2017 HOW TO IMPROVE LIGHTING FOR YOUR IPHONE VIDEOS | Ztylus LED Ring Light

Hey Y’all,

The Ztylus LED Ring Light is my new secret addiction. I spend almost all of my free time trying to better understand how these lights can improve my video and photos for my social media channels.


The system is so simple, yet provides you with a host of opportunities to create many different kinds of shots. That said, let me just give you the quick and dirty of why you should think about adding this LED ring light to your iphone vlogging set up:

-The price point is very affordable for the quality of this light at only $55, which includes the case, if you purchase the system the way that I did on Amazon.

-You receive 3 different light filters (warm, natural, and cool)

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-You also have the ability to adjust the amount of light to create the perfect shot.

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-It attaches to any tripod mount, and it mounts directly to the back of the Ztylus iPhone Case. I attach mine to my spider mount.


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I love that the light can be mounted to the light, or to a tripod in case I have one of the other lenses attached to the phone. For example, I may one of the 4 in 1 Revolver Lenses attached to the case to capture a wide angle shot, but I may still need to improve the lighting. With this system, I can simply use the Ztylus Revolver Lenses, mounted to the phone, and then connect the LED ring light to any tripod. This is just such a nice option to have while filming in varying types of conditions.

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End of the day, this system has excellent build quality, options, convenience, and a price point that it undeniably good considering how much value it can bring to your iphone videos and pictures.

If you want to see this lighting set up on the phone, and to see how bright it is, then you can check out my youtube review here below.

I hope you guys found this helpful. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. See you in my next post.

Gratefully,

Raphaela ❤

 

2017 HOW TO STABILIZE IPHONE VIDEOS WHILE FILMING | Reticam Hand Grip Stabilizer

Ok guys, we have all been there. You film something and think that it’s a great shot, only to realize that the footage is so shakey that you can’t even stand to watch it.

That’s a bad place to be, but I have a reasonably priced solution for all my fellow vloggers out there. Well, actually, you don’t even need to be a vlogger, just someone with a phone, who shoots videos, and wants them to look smooth and be enjoyable to watch.

 

Enter the Reticam Hand Grip Monopod. This piece of gear is a definite must have for any vlogger. You can secure the stabilizing stick to the camera mounted Reticam clip, as pictured below:

 

 

You may also attach the Reticam Handle directly to the Rosewood Handle from Ztylus, if you have that mounted to your phone case. This is a nice option for quick on and off mounting of the Reticam Handle.

 

(**Sorry about how blurry this photo is. It is the only one I took of this.)
This excellent piece of gear also screws right into the Foneso Selfie Stick Tripod Mount to create an on the go, super sturdy tripod.

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What else can I say? If you want sturdy video, a great way to hold your camera, and something that can convert into a mobile tripod that you can fit into your pocket, you should probably have this in your iphone vlogging arsenal.

Bonus, it comes with a wonderful little carrying case that you can store all of your mobile vlogging tools in. Reticam has excellent build quality, and you will certainly have this tool for many, many years to come.

 

If you want to see me attach this handle to the iphone case, and show you what it actually looks like, then you can check out my youtube review here below.

I hope you guys found this helpful. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. See you in my next post.

Gratefully,

Raphaela ❤

 

 

2017 HOW TO MAKE YOUR IPHONE LOOK VINTAGE | Ztylus Rosewood Hand Grip

Hey Everyone,

This post is for the hipsters, the vintage lovers, the ones who long for days of old when things looked ‘cool’. I am personally in love with the way that this Rosewood Hand Grip by Ztylus instantly transforms my iphone into a Vintage Chic version of a very modern phone. Maybe it’s just me, but it really adds to my enjoyment of using my iphone while vlogging or taking pictures.


This mount attaches directly to the Ztylus case and provides an instant ‘grip’ for you to hold onto while using the iphone for pictures or video. This really helps to stabilize the iphone during this kind of use.

It also attaches to a tripod through the little 1/4 ” mount at the bottom. This works perfectly with the Foneso Selfie Stick that I recently blogged about. Click here to watch my YouTube review of the Foneso Selfie Stick.

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This Rosewood Hand Grip mount is a simple product, at an affordable price point, that provides a lot of value to you.

If you already have the Ztylus case, you may purchase the grip by itself, as pictured below.

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If you don’t have any of these, but would like the set up, I know that Amazon is running a special where you can purchase the phone case, the Rosewood handle and this 4 in 1 lens kit for only $89.95, which is about $30 less than I paid for mine individually, so it’s a great price point if you want this set up. 13

They do also have this system available in Blush Pink if the vintage look is not your thing.

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If you want to see me attach this handle to the iphone case, and show you what it actually looks like, then you can check out my youtube review here below.

I hope you guys found this helpful. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. See you in my next post.

Gratefully,

Raphaela ❤

2017 BEST LENSES FOR iPHONE PHOTOS AND VIDEO | Ztylus Revolver Lens 4 in 1

Hey guys. I’m back today with another one of the products that I reviewed in my YouTube Series ‘2017 Best Of iPhone Vlogging Accessories’. Today, I am going to introduce you to one of my personal favorites from that series, the Ztylus 4 in 1 Revolver Lens.

I could go on for an hour about the things that I love about this system, but here is a really quick summary;

-4 lenses in one spinning wheel that mount to your iphone case (aka..convenience)

-It looks great on the iPhone, which is a silly benefit to list, unless you care about it, which I do.

-Versatility; wide angle lens for your iphone, macro lens for your iphone, fisheye lens for your iphone, and a circular polarizing lens for your iphone.

-High quality product that you will have for years and years.

Ok, so let me give you some examples of what this little system can do. It should be said that I know NOTHING about photography, and I do mean nothing, and I am already taking better shots with this system. It is just so simple to use.

Here is the same photo, with and without the wide angle lens:

Without

With


Here is the same photo, with and without the macro lens:

Without

With

Here is the same photo, with and without the fisheye lens:

Without

With

Here is the same photo, with and without the circular polarizing filter lens:

Without


 

With


I know that Amazon is running a special where you can purchase the phone case, the Rosewood handle and this 4 in 1 lens kit for only $89.95, which is about $30 less than I paid for mine individually, so it’s a great price point if you want this set up. 13

They do also have this system available in Blush Pink if the vintage look is not your thing.

