will be the color of choice for bridal bouquets and bridesmaid dresses as well as accents for the home. When it comes to decorating, I don't like my home or a clients to come across as too trendy. There is something special about combining carefully curated pieces over time with new found favorites.

Here are a few decorating trends for 2014 that I'm really loving right now.

1. Navy- While my own home does not currently have any dark hued walls, there is something so rich about darker colors that is making me want to paint a small space in our house. Even done sparingly they can really have an impact, especially in a small space such as a powder bath or used as an accent wall. We've seen a lot of white, gray tones and taupe tones over the years and while I love a neutral backdrop, navy has been calling my name. When I planned Lily's nursery last year before she was born I had not intended to use any navy blue as I wanted to keep it light and airy. It happened by accident as I fell in love with a peony printed crib bumper and sheet set from Pottery Barn that included white, two shades of pink and navy as the peony leaves. So, navy is now a part of her room and while it's still not completed (I've really dragged my feet in that room.*sigh*), I will be adding a few navy accessories to create a cohesive look. A couple other shades of blue that continue to be popular at the moment are peacock blue as well as cobalt. I really love both and they compliment navy well, particularly peacock blue. If you're not sure where to use it inside your home, perhaps it will compliment your exterior by painting your front door and/or shutters.

2. Mixed Metals- It used to be that if we wore gold jewelry it was not to be mixed with silver but times have changed and we can see that not only in fashion but also in home decor, there is a mix of using various finishes. It's no longer seen as tacky but trendy. This is not to say that you should mix and match hardware in a kitchen or bathroom but rather by bringing in other elements such as mirrors and smaller accessories. In other living spaces in our home where it has been commonplace to use only identically colored photo frames or artwork system components such as for a gallery wall using all black, all white or all silver frames for example, it's now acceptable to mix and match particularly with the metallic colors.

3. A Return to Tradition-There has been a focus on modern and eclectic looks for some time now, the web is filled with new option for modern, clean, minimalist decor but that is starting to change. There is an interest in the return to a cozy feeling at home furnished with traditional elements, for many of us adults they remind us of our childhood. Traditional design is timeless, it never goes out of style.

4. Vintage Finds-While the use of antiques and vintage pieces in general are nothing new (no pun intended), they have increasingly gained popularity as the way to finish a space. When decorating many people don't take the time or have the time to collect special treasures over the years from travels, etc., so adding vintage and antique pieces is a great way to add interest to any space. These special pieces are often the topic of conversation during dinner parties. Artifacts from days gone by as accessories become points of interest while rounding a space out. If they have been handed down from generation to generation in your family all the better! They help a space not feel too perfect and they also add character. One of my favorite ways to use vintage furniture other than for its intended purpose is to use a dresser as a vanity for example in a bathroom. It's so unique, you won't find it in anyone's else's home used quite that way.

5. Florals- When I used to think of floral printed fabrics and home decor it would conjure up images of grandma's house or the homes where sofas were covered in plastic. They just seemed to have an outdated feel. That is no longer the case though, there are so many beautiful floral prints available whether you're looking to dress your bed with a new duvet cover, accent pillows for a living room sofa or even a set of framed photography prints, everything exists from the most contemporary artistic version to vintage-style floral prints. Just like lace, ruffles and soft pastels, florals can add femininity to a space which is especially important for a home that has a lot of hard edges or has a masculine feel. Last year I bought my first pair of cropped jeans in light gray with a floral pattern in white, dark gray and light gray. I had a lot of fun coordinating various tops with my new pants-they were so different and added a fun vibe to my wardrobe.

Here are a few decor items I have my eye on right now that follow these 5 trends....

The look of faded black and white is also very of the moment and I'm a bit obsessed with this mirror in herringbone which is a bit more modern. I also discovered the same round mirror in a white bone which is so elegant and really very timeless, I know I'd keep it for a long time. I need to find a spot for it in my house! We're discussing some updates in our master bedroom so I'd love to place it over my dresser.

What are your favorite of-the-moment decorating trends for 2014? Have you implemented any of these that I've shared here in your home? I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for Reading!


*image sources: (1)(2), (3), (4), (5), (6)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Living Well: How to Eat Clean with 12 Simple Steps

Today's post on clean eating (as well as our last fashion-related post) were both reader requests that I wanted to address as I've been meaning to write these posts for weeks now but had fallen a bit behind. I've actually received a few messages from those in our Facebook Community as well as by e-mail asking me questions about both diet and exercise after seeing my instagram shares, previous posts I've written on the topics and things I've mentioned in passing on our Facebook page. Since there has been a lot of interest, there will be more posts of both to come!

Before I begin, let me start off by saying that this is my personal guide to eating clean. Everybody starts somewhere different along their healthy and clean eating journey, this is just how I choose to live. Since I was asked about my own practices and clean eating principles, they are what I'm sharing with you here today in the hopes that some of my ideas and tips can help others who wish to live a more clean lifestyle along with a regular reader who originally requested this post. Please note that while I'm sharing 12 steps to clean eating, you may not necessarily implement all of them at one time, in fact, I recommend not doing that. Making healthier choices is a journey, trying to do too much at one time can set you up to fail as you may become overwhelmed and just give up instead choosing old patterns. Take your time, it's a process, why not try just one of the tips then work your way to another, some naturally work together such as increasing water and decreasing and eventually eliminating soda. Everyone handles their journey differently and please note for me this was an evolution over the past 15 years not in a few months time.

