Mom Life

A New Way to Count Down the Days of Christmas

My boys will be 11 and 5 this Christmas, and every year I revel in watching their awe and wonder at the holiday season.  I know these “magical” years are numbered, so I’m trying my best to slow down and take it all in.  I’m excited to share a new Christmas tradition with you that I think will do just that: A Book-a-Day Advent Calendar.  

I can’t take credit for this amazing idea –  I remember seeing it on Pinterest when Rush, my oldest son, was a baby and then was reminded of it’s brilliance again when my friend, Melissa, did it with her children last year.  

The idea is to open one wrapped book every night from December 1st through Christmas Eve and read it together in front of the tree as a meaningful way to count down the days until Christmas.  

Twenty-four Christmas books seemed like a lot, but I searched my house for every Christmas/Holiday/Winter-y book I could find; and it turns out, we already had a fairly good collection!  I think I ended up buying about seven new ones.  My youngest son is learning to read right now so I chose a few that he will be able to read to us.  

I wrapped each book individually and then gave it a number to represent the day it will be opened.  On December 1st all of the books will appear under our tree so the magic can begin. I’ll let the boys take turns opening the book each night.  We’ll start with The Christmas Wish and end with The Night Before Christmas.  

To make your own book-a-day advent calendar, you’ll need 24 Christmas, holiday, or winter-y books. If you are building your book collection you could even start by doing the 12 days leading up to Christmas. There is no need to buy all new books. You can find great books at thrift stores or borrow them from your local library.  Once you have collected your books, you will need to wrap them up and number them 1-24. 

Here are the books included in our Book-a-Day Advent Calendar:

The Little Christmas Elf by Nikki Shannon Smith

The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet by Deborah Hautzig

Charlie and the Christmas Kitty by Ree Drummond

The Littlest Elf by Brandi Dougherty

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Britta Teckentrup

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

Olive, the other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

A Very Merry Christmas Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

A Birthday Party for Jesus by Susan Jones

The Night Before Christmas by Charles Santore

Song of the Stars by Sally-Lloyd Jones

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell

The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan Ahlberg

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert

Jesus Calling: The Story of Christmas by Sarah Young

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Tractor Mac Saves Christmas by Billy Steers

Am I missing any must-read Christmas stories?  Please share your favorites as I hope to mix in a few new ones each year.  

Here’s to a slow and magical Christmas season ❤️.

Recipe, Whole 30

3 Healthy Ways to Remix your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving is the meal that keeps on giving, am I right?!  I’m pretty sure I have enough leftovers in my fridge right now to feed my family for a whole week.  And, y’all, as a working mom, leftovers are my jam, but I can only eat Thanksgiving dinner so many times! If you are like me and need to mix things up, I have a few ideas on how you can use what you have on hand in new, healthy ways:  


Use your leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat to make these delicious Whole 30 compliant taco bowls.  Filled with cauliflower rice, lettuce and your favorite toppings, no one will be thinking “leftovers”!  

You’ll need:

1-2 Cups of Chopped Leftover Turkey

Taco Seasoning (Make your own — {2 T chili powder, 2 tsps of each: onion powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, oregano + 1 tsp sea salt}

Cauliflower Rice (I always use frozen that I steam in the microwave.  If I have it on hand, I’ll squeeze some lime juice and add some fresh cilantro.)

Extras (get creative and add what you like): 

Shredded lettuce or spinach 

Salsa (Frontera Roasted Tomato is my favorite store bought salsa!)  


W30 Compliant Ranch…like Tessemae’s (which is what I had on hand today!) 

Black Olives



  1. Season your turkey: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add turkey and stir to coat with olive oil.  Pour 1-2 teaspoons of the taco seasoning over the turkey.  Allow to heat through. 
  2. Build your bowl: Start with cauliflower rice.  Add turkey next. Then top with any extras: lettuce, salsa, guacamole, ranch… whatever you have on hand!  


Here’s a spin on my absolute favorite chicken salad!  Use your leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat and cranberries in this fast and delicious salad that can be eaten alone or on top of a salad!  Throw some leftover roasted veggies on the side and it’s a full meal! This is a perfect post-Thanksgiving lunch as it’s light and a change of flavors from yesterday’s big meal.  