If you want to see me unbox this system, and show you what it actually looks like, then you can check out my youtube review here below.

I hope you guys found this helpful. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. See you in my next post.

Gratefully,

Raphaela ❤

2017 MOST USEFUL iPHONE CASE FOR VLOGGING AND PHOTOS | Ztylus iPhone Case

Hey Guys,

I apologize for posting all of these back to back, but I want to make sure to get them up before the holidays. These are all such high quality products for anyone who does any kind of videos on their iphone or takes pictures.

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These tools basically transform a generic smartphone into a phone that it capable of capturing HD (high definition) videos and stunning photos.

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Today’s post is about the phone case that you need to make all of the other items work together. Again, I am not being paid to say any of this. These products were purchased with my money. I just love them and want to share them with the people that I know.

Click Here To See This Product On Amazon.

Here is the video about the case:

Please subscribe to my channel, and share it with anyone you know who would find this kind of information interesting. Thanks for spending a few minutes with my everyone.

Gratefully,

Raphaela ❤

How To Help Louisiana Flooding Victims

Good Morning Everyone,

I woke up this morning, checked the news, looked at the new predictions for flooding in Ascension Parish, and tried to wrap my mind around the worst flooding that I have ever personally seen. As I sit here writing this post, I am acutely aware that I am one of the lucky ones. As of the writing of this post, my neighborhood has not flooded. I still have a home, my pet is safe, my power is on, and I have cell phone service. These are things that I take for granted most days, but today, they are a luxury in many areas of Baton Rouge, Livingston Parish, and so many more parishes in the state of Louisiana.

Like everyone else, I pulled everything up as far off the floor as I could get it, packed a bag in the case of evacuation, and made sure to reach out to loved ones outside of the area to tell them where to look for updates in case the power or phone lines go down. As I was having this conversation, it occurred to me that I should put these many years of Red Cross training to good use and give a run through of some of the things that we are taught with respect to how to prepare for, sustain, and manage a disaster of this scale. I hope this helps anyone who is looking for this kind of information, and as many that will read this post, will  not do so until their lives return to normal, I hope that it may serve as a guide for how to stay prepared for future disasters. As we are in the middle of the actual disaster, I am listing the information out of order, but by priority as; High Priority Information, How You Can Help During A Disaster, then How To Help Before A Disaster (For Next Time) and finally, How To Help After A Disaster.

******Recent Request For The Addition Of This High Priority Information:

  1. Please visit FEMA Disaster Assistance to download the application for disaster assistance. Also, please be advised that FEMA has an app, which you may download directly to your phone and reach out to them there. I have been advised by FEMA that flood victims are experiencing long delays being able to access their website. They advised to be patient and continue trying.
  2. Please visit this FEMA Filing A Claim link to learn more about how to file a claim. This page walks you through everything.
  3. Since the writing of the blog post that you are reading, I interviewed a Baton Rouge gentlemen who works closely with FEMA. With the help of his interview, I was able to put together a short and clear plan for How To Apply For FEMA Disaster Assistance.
  4. I have created the following playlists on my YouTube channel titled ‘How To File A Flood Insurance Claim‘, What To Do With A Car With Flood Damage, and How To Handle Flood Water Damage and Clean Up . I have included all videos which I think are helpful to people who need this information. These are not my videos, but the videos of other content creators on YouTube. I have no affiliation to any of the companies listed in the videos. They are being provided solely as another source of information for local residents in need.

My apologies for inserting the information above there. It may seem out of place, but I was receiving a lot of request for the information. Ok, back to the task at hand.

DURING THE CURRENT 2016 BATON ROUGE FLOOD: WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? 

This article is not about what to do during a flood, so much as it is about how to help before, during, and after a flood. In the last section, we talked about how you can help before the disaster, so now let’s talk about what you can do during the disaster.

  1. Assuming that you are still in your home, try to stay off of the phone as much as possible. Phone lines are overwhelmed, so try to keep all conversations that do not need to be had to a minimum. Text if you have to, but keep the phone lines open for affected victims and emergency responders.
  2. This is an excellent opportunity to start going through your house, room by room, and identifying items that you may no longer need. All flood victims will have the same basic needs; food, shelter, and clothing. Go through your closets, your kids closets, your pantry, etc and pull out items which you are willing to donate. This can also include things like blankets, batteries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and more. Bag these items up in like groups. For example, put all of the toiletries in one bag, clothes in another, etc. This way you can distribute it to the shelters that have a need for that specific kind of item. This will ease their work on the receiving end at the shelters, as they will not have to sort through your donation bag. Also, use bags not boxes. Bags are easy to break open, reuse, and dispose of. Boxes are bulky and can be hard to store or break down when there are a large amount of incoming donations.
  3. During a disaster, one of the most insidious problems is distribution of information. The responders are so busy trying to keep their heads above water, that they frequently do not have the time or assets available to them to declare their needs effectively. In our information age, this is becoming less of a problem, as we can communicate those needs on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Check the Facebook pages of your local churches, grocery stores, and the like to see if they are a receiving location for items of need, or if they are actual volunteer spots. This reduces the amount of phone calls that inundate organizations like the Red Cross during a disaster. You may even volunteer yourself to one of these locations to coordinate and receive donations if they have not set something up yet.
  4. You may check the local Red Cross Website. In the currently affected area, that is the Louisiana Red Cross. They will have a list of ways to volunteer and usually a list of declared needs. Additionally, you may sign up to volunteer at Volunteer Louisiana.
  5. Assuming that your roads are clear, and only if they are clear from your home to the store, to the shelter, and back. Please do not become part of the problem by driving into standing or moving water and then becoming a victim yourself. This will require that emergency personnel will have to come to your assistance, and they are already spread very thin during a disaster. You may go to the local dollar store, grocery store, or WalMart and purchase needed supplies; toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, sanitary items, bagged or boxed food, etc.

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6. Check on trending hashtags for up to the minute information. Some of the most helpful current tags are:

#flood, #louisiana, #batonrougeflood, #laflood, #batonrougepets, #lawx, #lousianaflood, #denhamsprings, #redcross, #batonrouge, #la, #ascensionparish, #AscensionOHSEP, #wafb

7. As of 8/15/16, the following information has been provided as places of need, or as places that you may donate or volunteer.