Some of you may already know I'm really passionate about health. I am a former personal trainer having coached many people in the area of nutrition. While attending College I also managed a health nutrition store. To this day I still have many people that come to me asking about supplements, recipes and how to eat clean while still enjoying the taste of their food (I think that's the part the keeps most people from eating more healthfully, they fear it won't taste good). When I graduated, while I learned a lot and appreciate my Marketing Degree, if I had to do it all over again in terms of education I would probably have become a Naturopathic Doctor. Who knows, I still may one day.

Over the past 15 years since I became really interested in optimal health my ideas on eating healthy have changed. You see, everyone starts in a different place and make changes for different reasons. For me, I was raised by parents who ate healthfully and taught me how to cook. I think that is half the battle personally, when others prepare our food or we choose pre-packaged foods, we really don't know what we're eating. Learning how to cook and prepare simple meals is essential. I was also exposed to a variety of foods at a young age and dined in many authentic ethic cuisine restaurants to develop my palate and become more cultured food-wise. Thanks for that dad! ;) For me, there is no other alternative to eating the way that I do. Let's face it, nature has a pretty awesome array of colors, shapes, textures, fragrances and flavors to excite our taste buds. Eating meat and potatoes is just not an option for this gal nor has it ever been a staple in my home. I like how food allows me to be a bit of an artist too, I love to experiment with the presentation of my food when I have extra time, I think a pretty, colorful display is so appetizing.

When I originally became a personal trainer and spent more time working out, my interests were in consuming more protein, less carbohydrates (especially those that were refined), decreasing saturated fats and increasing healthy fats. I still follow that for the most part but I've added many layers to this over the years. Everyone has a different idea of what eating clean is. For some, it's avoiding pre-packaged and prepared foods, for others it's making everything from scratch, buying local and/or organic produce and then there are those who have determined that becoming vegetarian or vegan on top of these choices is best for them as it pertains to eating clean.

Now, with so much talk about GMO's (genetically modified organisms), many will avoid anything that could potentially be GMO/GE (genetically engineered). I guess you could say I'm pretty conscious about what I consume. With having been pregnant last year and now nursing Lily, I continue to be extra mindful about what I eat and drink. What do I watch out for? For starters I eat almost exclusively organic to eliminate harmful toxins via pesticide/herbicide use on my produce, it also ensures that it's GMO-free so I know it wasn't genetically altered. Why is this bad? Well, to put it simply the chemical pesticide which is a poison is embedded right into the seed of produce. That means, you couldn't wash it off if you tried, it's growing into the produce. There have been studies conducted already showing in animals how large tumors develop upon eating GMO foods, in addition it can create a whole host of other health problems. Look for the Non-GMO project verified label on anything that is pre-packaged. In addition to this, I really limit sugars and salt but do enjoy a bit of sea salt and Himalayan pink salt (they are really flavorful compared to iodized table salt). For a little sweetness I prefer raw honey, pure maple syrup or coconut palm sugar for baking as it is lower on the glycemic index. I avoid most dairy as I'm allergic (many people have allergy symptoms to milk and dairy but don't recognize the connection) but I make an exception for raw cheese (unpasteurized) but of course ate pasteurized while pregnant, I don't drink milk but instead substitute with Silk unsweetened almond milk but I do eat a bit of plain Greek yogurt and only eat meats that are hormone-free, antibiotic-free and free range, grass fed or in the case of eggs, that the hens were cage-free.

While I make a lot of meals from scratch, I like to use the word prepare, because a lot of what I eat is not heated or cooked in any way. Things like salads-veggie or fruit, bean salads, smoothies, raw nut butters like almond butter, seeds, etc., have no reason to be heated and have more nutrients as a result. If you're going to cook, baking or roasting is best vs. frying or even grilling (barbeques create char on the food which is a carcinogen as is lighter fluid that many often use when they grill-for that reason it is a treat for me and not a daily way of cooking). Let me say that I'm not vegan nor am I vegetarian but I would say that my diet is about 85% vegetarian with the remaining 15% open to fresh wild caught fish, poultry, beef, bison and lamb. I've  decreased the amount of fish I consume and ate almost none while pregnant as most contains mercury now, the safest bet is small fish like sardines. Between Fukushima radiation that has spilled into the Pacific and so much fish being farm raised, if I do eat the odd bit of fish it must be fresh, wild caught fish which is almost always Alaskan Salmon, specifically sockeye. I have a really good fish oil supplement that I take instead for DHA from Norway that has no traceable toxins or heavy metals. For hygiene reasons as well as personal spiritual reasons I do not eat shellfish or pork due to the amount of parasites both contain (the bible instructs not to eat various foods for a reason with a focus on shellfish and pork).

At this point, you're probably either wondering what the heck I do eat or perhaps feel overwhelmed by my exhaustive list. It's really not as daunting as it seems. For me, it doesn't end there though. A few years ago I started breaking out into hives and tried for a very long time to determine the culprit. It wasn't until I became a food detective of sorts and removed all food with preservatives, food coloring and more specifically MSG (to which there are hundreds of derivatives such as autolyzed yeast extract, carageenan, hydrolyzed soy protein, etc. and many more names) that I saw a dramatic improvement.

