When People Question My Food Choices

I’ve heard it about a thousand times:

“Don’t be vegetarian, Serena!”

“I’m not…”

“It’s not healthy.”

(Eyes bug out of my face…) “Well it depends on food choices as a vegetarian…but like I said I’m not vegetarian.”

OR

“See Serena? You aren’t growing because you’re not eating meat. You’re too skinny!” (While I gain 6 pounds)

“You can’t attribute growth to meat eating. Also, I DO eat meat. Chicken and salmon count ya know (and then I proceed to talk about the many times that I ate meat).”

As a growing teen, I can understand people who are concerned about my food choices because of the common misconception that meat = a growing body.

However, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide for the needs of children and adolescents.”

It’s important to eat a variety of nutritious foods, but meat is not essential. Most people say that by not eating meat (meaning beef), valuable protein is missing. But there are a plethora of foods that can be substituted for “meat” that contain the same amount of protein such as salmon, yogurt, eggs, beans, and soy.

I really appreciate that people are trying to look after me and their intention is to make sure I am healthy. However, it is my belief that society has led them to believe in the delusions about the benefits of meat. I am not arguing that meat is not healthy, but rather that meat can be substituted if the consumer chooses to.

So, with that rant aside, what do people say about your food choices?

Love,

Serena

Five (Healthy) Snow Day Activities

I was quite worried when I was experiencing 70 degree Fahrenheit weather during December this past year. And when I mean by worried, I was worried. Whenever my mouth opened, it would go something along the lines like this: “Can you believe how warm it is? It’s practically spring?!” to “We’re doomed. Global warming has seriously happened and I’m not going to live past 50.”

So imagine my reaction when I heard that we (those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) would be hit with a major blizzard this weekend. I actually was in denial that the blizzard would never come and only several inches of snow would fall. Well, lo and behold, I was wrong! I’ve practically stayed inside for the whole weekend, doing work and relaxing. However, as much as I love snow days and movie marathons, hot chocolate and pajamas that accompany it, I hate being lazy. Many of my friends know that I hate being lazy – my body does not know the concept of sleeping in. For me, waking up late means waking up at 7:30am – I know it’s bizarre, but it’s true when people say there are internal clocks.

Being the productive, Type-A girl I am, I decided to round about five things that I’d like to do on snow days that leaves me feeling fresh, lively, and of course, productive.

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  1. Y O G A | Being part of a sport all three seasons long, (currently for winter season, indoor track) I never get the time to be active from something that isn’t mandatory. I have sports practice 6 days a week for two hours each day, so I take my day off (Sunday) very seriously. I used to do a lot of yoga during the summer when the only active thing I did was three hours of tennis for five days a week (trust me, three hours of tennis five days a week compared to running on average 5 miles a day is N.O.T.H.I.N.G.). Anyways, assuming you can’t go out on a run or even drive to the gym, I definitely recommend taking advantage of this time to practice your inner-yogi.
  2. T E A | This isn’t to say to go on a tea detox (which I just do not believe in), but there’s nothing better than cuddling up with a nice hot cup of (decaffeinated) tea. And when I mean tea, I mean tea. It’s not tea or some other hot beverage. Now you may argue about hot chocolate because the cacao from the chocolate is healthy for you. However, while hot chocolate is supposedly made out of chocolate, let’s be honest. We know there’s a lot more things in that hot chocolate mix than cacao. So just stick with a cup of tea – they actually don’t taste that bad.
  3. O R G A N I Z E | What better time to clean your house or room when you’re stuck inside? Blast on some music and start cleaning! Bonus: you’ll burn some calories by doing so.
  4. C O O K | Now I’m not a cook myself (although I’m trying hard this year to start cooking – hopefully having Serena around will bring enough motivation 🙂 ), but there’s something about having the oven going on a cold winter day. If you’re lost on what to cook, I recommend trying out these vegan blueberry scones.
  5. R E A D | Now you may argue that this is a “lazy” activity, however, mental health is just as important as physical health, right? Personally for me, reading is my refresh/reset button. It helps me clear away all my anxiety and stress. So if your stress reliever is reading like me, go read a book. Even if it isn’t, I still recommend reading. It doesn’t have to be a classic or an “impressive” book. Just pick something that piques your interest. Whether that be young adult Romance books, graphic novels, to a Shakespeare play in Old English which I seriously cannot read/understand without some translation.

