Winter Playlist + Lemon-Kale Chicken Soup (Paleo, AIP)

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Lately, all I’ve wanted to make in the kitchen is soup — this lemon-kale chicken soup in particular. And all I’ve wanted as a background soundtrack to our days is this playlist. Both are mellow and perfect for hunkering down on cold days.

November was a pretty full month for us with a string of birthdays, visits from family, travels and lots of movement in general. The energy of our days matched up to the unusually warm weather as we ran around coatless (and a tad disoriented) when typically we’d be having snow days and cozying up indoors.

But now? I can feel a shift toward slowness.

We had an actual snow day last week. Coats and hats are back on their respective hooks for good, and flannel sheets are tucked into beds. The kids are happiest at home right now, building elaborate forts in the living room or turning the kitchen into a mess of construction paper and art projects. My tea kettle is back on the stove, ready to be fired up several times a day now, and I ordered a grown-up tea box to replace the disorganized, towering jumble of tea cartons in our pantry. It’s kind of like we’ve nested for winter … and now we just wait.

My energy typically takes a big dip beginning in December, and this month is no exception. Living with autoimmune diseases, I’ve become extremely sensitive to my ever-changing energy levels and ration myself out accordingly. It takes energy and commitment to heal our minds and bodies, and although all the time I spend in the kitchen cooking mostly autoimmune paleo foods is quite worth the effort …. all the same, it’s still a lot of effort. When I need to eat but don’t have the motivation to do big batch cooking sessions, this soup is my go to. This is also my go-to sick soup for our family and others … chances are, if I drop dinner off at your doorstep, this is what’s in the crock pot. AND, it’s really  yummy as a breakfast soup if you’re just easing into an AIP diet.

This soup is bone broth-based, which packs a ton of minerals and gut-healing properties, but more importantly for feeding a family of four … my people will actually eat it. As with almost all of my AIP soup recipes, as a last step before serving this to the rest of my family, I simply add gluten-free pasta or rice to everyone else’s bowls in order to provide a bit more substance and make it more enticing. It’s also a great way for me to get bone broth into my kiddos, who haven’t yet learned to like it.

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A couple of tips:

  1. Sometimes I will roast a whole chicken and use the meat for this soup. Other times, if I’m short on energy or time, I’ll simply buy a non-GMO, gluten-free, organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and use the shredded meat instead.
  2. Use a bag of frozen kale (or spinach works, too) instead of the fresh to save even more time.
  3. Homemade bone broth is ideal, but don’t underestimate the value of store-bought bone broth if you’re in a pinch. Most natural grocery stores — and some regular grocery stores — now carry cartons of bone broth (look in the canned soup aisle or freezer section).

Lemon-Kale Chicken Soup (AIP)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour
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Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup + 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 6 cups of bone broth
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • salt to taste
  • 1 whole, roasted chicken
  • gluten-free pasta or rice, optional for non-AIP servings

Directions

  1. Dice onion and saute with 1 TBS olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat until translucent.
  2. Add cooked onions, 1/2 cup olive oil and the can of coconut milk to a blender. Blend on high until smooth.
  3. Transfer mixture to a pot on the stove (med-high heat).
  4. Into the same pot, add 6 cups of bone broth, the juice of 2 lemons and salt to taste.
  5. Wash, de-stem and shred kale into small pieces. I usually do this by hand. Add to the pot.
  6. Shred the chicken and add to the pot.
  7. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

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I hope you have a happy, peaceful start to your December. If you’re moving into it slowly, know that you’re not alone and consider that perhaps this month is meant to be a time of reflection and remembrance of what’s most important. Even when our schedules are packed with festivities and to-do lists are nagging to be knocked out, we can still pause to take a breath and reset. Do something thoughtful for yourself. Make a pot of this soup. Make it for someone else. I promise it will be good!

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DIY Natural Fall Skin Care Essentials (ps. don’t be scared)

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In my heyday of sampling every skin care line known to man in search of the holy grail of night cream, I tried everything from Walgreen’s finest to Neiman Marcus’ expensive-est. And guess what? I never found a product that was good to my skin and did anything other than make me sneeze (ridiculous added fragrance – no thanks), occasionally break out and make my wallet cry (La Mer, you highfalutin bugger, I’m looking at you.)