My previous reasons for eating clean were to remain fit, keep my organs healthy and maintain high energy. I still continue for those reasons but now I eat this way for my own body plus my baby girl's and to keep illness, disease, hives and allergies at bay. Everyone has different reasons for changing their diet such as discovering they are borderline diabetic or maybe they learned they have Fibromyalgia like my mom was diagnosed with 20 years ago when nobody really knew what it was (by the way she pretty much cured herself with a ton of walking, lots of water and eating in a more clean way). Some wish to eat clean to lose weight and that is great. What has always saddened me is to see people try to lose weight by living off of brand name weight loss products and foods which remove sugar and fats but replace it with a ton of chemicals and are essentially not real food. These toxic chemicals accumulate in our body's fat cells as they are unrecognizable and essentially cause us to gain weight!

You most certainly do not need to do exactly as I'm doing when it comes to diet, and again to reiterate, this has evolved over a 15+ year timeline so how you decide to change your diet today (if you are planning to) will likely start out one way and change months or years down the road as you research and learn more about optimal health on your own and listen to your body. Whatever your reasons are for desiring to eat in a more healthy and clean way, I've got a bunch of great tips that I hope you'll find really helpful and simplify the idea behind clean eating. Beyond all of this, the most important thing you can do is read books that educate you on food and nutrition and allow you to make smarter decisions, we must take responsibility over our own health, nobody else will do it for us. A classy woman makes caring for her mind, body and soul a priority and makes the best possible choices with the knowledge she has.

12 Simple Steps to Eating Clean:

1. Eliminate Pre-Packaged Foods-One of the easiest ways to eat clean is to remove pre-packaged foods. Most pre-packaged foods are filled with what I call white death: sugar, salt or white flour, preservatives, food coloring, artificial flavors, GMO's, hormones, antibiotics and a whole lot of other nasty things. This is not to say that you should eliminate everything that comes in a package. Granola-based cereals with few ingredients can be great, plain Greek yogurt without sugars or artificial sweeteners is another example. You can always add your own fresh or frozen fruit to it or a natural jam sweetened with juice vs. sugar for example. If you have a choice between buying pre-made items or making it fresh, always make it if you can! Great examples of this include: almond butter, guacamole, salad dressing, etc. These are a cinch to make from scratch and you'll know exactly what is in them.

2. Increase Your Vegetable Intake-Both fresh and frozen veggies are great choices, I would not recommend canned vegetables as they sit for a while and are in a metal can that most likely contains a chemical called BPA in its lining which is a hormone disruptor. Fresh, local organic veggies that are in season are best. Take advantage of produce when it's at its peak. Put an emphasis on greens and more bitter veggies. Kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens and spinach are all excellent choices. For salads I rotate between mixed greens, kale and my personal favorite-arugula also known as rocket greens-they have a fantastic peppered flavor. Try to eat a variety of colors, textures and flavors. Sweet veggies like roasted beets and sweet potatoes for dinner replace my need for dessert so it's a win-win.

3. Go Organic, Grass-Fed, Pasture Raised & GMO-Free-Whether consuming produce or animal products, be sure to eliminate all of the unknowns by buying those without antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed fed to the animals and ensure the animals are not living in feedlots but have the ability to roam freely. It's not only better for the animals quality of life but you know the conditions are cleaner so there is less disease also. When we vote with our wallet, we increase the demand for such products which will drive down the cost. If you cannot buy all organic, start with what you eat the most of and also consider the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists which outline which produce with the highest and lowest pesticide load. Personally, I began with the dirty dozen list and slowly added to it with the produce we ate the most of and we are now almost 100% organic.

4. Replace Saturated Fats with Beneficial Fats-This might be a shocking fact for some, but our brains are made up of 70% essential fatty acids! We require fat for our brain to function properly but it needs the good stuff. Saturated and trans fats are the ones we wish to avoid. The oils I recommend are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Flax seed oil. You can use any of these instead of butter or margarine. I love spreading coconut oil when it's in its solid state on toast topped with my favorite jam. Since it can be heated to high temperatures over 400 degrees, it's the perfect choice for both baking and cooking. Do not heat flax or olive oils as it changes their composition and actually turns them into a bad fat.You'll want to avoid: Canola, Vegetable oil (corn, soy, sunflower), peanut oil, etc. Since canola, soy and corn are over 90% genetically modified, unless you're buying organic, you can guarantee it's GMO-free. The best way to consume beneficial fats and oils is in their raw state. So, if you make a pasta dish, add it in after you are finished cooking to preserve and protect the oils as you are garnishing your dish. Stir frying, deep frying and regular frying pan methods of cooking are not a part of a clean eating diet.

