Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Whole30 Review...

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Guess what day it is?

It's day THIRTY ONE of the Whole30.  Which means I survived thirty days of no sugar (natural or artificial), no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no soy, and no legumes (beans).  It's a freaking miracle, y'all.

I'm betting you guys have questions, so I've done my best to answer them, but if there's something I missed, feel free to comment or email.  I'll be glad to tell you anything you want to know about this crazy adventure I've embarked on.

Q:  What is the Whole30?
A:  Go here.  It'll tell you everything you need to know.

Q:  If you can't eat sugar, dairy, grains, soy, or legumes, what did you eat?
A:  Lots and lots of protein and vegetables.  And fruit.  Spinach and I became fast friends, and I constantly had slow-cooked chicken in the fridge for nights when I didn't feel like cooking.  I fell in love with roasted vegetables and got downright giddy when I saw Greek salads with shrimp on the menu at restaurants (minus the feta, of course).

Q:  Did you lose weight?
A:  Yes, I definitely lost weight.  I did break one huge rule of the Whole30 by weighing myself daily, but I made a promise not to let any fluctuations on the scale deter me from the course.  And there were definitely days where it was hard to keep that promise.  But my total weight loss over thirty days made up for it.

I lost 15 pounds.

Which puts my total pounds lost since the day I delivered Grace right at 85 pounds.  Insane.

I'm the worst blogger in the world, so I forgot to take before pictures, but here are a few full-body shots from before I started the cleanse.

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And here I am today.

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And lest we forget where I started from, here I was the day after I gave birth to Grace.

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I am absolutely a work in progress, but I'm proud of how far I've already come.

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Q:  Tell the truth.  How hard was it really?
A:  Truthfully, the self-control thing wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.  But that's probably because I'm a rule-follower.  If I was the kind of person who could be okay with moderate amounts of cheating (i.e., BALANCE), I wouldn't even need a program like Whole30.  But I'm not there yet (though I hope to be someday).

That's not to say there weren't days like this one where I literally had to sit on my hands to keep myself from reaching for the biscuits and gravy.  And the banana cake.  But that's because they were staring me in the face.  After the first week or so on the program, the sugar and carb cravings really did disappear, so I didn't even really remember what I was missing unless it was in front of me.  And because I knew that all the bad stuff was off-limits, it just got easier and easier to say no to it.

It was trying to find compliant foods at restaurants that was the true challenge.  You feel like a high-maintenance jerk asking for your food to be prepared in a special way, and it's embarrassing to have to explain to every person you dine with why you're not eating the chips and queso (especially now when our firm is filled with summer intern such that I'm eating out most days).  But I found a few places where I knew I could find something, and I frequented those quite often.  (If you're in the Dallas area, check out HG Sply (a paleo-inspired restaurant that is INCREDIBLE), Kozy, and, of course, Mr. Mesero.)

Q:  Did you ever cheat?
A:  I accidentally had soybean oil at Chipotle and organic coconut nectar without knowing it, and once I literally only had one option for protein at a plated, two-hour luncheon where I was starving.  It was a small scoop of chicken salad (with some sort of mayonnaise I have to assume wasn't homemade), and I ate it.  Technically, I should have started over.  There was no way in heck I was starting over.  Other than that, I made my very best effort to be completely faithful to the plan.

Q:  What were your go-to meals?
A:  For breakfasts, I usually scrambled 2-3 eggs with a few handfuls of spinach and added some hot sauce (like Frank's Red or Chalula) or mango salsa on top.  One week, I made up a huge batch of Nikki's sweet potato hash, but I noticed that my weight loss seemed less consistent that week, so from now on, I will probably only eat it 2-3 days a week, max.  It's still my favorite Whole30 recipe, though.

For lunch, I usually did some version of a salad with chicken or shrimp and an olive oil vinaigrette.  One of my favorite restaurants has an amazing salad with bibb lettuce, hearts of palm, avocado, shrimp, and a lemon vinaigrette.  I ate that quite a bit.  I also made up a chicken salad with homemade olive oil mayo and avocado and herbs which was fantastic on top of spinach with some fruit mixed in.

