The following is a guest post from Samantha over at Sparkly and Slimming! We are both participating in a holiday fitness challenge called Elf for Health. Each day there are various challenges that help you exercise your body, mind, or soul. It’s a fun way to stay on track with your fitness goals through the holiday season and connect with some like-minded people. Today’s challenge is “Share Your Expertise.” Samantha is sharing her advice for ringing in a fantastic 2014. Enjoy!
I’m so honored to be guest blogging over here at Cucina Kristina (such a cute name). Kristina and I have been randomly paired up for this blog swap during our “Elf 4 Heath” challenge and I think I speak for both of us when I saw how enlightening the past 3 weeks have been! Today’s challenge is “Share Your Expertise” – which honestly makes you question how much you know, LOL! By day I am a project manager and account manager for an audio/video company. I love my day job – but I doubt anyone wants to hear my expertise in creating project plans or motivating virtual teams. My little piece of the internet is dedicated to slimming down while still remaining sparkly (Sparkly and Slimming) so I could share weight-loss tips but at my core I am someone who thrives on self-improvement and reflection. Today I’d like to share my top 5 things you can do to usher in the New Year in the best fashion possible. Why top 5? Oh because I consider “High Fidelity” one of the best movie ever! Sidenote: If you have not seen this, please Netflix it!
Without further ado….
*Samantha’s* Top 5 Ways to Make 2014 Absolutely Awesome!
5. Reflect on your year honestly. Too often people only remember what happens at the end of a movie, a song, a relationship – and not the whole body of work. Back in January I started jotting down little notes about things that made me happy or people who made me smile during the year. As things got tough or I had a setback I would reread them and remember I was having a bad day – not a bad life. Put your year in perspective. Did you get a raise? Start a new job? Expand your family? Meet someone new? Fall in love? Lose weight (and not find it again)? Did you maintain your status quo of happy? Celebrate that! Not all of life’s moments come in milestones – the day to day happiness needs to be celebrated too.
4. Write down a few things you learned. For me this includes “how to let go, gracefully” and “that damn single, single, double step in Zumba”. Humans are sponges and we don’t realize how much we really do grow and change year to year (as one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin says “The days are long but the years are short”)- make sure you’re constantly learning something new and not staying stagnant. You’re not a tree – if you don’t like you’re surroundings or you need something else to be nurtured you can pick up and move.
3. Fight the urge to hibernate! Maybe you live someplace where it’s 8 degrees right now, maybe you hate the holidays – whatever your reason for staying holed up in the house – don’t do it! Trust me when I say being social is not always the easiest thing, but it’s always rewarding. Some days I feel like I work at “The Office” – therefore a chance to get together for cocktails with coworkers will yield PLENTLY of laughs! Go out – have a drink – get your dance on and take some pictures.
2. Appreciate the people around you (someday they won’t be here). I’ve had a year of loss and it’s moments like these when I can stop and appreciate how lucky I was to have the relations I did and how grateful I am for the time I spent with the people I love. Tell someone you love them and appreciate them. Not only does it make them feel good but it makes you feel good too. Email your best friend and reminisce about “the good old days” when you were young and reckless.
1. Don’t resolve. That’s right – don’t make resolutions. You thought I was going to propose an epic resolution list didn’t you? Ha! I like to keep my readers on their toes. This year I am voting for the “unresolution”. Resolve to happier – then actually work to be happier. Resolve to be more forgiving – then forgive (even when it hurts, even when it’s not fair, even when you didn’t do anything wrong). Resolve to be more patient with yourself and others – then take a deep breath when you’re sitting in ridiculous traffic. You’ll feel better without a resolution list hanging over your head and you’ll allow yourself a fresh start to the year. Who doesn’t love a fresh start?!
I hope you all have a wonderful end of the year – and an even better 2014!
My refrigerator snowman has made a triumphant return!
You could also do this on a door!
I saw this guy circulating around Pinterest last year and loved it! I originally pinned it from Hands On As We Grow. It’s a festive and inexpensive decoration to add to your holiday home.
