UncommonGoods Holiday Gift Ideas for Food & Drink Lovers

Hello, hello!

We’re less than three weeks away from both Christmas and Hanukkah, are you all ready??

My best DIY project to date is back! This wine cork Christmas wreath is my favorite outdoor decoration.

My best DIY project to date is back! This wine cork Christmas wreath is my favorite outdoor decoration.

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year! My Christmas tree, outdoor lights and decor are now all up, and I’ve been playing Sirius’ Christmas stations in my car nonstop. I can’t wait to do some holiday baking to share with family, friends & neighbors, and I’m planning on visiting a popular Christmas light extravaganza area that a friend told me about called Candy Cane Court next weekend. It’s all so fun & festive!

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I’ve also been doing a ton of holiday shopping. I look forward to giving my loved ones gifts every Christmas, and I sometimes turn to unique gift giving sites for some inspiration and ideas. One catalog that really caught my eye this holiday season was the one I received from UncommonGoods. Flipping through it, I found so many products that made me say, ooooh and aaaahhhh because they’re right up my alley.

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Shortly after, UncommonGoods happened to reach out about working together (what a perfect fit right?), so today we’re teaming up to share gift ideas for the foodies & drink lovers in your life. Admittedly, I pretty much want all of these products for myself (hint hint to any loved ones reading this who are looking for a gift idea for me 😉 ), because they’ve got lots of gifts for women that enjoy experimenting in the kitchen like I do.

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Besides the fact that their products are so neat, UncommonGoods is an awesome brand because of its dedication to being environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Their site features products that contain recycled components, and they’ve never sold products containing leather, feathers or fur – which I find great because I really have been avoiding buying leather in recent years.

The brand also believes in giving back, and since creating a donation program in 2001, they’ve donated over $1 million to non-profits. You can learn more about UncommonGoods’ mission here. Let’s check out some cool gift ideas!

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Row Boat Serving Bowl with Wood Serving Utensils. Many foodies, myself included, are suckers for fun and unique serving dishes – and this row boat serving bowl definitely fits the bill! This is an especially fitting gift for any coastal people/boat & water lovers. Retails @ $65. 

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Twist Decanter. This product puts a twist on a classic decanter (literally!) and is a neat gift idea for the wine lover in your life. I just love the look of this decanter! Retails @ $29.99-49.99. 

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Green Herbal Tea Kit. As a tea lover, I know that I’d enjoy getting this tea kit as a gift! This holistic tea set includes nine herbs and three varieties of eco-certified, organic green tea from Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. It comes with reusable tea bags to steep the loose leaf teas and herbs in. Retails @ $40.

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Mariner Cheese Board. Who else adores a good cheese plate? I could happily eat cheese, fruit and bread for dinner every other night. This nautical cheese board is shaped like a ship’s wheel, making it a unique centerpiece for your next wine & cheese night. Retails @ $32.

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Healthy Apple Almond Crumble {vegan + gluten free}

Happy Friday!

I felt like this work week has gone by so fast – not quite as fast as last week’s three day work week, but still quick! I have a feeling that’s how the entire month of December is going to feel.

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I don’t know about you guys, but I always get in sweet tooth + baking moods on the weekends – especially in the fall and winter when it gets cooler out. One way that I satisfy it without getting off track with my daily macro and calorie goals? Baking healthy of course!

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A few of my healthy swaps are using fruit and cinnamon to naturally sweeten baked goods up, using oats instead of white flour, and including sweeteners like maple syrup instead of refined sugar. Today’s recipe includes all of those tricks!
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I first made this apple almond crumble a few months ago. The next time I made it, I tweaked a few ingredients to reach baking perfection…but for some reason I’ve been sitting on the recipe for a solid month. So here I am finally sharing it today!

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This crumble makes for a great healthy dessert or breakfast. It’d be perfect to make for family brunches this holiday season – and with no refined sugar, no dairy, and no gluten, it’s suitable for a variety of dietary preferences!