For dinner, we did many of the recipes in It Starts with Food, including the curry bowls and stir fry.  I wasn't a huge fan of the ground beef scrambles.  I also tried this coconut chicken recipe that was atrocious, but I think it's because I put the limes in with the peel still on (per the instructions), so the whole thing was bitter.  I want to try it again with squeezed lime juice instead.  We also loved turkey burgers with various things on top.  My favorite was probably my last turkey burger with fresh mango salsa and avocado on top on top of a bed of spinach with cherry tomatoes and plain ole' cherries.  So, so delicious.

You're not really supposed to snack, but sometimes I had to have a little something to get me through to the next meal.  I usually went with fruit, but in a pinch, the Apple Pie/Banana Bread/Coconut Cream Pie Larabars were fantastic.  After the chicken salad fiasco, I always keep an emergency bar in my purse in case I get stuck somewhere with no healthy food options.

Q:  Where will you go from here?
A:  This week, I'm reintroducing all of the foods that I eliminated last month one at a time so that I can evaluate whether they make me feel yucky or not.  Today was dairy, so I added some shredded cheese to my eggs this morning, a creamy masala sauce to my Indian chicken and salad at lunch, and spicy queso to my shrimp and veggies at dinner (and for the record, I'm feeling like crap tonight).  I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy it or that I'm not really looking forward to trying grains in a few days.  But once I finish with that, I plan on continuing to eat clean for as long as I possibly can.  I won't schedule in any cheat meals, but if I stumble across something delicious that feels worth cheating with, I will absolutely indulge every once in awhile.  Because life's just too dang short not to.

And I'm sure I'll venture off the path after some period of time, but the beauty of the Whole30 is that you can always do another one if you feel like you need to hit the reset button.

So there you have it.  Way more than you ever wanted to know about my eating habits for the last thirty days.  But maybe some of you have been sitting on the fence about your health.  Maybe you're like I was and have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Maybe you want to be more intentional about what you put in your body. Or maybe you just want to kick those sugar cravings and afternoon energy crashes to the curb for good.  If so, this post was for you.  If you're ready to make a change, I say give the Whole30 a shot, and I pinky-promise to be a cheerleader for you if you need one.  See if it will change your life the way it changed mine.  You'll never know what you're capable of unless you try.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I am enough...

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Some days I feel a heap of pressure to go and do and experience.  I make to-do lists of activities for my daughter that rarely get accomplished because of work and dinner and baths and bedtime.  And then the working mom guilt wraps me up tight because I don't have sensory bins created from scratch and scheduled play dates.

I constantly wonder if what I am is enough.  If what I have to offer my daughter is enough.

Because try as I may, I know I'll never be the kind of mom who relishes in scheduling our lives out in thirty-minute increments.  I'll never find joy in a full calendar.  I'll always be a fly by the seat of my pants kind of parent.

And sometimes I believe the lie that the things I do with Grace are more important than the simple act of being with her.

But then I take a minute to reflect as I watch her kneeling down in the grass to run her fingers through the earth. And I catch a glimpse at her face as her Daddy scoops her up and spins her around like a princess. 

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And I remind myself that we're doing okay in our own way.

These lazy afternoons that we spend together aren't significant to anyone but us.  No one's going to rush to pin or re-gram or share any of these moments with three hundred of their closest acquaintances.  But these memories are etched in my heart along with the giggles and smiles and kisses that created them.

And these ordinary moments are what make my life extraordinary.  

So I suppose they are enough after all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shine, Jesus, Shine...

I've been typing and backspacing this sentence for the last ten minutes, trying to say it in a way that's different from me just coming out and telling you all that my uncle Clay has cancer.

But there you have it.

He was diagnosed a little over a month ago, and he put week two of chemo in the books yesterday.  

This cancer stuff is heavy, friends, and my heart keeps breaking for my sweet aunt and uncle.  These two have been a huge part of my life since I was a little girl, begging them to let me come stay the night so we could cook stir fry in their wok.  They've both always gone above and beyond to make an impact in my life and in the lives of everyone around them, and watching them have their world flipped upside down this way has been excruciating.  

But God is already working big things in the midst of their struggle.  The cancer is very treatable, and the prognosis is much better today than it was when they first found the mass that is compressing his aorta and doing damage to his kidney.  

