November 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Begins Today!

NaNoWriMo 2017 IS HERE!!!

If you know me, or have followed this blog over the last few years, then you likely know that National Novel Writing Month, or, Nanowrimo, is one of my most favorite things.

For those of you who don't know, Nano is a virtual community of something like 500,000 people that commits to writing an entire novel, or at least 50,000 words of one, in the 30 days of November. You can learn more about it at

This will be my fifth year participating in Nano-- which kind of shocks me! Four years ago today I began my first attempt at writing a novel. I only finished 20,000 words that year, but that experience helped me develop a regular writing practice; it inspired me to find a writer's group; and it was the beginning of (finally) following my dream of being a writer. (That's a pretty big deal.) In all three years since my first try, I have made it to the 50,000 word finish line. And since that first day, I have written four novels.

Over the next 30 days, I plan to make that five.

I am so excited to begin. I've spent the last eleven months working on revisions to previous Nano novels-- and there's still A LOT more work to do on them. For me, unlike many other novelists that I have read about, revising can feel a bit like slogging through swamplands, and at times it can get overwhelming. So, getting to create a story--an entire world-- from scratch again sounds so refreshing right now.

For me, Nano brings passion and community and challenge and this strange sense of chaotic peace that is so hard to describe. During Nano, lots of other things in my life may seem stressful, but the writing rarely does. During Nano, lots of other things in my life fall by the wayside in this beautiful, life affirming way...maybe not for the other people in my life who are expecting me to continue to fulfill my list of duties like a good mom/wife/homeowner/friend/citizen....but for me it is this brief snapshot of how I probably should be living life every day. It forces priorities that are probably closer to the truth. My truth, at least.

And Nano is hopeful.

Who knows if I'll ever get one of these books published? I can't say for certain. But during the month of November, I am hopeful. I am hopeful and I am a writer. A real one.

I savor that. It's a good feeling.

One last thing before I go. This Nano is extra special for me because two people are joining me in it for the first time. My wonderful writer-niece, Katie, and my super-awesome daughter, Portia. Katie's a junior in college, so she, like me, is going after the big prize of 50,000 words (mind you, she's already written multiple novels). Portia, who's 8, signed up for Nano's Young Writer's Program and is planning to write a book of short stories this month. This warms my little writer's heart.

So, cheer us on, good friends! Send us good vibes and good mojo and lots of coffee (hot chocolate for Portia...extra marshmallows)!

And if you're also a writer, consider hopping onto Nano, too-- or at least set a goal for yourself and do some writing. If you're not a writer, support our endeavors by reading a good book or doing some journaling...or just making some progress in the pursuit of your own amazing dreams.

Until next time, write on, my friends...write on!

(I'm off to pursue a word count goal!)

October 25, 2017

My Favorite Smoothie Recipes

Since I started clean eating in January, smoothies have become a staple in my weekly meals. Mostly for breakfast, but sometimes I pull them out for lunches and dinners too. They're relatively easy, fast, and super portable. And, if you do them right, they can be just about the healthiest option there is for breakfast. How else am I going to get veggies into my weekday breakfast? (And please don't suggest I make an omelet. That's so not happening on a Wednesday morning.)

I've tried A LOT of smoothie recipes over the past ten months, but overtime I've found that I've settled on a few that I make over and over again. So, I thought I'd share them with you.

Note: For all of these recipes, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 1 minute, or until smooth.

Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie (my most recent obsession...totally tastes like an oatmeal cookie!)
1 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp raw honey
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/3 c. raw oats
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chia seeds
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 banana
1/4 c. spinach (I just throw a good handful in)
1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
handful ice

Energy Boosting Smoothie (I had this one this morning...mmmmm)
1 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp organic peanut butter
1 banana
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt (or kefir...or coconut milk yogurt for dairy-free folks like me)
1/4 c. spinach (handful)
1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of cayenne pepper
handful ice

Berry Milkshake Smoothie
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt (or kefir or coconut milk yogurt)
1/4 c. blueberries (I use frozen, organic)
1/2 banana
 1/4 c. spinach (handful)
handful ice

