Oatmeal.

Blah. Boring. Bland. Bleck.

Or is it?

Cue mysterious music.

The truth is that I would much rather have a giant bowl of Lucky Charms over oatmeal any day, but that just isn’t a smart move. I think I would be a diabetic by the time my next birthday rolled around if I did that, but those fake little hard marshmallows are delicious.

My friend Liz corrected my oatmeal course not too long ago… she told me about all of the different ways she would doctor up her oatmeal, and it became a fun little experiment to come up with new delicious concoctions.

I eat the heart healthy serving of oatmeal- 3/4 c. of dry oats. That is 1.5 servings of whole grain (so if you are counting, we’re up to 2.5 servings of whole grains for the day after the green smoothie). 3/4 c. of dry oats also gives you 9- count ’em- NINE g of protein. I usually include 1/4 c. of raw unsalted almonds in my oatmeal, and those are 5 g. of protein.

That means, with no animal product we are up to 29.5 grams of protein after breakfast(s) alone. That is about half of my daily required protein intake.

Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that oatmeal doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as a heaping pile of bacon. Or waffles. Or tater tot casserole, and I want to be clear that I believe there is a time and a place for that level of breakfast deliciousness.

However, if we are talking healthy choices that provide nutritional benefit, oatmeal is a solid choice.

Up first- and appropriate for the start of the fall-ish season, is pumpkin pie oatmeal.

3/4 c. quick cooking oats (again, I go for organic here)

Add in 1 1/2 t. of pumpkin pie spice- or if you are like me and don’t have that stuff because you have never made a pumpkin pie in your life, add in 1 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. ground cloves, 1/4 t. nutmeg (or whatever you have on hand).

Cover that with water, and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

;
Then get out your pumpkin. I use pumpkin in from a can- NOT pumpkin pie filling. Canned pumpkin is one of the best values in the grocery store, in my humble opinion. Think of all the work you would have to do to procure just 1/4 cup of puréed pumpkin.

Canned pumpkin is usually found in the baking aisle at the store, not in the canned fruit/vegetable area. Riddle me that. I also add in a little (1/2 t) of vanilla and a squirt of agave nectar.

Mix it up and sprinkle on 1/4 c of raw, sliced almonds.

So good! I promise that you’ll love it- I think!!

If pumpkin isn’t your jam, how about a little Apple Raisin Cinnamon deliciousness?

In this version, I start with 3/4 c of oats. Add in 1/2 of a peeled apple chopped. Throw in 1/4 c of raisins or craisins or dried cherries, and top it off with a generous dash of cinnamon and 1/4 c of your almonds.

Cover that with water and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

I was feeling naughty so I topped this one off with a sprinkle of brown sugar.

At the beginning of the week, I put all of the dried ingredients for these oatmeal treats in Ziploc baggies so they are easy to grab as I run out the door or work.

On the mornings that I start my day with a green smoothie at about 7:30, I’m ready for my oatmeal around 10 or 10:30.

Hope you are all having a better start to your Saturday than I am. I’m in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. I just wrote this entire blog post on my phone (please or give any misspellings) while waiting my turn.

Fun!

Enjoy your oats.

Have a great weekend!

XO,
Leah

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One, and only one thing could possibly bring me back to my dearly beloved and oh-so-neglected blog.

What would that one thing be?

Well, the election of course. Specifically, fuel prices and each of our candidates positions on what they are going to do to fix this situation.

Of course, I’m lying.

The fuel I’m here to talk about is the fuel that powers our bodies… food.

Ever since having Henry (14 months ago-eek!), I have felt like my full amount of energy is no where to be found. In the early months, it was easy to blame that sluggishness on lack of sleep, nursing, a little baby extra baby weight and reduced exercise.

However, for the past 9-10 months those explanations didn’t really work anymore. The boy was sleeping, I was at my pre-baby weight, and I was back into my normal workout routine. I lived with this general caffeine fueled tiredness until I just got fed up.

I hated yawning throughout the day.

I hated a PM run to Starbucks so that I could stay focused in my office.

I hated coming home from work and feeling like I didn’t want to make dinner or workout or do any number of the things I knew deep down I liked doing.

Right about this time, I happened upon the documentary Forks Over Knives. Like any documentary, this film has an agenda. And while I don’t agree 100% with every claim that they make, I wholeheartedly agree with the crux of the film.

Food is the fuel for our bodies, and how we choose to fuel our one and only body will affect everything- our current physical state, our current mental state, our future health and ultimately our future generations.

The film encourages people to take up a whole foods (the foods not the store) plant based diet.

No, I’m not becoming a vegan- nor am I suggesting that you should… unless you are into that sort of thing, then by all means go for it.

For me, I wanted to take the challenge for a week- eat a whole foods, plant based diet- – no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no animal products whatsoever. Pigs everywhere sang a hallelujah chorus. So did cows. And maybe a chicken or two.

I guess I just wanted to see.