They've both been so faithful and steadfast and so quick to give Him whatever glory can be found in this storm.  Uncle Clay has made "shine, Jesus, shine" his mantra, and he is making himself less so that God can be more -- a true feat given that my uncle is a very tall man. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to solicit your prayers for my sweet family once again.  You are always so faithful in your encouragement, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

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Alright, Jesus.  Our eyes are on You.  Come on and shine.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New York: Day Three

Remember that time I went to New York with my mom and blogged about the first two days but completely forgot to post about the last one?  Yeah, me either. ;)

In case you've forgotten where we've been so far, go here to read about Day One (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and the High Line) and here to read about Day Two (9/11 memorial, the financial district, Little Italy/Chinatown, tea at the Plaza, WICKED!).

{Day Three: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center} 

The only thing my mom felt really strongly about doing in New York was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Art is her thing (though it is definitely not mine), and I wanted to be sure we'd have plenty of time to see everything she wanted to see.  So on our last full day in New York, we got up and had more bagels, and then headed straight to the museum.  I adored the stroll through the upper east side -- the buildings were beautiful (as to be expected), and everything was bright and cheery.

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When we got to the steps at the entrance to the Met, I had to stop and snap a touristy picture of Mom.

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... and then I did the same thing once we got to the Monet water lily paintings, which were her favorite.

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Since I'm not super artsy, most of what we saw was completely lost on me. But I did really love the Van Goghs...

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... and the Faberge...

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... and the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass.

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For lunch, Mom grabbed a hot dog and I got a gyro from the street vendors at the Met entrance, and we ate on the steps like true tourists.  There was a live band playing for tips, and we had such a great time soaking up the sunshine and listening to the music.

After lunch, it was time to head to Central Park.  If you're new around here, you probably wouldn't know that strolling through Central Park (again) is the very first item on my 30 Before 30 list.

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Crossing it off was so wonderful, as Central Park is one of my favorite places on the planet.  I can't explain why, but it just feels magical to me.  So we spent a lot of time there and covered a lot of ground.

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(Belvedere Castle)

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Our next stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral, which I had been dreaming of seeing again since my first trip to NYC.  Unfortunately, the entire thing, outside and in, was covered in scaffolding for restoration.  It was such a letdown, especially I had been telling my mom how beautiful it was.  But we saw it, scaffolding and all, and it worked out perfectly because our roundabout trek there ended up taking us through some fun, little, quiet places.

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(Grand Central Station)

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(Taking a much needed Starbucks break)

Plus, as we were headed back down 5th Avenue, we spotted the signs directing tourists to the Observation Deck at the top of Rockefeller Center.  This was something I had put on our "hope we can do while we're in NY" list, and we had the time, so we decided to go up.

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I'm not sure why I envisioned that we'd just hop on an elevator at our leisure and head straight to the top of one of the tallest buildings in New York without a hitch, but I highly underestimated what a tourist trap the whole thing was.  First, we waited in line to buy tickets (for a certain time, which meant we had to sit around and kill time for 20 minutes).  Then, we waited in line to go up a couple of floors to the real line, where we sat for about 45 minutes, zigzagging through various videos about NBC and Rockefeller Center.  Then, just as we got to the front of the line to head up the elevator to the top, two guides came out and told us that they'd be issuing refunds for everyone because the visibility from the top was down to nothing because of the rain but that we could still go up anyway if we wanted to.


Since we were leaving the next morning, I told my mom that I wanted to go ahead and go up.  Because why not?

So we did.

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And it was totally worth it.

Granted, we had to elbow our way to a window so we could get a peek (the majority of the "deck" was enclosed, and the rain made going outside unpleasant (although I did it!).  But whatever.  It was amazing to see the city from this perspective.  (My mom probably doesn't agree since she's afraid of heights, but she was such a good sport about it anyway.)

After the Rockefeller Center debacle, we were seriously spent.  We headed back to the hotel for a final afternoon nap (glorious, by the way).  For dinner, I had hoped we could score a last-minute reservation somewhere delicious, so I surveyed my Facebook friends for a recommendation.  Unfortunately, everything that was suggested was booked, so we ended up at a casual (but LOUD) Thai place by our hotel.  It was good, but not great.  But the fabulous company made up for the mediocre food. :)

After the utter failure at Times Square the night before, we had planned on going back so that my Mom could see it all a little better.  But she looked at me during dinner and just said, "I wouldn't be sad if we just went back to the hotel and had a quiet night in, but I'll go back if you want to!"  I had never heard more beautiful words in my life, so we packed it up, hightailed it back to the hotel, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

As we were getting all of our stuff gathered to head to the airport the next morning, I started feeling all sappy about what a blessing it was to have been able to spend so much uninterrupted time with my sweet mom.  It had been a long time since we had traveled together, and I had forgotten how much fun we have.

