Posted on

A Comprehensive Guide to Building a Wedding Registry that will Actually be Useful

Building a wedding registry can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make, from store registry or multi-store registry? to how does one know what makes a good pan when all you’ve ever cooked in was hand-me-downs? Add to the many decisions an influx of well-intentioned advice and judgment from everyone you know, and there’s the typical experience.

There are a number of resources online meant to help soon-to-be newlyweds, but they are often more helpful in theory than in actual execution. Most of those resources involve lists of “must-have” items for your registry, which may or may not be relevant to the lives you and your future spouse intend to lead. I know I for one have been without a salad spinner for the entirety of my life, and I still manage to feel pretty fulfilled.

Likewise, many of those lists assume a very traditional sequence of events, like the cabinet and storage space of a home rather than a smaller space; that any couple building a wedding registry needs entirely new stuff rather than the possibility that some already have a number of high-quality homegoods that don’t need replaced; and that anyone getting married intends to live a life where a fully-stocked kitchen and linen cabinet are the two main priorities.

So instead of a list of items you need, this guide will instead give you some great questions and tips to consider as a starting point to building a wedding registry that perfectly fits the life you plan to live.

Five Tips for Building Your Perfect Registry

1. Getting married will not magically make you a wizard in the kitchen or change your eating habits.

Chances are, if you ask around for advice on what to put on your wedding registry or look up lists of must-have registry items, you will get a lot of specialized but “very necessary” kitchen items. Here’s the thing: if you currently eat take-out for almost every meal, getting married is probably not going to change that. And that’s ok. If you love to cook, that’s awesome, and it would make perfect sense for your registry to reflect that! But if you hate to cook and you’d rather spend your free-time doing other things, don’t feel pressured to become the next Betty Crocker or to have a kitchen that looks like it came from a copy of Home and Garden magazine. Instead, fill your registry with things that are actually useful and exciting to you.

However you feel about cooking, here are some useful things to consider when adding kitchen items to your registry:

What do you already have? Take stock of the things you have in your kitchen. What things do you use every day? How quality are the items you have? If there are things you use every day that are lower quality or are wearing out, then this is the perfect opportunity to replace them with a brand that will last you forever and be a joy to use! If you already have things that you love and you feel are great quality, then skip those things for your registry. Just because tradition demands that every newly married couple needs a brand new set of dishes doesn’t mean you actually have to replace the lovely and still-in-great-shape set you already have.

What do you wish you had? This is the perfect opportunity to get that not-totally-necessary thing that you think you’d use a lot! Do you or your spouse-to-be love ice cream and making your own food from scratch? Register for an ice cream maker! Do you wish you had a stand mixer every time your arm falls asleep using the hand mixer? Put it on your registry. Forget what convention tells you should go on your registry and instead think about what you actually like to do and what things you think you will actually use on a regular basis.

Ask people you know for advice, but don’t take their word as gospel. You probably have a lot of friends or family members who have built a wedding registry before, and they can be a great resource for figuring out what to include in yours. However, they are not you and they likely don’t know exactly what is going to add value to your life and home. Ask people what things they wish they had registered for or what things they consider must-have items; then take it with a grain of salt. For instance, if you register for a drip-coffee maker because “everyone needs a coffee maker in their kitchen” you just might find yourself getting rid of it a year later because you only used it twice (hypothetically speaking, of course!).

2. Items from your wedding registry do, in fact, take up space.

Consider what your living situation will be when you first get married, and take that into account as you build your wedding registry. A lifetime-worth of sheets seems great until you realize your studio apartment doesn’t have the space to accommodate them. Likewise, full table-service for 16 seems like a dream-come-true for anyone who loves entertaining, but if you don’t currently live in a place that would seat 16 at your dinner table, then you probably don’t have the space to store all those dishes.

Think about where you’ll be living when you’re first married, and think about what your future plans might be. If you know you’re moving into a house relatively soon after your marriage (or you already live in a house), then storing the extra stuff in a smaller space until you move may be worth it! But if you are pretty sure renting is the only thing in your foreseeable future (or you plan to build a tiny home? eh?), then don’t put so much stuff on your registry that trying to store and/or move it all will make you miserable.

