Sugar Monster.

Day 5. I’m not sick of eggs yet, I think we’ve finally gotten over the Sugar-Monster-crabbiness, and the weird dreams have kicked in. Breakfasts all week have been our standard breakfast casserole with hashbrowns of some sort, pork sausage and eggs. Topped with Cholula – always. I somehow rarely get sick of that stuff too – probably because we switch it up each week so it’s not EXACTLY the same each time we make it. Lunches are full of leftovers from whatever we’ve eaten previously in the week. Dinners have been different each night – and actually prepared that night, instead of just shoved in the microwave and heated up. I attempted to cook spaghetti squash in the crockpot – not the best option when your squash is HUGE and the lid doesn’t even close on it. Normally I cook it in the microwave using this method, and it comes out steamy and soft and the “noodles” just melt into the sauce. This was definitely a lot more crunchy. Maybe that’s why I like the micro method more – because spaghetti squash is delicious and a little weird in texture for me?

Earlier in the week as I was getting ready for work, I came to the realization that there’s a few things I do during the #whole30 that I don’t normally do on a regular basis – and probably should. Or maybe I do them and just am not aware of it as much? Who knows. Like – for example: flossing. I know I know, you should floss every day, brush your teeth twice a day, wash you face twice a day, shower daily (but NOT wash your hair daily), etc.etc.etc. But normally – I do not. Gross? Probably a little. Things you learn about yourself during #whole30 can certainly be an eye opening experience, whether you like it or not. I also work out more regularly. Is it because I need to keep myself busy so I don’t dig through the cupboards trying to find a snack? Or because I have more energy? Or because I normally coincide #whole30 with a yoga challenge? Probably a little of each. I’m not partaking in the 20/30 challenge this year, but I am trying to make it to yoga at least once a week going forward. Like I said before, I want to mix it up this month.

I’ve also noticed that my kitchen tends to stay cleaner during this time – even with the massive amount of cooking that’s happening. Wash all the dishes before bed, put them away in the morning or before I start cooking again at night. I DEFINITELY run the dishwasher more (thank goodness for little miracle inventions that wash dishes for you!) so I don’t have to wash 4000 tupperware containers EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. because I bring my breakfast and lunch to work as well as some snacks. But this year I have upgraded to Pyrex glassware rather than my plain ol’ plastic Rubbermade. LIFE.CHANGER. They stay clean and nice even after you use them a million times, they never melt or get stains, there are a ton of different sizes so you can use them for basically anything. Dear Black Friday Sales, I love you. Love, me.

Week one recap though: I was CRABBY. All week. Basically until this morning. That Sugar Monster was a real biyatch this round. And both of us felt it. Both of us were snapping at each other, being rude for no reason, and even a lot more quick to get angry with the fur babies. Not cool, Sugar Monster, not cool. Week one is full of temper tantrums and no energy. But it’s picking up. And tonight I’m pumped for bison burgers and Greek potatoes. Greek food ALWAYS gets me in a great mood. (OPA! Sigh – wouldn’t mind some flaming cheese right about meow though…)

I’m currently working on the meal plan for next week… I know for Valentine’s Day we’ll be heading to the Iowa Beef Steakhouse, I think this is our 4th year we’ve done that? Because who doesn’t want to eat steak on the day of love? Plus that day, the pups have daycare so that means they will be completely exhausted all night long. And hopefully that will also mean that they will take adorable Valentine’s Day pictures to send us in their report cards because I will DIE from cuteness. (This paragraph got off topic real quick.)

Before I leave for the day I wanted to thank everyone for eating pizza and bagels for me yesterday. I’m sure it was extremely difficult for you to do – but I so appreciate it. #pizza4lyfe

Lastly, a little snippet about the week in a nutshell.

  • Favorite Meal: Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps (with homemade seasoning!), Mexican Cauliflower Rice, Avocado Mash, and Cholula
  • What I’m Reading: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (currently reading), Fat Girl Walking (just finished for book club – a week late)
  • Weekend Plans: staying OUTSIDE as often as possible since it’s February in Iowa, and also 50 degrees! Muddy dogs, here we come! Plus – a mindf*** solo movie trip!
  • Next Week’s Outlook: an outdoor run, yoga, new recipes (let’s break them down!) and a clear head from the detoxed Sugar Monster out of my system!

Happy Friday kids – enjoy the weekend and the spring weather in mid-February!

Back in Black {Coffee}

And I’m back. And what better way to get back into the blogosphere than with a post about my newest round of #whole30! Tis the season amirite? After completely overindulging since… um… vacation in Mexico (before Thanksgiving)… I needed a system reset. Like bad. So here we are – day one of #whole30 – and completely under prepared.

We’ll say it’s because of the Super Bowl last night… and that’s probably part of it. I mean we went to the grocery store and have everything we need for this round… but that whole “food prep” thing just didn’t quite happen. SO. Thankfully I’ve done enough of these that I know what I can eat to make me full until I can really get things prepped tonight… and I’ve got enough (too much) coffee in my system that I should be set for the day and be super ready to have a big ol’ bowl of beef and sweet potato chili tonight to fill in the holes that breakfast and lunch left me with.

Breakfast today was an apple, blueberries and grapes topped with cashew butter (for real my lifesaver) and black coffee (obvs.) Black coffee has been my norm for a while actually – before my first whole30 (like… 4 years ago maybe??) I put creamer in my coffee EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. And not just a splash or two. I’m talking a couple glugs. (That’s an actual measurement, you guys.) So it was basically creamer with a splash of coffee. Not cool. Once I weaned myself off that sugar monster, black coffee actually tastes great to me. Who knew.