Chocolate Delight Smoothie
1/4 c. spinach (handful)
1 tbsp raw cacao
1/2 avocado
1/2 banana
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt (or kefir or coconut milk yogurt)
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. raw oats
handful ice

You'll notice that all of these smoothie recipes have a few things in common: they all have fruit; they all have veggies; and they all have protein. All of these leave me feeling full. I do find the addition of oats in two of them does keep me full longer. If I want something lighter and more refreshing, I go for the Berry Milkshake, but I often will have a small snack (like a larabar: I like their strawberry and spinach fruit and greens bar and their chocolate chip cookie dough bar) later in the morning if I do. I sometimes can't even finish the oatmeal cookie smoothie because it's so filling. The Chocolate Delight smoothie is not sweet. If you feel like you really need more sweetness, you can add some raw honey or 100% maple syrup.

The biggest thing to note here is that I think all of these taste delicious. I'm not really one for sucking down something that tastes terrible just because it's healthy. That's why none of these have protein powder in them-- I'm just not a fan of the flavor protein powders add. If you like them, you can use a scoop of your favorite protein powder in place of the yogurt in any of these. Just make sure the ingredient statement is good-- no added sugars, additives, chemicals, etc.

A few other notes on ingredients:
- I use organic ingredients anywhere I can. (It's better for you and for the environment!)
- Raw cacao is not the same as cocoa. You can find it in the organic/natural section of your grocery store. I order mine from Amazon (It's this one: I also order my chia seeds there (these:
- I'm a big fan of Bob's Red Mill Brand. I use their gluten free raw oats and ground flaxseed (amongst other things).

All of these smoothie recipes are adaptations of Danette May recipes. If you have a favorite smoothie recipe, please share it in the comments-- I'm always looking for new ones to add to the mix. And let me know what you think if you give one of these recipes a try.

Until next time, happy smoothie-ing my dear friends!

October 19, 2017

Studying Your Craft: Creating Your Own "Master's Program"

A stack of books on writing and publishing

One of my dream jobs, if it existed, would be to get paid to audit graduate school classes. If money was no object, or tuition was free, I think I could, quite happily, collect graduate degrees like pretty shells on a beach. I have one...I think I could easily work up to five, maybe six. One of my favorite times in my pre-kid adult life was when I was in grad school. I loved learning. Once I graduated and had to put my degree into practice...well, let's just say it didn't take. But I loved the learning part. I felt alive and creative and inspired when I was learning. I was so...interested.

Now, switch gears for a moment with me.

I've been seriously writing for a while now-- It's been 3 years since I wrote my first draft of my first novel and I have been writing regularly ever since. But I haven't studied writing, outside of the occasional book (like, Stephen King's On Writing...which is great, by the way), since I was an undergrad (and that is a lot further back in my past than I'd like to admit). And it didn't occur to me until recently that that might be a problem. I've been writing and writing, and certainly getting better, but I haven't been studying my craft...until now.

It all started this summer when I attended my first ever writer's retreat. I plan to write a full blog post just about this experience, but sufficed to say that I learned a lot-- about writing and about myself-- at that retreat. Two of the things I learned are particularly important to today's post: 1) I learned that I had a lot-- A LOT-- to learn about writing; and 2) I learned that I needed to get out of my comfort zone, out of my routine, if I was going to grow as a writer.

My eyes were opened.

Once I got back, I decided to design my own little graduate writing program. Something I would piece together from various sources that would help me learn and grow as a writer. I already had my writers group in place-- critiques are a key part of any graduate writing program! So I printed out a blank planning calendar (think: class schedule) and went looking for "classes."

I'm always amazed by how the universe conspires to help us when we're on the right path...because as soon as I went looking, an opportunity popped up in my inbox!

At class!
The first thing I found, thanks to the folks at NaNoWriMo, was an online graduate writing course from Wesleyan University via Coursera. I immediately signed up to audit the class and just finished it last week.

Then I got the opportunity, thanks to my writing group leader, to speak with a local author about her writing and publishing experiences. This was followed closely by a favorite author coming to speak at a local library-- which I found out about, quite randomly, on my Facebook feed. (And another one comes next week to a different library. I will be going to see her speak as well...thanks again, Facebook gods!)