What do you like to do on snow days? 

xoxo, Stephanie

 

Vegan Blueberry Oatmeal Scones

I have been craving blueberry scones recently, and I finally decided to make some. This is my recipe for vegan blueberry oatmeal scones! (I’m not vegan, but I like baking vegan)

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Note: Recipe adapted from Delicious Balance blog

Yield: 6 scones

Ingredients:

3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

6 tbsp. whole wheat flour

6 tbsp. all purpose flour

21/2 tbsp. sugar, plus 1/2 tablespoon for sprinkling

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons coconut oil (firm, not the spray or liquid)

1/4 cup blueberries (frozen defrosted or fresh)

Method:

1.) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and scatter oats on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Set oats aside to cool and reserve 1 tablespoon for sprinkling later. Set oven to 450 degrees.

2.) Scoop individual tablespoons of coconut oil onto a baking sheet with parchment paper (see photo) and refrigerate for 5 minutes.

3.) Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and combine.

4.) Pour dry mixture into a food processor (a mini food processor will do) and add the scoops of coconut oil. Pulse together until the mixture resembles sand and pour into mixing bowl.

5.) Add oats (reserving 1 tablespoon) into the mixing bowl with the blueberries. If using frozen, pat dry.

6.) When everything is combined, add milk and stir until it forms a sticky mass. Use your hands to gently incorporate everything together.

7.) Dust work surface with flour and turn dough onto work surface, forming a disk about 1 inch thick. Sprinkle remaining oats onto dough and freeze for 5 minutes.

8.) Cut dough into 6 equal wedges and place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of sugar onto the wedges and bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the scones are golden. Cool on baking sheet and enjoy!

I ate the scones with lemon curd (my recipe for the lemon curd can be found here: https://wordpress.com/post/avoliciousblog.wordpress.com/383) as a dessert. The scones can also be eaten as a quick, on-the-go breakfast.

I hope you love these scones as much as I do!

Love,

Serena

 

Five Non-Food Related Things to Lift Your Mood

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Let’s admit it. We all used food at least once in our lifetime to cope with negative things – our emotions, stress, or even with positive things – rewards and celebrations. In our society, the most common way to celebrate a birthday is to go out for dinner. The most common way to deal with a bad day is to eat a whole-tub of Ben and Jerry’s or eat all the chips in the Family Size chips bag.

 

But this also happens to healthy food too. I remember once, I ate so many nuts that the next day, my mom had to hide all the nuts in our house because seeing them made me feel like I would barf.

 

With that being said, it’s no surprise that even though we have our eating habits and exercise habits in check, if we don’t take care of our mental health, whatever health goal you have in mind for 2016 or your whole life isn’t going to come true.

 

Today, I’ve come up with five activities you can do that DO NOT involve food. Whether it’s to cope with stress or to celebrate.

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1.Get a manicure and/or pedicure | This is such a simple thing, yet this is my go-to stress reliever. It’s a great breather – not too short but not too long. It’s long enough that you have to hit the pause button while patiently waiting for your nails to dry, but not too long that it takes up a good chunk of your day.

 

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2. Buy a new workout gear | This is one of my favorites as a self-confessed shopaholic. This sounds cliche, but it’s true. You feel more motivated to workout when you have the right clothes and gear to exercise in. So go splurge yourself on a few items from your favorite athletic wear store (my personal recommendation: Lululemon or Nike), or if you’re a shoeholic (which I’m also am … not good for my wallet at all), I recommend trying Brooks running shoes – they’re super comfortable.

 

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3.Take a nap. | I definitely need to tell this myself more often, but naps does wonders to your mood. Who knows? You may just feel upset and down because you’re lacking on your hours of sleep. Go set a timer for 30 minutes and sleep it out.

 

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4.Get yourself a bouquet of flowers | Or whatever that makes you feel spoiled. Personally, both my mom and I love getting flowers from the store to display in our house. The bright colors instantly lifts our moods up. So find whatever item that aesthetically pleases you.

 

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5. Buy a new song/album. | Instead of playing that one song you’re obsessed with on YouTube and having to annoyingly wait for the ads to pass or having to re-click the replay button numerous times, allow yourself to buy that song. Especially, if that’s song is Taylor Swift, because her songs are nowhere to be found on Spotify or Apple Music.

 

How do you usually deal with stress or rewards? 

xoxo, Stephanie

 

Five Minute Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but for those who don’t have breakfast, I understand the excuse that there’s no time to make breakfast. I am not an early bird, and will probably never be one. I suffer from chronic lateness, and as a result, I am rushing everywhere I go. This sometimes means sacrificing a hearty breakfast, but over the years, I have discovered some tricks and created come recipes to eat the best meal possible with the amount of time I have.