If you have things on your list that you don’t really need or want right now, you will have to find the space to store it. If you have only things on your list that you know will be beneficial to you and your lifestyle, then storing it probably won’t be too much of an inconvenience for you. Just be realistic about what will fit in your home and your lifestyle, and what will be worth the space it takes up to you.

3. Your registry should reflect what you and your future spouse actually like.

Again, this is in a very similar vein of “think about what you actually like and register for that”, but it’s advice worth repeating! If you’re home-bodies or you love to host and entertain people, then your registry will likely have a lot of home items (and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, my friends!). But if you love to be adventurous or travel more so than cooking, then skip the expensive pans or high-end trash cans and instead register for things that matter to you. Here are some unique ideas for all kinds of couples that I’ve seen on registries and thought, Yes! That is SO them!

  • Board games and puzzles
  • Camping equipment (or gear for any hobby the two of you enjoy doing together)
  • All the necessary tools for making fancy cocktails at home
  • Artwork or other home decor items
  • DVDs or records
  • Activities you’d like to do during your honeymoon (like snorkeling, or tickets to a certain museum)
  • Donation to your new house fund or new car fund instead of a physical gift
  • Donation to your favorite charity

4. Consider the guests who will be at your wedding.

It can be really frustrating and embarrassing as a wedding guest when you look at someone’s registry only to find there isn’t a single item that you can actually afford to get them. Keep this in mind as you build your registry.

Obviously, you will not know the exact budget of all of your wedding guests, you can’t control how quickly the less expensive items on your list are bought up, and more than likely, you care way more about someone’s presence on your special day than the presents you receive. But, most guests want to bring at least a small gift when they go to a wedding. Don’t base your entire registry off of what other people will think about you or be able to get you, but do be mindful of the guests who will be attending your wedding and what their ability to get you a gift from the registry might be.

One thing you definitely don’t want is to have loved ones skip your big day just because they feel embarrassed or frustrated that they can’t afford any of your desired gifts! There are some things you can do to both build a registry full of the things you actually want and make sure your guests will feel totally comfortable while celebrating your big day.

  • Register for individual items instead of sets. For things like kitchen utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and linens, stores will often sell a large set that is a discount from each individual item, but altogether rather pricey. Consider registering for the individual items instead. While the “discount” from the set is tempting, most people don’t budget several hundred dollars for a wedding gift. You’re more likely to get those items as less expensive, individual pieces from several different guests than you are to get one large and expensive set from a handful of guests who know each other well enough to go in on a gift together. It also gives guests a lot more options to choose from when deciding what to get you as a gift, which is more fun for your guests and helps them feel good about what they’re gifting you!
  • Register at multiple places. This is a good one not only for budget, but also taking into account the age and demographics of your guests. If you only register on Amazon, that will give a lot of great and cost-effective options to most people on your guest list, but could leave your older or less tech-savvy guests feeling frustrated. Your younger guests will most likely purchase your gift online, but many older guests (or those without internet access at home) want to go into a physical store, print out a physical copy of your registry, and hand-pick the gift themselves. Also keep in mind that when you register at many brick-and-mortar stores, you will get a discount to use on any items that weren’t purchased off your registry, which is a nice perk that you may not get from entirely online registry services. Mix it up and you will have your bases well-covered.
  • Consider how much something is worth to you while registering. I am all for buying quality things that will last instead of low-quality things that will need to be replaced over and over, but it is worth considering whether the cost of something on your registry reflects the worth of that item to you. Did you put a $90 laundry hamper on your registry because that is the one-and-only laundry hamper for your home and it is really important to you to have a high quality hamper, or because you figured you might as well have a $90 laundry hamper if someone else is willing to pay for it? Try to strike the right balance of having a registry full of quality items that will add value to your life and home while still being realistic and considerate of your guests.

5. Research items you want to add to your registry

If there’s one piece of advice I wish I’d known before creating my wedding registry, this is it! I grew up as the youngest of three girls, so it was hand-me-down central for almost everything I owned. Before getting married, I always lived with roommates and was pretty frugal, so I typically just made do with things I already had from family members or thrift stores. So when it came time to put things like sheets or knives on my registry, I had no clue what to look for!

