31 July 2013

20 Snacks (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, & Refined Sugar-Free)

So, I noticed that whenever I started eliminating foods from my diet - dairy, gluten, sugar - I felt STARVING.  It's because I was used to curbing hunger with those things instead of with larger portions of healthy food.  So...there was an uncomfortable/craving adjustment period as I got used to changing my habits and trying to get full on healthier foods.

And one of the biggest things I can recommend to you is this....


This way you have many options at your finger tips if you are hungry or dashing out the door and don't have time to saute some vegetables.  :)

Today, here are (20) of my favorite gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free snacks....

30 July 2013

(4) Strategies for Kicking a Sugar Addiction

OK, let's continue the conversation on food...
(and by the way, I just LOVE that so many of you are still trying to do a food diary!!  I know it can be SO hard and humbling to do...but I also know how revealing it can be.  I'm so, so excited to hear of any positive changes that it might inspire.)

So one of the hardest things for me to change was giving up sugar.  Oh man.  That stuff is one of the most addicting substances on earth.  In fact, researchers have literally found that it's more addictive than cocaine!!  Yes, they've found that sugar can act on the brain like drugs. (Read this:  The Rats Who Preferred Sugar Over Cocaine and this article from The NY Times about sugar being sickly t-o-x-i-c.)

I used to think it didn't really have a huge effect on me...(hahhaha)  It took me nearly hitting rock bottom and then by a MIRACLE experiencing a rebound to realize that the sugar WAS affecting my body and my brain so, so much.

Here are my (4) Main Strategies for Kicking a Sugar Addiction:

Busy in Brooklyn

Hello Everyone!
Hope you had a wonderful weekend.  I missed you yesterday.  Yes, I do love having a post here. Though sometimes life gets in the way and I try to honor that.  Yesterday we spent time with our nephew and brother in law; I called about a foster child that our doctor friend told us about (it turns out he's already being adopted by someone..but I now have a new interest in foster children); I also took care of my new plants (I'm obsessed!!! haha.  I got some new plants and I really should take pictures of them and show you :); and, we had a rather full and beautiful weekend.  And this is why:

7:00 am - 4:00 pm
Spent the day with a crew out at Gerritsen Beach, one of the hardest hit areas during Sandy. Many families are just barely able to start rebuilding their homes.  Funding has been an issue for many of them as they have still been waiting on insurance checks or FEMA assistance.  In the meantime, one amazing organization we know of has been stepping in to help families rebuild. It's called Heart 9/11 Healing Emergency Aid Response Team and they were founded soon after 9/11 by a retired Port Authority Police Department Lieutenant (whom we met...he is amazing).  Currently they're focusing on the Gerritsen Beach area (here's a news article about them) and projects are being funded by The Robin Hood Foundation.  We were greeted by the founder upon arrival and he said their main goal is to bring some hope healing to people's lives by showing love, support and interest in their well being - while also sheet rocking, painting, and finishing homes (demolition and mold remediation has already taken place on the homes they are working on).  He also said that being able to help people sometimes feels like a selfish endeavor - because doing so also blesses the lives of the giver so greatly.  Well, I felt some of that out there.  Truthfully, there were a hundred other things I could have been doing that day and I was definitely being pulled in the direction of my own home projects or to do lists or endeavors.  But I'm glad that I went. Joining with humanity to help fellow people in need is never, ever going to be something that you regret.  (If anyone feels inclined to go out one day and volunteer, they are in great need of people and have MANY homes to still do.  You could contact them and set up a time to join in. Better yet, put together a group of people to go with you.  :)

10:30 pm
Danny returned home from a business trip.  He got delayed getting out of JFK which was a bummer as he so wanted to hear the Robert Plant concert in Prospect Park.  Luckily the bandshell is close to home and we literally just RAN there when he arrived.  As soon as we entered the park, we could hear the roar of the crowds just screaming and cheering.  For sure the show had just ended.  The screams and cheers just kept going and going as we ran, and Danny kept saying, "Pleeeease let there be an encore!!" Sure enough, a song began.  Danny was the happiest guy in Brooklyn.  :) We got to then hear (2) great songs and sit among hundreds just soaking it all in.  Sometimes I have these moments in Brooklyn that just take my breath away.  :)

1:00 pm  After church we met up with a wonderful reader of the blog for a "walk".  Oh man, every time we do it we have the most amazing experiences ever.  We just have such fond memories of every person we've met and every discussion that we've had.  We're so grateful for that little corner of our lives.

