Health and Wellness

8 Simple Ways to Add Mindfulness to Your Day

Wondering how to live a more mindful life? Want to meditate but don’t have the time? Here are eight simple techniques you can do every day to strengthen your awareness and clarify your mind. #mindfulness #meditation #consciousliving #stressrelief
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“Mindfulness” is quite the buzzword these days. Spiritual teachers, psychologists, celebrities and health professionals are heralding the benefits of mindful practices such as yoga and meditation. And there’s a growing body of research to back up the idea that these positive, life-affirming practices can reduce stress, relieve pain and improve our health and well-being.

But what does it actually mean to live mindfully? This definition sums it up well: 

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”


In theory, this sounds simple. In practice, it can be quite challenging to do. Our modern lives have become chaotic, fast-paced, and filled to the brim with responsibilities and distractions galore. Most of us have got a ton of different things competing for our time and attention to the point where it often gets overwhelming. And on top of all that, we constantly receive societal messaging telling us that we need to have more, do more and be more — that we aren’t good enough as we are. If we’re not careful, we can get wrapped up in trying to compensate by overstuffing our social calendars and working our butts off until we’re completely fried, exhausted and burnt-out.

These reasons are precisely why mindfulness is such an essential discipline for our times. I’ve read that if we want to be happy in life, and if we truly want to make the most of each day, the key is not doing more; it’s doing less. Not speeding up, but slowing down. It may sound counterintuitive at first, but the truth is that just as we need to recharge our bodies with sleep, we must rejuvenate our minds and souls with moments of stillness and quiet. We need time and space to re-center, to gain clarity and perspective on our lives and to make intentional choices that align with our deepest values.

But what are we to do when time feels like it’s in such short supply? That’s where we may need to get a little creative. The good news is that you don’t have to have tons of free time to start practicing mindfulness. You can practice in the small spaces and gaps between the various activities of your day — even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. Even those little snippets of time count. According to Verywell Mind, practicing meditation for just five minutes a day can be beneficial. Meditating in short bursts is certainly better than not practicing at all because, like a muscle, the ability to be mindful becomes stronger through regular use. And the length of time you spend practicing matters less than how consistent you are at it. Spending just a few short minutes each day on mindfulness techniques will help put you on the path towards a more mindful life. 

With all that in mind, here are eight of my favorite ideas for you to try:

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1. Stop and breathe. Bringing awareness to your breath is one of the simplest and most effective techniques for coming back into the present moment. Feeling the physical sensations of your chest and abdomen rising and falling, and the air flowing in and out of your body, redirects your focus to your immediate experience. Ancient yogis believed that pranayama, or breathing exercises, were ways to regulate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy, which is why breathwork is still such a central part of yoga practice today. And even if yoga doesn’t happen to be your jam, you can still benefit from incorporating a little mindful breathing into your day. 

Try this exercise for starters: close your eyes, inhale slowly for four seconds, then slowly exhale for four seconds. For a relaxing effect, you can gradually increase the length of the exhale to six, then eight seconds (while keeping the inhale at four seconds). Lengthening your exhalation will actually stimulate your vagus nerve and deactivate the “fight-or-flight” stress response. If you’re having a stressful day, there aren’t many quicker ways to take the edge off than to take a pause, turn your attention inward and just breathe.

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2. Play the 5-4-3-2-1 game to tune into your senses. This is a tool I learned from my former therapist to manage my anxiety. It’s especially useful for moments when you feel overwhelmed and a little out-of-control, but you can use it at any time when you’re starting to feel stressed. The game uses your five senses to immediately draw you back into the present. Here’s how to play:

  • First, find five things that you can see around you.These things can be anything–a notebook, a photo hanging on the wall, or a cloud in the sky, perhaps. 
  • Now, notice four things that you can feel with your touch. Maybe it’s the feeling of your shirt against your skin, the soles of your feet against the floor, or a breeze moving through your hair.
  • Take note of three things that you hear. Is it the sound of cars in the distance? The hum of a refrigerator? The ticking of a clock?
  • Identify two things that you can smell–perhaps the smell of food cooking for breakfast, or the aroma of the earth just after a rainstorm.
  • Pay attention to one thing you taste–most likely lingering notes of whatever you last ate.