The Salvation Army: A makeshift Salvation Army command center has been set up at 4025 West Brookstown Dr. Volunteers are welcome to report to the Brookstown location to help with food service and more. To volunteer, or if you are in need of assistance, call (225) 355-4483.

Baton Rouge Area Foundation: BRAF has a relief fund that assists nonprofits responding to flooding across the state. People can make donations online at braf.org. Donations to the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund are tax deductible.

Rouses Markets: In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, Rouses Markets are accepting cash donations and donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and toiletries. You can make donations at the cash register or online.

Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office: The sheriff’s office is accepting clean clothing for flood victims beginning Monday morning. All clothing should be bagged or boxed and can be delivered to the Sheriff’s Office training building at 819 South Broad Street.

Lamar Dixon Center: We need medical folks at shelter at Lamar Dixon. Specifically RN or EMT. They need help handling meds, etc.

Fellowship Church at 14363 Highway 73 in Prairieville:

Fellowship Church at Prairievillle (14363 Hwy 73) will be a drop off site for the shelter at Lamar Dixon again today. Please bring donations of toiletries, ladies hygiene products, baby formula and supplies, non perishable foods. We will update list of needs throughout the day.

**Just Added: Albertson’s Grocery Stores:

Effective 5PM this evening, Monday 8/15/16, all Albertson’s stores in the local baton rouge area (except the Denham Springs flooded store) will have a way for you to add money to your checkout to donate funds to the disaster relief.

American Red Cross: 

Give money to the American Red Cross. On this page, simply use the drop-down menu to earmark your money for the Louisiana floods. Or text LAFLOODS to 90999 to automatically send the organization $10. You may also call them at 855-489-2528 to volunteer.

United Way of Southeast Louisiana:

Donate to or volunteer with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, which will provide flood victims with counseling, food and other items, here.

Zeta Phi Beta:

Check out the Louisiana State University’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority’s GoFundMe, which is aiming to raise $10,000 and disburse it to students impacted by the flooding, here.

Receiving Centers in New Orleans:

For nearby residents, such as New Orleans, there are many receiving areas that have been set up to collect items of need. Please click here for a link to New Orleans area collection centers.

8. As of 8/15/16, the following information has been provided as a vital need: There is a critical need for families who can provide a foster home for pets during this disaster. Please contact Capital Area Animal Welfare at (225) 752-5801. 

The question is “How can I help flood victims in Louisiana?” Let’s back up for a few minutes though before we answer that question to try to minimize the chances that you ever become a victim, and how to mitigate damages in the event that you do. If you are displaced from your home, it is a lot easier on both you and emergency personnel if you have some of your basics covered. If you have to go to a shelter, it’s devastating enough. It’s a medical emergency if you have to go without your medicine. During a flood, emergency personnel and first responders are overwhelmed, so do what you can to minimize your needs during the disaster.

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WHEN FLOODING IS A POSSIBILITY IN OR AROUND YOUR LOCAL AREA:

The question is “How can I help flood victims in Louisiana?” Let’s back up for a few minutes though before we answer that question to try to minimize the chances that you ever become a victim, and how to mitigate damages in the event that you do. If you are displaced from your home, it is a lot easier on both you and emergency personnel if you have some of your basics covered. If you have to go to a shelter, it’s devastating enough. It’s a medical emergency if you have to go without your medicine. During a flood, emergency personnel and first responders are overwhelmed, so do what you can to minimize your needs during the disaster.

  1. Find out what local resources are available to you to fill sandbags for your home. Get a list of at least two, and preferably three, in case the others are inaccessible due to heavy use or flooding. If you think that your place may flood, go and fill sandbags and protect your home. If you wait until you are certain, you will likely be far too late. Those sandbags can hold back water that would otherwise freely flow into your home, so it’s just good practice to surround your home and stop yourself from becoming another flood victim. It goes without saying that some will be unable to protect their homes regardless of all of their best efforts, but you should still try until you know that you have exhausted your options.
  2. Have enough drinking water on hand. If you live in Louisiana then you are all to familiar with a ‘boil water advisory’, which you should be able to do, but if you lose your power that option will be lost with it. Make sure you have enough bottled water and food (non perishable) available to eat so that you, your family, your animals, and potentially additional family members or friends who may come to you after losing their homes are covered. Do not stock up on things which require electricity (meats, cheeses, etc.), as you have no promise that you will have power during the disaster. You do not want to go to the grocery store and find empty shelves, so you should always have a ready supply of non perishables in your home.

Grocery Stores Empty

  1. Assemble your valuables, your real valuables; passport, ID, medicine, two days worth of clothing, toiletries, phone charger, a small blanket, flashlight (or a flashlight app on your phone), multi purpose tool, knife, batteries, a radio, etc. Please take the number of your insurance agent and your policy number with you if at all possible. You will need this to begin the claims process. You will also want to bring a small amount of food with you; protein bars, pop tarts, dry nuts, and water. You may displaced for several hours during an evacuation. The lines will be long at the shelters, and you will be cold, wet, tired, and emotionally shaken. You do not need to add hungry or thirsty to the list. Take enough to get you through the first 24 hours if possible. Click here to read the Red Cross Evacuation Bag List list.
  2. Put all of your valuables in gallon sized ziploc bags and squeeze out all of the air. Roll clothes up tightly before placing in bags to conserve space. If you have to evacuate by boat and your bag slips off into the water, your items will remain dry if you have them bagged up in the ziplocs. Plus, these zip loc bags serve as a wonderful way to carry and store items that you will be provided once you are at the shelter.

Evacuation Bag During Flooding

5. Put your items in a backpack, not a bag that you carry by hand. When you are evacuating, you may need both arms to be pulled off of a roof, car, etc, and you should not have that terrible situation complicated by also having to struggle with a bag. Put it on your back so that you may move around hands free. This also frees your hands up at the shelter where things are crowded and space is tight. Inside of a shelter, you will be fumbling with paperwork, possibly your children, and you do not need your personal belongings complicating the matter. Additionally, it keeps items up off of the floor which reduces the possibility that someone could trip on your bag or accidentally take your bag and move it out of the way.  In other words, do not skip this step.

