A New Routine for Better Mornings

better morning

Source: Flick/Broo_am (Andy B)

Are mornings a struggle for you? They are for me. I’m a recovering night owl and I’ve worked hard over the last year or so to make my mornings better. I implemented something new this week that I think will be really good for me. It’s an evening routine that I adapted from the Stone Soup for Five blog. It is a nice way of wrapping up the day and setting myself up for a successful morning. I try to pack so much in my mornings that often times I get overwhelmed when I can’t get it all done. I’ve made a list that I have been doing for the last week and I will make adjustments to the routine as necessary. Most of the items are for me but the first item is for the whole family.

For step one, the family gets involved in a 10 minute clean up. We have been doing this for several of days and it has worked out so well. We are doing it right after dinner before anyone gets involved in anything else and before the teenager goes and hides in her room. I set the time for 10 minutes and we all go around the house picking up things we have left out throughout the day. If we get done before the time is up, each person can work on other chores like cleaning their rooms, sweeping, dishes, etc. I’ve been amazed at how much work gets done in those few minutes. The kids have complained a bit, but at the same time they get a lot done. It’s been a pretty satisfying new habit and my husband likes it since he gets tired of nagging the kids to pick up their belongings.

Below is the list of the other tasks I’m completing in the evening. When school starts, I will get the kids on a similar routine so they can have easier mornings as well.

Set out Bible study materials. It’s easy to get distracted early in the morning and this helps to ensure that I start with what’s most important before moving on to my business related tasks.

Wash face, brush teeth, floss. My husband has trouble sleeping and sometimes goes to bed before I do. If I don’t get in the bedroom early enough, I’m reluctant to wake him up to do these tasks. Doing it as part of an earlier routine ensures it gets done. 

Fill Keurig with water and fill reusable dispenser with ground coffee. This makes my first mission of the day simple. Just push start when I wake up.

Sweep if not done during 10 minute clean up. We have hardwood floors and a dog that sheds like crazy. Using the Swiffer a couple of times a day is a necessity. So far the kids have done this during the 10 minute clean up time because it’s easy.

Laundry – the main purpose of putting this on my list is to make sure clothes don’t sit in the washer and get stinky in this heat. 

Prep lunch for morning. This a key piece of not only making morning easier, but ensuring that I take healthy foods to work.

Personal development. I usually do this in the morning, but if I didn’t get it done in the morning then it will be part of my evening routine. Personal development can be reading a book, listening to a podcast, doing a business training, or anything that adds to my personal and professional growth.

Do you have an evening routine that works for you?





Quinoa for Breakfast?

A great quinoa recipe to start your day.

quinoa recipe

Source: Flickr/Jennifer

Our family has been enjoying quinoa for a couple of years as a side dish or a dinner recipe like Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. I only recently started eating it as a breakfast as well. It sounded a little weird to me at first but I tried it when I bought Quinoa and Steel Cut Oatmeal from Trader Joe’s. I really liked the nutty flavor it added to the oatmeal. You can eat it without the oatmeal as well as in this recipe. I like the fact that I can change up the add-ins to add variety to my breakfast. Here is one of my favorite quinoa recipes.

Quinoa for Breakfast


  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups unsweetened nut or rice
  • milk
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
  • 3 Tbsp dried cranberries or other dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 tsp chia seeds


  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat combine the unsweetened nut milk (or your favorite unsweetened dairy-free milk), and quinoa.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in the stevia.
  4. Top with coconut, cranberries, and nuts and chia seeds.
  5. Enjoy warm. Add non-dairy milk as desired.

The Power of Gratitude

Gripes Be Gone


Source: Flickr/Jamie Henderson

“Attitude of Gratitude” seems to be a popular catchphrase lately. It truly is a powerful way to shift your mindset. My latest adventure with improving my mindset started with a Bible study I was attending. We were all given bracelets that said “Gripes be gone” and were challenged to wear it for 3 weeks. We were told to switch the bracelet from one wrist to another each time we complained. The whole point was to make us aware of not only how much we complain, but also to be aware of the things we complain about. We were also to start a gratitude journal to help us change our thinking from a negative, griping thought life to one of thankfulness.