If I’d done more research, I would have registered for a few really high-quality individual knives in the sizes I like and a good electric knife sharpener instead of a knife block in a well-known brand that I personally knew very little about. When registering for sheets, I would have looked at the material instead of the thread-count. For me, I just had to chock it up as a learning experience (and quickly replace all my sheets, sadly); but you can learn from my mistake! Do your research and avoid having to replace things soon after your wedding day is over.

But mostly, have fun!

Ultimately, building a wedding registry should be more fun than stressful! Pick out things that will add value to your life. Have fun with your future spouse while you brainstorm the things you’d like and pick out colors and patterns. Research any items where you don’t already know exactly what you like to make sure you’re getting something that will last and that you’ll enjoy using.

What are your must-have items for a wedding registry?

Posted on

Paleo Chocolate Chips – Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, and Delicious!

If you have food allergies or follow any sort of paleo, vegan or health-conscious diet, you understand just how sad grocery shopping can be. You just want that one specific item. Surely it can’t be that hard to make it without sugar and corn syrup and preservatives and emulsifiers? But alas, 10 minutes later, you’ve read every label on every brand in the aisle (ok scanned – let’s be honest, you couldn’t actually pronounce 75% of those words), only to learn that you can’t eat any of them.

You debate whether you should forgo it or just buy the brand that seems the cleanest. Either way, you walk away feeling frustrated. Most recently for me, that one has been chocolate chips. I just want to be able to make chocolate chip cookies and actually be able to eat them, dang it!

Of course, there are a couple brands that are pretty decent and allergen-friendly, but they all still contain some sort of sugar or an emulsifier that can be hard on digestion. I was really convinced they’d be fine, but many bad stomach aches later, I just accepted my chocolate chip-less fate.

But then I had an idea. I had been making my own chocolate sauce that was sweetened with maple syrup, and I’d even used it to make almond butter cups. So why couldn’t I use it to make my own chocolate chips?

I put it off for a while because I thought chocolate chips would be a lot of work. I even bought the stomach-ache inducing ones again because guys, never learn! I’m serious, sometimes I just don’t even know what’s wrong with me – it’s like there’s some evil gremlin in my brain who puts me to sleep and eats things that make me feel terrible, and then wakes me back up to endure the consequences. But that’s neither here nor there… The point is, I needed a solution and fast. I simply cannot be trusted in a world where the only chocolate chips are ones that I can’t eat.

So I gathered a few simple tools and set out on my new experiment. And boy did I prove myself wrong, because making chocolate chips is not hard at all! And not nearly as time-consuming as I thought it would be. I was very pleased! Commence the delicious, clean chocolate chip cookie-baking, my friends!

Special tools you’ll need

  • 2-3 silicone molds with small shapes – I found some small heart-shaped molds on Amazon and I love them!
  • A candy syringe or meat baster – I got this meat baster from Target because it was the only thing I could find, and it works like a charm; just keep in mind that whatever you get needs to be able to inject chocolate. You can use a spoon for this – I did the first time – but it is not easy and takes much longer because the mold shapes are so small.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Add the coconut oil to a small saucepan on medium heat and melt all the way down to liquid.
  2. Add the cacao powder and maple syrup and stir constantly until cacao is completely absorbed. You should have a smooth, liquid chocolate.
  3. Taste – if you like your chocolate darker, add more cacao powder just 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting after you’ve stirred. If you prefer it sweeter, add more maple syrup just a few drops at a time until it reaches your desired level of sweetness.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it on a hot pad near your silicone molds.
  5. Using your meat baster (or candy syringe, or whatever tool you’ve chosen), fill each shape in your silicone molds until they are full.
  6. Wipe any excess chocolate drips off the top of your mold and lay flat in the freezer. It will depend on the size of your molds, but it should take 2-5 hours to freeze completely (the smaller the mold, the faster they’ll freeze). When you can press on one of the chocolate-filled shapes without leaving an indent, your chocolate chips are ready! Store in a container in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

Notes

This recipe fills two of my molds (with just enough left to enjoy in a cup of coffee), which makes about 110 chocolate hearts. It is the perfect amount for about two dozen muffins – slightly more than the perfect amount for two dozen cookies.

