A “Forever” Broken

Happy Holidays! It’s been awhile since I last posted, but I hope your holiday season has been a pleasant and enjoyable one, thus far. These past couple weeks have left me feeling nostalgic, given the arrival of old friends in the area for the holidays and past memories and sentiments starting to surface. From the latter portion of my middle school years through high school, I had a solid and defined group of best friends. It was always the 5 of us, with several of our other friends occasionally mixed in. It felt good to be apart of a close knit gathering of friends, people I could turn to in both the pleasant times and the less-fortunate occurrences, or so I thought at the time.

The holiday season for my friends and I always culminated at one of our house’s, where we would trade gifts and laughter, watching our favorite movies and eating all of “our” snacks (typically the much-loved Goldfish crackers, Oreo’s, Doritos, and a bunch of other packaged goods). Prior to our holiday gathering, my mom and I would scour the mall for what seemed like hours, trying to select the “perfect” gift for each of my friends without emptying our wallets. It was an annual shopping event I almost enjoyed as much as the actual holiday gathering. Often when we finished shopping, I would count down the minutes until I could finally present my friends with their gifts and cards, eager to show them how much they meant to me. To be honest, back then, I operated under the impression that we would all be best friends forever. I envisioned rooming with one of my friends in college, having wonderful adventures and escapades traveling through Europe and beyond. I believed all would work out and we would have a life filled with nothing but fun and excitement. Back then, it all seemed so simple and like a puzzle that could be easily solved with little difficulty.

My senior year of high school, or truly, the end of junior year, my friendships started to fall apart. Broken down by stress and my own self-defeating thoughts, my priorities and focus started to change. The same friends who I shared so many laughs, parties, and adventures with, began to fade from my life. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing for me to admit, given it’s been over 10 years at this point, but their absence still hurts. Given the outpouring of social media today, (in particular, Facebook), I will occasionally spot photos of them (the few who are still friends), planning their bridal showers and weddings, seeing their adult lives mold together. It’s hard to not search for myself in some of those photos, as I can easily step into my basement and retrieve scrapbooks created for me by two of those friends, showcasing all of our smiling faces huddled together. On occasion, I’ll even see one of my former friends in the area, in a store, and they will avert their eyes, pretending like we are two random souls simply shopping in the same store and maybe in a sense, that is what we are now. It’s often hard for me to reconnect to the teenager I once was, or truly believe it was me. Cognitively, I know it was me, but given all the life experiences since adolescence, it’s hard to establish that emotive connection to my former self.

Friendship Quote

In reading this, one might wonder, well, if I truly feel such sadness and remorse about these former friendships, then why not reach out? The simple answer is, I have. There have been through the years, many unsuccessful attempts via Facebook – messages that have been read, but ignored, and perhaps there is a reason for it. If they have moved on, then it is their prerogative to remain silent.  That being said, we all make choices for whatever reasons we do. Sometimes, we make decisions/choices for self-protection, wanting to shield ourselves from future emotional and/or physical pain. Other times, we make choices or decisions because we truly feel it is what is best for us in that moment.

Given how much has changed in my life these past 10 years, it’s often difficult for me to even believe these friendships even existed and weren’t figments of my imagination. Though, I know, it is only steps to my basement where those scrapbooks sit, crafted for me by those very friends, holding all the memories and moments I once held so close to my heart. It is a part of my past and though it can be hard to reflect back on it, I’m still glad it happened.

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Sips from the Farm: Hydrate the Califia Way

Good Morning! I hope your Wednesday is off to a pleasant start! If you’re like me, one of my favorite meals is breakfast. When I was much younger, (think middle through high school years), I was not a breakfast-eater by any means. In the mornings, I was cranky, tired and eager to return to sleep and therefore eating a healthy breakfast was the furthest thing from my mind (of course, I often regretted this mid-day when I was ravenous and gobbling crackers, etc). That being said, nowadays, breakfast each morning is a staple and one I look forward to! Complete with a steaming mug of coffee and a banana, I tend to rotate my morning meal between cereal (a various assortment of types for variety and flavor!) with milk or yogurt (either non-fat Greek or nonfat traditional style).

Choosing the type of milk I add to my cereal and/or cook/bake with is one that can be rather involved, or at least one that requires some choice and thought. On any given day, a trip to the grocery store dairy department affords shoppers with a plethora of milk options. There is everything from traditional dairy (i.e. cow’s milk), coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, combinations of almond-coconut or almond-cashew, and the list continues. Not only are there different flavors and types, but also an extensive brand list.