Lunch will be easy… and super boring. Three scrambled eggs, a can of tuna, salt and pepper, and Cholula (because you put hot sauce on EVERYTHING during whole30. And not during whole30. #cholula4lyfe) Because planning kind of happened yesterday, I didn’t have lunch planned for today… because I was thinking about the giant vat of chili for tonight. Silly me. So tomorrow will be 100 times better.

So yeah – dinner – beef and sweet potato chili. Sounds delish. Too bad I can’t top it with cheese or Fritos. It’s fine – I’m such a chip monster it will do my body GREAT to not have that huge ingestion of sodium. I love chips.

So this round of #whole30 is going to be the same as the rest I’ve done… but it’s the post-whole30 that I’m looking forward to. Reintroduction of SOME things. No introduction of others. Like – how many times have I done this… and I have greasy pizza the day after. Literally every.single.time. And then the next day – or even like 15 minutes later – I feel like trash. I love pizza – I seriously do. I could eat it for every single meal for the rest of forever (if that whole “I’d weigh 4000 lbs” thing wouldn’t happen) but it hurts my body SO MUCH. Same goes with pasta. Like last night for example. We went over to the Italian side of the family to watch the Super Bowl and to eat homemade meatballs and sausage and pasta. It’s delicious and amazing. And I ate too much and too fast and thought I was going to DIE because I was so full. It wasn’t pretty. I unbuttoned my pants during the game so I wouldn’t throw up. Because I have ZERO SELF CONTROL when it comes to carbs. WHY. Because they’re delicious and bad for me? Probably. Because my mentality is occasionally (often) that of a 17-year-old and I think that the pasta I’m eating is to help fuel me for five volleyball games or three softball games in the 90 degree heat and I NEED that extra energy. Yeah – no. I don’t need that. My metabolism hasn’t stopped yet – but if I keep eating like I’ll be at a three hour practice, when instead – I MIGHT take the dogs on a few walks that day – then it may just go and reverse completely. Getting older is fun, you guys.

So my goals for this round of whole30… I’m actually going to make some this time… are going to vary. I know you’re not supposed to weigh yourself during this time, and I’m actually going to follow that. I weighed myself this morning (and wanted to cry) and I won’t weigh myself again until my last day – March 10th – and see how I did. I already know my clothes will fit better and I will FEEL better. And I’ll sleep so amazing and my face will clear up and I won’t be so blotchy… and I’m so looking forward to it. Another goal will come with reintroduction – cut WAY down on carbs (sub in veggies), steer (mostly) clear of soft cheeses, and QUIT IT with binge snacking. Binge snacking is something I’ve probably always done – but it never did anything to hurt me. Because again – 17 year old inside me – could practice for 3 hours, eat half a pizza, drink a bunch of Mountain Dew, candy, etc. and still feel fine and not gain a pound. Seriously all through high school I hovered in between 130-135 lbs. Let’s just say that’s not the case now. Not even close. And I’m really not sure I could get down to that weight again and be HEALTHY. Another thing – EAT MORE VEGGIES. Like at least one with every meal. Fruit is great, sure – but it does have a lot of natural sugar that kind of defeats the purpose of the whole30. And another – one new recipe per week. (Look out honey – I’m getting creative!)

I’m also working to improve my working out. The last few weeks I’ve been super lazy about my workouts. I’ve done them – I’ve earned that gold star, I’ve burned calories – and then I go home and eat a HUGE meal and sit on the couch for three hours binge watching Shameless. (Which is SO GOOD you guys – definitely go watch it.) So while I’m in the “fat burn zone” for 4.5 hours (thanks FitBit), I still have done nothing for my body. Or at least it FEELS like that.

And that’s where I need YOU. I’ll be posting to help hold myself responsible for what goes into my body, what I do to make significant and lifelong changes in my body, because I don’t want to be unhappy with the way I look and feel. Plus – posting will give me something to do with my hands, rather than running to the break room to grab a bag of chips or making a bag of popcorn and grabbing a beer on Sunday afternoon just because I can. (Although – as an adult, isn’t the best feeling EVER, doing something you want to do JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN?? Just me? Definitely not just me.) So this is going to be a safe haven for me to complain about eating eggs, how working out is bad for you, the naughty things my pups have done, the new recipes and the fails to go along with them, the books I’ve read, the things I’ve done, the memories I’ve made, the debt I’ve paid down, etc.etc.etc. Get excited!

Meal Plan 2/6-2/10

  • Monday: Beef and Sweet Potato Chili
  • Tuesday: Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos
  • Wednesday: Sausage and Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner
  • Thursday: Italian Sausage and Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  • Friday: Mediterranean Bison Burgers and Greek Lemon Potatoes

Weekends tend to be up in the air… but I’ve got ideas – and new recipes coming! Thanks for the support (yeah I’m asking this early) and if I bore you – sorrynotsorry – and if I inspire you – you’re welcome. And if you’re just reading through blogs because it’s what you do every morning and you stumble across mine – even better! Have a good one kids – stay tuned and here’s hoping for new habits!

30 days – check

Today is day 30! HOORAY I’M DONE – wait… what? We decided to do a #whole45 instead?! Gah. Fine. Another 15 days it is.

That’s how I felt when I woke up today. All PUMPED because it was my last day of the #whole30… and then I remembered. Oh well – it’s fine. I’ll live. Another 15 days won’t kill me. Hopefully.

