For the First Time in Forever: Frozen-Inspired Holiday Decorating

I grew up in Orlando, which means that an obsession with all things Disney has practically been written into my genetic code. As such, the holidays never fail to bring out the “Disnerd” in me.

During this most glorious of seasons, my family can be found celebrating Christmas “around the world” at EPCOT, decorating our oh-so-traditional Mickey Mouse-themed tree, and — most recently — watching Frozen while sipping hot cocoa.

(Side Note: I make the best hot cocoa EVER. Here’s my secret formula: 1 c. rice milk and 2 tbsp. Nutella, melted over medium-heat for 5 minutes. And don’t skimp on that Nutella; it’s the clincher here. Besides, a little holiday indulgence never hurt anyone, right?!)

Wait. What were we talking about? My affinity for Christmas beverages took me off on a tangent.

Oh, right. Disney. My other affinity.

So, the Frozen fanaticism has hit me hard. Guilty as charged. My twin sister and I even refer to ourselves as Anna and Elsa. (But, as the oldest by 1 whole minute…I’m obviously Elsa.) Wanna see our Arendelle-couture Halloween costumes? Sure you do!

Anna Halloween Costume

Elsa Halloween Costume

Nope. The cold never bothered us anyway.  But enough with all these tangents. There is a point to this post, I promise.

Now that Halloween is over and the holidays have officially begun (Hey…Starbucks says so. Those red cups are back, people!), ’tis the season to start crafting.  And, in typical “Disnerd” fashion, no DIY project in my house would be complete without a nod to the Happiest Place on Earth.

So, $20 and 2 hours wandering around Hobby Hobby later, I set to work recreating some Elsa ice-magic.  The finished product — a Frozen-inspired Christmas wreath.

So, while this isn’t related to health and fitness, it turned out so cute that I just had to share!

All it took was faith, trust, pixie dust, and the following tutorial:

  •  What You’ll Need:
  1. 16-inch metal wreath form
  2. 3-foot rope of silver garland
  3. 3-foot rope of icicle beads
  4. 6 lavender snowflake ornaments
  5. 1 pkg. assorted-size blue ball ornaments
  6. 4 teardrop pearl branches
  7. hot glue gun & glue sticks
  8. wire cutters or scissors
  9. wreath door hanger
  • Time to Make It:
  1. Glue one end of the garland rope to the top center of the wreath form and wrap the garland tightly around the wreath until the other end reaches the point where you started, then glue it down.
  2. Glue one end of the icicle bead rope to the top center of the wreath form and loosely drape the beads around the wreath until the other end reaches the point where you started, then glue it down.
  3. If you have any extra garland left over, cut several 3-inch strands and glue them, at one end, around the wreath, so they stick out  in a random yet artful arrangement.
  4. Remove the loop hangers from the snowflake ornaments, then glue them onto the wreath in whatever pattern you choose. (I opted for symmetry here, but feel free to get creative!)
  5. Remove the loop hangers from the ball ornaments, then glue them onto the wreath, between the snowflakes in whatever pattern you choose. (I placed them in clusters of varying numbers/sizes.)
  6. Cut the teardrop pearl strands off the main branch and glue them, at one end, around the wreath, so they stick out in a random yet artful arrangement. (I paired each pearl strand with a garland strand.)
  7. Allow the hot glue to dry completely, approximately 10 minutes, then hang this fabulously Frozen-ified creation outside your door for the neighbors to ogle at with envy!

And, just in case you were wondering, the finished product should look something like this…

Frozen inspired Christmas wreath

Suggestions for Staying Active on a Shoestring Budget

I’m in my early twenties and have only been able to claim “college grad” status for 10 months. I earn an unsteady – albeit enjoyable – living as a freelance writer. I spend most week nights watching Netflix, since that’s about all I can afford.

So, you connect the dots: this girl’s expendable income is questionable, at best.

However, these twenty-something financial woes (basic white girl problem, anyone?!) haven’t stopped me from discovering fun – and ideally, FREE – weekend pastimes. And nothing recharges my batteries quite like some physical exertion.

Fortunately, near my stomping grounds, there are several inexpensive and off-the-beaten-path activities, just waiting for a broke girl to take advantage of.

Exhibit A: hit up a local farmer’s market.

Exhibit B: explore a seaside nature preserve.


I’ll start with Exhibit A. First, here are some photos from my stroll among South Florida’s gloriously organic, locally-sourced, and seasonal produce (a.k.a. an au naturel lover’s dream!):

farmers market 1

eat organic!!!

farmers market 2

downtown Bradenton, FL locally grown fruit/veggie stands

farmers market 3

downtown Bradenton, FL fair trade product stands

farmers market 4

organic plants, holistic remedies, and homegrown spices/herbs

farmers market 5

my sister sipping homemade guava and sugar cane lemonade

Call me a “foodie” geek, but I just love the pulse of a downtown farmer’s market – even on a small-scale like this one I visited.

