guest post: DIY rustic crate bookcase

Below is guest post #2 of the week, brought to you by one of my best friends and bridesmaids, Brittney.

Besides being the most fun, sweet, genuine friend ever.... Brittney is ridiculously amazing at crafting -- you should see her home! It's full of DIY projects that you can barely believe she didn't buy. She's here to share just one of her awesome crafts, a rustic crate bookshelf. It's beautiful! And with her instructions, it sounds like even us mere DIY-mortals can do it :) She doesn't have a blog, unfortunately, but I'll try to convince her to share more of her secrets with me to pass along to you all in the future. Here she is:


Taylor bee has given me the great pleasure of doing a guest post on her blog! WOOHOO! Seriously an honor considering I would probably be eating mac & cheese every night and be extremely overweight without her amazing recipes and motivation to diet! I can happily say that since the 4-week challenge has started I am 8 lbs. lighter! – Thank you Taylor!

So today I will bring to you a little DIY project that I completed a few months ago when my boyfriend, Josh, and I moved into a small apartment on Capitol Hill. The building has a very urban, rustic feel and I needed a bookshelf to combine all of our treasures. 
First step: find crates. I looked everywhere from the back parking lot of grocery stores (Taylor Bee’s idea), Michaels Craft store, Joann Fabrics, and then finally.....Home Depot. Home Depot was the winner with pre-sanded 18 in x 12.5 in. x 9.5 in. wood crates for $8.00 each. Best part was, free shipping for orders over $50.00!
Before I placed my order, I played around by sketching the crates to see what configurations I liked the best so I would know how many I needed to buy. Depending on if you want the shelf to be tall, long, or square, all you have to do is measure the space the shelf will go and work with the dimensions. At the end of the day, I decided to go with 8 crates. Here are some possible configurations.
Once I got them this is what they looked like….

Next step… COLOR! I wanted the crates to look like driftwood so I bought 1 quart Minwax Driftwood Interior Wood Finish Stain, some plastic drop cloths, a large paint brush, a couple rags, and a pair of cleaning cloves.

My approach to staining was, “it doesn’t have to be perfect.” I just slopped the stain on, covering every square inch, nook, and cranny, and then gently wiped the excess off with a rag. Once the entire crate was stained I left it to dry and moved on to the others. Each crate took approximately 10 minutes to stain. (so about an hour and a half total.) The stain has to dry until it is no longer tacky. I moved mine outside because I had space and the stain had an odor. 

The next day I brought all my crates back inside and began assembling them. I started with the two at the base and used (10) 3/8” screws. The red dots on the image below represent where I made the connections.


The last step I chose to take was making a connection between the top shelf and the wall. I planned to use the shelf for some heavy books and didn’t want to risk it falling over. I had a small strip of wire and used it by screwing a screw into the wall, tying the wire around the screw and then tying the wire around one of the crate slits.

Here is the final product!

Give it a try!


guest post: turkey & rice stuffed peppers from bevy richmond

As promised, I have 2 fabulous guest posts lined up this week while I'm enjoying sun, sand, food & drinks in Florida. Here's the first!

Today’s guest recipe post comes from Emma Swann at local Richmond, Virginia (my hometown!) lifestyle blog Bevy Richmond. Emma and I are both proud Virginia Tech Hokies and share a passion for cooking, eating, and sharing wonderful food. Today she’s sharing her delicious Earth-day inspired Turkey and Rice Stuffed Peppers. I specifically asked her to share this recipe (even though she has a lot of good ones!) because I've made these and they are DELISH. Healthy and clean, too!  

Check out the recipe below, and a more detailed how-to here. Be sure to follow her blog for more delicious recipes and other local, travel, and DIY craft posts!

Turkey and Rice Stuffed Peppers
makes 2-3 stuffed peppers

½ pound ground turkey
2-3 large red or green bell peppers
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1½ cups cooked brown rice
1 can (15 ounces) organic tomato sauce
1 small can (8 ounces) diced tomatoes
¼ cup each of shredded cheddar and Parmesean cheeses
1 slice of provolone cheese
Salt, pepper, and Italian herbs seasoning to taste

1. Cut a thin slice from stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. Remove seeds and membranes; rinse peppers. If necessary, cut thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up straight. In 4-quart Dutch oven, or large pot, add enough water to cover peppers. Heat to boiling; add peppers. Cook about 2 minutes; drain.

2. In a large skillet, cook onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add turkey and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Cook over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain.

3. Stir in 1 cup of the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes. Stir and cook until hot, reducing heat to medium or medium-low.