Because there are no emulsifiers or additives in these chocolate pieces, they will get a bit runnier than store-bought chocolate chips. I recommend using a baking sheet with ledges if baking them into cookies, and you shouldn’t have any issues with dripping in the oven! They will solidify back up as your cookies cool. Unless you store your baked goods in the fridge, they will be a bit melty in baked goods.

This recipe also works great as a chocolate sauce to stir into hot drinks, drizzle over ice cream (will act like a magic shell sauce), or drizzle over other baked goods!

Posted on

Irresponsible: Reflections on Bravery

sunshine, mountain, beach, motivation, passion, purpose, follow your dream, bravery

How I learned not to be creative

When I was a young child, I often got in trouble for being a bit too imaginative and creative. My sister, whom I shared a room with, couldn’t sleep at night because I would make up stories and dialogues between my stuffed animals out loud until I fell asleep. I would waste large amounts of household goods (read: unused feminine products, but that’s a story for another time!) building homes for my Barbies. I would exaggerate far too much when I told stories. Frequent tears led to the encouragement to be less sensitive. I would lock myself away in my room to paint or read or color in my fort underneath my bed (locked bedroom doors were not allowed, and I always got caught); but my bed fort was where I pretended the port to my favorite magical land existed and I could not be bothered when doing such important tasks, so what was a girl to do?!

I loved my imagination – it was my best friend and my favorite toy in some of my earliest childhood memories. But as I got older and started to move through school, I began to experience the pleasure of being praised. I was praised by teachers for how intelligent I was, for how well behaved I was, for my maturity and leadership and responsibility. And I began to internalize all these things until it became a lesson that being intelligent and responsible will get you further in life than being creative.

rain, finding your way, lack of passionSlowly but surely, I began to stuff away the creative aspects that had been so naturally apart of who I was. I focused on getting good grades and making wise decisions and always, always acting older than my age. An obsession began with perfection and achievement, and I lived for the ever-illusive compliment.

I had an insatiable need for everyone I met to see me as practical and low-maintenance and self-sufficient and highly responsible. I forced down tears when things were sad and all I wanted to do was cry, I chose logic over passion, and my little tender heart became better and better trained to be cooler and tougher and wiser.

My college career began by studying journalism with a dream to be a foreign correspondent. I dreamed of telling the world stories that mattered. But somewhere along the way, I began to change my mind – I thought it was irresponsible to choose such a frivolous and unrealistic career path. I switched to studying graphic and web design and multimedia.

Soon after, I began working at a web design and marketing start-up firm where my internal struggle between creative freedom and the constraints of practicality raged on. I was terrified to take creative risks for fear of failure or being seen as untalented or unintelligent. Instead, I tried to force myself to be better at the more scientific side of web design instead, focusing on learning how to code and think in percentages and ratios and if, then statements. I felt like that was a more legitimate and practical skill. It carried fewer risks and was less vulnerable.

So as I was preparing to graduate, I met with a man who owned and ran his own web design and marketing firm in Indianapolis. I don’t remember his name or the name of his company, or much else that was said during our meeting, but I will never forget this one thing he said to me. After looking over my portfolio and talking to me about my abilities and experience, he looked at me very earnestly and said, “You’re very smart. That much is obvious from looking at your work and hearing how you’ve learned the skills you have. But you’re in this interesting in between place of being half into the analytical scientific side of things and half into the creative design side of things. I really believe you can do whichever one you want, but you have to pick a side. You have to decide which one is your thing, and then you have to dedicate everything you have to that.”

be you, follow your dreams, bravery, courage, be someone you want to be

I walked away from that meeting confused and disheartened. My whole life, I had been a creative and tender soul twisting myself into an analytical and logical brain. And I had always gotten a lot of praise for being that kind of person. But suddenly, here was a man calling me on my bluff. Here was a man giving me permission to be whatever I wanted to be, but making it clear that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life toeing the line.

How I moved from doing what I thought I should do, to doing what I was born to do

So I did the logical thing and took a job as a software tester at a large healthcare software corporation. And so the pursuit of praise and achievement grew ever stronger. I lived for the pat on the back, the promotion to a bigger and better and more impressive role or project. But my soul constantly felt so overwhelmed by the pressure and the unending push forward and the celebration of logic and debate that went into every decision.

I ached for freedom and creativity with everything in me. My very bones and every fiber and muscle within me cried out for it. The stress and pressure made me physically ill for months. The months of sickness turned into years. And then something slow and beautiful started to happen inside of me.