That’s why every few months, when it’s time for me to make a batch of my skin care essentials, it is the biggest thrill ever. (Life on the edge, you guys.) And today I’m going to give you a peek into my medicine cabinet. It used to look like a drugstore that’d been ransacked after a black Monday sale. Pretty scary stuff.

Over the span of a year, though, I started to become conscious of chemicals and toxins that were lurking in my products, and began to slowly transition to natural skin care. At first, I bought expensive, organic creams and cleansers from my local natural grocery store, but that added up quickly. And really, I didn’t see much of a difference in my skin.

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So I tried making my own skin care line, giving it a half-hearted go with almost zero expectations … and came up with surprisingly wonderful results. I’m never looking back and here’s why:

  • Amber glass jars and droppers are simple and gorgeous, and look great on everyone’s bathroom counter.
  • NO HARMFUL CHEMICALS. Most of my skin care recipes are less than five ingredients. To me, this is the most important benefit.
  • When the seasons change — and so does my skin — I can tweak the formulas to give my skin what it needs most.
  • My skin has never been better. This speaks volumes, as my skin and I have been through a lot since high school.
  • Also, when I run out of, say, a cleanser I just head down to my kitchen in my pajamas and whip up a batch. It’s a five-minute round trip to and fro the bathroom — and BOOM! Done.

Once you get the hang of making your own skin care essentials, it becomes pretty satisfying. Try it and give your skin a month or two to respond … you just might become a convert, too. My girls love to help me “cook” all of my potions. Plus, it’s a good way for me to teach them about how to care for their skin. We spread all our ingredients out in the kitchen and I let them mix a little bit of their own into tiny, one-ounce dropper bottles. Later at night, they’ll get out their little bottles and scrub their faces with wash cloths and feel so grown-up. It’s pretty cute. And at least, I know their hands and faces are getting clean — sometimes.

Avocado Oil Blend Facial Cleanser

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Here’s my current cleansing formula. I use it first thing in the morning and then again right before bed. It’s amazing for getting rid of my waterproof mascara (which is no small thing!).

1/5 part castor oil

4/5 part avocado oil

10 drops frankincense

Mix and store in an amber glass dropper bottle

I use the oil cleansing method; you can read more about it here. Typically, I’ll reformulate the cleanser a few times a year, using different oils and amounts based on seasonal changes … or even if I’m traveling. I love the avocado oil because it’s a bit thicker than some oils — and perfect for keeping my skin from drying out. In spring and summer I switch to a lighter oil like almond.

Castor oil is the main cleansing agent, and little goes a long way. In Colorado, especially now that it’s fall and the air is getting even drier, I maybe only use about 1/5th part castor oil because any more, and my skin gets overly dry and upset. In summer months, or if I’m traveling to a humid climate I’ll increase the castor oil to about 1/3. The frank is a yummy-smelling, skin-loving oil and if your skin can tolerate any added essential oils, this is the one.

 

Apple Cider Toner

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1/3 part raw apple cider vinegar

2/3 part witch hazel

amber glass bottle with cap, similar (you can usually find them individually in places like Whole Foods in the toiletries section)

The apple cider vinegar in this skin toner makes me think of fall. But beware, it’s pretty astringent, so if your skin is on the drier side like mine, use it sparingly. I’m using it about every other night after the avocado oil cleanser. It makes your skin feel shiny and glowy and really clean. Make sure you look for an alcohol-free witch hazel since the added alcohol can be really drying.

 

Night Balm

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This one, you guys. This one is my absolute favorite. It’s like butter and makes your skin soft. I use it morning and night. With the recipe below, I can make a small glass amber jar for my face cream and then fill a larger mason jar with the magical goodness to be used as a body cream in the winter.

1 cup of shea butter

1 cup of avocado oil

one small bar of beeswax

In a large glass jar (that you don’t mind getting gunky), mix all of the above ingredients. Put that into a large pot filled with water on the stove. Heat (but don’t boil) the water until the contents in the jar melt, stirring continually. When it liquefies and is thoroughly mixed, pour it into your storage jars. Let the jars cool a bit and then them pop into the fridge for a couple of hours if you want them to get a bit harder. (In the summer, I keep a jar of this in the fridge because it can melt when it heats up.)