5. Incorporate Juicing & Green Smoothies-I'm a big fan of juicing. Why? Because you are getting a concentrated amount of vitamins. minerals and nutrients from produce which goes straight into your bloodstream since there is no fiber to slow it down. If you've watched the juicing documentary 'Fat, Sick and nearly Dead' you can see that juicing alone as a fast of sorts can produce amazing results. Believe it or not a tall glass of fresh pressed vegetable or veggie-fruit juice can actually fill you up. Once your body gets what it needs nutritionally, it no longer feels deprived an constantly hungry which is the main reason for overeating and always feeling hungry. I'm a believer in fiber too so I use my Vitamix to make green smoothies which essentially pulverize the veggies down into a liquid, it powers through seeds and thick, fibrous stalks like kale stems in seconds. This is perfect for on the go. One of my favorite morning smoothies which I shared on instagram many weeks back is kale-orange juice-banana and if I want a little extra zing, I add some fresh ginger. There are thousands of ingredient combinations to make the smoothie or fresh juice blend of your dreams and they are so portable and easy to drink on the go making it the perfect snack or meal. The Vitamix is a bit of an investment compared with a traditional blender but it is so much more than that and it is commercial grade, it's what all the restaurants use plus they last forever and have a phenomenal warranty and it essentially eliminates the need for a counter full of small kitchen appliances-I highly recommend it! Here is the one that I have. I use it to make fresh fruit sorbet, as a food processor to make Lily's baby food purees and also for turning grains into flour such as oat flour with the dry grains container and many more uses.

6. Increase Your Fruit Intake- Yes fruit has sugar, some diets advise you to avoid it for that reason, however fruit has a lot of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are necessary for optimal health. Berries in particular are a powerhouse of antioxidants. The key is to eat less high-glycemic and sugary fruits and replace with those that are not quite so sweet. Bananas are quite sugary but a granny smith apple is more tart, so it's all about balance. Berries are perfect, they are not overly sweet, pineapples are filled with enzymes to help break down and digest your foods and melons, particularly cantaloupe help alkalize the body so it's not in an acidic state as acidity is known to promote disease. One piece of fruit per meal or less is ideal, you don't want to live on fruit all day. Some forget that avocados are a fruit-they have a little bit of protein, a whole lot of good fats and very little sugar.

7. Decrease Your Meat Consumption-While meat has needed protein which is the essential building blocks of muscle, eating too much meat can really cause your body to get clogged up and meat is highly acidic, not a state we want our body to be in. Meat also contains saturated fats that are best to minimize as they are hard on our heart and can contribute to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. You'll likely find that by decreasing the amount of meat you consume that you'll actually have more energy as meat takes a lot more effort for our body to digest. It's also important to note that meat often times is recalled and has a high probability of e.coli.

8. Buy Foods With a Short Ingredient List-Eating was never meant to be so complicated that a single power bar or even salad dressing contain 50 ingredients (most of which we cannot pronounce and if we can, don't know what the heck it is). The answer is simple-buy foods with as few ingredients as possible. Obviously eating produce is the best as there is only one ingredient. When it comes to on-the-go snacks I tend to reach for nuts (look carefully as many have added oils, salt and gasp...BHT! That's a toxic chemical used to preserve the nuts. I always buy raw, unroasted and unsalted nuts. I do have a few go-to bars that I like and have between 2-5 ingredients, Larabars and Kit's Organic bars, I love the variety of Larabar flavors but they are not yet organic so I stick with the banana bread and coconut cream flavors. They are the perfect 200 calorie snack and filled with nuts, dates and fruit. I would rather choose an item with 3 ingredients that has healthy fat and natural sugars than choose a 100-calorie snack pack loaded with processed junk that appears to save you calories but fills your body with chemicals it doesn't recognize. I can promise you that this way of eating will never allow you to come out ahead, it's a psychological mind game the food industry plays with consumers.

9. Reduce Salt & Sugar-Eliminate or reduce both sugar and salt but please don't replace them with artificial sweeteners and forms of MSG instead of salt! Sugar has been my personal weakness, I have a sweet tooth so finding great alternatives to really sugary things over the years has been a mission of mine. I'm okay with natural forms of sugar such as that from fruit which my body recognizes but still try not to go crazy with those either. I do like cupcakes and cookies but I just make a smarter version of them now. As mentioned above, I favor maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and raw honey. I used to use agave nectar but not anymore as it's linked with adding visceral fat to the liver even though it's sort of natural it's actually quite processed. When I buy foods with some sugar in them, the list must say cane sugar as regular sugar often times is genetically modified from sugar beets-sneaky right? Sea salt is full of minerals as is Himalayan pink salt unlike table salt otherwise known as iodized salt so it's best to replace it. Some use iodized salt for obtaining iodine however you are best to take an iodine supplement vs. rely on salt for the source as sodium increases blood pressure and is stripped of all vital minerals when it's processed. Sea kelp is a great source of iodine as well as many other nutrients. Once you start incorporating more fresh and/or dried herbs and spices to your cooking, you'll rely less on salt as a flavor enhancer. I am a huge fan of garlic so our house is always stocked with several fresh bulbs and I like to eat a few raw, freshly peeled and pressed cloves with at least one meal per day-it adds a great kick to so many foods. While finding better alternatives, a smart bet is to get used to the real taste of food without the need for additional sugar and salt, we consume far too much as a population.

