Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Summer Night

Usually our weekends consist of dining out for a couple of meals and in turn, we cook at home throughout the week. It's kind of our "cheat time" and my attempt at eating clean/healthy 80% of the time and cheating 20% of the time. It's a balance that seems to work well for us because we like leading a healthy lifestyle. But I will be the first to admit, we are very much "foodies." I mean, living in Colorado Springs where there are lots of unique local restaurants, begs us to cheat 20% of the time! Ha! No shame.

But no, seriously, we love to try and cook as clean, organic and healthy as possible. We have become much more aware on how to do it on a budget since I am currently unemployed. Let me tell you, it is possible and so worth it. You just feel better! This is the point where all military spouses rejoice, forget about the commissary annoyances and feel thankful to grocery shop for great fresh food at a slight discount and tax free... or at least that is how it is at our commissary at the USAFA. 

So! What about our adventures this weekend? We had a wonderful Korean meal at Happy Time Dine In in CO Springs (definitely a must go if you are in the area) on Friday night! The food was all extremely fresh with the right amount of spice and plethora of different sides. Their kimchi is really to die for. Ok, I'll stop salivating and move on. After we stuffed our faces there, we were invited into the home of some our new friends! What a blessing! Saturday, we found ourselves out to lunch while the pups got a much needed bath after the dog park and again today after church, we were out to lunch again at a hole-in-the-wall mexican joint that wasn't too bad. Tonight, it was time to make something simple, fresh and filling at home. 

After reviewing my meal plan for the next week, I knew what I wanted to make. I recently pinned a few recipes through a great page, "Bless this Mess" that I found here. I chose to do the simple oven baked potatoes and a strawberry cucumber spinach salad with a greek yogurt dressing. Can I say I have a healthy obsession with greek yogurt? So, this was perfect! 

I started with the base recipe for these perfect oven baked potatoes! I have never baked potatoes without foil but I was really pleased with the result. It left the skin of the potato perfect and delicious and I usually don't got for the skins. So, that says a lot. I embellished this recipe with some healthier topping options! Let's get started! 

What you'll need: 
Desired amount of medium-smaller sized potatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could do some coconut oil, I may try this next time)
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Unsalted Butter (I chose organic)
Fat-Free Plain Greek Yogurt
Fat-Free Crumbled Feta Cheese
Green Onions (thinly sliced green/white portions)

First, I will suggest moving your oven shelving towards the bottom. I placed a baking sheet on the lowermost rack to catch anything that may fall from the potatoes. Why may you ask? Well, you are placing your potatoes straight on the rack above the baking sheet. I had never done this but trust the base recipe! Now, Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 

I grabbed 4 russet potatoes. I picked two medium sized potatoes and then to smaller because I knew they would be the perfect size for lunch. After giving them a good scrub down, per the recipe, I stabbed the potatoes a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape while cooking. I then used my hands to slather a light coating of olive oil on the potatoes and followed that with salting both sides.

When your oven is hot and ready, set those potatoes on the rack above the baking sheet and let them cook for an hour. I originally set my timer to 45 minutes but I found my medium sized potatoes weren't quite done yet. An hour seemed to be the magic number. 

Look at those golden beauties!

After the potatoes are done (they will have a slight give when you squeeze the sides), remove your baking sheet and then your potatoes (I set them on the baking sheet). Carefully, I made a thin cut down the middle of each potato and gaven them a good squeeze to reveal the moist potatoey goodness ready for toppings! 

I put a small pad of the organic unsalted butter inside the potato, a scoop of nonfat plain greek yogurt (my go-to alternative to sour cream), a palm full of crumbled fat free feta cheese and followed with a sprinkling of the green onion slices. 

Let's backtrack a little now and we will join the yummy potatoes later! While my potatoes were cooking away on the oven rack, I began to execute the original recipe for the Strawberry Cucumber Spinach Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing. I kept it pretty true to the recipe but I made used some ingredients in larger quantities. 

Here's what I used for the salad:
8 oz of Fresh Spinach (washed and dried)
8 oz of Fresh Sliced Strawberries
1/2 of a Large Cucumber Sliced into Half Moons
2-3 Green Onions sliced thinly (white and green)
1/2 cup of Raw Almonds
For the dressing: 
4 TBSP Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
3 TBSP Lemon Juice (I used organic)
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBSP Fresh Basil finely chopped (from my garden, SCORE!)
2 TBSP Honey, to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
A dash of pure vanilla (I added this)

I constructed my salad first! I am very methodical in my salad building, always. I like nice even layers of ingredients. So, I laid down a base layer of spinach and topped it with 1/4 of the strawberries, cucumbers, almonds and green onion slices. I repeated that four times to fill my bowl. You may use a different ratio depending on the size of your bowl! Now get to slicing your cucumbers, strawberries and green onions!