I love you so much, Mom, and this trip meant the world to me.  Thanks so much for coming along and for making such incredible memories with me.  I can't wait to go back in ten years with Gracie and show her the magic of our New York.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things one, two, and three...

DUDE.  I feel like there are so many things to tell you.

It turns out there really aren't that many things to tell you (because my life is not at all exciting), but how about we walk through them anyway?

Thing One:  a new dog.

So my brother and sister-in-law sold their house, and they close in a few weeks.  They're not sure yet where they'll end up, and their dog is used to having plenty of space to run and roam.  So when she told me they were thinking of getting rid of him, I immediately called Micah and asked him if we could take him because I have adored this dog since my brother and Faith got him.  He is ridiculously sweet, low-maintenance, fairly lazy (a plus in our house), and great with kids.  So it didn't take a whole lot of convincing before Micah agreed that he could come live with us.

So, without further ado.  Meet Rambo!

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His fur was pretty matted from being an outside dog, so we ended up taking him to get his fur shaved.  And now he's nearly unrecognizable.

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Ha - poor kid looks so sheepish about the whole thing.

Lilly has adjusted surprisingly well to her new puppy brother, and we are already very much in love with him. And very thankful this all worked out so smoothly.

Thing two: Gracie's still cute.

You're not surprised, are you? :)

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Lately, we've been spending more and more time outside, either playing in the backyard or at the neighborhood pool swimming.  We also took a trip to the Dallas World Aquarium last weekend, and I think Micah and I enjoyed it more than she did. (Apart from the ridiculous crowds. When did I become an agoraphobe?)

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She is saying so many things.  She says "hi," "bye bye," "mama," "da-da," "all done," "more," "Grace" (while pointing to herself - it's the cutest thing), "thank you," and my personal favorite, "love you."  She's also climbing on everything, blowing kisses, throwing impromptu dance parties, and snuggling to get out of doing things she doesn't want to do.  (Every time we go to change her diaper, she pulls in for a big hug so we won't put her down.  Little stinker...) The temper tantrums are becoming more frequent, which is super fun. Ha.

She's just becoming so independent, which is very bittersweet.  I know I'm going to blink and open my eyes to see a little teenager looking back at me.  Help me, Rhonda.

Thing three: Whole30 is still going great!

I have unintentionally consumed soybean oil twice and organic coconut nectar once, but other than that, I've been really faithful to the plan.  And it's working.  I've got one week left and have no plans to let up once the 30 days are over.  I do think I will try to reintroduce some foods that I've eliminated (one at a time, per the plan instructions), just to see if they have any effect once I add them back in.  But then I'm going to go back to eating clean and will attempt to do that for as long as I possibly can. Because I really do function better with boundaries.  

At the end, I'll give you guys a true and thorough rundown of the results with pounds lost, favorite recipes, and biggest struggles.

... and I think that about does it.  I told you there weren't very many things.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Some kind of wonderful...

I've got a plate of buffalo chicken (Whole30 compliant!), baby spinach, and cherries on my lap as I catch up on last week's episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians (I know... I hate me too). 
The baby is asleep, and Micah is at the neighborhood pond fishing.  There are a million other things I should be doing... work, cleaning my messy kitchen, painting my pitifully bare nails.  But I just needed to come here and rest a minute.
We had a wonderful Fourth of July.  We spent some quiet time at home, visited with my family, and then spent the afternoon with some of our favorite friends, swimming and playing games and eating delicious food (or, in my case, using every drop of willpower I had so that I would NOT eat the delicious food).  I was miraculously able to resist and just had a small serving of the sweet potato hash that I brought .  Hence the chicken and spinach at nearly 9:00 p.m. 
This season of life is such a beautiful one, and I know that days like today will rise to the top of the pile of memories I will reach for when Grace is a teenager and out with her friends and way too cool for her dorky mom.   
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And while I do miss the freedom of a hot summer night under a sky full of fireworks, I have to say that the view of my sweet girl snoozing away on the monitor is pretty hard to beat. :)

Happy Fourth, y'all!

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Whole30 Update...

