Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reflecting on 2016

reflecting on 2016
Photo from Reese and Renee

This year has been a whirlwind. Reflecting over the past twelve months is almost a little exhausting. To start 2016, Matt and I got engaged. The first quarter of this year included wedding planning, a lot of working, finding out that Matt got a job offer in Atlanta, making the decision to move across the country and getting all of my crap to Chicago. I was incredibly stressed and not eating as healthy as I could be. 
Emotionally, I was incredibly up and down. I was so excited and joyful about getting married, upset about leaving the place I loved and all my friends and overcome with the stress of moving. There were a few weeks before my lease started in Atlanta so I headed to my parents house in Chicago. 

While I stayed with my parents, I was finally able to catch up on sleep. But the problem was no matter how much I slept, I was still tired and groggy. I tried to keep up my workout schedule of 4-5x a week, but I was having trouble pushing myself. I remember at one point, I found myself trying to get through a hard workout and breaking down in tears. I was putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself — to look a certain way for the wedding, to get through the move without relying on anyone else and to keep everything looking like it was running smoothly. In April, Matt and I moved to Atlanta. He started a new job and I started working from home. It was a crazy month of adjustments for both us - with work and with each other. I was still exhausted and beating myself up for feeling that way. By the end of April, Matt left town for a work training for a month and I knew something needed to change.

The way I had always taken care of myself was no longer working. While I was in school, I had a pretty familiar rhythm. Something of a hustle and pause. I would work progressively harder throughout a semester and end finals week sick and running on empty. Then I'd have a month or so off where I slept, ate well and started a workout routine again so that by the time I arrived back at school, I was full again. In the real world, this is totally unsustainable. Burnout is real and I was feeling its effects. Hustling as hard as I could was sacrificing my health. I started looking for answers.
 I talked to a friend and nutritionist Jackie Mulligan who gave me some recommendations for improving my diet. Then I started talking to health coach Erin Dubich, who helped me understand that my health was more than just my workouts and my diet — so much of it had to do with mental wellbeing. I was beating myself down — for not being able to get maintain the pace I was trying to keep, for not looking the way I thought I should, for not living up to the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. I was also dealing with major back pain which made everything from working out to sleeping a painful experience. 

With the encouragement of Erin, I overhauled my health. Not only did I get back to eating lots of fresh, whole foods, but I quit working out. Like actually stopped. It was not longer giving me positive benefits and with my back pain, it was too much to bear. I started seeing a chiropractor and sleeping for 9-10 hours every night. I cut out caffeine and started meditating. During the summer, Matt was still traveling a lot. In July, I visited my parents for two weeks while Matt was out of town. Partway through that trip, I remember waking up and feeling refreshed. And then it happened again the next day. And the next. Finally, my fatigue was lifting. After several months of feeling lost and underground, I started coming into the light. 

My time with Erin was invaluable — I knew that mentality is important, but I didn't realize how fully my negative mentality was holding me. She helped me sort through the negative self-talk to find peace, acceptance and love for myself. What I thought was a selfish act, was actually the fulcrum in my health journey. Without loving myself, I realized that I could not love and serve others as fully as they deserved. This improved my relationship with Matt, played a pivotal role in finding friends in Atlanta and helped me strengthen my relationship with God. By this point, my back pain was improving so I took up yoga which further helped me to de-stress. We got a lot of wedding planning done this fall and really prioritized time with our families. Matt finally finished his work training and crazy travel schedule. With him back in town, I stopped feeling so much of the weight of everything. I have a partner in this and don't have to do it all by myself. 

Here's the kicker — this story isn't over. I'm still living it. My health changes day to day, but I'm much more attune to what's happening and I'm empowered with the knowledge that I've gained over the past year. I work for a health company and I can finally say that I feel like I'm in good health: mentally, physically and emotionally. A few months ago I was asked to come up with a health challenge for the new year. I was still in the middle of my own health journey and thought "Great, I have to come up with something I probably won't even be able to do because it will be too hard or intense or restrictive." And then I realized that no one needs another 30 Day Plank Challenge — they need to understand that your health is more than just the food you eat and how many HIIT workouts you can do in a week. It has so much more to do with taking care of yourself, observing what is working and adjusting what isn't. So January 1st, PurePharma is hosting The Good Life Challenge — a change for good that asks you to look at every aspect of your health: movement, eating, recovery and balance. We're giving away a ton of things for free: Everything from workouts to recipes to awesome resources like ROMWOD and Headspace so that you can make changes and learn even more about yourself. If you're tired of the health rut your on, I encourage you to check it out. Joining is totally free.