This round has been a little bit different for me – I don’t feel the Sugar Demon creeping up on me at all hours of the day, food prep is EASY, and I started sleeping well probably on the third day (maybe that was the Nyquil talking… but either way – zonked out like a baby.) I’ve eaten LOTS of red meat and LOTS of breakfast for other meals besides breakfast. I’m learning that I (almost) like black coffee more than I like coffee with creamer in it. Unless of course it’s Sweet Italian Cream CoffeeMate… then we have an obvious winner. Also – I don’t miss cheese like I did the last go-around. Maybe it’s because my dairy ingestion has dropped SIGNIFICANTLY since last year when we started – meaning I haven’t bought cow’s milk in over a year, not that I’ve ever been a real big milk drinker, but still. Of course I still ate plenty of cheese, but I’m not missing that as much as I had before. Pasta and bread are something I do still miss, and I probably always will. I don’t feel like I’ve overindulged on eggs this time (hooray!) because I’ve eaten them so many different ways that I forget I ate eggs in a breakfast casserole that morning, and some eggs over-easy smashed into hashbrowns for dinner. We’ve tried lots of different recipes, and eaten a lot more gamey meat this round – veal, lamb, etc. I made my own breakfast sausage (not the best, not the worst) and I finally caved and made my own mayo. WHICH WAS A LIFE SAVER. Why haven’t I done that before? It’s so EASY. An egg, EVOO, S&P, lemon juice, garlic. Immersion blender that shit together and BAM – mayo. (Do I sound like Emeril there? I should – we just got his pots and pans and I LOVE THEM.)

Non-scale victories… let’s see. The obvious sleep improvement – even when I only sleep for 6 hours, I feel so refreshed when I wake up it’s amazing. I have energy to work out, I feel great during and after my work out, I feel focused during the day and not “fuzzy” or sleepy, my pants fit better, my workout spandex fits better, my face feels less bloated, I feel like I’m (usually) in a good mood (except for the few times I get hangry… sorry about that babe) and I just feel overly GREAT.

So… now what? Where do I go from here? After these next 15 days, do I go back to my shitty eating from before? Do I keep cutting dairy out but go back to pasta? Do I stick with wine or vodka and steer clear of beer? What happens next?

Honestly – I don’t know yet. The last two years I tell myself that I WILL stick to it and I WILL do the gradual reintroduction of foods back into my diet. And the last two years, I’ve probably had pizza the very next day. But guys – how do you say NO to pizza? It’s so damn good. The main reason I DON’T want to go back to pizza and beer that first day, is I know how shitty I’ll feel when I’m done. And especially the next day as it’s making its way through my body trying to kill me. Ideally, I’d like to slowly reintroduce the current non-whole30 foods back into my system, and see how it makes me feel once they’re back in there. See how some rice, pasta and quinoa sits in my system after a few days. If that’s all good, keep my portions small and occasional and I’ll be fine. The same goes with dairy, legumes, alcohol (that will probably be less gradual but who knows), and sugar. The sugar is the one that will mess with me the most. Because I am a candy monster, through and through. All kinds of candy – I’m not picky. Chocolate, gummy, straight sugar – you name it, I will eat it. And I will eat it quickly, without thinking, until my teeth hurt. Because I am a child and have ZERO self-control. Guys – I am 29 years old. And I cannot control myself with candy when it’s in front of my face. This is something a first grader has issues with during Halloween or someone’s birthday party. Yet here I am – the year I turn 30, and I still have issues with sweets. Embarrassing. SO. That being said, I feel like I need to kick out candy unless it’s for special occasions. Like baked goods, Starbursts, KitKats, jelly beans (damn you Easter Bunny and your delicious jelly beans that are ONLY around during Easter!), Swedish Fish, cupcakes (my sister is the WORST for stopping by with “some cupcakes for you” – aka probably 6 dozen cupcakes), cookies, Caramel Macchiatos (this one will be occasional – because who doesn’t love a Venti Skinny Iced Caramel Macchiato on a hot day?! Or even a cold day really…), and – although these aren’t sweets, CHIPS. LOVE me some chips – literally any kind. If they are in my house, I will sit and eat them until they’re gone. And I’m not picky. Doritos, Jalapeno Kettle Chips, Cheese its, etc. etc. GONE in no time. Ridiculous really. Tell me again how I’m a grown-up? Sigh.

Okay – now that I’ve verbal diarrhea-d all over the place about things I really WANT to eat but can’t… I need to go finish eating my breakfast – an egg bake with spinach, asparagus, and whole30 approved Italian sausage. Sigh. This green juice sure doesn’t taste like the sugary treat I really want. Guess I’ll just slather some cashew butter on my banana and deal with it. PS have you ever tried cashew butter? It’s seriously AMAZING. And almost better than almond butter. Or peanut butter. Almost.

I’M. BACK.

Guys – I’m back. For real this time. It’s been a (long) while since I’ve written in here – but it’s okay. I didn’t want to force myself to write something that I wasn’t feeling passion for. I mean my last post was at the beginning of fall, and now it’s the beginning of winter – so there’s that. I was just told today that the first day of spring is March 19th so let’s just hope I don’t wait another season to write to you. I won’t – I promise. Because I’ve got goals.

And lists. So many lists. Because lists are basically in my top 10 favorite things. Behind pizza, reading, animals, sleeping, and other things. (See what I did there? A list of my favorite things where “making lists” is on my list!) Anyway. My list. For 2016. And going forward really. Here goes…

