Uniquely~Me

A Lifestylye Blog



We all choose our line of work for different needs, reasons and motivations. Below is my story and how I journeyed through adjusting to motherhood as a working professional. Grab some coffee, tea, kombucha or comfy treat and join me for a little coffee chat :)



Let's rewind to Winter 2016. I'm pregnant and just a few months away from my due date.
My plan:
Work until I go into labor,
return after 8 weeks,
build my way up the leadership chain,
Chaya (baby) will be in day care- she gets to be socialized,
Zach (husband) gets time and space to do his entrepreneur thing.

All would be great. We'll work ourselves out of debt. Life is good. We'll move out of our little one bedroom apt when Chaya turns 6 mos old. Great plan. Strategy in motion. Ready, set, go.

2 weeks before due date: 
Feeling strong but...
Mentally feeling a shift begin.

The atmosphere in our home was changing. A preparation was being made in our hearts as parents and our home was also starting to look different. Car seat arrived, baby sleeping equipment, home birth supplies arrived- things were getting real. Something in me knew I was being pulled in to a different realm of life. Weeks before, my midwife encouraged me to reconsider working so close until my due date. My thought was that I was healthy and felt fine and I needed the extra $$ so I had no real excuse to not work.

But the decision this early on was setting up a value system in me that would lay a foundation and be a precedent to how I make my decisions in life moving forward. This decision weighed not just my financial wellbeing but my mental health and spiritual/emotional wellbeing. Some things just didn't feel well-aligned and I knew the very day this feeling settled in that it was time to turn in my projects at work and officially give myself the opportunity to fully transition into motherhood- mentally, physically and spiritually.



The last day before my maternity leave, I went in to sign my leave papers. And it was that very night that I entered into labor. Talk about timing! It was as if my body was waiting for my mind to catch up. Although coordinating my leave was challenging because it was not financially covered outside of my saved vacation and sick leave (I worked for a small non-profit), God provided for us in amazing ways. As I layed in bed that night, feeling as though I had tied all my loose ends at work, I patted my belly and said: "Okay, you can come now." I closed my eyes only to be woken up 20-30 minutes later with a startling shock and wave of pressure and pain that reverberated through my whole body. I'll have to share more of my birth story sometime in another post, but 24 hours later, my precious Chaya was here and my whole world changed.

The Arrival:

Those 8 weeks went by like a flash and I remember being so dumbfounded with myself for thinking that returning to work after 8 weeks was a reasonable plan. There was no way that I was ready. And yet, there is no way one can really prepare or know how much of a life-changing shift our hearts and minds go through after becoming a parent.

I talked with my job and negotiated a later return date. Again, here I was making a decision between my mental health and my financial wellbeing. It was hard. I have car payments, grad student loans, personal debt, etc. I decided I could only afford 3-4 more weeks to buy me more time with my daughter, to heal, to establish getting Chaya to take a bottle, etc. before going back. But how does one really put a price and timeline on our mental health? And postpartum recovery? Most mamas can probably agree that 3-4 more weeks is still not enough time when our babies are still so young. Neither is 4 months. 6 mos. A year? Maybe we're getting closer. Depending on the woman. And to think many women return to work after only 6 weeks. It's unreal!

The lack of priority and consideration that our American working society and culture puts on women as child bearers is a somber reality.



 
The Return:

It's now late spring 2016 and I was fortunate to have considerate accommodations upon returning to work. A conference room designated for pumping and happy coworkers who were excited to welcome me back. I couldn't complain too much. A week later it was announced that our organization would be applying for a nearly million dollar grant. This meant late nights and little sleep in the non-profit world. Consider ourselves slammed. I was already managing another quarter-million dollar grant and I remember sitting at my desk just melting into my chair. Melting. And leaking. It was time to pump again. I had just started figuring out what to begin chipping away at on my to-do list- but nope! It must wait. My boobs were saying otherwise. I dash off to the conference room and set up my pump station. As I pumped away I scrolled through pictures of my Chaya (it's supposed to help with your letdown and milk production). Emotions began settling in- ...wondering how she's doing. She was too little to notice I was gone or miss me. But also still refusing the bottle so I was anxious about her feedings. After breastfeeding on demand, it was so hard to be away...