Evacuation Backpack During Flood Louisiana6. Always have cash in your evacuation bag. Do not carry all large bills. During disasters, ATM’s go down, and business may or may not have money couriers coming in. In other words, they may not have change to give to you, and you may not be able to get money from the bank. Trust me when I tell you that I have seen someone pay $20 for a gallon of water, because it was all that he, or anyone around him had. If you need water, and the clerk doesn’t have change, you have to hand over what you have. Do yourself a favor and have at least $50-$100 in $1 or $5 bills. You may already be taking a bath due to the flooding, and you don’t need to take a financial bath too. Save yourself the trouble and make this a part of your evacuation bag.

7. Make sure that you have enough food in a ziplock bag ready to go for your animals, as you can not guarantee that your receiving shelter will have this need covered. Also, please remember to pack any medications that your animal requires.

8. Similar to number 7 above, please make sure that you take ample baby formula and diapers to sustain your babies for at least 24 hours, as this is a need which is always a challenge during a disaster. Again, remember any medications that your baby may need.

9. Make sure that you have registered your pet’s chip if they have one. Should you be separated from you pet during the flood, this is a way to guarantee that you will be reunited. If you do not remember who makes your chip, simply call the Capital Area Animal Welfare Center at (225) 752-5801. When you read them your chip number, they will be able to tell you who it is registered to.  Please register these chips. If your pets do not have chips, please make sure that they have a collar on with your current information on it. If you have pets, print out the Pet Emergency Preparedness Plan, written by Sirena Madden of  Happy Trails and Wag’n Tails. She has been in the ‘dog care’ business for over a decade and has seen it all. She gives you a lot of valuable pointers that could easily be overlooked.

10. Fill up your car or truck. This is because the gas pumps in your area may be submerged under water. Additionally, gas trucks may be unable to get into your local area to refill the pumps. You will need to be able to drive for various reasons before, and especially after, the flood, so make sure that you have already taken care of this for yourself and your family members.

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**All Flood Photos Couresy of Local Realtor Kristina Smallhorn (aka. YourRealEstateWhisperer)

11. Make a contact and evacuation plan. The Red Cross and your local news station (for example, here in Baton Rouge it is WAFB Baton Rouge News) will post constant updates about where you should evacuate to in the event of a disaster. Additionally, they will post local numbers of resources that you may find yourself in need of. Call 911 in the event of an emergency. If you can not get through to 911 for evacuation, please contact GOHSEP (Governer’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management) at (225) 925-7500.  Have your local power company’s phone number handy. Where I live, that company is Entergy Power Company. You may contact them at 800-542-2668. If you do not have the chance to shut off your power, call the electric company to do it. Many people forget how frequently people are electrocuted both during and after floods as a result of active power at a disaster site. **Important note, NEVER go into a basement where there is standing water to shut off the breaker box. If you have to stand in water to reach it, just call the power company to shut it off.

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Lastly, make sure that you have one contact outside of the area that you appoint as your family’s ‘point of contact’. You do not want to rely on others that are in the affected area, as they may be suffering catastrophic losses themselves and be unable to provide assistance. You simply text or call your loved ones and make sure that they know who your point of contact is. Then, as things develop, you may simply tell one person, and anyone who wants to check on you may call them. You will have your hands full dealing with your situation, the phone lines will be inundated or shut down, and you may not have access to a place to charge your cell phone. For all of these reasons, text (preferred to reduce phone line overload) the one person and let them do the talking for you. You may of course always post to Facebook, but that can take up a lot of your time trying to answer questions from everyone. It’s best to just focus on where you are in that moment, and let someone with a clear head manage that for you. Please also instruct that person to relay to family/friends that they may check the Red Cross Safe and Well Locator System for updates. Whenever you enter a shelter, one of your first stops will be at a table where you will be asked to fill in this form so that you may be checked in safe.

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Receiving Area for Displaced Flood Victims

If you take care of those 11 tasks, then you will have helped yourself and your family. In so doing, you have already exponentially reduced the amount of resources that you will require during a disaster, and that is a massive contribution to relief efforts.

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AFTER THE DISASTER: 

People are trying to get back to ‘normal’ and you want to help. Here are some ways that you can contribute that may seem less obvious.

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  1. Offer to watch children at the local church, as many people will struggle with childcare issues during clean up.
  2. Buying school supplies will be much appreciated. Though this is not an immediate need during a disaster, it will quickly become one when schools reopen and victims of the flood do not have school supplies for their children.
  3. Register for a course from the Red Cross about Emergency Preparedness . This way the next time that there is a disaster, you will have a wider skill set to offer to your local community members in need.

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4. Talk to your employer about using unused sick days or leave. Many large workplaces, like the federal government, allow people to give unused leave to others. Contact your HR representative and ask if you can donate some of your unused leave to people affected by the flood.

Yes, there are a million other ways that you can provide assistance, but this post was meant to encourage you to be creative, get out there, and get connected. We all want to help others in need. It’s a basic human desire. It’s what makes this country great. It what makes me proud to call Louisiana home today.

I hope this article helped you in some way. Please share with your friends and family on social media, and post any additional needs or comments below to help others.

In closing, I want to take a moment to thank all of the emergency responders, volunteers, news crews and more who have given so generously and placed themselves in harm’s way to save others. Thank you for spending this time with me. Stay safe. Have an open heart. Give back.

With gratitude,

Raphaela Laurean

 

 

Am I A Single Parent, Co Parent, Choice Parent?

This is Divorce: The Sudden Shift in Your Reality

This is Divorce

This is Divorce.

Hello Everyone, 

For many weeks I have been completely silent online. There was one reason for that only; my husband and I separated for the final time. Just before we separated he began an argument with me about what I had been writing on my blog. He said that I was using my blog ‘to trash him’, which was in no way true. I was simply explaining some of the ins and outs of my personal life, and how you can not allow those factors to cause you to lose sight of your goal. 

That said, for the duration of our marriage, he never watched any of my YouTube videos, nor read any of my blog or social media posts. Suddenly, upon realizing that we were on the brink, he took interest in what I was writing and saying. I am not writing any of this to be mean or spiteful, but only to explain why I didn’t write anything for so many weeks. 