- Black construction paper
- Orange construction paper
- Holiday wrapping paper
- Double-sided tape
- Circular items for tracing
- Eyes – 2 large circles. I used the outside rim of a quart sized mason jar lid.
- Smile – 5 small circles. I used the inside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.
- Buttons – 4 medium circles. I used the outside rim of a pint sized mason jar lid.
1. Trace your circles onto black construction paper and cut them out. If you do not have mason jars you can use any circular items. Last year, I used wine bottles and coke cans for tracing.
2. Cut a triangle from your orange construction paper.
3. Stick them onto your fridge using double-sided tape.
4. To make the scarf, cut a rectangle from your holiday wrapping paper. Tape it at a slight angle onto your fridge.
Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts:
Ho, Ho, Ho! The holidays are upon us! I just love Christmas, don’t you? I have the easiest holiday craft to share with you that will brighten up your mantel. It is also inexpensive, which is a double bonus.
I got the idea from Daisy Dreaming and followed her instructions exactly. All you do is find an image (we both used this one from ManMade), cut it out, trace it onto your canvas, apply glue and glitter, and let it dry. Easy peasy!
This is the second craft in the Handmade Holidays series that I will be running throughout the month of December. Please share your holiday crafts with me! I’d love to see what you are creating as well.
DIY Glitter Reindeer
From Daisy Dreaming
- Canvas – I used an 11 x 14 canvas
- Mod Podge or glue
- Pencil (for tracing)
- Any Holiday shape
- Print and cut out your shape.
- Trace your shape onto your canvas with pencil.
- Using a Qtip or paintbrush, fill in your shape with Mod Podge or glue.
- Cover your shape completely with glitter and let sit for a few minutes so the glitter can set.
- Shake of the excess. You are going to have A LOT of leftover glitter. You may want to shake it onto a piece of newspaper (you can also use foil, parchment paper, or wax paper) so you can easily funnel the excess back into the bottle.
- Let it dry completely for a few hours and gently shake off any loose glitter over a trashcan.
Check out my other Handmade Holiday posts:
It’s Foodie Pen pal Reveal Day!
We’re all familiar with Foodie Pen Pals around here, right? I took a few months off because I was overwhelmed with work, but I decided to give it a whirl this month and remembered why it was so much fun!
This month I was paired with Anna from New Orleans. She and I had very similar food tastes so shopping for her was a breeze. We’re both gluten-free and dairy-free so I was eagerly awaiting her goodies. When I opened the package she sent, I was SO excited! She had included all of the items necessary to make a full Diwali dinner.
I swear, my Foodie Pen Pals must all be mind readers because every month they hit the mark so perfectly it’s incredible. Not only do I love, love, love Indian food, but about a week before this package arrived, I was Google searching “Paleo Indian recipes” because I am wanting to experiment more with Indian flavors.
Here is a picture of the items that Anna included in my package.
All gluten-free and almost all of these ingredients are Paleo. Double win!
I could smell the tea the moment I opened the envelope! Anna even went as far as to include recipes for all of the above ingredients. So thoughtful! There’s also fresh papadums, chia seeds and coconut, tamarind paste, Chai tea (my favorite kind of tea next to ginger tea!), vegetable biryani sauce mix, and chili chocolate. I can’t wait to have my own Indian feast. Yum!
Wanna be a Foodie Penpal? Find out how! Click the stamp to sign up!
Past Foodie Penpal Reveals:
Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:
- On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
- You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
- The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
- You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
- Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
- Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!
***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved!
I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with advent calendars. I love counting down to Christmas and usually scatter a few around the house every holiday season. I wanted to make an advent calendar this year, but was having a hard time coming up with treats to include each day. My husband isn’t a big sweets person, and I didn’t want to start every morning in the month of December off with a piece of chocolate. Although, thinking about it in retrospect that might not have been such a bad idea!
Then, I found the coolest craft on Pinterest. Seriously. Coolest. Craft. EVER. Ready? DIY scratch-off cards! Thank you, Lindsay from The Story of Pat and Lindsay for this! How perfect! This is exactly the type of thing I was looking for. She has some really cute printable Christmas “lotto” tickets in her Etsy store. These would make super cute stocking stuffers!
