Travel Thursday: Afghanistan

I’ll be spending one week with each country and culture immersing myself in the music, food, places, and possibilities of each and sharing these experiences with you, letting each take me wherever my heart desires. I will be “traveling” to each country in alphabetical order over the next four years or so.

My goal initially was one country every day, but that is impossible to do and to do well. An entire week with a country seems workable.

This week is Afghanistan.

Image result for afghan girl
Photo Courtesy of Steve McCurry
The Afghan Girl, Sharbat Gula, was featured on the cover of the June 1985 National Geographic
Her life story can be found here.
In 2017, an update was given on her life and her home.
Her life as a refugee, after her parents were killed during the Soviet invasion when she was only six years old, is incredibly moving. She has become the face of the millions of refugees to Pakistan, but her story is only one.

What has struck me most about Afghanistan’s tumultuous history is the amount of pain and turmoil this country has faced because of the Soviet and American invasions.

An timeline of the U.S. War in Afghanistan can be found here.

More civilians have died at the hands of the U.S. and Afghan forces than the Taliban according to the Wall Street Journal.

Demographics and National Statistics

Capital: Kabul
Population of Capital: 4.63 Million
Population: 35.53 Million
Official Language: Dari and Pashto
The National Symbols of Afghanistan
For more about the culture, history, and political climate, click here.

The Culture

The Music

I have fallen in love with listening to Afghanistan’s music. My current favorite is Mehdi Farukh. His song “Dambura” is amazing. I found him from this playlist.

Another Awesome Playlist
Qawwali Playlist
The Qawalis Remix Playlist I CANNOT Stop Listening To

The Art

I found an incredible website filled with contemporary artists from Afghanistan: the Kabul Project.

NPR also had an interesting article on women in the arts: “Women and Modern Art in Afghanistan.”

The Sights

Minaret of Jam

“a graceful, soaring structure, dating back to the 12th century” according to UNESCO

The Buddhas of Bamiyan

The Story Behind the Bamiyan Buddhas’ Destruction

The Buddhas of Bamiyan have returned thanks to 3D light projections.

Mazar-i-Sharif (Blue Mosque)

Mazar-i-Sharif
It is beyond beautiful.

Band-e-Amir National Park

This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I hope that I get to see this in person one day. The images of this national park are stunning.

The Food

The Cooking Process

For my first Travel Thursday meal, I decided to make the following: Kabuli Palaw or Kabuli Palau or Kabuli Pulao or Qabali Palau, Salata, Shir Berenj, and an appetizer of nuts and dried fruit.

Kabuli Palaw

The Lamb (After the Pressure Cooker and Before the Oven)
Creating the Crusty Rice Bottom or Tah-dig

I read several recipes for Kabuli Pulao and used a mixture of ingredients combining several techniques from many different recipes. The following are the ones I used:

First, I washed the rice and let it soak for a few hours as the Afghan Culture Unveiled recipe suggested.

Next, I cooked the lamb in the pressure cooker (Instant Pot) for 18 minutes with salt, pepper, spices, oil, and water.

After the pressure cooker, the lamb went into the oven with a tomato mixture of diced tomatoes, onions, and spices.

While the lamb was continuing to cook, I cooked the rice first in water for 7 minutes with a lid and towel wrapped around the lid to capture the steam.

After this, I began simmering the carrots, raisins, almonds, and onions. I caramelized the onions first, then set those aside.

Then, I created the tah-dig with this recipe from Anthony Bourdain.

Tah-dig was my own addition as I have tried tah-dig before and never want to make a rice dish like this without crispy rice bottom because they are AMAZING. 🙂

Finally, after cooking the rice and making a crispy bottom, I put 1/2 in the dish, topped it with the cooked lamb pieces, added the carrot mixture on top of this, and topped it all with the rest of the rice and the rice bottom.

If I did it again, I would soak the rice an hour less and cook it to a better consistency. It was a little more mushy than I like.
This dish was INCREDIBLE. I loved the flavors together.

The next three pieces of the feast were incredibly simple: Shir Berenj and Afghan Salata.

Finally, I read that most meals were served with nuts and dried fruit as an appetizer, so I chose my favorites: dried apricots, almonds, and pistachios.

Overall, I was really pleased with my meal. The shir berenj was probably my favorite part. It was heavenly.

The company for the meal was wonderful as well. It was such a beautiful night. I am so excited about this “travel” endeavor.

There is much more to share, so I will likely update this again tomorrow.