  • GET HEALTHY. This is basically on my list EVERY SINGLE YEAR… but for some reason this feels so right, and so much like it WILL happen. Maybe it’s because I got a FitBit (from Santa) for Christmas and I’m OBSESSED with checking my steps, calories, etc. all throughout the day. Maybe it’s because I weighed myself (I’m the worst – I know) and plan to do weekly weigh ins. Maybe it’s because the Whole30 (actually the Whole45) is coming up in less than TWO WEEKS and I’m reading the forum and the list of do’s and don’ts for food. Maybe it’s because I turned 29 and want to be the best version of myself coming into my 30th year that I can be. Who knows. Either way – it’s happening.
  • READ ALL THE BOOKS. Again – probably happens every year. But for 6 days into 2016, I’m not doing too bad. I finished my first book of the year (Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?) and started reading It Starts with Food – in preparation for Whole45 – and I’m also listening to the 3rd book in the Alex Cross series from James Patterson, Jack and Jill. This year though – 50 books. Minimum. Which is totally doable when I can usually go through at least one book on CD during my drives to and from work in about a week. HOLLA. I also want five of those books to be business/motivational/self-help related. Because you can never read something that won’t make you better SOMEHOW.
  • EAT MORE VEGGIES. This has definitely not been repeated year after year. You know how I know? Because I can go WEEKS without ingesting a veggie. And that’s terrible. Tonight is the “come to Jesus aka Whole45 planning” meeting and veggies are going to be a TOP priority. Spiralize EVERYTHING. Roast EVERYTHING. Seriously – so many more veggies. They’re so damn good for you. Who cares if sprouts and asparagus makes your pee smell funny. You know how to make that better? DRINK MORE WATER.
  • BE PRESENT. This means a few things to me. It means putting my phone away for a couple hours at night where I can have conversations without interruptions, where I can read a book and not worry about what is also going on in the social media world. Talk on the phone with friends rather than text. Send cards, emails, flowers, etc. to those I don’t get to see often. Be a good friend.
  • BE POLISHED. Y’all know I love me a good ponytail. Or a bad ponytail if we’re being honest. (I’m not totally sure what a bad ponytail is – but just go with me here.) HOWEVER. I got my haircut on my birthday and it’s pretty and it does what it’s supposed to – so I’m going to do it. Wear make up to work, do my hair in the morning, wear heels during the week (BTW this is two days in a ROW for me of heels. Look at me GO.) Try not to look (too) scurvy when I go out in public. Except if I go to the grocery store right after working out that’s definitely not going to be pretty for anyone – but oh well.
  • WRITE DAILY. For Christmas this year, and birthday, and other random times I buy books (aka everyday if I could) I found a few books to tackle throughout this year. One is called A Year of Cozy – which is basically a year’s worth of recipes, DIY, etc. for me to do – separated by month and season. HOW FUN. The next, is a list making book (told you I love lists.) Sundays are my new “list making” day. Each week I’ll be brainstorming and listing on a certain topic – and then journaling about it. #creativity. The last one, is a 365 Q&A book. This goes on for FIVE YEARS. I will do a quick Q&A for each day of the year, for the next five years, to see how my answers change. LOVE THIS. Plus – more blogging for you wonderful people. Twice a week – minimum. I mean – I’ll try.

There are so many things I want to do this year – to make me a better ME. Cleaning the house more regularly, cooking more food, trying new food, challenging myself with books I wouldn’t normally read, challenging myself with workouts I wouldn’t normally do. I want to be there for friends more than ever, I want to love so much it hurts. 2016 seems like a pretty great year so far – and I’m ready to tackle it.

food love. book love. FALL.

And just like that – fall has arrived in full force. I’m not even mad that it was accompanied by a hella cold rain – except for the fact that Little Bear thought it was a good idea to take a lap around the block instead of just doing his business in our front yard. I also like how in groups of people when there’s a pause of awkward silence, weather becomes the topic. “So did you see the forecast for the week? Oh man it’s going to be so nice/hot/cold/snowy/rainy/etc.” Talk about it with strangers, talk about it at work with people you don’t enjoy – thanks Weather for being our “go-to” conversation starter in awkward/boring situations.

But I digress. HOORAY FOR FALL!! I’ve been waiting on this change since the one day it got down to the high 50s-low 60s in September and all the #basic girls (myself included) busted out their boots and scarves and took a trip to Starbucks for the first #PSL of the season. And then magically it’s 80 degrees. Come on fall, just GET HERE already.

tumblr_mtk5aeNPYB1qc8cx1o1_1280 Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying out some different outlets for media that I haven’t tried before – ie. Podcasts and books on tape/CD. Okay so let’s be real – I’ve listened to PLENTY of books on tape back in the day – but I’m so much more of a “hands-on” reader that I really didn’t use them for YEARS. I’m pretty sure the last book I listened to was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. So yeah – it’s been a while. So while I got the idea to get a book to listen to on my way to and from work – I’ve got plenty of time in the car since I go home over lunch to let the bear out – I thought, why not. The time is there – why not utilize it? (More on that a little later.) I’ve never been a “podcast” girl – is that even a thing? I don’t really know. But I thought I’d try them out – mostly because I follow Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) on Instagram and she was always talking about her podcast. So I went to her blog and started listening. She named her podcast “Happier” which I think is fun – and does these talks with her sister, a TV writer living in L.A. It was interesting to see their different points of view – while Gretchen lives in NYC and is a writer – on different subjects. I went through these real fast – since they’re between 25-35 minutes I could get these done in no time. I liked that each podcast had a different “take home” for you to do – and I took a lot of those to heart. Especially the one-minute rule for tackling clutter, making your bed, treat yourself like a toddler, and to pick a one-word theme for the year. If you’ve got some time, need a break, or want to try something new – I highly recommend listening to Happier.

A couple weeks ago I visited the library (my happy place) and picked up six books I wanted to read. Yes you read that correctly – SIX books. A little much for a three-week time period? Maybe. But I flew through two of them already – one was a Sunday read for me and the other was a “before bed to get my mind focused” kind of read. For those of you who watched The Hills (guilty), the first book I read was called If You Have to Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone – the founder of PR firm People’s Revolution. HIGHLY recommend this book. I think it was something I needed to propel me forward. Not that I was stuck, but I needed something new. Following in Kelly’s booksteps (like footsteps… get it?) I started reading #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso. Sophia is the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal fashion and #Girlboss is a combination memoir/how-to. How to become a #GirlBoss. Again – something else I NEEDED in my life. Not that I necessarily have an entrepreneurial spirit or even WANT to be my own boss – but it’s refreshing to hear about strong women totally OWNING everything they have because it was built from the ground up. Bad asses for life.

