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Category Archives: Healthy Habits

I’m Not Done Blogging, I’m Just Somewhere Else Now

 Six years ago today, I was at the start of the toughest 6-month battle I’ve fought.

We’d just flown home to Southern California from New York City after a 9-hour surgery that left my face paralyzed. We did not expect this complication…it wasn’t one of the risks my doctors warned me of. The nerve branches had been weakened so much. My doctors couldn’t tell me with absolute confidence that full movement and function would ever return.

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It was devastating to look in the mirror and see no sign of a facial expression. I stayed in my house for majority of my healing process. I don’t think I will ever share the photos of what I looked like during this time with anyone but my parents. It took a daily conscious effort to keep a positive outlook and stay hopeful that the nerves would “come back to life.”

My usual stress-reliever and confidence-booster – running and going to the gym – was out of the question for 3 months. How would I stay sane?

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Well, I made a distraction for myself! Within days of arriving home, I came up with a project. I found some things that made me happy that I could do alone – writing, (not-so-impressive) photography, cooking, baking, learning about nutrition and the body – and I created a blog.

Strong Like My Coffee.

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You have to understand that in 2012, blogging wasn’t nearly as trendy or mainstream as it is now. I was afraid I’d sound nerdy when I told people that I launched a website and designed the banner and built the navigation menus.

And now looking back on the very first posts and recipes I wrote, I sometimes cringe. I was definitely a beginner! Figuring it out as I went along, it was far from perfect. But at the time, I was so proud of myself. I didn’t have these Instagram models and “Social Media Influencers” to compare myself to. Looking at the flawless online profiles of other bloggers will make the rest of us feel pretty insignificant in comparison, so I’m thankful I didn’t have that type of influence when I was starting out. I was just imperfect me 🙂

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I kept blogging for Strong Like My Coffee for the next 4 years. My recipes and workouts started getting some attention on Pinterest, and my “College Girl’s Grocery Guide” was reposted over 500,000 times! This led to collaborations with Chobani, Quest Nutrition, Emerald Nuts, Blue Apron and other healthy brands. It certainly was the happy distraction I needed during the hardest summer of my life.

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At the time my blog started, I did not know if I would ever have a true smile again. At 19 years old, THAT WAS SCARY.

The paralysis lasted about 6 months. I would look in the mirror each day, trying to force a smile and analyzing my face for any sign of movement. Then, one day, there was a faint twitch next to my lip. The nerves were strengthening. 🙂

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I still have a much weaker smile on my left side, I probably always will. But I got through that summer and that is the “strongest” thing I’ve ever done. I have no doubt that my blog had a huge help in getting me through that time.

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The “Strong Like My Coffee” chapter of my life has closed – it was all about being a Healthy College Girl, and I don’t want to turn it into anything else now that I’m graduated.

Which brings us here. Part 2 of the blogging saga. The sequel.

Sweet Like My Tea. (sweetlikemytea.com)

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Bringing Home My Goldendoodle Puppy, Riggins!

Warning: you might have a sudden urge to go buy a puppy after this post. I don’t blame you. Riggins is too photogenic to limit the amount of pictures I added, so the puppy porn is strong with this post. Serious willpower will be required not to immediately go find yourself an equally adorable fluff ball ;)

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Goldendoodles – a hybrid breed between a golden retriever and a poodle – have been my favorite dog for YEARS. They are giant curly teddy bears. My favorite blogger, Simply Taralynn, has 2 of them and I am embarrassed to admit that I will literally break into a smile when she posts pictures of them. I’ve wanted my own doodle for years, but I’d never lived in my own place and wasn’t able to have one where I lived before.

Goldendoodles are also hypoallergenic because they have “hair” not “fur” and they don’t shed. We discovered my massive dog allergies when we rescued a golden retriever when I was 9. We found him at a shelter and I quickly named him Toby. He slept in my room, and aside from general allergy symptoms, I would have MASSIVE coughing fits where I could not breathe. My lungs would feel like I was having an asthma attack. I was up all night every night coughing until we made the difficult decision to take him back to the shelter because allergy pills alone couldn’t cure my reaction. It was heartbreaking.