Let’s just say that for the purposes of this blog at this moment that the safety of both me and my children was in question. That reason, coupled with my new knowledge of the fact that he was reading all of my social posts, did not lend itself to an environment where I felt free to share. Has that changed? Only slightly. I am sure that at some point he will make time to pry into my life by reading these posts, but after weeks of losing the right to write on my blog, I simply do not care anymore. 

I decided for myself that he was not going to take one more thing from me, not my training goals, not my spirit, and not my ability to communicate with the world on my blog or any other social media channels.

There will be a time in the future where I may share the details of the final moments of our marriage, but this is not the time. We are getting ready to go through an ugly divorce, a nasty custody battle, and I will not provide his team of paid henchman with any ammunition to use against me and my babies. The only thing that I will say is this. I did what any mother would do in my situation; I protected my children, even at the expense of my marriage. Enough said for now. 

This pretty much sums it up.

This pretty much sums it up.

So what does divorce look or feel like? It feels like having your guts ripped out, while watching your standard of living plummet towards the earth, and having to figure out how to rebuild your life from basically nothing, and you have to do it all with a smile on your face to protect your children from the truth of their life. 

It doesn’t hit you all at once. For me, it happened in little ways. First, it happened the day after he left. I was making our usual amount of coffee, and realized that I no longer had to do that. The next day, it was looking at the door and seeing three jackets hanging, where once there had been four. It is tiny little knives that meet you around every corner.

Little knives in your heart.

Little knives in your heart.

You think you are just going to do the laundry, when you realize that one of his socks was mixed in with the clothing. You are overcome with a myriad of emotions; anger, resentment, profound grief, disbelief, disappointment, fear, and so much more. You look at your children playing joyfully in the bath tub, and you try to establish new routines, implement new rules. You have to tell your children that ‘Daddy loves you very much, but Mommy and Daddy are not going to live together anymore’. You have to fight back the urge to say the things that you are really thinking, because this is not their fight. Thankfully in our situation, they were not asking where Daddy was or why he was gone, so that has been a small blessing in all of this.This is their only childhood, and it is your job to protect them from this terrible new reality. 

When my parents were going through a divorce, I felt like a tattered and worn ball that was thrown violently between two parties that didn’t want to play ball. They were both highly educated, incredibly intelligent people who made the profoundly stupid mistake of not understanding that we were not responsible for their divorce. They would take their resentment towards each other and pour it on us like some disgusting syrupy goo that you could not wash off. I remember thinking that I wished that they could understand that I could, and would not divorce either of them. I was not going to choose one over the other, even though there was plenty of reason for me to do that. I was only issued one mother and one father at birth, and I didn’t get to dismiss them from my life because my parents were unable to make their marriage work. Case closed. 

Why do I tell you that? Simple, because I learned from their mistakes. I know what that feels like. I know the insecurities that created in me and my siblings. I simply will not do that to my children. It is my job to model love, compassion, and strength for them, even if I have to do it as a single mom who doesn’t think so highly of their dad. Is he a terrible person? I will let my children form their own opinions about him. As for what I think, I wouldn’t divorce a kind and loving husband, so I guess you can deduce what I think. I am not saying that he will not make a good husband/boyfriend to someone else down the road, but I am saying that the shelf life of our relationship expired, a long time ago. I was too patient, too forgiving, and simply just too stupid to end it. Thankfully, his actions took care of that for me, and now all I have to do is deal with the collateral damage. 

Do I hate him? No, I still love him. I will always want the best for him. I just no longer want to be a welcome mat for he and his family to abuse. Honestly, I could fill this blog and several others with the terrible things that happened during the course of our marriage from he and his family, but I probably won’t. The reason is because when I decide that I am truly done with something in my life, I release it. I don’t hold onto it, mull it over, regurgitate it and reanalyze it. I try to learn from it. I make my peace with it, and I just go on a more mature, more seasoned version of me. More to the point, my children and I deserve a peaceful life, filled with two parents who love them, and are whole. The only way that he and I will be happy is apart. It took me years and years, almost 10 to realize this, but it is an undeniable fact.

I also have the ability to understand the long game here. Someday, emotions will calm, he may remarry, I may remarry, we will have to learn to find peace in the one fact that we have to co-parent our children together. At the end of the day, years from now, that is all it will be. It will simply be another relationship in my life that I need to manage. It will have a different dynamic. It will have different expectations, but I hope that it will always have love and respect. I know that may take many many years to achieve, but I will conduct myself according to that one goal. I do not want to do or say anything that my children would ever look upon with disgust. I want them to see their mom as someone who took a really bad, and completely unfair situation, and built a life for them that was so much sweeter than the life that they had. I want our story, my story to be one of victory, not simply survival. I want to thrive in my divorce, not just survive my divorce. 

So what do you do? How do you go on? You make the slow realization daily that you were once a person who didn’t have another half. You used to be able to choose your own movies, your own evening activities, meals, vacation places and more. You were a person with hobbies, friends, goals and dreams of your own before you merged them with someone else’s. You realize that for the first time in your 40 years on this planet, you are actually going to be allowed to exist, in your own right, and live your life your way. There are these small victories that happen when you realize that grocery shopping is easier, there is less laundry, and you can really focus on yourself and your children. 

These children are going to need a lot of love and counseling. I can help them with the love, but we are all going to counseling together (Ava, Cash, and I-not the ex). They need to realize that they are not at fault and that they do not come from a broken home. They lived in a broken home, a very broken one, but now they are going to live in a whole home, one where the foundation is solid and stable and sure. I despise the term broken home, because it is positively laughable to assume that simply because two people manage to tolerate each other and live under the same roof, that they are somehow not broken. This is a lie. It’s a lie that society feeds us, to keep us in place, to keep us half alive. 

Sure there is a stigma with walking around with two children, and no wedding ring. People look at you. They make assumptions about you that may or may not be true, but they don’t really know anything about the situation. Just today, the kids and I had to get out of the house, so we walked into town to get ice cream. We live in a very upscale part of New Orleans. When we walked into this store, ordered and sat down, I felt the stares. I noticed one blonde woman and her husband in particular who kept looking at my left hand for a ring, which was not present. 

