Hello, I Love Juice Bar

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetThere is a green and vibrant corner of our city’s square called I Love Juice Bar that deserves praise for its juicy approach to serving not just Knoxville, but the whole country. The story behind this energetic brand comes from our neighbor and my original hometown, Nashville.

 John and Vui Hunt of I Love Juice Bar (Photo Credit: ilovejuicebar.com)

John and Vui opened the first Juice Bar 5 years ago. He was unhealthy, tired of the corporate hum-drum, and exhausted. After the simple act of watching a documentary, his life took a new turn (props to the power of excellent film-making and to spending your time choosing to learn). After seeing the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, he began juicing everyday. “I started losing weight and very quickly felt better than ever – my energy levels went sky high,” John remembers. They are from Atlanta where Vui owned a vegetarian restaurant and they were both missing the passion-driving fulfillment of running their own business. Shortly after John had begun juicing, they saw a sandwich shop for sale in Nashville and WENT FOR IT! Vui said, “It was simply a now or never type of thing to us. Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Six weeks later, the first I Love Juice Bar opened its doors and this brand began its kale-green-juicing national takeover!

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Now, I Love Juice Bar has over 50 locations in over 16 states. John and Vui still live in Nashville with their two daughters and two dogs and run all the workings of the growing company. Vui still creates every menu option!

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I have so much respect for the two of them and for their message behind the brand – have fun, be amazing! Being amazing in your health can be fun! What a phenomenal lifestyle to promote – that you should eat to nourish your body and you can still have fun while doing that. Come on, health is often seen as a cycle of fad diets and the mentality of “should eat” vs. “want to eat.” However, step into a Juice Bar and there is a different story being told. You can pick from ANYTHING on the menu – vibrant colors (green, orange, purple, yellow) and a variety of options (juices, smoothies, bowls, power shots, salads, snacks). You can fully ENJOY any of the items. Plus, your body salutes your decision to nourish it with the jam-packed nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins.

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Featured above, is a selection of their juices – Super Greens, We Got The Beet, Orange You Glad, and the most popular Sweet Greens (which has apple, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, and lemon). From fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, to vitamins like B12 and B9 (folic acid), these juices basically become your natural and delicious vitamin for the day. If you need more than juice, the other yummies for sale include spring rolls, sandwiches, overnight oats, quinoa power bowls, seasonal soups, and  four new smoothie bowls (Aloha, Tumeric, Go Go Green, and Acai Bowl). I got to try the green bowl and it was phenomenal!

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So, you need to visit one of John and Vui’s locations and experience all the healthy fun. You will especially LOVE the franchise here in Knoxville at Market Square. Ali, the national marketing coordinator, met me in our local store and told me all about what makes I Love Juice Bar special. She is amazing and in charge of making sure you catch on to the powerful message behind their brand. At this location specifically, you’ll find yoga every Friday, fun employees like Morgan and Elliot, board games, and really good vibes. You can step into this healthy spot and do something good for not just your body, but also your soul! The bright windows and space opens you up no matter what kind of day you are having and the nutrient-packed menu items will energize you for whatever is next!

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Thanks for listening to my love-fest for this local store and national company that has its roots so close to us. THIS SPRING from March-May, if you mention my blog, then you get 30% off any juice at our downtown location. So, go get your discount, re-fuel for your day, and support this special business!

Hello, Lisa

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I’ve got something special for you to read – the first of many new posts I’m rolling out this year, featuring Knoxville locals. I invited one of the girls I know via Instagram to share her story with me over coffee. Oh my goodness, I was blown away by the spunk and vulnerability of this beautiful new friend!

Lisa is a ball of energy, a true bosslady, and one of the most genuine girls I have met in awhile! She is a manager at Clayton Homes, owner of SugarChef Knox, and co-owner of The Paisley Swan (a vintage booth inside the local store, Nostalgia). Her friends call her a renaissance lady and rightfully so! She also leads a book club called “Love 2 Get Lit.” How fun is that!?

I’m thrilled to celebrate this amazing Knoxville local by letting her share her story with you and am so thankful for her honest and real heart. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and join our conversation.

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Hey Lisa, what’s a lesson you have been learning in this past season of life?