Tip: When I travel, I make a small batch to pour into these small bottles. I found the same set at Target for about half the cost. Once you make your travel bottles, you’ll be set for quite a few trips.

And that’s it. Simple, functional and beautiful skin care. I’ll give you another update later on in the winter when I change the formulas. Happy fall, friends!

 

 

Inner Forecast & Cloudy Weather: Teaching Kids About Minding Difficult Feelings

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Who am I kidding with the title? This is about learning for ourselves how to handle tough emotions. Isn’t that the way it always goes with parenthood? What we most need to learn for ourselves, our children ask us to teach.

Children are our best teachers, I’m convinced.

They are like tiny Buddhas, full of wisdom and insight ready to be gleaned from us, their parents. We just have to sit still and be uncomfortable with the lessons and willing to grow.

My oldest is my thinker. My feeler. She has so much insight into her own feelings at seven, that it blows my mind sometimes. I am almost 40 and still learning right alongside her. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve reached the end of my scope of wisdom when she comes to me for advice. And it’s then that I realize there’s a lesson in there somewhere for me, too.

Right now, our lesson is all about being mindful of our feelings … especially difficult ones … and realizing that they are just feelings, not our truths. It’s about letting the storm rage inside, if need be, and knowing it all passes. 

The other day, Ella was sitting in the kitchen with me, watching me cook, unusually quiet. “I’m a mean girl,” she blurted out. What? I thought. My kind little girl thinks she’s mean? I prodded her a bit. Turns out, she was having some difficult feelings and thought that if she had mean feelings about someone or something, then she was a bad or mean person.

I think there’s a really important distinction there. I’d never thought to teach my kids that their difficult feelings weren’t “bad.” And that having difficult feelings did not make them a bad person. In fact, had I even learned that myself?

All feeling are okay. Gosh, such a simple idea that’s profoundly hard to grasp for me as an adult. How much time have I, myself, wasted feeling guilty for difficult feelings? I struggled for a long time with postpartum depression, and the whole time I equated having negative or unsettling feelings with actually being a bad mom. I’ve since learned how damaging those thoughts were.

Fall, naturally a time for more introspection, can surprisingly leave us feeling a little funky. We get quiet and sometimes hard feelings come up because of the stillness. I’m feeling restless and a little unsure right now. My youngest is feeling surly. My oldest a little angry.

We all need to learn how to sit with these feelings without letting them rule us. But how?

I turned to my favorite book on children’s mindfulness to figure out how to make this lesson more tangible for both Ella and me. Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) has been my go-to for a while now. The author, Eline Snel, explains mindfulness in simple, concise ways that make sense for all ages. She includes exercises to really solidify the lessons at the end of each chapter, and the book includes a CD of guided exercises. (My children don’t love the guided meditations, but they do enjoy the lessons I’ve taught them through exercises at the end of the chapters.)

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Chapter 6, titled “Weathering the Storm Inside,” was written specifically for navigating different emotions and staying with them. She explains that, ” … by not wishing these [hard] feelings away … you learn to notice the ‘weather’ inside and to root yourself in what is really happening.”

Here’s a quick mindfulness exercise that can help bring some clarity and allow us to weather the emotional storms with our children:

  1. Have your child take one quiet minute to get still and go inside to discover what he or she is feeling.
  2. Ask your child what her inner weather forecast is like. (We began by talking about the actual weather forecast outside.) Are her feelings sunny? Cloudy? Stormy? Windy?
  3. Help her to realize that the weather is always changing. When storm clouds roll in, sometimes it rains hard and moves on quickly. Other times, it’s gray and cloudy for a long time. But then what happens? The weather shifts and brings sunshine again. Maybe wind. It’s always changing, coming and going.
  4. I had my kids take one more step and actually paint their inner forecast. What colors show their feelings? What scenes or images make them think of their inner forecast?
  5. The next day, take a look at the paintings again. Does your child still have the same inner forecast or has it changed? Making note of this can help them understand the transient nature of moods.

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So once we’ve identified our inner forecast, then what? We can decide what we need. Usually, I’ll ask my girls if they need a hug, some space or something completely different. Sometimes we don’t know what we need. And that’s okay.