Next up on my (never ending) list of books to read – our next book club book by Charlie Huston, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. Sometimes you just start a book and KNOW you’re going to love it. That’s how this one is. Ten-ish pages in – and I’m hooked. Love when that happens. I’ve also got Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose, and another Kelly Cutrone gem – Normal Gets you Nowhere. READ ALL THE BOOKS!

readallthebooks

Monday morning on my way to work I started listening to The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. Normally this would NOT be my cup of tea – but since Sophia Amoruso suggested it, here I am. Basically it’s a historic self-help book… if that makes sense. Kind of a how-to-make-money-and-save-money-and-get-out-of-debt-while-putting-it-in-historic-terms. I was intrigued. So here I am – almost halfway through – and actually getting some enjoyment out of this. Although sometimes I space out and it’s hard to understand, it all makes sense. I hate money, I hate talking about money, I hate what money does to people – whether they have a lot or very little – and yet this book is something I actually enjoy. And now that I know that I’ll get through this book in a week TOPS, I’ll need to scour through my TBR (to be read) list and see what else I can enjoy on the road.

ALSO. You all KNOW my love of all things food. Food blogs. The Food Network. Cookbooks. Instagram posts. Like if I could look at food porn all day I WOULD. (And sometimes it feels like I do.) So anywho – yesterday I stumbled across an Instagram post for Slow Cooker Autumn Minestrone Soup that had me DROOLING… so I visited Real Food Whole Life to check out this gem, which I then followed up with at least 30 minutes of looking at other recipes. The one that totally caught my eye and FORCED me to make it for dinner last night – Grilled Hummus, Apple and Caramelized Onion Sandwiches. Like how AMAZING does that sound?! Plus – I had all those ingredients at home. So I made it. And it did not disappoint. My onions may have been slightly over-caramelized, but I also added some shredded mozzarella cheese and it was seriously thebomb.com. Making that probably weekly. I mean just LOOK how good it looks!!

IMG_2081

This got slightly more wordy than planned – so I’ll hold off until later this week. Enjoy this weather kiddos – before you know it there will be snow on the ground.

(JUST KIDDING MOTHER NATURE…. JUST KIDDING)

get lost

I’ve been called a “book worm” over the years more times than I can count. I have literally (yes – this is the correct time to use that word) ALWAYS read multiple books at a time. Growing up, my mom could never figure out how I could keep the plots distinguished between books. I was also that kid where if I broke my leg during the summer, I wouldn’t be sad about staying inside not being able to run around. Because I’d have my books. When someone asks me what I like to do in my free time, I tell people I like to read. I’ve also been told I should “get a new hobby” because reading doesn’t count.

Reading is everything to me. I love the feeling of getting lost in a character’s life – seeing something through their eyes (while it’s how I picture it in my mind.) Reading to me isn’t necessarily an escape from reality – although sometimes I get so into the book that I forget where I am, what I need to do that day, and any underlying/below-the-surface issues I just don’t want to face at that time. Reading a book I love sometimes makes me overly happy, occasionally (often) ugly cry, and more often than not – give me a book hangover. Sometimes I have all three happen to me during the same book.

The book is ALWAYS better than the movie. And if it’s not better (see previous line – it’s ALWAYS better), then it’s at least AS GOOD. The movie has NEVER been better than the book. Ever. And it never will be. So many times I will hold off on seeing the movie until I’ve read the book. And if it happens that I see the movie before I read the book, I will ALWAYS picture the actors from the movie as the characters in the book.

One of my favorite happy places is curled up underneath a blanket, with a cup of coffee/tea/wine, and my book. It’s at that moment that I am completely at peace. My mind is calm and not running a million miles an hour, the TV is off, my to-do list is finished, and I am serene.

And lately – reading just hasn’t been happening for me. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment in time where I stopped reading, but it just hasn’t been happening. Maybe it’s me being lazy. Maybe it’s the fact that there is ALWAYS an SVU/CSI marathon on after work. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a lady date to binge-watch something on Netflix. Maybe it’s because my love is home for the weekend and I want to spend every waking moment with him rather than alone with my book. Maybe it’s because our newest little fluffy baby needs constant attention so he isn’t chewing/peeing on something. Maybe it’s because the books I’ve been reading aren’t gripping me enough so I just can’t get into them. All these could be a potential factor – and it makes me so sad to think about.

Reading is my JAM. For realz guys. I’ve even been terrible about reading my book club book. And if anything, that was at least the one I read. For a while I was reading a book a week. ONE BOOK IN ONE WEEK. Now it’s taken me MONTHS to finish a book with less than 200 pages. I don’t want to force myself to read – because that’s how people learn to hate reading. Like when you’re in school – you’re forced to read books for English and in turn, you end up either hating the book or just reading in general. Example – The Great Gatsby. We had to read it and pick it apart in high school. Doing all that made me not want to read it. I love reading for enjoyment, rather than reading for discussion. Except for book club – that discussion I really do enjoy. (Maybe also because I can drink wine at book club, but not in AP English.)

So before I go all “I vow to read one non-school book per week” a la Clueless on you all, I just want to make a mental note to read daily. Maybe that’s 15 minutes before bed. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning when Koji thinks 5 am is an acceptable wake up time. Maybe it’s a Saturday morning when Koji thinks 6 am is an acceptable wake up time. Maybe it’s Sunday afternoon while Koji is napping or he’s out on a walk with dad and mama gets some much needed peace and quiet. I’m adding a book into my purse so I have one if I ever get stuck in traffic, or if I’m waiting to pick someone up, or if I’ve got some time to wait before a store opens (because that’s a thing I do now with this furry little alarm clock.)