The air surrounding these produce stalls feels fresher somehow…more invigorating. The fruits taste juicier, and the vegetables crisper. There is an easy-breezy vibe and tight-knit sense of community.

It’s the textbook definition of autumn.


Which brings me to Exhibit B. I only live 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico (rough life, huh?), and there’s a 487-acre nature preserve near the Anna Maria Island beaches.

This breathtaking coastal and wetland habitat is probably the area’s best kept secret, but I’m among the lucky few, who have stumbled upon its pristine beauty.

So, enjoy these snapshots from my Sunday afternoon spent hiking along winding waterfront trails, lined with postcard-perfect palm trees and marsh grass lazily lolling in the breeze. (Can’t help the alliterations…I am a writer, after all! Sorry not sorry.)

Robinson Preserve 1

Gulf of Mexico inlet

Robinson Preserve 2

natural wetland habitat

Robinson Preserve 3

trail to the 360-degree view observation tower

Robinson Preserve 4

view of the bay from the observation deck (St. Petersburg Skyline Bridge in the background)

Robinson Preserve 5

view of the wetlands from the observation deck

Robinson Preserve 6

another view of the wetlands

Robinson Preserve 7

that’s me on the tower’s top level

Robinson Preserve 8

Gulf of Mexico with the Skyline Bridge in the background

Robinson Preserve 9

view of the Gulf of Mexico from behind a mangrove

Robinson Preserve 10

coquina path through natural foliage

Robinson Preserve 11

inlet with overhanging mangroves

Robinson Preserve 12

Gulf of Mexico beach with sailboats in the background

This regionally protected environmental gem features several recreational – and yes, absolutely free – opportunities, from hiking/biking trails to canoe/kayak launches. The diverse scenery reminded me of an African savannah or a deserted tropical island.

For awhile, I even forgot this was still my hometown.

Whether you’re a Southwest Florida resident or occasional vacationer, if you ever find yourself tooling around these parts, I highly recommend a Robinson Preserve pit-stop.

And, next time you’re looking for cost-efficient weekend fun, check into local farmer’s markets or nature preserves in your own backyard. Both are fantastic ways to get moving without breaking the bank!

Sunday Brunch. Veganized.

This morning, I killed it at Sunday brunch. I mean, my ordering skills were top-notch. I outdid myself in the must-try-the-strangest-sounding-thing-on-the-menu department. (Just a little game I play with myself. No biggie).

I was feeling leafy-green today. And, as such, this Vegan Tempeh Scramble struck my fancy.

OH. EM. GEEEEE!

I barely restrained myself from licking the plate clean. Yep…it was that good. Definitely worth recreating the recipe, which is exactly what I’ve done here. The restaurant scramble was made with russet potatoes, but I substituted sweet potatoes (’cause I just like them better). I’m also not entirely sure what marinade was used for the tempeh, so I created my own.

From my kitchen to yours, hope you enjoy!

Sidenote: For anyone, who lives in the Sarasota area of Southwest Florida, check out Shore Diner. Seriously. You need to go.

Vegan Tempeh Scramble (yields 2 servings)

vegan tempeh scramble   

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 clove Garlic
  2. 1/4 cup Coconut Milk
  3. 2 tbsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
  4. 4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  5. 4 oz. package Tempeh (vegan)
  6. 6 oz. package Spinach (chopped)
  7. 1 1/2 cup Mushrooms (diced)
  8. 5 Asparagus Stalks (chopped)
  9. 2 Sweet Potatoes (peeled & cubed)
  10. 1 cup Shredded Daiya Cheddar (vegan)
  11. 2 tbsp. Rice Bran (gluten-free)
  • Preparation:
  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and rice wine vinegar until thoroughly combined.
  2. Slice the tempeh block into thin strips, then lightly brush each strip with the coconut milk and rice wine vinegar.
  3. Set aside and allow the tempeh strips to marinate in this mixture for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the garlic and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet on a medium stove-top setting for approximately 2 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and asparagus, then saute the vegetables until softened.
  6. Reduce the setting to low-heat, stirring the veggies occasionally for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. In another skillet, preheat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil on a medium setting and add the tempeh strips.
  8. Saute the tempeh, alternately flipping each strip, until the texture is crispy and the outside golden-brown.
  9. Transfer the tempeh to the veggie skillet, then add the Daiya cheddar and stir until the cheese has melted.
  10. Remove the skillet from the stove-top burner, then sprinkle the rice bran on top immediately before serving.
  • Serving Suggestion:

Although I ate it for breakfast, this dish would be hearty, substantial and satisfying for either lunch or dinner, as well. Serve up a generous portion, alongside some whole grain toast points (I recommend Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread) for a healthy, well-balanced and unbelievably tasty meal!