The first thing was that I began to get my chronic illness under control by switching up my diet. As I started to feel better, I became more and more motivated to re-explore the things that once brought me joy. I started creating again. I painted canvases, I designed prints for our home, and I made our little apartment as cozy and welcoming as I could. Then I started to cook again. I made dinner and invited people over and we laughed and ate and I began to remember what it felt like to be known and loved. As I created more and more, and worked on all sorts of prints for the homes of the people in my life, an idea was born.

It started as a tiny “what if” – just a small seed sprouting up in my soul. What if I used all the artwork and find yourself, be you, motivational image,decor I’d created to start a shop? And what if that shop had a mission that I’m passionate about? Like maybe a mission of helping families get access to fresh, healthy food? And what if I could also have a blog where I could get back to my love of writing? I mulled over the thought for a few months, afraid to speak it out loud.

The birth of bravery

And then finally, in the car one day on a long drive back to Wisconsin, I found the courage to put words to my dream. I finally said it out loud to another person. From that one small and vulnerable act of courage, good things began to blossom.

It started out as just a side project – something I would get going in my free time outside of work. But the more I got back to doing the things I loved, the more I returned home to my God-given passions, the braver I became, and the more courageous I was with my dreams. The side project turned into a maybe future career, and before I knew it, I was putting in my notice at work three days before my website was even ready to launch. It was terrifying and completely liberating. I had taken a giant leap into the person I felt I was meant to be.

To be clear, it still feels scary. Doubts and negative what ifs creep in many times a day. I find myself worrying that other people will think I’m irresponsible or delusional or making a poor decision. But it doesn’t matter, because I know this is the person I want to be. This is the work I’m supposed to do.

So whatever that thing is for you – the thing you know in your bones you were made to do – know one thing only about it: you, my friend, are good enough to do it. You’re smart enough, daring enough, talented enough, driven enough, to do it. It might not be pretty at first. It certainly won’t be perfect. And it probably won’t look anything like you thought it would. But the beautiful thing about success is that it’s all about your perception. I’ve chosen to believe that believing I can is a success in and of itself. And taking the leap is my second success. So look at that – I’m already on my way!

Posted on

Paleo Vegan Ice Cream: Strawberry-Nectarine

I have a small confession to make… There was once a time in my life where I ate a large bowl of ice cream at least once a day, and often twice a day (many times for breakfast and always drenched in chocolate syrup). I’m not proud of this (okay, maybe I am a little proud); I just really love ice cream! I was a teenager at the time, to be fair. I’ve evolved slightly since then. But I still love ice cream, and not being able to eat dairy (and especially being paleo) can really put a damper on that. So I give you this delicious, creamy paleo vegan ice cream full of delicious summer fruit to enjoy!

Ever since I first cut dairy out of my diet two years ago, I began searching for the perfect dairy-free ice cream. I started with store-bought, and quickly found that most of them are not great, in my personal opinion. You see, ice cream is meant to be creamy and soft; but most of the store-bought dairy-free ice creams I tried were icy and hard. I did find one brand that makes a couple of cashew milk based flavors – it was delicious and creamy. It was also incredibly expensive and full of sugar and preservatives.

Then I was introduced to homemade dairy-free ice cream made with coconut cream. It was life-changing. Between the full-fat coconut cream and the use of an ice cream machine, you can get perfectly creamy and delicious ice cream in SO MANY FLAVORS. And the thing is, it’s actually good! I have fed my various dairy-free ice creams to many dairy-loving friends and they always love it (and not just ‘this is good for dairy free‘ love it, but like, actually genuinely enjoy eating it).

This particular recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, nut free, refined sugar free and oh so delicious! So whether you follow a Paleo or otherwise restricted diet, or you’re just looking for a summer treat that’s a little kinder to your body and doesn’t make your children bounce off the walls, this is it.