Day 1 was the hardest worst day. I felt very serious, very physical cravings about 5 hours into the day for some cheese or a piece of bacon. I don’t eat that kind of food everyday, but man… knowing that I couldn’t have it, made me want it. Bad.

But I persevered. And by day 3, I had not only lost 3 lbs (yes, 3 lbs in 3 days and I wasn’t even trying!) but I had started to feel pretty darn good.

And by day 4, I was waking up before my alarm. 4 freaking days.

And my pre-baby energy was back- maybe even more so.

That is a pretty compelling argument for fueling your body with foods that are really really good for you.

So, I have a challenge. And no, it isn’t to totally cut out all animal product like I did. My challenge is for ONE DAY eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables AND eat the recommended servings of whole grains/legumes. If that seems way too easy, then I challenge you to go ONE WEEK with the same goal of getting all of those fruits and veggies and whole grain that your body wants badly.

Shoot for at least 4 servings of vegetable, 3 servings of fruit, and 6 servings of Whole Grains/Beans/Legumes, etc. I’m in the camp that, specifically with vegetables, there is no such thing as too many.

If you are feeling brave, ditch meat. If you are feeling really brave, ditch all animal product.

For a week- just to see.

About Protein: I think this is the number one concern with getting rid of meat. How will you get protein? Well, this was actually pretty easy. First, most Americans eat 50% more protein every day than their body needs. To figure out how many grams of protein you need, take your weight and divide it by 2.2. I was worried about protein intake and I was paying attention to it, and I had nearly hit my daily amount by lunchtime every day.  Beans, Legumes, Whole Grains all have a ton of protein. Surprisingly, even things like pineapple and spinach have small amounts of protein.

So, over the next few days, I’ll share with you some of the snacks and meals I’ve been chowing down on.

In full transparency, there are a lot of NASTY tasting vegan or veggie based meals. And my vow is to only share tried and true yummy treats.

So, without further ado… I give you my brand new obsession. The Green Smoothie.

Please don’t let the green color scare you. It is so so good. When I make one, Henry is stuck to me like glue begging for a taste. It seriously tastes like a milkshake. You must try it!

Simply blend up 1/2 c. of Soy Milk, Vanilla Soy Milk, Or Skim Milk with

1/2 c. of fruit- I love pineapple the most, but strawberries or bananas are good to

2 c. of raw spinach

2 T. of peanut butter or almond butter

2 T. of ground flax seed (you can get this at the regular grocery store in the natural foods section usually near the baking goods)- it looks like this in the package:

If you want a little sweetness, add in a squirt of Agave nectar. This should be located close to the ground Flax in the grocery store. It looks like this:

Flaxseed is a wonder food providing you with Omega 3s, fiber and lignans (antioxidants) amongst other things.

Agave nectar is a low glycemic sweetener- meaning it will make your food sweet without causing that pesky spike in your blood sugar.

So good- and the smoothie gives you 15.5 g of protein with next to no fat. I drink this before I leave for work around 7:30 am. It keeps me full until about 9:30/10 when I eat breakfast #2 (I’ll be sharing my normal second breakfast/mid-morning snack with you soon).

Also, with this one smoothie, you have downed 1 serving of fruit, 2 servings of vegetable, and 1 serving of whole grain (flax seed). Pretty good right?

Another easy snack or starter for the day is toast. Exciting, right?!? Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the recipe for toast.

But can I suggest these as toppings?

One slice with honey and peanut butter. Oh yum.

And even better, a second slice of toast with Coconut oil (it is supposed to be a solid, not a liquid so don’t be alarmed if it looks funny to you) and some mango butter. It tastes like vacation on bread. I bought both the coconut oil and mango butter at Trader Joes.

And for an easy vegan on-the-go snack is my favorite, Larabar:

Key Lime Pie is sinful, and so are the rest of the flavors. The Coconut Cream Pie is also incredible! Most of the bars are under 200 calories and they have 3-5 grams of protein, and they give you another serving of fruit. These guys are also available at most regular grocery stores. Kroger keeps them in their natural foods section, and they cost $1/bar.

I hope you’ll consider taking my whole foods challenge- not for me, but for you.

Your one and only precious body deserves it, right?

This guy thinks so:

Talk to you soon.

XO,

Leah

My sister returned from France yesterday wearing some serious sparkle on her left ring finger.

I immediately went into wedding planning mode.

I’m so so so very happy for her.

And more importantly, I’m happy for Adrian (her fiance) because he just landed himself a seriously amazing wife.

Cheers to you, Jessica and Adrian!

This is going to be so. much. fun!!!!!!!

Yippee!

XO,

Leah

This

Plus This

And I’m not going to lie… A little of this

Equals a surprisingly fun house cleaning session.

That’s all.

Leah

One year ago today, I saw this face for the first time.

Photo by Darrin Ballman

What light and joy our boy brings.

Happy Monday my friends.

XO,

Leah

Love, love, love this. So much.