When I started this year, I chose a word to focus on and set some goals. My word was love and I couldn't have expected the journey that this word took me on. I'm excited to start 2017 in a healthy, and with the health challenge that I poured lots of love and inspiration into it. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Back in Atlanta for Fall

Hey friends! I've been quiet lately — the end of summer was a crazy season for me and I've been savoring the quiet lately not to mention working full-time and doing some wedding planning. It's my first fall in Atlanta and I'm loving it so far — mostly because it hasn't felt like fall yet! It's been in the 80s and beautiful, but it looks like in the next few weeks, it should be cooling down.

With this weather and extended summer, I feel like I'm finally ready for fall — I've been buying lots of apples and everything pumpkin from Trader Joes. Matt's in town so we're looking forward to going to some fun fall things in Atlanta. Here's what I'm looking forward to doing in the next month:

1. Celebrating Fall

I'm looking forward to some apple picking and fall festivals all over. I want to pick out pumpkins, get a bunch of apples and do some fall cooking.

2. Networking

Now that I'm back in town, I'm looking forward to branching out in my new city and meeting new people in the professional community. This wine tasting and networking event this weekend sounds right up my alley.

3. Working Out

Earlier this year I was dealing with some back issues, but now that they are resolved, I'm excited to get moving again. I'm loving yoga right now so this Barre Yoga Brunch sounds fun.

Do you plan to create your own event? Visit Eventbrite so others can join you. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Infused Waters Obsession

infused water
I now understand why it's called Hotlanta. There have been several days down here when it's been 90+ with high humidity and it is rough. I spend most of my days indoors working at a desk, but I've been more cognizant about drinking water to keep from getting dehydrated. 

Drinking water all day is BORING so I've been played around with a few different infusions. I got this cute carafe at IKEA so I fill it up in the morning, add some fruit + herbs and by lunch it's delicious and I drink it all afternoon.

A few of my favorite combos:
Lime + mint
Lemon + basil
Cucumber + mint
Lemon + lime
Strawberry + lime
Just plain mint

Sometimes I even use sparkling water (gasp). It gives it a little extra kick. And when I'm not making my own sparkling infusions, I love these from Trader Joes.

Stay hydrated, my friends. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

TWO Urban Licks in Atlanta

TWO urban licks atlanta
Matt's been doing some traveling for work training and after some time away, we made last Saturday night as a date night. I had heard good things about TWO Urban Licks so we got a last minute reservation and headed over there. 

The restaurant itself is beautiful — it's industrial and has several art installations including a wall of plants and an enormous painting made with multiple canvases. One wall is all windows and looks over their outdoor patio and that Atlanta Beltline. I also loved that they played classic rock. 
salmon chips
We started off with their famous salmon chips. It's basically a homemade spicy barbecue potato chip topped with a spicy mayo, pulled salmon, chives and capers. It was not fishy at all. Just super flavorful with contrasting textures. 
warm bread and ricotta
After our appetizer, they brought out complimentary bread. It was homemade and served with warm ricotta cheese. I haven't been eating that much bread in the past few months, but this was definitely worth the splurge. I also had a gin drink called the Beltline Envy — so refreshing.
For the main course, I ordered their brisket which they cook for 12 hours and serve with a homemade espresso bbq sauce. It totally melted in your mouth. I had it again with eggs and sweet potato the next morning. 

I'm not a huge potato salad person, but this one was made with bacon so I would wager that it is the best potato salad I've ever had. 
Matt had the pork served with a salsa verde with rice and beans. Very tasty and even better the next day as leftovers.

We didn't end up getting dessert because we'd already had Jeni's Ice Cream earlier in the day, but I can't wait to go back to try them.

If you're in the Atlanta area and looking for good food, this is the place to go. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wedding Dress Shopping

bhldn chicago
Matt and I are getting married next Memorial Day and I'm in full wedding planning mode! (Catch up here) Since I work from home, I have the freedom to work wherever so last month I took a week to go back to Chicago and work. While there, I spent time with family and during the weekend we did some wedding planning. 
eastman egg breakfast
My mother in law flew in from Virginia and my sister (and maid of honor) was home from school, so my mom drove us all into Chicago. We started the day at my favorite Eastman Egg for a quick brunch. Since I moved, they started making breakfast bowls of all their sandwiches. Perfect for a light breakfast!
jenny yoo dress
A dress I didn't end up choosing! 
We had two appointments — one at Jenny Yoo and one at BHLDN. Both are places that I had been looking at online. We started at Jenny Yoo's, our bridal consultant Ashley was fabulous. Since it was my first time trying on dresses, she had me try on multiple different styles which is a great way to see how different silhouettes and fabrics look on your frame. 
I ended up loving one dress I would have never chosen on the rack and not so loving the one I had been admiring online.   
jenny yoo dress
Another beautiful dress — one I didn't choose! 
We left for BHLDN and I was pretty confused. I really liked the Jenny Yoo dress and dresses I never would've imagined on me were the kind I really liked. I was ready to try on some more. BHLDN has a beautiful store downtown Chicago. They show all their bridesmaid dresses as well as mannequins with all their wedding styles.

