Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink




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The Importance of Unplugging During A Vacation

I know it's a bit of an oxymoron since I am writing this post as I am on vacation. However, stay with me and hear me out.

Two weeks ago as I was preparing for a two-week vacation in Florida, I was completely overwhelmed. I had so much work to do for clients in preparation of my vacation that I had little to no time to prepare posts for my own blog. I felt guilty that I couldn't get my act together enough to write even a single post and schedule it to go live while I was away. Not one post.

I resigned myself to accepting that I did everything I needed to do for clients before my vacation began and nothing for my own blog. But I still felt guilty. I have NEVER gone on vacation and ignored my personal blog. I have either pre-written posts or I have written them while away when I had a few free moments. But this time it's been different.

I've used this vacation as a chance to unplug and stay in the moment. Since I know I don't do either of those things well when I am at home, I made every effort to do them well while I was away. That's not to say I haven't posted on Instagram, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat. I mean, I can't lose all contact with the social world, right?

How I Accidentally Became A Vegetarian

Sometimes things happen, and you never realize it has happened until someone brings it to your attention. A few months ago while out to dinner with The Hubs, I was poring over the menu when he casually mentioned that he hadn't seen me eat meat in quite a while. It was then that I realized I had made a (somewhat) unconscious decision to stop eating meat.

While I've never been a big meat eater, I would occasionally eat chicken and enjoy a burger on the grill in the summer. I didn't, however, eat pork, lamb, veal, or any wild game (deer, bison, etc.). At the beginning of this year, I found myself switching to turkey based meats like pepperoni and bacon in an effort to cut some unhealthy fats from my diet.

I didn't set out to become a vegetarian. By the way, I am a pescatarian as I do eat fish and seafood. But I don't eat lobster. They mate for life, and I don't want to be the one who eats someone else's "lobster". :-(  Becoming a pescatarian was something that just happened, a sort of dietary evolution.

A vegetarian is a person who doesn't eat meat and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons. A vegetarian is different from a vegan in that vegetarians may consume dairy products and eggs (I, personally, do not eat eggs but do indulge in dairy products. Hello, cheese!). Vegans generally do not eat any products derived from animals or any living thing with eyes (fish, shellfish, etc.).

And I want to point out that I became a pescatarian for health reasons, not necessarily for ethical reasons. But watching both Forks Over Knives and Live and Let Live did partially influence my dietary evolution, but these documentaries were not the driving factors behind my decision to go pescatarian. It was a decision that was right for me, my health, and my lifestyle. Vegetarianism is not right choice for everyone. If you love meat and can't imagine eating a meal that doesn't include it, a vegetarian diet isn't going to work for you.

Shortly after I became a vegetarian/pescatarian, I consulted my cardiologist (I suffer from both high cholesterol and high blood pressure) to discuss how the absence of meat in my diet would affect me. Here are a few of the ways he said I would benefit from eliminating meat from my diet.

  • Reduce your fat intake - When you switch to a plant-based diet, you cut a lot of fat that's derived from animal flesh from your diet. Vegetables, fruits, and beans have significantly less fat than meat. By cutting out meat, you'll be reducing the amount of bad fats you eat. He stressed that in his line of work, he has seen that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.
  • Aid in weight loss - Being vegetarian doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll eat a healthier diet. After all, a vegetarian could exist solely on French fries, pizza, soda, and chocolate cake. However, in most cases, vegetarians hardly fit this profile. Most eat healthy diets full of vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans, which contain healthy fats.
  • Reduce the suffering of animals - The meat industry does not have a reputation for being kind. Most animals that are raised for food have a long history of suffering even before they are slaughtered. Becoming a vegetarian reduces your involvement in that.
If you are interested in becoming a vegetarian (or even just trying it for a week), here are a few of my recommendations.

1. Do your research
Before you dive in, do your research. Know what a vegetarian is and what foods are permitted/prohibited from this type of diet. Understand exactly what going vegetarian means. Eliminating meat from your diet means that a primary protein source has been cut off. Know what are suitable and healthy substitutes for protein and be sure you are taking any necessary supplements (primarily iron).

2. Have good reasons
If your best friend has just made the switch to a vegetarian diet, and you want to be just like her, it's probably not going to cut it. You need to have solid health or ethical reasons for making such a drastic change in your diet. Otherwise, it will not work.

3. Be prepared with good recipes
One of the reasons people fail from making a switch to any kind of new diet is that they are not armed with the proper foods and recipes. Have a few go-to vegetarian recipes that are quick, easy, and require few ingredients. This way, you won't be tempted to run out for a fast food burger. I sauté chick peas and kale, spinach, and collard greens in olive oil and add some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. I add that mixture to white or brown rice. It's delicious, full of protein, filling, and so simple.