Okay. Boobs were empty. Shut off emotional thoughts, wipe eyes, return to desk. Switch back to work mode. But keep an eye on the clock for next pump break. And make sure to eat a nutrient dense snack, pop some fenugreek, drink lots of water. Gotta keep that milk supply up. Check and feel boobs periodically- but discreetly. I was pumping and breastfeeding 60+ ounces of milk- easily. That is almost 8, 8oz glasses. So my boobs filled up quickly. I was a machine. Always calculating. And because Chaya was not taking the bottle, I was able to negotiate going home to feed her on lunch breaks and in-between community meetings.

My job role was heavily involved in the community so there was a lot of community organizing, focus groups, strategic planning and outreach in the evenings too. I needed some way to get home to breastfeed Chaya in-between all of this. Chaya was so strong-willed that she would go up to 8 hrs during the day refusing the bottle until I got home. This created so many challenges. I was constantly keeping track of my milk and boob fill-age and before going home I would have to pump just enough to keep my milk supply up but not too much so that there would still be enough left in my boobs for her when I came home to feed her. This took a good percentage of brain/thinking/emotional capacity- cue mom brain.



The Reversal and the Downward Spiral

Like a lot of working moms may notice, babies will usually just switch their circadian rhythm when this reversal of feeds happens. The baby will begin sleeping more during the day and make up for lack of day feedings at night. This is what happened to us. I was a zombie. Pumping around the clock, operating at a highly strategic level at my job writing this mega grant (which we were awarded months later, by the way!) and managing another. I was still driving all over town in rush hour traffic to make it to community meetings. Hoping there would be a place for me to pump. Or else it was my car. I even pumped while driving at times because there would be no time for a pumping break.

We hired a part-time nanny who was amazing, but gee, we could never give her a consistent schedule with my husband being an entrepreneur starting up a few projects and with me and my sporadic non-profit community schedule. There was one day where I left the office in a rush for a meeting and knew I wouldn't have enough time to do my usual lunch time feeding. I phoned our nanny to let her know I would be picking both her and baby up and taking them across town to my meeting with me so I could feed Chaya in the car quickly before the meeting started. Note: it was in the heat of the summer too. My meeting was actually very exciting- discussing with a high school in the community the feasibility of implementing a farmers' market that accepted EBT (food stamps) at the school's community garden. Yet, my passion was being pulled in too many directions. I needed to feed my baby and I needed to be on time to this meeting that I was facilitating. This type of tug-of-war of emotions and decision making happened all too often.

I was a chicken running around with what felt like my head cut off. Having anxiety and panic attacks on the way to work, meetings and at night. Not knowing if I would get a good enough sleep. The sleep needed to operate at my level of job responsibility which was highly strategic developing action plans, grant administration, etc.



 Days went by. Weeks went by. Many late nights staying up writing away at this mega grant after already working a full day. Many emotional breakdowns. Until one when night I lost it. My husband was staying up with me for moral support and I just broke down. My chest was heavy, my throat closed up, things started to get black, my heart pounded, breathing became labored and harder. Tears poured down my face and words were coming out saying, "I can't do this. I can't do this anymore." I was having a full blown panic attack. I'm not sure how much time went by but I wiped my eyes, reopened my laptop and kept writing . Who was I kidding? I wrote it off as a temper tantrum and stayed up until 5am finishing some more writing.

Another few weeks went by and my work performance was starting to take a toll. This is straight-A, honor roll, valedictorian, 4.0, perfectionist Mary here was struggling with her work performance. I was turning up late to meetings, forgetful, and just lacking overall passion and drive. No time to exercise. Barely any time to eat and eat well. I was not myself. I was angry, stressed out, easily upset, anxiety to the max, snappish at home with my family and husband and just overall just unhappy and not fun to be around.

I remember telling my supervisor that my level of performance and abilities in this stage of my life was down to a 60-70%. I could tangibly feel that decrease in my work performance. I was slower at getting things done too. And I needed her to know that that was all she could expect from me. She was such an advocate and we had a great open communication type of relationship. She encouraged me to do what I could and that it was okay to accept and acknowledge that I was doing what I could with what I had to give. I felt like a failure after that meeting but at least our expectations with one another were on the same page.




