The Savvy Kitchenista

A Look Back on 30

As a kid, I counted down the days – no the weeks – until my birthday. It was probably the best part of the year – a day all about me.

Now, before you go thinking I was a total brat, I’ll mention this – I wanted it to be my birthday, but I didn’t want any outside attention for it. You see, when we were growing up, we rarely went out to eat. Only on special occasions and birthdays was one of those occasions. On the fateful one day of the year, we got to choose whatever we wanted (within reason) and my parents would take us there for our birthday meal. And you know when you go out to eat on your birthday at a restaurant, they bring you a complimentary food items – usually dessert. And this was highly coveted because my parents never bought appetizers or desserts.

But along with the dreamy dessert came the staff and other diners singing to you. This is where I drew the line. I never wanted to get attention, so I always turned down the dessert. Every year, I would beg my parents not to announce it was my birthday and every year, they reminded me that I wouldn’t get the cake. And I always agreed and said I know, I don’t care about the cake. Did I care about the cake? Eh a little bit, but my mom always made us a cake so it wasn’t like I was cake-less.

Every year, I’ve looked forward to my birthday. I think the most fun part for me is being able to dictate the entire day’s activities. My brother is younger than me and when I was about 5 or 6, I was very distraught that his birthday came before mine. “But I’m the oldest – how come his birthday comes first?!” I would whine to my parents, who tried to explain to me that’s not how these things work. There’s tales that for a few years, I refused to sing happy birthday to him because I was so irritated that I didn’t get to celebrate first (ok, so that was the extent of my brattiness).

I eventually grew out of that and realized that I was still getting the fair deal by being the older sibling. Throughout college and afterwards, I would always find some fun way to celebrate my birthday with friends. When I turned 18, I told my boyfriend that all I wanted was to go to Disney World, so we did. When I turned 21, I honestly can’t remember what we did, but I’m sure it was some sort of house party. Even when I turned 30 last year, I made a big deal about it. Instead of being sad and depressed about the big 3-0, I had a Gatsby-themed party and claimed this would be my last birthday as a kidless adult.


Welp, I was wrong. Here I am, almost 365 days later, still without a baby; still not pregnant. I could be really depressed right about now, crying about all the things I had on my “Year of 30” Bucket List that I didn’t accomplish. In fact, I did bring that list out a few weeks ago and actually giggled over a few of the things I had chosen. I won’t share them all with you, but here are just some highlights


30 before 30 (2016 year goals)

  • Boudoir photos ✔️
  • Take a photography course
  • Take a weekend trip in town ✔️
  • Run in a race ✔️
  • Update my wardrobe to include staples for career & mother✔️
  • See a concert ✔️
  • Visit a new city  
  • Get pregnant!!
  • Complete 30-day squat circuit challenge ✔️
  • Build a new habit: compliments
  • Start going to church ✔️
  • Work on removing salt and sugar from diet ✔️
  • Find an ideal weight & be happy with it! ✔️
  • Finish honeymoon scrapbook

As you can see, my bucket list didn’t quite get accomplished, at least not the “big” things that I’d been looking forward to. I was adamant that by my 31st birthday, I would either be pregnant or have a small baby. I was convinced that I would be staying at home and possibly preparing to move to a new state. I was convinced that I would be happy with my weight (finally) and not care if I had stretch marks or even some post-pregnancy weight.

Now can you see where I’m coming from when I say I should be depressed as the big 3-1 looms around the corner, less than 72 hours away?


But as I glanced over my bucket list and saw that prominent goal – the one that I was obsessed with this time last year, I found myself feeling nothing. I didn’t feel sadness or anger or regret; nor did I feel joy or relief. I was pretty neutral, which was surprising for me. Not even three months ago, I was completely torn up over the idea of how uncertain my future was and that I couldn’t even promise to myself that I would have the chance of being pregnant before the end of 2017. Now, the idea of not being pregnant doesn’t really bother me.