4. Reserve judgement
Don't expect everyone to embrace your new diet. Many may be critical of it. Know that it's right for you, but may not be right for others. By the same token, don't be judgmental of those who choose to eat meat. It's a personal decision, much like politics and religion.

Best Online Reads

The ten stories from around the web that I am loving this week:

1. The 30 best music videos of all time via PureWow.

2. Unhealthy foods that most people think are healthy via The List.

3. I need this 3-ingredient wine fudge in my life via Babble.

Weekend Dispatch

We are leaving for a 12-day vacation in Florida next week, so this weekend will be spent preparing and packing. But I am hoping to squeeze in a few fun things this weekend, which will be a nice distraction from getting ready to head out for almost 2 weeks.

Here's what happening this weekend.

6 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up

photo via
We all have days that get us down. Whether it’s a problem at work or a struggle at home, life has a way of making us feel self-conscious, insecure, and unhappy. When I'm having a bad day, I don't wait for it to pass. I take matters into my own hands and make every attempt to boost my mood. Here are some of the ways I use to cheer myself up when life is throwing me lemons.

5 Favorites: Podcasts

Although I've been listening to podcasts for years, it's only recently that I've gotten seriously addicted to them. Whether you want to be educated or entertained, there's a podcast about anything for anyone. From food to sports to politics to movies and TV to fashion and beauty, there's a podcast for that.

In this week's installment of 5 Favorites, I'm sharing my current 5 favorite podcasts (and few honorable mentions, too!).

1. The Daily
I want to keep up with current events, but I don't have time to pore over newspapers, websites, or watch daily news shows to stay up to date. The Daily offers a daily podcast, 20 minutes long, with a brief synopsis of all the need-to-know news stories to keep you informed and educated. It's brought to you by The New York Times and expertly hosted by Michael Barbaro. Since I subscribe to this particular podcast, I get a notification each morning when it's available (generally by 6:30 am). Once I get to the gym, I listen to that day's episode.

2. Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
This weekly, hour-long podcast from NPR is a sort of quiz show. The podcast features a host and generally a celebrity co-host and a group of panelists. You can test your knowledge of pop culture and politics as the co-hosts quiz the panelists to see what they know (and don't know) and how well they discern truth from fiction. This is one of my all-time favorite episodes.

3. Call Your Girlfriend
This podcast is for long distance besties everywhere. But it's so much more than that. Who doesn't love eavesdropping on a good conversation? This podcast is exactly that. It's like listening in on the conversation between two best friends, tech expert Aminatou Sow and journalist Ann Friedman, who met at a Gossip Girl viewing party in DC, but whose lives took them across the country from each other.

4. Burnt Toast
Food is a part of our everyday lives so it's only natural that we should know as much about it as we can. I love this podcast because it delves deep into food origins, popularity, and cultural trends and favorites. It will give you plenty of fodder for your next cocktail or dinner party and plenty of inspiration for your next meal.

5. Tiny Leaps, Big Changes
This podcast offers insightful advice but doesn't require a huge time commitment. Each podcast is just a few minutes long but offers actionable personal development advice. Whether your vice is procrastination, anxiety, stress, or lack of motivation, you'll walk away from this podcast feeling renewed with a sense of purpose and an immediate list of to-dos.

Best Online Reads

The ten stories from around the web that I am loving this week:

1. How to build a skincare routine via The New York Times.

2. Fifteen health benefits of apple cider vinegar via Balance Me Beautiful.

3. The 8 most affectionate cat breeds via PetMD.

5 Tips For Staying Motivated To Workout

This post was written in partnership with prAna.

I have a bit of a reputation for being a yo-yo exerciser, but in January of this year, I made a pact with myself to regularly use my (rather expensive, but worth it) gym membership. After a few months, I had accidentally happened upon a consistent workout routine and was hooked. Today, almost a year later, I am regularly hitting the the gym, sometimes 5 times per week, and have let go of my fear that everyone else there is better, fitter, thinner, stronger than I am.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have days where I am dragging my feet up until the moment I step foot on the Stairmaster, but for the most part, I look forward to my daily workouts. Building on the mistakes I've made in the past and what I hope to accomplish in the future, I've put together this list of easy tips for establishing a love-love relationship with your workouts.

