The Importance of Being Reese: April 2015

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.

Love this recipe? Retweet or repin for later!

Until next time,

What President Obama and She Knows Taught Me About The Gender Wage Gap

Last Wednesday, I had the distinct honor of attending the #ObamaTownHall meeting in Charlotte, N.C. with President Obama and SheKnows Media. The meeting, moderated by the incredible Lisa Stone, centered around a topic that I am intensely passionate about--and for good reason. The gender wage gap is an issue that is often difficult to confront or discuss, but on Wednesday, President Obama and SheKnows taught me that it's a conversation we can't afford not to have.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from #ObamaTownHall
  • We need to make noise. There's a saying "Do as I say, not as I do." I say, we need to do both. If we want to encourage people to help bring about a change, we need to be doing the same. Write a blog post. Organize a discussion in your community. Vote. Get out and be proactive.
  • Don't give up. Ever. Things in the workplace may not necessarily be fair, but that doesn't mean we give up. If you know you have been discriminated against, fight for yourself and don't back down. 
  • It affects us all. It's easy to get lost in your own situation, but sitting in a room filled with strong, articulate, intelligent women, who each have remarkable stories of their own makes you realize that your story is not that unique. These incidents are not occurring in a vacuum. Listening to the sitting President tell you that he fears for his daughters futures was a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go. 
  • It starts at home. Children have a tendency to believe what we tell them. We need to encourage our daughters from the onset. Don't tell them to reach for the clouds, tell them to be bold and brave and dance among the stars. 
In the end, it's not just about facts and statistics. We're more than just a faceless, nameless number on a survey.  Check out the video below to meet some of the inspiring ladies (including myself!) who are taking a stand against the gender wage gap.

Want to learn more about the fight to close the gap? Here are some personal stories and resources to help get you started: 
Why It's Important to Make Noise About The Gender Wage Gap// Blog Her
No Working Woman Should Be Afraid to Stand up for her Pay// SheKnows
Pay Equity and Discrimination//Institute for For Women's Policy Research
Women and Leadership//Pew Research
7 Women Shortchanged: Stories of the Gender Wage Gap// American Association of University Women

Have you ever experienced gender wage discrimination at work? Sound off in the comment section below!

The Danger of the "Too Helpful" Neighbor

As a child of the 90's, I grew up swinging from trees, chasing ice-cream trucks down the street, and doing things that makes the mom in me now cringe. The television in our house was rarely turned on, and not even the Nintendo could keep my sister and I occupied for more than an hour. In those days, there was universal understanding that children were suppose to be outdoors playing in the mud, building forts and doing kid things. It was expected. 

There was also a level of expectation within our community that if a parent saw a child playing at the park unsupervised, they would keep an eye out for them. It was no big deal, it was more of an unspoken rule. In 2015, however, the rules of protocol no longer apply. Now parents no longer keep and eye out for each other's children. That sense of community has been replaced with stories like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who temporarily lost custody of their two children after they were found at a park--unsupervised.

If you're unaware of the story, let me break it down for you: last November, the Meitiv's were contacted by their local child welfare services after they received a tip from a “helpful neighbor” that their children were playing at the park unsupervised. The Meitiv's, who are proponents of free-range parenting, are raising their children to explore their independence, this includes sometimes allowing them to play at the park alone. Their children are 10 and six years old.

As a self-proclaimed Mommy-copter, free-range parenting is not exactly my cup of tea. I hover unabashedly over Little J. In my mind, she is a miniature genius, just waiting for me to turn my back so she can jam a fork into an electrical socket, or attempt to test the theory of gravity on the jungle gym. So, I watch her like a hawk. I'm well aware that my behavior will most likely end with Little J requiring years of expensive therapy sessions. Some of my friends and family have told me as much. But that's okay. Because I've discovered an interesting fact about parenting-- we each parent in different ways, and just because someone decides to raise their child differently than I choose to raise mine, does not make them a bad parent-- it makes them human. Three years of parenting has taught me that this is not a shared sentiment.

And that's why I can't help wondering if perhaps the "helpful" neighbor who reported the Meitiv's to the authorities, did so with the best of intentions. Were they truly concerned for the well-being of the children? Or were they gleefully recording the incident on their cell phone and sending it to their friends as evidence of their superior parenting skills. When did we transition from a society that celebrated individuality and choice to one that feels that any beliefs contrary to our own are not worthy of being considered? When did we become so judgmental in our parenting styles?

Last year, a friend of mine posted a story on Facebook about a friend who had gone out to eat and was confronted with a child who was behaving badly.  According to this friend, she and her mother were eating out in a restaurant when said child began crying and acting out. Then he began loudly playing with his toys, being disruptive, and basically being a kid, all while the mom allegedly ignored her child and engaged in conversation with her dinning companion. At which point, this friend claims she took it upon herself to approach the table and loudly inform the mother that she must be ashamed of how her child was behaving. This friend claims that the mother gathered up her belongings and left the restaurant--ducking her head in shame as she fled.

Clearly I have doubts that the events of this story unfolded in this way, but had it, I have to wonder, did the person intervene because they were truly upset that someone interrupted their meal, or did they intervene because they needed to publicly shame a mother for what they perceived to be incompetent parenting?