Yoga Chronicles Week 1: A Rediscovery

yoga arts

This weekend, I attended my first yoga class in about 2 years.

The studio I went to, a converted 1920’s bungalow adorably decorated in a tropical Old Key West style, is called Yoga Arts and primarily focuses on an alignment-based Hatha practice.

Specifically, the session centered around pranayama (a Sanskrit term, meaning “extension of the life force” and the basis of meditative breathing), as well as therapeutic movements to alleviate muscular or skeletal tension.

As someone, who possesses a general background in yoga but hasn’t practiced regularly – okay…okay…at all – in quite awhile, this Hatha flow (ideal for beginners, in case you’re reading this as a yogi novice yourself, wondering where to start) was the perfect way to get my feet wet again.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much muscle memory I’ve retained. Granted the poses covered in this class weren’t extremely challenging, but – after taking such a long hiatus – it had definitely crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to keep pace. Turns out, yoga is like “riding a bike,” as the old expression goes.

What I love most about starting a morning off with yoga – as I rediscovered today – is the combination of low-impact relaxation and high-energy performance. I’d forgotten how even the simplest postures can improve flexibility, tighten “problem areas,” and lubricate a body’s range-of-motion without the strain, associated with some other work-outs.

There’s something tranquilly tantric about yoga. Organic. Fluid. Visceral. It’s not just an exercise. It’s a nearly out-of-body experience. A unity between the physical, mental, and emotional states. By stabilizing one’s thoughts and actions, yoga brings balance to the entire being.

Almost like poetry, you know?

Until rolling out my mat this morning for the first time since college, I didn’t even realize how much I’ve missed yoga. How much I crave this (newly-reinstated) fixture in my life. And it sure feels good to get back into practice! I’m already looking forward to another session next weekend.

So, on that note…Namaste.

I Gotta Soak Up the Sun (And You Should Too)!

I recently moved to the Southwest Florida coast where the air is soupy, the palm trees are lush, the sand gets everywhere, the Gulf of Mexico shimmers like aquamarine, and the regular dress code includes swimwear with shades.

No complaints here.

In fact, I live about 15 minutes away from the beach and, therefore, decided to take advantage of my speedy commute this weekend. On an afternoon where the thermometer reads 90 degrees, nothing feels better than a sea breeze and a splash of salt water. So, that’s where I headed.

Now, I’ll freely admit that, despite having grown up in the Sunshine State, yours truly is lax with the sunblock. Sure. I’ve heard all the statistics surrounding UV-damage. I just can’t be bothered with lathering up when there are more pressing matters at hand, such as gettin’ mah tan on. Terrible habit, but what can I say: Florida girls assume they’re immune to cancer-causing rays. And leathery skin? Well, that’s just a fashion statement.

Duh!

But since I’ve embarked on this mission to pay more attention to my body’s overall well-being, today I doused myself with SPF 50, like the good little “healthy hippie” I claim to be. While applying the goods, however, I got to thinking: all we ever hear about are negative results of sun exposure. But what about the positives?

Seriously, this entire planet gets its energy from solar power. We depend on that massive burning ball for survival. So, instead of only focusing on how the sun is responsible for wrinkles, freckles, spots, and tumors (newsflash: that’s really OUR fault for skipping the Coppertone…and yes, I’m just as guilty as the next person!), let’s talk about why we actually need sun exposure. As long as your skin stays protected, a moderate amount of solar radiation is nothing to fear.

And on that note, here are some health benefits associated with soakin’ up those glorious rays:

1. The sun produces Vitamin D. Exposure to UVB (Ultraviolet B – medium wave absorbed by the ozone layer) radiation causes a photosynthetic reaction between the sun and skin cells, which results in formation of Vitamin D. Since the human body can’t create Vitamin D naturally, this is a crucial process. Without those D’s, you’d lack adequate bone growth and density, a high-functioning metabolism, and transmission between the brain and muscles.

2. The sun doesn’t only cause cancer. Uh huh. You read that correctly. While too much UV exposure is the culprit behind melanoma and basal cell tumors, not enough UV exposure can be just as harmful. For instance, people living in regions that lack reliable sunlight face a significant risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or colon cancers. That’s because your immune system runs on calcium, and the body absorbs calcium through solar-produced Vitamin D (again, great stuff!).

3. The sun improves circulation. The combination of UV and UVA (Ultraviolet A – long wave not absorbed by the ozone layer) radiation helps to regulate blood pressure, reduces risk factors for hypertension, and boosts overall cardiovascular health. As per the previously-established trend, this is also due to that superhero-formerly-known-as Vitamin D. Recent medical studies have shown that heart disease is commonly associated with a D deficiency. These studies also happened to take place in poorly sunlit locales.

Coincidence? Methinks not.