You’ll Need:

1-2 cups chopped turkey

1 small avocado, mashed

1 small granny smith apple, unpeeled and chopped into bite size pieces

1/2 cup dried cranberries OR 1/4 cup cranberry sauce (or sub sliced red grapes)

1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional… I had these leftover from my Thanksgiving cooking) 

1/2 tsp curry powder (or any seasoning that you like) 

Salt and pepper to taste.


Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Eat immediately.  This can be made ahead of time by squeezing lime juice over the avocado.  


If you haven’t made your own bone broth yet, you haven’t lived. Ok that may be a little dramatic, but seriously, making your own broth is the best! It’s super easy, makes your house smell amazing and allows you to control the salt content and additives. Freeze it in small batches and pull out for soups throughout the winter!  I will be making mine today following Kettle and Fire’s recipe:

What are your go-to recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers?  I’d love to hear your ideas!  

Recipe, Whole 30

Stuffing or Dressing?

I was born and raised in the South where we eat dressing on Thanksgiving. Mike grew up in Maryland eating stuffing.

So what’s the difference? Well, technically the difference is how they’re cooked. Stuffing is a mixture used to stuff the turkey before cooking. Whereas dressing, comprised of similar ingredients, is cooked in a pan outside of the turkey. These days the two terms are used interchangeably depending on where you live.

Regardless of which side you’re on, we can all agree that a Thanksgiving menu isn’t complete without it.  Here’s my healthy spin on stuffing/dressing made with sausage, frozen riced cauliflower (hello easy!), apples and seasoned with fresh herbs.

Cauliflower and Sausage Stuffing/Dressing


-2 pounds sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed OR breakfast sausage*

-8 cups of riced cauliflower (2 bags of frozen, riced cauliflower)*

-2 small yellow onions, chopped

-1 cup celery, chopped

-2 granny smith apples, unpeeled and chopped

-2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

-1 tablespoon sea salt

-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

-2 eggs, whisked

-1/2 cup dried cranberries

-1/2-1 cup chopped pecans (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 300.

2. Brown sausage in a pan.

3. Remove sausage from the pan and add onions, celery and apples. Cook until tender.

4. Add sausage back into pan with the apple mixture. Stir in cauliflower and allow to heat through.

5. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley.

6. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in cranberries. Next stir eggs in and mix well.

7. Pour mixture into casserole dish.

8. Top with chopped pecans if desired.

9. Bake at 300 for 30 minutes or until set. Keep an eye on the pecans on top to be sure they don’t burn.


*I tested the recipe using breakfast sausage from Whole Foods. This is not Whole 30 compliant. This recipe can be made W30 compliant by using ground pork in place of the sausage or making your own sausage.

*Fresh cauliflower can be used in place of frozen. Rice or chop into bite sized pieces.

Whole 30



That’s how many calories are on the typical Thanksgiving Day dinner plate.  

Sounds like a lot, right?   Well, it adds up fast when your menu consists of turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese and buttered dinner rolls.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to NOT eat the things you love; and I definitely don’t want you to count calories.  I just want to provide some perspective and food for thought for you to have on your radar as we head into the holiday season.  Here are my go-to tips for fully enjoying your Thanksgiving without having to ride out an ultra uncomfortable food coma!