Way in Advance:

I like to freeze (peeled and quartered) bananas in advance because frozen fruit lasts for a long time and have countless uses, especially in breakfast recipes. Also, if you’re nervous about the sugar content in store-bought granolas, you can make your own and store it for future use. markbittman.com/recipe/granola

The Night Before:

Chances are, if you’re not an early bird, then you’re a night owl. It only takes 5 minutes to prep for meals the night before, and it will definitely pay off in the morning. I make Chia Seed pudding and refrigerate overnight by following this guide:

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Check out my post on the benefits of chia seeds for more info: avoliciousblog.wordpress.com/…/the-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds

If I want to make a smoothie the next morning, I will put all the ingredients (except for the frozen ingredients) in a plastic bag and refrigerate it until morning.

Overnight oats is also a really great option, though I prefer oats that require heat. Anyways, here’s a great recipe for peanut butter overnight oats: minimalistbaker.com/peanut-butter-overnight-oats

 

The Morning Of (these recipe and ideas only take 5 minutes or less to prep!):

Avocado Toast! This is the perfect breakfast for a long and busy day. The healthy fats from the avocado coupled with a slice or two of toast bread makes for a satisfying meal. Add a sunny side up egg on top, and the avocado toast is even better.

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Greek yogurt is a great alternative to regular yogurt because of the protein, probiotics, and numerous other health benefits that it contains. I usually eat the Chobani plain or vanilla greek yogurt. Sometimes I get the Trader Joe’s brand. I add fresh fruit, nuts and chia seeds on top of the yogurt. It is very filling, and can be packed on the go easily.

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Granola with milk is a great alternative to cereal. The granolas I usually eat are the KIND Healthy Grains Granola Clusters, and Bear Naked Peak Protein.

Sometimes I make an egg/banana omelette/pancake (not really sure what to call it).

Ingredients: 1 banana, 2 eggs, dash of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Method: Mash banana with a fork. Crack two eggs in the banana and whisk. Add the cinnamon and vanilla and mix until well combined. Meanwhile, heat a small pan with a small amount of coconut oil. Pour the batter in the pan. When the omelette/pancake can lift off the edges of the pan, lift an edge and tilt the pan so that the uncooked batter on the surface can run onto the pan and cook. When the bottom of the omelette/ pancake is firmed, flip it over and cook on the other side.

Give it a try! It takes no time at all to prepare!

The fastest breakfast I know how to make is toast with almond butter and banana slices.

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Pretty self-explanatory:)

If I am very hungry, I make myself oatmeal with fruit. Using quick-1 minute oats (not the healthiest option, but the most time-saving), I microwave it in a bowl with almond milk. Then I top the oatmeal with apple slices, cinnamon, and agave nectar or honey.

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Do you have any other speedy breakfast ideas? Share them in the comment section!

Enjoy!

Love,

Serena

10 Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods

How’s everybody been doing with their New Year’s Resolutions? Still going strong after a week? Surprisingly, after posting my resolutions last week, I’ve been practicing balance a lot more than I thought I would. And let me tell you, it’s life-changing. I’ve been smiling more and overall feeling lighter and happier. I also let myself watch an episode of my favorite TV show last night. Usually, I coop myself up during the weekends and do homework since I think as a student I should only do work, work, work. However, I’m going to change that and live by the motto “Work hard, play hard.”

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Anyways, I’m sure a vast majority of people (myself included) set goals for 2016 with something along the lines of health. Whether it was to lose weight, maintain weight, gain weight, or just practice clean and healthy living. Regardless of whatever health goal you picked for yourself, I wanted to list 10 unhealthy foods that are regarded by many as healthy. The huge food-industry is notorious for thier branding and packaging that make it seem as if their products are healthy, when they’re actually not. So let me do you a favor and list a few not-so-healthy foods.

 

*As a disclaimer, I know that people are addicted to some of these foods. Therefore, I won’t go all out and have people eliminate their consumption on these foods completely since that’s impossible. Instead, I recommend going one day a week without one and gradually building up.

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1.Diet drinks

I think this is pretty self-explanatory. As long as I’ve seen diet drinks, I’ve heard how bad they are compared to their “regular” version. The loads of artificial sweeteners triggers insulin and makes your body go into fat storage mode which in other words, means weight gain.

detoxjuices.jpg2. Detox Juices

These have been in the rage for so long and attributed to the weight loss success of Hollywood stars. First, detox juices have no protein which is a problem since people need a daily supply of protein to build healthy immune cells. In addition, because the fruits and vegetables are all juiced, there is no fiber left. Fiber helps people feel full and satisfied. With no fiber, your body is going to be crying out loud for you to eat. However, if you’re on a detox cleanse, you can’t eat food or a lot of it, so you’re body is going to go in starvation mode and hold in all that weight you want to lose.

