Sunday Snaps, 9-7-14

Can you believe that its “fall”? I am using fall in parentheses because although NCAA and NFL games are officially underway, it is still in the triple digits in New Mexico. Tall boots are quite possibly my most favorite thing to wear, and it looks like I won’t be breaking into those for awhile. My friend from grad school, Emily, and I used to count down the days until we could wear boots, and we declared it a rule that we couldn’t wear them until it dropped below 70 degrees for the daytime high. At this rate, I won’t be wearing boots until December. Emily is now living in Minnesota, so she probably broke out her boots in July. I’ll have to call her to verify.

Emily and I in our favorite boots, road tripping to Atlanta. 

Emily and I in our favorite boots, road tripping to Atlanta. 

It has been so hot lately, that Christopher and I decided to wake up early yesterday to go on a morning hike and beat the heat. (You’ve already seen these pictures if you follow me on Instagram.) We woke up as it was raining, and so the effect we had was hiking throughout the cloud at a mild elevation at Dripping Springs:


Gorgeous. It reminded me of my visit to New Zealand in 2005.

We’ve also been doing lots of other hikes in the area, and they have been breathtakingly gorgeous. Here are some shots from Picacho Peak:





The start of fall also means that I started my new job as a school SLP, after switching from a medically based position. (I’ll be sure to post more on this later!) I think every fellow SLP will find this, ridiculously true, meme hilarious:

The end of summer and the start of fall means some of the best produce. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, tomatoes, okra, and apples:

Remember how I moved 6 weeks ago? Well, I’m still unpacking. I’ve done most of it, but between starting a job, setting up events, cooking paleo meals, and starting some house updates, I’ve gotten a little sidetracked. Moving. Is. The. Worst. A good thing, however, about moving, is getting to sort through things again and really determine what to keep and what to part with. I clearly did not part with any of my costume jewelry, but I thoroughly enjoyed trying to organize them all:

Have I mentioned the AMAZING artwork here? (I am so far from the Smithsonian.)

I scored this super cute apron at a Salsa Fest I went to 2 weeks ago from a clothing line called Seven Sisters. The owner of the little shop, is so incredibly nice, and I loved everything she had for sale. Anthropologie, watch out: 

Remember that chalkboard I keep around to post motivating quotes and phrases? If not, here’s a reminder:

Well, that chalkboard has been compromised. Downside of living with a boy:

I tried the Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread from PaleOMG’s cookbook, and it is amazing. I highly suggest making it. It didn’t last long, and I will probably make another 2 loaves this week. Also, cinnamon is a fantastic fall flavor.

To finish, I leave you with this thought I’ve been ruminating over lots:

Happy Sunday and have an enjoyable start of the week!

Top 12 things to Expect When Going Paleo

Hey readers, guess what? I’ve been Paleo for a full year now! Can you believe it??? I can’t. Time flies, really, but I’ve had so many changes in my life that have come from taking on a healthier lifestyle. Case in point:

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 

I get asked all the time what its like to be Paleo, and what it was like to first start Paleo. All. The. Time. Friends, coworkers, and random strangers- I kid you not- approach me, text me, email me, about what its like. This happens so often, that I’ve decided to write more helpful posts about being and making the transition over to Paleo. So today, as part of a series of posts celebrating my one-year Paleoversary, I’m going to share a post on what to expect when you first turn Paleo. Here’s my top 12, in no particular order:  

1. Initially you will probably feel sick.

Everyone who has been Paleo for a few months raves about their energy levels, their mental clarity, their better sleep, increased productivity, etc. All these benefits are absolutely true, but the first few weeks are really horrible.  Personally, I felt like I had the “Paleo Flu” for 3 solid weeks, but once I was through that, I felt great, and continued to feel great. You just need to stick it out.

2. I felt constantly hungry at first

I could never eat enough the first week I went Paleo. The first two days I felt fantastic, and then I remember clearly waking up day 3 and feeling like I had a bad hangover. I was nauseous and ravenous at the same time, and the things that would quell my hunger were foods that were too rich back then for my sensitive stomach: almond butter, avocados, steak. Vegetables wouldn’t do a thing for me, but slowly, I started to become satiated by vegetable-based meals, something that I had never experienced before.

3. Its not all about bacon.

I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to say it again. Paleo emphasizes the elimination of known inflammatory foods (dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, starches), and promotes a vegetable-based diet with lots healthy fats and proteins to promote health and decrease illness. I am not positive why the logo for Paleo became bacon. Yes, Paleo allows bacon, but so do other diets. The majority of Paleo recipes don’t even involve bacon, but somehow the catchphrase for Paleo has become “you can eat all the bacon you want”. That’s just not true, you still need to be mindful about eating too much of anything, including bacon.

