currently

reading | nothing right now but I hope to start “After the Fear” by Rosanne Rivers soon. It’s a young adult book, dystopian fiction – think “Hunger Games”.

listening | to new jams and old favorites. You can check out my playlist for the month here.

watching | Nurse Jackie on Netflix. I’m addicted!

eating | Whole30 style! That’s right, after completing the Whole30 in August, I’ve decided to do a second round to start this new year off fresh. You can follow along on Instagram; I’m almost one week in!

drinking | homemade kombucha. I got hooked on kombucha (a fizzy fermented tea drink + probiotic beverage) last year but since it can be expensive (a 16oz bottle is about $4) I decided to try to make my own. I followed this video, successfully grew my first SCOBY (a culture/symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that’s needed to ferment tea), and began brewing. I now make a new batch every week or two and occasionally do a second ferment (which allows you to flavor the kombucha tea). The natural flavor of kombucha is a delicious but acquired taste, so it’s fun to jazz it up a bit by adding ginger, berries, or other fruits/herbs. My favorites flavors are grape and blackberry. After the fermentation stage, you’re left with a tart, effervescent beverage that’s tasty and good for your digestion and gut health. A definite win/win! If you’re ever interested in brewing your own, I have free “baby SCOBYs” available if you don’t want to start from scratch. Just ask and I’ll be happy to pass one along to you.

working | on my fitness by attending zumba and yoga classes weekly. I also received a FitBit for Christmas so I’ve been focusing on my steps. (Want to be FitBit friends? Add me!)

enjoying | cozy winter weekends

playing | the Wizard Card Game; I’m still obsessed!

wishing | my dry skin away! Thankfully, I got the best package in the mail yesterday that should help. See, I have the biggest crush on a skincare line called Leahlani Skincare. It’s handmade with love in Hawaii and is all natural, organic perfection. The collection is full of dreamy serums, masks, and cleansers that smooth and moisturize your skin while bathing you in heavenly island scents. It’s divine! I’ve been using Leah’s creations for over a year and they’ve replaced almost everything in my bath+beauty bag. I recommend these products to pretty much anyone who will listen. So do yourself a favor and unlock the magic that is Leahlani Skincare. It’s an indulgence but I promise you won’t be disappointed! I for one cannot live without her Champange Serum and Honey Love 3-in-1. I also have been using the new Bless Beauty Balm and can tell it’s going to be another must-have of mine. So moisturizing and it smells fantastic (husband approved too!).

organizing | a big trip for March. After paying off our student loan debt and one car loan, we wanted to do something special. Also, our fifth wedding anniversary is coming up this year (in September) so we decided to celebrate early and escape to somewhere warm. After much debate we’ve chosen to go back to Hawaii. It’s just such a great place to experience that perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. We’re headed to Kauai this time and couldn’t be more excited!

So that’s me…what’s current with you guys?

2015 in Review

It’s unbelievable how much can happen in just 365 days! If you’d like – take a trip down memory lane with our recaps from 201120122013, and 2014 or keep reading for our review of 2015.

2015

This year…
  • We both turned 26 years old.
  • We celebrated 12 years together + our 4th wedding anniversary.
  • We bought a second car and moved to Bloomington. This central suburb sits nicely between our places of employment and is closer to the areas and people we love.
  • We both excelled at work. Ryan celebrated his 4 year anniversary and finally moved into a position on first shift. He started as a Returns Administrator and was later promoted to Returns Coordinator. I celebrated my 3 year anniversary, continued to make placements, and created + launched our company’s new website and blog.
  • We brought our student loan debt down to $0. That’s right! Completely paid in full. We also paid off one of our car loans.
  • We continued to work on our health and wellness. Ryan started weight lifting and I began attending zumba and yoga classes. We also gave the Whole30 eating plan a try!
  • We were able to be a part of big days in our friends and families’ lives; notably Jessica + Austin’s wedding and welcoming a new nephew into the family.
  • We also enjoyed having our families come to visit, a mini lake vacation, a fun-filled weekend with our niece, spending time in Illinois, and faraway friends coming to town (Elecia, Sarah + Brandon).

It’s been quite the year! Can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring; we have a few things in the works that should make it a great one!

weekend review

This weekend we drove to Nebraska to visit Ryan’s brother + his family.

It was our niece’s 4th birthday so we were able to join in the celebration – which was a treat!

Ryan’s brother is in the Air Force so they have often lived far from us. Now that they are closer, we’re able to be more present in each others’ lives and experience special moments together.

Speaking of… we met our new nephew! He was born in November and is a big sweetheart. As you can see we’re pretty smitten!

