Winter Must Haves

Last Sunday, Oklahoma got its first snow of the year! I happen to LOVE snow. No, I’m not trying to move to Alaska or anything, but I do enjoy a few good snowfalls each year. I love snuggling up by the fire and watching it come down so peacefully but I also love bundling up and playing in it like I used to do with my siblings and neighbor friends when we were kids. Any excuse to be a kid again, right?

Tate also happens to LOVE LOVE LOVE the snow so much he doesn’t want to come in (another excuse for me to be a kid and go play in it). Since he has shorter fur, I worry about him getting cold, but if I bring him in, he’ll sit and look out the window at it and fuss and whine until I take him back out. This is a picture of him Sunday walking in circles all over the deck at Andrew’s parents’ house. He opens his mouth and puts it almost on the ground so that as he walks, the snow piles into his mouth. The goofy pup makes me giggle.

Tate Snow

Here are some of my favorite things that [I think] are essential to surviving this chilly, snowy weather.

Sorel Snow Boots

Sorel 'Joan of Arctic' Boots in Shale

Sorel ‘Joan of Arctic’ Boots in Shale

I have the Sorel ‘Joan of Arctic’ Waterproof Snow Boots and they are just perfect for this snowy weather! And hey, aside from keeping your feet warm and dry, they’re pretty cute too! I love that the liners come out, so when you play in the snow too long, or your feet are sweaty after a day full of skiing (gross but real), you can just pop them out and dry them off. Easy peasy! These are available many places including Nordstrom, Zappos, Amazon and of course Sorel’s website. These are a little pricey (~$145), but couldn’t be more worth the splurge!

Arbonne Rejuvenating Cream

Rejuvenating Creme

We’ve all experienced how hard the cold weather can be on our skin, but I have a solution! Rejuvenating cream is a life saver for your skin, hence the name! It is a cream, which is a little thicker than a lotion, but you don’t use a ton of it. I put it on my hands once if not twice every day to keep them hydrated. I also put it on my elbows, knees and heels for those extra dry winter months. An added perk is that it helps minimize scars! Some people I know even use it as a face moisturizer at night in the winter! This product is so versatile and will really save your skin this winter. It has quickly become one of my everyday essentials! The rejuvenating cream is $40 a pot and is so concentrated that it’ll last you quite a while. I’ve been using mine for 3 months now, and I’m still have probably 2 weeks more left! Holla at your favorite Arbonne lady to order some today. 🙂 [Aka email me at jackiendavey@gmail.com]

 

A Crock Pot

Crock Pot

As I mentioned on Tuesday, crock pots make some people nervous, but [in my opinion] they really need to get over their fears because these babies are game changers! When the holiday season gets to be especially busy and crammed full of parties, events and get togethers, a crock pot will be your saving grace. Just imagine getting home from a really long, exhausting day at work and only having 30 minutes before you have to leave for your friend’s annual Christmas party. Rather than eating nasty fast food on the way home, you could save time and money by having dinner ready to go in your crock pot.

Sweet & Spicy Good Earth Tea 

Good Earth Tea

This tea is perfect for the winter months! Its combination of cinnamon and orange make it just sweet enough you don’t need sugar and the spice makes it feel like the holidays. My mom has always loved this tea and so we grew up drinking it. I think it used to be available in a lot of grocery stores, but lately it’s hard to find, so we have to order it online. It runs about $5 for a box of 18 tea bags.

I hope you stay warm and enjoy the holiday season!

warmest wishes,

J

Treat Tuesday: Savory Edition – Taco Soup

With the chilly temps we’ve been having, I’ve decided to do a savory edition of “Treat Tuesday.” This Taco Soup is one of my favorite, go-to recipes for those cold winter days. Plus, you have to love coming home to dinner ready to go in the crock pot!

Side note: I’ve had several people tell me recently that they don’t use their crock pots because they get nervous to leave it on all day while they’re gone. People, this is what crock pots are made for. Just make sure it’s in the middle of the counter, and not touching anything and you’ll be fine. Crock pots are SUCH an easy way to have a home cooked, healthy meal on those days when you are in a rush, or just exhausted after a long day at work. Admit it: you would normally just drive through or call something in on those types of days, but once you learn the wonderful ways of the crock pot, you won’t go back. Promise!