Well, for the latter part of 2017 I was having a really hard time mentally and emotionally about getting older. I was about to turn 30 and was feeling caught in comparison to where I “should be” and struggling with the feeling that I was supposed to be doing more with my life. I just kept thinking, I am single with MULTIPLE CATS…this is not a good look. I then attended a creative workshop in January where we were creating a self portrait and exploring the misuse of power and control. We brought a picture of ourselves and were asked to hold the picture in front of our face while we did a blind contour drawing. Basically we outlined the shape of our face without looking at the canvas and believe me when I tell you, it ended up looking really wonky. Once we were done, we picked out fabrics, oil paints, and newspaper clippings and adorned our canvas. Then, we shared what our finished piece meant to us. While everyone before me was relatively lighthearted, I literally lost it. I start crying and saying, “I’m having a crisis. I’m turning 30 and I feel like this is the end.” It basically turned into a therapy session at that point…I’m pretty sure someone said “this is a safe place.” It is hilarious looking back but I share all this because through that extremely bizarre and beautiful experience, I realized everything on my canvas reflected this hard season I was navigating. I had chosen cutouts of maps and placed them on my shoulders…so symbolic of how I was struggling with what direction to take in life and how it was weighing on me daily. I also had all these creative words coming out of my mouth and fabric flowers growing out of my head which reminded me of how I felt this urge to cultivate my creativity and growth but also felt this pressure from society to fit inside a predictable box. As I was sharing this, still sobbing, with a entire group of strangers, I realized I don’t HAVE to be one thing. It was really a tipping point for me. I felt more grounded and focused going forward and I began recognizing that trying a whole bunch of things doesn’t mean any one thing loses its value…it just means that you are growing exponentially in many different ways. When I was younger, I thought being a jack of all trades had a negative connotation, but now I feel empowered to be and do it all. I can have a corporate career during the day and also cultivate my creative outlets. Whether it’s in my baking or painting, writing or renovating furniture, I’m creating not because I feel like I have to be the best at it but because of the self-discovery that comes with it!

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We all typically find ourselves in some kind of tension currently and have to work through it. What’s the strain you are feeling in your life right now?

I would say it’s still a continuation from this past year to a certain extent. Self-love has been a lifelong struggle for me and as a result it is something I’m super passionate about. I am constantly having to remind myself that even when you are practicing self-love, there are good days and bad days. When I look back at my life even five years ago, that was not something I was intentionally practicing and cultivating. Self-love can be a million different things, not just going to get a mani-pedi and despite that knowledge, there are still days when doubt or anxiety creep in. I might know my value, but I might not necessarily be feeling it in those moments. So, a strain for me is separating my emotions from the truth in times of weakness. It often takes a lot of strength and heart to be able to push through that hump of feeling vulnerable or afraid and I’m slowly learning to do it with more grace and bravery.

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Tell us what brings you the most joy in your life? What makes your heart giddy?

Right now it is definitely pursuing my creative outlets with more intention. I used to to do them here and there, but now I’m actively pursuing them with purpose. I have an amazing planner by Inkwell Press and as silly as it sounds, it has completely changed my life. The focus is less about getting to an appointment on time and more about goal setting and living a designed life. Through their processes, I developed a goal statement for the year, “To actively seek out opportunities to cultivate my intellectual and creative growth and to pursue new and old friends”.

This year I am focusing more on intentional creativity and learning to find joy in the process and not just the end result. I have a lot of creative outlets that often lie dormant – restoring furniture, painting, writing and then of course baking. As a little girl, my mom told me there were no rules in the kitchen. I could get in there and do whatever I wanted, which led to some weird, inedible creations. I hope my parents forgive me for what is now remembered as “the mustard seed phase”. Now, I have been making wedding cakes and cupcakes for 13 years and one of the best moments for me is those initial moments of joy when you first deliver an order and they see and taste their vision come to life.

I am also really passionate about community. I love when you are in a space with a bunch of personalities that are vulnerable and we are all trying something new but have no idea how to navigate the process. It always becomes this incredible experience that brings joy and togetherness and so much more than something we produced on paper. 

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Beautiful words from my new Knoxville friend. Thank you for listening! I hope you feel reminded you’re not alone. It warms my heart to know that there are so many wonderful people all around us like Lisa that we can get to know, share our stories with, and build honest community together! 

Margarita Day! Hay!