It's Fall 2016 and Chaya was getting older- 6 mos old now. And having full on tantrums noticing that I was leaving for work (object permanence). She would scream for me as I close the door and walk down the stairs to my car. She's crying- and I was crying too. I wiped away the tears as I entered the office, late again (another feeding gone too long), arms struggling to juggle my purse, breast pump, lunch bag, and work binders (we're still writing this grant). I needed a suitcase! Because of last minute changes with child care there were other times when I actually had to tote Chaya with me to these meetings - our executive director present and all eyes on me. I reflected on all these moments and realized that I really couldn't do this anymore. This wasn't a childish temper tantrum. The tight throat, heavy chest, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and blurry vision started creeping up again. This was real life. I was reprimanded for being late and went back to my desk still in mid panic/anxiety attack. The world around me just kept spinning and spinning. I called my husband amidst my overwhelm and he gave me full permission to do what I felt would be best for me- even if it meant quitting. But I didn't want to quit on those terms.



In her book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, Katrina Alcorn mentions that "motherhood is now the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age."
She also goes on with some statistics about working parents and calls this a public health crisis:

After my last panic attack, I told my supervisor that I was not in a good place to operate in my job and needed to take a leave of absence. Again, it would be unpaid. I had no vacation or sick leave since it was all exhausted on my maternity leave. The theme continues: mental health vs financial well-being/ stability. I took a week off to reflect and come up with a game plan, recover, rest and just give myself a break. I wrote down some thoughts that I would present back to my supervisor that should improve my circumstances. Some were organizational, some included setting boundaries on community meetings, delegating my workload, onboarding interns, etc. But there was one standing item that no planning or level of organization would solve: Flexible Scheduling.

In all of this, not only was I learning what I needed as a working mom (how do you make up for the energy lost after 6 back-to-back sleepless nights?), but I was learning what I needed as a creative, as a deep strategist and content creator. I was learning that I was not fitting the mold of the 9-5 work culture. I knew this about myself, but something about becoming a mom brought this to the surface and it all came crashing and colliding at once. How many of us grew up with single parents who had no choice and currently face much subconscious post traumatic stress and stress-related conditions over their sacrifice to work and override their mental health and wellbeing in order to financially provide for their families?

I was continually faced with the decision to battle and advocate for a flexible schedule. It was a constant tug of war conversation. I had beautifully drafted a well-thought out proposal, but many of my requests were edited out. While more and more employers are offering flexible work schedules, it is still quite countercultural in our American work culture. Ultimately, I had to sacrifice a great deal of my salary and exempt status to become a part time hourly employee in exchange for my flexible schedule. It was a win in many ways, but still extremely difficult and felt like a loss in other ways.


It is now Winter, 2016. Chaya is still home with Zach (no more nanny), drinking the bottle a little more now but still not sleeping through the night due to some of the habits developed earlier on in my return to work. I was still extremely tired and sleep- deprived to a state of nearly neurotic insanity it felt like. Just barely making it. I was still having anxiety and panic attacks. And still at a cross roads about my job and overall wellbeing. There were a lot of internal/organizational challenges going on in my workplace. Even though I had reduced myself to part time, I was still so stressed out and unhappy. Even on weekend trips to beautiful places like Tahoe with friends and family, I was miserable and couldn't get a grip on this working mama gig. Something was just not right.

It was time to pursue an exit strategy.


The Exit Strategy

Eventually I knew that I needed to decide for the long-term sanctity of my health, my family and relationships what I was going to do about all of this. If you've ever read the 4-hour Work Week book, it encourages us to consider to what extent we would go to experience peace, happiness and time freedom in life. Because when we look back, they always say that we'll never be proud of how much life we spent working, but how much life we enjoyed living. So we decide what we're willing to sacrifice. For some it's a nice car, a bigger house, starbucks, etc. Maybe selling our cars altogether and taking public transportation. For my husband and I, we're still nice and cozy in our one bedroom apt and Chaya is now 19months old. We're taking a little longer to get out of debt. But I've never been happier. We prayed as a family and a community for provision and creative opportunities. We have been so blessed to pursue multiple streams of income, job interviews, and more. Taking this risk to be self-employed is not for the faint of heart though. I officially decided to exit my career-track job and became a self-employed, work-from-home mama early January 2017.

At my last community meeting with the non-profit as I said my goodbyes the lieutenant, who was a dear community partner of ours, came up to me and said, "You won't regret it. You will not regret it at all."

And oh, how he was so right.