Taco Soup 
1 lb ground turkey, cage free with no antibiotics used (could use ground beef)
2 15 oz cans organic stewed tomatoes (Muir Glen brand is good)
1 large organic onion, diced
3 cloves organic garlic, minced
1-2 organic jalapenos, diced (can do more or less depending on how spicy you like your food)
1/2 tsp organic ground cumin
1 package organic taco seasoning
1 package organic ranch dressing mix
1 15 oz can organic hot chili beans
1 15 oz can organic black beans
1 15 oz can organic (non GMO) corn
  1. Brown the meat and onions and drain the fat off.
  2. Dump all ingredients into a crock pot and stir to combine.
  3. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or low for 4-6 hours (depending on your crock pot and how long you’re leaving it.) I have discovered that my crock pot cooks pretty hot, so I tend to cook things on low no matter how long I need to cook it.
  4. Serve hot with what ever toppings you like. Some topping suggestions are sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, chopped jalapenos, diced tomatoes or diced, raw onion.

If organic options are not readily available, you can always substitute the regular non-organic versions. But, obviously, I’d recommend organic. 🙂

warmest wishes,

J

Treat Tuesday: Grandma Irwin’s Dutch Apple Pie

I love love love this apple pie recipe and figured it’d be a perfect Treat Tuesday since Thanksgiving is just around the corner! As you may have guessed from the name, this is a family recipe. My favorite thing about it is that if you don’t want to make a pie, have a pie crust, or just don’t like pie crust (me), then you can make this without the crust in a glass baking dish and it’s more like an apple crisp! Either way, YUM.

Snagged the last piece of apple crisp for dessert tonight!

Snagged the last piece of apple crisp for dessert tonight! P.S. Doesn’t my roomie have cute dishes?!?

1 Premade Pie Crust, defrosted to room temperature (Can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store. I’m sure you could also find a good recipe for a pie crust, but the premade kind work well too.)
6-7 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped (You want a medium dice — too small and the apples will get mushy but too big and it’ll take forever for them to cook.)
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Red hots (Yes, the candy. This is the secret ingredient!)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Cup Flour
  1. Preheat your oven to 425ºF.
  2. Put the pie crust in a pie pan. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust, and then crimp the edges. (Skip this step if making apple crisp.)
  3. Fill the pie with half of the diced apples. Sprinkle half of the nutmeg, cinnamon and red hots over the apples.
  4. Add the rest of the apples and sprinkle with the rest of the nutmeg, cinnamon and red hots.
  5. Pour the sugar over the top of the apples.
  6. In a medium bowl, mix together the softened butter, flour and brown sugar with a fork until evenly combined.
  7. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the apples and lightly press on with your hands to keep it in place.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
  9. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream on top!

Note: When baking pies, always put them on a cookie sheet with a lip, so that the juice doesn’t run out of the pie and burn on the bottom of the oven.

As I always say, recipes are flexible. I tend to use a little more nutmeg, and cinnamon than the recipe calls for, or at least I think. I admit, I don’t measure. 🙂 Last time I made this recipe, I used almond flour, organic brown sugar, coconut sugar and organic butter and apples. I realize that yes, this is still a dessert, but why not get rid of some of the nasty refined stuff and lighten it up a bit? If you’re shooting for a gluten free dessert, and want to go the pie route, you can probably find a gluten free premade pie crust at Sprouts or Whole Foods.

warmest wishes,

J

warmest wishes, J

You may have noticed, but I have decided to change the name of my blog. Here’s why:

  1. It was too long.
  2. I don’t even drink coffee anymore. (S/O to the Arbonne Clean Eating Challenge)
  3. Change is good… I think. 🙂
  4. Why not?

