Food Confessions

Sometimes we swerve off the path of good, clean eating. Sometimes by accident, sometimes knowing we'll pay the price. I just wanted you to know we aren't perfect...that we make mistakes just like you will.

Today, after straying too far off the clean food path while on a date night with my husband, my head feels like it's in a vice...or like I'm wearing a super tight swim cap that's sqeezing in around my entire skull. I feel a lot like this:

{My little Laura Finley in one of her moods.}

I used to feel like this alot...headaches almost every day. It got so bad that I saw a neurologist, had brain scans and medication was prescribed. But diet and food triggers were never mentioned. Not once.

It wasn't until we started the Feingold Diet in May 2008 that I made any serious connections between food and headaches. I know many of you are way ahead of me in cluing into that, but I thought my headaches were unstoppable. Yet now it makes PERFECT sense! Of course what we put into our bodies affects the way we feel, think and behave!

I've learned that black pepper and gluten are headache triggers for me...along with some mysterious spice packs and hidden forms of MSG which I never eat at home {because it feels SO much better to have a clear head!}. But when you're out to eat, especially at a new restaurant with a killer menu and a great bottle of wine, sometimes you get this "I've gotta have it" or "I can handle it" feeling.

I always tell myself it will be worth it if the food tastes amazing. But it's never worth it.

Yet grace abounds! The best way to get out of a food-induced reaction {be it a headache for you or a temper tantrum with your little one} is to give yourself grace and get back to clean eating with your next meal. And so I did...with a fresh juice this morning {carrots, apples, celery, parsley, spinach, beets, lemon and ginger} and a clean lunch this afternoon.

{chicken salad, tiny tomatoes, garden greens, avocado, blue corn chips}

The headache isn't gone, but it will be tomorrow if I eat well again tonight. I'm on my way back to a clean slate!

So there you have it: a confession that I'm just like you. Imperfect, yet living under a waterfall of grace and new beginnings. His mercies are new every morning! {Lamentations 3:22-23}


P.S. Remember the food dye post I wrote last month? I was humbled when my youngest {who's the most chemically sensitive and reactive of us all} came home with that look in her eyes. I should've known something was amiss by her eyes. Not only could she not make eye contact, but she had lost her natural sparkle and shine. She went from looking like she was going to shoot darts out of her eyes to sassing me, to screaming at me, to violently shoving her sister, to being unable to sit still in her chair at dinner...all because of one iced cookie. The engagement ring cookie was just too much for a girly girl to resist. Some days are like that. So I had her soak in an Epsom salt bath, put her to bed early and started fresh and clean the next day. And the amazing thing: even she will tell you it wasn't worth it! Grace abounds to you, too, sweet girl!

P.P.S. More from the kitchen chat when my head clears and the time is right!


Kitchen Chat/Feingold Diet Intro

Awesome. That pretty much sums up the kitchen chat I hosted in my home today. We chatted about real food and the Feingold Program specifically. I talked way too much {and still feel like I barely scratched the surface!}, but the women who came were AMAZING! It was a PRIVILEGE to have them in my home!

{We gathered around my kitchen to chat about real food.}

The stories of why they came inspired and encouraged me. I wish you could've been with us today! It's just amazing to stand with a a great group of women and realize we are not alone!

Back to food!  We grabbed a cup of ginger peach tea or cinnamon coffee and a piece of the best cinnamon bread {selected because every ingredient is recognizable and stuff you'd have in your own kitchen...meaning all natural and you could bake it yourself if you were so inclined, which I'm not!}.

{Pure ingredients; divine taste!}

Then I started talking...for a solid hour. Poor things! Those precious women must've felt like they were drinking from a fire hydrant! I opened with a few more details about our story then introduced the Feingold Program...why we do it, how we got started, how we succeeded and how we've branched out into all kinds of delicious foods.

The Feingold Association sent me some very helpful handouts {including the Pure Facts newsletter featuring our family's story}.

Oh, and see the cookies on the counter? I'm thrilled to report that the natural version of Thin Mints {called Fudge Mint Cookies by Back to Nature} are AWESOME...especially when frozen! The ingredients in the natural version aren't quite as pure and clean as I'd like them to be, but WAY better than partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor!

Natural vs. Artificial.
{Fudge Mint Cookies vs. Thin Mints}

My girls think it's crazy that it says "artificial flavor" on the Thin Mint box and people still buy them by the millions! Label reading has become second nature to me. The more you do it, the faster and more natural you become at it. And lucky for you, it's becoming more and more en vogue!