Next week is Albania, and just to let you know I am writing these a week or two behind, and the feast was incredible. 🙂

Dream Big: Personal Goals

Your thoughts predict your future. Period.

Every book that I have read in 2019 on personal development has suggested creating a clear vision of your future. I am planning on sharing it all, so here are my biggest dreams about who I am and who I choose to be, and I will realize them all somehow and someday. Every day, I am working towards this:

I travel and live a life of joy, comfort, and real happiness. I continue to learn more and more about the world around me and the experience of humanity: history, culture, music, love, and all of the beauty within our world.

I spend my days in constant and relentless pursuit of knowledge and ways to improve my life and the world around me. My career revolves around helping people and improving their lives. Every day, I work to create a real and positive difference in the lives of the people I know and the people whose lives I touch.

I am peaceful and spiritual. I am in love with my life at both the micro and macro levels. I continue to grow into the best version of myself, consistently working towards my goals and a more expansive and meaningful life. I am open, happy, real, and gaining knowledge in the areas of life that matter to me.

I build my relationships and surround myself with interesting people who are capable of dreaming big and want to make a difference in the world and live fearlessly.

I am in a relationship with someone who shares my vision of a beautiful and happy life. We love each other passionately and wholly and support each other’s dreams. We grow in our own ways and love and respect each other. We are grateful every day for the love that we have. We trust each other and are happy living and working toward our biggest dreams as partners.

I am living a healthy life and treating my body like the incredible temple it is, working consistently to improve not only my body’s appearance but how I feel. I keep my body fit through exercise, which has become a joy for me, and sustainable diet that is a lifestyle, not just a restriction placed upon me. I respect my body as the matter that allows me to continue living this incredible life.

I work to make my life and meaningful and beautiful as I can and continue to develop my sense of self, my ability to love, and my honor. In this world, we are all one soul connected to the vibrant universe working to fulfill our highest collective sense of self and vibration of consciousness. Some are at higher vibrations than others, but we are all here to serve one another. Life requires our most honest self expression so that we can serve others and further the enlightenment of our collective consciousness. We must dream and live without limits. We must follow our souls wherever they lead.

I use this blog to detail the intricacies of my interests, aspirations, heart, and mind. This serves as a force to keep me moving forward. The focus of my life is about experiencing and sharing the beauty of the world and all of beauty’s forms.

I practice mindfulness and spirituality every day and work to make my life one filled with peace and deep inner knowledge. I find pleasure and peace in the present moment. I use my strength to spend my time serving others.

Spirit Sunday: Ways to Find Happiness

Happiness has never come easily for me. Although I smile more than I frown, I have, in the past, done this more because of my love for others than a love of myself.

People do not need to feel the weight of my sorrow, and because of my inclination toward depression, my sorrow has often stemmed from nothing more than waking up and being alive and present in this world.

Suffering and the past have a way of eating us alive and swallowing our potential before we even take our first steps and our first breath in the morning.

Happiness and Mindfulness

Believe in yourself and your capabilities.

We cannot find happiness without first believing in ourselves. We have to actively get out of bed and create a life worth living. Life so easily passes before our eyes, and I have found that in the moments that I feel the worst, I am also doing the least. It is this cycle of self-pity and stagnation and more self-pity because I am not moving forward.

If I am simply sitting and allowing the world to move on without me, I ache. It is as if my soul is attempting to escape and do more.

However, if I allow myself the opportunity to dream and improve, if I give myself the freedom to believe that I can accomplish my dreams, that is when I feel most alive and most at peace.

Live in the present moment.

If I want to feel the depths of despair, I only need to reconsider the lives that I have. I only need to take myself to a given moment of complete and utter pain. I can take myself back to an autumn night when I walked the streets alone, in tears and broken. I can feel my heart beating, my tears streaming, my thoughts echoing endlessly. I can swirl into the depths of a great depression in an instant.

We each have moments that have taken us to what feels like irreparable sorrow. Somehow, we are able to continue living, but it is only when we let the pain go that we find happiness once more. If we spend our lives looking back, we cannot move forward with the focus and grace required to live happily.

The gift (and curse, perhaps) of humanity is that we can refocus our minds. We can choose to remember or choose to recenter. We can choose to relive our darkest hours, or we can choose to dream of our brightest future. In my estimation, the moment happiness feels most real is when I take that pain and push myself forward.

In spite of the past, I choose to focus on now. This becomes the idea that because of my past, I choose to work toward something greater.

Live.

To put happiness into perspective most clearly, the best way to accomplish a simple and peaceful happiness is to simply live today.

