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2016 Holiday Gift Guide

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December has arrived! Time for my annual gift guide. I love making these! This year, I wanted to choose all conscientious companies/items. I also wanted to be able to get discounts for you guys, so I included those with each item 🙂 It’s a shorter list this year (6 ideas); if you like lots and lots of items, scroll to the end for my full (personal) wish list. What’s on your wish-list?! 

2016 holiday gift guide

Subscription to Atlas Coffee Club

Use code ValerieCoffee to get your first bag FREE! as part of the coffee subscription that takes people around the world of coffee!

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This is the gift of deliciousness AND productivity! Good for anyone you know who likes to get shit done (or who plans to with their New Years Resolutions).

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Plus, subscriptions make the best gifts, since it’s something the recipient can look forward to and enjoy multiple times.

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On average about 50% – 60% of the coffees this company offers are fair-trade certified, direct trade, or go through a coffee cooperative. However, ALL of the coffee comes from farms that use sustainable farming practices (and they pay above-market prices for the coffee to ensure the farms can continue to produce high-quality coffee in this sustainable way).

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Oh yeah, and of course, the most important question: does it taste good? The answer is a resounding YES! I loved using these beans to make regular coffee, as well as homemade cold-brew.

Speaking of subscriptions…

Subscription to Book of the Month Club

book of the month club feminist books

Use code FRIEND50 for 50% off a 3-month membership! This is another fantastic gift, especially for anyone who loves to read or wants to get into reading! Watch this video I made for full details:

Lily Lotus *Limited Edition* Chakra Long Legging Rainbow Wash Lunar

lily lotus chakra tie dye leggings

Mention this gift guide to get 15% off Lily Lotus items at their two Hawaii boutiques!

lily lotus chakra tie dye leggings

Made in the USA (90% Organic Cotton 10% Lycra), this high-waist lifestyle piece is great for all activities! Slip on these cozy, beautiful leggings for a versatile option that looks great with tanks, tunics and t-shirts. Perfect for practice or just to wear (#athleisure). You can get them with or without the chakras up the leg. I just LOVE the beautiful colors, which look painted-on. I have these in a different color scheme, and I get compliments on them constantly.

lily lotus chakra tie dye leggings

im with standing rock t shirt gift

Actress Shailene Woodley has joined forces with Standing Rock to protest the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Construction of this pipeline through the Missouri and Cannon Ball Rivers poses a serious threat to the water supply of the Native American tribes—and all 18 million residents—that live along its course. In Lakota, they say “Mni Wiconi,” which means “Water is Life.” When you buy this unisex shirt (there’s also a sweatshirt available), not only are you showing the world that you demand change to protect our waters, but you’re also helping fund Up to Us. They’re dedicated to organizing, educating and activating communities on how to become leaders who are willing to stand up in the face of adversity and demand dynamic change to create a world that works for all of us.

Click here to learn more about what is happening at Standing Rock and/or to make a donation and see how you can help.

Slow Food Membership

become a slow food member

A Slow Food membership comes in multiple prices, and is a great gift to the world as well as the recipient.

become a slow food member

The membership includes:

  • discounts and special invitations to local, national and international events, including Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto
  • an exclusive print magazine that showcases what is happening in the Slow Food movement locally, nationally and internationally and access to special members-only offers and previews
  • opportunities to get involved in national campaigns and local activities and projects
  • a membership card that proclaims commitment to Slow Food values; devotion to living Slow helps make “good, clean and fair food for all” a reality

HoneyColony Equilibrium Superfood

HoneyColony Equilibrium Honey and Herbal Superfood

Click here to get 20% off Equilibrium Superfood (12 oz; through 12/31/16).

Equilibrium Energy Superfood is ideally designed for athletes or anyone who lives an active lifestyle. I’ve been adding it to my tea, but it would also be good on toast or in recipes. Through naturally stimulating the nervous system, enhancing brain function, supporting muscle relief, and providing anti-inflammation support, each jar will keep you energized.

superfood honeycolony honey

HoneyColony is dedicated to cross-pollinating with companies who uphold high-quality standards that value planet, humanity, honesty, and fair-trade practices (their site includes informational articles, and many other healthy products). Real people hand-select all the brands and products on the site.

