Escape the Fog

Nature, it’s interesting. It might change with the seasons, but at the end of the day, nature just is, and will always be. 

It never fades, never hastens. The sky might turn black, or grey, or red…but it never hides. There is always something growing, something thriving. It is genuine, faithful.

I sat at the lake today. Surrounded by nature, I escaped from the fog.

I sat with a clear mind. Breathing. Living. Seeing.

That’s all that matters really. Nature, all of it…will always be here. ❤Image (1)

WIAW #6 and Celebrating Love

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This week’s post features my eats from Monday. Nothing too exciting here, but it’s still fun to take pictures and join in on Jenn’s weekly party! Check it out by clicking–>here .

BREAKFAST ❤

Simple, yet satisfying. A mixture of fiber one cereal, puffed wheat, and berries. I sprinkled one scoop of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey (in chocolate mint) on top and poured in a cup of cashew milk. Black coffee on the side 😀

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LUNCH

Lawash wrap with turkey, spinach, some cubed butternut squash and onions–grilled to perfection. Salad and a pear on the side. Dressing was red wine vinegar and lemon juice.

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DINNER

Kale&Balsamic chicken sausage, steamed brussels and broccoli and roasted butternut squash (AMAZING)

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SNACK

Cape Cod Sea Salt Popcorn (AWESOME stuff), some mini pretzels and a bag of goodies with hummus. I always feel rather snacky at work so I thought this would be perfect. Hit the spot. My coworkers always laugh at my bag of veggies and comment “Are you going to eat that whole bag in one sitting?”

Yes, I will consume the entire thing. Always. AND I HAVE NO SHAME. I prefer troughs of veggies over snack bag sizes. It is a wonderful thing.

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What a beautiful weekend it was. My cousin got married to her soulmate on Saturday and the day couldn’t have been more perfect. My sister and I were bridesmaids and it felt so amazing to be a part of Matt and Sarah’s special day. It is evident that they are truly so in love. You can see it in their eyes.

The blushing bride.
The blushing bride.
Their first dance.
Their first dance.
Sis and I on the party bus.
Sis and I on the party bus.
The Nicholas Family. My best friends.
The Nicholas Family. My best friends.
Mama and Daddy. They are and will always be my favorite couple.
Mama and Daddy. They are and will always be my favorite couple.

Congrats Matt and Sarah. I know God will bless you with MANY years of happiness and love. You both deserve it. ❤️❤️

WIAW #5-Back to the Graveyard Shift, Mindfulness, and Cutest Pancake Stack Ever.

This is sort of a lengthy one. Once I start writing, it’s difficult for me to stop. My apologies!

Last week was the first of 6 long weeks of night shift. It’s hard transitioning between work shifts. It messes with my mind, my body, and my mood. What’s unfortunate is that just as the weather begins to cooperate–sun has come out of hiding, temperature is on the rise, my legs and arms are finally able to be exposed beyond my sweat pants and zip ups-GLORIOUS world, fresh Mother Nature—-I go back to the graveyard shift. This means sleeping during the day or just feeling downright exhausted and wanting to lounge around the house all day. Now, on the days that I work (especially 2 or 3 in a row) I can kind of accept the fact that I have to sleep-I literally need to, I have no choice. Despite the weather I have to force myself to sleep, to just pretend it’s night time. If I don’t listen to my body in that way I will be miserable at work, unable to focus and perform my duties as a nurse. However, my days off are meant to be enjoyed. Even if I’ve worked the night before and I haven’t slept in 25 hours, I want to be out in the sun, sharing my time with nature. If I don’t have to be back at work that evening, you bet I’ll be out enjoying my summer. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with my time. There’s so much I could be doing that I often feel overwhelmed. I want to do so many things but I don’t know where to start. It is so hard for me to stay mindful, to just look at the day ahead of me and stay in the present moment. I am often times more concerned about tomorrow or next week (the future). Lately I’ve been taking baby steps toward mindfulness. I am trying to stay in the moment, especially during meal time. I usually watch TV or YouTube videos while I eat breakfast and lunch-I use social media and television as distractions. Instead of using these outlets I am trying to spend more time eating meals outside if it’s nice (without my phone), or I will eat meals at the kitchen table, not on the couch or at the computer. That’s what the kitchen table is meant for, right?