3:00 pm  And then we came home and made dinner for a family who is in the process of packing up to move.


Now, I'm curious about what your lives look like...
You see, we do a lot of the service related stuff because we're just used to it...our entire lives we've had so many opportunities provided daily/weekly by our church congregation.  So we've learned through experience that this way of life really is what makes us the happiest.  We seek to live our lives that way as much as possible.  Though I often wonder what my life would look like if I didn't have all those opportunities at my fingertips on such a daily basis.  Would I have developed that pattern for living? Would I have ever found out that it really was the way to live the happiest kind of life?  And the happiest kind of marriage?  I have no idea.  I shudder to think of how my life was before I truly started to live this way. And so I'd love to hear...how is it for you?  Have you found a way to work in charitable efforts into your life regularly?  What does that look like?  How have you found opportunities?  Is it a rewarding part of your life (or is there something else that you find is more rewarding?)  Open to any answers. I'm just really curious how it is outside of what I know.

And, later today I'll be sharing more about my journey to greater health.

See you soon, friends.

Much Love,


P.S.  I was inspired to share this post based on one of the questions from the recent "Q&A With Danny + Mara":  "How do you add so much 'life' into your life?"  The best formula we have found is by doing service related stuff like what I listed above.


26 July 2013

Thank You To...

Thank you to...

Janna Beth


Jamie A.

Thank you, thank you for your comments and insights this week!!  

Janna, LOVED what you said about yoga, in response to the discussion about the link of the body & mind:

Yoga - in that it taught me both dedication and to listen to my body - is giving me the strength to pass by processed foods, and make healthy food choices in healthy amounts. I've always been thin and fit, but only because of a good metabolism and rigorous commitment to working out for the purpose of staying thin. I'm learning to value exercise for how it makes me feel, not just for the calories it burns.

And Jaime, such an interesting question about IVF and religion:

Hi Mara and Danny! Your blog is delightful. Truly a lovely space on the internet.
I've much appreciated how open, honest and thoughtful you've been about your journey through infertility. So, I ask the following question with all possible respect. What is the view of the LDS faith about medical intervention as extreme as in vitro fertilization? I know that many conservative Christian theologists do not find the practice to respect God's design for children. How did you think through the procedure in light of your faith?
(See Danny's response here.)


And as a token of thanks, we're sending each of you some of our favorite things: (2) Crazy Creek chairs!  (Please contact me with your address within 3 wks.)  These will actually be upgraded chairs compared to the ones Danny and I have had.  Instead of coming from the "Casual Line" they will be two from the "Adventure Line", which come with a lifetime warranty and are sooo sturdy and well made.   You will each receive (1) Original Chair ($44) and (1) Hex 2.0 Original Chair  ($46. this one is lightweight and can roll up tightly for packing/hiking.)

We hope you can enjoy these chairs while attending concerts in the park, camping, or picnicking in the remaining summer days.  We'll be doing the same.  :)  In fact, tomorrow night, Robert Plant will be playing Led Zeppelin classics in Prospect Park.  My nephew and brother-in-law got tickets, but Danny and I will be hanging in the outskirts around the band shell with our chairs, of course, and maybe a picnic from Gather (a really, really tasty/healthy take-out cafe near Prospect Park - 7th Ave. & 9th St.)

And right now I need to figure out what to wear for my segment on HuffPost LIVE today at 5:30 pm ET.  Eeeeks.  Hope it goes well. 