My husband and I dig trivia so I decided to make little trivia cards with a scratch-off box that revealed the answer. There are over 100 Christmas trivia questions here that range from historical trivia to movie trivia.
To make the scratch-offs:
1. Cover the area you want to scratch-off with white crayon.
2. Mix 2 parts silver acrylic paint with 1 part liquid dish soap. Note: a little goes a long way!
3. Apply the paint over the white crayon and let dry completely. Depending on how thick you make your coats of paint, this could take a few hours.
I also created little envelopes from wrapping paper to house the cards. Then, I used paperclips to fasten them to a piece of string and hung them above our window.
To make the envelopes
1. Start with a square piece of paper. I used a 6 in. x 6 in. piece of paper for this and it made a 4.25 in. x 3 in. envelope.
I used wrapping paper to make these, but any type of paper will do the trick.
2. Fold the edges into the center.
3. Fold the bottom up and tuck the corner flap into the envelope. Seal the sides with glue or double-stick tape.
Fold the bottom up
Tuck the flap into the envelope.
4. Fold the top down and seal.
This is the first craft in the Handmade Holidays series that I will be running throughout the month of December. Please share your holiday crafts with me! I’d love to see what you are creating as well.
I am on the hunt to expand my Paleo breakfast ideas past fried eggs. I love eggs, but sometimes you just gotta change things up. I am still experimenting with this idea, but I was pretty surprised by the way these turned out so I thought I would share the test recipe with you. While browsing Amazon the other day, I came across pumpkin powder. Pumpkin powder is dehydrated pumpkin that is ground into a fine powder and can be used in place of flour. I was rather intrigued and decided to experiment with making my own.
Unfortunately, my local grocery store was totally out of pumpkins, so I picked up a butternut squash instead. Close enough! I wanted to experiment with making tortillas. Traditional corn tortillas are made from corn, water, and lime. Flour tortillas are made from flour, salt, water, and lard. Therefore, it stands to reason that you could make tortillas from any flour, right?
The result was pretty awesome even though my tortilla recipe still needs a bit of work. I think I made this first batch too thick because they split apart when I picked them up and didn’t hold together like a traditional tortilla. However, they tasted great so I just ate my breakfast with a knife and fork, tostada-style. I might try adding a binder (flax seed, perhaps?) to the next batch and see if that helps. I’ll keep you posted!
Butternut squash toastadas!
To Make Butternut Squash Flour
Peel, seed, and cube the squash and spread it onto a dehydrator. You want small, evenly sized cubes. The pieces took FOREVER to dehydrate. I had them in there for close to 24 hours. Next time, I am going to shred the squash and see if that helps speed up the process!
When they are fully dehydrated, add to a blender and grind into a powder. This also took a bit of time because I have a pretty cheap blender. I imagine a VitaMix could do the trick in a few seconds! I am going to move the VitaMix to the top of my Christmas Wish List.
Butternut Squash Tortillas (Test Recipe)
In a bowl, combine 1/3 cup butternut squash flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add warm water by the tablespoon and mix until you get a doughy consistency. For me, 3 tablespoons was too little, but 4 tablespoons was too much. I had to play with this and add a little bit more flour to form a dough. Like I said… I am still experimenting!
Divide dough into 2 balls. Place dough between 2 pieces of waxed paper and press with a tortilla press. If you do not have a tortilla press, you can roll these out by hand. Toast the tortillas in a skillet, about 4 minutes on each side.
Butternut Squash Toastadas
Assemble the toastadas by placing two tortillas on a plate. Top with your favorite toppings.
In the photo above: 2 butternut squash tortillas, shredded chicken, tomatillo salsa, pickled carrots, and pumpkin seeds.
Other Paleo topping ideas: Shredded pork, ground beef, eggs, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, cilantro, fresh lime, onions, peppers, and thinly sliced radish.
Have you ever used squash flour?
Confession: I’ve never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.