The new name was inspired by my wonderful friend and coworker, McKenzie, so thank you MG! She actually suggested sincerely, J, which I liked but happens to already exist. [A little background: my immediate family calls me J, so to me it is kind of a term of endearment.] Then I decided I liked the idea of using a parting phrase. After looking at lists of parting phrases — yes, I googled it — warmest wishes caught my eye. McKenzie said it sounds a little Christmasy, which I LOVED because as you probably know, Christmas is my favorite. [Only 47 days to go!] It also reminds me of Disney World, because the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom is called Wishes. Both of these together are what confirmed my decision: warmest wishes, J is the new name! And, as you may have guessed, warmest wishes, J will now be my log off on every post.

The blog also got a facelift today! I was just in the mood for a change, plus, I can’t turn down an opportunity to display a pic of Tate!

So, I hope I didn’t mess up all of my loyal readers too much! I hope you enjoy the new look!

warmest wishes,

J

 

Treat Tuesday: Pumpkin Souffle

I’ve decided this will be the first of many Treat Tuesdays. Today’s treat is a delicious dessert I made for Friendsgiving last weekend: Pumpkin Souffle. It may sound a little weird, but it’s really just a slightly different take on a pumpkin pie, sans crust. Personally, I don’t like the crust anyway, so this is even better! I know I’ve been promoting all things healthy lately, but once in a while, a little treat won’t hurt. 🙂

Pumpkin Souffle

Pumpkin Souffle

16 oz can pumpkin

3 eggs

12 oz can evaporated milk

1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

1 c sugar

1 box yellow cake mix

1 c pecans, chopped

1 c butter, melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a 9 x 13″ baking dish with Pam, set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk, pumpkin pie spice, salt and sugar until smooth. Pour the mixture into the 9 x 13″ baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture.
  5. Top with pecans.
  6. Pour the melted butter over the entire thing.
  7. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.

Friendsgiving

I LOVE the holidays, probably more than most people. I love having a reason to get together with people I love. I love eating delicious (only made once a year) food. I love traditions. I love how happy everyone is. I love snow, which I realize isn’t a guaranteed, but still. I love cuddling up on the couch with a blanket, my slippers, my pup, a hot drink and a book or a good movie. I love decorating. I love entertaining. I just love it all!

So, now that it’s November, I decided to kick off the holiday season with a Friendsgiving (friend Thanksgiving) Celebration last weekend. The great thing about it is that it couldn’t have been easier to throw together! I made an evite, reserved the “club house” room at my apartment complex, and everyone brought a dish, pot-luck style! We ate until we were stuffed and then ate some more — typical Thanksgiving style. We also chatted and played games. It was so much fun to just have an excuse to all get together before everyone gets super busy, and in my opinion, was the perfect start to the holiday season!

Friendsgiving Plate

My plate. NOM.

Friendsgiving

My first time carving a turkey! I’d consider it a success!

Here’s to hoping your holiday season is also off to a wonderful start! Cheers!

Stuffed Peppers

Hey y’all! First off, I hate that it has been a whole MONTH since I posted. I’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again! Now that we are into November, which is full of delicious but not always healthy food and treats, I’ve decided to share one of my new favorite recipes. And yes, it’s healthy but also super tasty and filling!

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

olive oil
3-4 bell peppers
1/2 lb ground turkey (could also use ground beef)
1 c diced onion
1/2 c zucchini and/or summer squash, diced
1 heaping Tbsp taco seasoning
2 c cooked brown rice or quinoa (I used brown rice)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-16 oz jar of your favorite salsa
shredded cheddar cheese
fresh cilantro 
avocado
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Cut the very top of the bell peppers off and remove the seeds. Sometimes it helps the peppers to stand up if you cut a tiny bit off of the bottom to make a flat surface, but you don’t want the stuffing that you fill the peppers with to leak out of the bottom.
  3. Lightly coat the peppers with olive oil and roast in the oven on either a cookie sheet or in a baking dish for about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them.
  5. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground turkey, drain off the fat and set aside.
  6. Next, sauté the onions and zucchini and/or summer squash until cooked through.
  7. Add the turkey back in and also add the rice/quinoa, taco seasoning, black beans and salsa. Simmer until warmed through.
  8. Carefully spoon the mixture into the peppers and put back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the peppers are cooked through. When they are looking like they’re almost done, top with shredded cheddar cheese and put back into the oven just until the cheese has melted.
  9. Top with fresh cilantro and avocado slices and enjoy!