She was your typical trophy wife; tall, blonde, well dressed, huge ring, etc. She was me until 2.5 weeks ago. She is just walking around in her safe, secure, over privileged life not wanting for anything. What she doesn’t know is that the river that separates her life from mine is not so wide. She could be me in an instant if the tides turned. As I sat there thinking about that, it occurred to me that even though her stares were making me uncomfortable, that I didn’t want to live her life anymore. 

She was at this ice cream parlor, and it obviously meant nothing to them. They ate half of their ice cream and threw it away. For us, it was a huge treat. My children at every last bite of their ice cream, because they know that it will not happen again for quite some time. It occurred to me in that moment that I felt somewhat dead in my former life. We had everything and absolutely nothing at the same time. This new life will come with far less in the physical sense, but we are blooming as a new family unit. 

In case you are wondering if I have completely let go of my bikini bodybuilding training as we have navigated this new life, NOPE! I haven’t missed a single workout. I have lost more than 10 pounds since I began training. It has actually been wonderful to have a goal and a plan to focus on while the rest of my life is very uneasy at this time. Bragging? Not even close. I am simply telling you that when you make a decision for yourself that you are going to do something, you will move heaven, hell, and anything else that comes down your path to make it happen. 

It is going to be a long, bumpy, and windy road until this is over and I can look back and laugh. That said, I am going to strap myself and my babies in and enjoy this ride. I feel alive for the first time in so many years. I feel free to breathe, to exist, and to be. 

Living my Life, 

Raphaela

Bikini Bodybuilding: The First Two Weeks

Bikini, bodybuilding

What to expect during this phase of your journey into bodybuilding.

 

Hey Everyone,

Well, today is officially the end of the second week of my training for my bikini bodybuilding show. I thought that this would be a great time, you know-while it’s still actually in my mind- to give you an inside look at what to expect during those first two weeks. In order to get to the 101 basics of bikini bodybuilding, I first have to walk you through the personal stuff so that you can see ways of dealing with the things that will come your way during this part of your journey. So, let’s take a little trip to make sure that your head is in the right place, so that your body can follow.

Let’s go back for just a second. When I told my husband that I was going to start training for a show again, he was not happy. He is not supportive of this lifestyle or this sport in any way. To be clear, I am not saying this for pity.  I need to say that so that anyone else who is in that position knows that when you finally make this decision for yourself, you will need to go it alone, at least in the beginning.

Two weeks ago, we had a huge fight about this, which I detailed a little bit in my last blog. The point that I want you to take away is that you have to state your goals, out load, for every and anyone to judge. You need to own them, represent them, and be proud of them. Some will judge you, but you will find that most will actually be pretty supportive, or at least encouraging. Strangely enough, most of the people who will actively encourage you are not the people who you are closest to. I really don’t understand why this is, but it is how it will begin for most of you. Knock, knock. Who’s There? Jealousy and Change. Nope, we don’t want you here. Accept that this will be reacted to in many different ways, and just know that it has NOTHING to do with you, and then move on.

For me, when you question something that I have said that I am going to do, it only makes me want it even more. Ok, ok, Raphaela, get back to it. 🙂 Any who, I told him on a Friday that the following Monday I would begin training. We fought. I prepared my meals, my workout plans, and laid out all of my outfits, slowly and deliberately throughout the weekend. I wanted to make this transition as easy as I could on everyone in my family, so I made sure to do these things on my time, not theirs.

On Monday, I got up, got the kids ready, then went to the gym. I worked out, ate clean, drank my water (1 gallon per day…seriously do not skip this). My husband gave me a bunch of lip about how it must be nice for me to go to the gym while he has to go to work. To that I say, I chose a different path in my life. I work for myself, and I have worked for more than a decade at my business to put it on auto pilot, or at least mostly, so that I could have the freedom to do other things. While he was going to work, getting promotions, getting accolades, and moving our family around the country, I worked my a*s off from wherever we were living. I rebuilt my business repeatedly to support him. I mean, I worked all the time, nights, weekends, during holidays, during his repeated deployments, during our moves, 3 hours after I had both of our children, and more so that I could have this freedom. So, basically, I think that it is kind of amusing that he is frustrated by my freedom, especially since it has no financial impact on him. Regardless, I just went right on with what I wanted to do.

At nights, instead of simply sitting down to dinner with the kids, then bath, then bedtime, I set up a mini activity for us each night. I knew that it would make the temptation of snacking or emotional eating less likely to derail my plans. It started with me making the kids meals in little to go containers and then pulling them around the park, or our city, while they ate. We saw a lot of really cool things that we would otherwise have missed. They really enjoy our little sunset dinner cruises. One of our evenings out, we had the opportunity to watch a pilot drawing in the sky. It was very cool and the kids loved it.

 

 

We saw someone writing in the sky.

We saw someone writing in the sky.

When Friday night came, I knew that would not only be a struggle, but a temptation, as we have gotten into the habit of having a few cocktails on Friday night after the kids go to bed and just spending time together. I told him that Friday morning that I would be watching a movie, not drinking and hanging out. He rolled his eyes, which I expected. When Friday night came, I made my 6th meal (right on schedule), and I turned on a movie that I have always wanted to see, and never made time for ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. He asked what I was watching, and I invited him to join me, which he did while saying, ” I reserve the right to go to bed in like three minutes because this movie is going to suck.” No matter, I turned it on anyway. We sat and watched the movie, and our son woke up and decided to sit with us for a bit. The whole time, my husband kept making fun of the movie, and I would just tell him how much I was enjoying it. I watched the movie, finally (only like 30 years late 🙂 ) and went to bed early. He stayed up doing whatever.

I woke up early on Saturday, the kids and I had a beautiful breakfast together and then we went for a bike ride together. Then came Saturday night, aka, the night that I am supposed to have a cheat meal, which I did, but I decided to cheat clean. This means that you eat something that is not on  your normal meal plan, but that you prepare or eat food that is still a healthy choice. Cheat meals can undo a lot of progress, and I just didn’t want to do that. I made my cauliflower pizza and it was soooo yummy. Seriously, I would rather eat this than @Dominos.

Cheat Meal Cauliflower Pizza with Spring Onions,  Tofurkey Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Faux Meat Sausage and Fresh Grape Tomatoes. Yummy!

Cheat Meal Cauliflower Pizza with Spring Onions, Tofurkey Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Faux Meat Sausage and Fresh Grape Tomatoes. Yummy!