The list goes on for the detriments of detox juices, so if you want to read more, check out this link.

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3. Chicken/Tuna salads

I know, I know, this is my weak point too. I love chicken salad and tuna salad but we all know why it tastes so good: mayonnaise. And mayonnaise should be regarded as our enemy than friend, because it is pretty much artery clogging saturated fat. Instead of conveniently scooping up that chicken or tuna salad when you’re making your sandwich, take a few seconds and put slices of chicken, turkey, ham or tuna.

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4. Dried fruit

Eating those chewy and gooey fruit snacks aren’t that good for your body. These dried fruit are double or sometimes even triple the amount of sugar in fresh fruit. Even eating candy is better off than eating dried fruit in terms of sugar content.

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5. Couscous

Couscous is actually not a grain and lacks the nutritional benefits of whole grains. It’s a refined grain and the same as white pasta.

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6.Energy bars

No matter how healthy they may be, it’s better to reach for a banana or apple than an apple. Some energy bars have the same saturated fat content and sugar content as candy bars. Yes, I know they are convenient especially in our busy, on-the-go lives, but try holding back on stashing them in your bag just because you think they’re healthy (which they’re not).

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7. Granola

As long as I can remember, the word “granola” just sounded healthy, you know? However, these crunchy oat thingys are filled with a lot of sugar. So much sugar in fact that some have more sugar than regular breakfast cereals.

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8. Instant Oats

This actually came off as a huge surprise to me. I actually eat instant oats almost every morning. Because I’m away from home, I don’t have the luxury of cooking rolled oats, but have to stick with instant oats and hot water. The packages come with loads of added sugar, salt, and artificial coloring. Read: not good stuff.

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9. Multi-grain anything

This again, is an example of how clever the food industry is. Multi-grain as the name suggests, means that a food has more than one type of grain. However, these multiple grains are most of the time not whole grains but refined grains. So using multi-grain packages, the food industry is fooling people to eat a whole bunch of refined grains.

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10. Sushi

Of course, it’s healthy in moderation, however because the Japanese diet has been publicized as one of the healthiest diets in the word, people devour sushi like it’s no one’s business. People tend to eat a lot of sushi in order to feel full, but in order to reach this level of fullness, a lot of sushi has to be consumed. And this means a lot of carbs and very few veggies.

 

Hope this wasn’t too much of a shocker to you! What other foods do you know that are reputed to be healthy but actually aren’t?

 

xoxo,

Stephanie

January’s Produce Guide

For the best tasting fruit and vegetables, buy ones that are in season. This can vary depending on your region, but in general, the list is as follows:

Apples
Brussels sprouts
Belgian Endive
Beets
Carrot
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
Chicory
Clementine
Collard Greens
Grapefruit
Jerusalem artichoke (aka Sunchoke)
Kale
Kiwi fruit
Leeks
Lemons
Oranges
Parsnips
Passion fruit
Pears
Pineapple
Pomegranate
Potatoes
Red Currant
Sweet Potatoes
Tangerines
Turnips
Winter Squash

Here are some ideas to utilize those fabulous fresh finds!

Apples

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I love making quick and easy apple tarts. This is the recipe by The Pioneer Woman: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/quick-easy-and-yummy-apple-tart/

Jerusalem Artichoke/Sunchoke

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My grandma grows sunchokes in the backyard of her Brooklyn home, and she just recently harvested them. My go to recipe is for roasted sunchokes. First, I  preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using 1 1/2 pounds of sunchokes, I scrub and wash them thoroughly and cut them into half-inch pieces. Then, I toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Finally, I scatter them on a baking sheet and bake them for 30 minutes, or until they are soft and tender. These veggies taste a lot like french fries, so I like eating them with ketchup.

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Adding them to frittatas makes for a quick and satisfying breakfast!

 Lemons

My lemon curd tart was (thankfully) a great success at my family’s new year party!

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I used Williams Sonoma’s recipe to create the tart’s crust: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/basic-tart-dough.html with baking instructions here (also from Williams Sonoma):

Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan. Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the weights and foil. Continue to bake until the shell is golden, 7 to 10 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

This is my recipe for the lemon curd:

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

3 1/2 lemons, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 large eggs, room temperature

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the lemon curd:

Remove the zest of the lemons with a zester. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice. Put the zest and sugar in a mini food processor with a steel blade. Process until zest is finely minced. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a bowl and a hand held mixer, cream the butter and sugar and zest mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a two quart saucepan, and cook under low heat, stirring occasionally until it thickens and reaches just below a simmer. It should take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fill tart shell with the lemon curd.