Hope you all have an AWESOME summer weekend!!


P.S. Janna & Jaime, these are the colors we chose for you from the Adventure Line:  Hex 2.0 Original in Ash/Moss and the Original Chair in Forest Green:

For July & August we're giving Thank You Gifts to our readers every Friday.  We're randomly selecting from the people that have contributed to the blog by leaving ANY comment on ANY post in the last week (since last Friday).  We are so grateful that you share your voice here and help us to further this effort.  I already can't wait for next Friday to give the next Thank You Gift. 


Love Announcements

Something fun about living in NYC?  Everybody comes here to visit, so we often get to see lots of friends and family from all over the country.  (In fact, our nephew is on an air mattress in our living room right now as I type. :)  This weekend we'll take him to Brooklyn Bridge Park to see this view.  A few weeks ago we were there with Justin & Amy Hackworth, a really wonderful couple we've gotten to know since starting the blog.  

And here are a few Love Announcements :)

-LOOOVE hearing of your journeys with health and your desires to be healthy.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing - I'm sending you every bit of encouragement I can. (Also, I'm dying over some of your food diaries so far.  There are some awesome ideas for meals and snacks in there.  I know I will keep referring back to them for some inspiration.  Also, it's crazy how this works but I can already tell my food diary is helping me...I'm super motivated to try some new things and keep the house stocked with healthy foods.)

-For example, I just bought cacao nibs (thanks to City Chick).  They are FULL of antioxidants.  And I have to make this recipe.  

-What Ali Wore.  The best fashion tumblr ever. This older gentlemen delights me.  (Thanks, Melissa!) 

-This family, featured in Design Mom's 'Living With Kids' series, is amazing.  You have to read their story to the end...it will stay with you. (Thanks to the sweet reader who sent this along!)

-Natural Beauty Night got featured on Gardenista by one of the guests, blogger Erin Boyle from Reading My Tea Leaves (I just adore Erin and her beautiful Brooklyn blog.  She is so, so lovely. And she has the sweetest column on her blog called "Tiny Apartment Survival Tips" So far she has 73!)

-And...I totally tried the baking soda hair wash and vinegar rinse.  I can't even believe this, but I'm giving it a major thumbs up.  I've done it 3 times now and we'll see how this goes, but it just might be my new regular routine.  

-Danny and I went to yoga recently (at The Brooklyn Yoga School) and LOVED it.  We can't wait to go back!!  It also kicked our butts.  :)  :)  Yeah, our muscles were shaking and every time we looked at each other we wanted to laugh.  haha.  (Do you do yoga?  What's your favorite gear?) Also, this yoga school in Brooklyn is donation only, but got rated by NYMag as the best place for inexpensive yoga.

And...today I have a LIVE interview with HuffPost Live.  :)  Yes.  One of the editors read and like this post and they want to discuss it.  :)  I'll keep you posted on Twitter if I get more details, in case you want to chime in.   

Alright - thanks for everything!  Sending love and thoughts and prayers your way, as always.

With Love,



25 July 2013

The First Step of Reclaiming My Health...A Food Diary

When I first met my spiritual healer, she wanted me to make my physical health my #1 priority.

At the time, I was working as a Personal Assistant to a CEO of a hedge fund in Manhattan.  This job was no joke.  There was always sooo much to do.  I was your typical NYC work-a-holic at a finance firm, working as many hours as the investment team and analysts - often times more.  I barely saw the light of day.  I almost never left the office as we all ate lunches at our desks.  7 pm turned into 9 pm and then often times 10 pm+.  Dinner would be ordered in, also eaten at the desk.  I'd take a car service home to Brooklyn, then often times take care of more work emails from the blackberry.  I also saved every bit of money I could and spent my weekends investing in real estate.  I was so driven to be financially self-reliant (I think due to growing up poor).  I also was the breadwinner and hoped that I could one day take a break and raise some kids.  So I was trying to fund my motherhood years so that I could do that.  And I gave it my all.