Equilibrium Energy Superfood is HoneyColony’s own special blend of organic and wildcrafted [vegetarian] ingredients; at the core is raw honey. From there, 11 other superfoods are added (active prebiotics, phytoplankton, blue algae, medicinal mushrooms, adaptogenic herbs, ORMUS, ginger, turmeric, bee pollen, bee propolis, royal jelly)—each organic or wildcrafted, potent, and boasting it’s own numerous health benefits. Combined, these 12 ingredients bring harmony to the body and mind by and reducing stress, toxins, and negative energy. Equilibrium Superfood is made in small batches to ensure high quality, exact measurements, and consistency in every Biophotonic jar.

2016 holiday gift guide

So, maybe that was plenty of options for you; or maybe you are making homemade gifts; or maybe you do not do gifts around the holidays. But, if you need more recommendations or just love browsing lists like these, I wanted to just add my own, much longer, *personal* wish-list (below). This is just an ongoing list that I compile throughout the year as things catch my eye / fancy:

  • LUSH argan oil/rose shampoo bar with the tin for traveling
  • A small-size hiking backpack (from REI, LL Bean etc. NOT one of those camelback water backpacks)
  • Anything from (or gift card to) Ginger13 (store in downtown Honolulu)
  • Any gold ROLA jewelry (from Fighting Eel)
  • A waterproof go pro
  • Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 Matte Tint (sunscreen)
  • Poppy & Someday Tinctures
  • Neshama Project Necklace (not picky about which one but gold please, no silver)


What I Ate Wednesday #5

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I haven’t done a WIAW in awhile; please comment or send me a message if you like these food posts so I can keep bringing them to you! This is all vegetarian:

WIAW Honolulu cereal

I LOVE this breakfast I came up with: Annie’s chocolate cereal, with almond milk, topped with cacao nibs and a sliced banana. It’s basically [healthy-ish] dessert for breakfast; you’re welcome.

WIAW Honolulu la tour cafe

In between work and errands, I picked up lunch from La Tour Cafe in Aina Haina: avocado toast! It came with a side salad and a very tasty, creamy dressing.

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I stopped home in the afternoon before my evening job and had some coffee and half of a Bouchon Bakery cookie (made by me, from a box mix). It’s kind of like a homemade oreo. I have to say, I wasn’t really a fan (but I still ate the second half later, after dinner, because in any battle against sugar, I am the loser).

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My homemade dinner was healthy and delectable: quinoa mixed with red onion, kale, parmesan cheese and capers, topped with roasted acorn squash and a soft-boiled egg. So good!

What did you eat today?


Book Review: Spending

I found Spending by Mary Gordon at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival a few months ago in Honolulu. I don’t remember why it called out to me, or why I chose it over the thousands of other appealing used-books for sale. However, I believe that books choose us when we are ready for them, and that is exactly how I felt about this [kind of random] novel. I bought it at the festival the first weekend in May, and read it during my travels to the East Coast, two weeks later. I started it on my way to New York City, read it during my subway rides, and finally finished it in the Richmond, Virginia airport, on my way to Rochester (I had spent two days in Richmond visiting a friend, after NYC).

spending by mary gordon

Here is the book’s synopsis:

Monica Szabo, a middle-aged, moderately successful painter, encounters B, a wealthy commodities broker who collects her work. B volunteers to be her muse, offering her everything that male artists have always had to produce great art: time, space, money, and sex. Passionate, provocative, and highly engaging, Spending displays Gordon’s maverick feminism, her extraordinary wit, and her unique perspectives on art, money, men, sex — and the desires of women.

I say that this book found me at the right time, because of the following issues that the book addresses, that are also personally relevant to me at this point in my life:

  1. I struggle with anxiety (often feeling that I do not have enough time, because of work)
  2. I have finally started to confront personal issues I have (both practically and psychologically) surrounding money
  3. I have begun to revisit feminism as it relates my own life, instigated by a feminist podcast I’ve been listening to, called “Stuff Mom Never Told You”
  4. I have recently made a conscious effort to reconnect to my personal creativity and artistic expression

Feminism, issues of power, desire, money, sex, art… this book delivers on its promise to explore all of these issues, all from the relatable vantage point of a regular person. The book is written as though the protagonist is confiding to the reader. The plot isn’t dramatic; yet somehow you want to keep reading. I enjoyed the writing itself, as well as the few but complex characters. The way the author dealt with all these loaded issues was very interesting, and she didn’t necessarily resolve them, although the book did not leave me dissatisfied. It’s difficult to expound upon the book’s listed description, but I will say: if you are interested in gender issues, or if you are simply in a reflective, artistic, melancholy or conflicted mood (or stage in life), this book will probably speak to you. I loved this book, and that’s probably largely due to the fact that I read it at the perfect time in my life. I am interested in hearing what men think of this book, since it flips the traditional artist/muse gender roles.

