My Upcoming Book “That’s Me”

What I thought would be a simple project, turned into my new baby that became a long adventure. And honestly, as things get checked off of the to do list, I still feel as though I am embarking the beginning of this journey.

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This new baby is my children’s book That’s Me. The illustrator, Sian Paulin, and I have spent several months perfecting this book, along with the support of a few others. It brings so much excitement to see how the words I wrote have unfolded into pictures and now an actual book.

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One of the sketches that has transformed.

While I have written many other works of literature, this one was important to me that I publish first. The inspiration that ties into the underlining purpose of writing this book is so dear to me. I will gladly share those details later. But of course, it apparently has to do with girls.

That’s Me while I hope it reaches the hearts of young girls, I also hope that it will touch the little girl that is inside of us women, too. And for those that have had the opportunity to read and give feedback on the book, they agree that it inspires them as an adult.

At this point, the world it literally a few weeks away from reading That’s Me, a lyrical book that inspires girls and women around the world to be true to who they are and follow their hearts’ desires.

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You may visit my author page DonnaMarieLeonard.com to gather more details on the book and events. Can’t wait to share the excitement with all of you, Jewels!

The Keto Diet: Does it Really Work?

Ever since I can remember, I have always sought out the next diet fad. One may work for a little while, eat wrong and you gain every bit of what you lost back. Or worse, it is not healthy or doctor approved. But mostly, diets are extremely difficult because we are not eating enjoyable food. Essentially, that is truly what it is.

Well, just to give a little bit of history. I can recall doing Tae Bo with my sister after she had my niece to attempt to lose weight, to tell you how long ago that was my niece is now in college. She lost weight, I gained. I have tried cutting out all the white foods, that lasted for a few days, and I lost nothing. How about joining the gym in December in hopes of actually going through with my tenth year in a row New Year’s resolution. EPIC FAIL! Nothing has worked. Atkins, personal trainer, gym for two weeks then off, Miami Beach Diet, going vegetarian for a while, drinking a gallon of water a day. None of these fads work. And this is not to say that they don’t. Perhaps they just don’t work for me.

I have been successful with Quick Weight Loss Centers; however, if you cheat, or not even eat all of your food, you will gain, or your weight will stall. And when this happens you have to eat dissatisfying foods to get back to losing. By the way, the food was not bad, it is just that I was always hungry. And bonus, you could only eat their snacks. That got pretty expensive, pretty fast.

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Bacon Fried Cabbage, yum!

So, I was left thinking that I should just accept being fat. Earlier this year, my cousin introduced me to the Keto Diet. Bacon? What? That sounds so unhealthy. But when I saw the weight dropping from her body, I was like healthy or not, I have to give this a try.

Well fast forward to now, I have lost over thirty pounds, I have a ton of energy, and I feel great! I could have never said that with Quick Weight Loss. I was tired and hungry. With keto you are full off of the healthy fats you are consuming, which has allowed me to fast up to thirty-seven hours. One day I hope to reach seventy-two hours. But the point is, KETO WORKS!

Keto is not a diet where you can just say don’t eat this, eat that. Well kind of. Yet, it requires a lot of knowledge. This is especially so if you are anything like I was, keto is so unhealthy. You do not have to eat bacon. And healthy fats are not the same as McDonald’s.

While I would love to post a before and after picture, I am completely embarrassed at this time. But all of my family and friends that have seen me recently see a major difference. Post baby, I am down over fifty pounds. In clothing, I have gone from a size 18 to some 12s but comfortably and loosely size 14 clothing. All in all, I feel so much better. And the biggest component to my desire to lose weight is to have the ability to keep up with my outgoing daughter. I could be much smaller if I had not enjoyed my summer vacation as much as I did the last month of summer, but what the heck. My body paid for it. I surely was not feeling my best and drained.