The purpose of this exercise is to focus your attention on the myriad of sensations that are all around you–things we often don’t notice because we’re preoccupied with something else. Some of these sensations might be immediately obvious, while others can be quite subtle. Either way, paying attention to these small details helps you become more present in the moment and more aware of how rich and multilayered our consciousness can be.

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3. Set alerts on your phone to remind you to take a break. I have a good friend who does this. My favorite alert of hers is the one that tells her to go outside at twilight so she can watch the sunset. You can time your alerts around events like sunsets, but even if the alerts are just set at regular intervals throughout the day, they are a good reminder to take a few minutes to rest and decompress.

4. Practice single-tasking. Some of us take pride in our ability to focus on many different things at once, but the truth is, our human brains don’t actually do multitasking all that well. We can pay attention to multiple tasks simultaneously, but we can only give each of them a fraction of our focus and effort.

“Single-tasking” results in less residual mental clutter — it’s more efficient (and less stressful) to do only one task at a time and complete it before moving onto something else. So, when doing an item on your to-do list, see how it feels to set aside everything else for a few minutes and focus all your attention on that one thing. There is a Zen proverb that says, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” No matter how mundane the task is, give it your full, undivided attention. If it’s something you’ve done a thousand times before — and especially if it’s something you don’t really enjoy — try using your senses to pick up on a new dimension of the experience that you’ve never noticed before. Experiment with different ways of doing it, if you like. But regardless, do nothing else until you’re finished with that task. When you focus only on one thing at a time, you greatly enhance the quality of effort, attention and intention that go into everything you do.

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5. Get out of your head and into your body. If you’re prone to overthinking — and so many of us are — you can use physical movement to pull yourself back into present-moment awareness. Our minds are great tools when used properly, but sometimes, they’re a little too powerful and they get the better of us. If that sounds like you, a few minutes of activity could be just what you need to pull yourself out of “thinking” mode and into a more clear, centered space. You don’t have to do a full workout; you can go for a short walk or do a few jumping jacks and you’ll still get some of the positive effects of exercise. You could even try a short Qigong routine like this one. Whatever you decide to do, when you take the opportunity to bring awareness into your body, your mind will naturally slow down.

6. Do a mini-meditation. A regular meditation practice can have a profound impact on your mental clarity, ability to regulate your emotions, and your day-to-day stress levels. And there are plenty of meditations that can be done in just a few minutes. There are so many different ways to meditate, but if you’re new to it or could use some guidance, you might want to try a meditation app such as Headspace. These apps have a huge assortment of short, guided meditations to choose from, and some of them can be completed in as little as three minutes.

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7. Go outside. I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is just to get outdoors for some fresh air. As I mentioned earlier, going for a walk is a great way to center yourself, but even sitting outside for a few minutes can do wonders for your state of mind. According to Mental Floss, being outside can boost your energy, improve mood and increase focus and creativity. The natural aromas of flowers, grass and trees are a treat for the senses and can give you a lift when you need one.

8. Spend a few minutes being bored. We spend most of our lives running from boredom, don’t we? Honestly, even though it makes us miserable to be crazy-busy, constantly overwhelmed and scrambling around the clock to get things done — I have a theory that a lot of us would rather live that way than be bored. But what’s so wrong with boredom, really? Is it that bad? Or have we simply been so conditioned to need the never-ending excitement of stuff happening all the time?

The more we train ourselves to need constant stimulation, the more lost we are without it. But the more we learn to sit with and even embrace boredom, the more adaptable and resilient we become. So, I challenge you to try this: remove all outside noise and stimulation for just a few minutes and do nothing. This may be surprisingly hard to do at first. But, with practice, you’ll become more comfortable being in this quiet space. It might even start to feel peaceful.