Now, because I know someone will ask this question if I don’t answer it upfront, you might be wondering, Can I make this without an ice cream machine? The answer is yes, of course you can, but it absolutely won’t be as good. And that is true for any dairy-free ice cream recipe. I’ve tried MANY at this point that claim they’re creamy and delicious without an ice cream maker, and I have simply never found that to be true. They almost always turn out a little too solid and icy. If you don’t have an ice cream maker and don’t know anyone who might let you borrow theirs, you can definitely just blend this and put it in a container to freeze. The flavor will still be great, but it will not be very creamy, which is just sad. So I implore you, if you plan to make ice cream at home, invest in an ice cream machine (or find a generous friend who will let you borrow theirs in exchange for a bowl of ice cream)! You really won’t regret it.

The Recipe

Ingredients

3 ripe nectarines

About 20 medium strawberries

2 cans full fat coconut cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Peel the nectarines. Cut the flesh of the nectarine away from the pit in large chunks.
  2. Cut the leaves and stems away from the strawberries. Slice in halves or quarters.
  3. Throw the nectarine and strawberry chunks into a high-powered blender. Blend on high until fully blended.
  4. Add in the remaining ingredients and blend on high until fully combined.
  5. Put the blender with the ice cream mixture into the fridge for at least one hour. (You can also blend the mixture the night before and refrigerate overnight.)
  6. Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze following instructions for your machine.
  7. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serves best if you pull the container out about ten minutes before serving.

Dairy-Free Ice Cream Round-up

There are a lot of dairy-free ice cream recipes out there, and it can be challenging to wade through them all. Being that I hold ice cream very near and dear to my heart, I have tried a lot of the recipes out there, and there are definitely some real winners, and some that are not so delicious. So here is a round-up of all my favorites. These are my tried-and-true, dairy-lovin’ friend approved, go to recipes. Hopefully this list will be enough to get you a ways into the summer!

*A note to anyone looking out for allergen information and unfamiliar with the Paleo diet – if something is marked as Paleo, that means it’s free of dairy, all grains (so gluten and corn as well), refined sugar, and peanuts.

Coconut Carmel Ice Cream from Big Girls Small Kitchen (dairy- and gluten-free)

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Paleo Gluten Free Eats (Paleo)

Vanilla Almond Butter Ice Cream from JoyFoodSunshine (Paleo, Vegan if you swap out the honey for maple syrup)

Raspberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream from Baking Magique (dairy- and gluten-free; I swapped the cornstarch out for arrowroot starch without any issues to make it entirely grain-free)

Blueberry Ice Cream from Petite Allergy Treats (Paleo, Vegan; Even though this has instructions for now ice cream machine, if you have one, use it! You will not regret it!)

I personally recommend trying a new flavor each week! Let me know if you need more recommendations once you get through the six recipes here in this post! Happy ice cream making (and more importantly, happy ice cream eating), my friends!

Posted on

Easy Paleo Yogurt (& Vegan, Too!)

paleo yogurt, easy paleo yogurt, vegan yogurt, easy vegan yogurt, easy paleo and vegan yogurt, gluten-free yogurt, easy homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, easy coconut milk yogurt

I love yogurt. It was one of my most frequent meals when I was in college. I would buy the cheapest bulk container of vanilla yogurt I could find at Aldi, load it with fruit, granola, nuts, peanut butter, and make a meal of it. I loved it! It felt like dessert and yet I thought it was so healthy.

Then I went dairy-free, and it was bye-bye beloved yogurt. I mean, sure – there is plenty of dairy free yogurt available at the grocery store, but it’s crazy expensive and every single kind I tried was disgusting. And then I went a step further and became paleo, and realized just how much artificial junk was loaded into most store-bought yogurts anyway.

paleo yogurt, easy paleo yogurt, vegan yogurt, easy vegan yogurt, easy paleo and vegan yogurt, gluten-free yogurt, easy homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, easy coconut milk yogurt

That’s when I resolved myself to a life void of yogurt. That’s a very sad existence, but I thought it was my only choice.

paleo yogurt, easy paleo yogurt, vegan yogurt, easy vegan yogurt, easy paleo and vegan yogurt, gluten-free yogurt, easy homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, easy coconut milk yogurtAnd then hope came. My lovely sister is also paleo, and my nephew has all kinds of stomach and food issues, the poor little guy. He is pretty picky, but yogurt was one thing he LOVED. But unfortunately, he is totally dairy free, and his sweet momma wasn’t a fan of all the junk in dairy free options at the store. So she set out to try making her own.