I decided I need to read the newspaper more. I swear I have no idea what’s going on in the world half the time. I try to stay far away from the news and headlines, disgusted by the outside world and the atrocities that roam the earth. This has become problematic though, because, while I am hiding from the filth and horrors I am also shutting out the light that still exists in the world. Even with everything negative going on in the world around us, there will always be something positive, something light, a breath of fresh air. There is so much good in the world but we often times don’t see it because we are so exposed to all the horrible things that happen daily, hourly, by the minute. I am an uninformed American and that is a problem. I recognize and am aware of that fact and I am ready and willing to change that. So, hello News Herald and television channels 3-8 (I have been watching the news in the morning so I’ve made a little progress. Baby steps!)
Another way I’ve been trying my hand at mindfulness is by doing yoga. I’ve talked about yoga in a previous post and about how I enjoy doing it at home, alone and free of cost. I was doing this for a little while, maybe a couple of times a week, but then I stopped…unable to make it a habit, a part of my routine. My poor yoga mat began collecting dust as it sat, unrolled and exposed in a dark room…waiting and ready to be practiced on. So I decided enough was enough and I caved-I bought a new student 30 day pass at a local yoga studio. I have been there once before for a free class and I loved the atmosphere. It cost me only $30.00 so I didn’t feel guilty about buying the pass. I haven’t done any formal classes in a while so my body isn’t quite in yoga shape, at least where I would like it to be. I lack the flexibility I once had and my bones and joints feel tight and dry. Paying for formal classes will motivate me to include yoga more in my weekly routine. I’d like to attend a class 2-3 times a week on my days off and in my free time, practice in my home as well. Believe me, if I pay for classes, I will go as much as I can and get my money’s worth. Yoga is something that I have found is very beneficial to me. It might not seem like it, but I am truly passionate about the practice. I lack a lot of knowledge about the practice itself, which is something I need to work towards. Research Maria, it’s not that hard. However, what I do know is that, like nature, yoga is a healing force in my life. No matter how I feel before the class, I always walk out feeling positive, lighter, at ease. I believe that it is so necessary for me to continue practicing yoga. Today I went to a Vinyasa class (light heat). I loved the flow and by the end of it I was sweating (a rare occurrence). I tried very hard to stay mindful during that hour, and while it was difficult, I managed to stay in the moment fairly well. I loved the class and will most definitely attend that one again. I’ve already registered for a Gentle yoga class on Thursday morning. I actually prefer a more gentle yoga practice, a slower flow Vinyasa. Some people prefer power yoga and like the intensity and speed of a power yoga class. I feel like a yoga class that intense and sped up would have a whole different vibe to it. I’ve never taken a power yoga class, or one that is practiced in an 85 degree room. I don’t see how that kind of class would be zen at all, and I’m guessing it’s not meant to be. For me, yoga is not meant to be a form of exercise. I get that for some, it is, and that is great! Personally though, an hour of yoga is like a vacation for me. I escape from the realities and stress of life and for one hour, I feel calm. My mind settles. I love settling into deep stretches and just staying there for a few moments. My aim is to find peace and serenity while working out the kinks in my body and gaining flexibility. I love the more advanced poses as well so I am going to start practicing those. Yoga is such a mind-body connection. It really is an unbelievable experience, if practiced in the right mindset and environment. The studio by my house is small, with only one large room for classes. It is very homey and warm, with dim lighting and simple interior designs. The aroma of incense floods the room, a smell that I am very attracted to. I love it. More on my practice later.
Not much else has been going on lately. Like I said, I feel exhausted more than half the time. I am thirsty for sleep all the time but too stubborn to listen to my body most of the time. I’ll try harder, I need to promise myself that.

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Anyway, this is a sorry excuse for a WIAW post. I mean, where’s the food?
Truth is, my meals haven’t been very interesting. A lot of the same things on a daily basis-salads, veggies, fruit, yogurt, protein smoothies, quest bars, oatmeal, and plenty more. I’m still working on increasing my intake, but again, little old me is quite the stubborn one. It takes work to see and feel results, so I need to kick my butt in gear.

I’ll just share a breakfast that I had last week. I love breakfast apparently. I just thought this was the cutest stack of pancakes so I have to include it in my post.

That inside view needs work/
That inside view needs work, but look at that FLUFF.

Recipe:
-1 serving Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes
-1 egg white
-Truvia
Simply mix dry ingredients with egg white, water, and splash of cashew milk until clumps are gone. Cook on stove and load on the toppings! This time I used strawberries, and greek yogurt mixed with pb2. Cinnamon and Walden Farms Pancake syrup finished it off.
Kodiak pancakes are great. The mix itself is packed with protein. I found the mix at Target.

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Another meal I’d like to share with you all is my lunch from yesterday. Larger than normal because I ate a light dinner before going into work. When I work at night I tend to eat a larger lunch and a smaller dinner. This picture doesn’t do the meal justice. Most of my meals are high volume as well-so this looks like a lot of food. High volume for me usually means a mountain of vegetables, paired with a lean protein source, and some form of carbohydrate.

This plate is simply:

-3 egg white omelet

Bilinsk’s Kale&Balsamic chicken sausage, cut up and sauteed. Their products are seriously so good. They sell many different flavors of chicken sausage and chicken meatballs. I buy them from Heinen’s.