4. Traveling is really hard

Just try finding Paleo food in an airport. It is getting a little better in some airports (For example, Terminal 1 in D.C.’s Reagan has a whole new organic and natural foods stand, Austin and Tampa have convenience stores with a couple natural options. Houston has a restaurant in American Airline’s terminal that has gluten-free, organic, vegetable-filled pizzas.). Unfortunately, almost everything in most airport restaurants contains some form of added sugar, grain, dairy, or soy. Finding meat that is grass-fed is nearly impossible. When I have flown in the past, I have broken down and eaten anything I wanted, but then immediately regretted it. Now, I travel with snacks on hand: hardboiled eggs, nuts, Larabars, dehydrated vegetables, kale chips, and my Tuesday Oatmeal.

5. People are either curious or judgmental

I’ve noticed that once you decide to follow a Paleo or primal-based lifestyle, most people think that you are judging them for their conventional or non-Paleo diet choices. When friends have approached me on this subject, I explain to them that I am making the best decision for myself, and I do not think that my choices are meant to be followed by everyone. I reassure that I think everyone needs to make their own decisions for themselves, as diet choices are actually quite cultural and experiential. In my own story, there are many factors that have prompted me to choose this lifestyle (More herehere, and here), but and I understand that everyone’s dietary choices are their own. I also explain to people that I am not 100% Paleo all the time. Sometimes I just really want a sugary, frosting, and sprinkle topped cupcake. For some reason, this weakness reassures people that I am still empathetically human.

6. The Paleo community is incredibly supportive

Have a question about something Paleo related that you can’t find? The resources, chat rooms, and articles on Mark’s Daily Apple and The Bulletproof Executive are both fantastic. Want to learn new information? Check out the podcasts The Fat Burning Man, Primal Blueprint Podcast,  The Bulletproof Executive Podcast, or Balanced Bites. They range from easy to understand to extremely technical. All a great source of information, and are especially great to listen to if you have a work commute.

7. You will be going to the grocery store all the time

Since Paleo emphasizes a lot of vegetables, and vegetables without pesticides or preservatives nonetheless, they don’t last as long as something like, say, a box of crackers. Organic produce doesn’t last as long since it is not treated, so your vegetables have a high probability of going bad in a week or less. To extend the time of your goodies, you can buy from a famer’s market: if the product comes directly from the farm to you, there is less time that your lovingly-grown produce would be sitting on the shelf at your grocery store, meaning more time for you to hold onto your purchase before it goes bad.

8. Ketosis is the gold star, but is not easy

Paleo emphasizes cycling in and out of ketosis, a fancy way of saying that your body has been primed to run on fat stores rather than immediate food intake. There are many benefits of ketosis. For example, that hangry feeling if you don’t eat according to your schedule? That doesn’t happen in ketosis. When your body needs energy, ketosis allows your body to access fat stores, which allows stabilization of things like energy, mood, insulin levels, and hunger levels. Ketosis also allows your body to finally eat that extra layer of fat around your stomach, thighs, or butt. This is wonderful, but ketosis is hard to obtain. In order to reach ketosis, you need to decrease carb intake, as this mechanism prompts your body to look for energy in fat rather than sugar. (Your body breaks down carbs to glucose, which raises insulin levels.) If the sugar, or carbs, is readily available, your body will never look for fat initially; our bodies are lazy like that. When you’re trying to get into ketosis, it is really hard at first, especially if you’re a woman, but it does get easier. Just give yourself some time.

9. Do your research

If you decide to try out Paleo, do your research first. Know good websites for recipes, look at the role between food allergens, inflammation, and degenerative diseases. Understand how your body processes nutrients, and really try to understand the differences between grain-free, gluten-free, and low carb. Look for examples of people that love Paleo and people that hate Paleo. Understand how Paleo can affect things like relationships, moods, finances, and sleep schedules. Research what items you may be able to buy in bulk to cut costs, and try to truly understand how Paleo is a lifestyle change more so than just a diet. Doing all this research ensures that you have a solid basis for why you have made the decisions that you have when you decide to go Paleo. This will come in handy when you are struggling with not eating a roll from the breadbasket when out at your favorite restaurant: you will understand that you are not just practicing deprivation, but rather, you are embracing a healthy lifestyle choice that has implications past the first course. Having reasons and deep knowledge as to why you are doing Paleo only increases that you will stay true to your decision in the long term, but will also support you mentally and emotionally when you feel deprived.

10. Pick an approach that is best for you

So you love everything you have found out and researched about Paleo, but discover that you just can’t do it. That’s ok! Modify it to what makes you the best, healthiest version of you. Everyone is different, you know yourself best. An informed decision is never the wrong one, as long as you are acting with fidelity to yourself.

11. Do it with someone.

There is nothing like teamwork and companionship, especially when making a big lifestyle change. Having someone to talk to and confer with is invaluable.