Homemade dairy-free yogurt was something I had also looked into, but every recipe was far too much effort for my personal liking. I love yogurt, but not enough to spend days making it from labor-intensive recipes that come with warnings about the horrible things that can ensue if you don’t seal the jar just so and ferment for exactly the right amount of time.

My sister had an idea though. And her idea turned out to be the most brilliant thing ever. Thus I give you this extremely easy homemade dairy free yogurt filled with zero crappy ingredients. It’s completely sugar free, has probiotics, and I’ve made it several times now with very little precision and it’s never made me ill or killed me. This recipe comes approved by toddlers and yogurt-loving dairy eaters alike! Enjoy this warning-free recipe!

paleo yogurt, easy paleo yogurt, vegan yogurt, easy vegan yogurt, easy paleo and vegan yogurt, gluten-free yogurt, easy homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, easy coconut milk yogurtIngredients:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 3 probiotic capsules

Instructions:

  1. Empty both cans of coconut milk/cream into a large jar or glass container that seals well. Use a spatula to scrape out all that thick, creamy goodness.
  2. Pull apart your probiotic capsules and empty the powder into the jar.
  3. Use an immersion blender to blend all the cream, liquid and probiotic powder well.
  4. Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for 48 hours.
  5. Give it another stir at the end of the 48 hours and store in the fridge.
  6. You can eat it right away or wait until it’s been in the fridge a bit (it will thicken up in the fridge) – top with your favorite things and enjoy!

Notes:

This recipe halves well. I know it stays good in my fridge for 5-6 days – it’s never stuck around any longer than that at my house, so I don’t know how long it truly stays good. Using the mix of coconut milk and coconut cream gives you a thick yogurt that resembles Greek style yogurt. Using all coconut milk will give you a thinner yogurt that is still delicious! Just make sure it’s completely full-fat.

paleo yogurt, easy paleo yogurt, vegan yogurt, easy vegan yogurt, easy paleo and vegan yogurt, gluten-free yogurt, easy homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, easy coconut milk yogurt

Posted on

Journey to Joyful: My Life with Chronic Illness

Chronic illness can feel so isolating

Warning…

There are many words ahead. This is the ongoing story of my health journey. I call it a journey because I have certainly not arrived where I want to be just yet!

It started my senior year of college

I just had no clue it was starting. I was a competitive cyclist, a straight-A student, and a general go-getter. Slowly, it became more and more difficult for me to get out of bed in the mornings. I started to skip an unprecedented amount of classes, missing quizzes and important lectures. I started to sleep a lot, had trouble focusing on any schoolwork, started having a heart rate that would regularly stay above 235 bpm on every bike ride, started falling off the rollers during indoor training sessions over and over. I was so. sluggish. And I blamed it on senioritis and assumed I was just burnt out and things would be back to normal after graduation.

Season of change

Graduation brought with it a lot of changes. Pretty immediately after I was all moved out of my last college apartment, I was packing up to move to a new state where I knew no one and would start my first ever full-time job a few weeks later. Right after my job started, J proposed and we were suddenly wading through a long-distance engagement and debating where we would live and work and what that meant for our careers.

When it rains, it pours

The descent was like an avalanche – subtle and slow and then all at once everything was crumbling. If you struggle with chronic illness, you likely know exactly what I’m talking about. It started as rashes on my arms and a stomach that was sometimes really upset and a lot of back pain.

And then suddenly I was curled up in a ball on the couch every minute of the day that wasn’t spent at work. I couldn’t move or go anywhere or eat anything without being exhausted and in pain. I thought I might have mono. Then I worried I was just getting really lazy in my post-college years. Then I legitimately began to fear that I was going crazy.
I no longer recognized myself, and it was clear that J didn’t either. I didn’t know who this person was who had taken over my body – her affinity for sitting in a dark room doing nothing for hours on end did not make sense to me. The bitter and frustrated words that spewed from her mouth were foreign to me. She was angry and in pain and had absolutely no hobbies or activities or a single thing she enjoyed doing and I could not believe that she was me. But no matter how hard I tried to will myself to be better, it just didn’t get any better.

But what about doctors?

I did go to the doctor throughout this time – a lot of doctors, actually. I was desperate for answers. But answers never came. There was blood work and stool samples and EKGs and more blood work and it went on and on.