Reading has always been a major love of mine, and I don’t want to lose that love. So my job for all of you – remind me to read. Put a picture of the book you’re reading up on Instagram so I see it and am reminded to sit down with The Bell Jar for a little while. Add some books on your Goodreads “to be read” list so I can go through and be reminded what I have yet to read on my never-ending list – and sit down with All the Light We Cannot See while Koji is passed out after a long walk. Maybe I end up searching for something in Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook and end up reading through recipes in cookbooks for a while. You just never know when the (available) time will hit you and you have the opportunity to lose yourself in the words of someone else’s story.

mercury in retrograde vs full moon vs off day

Serious question you guys. Is Mercury still in retrograde? I’ll be honest – I really have no idea what that means, but I feel like it FEELS like something is messed up. The last couple days have just been SHENANIGANS. And I’ve just felt OFF. I had an awesome Saturday at BrewFest – drinking all the beers – and then ended the night at the first Food Truck Throwdown at the Social Club. Hella fun. I ate good food, drank (mostly) great beer, and got to bed before 10 pm. So then Sunday I expected to be similar – WRONG.

I found some recipes last week and wanted to try them over the weekend – #shoutout to Ali from GimmeSomeOven and Juli from paleOMG for restoring my love of pesto – so Friday night I totally dominated some Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Roasted Brussels Sprouts. AMAZING. I had it for lunch again today and it was still amazing. Sunday morning I had BIG plans for brunch. Pesto Chicken and Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake. It tastes just as good as it reads. So rather than slicing the sweet potato thin (a la the recipe), I decided to use my Paderno and spiralize that bad boy because WHY NOT. Except I struggled HARD to make it work. I used the blade to make super thick noodles so it would be similar to the thin potato slices. But sweet potatoes are meaty, tough suckers and it just wasn’t working. So while I cleaned off the blade and tried to get a big chunk out so it would actually spiralize, my thumb about got sliced OFF. Not completely – but it still sucked. And it’s right by my nail so it’s hard to do other things with this MASSIVE INJURY. (Over dramatic. My apologies.) So while half the sweet potato turned into sweet patoodles, the other half needed to be sliced. All went well until the very end when my hand slipped and the meaty part of my hand got (barely) stabbed by the knife. No blood, no foul – BUT IT HURTS. Still. After the dual injuries, breakfast still ended up HELLA GOOD and there are plenty of leftovers for the week – BUT STILL.

The laundry got done, food was prepped, and the house was WIDE OPEN to let the gorgeous weather inside. But that also meant that the slightly broken screen door would let a Big Orange out. This guy has no claws – and doesn’t really like the grass. HOWEVER. He does like chewing on the grass and plants. So I planned on putting his leash on (he hates it so much) and we could hang outside for the afternoon but he was having none of it. Blah. So I thought I should work on my (already beginning) farmer’s tan and put on my swimsuit and grabbed a new book to read outside. Even though it was only 70 degrees, that sun felt AMAZING. A tiny tan line showed up after 45 minutes so I’ll call that a win. It was time to start dinner so I found a recipe for a bubble breakfast bake – clearly “breakfast” and “bakes” were on my mind all day long. I’m not even mad about it.

While the maple sausage was cooking, I went through and quartered the biscuits and put them in a bowl. Now remember how I mentioned that whole “Mercury in retrograde” thing? Here’s where it comes back. Rather than letting the sausage cool down for a while prior to either mixing it with the biscuits or just pouring it on top while it was already spread out in the pan, I literally dumped the meat DIRECTLY FROM THE PAN onto the biscuits. Now if you think about this – you can just picture the biscuits immediately squishing into a dough glob covered in meat sprinkles. That is not a pretty sight. Lots of f-bombs were dropped during this “woops” moment. Then the eggs got mixed up along with the cheese – a dozen eggs and a bag of shredded cheese – which in hindsight (again) was probably a little too much. Meh. You live and you learn amirite? I switched the meat-sprinkled dough blob to a smaller pan and dumped in the cheese and egg mix. This BARELY fit into the smaller pan. But I just wasn’t up to pouring EVERYTHING into a bigger pan. I don’t think I could handle that. ANYWAY. The meat-sprinkle dough blob bake turned out delicious – and nothing overflowed onto the bottom of the oven. Again. A win-win. Holla.

Sunday nights always make me sad because I know that 4 am comes WAY too soon for the traveling man to hit the road. But last night you guys. UGH. About 2:30 this morning I am JOLTED awake by the sound of a cat coughing. Nothing wakes you up faster than the sound of your brand new comforter ALMOST having a barf pile on it with the lights out. So with a half-asleep arm, Big Orange got pushed off the bed but he kept coughing. Nothing came up – that I’ve found anyway – so I went back to bed. And apparently my brain thought the barf-alarm was an ACTUAL alarm so I laid there, wide awake, thinking about everything I needed to do during the day. LAME. Then another 30 minutes later, I hear a few sniffles and than an f-bomb. Bloody nose. So now I’m more awake to make sure there’s no blood on the freshly washed white sheets. There was. So they got hand washed. Okay cool – so now it’s like 3:30 and the alarm is going off in 30 minutes. AND THEN – like probably 97% of you, I got a HELLA LOUD Amber Alert on my phone. Terrifying. And then before you know it, the 4 am alarm is going off. I tried staying in bed and sleeping, but I was probably awake until 5:30 – with my alarm set for 6:00. COME ON. And today was a day I NEEDED to be at work early. Like “leave my house at 7 am” early. Mondaze. For real. I don’t think I stopped moving from the moment I got to the office from the time I left.