-Shredded zucchini and brussels sprouts, pan fried. If you’ve never done this, try it…and then thank me 😉

I didn’t use any seasonings when I cooked all of this but the flavors were outstanding. No seasonings needed. However, ketchup, was is always a must.

I also had a nectarine on the side and I may have snagged a chunk off of the pretzel baguette I bought from Whole Foods. Anything that resembles a pretzel, especially a soft pretzel=my weakness.

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I worked out and got all my stuff done in the morning so I could nap the rest of the afternoon away before leaving for work.

All is well, all will be well.

Have a great week!

AND AS ALWAYS, head on over to Jenn’s blog for more (and probably more interesting) WIAW fun!!

WIAW #4 + (Unplanned) Food Exposure

This week’s WIAW features eats from this Sunday, a work day. I worked Sunday and Monday and meal prep was kind of sporadic and unorganized. Hey, it got done and I got all my meals in, so all was well.

Sunday was a brutal day. I felt like an untamed animal all day long, running from room to room trying to take care of my 4 patients. A lot was happening with my patients on Sunday so I was definitely busy. It was definitely one of those days. Let’s just say that I am on cloud 9, now that it’s Wednesday and I have 7 days off in a row. That light at the end of tunnel was calling my name.

Anyway, on to the food. Sunday was nothing special, but I think it’s fun sharing my work day eats. As always, head on over to Jenn’s blog for more WIAW fun.

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BREAKFAST

Overnight oats to go. Eaten in the car on my way to work. Coffee was consumed also. This was made with one packet of quick oats, 1/4 cup light ‘n’ fit greek yogurt, spaghetti squash, blueberries, and 1 tbsp Raw Mio nut butter (future review perhaps). Topped it off with a splash of cashew milk and Walden Farms pancake syrup (obsession). Never tried spaghetti squash in oatmeal? Well, try it. Mix it in with the oats and water and microwave them together. Very good.

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LUNCH

Salad bar for the win. This was from Heinen’s. My salad creations always end up being very large. No shame in that. This one had romaine/iceburg lettuce, a beautiful array of fresh vegetables, and a hard boiled egg white. Dressing was (my favorite) Panera ff poppyseed dressing and red wine vinegar. On the side I had a small peach and a small plain pita (not pictured)

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I try to hydrate as much as I can and usually end up chugging whatever fluids are available. If I have time I make a trip down to the main lobby to get coffee or diet coke but that didn’t happen on Sunday. Instead I stuck with lemonade mio in a hospital issued styrofoam cup.

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NOW. This. Is what gets me through my days. Always. There is nothing better in life sometimes. It has to be Stride Spearmint, though. I buy Orbit or Dentyne occasionally, just to switch things up. I chew a lot a ton of gum.

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DINNER

Eaten while walking to my car after work because I was hungry and I was fading.

Grilled chicken with half of a sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and steamed brussels.

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SNACK

My version of pro-froyo (protein froyo). This is a guilt-free treat and it sits near the top of my favorite recipe list.

-Half a pint of Arctic Zero Vanilla Maple (the new creamy pints are fab)

– 1/2 cup light ‘n’ fit greek yogurt

-truvia packet

-1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/3 scoop Quest chocolate protein powder.

MIX. I froze this over night then let it sit out for a bit. Topped it off with a small handful of cookies ‘n’ cream goldfish (trying to get over the fact that goldfish should not be feared), a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs, a couple of strawberries, and my homemade chocolate sauce (never gets old). This bowl of goodness tasted a little like my Menchie’s mix (but not quite). Regardless, it hit the spot.

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Moving on…

Fear Food.

Yes, I still consider many foods “scary”-I stay away from these fear foods…like they might kill me or something (what?) It seems so outrageous and silly, I know. But I have been battling with these irrational fears for years. I have a list, 2 pages long, of foods I used to eat (but no longer do), foods I wish I could eat (why can’t I?), and foods which have made their way to the bottom of the list because I’ve conquered my fear (or at least I’ve come close).

Well, this last Saturday I came face to face with a huge fear food of mine, AND it was at a restaurant, which always makes it even more of a challenge. I went to a restaurant near my house with my family and I already knew what I was going to order because it is my favorite dish that they make. I was really looking forward to it, actually. It is called the Roasted Red Pepper Pasta. Here is the dish I remember-Grilled chicken breast with sauteed roasted red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms. I usually get it with red skin potatoes but on the weekends they don’t allow substitutions so I agreed to have it with the pasta. I was assuming it would be a red sauce which I love, so no big deal.

Glass of Cabernet in hand, bread and salad on the way–I was a happy, happy gal. Then our meals came out.

The waitress placed a plate in front of me that I didn’t recognize at all. Instead of red, all I saw was white. White is an uncomfortable color. White on pasta means creamy, buttery, cheesy. I steer very clear from these words on a menu. NOTE, this is a very personal choice. Believe me, I wish I could be normal and order an alfredo dish or a cheesy dish without getting hyped up.