And all this time (years), I was so driven that there was about ZERO care for my physical body. Even going to the bathroom seemed like it got in the way of my work.  (That can be New York for you.  And I was a complete sucker.)

23 July 2013

First Priority: Healing My Physical Body

I had bad PMS when I was in my first marriage.  That went on for years.  I remember making the realization that at one point I wasn't in a good mood about 2 wks out of the month. (That is 50% of my life.  5 solid years out of ten, etc.)  Scary to think of it that way.  PMS used to be a time for me when any underlying thing just came to the surface.  If there was some pain in my life, it was like I couldn't ignore it or cover it up during that time.  It was like I couldn't control it.  And, oh dear, there were lots and lots of those underlying pains and hurt feelings - layers of them.  Both because of what I was faced with, but also because I didn't know a dang thing about what I now talk about on the blog - (i.e. choosing happiness by pursuing virtues regardless of the circumstance, watching my own reactions, owning my own self worth, etc.)

The last year of my marriage is when I got really desperate and decided that I really, really wanted to figure out how to heal from all I had been through.  At the suggestion of my acupuncturist/spiritual healer - I also started to take better care of myself physically as the first priority.   My spiritual healer would explain it like this:  

22 July 2013

Q&A With Danny + Mara

Dear friends (can we be friends?),

It feels as though we've gotten to know so many of you, and we just love that. 

Today, there isn't a post.  But I thought I'd just open the floor for you to ask us some questions.

Is there anything you'd love to know?  Ask us anything at all and we'll do our best to answer in the comments section.  

I thought it would be fun to have a two way dialogue.  :)  

See you in the comments!

Mara & Danny

19 July 2013

Thank You To...

Thank you to...Raven!

Raven, thank you so much for being a reader here.  We're touched to have you read and comment on our blog.  So fun that you were excited about the natural products...because...guess what?

You will have a Vine.com gift bag coming your way, with about $500 worth of natural beauty products in it.  :)  :)  :)  I hope you can use the products or share them with others.  And mostly, we hope this just uplifts your day.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!


Photos by Kylie Whiting


The Products in the Bag...

Our sponsors spoiled us ROTTEN at the Natural Beauty Night.  We seriously scored with a huge bag of new products.  For the most part, I got to curate the products.  There were a few surprises (which was fun!) , but so many of the products were ones that I chose, based on lots of product testing that I've been doing over the last many months.

OK, let's get started with what was in the bag....

18 July 2013

Natural Beauty Tips From Beauty Expert, Jessa Blades

So, Jessa Blades.  She was awesome!  She was our natural beauty expert and speaker at the Natural Beauty Night.  I found her through Rubi Jones' blog.  See below for some great tips she shared with everyone...

17 July 2013

Changing Up The Giveaway Scene :)

(photos today from some recent walks in Prospect Park with readers...see "An Offer From Me".)

To Our Lovely Readers,

I often wish I could send you all gifts.  Yes.  Thank you gifts for just supporting this blog and being some of the most lovely people ever.  Your comments, thoughts, tweets, blog shout outs, etc. have really helped to put this positive message on the map.  And I can tell you that your support and encouragement matters!!!!  You can't imagine the emails that we receive daily from people that have some hope, have a little bit of light, have some clarity, or even some life changing experiences...because of something that was said here by us or by you or by that feeling that comes to you when you read something that resonates with you.

So THANK YOU for sharing this blog with others and helping to make this happen.  THANK YOU for just being here and reading - it inspires us come back to write more.  THANK YOU for sharing your voice here and adding to the conversation with your comments - it brings more power to the positive message we are trying to share here.

SO...here's the plan for the rest of the summer...   :)  :)  :)

-Instead of hosting "giveaways", I decided I'd rather just straight up give you Thank You Gifts for all you do to contribute to the blog here.  

-The Thank You Gift(s) will be given out on Fridays to someone who has posted ANY new comment that week on ANY post during July/August.  (Recipients will be chosen at random.)

