Monday, January 19, 2015

mason jar yogurt parfaits

It's a new year and I'm feeling good and inspired, as probably most people do.

Since last March I've focused on my health a lot and have made substantial progress in doing more healthy things for my body. While I love my craft beer and dinners out (that is what Chicago is made of afterall), I have been evaluating what I eat and am trying to be more conscious in all of my decisions.

With the new year and "fresh start," my sister Heather and I started another round of 21 Day Fix. While I've lost weight on my own, this program has boosted me during those off times. I love the workouts and continue to do those while not actively doing the full-blown eating program. The way the eating portion of the program is set up is something I love though. It's controlled and everything fits into a category. (I love organized thoughts!)

These make ahead mason jar yogurt parfaits are inspired from my meal planning during the 21 Day Fix, although wouldn't fit in the program perfectly. Greek yogurt for breakfast is my usual, but this adapted recipe is going to be my regular from here on out. I was able to prep all 5 mason jars on Sunday and they stayed fresh all week. It was so nice to be able to grab and go and know that I had something good planned to start my day.

Here's the recipe:

Mason Jar Yogurt Parfaits
Yields 5 mason jar servings
"21 Day Fix - 1R, 1P, 1O"

What You Need
- 1 32 oz. container of plain Greek yogurt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-5 tablespoons agave syrup
-2 regular sized containers of strawberries, tops cut off and cut into small pieces
-slivered almonds
-sunflower seeds
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon all spice
-5 mason jars or other containers

I kept things simple and worked on each layer with the 21 Day Fix in mind. I had my purple container for fruit, red container for yogurt, and orange container for nuts/seeds. I used each to measure each component.

The first step is to prepare each layer before assembly.

First comes the yogurt layer: Whisk together the Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and agave syrup.

The next layer is the seed/nut mixture: I used my orange container and measured 2.5 containers of almonds and 2.5 containers of sunflower seeds into a bowl so I would have 5 total containers worth of seeds to divide and use. Add the cinnamon and all spice to the mixture and combine.

The last layer is the fruit layer: Cut and prepare fresh strawberries. (You could use other fruit whether fresh or previously frozen. I did try using thawed frozen mixed berries for a few, but loved fresh strawberries the best.)

With each layer prepared, grab your 21 Day Fix containers to use and measure for mason jar assembly.

Measure out each layer into the containers. Then assemble with a layer of yogurt, seeds/nuts, then fruit. Repeat layers until ingredients are gone. 

My jars ended up with three layers a piece and everything held up even through the end of the week. These are seriously the perfect make ahead breakfast -- simple, easy, and really good flavor. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

21 day fix: my story and journey

Back in March, I was home in Michigan for a visit. I stepped on the scale at my sister's house, looked at the number, and thought "why is that what the scale reads?" I couldn't wrap my head around why I was at this heavier weight. I ate fairly well. I walked everywhere (thank you, Chicago). I'm not even sure now if I can pinpoint what it was that was causing me to slowly increase in numbers, but that day I decided to give my health some focus.

I started using MyFitness Pal and counting my calories every day. I was able to see what kinds of foods I was eating and how much I was eating. Tracking helped me lose about 10 pounds. This was earth-shattering to me. I always thought I couldn't do it. But somehow it started happening. I started feeling more energetic and could buy a pant size down. (If you didn't know, that's a big deal!)

I kept keeping on and every week would see little results, just as I should of with a natural health plan to hopefully slim down. I eventually hit a lull, which most people do. After watching my sister have great success doing the 21 Day Fix, I was insanely curious about what it even was. After learning that it was really just a program that gave you 30 minutes of fitness every day and an eating plan that guided you to eat the right kinds of food in the right quantities, I was in.

I finished my first round in June. It was rewarding to be in pain after my workout DVDs. I planned and measured out my meals. I cheated -- skipping a workout here or eating something that wasn't on the list. But I still had results. I lost 5.5 pounds and 6.25 inches. Amazing results and the push and encouragement I needed.

Not only was I feeling better about myself, which is ultimately the goal, but people started noticing. And commenting. And that feeling? Kind of makes you blush in the best of ways.

I've learned a lot about myself through this health journey. No weight loss goal is too little. You have to put in the effort to see results. It doesn't happen overnight. It's not about reaching *that* number. It's okay and encouraged to enjoy life (aka food and drink) as long as you keep yourself in check.

My health story and journey will continue...

After Round 1...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wood Pallet Wall Shelf

My favorite times of being creative are the ones that sneak up on you that you don't expect. My job is a creative one. I love that, but trying to go home and tell myself "let's be creative!" doesn't always work even when I want to be. I feel too much pressure or am unmotivated or just tired of being creative if that is even possible.

This wood pallet wall shelf came into my life in one of those unexpected moments, and for that I am grateful.

From the beginning of the year onward I wasn't doing a lot of creative projects. I was consumed at work, re-designing and launching our website and preparing for one of our conferences in California. A lot of design and artistic work goes into those things, so I just wasn't feeling like doing those things at home.