Via my complex book-rating system (just kidding!) I give this book a big thumbs up.

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Side note: books are better with a beverage. I treated myself to a sugary, caffeinated one from the airport’s Caribou Coffee. I bought the cool ring from a thrift store in Astoria, Queens (New York). Sadly, it broke a few days later, but at least it wasn’t too expensive!


Egg Shop {New York}

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In May, I visited New York City for a yoga teacher training (more on that to come). After the training ended, I had a day to hang out with one of my best friends, who I was crashing with.

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We started the leisurely day walking from her apartment to Egg Shop, in the Lower East Side, stopping at Mud for coffee on the way.

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Mikayla and I both LOVE eggs, so we were destined to love Egg Shop. I mean, what food isn’t improved with an egg? Mik decided to be all healthy by ordering the appropriately named “Spandex.”

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This beautiful bowl consisted of poached egg, miso quinoa, avocado, pickled carrot, farm greens and gluten-free tamari (tastes like soy sauce). IT WAS SO GOOD. I want to stock all the ingredients for this in my fridge and just make it all the time.

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I had the”Pepper Boy:” soft scramble, gruyere, bell pepper, maple cured bacon , caramelized onion aioli, all in a bell pepper. This can also come served as a panini, but Mikayla had ordered healthily, so I went for my healthier option too. This was very delicious, but I kind of wish I’d had the panini in retrospect. Mostly because the aioli was lost in this pepper-vessel version, although it did add to the overall rich creaminess, of the eggs.

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And because my friend and I are actually fatties at heart, we ordered this delectable biscuit with honey butter to share. Yes, it looks like fried chicken, and tasted like heaven. This is what you’re salty-sweet food fantasies are made of.

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Egg Shop

151 ELIZABETH ST. NEW YORK, NY 10012

(646) 666-0810

What I Ate Wednesday #4

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First WIAW in a long time!

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Breakfast: yummy Kashi cereal with extra cinnamon on top. I eat my cereal and drink my coffee with almond milk. To me, cereal is kind of a treat for breakfast.

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Snack: fresh passion fruit, yum! I love that this fruit is both tangy and sweet.

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Lunch: so, disclosure: this day was awhile ago. To be honest, I can’t remember what this was. It looks like a salad with cheese, peas, avocado… salami? I’m not sure, but it looks yummy!

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Snack: chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, since, as you know by now, I need chocolate almost every day.

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Dinner: For some reason, I ate a snack for dinner this night. Does anyone else enjoy apples with cheddar cheese?

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Dessert: white wine + dark chocolate M&Ms = instant dessert perfection.

I’ve definitely noticed a pattern in my diet: too much sugar (don’t forget, fruit is sugar too). Luckily, I’m currently reading a book called “The Juice Lady’s Sugar Knockout” (review to come) so hopefully I can kick the habit, or at least reduce it, soon.

What did you eat today?


What I Ate Wednesday #3

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This is a really old WIAW, from the fall, when I was still working in Kailua. I began this day with two Wasa Crackers. For some reason, I actually like them, even though they are completely tasteless. I put peanut butter on them, and had coffee on the side. I drink coffee pretty much every day.

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I took my lunch break at work, next door at Whole Foods. I always just grab a little bit of everything there. I find that it’s generally hit or miss.

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Unfortunately, I seem to think that both lunch and dinner are followed by dessert. I had a chocolate peanut butter cup.

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It was a long work day, so I also had another coffee (my phone was partially broken at this time, which is why all these pictures are blurry).

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At home later than evening, I had a homemade dinner of pasta (yes, even that was homemade previously, I took it out of the freezer) with olive oil, broccoli, peas, sun-dried tomato and artichoke. Yum!

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Second dessert of the day was a triple chocolate brownie and a small cup of almond milk. Does anyone else have a chocolate problem? Seriously, I think I’m addicted!

ARVO {Honolulu}

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I recently had lunch with my boyfriend Kiyo in the up-and-coming neighborhood Kaka’ako, nestled between Ala Moana and downtown Honolulu.

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The new restaurant Arvo is similarly nestled, in the right-hand corner of Paiko, a botanical boutique. Paiko is where I would shop were I more settled (both physically and financially) and I wanted to fill my living space with gorgeous, small-batch, artisanal (and pricey) plants, books, stationery, beauty products, etc.