 

I know, I know, you are thinking, “Wow, this really doesn’t have much to do with bodybuilding.” Hold your fire there sunshine, because you will soon realize that getting control over the space between your ears has EVERYTHING to do with bodybuilding. You have to train like a champion before anyone even knows your name. You have to show people, with actions that you are not going to be stopped. It doesn’t have to cause fights, but it will likely be uncomfortable in the beginning. In the end, who cares? It is not my issue if others are made uncomfortable by my progress, it’s theirs. That takes some time to really own, but once you really grasp that, you will become a MUCH better bodybuilder.

One night I was going to bed at 9:45 so that I could be in bed, sleeping by 10. He asked my why I was going to bed so early. I explained that I needed eight hours of sleep per night. He said, “Why, because you’re an athlete? Yeah right.” I said nothing. I know what I am, and I know where I am going, so I brushed my teeth, washed my face and went to bed. I could bore you with all of the antics and petty comments that he made, but at the end of the day, it was textbook behavior, so I just decided to pray for peace in my household, and I pressed on. I planned my work, I worked my plan, and I continued training. I set everything out the night before. I prepared my meals for three-four days, two times a week. I drank a lot of water. I peed a lot, like I am considering moving an iPad in there :-). I slept for 8 hours per night, period, no questions asked.

I can not stress to you enough the importance of rest. It makes it vastly easier to train hard. It has a huge impact on your ability to stick to your meal plan. It keeps stress levels low, and it really causes you to prioritize what needs to get done. I go to bed at 10 PM and wake at 6 AM, seven days a week. I do not make exceptions to that rule, because it simply does not pay off to do so. Some may think that is really boring, but anyone on a mission knows that this is absolutely necessary to be fully available and present in your life.

Yesterday, something magical happened. My husband actually texted me asked me how my workout went. I will look upon that as a sign on hope. Ok, that or he was just really bored at work. 🙂 Regardless, my story, and my path will be different from yours. Some of you may have a huge support system, and some of you may not. The point is to take control over these struggles, to empower yourself with the understanding that you can and will effect positive changes in your life, but that it may not happen right away.

Outside of the emotional side of it, there are some pointers listed below that I really encourage you to follow.

Bodybuilding Pointers:

-Write down your workouts before you get to the gym. Know how many sets you are going to do of each, how long you will rest between sets, and leave a space to write how much weight you lifted so that you can track your progress. Say it with me, YouTube is your friend.

-Lay your workout outfits out in advance. This makes it an automatic behavior when you wake up. You wake up, you brush your teeth, you get into your workout gear. If you work out at night, lay them out anyway. Take them with you to work. Finish work, change your clothes and go to the gym. If you have children, make sure your gym has a daycare. If it doesn’t, go during lunch, because you will not be wasting time running around looking for food, because you will already have food with you. Don’t give yourself excuses. I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive 27 miles into Los Angeles to beat the traffic so that I could work out before getting to my office at 7:45 each day. Get it done!

-People say that it’s 80% Diet, 20% Food. I couldn’t disagree with that more. I think it’s 15% Mental (giving yourself permission to succeed, and not giving yourself permission to quit, not concerning yourself with what others think, and not robbing yourself of a goal that you are worthy of achieving), 15% Exercise (seriously 45 minutes of weight lifting 5 days a week and 3 sessions of High Intensity Interval Training 3 days per week should do it), and 70% Diet (It’s not a diet. It’s choosing to put fuel, not garbage in your mouth. It’s understanding that you are building your body, and that you must feed it the proper fuel to make that happen.) A piss poor diet, matched with endless hours of cardio at the gym will not give you a chiseled bikini bodybuilder body. Trust me, I have tried that plan. It DOES NOT work. Stay Focused. Train Hard. Eat Clean!

-Don’t count calories, figure out your macros. There are all kinds of online tools to help you do this. I really love FitDay.com. Enter what you eat, adjust the proportions of food to fit whatever Macro split you are trying to hit. I am currently doing 50% Protein, 30% Carbs, and 20% Fat, but my goals may be different from yours. Macros help you to understand how much protein, carbohydrates, and fat you need to feed your body to make it do what you want it to do. Bodybuilding is NOT about counting calories, it’s about feeding your body the fuel that it needs to be able to perform the way that you want it to perform. Get a food scale. Click here to buy the one that I use. It’s not the most expensive, but it gets the job done, and has for the last 6 years. It’s the cost of a six pack of soda, so don’t make excuses, just do it. Prepare your food in advance, weigh your food, and eat only that amount. This is how you build a lean body.

Get A Food Scale Today. You can not afford to not own this. Don't count calories, understand Macros.

Get A Food Scale Today. You can not afford to not own this. Don’t count calories, understand Macros.

-Write out your weekly meal plan, and stick to it. I eat 7 times a day, no that is not a typo, 7 times per day. I eat at 6:30, 9 AM, 11:30, 2PM, 4:30, 7PM and again right before bed at 9:30. I eat basically every 2.5 hours, and drink a lot of water between meals. I never feel tired, or bloated, or hungry because I am always giving my body just enough fuel to burn and not enough to have to store. On cheat nights, do yourself a favor and cheat clean. The sky is the limit. Check out Pinterest for hundreds of cheat night meal recipes. I don’t eat anything but Fish (Pescetarian) and I created a Pinterest Board, which you are welcome to follow for those recipes. In case you don’t think that this works, you should know that I have lost 7.2 pounds in the last two weeks, so it absolutely does work. I promise. 🙂

-Drink your water. Don’t skip this one. Don’t short change your body, just drink it. Milk does a body good? I don’t know about that. Water definitely does a body good, well great actually :-).

-Watch videos on YouTube of competitions, look at pictures of bikini competition suits, and just generally recenter and refocus yourself several times per day. Trust me, do yourself a favor. People will say that what you are doing is not normal, but you have to remember that you are not shooting for the middle here. You are trying to effect change in your life, and yes, all of the things mentioned above are normal for competitive bodybuilders, fitness models, or anyone else who wants to live a healthy lifestyle where they are proud of their body.

-I would set up a schedule for yourself, as I have done for myself of when and what you are going to buy during what weeks. For example, this week, I purchased my competition heels, in two weeks, I will sign up for my NPC card, etc, etc, right up to the week where you buy your suit and make your hotel accommodations. If you do it in little pieces it will be less of a shock to your wallet, and it is like setting up a system of incremental rewards to keep you moving forward.