The Feingold Association also sent some fabulous handwriting and coloring samples from real kids. Take a look at what happens when kids are eating well vs. when they aren't:

{My youngest used to color everything just like the
sample on the left. Angry, irritable coloring!}

{This is for real...I've seen it with my oldest.}

{Isn't it amazing how differently a child writes when
their body is calm and not under food stress?}

If reading our story or seeing some of these images gives you the sense you should give Feingold a try, I recommend ordering this packet...or this one if you'd like to add "Why Can't My Child Behave?" {You can read the first part of the book here.}

Once you order the Feingold materials,
here are my recommended next steps:

1. Let the whole family know you're going to try a food experiment for a month. {You need at least 4 weeks to create a clean slate. Feingold calls this "Stage One."} I chose to call it a "food experiment" instead of a diet {and my children were the little scientists who recorded notes in a journal}. Whatever you do, don't tell your kids you're doing this because something is wrong with them and you're trying to fix it. An easy thing to say is, "I think we'll all feel better if we eat real food!" There's a lot of food dye buzz in the media. Tell them it's gotten your attention and that you're excited about it! And sweetly ask your husband to support you...for at least a month. Send them to my blog if you have to!

2. Clean out your pantry and fridge. You can save some things in a big plastic bin and reintroduce them one at a time during Stage Two, but if it's full of artificial crap {sorry, that's what it is!}, do yourself a favor and throw it away. I know it feels like throwing money away, but when you see the change in your children, it will be worth it!

3. Make a fun poster to hang in your pantry. List the items you'll need to avoid during Stage One and draw or print a picture beside each one. If your kids are crafty, let them make the poster.

4. Dive into your Feingold Food List.  Highlight the foods you recognize or that sound good to you. If your children are old enough, let them highlight things that sound exciting to them! {The Food List comes with your intro packet. Every food item has been reviewed and researched. The food companies who aren't willing to give full disclosure about what's in their food or who don't want to fill out forms aren't listed.}

5. Make a shopping list. I think the key is to buy as many replacements as you can so that your child doesn't feel like they are giving up and losing everything {there are natural or Feingold accepted replacements for almost everything these days}. And you don't have to shop at Whole Foods. There are tons of approved foods available in regular grocery stores.

6. Buy fun treats...even things you don't usually allow. I didn't allow much sugar in the house pre-Feingold. {I thought sugar was our primary problem. Not that it's super good for you, but I was wrong.} So when we started Feingold, I didn't just take away and replace, I added things. Ice cream, popsicles, cookies...my girls were thrilled with the options! Sometimes I even gave them an extra treat after a birthday party or school party just to thank them for sticking with our food experiment! And if they miss out on something {because I didn't know a treat would be served}, they get to come home and have a double portion! {I'm not advocating a daily sugar overdose. We eat sugar on "S Days." Saturdays, Sundays and Special Occasions!}

7. Let teachers and caregivers know. You need cooperation from everyone. Many teachers have never heard of the Feingold Diet, but they are starting to hear the buzz about food dye. And when they see the change in your child, they'll want to know more! You don't have to give them every detail upfront, but ask for their support. At school, at church, on playdates, etc., my rule is: if it doesn't come from home, don't eat it. That's really the only way to get a clean slate that first month.

There's lots more I could share, but it's date night time {every Wednesday night...so good for our marriage}. I'll be back with part deux soon!

Coming up next: a peek inside my refrigerator and pantry PLUS how to handle birthday parties, holidays, grandparents, etc. If I have the time and my kids are willing, I'd love to video their thoughts and advice. {Now that I'm all fancy and know how to post a video to my blog!}

So how do you feel? Inspired and ready to eat well or overwhelmed and drowning in information? Send your thoughts and questions my way...or just leave a comment below!

Happy Eating, Sweet Friends!

P.S. Speaking of food, my garden is suffering in this sudden blast of Houston heat! And I had my first pest invasion. Aphids covered the radish leaves...gross! My solution: dig out the entire plant. I know there's a better way, but I'm new at this and didn't have a backup plan. I'm learning as I go!

P.P.S. Hallie has been so encouraged by your sweet comments about her singing and guitar playing {here}. Thank you for making her smile!


An Easter We'll Always Remember

Sweet friends, I hope you and your family enjoyed a glorious Easter weekend! Ours was chock full of family fun: an egg hunt, home-cooked meals, French wine and even a doll-sized farmer's market {organized by my very creative girls!}.

At church on Easter Sunday.

But what we'll remember most is the joy of listening to our little songbird use her God-given gifts to help lead worship on Sunday morning.

10-year old Hallie...
with her daddy right beside her.

We call her our songbird...because she's always filling our home with music. She'd sing all day if she could! She sets her alarm 30 minutes early each morning just so she can get her music fix before heading off to school. And late at night when she should be sleeping, she's often writing a new song or singing an old favorite.

A late night recording with tired eyes but a sweet voice.