But now that I’m home, things are back to normal-ish. I made myself a fancy dinner of popcorn and Coors Light and had my barf-alarm snuggle me as if to apologize for waking me up early. I assume that’s what he’s saying anyway. SO. Tomorrow is a new day. I plan on getting to bed early and waking up fairly early so I can get some HIIT workouts in before I head to work. Assuming the weather holds out, we’ll have volleyball tomorrow night – for the first time in like A MONTH – and I will be home again and in bed prior to 9. Just the way I like it on a weeknight. Let’s be real – any night.

Dear Mercury, please GTFO of retrograde (if that’s actually happening) so my days can get back to normal. Thank youuuuuu.

more love letters

You guys. I fell in love. Just this weekend. I mean I am already in love with someone – but this thing, these WORDS – I fell in love again.

ACH003544749.1417582559.580x580

I’m talking about a book. About a month ago, I stumbled across something on Instagram and was immediately intrigued. It was a picture of the book If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. I’ll admit – I am absolutely one of those people who judges books by their cover – and this one got me. It looked handwritten on notebook paper, with swirly cursive and an explanation of her journey. I searched Amazon and Google to see what this was about – and then followed my search to her website – More Love Letters.

Do you ever get that feeling that you found something you were meant to do? Something you NEED to do? Something that makes you happy the minute you begin? That’s what I felt about this. More Love Letters is a site dedicated to writing love letters to strangers. Not anything like you see on Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” (although there’s a bit of the book dedicated to that) but more along the lines of “I see your struggle – it gets better. You matter. You are beautiful.” I was immediately sucked in. I bought the book, watched Hannah’s TED talk, and went to Target and bought as much stationary as I could find that said anything but “thank you.” I wanted to be a part of this movement.

IMG_8956

And so I started writing. I wrote love letters to strangers. I’ve written and mailed letters to people I’ve never met – and will probably never meet – because this movement, this IDEA, spoke to my soul. I haven’t had many things in my life speak so loudly to me as this did. I’ve left letters in library books, in lockers at the yoga studio, and in booths at coffee shops. I left a couple at the airport in Denver yesterday because sometimes it’s nice to spread your love outside your home zip code.

I brought the book with me while I traveled this weekend and told myself I wouldn’t read it all in one sitting – because this book made me “feel all the feels.” But for those of you who devour books as quickly and often as I do, sometimes find it hard to slow down and not read it all at once. This was one of those books. I’d read a couple chapters when I first got it, and then put it down to begin writing. After I sat down with it over the weekend, I put it down only to eat dinner, take notes and wipe my tears. I told a few people that night that I have never fallen so hard or SO FAST for a book in a long time. I’m talking probably years. Sometimes a book finds you at just the right time in your life – and the words speak to you so LOUDLY that you can’t stop until it has ripped into your heart and made you cry tears that you didn’t know you needed to shed.

These tears were happy tears – EXCRUCIATINGLY happy tears. After reading everything that Hannah went through to get where she was, I knew this was something I wanted to continue to spread. This also made me want to smile so hard at everyone I knew – and everyone I had yet to meet. Smiling at someone while walking down the street or through the mall or into a yoga class can literally make someone’s day. How easy is that. And then finding a note addressed to you – whoever YOU are – can make people want to pay it forward with a smile. Or a letter. Or a hug.

“Do small things. On repeat. And think about others.” 

IMG_8957

I can’t even tell you how much I want to reread this book already. I want to meet Hannah – shake her hand, give her a hug, and thank her for opening my eyes to this. For making me realize just how simple a smile or a hug or a note can be to a person’s day or week or LIFE. Hannah knew she wanted to change the world – and while she sat at a coffee shop, writing a letter to someone she didn’t know to give them hope for a better tomorrow, she did.

Words are a funny thing. They can make you happy, sad, angry, upset, emotional, knowledgeable. Words can hurt people, make them stronger, make them laugh or even cry. Your words – your written words – can make someone realize that their life will get better. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. Maybe not even next week or month – but it WILL get better.

“I want to believe it all comes down to truth. And if you’ve ever loved someone in a way where it seems the oxygen is rushing out of the room when they walk in, then you know certain truths. Certain unchangeable truths about love: You want to give them everything in your world. And you want to give them everything outside of your orbit. And if they need the morning to come, you want to be that morning for them. And if they need the stars, you want to be those fragments of light too.And you just want to sit by them. And you just want to know they’re doing well. And you just want to witness their greatness, the moment they’re finally shining out. You want to be right there next to them for that. And you want that honor of being in their life.”

I want to write more… but I keep rambling about just how much I love this book. I never want to stop talking about this book and how happy it made me. I want to go home after work and start reading it again so I can feel all the feels and smile and cry and feel my heart grow ten times its’ size – Grinch style. And if you get the chance, please check out Hannah’s website so you can feel all the feels with me. And maybe send out a note to someone who needs a little extra love in their life. Even if you don’t know them.

Food Blog Fantasies

So I’m back from New York and working on getting my sleep patterns back to normal. Being in a different time zone when Daylight Savings came through was a little rough – while we were waking up at 5 am to get to the Today Show on Monday it was really 3 am here. My body was not super impressed with me. It also didn’t help that I’d gone HOG WILD while I was there and ate enough sugar to keep a three-year-old running around for hours. But now I’m back. And I’m back to eating (mostly) #whole30.