It it my deepest belief that parenting is like walking a tightrope while carrying a 50 lb rucksack. On one side you have people who are singing your praises because you're raising  your child the "right way.  And on the other side you have people who believe you are clearly the worlds worst parent, because you are "doing it wrong." Both sides are staunchly divided and never shall the twain meet. Meanwhile, you're dangling alone, hundreds of feet in the air, being crushed with your own doubts and insecurities.

At the end of the day, I can't say that what the Meitiv's did was wrong. The law persists that it is, and maybe it's not what I would have done, but as parents, we have to choose what we believe is best for our children. And as a society, we have to be willing let each other. Maybe instead of immediately jumping to call the authorities we can try to understand and watch out for each other. Maybe then we can put the community back into parenting.

Beef and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day.  This was my first year celebrating the occasion. Mostly my desire to participate in the cheese-filled day was born out of the lack of food in the pantry. As a result, I was forced to get a bit creative with dinner tonight-- enter my Beef and Mushroom Grilled Cheese.

This is not your typical grilled cheese. This sandwich is packed with beef, onions, two cheeses, tomatoes and topped with your favorite spicy mustard. It's just hearty enough to fill you up without overwhelming you.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp of butter
1 tsp of minced garlic
2 slices of beef lunch meat (sliced thick)
3 slices of white american cheese
1 small handful of mozzarella cheese
about 1/4 of a red onion
5-10 mushroom slices
Bread of your choosing
Optional: spicy mustard

Pour 1 tsp of olive oil in pan and heat on medium. Add mushroom slices and allow to cook until softened. Add garlic and onions. Allow onions to cook until softened. Remove mushrooms and onions from heat and set aside. In another pan add 1/2 tsp of butter and turn heat on medium.

Layer your bread with two slices of american cheese at the bottom. Sprinkle layer of mozzarella cheese over the american cheese. Add beef, mushrooms, onions and tomato slices. Top with final slice of american cheese. Optional: add a squirt or two of your favorite spicy mustard for an extra kick.

Place sandwich in pan and allow to cook until golden crisp on one side. Carefully flip sandwich and allow to cook until golden crisp on the other side. Plate your sandwich and serve with a smile.

Want to give this recipe a shot? Be sure to pin it for later! Stay tuned for more tasty recipes from my kitchen.

Until then,

Sweet Mint Smoothie

Today I'm sharing the final smoothie of my week-long welcome back series--A Smoothie A Day. Today's smoothie is a relatively new concoction of mine. It features a hint of sweetness with a just the right touch of earthiness. The bold flavors blend together to make one downright taste beverage.

I'm typically not a fan of chocolate smoothies, but this is the exception. It has just a tiny bit of coca power, giving it a bit of sweetness without being overpowering. One of my earliest attempts included avocado. Needless to say, I was not a fan.

Here's what you'll need:

3 tsp of coca powder
2 frozen bananas
2 handfuls of spinach
1 cup of vanilla milk
3-4 mint leaves

You'll notice that the majority of my smoothies include vanilla or almond milk. Once upon a time, I was pretty big on using regular milk in my smoothies. But then I started paying attention to the amount of sugar and calories, and set out to find a healthier alternative. It wasn't long before I stumbled upon my trusty vanilla milk.  On average, vanilla milk has 4 grams and 20 calories less than skim milk. When you compare it to whole milk, those calories and grams of sugar increase exponentially.

As with most smoothies, this recipe is pretty no fuss. Add all of your ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Add ice as needed. Pour into glass. Add garnish or toppings if desired. Serve with a smile.

I hope you all enjoyed my A Smoothie A Day series. I've got so much planned for you guys in the upcoming weeks and months, but most importantly, I'm just happy to be home.

Don't forget, there's still time to win that $50 Earth Fare gift card. Use the rafflecopter widget below to enter into this giveaway. Remember, the giveaway is only open to US residents 18 years or older. Again, thanks for following along! Come back and see me soon.

Until next time,

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Sweet Potato Souffle Smoothie

Happy Saturday friends!

Today I'm sharing another one of my favorite smoothies. If you recall, juicing is also a big part of my life. Last year I discovered that you can juice sweet potatoes. Now it's actually one of my favorite juices. It's hearty, rich and VERY filling. Last week I decided that maybe the same rules applied to making smoothies. If I could juice it, then surly I could blend it. After a few fails on my part, it's safe to say I've finally perfected this particular smoothie. Today, I'm going to be sharing one of my newest smoothies with you-- Sweet Potato Souffle, and it's just as delicious as it sounds.

Here's what you'll need for this smoothie:

1 medium sweet potato
1-2 medium frozen banana
1/4 cup of vanilla milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
A few cubs of ice
Whatever garnishes you'd like (I found that a few slices of bananas on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon completes the look and taste.)

Since this recipe requires a sweet potato, it's best that you begin to boil the sweet potato at least 45 minutes before fixing this smoothie. I tried microwaving it, but in all honestly, it tastes much better if you boil the sweet potato. Once your sweet potato is done cooking, use a food mill or blender to remove the strings. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step! Next toss your sweet potato puree in the freezer and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until it cools down.