I told the waitress I thought it came with red sauce?! Also, the chicken was barely recognizable. I am used to it being a full chicken breast, not diced up and covered in a heavy white sauce. Either she messed up my order or they changed the dish completely. She walked away and didn’t even bother to ask if I wanted something else. My mom tried to ease my anxiety by stating “It’s just a light sauce! It doesn’t look heavy to me at all!” Anyone with eyes could have seen that this was a bowl of heavy, cheesy, calorie laden food. Thanks anyway Mama.

Dad was a little more straight forward. His words-“Oh well, gotta eat it now cheech!” I could tell that he was annoyed by my reaction. He sometimes doesn’t realize that I still have a lot of anxiety around certain types of food. I feel bad. I think he just misses how I used to be-the good eater.

I simply said “I can’t eat this. I don’t like white sauce, I like red sauce”. Alright that was a horrible excuse, I’ll admit it. I started to feel a very familiar sensation. Heart racing, butterflies in my stomach, knees shaking. I haven’t felt that kind of anxiety around a meal in quite some time. It is a real, physical feeling. I kept eating my salad and sipping my wine-hoping that the wine might loosen me up. My dad kept giving me a look of disgust and I knew that things could get ugly if I didn’t just start eating. I finally threw in the towel and took a bite. It was nothing special. But it also tasted very good. It was a taste my mouth hasn’t felt in a very long time. I never eat alfredo based pasta dishes. If my mom makes a fettucino alfredo, she makes it “light” for my sake. She uses skim milk and pasta water and she cuts the amount of cheese down. There is a huge difference between her version and the typical alfredo. After a few small bites my dad finally said “Alright enough, I’m tired of watching you just stare at it. Let me have some. You are absolutely nuts Maria. Just eat it”. I gladly handed him my plate. But then I realized something. How could something that is so irrelevant cause me so much anxiety? Honestly, did I really think that this one meal would cause me to blow up like a balloon? I started thinking about how normal it is for people to order this kind of meal on a regular basis, with no repercussions. So why am I any different? Also, I know that I have a little bit of weight to gain so this kind of meal was actually what my body needed. I hate the fact that I have so many “fear foods”. I am waiting for the day when I can look at my list and see a check mark next to each food item. I see people eating normally every day, enjoying whatever kinds of food they are craving. These people stay the same size. The food doesn’t just magically cause them to morph into another being.

After a few bites of my meal, I calmed down. That anxious feeling went away and I started feeling something different. I felt normal. I felt human. I realized that in that moment, I was surrounded by good things. I was in the company of 3 amazing individuals, with delicious food and drinks, and a live band playing classic rock in the background. That is the life. That right there is being in the moment. I ended up eating about 1/3 of the portion and took the rest home for someone else to eat. The rest of the evening ended up going very smoothly. I spoke up during the meal and said that I was sorry for my reaction to my meal. I said that this was way out of my comfort zone but that it was something I had to overcome. My family was very supportive and my dad then said “You’re doing good, just eat what you can!” I felt 10 times better after that statement. I stated that “Enough is enough-I need to just to this, I need to try new things. This won’t hurt me”.

I kicked ED’s ass that night. It felt amazing. It was hard but now it’s over, and guess what? I’m still alive. I am certain that one day I will no longer have so many irrational fears when it comes to food. I have come a long way since my darkest days, and I know that even brighter days are in my forecast. Normalcy is such a good feeling. I have been feeling it a lot lately.

That night taught me many things. One thing that I am sure of is that I still have work to do. I have to fight even harder than before. Now is the time.

This is my time.

WIAW #3 (But Not Really)

For this week’s WIAW, I thought that instead of doing a food related post I would do a little something different. I still managed to incorporate food somehow though.

I’m going to show you what I’ve been working on the past month for a very special event coming up this weekend. My cousin Sarah is getting married June 13th and I get to be a bridesmaid in the wedding, which is a first for me. This Saturday is her bridal shower and Bachelorette party.  I was asked by her maid of honor to be in charge of the game prizes for the shower. Sarah apparently told her I love wrapping gifts and being creative. Well, she was right. Originally I had planned on doing something simple-maybe a bottle of wine with a boquet of flowers or candy. Cute idea, but not good enough for me. I always end up going a little crazy with gifts. I have a lot of fun shopping for other people. I love putting together gift baskets and coming up with creative gifts rather than being more simple, just to make my life easier. For the shower I needed to come up with 7 prizes.