I find that I must take myself out of my body. I must acknowledge the past. I must feel for an instant the memories that float through my mind, acknowledge them, then focus on what I can create in the present.

I can feel my heart race and my tears forming, but I recenter and smile because of how far I have come.

I look forward and imagine the future and how beautiful my life can be.

Then, I sit in the now and smile because what I have, whom I know, and the accomplishments I have are all beautiful.

I sit here and imagine what I could do today to make my life even better: writing this, re-imagining my heart and purpose and legacy, walking the steps of the day and visualizing my dreams coming to fruition, smiling at the joys of this past week, the simple act of sitting and reflecting, staying hopeful for many more beautiful dreams, and breathing deeply and fully.

It is in these quiet and reflective moments, that I feel the deepest sense of true and honest happiness, and only then, the darkness fades away, and I can once more share the light.

The world has so much pain woven in every layer–pains caused by fears and loss and selfishness–thus, my place, as I see it, is simply to spend my life and my energy making this world better for the people I encounter, giving love and joy to every person I meet and spreading warmth and healing.

We can only heal and love when we, too, are healed and loved; therefore, our lives must also be devoted to building our own energies and loving ourselves first.

Love and trust yourself. Find the beauty all around you and hold onto that. Recognize the pain in others, and realize that the pain they give has nothing to do with you. Their pain is unknowable, but your reaction is your choice. Choose to rise above and heal. Heal yourself. Heal others.

Happiness is simply empathy and love and the present.

Makeup Monday: Naked Heat and Naked Cherry

Soundtrack of My Life: 

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The Makeup

First of all, I know that a makeup day on a blog about purpose may seem unusual; however, I have always found makeup to be an inspiration and a creative outlet. It allows me a space to create freely and a time to completely devote to my own love of myself. It is in many ways meditative, and the process is always a joy for me. When I was younger, I dreamed of being a makeup artist and helping women see how beautiful they truly were. I loved doing my friends’ makeup at slumber parties and began playing with makeup basically around the time I started walking. It has always been a part of my life and my soul, and my heart skips a beat every time I see a beautiful eyeshadow palette or eye look worth trying. 

Now, I do not plan on getting new makeup or reviewing products regularly. Yo’ girl needs to save some money so I can travel and live life. I want to use what I have and enjoy the process of panning my palettes and shopping my stash. Most of the palettes that I own are the standbys that most makeup lovers have, so if you want to join me and try some of these looks, do it! 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not a makeup artist. My blending will not always be on point, and my makeup will not always be flawless, but, hopefully, I will improve and push myself and have some fun and share some joy with you along the way. You will DEFINITELY see mistakes. Do it better on yo’ eyes, and we will all be happy. 🙂

The best advice about eyeshadow I have ever heard was that it was meant to build shadows. A simple wash of color is not in my vocabulary. 

Look One: Extreme and Fun Cat Eye with Naked Heat

I am always shocked by how much an eye look changes once you add liner and mascara, but this give a great image of the actual shape and shading of the colors used.

Here is another view with my eye open. Generally, I create the same shape every day. I use a darker color on the outer corner, a lighter color on the inner corner and create a gradient across my lid. The crease begins with a transition color and is slowly built up using deeper and deeper colors until I am happy with the result. 

For look one, I did the following:

Ounce all over the lid to my brow as a base. 

Chaser as a transition.

Then, I used a wet brush and placed Lumbre over my entire lid to the crease and underneath my eye.

I took a dry brush and blended the edges.

Then, I used Ounce once more over the inner eye to create a softer effect closer to the tear duct.

I built the crease first with sauced and a large fluffy brush.

Then, I chose a smaller crease brush and buffed in Low Blow across the entire crease and blended.

Next, I took my finger and added scorched over my lid from the middle of my lid to the outer half. 

I darkened the outer corner with a wet brush and Ember. Then, I blended Lumbre and Scorched and Scorched and Ember to create a softer transition.

Finally, I used a mixture of He Devil and En Fuego to darken the outer crease until I was happy with the depth and the result. 

Using a wet liner brush, I created a cat eye liner look using Ashes.

On my inner rim, for eyeliner, I used Torched, a beautiful burnt orange color that really makes my turquoise eyes pop.

I added mascara and loved this look. 🙂

 

Look Two: Everyday Naked Heat

This look is much simpler than the above look.

Ounce was used as a base.

Chaser was used a transition.

Lumbre was used on the center of the lid.

Dirty Talk was used to darken the outer third of the lid.

Then, I built up the crease using Sauced, Low Blow, and He Devil (only on the outer third). 