  1.  Eat Breakfast.  Going into a Thanksgiving feast starving never ends well.  Eating an early morning meal of protein and healthy fat will help you to feel satiated and less likely to over consume throughout the day.  
  2. Get a workout in before the meal.  Combined with a healthy breakfast, exercise sets your metabolism for the day and will help you make better food choices.  Hit up your local Turkey Trot or take a brisk walk.  If you’re in the Lake Norman area, we will offer several Thanksgiving Day workout options at CrossFit Cornelius and C2 FHIT.  I’d love for you to join us!  
  3. Drink lots of water before and during your Thanksgiving meal.  Water helps your stomach stay full to avoid overeating and assists the gut in digestion.  Soft drinks and sweet tea just add unnecessary sugar and calories to your meal. 
  4. Use a smaller plate.  Swap out that huge dinner plate for a smaller one.   You’ll still fill it with the food you want, but portion sizes will be more appropriate.
  5. Be mindful as you fill your plate.  Start by putting one to two palm sized portions of turkey in the middle of your plate.  With the remaining space, fill half to three-quarters with colorful vegetables.  Then add on the side items that you consider to be your favorites or ones that you only have on holidays.  Keep serving sizes small as you really only need a few bites to feel satisfied.  
  6. Decide if it’s really worth it.  Just because it’s on the table doesn’t mean you have to eat it.  As you are moving through the buffet line, ask yourself, is this food really worth it?  My mom’s homemade sweet potato casserole?  Heck yea! Canned cranberry sauce?  No thank you.  
  7. Eat slowly.  Engage in conversation.  Enjoy the moment.  Once your plate is empty, wait a minimum of ten minutes before returning for a second helping.  This gives your brain and gut a chance to communicate to let you know just how full your stomach actually is.  
  8. Leave the table when you are finished eating.  Physically removing yourself will keep you from snacking after the meal and allow your brain and gut time to do their thing and send necessary satiety and satiation signals.  
  9. Practice portion control with desserts.  Thanksgiving is definitely one of those days when you should exercise your food freedom and enjoy a dessert that you love.  Here’s the deal:  There is no need to eat all five of the desserts being served.  Even if they are small portions.   You are more likely to over consume if you serve yourself “a little” of each dessert.  It’s best to choose one that you really want, savor every bite and then call it quits for the day! 
  10.  If you end up over indulging and in a serious food coma, don’t panic; but also don’t let it lead you down a slippery slope of unhealthy eating habits for days to come.  Ride it out, pull it together and get back on track the next day!  Give me a call if you need some tough love to get through it.  

Creamy Pumpkin Bars

I’m one of those people who LOVE pumpkin everything: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes.  You name it, I want it.  However, thanks to Whole 30, I know the added sugar and other gut irritants in most of these seasonal treats will leave me feeling less than optimal.  

To get my pumpkin fix, I created a cleaner (and super easy, no bake) variation of pumpkin bars.  Made with nutritious ingredients, lightly sweetened with dates and maple syrup, and thickened with antioxidant rich chia seeds, they are so creamy that you’ll need a spoon.  Delicious served as is or top with coconut whipped cream.

Creamy Pumpkin Squares

For the crust:

In a food processor, finely chop:

1 cup pecans

1 cup walnuts 

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

5-6 medjool dates (pits removed)

2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted

Once fully chopped, press into an 8×8 dish and then place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:

In a food processor, puree: 

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin

1 can full fat coconut cream** (use the solid parts only)

1/3-1/2 cup pure maple syrup** (see notes)

2 teaspoons chia seeds**

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Once pureed to a creamy consistency, spoon over the prepared crust.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Refrigerating for a full 24 hours will allow the filling to thicken more.  Cut into bars and serve.  


**This can be modified to be nut-free by substituting pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in place of the nuts.

**I tend to prefer things less sweet.  If you are a “sweets person”, you’ll need to increase the amount of maple syrup in the filling to 1/2 cup.  

**Coconut cream can be found near the canned coconut milk in most grocery stores.  I generally use the Thai Kitchen brand.  

**The chia seeds create a thickening effect.   5 teaspoons of gelatin can be used in place of chia seeds.  

**MOM HACK: This can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.  I actually prefer them after a few days!


Simple Whole 30 Sweet Potato Chili

This is the easiest and most delicious chili that MY KIDS WILL ACTUALLY EAT.  Y’all, I prepped it all in under 15 minutes, threw it in my slow cooker and it was ready when we got home!  A winner in my book.

Put all ingredients in slow cooker for 8ish hours on low (See notes for Instant Pot directions): 

  • 2 lbs grass fed ground beef, cooked and drained of fat. (Ground turkey is a great sub, too)
  • 1 small diced yellow onion, sautéed in olive oil 
  • 1-2 cups sweet potato (roasted and puréed). This adds great flavor, texture and nutrients… and my kids don’t even know it’s in there! 👊) 
  • 1 28-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes 

Seasoning: (SKIP the prepackaged chili mixes as they have lots of added ingredients and sugar!) 

