5/18/2016

A LITTLE MIDWEEK INSPIRATION...


These days, I am always looking for a good source of inspiration. Anything that will keep my anxiety at bay and my attitude in check is a good thing! In between my morning meditations and my nightly bible study, I often look at my "Lovely Quotes" Pinterest board to get a boost during the day. I thought I would share a few of the pins I read the most. I hope that they inspire you and give you that little boost you may need to get through your day or any situations that might not be going your way. Happy Wednesday... :)




Images 1 / 6
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5/16/2016

IT'S NOT A WHITE KITCHEN...

If you are wondering if I still love interiors, the answer is unequivocally yes. It's hard for me to watch Food Network these days, so I've watched more HGTV than ever. Fixer Upper is probably my favorite show at the moment (obviously). Chip and Joanna are just the cutest couple and their work is beautiful, updated, and high-quality - unlike the work on some of the other shows I've seen. Anyway, my HGTV watching has unsurprisingly got me thinking more about redecorating my own home. My kitchen reno got put on hold last year, but ideas are populating in my head again, so we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I'm just collecting inspiration/dreaming. Will my next kitchen be white?? While I love a good, clean bright white kitchen, this beautiful kitchen by DeVOL has me thinking outside the norm... The shaker cabinets and concrete counters are dark, but all of the natural light from the steel windows keeps the space bright. Love that balance. It's pretty right??





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5/09/2016

FOUR FAVORITES...

{All of my shoes these days have to be cute, comfortable, versatile, classy,  stylish, and long-lasting. Otherwise - I don't by them. I've learned that meeting those requirements means that I have to make a bit of an investment, but I'm never disappointed when I make the investment. I've been on the lookout for a platform sandal for the summer that meets my requirements and I think these are cute! I love the leather (adds to the longevity), I have tons of outfits I could pair these with (versatile), the ankle straps add a little style, and platforms are incredibly comfortable to me. }

{Our annual family beach trip is coming up soon, so I'm hunting for a new suit to come along with me. It's a family trip, so I don't want anything that's "too much," but I do want something that's stylish and classy at the same time. This suit has been wishlisted... 

{Speaking of vacations, I had to point out this recent find. If you are an avid traveler who has mastered the art of only carrying one bag irrespective of the length of your trip, then you know that finding the right carry-on is of utmost importance. This carry-on by Away Travel looks like a good one! It's durable, properly proportioned on the inside to please the most systematic packers, and it even has two built-in USB chargers! Love that... }


{Lace bralettes are everywhere these days and I love them! But they can be quite pricey! I recently found this reasonably priced bralette that is super comfy (i.e. not itchy) and versatile. You can wear it under a blazer, a light dressy jacket on a cool summer night out, or wear it as a little nighty to bed... }
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5/03/2016

FIVE REASONS I MEDITATE EVERY SINGLE DAY...


Yep, it's another blog post on the web about meditation! I honestly steered away from the hype of meditation for a long time myself, so I get it if you are thinking that thought. But I'm here to tell you that all of that stuff you may have seen or read about meditation is very real!! One of the main symptoms of my autoimmune disease is anxiety - something I didn't really experience consistently until late last year. My brain had gotten to the point where it just going and going and going and going and just wouldn't shut up or shut down! I was constantly worried about the small stuff. My Cortisol levels were really high. I started grinding my teeth at night, which contributed to TMJ and migraines, which meant I had to purchase a ridiculously expensive custom night guard and sleep in it every night - ugh. I also noticed that I was unintentionally holding my breath while I was working, blogging, or doing something that required a strong focus. Not good... My naturopath recommended strongly recommended that I start meditating. So I started reading more about meditation and decided to give it a try.

I downloaded several apps to help me get started, including Calm, Headspace, and The Mindfulness App - all of which were very good. But I ultimately purchased the full subscription to the Calm app. I liked the soothing tones of the moderators. The tones on that app kept me more focused than the tones on the other apps. I also liked all of the different types of meditations that were offered. Headspace was my second option...