My squad and I were given our own bridal suite. The ladies were able to relax on couches in our own separate space (drinking champagne!) while I tried on dresses. Similar to Jenny Yoo's, I found definite yes and no dresses. All the dresses were beautiful and I left more confused than when I arrived. I loved two different dresses, in two different styles, at two different stores. 

bhldn bridesmaid dress

After our BHDLN appointment, we went to lunch at Fig & Olive and talked the dresses over. I ended up calling Jenny Yoo's again and was able to stop by at the end of the day to try on the dress one more time. After that, I was ready to make my decision! I'm super excited with the dress that I picked and I can't wait to show it off at the #MulletMatrimony next May. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chocolate Cherry Protein Shake

chocolate cherry protein shake
Since I've moved to Atlanta, I've been working from home. I have a nice desk space now and I've been working on building a regular routine so I can switch on between "work mode" and "home mode" without too much effort. It hasn't been easy, but the last week or so has started to feel more normal.

My office is on the West coast so I'm usually on until 6pm EST or later coordinating with them. Luckily, I don't have a crazy commute anymore, but if I don't start prepping dinner until 6:15 or later, I'm usually not eating until 7pm at the earliest. I found myself feeling crabby and tired by the end of the day. After looking at my schedule and realizing there are 7+ hours between lunch and dinner, it's no surprise!

I'm working to add some more healthy snacks to my repertoire to break up my afternoon and give me some fuel. This is a favorite, especially on busy afternoons, because it's easy to whip up and helps satisfy my sweet tooth. 

8-10 frozen cherries 
1/2 c almond milk
1/2 serving of chocolate PR3 protein
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T almond butter 
Optional toppings: Cacao nibs, chia seeds, unsweetened coconut 

  1. In a blender, add the frozen cherries, almond milk, protein, unsweetened cocoa powder and almond butter. Blend on high until well mixed. 
  2. Top with additional toppings and enjoy.
*Since it's just an afternoon snack, I only opt for half a serving of protein, but feel free to use the full serving if you want something more substanial. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

It's All Easy at William Sonoma Cookbook Club

It's All Easy Cookbook
Say what you want about Gwyneth Paltrow — she makes a mean cookbook. I have her past two cookbooks (My Father's Daughter and It's All Good) and have really enjoyed the recipes in them. When I saw that It's All Easy was coming out, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. Before I ordered it, I noticed that William Sonoma was featuring it as part of their Cookbook Club. 

For $75 you receive a copy of the cookbook, cooking demonstrations and tastings of three of the recipes. At first, I was wary — if I was going to pay that much, I might as well do a cooking class where I could learn the recipes by doing. And how big was the demonstration? Would it be me looking over the shoulders of everyone else and only getting to try a small sampling? 

The demonstration took place while I was visiting my parents, so my mom and I both bought tickets and headed to her local William Sonoma store. When we got there, a table was set for six people, each with a copy of the cookbook. One of the William Sonoma employees, a chef, was there to talk about the cookbook and show us how to prepare three recipes — the Zuni Chicken, Cacio e Pepe Zoodles and Chocolate Mousse. 

She started with the chicken since that had to cook for about 40 minutes in the oven. It was a pretty simple recipe for roast chicken with herbs and lemon. Once that was in the oven, she made us a bonus appetizer— a yummy avocado toast featuring arugula, sriracha mayo and topped with olive oil and Maldon salt. It was salty, spicy, crunchy so obviously, it was delicious. 

avocado toast
After eating the appetizer, she showed us how to use a spiralizer and made spiral noodles out of zucchini for the Cacio e pepe. By the time that was done, she finished off the chicken, including adding bread and making a salad dressing out of the drippings in the pan. We plated the food and enjoyed it all together at the table. 

I loved how small it was. I actually got to talk to the people at the table and look through the cookbook with the chef. The food was delicious and like the title, fairly easy to make. 

For dessert, she prepared ahead a recipe for chocolate mousse (dairy-free, made with avocado) and made a cashew cream to put on top. I liked it — it was sweetened with brown rice syrup which I've never used before. I've had mousse similar to this, but I may like the other recipe more. 

avocado chocolate mousse
So far, I've made a few of the recipes from the cookbook and I really like it. And it turns out after a long day at work, a cooking demonstration involving having someone else cook for you is pretty darn relaxing. I'll be sure to keep my eye on the Cookbook Club calendar for more William Sonoma events!