So on the same night that I uncovered my “30 things before I turn 31” list, I decided to come up with another list: a list of everything that I have accomplished. And as I began making this mental list, I realized just how much there really was to celebrate. Looking back on this year, I think the one word I could use to describe it would be “metamorphosis”. That was the theme of my 30th year on this planet and God didn’t take the task of teaching me this lightly. In every way possible, he demonstrated that it’s possible to be tested and to go through the absolute worse, only to come out on the other end a much stronger person…

  • I moved back to my home state – a place I’ve been yearning to move back to for years
  • I ran my very first (and probably only) Gate River Run – a goal I’ve had for at least the past 10 years of living in Jacksonville
  • I made the decision to go back to school – and have self-funded the journey!
  • I have planned trips to 4 new cities in 2017 – and those are only the ones I have booked air fare for!
  • I committed to doing the unthinkable – running a marathon
  • I finally started this blog – something I’ve had on my mind for the past 2-3 years now and never had the confidence to do
  • I finally found a way to deal with my anxiety and stress – and it no longer involves nights that I don’t remember
  • I’ve begun to write again – something I gave up in high school, but was such a passion of mine
  • I ran 3 half marathons in the span of 6 months and have fallen in love with running – again
  • I’ve begun to relinquish control over what happens in my life – of the things that I can’t control no matter how much I fret, cry, or pray
  • I can look in the mirror and smile because smiling back at me is someone I love



So now, looking at the list of what I have accomplished in the past twelve months and I ask myself: is that “goal” what I truly wanted? For months, I spent every waking moment trying to find ways to improve my fertility; to day dream about what it would be like to be pregnant; to pray that God would let me have a baby. I was so convinced that it would make me happy – that with a babu, my life would be complete.

But can I tell you a secret?

I think becoming pregnant would have been the worse thing ever for me – at that time.

A year ago, I was in no place or form to become a mother.

  • I couldn’t control my weight and I wasn’t distraught over this.
  • I was always stressed out from work and couldn’t “leave it at the office”.
  • I wasn’t paying attention to anything in my personal life except my obsession to get pregnant.
  • I was completely caught up in the comparison game and belittling myself for not having the life like everyone else.
  • I was grumpy most of the time and the only thing that seemed to solve it was drinking – or eating.
  • I would often go through spells of eating junk, knowing full well that the next day (or even later that night) I was going to hate myself.
  • I wouldn’t ask for help on anything – I had become solely dependent on myself and would just do things alone because it was easier.
  • Although I’d learned to be pretty self-sufficient, I was still very emotionally co-dependent. When he was up, I was up. And when he was down, I spiraled out of control into an anxious downward spiral.
  • I hated looking in the mirror because I didn’t know who the person was in the mirror. I felt like a fraud – a thief living in a borrowed body.
  • I took responsibility for everything – and boy do I mean everything. I apologized for things that I didn’t even do or were out of my control.
  • I was that person who tried to  do it all for others, but never took the time to do stuff for myself.

All of those things – and none of those things – would have helped me as a mother. I would have been stressed and anxious my entire pregnancy, at the mercy of all the elements of my personal and professional environment. I would have spent the entire nine months apologizing for gaining weight; apologizing for having morning sickness and fatigue; apologizing for wanting to eat certain foods; apologizing for wanting to go running or to do nothing at all. I would have been so wrapped up in my own awful story that all my baby would thrive on was fear, anxiety, and stress. It would have been born with this engrained in their DNA and then the awful cycle would continue to live on – in them.

And I would have been eternally angry that I passed such an awful gift onto something that I love so much.

Talk about a hefty therapy bill.

Instead, God insisted that it wasn’t my time; that I had a lot of work to do. He made it very clear that I wasn’t meant to have a child before8yxsj9b my 31st birthday because it wasn’t the loving decision – for the child or for me. Over these past twelve months, he’s showed me what it is to finally love myself and to find peace within. All the years, I was looking to others and the world to fill this gapping hole inside of me. Food, alcohol, drugs, parties, clothes, forgotten nights, men – nothing helped.

And after all these years of feeling like I would never find true happiness – here I find it, on the other side of what I thought was the end of my life.

So to my nearly 31-year-old self, I have nothing by gratitude and love. This year was the learning year – the transformative year seven – and I don’t believe it will end at the stroke of 2:20pm. No, this journey is far from over and I couldn’t be more excited.

Bring it on, 31. Show me whaha got!




better for you food, breakfast, clean eating, coffee, cooking, health, homemade, Tasty Tuesday, The Savvy Kitchenista

Rescue 911: Breakfast Bowls

Let’s face it – no one has time for fancy breakfasts during the week!! But when you’re always on the run and trying to watch your figure (swimsuit season is just around the corner), it can be difficult to find something that fits into your eating plan!

Don’t give up on your goals and cave to the alluring fast food joint on your morning commute to work.

Don’t opt out and pour some sugary, over-processed cereal into a bowl and milk.


