The Importance of Being Reese

Birthday Cake Smoothie

Question of the day: What's better than birthday cake?

Answer: A birthday cake smoothie. Or rather, a healthy birthday cake smoothie. Until last week, I didn't think it was possible for birthday cake and healthy to be used in the same sentence. A bit of experimenting taught me otherwise.

Yesterday we celebrated Little J's fourth birthday. Sometime in between looking at her old baby photos, smelling her old onsies and sobbing hysterically, I managed to whip of a batch of this ridiculously delicious Birthday Cake Smoothie. Don't get me wrong, cake was still had this year, but in an effort to remain somewhat healthy, it was a bit on the smaller side.

1 cup vanilla almond milk
2 large banana, sliced and frozen
½ cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Sprinkles (optional)

Add ingredients to blender (sans sprinkles) Blend well. If your smoothie is the not the right consistency, add additional vanilla milk as needed. Top with sprinkles. Serve with a smile.

Simple enough, crazily healthy and oh so delicious.

Like this smoothie? Check out more of my delicious smoothies recipes, Retweet to your friends, or Repin for later!

Until next time,

Baltimore is Burning

Baltimore is burning, and I've been watching from afar as the flames of distrust and hate threaten to swallow the city whole. Over the course of a few days I've watched as my Facebook feed has predictably filled with rants from well-meaning people--the "good people."

Not long ago I quietly watched those same people rail against the protesters in Ferguson. But then the Department Of Justice released those damning reports, highlighting the severity of the systemic racism found throughout the police department, and those same voices were noticeably silent. People went back into their corners to rest up for the next time. Just as they will when the fires burning in Baltimore finally smolder out.

These past few days I've been watching the coverage of Baltimore with a mixture of compassion and disbelief. On one hand, a very real part of me understands why this is happening. What's happening in Baltimore is something that happens in nearly every city, in every county, in every state. It lurks on the street corners of the seemingly perfect neighborhood. It rests on the lips of those who "don't see color," and "have that one black friend."

And although that part of me understands why the streets of Baltimore are filled with the chant "no justice, no peace," the other part of me hates that it is. In many ways, I feel like I'm at war with myself. I'm fighting for what I know to be true, versus what I want to be true, and it's not a good place to be in.

I've put myself in the shoes of Freddie Gray's family many times. I've tried to imagined what it must feel like to have lost a son. To feel powerless and helpless. To cry out, but to have your voices drowned out by people who decided who your son would be from the moment he took his first breath.

I've watched the media coverage from both sides. I've listened to the media pundits toss around inflammatory words like "thugs" and "animals"all while simultaneously avoiding those who are peacefully crying out. They are in pain. Baltimore is in pain.

The truth is, what's happening in Baltimore is not just about Freddie Gray. It is so much deeper, much more visceral than that. What's happening in Baltimore is about the state of things that led to someone believing that Freddie Gray's life was somehow less important. What's happening in Baltimore isn't just about racism--it's about poverty, circumstance and our inability to empathize with that which does not directly effect us.

There is plenty of blame to be passed around.

Freddie Gray grew up in poverty. He was the son of an absentee father. He raised by a mother who suffered from severe substance abuse and could not read. The apartment building he spent his formative years in was so riddled with lead paint, that in a 2008 court settlement, it was deemed that both he and his sisters would never lead "normal functional lives" because of the levels of lead that was present in their blood. He had been arrested 18 times.

Freddie Gray grew up in a society where he was 21 times more likely to be killed by the police than young white man. He was born into a society where a former U.S Secretary of Education can say things like, "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." He was born into a society where the school-to-prison pipeline continues to rob children of an opportunity to do better for themselves.

The truth is Freddie Gray never stood a chance. Freddie Gray is now a statistic that will be used in arguments about the prevalence of racism in our society. But ultimately, Freddie Gray was someone's child. He was someone's brother. He was someone's best friend. He was someone and his life mattered.

Baltimore is burning. And eventually the flames will die down. But it's only a matter of time before another city is ablaze. We'll begin this same dance--this same routine. The question is, what will we have learned?

Image Credit: Chris Weiland

Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival Recap

Last Saturday, the family and I spent the day at the Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival in Raleigh. I'm a bit late posting a recap, but basically much fun was had. Many wines were tasted. There may have even been a wine slushy (or three) involved.