Away from the recipe, I did chose to not toss my salad in my dressing because I knew I wanted some left overs and no one likes really soggy spinach leaves a day after. So, I made my dressing in a bowl with a whisk. I combined my ingredients in the following manner: First I added my greek yogurt and lemon juice and whisked until it was a smooth consistency (left picture). Then I added my 2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (right picture) and whisked until it was smooth.
Nothing like whisking like you're mad. haha

As I was whisking my life away, I felt like I was being watched. By who? 
Max & Lucy, chefs in training or opportunists? 

Amidst my admirers, I used probably one of my most favorite kitchen tools in the world to finely chop my fresh basil from the garden, herb scissors. Seriously, if you don't have a pair, get them! They make your life so much easier. I found mine at Sur la Table

Add in your basil (love the smell) and whisk until the basil is uniform into the greek yogurt mix. Next, add in your honey, salt and pepper to taste. This is where I decided that I needed a little something extra into the mix, so I grabbed my pure vanilla and gave a small dash. As soon as I did it, I thought I may regret it but it took the very fresh, lemony dressing to a little bit richer place! 

The salad and dressing are just waiting on you and those potatoes cooking away. They are beautiful components to a simple but great meal!

Now, we will go back and remember those delicious potatoes that we constructed and reveal the final product!

My husband kept raving about the salad! He LOVED it and he's not too much of a salad eater! Also, he was surprised and could barely tell the difference when I told him that the "sour cream" on the potato was actually plain fat-free greek yogurt! So I consider this meal a win-win!

Maybe you'll make this fresh meal very soon? I guarantee you'll choose this as a go-to quick summer meal that makes about an hour and 5 minutes from total prep to table! Enjoy!

Live. Laugh. Love. Cook!


Sunday, July 13, 2014


Home. I am sitting with a sleepy dog in my lap, enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the news today and just soaking in being back at home. There is something so nice about sitting and relaxing in YOUR home. But today, I sit here and I am missing home. Follow me for a few minutes.

Any person who has moved away from home will understand me when I say this: your home will always be different and separate from your home. I have our home here in Colorado. Jon and I love it here, our babies love it and we constantly talk about when our life in the military is no more and we finally settle down, that Colorado is at the top of our list to call "home." Then, Jon and I have two separate homes. This is the home that houses our families and some of our very closest friends. They are places that require quite a haul to visit but the distance becomes a vague memory the moment you step foot in the door. Through the door lies memories, love and comfort... all the things you crave when you're away. There is something romantic about going home because all the sounds, smells, tastes and feelings rush back to you as though you had never left. It's a relationship that you fall right back into. It's just special.

I took a 16 day trip back home to Arkansas and it was my first true "visit" since moving last November. It was a trip in which I had a couple different purposes for being there but no one large obligation to draw me in. I gained a new appreciation for my home after being gone for the past few months and coming back. You realize how precious your time is and stay careful in the ways that you utilize it. You become grossly aware of the people and things that are worth keeping in your life and those that are not. That may seem harsh, but it's true. In this trip, I was there for my sweet nephew's 2nd birthday, I had some great quality time with my 89 year old grandmother, I had one-on-one time with both of my parents (together and separately), I worked with my favorite co-workers, I got to go back to my hometown and see my very best friends and even snuggle on two brand new baby girls of two of my dearest friends. The only way to describe it was just... good. It was good for my soul. God only knew, I really needed it.

While I know that my home will always be where the military takes Jon and me, I will always have a longing for the familiar. I feel blessed that God entrusted Jon with a heart for the military, the want to make a difference and help others. I feel thankful that God gave me the heart to support and to love this lifestyle we are thrown into. My home formed me into that person. But, it is always the hardest for me to admit that I do have my days where I cry, I miss home, I miss having a girlfriend that I can call and you can bet we'll be meeting for lunch and dinner that night or I long to just drive to my parents house and just be. I was talking to one of my best friends about the struggles of military life and moving to a new place and a new base and having to uproot your life. All of these new transitions are riddled with a numerous amount of pros and unfortunately some cons. I described a military move as truly the worst aspects of the dating game or speed dating. You try to find the best things about a place only to realize no place is truly perfect. There will be things you don't like about any place, but on the flip side, you can always find some things you will love. You "church shop" until you find the right fit and hear God's calling to serve and join in that family of faith. You try to meet new friends but just when you think that "hey, I might have found one," you see that maybe that person wasn't even on the same page. Granted you have a constant friend in your spouse, but let's be honest... girls, you need at least one good girl friend! It's hard to find yourself in that place of loneliness and praying for the right friend to be brought into your life. But as sure as you are lonely, God will always provide those whom he sees fit for your life. Military wives, do you know what I mean? Do you find it hard to trust and know sometimes even when you think that you will forever sit at home with no friends? Some of my sweetest friends tho, God and the military led me to. I know they will be there no matter the PCS moves and the miles. I know God will be faithful and in due time provide those sweet friends with each move. All these things though that I just rambled off, bring you back to a place of being thankful for home where those wants and needs to love and feel accepted in a place far from home are grown.