Today marks Day 8 of my Whole30 journey.  I haven't been blogging it out day by day because I figured that'd bore you guys into an early death, so here is a summary of how the first week went:

Day 1:  This is a breeze.  These foods are delicious!  Thirty days?? Heck, I could do 60 days easy!
Days 2-4:  My head feels like Mike Tyson's punching bag.  Why do I feel like death warmed over? If I have to eat another egg for breakfast I will cry.
Days 5-6:  I'm hangry and want to eat ALL the things.  Except eggs.
Day 7:  Headache is gone and my energy seems to have returned to normal-ish, but I'm still craving sugar like nobody's business.  And it feels like every picture on my Facebook and Instagram news feeds includes ice cream. Or cookies. Or cake.  Mmmmm... cake.

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It has been a challenge, but it is doable.  And I can tell you honestly that I haven't cheated once yet.  I can also tell you honestly that sitting at lunch yesterday with my in-laws while Micah ate a plate of bacon (non-compliant, as it contained sugar) and biscuits and gravy (my FAVORITE) was torturous.  He has been wonderfully tagging along on this adventure with me whenever we are together (I told him to eat whatever he wants for lunches), but I couldn't let him skip out on his momma's homemade biscuits and gravy yesterday.  And they sweetly made a separate meal for me, including a bowl full of delicious fruit and fresh tomatoes from Micah's dad's garden.  But those biscuits, y'all.  They were calling my name.

I'm not supposed to be weighing myself, but I can't help myself.  I'm down about 6 pounds, which isn't at all crazy if you consider the binge I went on last weekend before I started.  It's definitely motivating, but I really am trying to focus on health rather than the numbers on the scale.    

I plan on doing a roundup of my favorite recipes at the end, but here are a few I've loved so far:
  • Nikki's Sweet Potato, Apple, and Bacon Hash.  This stuff is out of this world.  It's a little time-consuming, or else I'd make it EVERY morning.  After devouring it this weekend, my plan is to make a big batch tonight so that I'll have plenty for breakfasts this week.
  • Sliced bananas with raw almond butter melted on top.  I keep convincing myself that I'm not using this as a substitution for dessert (which is against the rules and the reason that no paleo baking is allowed) because it's so tasty.
  • Yellow Curry Chicken Bowl (prepared according to the directions laid out in It Starts With Food).  Micah devoured this and keeps asking for more, so I'll definitely be making more this week.
There have also been some total and utter failures in the kitchen this past week.  I'll make sure and include those on my recipe roundup, too.

Overall, I'm really, really happy I took the plunge.  I recognize that my struggles with food (i.e., my unadulterated love of all things delicious) will likely be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life, and I know I won't be able to forego glazed buttermilk donuts forever. But for now, this is workable, and it's working.

So I'll just be over here with my eggs and spinach.  I bet you're so jealous.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I'll never be a famous blogger...

You know how I know that I'll never be a famous blogger?

Well, first because I've got some HTML problem that makes my blog practically un-searchable.  (And in case you're wondering, it's not a SEO issue, at least as far as I can tell. I've just got to get a new blog template, I think.)

There's also the fact that I have no real vision for this space, so my "content" is just whatever random ish comes to mind each day week.  

But mostly, I'll never be a famous blogger because I don't want to do what it takes to be one.

When I look around and observe the success of many of the "big" bloggers that I read and adore, I become ridiculously aware of the fact that I am wholly incapable of doing the things that are required to "attract readers."  (That phrase feels so foreign to me that it feels weird even typing it.)

I have neither the time, nor the inclination to hop around to every blog participating in a link-up and leave disingenuous comments on blogs that I know I'll never be visiting again.  (I do love link-ups because they're a great way to connect with like-minded bloggers, but if I comment on your blog, it's because I either already read it or would like to start reading it and am reaching out to say hello.)  I would abhor the pressure of feeling compelled to write on certain topics or in a certain way just because that's what readers expect.  I am uninterested in taking pictures of flowers and books and coffee cups that I arranged beautifully for the sole purpose of sharing them here.  And the thought of having to answer to sponsors or to peddle products/companies that I don't believe in makes me sweat a little.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I am in no way judging anyone who has the desire to grow their blog, attract sponsors, and make some income from their hard work.  Those are understandable and awesome goals, and I applaud people who are able to do them well.  And who doesn't love being inspired by by carefully orchestrated and beautiful blogs?