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I absolutely loved our lunch, but Kiyo was less impressed and left still-hungry, even though we shared three items from the Australian-inspired menu. I ordered the lavender latte, which yes, tasted just like lavender. It was beautiful and came out first (you order and pay at the counter, then come up for your food and drink items as they are ready).

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If you’ve ever been to Australia, you know they adore their toast. All the toasts at ARVO are under $7, which is reasonable, and that surprised me. I mean, it’s toast, but considering how expensive everything is in Hawaii, I was expecting it to be ridiculously overpriced.

 

This loaded avocado toast was $6.50. I absolutely loved how they used pretty little flower garnishes (especially since we were sitting in a cafe in a plant store, it felt fitting). The flavors were balanced and it was delicious. I could have easily eaten it all myself.

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Next up: ham and cheese croissant. Nothing special about this, but also no complaints. It was rich, buttery, warm and perfectly simple.

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For dessert, we chose the Nutella toast topped with bananas, the ripest strawberries and coconut flakes. It was perfection; I somehow felt like I was eating something very healthy, even though it was a [satisfying] dessert.  

ARVO Honolulu Kakaako

My one complaint is that they were very slow, but as you can see from this picture, it’s a small operation. They are also a very new cafe, so hopefully they will speed up soon as they work out kinks. They forgot to make one item we ordered (the fruit toast) but when I reminded them (after a 20-minute wait) they were very apologetic and made it for us right away. Had the food been pricier, or had I been in a rush, I would have been very annoyed. But it wasn’t, and I wasn’t, so my mood was unscathed.

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ARVO

Open Monday – Friday 7:30 – 3:00 & Weekends 8:30 – 2:00

Located at 675 Auahi Street (inside Paiko)


How Hawaii Gave My Soul a Much-Needed Boost

Welcome to a guest post for #TravelTuesday! Interested in visiting Hawaii? Read on to find out what one spirit-seeking traveler discovered during her trip to the islands. 

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Image via Pixabay

 

Recently, I was going through a rough time. Luckily, I was about to visit a friend in Honolulu for a getaway. I decided to embrace the opportunity with open arms, mind, and heart, and ended up having one of the greatest experiences of my life.

First on my agenda was to go snorkeling in the Pacific. We sailed out to an area called turtle canyon where the crystal blue water was so clear, you could see the turtles gliding by even from the boat. As we explored around the beautiful coral reef, the fish and turtles would drift peacefully by — it was as if they hardly even noticed us. I had never felt so in sync with the natural world around me. As I boarded the boat to return to shore I actually felt lighter, as if the water had cleansed me of all my worries.

I wanted to soak up as much as of the beautiful scenery as I possibly could, so my friend suggested taking a hike through Diamond Head. It was unlike any hiking trail I’d ever been on! The trail would convert from rocky terrain to tunnel to stairs, winding all around the crater to the summit. At first I felt frustrated as everyone quickly passed us to get to the top. But then I had a funny realization: Why race strangers? There was beauty all around me! I’d been so engrossed in feeling like I needed to catch up that I was missing much of the experience with every hurried step I took. I decided to slow down and think of it as more of an upward stroll; I’d get to the top eventually, but in the meantime there was plenty to see.

By the time I reached the top, I was both revitalized and slightly exhausted — that last set of stairs is steep! — but it was beyond worth it. The view from the summit was absolutely breathtaking! The colors were so bright and vivid, it almost didn’t look real. I realized that had I kept my original hurried pace, I would have been too winded to really appreciate the astounding beauty before me. It occurred to me that maybe this was a lesson I needed to take home with me: appreciating the journey makes the destination that much sweeter.

After our hike, we stopped by the Kapi‘olani Community College Farmer’s Market where I had the sweetest papaya, the richest coffee, and the freshest seared ahi I had ever tasted. The atmosphere was so laid back and friendly, it felt like being at a reunion where everyone was old friends. We left with bouquets of bright pink plumeria, and though my feet were tired, my spirit was happy.

Perhaps my favorite part of my trip was a total shock to me. Since Oahu doesn’t contain any of the five active volcanoes in Hawaii, my friend surprised me with a pair of plane tickets to the Big Island to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I’ve always had a fascination with these amazing natural wonders, so I was beside myself with excitement!

At first, the experience was more intense than I expected — I’ve done so much reading on their extreme power that it was hard to not feel nervous that they might erupt. Soon, though, I found an odd kind of beauty in them. Though the ground sometimes rumbled beneath my feet, it was as if the volcanoes simply wanted to let their presence be known. They didn’t need to erupt to prove their power, we were well-aware! It was a comforting idea, knowing one’s power so quietly and assuredly.