In total, there were 20 wineries at the festival. They all ranged from traditional vineyards, to vineyards that were more appealing to a younger crowd.  Stony Mountain Vineyards was one of my favorite. They had a nice selection and their prices weren't too outrageous.

Rocky River Vineyards won me over early on with their amazing wine slushies. (I'm not too hard to please). If you're googling wine slushies and scratching your head, don't feel bad, apparently wine slushies are a North Carolina thing. We ran into a few people from up north who had never heard of such a thing. By the end of the day, we had pretty much convinced them that wine slushies were literally the best thing since sliced bread. Mission accomplished.

The week of the event, I won 2 VIP tickets, so we were given two souvenir glasses, early admittance into the festival and access into the VIP dining area.  Although, truth be told, it was so crowded that we sough refuge in a shaded picnic section with an inflatable bouncy house for Little J.

There were dozens of booths to shop at and plenty of ridiculously unhealthy dining options. Apparently North Carolina is also know for it's propensity to deep-fry anything. Seriously, Twinkies, Ice-cream, chocolate, the list goes on.

Little J became quite enamored with one of the Great Danes from the local rescue shelter. We spent a good ten minutes chatting with one of the volunteers about the adoption process (calm down mom, we're not planning on adopting a Great Dane).

I found the location for my next "Mommy night out" at the Pinot's Palette table. I was a bit skeptical at first because my ability to paint, or draw for that matter, is pretty much non-existent. But these two wonderful ladies assured me you don't have to be a regular Thomas Kincade to enjoy a night a Pinot's Palette. Basically you bring your friends, your favorite bottle of wine to sip on while local artists give you step-by-step guidance through a featured painting. Plus you get to keep the painting to showcase your amazing artistry skills.

After we sampled/shopped our way through most of the tables, I ran into the lovely Leslie of Sobe Savvy and we spent time chatting it up while our kiddos had some playtime. We spent the rest of the day lounging on the lawn, listening to live music getting lost in conversations with various strangers. That's always my favorite part of any festival. For the most part, people are so friendly and open. I find that 9 times out of ten, when you go to a festival you're going to leave with more friends than when you arrived. At least that's what you should always aim to do.

If you live in the Raleigh area, I highly recommend attending the Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival next year. Good wine. Good food. Good people. What more could you ask for? For all of my local and non-local readers, what are your favorite festivals to attend with family and friends?

Until next time,

Kale Lemonade

Today I'm sharing a juice recipe for another one of my favorite juices. Unlike smoothies, this drink requires that you have a juicer. But for all my smoothie lovers, fear not, I'm adapting a version of this juice so that it's smoothie friendly, so stay tuned.

One of the questions I'm most often asked about juicing is what type of juicer we use.  Mr. A and I own a Breville Juicer, which if I'm being honest, isn't necessarily the best juicer, but it's also not the worst. If we had to do it all over again, we would probably invest in a masticating juicer. While they're typically more expensive, masticating juicers do a better job at processing thick leafy greens and wheatgrass. The juice that masticating juicers produce typically last much longer than juice made in a centrifugal juice, like the one we own.

The second question I'm asked most often is how often I juice. And the truth is, I won't profess to be an all-the-time juicer. In fact, I typically only juice on a regular basis when I'm training for a race or when I feel that my energy is completely depleted. I have long since given up dreams of dropping 20 lbs in a month simply by juicing. Mostly because it's not realistic, sustainable or long-term. The truth about juicing for weight-loss is that once you begin to eat "normal" foods again, you start packing on the lbs again.

But more on that later.

Kale Lemonade is one of my favorite juices for a few reasons. The main ingredient, Kale, drastically reduces your odds of diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer. Additionally, eating kale is beneficial for maintaining healthy skin, hair and strong bones. In short, it is a major super food, and you should eat it--often.

7-8 kale leaves
2 lemonS
1-2 apples (depends on how sweet you want your juice)
1 inch of fresh ginger (peeled)

Thoroughly wash all your ingredients. Peel ginger and lemons and remove core from the apples. Process each in your juicer. Add ice if needed. Serve with a smile.

Again, this is a super easy drink (my favorite kind). The hardest part of juicing is always the cleanup, but it's very much worth it.

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Until next time,