I've also done some major online searches and found some really great writing blogs, which I've been devouring...hours and hours spent reading articles and taking notes on the craft. Next, I'll be digging into the stack of books on writing and publishing that I got at the retreat.
Blog studying!

I took all of this, along with my writing goals for this year, which I had sketched out the first week of September, and filled in those blank planning calendars for September-December:

Writer's retreats and conferences, online classes, blogs and books, conversations and speakers, writing groups and critiques, and being open to any other learning opportunities that present themselves. I married this with my writing goals: to post on the blog once a week, to prep for and then execute NaNoWriMo 2017 (which means researching and writing a totally new book-- EEK!), to write and submit short stories and poetry to children's magazines (that's something totally new for me), and to revise/edit the two novels I've been working on for the past year.

Voila! THIS is my graduate writing program.

So what could this possibly have to do with you, if you're not a writer? 

You may not be a writer, but you likely have something that interests you. Maybe it's your actual career...maybe it's your hobby...maybe it's something you've always been interested in but never pursued. Whatever IT is, you can go after it. You can study your craft. You can focus on learning and growing in whatever area that inspires you right now. And you can create your own "graduate program."

Maybe you always wanted to learn how to draw or paint. So go find some new books at the library or on amazon and set aside some time to practice. Find some instructional Youtube videos to watch and follow along. Sign up for a local art class or join an online class like the ones offered here:

Maybe you've always been interested in plants and gardening. So explore all the blogs and podcasts out there on the subject or talk to a local garden center. Maybe you love your career in marketing, but haven't taken a class since you got your MBA. Pick up a book on marketing trends and innovation, listen to some amazing TED talks, and then try implementing at work something new you learned in your research. Maybe you want to be a better cook. So take a class and try new recipes. Maybe your goal is to be a better parent. There are blogs and books and online classes out the ying-yang on parenting. Find some that speak to you and get studying!

My point is this: We are meant to be life-long learners. We are not meant to stagnate in routine. But once we hit the stride of adulthood, it's really easy to fall in step with the "I already know it all" crowd and march mindlessly along.

But we can't do that!

We must step out of the marching lines and open our minds. Don't just accept the status quo. Demand better. From the world and from yourself. Learn something new. Stretch and grow. Challenge yourself. Try new things. Go new places. Talk to new people. Turn your brain on and engage your imagination.


Pretend you're back in school and focus on learning instead of just executing tasks. You might just be amazed by what you learn and how it affects you. You might find yourself, dare I say: Inspired.

Until next time, find something you're interested in and explore new learning options...and then go after it! Stretch! Grow! Live!

October 12, 2017

Geocaching: A Super Fun Family Bonding Activity

Geocaching somewhere in the forests of PA

I'm notorious for NOT being on the cutting edge of, like, anything...ever.

I am not a fashionista. I am not an early adopter. I don't have the newest technology. I am not "in the know" or the first to know about anything...except possibly a new book release. But even, not really. Still not.

And even I, the last adult besides my father to finally succumb to the smart phone movement, have known about geocaching for a couple of years. So, I know this post isn't really new news. BUT, when I first read about it, I remember thinking, that might be fun to try...and then never doing anything about it. (And maybe that's what you did, too.) I filed it away in the back of my brain, and moved on.

That is, until this summer.

Before I go on with my story, I should first answer this question (for those who don't know): What is geocaching?

A cache hidden in plain sight
Geocaching is a real world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Once found, geocachers sign and date the logbook, re-hide the cache, and then share the experience online. 

Now, back to my story...

Hanging from a tree in North Carolina
This summer, while on a family vacation, I accessed that old brain file and offered up geocaching as a possible activity-- the response was unanimous: We're all in! So we set up an account. Downloaded the app to our phones. And scoped out some nearby caches. Then we went at it!

And we had so much fun!

Everyone enjoyed the adventure and challenge of geocaching, and it really brought us together as a team (which I think is really cool). It was time spent together working toward a common goal. We were active; we were using our brains in new ways and learning new skills (like reading a compass and understanding coordinates and figuring out clues); and we were seeing places we wouldn't have otherwise seen.