For liner, I used Torched but added UD’s Perversion on the outer half to create a solid and thin cat eye.

Look Three: Everyday Drama with Naked Cherry

Darker lighting is always so much prettier. 🙂

Naked Cherry may be my favorite palette from UD. It is surprisingly versatile, but this is without question my favorite look:

Hot Shot as a base.
Using a wet brush, place Bang Bang all over the lid.
Using the same wet brush, place Young Love on the outer third and blend.
Use Caution as a transition color and blend the edges of Bang Bang and Young Love into the crease to take out the harsh line of glimmer and matte.
Next, use Juicy as a soft crease color placing it on the crease with a large fluffy brush and blending the edges into Caution.
Then, take a smaller crease brush and blend Bing into the outer third.
Blend Juicy and Bing beneath the eye, using Juicy first to set a base and bing closer to the actual eye. Blend well.
Add black eyeliner. I used the color that was released with the Naked Cherry collection but any soft black will do.

Other Essentials:

Primers: MAC Prep and Prime Fix+ and Smashbox Photo Finish Radiance
Foundation: Becca Aqua Luminous Light
Concealer: Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-In Place Flawless Wear Concealer in 1W Light Warm
Powder: Becca Soft Light Blurring Powder
Bronzer/Contour: Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer (Matte)
Blush: Any Peachy Pink will do–I use them all–Too Faced Love Flush Blush in Love Hangover is my go to.
Highlight: Becca Opal has been my go to lately
Eyebrows: Anastasia Brow Wiz in Taupe
Mascara: I mix two: NARS Climax Mascara and Too Faced Better than Sex
Lip Liner: Urban Decay Stark Naked
Lipstick: MAC Fleshpot

I love the Naked palettes because I actually use every shade in every palette because they all work and blend so well together.

This week, knowing that I would be sharing these looks made doing my makeup much more exciting and pushed me to play more instead of getting into the rut of doing the same look every day.

I am looking forward to trying out more colors and loving life a little more every day.

Sending love and good vibes,

Cheryl

Spirit Sunday: The First Sunday Reflection

I have decided that instead of a daily post filled with everything. I am going to be doing four different reflections throughout the week: Makeup Monday, Travel Thursday, Fitness Friday, and Spirit Sunday! I am soooo excited about this endeavor. This is going to make my life much more interesting and push me to be my best self every day and learn more than I ever thought I could. 🙂

Over break, I have spent a lot of time reading and writing (and working out and living my best life!).

On the first day of break, I went to the library and checked out nine books. Thankfully, my mom came by and told me that I probably did not need to keep eight books on happiness and spirituality. I narrowed the list to the following: The Power by Rhonda Byrnes, The Badass Life by Christmas Abbott, and Happy by Ian K. Smith. These, along with The Daily Stoic and Daily Hafiz books I own, have been the inspiration for my reflections this break. Here are some of the best quotes and ideas from each along with my own reflections.

The Badass Life

I absolutely love this journey. Although I have been implementing many of these strategies, spending an entire day on each has been reinvigorating and such therapy for the soul.

Day 3: Love Yourself

“Small steps lead to miles walked and great heights”

I am confident I can overcome negative thinking that somehow still seeps into my mind from time to time. I know I can be the woman I am meant to be. I was meant to be a light in the lives of the people around me. My goal in life is to help make this world and others’ lives better because I have felt such pain in my own life, and I never want to add to the suffering of others. Everything in my heart and soul urges me to set myself aside and give to others.

Since the divorce, I have been setting this part of myself aside, hoping to care for myself, too, and I have found that part of myself and healed. I am ready to be my truest, most authentic self once more and give. I am peace. I am joy. I am love. Those are my truths.

The task for the day was to create a list of reasons you are a badass, and it was wonderful. I will continue to add to my list. I have so much to be grateful for and so much to take pride in.

Day 4: Exercise Your Mind and Spirit

This was a reminder to workout and meditate. Got it. Done. Love it.

Day 5: Visualize

I love visualizing and writing my future.

Image result for cheshire cat know where to go
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice responded. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” Lewis Carroll

Visualizing always reminds me of this scene in Alice in Wonderland and in Lewis Carroll’s book The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. So many of us walk around and sleep through life, living aimlessly. It is so easy to do. It is so easy and rewarding to put our goals off until tomorrow. It is so easy to wait until life and our actions feel right, but we have to have a plan, and we should have all begun living it yesterday. Today will have to do. 🙂

Christmas Abbott writes that success in business or your job or your life has to do with what you create in your mind. “Everything is inside you. Believe.”

My reflection is simple:

Be strong. Be understanding. Be calm. You are amazing. You are creative. You are beautiful and loving. The world has to test you to make you stronger. Do not dwell on the past. You have this moment alone. That is what you have. You have now. You are living now.

Day 6: Prepare to Succeed Daily

Before bed, prepare for the next day and reflect on the day (exactly what I am doing now).

Every night, I pick out my clothes for the next day, set them aside, and make my breakfast and lunch. It keeps my world moving easily and prepares me for the next day. Occasionally, I write my to-do list; however, I like seeing that in the mornings now. 🙂

Day 7: Be a Relentless Rebel

Abbott writes that our failures are our lessons.

Day 8: Fuel Yourself for Success

Mentally: Stay positive.

Fuel your mind:

  • Read inspiring books.
  • Stay busy on projects.
  • Focus on what you have and want.
  • Form great relationships.
  • Be intensely interested in your own life.
  • Be creative.
  • Meditate.

Physically:

  • Eat for your health. Fuel your body with whole foods.
  • Work out.

Spiritually:

  • Do yoga.
  • Meditate.
  • Be charitable.
  • Walk in the park.
  • Have gratitude.

Day 9: Be authentic

Being authentic is knowing who you are and confidently expressing this to others.

People who are authentic are the following according to Abbott:

  • comfortable in their own skin
  • never fake
  • know their strengths and limitations
  • know what they want and what they don’t want
  • regularly go “within”
  • live with passion

I honestly am in love with this book and my reflection on myself today was beautiful and powerful.

Happy

“You have to own your own happiness so that the actions or inactions of others don’t push you off the road of happiness” is one of my favorite quotes from this book.

He has different tests included to help you find yourself as well.
The Satisfaction with Life Scale Test

Then, he has you work through the steps to be happier.
He asked readers to list the five most important things in life.

Mine are health, friendship, family, love, caring for others, and intelligence. Ye, I have six. 🙂

The best section so far has been on your strengths, which are divided into six categories: wisdom, courage, humanity and love, justice, temperance, and transcendence. To not seem boastful, I will state that I could certainly improve in the areas of justice, temperance, and courage. Wisdom (a curiosity of the world and love of learning and love of others) is a strength.
Transcendence involved skills such as gratitude, hope, appreciation of beauty and excellence, forgiveness and mercy, playfulness and humor, zest/passion/enthusiasm, and spirituality. I have transcendence locked down. 🙂

The Power

I loved The Secret, but I am enjoying this book much more. The message is that love will bring you greatness in life, and I wholeheartedly believe that. Giving out love and gratitude every day makes life so much better. Being in that state just improves your life.

Here are some of the most powerful ideas and quotations from my reading

Through your ability to think and feel, you have dominion over all creation.”

NEville Goddard

Think of love as if it is water in a glass, and the glass is your body. When a glass has only a little water in it, it is empty of water. You can’t change the water level in the glass by waging war on the emptiness and trying to rip out the emptiness

Rhonda Byrne

This quote spoke to me. The idea is so telling. Whatever we spend our time focusing on fills our bodies and minds and spirits with that emotion and that feeling. If we are spending all of our time with regret, we feel it deepening inside of ourselves. We spend our time considering those regrets and reliving that past hurt. Soon, our day is filled with that sense of regret, and it is challenging to find joy once more.

Be happy and cheerful about the success and joy you see around you. Treat others as yourself.”

Rhonda Byrne

I am of the belief that we are all connected and that god is within all of us. To treat others any differently would be an affront to god. More than this, we are all on this journey together. We may disagree with the paths that others take or their personality or actions, but we cannot judge them for this. We can only choose to continue on our path without them or reach out a helping hand.

What you do to another person you do to yourself.”

A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering.”

Buddha

You beliefs form your world.

I am from this day forward choosing to see the beauty and to live as authentically and joyfully as I can. What I cannot change is without. What I can change is within. I will continue to move through the world with love in my heart and peace in my soul. I choose to speak to others about ideas and experiences, not others or the negativity present in the world.

I believe the world can be transformed through our understanding and love. These are the ideas I choose to spend my life developing and enjoying.

I want to understand as many different beliefs and ideas as I can, and I want to love every day of my life.

I want to be healthy so that I can be present for as much of this beauty as I can, and I want to be fit enough to enjoy all that I can.

I have given up the television, except for the rare show that can move my soul, make me laugh, or can be viewed as art. Game of Thrones, I am looking at you.