10. Increase Your Water Consumption-One of the best things we can do to keep our body clean is to drink more water as it has a cleansing and detoxing effect. Too much of anything is not good and can actually wash away your enzymes and good internal bacteria so a safe range is 8-16 cups per day (8 oz size) that's 2-4 liters. I know people who drink more than 2 gallons per day and they are sick all the time because they're washing everything away. It will keep you hydrated which in turn allows your organs, especially your liver and kidneys which get flushed in the process. It also keeps your skin hydrated too which creates a more beautiful and clear complexion and less appearance of wrinkles. Water is essentially youth in a glass. If you are working out or in extreme heat, you'll want to drink more to compensate for perspiration. Not just any water will do thought. Tap water, while tested by your local city, is often filled with chlorine and fluoride which are neurotoxins. In our home we invested in an alkaline ionizing water filtration system with a reverse-osmosis component to remove the fluoride. It's something we saved up for and prior to that used a Brita filter for a couple years and then transitioned to buying gallon jugs of alkaline water from our local health food store. If you find water boring, here is a post I wrote sharing some easy and refreshing ways to add some flavor. My favorite way is to add some cucumber sliced and mint sprigs for a refreshing spa water.

12. Eliminating Bad Beverages-This one may be easy or difficult for some depending on your lifestyle. For many, a glass of wine to end their week or evening is a ritual and yes there are benefits to red wine such as the resveratrol component however alcohol in general is dehydrating and taxes the liver causing it to work far harder than it has to. For an already junked up liver that needs detoxing, this just complicates things. Other drinks such as liquor and fruity cocktail drinks along with beer increase not only your calorie intake but more specifically your sugar consumption which does nothing to further along any efforts in clean eating. A treat here or there such as a celebratory glass of champagne is how I tend to do things (except for right now as I'm still nursing Lily and of course didn't consume alcohol while pregnant). Clean eating is not about complete deprivation so on occasion to have a glass of wine isn't going to completely derail your efforts. Everyone must make this decision for themselves but it's important to know that it slows the metabolism way down also.

A larger issue than alcohol is actually soft drinks and energy drinks. Did you know there are 16 teaspoons in just one can of Coke? That is more than a full day's allotment of sugar, that is for sure! I believe that beverages can be as big of an issue if not more so than food. They are quick  and easy to consume on the go and are filled with empty calories. Don't even think about replacing the sugar with the diet version which is filled with aspartame, splenda, acesulfame potassium and the like which are chemically made artificially sweeteners that have been proven to cause not only cancer but digestive issues not to mention the fact that they actually cause your body to crave sugar-the very thing you're hoping to avoid! Many people have a juice habit they have to kick. I'm not talking about fresh squeezed juice from a juicer but the kind that comes in a bottle pre-made. Some believe it is healthy because after all, it's juice and comes from fruit, right? Anything purchased from a store has been sitting in a cold case or on a shelf for a while and there is little nutritional value not to mention that it's devoid of any enzymes after having been pasteurized. Fruit juice is full of sugar, so it's best to consume the fruit to include the fiber. If you are going to make fresh pressed juice, focus more on veggie intake and consume it immediately after juicing for maximum benefit.

For many, when it comes to clean eating, the argument is that there simply isn't enough time to eat healthfully but the alternative is bleak. We can either put in the time now and eat the way we know we should or spend our time sitting in a doctor's office or worse later on in life. Plus, eating fresh, raw and clean just feels good. When our body gets what it needs, it's happy and functions the way it should, causing us to enjoy an overall better quality of life. Cooking and preparing meals as well as snacks does not need to be complex. I assure you that you can create fabulous meals without sacrificing too much time in the kitchen and they will be meals that your family will enjoy. It may involve changing one's palate over a few weeks while retraining the taste buds but it will be time well spent.

Lastly, if you want a great book recommendation, honestly there are so many to choose from on clean eating, but I'm currently reading: 'Eating on the Wild Side' by Jo Robinson. It is a fabulous read. Why? Jo shares the best versions of the food we eat, which have the most nutrients such as purple carrots vs. orange carrots and why baby carrots are a waste of time. Moreover though she reveals the combinations of foods that work together to produce the highest nutritional content and how best to consume the produce we buy. Definitely a book for you library!

Coming to the end of writing this post I'm realizing that many of you might want examples of specific meals and snacks that represent clean eating or perhaps a look into what I eat daily. This post would have been insanely long if I had included those too so instead, this post will serve more as clean eating basics or guidelines if you will (my own anyway). I'll follow up with some recipes that you'll enjoy and are easy and quick to make so stay tuned for those. :)

Once again, please let me reiterate that each person must ease into any new way of eating and of course if you have health issues, do consult your doctor. Food is truly our medicine though so it beats any chemical pill that could be prescribed.

Now it's your turn....share with us in the comments below what you're doing to eat more clean these days.

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Walk in High Heels

Whether you wish to wear them daily or you only pull them out of your closet for special occasions, every lady needs to know how to walk in high heels. I see many women who love the look of high heels but have never properly learned how to walk in them properly, it's evident by both their body posture and the manner in which they walk, neither which come across as elegant, often clomping along like a horse, leaning too far forward while sticking their behind out.

On the contrary, when one has mastered the art of walking in heels it only enhances and adds to her beauty, creating a lovely, feminine silhouette. Let's face it, heels just automatically make you feel more dressed up, even if you're just in a pair of jeans and a simple tee. High heels have the power to transform not only an outfit, but often our attitude and how we carry ourselves as we feel more beautiful in our heels.