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In honor of this very important national holiday, I have for you the best ‘ritas around Knoxville (if only you could get tipsy from pictures)! Go try one for yourself and find something to celebrate. You could cheers to this bizarre holiday, or that it’s Thursday, maybe to your good friends, or maybe just to being young and alive. Celebrate something – it’s good for your soul – and so are really delicious margaritas!

BALTER’S SMOKY MANGO HABANERO ‘RITA

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HANDS DOWN, this is my favorite ‘rita in Knoxville.  The Smoky Mango Habanero Whisky provides the most unique sweet and spicy kick. Don’t worry though, it has the perfect balance to make the drink interesting, but subtle enough so that every palette would enjoy it. I had a couple in a row … it was that good. Thanks to my sweet friend, Holly who celebrated Saturday with me and also didn’t get too embarrassed when the bartender cut me off, jk. 🙂

BABALU’S CRAZY ‘RITA SELECTION

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This is the Babarita, flavored with pomegranate juice. At Babalu, you literally have over SIX different ‘ritas to choose from. The Shine-a-rita (with Sugarlands Peach and Lemonade Moonshine), Pineapple Margarita (with house-infused pineapple tequila), Mojarita (with fresh lime mint), Sangarita (with house-made sangria), AND they always have a special one like Strawberry Sriracha or Cucumber Jalapeno.  

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Babalu is the perfect setting for a group of people and I’m still savoring the night I had with the New2Knox crew. P.S. If you want to make new friends, follow them on Instagram  (@New2Knox) and go to their next social. Maybe we will do another after-party at Babalu and we could share a margarita together (or their crazy good guac)!

CHIVO’S CLASSIC MARGARITA

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This drink has put me back financially a few times, because it is SO good and one is just not enough. It has the perfect mix of flavors, with top-shelf tequila (Espolon Blanco), Triple Sec, Agave, and Lime. Order “The Chivo” either classic or flavored with Blackberry or Strawberry; anyway you have it, expect a good time!

There’s my favorite ‘ritas in Knoxville and there are plenty more good ones in this growing city! Hope you get to go try one and have fun celebrating National Margarita Day!

Raise your ‘ritas, Knoxville, cheers!

Over Here, Becoming My Own Valentine

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Where do I begin? One, I’m sharing this not because I want to – posting your personal mess on the internet is a lil’ scary. However, somehow I got a following here and I want this blog to be an honest place where girls can say “me too,” where you can know you’re not alone in having struggles. Two, please read to the end because I am excited to share my truth with you and how cheesy enough, I’ve become my own valentine! Here, we go.

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Last year, in many ways, I was on the hot mess express. I stepped into a new job that was and is wonderful for me. Yet, working and brushing shoulders with 5 girlfriends all day everyday brought up a TON of insecurities. Pretty sure those insecurities have been there since middle school, just cozy and dormant. To note, these co-workers are dear friends who have been in my life for the past 6 years, and have never communicated anything but love. YET, starting work with them, all the sudden I felt like I didn’t know if they liked me … I didn’t feel funny enough … or outgoing enough … or strong enough.  I felt paranoid all the time and really couldn’t put a finger on why. This was months. Not fun.

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It’s weird because God almost gave me a warning this storm was coming. The previous two Mays, around the same time each year I had distinct memories of similar conversations. I was talking in groups of girls about things that I honestly wasn’t interested in, but I was working HARD to fit in, cracking jokes and trying to appear a part of things. Both times, the most random whisper came from within, “Why are you doing that?” 

I forget God knows and sees me far better than I know myself. I had no awareness to the performance I had learned to turn on and I sure as heck didn’t want to go there. So, I ignored the clear voice of God both times. Yep.

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Then, there I was this past year with the huge insecurities woken back up. They were alive and well and wailing for me to pay attention to them. Luckily, I had learned to not be scared of tension, that tension is the EXACT place God wants to meet me. 

So, after months of seeking and waiting in the mess, here’s my truth that He showed me. Here’s the new foundation He built for me after tearing down what was there.

I have immense value. Before anyone likes me or values me or before I do anything well, I AM FULL OF VALUE.

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My spread of traits – outgoing and shy, fun and boring, kind and short, strong and weak, silly and serious, unique and normal – is the perfect spread to be me, to be a wonderful me! Our world teaches us we have to be just as (fill in the blank) as the girl next to us, but why can’t we embrace having a beautiful spread that’s all our own?

It sounds silly, but I literally feel like I have a new best friend in my life and it’s me.