Life is too important and short to waste sitting in front of a box thoughtlessly. I want to live. I let that box fill the emptiness in my life for too long. I let it lull me into a sense of comfort as I wasted years of my life, letting my body, mind, and spirit waste away. I want to fill my mind with wonder. I want to live with passion. I get to wake up every day and fulfill my dreams. Every day is new. Every day is a gift.

Sending out love and good vibes,

Cheryl

A Day of Eating and My Tips on Fat Loss, Healthy Eating, and Maintaining Weight Loss

Soundtrack of My Life

Image result for us soundtrack

Song: Pas De Deux from the Us Soundtrack

This song literally makes me feel like every moment of my day is the most important moment of my life. It’s been on repeat the entire time I have been typing this, and I freaking love it. I loved the movie, too. I will be writing my analysis for it soon. 🙂

Tips on Weight Loss/Diet Progress

Before I begin explaining a day of eating, I want to share a few tips for Weight Loss and Maintenance. I wish someone had shared these with me before I began my journey.

  1. Losing weight quickly is motivating, but your number on the scale is not an accurate measure of your overall health.
  2. If you lift, your weight on the scale will tell you very little about your progress.
  3. Take progress pictures: front and side and back.
  4. Take starting measurements so that the changes that occur can be measured outside of the number on the scale.
  5. Water weight and your digestion will alter the scale. Do not let it dictate how you feel about yourself or the hard work you are putting in. 
  6. Treat the scale like your gas gauge: it is semi-accurate, but you can’t trust it past a certain point. It should be seen as a range, not a distinct number.
  7. Celebrate your steps toward health outside of the scale: did you go to the gym? Hooray! Did you eat semi-healthy or crazy-healthy? Hooray! Know what successes you are making, and celebrate them. (Just don’t celebrate them with food, at least not at first!) 
  8. No matter what, keep pushing forward. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself immediately. You are human. Be kind to yourself. Your health is the sum of all of your decisions, not one mistake. 
  9. Be kind to yourself. 
  10. Celebrate yourself.
  11. Love your body as it is and love it as it changes.
  12. Finally, when you hit your goals, keep creating new ones. This is your life. This is your body. We are constantly evolving. Keep working and loving yourself.

Eat with Me for a Day 

Now to my food, first of all, I must state that I am a generally pretty easygoing person, so these meals are consistent every day. I eat what I like. These are my favorite foods, and I like my macros and how my body looks and is changing, so I will keep this up with some modifications for as long as I continue to find this appealing.

 
My amazing and beautiful grandmother was asking about my meal prep, so I wanted to share with my #1 fan. Love you, Grandma!

Step One: I take this sweet packet of oatmeal. (I actually like the vanilla one, but Kroger keeps substituting that one for the berry because I am, apparently, not the only one whose favorite is the vanilla.) Two: I pour this in a bowl with 1/2 a tablespoon of Chia seeds and 1 tablespoon of flax seeds. Since it has sugar, I add a ton of cinnamon. I basically shake cinnamon over this until I can no longer see what I am eating. 🙂

(See below for the cinnamon explosion; it’s also really yummy like this.)

Three, I add the water to the bag’s fill line (just a little over). I put this in the fridge overnight so that the chia seeds and flax seeds can expand and soften.

Next, I make my chia pudding, which is my lunch. I use 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, add a little stevia, and a whole lot of cinnamon.

I put 1/2 a cup to a cup of the triple berry mix on top. It is everything

Then, I add 1 cup of Silk Vanilla Soy Milk on this.

For dinner, I make a salad: 3 cups of spinach or kale, a ton of sweet peppers sliced, a serving of fajita chicken, 1/2 a cup of cauliflower hash, and 1 tablespoon of Tessemae’s lemon or green goddess dressing. If I am super hungry, I have a bowl of berries or an Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt in vanilla or berry. (I really like berries.)  🙂

This salad is so good. I look forward to it every day. It is super flavorful. It makes me feel full but not like Thanksgiving full. 🙂

When I want a cheat meal, I have been creating one incredible concoction: 1 pint of Halo Top ice cream in either Salted Caramel or Peanut Butter Cup topped with a tablespoon of Nutella and a 250 calorie to go cup of natural peanut butter. It is delicious. (See below. Shout out to my grandma, I totally eat, and you are awesome.) 🙂

In short, the food looks like this:

oatmeal with peanut butter and strawberries a.k.a. heaven
This is legitimately the driving force that gets me out of bed. When I want to hit snooze, I think to myself, “Naw! You are hungry. Go get you some oatmeal and peanut butter, girl.”
chia pudding with berries–sometimes I add other fruit like bananas or extra strawberries
epic salad

Aside from the above meals, I always add two or three snacks: protein shakes and Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt with a tablespoon of flax seed on top

I make sure that I get to at least 1900 calories every day and at least my body weight in grams of protein.