Week one really had me thinking. The complaining rolled off my tongue naturally. As the basket of bracelets were still being passed around I felt the need to comment that purple was not my color. We were told to place the bracelet on our right wrists and I stated quietly that I wanted it on my left wrist. I was off to a great start! Over the next couple of days I found myself justifying my complaints. “I was just stating a fact!” There’s a fine line between stating facts and complaining and it was interesting to hear myself teeter on that line. I also learned how many times I had conversations with others where I “just needed to vent.” What a great way to disguise a whine-fest! I also found that I complain most at my kids’ sporting events. I fussed about things that were unfair to my child, or how other kids played, or how the umpires were calling the game. Because of the bracelet I caught myself most of the time. I worked on rephrasing what I wanted to say. Instead of saying that it was unfair that my son was sitting on the bench for more innings than other kids, I reflected on the positive life lessons we could teach him through this.

In weeks two and three I got better at rephrasing things and finding things to be grateful for. I started my prayer time with gratitude and verbalized gratitude more often throughout the days. Towards the very end of the challenge I was so used to how the bracelet felt on my wrist that I kind of forgot about it. The gratitude habit stayed but I’d like to find ways to catch myself complaining and re-frame it more often.

I’d love to hear about ways that you work on being more thankful and complaining less. 

Philippians 4:8-9

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The Struggle with Sugar – Are you Addicted to Sugar?

addicted to sugar

Source: Flicker/Moyan Brenn

Hello, My name is Tammy and I’m Addicted to Sugar

Lately I’ve been battling sugar again. Sometimes I can kick it to the curb. Other times its insidious whisper calls me to it and I don’t resist. On one hand I wish I could have a treat now and then but on the other hand I know what it births in my life. When I choose to eat sugar it wakes up ALL my cravings that have been hibernating. Suddenly I not only want more sugar but I also want chips and bread and any other junk food I can get my hands on. It’s never enough. I can’t just have a small treat and be happy with it. The one exception is dark chocolate. When I have dark chocolate I can be happy with one or two squares and I don’t suffer cravings afterwards. So why don’t I choose dark chocolate more often and avoid the other sweets? If I knew the answer to that I think I would get somewhere with this sugar addiction. 

My biggest challenge comes at work. Candy on coworkers desks, gifts people give me (hello, Starbucks gift card), and treats left on the break room table. Everyone means well. But I see it and it makes something click in my mind. So even though I walk away initially, as the day wears on my willpower wears out like a muscle that gets fatigued with use. At home I keep most of the things that tempt me out of the house. Every once in a while my kids will have something that challenges me, but we try to keep most of it out of the house.

Do you struggle with sugar? I would love your tips in the comments about how you overcome temptation!

Food Prep Tips to Make Healthier Eating Easy

food prep

Source: Flickr/Meal Makeover Moms

One vital behavior that contributes to my healthy eating success is food prep on the weekends. On weeks that I skip the food prep I find that I cheat on my meal plan more often. I eat out more and I tend make more choices that don’t align with my goals. So food prep has become more and more a solid part of my weekend plans. Here are some of the things I’ve incorporated into my process.

Smoothie bags: I make 5 zipper bags of ingredients for my 5 week-day smoothies. On a normal day when I don’t do the food prep it takes me so long to make my smoothie because of all the different ingredients. My smoothie bags contain 1 scoop of Shakeology, 1/2 scoop whey protein powder, 2 teaspoons of chia seeds or flaxseeds, 1 cup of kale, 2 cups of spinach, and a 1/2 cup of berries. Once I add all the ingredients I freeze the bags. Each morning I dump the contents of the bag into my blender with water and I add a 1/2 c of coconut milk and blend. 

Eggs: I boil 8-10 eggs. I usually take 2 eggs to work as a snack or I add them to my salad.

Salad Jars: I usually make 4 or 5 salad jars. I use large mason jars and I put the salad dressing on the bottom. Coconut Ranch dressing is my favorite at the moment. I then add a layer of ingredients that don’t tend to get soggy. These ingredients will vary week to week but some of my favorites are radishes, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. If I am adding any nuts or dried fruit or anything like that I would add them now. The last ingredient is the lettuce or spinach or other greens. This keeps them away from the dressing and helps keep them from getting soggy. The mason jars help keep the salads amazingly fresh. At lunch time I turn the jar upside down and let the dressing drain down into the salad and then dump in all on to a plate or into a bowl. Add a protein and BAM, lunch is done!

Oatmeal jars: For variety with breakfast I also make oatmeal jars. I use the smaller mason jars for these. To make these I put 1/2 a cup of oatmeal in the jar and then I add various ingredients to make it tastier. My favorite recipe is dried apples (cut in small pieces) and cinnamon with a variety of nuts. Dried bananas and nuts is another favorite of mine. Use your imagination for more variety. In the morning add 1 cup of hot water to the jar, mix together and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I usually add the water before my shower and when I’m done, my breakfast is hot and ready.