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Our next trip will be to Illinois to see the rest of our family + friends over the Christmas break.

We hope you and yours have a very happy holiday too!

 

weekend review: october

This month was jam-packed with events and visitors!

Oct. 3 – Weekend 1: I hosted a bachelorette party for my dear friend Jessica. Our group of ladies headed downtown Minneapolis to a comedy show at the Brave New Workshop. We were front row, center and had a blast. My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard! Jessica was brought up on stage for not one, but two sketches! They came up with a genius improv song up about a terrible ex-boyfriend of hers. It really made our night! After the show we grabbed dinner and drinks at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, engaged in some typical bachelorette shenanigans, and headed back to the BNW for their late night improv session to finish off the night.

Oct. 10 – Weekend 2: Ryan’s parents came to see us. We had a low-key but fun visit that turned into quite the tour de food by the end! Friday night we went to The Nook for Juicy Lucys burgers, Psycho Suzi’s for cocktails, The Sample Room for cheese tasting and flights of Irish whiskey & bourbon. Sunday we hiked around Minnehaha Falls and cruised St. Paul’s Summit Avenue before grabbing lunch at the Rusty Taco. In the afternoon we went to The Crooked Pint to watch the Notre Dame football game and cheer on the Fighting Irish! That evening we took a stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge before indulging at our favorite Italian place, Mozza Mia.

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Oct. 17 – Weekend 3: My mom and grandma came to town! Friday night my mom tagged along to the yoga class Jessica and I attend and later we met up with Ryan and my grandma for dinner at Burger Jones. Saturday we noshed on bagels from Bruegger’s before checking out the fall colors, Fort Snelling, and Minnehaha Falls. We had an early dinner at my mom’s favorite deli, Cecil’s before heading home to watch the Chicago Cubs play the NY Mets. Sunday we took a nice stroll around Normandale Lake Park and enjoyed lunch at Biaggi’s before going under the sea for a musical performance of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Orpheum Theatre.

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Oct. 18 – Weekend 4: We spent the weekend celebrating the marriage of Jessica & Austin! The wedding was held at the beautiful historic courthouse in Stillwater, MN, and after a nice afternoon ceremony we ate tacos, made toasts, and danced the night away. Congratulations you two! Thanks for inviting us to be involved in your special day!

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Oct. 31 – Weekend 5: Saturday was Halloween but we decided to avoid the typical festivities and hang out with Brian & Nicole instead. We took them to Red Cow for the first time and spent the rest of the night playing card games. Sunday, we headed to the house of Ryan’s friend (and coworker) to watch the Bears/Viking’s game.

I can’t believe how quickly this month flew by!

So grateful for all the wonderful memories that we made. Here’s to making many more in the months to come!

weekend review x2

Last weekend…
I spent Saturday at a three-hour Zumba workshop learning choreography to the 14 new songs we’ll be using to get fit during the fall session. The new music is catchy and really gets your feet moving! (If you’re in the Twin Cities and want to drop in on a class click here for details.)

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Sunday I spent with my friend Jessica at her beautiful bridal shower. It was nice to meet her friends and family and to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.

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This weekend…
Friday night I tried yoga for the first time. It was challenging but also very relaxing. I felt renewed and looking forward to the next class. I hope yoga is something I continue to enjoy it because it would make a great addition to my workout routine. Saturday, I took a quick dip in the pool with Jessica before going with Ryan to see the movie Maze Runner: Scorch Trials.

Afterward we went out to dinner at Giordano’s to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. Although the wait was long, the date was fun and the Chicago-style deep dish pizza was delicious! Sunday I spent binge-watching The Saboteurs – a six-episode miniseries that tells the story about the German nuclear weapon project and the heavy water sabotage in Norway during The Second World War. It was fascinating and definitely had my heart racing!

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Hope you all have had a good September so far!

weekend review

Ryan’s brother + family came up to see us!

They recently moved to Nebraska which means we can all visit more often. Our niece is a sweet and (sometimes) sassy 3-year-old so it was a very entertaining weekend.

We swam in the pool, dined at Red Cow and Pizza Luce, and took the obligatory trip to Mall of America.

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On Saturday we watched jousting, rode elephants, and enjoyed people-watching at the Renaissance Festival.

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Sunday found us at the State Fair munching on cheese curds, petting baby piglets, and riding the giant yellow slide (“of dooooom” as our niece would say).

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It was a full but fun long weekend. We’re glad they were able to visit and look forward to seeing everyone again in November (when our new little nephew is due)!

Our Whole30 Experience

As many of you know, I spent the majority of 2014 uncovering food/chemical sensitivities and dealing with them (more on that here).