Diet Advice

As someone who has been on every diet known to man and woman–vegetarian, vegan, Keto, Atkins, Paleo, etc.–I can honestly say all of them work if you stick with them. I have lost tons of weight doing all of the above. I was a running vegan for a year. I was a keto/paleo/Shakeology girl in 2015. You just have to pick the program that fits your taste and your body. It should be something you can stick with forever with as many deviations as you want or can have for optimal health.

When I had my runner’s body and when I had my 2015 “skinny” body, I did not feel as well as I do now. I never truly knew what to focus on to be healthy. I have been incredibly lucky to share this experience with some of my best friends this year, and I have learned so much from them and from my own reading.

My focus now is on protein and weight lifting and calorie expenditures. I practice yoga every day for mindfulness and to jumpstart my brain and heart and soul in the morning. Whenever I can find the time, I lift weights for 50-90 minutes, depending on how amped I am. I also do either abs or a butt workout every day. Cardio is minimal. I dance around my house, walk/jog when I feel like it, and I row or do the elliptical for 10-15 minutes every couple of workouts. On the elliptical, I set the resistance to 75 or higher and the incline to 60-70% and go at about 60-70 strides per minute with my arms off the machine, only using my legs. When I row, I set the resistance to the middle and vary my speed for a HIIT workout. Because of my workouts, my calorie burn daily is anywhere from 2500 to 3000. My body fat percentage is 16-18%. I like these numbers because they let me eat more, and as a former fat kid, I freaking love to eat. 🙂

I am proud of the progress that I have made and the fact that I have kept 60 pounds off for 6 months now. My weight has stayed relatively the same, but I have gained so much strength and so much muscle. My body’s shape is something I love, and I never thought I would be able to say that. The idea of loving my body so much is an entirely new concept for me. Weight lifting is the cause of this. It is hard to have negative feelings about your body when you see what you are capable of and more focused on challenging yourself with reps and weights than on the number on the scale or the size of your clothes. However, I will state I am a size 2 and wear an XS in shirts. That IS shocking to me. This time last year, my size 16s were feeling a little bit tight.

Back to the diet and my thoughts on diets, with every diet, the key seems to be a calorie deficit, but our hormones and the food we eat make this science less than accurate. Many studies have been done showing that our body composition relies upon not only the calories we eat but our body’s chemical response to the types of food we eat. Some foods cause an insulin spike and result in the storage of fat. Some foods cause inflammation. Every person’s insulin resistance and hormones vary, so finding the best plan for you that makes you feel well is most important. The plan should, in my opinion, satisfy your cravings and make you feel good. Food is fuel.

However, I also must caution you that the low-fat diet and the vegetarian/vegan diets are worrisome for overall health. The low-fat diet includes far too much sugar, especially when you are searching for packaged foods. Fat provides flavor, so the replacement for fat in most foods is either sugar or salt or both. Sugar’s effect on our bodies is what worries me most because an imbalance in insulin leads to diabetes.

More than this, the vegetarian/vegan diets are so challenging to do with health in mind. For some people, it might work and others are vegan/vegetarian for moral reasons, but they made me feel horribly ill. Protein is life. Meat provides so many necessary nutrients in one package that our bodies and brains were developed to process. To replenish all of those nutrients without meat is challenging at best.

I am thankful that I have finally found something that works for me: six meals a day based around the New Abs Diet for Women, which is essentially whole foods meant to keep your metabolism in high gear.

Lastly, I finally figured out a sweet schedule and purpose for my blog.

I want this to be an outlet to allow me the space to reflect on my life and to share my experiences in the areas that matter most to me: my intellect, body, and spirit. I will be writing occasional movie and book reviews as I encounter worthwhile texts. However, my overall schedule will be as follows: Spirit Sundays (positive ideas and thoughts from the week), Makeup Mondays (because it is my art), Travel Thursdays (a new country every week to keep my mind open to new experiences, cultures, and the world at large), and Workout Wednesdays (where I share my fitness goals and progress).

The goal here is to enrich my life and provide something worth reading. 🙂

Before Anything Else, You Must Love Yourself: Love Is Power. Love Is Life!