The first few weeks of meditating were ROUGH! It was so hard to shut down and be in the moment. It was so easy to stray away from breathing and think of all the 1,000 other things I should be doing. But I kept at it - twice a day. After about a month, I realized that going a day without meditation was no longer an option. I was totally hooked! Here are five reasons why...

1. It makes me feel positive and optimistic, which makes me feel positive and optimistic about my day in general and any stressful situations that arise. And I haven't even done the "positive affirmations" meditations yet... However, the meditations I've done have taught me how to be calm and remain calm in stressful situations. Being calm feels good and makes me want to stay calm - and thinking positive thoughts is one of the best ways to stay calm. It's that simple.

2. I sleep MUCH better. Sleep on average over the last six months or so has been so all over the place - which has made me all over the place. But I have to say that meditation has made a huge difference - especially since I started meditating before bed. I typically do the 10 minute "Deep Sleep" meditation. At first, I would be awake the whole 10 minutes. But lately, I've been falling asleep before it ends. And the best part is... I've been STAYING asleep through the night. That's so huge for me... Oh and I can at least take naps without my night guard now, which leads me to believe that I'm probably relaxing my jaws and not grinding my teeth as much at night.

3. I can think, analytically, in a much more clear and concise manner. Brain fog has been one of the most frustrating symptoms of I've experienced. I've always heard that simply breathing and relaxation for just 10 minutes a day has a way of strengthening your brain and making more room for it to work properly. I can totally attest to that. Yes, I am sleeping better and have added more good fats to my diet, both of which also aid in brain health, but I know that breathing, shutting down the brain, and supplying some much-needed oxygen to it helps a lot, too!

4. I am much more aware of the process of breathing. I've been breathing naturally and automatially for over 30 years, which makes it something that is very easy to take for granted. Meditation heavily focuses on breathing, so you sort of re-learn what it really feels like to breathe - and how GOOD it feels when you really tune into it. So the minute I start to feel a little tense or frustrated, I tune into the breath and I breathe. I even do it during really happy moments and it makes me feel even happier.

5. Best of all, I'm much less anxious. I'm so excited about that! I still get little bouts of anxiety right after I wake up in the mornings sometimes, but I feel much more calm once I'm done with my session. I can watch the crazy morning news now without getting in a tizzy. If I do get anxious for a longer period of time, I can actually identify the reason why I feel that way and utilize the things I've learned from meditating to calm myself down. That is such a big deal for me.


Obviously there are tons of health benefits related to meditation including reduced inflammation, increased immunity, etc. Here are 76 benefits alone that are the result of meditating...

My point is that if you are one of those people who have heard all about meditating, think it's strange but have actually thought about doing it - and just haven't done it yet, then please try it! Is it going to cure all that ails you?? No. But it will make you feel so much better and put you in the right direction towards healing if you are not feeling your best. If you are feeling your best, then it will make you feel even better. BUT it only works if you stick with it. I don't think I recognized the benefits until about a month after I started. So stick with it if you try it! :)

Images by me (shot on April 16th obviously, but I've meditated each and every day since then!)

#notsponsored
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4/19/2016

LATELY...


{My new everyday bag, which is probably one of my favorite bag purchases to date. It's quality, classic, and so convenient for all my random stuff that I "need" every day! }

Hello!!!! This is a blog post! Can you believe it? I have to start off by thanking each and every one of you who reached out to me regarding the last few blog posts. I was completely blown away by your support. So many of you shared your personal stories with me along with wonderful suggestions on how I can get through this. I'm so thankful for you. I'm still getting used to my new diet and trying to get enough rest. But, I am feeling better and have more energy as time goes by, so things are hopefully on the up and up.

Anyway, I dusted off my camera over the weekend to shoot a few things that I'm loving at the moment. Gosh I miss my camera! Hope you all have a good week and thanks again for your thoughts and prayers!