A couple months ago, while browsing the dairy department at my local grocery store, a uniquely-shaped, sleek, long-necked bottle caught my eye, reeling me in. Within minutes, I was opening the glass door, removing the intriguing bottle from the case. I was pleased to see it was almond milk (though there was an array of other types, as well) by the brand, Califia Farms. It was a brand I’d never heard of before, but given the claims imprinted on the bottle (unsweetened, non-GMO, environmentally-friendly, etc), I was sold and placed the bottle in my shopping cart, eager to return home to try it!

Califia Farms Logo                Califia Farms Almond Milk

Soon after trying it in my cereal bowl, the Califia Farms line of milks were instantly added to my milk repertoire, making a point to place it in my cart the next time I shop. With a vast array of product lines and offerings, each experience with Califia Farms is bound to be a unique and exciting one!  Thus, as I began to try more Califia Farms‘ products, I was thrilled beyond belief to be provided with the unique opportunity to sample one of their new holiday beverages (other holiday options includes: Peppermint Mocha, Holiday Nog, etc) – Pumpkin Spice Latte made with almond milk! As one of the biggest pumpkin fans around, their new Pumpkin Spice Latte combines nearly all my favorites; pumpkin, coffee, and almond milk! It is truly a one healthy treat in a cup! Plus, it is naturally-sweetened, low-calorie and refreshing. Upon trying it, I was instantly delighted, envisioning all I would enjoy it with (on its own as a refreshing, hydrating beverage, cooked into oatmeal for subtle pumpkin-java notes, added to smoothies, milkshakes – the possibilities are truly endless!). Plus, the flavor of pumpkin truly shines through with a subtle sweetness. It is a taste of the holidays in a glass! 

Califia Farms Holiday Drinks

As a brand, Califia Farms (www.califiafarms.com) is dedicated towards the community and it’s customers, operating as a transparent company who is honest in their practices and geared towards providing healthy, nourishing beverages. They are consistently active on several forms of social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter – @CalifiaFarms, Pinterest, Instagram and also maintain their own blog- http://www.califiafarms.com/blog/ where they publish recipes featuring their products!).

Califia Farms Logo 2

Company Background: (accessed via http://www.califiafarms.com)

  • A grower-owned company based in San Joaquin Valley, California, according to their official website (www.califiafarms.com), Califia Farms was founded by Greg Steltenpohl, with a goal of “creating the most remarkable company of the future, powered by plants.”
  • The unique name, Califia Farms, comes from the warrior queen, Califia, who ruled over California, as an earth goddess, storyteller and mother. The warrior queen is identified as an icon of California’s “heritage and healthful bounty.”
  • 100% of coffee in their beverages is grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms (meaning farmers follow more sustainable agricultural practices, protecting forests, rivers, soils and wildlife. Workers are also afforded respectable/better wages and living conditions)
  • Community Oriented – Supports Xerces Society to support Bee Biodiversity; works with BOXSMART to reduce waste and recycle up to 20,000 lbs of paper per month.
  • All cartons of Califia Farms‘ products are 100% recyclable, so not only can you feel good about what you’re drinking, but you can also help in keeping the environment beautiful!

Califia Farms CEO      Dairy Free symbol

General Califia Farms‘ Product Information/Facts:

  • All products are non-GMO, with forthcoming plans for organic versions, as well.
  • Products are acceptable for cooking and can be used in identical ways as cow’s milk.
  • All are Gluten-Free.
  • 50% more calcium than cow’s milk (added by calcium carbonate)
  • Fresh for 7-10 days within opening.
  • Califia Farmsjuices are freshly-squeezed and bottled at their own juice plant.
  • Sweeteners used = pure cane sugar and/or monk fruit concentrate.
  • By the end of 2015, Califia Farms will have an entire carrageenan-free portfolio.