12. Its worth it.

As hard and as time-consuming as Paleo can be, it is so worth it. I hear from people all the time that they feel amazing, they no longer feel sick, or they never realized how bad they were feeling before because they’ve never felt so good now.  Paleo is so intimating at first, but you will get the hang of it. Saying no to certain foods will soon be a habit, not a decision. Cooking and meal prep will get easier and faster. Feeling awesome will become habitual instead of something that only happens on certain days. Oh, and looking awesome? That will never get old.

Who can resist a diet where you can eat  these guys

Who can resist a diet where you can eat these guys

Exciting Announcements and a BIG Thank You!

Happy Monday night! I wanted to write a quick post to update you all on some exciting announcements!

Have you guys noticed a new page on the website? This new events page is a calendar that lists, you guessed it, upcoming events. I’ve recently been asked to teach a few paleo cooking classes and speak at seminars on everything ranging from brewing Kombucha to grain-free pasta substitutes to the link between cognition and nutrition. I’ve added this page so you can see when, where, and what I’m speaking about. I would love to meet and see you if you are in the area! The calendar doesn’t have any events listed yet, but the dates will be finalized by the end of this week. The calendar will list all the information about each event, and it even has a button allowing you to import the event details directly onto your own personal calendar with just the click of a button. (Technology is so cool.) I will let you know when those dates are up!

Second, I’m excited to announce that this week, I will be guest blogging on the fantastic website Health Starts in the Kitchen. The writer of the blog, Haley, is such a kind and clever blogger, and I’m beyond excited that she invited me to post on her behalf. I’ll be posting on this Wednesday, August 20th, and I will let you know when that post is up and ready to read. In the meantime, here a little teaser of what I will be writing about:

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th. 

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th. 

Guess what? There are even more announcements. I know I know, this is becoming a long update, but I'm trying to not bombard your email inboxes with bunch of small updates throughout the week. I hate junk mail just as much as you do. Bear with me while I tell you guys everything all at once. But first, let me take a selfie…..

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My one-year anniversary of becoming Paleo is approaching, and I’m in the middle of writing some posts to celebrate. (How has it been a full year already?!) Among other things, I am now coining the word Paleoversary. Soon, it will make it into the dictionary right next to gazillion and selfie. Webster, watch out.

Lastly, I wanted to take the time to thank each and every one of my readers. I’ve noticed a big jump in subscribers and views especially over the past two weeks, and it makes me incredibly happy that people (other than my mom and my dog) read South of Vanilla regularly. Also exciting? I am now the first result when you search for South of Vanilla on Google. This gives me motivation to keep writing posts, and I’m starting to learn more and more from the site statistics about which recipes readers enjoy reading the most. (Currently, 67% of you love my Paleo Protein Pancake recipe the best.) Thank you everyone so much for reading! Please make sure to post comments or ask questions if you need any help in your cooking or paleo endeavors! I’m always willing to help J

Hope everyone is enjoy these last sun-filled summer days.




Sunday Snaps 7-20-14 (One Day Late)

It has been a hectic week here at South of Vanilla. If you didn’t see the big announcement, I’ll fill you in: I moved from D.C. to New Mexico.

As you can imagine, my week was full packing, moving boxes, goodbyes, and doing some last minute things in the DMV area that I’ve been meaning to get to…

…Like a road trip to the eastern shore of Maryland where we stayed on Assateague Island. The island has been on my bucket list ever since I heard that there were wild horses. (Where didn’t I come here when I was 10 and going through my horse obsession phase???!)

I heard from a coworker that a Spanish ship carrying a shipment of horses crashed on the barrier island, leaving the horses to roam free and create their own herds. I tried to verify this on the internets, and found similar stories, but also found more reasonable stories stating that farmers let horses roam free within the natural barriers of the island before it was a national park. I prefer the former, romantic story, so that is the one in which I will believe.

Also on this road trip? Crab Balls. A cuisine so descriptively named and so incredibly delicious. How had I not heard of this before? I have no idea. But they. Are. Delicious. Farewell crab balls. I hope to see you again soon.

Every time I move, I debate throwing out all my stuff and just starting over again. It’s a lot of work to move, and it’s a lot of work to have stuff. Once I am all packed, I feel a sense of accomplishment, until I realize I have to unpack all the work I just did. Which is why I haven’t yet. Not even the suitcase I have full of clothes that I brought ahead of all my other stuff. Everything is just in a huge pile on the floor. (I can’t find anything, so I’ve resorted to just wearing the same two things for the past 3 days. I am full of logic.) I’ve also decided that the best place to eat is on an old trunk that has somehow become a table. So there’s that. #movingsucks

Right when I got here, I went to the Farmer's Market and bought, among other things, these fabulous pasture-rasied, organic, grain-fed humanely raised eggs. You cannot tell me the color of and taste of these eggs are the same as conventionally raised ones. No filter, ladies and gents.