1. Heel to Toe- Always walk as you would in any other pair of shoes, heel-to-toe vs. toe-to-heel which can appear very awkward. Practicing on hardwood floor is perfect as it will allow you to hear how light or clunky your are walking. You want to stride gracefully instead of clomping along like a horse (this happens a lot to some women, especially with chunkier heels).

2. Walk a Straight Line- Runway models have such an effortless way about them for two reasons, one is that they walk in a straight line, placing one foot in front of the other which actually creates a very flattering and elegant silhouette and shows off one's curves as their hips sway. You can practice this at home by using a line on tile or hardwood floor, you can also run a line of painters tape across carpet or test it out on a sidewalk edge. If you're walking indoors, just be sure the soles of your shoes are clean first.

3. Perfect Your Posture-The second reason why runway models make walking in heels looks so easy, is because they maintain good posture. Once you've mastered the first two points, good posture while walking in heels is essential. If you're slouching, hunching over, sticking your behind out or leaning forward, not only will this affect how you walk but it looks anything but classy. Stand up straight, hold your head high while looking forward at eye level at least 1/3 of the way ahead with your shoulders back to prevent a slumped-over look. Next, keep your core tight which will allow you greater overall body control. Now, walk forward heel, to toe and in a straight line and you have the 3 most basic essentials of successfully walking in heels. Exercising will improve your posture. By incorporating more core strength exercises into your workout routine you'll build a stronger core and back as well as increase balance which will make walking in heels much easier.

4. Pace Yourself-When it comes to stride, remember that you'll be taking more steps as your stride is shorter. This will prevent you from accidentally doing the splits should you lose your footing. Generally speaking, the higher the heel, the shorter the stride. Expect to walk slower than you wood in flats or tennis shoes.

5. Mastering Uneven Surfaces-It's one thing to walk on flat, even surfaces such as flooring, asphalt, sidewalks, etc., however it becomes tricky when the surfaces are bumpy and no longer flat and even. Whenever possible, inquire when attending a venue so you'll know what you're in for before you arrive and can select your footwear accordingly. Here are a few of such surfaces and how to tackle them gracefully.

Grass-It's by far one of the trickiest surfaces and yet many will encounter it while attending a sporting event, wedding, local outdoor venue, etc. To avoid sinking into the grass (which is softest after it has rained) is best to walk heel-to-toe but keep the weight on the balls of your feet (or the toe box area of the shoe) as if you are tip-toeing, walking lighter and slower. If you'll be outdoors on a grassy area for a special event such as a wedding, you may also want to consider the type of material the shoe is made from. Satin, while beautiful, when it become wet or dirty is much harder to clean then say leather.

Cobblestone-While architecturally beautiful to look at, cobblestone can be a nightmare for those wearing high heels. If possible, avoid wearing stiletto style heels on such a surface as it can not only take longer to walk on and cause damage to your heels, it could invite an injury such as a twisted ankle or even a fall. Wedges are a great option because they provide a flat surface in which to walk and cannot get caught in grooves. The best way to walk on cobblestone is to again, put more of your weight on the balls of your feet and throughout your foot, avoiding the heel as it can get caught in the cracks and being mindful on walking on the most flat and wide surface area possible. You'll be spending more time looking down at your feet but be sure to look ahead as well.

Slick Floors-Whether it's a slippery surface by nature such as marble or it happens to be slick due to water, the key is to take very small steps should you find yourself in such an environment. Here's a tip though on making the soles of your shoes less slippery: when you first purchase them, you can rough up the soles on concrete or have flat rubber adhesives added for this purpose, especially if you work in an office or frequent areas that tend to have floors that cause you to slide. I know of one place that has slick floors-the hair salon I visit. I try to always keep that in mind when choosing footwear before I go.

Boardwalk/Dock-Planks of wood with tiny gaps in between pose a challenge when wearing heels, thankfully the boards are generally wide enough that you have a large surface area in which to walk, it will just involve looking down more to ensure you don't get your heel caught in between and leave your shoe behind as you fly forward-not only embarrassing but potentially dangerous also.

Gravel-Completely avoid this unforgiving surface while wearing heels. Nothing good can come of this! Due to its round nature, gravel can slide, causing your heel to roll and it's an ankle fracture waiting to happen. Not only does it put your safety at risk, but it will destroy the soles, heels and outer material of your beautiful shoes. If you must get to the front door of a house that has gravel, walk on the grass beside the driveway instead.