A lot of people have told me that you will begin to look at home in a different light and pick up on different things each time you go back. This is so true. There were several things over the past couple of weeks that have touched me and queued some thoughts that I plan on sharing over the next couple of blogs. But today, I just simply wanted to write about home and how very special it is.

Live. Laugh. Love. & HOME. 


The Sleeping Babe

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Embrace Your Story.

Today I decided that I would go to the mall to buy a couple of gifts and God gave us a beautiful day to get out in. But as magnificent as this day was, it turned very sour for me. This day was reminder of a post I have been wanting to write but haven't for whatever reason, I'm not sure. But I knew after a situation I witnessed today, I could not be silent and that the testimony that God has given me isn't in vain. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and some of you know (some don't) that this subject is very close to my heart and is laced in the fibers of my story. We will get to that later. I want to talk about what happened today first. I also want to let people know why having awareness of an ED is important, even if it doesn't effect you.

I parked my car, stepped out, locked up and began to walk to the entrance. I notice 3 boys standing at the entrance. These "boys" were probably 11th or 12th grade and I could call them young "men" but that term would be to gracious to bestow upon these creeps. They were "hangin'" out at the front of the mall being productive customers, I'm sure, with their parent's money. I notice a young woman walking out of the mall, carrying to-go-food in large bags in both arms, while juggling her purse and keys. This lady was overweight but she was beautiful and she was dressed very tastefully and professionally. I assumed she was probably doing a run for the office for lunch. As this woman passed by these idiot children, they began to hurl some of the most foul comments and jabs about her weight very loud. I watched her head bow, shoulders slump, face crumble and she darted to her car. I broke inside but I'm sure my outside had a pretty distinct look of fury. I made a direct path to the little boys and said sentences to the effect of how immature and very unattractive they were and how I'm sure their mothers and Jesus are ashamed of them. Was the last part very right to say... probably not. But based on their laughter as I walked away, they didn't learn much and I'm sure the good Lord as a valuable lesson waiting for them. I was disgusted. I walked through the doors and all I could think about was that beautiful young girl and how crippling those words were to her. Do I know what it's like to walk in her shoes? Absolutely not. Do I know what it's like to have those words said to me? No. Do I know what it's like for people to make comments about your weight that meant in innocence or just poking fun? Yeah, I do. Words. They are powerful and it's about time we start using words to break the stereotypes of eating disorders and I can't think of a more fitting week than this one to start talking about it. Now, will these kids have a miraculous change of heart over night from their actions? I'll go with no. They may years down the road when they finally mature or go on to have daughters of their own. But will it be too late if the one person they choose to tear down decides that that day,they are not worth living. I can't bear the thought. Will this blog start some revolution that will take this heinous act that happens daily out of existence? I wish but of course not. But that is where I know God gave me a voice and a testimony to talk about a subject that may hit far to close to home for some people or open your eyes to those who may be suffering around you. Am I claiming that this girl has an ED? No. I'm I saying my story is harder than hers? No. This blog is about the community of ED's and it broadly effects those overweight and underweight when a form of addiction is present.

I realized, I have never shared my story on my blog. I have spoken to many young women around Arkansas about my story and I'm thankful for the testimony my story became. I feel ashamed that I haven't shared it more because at times I hate that part of my life because it is painful and embarrassing to share the "ugly" in your life. It's hard to just be real and give the details but I know that sometimes it can save a life. I'll take that.