That last one was the most unexpected benefit to geocaching, for me. I suggested it on vacation for the family bonding and fun; but we've continued geocaching as a weekend activity, and even spur of the moment fun, and it's been so cool to go places we wouldn't have otherwise gone, and see things from perspectives we wouldn't have otherwise had.

Beautiful and fascinating cemetery that we wandered peacefully after finding a cache
We've visited parks, walked trails, snuck around outside businesses, climbed embankments, wandered cemeteries, and crouch-walked under roads in dry drainage "riverbeds". We've explored all sorts of areas in three states, so far, and its been a blast. My husband and I even did a little geocaching on our own during a weekend getaway-- turns out it's fun bonding time even without the kids!

Sounding interesting, yet?

Here's a little more information on what geocaching is like, and a few tips for getting started.

It looked like a birdhouse, but
wasn't; and took a trick to get in
This one was in a cooler and had fun
trinkets to trade
All caches are different. They range in size from micro (think tiny film canister) to large (think big shoebox), type of container, and hiding place (look up, look down, look in or under). Some contain just a log for you to sign. Others contain trinkets to trade, too. And still others hold coveted "trackables"-- which I like to think of as trinkets on a journey (these have trackable barcodes and are meant to be moved from cache to cache on a journey somewhere).

Because you never know what you're going to get into when you head out geocaching, I recommend doing a few things first:

1) If you want to give geocaching a go, start by clicking this link:, where you can register for a free basic membership and then follow the instructions there to get started.

2) I highly recommend watching the videos they provide before heading out on your first treasure hunting adventure. We all huddled around my husband's phone and watched them together to get everyone psyched-up for our first outing...and to teach everyone the rules of geocaching. You can find videos at the geocaching Youtube channel here:

3) Dress appropriately. You may find yourself wandering through the woods or climbing hills and embankments. Good shoes for walking/hiking are a must (flip flops are not recommended)! And wear or bring clothing to protect you from bugs and scratchy plant life.

4) The geocaching app sucks battery life like crazy! So bring your charger for between caches.

5) We gathered/bought trinkets to have on hand for trading. If a cache had fun things that interested the kids, we wanted to have equally fun things to trade. So we got a little box to keep in the car and filled it with small, "cachable" stuff. You can also make your own leave-behinds...or choose not to trade anything.

6) Bring a pen!

If this calls to your adventurous spirit, geocaching isn't the only game in town...

There is a similar game out there called letterboxing which we plan to try out soon. In letterboxing, you collect and share stamp imprints. You bring along your own log book and stamp (you might have a family stamp and book, or individual ones); you search out the letterbox using GPS and clues; the box contains its own log book and stamp; and you trade stamps-- imprint the box's book with your stamp and stamp your own book with the box's stamp.

I like the idea of collecting's kind of like a passport! Cool! So, we'll be giving that a go sometime soon. If you want to learn more about letterboxing, go here:

And I'm sure there are even more fun adventure options out there. If you've know of any, please share them in the comments below. And I'd love to hear about your geocaching or letterboxing adventures too! I try to share pics from our geocaching adventures on instagram. (#geocaching) You can follow me on instagram at: @bookwormanista.

So, folks, that's what I've got on family fun for this season-- a little different than your typical pumpkin patch or hayride, I think.

Until next time, go find yourself some adventure...most of us could use a little more adventure in our lives and geocaching is a pretty easy way to get it.

Happy geocaching!

September 27, 2017

The Great British Baking Show, My Love

It can be hard to put into words the feelings you have about something you've enjoyed-- especially when that something isn't a thing that one typically waxes poetic about.

Like, if you're trying to describe the love you have for your child, or the beauty of a flower, you may search for just the right words to capture its elemental heart, but everyone already gets the gist of what you're describing-- particularly if they've experienced it themselves.

But when you're trying to capture the essence of how a simple television show made you feel, it's...well...a bit weird.

But I'm going to do it anyway.

Because this show that I've been obsessed with since the first of July, this BBC marvel, this so-much-more-than-a-bake-off, this tiny-teeny baking show just made me feel so good.