{In all honesty, my love for fashion has increased since my diagnosis. I've always loved clothes, but since there is no such thing as gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free clothing, then I love clothing even MORE now! As long as it fits, is almost more of a need than a want, and is in my budget, I can have it. That makes me happy. This skirt is a new colorful addition to my closet. It was 50% off and I just couldn't pass it up... } 


{Once I started resting a lot more (a requirement of my diagnosis) I quickly realized that I needed to up my pajama game. These pajamas my friends, are the most comfortable pjs I've EVER owned. They are super soft and are the exact same size and texture after I wash them. I swear I'd wear them each and every day if these met my business casual requirement for work. So very good. }


{And while I've been resting, I've been reading. "Lies & Other Acts of Love" by Kristy Woodson Harvey is one of my latest reads and it was a good one! I loved Kristy's first book, "Dear Carolina," (see my review here), and she sweetly sent me a copy of her new book a few weeks before it was released. It's a beautifully written novel all about love, relationships, and the power of family. That's my kinda read... It's the perfect summer read if you are looking to load up your Kindle!


{I have a college reunion coming up and needed a pair of heels to go with this simple dress. I saw these Sarah Jessica Parker heels in the store and immediately bolted to them. I've wanted them since they first out! Lucky for me I nabbed the last pair in the store. And they were and still are on sale!! And they are so comfortable. Go a half size down from your regular European size if interested!}


{And yes. I still love flowers... :) }
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3/30/2016

WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON WITH MY HEALTH: PART II



continued from Monday's post...

So at this point, I've been to four different doctors and I still feel horrible. But I was determined to find an answer. I did more research, I prayed a LOT, educated myself on my symptoms via podcasts, and I asked more questions of more people. Then one day, I was talking to my Pilates instructor about my issues and she recommended I see her naturopathic doctor. I had heard of naturopathic (i.e. holistic) doctors before (especially from listening to this Podcast), but had never been to one. So as soon as I get home from my session, I research the doctor and by the end of the following week - I made an appointment. He didn't take health insurance (big negative), but he seemed well versed in my issues and it was extremely comforting to think of the possibility that whatever was wrong could be healed in a natural way. Plus, at this point I was desperate and didn't feel like I had much to lose by exploring something new.

My first appointment with this doctor was a DREAM in comparison to all of the other appointments I had in 2015. He literally sat across from me at a table and listened to me explain my issues for one whole hour. There were no computers or phone in sight. He made notes on a sheet of paper as I was talking. If he wasn't writing, he was looking me straight in my face as I talked. Our conversation made me feel like he was genuinely interested in helping me. At the end of the appointment, he drew up a plan. The plan included a food sensitivity test, an adrenal stress test, and a blood test that would test my hormone levels, my immune system, certain vitamin levels and ALL of the functions of my thyroid - not just the two that had already been tested. In the meantime, he suggested I start meditating once a day and start taking a certain type of magnesium for my heart palpitations and insomnia. I left that appointment more hopeful than I had felt in quite some time...

Once the tests came back, I went back to my naturopath to get the results - face-to-face. The results weren't given to me over the phone or over some portal on the internet. I got them face-to-face. Loved that. The tests revealed my diagnosis along with a few other alarming things... All of my blood work came back fine with the exception of the adrenal stress test, the immunity test, and my one of my THYROID tests. My adrenal stress test revealed that my hormone levels in the morning were all over the place, which made sense because that is when I felt the most anxious. The test for my immunity was positive, meaning that my immune system was compromised. The main functions of my thyroid were fine (as the prior test revealed), but my thyroid antibody levels were really high, meaning that the antibodies surrounding my thyroid were working overtime to keep the thyroid functioning properly. The compromised immune system and high thyroid antibody levels revealed my diagnosis: I have Hashimoto's Thyroidis. Hashimoto's Thyroidis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid. The invasion increases the thyroid antibody levels, which causes all of those symptoms I was experiencing, including my raging hormone levels in the morning. Why the immune system does that is somewhat of a mystery. Genetics, sex, age, toxins (environmental and food), and stress levels are just a few factors, but the exact cause is unknown. And there is no cure. My doctor tells me all of those things, things I had never heard of before, and I'm both happy and scared out of my mind at the same time. I'm happy because I FINALLY have an answer. I'm scared because now that I know I have a incurable disease. His recommendation for dealing with it makes me even more scared...

A good naturopath is interested in getting to the root cause of an issue. They don't give you a diagnosis then send you straight to the pharmacy to pick up a medication that might quickly fix the issue, but not eliminate the cause of the issue. So my naturopath reveals to me that the best way to manage this disease is through meditation, stress management, supplements, and most importantly diet - a Paleo diet to be exact. He also suggested that I eliminate my personal food sensitivities for a while. Per the food sensitivity test he ran, I am sensitive to gluten, wheat, grains, eggs, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, chia seeds, and a few other things - all things that I was pretty much eating on a daily basis. So basically I have to be gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, cheese-free, egg-free, and free of a bunch of other TASTY stuff. "What the HELL else is there to eat???," I thought. He tells me I have a disease and now he's telling me I have to eliminate pretty much every food that I love - healthy and unhealthy. And you know how I feel about FOOD!! It's everything to me! I just want to die at this point...  So he sends me home with a list of supplements to order, and an order to up my meditation practice to twice a day, get enough sleep (which I was starting to get thanks to the magnesium), eliminate my personal food sensitivities, and start the Paleo diet ASAP. I just wanted to die... Did I mention that??

Well, that appointment was three weeks ago. I have done exactly what the naturopath suggested - EXACTLY I say.  I'm certainly not 100% yet, but I can honestly say that I am feeling better in just this short period of time. Switching from a diet dependent on some carbs for energy to a diet solely dependent on vegetables, quality proteins, and good fats for energy made me extremely tired in the beginning, but that has gotten better with time. I'm no longer super anxious in the mornings. Last year, I even stopped watching the morning national news (something I'd watched every morning since college) because it made me feel even crazier. Now I can watch the morning news without getting anxious, which is huge considering how incredibly crazy this world has become just over the past year. My heart palpitations have almost ceased, my digestion is much better, and my thinking is much more clear. Meditating has been a HUGE help (more on that soon), and making rest and sleep even more of a priority has helped, too. I'm still bald in that one spot on the back of my head, but I'm hopeful that it will grow back with time.

Thinking of food in a new way has obviously been the hardest part for me. There are so many foods that I loved that I will no longer be able to eat without the risk of feeling horrible or causing damage to my thyroid. I was so frustrated in the beginning that I hired a nutritionist to help me out. She also has an autoimmune disease, so she really understood my issues and was really helpful. I'm currently making all of my meals entirely from scratch while trying to learn new ways of cooking things, which is necessary, yet completely exhausting. I've been to Whole Foods more in the last few weeks than in my entire life. I've cooked more in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life. Lots of fresh organic vegetables, lots of fish, lots of grass fed meats, and lots of smoothies and juices have been happening in my kitchen. But things are getting easier by the week as I learn new and quicker ways of doing things. Over time I'll be able to add back in the Paleo items that I am personally sensitive to, which should make things even easier. However, gluten, wheat, soy, and eggs are pretty much out for life. Ugh... But I'm willing to do whatever it takes to feel better, so I have to do what I have to do...


So why have I told you all of this?? I felt these posts were necessary for a few reasons. Most importantly, I wanted to drive home the point of owning your health. If you aren't feeling well or have that slightest inkling that something isn't right, please get checked out! If your doctor isn't listening to you, moving you around from doctor to doctor to doctor, and/or you aren't getting the attention or answers that make you feel at peace with what is going on, then keep it moving until you find someone who will listen and provide answers- may it be a regular doctor or a naturopath. Never give up!!! Do your research before ALL of your appointments so that you go into them armed with questions and a heightened sense of awareness about what might be going on. Also, be sure to ask about how your current diet and lifestyle might be affecting how you feel and how changing them might make you feel better. Diet and lifestyle are two things alone that can heal so many things, so please ask! Doing so could save you time, money, and ultimately your health.

The other reason I'm telling you all this is because this whole process has made me question the direction of this blog and how often I'll blog. Obviously things like cakes and cookies will not be featured here very often anymore. Even though this is going to be a big part of my life, as of right now I'm not planning on turning this into a blog all about health, Paleo, and gluten-free foods. There are enough of them out there - as I have seen from my many hours of research. But maybe from time to time I will feature recipes that I think would be tasty to anyone irrespective of a certain diet. In terms of how often I'll blog - well that's still up in the air. Right now, my health and maintaining my energy levels are most important to me. My energy levels lately aren't very high after work most days, and much of my weekends are spent cooking, running errands, exercising, and resting. But I promise you I will do what I can when I can.

Lastly, thanks so much to all of you who have sent your thoughts and prayers my way! I'm so completely appreciative and grateful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail or via any of the social media pages. For more info on Hashimoto's, this infographic pretty much sums it up...

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose any medical issues.

Image by Dana Eason
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3/28/2016

WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON WITH MY HEALTH: PART I



Long time no see! It's been a crazy few months and I want to begin my semi-return to blogging with an honest explanation of what's been going on. I am really not the type of person to put my medical information out there, but I feel like I absolutely have to share this. I have to share this because I don't want one single person to have to go through what I have been through during the past year. It's been a long, frustrating journey to get here and I thankfully now know that I have another long journey ahead of me. So I'm going to share this in two parts because I don't want you to get lost in what would be a really long blog post if I shared everything that has happened all at one time. So here's Part I and Part II will go up later this week...

In January of last year, I started to feel the first of many symptoms that ultimately led to my diagnosis. It was so strange... I had just started a new job that I was (and still am) so excited about and I had all this free time that I had never had before. I planned to blog more, travel more, read more, and just be happy--- more. And some of that happened, but definitely not as much as I anticipated. I was always so exhausted. I started experiencing fatigue and constipation (sorry if that's TMI, but it's part of the story!). I would get a great night of sleep and be crazy tired by noon the next day. The fatigue and constipation were sporadic, but happened enough to be noted. But I wrote it off to my body getting adjusted to a new routine. I brought both symptoms up to my family doctor during my routine physical in February. She agreed that the fatigue was probably my body adjusting to my new routine, but she referred me to a gastroenterologist to check out the constipation... Scary, but fair enough, I thought.

I feel like I should pause here to say that outside of my migraines, which I have mentioned several times here before, I've never had any major medical issues. Never. I eat really well except for maybe one day a week, I exercise, don't smoke, enjoy sporadic glasses of wine, try to manage stress well (emphasis on "try"), and you KNOW I love my sleep. So all of these symptoms and working with different doctors was a completely new experience for me...

So I see the gastro and she recommends that I start taking a probiotic. She also recommended a colonoscopy just to rule out anything serious. "We really have to go there??? But I'm not even 50 years old yet!" Those were my first thoughts. But I agreed - hastily. But thankfully nothing was found. The doctor just told me to continue to take the probiotic- oh and to call her if I had questions...

Fast forward to October. I started to get SUPER anxious about the silliest things. I've always been a bit of a worrier, but this was on a whole other level. I also started experiencing heart palpitations, panic attacks, brain fog, weight loss, and insomnia. Oh - and I discovered a bald spot in the back of my head at the base of my neck that was about the size of a quarter. Hmmm... Back to my family doctor I go.