That's right - I'd rather hear your voices and thoughts about important topics opposed to the name of a shoe you wish you could buy.  :)  :)  [Even though I do, do love shoes...let's just put that out there.  And who knows, maybe one of the thank you gifts could be a pair of shoes. I'll work on that. :) ]

What do you think?  I'm super excited about this.  I think it could be fun.  And I already have some of my favorite things lined up for you  :) :)  [And if you happen to sell a product that you'd like me to consider, let me know! ]

With love,


P.S.  This starts today!  And Friday's Thank You Gift will be really awesome.  I think one of you will really enjoy it.   :)  :)


16 July 2013

Honey Lavender Elixir

Honey Lavender Elixir

At the Natural Beauty Night, our speaker (Jessa) made a Honey Lavender Elixir for the guests (she's way into using fresh herbs, which I think is so awesome.)  We mixed about 2-3 tablespoons of the elixir with sparkling water, but you can also mix it with prosecco.  I'm telling you, this elixir was so, so good!  It would be the perfect way to fancy up a summer garden party. 

Honey Lavender Elixir

Honey Lavender Elixir

Jessa recommends using local, raw honey for maximum health benefits.

For Brooklynites, I know you can get local raw honey at...
-Home/Made in Red Hook (there is a beekeeper next door to them!  They have beehives on the roof!) 


-Union Square GreenMarket (Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat.)
-Andrew's Local Honey (he also has hives in Queens/Brooklyn)


Hudson Valley...

And here's the yummy recipe...
 Danny approved.  :)

Have a great day, everyone!!


(photography by Kylie Whiting
event sponsored by Vine.com)

P.S. I made dinner tonight. Yep, that's unusual around here, actually, due to my chef husband. :) I made a Korean dish called Vegetable Bibimbap...and it was AWESOME!!  We had the Mormon missionaries over and they went nuts over it.  Danny loved it, too.  And we both decided the recipe was a keeper for good, so I thought I'd pass it along.


15 July 2013

Kylie Whiting + A Video of the Natural Beauty Night

Natural Beauty Night from Kylie Nixon Whiting on Vimeo.

It was so, so fun to be able to have a photographer (Kylie Whiting) at the Natural Beauty Night. Really, I felt spoiled rotten...I just love being able to work with creative people.  And Kylie was amazing.  She even surprised me with this video of the event!!  Oh man, I couldn't believe she did this...it just made me smile so big.   :)  :)

FYI, Kylie is here in NYC and is both a photographer & a designer, with a background in advertising design.  She shoots events, portraits, and food.  Most recently, she's kept busy shooting for the Cooking Channel and Scripps Network - and she is happiest shooting and creating with her sister, Kelsey.

The Natural Beauty Night was sponsored by Vine.com.


12 July 2013

Natural Beauty Night!

This party - oh, you guys.  It was amazing.  Everyone there told me they loved it so much.  But I think I loved it even more.  This was the first time I had a BUDGET, friends.  Yes, $$$ for a party.  I couldn't believe it.  I had this idea to have a Natural Beauty Night...because I'm seriously obsessed with natural beauty products and I wanted to share all the stuff I've been learning.  And Vine.com - one of the BEST online sources for natural beauty products agreed to sponsor the event!!  I'll admit, I was over the moon.  I got to choose a venue, plan the evening, and hire a few amazing people to help bring it all together.  It was so much fun I could hardly stand it.  And, the timing was really special to me.  Planning this party is what I was up to while we were going through the IVF and it took place a week after we got the results.  Somehow, there was something empowering about just being there, doing something worthwhile, feeling happy, seeing everything come together, and being surrounded by some of my favorite people on a summery night.

And now, a rundown of the Best.Girls'.Night ever...

All photos are by photographer Kylie Whiting here in New York....LOOVED working with her!!! She is SO, SO talented!!  FYI, she is just starting out her freelance career doing events, portraits, and food photography.  Hire her!  I can't recommend her enough.