Jacob took the dog out one morning around 6:30 before leaving for work and came inside to tell me he found something in the alleyway. (Considering we live in Chicago, that could mean just about anything.) A wood pallet someone threw out -- did I want it? Sure!

I headed to handy dandy Pintrest and searched for projects at what people have done. The best place for this creation was our kitchen/dining space, so we decided on a shelf for wine and other kitchen related things.

We sanded it down just a bit and I took brown acrylic paint and watered it down. I essentially was going for an old stained look. Jacob helped me sprinkle a bit of water droplets on the wood since the wood would've soaked up so much paint otherwise. Doing this helped keep the paint thinner, which fit well with the look I was going for. I used a sponge you often get in those artist brush kits which worked well since it was large. I kept my strokes of paint light and quick. There was some words stamped onto the pallet, so to cover those up I had to go over those sections one more time. 

We have a slight Italian theme going on in the kitchen/dining space, so the shelf really worked well under our "MANGIA" wall art (another DIY project from last year). Over the past few months we've adjusted what has gone onto the shelf, but it is so handy and cute. And most importantly free! (Doesn't everybody get a good feeling when things are free?)

Our wood pallet shelf currently holds lots of mason jars filled with dry goods. Oatmeal, chia seeds, black beans, and flax seeds. Wine, baby spider plants, and olive oil from Jacob's olive grove hangs out there too. (Upcoming post: the awesomeness that is Nudo.)

I have seen tons of other creative uses for pallets that I would love to experiment with. Someday should I ever get out of an apartment and have more space or have my own outdoor area, I think more pallets might make their way into my life. Even better if they are free alleyway finds.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

oh darling, let's be adventurers canvas art [reverse stenciling technique]

Long time, no blog. 

You know, I deem myself creative and try to live my life accordingly. My lifestyle and work all focus on creativity, and I enjoy that. With that in mind, after a long work day, I lately haven't felt like I've had the energy to do a project for myself. On top of that, having a puppy who is now slowly growing into a dog, occupies a lot of my time and attention. [In fact, she's sleeping on my lap now as I type.]

After a very long but amazing work trip away, I came home craving projects. We started painting and decorating our apartment when we moved in last June, but when Sophie arrived in August, we kind of halted everything. She teethed and was potty training and we didn't want anything new. 

I am so very happy to report we bought a new rug and curtains, and I was finally inspired to create something new. 

A month or two ago Jacob stumbled upon a link on his Facebook news feed of a photoshoot featuring an older couple doing an "Up" themed shoot for their anniversary. One photo was so moving -- the older gentleman was holding a large jug of coins with the quote "oh darling, let's be adventurers" on it. 

I didn't initially know how I wanted to use that quote, but I knew I had to. Our life is more about the adventurers than about the things.

I ultimately decided on doing a piece of canvas art and I wanted to try my hand at reserve stenciling. I did it in kind of an unconventional way, but it totally worked for me. I first found this great decoupage paper with a map print from Michaels.  

The pack included 3 different map prints. The canvas I already had in my craft stash was larger than the print, but I made it work anyways. I centered the map on the canvas and applied mod podge underneath to seal it down. My paper did not lay completely flat -- there were creases. I went with that look. If that is something you want to avoid, I'd just do the mod podge in sections. Cover a small section in the mod podge, lay it down, smooth it out, and then move onto the next section and repeat.

In all the attempts of reserve stenciling I've seen, most people do it with vinyl lettering -- either bought or they use their Cricuts to create it. I did not have the Cricut option, so off to Michael's I went. I actually couldn't initially find vinyl letters. I walked up and down the aisles and instead ended up in the scrapbooking aisle full with alphabet letters. I found a few that where thicker, which I thought would be easier to pull off. A few were foam, which worked out wonderfully. 

Reverse stenciling works in the way that whatever you lay down first will be the print of your letters. After the map went down, I placed my phrase where I wanted it. 

I then painted two coats of brown acrylic paint. I used the brushes I had on hand, with a smaller one around the letters to get into all the nooks. When the paint was dry, I slowly started peeling up the letters. The foam style letters worked the best. They were easy to pull up and they didn't affect the paper underneath. For the cursive "bubble" letters I used, I used my craft exacto knife to begin prying the letter up, and then pulling it up the rest of the way.

I loved the look! I took a small brush to clean up the edges of the letters, which was a quick adjustment. The canvas needed something else though. Because the map paper didn't cover the entire canvas, you could see the transition from paper to canvas. I took one of the other maps and cut 2 inch strips to the top and bottom to cover that visual no-no. I think it really helped pull the look together and helped bring out the map in the letters.

I really love how it turned out! The visual aspect matches up with how the phrase makes me feel. I smile every time I look at it. We've added it to our wall, which I'm now inspired to fill up. Let the projects begin!