Just sitting with one another in our moments of downpour or wind or cloudy grayness is all that’s needed at times. The important thing is that we’ve noticed the weather, and we know that it’s just the weather. And the weather will pass.

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte + a Fall Playlist

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Guys. I know I run the risk of committing an almost sacrilege when I admit that I’m not hugely into the whole pumpkin spice latte thing.

Oh wait, it’s now called the #PSL.

They are yummy and seasonal, I totally get that part, but the part that I find a bit of a turnoff is that this coffee drink is now a hashtag. Guys, I’m old. I can’t be hopping onto hashtag bandwagons all the time, you know I mean?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not anti-PSL. I’m not even anti-Starbucks (because hallelujah they now have COCONUT MILK for us high maintenance dairy-free/soy-free/nut-free folks!). But the craze has become so crazy that I find myself heading the other direction and opting for plain old joe on days that I can tolerate coffee.

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Buuuuuuuuut ….. since it’s fall and the leaves are all crispy now and I’m pulling out sweaters, I decided to be a little festive this morning. I made a homemade paleo PSL. And, you guys, it’s really yummy. And so much cheaper and easier than driving to Starbucks.

Also, plus, you can totally customize the sweetness. So there’s that.

It’s so easy that I’m not even including a printable link. Here’s what you do: in a high-speed blender, mix one can of full fat coconut milk + one can of pumpkin puree + 1 TBS vanilla + 1 tsp pumpkin spice (or cinnamon). Whip it up and pour into a ball jar to store in the fridge.

When it’s time for your latte, make a cup of coffee, add your desired amount of PSL mix + any additional honey if you need sweetness. Stir or whirl in the blender for an extra foamy treat. Drizzle with coconut cream if you’re feeling barista-ish. That’s it.

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I’m making coffee. Meanwhile this monkey is climbing the cabinets in search of some pretty bowls for mud-pie-making outside in the yard.

And because a warm drink only goes amazingly well with mellow autumn tunes, I’m including a link to my current favorite playlist. It’s been the soundtrack for my month, a collection of songs that I’ve gathered here and there and I love it. It’s a little folksy, a little mopey, a little bluegrassy at times, but perfect for overcast mornings and weekending.

Click here for my Free Falling Playlist on Spotify.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends. Get outside, whether rain or shine, to enjoy the season’s brief bounty.

Nature Walks & Making a Fall Mobile

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My impromptu jaunt to the woods with the kids last week reminded me how much I’ve missed weekly outings like that. It’s also inspired me to get out by myself for a trail run or a hike with the dog on a more regular basis now.

There’s something so therapeutic — invigorating even — about hiking outside during a seasonal transition. It clears away the sleepy cobwebs of unused senses and helps us focus on the smells and colors and outward changes offered by Autumn.

After a summer of running here and there, camping, swimming and playing hard, it feels good to get back to more of an intentional downshift. I love summer’s frenetic energy. We all thrive in it. But things are changing now, and if we maintain the summer speed, all of the season’s beauty will be a blur out our window.

We’ve needed to notice more. To appreciate. To acknowledge. To connect differently.

So, weekly nature walks (or runs as they often turn into with two kids and a young Golden Retriever) are finding a place within our lives again.

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Family hikes have been the cornerstone of our Saturday mornings for a while now. We just got out of the habit in the summer.

On weekends in the fall and spring, especially, we make it a point to get ourselves out on a hike early in the day. There’s a certain sweet spot of time that works well for us: after breakfast, not too early, but before we get too cozy and boredom (i.e. antsy kiddos) sets in.

There may be protests of wanting to lounge and work on LEGO kingdoms or stay in pjs longer, but I find that if we keep things moving along after breakfast (or even promise to bring along a picnic breakfast) the kids are more agreeable to it. Even I need some prodding from time to time, to put down my coffee mug and leave my nest of books and blankets on the couch.

Once we are ten minutes into the hike, the magic happens. Suddenly the kids are hopping over logs and running ahead of us playing fairies or bears or whatever the game-du-jour may be. I can feel the week’s tension slipping away, the farther we get away from the road.

And suddenly we’re all feeling energized. The kids don’t whine or bicker in the woods (that in itself is amazing). I’m more playful. Steve and I have great conversations without interruption.

It is pure magic.