In high school, I didn't have it rough by any means. I had great friends, I was involved heavily in church and school activities. I had a family that loved me. I made good grades, I worked for them, but I made good grades. Did I experience sadness in High School? Absolutely. You won't meet a high schooler that didn't. Just a hunch though. From the outward appearance, I probably looked like I had it together as much as a 16-18 year old can. But on the inside, Satan had a deep hold on my self esteem, my self worth and my want for control in my life. I am saved and have been since the age of 8. I recommitted my life at the tender age of 16 and I loved Jesus. I loved church. I knew right from wrong but as much as Jesus consumed my soul, Satan fought hard and won for a period of time in my life. I began to rationalize in my head how I had no control over anything. I was just too busy for my own good. At times, I knew I had put a lot of work into my school and my extracurricular activities but stress consumed me and instead of giving up and giving to God, I gave up. I began to see myself as this ugly person who couldn't keep up with anything. I began to justify that I just didn't have time to eat and that I needed to do something for school or get to my next practice or think about the next routine for the game. I've always been a thin girl. I've never struggled with weight gain. I have always had the battle of gaining weight to be healthy. Now, some people literally scoff at this to my face and call me lucky. But those who deal with this battle, know how frustrating it is and you have to maintain a health weight for several reasons: the loss of a menstrual cycle, increased risks for heart problems, early bone brittleness, lung problems, lowered immunity and a slew of nutritional deficiencies. Who wants that for themselves?

Stupidly, I began to just starve myself because, again, at the busy age of 16-18 years old, I "didn't have time" to eat. I would take a bite of something to just have something fill the ravenous pit that was my stomach to just shut it up and look like I was eating. This act soon led to purging for me and it began a sense of release for my stress that welled up inside me. I would finally eat and then find the right moments to leave. If anyone has ever harbored a secret like this... it kills you... it consumes you. I didn't want people to know because I was embarrassed of what they might think. My family, all my friends.... my youth group? What would they do if they knew? I look back now and I wondered how I functioned and how I kept going and not just collapse at a practice. That kind of emptiness and hunger just sends your head into a pounding rage, your heart races, you can't control your body temperature and inside you feel numb.

By my senior year, I weighed less than 100 lbs, which for a tall girl, is a very disgusting skinny. I got "mono" my senior year because no doubt my immune system was shot. I remember my Dad asking me at one point if I had started drugs and I laughed and said absolutely not. But thinking back to how rail thin I was, moody, angry, depressed, stressed and tired I appeared... I probably would ask my kid the same question. I continued on my path of self destruction but some how fell under the radar with everyone in my life and keeping myself concealed from the world was almost like a game. That is one of the biggest hurts from this portion of my life that still haunts me...I lied to everyone I knew. I lied to the very people who became my biggest cheerleaders. That still hurts me to this day. I would have battles with God because I didn't want to be like that. I knew how destructive this was. I would have a couple good days and then I was pulled right down under. It was an addiction. An addiction that almost ruined me. As if I didn't have enough on my plate for senior year, I took a job at a retail store in my small town. I loved working there and I made some awesome friends there. There is a friend I made there, she knows who she is, that really saw me for the mess that was me. This friend ended up being the beginning to my healing.

Around Christmas time, I feel like I was probably at my all time low and at times wondered if this was what my life would be and if I wanted to live it anymore. Guilt, shame and hurt just overtook me. I remember there was one night that I was home alone during Christmas break and I called a dear friend of mine and told him that I was just depressed and hurting and I didn't know how God or anyone could love me for that matter. I didn't divulge my ED. I remember him saying to me that there was nothing on Earth that could ever keep God, my family or friends from loving me. He suggested that maybe I talk to my Mom. That night, I feel like he talked me off the ledge and made me feel something I hadn't felt in a while... hope. I gave my Mom a brief synopsis of my struggle and played it off as not a big deal and that I was "handling it." She asked if I needed help and I said "No, I'm working on it."

I did good for a while but fell again. I couldn't do it on my own and God sent in a wake up call for me. The girl, that saw me for me, invited me to go eat dinner with her one afternoon after work. She then pulled over on the side of a freeway, locked the doors  and turned to me and she simply said, "I know what you are doing to yourself." I laughed it off casually and asked what she was referring to. She said, "You know exactly what I'm talking about and if you do not get help for yourself. I will get help for you." I was stunned. I was angry. And then I broke. I cried. I told her everything that day and I promised her that I would get help that night. I felt slightly freed in that moment because I was no longer alone. Someone knew and she cared. That night, I lingered around my Mom trying to get the courage to talk to her. She will laugh because anytime I needed to talk about anything serious to her, I lingered until I finally told her. I was like her shadow. When we were the only two up that night, I laid across my Mom's lap at the age of 17, with my legs hanging over her reclining chair and I probably had one of the ugliest cries of my life. I told her everything and admitted to her I needed help badly. I tried to explain this ED wasn't because I thought I was fat or anything but it was what I thought was the antidote to my ugliness I felt on the inside, all the pain I held and the control I wanted so badly. I felt like the food and how it entered or left my body was the one thing I had control of. My Mom didn't judge me. She didn't get upset with me. My Mom held me that night and cried with me.... prayed over me. But most important, she loved me and let me know it. Within weeks, I was sitting in the office of a counselor who I can only describe as God's angel, Trish. She didn't want to solve my problems for me... she helped me use God, my faith and my soul that was buried by a lot of dirt to help me figure out how to face this demon. Trish reminded me I wasn't alone. I remember being so surprised that no one judged me... ever. Anyone who knew, just wanted to help. I saw Trish well into college and I feel like she had a huge impact on the person I am now. Did I fall at times? Yes. Is it a daily struggle? Yes. Do I ever just wake up and look in the mirror and see that old sad, hurt consumed, control hungry person? Absolutely. But all I have to do is ask God to take hold of my being and tell me that I am His  and He is mine and that is all I need to push through.