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Holiday Gift Ideas to Help Loved Ones Unwind

Hello lovelies!

First thing’s first: I’ll be sending out a new health coaching newsletter soon. If you aren’t already subscribed to my free newsletter, which includes exclusive healthy living tips, workouts, recipes, and more, sign up below if you’re interested.

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So, has anyone else been holiday shopping like crazy? So far I’ve strictly stuck to online shopping, as Black Friday shopping is a little too chaotic for my liking, but I have been checking people off of my gift list like it’s my job! I really enjoy buying gifts for the people I love. Oh, and I might have bought a few things for myself too. 😉

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Today’s gift guide is geared towards relaxation. Regardless of who you’re buying for – including the pickiest people on the planet, those that seemingly have everything, those that you have to buy for but aren’t really close with (admit it, you have at least one of those!), and those who don’t seem to have hobbies and interests to work with – I don’t know a single person that couldn’t use some de-stressing. Stress can take such a toll on our health, and these gift ideas are all about resting, relaxing, and improving health!

Image via SpaFinder

Image via Spafinder

Massage Gift Card. Ah yes, the gift definition of relaxation is a massage! Anytime I get a massage gift certificate, I’m a happy woman. I especially love the few times that I’ve been given credit towards a local spa that I’ve never been to before.

There are a few sites like Spafinder that’ll help you find a spa that’s local to your loved one. And spa chain Massage Envy has a deal going on for gift card purchases right now (buy $100 in gift cards, get a $25 promo card / buy $150, get $50).

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Essential oils. I’ve really gotten into using essential oils as holistic remedies to aid in optimal health. Relaxation-wise, I rub a few drops of my peppermint “breathe” oil blend in my hands and take a few deep breaths if I’m feeling antsy or if I have a headache, my husband and I put on lavender every night before we go to bed to relax, and I’ve been bringing my “zen blend” to health coaching meetings for my clients to dot onto their wrists to de-stress.

Have a loved one that’s constantly getting muscles aches? There’s an oil for that. Does your sister often come down with a cold? There’s an oil for preventing that too!

On Guard is my go-to essential oil for cold prevention. It's been helping me to ward off getting completely under the weather during all of my travels this summer & fall!

On Guard is my go-to essential oil for cold prevention. It’s been helping me to ward off getting completely under the weather during all of my travels this summer & fall!

There are a few essential oils companies out there. The one that I happen to be using is doTERRA, and they have some fun kits for sale, including the:

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WorkoutLabs Yoga Cards. If you read this blog often, you know that I regularly practice yoga and have found that it helps me not only with flexibility and posture, but also with relaxation and mindfulness. Yoga Cards is a visual practice guide with essential poses, breathing exercises and meditations that you can do anytime, anywhere.

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2016: Hiking, Relaxing & Feeling Grateful!

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” – D. Waitley
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If you’re in America or Canada, I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I also hope that your weekends were full of fun and relaxation like mine was! Today I’m backing it up to the start of my glorious 4-day weekend.

We decided to stay in town for the long weekend. My hubby had off for the week from his MBA schooling, so with little work on our agendas, we were free to do whatever we wanted!

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On Thanksgiving I love to do an outdoor workout with my little family before the holiday festivities. By going hiking, we all get a workout in and get to enjoy the outdoors together! This year we elected to head to Iron Mountain in Escondido.

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I didn’t even realize it until looking at my Thanksgiving 2015 post, but we hiked Iron Mountain last Thanksgiving too… It must be our go-to holiday hike!

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We’ve done the hike a couple of times before, and knew it’d be a good workout without being exhausting. It was a great day weather-wise, and while lots of people were out and about around the trail, it thinned out once we started the hike up the mountain.

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Thanksgiving happened to fall on another occasion — Harley’s 6th birthday! She was born (on or around) Thursday, so she was spoiled with a new toy and a big treat.