As is true with many of my recipes, I love that this recipe is so versatile. You could really add whatever sounds good to you! If you wanted to throw in some garlic or diced tomato, or even jalapeño, you could! You could also spice it up a little more with some ground cayenne pepper or something, or top it off with some sour cream! The possibilities are endless!

 

28 Day Clean Eating Challenge

IMG_6856In the beginning of September, I took the plunge and decided to become an Arbonne Independent Consultant. After attending a Healthy Happy Hour event near me, I knew that Arbonne would be a great fit for me. I especially loved the opportunity for growth and income originally, but now I love every aspect of it — from the AMAZING products to the wonderful, encouraging, helpful, driven ladies I get to work with!

The Healthy Happy Hour was an Arbonne party promoting their 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge. At the Healthy Happy Hour, we learned all about all of the toxins and chemicals that we put into our bodies, both externally, through make up and skin care products, but also through everything that we consume. The 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge is a great way to flush all of the toxins and chemicals from your system and, as it turns out, most people lose weight doing it! It also is a great way to find out, if anything, what things can cause you problems. After the 28 days are over, every third day, you add one thing back into your diet (dairy, gluten, white flour, etc.) and this helps you to see what your body may not agree with. One of my friends used to have horrible migraines – I’m talking multiple times a week – and by doing the 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge, she figured out they were caused by dairy. She said she was at an event, ate a cube of cheese and literally had a migraine within 30 minutes!

Going in, I was pretty content with my starting weight (thanks to running and body pump!) and I probably ate a much healthier diet than most, just because I enjoy healthy food. However, I was so excited to rid my body of all of the chemicals and toxins and kick start healthy and clean habits that would last a lifetime. I also had pretty bad acid reflux and the occasional migraine and I was eager to see if they had specific triggers.

Now, obviously, I can’t spill all of the beans about the 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge, because I’d love for you to do it too! But I can tell you that how it works, is that you eliminate a lot of things that are known to be allergens from your diet. If you decide to do the challenge, you get added to a secret Facebook group, where you’ll get all of the information about what you can and can’t eat as well as weekly meal plans and grocery lists. The recipes are simple AND delicious, but if you don’t like them, no worries because you can eat whatever you want as long as it all falls into the “allowed” category.

Now, where does Arbonne come into play in this 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge, you ask? Arbonne has an AMAZING (yes, I’m biased, but they really are that great) line of nutritional products that play a pretty big role in the challenge. There are vanilla and chocolate protein powders, fiber boost (powder), digestion plus (powder containing prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes), herbal detox tea, energy fizz sticks (add to water and contain caffeine), and the 7 day body cleanse (used in 3rd week to support GI system), all of which you’ll use throughout the month.

From L to R: Arbonne chocolate protein powder, Arbonne vanilla protein powder, Arbonne fiber boost powder, fizz sticks, digestion plus,

From L to R: Arbonne chocolate protein powder, Arbonne vanilla protein powder, Arbonne fiber boost powder, fizz sticks, digestion plus, herbal detox tea & 7 day body cleanse.

Now, I want to take you through my experience on the challenge. I apologize as this part is a little lengthy!

Day 1: My products had not arrived yet, so I made a veggie omelet for breakfast and oatmeal with raspberries and almonds for lunch. I’m feeling pretty good so far, but the lack of caffeine is a bit of a struggle. I had a pretty bad migraine in the evening. 
Veggie omelet with homemade guacamole

Veggie omelet with homemade guacamole


Day 2: Headaches continued… I ran and it seemed to get a little better. Wishing I could have something sweet after dinner, but aside from that I didn’t have cravings and the food was keeping me full!
Chipotle Black Bean & Rice Skillet - Basically Mexican fried rice! This was even better as leftovers!