• 1 tablespoon chili powder

• 1 teaspoon cumin

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your heat preference) 

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon onion powder

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper 

*Top with avocado and herbs of your choice!  I love scallions or cilantro.  Today I had scallions on hand to use.


**This makes a lot.  It is PERFECT to feed your family for dinner and then freeze leftovers for a quick meal later OR use it as your meal prep for the week.  Eat by itself, stuff a sweet potato and then add some guac on top, or serve over sweet potato nachos.

**Easy swap: If you don’t have sweet potatoes on hand, or just dont want to deal with roasting and pureeing, try stirring in frozen cauliflower and sweet potato “rice”.  

**This can also be made in the Instant Pot.  Place all ingredients in the IP, then push the “meat/stew” button.  This will automatically set the IP to cook for 35 minutes.  Make sure the steam valve is closed.

**MOM HACK: If you are like me, there is not much extra time in the mornings to prep something to go in the slow cooker.  Here’s a little trick that I started doing a few years ago that has been a game changer… prep it all the night before and put the whole crockpot insert in your fridge.  Pull it out before you leave for work, plug it in and go.  Come home to an amazing home cooked meal without having to add stress to your morning routine.  

Meet The Clean Life Mama

Meet The Clean Life Mama

Hi there!  I’m so happy you stopped by— I’m Kristin, creator of The Clean Life Mama Blog, a mom of two boys, and a lover of all things health and wellness.  I became interested in exercise and nutrition when I was very young (14, actually),  and immediately pursued a group exercise certification and started researching and experimenting with healthy eating.  Fast forward 20-something years and my passion has turned into a career.  I am a Whole 30 Certified Coach, CrossFit Affiliate Owner/Coach, Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer.  I’m excited to share my ideas, experiences, knowledge and passion for health living with YOU!

10 things about me:

1.  I’m a small-town girl, born and raised in Cornelius, North Carolina.  

2.  My husband, Mike, and I are both passionate about health and fitness (we actually met in a gym!) When we were married in 2005, we created a bucket list that included opening our own gym one day.  We checked that off the list in 2012 when we opened CrossFit Cornelius.  We also recently opened another boutique fitness studio: C2 FHIT, a HIIT training program.

3.  I’m a Boy Mom.  Mike and I have two sons: Rush and Jett.  Their names are symbolic of their premature arrivals to the world.  Rush was born 14 weeks early and Jett came 5 weeks early.  Both are happy, healthy and very active!  

4.  I was a teacher for many (11, I think) years.  I taught both elementary and high school.  My favorite grades to teach were 3rd and 12th.  I loved 3rd grade because the kiddos are still sweet at that age and learn big things like multiplication and cursive writing.  Senior year won my heart because I got to be part of my students’ “time of your life” era as they were transitioning into young adults.

5.  I did my first Whole 30 in 2010 and had great results, but nothing overly exciting to report. It wasn’t until 2012 when I had my oldest son complete a Whole 30 in an attempt to eliminate unexplained skin problems that I was “sold” on the concept and knew I had to share it with others.  

6.  Our first home was a 900 square foot “fixer upper” (wayyy before Chip and Joanna came on the scene.) We lived like we were camping for the first six months as we demo’d, painted, rewired, rebuilt… all things construction related (and we are not naturally handy people.)  It’s a miracle that our marriage survived that first year.  Looking back I realize just how much it taught us to work as a team… which has paid off greatly as business partners and parents.  

7.  I may single handedly be keeping Tessemae’s in business.  There are not enough words for how much I love their Creamy Ranch Dressing!

8.  I love fashion (even though it’s probably not evident to those who interact with me daily and see me in only workout clothes). Rummaging through racks to find the perfect outfit is one of my favorite things to do.  I’m not impressed by brand names or current styles— I think the best looks are “collected.”  

9.  I lived in Sydney, Australia in my early 20’s.  I studied abroad my senior year of college then worked in a gym where I taught group exercise classes and had a few personal training clients.  It was just like The Real World.  I lived with four other Americans, two guys and two girls; and if I could travel back in time to any point in my life THIS would be it.  

10.  I believe in balance.  It’s unrealistic to live perfectly all the time.  Life is short so eat the cake when it’s worth it to you (but not when you’re on a Whole 30 😉)