It's just that I don't think that I want to pursue those things.

You know what I want?

I want to come here when I feel like it, write from the heart, connect with you guys, and then close my laptop and continue on living my life.  I never, ever want this space to be an obligation, and whenever I have begun to feel that way, I just force myself to pull back a bit and let go of the pressure that I sometimes feel to satisfy imaginary demands that no one is really placing on me.  (I mean, you guys don't care that I haven't told you yet that Grace has twelve teeth already, do you?)  If I ever had to worry about numbers and page views and comments, this wouldn't be fun anymore.  It'd be a job, and I've already got a job that I adore.

I just want to keep writing.  And I want to keep reading about Kristin's relocation to Colorado, and Joey's book, and Leslie's sweet southern charm, and Emily's pregnancy, and the other Kristin's adventures with Eli, and Nichole's new house, and Jessie's adorable boys, and Karly's little Ivy, and Laurie's insane organization skills, and Jenn's quest for answers, and Joy's pretty princess.  You girls (and so many others that I don't have the space to mention) are what make this whole thing worth it (even if you have no idea I'm writing about you right now).

So maybe I'll never be a real blogger, whatever that means.  But no matter what... I'll always be real.    

Friday, June 20, 2014

These are my confessions... (plus a haircut)

It's Friday, and I'm in the mood to do a little confessing, y'all.


First, let's talk about the fact that this happened.

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I got a wild hair (ha. see what I did there?) and chopped about six or so inches off on Saturday.  I feel so ridiculously hairless, which is just funny since I can look at this picture and plainly see that my hair isn't actually short.  But it feels like I have a pixie cut or something.  Just call me Halle Berry (pretty please?).


I'm pretty certain I'm going to start Whole 30 on Monday.  I have been eating like crap for about a month and a half now, and I'm ready to hop back on the wagon again.  But I'm not starting over with Slim4Life because this time I really want to focus on eating real food, and I'm hoping Whole 30 can help me learn to crave the things that are good for me.  I know the transition will be a major one, but as I was learning about the paleo-ish program, this excerpt from the website really struck me:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. 

Preach. It.

I'll let you know how it all goes.  I'm cautiously optimistic, although I can't really envision a world where I don't eat cheese...


I did the thing I swore I'd never do.  I jumped on the bandwagon..

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... and bought Grace not one, not two, but three pair of moccasins (from here).

Okay, that's a lie.

I had actually already bought two other pair (from here and here), and they were so darned cute I had to buy some more.

But hear me out.  First, my kid has the chubbiest feet you've ever seen, and it's really hard to find shoes that are thick enough.  (Yes, I know that StrideRite makes extra wide shoes, and no, they're not always wide enough.  Or cute enough.)  It's also really hard to find shoes that she won't pull off her feet the moment I put them on.  The moccasins fit perfectly and stay on her feet, and they must be comfortable because she doesn't try to take them off.  And when I pull them off after hours of playing, her feet aren't sweaty.

So judge me all you want.  I'm judging me too, but I just can't help myself.


Oh goodness, y'all.  I think that's all I've got.  I guess confession number four is that I am the world's most uninspired blogger.

Feel like confessing with me?  Link up with Leslie, and tell us your deep, dark secrets.  Or a few random thoughts that come to mind.  Whichever you prefer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

New York: Day Two

{Day Two: 9/11 Memorial, the Financial District, Little Italy/Chinatown, Tea at the Plaza, WICKED!}

(See the details from our first day in New York here.)

When I went to New York in college, it was 2006, and the 9/11 memorial hadn't yet been completed.  So as we were planning our trip this time, I knew it was something I wanted to see.

On the morning of our second day in New York, we got up fairly early, grabbed bagels the size of our heads  at Think Coffee near our hotel (mine was covered with Nutella, obviously), and then took the subway down.

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I can't explain the way it made me feel to be standing at the place where such an unspeakable act of violence occurred.  Because it is also a place that represents so many of the things that make America a great nation:  bravery, courage, strength, service.  For anyone who is headed to New York any time soon, I think a trip here is a must.

9/11 is near the Financial District, so we decided to walk through Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park and Battery Park to get there.

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The "park" is really just a green, grassy space that curves around the edge of the water, and it was an excellent spot for a stroll.

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It was foggy, but we still got a peek of Lady Liberty from edge of the water.