What about you? I’d love to hear about your experiences with these and other mindfulness techniques, and where the journey has led you. Feel free to share in the comments below!

Fitness, Health and Wellness

How Running Changed My Life (and Could Change Yours, Too)

Think you’re not a runner? Here are some ways it could change your life if you give it a chance. #running #fitnessgoals #healthyliving #selfimprovement
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Running can be a very polarizing sport. On one end of the spectrum, you have diehard fans who compete in ultramarathons and races throughout the year, and on the other end, you have haters who say that it’s a sport for crazy people who enjoy pain and suffering. In my life, I have been both a lover and a hater of running, and trust me when I say that I was a hater for a long, long time before I finally came around.

I had (sort of) tried it a couple of times when I was younger, but it never came naturally to me the way it seemed to to other people. Don’t get me wrong; I was plenty active growing up — I was on a swim team as a kid and teenager — but even so, running was always my Achilles’ heel. We’d do dryland training from time to time and while the rest of my teammates seemed to be able to run without a fuss, I struggled to keep up. Even half a mile felt like a lot for me. And a whole mile? Forget it.

So, I made up my mind early on that running was “too hard” and not something I could ever enjoy. I wrote it off, and regrettably spent most of my life telling myself the story that I was “not a runner”. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally tried challenging that notion. How I got into it is a story in and of itself, but after training and running my first race with my mom, I was hooked. 

The thing is — and most runners will readily admit this — running is a little insane. It has an intensity that scares a lot of people away. Sure, usually you feel great after a run, but during? It’s work. It can be grueling, hot, sweaty, even miserable work. Sometimes you feel like stopping; other times the hardest part is dragging your butt out to get started in the first place. Simply put, it ain’t for sissies.

But looking back on the last few years of my life, I can see that running has been hugely influential on the person I have become. It might sound dramatic to say that it has changed my life, but I believe that it has. And if it left such a strong imprint on me, surely it could do the same for others. Now, I’m not saying that everyone in the world has to become a runner; if it’s truly not for you, then it’s not for you. But if you’re open to giving it a try, here are just some of the ways that running can transform your life.

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You’ll get in amazing shape, and possibly live longer. Running is one of the best cardiovascular activities out there. It will keep your heart strong, your lungs healthy and your muscles toned. Like any form of exercise, it can reduce stress and lower the risk of long-term diseases, potentially increasing your longevity. Of course, running is also high-impact and can be hard on your body over time, but running in the right gear (especially shoes) and working on your form can help minimize the risk of repetitive motion injuries, falls and sprains.

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You’ll become stronger through pushing yourself to do things that are challenging. What if I told you that a huge part of the value of running is the difficulty of it? For me, running isn’t worth doing because it’s easy; it’s worth doing because it’s hard. It toughens you up on so many levels. You’ll quite literally “feel the burn” of your muscles and lungs as you start to fatigue. Your feet, your legs, your hips and your back will get sore.

But the real challenge is more mental — and the real question is, can you keep on pushing and striving towards a larger goal even when things are starting to get really uncomfortable and hard? Can you move through layers of physical, mental and emotional resistance and keep going anyway? Can you ignore the negative, self-sabotaging voices inside that tell you you “can’t” do something and then proceed to prove them wrong? Running will push you to do all of these things and more, and you’ll be better off for it.

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You’ll become better at sitting with discomfort and prioritizing long-term rewards over short-term comfort and ease. I wish I could say that running gets easier over time. It does, in a way, as your body adapts and becomes stronger, but you’ll always be riding the edge of discomfort. While running shouldn’t be painful, when it’s done right, it should bring you up against your edges and push you out of your comfort zone.