Proteins: Throughout the week we make extra proteins with our meals to package up for lunches. For example when we make a chicken dish, we make  2 or 3 extra pieces and bag them up individually. That way when I’m packing my lunch I can grab a salad jar and a serving of chicken and I have the makings of a perfect lunch. 

Any time we have food leftover after dinner I package up a couple of individual servings instead of putting it all in one container. Every minute saved in the morning is one step closer to a better day!

Veggies: When I get back from the grocery store I wash and prep some of my vegetables. Some vegetables I leave as is until I am ready to use them. I find if I peel and slice my zucchini and cucumber, sometimes it gets mushy before the week is up so I leave them alone. Other items I prepare right away to make the week easier. I cut florets off of my cauliflower and broccoli, trim my radishes, etc. That way if I want to pack raw veggies or make some steamed veggies it’s easy to grab a handful and prepare them without any extra steps. 

I would love to hear your food prep tips. I could always use new ideas. Let me know in the comments how you make healthy eating easier.

Searching for Answers When My Weight is Stuck

weight is stuckIt’s ironic that I coach people on better nutrition and exercise and they lose weight yet my own weight is stuck. So I am looking deeper. I am looking for the missing piece of the puzzle. I have had appointments in the last 2 weeks with a nutritionist and my nurse practitioner to tease apart the layers of what might be going on.


Over the last 2 years I have made many different changes in my life. I don’t regret a single one of them. 

I cut out gluten. No more bread, no more pasta, no more pastries. I have an occasional cheat but for the most part it is not a routine ingredient in my nutrition plan. I made this change after reading the book Wheat Belly and I won’t go back.

I quit my Diet Coke habit. Never, ever thought that would happen. No soda at all for me. Not even tempted any more.

I don’t eat fast food. I used to enjoy frequent visits to the drive thru lane. Especially Jack in the Box. Breakfast sandwiches, tacos, amazing burgers…no more. Not even tempted any more

I have increased the number of vegetable servings per day. I used to eat 1 or 2 servings of veggies a day. Now it’s more like 6 – 8 servings. I not only eat them more but I enjoy them more. My family has made it kind of an adventure to try new vegetables or to try them in a new way.

Dessert. I hardly ever have dessert any more. I used to have it every night. Now I fill my day with so much good nutrition that I don’t crave sweets at night for the most part. My body has what it needs.

Candy. I am still tempted when candy is in front of my face. But I don’t seek it out like I used to. No more trips to the vending machine or extra stops to the gas station. I remember times when I would get a candy bar and eat it and then realize I ate it so fast I didn’t take the time to enjoy it.

Exercise. From couch potato to a disciplined routine of working out 5 to 6 days a week. The key for me there has been finding something I enjoy and eliminating as many excuses as possible.

Fake food. My husband and I have cut out most processed foods. We get the majority of our calories from foods that are full of dense nutrition and with as few chemical additives as possible. We still have room to improve but we have made great strides in this area.

And yet…

And yet with all these changes my weight hovers in the same range. It’s not just a short plateau, this has been going on for way too long. So I decided if I want different results I need some help. I am not willing to go on a crash diet or do anything that I’m not willing to stick with for life. I am working with a nutritionist through Nutritional Weight and Wellness who is helping me find the right meal plan for me and help me figure out if I’m eating things that are not best for me. She is actually advising me to eat more. More of the right things like protein and healthy fats. It’s been an exercise of trust to follow that advice because it’s counter-intuitive. I have gone back to my nurse practitioner to run some different lab tests and do some further investigating. 

The old me would have said, “All these changes aren’t working so I’ll just go back to eating whatever I want.” But the new me says, “Despite what the scale says, I know I’m doing what’s right for my health.” Part of what helps me to stick with that resolve is that when I eat badly I feel bad. Not emotionally bad but physically bad. Listening to my body has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years. 

Worshiping Food – Can Food Be an Idol?

Source: Flickr/pallavi_damera

Source: Flickr/pallavi_damera

Do I worship idols? I want to say of course not! But idolatry is more insidious. An idol is actually anything that I put ahead of my worship of God. God has created needs within me that can only be met with Him. If I attempt to satisfy those needs with other things, that is idolatry. When I think of it that way, then yes, I have put other things before God and I am guilty of idolatry. I have been guilty of worshiping food among other things.

Worshiping food

One of the things that comes to mind when I think about idol worship is food. Food has definitely been elevated to an unhealthy place in my life. I have turned to food for so many reasons. 

