Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back to School: the High School Years. Reality Hits You Hard, Bro.

First day of school is in the books.  Some mild complaining about schedules and how everyone in the entire world who is worth knowing is in the same fun class with the best teacher in the entire universe, who is actually a stand up comedian that just teaches because he/she got tired of being famous - EXCEPT for my kids, who of course ended up in classes taught by Satan's 8th grade math teacher in rooms where each seat taken by one of their nemesēs from the last 5 years and they have to sit next to the talkiest, lamest, smelliest one that they hate the most, but have to endure because mom taught them to be nice, even to people who make their heads want to explode. Ah, the cruelty of high school.

Apparently it was all too much as everyone was in bed before 10 pm tonight.  Last time this happened?  About 3 months ago.  Feels good to be back on schedule again, dealing with real world schedule changes and 8000 parent signatures and smelly gym clothes.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Secrets to Cooking the Tastiest Food You've Ever Eaten

June is a busy month, full of fun and memories!  It marks graduation, the start of summer, weddings, vacation season.  But did you know that June is also National Dairy Month?  While we fire up our grills in preparation for the summer cooking season, June is the perfect time to incorporate a food group that tastes great and is great for us:  dairy.

Many of us (my family included) eat butter and cheese as part of our weekly meal rotation.  But we often forget to consider that many butters contain additives (such as growth hormones, preservatives, and dyes) that can be harmful to our bodies.  What if I told you there was a way to sidestep those potentially dangerous chemicals, embrace all-natural great taste, and take your baking and cooking game to the next level in honor of National Dairy Month?

I recently discovered Finlandia Cheese []—a brand that has been crafting some of the highest quality cheese and butter for over a century.  We had a great experience putting Finlandia ingredients to the test this week!  Here's how my samples arrived, all sealed up in a cool pack so they stayed nice and fresh!

We were going to make a yummy dessert, like pound cake or banana bread, but the end of a long week found us hungry for something more savory and substantial.  The boys voted for grilled ham, turkey and cheese sandwiches!  Finlandia Swiss Cheese (#finlandiacheese) slices are the perfect choice for this quick and easy snack/meal! 

Construction was pretty basic, we added just a little bit of horseradish and mustard spread to the bread to give the sandwiches a little kick.  Findlandia Salted Butter (#finlandiabutter) spread on the outside of the bread added a nice buttery taste and helped the bread toast up rather nicely! 

The end result?  I think you can tell my boys were super happy and full! 

The easy meal prep and gooey, stringy deliciousness of the grilled cheese sammies inspired me to try some new recipes (I'll post pics later) and share a few secrets to help you create some of the best-tasting food you and your family have ever eaten!
Great dishes are a sum of their parts.  I used to go for the cheapest brand of everything. I am learning that in order to create really great dishes, all parts should be delicious alone AND in your culinary creation.  When I tried Finlandia for the first time, I was really surprised!  Not only are their cheeses and butter all-natural and hormone-free, but they taste incredible.  Seriously.  You can taste the difference. Imported from Finland using milk produced by well-cared-for cows, Finlandia Butter is rich and creamy.  It tastes so much better than any butter I've ever tasted.  And you could eat Finlandia Cheese straight from the package—no crackers needed.

Life moves fast, and most of us don't have time to research every single product we consume.  Which is hard for me, because I like to research things.  Even when it's not necessary.  I have this thing about fact finding.  However, when it comes to products like cheese and butter, which we eat almost everyday, it's important to be aware of what we're putting into our bodies.  Finlandia Butter is made from pure, hormone-free milk, which comes from happy cows that live on family-owned farms in Finland—the greenest country on Earth.  No hidden chemicals, no factory farms—just pure, creamy goodness.  I love this!! It makes me want to meet the cows and farmers and thank them for caring about us!

Getting your family involved in the kitchen can help create lasting memories and start an important conversation around nutrition and health.  We don't do that enough at my house. But now that my boys are getting older?  I realize they need more practice so they can eat something besides cereal when they go off to college.  Baking sheet cookies?  Get out the cookie cutters and let your kids create the shapes.  Cooking a grilled cheese?  Let your significant other butter the bread.  If you're in need of some culinary inspiration, check out the Finlandia Cheese Facebook page.  Good stuff there!  And if you need to know where to find Findlandia products, you can go here:

Got any baking secrets of your own?  I'd love to hear about them!  Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

**Disclosure:  As always, this review is based on my own honest opinions.  I did not receive compensation for this post, but did receive Finlandia products to help facilitate the review.  Just keepin' it real, Y'all!***

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


With the arrival of warm weather and rising temperatures, many of us are spending a lot more time outside with our kids.  For those of us who endure cold winters, it's easy to be so excited about the beautiful weather that we forget to be mindful about staying hydrated.  Doing that in a healthy way isn't always easy.  So I am excited when my family finds an alternative to sugary drinks that are full of harmful preservatives.
The key is to find something that, in addition to being healthy, also tastes good, right?  We started looking into all of the sport drink alternatives and discovered a way to provide the same (or better) hydration from something natural, organic and packed with loads of nutrients!