This may not ever feel entirely easy or pleasant, but when you practice doing that on a regular basis, you’ll at least get more used to being with discomfort — observing it, noticing it, and letting it pass without attaching any meaning to it. Sooner or later you may even find you’re less attached to “being comfortable” and that it feels more natural to make decisions that benefit you in the long term rather than resorting to doing whatever is easiest in the moment. Running is a perfect example of how sometimes, the difficult things in life are great teachers for us.

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You’ll become more in-tune with your body, mind and surroundings. As challenging as running can be, it can also feel oddly meditative. Especially being outdoors where you can breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on your face. Your senses are engaged, perhaps even heightened. You might find yourself marveling at the beauty of the scenery that you normally breeze by without a second thought while you’re driving in a car. If you go without music, you hear sounds you normally don’t notice — the sound of your feet hitting the ground as they fall into a rhythm with your breath is borderline hypnotic.

Some people run to distract themselves, watching TV on their treadmills or listening to music as they go. But I run to practice being more present. It’s amazing how rich the experience of just running can be on its own, and being free of distractions (even for a few minutes) is wonderfully liberating. Running without distractions is also safer because you stay more aware of what’s happening around you, which makes it easier to avoid dangers like oncoming cars and bikes.

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You can make new friends. While there’s an incomparable peace and stillness that comes with running alone, running with others can be a lot of fun. Running is a great social activity to do with partners, friends, family, and fur babies. One thing I really enjoy about running is the way it brings people from many different walks of life together. And there are always exceptions, but in my experience, the running community is generally made up of positive, upbeat, supportive people who will encourage you along in your journey. There’s a real kinship among runners — a shared understanding that we’re all a little crazy in the same way, we’re all pushing ourselves to see what we are capable of, and we’re all in this together. And there’s something special about that.

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You’ll expand your sense of what is possible for you. Running is incredibly empowering and a huge confidence-booster. At least, for me, it has been. I believed I could never in a million years become a runner — and then I proved myself wrong. I went from struggling to run half a mile to running 5Ks, 10Ks and even a half marathon. My “limitations” with running had been entirely self-created, and once I realized that, I felt like I could do anything.

The same could be said for any challenging thing in life — anything you’re telling yourself is hard or impossible, anything that seems out of reach. I don’t know you, but I can tell you this: you are strong, and you are capable of so much more than you realize. So start questioning and challenging those stories that are holding you back in life, and I can almost guarantee you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do.

Running may not be for the faint of heart, but it is quite the journey. If you choose to go on this path, know that it will challenge you, it will help you grow, and it will take you to places you wouldn’t expect. And if that doesn’t make it a worthwhile pursuit, I don’t know what does.

How about you? Are you a runner? If so, what do you love about it and why? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.


6 Reasons Why RVs are the Perfect Mode of Pandemic Travel

Itching to get out and see the world while still being safe? Here are reasons to travel by RV in the time of coronavirus. #travel #roadtrip #wanderlust
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The current pandemic has radically changed everyday life in ways we could never have foreseen. Amid closures of schools and businesses around the globe, concerts and festivals have been cancelled, pro sports franchises have put games on hold, and travel plans of all kinds have been scuttled. We have never seen times like these before, and unfortunately, COVID-19 shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon — at least, not here in the US.

Understandably, though, people are starting to feel restless from staying at home, and they’re looking for ways to get out of the house while still keeping themselves and their families safe. Traveling by bus, train or plane might still feel like a risky proposition, even to those of us who would love nothing more than to get out and see the world. What’s a would-be wanderluster to do during times like these?

Fortunately, there is another way to travel. Enter the RV — a compact home on wheels that can be driven or hauled just about anywhere where there are roads. The Boston Globe and other news sources say that RV rentals and sales have gone through the roof since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s easy to see why: an RV offers a private living space that travels with you wherever you go. And best of all, you can set up camp wherever your adventures may take you — whether it’s a national park, a quaint little town you’re passing through or a vast expanse of open land — and have the great outdoors as your backyard.

So whether you’re a seasoned RV veteran or you’re thinking of renting one for the first time, here are six reasons why RVs are a great way to travel in the time of coronavirus.