That was longer than I anticipated as far as my story but I feel it's important that I share it all. So, back to my statement about words and how they play a huge roll in shedding light on people's understanding of eating disorders. There are some myths that people believe about ED's that leave individuals uneducated and unaware at the depth and broadness of this disease. First, an ED is not just anorexia or bulimia. It comes in the form of obsessive working out and dieting. Also, it presents itself in those who have food addictions that lead to being overweight. You may hear the term "binge-eating." Some who underweight and overweight can be victims of an ED. It's the addiction factor involved whether you are ridding food in your life or hoarding it. It is an ED. Several go undiagnosed, sadly. Another myth, women are it's only frequenters. This is absolutely not true. I believe the number is around 1 million men are affected per year from this awful disease. Also, some people believe that the media is the cause for ED's. While media can be harmful to one's self-esteem, it is not the soul cause for an ED, just as the want to lose weight is not the primary motivation to continue an ED for some. Mine was control and taking out all the ugliness I felt on the inside... on my outside. Food in your body is pretty easy to control when many life factors are not. Finally, but certainly not the last (I know there's more), you can tell someone has an ED just by looking at them. Not all skinny people starve themselves or purge. Not all overweight people obsessively eat. It's not fair to "judge a book by it's cover." God makes in all shapes and sizes and we are His beautiful creation.

I can't even begin to count the number of times when someone screetches out, "You're so tiny! Go eat some cake! It must be nice, you're so thin! Go put on some weight!" I'll just be real blunt. I want to scream at people who say these things to my face. One, they probably don't know my past and those who do know me, know I try very hard to put on weight, especially because of my past. When I started doing the Miss Arkansas Pageant System later in college, I got told that I was too thin and that if I wanted to win, I needed to "put some meat on my bones." That may shock people. I tried hard. I ate a lot. I took supplements. I lifted weights. I tried it all just to put on some little Olive Oil muscles and get a little weight in my behind. I cried a lot over this and again... I know some of you may sit there and scoff and say "Oh poor you Melissa! It must suck to be real thin." No it doesn't always suck, I'm sure it'll catch me one day around my 40's. But when I go to the doc, I get reminded that I'm too thin and that if I'd ever like to think of having kids, I'd better try hard. That's a hard pill to swallow and it hurts. I feel guilty that one day I may not get to fulfill my dream of being a mother because maybe I did too much damage to myself or I cannot gain the weight. Those who deal with this issue, you know the frustration. In my bluntness too, I have always wanted to ask the person telling me that I'm too skinny if they ever look at someone and say "You're too overweight." I think it's a pretty honest question and the answer would most likely be "Of course not!!" So why point out my weight, to my face. Some of the most hurtful remarks I receive deal with my weight. Remarks about weight used to be so taboo I feel but for some reason people now think it's ok, especially if you are "skinny." I can take a lot of things in stride but for me personally, it's hurtful and damaging. Just as I know that an "overweight" comment to someone is hurtful and damaging. Think about it.

So, after this long blog post, if you made it through, I hope you not only be aware to the silent victims of an ED who may be beside. You may be someone's beginning to a brighter future if you just have the courage to call them out of love... not hurt. Also, maybe you'll think of choosing your words of someone's weight whether it's to their face or not, more wisely. Maybe you will choose to build someone up rather than tear them down because their body isn't what society says is right. You never know what they may be dealing with. I know the week is coming to a close as March 1st will mark the end of the official awareness week but I encourage you to keep the awareness alive. If you can wear purple tomorrow to mark that you stand up for ED Awareness!

Thank you for letting me share my story. I feel it's therapeutic for me to share it and it is a reminder of what an awesome God I serve that took my mess and gave me a message. He gave me a test and turned it into a testimony. What messes and tests have God given you to in turn give back to him?

Live. Laugh. Embrace your story.