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I feel like it’s crazy that we’ve had Harley since she was 4 months old and she’s now 6 years old, but at the same time, I don’t remember what life was like before we had her. Since we rescued her, she’s been this woman’s best friend, and I love having her as my hiking partner, foot warmer, velcro dog while I’m cooking (I’m messy and tend to drop a lot of food!) and so much more. She’s as rambunctious and energetic as ever, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

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She hates posing for photos. 

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Vegetable Mac & Cheese Ramekins

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Throughout the entire year, but especially during the holiday season, one of my main diet principles is portion control. So many people ban certain foods from their lives, only to “fall off the wagon” and binge when their willpower wanes. I promote the idea of balanced eating and moderation because it is what works in the long haul! 

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Take pasta for example. Do I eat it daily? No. But do I eat it when I’m in a carb-y pasta mood around every couple of weeks? Hell yea! I just never eat a huge bowl of it (well, unless I’m in Italy…) and I try to sneak some veggies into my pasta dishes to make them heartier and more nutritious.

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I recently came up with this idea of making ramekin macaroni & cheese – because ramekins are perfect for built-in portion control.

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I added a few of my favorite autumn veggies into the mix with this mac & cheese: baby kale, zucchini and yellow squash.

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Cultivate Gratitude by Switching Your Mindset from “Got to” to “Get to”

Hello, hello!

Today I want to talk about a concept that I’ve been sharing with my health coaching clients and loved ones this week. The idea first came into my consciousness during a yoga session last weekend.

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I’m usually an optimistic, genuinely happy person, but since I share real life stuff on this blog of mine, I don’t mind admitting that I’ve just been experiencing a bit of a down feeling that I haven’t been able to quite shake. When I woke up last Saturday morning feeling like I was kind of in a funk, I decided that I was going to start my day with a yoga practice to stretch my sore muscles and soothe my soul. I did a class via YogaDownload, and decided to do a post-class meditation afterwards to further clear my head and open my heart.

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The concept of the Outlaw Yoga meditation (<– which by the way, Outlaw Yoga is perfect for those of you that don’t gravitate towards the stereotypical yoga instructor vibe. The founders are these tattooed, long haired, cool guys that teach with live music being played in the background) was cultivating an attitude of gratitude by looking at things from “got to” to “get to.” The premise is that if you alter your mindset with a more heart-centered approach, you’ll be able to cultivate a constant reminder of gratitude in your life.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cereal Bars [gluten free]

As a traveler, I’m not usually the person that seeks out the best shopping spots in a given area. I’m not huge into shopping and my husband absolutely loathes it, so shopping is never on our vacation checklist. While I prefer making memories, taking photos, and going on adventures while traveling, I do enjoy nabbing a souvenir that reminds me of the trip and is unique to the area.

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For instance, I picked up coasters in New Orleans that have the city’s symbolic fleur-de-lis design on them. When I put my drink on one, memories from my time there come to mind.

The last time I was in Italy, I bought a bracelet from a street vendor. Every time I wear it, I think of the magic of Venice.

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During my trip to Ireland a few months ago, the souvenir that I took home was a jar of locally made honey. I nabbed it at a health food store during my excursion to the Cliffs of Moher, and every time I use some of that honey, I think of the rolling hills of Ireland. Now I wish I had bought more of it!

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Recently while I was spooning my Irish honey into my green tea, I got the idea to make pumpkin spice cereal bars that are glued together with the goodness that is honey.

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I’ve always been a big cereal lover. I eat it with protein powder mixed in & with banana or blueberries; sprinkle it on top of my smoothie bowls; and sometimes I eat it dry with a handful of dried cherries & chocolate chips for a healthy dessert. There’s something about chocolate with oat cereals like Cheerios that is just so yummy!

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Election Hangover HIIT Workout

I don’t know about you guys, but the election this week has left me feeling emotionally drained. In checking out the trends on social media yesterday, one of the ones that stood out was #ElectionHangover. Yes, this has felt like an election hangover in the worst way. I’ve had my share of {alcohol} hangovers in my life, but this week’s hangover is the kind that lasts for days, and leaves you feeling exhausted, headachy and kind of depressed.