My trip to Hawaii was truly life-changing and one I’ll never forget. I realized that there’s so much more to life than winning or proving one’s worth, and if you get too caught up in those minor details you’ll miss so much beauty. For that, I will always be grateful to the Aloha State.

Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression. She created her website, SpiritFinder.org, as a platform for advocacy on opening up about mental health. Through the site, she hopes to share the types of steps and success stories that can help others realize their own power. When she isn’t working on her website, she enjoys traveling, working with animals, and seeking out new friendships and adventures.


What I Ate Wednesday #2

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I ate way too much fruit on this day last week, which is weird for me, because I’m not a huge fruit enthusiast. Here’s the reason that ended up happening, though: I had a yoga photo shoot with Lily Lotus on Saturday (eep!) so last week, I tried to eat cleaner, so I would look my best over the weekend. My main goal was to cut out added sugar, but I think that I ended up eating more sugar overall, with all the fruit. It’s making me a little nauseated just thinking about all the fruit… read on, and let me know what you think of this odd day of eats.

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Breakfast was a homemade acai bowl made with coconut water and wheatgrass powder, topped with homemade cherry-walnut-coconut-quinoa granola. Iced coffee with almond milk. After this I took my friend’s yoga class, a led half-primary (Ashtanga).

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I came home, showered, and headed out to teach my first yoga class of the day. On my way I ate a delicious starfruit from my dad’s colleague’s yard (#HawaiiPerks).

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After that class, I snacked on two cute clementines.

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Then I got to work, and for lunch I had a Fage Greek Yogurt…

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And a small pack of Maui Onion macadamia nuts.

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I don’t know what compelled me to have a sweet tooth, but I had a nibble of this stevia Gingerbread chocolate, leftover from the holidays. Yuck. I only had a little, since it wasn’t that appealing. 

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After teaching another yoga class, and staying to take a restorative/yin class afterwards, I got home and made my weird dinner plate: Babybel Lite Cheese, hummus, local cucumber. This was actually really delicious (and savory! at last).

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Apparently tons of fruit and the earlier chocolate weren’t enough to satisfy my incessant sweet tooth, which I should really just go ahead and rename my Chocolate Tooth. So, I had a couple chocolate chips to end the evening.

What did you eat today? Do you ever try to eat clean but end up eating really weirdly all day?


What I Ate Wednesday #1

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Since we’re sort of starting over on ValerieBrett.com after eyechow, I decided to start numbering my WIAW posts, rather than labeling where I was that day (let’s be honest: I’m probably at home in Honolulu).

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A couple weeks ago now, in January, I tried out this CocoMama quinoa cereal that was one of my Christmas stocking stuffers!

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It didn’t look pretty since I ate it straight from the pan, but it was quick and easy to make. I mixed in Sun Potion’s Prash (a mixture of ghee, honey and healing herbs) and local bee pollen. I probably wouldn’t have chosen the fruity flavor for myself, but it wasn’t bad. WIAWMy first snack was an apple banana with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter (omg!) – a combination I highly recommend. 
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I found a huge, glass cup with a lid for $6 at Williams Sonoma recently and I love filling it with coffee or chai and almond milk, on the go. This is what my car looks like most days as I run between jobs and teaching yoga: books everywhere, big coffee, cute lunchbox.

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I’m a big snacker. My next one was this adorable little local tangerine. Yum!

FullSizeRender_4I ate a small lunch at work: local cherry tomatoes, pretzel sticks and peanut butter.

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As a midday pick-me-up, I had a Peppermint Bark tea, leftover from a box my friend sent me over the holidays 🙂 FullSizeRender_2

It didn’t quite satisfy the sugar chocolate craving I had, though, so I had to have some dark chocolate. FullSizeRender_3

Next I worked my second job, then headed to teach my late Wednesday yoga class. On the way, I snacked on an apple sauce and Maui onion macadamia nuts.
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I taught my power yoga class, and we had live music! If that’s something you’re interested in, follow me on Instagram, which is where I announce my special events. 

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After class, my boyfriend made a simple sauce for butternut squash ravioli: olive oil, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

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For dessert, I dug into another one of my Christmas gifts: organic candy drops.FullSizeRender_2

These are perfect because they come in awesome tropical flavors, and are really small and sweet, meaning you can satisfy your sweet tooth with just one.

 

What did you eat today?