Chipotle Black Bean & Rice Skillet – Basically Mexican fried rice! This was even better as leftovers!

Day 3: Still headaches, and still eating eggs for breakfast since I didn’t have my protein. Lunch was leftovers from dinners.
Day 4: First day without horrible headaches, only minor. 
Day 5: Last night I had my 2nd Launch Party for Arbonne, so I took home the extra fizz sticks samples and drank some in the morning. I was in a MUCH better mood and feeling good! My protein was waiting outside my door by lunch, so I was able to start having shakes each day, but just without the fiber and digestion plus. 
Day 6: I went to OSU for the football game and for my brother’s dad’s day and my parents had already paid for us to eat at their event, which got BBQ catered. I did opt for turkey instead of brisket, but the only side options were potato salad and baked beans, so I went ahead and broke the rules. I didn’t have any of the white bread, or sweet tea, however. Then, we went by Andrew’s parents’ tailgate and I couldn’t resist their cookie bars or jalapeno poppers. This, I regretted. Don’t get me wrong, they were so good, but I had been doing so well with the challenge thus far. At the next tailgate I ate some grilled bell peppers and onions and after the game I got a burrito bowl from Qdoba with chicken, black beans, veggies, pico and guac. It was delicious and I felt much better about eating it even though I’m sure it wasn’t organic. 
Day 7: I had a pretty bad migraine most of the day, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it had to do with eating things the day before that I hadn’t had in a while. 
Day 8: Woke up feeling great! I didn’t have any headaches at all AND by the time I got home for lunch my other package had arrived, so I finally had all of my supplies! I did 2 shakes this day, in an effort to compensate for my mess up on Saturday. 
Strawberry, Lemon & Basil Protein Shake -- So refreshing!

Strawberry, Lemon & Basil Protein Shake — So refreshing!

Day 9: Used the detox tea in the morning and at night. I added the digestion plus and the fiber to my protein smoothie for breakfast. After spending most of my afternoon at the hospital with my mom (my dad had an appendectomy), I was so tired and ended up having another smoothie with fiber for dinner. 
Day 10: At this point, I was starting to love my new routine of a smoothie for breakfast. I was feeling great and found that with one fizz stick right when I got to work and one after lunch, I had a ton of energy throughout the day. I also was getting used to eating smaller meals and snacking throughout the day. I started carrying a bag to work with snacks, just in case I would be out somewhere and get hungry. I was on the go for lunch so I grabbed an organic salad from Whole Foods. For dinner, my parents ordered in mexican, so I just ate chicken fajita meat and grilled veggies with salsa. I also snacked on carrots and an apple with almond butter. After dinner my sister and mom had ice cream for dessert (my favorite) and I wasn’t even jealous OR tempted to eat some. THIS WAS HUGE FOR ME. 
Day 11: I was feeling great! I was only having the occasional teensy tiny sweet craving that was quickly satisfied with a homemade protein ball! For dinner I had a baked sweet potato topped with a little taco seasoning, avocado and salsa — so filling and tasty!
THE BEST: Homemade protein balls

THE BEST: Homemade protein balls

Day 12: My boyfriend got home from a 2 week work trip, so he hadn’t seen me since before the challenge started, and he could tell that I’d lost a little bit of weight! It’s always nice to get a little reassurance from time to time that what you’re doing is working!
Day 13: I had a pumpkin pie protein smoothie for breakfast that was SO delicious! I’m telling you, these smoothie recipes taste more like dessert than anything else! My energy was up and I was just feeling really good all around! I also was noticing that my reflux was significantly reduced — so exciting! 
Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Protein Smoothie

Day 14: Still feeling great! 
Day 15:This is the first day of using the 7 day cleanse. It is a liquid that you mix with 32 oz of water. I learned that you’re supposed to drink it throughout the day, not all at once, for optimal results. The first day I pretty much chugged it because I really like the taste of it! Haha! 
Day 16: Didn’t get enough sleep last night because I had a lot going on between work and moving apartments, but after a fizz stick this morning, I was wide awake and feeling great! 
Day 17: Made quinoa crusted chicken parmesan for dinner and it was better than some of the unhealthier versions I’ve had! I’m definitely making this again!
Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan with salad with homemade Italian dressing

Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan with salad with homemade Italian dressing

Day 18: By this point, I had gotten good about planning ahead and bringing snacks when I knew I wouldn’t be near something that would qualify as “clean eating.” 
Day 19: I began to realize that I was looking forward to my daily shake(s). As I mentioned, they’re really more like desserts and I never get sick of the endless options! Plus, they couldn’t be easier, which is great when you need something quick or on the go! 
Day 20: Had a very productive day, was full of energy and got everything done! At the end of even the craziest of days, I love relaxing with a calming Herbal Detox Tea (caffeine free). 
Herbal Detox Tea

Herbal Detox Tea

Day 21: This was the start of a crazy week at work. With an event the following weekend, I knew I’d be working long hours. I had to be sure to bring snacks and meals I would be able to eat because “clean eating” isn’t available at most  quick or delivery restaurants that I’d usually go to on a week like this. 
Burger with avocado, mozzarella (dairy free) & salsa, roasted delicate squash and a salad with homemade avocado and lemon dressing.

Burger with avocado, mozzarella (dairy free) & salsa, roasted delicata squash and a salad with homemade avocado and lemon dressing.

Day 22: At this point I realized that I was no longer STARVING when it was time for my next meal. By eating snacks every 2-3 hours, I had helped to maintain my blood sugar (without spikes) that can cause that super hungry feeling that normally results in over eating.
Day 23: Really learned how helpful (and lifesaving) fizz sticks can be when you’re sleep deprived. Normally, when I don’t get enough sleep I over compensate with coffee and end up with pretty bad headaches. This week, I got plenty of caffeine from the fizz sticks and hadn’t had a single headache yet!
Day 24: My sweet boyfriend said I was psycho when I told him I brought my blender to work to make a smoothie for lunch. Haha! He doesn’t quite get it yet. 🙂 
Day 25: I just couldn’t wait 3 more days to share my results with y’all! I will note, sharing pics like this is not normally my cup of tea, but I decided to do it just for y’all!  

IMG_7053 IMG_7054

Now for the results….

I am feeling so great, that I wouldn’t want to go back to some of my old ways! No, I’m not going to keep following the 28 day challenge rules as strictly, but I’m definitely going to continue to have daily protein shakes and eat clean as much as possible. That’s not to say I won’t enjoy the occasional treat or glass of wine, but I just love how clean eating makes me feel! And I definitely can’t complain with how my body responded to it either! Even though my changes maybe aren’t super drastic, I am feeling much more confident and happy!

Here are a few more results pictures from some other participants. Most people try to lose weight to get skinny. It makes me so happy to see people get healthy, which results in achieving those weight loss goals! Who wouldn’t want that confidence?

Arbonne B&A

Arbonne Nutrition - Gena B&A

If you’re at all interested in the 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge, just let me know and I’d be happy to send you more information! There are so many possibilities here: I can invite you to a local Healthy Happy Hour, you can host a Healthy Happy Hour and I’ll come do the presentation for you and a group of friends, or I can send you a link to a Healthy Happy Hour presentation for you to watch and even help you get signed up and get your products if you’d like! To participate in the 28 Day Clean Eating Challenge, it doesn’t matter at all if you live near or far, because you will be given all of the tools you need via the Facebook group! The next challenge will begin Monday, October 13th, so the sooner we can get you signed up, the more likely you’ll be to get your products in time! We start a new challenge on the 2nd Monday of each month, so if October doesn’t work for you, just let me know when does. But I just have to say, what better time for the challenge than right before the holidays?

Email me with any and all questions at jackiendavey@gmail.com. I’d love to help!

Family is

If you’ve read this blog at all before, you’ve probably picked up on how important family is to me. I just wanted to take a minute to stop and recognize it.