I hope you found this helpful. I hope you don’t give up on yourself. I hope you follow my progress, and I hope that you achieve the body of your dreams. If you want more regular updates, check out my YouTube channel for more about Bikini Bodybuilding and more. I shoot videos about a lot of things there, my life, my family, my fitness journey, and just yesterday, about repurposing your old tank tops and turning them into workout tanks. Don’t forget to subscribe so that you are notified whenever I upload a new video.

Here are a few examples in case you want to make your own, or feel free to take my ideas and recreate them. I would be flattered :-).

Ready, Set, Lift. My DIY Workout Tank

Ready, Set, Lift. My DIY Workout Tank

Leave Nothing DIY Tank Top. I wore this today and it really helped me to focus on putting everything I had into my workout today, and leaving nothing in the tank.

Leave Nothing DIY Tank Top. I wore this today and it really helped me to focus on putting everything I had into my workout today, and leaving nothing in the tank.

 

Thank you for spending some time with me. Now go plan your work, work your plan, and maybe I will see you backstage at a show some day.

Loving It All,

Raphaela

 

Do It Yourself ‘Kind’ Protein Bars? Yes please!

Homemade protein bars.

Yeah, yeah, I make words out of my food. It also happens to be super delicious. Homemade Kind-Like Protein Bars. #yummy

Hey Everyone,

When we went grocery shopping at our local Costco last month, we purchased a rather large box of Kind bars, because they are so tasty. I thought that the whole box was dark chocolate and sea salt, wrongo. I grabbed one the other morning on my way to a meeting. It was one of those dreary, rainy, cold New Orleans mornings where your breakfast is the only comfort that you have for this terrible weather. When I stopped at the red light, I unwrapped it. I took a sip of my warm coffee and thought, “Best combination ever-the dark chocolate, almonds, and coffee.” Then I lifted the kind bar to my mouth, took a bite, and ………..

It was like a slap in the face. I was betrayed by my own breakfast. What was this thing in my mouth? Where is the chocolate? Where are the chunks of sea salt bouncing off of the sweet honey and raw almonds? Yuck. I quickly turned that little wrapper over and there it was staring back at me, as if to say, “Read the box next time sunshine.” The label read Madagascar Vanilla Almond. I don’t care how fancy you make it sound, this protein bar was like having happy hour with your Tax Accountant….boring and unpleasant.

Needless to say, my tummy was growling during this meeting, because their was no way on God’s green earth that this thing was making a second run at my mouth. No way. Hello circular file. I will be donating the rest of these to my church, because they love to put out snacks on Sunday. Hopefully someone there does not have my discerning protein bar palette :-).

Anywho, onto the homemade protein bar journey. I did what any red blooded American with Pinterest would do, I created my own and took pictures. I originally made them for my husband and I, but while I was cutting one for him to take and try as breakfast, the kids asked to try. They freaked out! They each wanted their own. I knew that I had to share this immediately, because if you can get children to voluntarily eat, this is Breaking News! Here is the text from my hubby after he ate it while driving to work.

"Best protein bar I've ever had! Thx."

“Best protein bar I’ve ever had! Thx.”

Yup, my protein bars bring all the boys to the yard, because mine are better than yours. 🙂 Sorry, I got a little out of control there for a second. I am sure your protein bars are delicious too.

So here is the recipe;

Step 1: Grab a 5 x 9 cooking dish and spray with cooking spray.

Step 2: Mix all of these dry ingredients together.

-1/2 cup Oat Flour (I just took oatmeal and put it in the blender for a few seconds-voila oat powder)

-1/2 cup Quick Oats (not the regular kind, but the kind in the little packets or anything that cooks up super fast)

-1/2 cup Rice Krispies (I just used a box of chocolate rice krispies that the kids voted off the island last month. Haha, I win. I got them to eat it anyway. I am so sneaky 🙂 )

-1/2 cup Vanilla Protein Powder ( I personally have an obsession with BSN Vanilla Ice Cream protein powder, but anything works. If you want to use the same protein that I did, you can grab it here: http://amzn.to/1IiobhB)

**Optional, but I added:

-1/4 cup Pistachios (shells removed, unless you are trying to break your teeth)

-1/4 cup crushed Raw Almonds (take almonds, add to ziplock bag, think of someone who frustrates you, attack bag violently with hammer, rolling pin, your fists, whatever. Don’t judge me.)

Stir all of this together and set aside.

Dry DIY protein bar ingredients

Dry DIY protein bar ingredients

 

Step 3: In a small pot, gently melt;

-1/3 cup Raw Honey

-1/3 Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

-1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Step 4: Gently fold the honey, peanut butter, vanilla mixture into the dry ingredients.

Step 5: Press into the bottom of the pan. I mean really press it down, because this is how you guarantee that you are going to get that thick, dense, protein bar consistency.

*Step 6: Optional, but I did it. Melt dark chocolate squares in the microwave, roughly 1/3 cup, for 30 seconds at a time until it is smooth and creamy. Drizzle over bars, smooth with spoon, sprinkle with sea salt.

Step 7: Cover dish with wrap and refrigerate overnight.

DIY Protein Bars

DIY Protein Bar Cake Getting Ready to Chill

Step 8: Using a pizza cutter, cut flattened protein cake into 8 bars.

World's Most Awesome Protein Bars.

World’s Most Awesome Protein Bars.

Step 9: Bag individually and stick in the fridge. If you want the little bags that I used, get them here: http://amzn.to/1yw0Mcu. Dirt cheap 1000 bags for $16 with Amazon Prime.

Step 10: Grab on your way out the door in the morning, and know that you are freakin’ awesome! Seriously, you are awesome because you totally made your own breakfast bar, and there will be NO more surprises at the next traffic light when it hits your mouth.

I honestly can not express to you how delicious these are. You can mix up the ingredients and add anything that you want; cranberries, flax seed, anything you want. It’s your breakfast, so go crazy!

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. I would love to see your creations or hear what you think of this recipe when you try it. Enjoy!

XO

Raphaela

Homemade protein bars.

Wrap into little bags. Enjoy!