Well…What is keto? Keto is a high fat, low carb diet. Essentially, you will want to calculate your macros. Simply google “macros calculator” and follow the directions from there. As far as carbs, it depends on who you talk to. I see weight changes as long as I do not eat over 27g of carbs a day. But I like to stay under 20. 20g of carbs should be your goal. That is the ultimate number for weight loss. However, some people suggest not going over 50g of carbs a day. As I have mentioned, there are so many thoughts on what is really keto and how it works. With that being said, I am not telling anyone how to eat or what keto really is. Anytime I share about anything related to food and weight loss it is from what has worked for me. I am not a doctor. I just know what has worked for myself and my friends.

Now there is some extra calculating that goes into this such as net carbs. I will get into that later on. For now, please know that you must avoid sugar, bread, pasta, carbonated drinks, aspartame. Consume meat, fatty oils such as avocado oil, olive oil, nuts- my favorites are pecans and almonds, and dark and green leafy vegetables. Pork skins go great with many dishes. They’ll become your best friend. There is so much to share. But at least you can start with something as easy as eggs and sausage for breakfast, a salad with avocado, cheese you shred- I’ll explain later, bacon, chicken- I use rotisserie chicken sometimes,  a boiled egg, you can add sliced almonds, pecans- whatever you like as long as it is low carb, and a low carb salad dressing. For the dressing, you can never go wrong with ranch or cesar. I love the Olive Garden Italian dressing and their Parmesan Ranch. They have like less than 1g of carbs. And for dinner, a shrimp and asparagus foil pack is great or instead of shrimp you can have chicken or steak or salmon. You eat really good with Keto. The recipes are endless. Simply google or pinterest them.

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Meal prepped salads for lunch

Lastly, caffeine is your best friend. If you like coffee like that. I am an addict, so I have to have it every day. I have a post that shares how I have my coffee. But to add to it, I normally have black tea iced or hot with stevia and heavy whipping cream. Or, I’ll have iced coffee with heavy whipping cream or half and half with stevia. And sometimes, I drink my caffeine beverages black with or without stevia. This is due to dairy products sometimes cause your weight to stall. You cannot have milk because it contains sugar, but there are many dairy products you can consume- I’ll get into this later. Again, there is just so much to this way of eating.

I truly support low carb/ keto lifestyle because I am not limited on what I can eat. I am fuller longer, and I have so much more energy. Stay tuned for more news and facts about the keto diet. If you are uncomfortable with the fact that keto is a high fat diet, try low carb. When we cut a drastic amount of carbs and sugar from our diets, you are bound to see results.

To good health Jewels!

Be Compassionate

In the mix of this everlasting journey called life, so many parts of our lives can fall out of place as we are climbing to reach our fullest potential. One life component that people often let go of first is compassion. This element sits in our hearts as the reminder to embrace the pain of others as we sympathize and empathize with them during that low time in their life.

I believe that majority of human beings desire to be great, they want to live fulfilling lives, and they want to be  of service to others. After all, we are nothing without each other. Humans make up this earth. Without people we will have nothing. And because we are all human and not perfect beings, we are bound to have moments, days, months, times in our lives where we are uncertain of ourselves and the situations we are in. In these times we may need a shoulder to lean on, to cry on, for someone to show us love, a listening ear. But because everyone is so caught up in their own lives even a teacher next door or the co-worker in the cubicle next to you or your favorite barista can be dealing with a hardship. And unfortunately, their difficult life experience does not get the support it needs, because we are so wrapped up in our personal lives, our little problems, our own mountains that we must climb. That when we see the glitch in their eye, the smile that disappeared, the gloominess in their overall appearance we aren’t available even to say something as simple as “I miss your smile, hope everything is alright, I am here for you.” Sometimes those welcoming words may bring about a conversation or just the thought that someone notices me can make all the difference in a person, and they gain the courage to continue on to be a ray of light for the next person.

We are all meant to encourage in one way or another. It may not even be words, because sometimes we do not have the words to say, but a hug can do, a touch on someones shoulder, a pat on the back. These subtle things imply you care. You may not be able to express your concern with words, but you are able to with a touch. Seriously, this makes a big difference. I hate to see people down, or even on the phone, hearing it in their voice. When this happens, I express concern. And at least the person knows I am available if they need anything.