Just a week after resigning from my job-all on good terms after many months of riding things out- we got notice for Chaya's first Old Navy booking. The timing! My new job doing contract work as a health coach consultant also needed me sooner than anticipated. It was amazing how things started falling in to place. It was not by no effort. I was working my butt off pursing job opportunities that aligned with my values and mental health and skill-set, staying up late updating my resume, cover letter and pursuing certifications that would help me be more marketable as a prospective applicant. I worked hard to get our daughter the best positioning and set-up for her modeling. Some things we cannot change right away. But with staying true to my exit strategy, advocating for myself, intentional and specific prayer, patience (not leaving my job on bad terms), I experienced such blessing and God's provision. Some moms may consider going back to school to improve their job options and some moms may consider downsizing their lifestyle in order to be able to afford being home more. I truly believe that God believes in and loves when we prioritize our health and family as good stewards of what he has given us in a season.


My health, and the walls of my family were crumbling and so I set my mind to figure out what I could do and at what cost or sacrifice. We still are living very humbly in our small space, I don't shop for clothes often (see minimalism post part 1 and part 2). But what a transformation I've gone through from this time last year until now. Not every working mom has the same story, but my hope is that we can share our struggles with one another and acknowledge and give ourselves permission to say we're not okay when we're not okay. And to work together, one-by-one, to change the work culture so that the decision between being a good mom, wife, etc. while also being a good employee, staff, boss, entrepreneur becomes easier. That we don't have to choose one over the other.

There is so much I am still learning- as always.

Every mom has her own unique giftings, talents, strengths and desires. Not all want to be at home and not all want to be out of the home. The most important thing is to stay true to and in touch with our value systems. Making sure we advocate for ourselves and our value as mothers and contributors to this world.





Calling all dairy-free lovers of this mediterranean novelty! The gyro, one of my favorite mediterranean treats, is one of the best pairs for this sauce and yet, due to my dairy-free lifestyle, I've been avoiding including it in my orders. The refreshing flavors of the tart, mint, dill and crisp crunch of the cucumber in this sauce make it hard to not notice when it is not there. I had enough of going without and decided to give it a go at trying my own dairy-free version. There are many recipes out there nowadays for a vegan, dairy-free alternative and I combined a couple different ideas to create this perfectly delicious hack to still enjoying tzatziki.

Some recipes call for silken tofu and varying types of non-dairy yogurt. I decided I would go with the So Delicious brand of unsweetened plain coconut yogurt. I was aiming to maintain as much creaminess as possible and coconut based products tend to give me the best texture when it comes to creaminess. See below for more details and the recipe!

Recipe: 
1 chopped English cucumber 
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2  of a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
3 cloves chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt (we use himalayan pink salt)
4 cups unsweetened coconut yogurt (or unsweetened non-dairy yogurt of choice)

Preparation: 
Chop cucumber in to small chunks about the size of a kernel of corn or to your desired size preference. Set aside in another bowl and let chopped cucumber drain for 20-30 minutes to prevent excess liquid from pooling in final tzatziki sauce. In medium sized mixing bowl fold in drained cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt. Take notice on the ingredients list that your yogurt is truly unsweetened. I found a lot of hidden sugars in the form of concentrated white grape juice and evaporated cane sugar in other "plain" yogurts and didn't notice until after I got home from the grocery store.  Unsweetened yogurt is the best version for this recipe in my opinion taste-wise as the sweetness of other yogurt styles tends to throw off the flavors in the sauce. There is cushion to adjust the lemon juice and white wine vinegar proportions depending on how tart or not you like your tzatziki. Allow sauce to sit in fridge for up to an hour to allow flavors to blend and further develop. Serve with your favorite wrap or pita chips and hummus and Enjoy!

Bon Appetit!








The inner athlete in me has been through a journey of many seasons of fitness and relationship building with my own body. Some may already know the background if you've read my transformation story. With each turn of season from high school champion scholar athlete to shifting out of organized sports in college to becoming a working professional and now a working mama, my body has been through many shapes, mental capacities and fitness regimens based on the capabilities each stage of life provided. Some have been extreme (single, college student running marathons obsessed with body image) to slow and steady (pregnant with all day sickness and no energy, barely able to walk some days- still obsessed with body image). As the seasons of life turn, we grow and we adapt and we get to step into another phase that will challenge the core of who we really are. We get to decide if what we say we believe is truly what we believe. 

As much as we know at an intellectual level that we are more than what our bodies look like, it is an ever-pressing challenge that requires intentional discipline and regular mindfulness to actually live that out and believe that we are truly more than what our bodies look like. 