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15 years later, I FINALLY was ready to adopt my own dog again! Goldendoodles are a trendy breed right now, so breeders take deposits for waiting lists months in advanced. I actually put my deposit in on a litter last October, before the mama dog was even expecting. She gave birth to 9 multi-colored puppies on April 6th and I got to go play with all 9 to find which one I “matched” the best with…. 9 baby puppies all to myself for an evening just to play? That. Is. My. Heaven. !!!

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You may roll your eyes at this one but choosing my puppy was so dang hard! Obviously at 6 weeks old they are ALL going to be lovable and adorable. How do you choose just one?!?! It took a solid hour of “eliminating” one at a time. I would make 2 of them race, and see which one came to me faster. I would cradle them like babies and see which one let me cuddle them longer. It was really the most ridiculous process but I picked out this cutest little boy with tan ears and tan spots on his back and a little discolored nose. He raced to me the fastest, he cuddled up to me as much as he could, and he just looked so happy and playful. FullSizeRender(124)

I had to leave him with his mama and brothers and sisters for another 2 weeks until his brain was fully developed at 8 weeks old. In the meantime, I went crazy overboard on the pet supply shopping and got him all the necessities plus a few extras like, you know, a bathrobe, a hoodie, and a booster seat for the car. Yes, I am that lady. IMG_4922

The breeder brought him to Boise on June 3rd and I took him to my home. He was so carsick, I couldn’t bare to put him in the carrier I brought so I let him sit in my passenger seat on a puppy pad. He did great! He just sat there and looked at me for the 2.5 mile ride home, and started to perk up when we explored my grassy yard.

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Little fuzzball!

He was already used to going potty outside, so in the four days I’ve had him we haven’t had to do any potty training. I just had to show him where the back door was and constantly supervise him to make sure I knew when he was ready to go out. He also hasn’t gotten into anything he shouldn’t, hasn’t tried to get on any furniture, or chewed on anything that wasn’t a toy…..I’m knocking on wood here but so far he’s been a very easy puppy! He’s playful but gentle…even with his own chew toys, he’s so polite and gentle!

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Naming his was another process. I’ve had a note in my phone with dog names for probably 3 years. I’d add to it whenever I thought of something cute, and at its longest point it probably had 20 or so names (boy and girl). My #1 name was Ollie, but one of my friends actually adopted a goldendoodle a few months before me and ended up naming hers Ollie! Another coworker also adopted a goldendoodle and named it Olive, so that name was out. I came up with the name Riggins while re-watching one of my favorite TV series, Friday Night Lights. It’s the name of the running back for the Dillon Panthers football team. #33, Tim Riggins. I knew it was the perfect name. Boyish, unique and fun!

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The biggest struggle was acclimating to a crate. He had never been “confined” before, and it was also his first day away from his dog family. My heart broke on his first night when I put him in his crate. He was so scared! He whined and cried and barked and squealed. I struggled so hard not to let him out. I texted and called my mom to talk me down because I was just as sad as he was. Goldendoodles are notorious for having separation anxiety; they like to be with their families (human and animal). We made it through the night, and he eventually wore himself out from crying and fell asleep for a couple hours until he had to go outside. Repeat the crying and the sleeping a couple times. It was a rough night.

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The next night, I learned to WEAR HIM OUT with 2 hours of playing, walking and running before bed. He was so darn sleepy by the time I put him in his crate, he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. He didn’t bark once, he just instantly fell asleep. He barked for about 7 minutes when I put him back in after a potty break at 4am, but then calmed down and fell asleep til about 6.

Night 3 went even better. He slept from 10:15 to 3am, then smoothly went back into his crate and slept til 5am. He has not had any accidents in his crate, and he’s starting to get more and more comfortable with confinement. Progress!