In February 2015 I successfully finished my LEAP protocol. LEAP is an immunocalm diet/plan that systematically builds a healthy diet of foods that can be tolerated by your body. Thanks to MRT testing and the LEAP diet, I now know how to deal with my food/chemical sensitivity issues and haven’t suffered from any awful symptoms in ages.

However, as my menu of food options grew, so did the number on the scale. I began to overindulge in my favorites (bread, chocolate, pasta, cheese) and slack off in the exercise department.

I needed something to get me on track, motivated to cook, and back into the good head-space I was in while doing LEAP.

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Enter the Whole30.

It’s a month-long, clean-eating program that emphasizes eating real, whole, minimally processed foods. The Whole30 is based on the popular Paleo diet/lifestyle. For those who don’t know, Paleo is a long-term nutrition and lifestyle strategy where nutrient-dense foods are encouraged, but inflammatory, nutrient-poor foods are avoided. The Whole30 is more strict and short-term version of that. The focus is to eat mindfully and consume things that are more healthful than harmful. It is also designed to help you observe which foods may be problematic for you. During the 30-day dietary reset, you eliminate added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy.

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After reading about the Whole30, I thought it would be a good challenge to get out of my rut, back in the kitchen, on the path to making better health choices. Ryan decided to join me and I’m so glad he did!

We began on August 3. The first week was a little rough since you’re detoxing in a way and may feel tired, moody, hungry, or have headaches. Days 3 & 4 were the hardest for us, Ryan said he felt very foggy and I was irritable and had a pounding headache. But once we were over the hump it was smooth sailing! Well… except for remaining conscious of our grocery budget and staying culinarily creative.

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But we both survived and are feeling great!

During the Whole30 you aren’t suppose to focus on weight-loss but is instead look at it as a jump-start for your optimal health journey. However we did a weigh-in before we started out of curiosity. Happy to say I’m down 7 lbs and Ryan is down 13.5 lbs. Besides weight loss, I bid bloated and sluggish feelings farewell, learned that broccoli and I are not friends, and noticed that the skin on my upper arms are much smoother (I have mild keratosis pilaris).

The Whole30 isn’t something that is meant to be maintained longer than a month so we plan to take what we’ve learned and continue to fuel our bodies with nutritious food while also enjoying treats from time to time. Our goal is to eat in more relaxed manner than the Whole30 but still maintain a healthier lifestyle.

To do this we’ll use the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time we’ll follow the guidelines we decide on (that might end up being Paleo or simply upping our vegetable, fruit, and protein intake, while still allowing a little room for nutrient-rich legumes, whole grains, and dairy — moderation is key). Then for 20% of the time we’ll loosen it up and eat what we’d like. Striking a balance between eating for energy and eating for joy is what we’re aiming for!

I did a lot of research before we started and while the Whole30 might not be for everyone (you can read some pro/con articles here, here, here, here, and here) we found it to beneficial since it got us back on track. Only you can decide what’s best for you! Nothing is one size fits all.

Below are a few recipes we enjoyed this month as well as some helpful resources.

For a detailed account of what I ate every day, check out my Whole30 posts on Instagram.

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Recipes:

Homemade Ghee (in the crockpot!)
“Baked” Cinnamon Apples
Sweet Potato, Apple, Pancetta Hash (we modified this over time and ended up with our own version: sweet potatoes and pork sausage with an over-easy egg on top – yum)
Crockpot Turkey Chili (swap out the vegetable oil for olive oil, the tomato soup for pureed tomatoes – add water if not “soupy” enough, and the beans for root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc)

Resources:

Paleo or Whole30: Which is better? – Stupid Easy Paleo
The 12 Major Things I Learned on Whole30 – Sisterhood of the shrinking jeans
Read Your Labels Carefully with These 6 Whole30 Ingredients – Whole30.com
9 Tips for Surviving Your First Whole30 – Chaarg
What to Expect When You’re Whole30-ing! – Lovely At Your Side
Whole30 Shopping List (for omnivores) – Whole30.com
Whole30 Seasonal Guide (fresh produce on a budget) – Whole30.com
The Round-Up: 30+ Days of Whole30 Recipes! – NomNomPaleo
A great Whole30 Pinterest Board

Products:

We didn’t about before the Whole30 but now love…

Trader Joe’s Salted Almond Butter
Applegate Farms Uncured Hot Dogs (100% organic grass-fed beef)
Applegate Farms Chicken Apple Sausages
Wellshire Sugar-Free Dry-Rubbed Uncured All Natural Bacon (found at Whole Foods)

Have you ever done a Whole30? Thinking about trying it? Would love to hear from you!

Wishing you all good health and happiness!