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Last night, CK and I went to some natural hot springs against a beautiful mountain backdrop to relax after an overwhelming couple of days. My ginger self, being super sensitive to temperature changes, loved them. Until I didn’t.

Hope everyone’s week is treating them well!










Land of Enchantment: another huge announcement

Well, I’ve got some news here at South of Vanilla. It might be a little sudden for you guys, but…

…I’ve moved. I have left D.C.

I’ve meant to post this earlier, I really did. When I found out about the move, I decided that I needed to make sure that I told friends, family, work, etc. in person before they found out via social media, word of mouth, or the blog. I succeeded exceptionally at telling everyone personally about my move…. but then moving across country got the best of me. Saying goodbye to friends and the city, packing up my apartment, finishing up my current job, arranging my new job, and arranging moving details in less than a month proved to be very challenging. Near the end, I was throwing things into boxes haphazardly and bribing friends to help me take apart furniture in exchange for alcohol. (P.S. Thanks Sandra!)

So where exactly did I go? I moved to New Mexico. As in the home of the best salsa I have ever had, and more green chilies than I have ever seen.   New Mexico, as in the home of more sand I have ever laid my eyes on, and more panoramic vistas than I ever could have imagined. It’s a big change for me.

So why did I leave D.C.? There are a lot of reasons, many of which I hope to touch on in future posts, but mostly to be with my man, a new job opportunity, and the need for some changes in my life. Yes, I loved D.C., and I still very much do, but things fell into alignment and I made the decision to leave a city I passionately love in exchange for a new adventure. Moving is always hard, and saying goodbye was extremely difficult. D.C. has been such a good city for me: it gave me my master’s, introduced me to some of my best friends, taught me the importance of remaining true to myself, and showed me the way to live a life full of motivation, passion, and dedication. I have learned so many life lessons in my years in D.C., and I can say with confidence that my time in D.C. has challenged me to grow, thrive, and develop into the person I think I was meant to be. I do not think a different city could have done this for me. I still have so many memories: going on long runs around the monuments, 4 a.m. nights in Adams Morgan and H street, my first half marathon, incredible restaurants, Nats games, and infinite amounts of museums. I’ve also been incredibly blessed to make the most of my time while living on the east coast; I’ve traveled across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia.  I’ve seen a lot. I’ve done a lot. And now I get to do a whole lot more.

So what does this mean for the blog? I will continue posting, and my new (day) job actually gives me a lot more freedom and flexibility, so I hope to be posting more on the blog, especially as it seems to be gaining more and more momentum. (Ummm, I am so excited about this!) Since this move was a quick one, I actually have a lot of recipes and corresponding photos that were taken in D.C. so you might be hearing some stories that took place on the East Coast even though I am very much in the Southwest. Also…. I’ve made it my mission to learn how to cook authentic Mexican food (I’ve already had 2 burritos and 2 types of salsa since I’ve been here, and it hasn’t even been 72 hours #paleofail.), so I will hopefully be posting some recipes for Paleo Mexican dishes in the future. Also, if you want to keep up immediately on my life and blog, follow me on Instagram. (I am addicted to Instagram.)

When I was little, my mom always told me to make the best of situations and opportunities; I should experience all that I could because I never knew when things would change. When I was 5, I thought this meant to always color with the prettiest crayon. When I was 12, I thought it meant that I needed to figure out if I should focus full time on my rock collection, my shell collection, or my sand collection. (Don’t ask.) In college, I thought my mom’s persevering advice meant to drink every shot given to me (Sorry, Mom), and in grad school, I thought I needed study as hard as I could to ensure I could get the most out my degree. Currently at 26, I’ve settled on an interpretation, for now, that is guiding me to deeply explore every aspect presented to me at the moment, whether that be relationships, jobs, food, cooking, or traveling; I’ve decided that I want to live a genuine, passionate, creative, and curious life.  New Mexico will let me do this on many different levels, and like my mom always says, you never know how long you’ll be in place, so explore it while you can. I suppose that this is a Carpe Diem Wanderlust outlook on life, and seeing how well this has served me in the past, I never want to give that up.

Here’s to the next adventure. Thanks for joining me.


Have You Ever Not Eaten?

Have you ever not eaten?

Of course! You ran out of time to eat lunch before class, you woke up too late to eat breakfast. Maybe you have had the flu so badly that even the thought of a bowl of soup makes your stomach quiver. We’ve all been there.

Have you ever not eaten for weeks? Months? How about years?