Since the weather is getting nicer and it’s spring I wanted to do something colorful and fun. I like when gifts all have a common theme and match. Weeks ago, I went to Party city and bought 7 different Chinese takeout boxes in different colors. I was going to make truffles and fill the boxes with those and then pair each box with flowers. I crossed that idea off the list after I realized I probably wouldn’t have time to make and decorate a bunch of truffles. So then I thought, what is something that virtually all females like and can use? Right  away I thought of makeup. I headed over to the Ulta website to check out the situation and came up with this-each box will get 4 pieces of makeup plus a homemade bracelet. I tried my best to match the pieces with the color of the box but it was hard. Ulta always offers awesome deals and I happened to visit the site during a great sale. I also got free shipping, which always seals the deal for me. Since I recently started making jewelry I thought it would be nice to make bracelets to go with each prize. This was time consuming but fun. I made these first, before deciding on the makeup and everything else. I always try adding a homemade touch to gifts that I give. The beads match the color of the box each one goes with and attached to each one is a different heart.

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Here’s a peek into one of my boxes-and my favorite bracelet. Each box has a nail polish, eye shadow, anti-bacterial gel, and lip color. The candy will go in a separate bag.

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Everything in this box (below) matched almost perfectly. Love this one too.

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But…this still wasn’t enough for me. Something else pretty much all females enjoy? Sweets. In particular, chocolate and cookies. These won’t be done until Friday because that is when I am picking the cookies up from the store. They will be sugar cookies with crystal sugar sprinkles (matching the color of the box. I had to). So, into the treat bags will go a few cookies, a special piece of candy from Malley’s ( I bought some Malley-ohs, and chocolate covered pretzels), and then gumballs that also match the color of the box. I also got matching ribbon for the treat bags. I know, people might think I’m strange for doing the whole color coordinated thing…and maybe my prizes are over the top but I have so much fun doing things like this. This is an example of me working creativity into my life. I’m very excited to see what the women think of my prizes on Saturday and I wouldn’t mind winning one myself 😉

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NEXT UP for today-a product review. One of my all time favorite things to eat is a quest bar. I talk about these all the time to the point where it’s probably obnoxious, but seriously these are incredible. I’m not going to review each flavor, although I have tried them all. But I will describe a few. These are, in my opinion, the best protein bars on the market.  Quest products taste so good that it’s like you are eating something very unhealthy, however the nutrition facts are incredible.They do not use any sugar in their products. In fact, the only sugar in the bars comes from natural ingredients, like nuts and dried fruit. (click the link to read about their ingredients). Quest offers the following products-protein bars and powders, protein chips and Quest pasta. I have tried everything except the pasta and another product, Quest Cravings, which is their version of a Reesee’s cup. I’ll review the powder in another post, after I try all the flavors.

Aside from the taste, what I like best about Quest bars is their nutritional profile. All of the bars have at least 20g of protein, 3-5 g net carbs (which comes only from the natural ingredients used to make the bar-for example, nuts). The fat content ranges from 5-10g, calories range from 160-210 and all the bars are high in fiber and have virtually 0g of sugar. These bars are said to be the only truly low carb bars on the market. They almost sound too good to be true. But, I will not be the first to say that these are legit. I’ve been buying quest bars for a few years now. I have tried them baked, microwaved, and broiled. I’ve shaped them into cookies, and I’ve made them into pop-tarts. I’ve seen many recipes involving the bars, and I’ve tried a lot of them. I’ve tried all the flavors (there are 18) and I can honestly say there are only about 2 flavors I am not fond of. I don’t buy a lot of the older flavors, like pb&j or peanut butter supreme, because I like so many other flavors. I would eat those two though. The only two I probably won’t try again are lemon supreme and mixed berry. They aren’t bad-just not my thing. I love these bars because I am always trying to increase the protein in my diet. I try getting my protein from natural, whole sources like chicken and eggs but with 20 g of protein, these are a great boost to my daily intake. I don’t use these as full meal replacements. I eat them either as a snack or if I am in a rush, for breakfast or lunch on the run (always paired with something else).

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Anyway, on to some of the flavors. I prefer the bars that have chunks over the other ones, but two of my favorite bars actually happen to be chunk-free. Yes I just used that phrase. I get real excited when Quest comes out with a new flavor. The newest one that just rolled out is mint chocolate chunk. It’s…good, however not as good as I was hoping…especially after seeing all the reviews from other bloggers and fitness gurus. A lot of people are saying it takes just like a girl scout thin mint cookie. Ehhh I’d have to disagree. It’s good, yes. But thin mint? Not quite. Thin mints are hands down my favorite girl scout cookie, so the quest bar was facing a touch competitor. This might not be a bar that I buy as often but once in a while I’m sure I’ll get a taste for it. The other newest bar is the s’mores flavor. Now this one-just, yes. This is s’mores in bar form. It has chunks of graham cracker, marshmallow bits and chocolate chunks. Need I say more? This one deserves many gold stars.