Another great gesture for displaying compassion when people are struggling can be in giving. My first year of teaching, I will never forget a teacher that gave me a nice gift full of some well needed goodies- a bath bomb, a loofah, a book, a journal, and an encouraging card that lit up my face. She saw where I was having a hard time, everything was a drag for me that year, and she showed compassion towards me by giving me that gift. But it does not always have to be that drastic. Just bringing your coworker, your child’s teacher, or a friend a cup of coffee, tea, a coke, donut, or muffin can brighten their day. I said coke because I know some ladies that will give you the moon if you bring them a coca-cola.

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Flowers I received from one of my students.

Honestly, it is just the little things that count. It is letting people know that you care. That you notice them. While we may think certain individuals are unbreakable, they cry too. Many of us are good at putting on strong faces. When people see that you care, that you see them, that alone will go such a long ways in that person’s life. You may be the one that truly gave them hope. And just knowing that you give another human being hope should be all the more reason to dish out compassion when the opportunity presents.

Let’s not allow our own lives to be the center of the universe, because it never will. While something may be on the news right now, believe in five minutes something else will take over the media. That’s just how fast our lives move. And that is just how fast you can choose to uplift your fellow neighbor.

Be compassionate Jewels. We only have one life to disperse love to one another. The beloved Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Time to Buy School Supplies

The School Supplies Poem

Gleefully strolling through the door,

For what’s ahead I adore.

Before me a list I must achieve

Full of items that will help ME succeed.

The bright hue of yellow on the crayola boxes catch me eyes

I want them all, to my pocket book’s despise.

The smell of fresh gently lined notebooks hit my nose,

And the sight of pastel colored sticky notes, oh I want those.

Don’t forget sharpies, those beautiful markers that glide gracefully across the page;

And I do not mean red, yellow, blue, and green that you see,

I’m talking about the sharpies that are 80s themed.

I’ll take three packs of these!

See back to school is awesome for me.

And because I am a teacher,

I buy these incredible tools blissfully!

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Hope y’all enjoyed this humorous back to school poem I threw together. Yes, it’s that time of year that parents adore. BACK TO SCHOOL! No doubt, some of us teachers love the school supply shopping too! I don’t know why, but I go crazy in the store when it is time for back to school shopping. Even as a child I loved to go shopping with my mom for my school supplies, and upon returning home I would label everything with my name and place all my crayons, markers, and colored pencils in rainbow order. That’s crazy, right? But I guess that was an indicator then that I would be just as OCD now about keeping all of my school related supplies organized and different things around my home as well.

So I am going into my fifth year as a teacher. My first year, I bought a lot of school supplies for my students. Things like markers, scissors, glue, crayons, more like craft supplies. My second year, I did not buy as much, probably just loose leaf paper and pencils. My third year, I returned to school in November after having my baby, so I did not buy anything. Last year, I spent no money on supplies. I had gained many from the previous school years. What I did spend a lot of money on last year was classroom decorations and furniture- I believe in having a cozy and well decorated room. Now, this year after completing one year in elementary, I see a need for having additional supplies on hand. And I do not mean just your craft supplies, teachers should keep tons of notebooks, loose leaf paper, folders, binders, and pencils on hand, especially when teaching younger children. They lose everything! Even though it stays in the classroom, notebooks and folders in my classroom would always end up missing. Then, there is the issue of new students coming and leaving your class. So it is just the best idea to have extras.

Therefore, this year I plan to purchase a bit of those items. Today, I decided to cruise the aisles of Walmart for school supplies. While I was not convinced they tried their best to provide the lowest prices (bring back notebooks for 10 cents), I did manage to buy a lot things for under sixty dollars. I will be going back for more. I looked into Office Depot and Target, their prices are much higher. And as much as I love Target, especially the dollar section for items to utilize in the classroom, I highly recommend Walmart. This time around they really do have the lowest prices! You cannot beat 25 cents for notebooks, 87 cents for binders, 82 cents for wide rule paper, 97 cents for crayola 12 pack colored pencils. Seriously, best deals you’ll find!