Don’t skip breakfast!!!

Today, I’m going to show you 7 easy breakfast bowls that you can fix the night before and re-heat OR you can mix up in a jiffy in the morning! Even better is that they use simple ingredients that are repeated in several recipes, so you can prep easily!

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Carrot Cake Quinoa Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 T coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 T almond butter
  • ½ cup grated carrots
  • 2 T chopped and toasted walnuts
  • 2 T raisins
  1. In a small saucepan, heat quinoa and milk over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to ensure that the quinoa doesn’t stick to the bottom!
  2. Add in cinnamon, vanilla, and almond butter. Stir until combine and remove from heat.
  3. Pour quinoa into bowl. Top each with carrots, walnuts, and raisins. Enjoy!



Citrus Breakfast Bowl 

  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • ⅓ cup almond milk (or any kind of milk)
  • ½ cup of short-grain brown rice
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 grapefruit
  1. Mix yogurt, chia seeds, milk, and rice in a small container. Chill in fridge for at least 20 minutes to let the chia seeds expand.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and remove skin from fruit. Dice into smaller chunks.
  3. Remove yogurt mixture from fridge and top with fruit. Enjoy!




Comfy Chai Breakfast Bowl 

Homemade Chai Mix

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of sea salt


  • ¼ cup cooked quinoa
  • ¼ cup cooked rolled oats
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 4 oz. almond milk
  • 1 tsp coffee granules


  • 1 T almonds
  • 1 T Cacao Nibs
  • 1 T coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  1. Mix together all chai seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Note: this will make more than needed for recipe.
  2. Arrange quinoa and oats in a bowl. Stir in chai mix and maple syrup. Set aside.
  3. Heat almond or coconut milk. Stir in espresso until dissolved, then pour over oats.
  4. Chill in fridge for 2 hrs or overnight.
  5. Remove from fridge, sprinkle with toppings, and enjoy!


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Down Home Southern Breakfast Bowl

  • ¼ cup uncooked grits + ingredients to make
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz. turkey sausage cooked
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  1. In a microwavable container, mix together grits and ingredients to make. Heat according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet and sauté spinach with sausage. Only cook long enough to wilt spinach and heat sausage through.
  3. Add egg to skillet and cook until desired taste.
  4. To assemble, pour grits in bottom of bowl and top with spinach, sausage, and egg. Drizzle with syrup and enjoy immediately!



Greek Yogurt & Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

  • ¾ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  1. In a small bowl, heat peanut butter slightly, just enough so it can be poured easily.
  2. In another dish, heat quinoa.
  3. In a serving bowl, place Greek yogurt and quinoa. Top with banana slices and chia seeds. Drizzle peanut butter all over and enjoy!



Pumpkin Banana Quinoa Breakfast Bowl


  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a small saucepan, mix together quinoa, milk, and mashed banana. Heat through over medium heat, stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn the bottom.
  2. Add pumpkin and spices, allowing to heat through.
  3. Pour into a bowl and enjoy immediately!



Vanilla Granola Parfait with Fruit

  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup granola of choice
  • 1 cup fruit of choice
  1. In a bowl, arrange granola and yogurt. Top with fruit and enjoy immediately!


anxiety, attitude, change, Gabby Bernstein, The Savvy Kitchenista, Throwback Thursday

My Story – Part One

I attended a webinar last week by one of my favorite mentors, Gabby Bernstein. The topic of this live webinar was “how to start doing what you dream of” and during the course of the evening, she asked a very simplistic question – “What is your story?”

I would imagine that half of the people on the call could have answered that question in a heartbeat; they’ve given it some long thought over time. Others, like me, needed to marinate on this question and really dig deep. At the end of the webinar, Gabby circled back to this question and posed us with a dare – to share our story with the world. This week.

So here I am, eight days later, still deliberating on what is my story. I’ve already decided that this will probably take more than one blog post to share my story because, well, I’m very long-winded. And when it comes to something as deep and personal as my story, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

Why am I sharing my story? Well other than Gabby Bernstein assigning this personal project to me, I feel that it’s important to share one’s story for the betterment of others. Out of the millions upon billions of humans on this planet who are all so utterly unique, we all share common traits and issues. We experience similar situations, like puberty, heartache, and rejection. I remember having someone comment on my Instagram feed a few months back that I was “too all over the place” and they didn’t want to stick around to “see how my story ended up”. To them and others who are so critical, I simply wish them “goodbye & good luck”.