This spring break has been rejuvenating. I am so grateful for the life that I have created and continue to create. It is as if everything is finally falling into place, and I am finding so many parts of my life so near my goals. The best part is that I can keep setting even better goals. Reaching goals makes life worth living. We are either growing or dying. That is just the truth.

I am going to simply type my written journal to reflect and remember how I have changed my life over the last few days.

Music of My Life

“Spanish Caravan”–The Doors

I listened to the meditation playlist from Apple most of the day but switched to my Workout Playlist at the end of the day. “Yuso” is one of my favorites, which is probably not the most uplifting of songs, but I do love it. 🙂

March 24, 2019–the Day

Daily Stoic

Live. You cannot spend your entire life studying. It is only through your actual actions that you are able to show that you can actually practice what you study.

The Badass Life: Day Two–Affirm

Affirmations tap into our subconscious mind and become our beliefs. Your mind believes what you put into it.

Self-affirmation interventions can successfully influence health-promoting behaviors.

Samples with some modifications by me: I am healthy because I eat nutritious foods and work out every day.

I am creating a life of wealth and abundance.

The more I focus my mind upon the good, the more good comes to me.

Every circumstance is a chance for you to practice being the person you truly want to be.

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

We become what we think about.

These are the affirmations I created and tweaked after reading today’s work.

Happy–Ian K. Smith, M.D. and The Power

Happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we do not have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

Frederick Koenig

For me, happiness is peace and love. It is a calming balance and warmth that washes over us when we allow ourselves to live in and love the moment.

Happiness is not an accomplishment or a reward but the journey.

Martin Seligman states that there are three types of happiness: living a pleasant life (having more positive feelings than negative feelings), living an engaged life (being fully absorbed in the challenges of our everyday lives at work and in our relationships and personal life), and the meaningful life (having a purpose and working towards that purpose).

The way we think things are is the way we live. This influences our lives. As you think, so you become. What a mean reads pours massive ingredients into our minds. This is what our lives become.

Stand guard at the door of your mind.

Brain Friendly Morning

I have been living these and jump-starting my mornings.

I tweaked mine a bit though:
I start with the dream journal and make my bed.
Then, I drink lots of water and take my vitamins.
Then, I brush my teeth with the opposite hand, which is incredibly weird but enjoyably challenging.
For breathing exercises, I am following Wim Hof’s Method:

This breathing is so incredible. You feel lightheaded and everything begins tingling, even your teeth. It is invigorating and truly wakes up your entire body and mind.

After breathing, I take a cold shower. The cold shower makes you breathe so quickly and adds to the entire experience of being awake and aware.

I cannot lie. The first cold shower was an experience that truly surprised me. This face was the only one I could make for a bit after that first cold shower, but three days in, I am in love with them.

Then, I drink some tea, meditate, read and focus on my affirmations and visualize with Pinterest.

Finally, I eat my incredible oatmeal with peanut butter and read and write (all of the thoughts I am writing here).

Daily Hafiz

“As Fertile As I Am”

God is what we desire and what we long to birth. The creative impulse is within all of us; it is a part of our soul. It may even be our soul, this creative energy and life force.

The Story of God–with Morgan Freeman

Season 1 EPisode 1: Enlightenment

Meditation aims to reveal the true will of me. Relax. Focus on the moment. Only concentrate on being.

There is no end, only change.

We are all on a quest, seeking truth.

Every ending is a beginning, a chance to be better.

Daily Stoic

“Wealth and Freedom Are Free”

Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desires but by removing your desire.

Epictetus
Discourses 4.1.175

There are two ways to be wealthy–to get everything you desire or to desire everything that you have.

Be free and rich now.

THe Power

It’s not what happens but how you react to it that matters.

Epictetus

You are either giving love and harnessing its power or you are allowing the world to rule your emotions and take away your power.

All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.

Edwin Markham

You may lead a charmed life and be forever protected from all harm; it is thus you may become a positivity force whereby conditions of opulence and harmony may be attracted to you.

Good feelings persist. If you keep sending out good feelings, you are going to keep feeling good, and you will change your life.

It is how we live today that creates our future.

Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request and everything your heart desires must come to you.

Imagine it. Feel it. Receive it.

This world is but a canvas to our imaginations.

Henry David THoreau
workouts 3/24/19
Nutrition

I am loving The New Abs Diet for Women plan by David Zinczenko

It is everything I love to eat and so easy to follow.

I burn around 2500 calories every day (or more) so I am only lowering my calories to 1900 to cut, but this plan is amazing. I love all the foods, and I can already see a difference in my abs and overall appearance and feeling after only a few days on the plan. I only made minor changes, but I am happy.