I feel like I should preface this post with an explanation of my family. I have a huge family. On second thought, huge is probably an understatement. My mom is one of 7 kids, so just think about all of the aunts and uncles and cousins there, and then my dad’s family is filled with great aunts, great uncles, 2nd cousins and more! I think I have 17 first cousins, if that gives you any idea of how big I’m talking. And I wouldn’t trade my huge family for the world!

I realize that family probably has a different meaning for everyone, but I just want to share what family means to me.

Family is a support system. What actually spurred this post, was attending my great uncle’s funeral on Saturday. To some, a great uncle may sound like a very distant relative, but in my family, a great uncle is basically another grandfather-like figure. As the family was gathered to celebrate Uncle Jerry’s life, I couldn’t help but to look around and be so thankful – thankful for these wonderful people I was surrounded with but also thankful for the incredible support system that I have been blessed with. Watching my uncle hug and comfort his cousin, seeing my cousins and aunt stop and hug my Nona (grandma)… you just can’t put a value on that type of support. Somewhere around 50 relatives (maybe more) dropped everything to come together and celebrate a life and to support each other in a not-so-easy time. Having a support system like this is truly special.

Family is fun. Some of my favorite memories thus far are with my family. Whether we were going on a reunion cruise with matching Hawaiian shirts (exactly as horrendous as you’re imagining), or accidentally lighting a nearby field on fire on the 4th of July, or just sitting around catching up and playing games, I have so much fun with my family. I cherish those moments more than they’ll ever know! Well, I guess that may not actually be true anymore… 🙂

Family is love. I have to admit, sometimes I don’t always like my family, but I always always always love them. The first time I heard someone say this, I have to admit, I didn’t get it. Now, years later, I completely understand. The love between a family is like none other. Knowing that you have a group of people that genuinely care about you and your life all of the time is one of the best feelings in the world, and I wouldn’t trade my loving family for anything.

Family is honest. I know that if I need an opinion, whether I ask for it or not, I can always count on my family to be completely honest with me… sometimes maybe a little too honest, but sometimes that’s what you need to hear.

Family is protection. The love between a family is something you don’t choose. You’re brought into your family and immediately you share a bond, that you would do anything for.

Family is loyal. Have you ever heard of the ‘sometimes it’s okay for me to say something about my family member but it’s definitely not okay for someone else to say something about my family member’ situation? It’s very real! But for the most part, family are the only people who know exactly what you’re going through and have probably gone through it with you. They understand and whether they agree with you or not, they’re with you. 100%, all the time. That’s a great feeling!

Family is faith.

Family is trust.

Family is competition.

Family is motivation.

Family is adventure.

Family is inspiration.

Family is crazy.

Family is forever.

Family is so many other things, but in summary…

Family is the best! I’ve said it all throughout this post, but I wouldn’t trade my crazy, wild, loud, embarrassing, competitive, huge family for anything and I am beyond blessed to have each and every one of them. I hope that I never look back and feel like I took this wonderful family of mine for granted, because as I am all too aware, our time together is limited.

100 Happy Days

I realize I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve decided to do the #100happydays challenge through 100happydays.com. The 100 happy days challenge is where you sign up on 100happydays.com and select your start date and preferred platform (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or email) and then each day you post or submit a photo with the hashtag 100 happy days. This may sound silly to some, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we sometimes over look how wonderful this life really is. I’m sure some days capturing something that makes me happy will be a challenge, because let’s be honest, everyone has bad days. This is exactly why I signed up. I am challenging myself to stop and smell the roses a little more often. Through doing this I hope to be a happier, more positive person every single day. Maybe the happiness will even catch on for some other people; they do say it’s contagious after all!

100happydays.com says that 71% of the people who have started the challenge have not finished, claiming that they didn’t have time. The website also claims that the 29% who completed the challenge were more optimistic, in a better mood and realized how lucky they truly are.

Yesterday was my first day of the challenge, so here is my picture.

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Day 1: Excited for my first PSL of the season! Sticking with tradition (S/O to my friend Emmy) I cranked the air and pretended it actually felt like fall! #100happydays

And now, I encourage you to sign up for the challenge! Join me in noticing the little things a little more frequently. Maybe if we’re lucky, it’ll even catch on with others!