Watching it, I felt somehow...lighter and brighter; warm and cozy, yet uplifted. It made me smile, a lot. It made my heart feel good. It was so basic, yet so lovely. And, strangely, so different from any other competition show I've watched.

In the past, I've enjoyed shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, and so on. In fact, I'm in the midst of a Project Runway season right now. And I like it.

But it's different.

How can I explain this?

The people on The Great British Baking Show are nice. (At least everything I've seen of them on the show.) They're all nice people. They're all humble and respectful. Not in a fake, 'I'm on television' kind of way. But they're all just genuinely good. No one person bad mouths another. No one's mean-spirited or rude-- judges included. It's a competition with themselves, more than each other. Each person striving to do their very best, rather than striving to beat the other contestants. It's good sportsmanship and good humanbeingship.

I actually liked all the people on the show. And that's saying a lot, because I didn't just watch one season. I watched 4 seasons. All the seasons...all this summer.

It started when we went to visit my folks in Michigan this summer. My mom was watching the current season (4) and I happened to watch an episode with her one night. Immediately, I was hooked! So we went back and watched the season's episodes I had missed. Then I went home and finished the season as they aired the episodes weekly on PBS.

I was so sad when the season was done. I missed it. That is, until I discovered seasons 1-3 on Netflix. (Hooray for Netflix!)

Well, I just finished the last episode of season 3 (possibly my favorite season...though that may just be because it's the one I just watched), and I feel like I'm floating on air-- that's how sweet and uplifting it was.

There's something about watching people go after their dreams that is just heartwarming and inspiring, regardless of the outcome. Watching the show makes me want to go after my dreams even more. The winner of season 3, just after receiving the crystal cake plate trophy, said something like, "I will never again say 'I can't do that.' Because I can. I did."

That's some powerful stuff.

In addition to showcasing great people and some seriously great baking (that makes me want to bake grand cakes and treats, and experiment with different flavors and new ingredients), this show also has two of the most amusing hosts ever.

I've never had particularly strong feelings one way or another about a competition show host. They're mostly fine and just, sort of, there. But these two women, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, are an absolute delight. They're hilarious...and also kind and supportive; and they clearly care about the contestants. Mostly, they're damn funny in this goofy, off-beat way I find supremely charming.

The judges-- the aptly named Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood-- are also lovely. They're tough, but kind. They always look for the bright spot, even when it's a baking fail. And you can see that they're always hoping that everyone succeeds.

So there. I've done it. I've waxed poetic about a television show. And a baking competition show, at that. Showing my true freak-colors. I may as well admit to one of my other television loves...James Spader as Red on The Blacklist-- don't even get me started on that man's ability to deliver a line....and follow a tangent (like a man after my own heart). New season of Raymond Reddington starts this week! Squee!

But I digress...

Here's my point-- yes, I have one-- my point is, that The Great British Baking Show gives something I think can be sorely absent from typical American media fodder (especially of late): Kindness. Respect. Decency. These are the things I find myself craving, along with the pastries they're whipping up. I want to see goodness. I want to be made to feel warmth and lightness. I want to relax in front of the telly with a spot of tea for an hour; I want to enjoy that hour; and I want to feel better when it's done than I did when it started. And this show gives me all that, in, British accents! <3

Until next time, go make a cup of tea and enjoy a lovely episode of The Great British Baking Show. (And drool over their amazing bakes!) THEN, be inspired to go after your own dreams...

September 20, 2017

Book Reviews: What I Read This Summer that You Should (or Shouldn't) Pick Up

I haven't posted anything about books since my July post on A Man Called Ove. (Read it. So good.) So, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the books I read this summer. This isn't necessarily an exhaustive list of all I read, but it gives you a good flavor...and maybe a few ideas on what, and what not, to grab on your next library (or Amazon) visit.

Okay. Let's do this.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I found this book both entertaining and disappointing. The book rides the wave of mystery-thrillers with unreliable narrators that's so popular right now. (Confession: I'm kind of annoyed by unreliable narrators-- especially those with a drinking problem.) Anyway, the mystery was fun and kept me guessing throughout, but there was a big lag in the middle. A great editor could have helped speed the pace of this book and make for a more edge-of-my-seat read the whole way through.