4. Add in cooked rice and stir together. You may want to add more tomato sauce if you like it more liquid-y. After two minutes, add in the cheeses and mix well.

5. Line a small baking pan with a quarter inch of water and heat oven to 375 degrees. Stuff the peppers with the mixture and place carefully into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops become browned; remove and top with optional provolone cheese. Bake again for 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Tip: For a meatless meal, nix the turkey and add in quinoa, kale, or other veggies. I love the versatility of this dish. The next theme I want to try is either Southwestern style (ground beef, black beans, corn, cumin, paprika) or Greek style (feta, lamb, whole wheat cous cous, red onion).


getting health inspiration from pinterest: the good, the bad, and the ugly

So we're almost DONE with the 4-week pre-summer clean-eating challenge! How exciting is that?! If you've joined, I hope you're feeling the benefits like I am. This has been such a great way to start the summer, if you ask me... healthy, confident, and cleansed.

Ryan and I are headed to St. Augustine, Florida on Saturday for an entire WEEK! We so desperately need a vacation and I couldn't be more excited. We have no plans whatsoever. Well, besides sleeping in, laying by the pool, going to the beach, and eating good food. Yeah.... perfect.

So... I won't be blogging for the next week, but I do have a guest post or 2 scheduled :) Look out for these and get excited!!

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the health-related pins I've run across lately on Pinterest. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Don't get me wrong: I like Pinterest. It's such a great way to find inspiration and organize ideas. And it can be a great place to find exercise tips, healthy eating ideas, and health information. However... I occasionally run into pins on there that make me CRINGE. Some are misleading, some are completely inaccurate, and some are downright dangerous. While I think Pinterest can be great, we should be mindful that people can and do put whatever they want on the internet -- even things that are totally wrong. Just because you see it, doesn't mean it's right!

First, here are just some of the pins that I've seen lately and liked.

1. Simple, accurate inspiration. Buy healthy foods. Have fresh foods available. Don't buy processed foods. Voila! Source.

2. Good way to estimate portion size from prevention.com.

3. Visit this page for tips on choosing your protein sources. Nice, simple comparison of calories, fat, and protein: 


sundried tomato, basil, & feta topped chicken

We're officially in the final stretch of the 4-week pre-summer clean-eating challenge! I have to say, I'm really feeling the benefits of these past 3 weeks -- mind and body. Don't get me wrong, I can't WAIT to start eating brown rice and avocados and REAL cheese again...but I'm feeling great right now. The 17 day diet portion is tough, but I've tried to keep it somewhat interesting and I've been eating plenty of food, so it hasn't been too too bad. And one of the best parts has been watching some of you follow along with me and hearing how eating clean has benefited you. It's great to hear about losing 5 pounds, but it's even better to hear that someone is feeling better from eating this way. That's what it's all about :)

I have another 17 day diet-approved recipe for you today, and it's one of my favorite meals so far: sundried tomato, basil, and feta-topped chicken. So delish!

It's barely even a recipe it's so easy. You'll need thin chicken breasts, olive oil, spices, sundried tomatoes, herbed fat-free feta, and fresh basil. I found these bagged sundried tomatoes at Trader Joe's and they're awesome! Just make sure the only ingredient is tomatoes. I used this President herbed fat-free feta cheese...but I can't wait to make this with real feta cheese in a few weeks :)

This recipe is basically my spiced chicken (made without butter) topped with a mixture of sundried tomatoes, feta, and chopped fresh basil. It involves a microwave. I told you... it's simple. 

Here's how to make it:


mahi mahi with tomato, basil, spinach & lime sauce

Guys.... I'm craving carbs. Bad. Images of bread and rice are dancing in my head.

I'm not used to cravings like this. I wasn't ready! My usual diet is well balanced -- protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and the occasional treats in moderation -- and I think that's why I'm able to stick with it and don't really deal with serious cravings. I enjoy eating the way I do! I eat foods that are whole, natural and delicious, and I don't deprive myself. I listen to my body -- when I want whole wheat pasta for dinner, I have whole wheat pasta for dinner. When I want to have a burger and a beer on the weekend, I have a burger and a beer.

I think that's why diets are so problematic for people. Depriving yourself of an entire food group (whole grains and nearly all carbs, in this case) naturally leads to cravings for those foods... and, for many people, this leads to binging. It's almost setting yourself up for failure.

Coming from the girl who suggested this 17 day diet, right?! :) Don't worry, I'm not backing down on you guys. Two weeks isn't long, and I AM feeling the benefits from this diet (and I've heard that a few others of you out there are, too!). It's nice to challenge yourself sometimes. We can do it! Only another week.