I picked this sweet little place in Red Hook for the party.  I had heard that they were still trying to recover due to Hurricane Sandy...and so, I thought I could help by having the party there. It's called Home/Made at 293 Van Brunt St (@homemadebklyn).  And...it's just kind of cool when this works out...but this place exceeded my expectations!!  The food was SOOO good, the owners were amazing, and the place was so darn cozy...somehow the place really does make you feel at home.  I have been wanting to go back there ever since.  I can't recommend it enough.  (And I hear their brunch is amazing.) 


In the back, the two women partners were just cooking their hearts out.  We could hear their banter as they were cooking, "A little more lemon...just a touch...not too much." :)  And oh my, that food has my mouth watering right now as I think of it.  It was so, so flavorful and good.  I actually didn't know in advance what the menu would be as they said "it depended on what was freshest that day at the market."  Heaven!  That is my perfect kind of meal.  

My friend, Kelsey Nixon, came.  She is THE Kelsey Nixon from The Cooking Channel!  She has her own show and recently finished filming her 5th Season, which is such a huge accomplishment.  She even got nominated for an Emmy. So cool.  Anyway, she "plated" the food for these next photos.  This kind of made me giddy as she is such an expert.  :)  :) :)  Food styling is such an art.  And now I can't decide which photos to show you so you get them all.  :) She also just launched her very own cookbook, which I can't wait to get my hands on - Kitchen Confidence, Essential Recipes & Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything.


All of the guests were so, so wonderful.  Some long-time friends came (heaven) and I also got to meet some bloggers and some blog readers (when these women walked in, it just made me melt to pieces. Seriously.  I just couldn't believe how great they were..it was like I just wanted to be instant friends with them.  I wish I could have lunch dates with all of them so we could chat more.)  And, not that this is an all important detail...but goodness, everyone there looked so pretty!  It was one warm summer evening, too, but they all made it to Red Hook just looking so glammed up.  They all just took my breath away that night with their kindness and beauty. And I'm determined to wear my hair in braids very, very soon.


Jessa Blades, a natural beauty expert and make-up artist from Blades Natural Beauty, did a workshop for us.  It was SO great and I just loved her so much.  We all had the best discussion about natural beauty.  I'll be sharing some of her great info. in a separate post as I just think this is such an important topic for women.  In the meantime, you can browse Jessa's website for some great posts on natural beauty and also see a segment she did on The Today Show.  (And yes, we were all dying over her hair and had to know what she uses on it... stay tuned!  :)


Do you see all that loot?  Each guest got about $500 worth of natural products from all my favorite brands!!  I have been testing beauty products for many months and it has been so fun that I was giddy about sharing some of my finds with everyone.  I must say, I've received many gift bags at conferences and galas over the years and usually the stuff is such a waste.  So it was fun to give something that people could really use (and I've heard from many that they are LOVING trying everything.  One friend even installed a new shelf so she could have a place for her new products.  :) :)  I'll have a post soon with links to everything.


I feel so lucky that for this event I got to work with graphic designer, Linsey Laidlaw.  She was amazing.  To me, it's just a dream come true to work with a designer.  I always wish that I had the skills to create graphics and all that...but sigh!  Not so!  I am the least tech saavy blogger on the internet, I can tell you that. 

Linsey designed these cards and tags for the guests with some of the helpful info. from the night.

And she thought of so many details to help make the party great.  Love her.  I'm so spoiled to have such talented friends.  (btw, she does freelance design!  She's so good at what she does...and has years of experience working as an Art Director at Martha Stewart Living.)


A HUGE thanks to Vine.com as well as the other brands that I hand picked for the gift bags (these brands are AWESOME):  Deodomom, Badger, Juice Beauty, Acure Organics, Egyptian Magic Cream, Mychelle, Hello Mellow, COOLA Sunscreen, The Period Store, 100% Pure, Anthology Organic (more info. on the individual products coming next week!)
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