As far as taste, texture, and nutrition go-Quest takes home the win. The only downside to these are the price. I have gotten pretty good at searching for the lowest prices but it’s hard. I usually end up buying them from Giant Eagle, where they are the cheapest at $2.25. Sometimes Heinens sells them 5 for $10. When I see that advertisement I lose it. That’s insanely cheap for what these usually cost. On the Quest website, a single bar is $2.39 and a box of 12 is $24.99. This doesn’t include S&H fees. It is difficult to find websites where they are cheaper than that but it can be done. There are certain sites I go to quite often to see what kinds of deals they have. Some sites I have bought from include BodyBuilding.com , LuckyVitamin.com , and Amazon (VERY good deals there). I like buying them as single bars rather than full boxes because I like having more options to choose from. The only time I have bought a full box was recently and I only did it because the price was killer AND it was my all time favorite flavor. My current Quest collection has a nice variety. These are some of the ones I have now.

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Choco chip cookie dough, cookies ‘n’ cream, banana nut, strawberry cheesecake, mint chocolate chunk, s’mores

And here are my 3 favorite flavors.

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On the top-chocolate brownie. This legit tastes like a brownie and I wouldn’t lie to you about that. Warm it up and it’s over.

On the bottom-cinnamon roll. This has always been one of my favorites. Something about the texture made me fall in love. The taste is also top notch. Not quite a Grands cinnamon roll but pretty damn close. Warmed up, it gets >5 stars easily. I like to put a stevia/greek yogurt frosting on top.

And in the middle is my most beloved Quest bar. Double chocolate chunk. The description reads  “A chocolate lovers dream… finally come true!” SOLD. I can’t even describe how much I love this flavor. I sound so lame talking about it but when I am eating this bar I literally feel a sense of happiness. It is that good.

Quest, you make me happy. Please don’t ever stop. If you’ve never tried a quest bar, what are you waiting for??? You are missing out on a real treat. So please. head on over to the website and see for yourself. Then, take a ride to your local GNC, vitamin shoppe, Giant Eagle, or Heinens and pick up a bar.

Cheat clean my friends.

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All information found/taken from questnutrition.com

Feeling Stuck? Dig your Way Out

It is time to come clean.

I have an awful sense of unhappiness residing in me. It is an unwavering feeling deep down, and I can’t seem to shake it. It makes me feel ashamed, guilty, and self-loathing. Really, how could I be unhappy? I have the safety of a home surrounding me, and not only that but a home filled with a loving and supportive family. Even though we’re not all together, I still feel everyone’s presence. I live in a comfortable and peaceful environment and I am free to do whatever I please. I have the ability to buy groceries every week, (no, several times a week). I am lucky enough to work a full time job as a registered nurse-a lasting career with endless opportunities. I have access to everything I could possibly ever need. I am blessed. So what’s the deal?

Well, to start, I’m far from where I want to be in life. I am 24 years old and I feel stuck. There is this void…it seems like many things are missing. I know that in terms of nursing, I am no where near where I want to be. I feel like I should be back in school already, obtaining my Master’s Degree. But let’s be real, why the hell would I ever want to go back to school, back to that life (this soon at least)? And let’s not get started on the cost of grad school.  It is difficult seeing everyone else around me settling down-people I grew up with saying ‘yes to the dress’ or accepting keys to their new home-others traveling the world and experiencing life outside the walls of Cleveland, Ohio. And then there’s me. I just started working in December and my school loans are killer so unfortunately my finances aren’t suited for a single living arrangement. Even though I am a very independent person and I love being on my own, right now just isn’t the time. So yes I am still lounging around with the Ma and Pa. But, I’m not ashamed and I really have zero complaints about my current roommates. I love being home. I guess I have to agree with my sis…I can be kind of a homebody sometimes. I love being around my parents, the older I get. Though they will always be my parents and have the upper hand, I get along with them as if they were my friends. I love nothing more than sharing an IPA with my mom and bonding over boring television shows. And I can’t imagine coming home from the grocery store without a treat for my dad.

I guess I am simply unsatisfied. I dream of life outside these four walls. I dream of being a travel nurse and meeting all new people-to run away from my past and the negative people who still somehow lurk in the shadows of my being. I hope and pray that I’ll meet my match and (God willing) have a child who I can care for and nurture. I crave change and am on a search for a meaning to my life. I have a reason for being here, but I don’t feel like I am fulfilling my role on earth to its fullest potential.

The answer to all these things is simple. I am going through a stage. It is a stage of growth, of transition, of change. I have a whole life to live and just because I am not 100% satisfied with my current situation, that doesn’t mean that I cannot still be happy. Yes there are things I wish were different, things I wish I could change right now. But I need to be patient and I need to be happy-do things that make me happy. In the past I used to feel like there was no point in trying to be happy. I was a miserable person. I spent my days unaware of the world and the people surrounding me. The only way to describe this feeling is that it felt like I had a haze around me at all times…like a gray shield. Smiling was actually painful. Clearly that is no way to live.

So, I have been trying to find my inner happiness. I decided to go through my old binder from treatment because, even though it brings back painful memories, there are a lot of helpful resources in there. That’s part of the reason why I hung onto the darn thing.