6. Walking Up & Down Stairs-Firstly, when walking up or down a set of stairs, ALWAYS use the handrail, even once you feel you've mastered walking in heels, it just helps provide the support to keep you balanced as falls can happen to the best of us. If you find yourself in an area without a handrail where there are steps, use the wall for balance if alone, or your friend or significant other who is wearing flats for proper balance. A gentleman will take you by the hand and put his other arm around you. Use a slow, steady pace. Stepping up or down is different than walking forward, you're pushing off with the opposite leg to move up to the next step so do so on the balls of your feet when walking upstairs, putting weight on the heels could cause you to fall backwards, especially if you are on the edge of the stair. Putting the weight on the toe box of the shoe will provide a more firm, secure footing. Walking downstairs will involve you doing the opposite so you don't fall forward. Distribute the weight evenly throughout your whole foot.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice-No woman will walk in heels perfectly the very first time she slips a pair on, it takes practice to get a feel for where to place your weight, work on your posture, walking with one foot in front of the other and master daunting uneven surfaces. I highly recommend first practicing in your home. Find an area that is more narrow and long like a hallway, preferably with a mirror so you can see your progress, such as in a front entry or towards a mirrored closet door. Not only is this important to do upon first learning how to wear heels but a great way to feel more confident in a new pair too. Maybe you've mastered wedges and kitten heels but have never worn stilettos before, it would be beneficial to practice before going out into public. Once you feel comfortable indoors, take it outside. You don't need to practice at an event you're attending or on your way to work/school but rather outdoors on a sidewalk, the grass and even in your driveway or another public place until you feel ready. The more you wear heels, the more they will become like an extension to your legs and will feel more natural. When they feel natural, you'll not only feel more secure but will appear more confident and then you can even tackle running in heels when necessary (although not necessarily recommended). I've been there several times before when almost missing my train into the city which only ran on the hour.

8. Gradually Increase Heel Height- The best advice is to start out small and not attempt the 5" stiletto if you've never worn a 2" heel or even a 1" kitten heel. When you are practicing and have never worn heels before, the easiest way to learn is to gradually increase the height of your heels. Start out with a 1" chunky heel, next try a kitten heel which is a skinny heel but quite short, after this you can try 2-3" then increase the height to 4-5" should you so desire. As a tall woman at 5 feet 9.5 inches, I find anything over 4" makes me personally feel a lot less stable and as though I'm towering over everyone so I typically wear 3-4" max.

9. Find the Right Fit- Just because a shoe comes in your size doesn't mean it will fit your foot properly. Try on many different pairs, some designers just create shoes better than others or fit your foot in a nicer way. Some people naturally have more narrow feet, and other more wide, be sure that the heel you choose fits your foot comfortably and nothing is rubbing which will create blisters later. There should be a bit of room in your shoe, it shouldn't be so tight that your foot can't slide out a little bit but should still be snug. Wearing heels naturally puts your foot at an arch which causes your foot to slide forward, for this reason you may find that you need to go up a half size. If you find you are between two sizes, you can always use gel inserts in the area where the ball of your foot goes. They are also made for the heel area if you have a shoe that just won't quit rubbing. Invest in quality, after all we wear shoes for long periods of time and if our feet aren't happy we won't be either. Leather stretches and can mold to your foot shape, so it's ideal when shopping for a new pair of shoes. Synthetic materials often don't stretch and also don't breathe well and can continue to rub on your feet for a while after first purchasing them. Avoid boat bottom shoes, instead look for soles that have a completely flat bottom that touch the entire surface of the floor so they won't wobble when you walk. If you are most comfortable in 3" heels, you need not suffer in pain in a 5" stiletto. Wear whatever feels most comfortable to you because when you do you will feel better and appear much more confident. If it's uncomfortable you will not wear it and in the end it will be a poor investment.

10. High Heel Etiquette- From time-to-time after a long day on our feet or a night on the town dancing, our feet will become painful after wearing heels for an extended period of time. While some may take their shoes off on the dance floor at a wedding venue, it is not acceptable to walk outdoors in bare feet carrying one's shoes. It is not only unhygienic but not at all classy and potentially dangerous as broken glass, sharp bits of metal and more could be stepped on. A lady is prepared, she need not suffer in pain with blisters just to leave in the shoes she arrived in but she brings backup. Simply carry a fold-up ballet flat in your clutch and you'll be prepared when your feet become sore. My personal favorite high quality fold-up ballet flats are Tieks  by Gavrieli brand. I just discovered them a couple years ago as they were on Oprah's O List, they are made of soft Italian leather which come in a beautiful variety of colors/patterns and can soothe sore feet as they have thick padding and can be worn as a regular ballet flat every day as they are ultra-comfortable, they are a bit of an investment but worth it because you are getting an amazing shoe and they can be stored in the little dust bag they come in and popped into your handbag or clutch. There are also lesser expensive options, none that come close to the same quality but will provide the role of backup fold-able flat in a pinch.

For those who are visual learners like myself, I wanted to include a video that would reiterate the points I've shared here and allow you them see it in action. Instead of recreating the wheel myself, after looking at several videos via YouTube, I've chosen this one by Michelle for you. She is a fashion and beauty blogger who has created videos on a variety of topics and they are always concise and informative. Of course, you can find many more on YouTube for inspiration too.

One last tip when it comes to heels! Be sure to pamper your feet! After all, they work hard after being inside shoes all day. It's important to soak them in hot water, massage them, moisturize them and give them a pedicure regularly particularly if you'll be wearing open-toed heels such as peep-toe or strappy sandals. The more often you care for your feet, the better they'll feel. If you know you'll be standing or walking for a longer than usual period of time at an event, during the workday, etc., give your feet a break the day before and the day after or even longer so you won't be in tremendous pain from too much consecutive heel-wearing.

Here's a little shoe lingo for you. In case the writing is hard to read, the various areas are: 
tip, shank, collar, counter, heel seat, heel breast, heel. heel lift and out sole/sole. 
Although not labeled, the area where your toes sit is called the toe box. 