I don't know much about guitar, but she plays her full-size Taylor as naturally as you and I breathe air. The only way I can explain it: a gift from God. Her only teacher has been her self-taught daddy, but he says she's outpacing him...picking things up overnight that took him six months to learn!

Hallie working her Taylor.

She hears music in her head...words, chords, melody, harmony...like a little Mozart hearing so many things at once...faster than she can write them down.

But behind every girl with extraordinary gifts are unsung heroes with gifts of their own. They quietly serve, love and support. That's what our youngest did for her big sister. It was the sweetest thing in the world to watch!

Laura Finley: fashion consultant + hairdresser extraordinaire!

Hallie admiring her sister's skills!

We call our youngest daughter sparkle and shine...
because that's what she does naturally.

Making things beautiful is her gift!

Sweet sisters!

As my sparkle and shine daughter would say...
I hope you have the BEST week EVER!!!
P.S. Up to this point, I've never called my daughters by name on my blog. Lots of reasons for that, but they were happy to be called by name today!


One Thousand Gifts

The book that won't let me go:

{One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp}

Have you read it?

{I've underlined, starred, dog-earred...}

It's a dare to LIVE FULLY right where you are.
A dare to give thanks for a thousand things.

It's a game changer. Because giving thanks changes everything. I caught a glimpse of that here...the day I wrote that giving thanks was a cure-all. But there've been so many days when I haven't had eyes for the present moment...so many days when I was half living and ungrateful.

I could overwhelm you with quotes, insights and snippets from my own list of a thousand gifts {just over 100 at the moment}, but what you need today isn't more of me. It's more of Jesus. He has the sweetest things to say to your heart and the most delightful things to show you...extraordinary blessings even in the most ordinary of days.

So grab One Thousand Gifts, find a quiet place, take it slow and see what happens! I promise it will be GOOD. And what a perfect time to start something new. Springtime, Eastertime...the time when dead things come to life...the time when He makes all things new! {Revelation 21:5}

Happy Easter...Happy LIVING!


For The Love Of Tea

I love tea.

{My favorite tea mug.}

I'm often asked what kinds of tea I drink, so I thought I'd share a few favorites with you today. But before I do, I have to tell you that tea wasn't always my thing. 

I was a coffee girl. I started sneaking heavily creamed and sugared sips from my mom when I was a little girl. In college, I lived on double shot lattes and mochas. I met my husband on a blind date in a coffee shop. He even proposed to me with a coffee drink in hand!

But as much as I loved coffee, it didn't like me. {Coffee and adrenal issues aren't a good match!} So I switched to tea...for health reasons. Little did I know, tea is EXCITING! It's fragrant, diverse, soothing, invigorating, loaded with antioxidants {green, white and red teas, that is}...and the best part: it makes you want to slow down and ENJOY LIFE. It's a sip, savor and enjoy the present moment kind of drink. 

I started with black teas and added a little whole milk and honey to make it more coffee like. Tea bags were an easy place to start.

{My first two favorite teas.}

But I'm drinking a lot more green tea these days.

{Tazo is widely available. Starbucks serves it.}

The more I get into this tea thing,
the more I love whole, loose leaf tea...
or in this case: "pearls" of tea.

{My current favorite: Organic Jasmine Dragon Pearl.}

It starts out in little pearls...

...and opens up as it steeps!

Whole leaf tea is incredibly fragrant and flavorful.
{You can steep a high quality loose tea 2-3 times.}

Three more loose teas I'm loving right now:

{Rishi is available at Whole Foods.}

The fun part about loose leaf teas:
using this cute little tea pot!

{Also from Whole Foods.}

If I want more than a cup or two, I use the king of tea pots:

{Made by Breville; purchased at Sur la Table.}

Dang...I wish I didn't just discover the price! {It was a gift from my husband. He's a very generous giver, and I am grateful!} But I have to say: this high end teapot rocks! It's all glass and stainless, so no leaching of harmful plastic chemicals into your tea! 

Another current favorite:

{A blend of green mint and lavender flowers.}

It starts out looking like this:

And tastes great served like this:

{This will be my go-to summer drink.}

And speaking of mint,
it looked like this a few weeks ago:

And looks like this today:

{Four times the size!} 

If growing things intimidates you, try mint.
The rapid growth is so rewarding!

I wish I could sit down and share a cup with each and every one of you! The conversations and friendships that go with tea are the best! ENJOY!

Happy Friday, Sweet Readers!
P.S. I didn't say much about the health benefits of green, white and red {aka "rooibos"} teas, but they are SUPER good for you! 

P.P.S. Want to know something funny? When I left Enron in search of a more creative life {11 years ago...before the infamous fall}, I dreamed of opening a tea shop. I did lots of research and picked a perfect neighborhood spot, but motherhood and card designing became my clear calling. I've never looked back, but I still love my tea!