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Most of the information we received was taken from Marsha Linehan, an American psychologist and author. A major component of eating disorder treatment is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which helps individuals develop and maintain four behavioral skills:  mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation. I love DBT. I believe that anybody can benefit from learning these four skills. I highly encourage you all to read about DBT and think about whether or not you practice these skills in your own lives. These skills weren’t created only for those needing psychotherapy. We could all use a little DBT in our lives. Besides interpersonal effectiveness, I struggle with all of the skills. I feel like I communicate well with others. Communication is a huge part of my job as a nurse. I use interpersonal effectiveness daily on the job so I’ve gotten a lot of practice and I think I have that part down.

Mindfulness is VERY hard for me. I get distracted fairly easily and I always have a lot on my mind so I usually end up doing too many tasks at once. I often find myself in the middle of meal prepping when I realize that my clothes are done in the dryer (clearly a pressing matter) and I stop what I’m doing to run and fold the clothes. I will literally drop the food in hand and shuffle to the laundry room. I try to make myself feel better by saying that I’m just good at multi-tasking but this is actually a really bad habit. It goes against all aspects of mindfulness.

Distress tolerance and emotion regulation: Life is stressful. We all know that. Some deal with stress better than others. I have gotten better at dealing with stress and emotional situations but I’ll be honest there are times I still feel negative and pessimistic about life, certain situations and especially about myself. I tend to focus too much on what’s ahead and I will have myself convinced that the outcome will be negative-“It will never happen” or “It won’t work out” are common phrases in my brain.

*Marsha Linehan’s solutions:

-ACT OPPOSITE of whatever negativity you are feeling. Do pleasant things that are possible NOW-AKA be in the moment!

-Be MINDFUL of positive experiences: I tend to think about when the positive experience will end and how upsetting that will be. Instead, I need to ENJOY the moment and I need to stop asking myself whether or not I deserve the experience.

-Refocus when your mind wanders to the negative. I’ve gotten better at this.

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Pages from that dreaded binder.

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Ways to improve the moment:

Imagery: I absolutely love guided imagery. I also love going to the metroparks or the lake and just admiring nature. There is something so calming about being surrounded by nature. One of my goals as the weather gets nicer is to spend more time in nature. It is like medicine to me.

Prayer: There is always room for improvement here. I try going to mass every Sunday but I work every other weekend so it is difficult. No excuses, I know. Another one of my goals is to MAKE TIME for prayer.

Meaning: I’m searching.

Relaxation: I find it hard to relax. I have gotten better at allowing myself the time to relax but I still need to work on this. I need to realize that is OKAY to take a nap if I am tired…it is OKAY to put off errands until later.

Doing one thing at a time: This is an issue.

Vacation: Boy I would love a vacation.

Encouragement: I try to encourage others more than I encourage myself. It makes me feel good knowing that I am helping others but I know it isn’t good to forget about myself. I preach positive reassurance to others. It is time to positively reassure myself.

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When it comes to distress tolerance, Marsha recommends finding ways to self-soothe.  Some suggestions include vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. For me this means:

-Music (hearing). There are certain songs I turn on I need to calm down or just relax. I love to just zone out and let the music take over.

-Incense, bonfires, flowers, coffee (smell)

-Coffee, fro-yo, quest bars, diet coke, dark chocolate, gum, a really good beer (taste)

-My bed, blankets, warm water (touch)

-Cute animals, lakes, trees, art (vision)

*I love self-soothing.

So basically I have realized that the only person who can make me happy is ultimately myself. It doesn’t matter who my partner is, how much money I have, what my job is, where I live, etc…If I can’t be happy alone, with life in general, right now—I will never be happy. I am on a quest for lifelong happiness.

Things I have been doing while on the journey:

-New hobbies

-Riding my new bike (not so much yet-need warm weather)

-Cooking

-Yoga

-Shopping at random stores just because

-Walks

-Journaling

-Volunteering

-Getting my nails done

-Saving money

-Smiling more

-Trying to be more aware of my surroundings

-Taking a nap if I am tired

-Offering advice

-Trying to paint

-Dancing in the car

-Dancing anywhere

-Savoring each and every moment

BOTTOM LINE: I am a work in progress. Plain and Simple.Happiness can be achieved and I am well on my way to getting there.