However... This terrible carb craving is not going away. So how am I going to handle it?

I'm not going to ignore it. More power to you if you can, but my body is telling me something.

I'm also not going to give in and binge on pasta and french fries. That wouldn't help anything, and isn't really what my body wants or needs.

I'm going to have a whole grain english muffin with some almond butter.

Is that on the 17 day diet? No. Am I going to feel bad about it? No way! I'm going to enjoy it then get right back to it.

I'm not sharing this with you to encourage "cheating." I'm sharing it with you to let you know that changing the way you eat IS difficult. And cravings are natural. Sometimes you push on.... and sometimes you listen to your body. It doesn't have to mean derailing your progress!

Side note....... these two weeks are going to make me appreciate my "normal" way of eating SO much more! :)

I do have another 17-day diet approved recipe to share with you guys! And it was pretty delicious, even in all its low-carbness.

Use good quality mahi mahi filets, or substitute another white fish. For the sauce, I just gathered a few items I had in my kitchen that sounded good, threm them into my food processor, pressed start, and hoped it turned out good -- and it did! Tomato, spinach, basil, garlic, olive oil... yum.

Here's how you make it:


17 day diet chicken & egg salad lettuce wraps

Hi! I'm popping in for 2 reasons:

1) To remind you that you have 1 week left to enter to win a clean-eating giveaway package for FREE!  The giveaway includes 2 of the "Eat-Clean" books, a water bottle, sustainable grocery bag, clean supplements, and more! All you have to do is leave a comment on that linked post, and there are several ways to get multiple entries. Winner will be selected a week from today (Tuesday 5/22). Check it out!

2) To share another simple recipe (if you can even call it a recipe) to help you make it through the 17 day diet portion of this eat-clean challenge. Chicken and egg salad lettuce wraps!

It's a hybrid between chicken salad and egg salad. Totally clean, healthy, and 17 day diet-approved. Is it as good as mayo-y chicken salad or egg salad? Nope. But it's a good lunch option for this diet when you get sick of salads! Serve it in romaine lettuce wraps for the closest thing you can get to a sandwich during these 2 weeks ;) After taking the picture, I drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar for extra flavor.

Give them a try!

17 Day Diet Chicken & Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps
For 1 or 2 servings (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients (adjust to your preferences)

-1 cup cooked shredded chicken
-2 hard boiled eggs, yolks discarded, chopped
-1.5 tbsp plain greek yogurt
-1 tsp spicy brown mustard
-1 tsp whole grain dijon mustard
-1 tbsp chopped onion (optional)
-1 tbsp chopped celery (optional)
-Salt and pepper
-Romaine lettuce
-Balsamic vinegar (optional)

-In a bowl, combine chicken, egg, yogurt, mustards, onion, celery, and spices to taste. Mix well, mashing with a spoon slightly and being sure everything is well combined.
-Scoop mixture into romaine lettuce wraps. If desired, drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


17 day diet eggplant parmesan

Today was the first day of the "17 day diet" portion of the eat-clean challenge -- who joined me?! I have to say, I was never hungry and ate some pretty tasty food. Like this healthy version of eggplant parmesan. Mmm!

Here's what I ate today (and no, I won't be sharing daily meal plans -- just the first day!). Check out the rules and some meal ideas here

-1/2 cup cottage cheese mixed with cinnamon & 1/4 cup blackberries*

Mid-morning snack

-A big portion of leftover turkey chili
-1 cup plain greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon & 1/4 cup blueberries* (I split one of my fruit servings between breakfast and lunch)
-Green tea

Afternoon snack
-Shredded chicken breast
-1 cup raw broccoli

-Eggplant parmesan (see recipe below)
-Shredded chicken breast topped with marinara
-Salad (with romaine, tomatoes, onions, & fat free feta), dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Now... for this eggplant parmesan. 

This is one of my favorite 17 day diet recipes, and it actually comes from the back of the 17 day diet book! 

I don't eat eggplant often -- I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite veggies. Made like this though... it's pretty good! Easy to make too. The hardest part is finding fat free parmesan cheese, but it can be done (yes, the kind you shake out of the green can). If you can't find fat free, just use reduced fat. I'd make this even when I'm not doing the 17 day diet but use regular, full-fat, high quality parmesan... I'm sure it'd be even tastier!

Here's how to make it:


clean 17-day diet turkey chili

The 17 day diet portion (rules here) of this 4-week eat-clean challenge is certainly limiting in terms of recipes (how much can you really make with chicken, turkey, and vegetables?), but there ARE options. And I'm sharing one of my favorites with you! Super healthy, clean, natural turkey chili.