When we got to Battery Park, we were disappointed to learn that the whole thing was under construction and not accessible for anything except getting in line to head to Liberty Island (where the Statue of Liberty is).  Bummer, but we continued on.

We walked along Broadway, past the Charging Bull, and headed straight for Trinity Church.

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This church is situated right on the corner of Broadway and Wall St., and it's so beautiful.

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Not only the outside, with its ornate architecture and the beautiful cemetery that surrounds it...

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... but the inside, too.

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Just stunning.

Mom wasn't really interested in exploring Wall St. any further, and I had already seen it, so we hopped on the subway and headed to Chinatown/Little Italy.

(And let me stop for a minute and mention how INCREDIBLY helpful the HopStop app was to us in navigating the subway system.  I found there to be very few subway maps in the stations and near the platforms as compared to London and Paris, so we wouldn't have survived without HopStop.  You basically just enter in the location you want to head to, and it'll direct you to the right subway station, tell you which train to get on, and even give you walking directions once you get off the subway.  You have to enter everything before you go down because there really isn't much cell service down in the stations, but it'll preserve your route information even without service.  It's awesome.)

We got off right in the heart of Chinatown, on Canal.

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Our exploration of Chinatown was limited, however, because we were both starving and had pasta on the brain.

The two areas are right on top of one another, essentially, so it wasn't long before we ran smack dab into Mulberry Street.

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Look, I know it's a tourist trap, but I feel like you can't go to NYC and not have pasta in Little Italy.  Ours was incredible.

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It was the Spaghetti Pellegrino at Pellegrino's.  I'd definitely get that again if I went back. 

After lunch, we had reservations at the Plaza Hotel for tea.  We hadn't originally planned on doing tea, but the idea struck me a few days before we went, and I snagged a reservation for 2:15 on Friday. The hotel isn't really at all near Little Italy, but we were subway pros by that point, so it was no big thang. Ha.

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Apparently the Plaza isn't quite what it used to be, but it's still worth a peek, in my opinion.  It's right in the heart of midtown, so it wouldn't be out of the way.

The inside is ornate, and Palm Court, where they serve lunch, and then tea in the afternoon, is just beautiful.

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Our adorable waiter told us that we were naughty like Eloise for starting from the top of the tray with the desserts.  But we were too full from lunch to mess with cucumber sandwiches.  Bring me macaroons, please!

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Pinkies out, obviously.

After tea, we were beat again, so we headed back to the hotel to grab a quick nap before dinner.  When we got off the subway, it had started to drizzle, so we were rushing to get back to the hotel, but I couldn't resist capturing this very New York moment.

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(He ended up trying to hustle me into playing with him, but I definitely wasn't about to test my pitiful chess skills against this guy who as sure as the sun rises would have annihilated me.)

After our nap, we threw on some fresh clothes and headed to dinner.

Patsy's, near the theater district, had been recommended by a few people, and I fell in love.  It was a quite, little place with pretty reasonable prices and delicious, classic Italian.  It felt very familiar, which means Rebecca and I may have stumbled upon it when we went before, but who knows.  Maybe it's just one of those places...

After dinner, it was time for the highlight of the trip for me.

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My wonderful mom sprung for awesome seats, and I could go on and on about how amazing this play was, but I won't.  If you're at all inclined to adore things that are magical, and if you were ever a fan of Wizard of Oz, you must see Wicked.  That's an order.

After the show was over, we had planned on exploring Times Square, but mother nature was kind of a witch that night. (Fitting.)  We walked out of Gershwin Theater to a torrential downpour.  We had umbrellas, but neither of us felt like sloshing through all the puddles to get a closer look at Times Square (we could see it from afar), so we hightailed it back to the subway station.

It's at this point I must tell you that I experienced something traumatic that evening.  It scarred me for life, and I still have the urge to lift my feet up off the ground even as I'm typing.

We got down to the correct platform (after mistakenly paying for access to the wrong platform) and were waiting on the train when I saw movement down on the tracks.

Rats, y'all. 

Mother freaking rats.

I had heard they made little homes down there, and I tried to convince myself that it was a sweet momma rat with her toddler rats, but I still pretty much died.  

I couldn't really tell you how I managed to force myself to stay down on the platform long enough to board the train back to our hotel, but I am not still currently in Manhattan, so I must have done it.


And that was day two.
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