#guardyourselftalk



There will be times in our life when our idea of what our body "should" look like will not align with the reality of what it actually looks like. I've consciously been on this journey to self love since high school. Puberty, as many others can relate to, hits and our eyes are open to a whole new world of feelings, emotions, self-awareness, hormones, etc. I've been that awkward overweight, can-barely-walk-I'm-so-out-of-shape young girl. But pregnancy. Pregnancy. The changes I experienced during pregnancy turned my world Up. Side. Down. There's something about having a baby that just rocks your world and confronts you face to face and gets you to question who you really are, how confident you are about yourself and what you're going to do about it.

On a very practical level, where do we begin when searching for that inner strength to push us into self-confidence that goes beyond the exterior and binds so that our mind and spirit are in alignment with loving our body for what it is, where it is and for what it can do?



1) Body Positivity Step #1- Our bodies are powerful. The way they look sure can mean a lot; we're primitive beings, let's be honest about that. But they are powerful for what they can do! They help us walk, they house our bones and organs, they're incredibly smart, they keep our heart beating, they keep us alive and breathing by pumping in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. They digest our food and turn it into fuel. They create beautiful art, compose and perform soulful music and our brains solve complex problems and build amazing things. They spread compassion, love and happiness through a hug, a smile or a thoughtful gesture. My body grew and gave birth to a child! Theses are things I need to declare and remind myself daily. Multiple times a day on some days

2)  Body Positivity Step #2- Knowing that our bodies are powerful, find something you are proud of your body for doing. For me, I experienced devastating knee injuries that have pretty much retired me from the running community. I was honestly depressed about it for quite some time. I didn't know what to do with myself. This running injury actually highlighted some disordered eating and exercise patterns that I was exhibiting and allowed me to deal with them upfront: In the kitchen. Late at night- 2am. Bingeing on my roommate's chocolate birthday cake. In that season I learned that my body deserved better than the crazy binge eat, running cycles I was putting it through and I learned to be proud of my body for what it could still do even though long distance running was no longer an option. I learned to appreciate a slower pace. Really a more reasonable, sustainable and enjoyable way of approaching exercise. I learned how to craft an exercise regimen out of roadbiking and trying new strength training exercises. Our bodies thrive on new challenges. I experienced confidence building in defying the barriers of my knee injury.

As a mother, my biggest pride and joy and sense of accomplishment comes from the amazing baby it grew and continues to feed to this day. I am proud of how strong my body is. My first day back at the gym was sobering. I could barely do one single push-up. Looking back, I am amazed at how adaptable the body is. My confidence comes from my appreciation of what my body does for me. Today. That comes first. The results come after which leads into the next step.

3) Body Positivity Step #3- Respect your body. Talk nicely to it when you look at it. Love it. Appreciate every roll, dimple and blemish. Treat it like you would your best friend. Our bodies need to be treated well. We only get one. They need and deserve quality fuel and our muscles, our heart and our mind deserve and thrive when they are subjected to healthy movement and activity. However, I have lived through the differences between respecting my body after achieving a certain weight goal or look versus respecting my body for what it is today. Results from the former don't last long. Results from the latter last a lifetime; because, then what I do for and with my body becomes a way of life. Regardless of where I am in life, I don't stop, I just adapt. My exercise is more enjoyable. I look forward to it. I find my strength and confidence in the journey. I am not punishing myself. It becomes a treat to participate in a workout. When I am waiting to respect my body after I achieve my weight/body goals, my motivation is wavering and not on solid ground.

In the day and age of instagram models, photo-editing apps so easily at our disposal and the comparison it all insinuates, it's unreal how cruel we can be to ourselves without even knowing it most of the time. It becomes a mindless thought pattern. And it subconsciously affects the way we view and judge others too. I'm learning to be nicer to myself in every stage my health, my life and my body goes through. I want to be the nicest person I've ever met. Will you join me in kindness, pride, and respect for ourselves and the amazing power that lies within our body?





Photo and Video Credit: Zach Boyd (my husband)
Film Editing: me!
Film Location: Ethos Strength and Performance- Sacramento, CA


Today is National Coffee Day and a great opportunity for everyone who loves coffee to celebrate, drink up and share their favorite ways to enjoy this popular beverage that transcends across almost every culture around the world!

I've been dairy-free for over a year now and this really challenged my go-to coffee drinking pleasures and recipe. There are many different styles to drinking coffee from cappuccino to espresso, americano, macchiato, mocha and latte. All have varying levels of water to espresso to milk or milk foam ratios. Out of these six different styles for drinking coffee, the latte has been favorite method. The warm creaminess mixed with the rich espresso flavors is so very satisfying to me in the morning as I get a jump on my day.