My story isn’t for everyone. My story is first and foremost for myself, but also for those who are journeying along a ver similar path. All I want them to know is you’re not alone. I felt so alone when I set out on my own, and it wasn’t until 4 months in that I had some older friends reach out to me with “it’s ok; I know what you’re going through”. I really wish I had found this comfort earlier, which is why I’ve shared my journey every step of the way. Up and down; happy or sad. Because nothing on journeys of the heart ever make that much sense and they rarely ever go according to plan. You simply have to release and let it happen.

and so… here we go…

I would have to say my story probably begins all the way way back in grade school. I was a gangly kid who never quite fit in. I didn’t have long, straight hair (I was convinced I needed this to be considered “pretty”), I wasn’t the same “size” as any other girl my age (my dad was 6′; you do the math), and I wasn’t infatuated with boy bands (NKOTB who?). Can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?

I was floating right along in my own little bubbly world up until about 3rd grade, when my mom began home-schooling us and we started attending church again. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t fit in with the other girls. Not only was I new to the town, I also was hard to miss. I stood at least 6″ inches over most girls my age, putting me near the height of the boys and the older women in our church congregation. This height difference seemed to somehow knock me out of the girl’s one club and since I had no desire to run around getting dirty with the boys, I opted to make friends with the elderly women. At some point during my four years there, I graduated to the adult choir and tried my hand at teaching Sunday school.

I was 8 when we moved back to this town; 12 when we moved away. Not fitting in at church was a bit discouraging, but we thankfully had our other social groups and activities like 4H club and the fitness group we attended weekly. At some point during these formative years, I picked up a really good, yet terrible, habit – perfectionism. My brother, who was two years behind mind, drove my competitive nature even further when he began taking on subjects that I was struggling with – math in particular. I have never been strong in math and neither was my dad, but he insisted that we still had to get good grades. The abstract nature of math always puzzled me, but I refused to get less than an A and certainly couldn’t allow my younger brother to one up me.

While a little perfectionism is natural and even healthy, my level of perfectionism grew as I matured. I seemed all out-of-whack when it came to what I considered “normal” (aka perfect). By the time I was in middle school, I already had glasses and braces. My hair chose this unseeingly time to wig out (literally) and my longer locks turned into this massive frizz ball reminiscent of Farrah Fawcett. While that was highly desired in the 80’s, it wasn’t what the boys were looking for in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Nope – all the “pretty” girls had long, blond hair or voluptuous, curly hair. My bleach blonde hair didn’t stick around long into elementary school, choosing to fade to what I used to refer to as “mousey blonde”. Even “dirty blonde” sounded too pretty for what I considered was on my head.


Oh and then there was the size of me. The images on television and on magazine covers (you know, the things you look at as you wait in the checkout line?) were all of skinny women with either proportional or very unproportional chests. Very few of them had curves below the waist, which discouraged me because I was definitely the opposite. To be quite honest, I had been stick skinny up until puberty struck much earlier than expected. Then all of a sudden, the straightness was gone, curves were popping out every which way, and I could no longer just eat whatever I wanted. Childhood had vanished; womanhood began. And nowhere on all of the magazine covers could I find a woman that looked like me. I would struggle with this for years.

By middle school, we had moved and I was apart of a youth group. I had a few friends from there that lived nearby, but I still felt like I never really fit in. All the girls were obsessed with boys and kissing; I couldn’t figure out how to keep the hair on my legs to stop growing so quickly. I was super envious of the girls with their shiny braces and cute outfits that were totally short, but they were short so they got away with it. I couldn’t get away with anything because 3/4 of my body were my legs. I think my dad at some point jokingly called me “legs Magee”, but it was true! Any pants we tried to find were high waters on me and prom dress shopping was dreadful as everything was too short or wouldn’t drop past my ankles.

Since I obviously couldn’t control how my body was turning out (terribly, had you asked me), I decided I was going to be one of those girls who got by on her brains. I threw myself even more so into schoolwork, pushing myself to excel in every subject. When it came time to decide on high school, I begged to be allowed to attend the new one opening up down the street. Oh, how I wanted to get up and ride the school bus and deal with lockers and backpacks and crowded hallways. I hadn’t ever dealt with that and for some reason, I’d built it up into this glamorous adventure in my mind. I wanted to try new things; see new classes; play a sport; maybe go on a date. High school was my answer to all of these, and so in the fall of 2000, I entered public high school.