No, if you’re reading this, you have likely have not gone quite tat long without eating. But I see people every day that haven’t. I am a medical Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), and I work in a setting where I regularly diagnose and treat people who, like my title implies, have speech and language disorders. However, an SLP does much more than speech and language; about 75% of my caseload is actually treating swallowing and cognitive disorders. I see people that cannot eat, that have poor memories. I’ll attempt to restore their swallow function, even if that only means they have a few tablespoons of pureed chicken at a time. (I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at applesauce or mashed potatoes again, ugh.) Sometimes I’ll see people immediately following an infection, a surgery, or a broken bone, and in a few weeks, they’ve bounced right back to where they were: happy, independent, and ready to go home. More often than not, the people I treat have neurodegenerative diseases. This means that they won’t get better, and the things I do either slow down decline, or establish adaptations and modifications that help them become the most independent as possible. Key words: as possible.

No one thinks that these diseases will find them. No one thinks that. How can you, when at 19 you can stay up all night drinking red bulls and vodkas, but can still rally for that 9am class? How can you think that your body won’t deteriorate when you can log 8 miles on that trail, when you can eat 3 slices of cake and still look fabulous on the beach in that bikini? No one thinks that these debilitating, terrible health problems or diagnoses will happen to them, and trust me, you never want them to. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Think about that for a while, mull it over. Or better, yet, take a trip to a nursing home, or better yet, a dementia lockdown unit.

As I work with my patients daily, I learn a lot about them. I’ve heard stories about their lives, their pasts, their families. I feel like I’ve spent many accumulated holidays with them, in a sense: I know about the time Joe slid down the banister and needed 6 stitches in his forehead. I know about the time Mary eloped with the man 12 years her senior. I know the color of the dress their granddaughter wore to prom. I know the names of their children, their grandchildren, their pastor. I know the places they traveled to on their honeymoon, although now, somehow 10 years has passed as a widow. “Where does this time go?” I know what crops their daddy raised on that farm in South Carolina; sometimes I can envision those tobacco leaves growing so large and strong, so leafy and verdant that they could wrap around someone like an earthy, flat blanket, tying their body to the land.

I know the stories of the people my patients have loved and lost. My patients have shared family recipes with me, they’ve told me some of the skeletons in their closest.

 “How long have I been here? Is it still 2006?”

“You’ve been here awhile, ma’am”, is now my standard response. No use in breaking their heart. I know they’ll forget new facts, its only a matter of time, but I am convinced that the devastation stays, that it dwells deeply and roots at the bottom tip of the heart, rooting until it becomes a sense of desperate intuition,  a gnawing sense of unease and omniscience. There’s something to be said of where the memory of a feeling is housed.

How can someone not remember the past 7 years of their life, but they can remember the details of a night 40 years ago? Why do they tell me all these things? I still don’t know, but sometimes I feel as if they are trusting their memories to me, using me as some external hard drive, knowing that as their memory fails, mine grows stronger, linking my past experiences to theirs. Linking my current, dynamic,  life into their past, immovable, memories.

I know my patient’s favorite foods, their hobbies, their regrets. I know when they’re going to have a bad day, or even a good day, when who they are (were?) comes charging back to their body so suddenly and brightly, that their new diseased shell seems to fall right off, if only for a few minutes.  One of my patients, a man in his early 40s and former chef, had brain damage so badly that he couldn’t remember how to read, write, or his own address, but when I told him I had been trying to recreate my own Paleo version of Chick-fil-a, he immediately told honed in on the ingredients I had been missing. (He was right.) 20 minutes later he didn’t remember our conversation.

I’ve sat with patients who have a memory of about 10 seconds, where their life resets over and over and over again, day after day:

“What day is it?”

“April 14th”

“Oh, ok. Look at that sun!”

“What day is it?? Wednesday?”

“Its April 14th, and look how nice that sun is”

“Ohh., you read my mind! I was going to say something about the sun!”


“What day is it?”

I’ve been in rooms with patients that I’ve treated everyday for months, their mind so eaten away that every time they see me is like meeting a new person. “Hello, its nice to meet you! Where are you from? You look so familiar!” But amidst the memory loss and confusion, my patients still have haunting moments of clarity. I once had a patient, in a lucid moment, exclaim: “I’m tired, dear. Don’t you see? What you’re doing is just prolonging my death, and I know its your job, but I’m going to die. It won’t be now, but I wish I could go. Jesus won’t accept me if I take my own life, so I’ll just wait here and be tired. I’m so tired.”

I’ve been in the room, several times now, where my patients start talking to their dead relatives. I almost feel as though I’m intruding, tiptoeing in on a very intimate moment.

I’ve treated patients who haven’t been able to eat for weeks, months, years, because their stroke has left the nerves and electrical wiring in their body unable to coordinate the muscles to get liquids or foods down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room when a patient who is on a feeding tube, unable to eat, begs of me: “just one sip of water. Just one.”