It's time to stop thinking of exercise as a chore and as another binary task to cross of your list. Exercise doesn't have to be boring or rigorous. Make a goal to do something active each day (a short brisk walk, light weight training). Some days will be more taxing than others, but the point is that if you are doing what you like, you'll begin to look forward to it and stop seeing it as a chore.

Establishing a workout routine is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the biggest mistakes I make is being too enthusiastic at the start of an exercise program. I tend to be over the top, wanting to work out every day and constantly checking the mirror for results. The key to having any success is to do it slowly and steadily and with consistency. Set a reasonable goal for yourself at the onset. Start out small and work up to bigger and better things.

Where's the fun in working out if you can't wear cute clothes? Forget the oversized t-shirts and baggy sweats. Invest in a few new pieces of active wear, and I promise, you'll be motivated to work out. One of my favorite lines of workout wear is from prAna. prAna makes sustainable, fair-trade certified clothes that are ideal for yoga, exercise, or adventure.

prAna's mission is to give people the option of reaching into their closet and dressing in items that reflect who they are. The versatile but classy clothing design makes for outfits that can be worn to work or on an adventure. 

Whether you are looking for clothes you can wear everyday or for exercise-specific clothing, prAna's clothes are for you. If you are a yogi, and adventurer, or a traveler, prAna can outfit you.

I've recently gotten back into doing yoga regularly (for me that's 3-4 times per week). I wanted a pair of pants and a new workout tank to reward myself. The Caraway Tight is a high-compression performance pant that's perfect for yoga. They are super comfortable with a wide waistband and a hidden mesh pocket.

SAVE! prAna is generously offering Pieces of a Mom readers a 15% discount on all purchases made through November 24th with code MBCSHF17

Fitness trackers are great tools for helping you achieve your goals. Not only do they track your daily fitness, but many also offer groups which can provide inspiration and support when you need it most. I love my fitness tracker because it keeps me on target and it provides friendly competition in the form of friends and our daily steps.

Many fitness trackers also provide free tips and training information as well as ways to monitor your sleep, diet, and water intake.

I've tried working out at all times of the day, and the only time that truly works for me is first thing in the morning. I get my workout clothes ready and pack my gym bag the night before so that I am ready to go (no excuses!) in the morning. I drop my daughters off at school at 7:20 and 7:50 respectively. As soon as I do that, I head straight for the gym before I can think of all the reasons I shouldn't go. I am home, showered, and sitting at my desk by 10:30. Working out first thing in the morning not only allows me to get it out of the way but it also sets the tone for a productive day.

Not only will doing the same activity over and over again yield zero results, it will also become terribly monotonous. In order to keep workouts interesting and fun, you need to constantly switch up what you're doing. I like to change up days where I workout on cardio equipment with days that I take a class or do strength training.  It keeps me from getting bored while giving my muscle groups time to recover. 

Another way to get stuck in a rut is to force yourself to love something you loathe. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself that I enjoyed running. Eventually I started to dread my workouts because I despised running. Discover what you love and pursue that passion. For me, hot yoga, a good, strenuous walking workout, and light strength training are my therapy.

See you on the trail!

What We're Reading

What I'm Reading: The Woman Next Door by Cass Green
This was a bargain book I found in Kindle's under $2.99 section, so I downloaded it. It sounded interesting enough, and I've been obsessed with psychological thrillers for a few years now. It started out a bit slow, but I've found that all these types of books always do. They reach a point where they pick up pace, and then you absolutely cannot put the book down. I'm not quite there yet, but I can feel it coming. It's about two neighbors who have grown apart over time, but one is determined to bring them back together. Both women have dark secrets, some you see coming, and others hit you out of nowhere.

What Emma's Reading: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is the first literary classic that Emma has read, and surprisingly she likes it. It's required reading for her English class, but she says she genuinely likes the book. It's one of my all-time favorites and is so exquisitely written that you feel as if you are living in the Jazz Age. You'll become so entangled in the life of Jay Gatsby and his deep love for Daisy Buchanan that you'll never want the book to end. Bonus: follow up the book with the Leo DiCaprio movie!

What Harper's Reading: Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Harper is reading this book for her 6th grade language arts class. It's not a book she'd choose for her own leisure reading, but she doesn't necessarily dislike it. It's an inspiring story of two boys, one is a slow learner stuck in the body of a teenage giant and the other is a tiny Einstein in leg braces. Together they forge an unlikely and unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force.

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment to let me know your recommendations.

Best Online Reads

1. The best airports in the U.S. via Condé Nast Traveler.

2. Restaurant red flags that scream 'Don't eat here!" via Thrillist.

3. How young is too young to get married via The New York Times.