Califia Farms Almond Milks:

Califia Farms Horchata   Califia Farms Almond Milk

  • Unsweetened
  • Vanilla
  • Unsweetened Vanilla
  • Original
  • Coconut Almond Milk
  • Chocolate Coconut Almond Milk
  • Barista Blend (coffee-creamer)
  • Classic Cinnamon Horchata (new)
  • Vanilla Coconut Horchata (new)
  • Holiday Nog (new)

Califia Farms Single Serve Versions:

Califia Farms Single Serve

  • Vanilla Protein
  • Chocolate Protein
  • Chocolate Almond Milk
  • Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk

Califia Farms Coffee Creamers:

Califia Farms Creamers

  • Original Almond Milk
  • Pecan Caramel
  • Hazelnut
  • Vanilla

Califia Farms Cold Brew Coffees:

Califia Farms Iced Coffee

  • Peppermint Mocha (new/seasonal)
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte (new/seasonal)
  • Concentrated Cold Brew (new)
  • Cafe Latte
  • Double Espresso
  • Mocha
  • Salted Caramel
  • XX Espresso
  • Mocha Mexica (new, single serve)
  • Dirty Chai (new, single serve)
  • Triple Shot (new, single serve)
  • Cocoa Noir

Califia Farms Aqua Fresca (fruit drinks):

Califia Farms Aqua Fresca

  • Cranberry Cocktail (new, seasonal)
  • Mango Chili Lime (new)
  • Pineapple Ginger (new)
  • Watermelon Ginger Lime
  • Strawberry Basil
  • Kiwi Cactus Lemonade

Califia Farms Citrus Juice:

Califia Farms Juices

  • Tart Cherry Lemonade
  • Lemon Limeade
  • Lemonade
  • Orange Juice
  • Tangerine
  • Limeade

So, there you have it! With an extensive product line, Califia Farms truly offers a beverage for everyone! To find out where Califia Farms is offered nearest you, be sure to check out their store locator via their website (califiafarms.com/store-locator). Happy Sipping!

Notable Reflections

Perhaps it is because it’s what I’ve been subconsciously searching for, or maybe it is simply a coincidence, but recently I’ve noticed numerous articles, quotes and pieces of advice centered around the concept of fear. Fear is something I’ve battled throughout my life on many occasions and it is only when I make a choice to act in spite of it, I feel a surge of confidence and comfort. Shying away because of the fear we harbor within us is one of the easiest ways to feel overwhelmed and ultimately, trapped. Acting and making choices in spite of fear is not an easy feat by any means, or at least to me it isn’t, but when I summon bravery and courage, most of the time, I end up feeling at piece with my decision.

Courage quote 2

Sometimes, the occasions when I’ve experienced fear were simpler and less significant than others. For instance, when I was about 17, my sister and I traveled to Disney World for a quick spring break vacation. I was excited and eager to ride an upside-down roller coaster for the first time. Though I’d been to countless amusement parks in the past with numerous opportunities to ride upside-down roller coasters with friends, I’d always opted out and chose to wait on the sidelines as my friends squealed with excitement over the largest, complex roller coasters around. In some instances, I was frustrated with myself and my fear of riding the roller coaster, or rather, by my decision to not experience it at least once. My fear and worry continued to get in the way, leaving me curious to what it might feel like to be upside down. On that particular trip to Disney World, I made the decision to ride the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, one of Disney World’s only upside-down roller coasters, in spite of the fear I still harbored within me. When the moment of truth arrived, I stood at the foot of the coaster, with the ride employees urging me, “You need to make a decision now.” My fear was piquing at that moment, but when a ride employee volunteered to ride along with me and talk me through the ride, I took a chance. Some of the ride is blurry to me now, since it has been 10 years since that moment, but what stands out to me, is my courage and ability to ride that coaster in spite of the fear still pulsating through me. Though it might sound so simple to some, for me, it was a feat proving I could still make choices and take action in spite of fear. Fear does not have to completely dissolve within us in order to make a choice or take action.

Courage 3

In hindsight, what I’m attempting to say is that I’ve missed out on many opportunities, chances, friendships and relationships because of fear. As I grow older and I reflect on these instances within my life that stand out to me, I realize how fear is something we can control. Sometimes, it feels as though fear may control us, but we are the ones creating that fear and are in the driver seat of that fear; we determine the direction the fear charges towards. Perhaps my perspective is flawed, but it is what I feel most resonates with me and my particular experiences.

Life Quote

That being said, here are some quotes I recently stumbled across that I hope will bring you some perspective and comfort this rainy Tuesday (if it is rainy where you are today; here in Pennsylvania, it is a rainy, chilly day!):

“I could conquer the world with just one hand… as long as you were holding the other.”

“Sometimes we don’t notice the things others do for us until they stop doing them.”

“If you live in fear of the future because of what happened in your past, you’ll end up losing what you have in the present.”

“Fear is not your enemy, it is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow.”