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  1. You can go out and explore new places while still “staying at home”.

Many RVs are designed with comfort in mind, and with amenities like a bathroom, shower, kitchenette and bed, you’ll have everything you need to “stay at home” a lot of the time if that’s what you’re most comfortable doing. But the whole setup is on wheels, so whenever you’re ready for a change of scenery, you can always pack up and go somewhere else.

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2. You get to have your own private space.

An RV is your space — that means you make the rules. You get the final say on who (if anyone) gets to come inside, and you decide on the level of cleanliness you feel comfortable with. You can wipe and sanitize items inside your RV just as you would at home (just make sure to keep your camper stocked with cleaning products), and you don’t have to worry about sharing a bathroom with strangers. Sure, cleaning is a little bit of extra work (versus staying in a hotel with maid service), but for me at least, the peace of mind that comes with having my own space is so worth it.

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3. There are a ton of places you can go.

If getting away from big cities and crowds is sounding a little extra appealing right now, you can escape to somewhere a lot less populated. We are from the Denver area, and we are currently doing a 10-day loop through Southwestern Colorado. Just yesterday we came from the desert outskirts of Cortez, near the Four Corners. Tomorrow, we’ll head north to the peach orchards and vineyards of Palisade, near Grand Junction, and we’ll stay there for a couple of nights before we return home. This is a fairly short trip by most people’s standards, but it does offer a taste of what time on the road is like. We’ve already got two or three ideas for longer trips that we want to do in different parts of the country.

Of course, wherever you go, it’s important to be mindful of any regulations they have in place regarding travelers from the outside — many states and countries aren’t allowing visitors in at the moment, so you’ll want to plan your trip accordingly. But there are still so many possible destinations that the real question will be where to go first!

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4. Social distancing is a piece of cake.

When you’re RVing, most of the time, you’ll either be in your camper or outside somewhere. Either way, it’s easy to keep plenty of distance between yourself and others, especially when you’re out enjoying nature. Campgrounds and RV parks can get a bit crowded, but individual sites are typically a safe distance apart from one another.

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5. You’ll spend more time outdoors.

Although they are fairly comfortable to live in, unless you splurge on a luxury motorhome, RVs are typically not huge — and especially if you’re traveling with other people, it can get a little cozy in there. Most likely, you will want to get outside more often than you normally do, if only to get some space (although you’ll probably also want to get out and enjoy the fabulous places you’ll be visiting!). Whether you’re out doing something active or just enjoying a bit of fresh air, simply being outside has many proven health benefits, and you’re also much less likely to catch a variety of bacterial and viral infections than when you’re inside.

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6. You can even take your work with you.

While it can be wonderful to “unplug” while you are out traveling, if you prefer not to take time off — and if working remotely is an option for you — it’s easier than you might think to bring your work on the road so you can have the best of both worlds. Call it a work-cation, if you like.

My partner and I do this. I’m actually writing this article from inside our truck camper, an Eagle Cap model that sits in the back of his Ford F250. We are sitting across from each other at our dinette table, each of us working away on our laptops, listening to the sound of hummingbirds through our screen door and breathing the fresh mountain air in Ouray, Colorado. When you work from your RV, you end up working in some of the most beautiful and unusual settings, which can be really inspiring.

But, best of all, with the right setup, you can actually be quite productive. There are fewer distractions in a camper than there are at home, and if you bring the right gear (such as a WiFi hotspot), you can get decent phone and internet service in most places.

For these and so many other reasons, heading out on the road in an RV can be an incredible travel experience — it balances adventure and the thrill of seeing new places with the comfort and safety of having a personal “home space” to go back to at the end of the day. RV living can take some getting used to at first, but traveling this way has turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable, and more importantly, it feels safe even amid the ongoing public health crisis.