It’s true! In general, I’ve never been a big fan of Starbucks coffee, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have managed to miss the PSL craze year after year. However, people seem to go absolutely bananas over this thing. Why? I don’t get it.
I decided to investigate, and was shocked as to what I found out. Granted, most people are not freaks about reading ingredients and most folks don’t pay attention to things like sugar content, but I am, and I do, and my reaction was something like this:
First, the pumpkin spice latte contains no actual pumpkin. It’s basically a mix of espresso and high fructose corn syrup. The average size PSL has 49g of sugar and 51g of carbs! Holy. Moly. That is more sugar than a regular can of Coke (39g), more sugar than a bag of Skittles (47g), more sugar than a can of Red Bull (27g), and more carbs than a Big Mac (46g). Y-I-K-E-S! And, don’t think those numbers drastically improve by using non-fat milk or ordering it sans whipped cream because they don’t.
Sorry, I’ll stop being a total buzz kill and get to the recipe!
I discovered this recipe when I was trying to make Pumpkin Pie Popsicles for a dinner party. I had some leftover popsicle mix, stored it in a mason jar, added it to my coffee the following morning. WOW! Yum, yum, yum!
Homemade Paleo Pumpkin Pie Coffee
Note: This recipe will fill a pint-sized mason jar. I was adding this to a 16 ounce travel mug and it easily lasted a full work week and then some!
Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free… we’re taking care of all dietary restrictions in one fell swoop!
- 2 cups coconut milk – (I use Silk brand, not full fat coconut milk)
- 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil (optional)
- 1/2 can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of high quality sea salt
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week.
- Use in place of creamer in your favorite coffee.
Note: The pumpkin puree will settle in the bottom of your mug if you do not drink this quickly. Have a spoon on hand to give it a stir if you are savoring the flavor.
Also, apparently vegans are up in arms because the current Starbucks PSL cannot be made vegan. Guess what? The above recipe is vegan! Pass it on
So many recipes in the Paleosphere call for ghee. What’s ghee? Ghee is another name for clarified butter! What’s clarified butter? The stuff that you dip your fingers into at a seafood restaurant… or lobster tail if you are trying to exhibit table manners. Seriously, how tasty is clarified butter? So tasty!
Wait? Butter is Paleo? No. Butter is not Paleo-friendly because it comes from cream, which contains casein and lactose, but when you make ghee, you remove the milk proteins and are left with a delicious nutty fat that is perfect for roasting, sautéing, searing, stir-frying, or melting and drizzling over your favorite veggie.
ANYWAY… it turns out that ghee is incredibly easy (and quick!) to make. I made this really early in the morning because I am a freak and like to wake up before the sun. True story. Then, I used it to make steak and eggs and baked apples. I even thought about putting some of it in my coffee and making Paleo butter coffee, but I thought that might be going a little overboard for one morning. Maybe I will try that next week.
Ingredients and Supplies:
- 1 pound butter
- Glass jar for storing the ghee – I used a pint Mason jar
- Wooden spoon/Solid spoon to skim the foam
1. Over a low heat, melt the butter in your pot.
Use a low heat so your butter does not burn.
2. Try to avoid stirring your butter as it is melting because you want to milk solids to foam up and separate from the fats. When it starts to look like the picture below, use a wooden or solid spoon to skim the foam off the top.
Not stirring is so hard
You might have to do this a few times to get all of the milk proteins out.
Just keep skimming, just keep skimming…
3. When it starts to look like the photo above, let it boil for 10-12 minutes. The milk solids may start to brown and float to the side. That’s ok! You want that. That is giving the ghee a deep nutty flavor.
4. When it the bubbling slows and the browned milk solids start to fall to the bottom of the pan, your ghee is ready to be strained.
Strain any browned bits out.
5. If you are using a mason jar, place 3 layers of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and loosely screw on the lid. You want to make sure that the cheesecloth has a little give to it. Notice in the photo above the gap between the cloth and the rim of the lid. Strain any browned bits or foam out.
This will be HOT. Do not grab it right away!