I stand in exact juxtaposition to my patients: I happen to have an amazing memory. What did you have for dinner the night of December 28th, 2001? Chances are, if I was with you and you tell me where we were, I can recall it. What did so and so say to you during history class our Sophomore year? I probably remember that too. That argument we had last week? I can recite both sides. Verbatim. I happen to have a semi-photographic memory. I say semi- because it takes a good amount of effort for me to be able to access this skill, although when I really need to remember something, I can pull up a visual “map” of it, which always leads me to the answer.  Somehow, I didn’t even know that this skill could be further developed, shaped and moveable to help me succeed in other areas of my life. I realized I could manipulate my cognition, to make it more functional powerful, to succeed academically in senior year of college, which, not coincidentally, is the year I became serious about removing toxins, pesticides, and artificial foods from my diet.  I do think these things are linked.

All of these issues I’ve touched on in this post are heartbreaking. They are heart breaking and preventable. Many of our western diet choices result in the presence of these diseases; the foods that we eat are fueling them, planting the seeds in us, even now and 15, 25, 35 years of age, for neuro-degeneration. I fear that our culture is beginning to accept that dementias and Alzheimer’s and memory troubles are just normal aging. They are not. So I am begging of you: please take care of yourself now. Please put down those energy drinks, those fast food burgers, those sodas, and artificial sweeteners. Please stop telling yourself that the Standard American Diet guidelines have your best health interests at heart. Please look at the financial backers of food laws and regulations passed in congress. Please take ownership of what you put into your body: what you choose to either fight disease or enable it. Please, I am begging you, eat healthy, eat whole. Get rid of toxins in your food, and eat cleanly as possible.  

You deserve better, your future deserves better. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Doing my SLP thing. 

Doing my SLP thing. 

Sunday Snaps, 7-13-2014

I’m trying something new here on the blog, and I’m a bit excited about it. Mostly because I get to write more blog posts, but also because it’s a surefire way to avoid writer’s block.  (According to my fellow bloggers, anyway. I’ll let you know if their advice is true J )

I’ve decided to create a weekly post, “Sunday Snaps”, where I will share all the fun, random snapshots I’ve taken throughout the week that perhaps don’t make it onto the blog during my regular posts. I’m surprised I haven’t done this earlier, because everyone knows that I love taking pictures of things. Camera phones were probably not supposed to fall into the hands of people like me.  

But seriously. Really.

Without further ado, I present to you the inaugural Sunday Snaps! 

Sunday Snaps, 7-13-14

I went to a birthday BBQ , where the birthday boy was turning a certain age. Here was his eloquent banner, and I think it deserves a regular place in their home:

And they have the cutest dog….who I kept slipping food to under the table. If you’re reading this Dianne and Todd, sorry about that. I just couldn’t resist this face:

My best friend was going through her parent’s basement this week, and found this darling photo of us. We have been looking for evidence of this night for many years, and this is the only piece of evidence we have of our clever but embarrassing Halloween costumes circa 2000? 2001? Not sure, but they are AWESOME:

The past week in D.C., its been extremely sunny and humid during the day with severe thunderstorms in the evening. One night, just after it stopped down pouring, amid all the warning to “take cover” and “stay inside”, I ventured up to my roof and saw this:

I am pet sitting my friend’s fish while she is on her honeymoon with her husband in Italy. Their pictures I’ve seen from their trip are To. Die. For. Pasta and gelato for days, my friends. Beautiful.

While they have been exploring Roman ruins and sunning on the Amalfi coast, I’ve been taking pictures of Betta Fish Azul next to pictures of them in Italy. So Azul won’t get too homesick. I know, I’m so smart….

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Like the rest of the world, I’ve been obsessed with OITNB. So obsessed, that when the second season came out, I stayed up all night watching episodes for week. I was like a zombie at work, and when people asked me why I was so sleep deprived, all I could say was: “So there’s this T.V show on Netflix…” And now I feel like this:

One of the hardest things for me about becoming Paleo was giving up cheese. I still eat fermented cheese occasionally, but I don't have fresh cheese too often. Except, sometimes I just can't resist. Like with this tomato mozzarella salad I made myself the other day. Bellissimo! 

Happy Sunday SoVs! (South of Vanilla-ers) 




Florida is for (Food) Lovers

Readers, I am so sorry. I think it has been the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a post. In the past two weeks, I somehow managed to get stuck working overtime, get stuck in traffic constantly both ways, and successfully evaded my lovely, comfy apartment for 15-hour spans at a time. Ugh. In the middle all of that, I traveled to Florida. Because really, what’s a girl to do when she’s exhausted? Sleep first, of course. Then go to Florida.