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
If you like Young Adult Dystopian Future books with strong female leads, then this is a fun series. Meyer's futuristic take on the classic fairy tale princesses is fun and engaging. A light, fast, enjoyable read.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Tears, tears, and more tears. If you're a dog lover...if you've ever lost a beloved pet...then park yourself on the couch with a box of tissues and pick up this book. In the vein of Marley and Me and (my favorite) The Art of Racing in the Rain, Lily and the Octopus tells the story of Steven, his beloved dog Lucy, and her tumor, aka the octopus. Rowley's humorous take on how crazy we can be for our animals, and the amazing way they can possess our hearts, is unique and funny and sweet. He goes a little overboard (pun intended-- you'll get it if you read the book) with his metaphorical battle with the octopus toward the end, but it doesn't steal the book's quiet thunder.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
The premise of this book is SO WEIRD. Weird enough that it kept me from reading it, despite good reviews, for quite a while. But I found it cheap in a used book store, so I brought it home. And I'm glad I did. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book-- I think I even read some lines to my husband because I thought they were so good. This book is really entertaining, and more than a bit weird, but it's golden ticket lies in Smith's ability to capture the teenage boy's mind (and heart). It's a rare feat, and he does it so well. Worth the read.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I grabbed this slim volume from a "recommended reads" shelf in an independent bookstore-- which rarely leads me astray. But this one fell flat for me. The premise was cute and there a were certainly passages I enjoyed, but overall, I thought it was pretty disappointing.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
I really liked this book. It made me think and wonder and question. And I like that. It's well written and well paced, and provided a nice, little roller coaster of emotions for me. Definitely worth the read.

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
This is a middle grade book that I think kids-- especially those who are really into books-- will enjoy. From an adult perspective, I think the premise is fantastic and the book's opening is strong, but I felt like it wavered a bit toward the end. It had a few different paths it could have taken late in the story, and I kind of think it chose the wrong one. Just my opinion, of course. Still, a fun romp!

Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer
I have to say that I was quite disappointed in this memoir. I had an idea about this book, based on the description and recommendations I'd read, but the book didn't live up to the hype. It was a matter of performance vs. expectations for me on this one-- I was expecting a book about a woman's midlife reckoning (as per the subtitle), but what I got was a retrospective of a, somewhat troubled, 80s & 90s childhood in Seattle. Plus, a narrator I couldn't really relate too. I made myself finish it because it was for bookclub; I would have given up otherwise.

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
Another middle grade adventure that I think kids would enjoy. Again, the premise and the start are fantastic, but, also again, it lost me a bit near the end. I still enjoyed it. I still recommend it. But with such a great start, I had super high expectations and they weren't quite met.

So that's a taste of what I read this summer. Some good, some not so much. But I consider my horizon's expanded. Right now I'm reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (our next book club selection)-- on recommendation from my mom. And, 100 pages in, I'm already pretty amazed at how well the author paints her picture of slavery in the south. I feel like I'm there. Up next is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. I'm super excited for this one for two reasons: 1) The author's book Code Name Verity is one of my faves! (So well done. Read it!) and 2) The author is coming to Hershey to speak at our library next month-- I can't wait! (Book geek.)

Did you read anything good this summer? What are you reading right now? Let me know.

Until next time, happy reading!

September 13, 2017

My Danette May "Forever Fit" Lifestyle Update

A pic from shortly after the 30 Day Challenge
So, September 9th was my 8-month anniversary with Danette May. (Yes, I realize that's sounds a bit like we're dating in high school, but I assure you, this is so much more serious that all that.)

In case you haven't read my other posts on this:
Eight months ago I pretty much dropped everything and decided to focus on my health (right on the heals of dropping everything for a month to focus on the holidays and everyone else...which wasn't super successful in the "make me happy" department). I began changing lots of things, but the biggest change I made at the time was joining Danette May's 30 Day New You Challenge. And in the eight months since then, so much more than weight loss has happened.