I heard a lot of ‘sort of, but nothing really’. “You’re sort of anemic, but nothing to really worry about.” “Your EKG was a little irregular, but nothing too out of the ordinary.” I was prescribed medication after medication for this or that and it was always just a temporary relief from the pain and exhaustion. I went to a chiropractor weekly, sometimes as much as three times a week, and each time he was unsure why I never got any better. I never made progress.

A sliver of hope

My chiropractor was actually the one who suggested I try meeting with a nutritionist, specifically one who is familiar with food allergies and chronic illness. I cut some things out (dairy, gluten, corn and soy) and temporarily felt much better. When I started to feel bad again, she took me through an elimination diet/detox that was somewhat of a combination of AIP and Whole30.

I felt better than I had in years. I went on regular walks. I held pleasant conversations. I finally started making friends after having lived in the same city for two years. I hiked and even exercised some and started creating art again. I was amazed and shocked and relieved and confused.

I worked things back into my diet, slipped back to a place where dairy was the only thing I restricted and all of my symptoms started to return. On the one hand, I finally felt like I had a solution. But on the other hand, I found myself fumbling through a confusing and trend-filled, mysterious world of restricted diets; a world full of misinformation and judgment and way too much pride.

A new normal

I felt very self-conscious about the whole thing. It’s one thing to be that person  who can’t eat anything normal and causes a scene at every restaurant – if a doctor has actually diagnosed you with something real and definable. But to be that person with no “legitimate” medical excuse for it is embarrassing and incredibly uncomfortable. And it turns out people have a lot of opinions about your choices to not eat things; and then they have more opinions when you have to explain why you’re not eating them.

I already felt crazy and exhausted and incredibly alone after years of useless doctors visits and feeling completely and utterly spent 24/7. And then suddenly, when people were giving me that look as I politely declined treats at work or food at restaurants, and they demanded to know why and what was wrong with me, and then their look became even more disbelieving as I explained that I have no idea what’s wrong with me but I was really sick and changing my diet made it better… whew. It was salt in my long-festering wounds.

And no one could really understand. I’m telling you, I’ve experienced other hard things in my life – loss and abuse and things that are undeniably difficult in their own rights  – but this was a whole different kind of difficult. I think the defining difference was that, with other hard things that have occurred in my life, they’re universally recognized as being incredibly hard. And people have empathy and they validate your grief and struggle in those circumstances.

But chronic illness is not yet recognized by others who haven’t experienced it themselves as a legitimate hardship. People who haven’t been there just assume you’re dramatic and seeking attention, or crazy and buying into whatever new phony medicine comes along, or they just can’t imagine it and don’t really care. And there is so much judgment in their eyes as you nervously and awkwardly explain that you’re paleo and that other foods make you sick and no that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to peanuts. (Sometimes I honestly would just tell people I had food allergies to avoid the whole thing, because it seemed easier – but then I would feel guilty about lying.)

The road ahead

For now, I’ve been taking somewhat of a break from searching for a diagnosis. I control the symptoms entirely by following a paleo diet, and it works pretty well for the most part. It’s not perfect, by any means. I still get rashes and hives down my arms if I eat a pretzel roll in a moment of weakness. My heart starts to constantly race and joints ache and I bloat and feel feverish when I eat things with real sugar in them too many days in a row. And sometimes, even when I’m doing everything perfectly I get a flare-up and I’m suddenly analyzing everything I’ve eaten in the past week and wondering how I messed up or what new thing I’ll have to cut from my diet.

But truly, I’m in a better place than I have been in quite sometime. Having my own little support system – people who either understand because they’re experiencing this too; or people who just know me and love me and are willing to try to understand just for me – has been tremendously helpful. They’ve helped me learn to have the courage to do what’s best for my health no matter what other people might think. They’ve helped me feel known and loved and seen in a world that can be very dark and isolating. But mostly, they’ve taught me how to not let chronic illness rob me of anything more than it already has.

At some point, I’ll go back to the doctor and I’m sure there will be more labs and misdiagnoses. But until then, I’m just doing the best I can and there is grace upon grace when the best I can do doesn’t seem like quite enough. And really, isn’t that just so true for us all?