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Whoever started the whole "Virginia is for Lovers" trend has never been to Florida. Or maybe they have, and they're bitter that they live in Virginia and not Florida. (Who wouldn't be? I would be.... Although I realize that DC is essentially Virginia without the southern accent and a whole lot of government. Or DC could be Maryland, if that's your choice and you're in love with the Chesapeake and crabs...but whatever, I'm rambling. ) 

One of the best family vacations I've been on was in Miami, where my family descended upon the beach at Christmastime and stayed at the magical modern wonderland that is the Delano. (Hotel of my dreams.) On that Christmas, I sat on the beach and drank a whole bottle of rose champagne in my bikini. Ever since then, my grandmother is convinced that I am on my sweet, sweet bubbly way to alcohol addiction. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots. 

Flying next to this lightning storm almost made me pee my pants in-flight, but I did get some incredible iPhone shots. 

In my last post, I shared a little of my traveling-while-staying-Paleo tips, so this time, I’m going to expand a little by sharing with you a simple on-the-go Paleo recipe.

It can be a challenge to stay true to Paleo when the people around you don’t follow the same diet, but this particular recipe is so good that your non-Paleo travel companions will try some with you. I promise. In this particular recipe, the protein powder and ground flax seed both pack and travel well in reusable containers, and almond milk and bananas can be purchased nearly anywhere. MCT oil and aloe are a bit trickier to travel with, but they can be disguised as cosmetics in your toiletries bag. (You are so welcome for that tidbit of advice. J )

In addition to traveling, I routinely use this recipe after or before a tough workout, and occasionally on my way to work. It really fills me up, and tastes so decadent even though it has a ton of health boosters in it. I like hemp based proteins the best because I’ve found that it comes from sustainable, natural sources, and it doesn’t give me a stomachache. (Anyone else get stomachaches with conventional protein powder products?) The health benefits of hemp are also pretty impressive.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the incorporation of flax seed into my diet has cleared up a lot of my residual acne, and has made my skin appear more radiant than any other remedy I've tried. Finally, MCT oil, or medium triglyceride chains, will give your body a great, all natural energy boost that fuels your brain for less brain fog and increased cognition. I'm not an expert on MCT oil, but I have noticed an increase in energy levels such I started supplementing with it. If you do not supplement with MCT oil, you need to And finally: aloe. Aloe is such a great all natural cure for anything from sunburns to acne to reduced inflammation to boosted immunity. It tastes disgusting, but since I've started supplementing with it, I haven't gotten sick. Seriously, there was a week where my work was quarantined with a GI bug. Almost all of the rehab team came down with the bug despite full universal precautions, but I was just fine. (And guess what? It's a succulent. <3333)

This recipe doesn't need all the extra supplements, but isn't supplementing with a chocolate summer-inducing smoothie better than just taking a bunch of pills? Yep, I think so too ;)

Chocolate Health Elixir Smoothie

Makes 1 smoothie

  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or nut milk of preference. You can use chocolate almond milk for extra chocolatelyness, just make sure it is unsweetened to avoid added sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. alcohol free vanilla extract
  • 1 medium overripe (brown and spotty) banana
  • 1/4 cup chocolate hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp. MCT oil
  • 1 tbsp. aloe plant extract
  • 1/3 cup ice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until ice has broken into small pieces.
  2. Blend until incorporated. (Wasnt that easy?)

Half the distance, full on fun: preparing for a half marathon while still being Paleo

I ran a half marathon.

I ran a half marathon. 13.1 miles on 4-27-14.

Sometimes I catch myself repeating these words in my head, even though its been nearly a week since I crossed the finish line. Still, whenever I walk by a mirror I catch a glimmer of the Nike Tiffany Finisher’s pendant I’ve refused to take off since Sunday.

In high school, when I was a cheerleader (gag), our coach used to make us do a half-mile warm up before practice. It would take me 15 minutes to finish. (I’m not kidding- that’s 7.5 minutes per quarter mile- a 30 min/mile pace. I may as well have been walking my pet turtle.) Never in my life did I think I would run for run, or even attempt a half marathon.

I registered for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. last fall (One of the races in the elusive Nike Women’s Marathon Series), right when registration opened. I had had a fantastic fall and summer running season, and I thought, well, why not? A half had been on my bucket list for a while, I was already running 10k races, and this race was literally in my backyard.

However, my fantastic running season soon turned into a winter full of minimal or nonexistent training. Part of it was a lack of motivation, but another part of it was that I had a lot going on: I (finally!) graduated graduate school in winter, started this blog, took on a new job, made the transition from a perma-student into an actual fully-functional adult (this just in: I have no idea what I’m doing), dealt with a cumulative 2 hours worth of traffic to and from work each day, and my 15 mile away boyfriend became a 1,500 mile away boyfriend. To say I was in over my head was an understatement.