I credit Steve with bringing this tradition to our family. My hope is that the kids grow up with wonderful memories of this time together. Steve is kind and patient and completely in his element in the woods. He’ll stoop down to show the girls different wildflowers — he knows all the names. They’ll hunt for different animal prints. And ask him a thousand questions. He always answers them thoughtfully.

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The kids have named certain rock outcroppings along the way and always make a point to visit them. “This is ‘House Rock'” they call out as they scramble up a chunk of massive boulders. “And, see, right here is the living room. Oh remember last time we made soup in the kitchen?” And then one of them will run to fetch crunched-up leaves and sticks so they can make pretend soup in the hollowed out “pot” hole in the rock.

We walk. We run. They climb. We sit. We talk. We take our time.

Our hikes are not long in terms of mileage. In fact, that’s never the point. Admittedly, it’s taken me a long time to relax into the idea that family hikes do not entail a destination or specific route. If I find that old mindset nagging me, I take a separate trail run alone at a different time to satisfy my need to count miles.

We go as long or as short as we like, and can typically tell when it’s time to head back home. My youngest is a good gauge. She’ll often start getting hungry or asking for a piggyback, and we know that our time in the woods needs to be wrapped up soon.

Inevitably, some of the outdoors always comes home with us. The nooks and crannies of our SUV are stuffed with “treasures” that had some significant meaning to the girls. Right now, there are two huge walking sticks wedged into the floorboard from our leaf drive last weekend. It’s not unusual for me to find a small pile of pebbles or weeds stowed in the contours of the kids’ armrests. We’ve had ladybugs. But no rodents, thank goodness!

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It’s all the treasure hunting that inspired the idea for a Fall mobile. I’m not huge into buying seasonal decor, but I did want our home to reflect the changes happening outside. Bringing in natural items from our walks and hikes seemed the perfect solution.

I picked up some natural twine glinted with gold, along with a medium-size embroidery hoop at the craft store, and invited the kids in to pick out some colorful treasures to hang from the mobile.

image_fallmobileIt’s such a pretty little reminder of this brief-but-gorgeous season here in Colorado. I can see us changing out the treasures as seasons progress … maybe we’ll make homemade snowflakes in the winter or find wildflowers in the summer to replace the fall foliage.

Nature walks and making a mobile seem the perfect speed for us right now. Simple, inexpensive, mindful, appreciative.

A Paleo Blueberry Crisp & Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

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There’s definitely been a shift around here this week, and I kind of love it.

Even though the weather is still pretty warm here in Colorado, the Autumnal Equinox blew in and, as if on cue, pine needles are suddenly falling from the trees like rain and the Aspen trees in our little grove out front are growing fragile and gold.

The girls and I took a hike before school one morning this week. There’s a trailhead maybe a quarter of a mile from their school, so the kids and dog piled into the car and we set out to gather some “fall treasures” from the woods to use later for making Fall crowns (their idea).

I needed a way of my own to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. So I headed to the kitchen.

For me, the cooler weather always means a return to baking, so there I went breaking out the pans and firing up the oven, and starting to think about soups and stews for dinner. And dessert, of course.

We don’t do a ton of dessert right now, mainly because I can’t tolerate a lot of sugar. I’ve been on the autoimmune paleo diet for about five months now and have slowly begun reintroducing foods, which means I’m still pretty careful.

But. BUT! It’s Fall now! And that definitely called for a special treat this week. A warm, gooey crisp was the perfect way to usher in the new season.

This one got a huge thumbs up from my husband, and I have a feeling I’ll be making it this winter. If you’re one of the lucky ones that live near an apple-picking orchard, you could even make a good apple crisp. Either way, you cannot go wrong.

Happy fall!

 

Blueberry Crisp (Paleo)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Print

Adapted from The Curious Coconut

Ingredients

  • 20 ounces of frozen (or fresh) blueberries
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened)
  • TBS cinnamon

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350.
  2. Spread blueberries evenly across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together shredded coconut, coconut flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Add coconut oil and mix. (Use softened oil, not completely liquefied. This will make the mixture “clump” together nicely.) I find it easiest to just to knead the mixture with my hands instead of using a mixer or wooden spoon. Sprinkle evenly over blueberries in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top browns.
  6. Serve alone or with vanilla coconut milk ice cream on top. (Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island ice cream is my favorite.)