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WIAW #2 (Work Edition) & A Recipe

My work schedule has been kind of hectic this past week. 2 twelves-1 off-2 twelves-1 off-2 twelves. It isn’t ideal but it works, and what’s great is that after today I have 4 days off, so I can’t complain. What is hard is that my days off in between aren’t just rest and relax days. These are days that I use to catch up-to work out, run errands, meal prep, enjoy life, etc…I still wake up fairly early because I don’t like to waste these precious days off. Meal prep is something I like to do early to get out of the way because it can get kind of annoying and it takes at least an hour. If I am working two shifts in a row I always prep for both days at once. There are some foods that I consume quite often so I will make bigger batches and freeze them. Examples-chicken breast, sweet potatoes, egg white breakfast sandwiches on lawash wraps, light english muffins, or bread. This saves a lot of time. So for this week’s WIAW Wednesday I’ll show you guys what I prepped on Monday for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Head to Jenn’s blog for more 😉

http://www.peasandcrayons.com

Breakfasts: easy meals that I can eat in the car on my way to work. (Although I do attempt it sometimes, oatmeal isn’t the easiest meal to consume while driving).

T-Lawash wrap with better n’ pb, which is just an alternative to real peanut butter. I eat real peanut butter, I just love a lot of different spreads. I also had an apple.

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Always a Gala.

W-Egg white and FF provolone cheese on cinnamon raisin bread (taken from freezer-I microwave it in the morning and it’s perfect). I can’t remember the last time I had this kind of bread but it sounded good and is a nice little exposure. Oikos plain greek yogurt & berries.

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Lunches:  Sometimes I try to make work lunches more like snacks so I can eat them throughout the day, especially because there are days that I don’t have time to sit down for a full lunch. On these days I’ll eat sporadically and on the fly when I have a few spare minutes.

T-Bag full of goodies (veggies) with hummus, 2 hardboiled egg whites, tuna packet, plain rice cake, kiwi. I never got around to eating that kiwi. It was quite a day at work. Darn shame, it looked good too.

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W-Turkey salad with balsamic & red wine vinegar, lemon wedges and a (unpictured) pear.

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Dinners: this is where I could do better. When I am not working I eat dinner at home with my parents so the meal is bigger and higher in calories and other nutrients. I rely on dinner to be my denser/heavier meal but when I am at work it always ends of being a lighter meal. This is my own doing. It’s kind of habit and goes back to my days of living on my own in college. I am also weird in the sense that I don’t like to eat dinner when I get home from work because by the time I get home by 8 pm I am in no mood to eat a heavy meal. I just always have a night snack. I eat my dinner either towards the end of my shift or on my way out of the hospital. Tupperware containers have been lifesavers.

T-“Zoodles” made with my Spirooli, with homemade tomato sauce that a patient actually told me about. This turned out great. I’ll try and post a recipe soon. But it is simply roma tomatoes, sautéed with shallots and chopped garlic, chicken broth and basil. I added diced chicken for protein as well as broccoli. (It was a lot of fun eating this one on my way out of work and in the car. People stared. Oh well).

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W-Turkey burger that I made on the stove-literally just ground turkey with Mrs. Dash table blend. Plus a diced potato (no sweet potato this time), steamed zucchini and carrots. Hi I am addicted to potatoes.

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Ketchup will be slathered all over.

Drinks: Coffee, Water with strawberries, cucumber & lemons, and if the craving hits…coke zero. Ooops.

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Snacks at night-Tuesday was a quest bar and sugar-free chocolate pudding. Tonight (Wednesday), I’ll see what I feel like having later.

Hey there beautiful.
Hey there beautiful.

These are all pretty typical work meals for me. I probably need to work on increasing my nutrients on work days. I’m not losing out on a huge amount but it is still significant because I am on my feet all day. I do make up for it on my days off though because I always eat a good dinner and I have an extra snack mid-day (usually a piece of fruit or smoothie).

There ya have it, nothing special.

What is special, however, is this recipe. This was breakfast on Monday. Pro-Zoats. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s simple. Oatmeal with shredded zucchini, egg whites, and protein powder. Pro-zoats. It sounds nasty right? Wrong. This is damn good and full of nutrients. I never get tired of veggies so why not add them to breakfast as well?

This is also very easy to make. I adapted this recipe from a lot of different blogs and Instagram profiles. Many recipes for this are floating around. The one I will share is from @Anna_Lifts. Follow her on IG for more awesome and healthy recipes. Here is the basic recipe but with my variations

Ingredients:

¼ cup old fashioned oats.

2/3 cup water

Grated Zucchini (unmeasured). I would say maybe ½ cup.

3 TBSP liquid egg whites

¼ scoop Cellucor peanut butter marshmallow whey

5 drops liquid stevia, French vanilla flavored

Toppings: PB2 powdered peanut butter (just another alternative), sliced strawberries

Directions:

Cook oats and zucchini in water until boiling and water is mostly absorbed. Lower the heat and add in egg whites and stevia. Mix rapidly until fluffy and creamy. I promise the eggs won’t just scramble. You won’t even know the eggs are there. PROMISE.  Add in your protein powder and mix like a mad man or woman. Transfer to pretty bowl and top with desired toppings. Smile because you just made a prize winning bowl of oats and then devour. Now you’ve started your day with a steaming bowl of carbs, protein, AND vegetables. The perfect combo.

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