As you can imagine, training for this half fell to the wayside. I went on runs here and there, but the everlasting blizzards combined with my skyrocketing stress levels left little desire to lace up my Nike’s and hit the [-10 degree] pavement. (Randomly, running on a treadmill leaves me with shin splints- anyone else have this problem?)

As race day approached, my boyfriend signed us both up for a 5k, a sweet gesture in support of my training efforts, and a way for both of us to support his field. This was in early March, and I was so worn out during the 3.2 miles that I had to walk part of it, and him, the non-runner literally ran circles around me….and then offered to piggy back me to the finish line. To make matters worse, just as I was building up my runs again, less than a month before the April 27th date of the DC half, I had an unexpected, late night ER visit due to a sudden kidney infection and dehydration. I was not ready for this half marathon.

After some incredibly supportive pep talks from friends, inspirational emails and posts from Nike, posting inspirational words around my apartment, fully recovering from my kidney woes, getting the doctor’s approval, and adjusting my work schedule so I could come in late on morning run days, I somehow came from having to take a walk break after 2 miles to finishing a half marathon.

My passion for running came back. The reasons for why I run came back. When I get to turn off my phone, put in my headphones, connect with my breath, and run so fast I feel like I’m flying- those are the moments where I feel invincible, the moments where I feel like I can conquer anything. These moments often fuel my energy for the rest of my day, or sometimes, the rest of the week. If I could conquer those miles, those hills, those loops, then what’s to say I can’t finish that last report? What's my reason for not doing those dishes? Not responding to those emails?  Almost everything is easy in comparison to those really tough miles. Its amazing what your mind can do when fueled on willpower and perspective.

So, I did it. I finished a half marathon. (Heat sheets and all.)


Now, I don’t recommend this last minute training. Building up to 13.1 miles so fast is rough and stressful on your body, but I should mention that prior to this past spring, I was regularly going on 5-8 mile runs, and frequently topped 20 miles a week. I had a good foundation that, thankfully, didn’t take me too long to break back into. I also had kept up my cardio endurance by doing classes like zumba at my gym, and had regularly done low impact resistance training through barre and yoga classes.

This half marathon was such an incredible experience. Nike sure does know how to put on a show, and all the little details really, truly made it a spectacular day. Live bands and DJ’s every few miles were so incredibly energizing, all the volunteers along the way that handed out water and snacks had nothing but encouraging words and smiles, and Nike staff members were truly interested in your running journey and why you had decided to take the time to register for their half marathon. Also a plus? They had a chocolate station somewhere around mile 11, just when I’m sure everyone thought they were going to die.  Cheers Nike, you’ve built a fabulous brand and a fabulous community. You guys believed in me when I didn’t think I had it in me.


Besides raving about how much I loved this experience, this half marathon, I wanted to take the time to post about how running works into my Paleo lifestyle. Avid Paleo followers do not actually advocate large amounts of cardio. Large amounts of cardio require a lot of readily available energy, which, in those that follow the Standard American Diet (SAD), usually come from glucose stores. These glucose stores come from carbohydrates or sugars. The body can most easily access these from grains or fruit. (Or junk food.) As many of you know, Paleo does not incorporate grains, and limits fruit intake. So what does your body do for energy? It takes energy from stored fat reserves, but during long and intense bouts of energy exertion, it is possible that your body will actually start to cannibalize your own muscles to get energy….and that, my dear readers, is never a good thing. So what’s a Paleo cave girl to do when a passion for running conflicts with primal nutrition? Make adjustments, and listen to your body. It will tell you what to do.

Personally, I upped my carbohydrate intake, however, I rarely consumed grains. I chose to eat most of my carbohydrates from vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and red cabbage. If I would eat an apple or a banana, I would do so with sunbutter or almond butter, since the fat from the nuts would slow the insulin levels entering my bloodstream. Doing this ensured that my blood sugar wouldn’t spike, and thus, wouldn’t rapidly crash, resulting in more stable energy throughout my runs and the day.

The night before I would go on a morning long run, I would incorporate starches into my meal in either the form of white rice or sweet potato. I am not sure if all Paleo athletes feel this way, but I personally get a big performance boost from starches.

The morning of a long run, I would always start with a cup of bulletproof coffee, and then I would have one of my homemade date-based protein bars post fun. (Post on this coming soon!) The combination of glucose from both the honey and dates would give me a big jump-start. If I felt especially tired or dehydrated after a run, I would have some Nuun (love their stuff)…and I didn’t even realize they were a sponsor of Nike until race day.

I was pretty consistent with my nutrition, although once, as I was dreaming of Mexican food, I had tortilla chips and salsa for dinner before the morning of a run. The result? A terrible, dragging, groggy run, with the worst time. Lesson learned: stick to your diet habits fast and hard when training for an athletic event. Nutrition matters.

And again, thanks Nike for a fabulous time.


This guy&nbsp;

This guy