Coconut water! I know, it's been around awhile.  I'm on the late train this time.  But seriously, do you know how good coconut water is for you?!?  It's all-natural and loaded with super-food powers, so it should be a no-brainer, right?  But what I found is that there are sooooo many different coconut waters out on the market that I was confused about which ones were best for my family.  Not to mention that some of them don't taste very good, so I had to do some homework to find one that my family would actually drink.

I recently partnered with Harmless Harvest, the first ever Fair-For-Life certified coconut water, to share insights on how to distinguish a premium coconut water from the rest. Here's why I think Harmless Harvest reigns supreme:
  • It maintains its unique, 'straight from the coconut' flavor thanks to its multi-step micro-filtration process 
  • Has a longer shelf life without extra additives or preservatives 
  • Is a hydrating all-natural alternative to sports drinks and juices
  • Contains vital nutrients that occur naturally in Harmless Harvest's specific young, green coconuts
The Taste Test Results

When I located the Harmless Harvest Organic Coconut Water in the refrigerated drink section at my local market, I was surprised to see that the liquid inside was pink!  Then I read the label, which explains that coconut water contains varying levels of antioxidants, which can sometimes account for the pink color.  Who knew?  

Upon tasting Harmless Harvest, I was surprised to find the flavor was actually different and sweeter than other coconut waters I have tasted. It has a "toasted coconut" vibe that made it more flavorful to me.  It definitely tastes better cold than it does at room temperature, at least to my.  The boys didn't notice a difference one way or another.  One of my sons liked it enough to drink the whole bottle and is looking forward to using it as a replacement for Gatorade for his games and sports activities.  The other didn't seem overly impressed.  He didn't hate it, but he didn't love it either. The Husband liked it a lot and thinks he will be using it in his smoothies! 

To help my readers become coconut water connoisseurs and pick the best product available, Harmless Harvest [] has shared a few, expert tips:

Age is nothing but a number, right? Not in coconut terms. As coconuts mature, the essential nutrients found in their water begins to seep into the meaty white layer, depleting the coconut water of it's rich contents. Mature coconuts are great for making coconut oil and other coconut products, however, the young coconuts are the ones which have the most nutritious coconut water. Many companies sell you the water from mature coconuts. At Harmless Harvest, they use only young green coconuts which are loaded with the nutritious water that benefits our health.

Doesn't all coconut water taste the same? NO! There's no need to add any sweetener to the already delicious flavor of young coconut water. Many companies will add a flavor or sweetener to mask the dull taste of mature coconut water.  If there is an acidic taste to the beverage, chances are the preservative citric acid was added.  A fresh batch of organic coconut water has a distinct taste, a slightly vanilla-almond flavor. So remember, just say no to that citric taste.

Fresh coconut water reacts delicately with sunlight and heat, this is why it must be kept cold at all times.  Many companies will use extreme heat to kill natural bacteria (which also kills the good enzymes) to extend shelf life. Instead, Harmless Harvest uses their proprietary Multi-Step Micro-Filtration Process to avoid the use of heat or citric acid additives, preserving the optimal flavor, fragrance and nutrients of their critically acclaimed coconut water. So note, if you see a coconut water hanging out in a non-refrigerated aisle, turn back and walk away.

Did you know coconut water can naturally turn pink? Coconut water is clear when bottled but contains a variety of antioxidants which can turn pink once they interact with sunlight. Harmless Harvest could mask the color change— but instead, they fully embrace what naturally occurs in their coconut water. Go ahead and drink pink!

Truly great coconut water is found in rural tropical areas, which are vital to the future of our planet. Harmless Harvest's ecosystem based business focuses not only on delivering the best organic products to consumers, but also cares for the welfare of the farming communities at the source of the product, and uses sustainable farming practices to ensure a better tomorrow.