If you are in high school or college or a recent graduate… or heck, if you fall into the millennial generation, you should watch this. And if you don’t fall into one of those groups, you should still watch this.

So many words of wisdom:

You are not special,

Leah

 

Not surprisingly, I have found myself thinking about my dad much of today.

On this Father’s Day, I’m thankful for my dad’s dad. I met him, but I was too young to remember him. However, I know he was a good man, a loving husband, an attentive father, a generous friend and a loved man. In turn, he raised my dad to be a man of the same character.

One of the things I have grown to love most about my dad is his fierce loyalty to my mom, the way he loves her, their friendship, their constant united front and his readiness to keep peace, encourage and care for her. He made me understand through watching his actions what being a good husband means. I looked for a good husband, and by golly… I found one.

As a dad of 5 kids, my dad made it a priority to carve out one-on-one time with each of us. I remember being awoken on special school day mornings to slip out of the house with just my dad for a run at the YMCA followed by a McDonalds breakfast. As a girl, having a dad that was and continues to be an excellent listener was priceless.

Today, on Father’s Day, I sit in gratitude. Thankful for the generations that came before my dad that helped to shape him. Thankful for his constant encouragement, love, laughter and grace.

Now, my great joy is found in watching my dad be a grandpa to Henry. It fills me up.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy-O.

While he is not my dad, this guy is celebrating his first Father’s Day:

My life and heart is full.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads, grandpas, fathers-in-law and father figures.

With love,

Leah

My new favorite afternoon summer drink… Vanilla almond milk with coffee ice cubes. So dang delicious.

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If you know me at all, you know that I love to read. I love written language. I love a good story.

I have been tearing through books lately.

I highly recommend you check out The Tender Bar. It was, by far, my favorite book I have read in a while. And it is perhaps my all time favorite memoir.

I finally got around to reading Sarah’s Key.

I desperately wanted to like this book because it came highly recommended, but when I finished it my thought was, “Meh”.

Hear me out.

Sarah’s Key begins as two stories.

The first story is of Sarah, an eleven year old girl that gets rounded up by French Police during World War 2 as a part of the Vel’ d’Hiv round up. Her story is heartbreaking, riveting and spellbinding. She, her mother and her father are taken by police from their home- as they leave, she locks her younger brother in a hiding place hoping to come back soon to save him. Sarah and her parents are taken to an arena to be held in deplorable conditions until they are shipped to temporary camps, separated from one another and then destined for Auschwitz. I could not turn the pages fast enough as Sarah’s story unfolded.

The second story is set in 2002 in France, and it centers around Julia. Julia is a journalist in a less-than-enviable marriage. She is given the assignment to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv round up. And far too early in the book, we stop hearing Sarah’s story from her point of view and we are left with Julia.

I thought Julia lacked depth as a character, and as a reader I just didn’t care about her or what happened to her.

And then somehow the book turned into this weird, predictable Nicholas Sparks-ish story. And I was over it.

I was so disappointed because the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup story is an important one to tell, and I cared so quickly and so deeply for the character Sarah. I felt almost betrayed by the author when the intimate details of Sarah’s story were abandoned for Julias. Blah.

All in all, the book was a quick read, and I did stick through until the end. I would recommend it solely for gaining an understanding of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.

Next, I finally read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Some of you may know that this book was one of those “highly anticipated” novels. All sorts of important literary people were waiting and expecting to be blown away by Morgenstern.

Me? I’m not sure exactly what I think of The Night Circus. I think I liked it.

I turned the pages of the book quickly to find out what would happen in this fantastical story. I loved the world that Morgenstern created. I could see the Night Circus, and I wanted it to be real.

My beef with the story? There are about a billion characters. I found it a challenge to keep the characters straight, and when that happens it inevitably means there are characters I just don’t care about.

The end of the story was rushed and somewhat confusing to me. I think it was clear that Morgenstern had a vision of how the story would end in her head, but it just didn’t translate perfectly when she put pen to paper. But, that is just my opinion. I know lots of folks that loved this book.

If you are interested in what I would consider some of the best reads ever, here are a few to pick up this summer:

Freedom  by Jonathan Franzen

Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

Bossypants by Tina Fey

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Shantaram  by Gregory David Roberts

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano

Do you have any recommendations for me? And don’t say Fifty Shades of Grey. The writing in that book is horrendous. I’m sorry. I know lots of people love it, but it is true.

Have a great day, my friends.

Happy Reading!

Leah

 

Have you seen this?

I. Cannot. Wait.

In high school, I read the novel Les Miserables. In French.

While it was more an exercise in translating rather than reading, it was then that I fell in love with the story of Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Cosette and Marius.

My parents bought my bestest best and I tickets to see the musical after we finished the book. The show deepened my love for the story.

And now this…

This looks amazing.

I feel like this interpretation of the story will be as heartbreaking and uplifting as ever.

And Hugh Jackman is perfection as Valjean… Russell Crowe as Javert??? Oh, yes!

Counting down the days until the Christmas release.

XO,

Leah

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