Before my appointment, of course I turn to trusty Google to see if I could get an idea of what might be going on. I typed in my symptoms and thyroid issues kept coming up. I noted that for my appt. So I explain my symptoms to my doctor and she ran an EKG to determine any abnormal heartbeats. Nothing was found there. She then wanted to run a blood test to check my thyroid and my Vitamin D levels. I specifically asked her if she was going to run a FULL thyroid panel (i.e. the T4, Free T4, TSH, Free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies of the thyroid) - and she said yes.

The test showed that my Vitamin D levels were really low, so she recommended a supplement. But my thyroid tests came back normal - sort of. She only tested my TSH and T4 levels. I reached out to her for an explanation and she said that testing just those levels were the main indicators of any issues and she said my thyroid was fine. Hmm. Noted. In the meantime, my doctor recommended I see a cardiologist to get a further explanation of my heart palpitations and a dermatologist for my bald spot... Ugh. More doctors, more appointments, more frustration.

I followed her orders and saw a cardiologist. I brought up potential thyroid issues to the doctor and she said there was no indication of any issues since my TSH and T4 were fine. She proceeded to give me an echocardiogram. Even with the heart palpitations, which to her were not enough for concern, my heart was in perfect shape. So she recommended I go back to my regular doctor for further testing.

My appointment with my dermatologist to discuss my bald spot was very quick and to the point. I was in and out. She quickly stated I had alopecia areata and recommended cortisone shots to restart the hair growth. She never even defined alopecia areata, but I knew what it was thanks to the Google research I did the minute I saw the bald spot. I asked her if she thought this could be a thyroid issue and she said no because my TSH and T4 levels were fine. Sigh... Due to my normal level of worrying coupled with my heightened level of anxiety in general, I accepted the shots. Anything that might make me feel better and make me quit having thoughts of going bald. Two months later, the spot had almost doubled in size...

At this point it's January of this year. A whole year of just feeling off has gone by... I'm exhausted most of the time, still not getting good sleep, I'm still having digestive issues, I'm anxious, my heart feels like it's going to explode most times, and my hair is falling out. I've seen four different doctors - all of whom I assume were just doing what they know to do. However, I still felt like they weren't really listening to me and just wanted me in and out of their office so they could get to the next person.

So I ditched all four doctors and decided to take a whole new route...

to be continued on Wednesday...

Image by Dana Eason


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3/07/2016

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE...

So I thought I would start off the week with something sweet that has a little stout in it. How's that for a Monday?? That might sound strange, but I PROMISE it's so good... You guys know I love chocolate, so I'm always on the hunt for a new chocolate-y recipe to try. This is one of Nigella Lawson's delicious, unfussy, super easy cakes that has the most intense chocolate flavor and is so moist (I know so many people hate that word, but it's the perfect word for this cake. Sorry... ). Guinness has a supporting role in this cake, yet a very important role. The stout itself has a bitter-ish flavor that pairs surprisingly well with the chocolate. You can't necessarily taste the stout itself in the cake, and the cake is definitely not bitter, but you can tell that something special is there... If you want to make a special homemade birthday cake for someone or want to impress your dinner guests with something that tastes like it took you all day to make, hook them up with this cake. They'll love ya... :)


Here is what you need and what to do:

Cake

Room temperature butter for the pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Frosting

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream


To make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a large pot set over medium-low heat, combine the Guinness and the butter. Melt the butter then remove the post from the heat. Then add whisk in the cocoa and the sugar until smooth. Set pot aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Add that mixture to the Guinness mixture and whisk. Add the flour in three batches and whisk until each batch is incorporated. Add in the baking soda and give it one more good whisk.

4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until a cake tester (i.e. a toothpick) inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Let the cake cool for an hour and then release it from the pan.

To make the frosting:

1. Add the confectioners' sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Mix it up for a few seconds to break up the lumps. Then add the cream cheese and blend until smooth.

2. Add the heavy cream and blend it again until smooth.

3. Generously ice just the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

Images by me
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