My milk preference of choice has been flax milk. I used to be a heavy soy milk drinker as I appreciated the protein content. But my personal and professional health convictions have been keeping an eye on the research coming out and I need some more data for me to feel less uneasy about the long-term repercussions of consuming soy. I've experimented with many different types of milks and my satisfaction has wavered on the texture, sweetness (too much or too little), protein content, and chalkiness (too much graininess or too watery). But flax milk has been the best one out there for me so far. Being non-dairy, I have had to get very creative with filling the gap in my protein intake- especially being a weight-lifter. The Good Karma flax milk brand I enjoy has a whopping 8g of plant protein per 8oz serving. It is creamy, not too chalky and perfectly smooth. I opt for the unsweetened version as I like to control how much sugar I add to my drink and foods.




My morning method:
1) Heat up milk in saucepan on light heat until warm (about 5 minutes- stir often)
2) Portion coffee grounds ~approx 1/4 cup into aero press (I use decaf- my body is too sensitive to caffeine. Jitters, restless sleep, anxiety, etc)
3) Boil water (The trick here to avoid overly bitter and burnt coffee is to bring water temperature down after boiling by re-adding some warm/cool water. The water should be hot to touch but not scalding. Or you could buy a thermometer and measure to 195-205 degrees fahrenheit for accuracy)
4) Add hot water to coffee grounds in aero press (The aero press has been my favorite tool for creating espresso coffee. It makes compact little shots of espresso for me, takes up very little space and is so easy to clean)
5) Transfer espresso shot from aero press to saucepan containing warm milk
6) Add 1/2 tbsp of maple syrup and 1/2 tbsp of hazelnut flavored organic cane sugar (If I must use some sweetener, pure organic maple syrup is a nice option that mixes well with coffee and a little goes a long ways)

and Enjoy!!







*Health Tip*
Coffee by nature is quite acidic- especially depending on how it is processed. Some people may experience upset stomachs or indigestion among other symptoms due to over-consumption of coffee and the compounds it contains. A solution for this lies in a fairly new and popular option on the shelves of many stores now called cold brew. Cold brew coffee is known to present with lesser acidity and can also be a refreshing cooler option for enjoying coffee at any time of the day. Cold brew can also be made at home by steeping and soaking coffee grounds in cooler water overnight and enjoying the next day.

Another consideration for improving the acidity issue in our coffee is to incorporate and add some dried cardamom pods into our coffee. Cardamom contains compounds that naturally help neutralize the acidic nature of coffee which in return helps improve the way our body digests and responds to the beverage. This is an age old custom and is widely practiced in many Indian cultures. Starting off with 1-2 pods and building up as taste becomes acquired is a good start. Cardamom has a naturally sweet yet spicy flare to it- very warming and soothing to consume.




Plantain!
Being Nigerian, this delicious snack brings back a lot of memories from when I was a child growing up at home. While commonly fried in a lot of households, I have enjoyed a different variation of baking my plantain. By baking, it's a bit healthier with less unnecessary fats added. What makes plantain healthy? It is a great source of natural sugar, potassium and magnesium which work really well together in the body. Both are needed for cellular metabolism and cellular message transmission along with muscle function and bone health. Very important especially for the fitness enthusiasts and a great way to replenish glycogen stores after a workout.

My method for baking my plantain is quite simple: I lightly coat in a high-temp stable oil like avocado oil and sprinkle with a little himalayan pink salt. Bake for 20-30 min at 375 degrees fahrenheit until golden brown. Some pieces may require being flipped or turned over. The coating of oil helps give a nice crispness on the outside while keeping the inside soft and chewy. The saltiness complements the subtle natural sweetness found in plantain. The best state of ripeness for cooking plantain is when the plantain skin/peel is yellow with black spots- almost fully brown/black. This may seem overripe when thinking about its cousin, the banana, but it is actually quite perfect when cooking with plantain. You will likely find this fruit in bright green state at the store so it may take a few days for it to fully ripen and reach cooking readiness. When underripe, the plantain will be bitter and very hard to chew. See more pictures below for before and after!

Bon Apetit!