I used to need people to show me that I was likable, BUT NOW I LOVE MYSELF. And when you really love something or someone, it is a game changer. All the sudden, you have patience for that person. You see the best in them. You forgive them. Grace becomes natural. You remind them of their strength and you push them towards things they love. You are a voice in the corner, always. And the best love doesn’t have a measuring stick or a set of expectations. Loving yourself like that, is the gift that my God has shown me. I will never be the same.

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Yep. Thanks for listening, friends. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and know you are so full of value today and worthy of all the love in the world, even your own.

A Creative in Our Midst

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She is not just creative, she is a creative. Unlike anyone I know, my friend embodies the true spirit of this word. She’s a visionary, with boundaries that have never been set. The work she makes comes from her soul, and her unique voice delivers a specific poetry. She is Kelsey Prater – photographer, artist, writer, wife, and dear friend. Let me introduce you to this creative in Knoxville.

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Born in our scruffy city, Kelsey was a little artist from the beginning – drawing, writing, and always finding avenues to express herself. Before she could even write, Kelsey would dictate stories to her mom who would write them down and bind them into books. After joining the yearbook club and getting her first SLR camera, she became enamored with photographing people. Years later, this obsession would become not just an outlet, but a career.

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After getting her creative writing and English degree, Kelsey took a social media and marketing position for a local beer distributor. She was shooting weddings and portraits on the side and eventually knew that she needed to make the switch. So, last May, she cut the cord with her office job and went all in as a freelance photographer. Praise hands for Kelsey! Praise hands, for not staying in a job that doesn’t fill you up! The transition has gone so well, with 20 weddings booked already this year, and with a new passion and motivation to “go to work” each day! I’m so inspired by the gumption of my brilliant friend.

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This is her beautiful work. She captures the honest and emotional moments between people. Her photography is so special and you can see for yourself that it tells a story and captures all kinds of raw feeling.

This quote is Kelsey’s favorite and I think it is the undercurrent in her creative process as a photographer: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

As she focuses on connecting with people, getting to know their story, their nuances, and expressions that make them unique, she simply gives them the space to feel like themselves. Then, in that state of ease and honesty, her camera can capture a moment that reflects the soul. She has a phenomenal ability to do this. In my mind, this skill makes her a true artist even more than the ability to choose the right settings or lighting.

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Before I finish this praise-fest, I have to share a little bit more about why I personally LOVE HER! Kelsey is my very-own-personal Elizabeth Gilbert (if you’ve read Big Magic or listened to the podcast Magic Lessons, then you know to feel jealous). She reached out to me in a time where I was just starting to take myself seriously as a writer/blogger and modeled what it looks like to CREATE JUST TO CREATE, just for the sheer joy of it! “Yes, I need to make enough money to live, but for me it’s about telling people’s stories and the joy I get from that,” she explained. “You could have a different relationship with your career where you think, ‘This is who I am,’ but I want who I am to inform what I do.” Pure gold, from her heart.

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Her word for this year is rooted. Kelsey responded as a true creative with what she’s rooted in, “beauty and attention.” Our days might seem busy, but they can slow down to beautiful moments if you’re paying attention to the who and what around you. “It’s easy to sleepwalk through your life, but this year I want to let the beauty of my surroundings overwhelm me and break my heart open,” she sweetly said. What a special and magical soul Kelsey has! I love getting to see that translate to her art and the way she lives her life.

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Thank you for getting to know this creative in Knoxville who inspires me! I hope you go do something for the sheer joy of it or slow down and pay attention to your day in her honor. Also, since Kelsey is your friend now too, go schedule her for whatever you have coming up next – engagement, weddings, senior, baby, family portraits, boudoir, styled shoot, you name it!

Follow her on Instagram, @kels.prater, or go to her website, kelseyprater.com.

My Staple Meals

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One of my goals last year, was to have staple meals that I could put on repeat. Every week I was doing new recipes that took forever or boring meat and veggies, and I wanted to have dishes that felt like my classics, my greatest hits in the kitchen! Confession: I also sort of have a superhero mom dream to have yummy meals that become comfort food for my family. That’s how my mom was – she had her special strawberry salad, lamb and taziki sauce,  chicken tetrazzini, omg and the best mini pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I remember her making these and other special meals and how they filled our home up with love and comfort. It sure is simple, but it sure does mean something, at least to me.