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And if there is anything left by tax free weekend, which will be Friday, August 10th through Sunday, August 12th in Texas, perhaps waiting until then to purchase school supplies will be a good idea to save even more.

Please share your thrill for back to school shopping, or even why you dread it, haha. I love the concept of opening new packages of supplies and placing them in cute containers or for the kids, pencil pouches and pencil cases.

Cheers to new school supplies, Jewels!

Caffeine Queen Indeed

Tea has always been my thing. And during the Christmas season at Starbucks I always looked forward to their Caramel Brulee Frappuccino. Besides that frap, I barely drank coffee. But as of this year, I am like coffee queen. I have at least one coffee a day. While at work, I would bring black or green tea, hot or cold, and after work I would have coffee.

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Drinks while shopping at the mall!

And while I love pulling up to Starbucks drive through, it is quite costly. No lie, I still go there at least twice a week because I be out and about so I quench my thirst with coffee, but now I try my hardest to always make my caffeine beverages at home. Here are my favorites to make at home.

In the  morning, I enjoy consuming a hot cup of coffee. My favorite ones are of course Starbucks Veranda Blend Light Blond Roast- this is a light coffee, Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce- this one is like a mild roast, and because I am a NOLA girl I love my Cafe Du Monde coffee au lait- so I have the Cafe Du Monde coffee as well- this one is also a medium roast.

Throughout the day, I like to have iced coffee. For this, I love love love Starbucks Unsweetened Blonde Roast Iced Coffee. If you like a light tasting coffee this one is perfect!

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I never drink my coffee black. Tea, that is no problem, but with coffee it is not happening. Rarely do I add light cream, when I do that is at Starbucks, but for the most part I always add heavy whipping cream- at home a lot, and two stevia sugars. When, I am treating myself I will add caramel syrup, sugar free vanilla, or the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup. At home, I pretty much add the same things to my coffee and tea. But again, when I am treating myself I will add sugar free salted caramel syrup or the sugar free hazelnut syrup by Torani, or Starbucks sugar free vanilla syrup. I do not use these very often, like rarely. I used to though. But now ,I am trying to lay off the chemical sugars and aspartame and all that jazz, so I go with stevia. I also like to add ground cinnamon and 100% cocoa powder to my coffee. This really helps since I am trying to get away from sugar. The goal is sugarless coffee. I have already gone from classic and cane syrup to sugar free syrups to 4 stevia sugars to 2. I am on my way!

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I have several different stevia sugars at home, but my favorite one is the same one that is served at Starbucks, Whole Earth Sugar. I like it because it is grainy like real sugar, not a powder like other stevia sweeteners.

Everything I have shared can be found at your local grocery store.

And for those that are sugar and carb conscious, the heavy whipping cream, coffee, and Whole Earth Sugar are all low-carb, so pour up, Jewels!

Candle Obsessed!

Summer begets the sweetest times for teachers. Oh Summer, how I love thee! It has been half a year since I have blogged, but I have thought about blogging every day. Just so little time to do anything other than be a teacher during the school year. There is a huge difference in being a high school teacher and an elementary school teacher. Will provide those details later. As always there is so much to share, but for now lets get down to it. Candles. Oh, MY, Gosh!!! My latest obsession besides a few others things, including raising the sweetest baby girl on earth. ANYWAYS…

If you are anything like me, you enjoy being welcomed by the pleasant smell of something warm and delightful when you enter your front door. I literally have tried everything out there to make my home smell pleasant: plug-ins, room sprays, Renuzit gel fresheners, Febreeze small spaces, multiple sent sachets from Kirklands, and everything in between. Now, the Renuzit air fresheners and Febreeze small spaces do work. However, after three days the smell is not as strong. And my home just does not smell like the Kirkland’s store.

All of this is not to say that candles are the best answer to your home smelling whimsically. Because they too can become ineffective. Here is how candles are the answer to your home smelling pleasant prayers.