This is a great option on this diet because you WILL get sick of salads. Sometimes you need something warm and hearty -- and this is it! It is satisfying, comforting, and super filling. Eat as much as you want! Two whole cups only has 150 calories and 4 grams of fat -- but it's chock full of protein (14 grams) and fiber (10 grams). Make it for dinner then enjoy the leftovers for lunch (or as a snack!) throughout the week. Yes, the beans are missed (carrots aren't quite the same...), and no, it's not QUITE as tasty as traditional beef chili. But it's about as good as it gets on this diet ;)

Here's how to make it:

preparing for the eat-clean challenge, part 2: the 17 day diet

Well, the time has come. The second half of the 4-week pre-summer eat-clean challenge is here! This is the rough part. But it's also where the real progress happens! If you've been consistently eating clean for the past 2 weeks, you're ready to tackle this part. It's only 11 days (14 if you want to go through the weekend). We'll be done just in time for Memorial Day, and our bodies will be thanking us :)

If you're joining me, let me know! Follow along on facebook. And be sure to enter to win a package of clean-eating goodies for FREE to reward yourself!!

As a reminder, here's what the 17 day diet entails:

Eat unlimited: (seriously... eat a LOT of this stuff, or else you'll be hungry!)
-Chicken breasts
-Turkey breast (watch your sodium though.. be sure it's natural/low sodium)
-Egg whites (but limit yolks to about 4/week)
-Ground turkey or ground chicken
-Fish (salmon, flounder, tilapia, canned light tuna, sole, catfish)
-"Cleansing vegetables" which includes:
   -Brussel sprouts
   -Bell peppers

Eat 2 servings of low-sugar fruit daily. Not after 2pm. Options include:
   -Red grapes

Eat 2 servings of probiotics daily. Not after 2pm. Options include:
   -Yogurt, regular or greek, lowfat or nonfat
   -LiveActive cottage cheese

Eat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil daily

   -Green tea
   -Coffee in moderation (and without cream or sugar)

   -Fat free cheeses
   -Low sodium soy sauce
   -Low-carb ketchup
   -Fat free sour cream
   -Cooking spray

Here's some idea for what to eat:

Breakfast (choose option below + fruit + coffee or green tea)
-Frittata with chicken and vegetables (recipe below)
-Scrambled egg whites & chopped tomatoes
-Plain greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon
-Green smoothie
-Egg white omelette with veggies and fat free cheese
-Cottage cheese

Mid-morning snack:
-Hard-boiled eggs (mostly whites) and fruit
-Plain greek yogurt with berries
-An apple
-1 grapefruit

-Green salad topped with veggies and either chicken or tuna
-Turkey "sandwiches" wrapped in romaine lettuce + mustard
-Grilled chicken + veggies

Afternoon snack:
-Hard boiled eggs (mostly whites)
-Chicken + vegetables
-Turkey + vegetables
-Tuna mixed with balsamic vinegar and chopped celery/onions

-Turkey chili (recipe coming)
-Grilled fish and veggies
-Eggplant parmesan (recipe coming) and chicken
-Grilled chicken and veggies
-Mustard tarragon chicken (recipe coming)
-Taco salad (recipe coming)

After dinner:
-Green tea

See? Not so bad. Just make sure you eat enough! Yes, you'll get sick of chicken and vegetables but keep on eatin'!

To get ready for the week I did a Trader Joe's run and stocked up on veggies, fruit, fish, chicken, turkey, yogurt, and cottage cheese:

I also cooked and shredded 7 or 8 chicken breasts to use in recipes throughout the week.

I used some of the chicken for this simple chicken & veggie frittata to have for breakfasts for the next few days. I definitely recommend doing this if you like frittatas! I used a similar recipe to my ham & veggie frittata with just a few tweaks to make it 17 day diet-approved. I cut it in 4 servings rather than 6 so it's sure to keep me full for a few hours. I then packaged each slice in foil to eat for breakfast over the next few days.

Use fat free feta for this.... which can be a little bit challenging to find. I finally discovered it and bought one regular and one herbed version.

Use whatever veggies you want. I used spinach, tomatoes, and orange bell pepper. Other good options could be broccoli, onion, asparagus, kale, or mushrooms. 

Here's the recipe:


clean eating giveaway!