Have you taken an RV trip recently? Or have big plans to go on one soon? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Food and Recipes

Watermelon Limeade: A Glass of Summertime

Need to cool off on a hot day? Try this refreshing summer recipe - the sweet-tart flavor is addictive! #recipes #drinks #summertime
Photo credit: Amber Carlson

There’s nothing quite like a glass of fresh-squeezed limeade to cool you off on a hot day. The zingy citrus flavor coupled with a splash of sweetness is borderline addictive. As the weather’s been getting toastier here in Colorado, I’ve gotten on a kick of making my own limeade from scratch. For me, it calls up memories of carefree childhood summer days – my mom used to make limeade when I was little and I have loved it ever since.

One day, when I was making a batch of limeade, I happened to have some seedless watermelon on hand that I needed to use up somehow. My partner and I had just been cutting it up and eating slices – but that day, I got an idea. In past summers I’ve eaten watermelon slices dipped in a mixture of lime juice and a hint of hot sauce (which is strangely delicious, if you haven’t tried it), and I reminisced on that delightful melding of sweet, tart and spicy notes. I was in an experimental mood, so I took my fresh batch and blended it with some of the watermelon to see what would happen.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

The results were magical. And today I would like to share this bit of summer joy with you: it’s really simple, it just takes a few minutes to whip up, and it uses a grand total of four ingredients. Easy peasy. I found the original limeade recipe on MyRecipes, made some minor adjustments and put my own twist on it.

If you are more of a lemon person, you can easily sub out lemons for limes in this recipe. Just note that since lemons tend to be bigger and yield more juice than limes, you likely won’t need to juice quite as many fruits. I will say that I am personally more fond of the flavor of limes. According to Spoon University, limes are actually harvested before they’re ripe, so they’re less sweet and more tart than lemons. Their high citric acid content makes the flavor stand out really well against the sweetness of the watermelon. But, your juice, your choice.

To your health and enjoyment!

Fresh Watermelon Limeade Recipe

10-12 limes (or 6-8 lemons)
Simple syrup:
-1 cup cane sugar
-1 cup water 
2-3 large watermelon wedges, seedless (or seeds removed) with rinds cut off
4 cups cold water
Fresh herbs for garnish (optional; I used lemon balm in my photo, but mint or basil should do just as well)

  1. Start your simple syrup. Heat cane sugar and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan on medium heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Stir until sugar completely dissolves into water. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

*A note here: Making the simple syrup may seem like an unnecessary step. You might be tempted to just add sugar to the lime juice and dilute with water – but I’m here to warn you: don’t do it! The sugar won’t dissolve that way and you’ll wind up with grainy juice (I learned this the hard way). Simple syrup does a much better job of blending into the juice.

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  1. While the simple syrup is cooking, cut the lemons or limes into halves and juice them using a handheld or electric juicer. You could squeeze them by hand, but a juicer – especially an electric juicer – will make your life so much easier. Limes especially can be a bit tough – if you find that this is the case, you can roll them against a hard surface before cutting to soften them up a bit.
  2. Once you have roughly 1½ -2 cups of juice, add the juice to a blender. Remove the rinds from your watermelon wedges, coarsely chop the flesh and throw them in the blender. Blend at a low setting until juice looks evenly mixed.

*Between the limes and the watermelon, this juice can get pretty pulpy. I like mine that way, but I know not everyone is a fan. You can strain the mixture after taking it out of the blender if you’d rather go pulp-free.

  1. Add your cold water to the mixture, and then, once your syrup has cooled a bit, add some sweetness. I suggest starting with just a dollop at first, stirring your juice and seeing how it tastes before adding more. What I like about this approach is that you can keep tweaking until you get the exact balance of sweet and tart flavors that you find most irresistible.

*Unless you like your limeade really sweet, you will most likely not use all of the simple syrup! I don’t use very much of it when I make this recipe. This works in my favor because I can save the extra syrup in the fridge for future batches.

  1. Pour into a glass with ice, garnish if desired, and enjoy this simple-but-delectable treat!

Questions? Feedback? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to give me a shout in the comments below.