Depending on how large your home is one to three candles can do the trick. A while ago, I discovered the magic of candles. I have not always been on this hype. So one day while preparing breakfast, I burned my new candle from Bath and Body Works. On the way out to run errands, I blew out my candle and went on my way. Upon return, instantly when I opened the door, the warmth and smell of the candle hit me. Pure BLISS! In this moment, I knew I had mastered a way to come home to a wonderful smelling home.

Now, I have been on a buying candles maniac spree since Thanksgiving of last year. My best friend always talks about the candles at Bath and Body Works, and when I go to her home it always smells yummy. So she told me when they had their next sale, and I have been hooked ever since. I have never purchased their candles full price. I always buy them with a coupon or when they have a sale. Because of this,
I buy quite a few each time I go. Moreover, these candles make the perfect gift. Like literally everytime I buy them, I always end up giving one or two to my mom; she too loves candles, just not as crazy as I do.

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By no means am I saying throw away your Yankee candles, but they have nothing on the candles at Bath and Body Works. As I have mentioned, the smell is so loud the aroma of one candle spreads throughout my home. And after blowing them out, if you leave the top off for the wax to cool, when you return home you will still be able to smell them.

I have tons of the Bath and Body Works candles. I have to buy multiples of the ones I love because often times the scents are seasonal, like many of their other well loved items. Such as the yummy scent Blueberry Sugar which came out last Christmas. During the after Christmas sale I bought five more. It smells scrumptious! It is available on Amazon for ridiculously high prices, so hopefully it comes out again this Christmas.

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Found this in the bag. These are great hints that we already know. But #3 is especially helpful!

What I have enjoyed doing is buying the scents for the different seasons, so during Christmas time I had Tis the Season– smells like Christmas, Cinnamon Caramel Swirl– which I still burn now, it goes well when I making pancakes, and Blueberry Sugar– this one I burn all the time. These candles truly brought in the Christmas spirit.

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After Christmas, I fell in love with several scents that I buy frequently so I can have them on hand in case they ever stop selling them: Watermelon Lemonade, which I bought the other day at the end of their Semi-Annual Sale, Georgia Peach, Peach Bellini, and Strawberry Mimosa.

I love the candle Sweet Summer Days, perfect scent reminder of the beach. Smells like summer!

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I enjoy the aroma of burning candles in different rooms of my home. It makes my home feel warm and homely.

Like I said before, the candles work so well for me because I burn them often. But, another home fragrance essential you may want to keep on hand that works well is the Bath and Body Works concentrated room sprays. When the mist comes out it is quite dry; hence, not creating a slippery mess on the floor. PERFECTION! I love these. I spray them when necessary, the candles are good on their own. I use the spray especially for my living room because I do not burn any candles in their due to my little one.

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One of my favorite scents

If you’re just as candle obsessed please share your favorite candles.

To sweet smelling yummy homes Jewels!

Meal Prepping: To be OR not to be

Everyone always has such wonderful things to say about it. Meal prepping saves you time; meal prepping helps you save money; meal prepping keeps you on track with your dietary plan; etc. So meal prepping receives such high praise. And I am sure it is all that and a bag of chips, but I lack time to do such meal prepping. But, I thought what the heck, let’s try this!

Yesterday evening, I decided I would give it a try since school was canceled for today due to inclement winter weather conditions. I had nothing to lose, especially not time. It took me about three hours to prep. Within that time, I managed to cook three meals, prepare four salads, and snacks. I do feel a weight lifted off my shoulders, in the since that I will not have to cook when I come home from work, which does save time and energy.

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After this first week goes by, I’ll be sure to share how meal prepping actually worked out for me. I’m sure my family will enjoy not having to wait for dinner to be ready, and the snacks are already bagged, ready for consumption. The biggest plus for me is not having to wash dishes. Yes!!! Those dishes are a pain.

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If you all have tried meal prepping, please share tips on how to save time and what works best for you. I am really excited about continuing to prepare meals in this manner.

Bon appetit, Jewels! 😉