**this giveaway is now closed -- congrats to Tiffany, the winner of the clean eating package! Tiffany, check your email for details about how to receive your prize**

I have some VERY EXCITING news for you guys! After I started the 4-week pre-summer clean-eating challenge, I was contacted by Tosca Reno's clean-eating team about offering a giveaway package full of clean-eating goodies to one of my readers. I was ecstatic when I saw the collection of awesomeness they wanted to give away -- for free! -- to one of you.

You'll get:

1 green Eat-Clean Diet grocery bag
1 Raw Elements Water bottle
1 sample of Sun Warrior Raw Vegan Protein Powder
1 sample of Sun Warrior Activated Barley Powder
1 sample of Sun Warrior Ormus Greens Powder
1 copy of Tosca Reno's Just the Rules
1 copy of The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian cookbook
As well as a recipe from Tosca using the supplements in the goody bag.

Have you heard of Tosca Reno? She's a fitness goddess who is one of the pioneers behind "clean eating" -- she's the author of all of the eat-clean cookbooks! Check out her website here.

So, how do I pick which lucky reader will receive the giveaway?

Just leave a comment on this post about why eating clean is important to you... whether you've already committed to eating clean, have made attempts to increase your clean eating, or are only thinking about how clean eating could benefit you. If you've joined in the clean eating challenge with me, it would be great to hear how that's benefited you!

Want to increase your odds of winning?? Get an extra entry for each of the following (just leave a separate comment saying you did it):

-Like taylor made on facebook
-Follow @taylor_beee on instagram
-Follow @toscareno on twitter
-Follow @eatcleandiet on twitter
-Follow Tosca Reno on facebook at facebook.com/toscareno
-Follow the eat clean diet on facebook at facebook.com/eatcleandiet

Be sure to include your first name and email.

All of the entries will be entered into a random generator and a winner will be selected in 10 days on Tuesday, May 21st at noon. Then, the package of clean-eating goodies will be shipped directly to you!

Ready? Set? Go!

**Note: I am not being compensated in any way by Tosca Reno to host this giveaway. I agreed to the sponsored giveaway because the package is very much consistent with the clean-eating values of this blog and because I support the mission of Tosca Reno and the eat-clean franchise.


spicy chicken, spinach & tomato stuffed avocado with a sriracha-greek yogurt sauce

Did you know that "eating clean" can taste like the best thing ever? And look like this? 

Yeah. Drool-worthy. 

I created this stuffed avocado meal with the 4-week challenge in mind, but let's be real -- I could eat this every day, challenge or not. 

I LOVE avocados. Most of us do, right? They're a gift from nature! Scooping a bit of one out and combining it with some other delicious ingredients like chicken, tomato, spinach, greek yogurt, and spices just makes sense. It's easy too!

Cut a large, ripe avocado in half and remove the pit.


4-week challenge update: dining out & dining fast

Well, 1 full week down -- we've made it through a quarter of the 4-week pre-summer clean-eating challenge! I've been so glad to hear from some of you through facebook, instagram, email, and twitter (and some text messages - hi friends!) that you're following along. I've had several people tell me how much better they feel already and that couldn't make me happier. Your body loves clean eating!

We've now made it through a weekend, and I know weekends can be tough. Especially when it's cinco de mayo (sorry, poor planning?)... but sticking through it 100% is part of the challenge! And that's really how you can make the biggest gains through these 4 weeks. I ate dinner out on Friday, and restaurants are where I often splurge. But eating clean at Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen wasn't even hard -- this place's menu is FULL of healthy, natural, local ingredients. I went with the mediterranean quinoa salad with tomatoes, onions, cukes, and feta. Soo good! Definitely gonna try to recreate this one at home.

If you're going out to eat during the challenge, don't fear -- you can navigate those menus and find something challenge-approved! Unless you're at Five Guys. Don't go there. That would just be painful. 

So, what should you order?


strawberry, spinach, avocado & chicken salad with poppyseed dressing

So far, the 4-week challenge hasn't been bad at all... how about for you? I'm just trying to savor my whole grain english muffins, almond butter, nuts, and cheese that I know will be gone during the 2nd two weeks of the challenge!

As of now, I'm staying full by creating natural, balanced meals with protein, carbs, healthy fats, and fiber. Another recipe that I've created to fit into the challenge (see lots more in the original 4-week challenge post, and a sample meal plan here) is this strawberry, spinach, avocado, & chicken salad with homemade poppyseed dressing. SO easy and delicious! It's adapted from gimme some oven (check out her salad -- beautiful!). I craved it the second I saw her post and knew I had to make it... especially since it's challenge-approved. It is really quite filling and substantial with the chicken and all of the healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts, and goat cheese!)

Check out the recipe and make it for a filling lunch or dinner:


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