**New York post to follow at a later date**

On Sunday (normally #foodprepsunday) I wasn’t home but I got a little heads up for what was on the docket for the roommate and his food for the week. I honestly couldn’t help but feel a little jealous and left out. About FOOD PREP. Is that weird? Maybe a little. But I also had a feeling that when I got home late Monday night, I would be incredibly unprepared for my breakfast/lunch/dinner on Tuesday. I barely had time to hard boil some eggs that morning (I know I said I was done with them… but I think now that I don’t HAVE to eat them and have the choice to eat something else, I don’t hate them as much) and threw some random stuff together for lunch. I was ill-prepared and hungry – which is not a good combination. Tuesday night I had planned on stopping by the store on my way home to pick up some food for the week, but by 11 am I had “that 2:30 feeling” so I just went home instead. I drank a couple beers on the patio, soaking in the 70 degree weather, and realized I hadn’t eaten yet – so I made a bowl of popcorn. And that’s ALL. I. ATE. That’s outrageous is what it is.

Yesterday morning I woke up regretting my {lack of} dinner – knowing I hadn’t given my body the proper nourishment it needed to be fully functional all day long. I had coffee and cashews for breakfast but then redeemed myself with zucchini noodles and pasta sauce for lunch. I picked up some good food for the rest of the week over my lunch hour so when I got home I got to work. I browned some hamburger with red peppers, spiralized two sweet potatoes – one for dinner and one for the rest of the week, I spiralized some zucchini (because you can literally NEVER have too many zoodles), I hard boiled eggs and peeled them so I wouldn’t have to fight them when it was time to eat. And then I made a bomb-ass dinner. Sweet patoodles (probably the best name ever), topped with a flame-thrower burger, topped with a couple eggs (I messed them up but they were still delish), TOPPED WITH avocado slices to cool it all down. I need to work on my presentation skillz, but once I snapped the pic I cut it all up, mixed it all together and ate the sh*t out of it. And not all of it – so guess what I’m having for breakfast today. LEFTOVERS. Love me some leftovers you guys. FOR REAL.

This weekend I’m attempting some butternut squash noodles (for what – I still don’t know) and then on Sunday I’ll be back at #foodprepsunday. I’m traveling for work next week so it will be interesting to see how that works… I can bring food but I’ll also have to plan around what everyone else will be doing/eating there. Wish me luck in that arena.

During an email thread with my fellow whole30-follower, we both came to the conclusion that the lack of food prep is somewhat anxiety-ridden. It’s hard to just “grab and go” during whole30 so while you needed to be prepared for EVERY MEAL during the week, it was comforting knowing you always had something to eat. It was healthy, it was whole30 approved, and it was delicious. Plus – you could reach in your fridge, pull out a Tupperware full of something you made, and be good to go. Do you know how many times at home (ie. Tuesday night) I look through the cupboard and just grab something random to eat? I don’t look what it’s made of, I usually can’t pronounce 2/3 of the ingredients, and I just eat it mindlessly? TOO MANY TO COUNT. And now that I think about it and look back, that is not the way food is meant to be eaten. It is meant to be enjoyed. Food is meant to be tasted and savored – it’s supposed to make you want to ENJOY each bite rather than eating it as fast as you can without thinking about what is going into your body. Food is fuel, and although it is sometimes overwhelming to make – it’s worth it in the end.

As I’ve said {many times} before – I love all things having to do with food. I can read through cookbooks like I’m reading something for book club. I can sit FOR HOURS watching the Food Network/Cooking Channel just watching food be made. I love all steps leading up to a meal – the search for ingredients (ie: Chopped), the preparation involved (thanks Chef Anne Burrell for teaching me what mise en place means during a binge marathon of The Worst Cooks in America), the final product and presentation, and then of course – the tasting of the dish. If I could be there to take just one (or five) bites of the finished product – I would be one happy (and fat) camper. But alas – the only tasting of the final dish will be at my house… and usually, it ends up okay – sometimes AMAZING. And I want to keep working at perfecting my knife skills and making eggs over-easy like a boss. I want to not worry about whether my chicken is undercooked – or about my fish being overcooked. I want to continue trying new recipes with food I’ve never eaten or at least never cooked for myself. I want to read ALL the food blogs and make friends with these amazing people who just started out cooking for fun – and then turned it into a lucrative career path. I want to write about food, read about food, and LIVE food. I’ve got a lot of work to do if I want to be like Ali or Kristen or Lexi. It’s going to be a fun and delicious ride. With hopefully not too many hiccups along the way. Brace yourselves friends… it’s happening.

Bookish Ramblings

As I’ve said before, 2015 is a year of lists. So many lists. My longest one perhaps (as it is ALWAYS growing) is my TBR list. Books to read. SO. MANY. This list of mine has been on the continual growth chart for YEARS. Occasionally I’ll go through it and delete books that I’ve finally gotten to read – but more often than not, it never gets shorter – it only gets longer.

Recently I went through my own personal library and added up how many books I own*+, how many are currently unread, and how many have been started but never finished. And my TBR list is NEVER ENDING. It will always grow and will always be longer than I ever think I can read. There are so many books that I want to read and so many I’ve never even heard of and probably won’t get to read. But I can always escape to a new place – be a new person – learn something new – by reading. And that you guys – is hella amazing.

Total Books Owned: 115

Total Unread: 36

Total Started and Unfinished: 11

*I own more than this – however I’ve lent them to people and never gotten them back (some I don’t even know WHERE they are.) +These do not include books on my Nook… which are even more. Yeesh.

I recently looked at a list on Amazon which named the Top 100 Books of 2014. On that list, I read TWO of them. Only two. But looking back at my list of books I actually read last year, I read 26 pretty amazing books. Not a total fail. But that list of 100 just grew my TBR list by another HUGE amount.

I’m also giving myself a 2015 Reading Challenge. Fifty challenges for 2015 – including (but not limited to) a book with more than 500 pages, a book based on a true story, a memoir, a trilogy, one from your childhood, one set during Christmas, one that made you cry. If you’d like to join me in this challenge, check it out – http://9gag.com/gag/a8bQeNe. You won’t be disappointed.