I remember that first day like it was yesterday. I had spent hours picking out the perfect outfit from my back-to-school shopping. I finally settled on a scoop-neck hunter green top with stripes across the middle and khaki pants. I had all of my books and supplies in my backpack and I was really for this new adventure. As I moved from class to class, though, the sparkliness of school began to fade. While everyone was busy catching up over the summer, I sat awkwardly waiting for the teacher to just commence teaching. I silently begged them to start the class right as the bell rung because I didn’t want to be the only one not talking. The final period of the day was the worst, though. I had prayed that I was going to escape without some humiliation attributed to freshmen, but nope – I couldn’t miss it. I remember entering 6th period (science) and having one of the boys ask if I was the teacher. When I responded that I wasn’t, they scoffed over it a bit and mumbled something about my outfit making my look like a teacher.


And there it was – I didn’t look like anyone else my age. I wasn’t even dressed that odd; but my oddities and awkwardness apparently shown right through the now silly-looking clothes I had some lovingly chosen. I honestly don’t think I ever wore that outfit combination again, for fear that they’d say something again. Instead, I anxiously watched what the other girls were wearing and tried to blend in. I didn’t do anything neat with my hair unless I saw someone else do it first. I barely spoke up in class because I didn’t want to seem like a know-it-all or an idiot (because in math and science, I wasn’t the sharpest). I muddled my way through that first year of high school required courses and began to plot for my next big break – college. If I could be the brainy girl who got amazing grades, I wouldn’t need a cute boyfriend or stunning prom dress to get me into a good school.

Sophomore year was when we learned that my dad was going to be retiring. This meant that I wouldn’t be finishing high school where I was. At first, I was pretty excited about the idea. But sophomore year is also when I met my first “real” boyfriend and I quickly became attached to the idea of us staying together (and getting married, and having kids – the whole sha-bang). As time wore on and we realized that we wouldn’t be staying in Florida, it became apparent that I might not being finishing high school somewhere else after all. My parents were looking at North Carolina and they required less credits than Florida. For me to transfer up my senior year, I would only have one year-long course to take. I begged and pleaded to graduate early – it only made sense. Then when we moved, I could go straight to college and save myself a year.


It was also during sophomore year that I hit a depression state. I remember learning about poetry and writing sad poems about how lonely I was. Looking back, I don’t know why I was so sad – I was in school with friends; I was playing sports; I had the interest of a few boys; no one was picking on the way I looked. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I had given up m search for being pretty and settled on a more grunge look. It was much more relaxing and comfortable on all levels. But for some reason, I still was sad and so I wrote these depressing poems. I remember being in science class one day when they called me up to the office. I don’t recall exactly what was the reason, but I remember it being something about depression and possible suicidal thoughts. But it was some sort of mix-up and had nothing to do with me, so I was sent back to class. In those moments sitting up in the front office, I was terrified that my mom thought I was suicidal and had sent me to the counselor to be confronted. I don’t think I ever wrote a depressing poem after that day.

When we finally had the permission of the whole school (not really, but it seemed like it), I was able to begin night classes and virtual school. The goal was for me to graduate a year early, completely losing my junior year. The second half of my sophomore year, I opted out of basketball in order to take night classes. I was in classes with all of these kids who were failing and didn’t give a shit; meanwhile I had my nose buried in books, trying to get everything done. I was taking online courses as well, so I wouldn’t have to take as many summer classes. That summer was spent mostly studying, spending time with my boyfriend (who I still believed wouldn’t dump me), and researching colleges in western Carolina.

I was honestly quite content and excited that I was finally doing something different than everyone else. No one really questioned why I was doing it; by junior year, I think we were all over high school. The school newspaper interviewed me about my early graduation and what was driving me to skip the social hype like prom and homecoming. I was really honest – I was inspired by my sophomore and junior science teachers (both female) and really wanted to work in the field of physical therapy. I couldn’t wait to get started because that would require at least a bachelor’s and master’s degree, a minimum of 6 years. I didn’t have time to be dawdling around the high school dances.

mining-the-dark-ir-300x200When I finally graduated, I was ecstatic. Not only was I off to college and getting my second fresh start, but I was going to be living out on my own. I was excited and nervous, all at the same time. Looking back now, I realize that I was just happy to start over. This would become another habit of mine – when something doesn’t work out the way you plan, you tie up loose ends, jump ship, and search out the new path.

to be continued…