To help get my spirits up in general, one of my go-to moves is ranting to my mom exercise. Workout endorphins are a powerful thing! So today I’m sharing an election hangover remedy: a 40-minute HIIT workout. I’ve been starting to add HIIT back into my workout routine, and it’s one of my favorite kinds of workouts. I just love how the moves are quick and you have to mentally stay in it. The tempo in this workout is 30 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. I used 10-lb dumbbells, but you can use whatever dumbbells fit your strength level. For my HIIT workouts, I use an app called IntervalTimer to easily time my rounds.

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HIIT has been proven to be a really effective type of workout. Short bursts of high intensity training followed by little rest periods has been shown to be an awesome fat burning, metabolism boosting workout.

In other words, it’s GREAT, it’s hhuuuuuggge, it’s terrific, it’s the BEST EVER. It’ll help you burn calories “bigly”….Heaven help me having to listen to those words for the next 4 years.

Tell me… Do you have an election hangover? Do you ever do HIIT? 

Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole {gf}

Hi friends! How was your weekend?

Highlights of my days off were visiting Temecula wine country with my cousin on Saturday, who visited for the afternoon to spend some time with me…

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…and watching the NY Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles (good for this Giants fan, and much to the dismay of my Eagles’ fan husband) + practicing some yoga on the beach on Sunday.

And I’m feeling very antsy about tomorrow’s election. During this election season, I thought I’d do a post about where each candidate stands when it comes to women’s + health issues, but it became so glaringly obvious to me which one should become president and which one is idiotic beyond belief, I decided there was little need to write that type of post.

It probably isn’t hard to guess which side I’m on in this bipartisan craziness we call the 2016 presidential race. After all, I’m an environmentally conscious woman living in California who strongly supports women’s and social rights, plus having people become president who actually have prior political experience.

In my little corner of the internet, I’d be remiss to not at least urge any of you who are on the fence with your vote to go with the person who actually believes in climate change; who has the temperament and patience of a professional, who does not feel the need to tweet nonsense at 3 AM; who has actually made positive differences in people’s lives throughout the course of their long career in public service; and who is extremely knowledgeable on many complex political topics without acting like an egotistical know-it-all.

For the love of America, don’t sit out just because you aren’t crazy about her. Get out there and vote! 

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That’s my two cents on the matter. Now onto the main topic of the day: a recipe that I’ve made more times than I can count!

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This spaghetti squash casserole is a favorite in my house. In fact, it’s one of my hubby’s top meal requests, and last weekend I made it for dinner one night to celebrate him finishing another one of his classes for his MBA with an A.

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Health Benefits of Stretching + 6 Ways to Fit More Stretching in

Back in high school, I was a competitive cheerleading coach (and a competitive cheerleader myself). I remember telling my cheerleaders how important it was for them to practice stretching exercises often to improve their flexibility, and how I stretched every single day.

Here am I, over a dozen years later, and while I’m no longer throwing girls in the air for stunts and memorizing choreography routines, stretching is still a practice that I implement into my active life on a daily basis.

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Some ways that stretching improves your health include:

  • While you know that stretching obviously improves flexibility, it also improves the range of motion in your joints and blood flow to the muscles. This is why stretching can decrease risk of injury – and we all know that injuries are no fun! It also helps to reduce soreness from workouts.
  • There’s a definite correlation between your body feeling tight and tense, and your mind and mood following suit. Stretching helps to alleviate the physical tension and puts not only your body at more ease, but provides some anti-stress benefits to your mind too.
  • Stretching lengthens tight muscles and is beneficial for better posture – including improved spine alignment, resulting in less tension and pain.
  • I also find stretching to be an energy booster. It revitalizes the body when you’re feeling tired and lethargic.

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