For your viewing pleasure, below are a few of my favorite pairs of heels for spring that have caught my eye recently and are now on my wishlist along with a couple pairs of fold-able flats! I'm loving all of the ankle-strap and ankle-wrap heels this season. Not only are they pretty but practical too, they stay on your feet far better and act like a natural extension of your leg. A must-have in my opinion!

Are you a high heel lover? What is the typical heel height you feel most comfortable in?

Thanks for Reading!


*image + video credits: (1), (2), (3) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Manners Monday: A Classy Woman Uses Discretion in Her Conversations

Have you ever got off the phone or walked away from a conversation and thought 'Why did I share that?' in regret. Maybe you tried to put someone else at ease and make them feel less alone in their dilemma and realized you probably crossed a boundary in how much you revealed? Perhaps you were on the receiving end as a colleague, friend, neighbor or family member went a little too far with an issue or event in their life making you squirm in your chair? Today we're talking about what is means to use discretion in our everyday and private conversations. 

It's such a blessing to have ultra-close friends that we can confide in, trust and share things with that we wouldn't dream of revealing to others. However, even within such a safe relationship, there is some level of discretion that must be exercised. Just because everything can be talked about doesn't mean it should be discussed. Some things make others feel uncomfortable, even hurt at times and can put them in an awkward position at the expense of being real, open and honest. 

A classy woman doesn't let it all hang out, while she is transparent and makes others feel comfortable as she can relate to where they are at, she is both thoughtful and tactful while still being genuine and true to herself. I'm a big believer in talking things through and using open dialog especially in marriage, however some things are better left to discuss with a therapist; counselor and the most high counselor up above-God. :) Sometimes it's a matter of sorting ourselves and our thoughts an feelings out first before we decide what exactly we wish to share with another.

It is up to each one of us to use good judgement in conversing with others, a topic that may be off limits in one relationship is completely acceptable in another. That being said, there are certain boundaries that a lady knows she shouldn't cross as it pertains to particular matters. I'll list 3 specific topics below.

1. Sexual Escapades & Extramarital Affairs-While shows such as Sex & the City have glorified open friendship where women all talk at great length and in specific detail as to their sexual partners, positions, fetishes, etc., most people feel uncomfortable hearing about what goes on in someone else's bedroom, how often they make love and what their partner excels at, etc. This definitely crosses the line. Some friendships have allowed for such discussion freely but it is not something a classy woman participates in or initiates. If a woman finds herself having an affair and her friends are also close with her partner, that puts them in an uncomfortable position as they are left to choose who they will 'side with' even though they may want to be loyal to both parties.

2. Salary & Wages-There may be times when someone asks us point blank how much we earn. It really isn't anyone else's business besides ours, our employer, our spouse and the IRS. Revealing information about how much money you bring in (whether we initiate it or it was asked of us) can make others feel less than, jealous, angry and they may act on those feelings such as choose to exclude you from certain functions or in fact the opposite could happen as they include you and then expect you to pick up more of the tab. There is nothing good that can come from it. If the fact that you have a tighter budget than the others in your circle needs to be addressed as they constantly invite you to expensive restaurants and outings, it can be done in a tactful way that will hopefully make them more mindful of ideas such as dinner parties at home, lunch in the park, and other events that won't break the bank or not extend an invitation to those that would make you feel down for not being able to participate in.

3. Addictions- There is nothing wrong with being transparent and sharing with loved ones where you are at should you find yourself consumed by addiction, but it depends on the nature of issue. The more common and acceptable forms are cigarette smoking and food addictions. Those such as gambling, sex, recreational drug use, alcohol, prescription drug use, pornography, etc., should only be shared with others using the utmost discretion. Even though it's only natural we'd feel safe talking to those who love us most, they are by no means qualified to handle such issues, and while they can encourage, inspire and uplift, it's best to seek professional help. It's important to share such things with a spouse of course as these things directly affect them also. I'm not recommended that someone should isolate themselves or live a lie and keep secrets, but caution must be used. I have only experienced dealing with an acquaintance turned friend once in my life who had an alcohol addiction and while she clearly wanted friends that would hold her accountable, it created awkwardness in our friendship as she waffled between asking me to hold her accountable and then when I did (and tried to be as supportive as I could) she became offended and became defensive of her behavior and actions reasoning that I couldn't understand what she was going through. 

What topics do you wish others would use more discretion when sharing? 

Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

We Bloom When We Stop Competing & Comparing

I shared this quote last week on Facebook and thought I'd do the same here for those that missed it as it's a great reminder. I love how nature just exists peacefully with its earthy counterparts and all grow together in harmony benefiting one another. We could benefit from doing the same. 

Healthy competition can be good at times, it helps us grow and strive to learn more, do better, become more skilled /creative/stronger/healthier, and a whole lot more. However, where we run into problems is when we focus our time and energy on comparing who we are with the person next to us and ultimately end up competing with them. We were all designed to be unique with our own special talents and gifts and while some of them may overlap with others, we were meant to bring those gifts forward to not only obtain our own sense of fulfillment and success but to bless others along the way. When we compete and compare with others, we often take the very joy out of what we're looking to accomplish in the first place. 

The only REAL comparison we should have is with the person we were yesterday. Be your beautiful self & bloom! :) 

Thanks for Reading!


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