So, in pursuit of my own recipes, I found SIX that my hubby and I loved in 2017. I made them so many times that I almost know them by heart, woohoo! Plus, most of them are Whole 30 – great bonus!

Alright, time to feast your eyes. Here’s my top 6!

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps

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http://40aprons.com/whole30-lettuce-wraps-pf-changs-recipe/

Tastes just like PF Chang’s – I use soy sauce instead of the amino’s … one day maybe I will be that healthy. Also, I make the two sauces early in the day so when it’s dinner time I just have to chop veggies and sauté everything.

Spaghetti Squash

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http://www.paleorunningmomma.com/paleo-slow-cooker-meatballs-whole30/

I use marinara from a jar … because well it tastes better and it’s way easier. I LOVE this recipe for the meatballs though – it’s so easy and fun to mix it all together with your hands. Plus, spaghetti just has that wonderful effect of being comforting, right?

Breakfast Bake

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I make this with sausage and it is the perfect breakfast to get ya going in the morning, full of protein but it also has that special savory/sweet combination. I think I made this literally 8 weeks in a row … yep, a little obsessed!

Here’s the rest:

Acorn Squash: Thanksgiving in a Squash!

https://www.paleorunningmomma.com/stuffed-acorn-squash-paleo-whole30/

Sweet Potato Tacos: Great as Leftovers!

http://www.paleorunningmomma.com/paleo-chili-stuffed-sweet-potatoes-whole30/

Zuppa Toscano Soup: Healthy Olive Garden!

http://40aprons.com/whole30-zuppa-toscana/

A big thank you to the food bloggers who crafted these special recipes, who gave me a place to start with creating my own staples (40 Aprons, Paelo Running Momma, and Aimee Mars). Here’s to another great year of cooking!

Hello, 2018!

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New year, SAME me. That just sounds better right? I used to give into the temptation of creating a new me. When I was younger, and would feel depressed without really having that label yet, I would make a list of all the new things I wanted to be! Heh, those lists went nowhere, but sure did make me feel better.

The past year, I experienced so much refinement of who I am. While I have goals for this new year, they really boil down to the same thing I experienced in 2017 – refinement of the real me (the way I function, my perspective, my habits, my desires, etc.)

That being said, I do have ONE NEW MANTRA! I heard a quote about a month ago in a podcast and it has stayed pretty consistently in the background of my mind. It comes from the Queen of Movies:

“I want to feel my life when I’m in it.” – Meryl Streep

Love this. When I heard it, my heart paused, took it in, and then hasn’t let go of it. So, this is my mantra, my fresh intention for 2018, to feel my life when I’m in it.

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Every season is so different and boy do I appreciate the one I am in now – it’s relatively relaxing and happy. I remember though last fall, the refinement I mentioned came with some necessary valleys. It’s a long story that I will post about one day, but I was frustrated with a tension in my life that was staying around for far longer than I wanted it to. Frustrated it wouldn’t resolve, I talked to my friend PRISCILLA MOLINA who I adore. She told me, “Laura, this is your life. This is it.” I hear that a lot now, in her wonderfully Cuban and sassy yet somehow tender voice. That simple reminder made me realize I was missing my life. Worried about fixing it and focused on the “perfect” future, I was missing out on what the season actually felt like. Once I gave into that and let it just be, I could actually connect with myself. I could then be honest with God and that tension finally had the space it needed to heal.

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So, this is the dilemma: when life is hard, we over-work our minds and try to fix it. When life is easy, we float and don’t take in the goodness. Meryl Streep may as well have been the Queen of Slow Living because her quote calls us to slow down and FEEL the good and FEEL the pain. Heck, yesterday I was trying to “FEEL the busy” and yep it felt a little silly.

I think there is something here though to help us in the pursuit of slow living (which even though I hate buzzwords, how can I neglect this beautiful concept?). If you are going to live slowly and take in the moment, you are going to have to BE HONEST about how you are feeling. Angry, sad, frustrated, excited, happy, depressed, confused, busy – embrace your honest feelings and let yourself feel them. This has been for me the TICKET TO SLOW LIVING and the ticket to really enjoying the seasons of my life.

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That’s my heart for 2018, to FEEL my life when I’m in it. One day when I’m old, doing puzzles and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream every night (that’s the plan) I hope I don’t say, “Wow, my life flew by.” Instead, that I would have felt the days, weeks, seasons, and years of my life.