Food is my comfort.

Food provides peace.

Food gives me pleasure like a drug.

Food answers an unidentifiable need.

Food is something I feel I deserve when I have done well or when I have a rough day.

Food entertains me when I am bored.

God wants to be the answer to all those needs. He wants me to turn to Him first to be my peace, my comfort. He wants me to delight in Him. He wants me to tell him about my day and to cry out to Him when I need help. Instead, I have turned to food. Food is an empty god. It provides momentary pleasure but long-term problems. 

I remember telling my husband as I took my first bite of fresh, warm pumpernickel bread at Outback Steakhouse that it was like a drug. I actually had a physical rush from eating it while we waited for our dinner. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying good food. The Bible talks a lot about food and feasts. It’s just that I need to put it in it’s proper place. I have elevated it to a place in my life that it doesn’t belong. This behavior started at a young age and I’m challenged to peel apart the layers and figure out how to use food as fuel and enjoy it in the way that God intended. Do you struggle with your relationship with food?


Our Backyard Farm Adventures: Homemade Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt

Source: Flickr/peddhapati

I was introduced to making homemade yogurt when my aunt came to visit a few months ago. I’ve been making it myself ever since. It’s a great way to control the ingredients and to reduce the sugar in my diet. The only ingredients needed are milk, dry milk and yogurt culture. I use 1 quart of milk, 1 cup dry milk and one package of yogurt culture from cheesemaking.com. I buy the cultures that make more of a Greek yogurt but you can also get a creamier yogurt or Bulgarian style yogurt cultures. The next round I am going to try each of the 3 types to see which one I like best. You can use a bit of a previous batch of yogurt instead of the purchased cultures but you will get more benefit from a higher level of cultures.

Why yogurt?

I add yogurt to my nutrition plan first of all because it’s yummy. When I have the munchies at work and I’m fighting the urge to hit up the vending machine for candy, a serving of yogurt with some nuts sprinkled in can help me get past the cravings. Yogurt also provides healthy bacteria that helps my gut function properly. Probiotics are living bacteria that are essential for good health. Yogurt is full of probiotics. Yogurt provides a good protein boost to your diet as well as  a dose of calcium. Many people who are lactose intolerant can still eat yogurt, especially if the extra whey is drained off.

How do I make it?

To make the yogurt I put 1 quart of milk in a saucepan and add 1 cup of dry milk. Heat the milk to 180 degrees. I use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature while I am warming it up. Once it reaches 180 degrees, I cool the milk rapidly to 110 degrees in very cold water. Once it cools to 110 degrees I put the milk in a container and add the cultures and stir. I place the container in the oven with the oven light on. The light provides enough warmth for the yogurt process to start. I leave it in the oven overnight (6 to 12 hours are recommended) and then refrigerate it in the morning. There are also yogurt makers that you can get that will keep the yogurt at temperature, but the oven light is an inexpensive solution for me.

homemade yogurt

Wrestle with the Voices Inside

Source: Flickr/Porsche Brosseau

Source: Flickr/Porsche Brosseau

I enjoy music and especially songs with great lyrics. Sometimes I feel like I can express myself better with song lyrics than I could using my own words. The song Greater by MercyMe has been rattling around in my head this week. The lyrics really strike home with me on days when I’m not feeling like I’m good enough.

“Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright
‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world”

Sometimes the voices are from others but most of the time the voices are in my own little head. They whisper loudest when I’m playing the comparison game. When I’m paying attention to the voice that says:

It’s not fair.

I’m not one of the cool kids.

I’ll never be thin/fit/pretty.

I never finish anything.

I’ll never get ahead.

And on, and on…

When those thoughts start I have a choice. I can listen to them. I can let them drag me down into a pit of unworthiness and despair. Or I can choose to listen to a better voice. The voice of the One who loves me. Even though I can’t fully comprehend this love I can let it sink into my soul and pull me up to a better place. A place where I can begin to believe that I have a calling and when I walk in all that He has for me I will never be a loser.

“There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater
He’s Greater”

Take a listen and let it sink into your soul.









Next Clean Eating Challenge Starts Soon

salad recipe

Source: Wikimedia Commons, Krista

Next free clean eating challenge starts next week February 16, 2015. We spend 14 days together in a private Facebook group reinforcing good habits and working on ditching bad habits. I will provide a guide, videos, and lots of recipes to help you get through the two weeks. Invite a friend or two to do it with you – it’s always easier to stick to an eating plan when you have support from those around you. Sign up now so you can shop and prep before day 1.