6. Discard the cheesecloth. BE CAREFUL! The rim, jar, and ghee will be hot! Let it cool for a bit before you start to handle it.
When it cools, it will solidify and turn a nice silky color. You can just scoop out however much you need and start cooking. Since the milk proteins have been removed, you do not need to refrigerate your ghee; however, I do to be on the safe side.
Now, stop reading and go make some ghee!
That’s it! I’ve had it! I’m going gluten-free and no one can stop me!
I decided to go gluten-free for a month last summer to see what all the buzz was about. It seemed that overnight every restaurant in Chicago was rolling out a gluten-free menu and grocery stores were dedicating entire aisles to gluten-free items. I never dreamed this little experiment would impact my life as drastically as it did.
After two weeks of being gluten-free, I felt amazing. I was sleeping less but sleeping better. For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to get a good night’s sleep and what it felt like to wake up feeling refreshed. I had a ton of energy, and I never felt overly full after meals. When the month was up, I wondered if it was the elimination of gluten that was making me feel this way or the fact that I had replaced glutenous items with fresh fruits and vegetables. Whatever it was, I was feeling great and decided that I would try to remain as gluten-free as possible from there on out.
Ever since then ANY time I have had gluten it has been bad news. My stomach cramps, I feel like a rock is sitting in my stomach all day long, I have “digestive issues,” I toss and turn at night unable to sleep, my energy plummets, and I just don’t feel good. At first, I thought it was in my head, but this has happened often enough over the last year that I honestly think I am gluten sensitive. In fact, I think many people are sensitive to gluten and aren’t aware of it because gluten is in so many foods we are accustomed to eating.
This weekend was the last straw. I fell victim to the sweets table at a baby shower. The sweets table always gets me! However, the 45 seconds of joy I get when I eat a cupcake or a cookie doesn’t outweigh the hours afterwards that I feel like crap. After a totally sleepless Sunday night, I woke up Monday morning and decided to go completely gluten-free. Forever. No more cheat days. Done.
I am toying with the idea of pulling my pre-Paleo and non gluten-free posts down, but I like the idea that they are here and representative of my journey. The last thing I want is for people to come here and feel I am misrepresenting myself! I’ll probably keep them up for now and add a disclaimer to them, but I want you to know that every recipe I post from this point forward will be 100% gluten-free. I may post some recipes that are not strict Paleo occasionally, but I promise you won’t find a lick of gluten on Cucina Kristina ever again.
Here are some of my favorite gluten-free blogs.
Hello, Internet! I have missed you. I have been MIA on the blog for the last six weeks because I have been furiously trying to find a job. I never dreamed it would be as hard as it was to get a teaching job, but I am happy to report that I will be teaching 7th/8th grade Language Arts come fall (read: in 2 weeks. Eek!). Woo hoo!
I have a pin board called For My Future Classroom. It was a space for me to collect a bunch of teaching-related ideas since I didn’t know what grade I would be teaching up until a few days ago. Now that I know, I have a new board called Teaching Middle School and have been furiously trying to weed through my old pins and find new pins. This got me thinking about the state of all of my other pin boards, and I went a little organization crazy. When I first joined Pinterest, I would pin things without verifying the content or the links. Thus, I had an unintentionally large collection of pins that led nowhere. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a fabulous pin and having it lead to nowhere!
I spent a good amount of last week cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I worked very hard verifying links, writing meaningful comments on each images, and choosing engaging cover images. I still have a few boards to go through, but I am about 85% finished. I hope you enjoy my shiny, new, well-organized collection of pins!
While going through my Gettin’ Crafty board, I stumbled upon a pin for a heart-shaped origami bookmark.
I love reading!
I followed this video tutorial from The Cheese Thief using a piece of paper that I cut from a magazine advertisement. She recommends using a 4 inch x 4 inch square in her video, but I found this to be slightly too small to manage the smaller folds. I used a 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch square and felt that the extra half-inch really made things easier for my stubby fingers.
This bookmark is holding a spot in The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, which I HIGHLY recommend if you would like to get stronger, leaner (or bigger if you are looking to add muscle mass), faster, and more fit.