I LOVE my mornings with him. He wakes up after 8-9 hours of being in his crate, but he’s still in a sleepy, groggy mood. He just wants to be cuddled. He loves having his head touching my or leaning on me somehow. So I make my cup of coffee, grab my phone to scroll through instagram, and soak in his snuggles on my lap or my arm or my chest while he’s this little.

Yesterday we went to the vet just to make sure he’s alllllll healthy (he sure is!) and he weighs 11.8 pounds. Little chunker! He’ll grow to be about 50-60 lbs. so I’m making the most of these tiny moments where I can hold him in my arms.

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He gets the hiccups about 4-5 times a day.

He is afraid of the dark. He won’t follow me down the dark hallway unless I turn the light on.

He grabs the leash in his mouth to walk himself when we go for laps around the neighborhood.

He’s friendly with cats (and squirrels!)

He likes his head to lean against things, whether its in the car, the bathtub, the crate.  It must be heavy for him!

And that’s been life with Riggins for the past 4 days. Can’t wait until he’s old enough to train to run with me! For now, we’re building his endurance with long games of fetch-the-hedgehog ;)

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Holiday Hostess

My cheeks and jaw are sore from laughing so hard last night. The can’t-breathe, eyes-are-watering kind of laughing. Those are good moments. :)

My parents are very good at hosting friends for meals and tend to go way overboard with the amount of food they prepare. Last night, they set up a build-your-own-pizza bar for some of their friends and mine while we played games like Taboo for about 6 hours.

I made a ‘fruits & veggies’ pizza – pineapple, tomato, artichokes, bell peppers, onions and spinach. It’s funny how differently everyone designs their pizzas! My best friend Kerri and I used to have a lot of homemade pizza nights in college and we had very strong opposing opinions on cheese placement. She argues that the cheese goes between the sauce and veggies like glue. I believe cheese goes on the very top like a seal. We agree to disagree.

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Seeing how my parents host parties and events with their friends makes me excited to do the same in my own place. Two years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving at my apartment in Flagstaff, AZ while I was a senior in college and I loved planning the drinks and decorations and place settings. Last year, I was in charge of appetizers and dessert.

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Obviously food is at the core of holiday celebrations. When you live that healthy lifestyle, a full day of feasting can be a little stressful. I don’t like to let my healthy values fall to the wayside on major holidays because overindulging typically results in feeling guilty and that is not a feeling to associate with a day of thankfulness.

Side dishes that are individually portioned are one way to avoid over-eating. One pre-sliced crostini with a tablespoon of toppings is a two-bite snack that won’t ruin your appetite for dinner.

Our Thanksgiving dishes aren’t extremely traditional. Basic recipes are typically heavy on the butter/salt/cheese ingredients and low in nutritional value. Plus, after decades of the same boring turkey and mashed potatoes, we are ready for something unique, spicy and creative! We’ve made curried sweet potatoes (try something besides marshmallows, I dare you) and bacon-roasted brussel sprouts. I do think these butternut squash and sage crostini’s were my favorite appetizer, probably in large part to how pretty they plate!

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Butternut Squash & Basil Crostini App: 

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage, rinsed
  • 4 Laughing Cow cheese wedges (I used the asiago flavor)
  • 1 baguette, cut into 12 slices

1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir butternut squash cubes into the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on a cookie sheet.

2.) Bake the squash for 45 minutes.

3.) Place the baguette slices in the oven for 4-5 minutes until warm. Top with a tablespoon of cheese, squash and some fresh sage.

Enjoy!

Another appetizer success last year was my spicy cranberry jalapeno relish and “stuffing sliders.” I’ll share this clean-eating recipe later this week.

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A week from today, my office is having a Friends-giving potluck lunch with the office and I signed up for a sweet potato dish. Sweet potatoes are one of my top 5 favorite foods ever and I’ll make a post about my favorite sweet potato recipes as well. If you’ve only ever eaten sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar, these will change your life. ;)

Feel free to share any of your favorite healthy or not-so-healthy holiday recipes!

XO Kenz.

 

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