(Click here: to read more about my 30 Day New You Challenge experience.)

The photo above was taken shortly after I completed the 30 Day challenge. At that point, I think I'd lost about 10 lbs, but I was down a pant size (hence the new jeans) and was falling in love with my body again. I love this pic because I remember how I felt when I snapped it. I was beginning to feel like me again and I was so excited I took a pic to share with my Forever Fit friends. (Forever Fit is an on-going lifestyle group that Danette May put together for people like me-- people who started on the 30 Day Challenge and want to continue with the lifestyle. It gives you on-going access to clean recipes, meditations, workouts, and a support group.)

It hasn't always been the easiest road. It hasn't all gone seamlessly. There have been ups and downs. Things haven't always moved in a straight line from Point A to Point B. But there is So. Much. Goodness. There.

So much.

So, here's a quick recap of the journey of transformation...

- I have lost about 20 lbs and am back in the weight-range in which I spent much of my 20s and 30s. But the number isn't nearly as important as the feel. I FEEL like myself again. I FEEL like I'm living in my own body again. I recognize this body. But, interestingly enough, I am lovin' on it much more. When I last lived at this weight, I wanted to lose weight; I thought I was overweight; I didn't appreciate it. Now I appreciate it for what it truly is: healthy and happy. Me.

- I have all these amazing habits that are helping me feel better in a way that goes far beyond how my body looks. Yes, I look slimmer and more fit than I did 8 months ago. And, yes, my pants are a smaller size and my muscles are more defined. But the real gift is that I feel better physically and mentally thanks to the healthy habits I've formed.
     - I meditate for 5-30 minutes every day.
     - I exercise for at least 20 minutes every day.
     - I eat a clean, healthy diet 90% of the time. (Yes, I sometimes eat and drink off plan.)
     - I use all-natural supplements and foods to enhance my health and wellbeing.

- And the results of these new habits are amazing:
     - I'm beginning to really change my self-talk. I'm becoming much kinder and gentler with myself.
     - I'm developing greater patience (most of the time) with, and appreciate of, those around me.
     - I have a healthier response to life's stressors-- I'm developing better coping mechanisms.
     - I'm expanding my dreams. I feel more capable of going further than I thought I could. I'm stretching my goals and I feel more capable of actually living my dream life everyday.
     - I'm taking real, actionable steps everyday to live a healthier, more natural life.

I referred to this earlier as a journey, because it is. I fully expect this journey to continue throughout my life. I view it now as one of those "paths less taken" kind of things... you know, "I came upon a fork in the road and I chose the path less taken"? I feel a bit like there were two options in front of me back in January: continue my life's journey while including less healthy stuff and feeling like crap, or continue my life's journey with more healthy and natural things...and I chose the healthy path. I chose to treat my body like a friend, not a foe.

I didn't realize how big a change that would be-- I didn't realize how angry I'd become with my body and how much it needed to be loved again. I have Danette May to thank for helping me love my body again. That is no small thing for a woman in today's world, my friends. Think about it.

So, if you're interested in kick-starting your own health and well-being journey, Danette May is launching another 30 Day New You Challenge next week. It's how I got started and it was a real game-changer for me.

Here's the link to sign up for the 30 Day Challenge that starts September 18th:

If you're interested, but have questions, please ask me. And if you decide to do it, you can count on me for support along the way-- all you have to do is ask and I'll answer questions, give tips, and cheer you on. I'm not selling something here, folks. I just really, really believe in this program and this lifestyle.

Until next time, make at least one healthier choice for yourself every day-- choose to move your body, choose to meditate, choose to say kind words to yourself, choose the fruits and veggies-- and see how you feel.

In the words of Danette May-- No one ever finished a workout and said I wish I hadn't done that, and no one ever finished a healthy meal and said I wish I hadn't eaten that, I wish I'd eaten some junk instead.  

One healthy decision at a time makes for a healthier you. Even baby steps are steps forward, my friends.

P.S. Want to know more about the eating plan, workouts, and meditations in the 30 Day Challenge? Click here: to learn about eating, and here: to learn about the workouts, and here: to learn about the meditations and affirmations in Danette May's program.)