French Inspired Tables For Sale

Look what showed up at my house today:

A gorgeous French reproduction demilune table...

...with exquisite colors and layering!

Sadly, it was too large for the corner of my dining room, so I had to let it go to the next interested buyer {who will sell it in her shop for around $1,000}. Sigh.

But I'm going to have a smaller one made! {Table making seems to be a trend in my house!}And for a handful of Houston friends, I'm willing to have one made for you, too! And the best part: your price will be $600....not the $1000+ retail price. I love sharing beauty for a good price!

If you're interested: email me and we'll talk dimensions. {The one above was 45W x 18D x 32H. Mine will be 32" wide.} I'll probably only have 3 or 4 made, so first come, first serve!

And for those of you looking for a coffee table, this one is ready to go home with someone in Houston today. Just finished and never used:

Sure beats RH's $1200!

And no, I'm not looking to get into the antique reproduction business, but every now and then, something comes my way that I can't resist sharing with you.



Garden Update

I was loving the look of my impromptu garden table...

{A few people liked this enough to pin it...thank you!}

...but remember when I told you {here} how I skipped a few steps for the sake of instant gratification? Well...it's catching up with me a lot sooner than I expected!

The wine boxes are rotting already.
{I was hoping they'd last at least a year!}

Bummer, but my husband is right: if I had gone my usual perfectionistic way and done everything just right, I wouldn't have a garden today...or this year! I'd still be reading, researching, rethinking, etc. 

I'm beginning to collect new wine boxes and will use Danish Oil to weatherproof them this time around! But it wasn't too late to weatherproof the table. My super handy sister {who built the table for a different purpose years ago} suggested Polycrylic all over and a thin sheet metal for the top. And she even offered to help with her five-month pregnant self!

My sister has serious skills.
{And who else looks this cute while hammering?}

All was well until she had to return home to her two little boys. {She'll soon have three boys under the age of TWO! Another story for another time...one that includes a marvelous adoption.} When I took over, things got a little lumpy, bumpy and...imperfect.

{My sister's side on the left; mine on the right.}

I keep trying to tell myself that these lumps and bumps are good for my recovering perfectionist self, but  perfectionism and old thought patterns don't die easily.

{It looks like a poorly wrapped present!}

Wishing for a moment that I had waited on her to come back and help me finish. It's not great looking...and I'm not thrilled with the way the water pools in certain spots. But...

...you live and you learn, right? At least I have a garden! That's worth celebrating in my book...and so is this:

My first little Cupid Tomato!

Despite my mistakes {aka "tossing perfectionism out the window"}, it's fun to watch things grow and change in my little garden. The best part so far: collecting lettuce straight from the back yard:

I couldn't resist zooming in just a bit.

{These feet are more precious to me
than a perfect garden could ever be!}

So would I do it again the same way? Yes! If it means the difference between having a garden and not having a garden, I'll take the mistakes and try again!

And if it means a small victory in my spiritual journey {dying to my perfectionistic, half living, old self and embracing my living again, present moment, new self}, I'll take it! 

Blessings to you today!

P.S. Looking for a way to get you your kids fired up about real food vs. the fake stuff? Watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution together. Even if you aren't a TV watching family {we aren't}, watch it. My girls loved it! His passion for real food is contagious. {Jamie at Home is my husband's favorite cookbook. It's inspired our real food cooking more than any other cookbook.}


Toast & Laurel

My mind is swirling with things to share with you this week: a garden update, my love of tea, a life changing book...but after sharing a cup of tea with a darling new paper designer this morning, I'm happily distracted!

Megan Davis is the founder and designer of Toast & Laurel. {Cute name...forgot to ask how she came up with it!} She's young, energetic, personable, attentive to detail and has talent to spare!

In fact, Megan designs invitations better than I ever did...or maybe it's just that she's distinctly passionate about it! {It's so fun when you can just sit back and admire another designer's talent!} Here are a few of her invitations I photographed this morning:

Fresh and fun, but look at the regal feel of this one:

{She wrapped a dainty silver thread around the top.}

Her personalized stationery is clean and classic...

...just the way I like it!

I'm giving up the invitation, announcement and personalized stationery side of my business {details of that decision here}, but I feel great knowing that there are talented new designers like Megan {toast & laurel} and seasoned designers like Alston {b.wise papers} who will fill the niche beautifully.

And you know what's cool? Seeing other designers do their thing well gives me even more passion for the unique thing God has gifted me to design: custom Christmas cards. Back to my first love!

{To read Megan's reflections on our fun morning together, visit her blog here.}

Happy Monday, Sweet Readers!

P.S. A note to my local {Houston} clients: Megan lives in my neighborhood, so if you're looking for someone who will meet with you in person to discuss your custom project, she's your girl. I've already told her I have the best clients in the world, so I know she'll love working with you!
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