Note the color of the plantain skin/peel for perfect baking sweetness and texture

Brown on the outside skin/peel, but still perfect color and firmness on the inside of fruit














Stretchhhhhy! That's all I have to say about this dress. Okay, there's more: I am enjoying accepting that I need a little stretch in my wardrobe. Embracing this gives so much flexibility to those like me who are looking to feel confident and love their body today, but are also working toward some health and body goals for the future. This dress that I am wearing is actually a maternity dress. But because it has such great functionality, this Old Navy jersey dress can be worn in any season, any change my body will experience now or in the future. It is slightly fitted so after I popped out baby, it adjusted back down with me. Postpartum mamas may also appreciate tops and necklines that are easy to pull down for nursing. This dress accomplishes that for me which is why it is such a clutch basic in my wardrobe. Breastfeeding has been an around the clock job and it is so important to me to have nice clothing items in my closet that I can grab, go, feel good in and not have to think twice about whether it's going to work if I am feeling bloated, engorged, tired, or just want to lay low and run some errands. If I want, I can cover it up with an open cardigan sweater- which I did a lot after delivering my daughter and learning how to be comfortable with the mommy tummy that I gained.

Buuuut, a basic like this can also be dressed up with a leather or jean jacket, a trench coat, a sweater scarf and some nice sandals or heels (this tall mama sticks with flats most of the time) and still give a fantastic look for days when we are feeling like doing more and taking some risks with our fashion expression. Solid block colors are also easier in some ways to reuse and rotate into endless combinations for other outfit ideas from our closet; hence, why I am loving this black dress even more. Basics. Make them work for you!

For those of us going through changes in our body, are on a budget and are looking to keep life minimal all at the same time, basics like this can take your self-confidence from 0 to 100! It takes a little intentional thought and planning when shopping and committing to our wardrobe. I have been learning to love my body in every stage it goes through and sometimes having something as simple as a well-fitting and comfortable "go-to" outfit changes the way I feel. It helps when things are not feeling too tight and out of place. Embrace the lyrca, spandex, elastic, etc.! Many clothing lines are getting really inclusive and fashionable with their styles having these types of fabrics woven in.

What do you do to help you feel comfortable and fashionable in the now when your body is going through changes?

If you missed Part 1:)














Photo Credit: Zachary Boyd- my husband

Outfit Items:
Dress- Old Navy- maternity
Sweater Cardigan- H&M
Shoes- Nordstrom Rack
Sunglasses- Aldos

Healthy. Easy. Delicious. That is exactly what this bowl is. This meal prep recipe is inspired by Love and Olive Oil's buddha bowl creation. My husband introduced and made many of these bowls for me this time last year when I was struggling to keep my head above the water working outside of the home at a nonprofit. Working while breastfeeding and pumping around the clock, raising an infant, lots of meetings all over town, community organizing, late nights grant writing and maintaining my relationships with the other people I love in my life really challenged and wore me down. Something as simple as having healthy food options that were affordable and grab-and-go style were so clutch for me.

Once the ingredients are prepped, they are easy to distribute to individual containers and stored in the fridge for a few days. I am actually enjoying one of my bowls right now as I write. This meal prep bowl is so well-rounded with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. The flavor is amazing and refreshing. One of the special ingredients used in this recipe is black rice which is a fun unique varietal that provides additional Vitamin E to help with immune support in addition to skin and eye health. See Dr. Axe's article for more information on the benefits of black rice. More details and recipe are below!



Vinaigrette Ingredients


Recipe

Bowl- Makes about 4 bowls
2 cups chopped Dino Kale
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame 
12 ounces baked, chopped and cubed chicken breast (or protein of your choice)
1 English cucumber sliced into half moon crescents
1-2 avocados pitted and sliced
1 cup black forbidden rice
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Sesame- Sriracha Vinaigrette 
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sriracha (or more to taste)
1/4 cup avocado oil (or oil of your choice)


Preparation: Bring 1 and 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add black rice. Let cook for about 20 minutes until soft yet still firm. Cook edamame according to package instructions. While rice is cooking, mix all vinaigrette ingredients together well. The vinaigrette is the real source of flavor in this recipe. No extra salt is needed outside of what the vinaigrette provides.
       Some may prefer to massage the kale with oil or rice vinegar to tenderize it and make it easier to chew. I think Dino kale is quite nice and palatable as is and so I prefer not to do this; but it is an option and a nice idea. Portion cooked rice, kale, cooked edamame, cubed chicken, cucumbers and sliced avocado into individual bowls. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top for a nice aesthetic. Pour 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette atop of bowl when ready to eat and Enjoy!




Bon Apetit!







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