Winter Squash

Cooking spaghetti squash is a great way to eat healthy “pasta”. This is how to make the squash: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-spaghetti-squash-in-the-oven-178036

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I usually sautee 2 cloves of garlic, spinach, and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and mix it with the spaghetti squash.

I hope you enjoy making these winter recipes at home!

What is your favorite January produce?

Love,

Serena

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful time ringing in the new year with your family and close friends. While I was counting down to 2016, I realized that 2015 for me was quite long. In my perspective, it was filled with more downs than ups, but nevertheless, I made it through! I didn’t exactly have any New Year’s Resolutions last year – maybe the standard: lose weight, manage time better, or control phone time – but this year, I was feeling especially ambitious and decided to make resolutions. Mine are more goals than resolutions, but they still work right?

 

I found a word I wanted to focus on for each month and underneath each word/month I wrote down more specific goals. Although at first I was uncomfortable on sharing my resolutions since they are personal, I think by sharing these, I’ll hold myself more accountable. So here are my 2016 Resolutions:

 

P.S. : Both Serena and I earnestly hope that we can expand our blog this year. We’re still in the learning process, but we believe that 2016 will be the year where our blog will go through major growths! We’re so happy you’ll be with us on this journey!

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January – BALANCE | Create balance in school. Create balance with food. Create balance with play and work. Create balance with your stress levels. Create balance with extracurriculars.

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create.” – Jana Kingsford

 

February – LOVE | Love yourself. Love others by showing patience, understanding. Reach out to old childhood friends. Pray for friends. Obey your parents.

“Love is not about how much you say ‘I love you,’ but how much you can prove that it’s true.”

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March – LOOK UP/FOCUS | Find ways that help you focus. Look up to your role models – who they are and why. Look into things that interest you. Look up from your phone screen and take in your surroundings. Focus and study (this is in time for finals week haha)

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” – George Lucas

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April – EXPLORE | Explore what extra things your school offers. Explore where you could with avolicious. Explore and find new friends. Explore the school campus and find your own study niches. Explore camps you could attend over the summer. Explore your limits and boundaries by doing something challenging.

“Extraordinary things are always hiding in places people never think to look.” – Jodi Picoult

 

May – PRIORITIZE | Schedule your day with only three priorities. Find your priorities and figure out why. Prioritize finishing the school year strong. Prioritize others before yourself.

“It’s not about ‘having’ time. It’s about making time.”

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June – READ | Read a book a week. Read one classic. Read the newspaper daily.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison

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July – MOVE/EXERCISE | Find new exercises that you enjoy. Go outside. Workout outside. Do at least two hikes with parents.

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” – Carol Welch

 

August – REFLECT | Check point. Evaluate progress. Celebrate the positives. Learn from experiences. Determine new goals. Write and reflect. Look and move forward.

“Take pride in how far you’ve come; take faith in how far you can go.”

 

September – ORGANIZE | Organize for upcoming school year. Organize school documents on computer. Organize wardrobe. Organize school supplies. Organize room.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity…” – Einstein

October – MANAGE | Manage priorities. Manage time. Manage temptations. Manage school and personal life.

“The bad new is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler

 

November – GIVE/THANKS | Write down three things you are thankful for every day. Put yourself after others. Give something to someone everyday whether its through an action, item, or your time.

“The happiest people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.”

 

December – JOY | Be joyful. Be happy. Smile more. Give our daily affirmations. Stop comparing or complaining.

“Joy is the best makeup.” – Anne Lamott

 

What do you have planned for 2016?

xoxo, Stephanie

Food Trends in 2016

Welcome, 2016! Researchers have predicted the culinary trends of the upcoming year.

  • Apple cider vinegar and ginger sweetened with honey, maple, or molasses: great ways to detox after a New Year’s Eve party 🙂
  • More Hawaiian flavors
  • Oysters
  • Labneh- a thick and savory Middle Eastern yogurt
  • Inventive ways to incorporate coffee into drinks
  • Bottled soup on the go
  • Porridge with a plethora of grains: quinoa, spelt, and rye to name a few
  • Desserts with a savory punch: think miso paste, malt, and corn-husk ash
  • Chefs providing more family-style meals
  • Meal delivery

What food trend are you most excited about?

Love,

Serena