Then add your sweet potato, bananas, milk and extract to the blender. Blend well. Add ice if needed. Top with your garnishes, sit back and enjoy.

This smoothie is one of my favorites because it's so smooth. It takes a few seconds for the blender to mix up your ingredients and you don't have to worry about unsightly and annoying pieces of fruits or veggies not blending all the way.

Like it? Feel free to tweet, pin or share on Facebook! If you haven't already, be sure to enter into the giveaway to win that $50 Earth Fare gift card. Someone has got to win it, it might as well be you!

Until next time,

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink Smoothie

Happy Friday. If you've joined me on my journey so far, you know that today is day five of my week-long welcome back series-- A Smoothie A Day. Today's smoothie is hands down my favorite. Not only is it pretty, but it's got a bit of everything, ergo it's name-- Everything But The Kitchen Sink.

I will forewarn you by saying that this is potentially the least healthy smoothie recipe I will share. If you're worried about sugar content or the amount of calories, I would avoid making this smoothie everyday. This is more of a special celebration smoothie.

Everything but the kitchen sink includes strawberries, blueberries, spinach, mango, and bananas. The grocery list is a bit longer than typical smoothies, but again, this one isn't really meant to be an everyday smoothie.

5 large strawberries
2 handfuls of spinach
1 handful of blueberries (be sure to leave a little for garnish)
1 ripe or frozen mango
1 banana
1 cup of vanilla or almond milk

Unlike all of my previous smoothies, Everything but the Kitchen Sink requires a bit more prep time. In order to maintain the colors, you'll want to add the fruits and veggies to the blender separately and rinse in between. As you blend your fruits and vegetables, add roughly 1/4 of vanilla milk to each batch. The thicker your smoothie is, the better. I add bits of banana to each of the fruits as I blend to help thicken the mixture. This will keep the sections from mixing.

Once you've blended all your ingredients, slowly pour them into your cup one at a time. Top with your favorite fruit or seeds. Serve with a smile and enjoy.

There's still a few days left to win that $50 Earth Fare gift card. Enter to win below. This giveaway is only open to U.S. Residents 18 years or older.

Good luck!

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Tangy Mango Oatmeal Thursday

smoothie, oatmeal smoothie, mango smoothie

Happy Thursday! It's day four of my week long series A Smoothie A Day and I've got a special smoothie recipe I know you're all going to love. Tangy Mango Oatmeal Thursday packs it all with fresh fruit, orange juice, and oatmeal. Because this recipe features OJ and oatmeal, it makes the perfect breakfast smoothie, so I tend to drink this one in the morning.

I'm going to keep it short today. Here's what you'll need:

1 frozen ripe mango
1/4 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup of vanilla milk
1/4 cup of orange juice

Add oatmeal to blender first. Blend until oatmeal is a fine powder. Add all remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if needed. Top with your favorite fruits or seeds. Serve with a smile.

Again, if you haven't yet entered to win that $50 Earth Fare Gift Card, make sure you do so before you leave. As a reminder, this contest is only open to U.S. resident who are 18 years or older. Use the rafflecoper widget below to sign up. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for Fruit Filled Friday!

Until then,

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Wild Berry Wednesday Smoothie

It’s day three of my weeklong A Smoothie A Day series and I’m sharing a recipe for Wild Berry Wednesday Smoothie. This smoothie is packed with delicious berries with a few extra secret ingredients that add a hit of boldness.

It’s sad, but once upon a time I was a big consumer of McDonald’s smoothies. Despite all information that pointed to the contrary, I refused to believe that McDonald’s smoothies weren’t healthy. On some rational level I knew, but I would always revert back to the old “It’s the healthiest thing on their menu” excuse, which is not the case. Not to bash McDonald’s, but did you know that a small mixed berry smoothie from McDonalds contains 44 grams of sugar?! The easiest way to avoid the "healthy" fast-food trap, is just to avoid it altogether. Smoothies included.

Want to give this Wild Berry Smoothie a shot? Here's what you need.

½ cup of frozen strawberries
½ cup of frozen raspberries
½ cup of frozen strawberries
½ cup of greek vanilla yogurt
½ cup of orange juice (Note: I typically just squeeze my oranges into a cup, measure and the pour it into the blender).
A dash of cayenne pepper.

Add all ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Add ice as needed. Serve with a smile.

I know, you’re probably wondering about the cayenne pepper. This is actually an old family trick. Cayenne pepper is great for circulation. It gets your blood pumping and your body ready to go, which is why drinking this smoothie in the a.m. is a great way to prepare your body for the day. I’ve been known to randomly sprinkle cayenne pepper on just about everything. Eggs, soups, and even sandwiches. I'm a big fan of flavor, and cayenne pepper is a great flavor booster.

Need to stock up on fruits and veggies for all these delicious smoothies? Enter to win a $50 Earth Fare gift card. If you follow me via Twitter or Instagram, you're already entered to win, just follow the instructions on the widget below. Contest ends Monday, April 6th. Only open to U.S. residents 18 years or older.

Good luck!

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