For more information on how Harmless Harvest became a leader in this industry revolution, check out their recent article in INC. Magazine below:

INC. MAGAZINE ARTICLE: 'Winning the Hyper-Competitive Coconut Water Wars'
I'd love to hear your experience tasting different coconut waters, and which one you absolutely love! Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Geri Got Her Gratitude Back

My heart is full tonight and I want to share. It will seem like a tiny event to most of you, but today something great happened to me and I just want to tell someone about it!

So my washer broke last week. What I found in my life about broken washers is this: they always break when they are full of water and wet clothes. And they never break when you have money or time to fix or replace them. A broken washer is a huge inconvenience. Huge. Huuuuuuuuuuuge (Say that in your best Donald Trump voice).

As per broken washer rules, mine broke true to form when I was awash in worry about hormonal imbalances that are wreaking havoc with my body, financial issues that make my head hurt, work schedules that do not accommodate my family needs and various other concerns that have me feeling overwhelmed and less than able to cope. So picked the perfect time to break if its goal was to push me over the Cliffs of Insanity.

After a few moments of troubleshooting and a call to two different repair guys, the consensus was that I needed to get a new washer. Great. A $500 hit to our pretty much depleted budget. With that dose of reality came copious amounts of stress and worry, because that's how I roll. Soon I found myself near tears and on my knees, praying for help, relief, strength, anything as I searched for non-existent coping skills that would not kick in. Then we ran out of clean towels and underwear so I started looking at new washers.

There were lots of new, shiny washers to look at, so I should have been excited about finding something awesome that would make my clothes come out cleaned and neatly folded. But I didn't feel excited. I felt anxious and frustrated and out of sorts and worried about making the purchase. And always, every time I started to shop, I kept having this feeling that I should try to fix my old washer. To which I replied, "Ummm, NO! Too hard, too much time, too old (me and the washer), just no." To which the feeling replied, "It will be okay. You can do this. It will save you a lot of money. Seriously. You should just fix it." To which I replied, "But I don't want to fix it, that option seems really hard and time consuming. Plus, I slammed my thumb in the car door three days ago and it still hurts and the cuticle is all mangled and I don't want to hurt it more. So no" To which the feeling replied, "I think you should think about it. It's a good way to go."

So I thought about it for two more days. And while I was thinking another hard, stupid thing happened and the stress and worry about everything that had occurred over the last few weeks came crashing down. My co-workers were awesome and helped me keep it together when I was on the verge of tears at work, but when I got in the car to come home, I broke down and sobbed. I cried all the way home. And while I cried, I prayed. I prayed for peace, for money, for wisdom, for strength, for love, for hope, for insight and understanding, for someone else to cook dinner and for help with that stupid, stupid washing machine that I loved and needed so I could wash clothes. And after I prayed, the feeling said "You should fix it yourself." To which I replied, "You know what? Fine."

Now you probably know this, but something happens when you finally give in to a feeling or a thought that has been bugging you for awhile. Things just start to fall into place. I came home, googled the problem and darned if I didn't find a whole new forum that had every answer I needed to fix the washer. Why do you suppose that answer never came up the first 6 times I scoured the internet for answers? Then I tore into the washer, found a parts store today that had everything I needed and $100 later? My washer is fixed. I'm washing towels in it right now. Okay, so I forgot to check the belt and found out it has a big tear in it, so I will have to replace that tomorrow, but for now, the washer is working. And I am overjoyed! I am also pretty freaking awesome!

While I was watching my handiwork on action, I finally stepped down from my fix-it high for a moment and realized something. That feeling that I had been fighting all week? Was the help I had been asking for. And in my typical child-like fashion, I was too busy having a meltdown to stop and think about where the thoughts and feelings were coming from long enough to calm down and accept the help that was being offered.  Because that's how I roll. I'm all about the brick wall experience.

Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal to people. That's okay.  I get it.  Lots of drama over nothing.  But to me?  It's HUUUUUUUUGE (Trump it up)!  Having this one thing off of my plate took just enough weight off of my shoulders that I can think and breathe again. I sooooo needed this break.

So tonight, I sit here at my computer filled to the core with gratitude for the answer to my prayers. Some of you may call what happened intuition or coincidence or something completely different and that's fine with me. I call it divine help from a loving Heavenly Father who heard His daughter's plea for relief. For the first time in weeks, my soul feels peace. How can I not love a Father who extended His hand to lift me up and help me in a way that not only shows me his kindness and concern, but also gives me confidence in my ability to solve problems and overcome challenges? I feel so blessed to be the Child of God. He took this:

 (No idea who this poor little "Snot Baby" is, but I was so feelin' it!)

And turned me into this: