Favorite Fall Meals

Hello there!

I hope you’re doing well on this Saturday morning. I’m super excited because I get to go try on my wedding dress today!!! I found “the one” back in May and placed my order. They won’t start alterations yet; today I’ll just put it on and make sure everything looks good. Sarah Beth (my sister) and Cody, her husband, are here for the weekend, so Chip and I had dinner with them last night. Mom gets here in a few hours, so she and Sarah Beth will come with me to the dress appointment! I’m always excited for any excuse to spend time with them.

Anyway…this is a post about yummy food I’ve made lately. We have been having some lovely fall weather (although yesterday the high was 82..come on North Carolina), so I’ve been making all the soup. Soups are the best-they make me feel cozy, they’re usually easy to make, and I have plenty to eat for leftovers so I save $$$ on groceries. I think I’ve posted all of these on Instagram but they’re worth sharing here to have all in one place. Even if you saw them on the Insta, I’ve linked all the recipes below and shared some details about how we served it, so if you’re in need for some recipe inspiration for next week maybe you’ll get some ideas!

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Several weeks ago I put out a call for yummy fall soups and chilis, and my Aunt Janet delivered! This was one of the ones she sent, and it was AMAZING. I think it came from the Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook by Bob Warden. I made this almost a month ago, and I definitely plan on making again soon. It was one of those recipes where you just dump a bunch of stuff into the crock pot, then magic happens and you have an amazing meal. If you’re interested in the recipe, I think I still have a picture of it somewhere that I’m happy to pass along! I’m pretty sure we just ate this on its own and wished we had bread or something to go with it. I totally just forgot to get anything to pair with it, so I just had a bigger snack after dinner. No biggie, but something I’ll remember for next time.

Turkey Chili

Next up is my all time favorite chili. I make it every year and get so excited when it’s on the menu. I’m sure I shared it on the blog last year, but it’s this recipe on Allrecipes.com. I follow the suggestions listed on the “most helpful comment,” and it turns out perfectly! This time, I forgot the black beans but it was still great. I have nothing against beef and sometimes use that, too- it just depends on what is on sale! Both taste great in this recipe. If you’re not a meat eater, another can of beans would do the trick to get the same consistency. I top mine with cheese, while Chip goes for cheese and sour cream, and we always use tortilla chips for dipping!

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese

This was a new-to-me recipe (from BudgetBytes, of course) that I served with grilled cheese. The instructions call for a transferring the soup to a blender, but I just used my immersion blender and it turned out fine. Sometimes I shy away from basic soups like this because I know there’s no way it will fill me up on its own, and I’m usually too lazy to come up with something else to go with it. I had the idea to make grilled cheese to make it more satisfying. Why did I never do this before!? Pro tip: buy fresh baked bread from the grocery store and a good block of cheddar cheese. This soup also freezes well, which comes in handy on those days I just don’t want to cook or go out to buy food.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

This is another BudgetBytes recipe! I made it last year and knew it was a winner when Chip told me it tastes like the loaded potato soup at Fatz. This one takes some prep work because you have to chop ALL THE POTATOES but I promise it’s worth it. It’s delicious and makes a lot of soup. I was procrastinating studying when I made this so I went ahead and chopped the extra carrots and celery. The recipe only calls for 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery, so I had a lot left over that I didn’t want to waste. Now they’re in freezer and ready to go for the next soup! I used my immersion blender for this recipe, too, and wished I had checked as I just kept blending away because I ended up wishing it was chunkier. But that was total user error, not a recipe error, and it was still fantastic. Bacon, cheese, and green onions take this soup to the next level.

Do you have any great recipes to add to the list? Please share if you do! And have a fabulous Saturday 🙂 

Hygge + Current Self Care Practices

Hi everyone!

I didn’t mean to go MIA on ya last week, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed. More on that in a second! Fall break was last Thursday and Friday, and it was nice to have time away from classes. We took our engagement pictures on Thursday and we had a great time with our photographer! I’ll be sure to share some pictures once we have them back. Livi was in them, of course, and she did great. Here’s a sneak peak of her outfit–I die.

Anyway, onto today’s topic of self care! I have a handful of things I do for self care, but before I get to that, let’s take a short detour to talk about mental health and therapy. Lately I’m seeing how what I need for self care changes through different seasons of life.

Recently my anxiety has been giving me trouble after a lovely few years mostly apart. I’m so thankful to have a wonderful family and people in my life I can talk to when I’m struggling, but I realized I wasn’t feeling better as time passed like I hoped. Thanks to some encouragement from Chip (a future therapist himself) and my mom, I reached out and scheduled a counseling appointment and massage for last Friday.

Once I made the appointment, I felt like a weight lifted. Just knowing I had a session lined up made me feel better. I’m putting this out there because, 1-I like to be open, and 2-I want to do my part as a future healthcare practitioner/general human to reduce stigma around mental health. Mental health is such a huge part of overall health and wellbeing and it’s talked about way less than other components of health. I am very open about my anxiety with Chip, my family, and my friends, and I’ve been in counseling before, and it was still really hard for me to reach out for help! I remind myself it’s no different than seeking out medical attention when something hurts, but taking the step from “I’m not feeling so great” to “I need some extra support from a professional” is always scary for me. I know it would be a little easier if we, as a society, had open and vulnerable conversations about mental health and counseling.

I’m so, so thankful to have health insurance that covers most of the counseling and wish we lived in a country/world where everyone could access the care they need. During our session the therapist asked about my coping mechanisms and I told her all the things I do for self care. See, I told you this story would relate to the blog topic! She said I’m already doing a lot of things she would encourage clients to do, but I left asking myself what else I could add to my bucket of tools. (Obviously we talked about strategies for anxiety and some things to work on–I’m definitely not saying these ideas will treat symptoms!)

To me, self care isn’t just like, “today’s a self care day, I’m going to do all these things for myself!” I totally do that from time to time, but equally important is doing nice things for myself daily. I also don’t think self care has to be expensive-it’s usually not for me! It pained me to spend $ on the massage, but I think it had been years since my last one and I really needed it. Anyway, here are my current self care practices, including one new one I’m excited about.

(because this post would not be complete without a Parks and Rec treat yo self reference)

Therapy. Well I just told you about that, but I think it’s important for me to realize this will be an important part of self-care for me throughout different times in my life.

Light all. the. candles. I LOVE candles and I don’t care who knows it. I love putting on cozy pajamas, lighting a candle, and reading or watching TV in bed. Sometimes I light a candle in the morning while I study just to make myself happier.

Take Livi for a walk. Fresh air always does wonders for my mood! Even taking my Livi for a short 5 minute walk helps me clear my head and a little movement usually feels nice. If I’ve been studying for a while or I’m stuck on an assignment, this is my go-to move.

Adult coloring books. This is something new I added after my counseling session last week! I was trying to think of something that might be relaxing or allow me to be creative, and then I remembered adult coloring books are a thing. I went to Barnes & Noble and got one all about “hygge,” which I actually heard about on Kylie’s blog a while back. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word which translates to a quality of coziness and contentment.

If you ask Chip what my favorite thing to be is, he will tell you “cozy,” so obviously I am all about hygge. I feel like that’s is what self care is all about: making life joyful, cozy, and peaceful in big and small acts of kindness to yourself and being in tune with what you need. Anyway, here is a link to the coloring book if you are interested! It’s full of nice sayings and pictures of things like tea cups and sweaters. The other night I listened to a podcast while coloring with a candle burning and I was like “yasss queen of self care.”

Read a book. I don’t do this that often but sometimes putting away my electronics and turning the pages of a book is a nice way to relax. Right now I’m working on Body Kindness, but I am reading pretty slowly. Like, a few pages per week slowly. It’s a good book, but lately I’m turning to things that don’t require much brain power.

Cook a new recipeMost of the time, I love to cook. Trying a new recipe is always exciting, and if I’m feeling kind of wonky it’s a great way to help me feel more like myself.

Yoga videos. I’m still loving Yoga with Adriene videos from time to time, especially when I’m feeling the need to slow down. Even if the video has a faster pace, yoga is always a great opportunity for me to connect to my breath and my body and practice gratitude. (All aboard the cheesy train, I know, but it’s true!)

Watch a good TV show. Obviously everyone watches TV so it seems kind of stupid to list it as a “self care practice,” but whatever it’s my list I’ll do what I want! No but seriously, some nights my motivation to finish studying is so I can get in bed and watch TV. Lately I’ve been working my way through Veep so I need another funny TV show for when I’m done! I’ve watched The Office and Parks and Rec all the way through a million times and feel like nothing compares, so send me your recommendations 🙂

That’s all for me today-feel free to share your favorite self care activities!

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A Letter to 18 Year Old Me

Lately I’ve been thinking about the things we tell women about their bodies and how that can manifest itself in negative ways. I remember going to my college orientation and being scared to death about the “Freshman 15” thanks to a session dedicated to the topic. I really, really hope they are not doing that anymore. Of course, there are so many factors that contribute to disordered eating, negative body image, and the development of eating disorders, but the focus that many universities put on weight gain is just not necessary and supremely unhelpful.

I can’t say that at age 18 I would have had the maturity to listen to an alternative message, but I don’t think it would hurt. I was so entrenched in the belief that smaller was better that I bet I would have brushed it off. If I ruled the world, I would encourage colleges to not say anything unless they have something nice to say. Either don’t discuss bodies, or bring in a weight inclusive wellness message that everyone can benefit from. Either way, here’s a letter I wrote to the version of me that just left college orientation. (Side note: the session about the freshman 15 at orientation was directed to young men and women, and I absolutely know men feel pressure to look a certain way, too, but I am speaking from my own experience here.)


Lindsay,

I know you just went to orientation at UNC and you’ll be going to college soon. How exciting! These will be 4 of the best years of your life, and I promise it’s not all downhill after. 🙂 You met a lot of fun people at orientation, and I can’t wait for you to meet many of your best friends over the years to come. You’re going to love them.

You’re a planner by nature, and I know you’ve been researching everything there is to know about college. You spent hours and hours perfecting your class schedule, and I know you’re excited to get started. I also know that you’ve heard a lot of chatter about the “freshman 15” at orientation. You heard about the unlimited buffets of food, sleepless nights, and late night behaviors that people said are going to make you gain weight, which would surely be the worst thing ever. In fact, it’s so scary that UNC dedicated a whole session at orientation to let you know-as if you’ve never heard about the freshman 15 or felt pressure to be thin.

I’m from the future, so I can let you in on a few secrets. Yes, you will gain weight during college. No, it will not be the end of the world. You will also gain priceless memories, some of the best friends in the world, and um…a DEGREE! That’s why you’re going, don’t forget. Every body is different, so keep in mind that your friends might experience body changes in a different way, or not at all.

But here’s the thing—no body change is better than the other. Don’t compare and despair. All bodies are good bodies, and besides, you are so much more than your weight. You have so much to offer the world, and it has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Also, bodies change! You’ll see your body change from that of a young high school girl to a more grown woman. I know- it’s going to be scary to see the number on the scale go up, but it’s going to be okay. (Side note: throw that scale away!) It doesn’t mean you are less healthy-that’s a load of bologna. Take time to work on your body image and reframe your idea of beauty. Doing this work is more important and fulfilling than fighting your body’s natural inclination. Plus, you can engage in health at whatever size you are today, next month, or next year.

I know you were told to avoid overeating, eating late at night, missing sleep, and becoming a couch potato all in the name of not gaining the dreaded freshman 15. I would encourage you to have good sleep hygiene, because it’s important for brain function and overall wellbeing, not because it will help you lose weight. I hope you eat regularly and nourish yourself well, mind and body, but don’t skip out on fun nights with your friends. Sometimes those nights will end at Time Out at 2 am for biscuits-enjoy it!

And please don’t beat yourself up for it. I know you will. I know you’ll think you need to run harder or eat less, but you don’t. Don’t lose your love of food-it’s meant to be enjoyed, not controlled. If you want to exercise because you enjoy it or it’s fun to go to the gym with friends, go for it, but don’t feel like you have to do it to control your body. Your mental health is so important, so be sure to do things that feel good to you. I’m willing to bet micromanaging your body size doesn’t fall into that category.

During these next four years you will figure out what you’re doing with your life. You’ll have the best time in Chapel Hill with your friends who become family. You will do 2 years of long distance with your boyfriend. Many of those weekends will be full of long car drives and whatever you can eat on the road. You will begin to figure out who you are made to be. And I promise you, letting go of the fear of weight gain will make all of that better. This is such a precious phase of life, and I don’t want you to waste your time counting calories or stressing about the scale. Enjoy it, because you won’t get this time back. And don’t forget, you are worthy and valuable just as you are.

Love,

24 Year Old Lindsay

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Whirlwind Week + Sometimes Food Isn’t Exciting

Hello hello!

Oh my goodness, it has been quite the week. Since we last had a chat, Sarah Beth and Cody got married and it was the best weekend ever! The weather was absolutely perfect and it was so fun to spend time with family and friends.  It’s hard to be sad that the weekend is over because they are so happy. I’m thrilled for them!

I returned to class on Monday even though all I could do was stare at pictures from the weekend. I mean, look!!

photo cred: Olivia Suriano via Nancy Ray Photography

They seriously belong in a magazine. Anyway, this week was slammed on the school front. I joked to Grace that getting through this week felt like trying to cross an ocean of peanut butter. I have no plans this weekend, so I’m glad I’ll have time to catch up all the things.

Last weekend I got an email that my HelloFresh box was on its way. I got a free box from mom a while back but decided not to get another one for a while. Well, I forgot to skip this week but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

I was happy to have three dinners planned and ready to go, and I was able to make it until Tuesday without needing to go get other groceries. Even though I didn’t want to spend that $ on a box, it was worth it. Since I forgot it was coming, I got the default meals for the week and they have been great. Below is the beef ragu spaghetti we had on Monday. Yumm. I’ve still got one more-quesadillas-that I’ll probably make tonight.

Other than those meals, food was not exciting to me most of this week. It was almost a nuisance to have to break from school work to eat. I didn’t spend time planning dinners or buying plenty of groceries. Several meals and snacks were just “meh.” This included a can of chili that I didn’t really want and an overpriced boring chicken wrap I bought at school on Wednesday. I was shadowing at the hospital that afternoon, so I just ate until I wasn’t hungry anymore, even though it wasn’t satisfying at all. I wanted to be able to focus on the experience, not my grumbling stomach!

The reason I’m sharing this is because I think it can be easy to think you’re doing intuitive eating “wrong” if you eat something you don’t really want or have a mediocre eating experience. (Reminder: intuitive eating is about learning to take care of yourself..you can’t fail!) I usually plan satisfying and tasty meals and have snacks on hand that I like, but sometimes I don’t have time or the mental energy to care. Sometimes I just gotta eat something so I can do the things I need to do. That’s really what food freedom is about, right!? To me, it’s about enjoying food and having it be a fun and delicious part of my life. But it’s just one part. I don’t want it to take up so much space that it steals my joy or adds more stress during a hectic week-or any week for that matter.

Now that things have calmed down, I’m looking forward to planning some meals I’ll look forward to for next week. I really want to break out the slow cooker to make soup and pretend like it’s not still in the 80s in NC. You know you’re getting old when a weekend of studying and making soup sounds really nice, huh!? Anyway, if you have any good fall soup recipes, please send them my way!

That concludes the most random blog post I’ve written in a while. Have a great weekend 🙂

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Ranting and Raving, 2nd Edition

Hi everyone!

Today I’m going to my two classes and then I’ll be in celebration mode! My sister’s wedding venue has an inn on site, so my family is staying there starting today. I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to focus with dreams of wedding bells in my head. Tomorrow is the bridal luncheon, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner, then Saturday it’s go time! I’m so excited for SB and Cody to be married. I can’t wait to celebrate my favorite people all weekend.

Before I go, I wanted to post another edition of ranting and raving, because some things have been driving me crazy lately! And of course, I’ll leave you with something I’ve been loving lately so we can end on a happier note.

Rants

A fatphobic discussion on the Today Show

Y’all know I love the Today Show. I watch it every morning with my cup (or three) of coffee, but a couple of weeks ago one conversation really disappointed me. It was during a round table segment, and I don’t remember the topic, but Hoda Kotb said that she has never felt prettier than when she dated an “overweight” person. My jaw hit the floor! I was like, surely she did not say that and they’re going to change the convo/someone will correct her.

Nope. Jenna Bush Hager jumped in to say you should never date someone who can fit your jeans. In return, someone else joked that Matt Lauer could probably fit his wife’s pants. He said something like, “Oh are you saying my wife has a 32 inch waist? I’m going to be in trouble!” The whole thing made me so sick. What makes me just as disappointed is that nobody is mad about this!! I know many people don’t watch the show, but I can’t find even one article calling them out on this really awful segment. I went to Twitter to see if anyone else was mad, and I can still only find 2 tweets about it in the entire Twitterverse by fellow angry people. I think I should befriend them.

Equating a larger with body size with unattractiveness is so awful and is an idea that people with a microphone need to help change, not contribute to. I wish the Today Show gang thought about how someone in a larger body might feel watching this segment. How would they feel knowing that their favorite morning host, or anyone for that matter, would get a messed up self esteem boost dating them because of their body size? How about someone who has a 32 inch or larger waist, hearing that having this pant size is an insult to some people? What would they say to someone who is the same size as their partner and can fit their jeans? Should they break up? (Obviously not. Every single person is deserving of love and respect, and body size does not determine worth or value.)

Weight stigma is everywhere, and we need to call it out when we see it. It’s not okay to put people down for how their body looks, in any circumstance. All bodies are good bodies. The end.

KIND Bar Label

I love KIND bars and buy them often. While I love regular chewy granola bars and buy those, too, I find KIND bars to be more satisfying. It’s also a good way for me to eat nuts since I tend to forget about them. I feel annoyed when I buy them and see the tagline, “Ingredients you can see and pronounce.” I’m the first person to admit I fell for this idea a few years ago. I thought I should be able to recognize and pronounce what I eat and that things added to food were bad. In reality, we need things added to some of our foods to extend their shelf life and keep us safe from mold and other things we don’t want to eat.

I visited their website to find this: “We believe if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it shouldn’t go into your body. Actually, it shouldn’t go into your pantry.” Yikes. It would be pretty difficult and socially isolating to eat only ingredients you can pronounce. Even quinoa is hard to pronounce! I guess dihydrogen monoxide, also known as WATER, should send a shock of fear into my heart. I’m exaggerating of course, but I did feel guilty for eating things that didn’t meet that standard in the past. I get where people are coming from with this-eat more fresh food and all of that-but I still think it can be a harmful message to push. Plus, KIND isn’t even selling fresh food so I guess I don’t really see their argument for using it other than keeping you from buying all the other scary granola bars!

Raves

This blog post by Rachael Hartley about the privilege of wellness.

This is such a great post about how pursuing health is a privilege, not a moral obligation. Many people don’t have the luxury of worrying about if organic is heathier-they may not have clean water or a safe place to walk. That’s not to say that it’s bad to care about your health and pursue it as you wish-I dream of a world where everyone has the resources to take care of themselves however they choose! But it’s important to recognize that many people don’t even have access to the basic things we need to be healthy, and to fight on their behalf. I hope to find a way to contribute to making health accessible for all people somehow in my career/life.

This Instagram post from @bodypositivememes

So true! All it tells you about is your relationship with gravity.

Alright everyone I’m out of here! Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on the other side of all of the wedding fun. 🙂

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Book Review, Volume 1

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a good week. I have a biochemistry test on Monday, so I’ve been studying all week and that’s what I’m doing this weekend, too. It isn’t so bad because I have my sister’s wedding to look forward to NEXT WEEKEND! I can’t believe it’s almost here. I want it to be here already but also want time to slow down because I don’t want it to be over!

Anyway, I’m here to talk about some things I’ve read lately. (Intuitive Eating is just in there for the photo opp, but I discussed it here and here.) By lately, I mean this year. I am a super slow reader, and when school is in session, I barely read. And that’s not because I’m so into all my class readings. I actually do not do a good job at reading those (oops); I just have a hard time using my brain to read at night instead of watching Netflix. Please don’t be surprised if Volume 2 of my book review series doesn’t come until Christmas break… or until I graduate.

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

Description from the publisher: “Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “”thin” with “”healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size. Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now— and Health at Every Size will show you how.”

Y’all. I started reading this book so long ago, sometime in the spring. Then I neglected it for a while and picked it back up this summer. I was already very familiar with the tenants of HAES and the science behind it. However, reading the book is important. It gave me a lot of background information and a LOT of research to digest (there are 437 sources!), and made me even more passionate about this approach.

I wish that everyone would read this book, especially before bashing Health at Every Size. Linda Bacon does a tremendous job of explaining why it is important to focus on health behaviors rather than weight. I’ve told you that the first time I heard about HAES I thought it was crazy, so I understand the pushback. It goes against everything we are taught, or at least much of what I’ve been taught as a future health professional. I thought, “there’s no way you can be healthy at every size,” and I know that’s a common critique. However, the book and practice is about pursuing health (whatever that looks like for each person) no matter what the scale says. Health is about so much more than size.

It’s not up to me or anyone else to decide at what size/weight a person is not healthy. No weight should be pathologized. Looking at someone’s size (large, small, or in between) just tells you what size they are. It doesn’t tell you anything else; you don’t know their story, what their life is like, or what habits they have. Everyone deserves to feel great in the body they have today and to pursue health in whatever way or to whatever extent they choose. Linda Bacon has many more books along the same theme, and I’m adding Body Respect to my “must read” list!

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Excerpt from publisher’s description: “Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.”

I bought this book when we were at the beach in August and finished it in about a week. That’s a record for me. I loved this book and am already itching to read her newest one, Hunger. Roxane says that she is a bad feminist because she doesn’t want to be placed on the feminist pedestal. She says she makes mistakes often and wants to be up front about that. She isn’t trying to be a role model, she just wants to speak up about what she believes in- flaws and all. Gay talks about loving things that might seem at odds with being a feminist, like the color pink and rap music, but argues that it is important to embrace the feminist label and movement. I really just can’t do her writing justice at all, so see this article of hers if interested- it is a slightly edited version of the introduction.

The book is a compilation of essays, and the topics range from violence against women to how African Americans are depicted in movies to the song “Blurred Lines,” which she admits she finds catchy. Sometimes she discussed writings I am not familiar with, but it was worth chugging through those parts for everything else. I really liked how Roxane tackles complicated subjects but doesn’t give a nice and neat answer every time. This book was very thought provoking. It made me laugh, it made me angry, and it made me think about the ways I contribute to and consume the culture we live in.

Shrill by Lindy West

Part of the publisher’s description: “With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.”

I also bought this book when we were at the beach. I started reading it later, and finished it up a couple of weeks ago. This one was another winner for me! Lindy is very smart and covers everything from being harassed online (she writes for The Guardian and the New York Times) to her personal life. I laughed out loud a lot while reading and felt like I would love to just be in Lindy’s brain for a day. She has really funny things to say even when situations seem dire. My favorite chapter was “Hello, I Am Fat,” in which she eloquently dismantles a lot of the things people have to say about people in larger bodies and how it feels to live in our society when your body is discussed in shameful ways.

So there you have it. I basically read 3 books this year, so that’s about one every three months. I really enjoyed all 3 of these and would recommend them to anyone! Tell me, have you read anything good lately? What should I read next?

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My Venture into Gardening

“Gardening” might be a generous term to use here. I was thinking more along the lines of “growing things in pots on my balcony,” but that doesn’t make for a great post title, does it?

I had absolutely zero experience keeping any type of plant alive prior to this, so trust me that if I can do it, anyone can. It all started this spring, in April I think. It was National Nutrition Day and my school was kind enough to provide some seedlings for us to take home and plant.

I got swept into the excitement and grabbed a bell pepper one. I wish I had a picture of it but I don’t. Anyway, shortly after picking it up, I thought “Ummm I don’t have a garden, a yard, or any gardening knowledge. This might be a bad idea.” I spent the next 2 class periods Googling things like “How to grow a bell pepper,” then I made a beeline to Target to get my supplies. I planted it and it quickly popped up, then looked like this for a while. It’s even taller now!

Approximately 4 years later (ok it was like 2 months), I saw signs of life! Side note: I had to transport it the 3.5 hours to my parents’ house, where I lived this summer. It stayed on their side porch which has plenty of morning sunlight!

For any garden newbies like me: a bud forms, then a flower grows on it, then the flower falls off, then the pepper grows. I’m sure none of those terms are accurate or scientific, but you get it.

This pepper got scorched by the NC summer heat, so I had to cut it off before it turned red. Yes, green bell peppers turn into red ones if allowed to ripen! I didn’t know that before. I was pretty amazed at how huge this pepper was, and I haven’t been able to get one this big since.

I was out of my mind excited to chop it up and use it in pasta sauce! Of course I had to top it with basil from my basil plant (more on that in a minute). I felt pretty legit.

It was weird that out of my huge bell pepper plant, I only got 1 bell pepper all summer! I fertilized it whenever I saw new flowers and watered it daily. I even brought it inside when it was too hot. Since I’ve been back at school some new ones have popped up on the other branch of the plant. One is almost ready-it’s turning red and looks awesome!

A few weeks ago more buds popped up. I noticed they looked “spikey,” which you can see below, but didn’t think anything of it. The next week I realized it wasn’t just a spikey pepper-THOSE ARE ALL TINY LITTLE GREEN BUGS!  I got a safe insecticide from Target and they were gone soon after. I really should get a book deal for Gardening for Dummies. 4 of those buds have turned into peppers, and they are on the small side right now.

Hopefully they will be ready in a few weeks! Usually I’ll see about 10 buds pop up, but only 1-4 make it to an actual pepper. Maybe next year I’ll figure out the recipe for success.

After building confidence with my bell pepper and some garden duties at work this summer, I went to our local garden store and got some basil and cilantro seeds.

The middle one is basil, and the other 4 are cilantro.

The basil has done pretty well, I think! I’m not really sure how fast it is supposed to grow, but here’s a snapshot of the progress.

The last picture was actually taken about a month ago, so it is a bit taller now! It sits in my kitchen windowsill and I water it daily. Every week or so I clip some of it to use in pasta sauce or on top as garnish, like on the yummy gnocchi dish below!

Ok, this is getting long, so here’s what you need to know about growing cilantro: it is hard. It was for me, at least! I transferred the cilantro from the 4 original small containers to one large one, because it seemed like they just didn’t have enough room to take root. Every website advises against transferring cilantro, so I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t work out well. It basically all died. I dumped the whole thing out and started over with a bigger container, shown below.

You can see it was growing, but they were very “leggy” AKA flimsy and wouldn’t stand up. I read conflicting information about whether this was normal. I clipped some of it, but didn’t have any more seeds to replace it. So this week I clipped the last bit and declared myself done with cilantro for now. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

It was still fun to have my own cilantro on hand, although it wasn’t very much! It smelled SO good.

I’m guessing my bell pepper plant will be done for the year after the peppers I have on there now have matured. My plan is to keep the basil going as long as I can, so we will see how that goes! I don’t know much about fall and winter gardening, but it seems like that season is for things you need an actual garden for. Like, I just can’t grow potatoes in my apartment. If there is a way… tell me. I’m interested. I can’t wait to have my own yard one day with a killer garden.

I’m having a lot of fun growing a very small portion of my food and have even more respect for farmers now. Note to self: shop at the farmer’s market more often.

Have you ever grown anything? If you’re a gardener, give me all your tips! Can I grow anything inside during the fall?

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Scenes from the Week

Good morning!

It feels weird popping in on a Sunday. I had all intentions of posting on Friday, but life happened. It was a stressful week packed with lots of visits to the vet, but the weekend has been much calmer. So I’m here to share some of it with you! For anyone in Florida or Texas, my thoughts and prayers are with you in wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

Return of Dog Seizures

After going 4 months seizure free, Livi had two more seizures last Sunday night. The first one lasted about 3 minutes, and the second one was only about a minute or so. She stayed overnight at the emergency vet for monitoring and has been doing well since. Well, there was another day with a vomiting and shaking episode, but I snapped a short video of it and our vet did not think that was a seizure. We are so thankful that her seizures are considered mild at this point. Of course it is still terrifying and it’s an awful thing to witness, but she stays conscious and perks right up after. Even though Chip and I were scared, we felt more confident and calm this time around.

Over the past few months we have run all kinds of tests and as of now, we don’t know what is causing the seizures. Our vet does not they are linked to her liver issues, which seem pretty mild. The vet also discovered a heart murmur this week, but we did another test and found it out is benign as of now. Thank goodness! So yeah, it was a stressful and emotional (and expensive) week. It’s hard not knowing why she has seizures or when she will have another, or if they will get worse. If they do, we will start medications. I remind myself that out of her whole 2.5 years of life, only 6 minutes or so have been really bad and scary. She has a good and happy life, and I know she has many more years of being my sidekick.

We Bought Kayaks! Well, Chip Did.

Onto happier things! Chip and I are now kayak owners.

Last weekend, Chip and I discussed going kayaking but never did. He worked a lot of the weekend, so we planned to go this Friday instead. After all of Livi’s scares this week I was tempted to just hole up inside and stare at her, but I knew I needed to get out. I can’t life my life in fear, and I can’t be with her 24/7. On Thursday Chip called and asked if I wanted to go with him to pick out some kayaks. We had planned on renting them (that’s what we did when we went a couple of years ago) but he thought that it would be a good investment to buy our own if we start going more. I thought he was crazy and after asking, “Where will you store these? What about when we move next year” and getting satisfactory answers, I got on board.

We took them out on Jordan Lake on Friday and had a blast! Someone at work told him of a spot 10 minutes from my apartment where we could park and get in the lake. It was a very quiet area, and we had to carry the kayaks down a path to the beach. That was the hardest part, but at least the scenery was beautiful!

We were out there for a few hours and hung out on a cute little island. I brought the snacks and Chip brought the waterproof speaker for music. It was the perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon! It also made me super thankful for our school schedules-it’s nice to be able to do random fun things during the week. I know, we are spoiled right now.

Free HelloFresh Box=Lifesaver

My mom sent me a free HelloFresh Box a few weeks ago, and I totally forgot it was coming this week! I was so excited to see it when I got home Wednesday night.

That night, I made one meal that had chicken, zucchini, and mashed potatoes. Last night I made burgers and zucchini fries. Let’s just say my pictures haven’t been quite as pretty as the ones on the recipe card, so just enjoy the cute tiny ketchup. Usually by the weekend I’m throwing together random pasta dishes or getting takeout to avoid getting more groceries, so it has been nice to cook actual meals this weekend! I’m making the final meal tonight-it’s a pork + kale salad. I actually hate kale and meant to change that on our order, but I’ll still make the pork and rice or something to go with it.

I do like HelloFresh because it helps me branch out in terms of cooking. Last night was my first time making burgers! It’s nice to follow a pre planned recipe and not have to think about what I’m making for dinner. However, I can’t see myself getting these boxes on a regular basis until I’m out of school and have a bigger budget. They’re about $60/week, and I spend about $70/week for all my groceries and household items. That covers all breakfasts, lunches, most dinners and random things like cleaning supplies and candles that I pick up while I’m at Target. Chip cooks some, too, and we could split the cost of the box, but for now I feel like we can make pretty yummy dinners for much cheaper. See: Budget Bytes, my favorite place to find recipes that won’t break the bank!

A Low Key Weekend

After kayaking on Friday, I went out to dinner with my roommate and another friend. Yesterday I did laundry, studied, and just relaxed at home.

Today I’m planning on going for a run, grocery shopping, and watching the Panthers game with Chip. Ok, he will watch it and I will be doing school work. Weekends lately have been pretty slow and sometimes I feel like a homebody, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m trying to be more intentional about planning to see friends or do something fun so I don’t just turn into a hermit, but I also enjoy having nowhere to be. I know there’s a season for everything, and sometimes life is loud and crazy and other times things are more calm. There will be plenty of go-go-go as my sister’s wedding gets closer- just 20 more days!!! I seriously can’t wait.

Thanks for letting me chat your ear off today-tell me about something from your week!

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Let’s Talk About Detoxes

We’ve all heard about detoxes. Whether we are scrolling on Pinterest or tuning into morning TV shows, it seems like someone is always trying to sell us a shake, pill, eating plan, or juice cleanse that will rid our body of toxins and deliver the life we always dreamed of. I have some good news for you. You don’t need to do a detox for that. You are alive enough to read this post. That means you have a liver and a kidney or two. Congratulations, you are detoxing right now! If your body wasn’t constantly detoxing itself, you would die.

found the photo on Kait’s instagram but believe it was originally on AskforEvidence.org

When people say your body is full of toxins and you need help to get rid of them, obviously that sounds scary. I can see the appeal of a detox. But in reality, our body is constantly taking care of these toxins, which can be anything from an air pollutant to a food additive. (Barring a medical condition that interferes with these processes, of course. I’m writing this for the general healthy population.) Kidneys pull waste products from the blood, then we pee them out. The liver neutralizes toxins, then we excrete them. If you went to the bathroom today, you detoxed. High five!

There is a newer area of nutrition research looking into whether certain nutrients can aid these detoxification processes. I’ve looked into this since my dog is liver impaired, and I was curious if there is anything I could give her to help. So I am happy that this research exists for people (and dogs) who need it. I don’t think that the general population needs to stress about that, but you can probably guess that signs are pointing to fruits and veggies. I know, that’s not as sexy as a juice cleanse. Also, that doesn’t mean we should ONLY eat fruits and vegetables. Like anything in nutrition, it can be taken too far.

A lot of my beef with detoxes is just how fearful they can make people of food. I did a few Google searches and ended up on the website for my favorite doctor, Dr. Oz. I’m being completely sarcastic, he drives me nuts. He promotes a detox plan that, among other things, says you cannot eat anything that comes from a package or has a nutrition label. Ok, that leaves plants. I’m not certain you can survive and thrive on that. You couldn’t even cook them in oil or anything to add flavor and nutrients. What’s healthy about that?

This is typical for detoxes; they’re very eat this, not that. This will cause disease, this will cure your body of disease. In reality, food doesn’t work like that. Our bodies can handle it all, and there’s no reason to be so fearful. Even once the detox is over, this black-and-white thinking about food may remain. Detoxes are promoted as healthy, but the anxiety and fear they cause certainly are not. Detoxes are promoted as “energy boosting,” yet eating nothing but juice or a very small list of food sounds like a great way to drain your energy.

If you truly do feel tired and in need of a restart, think about a few areas of your life. Are you sleeping well? Are you nourishing your body adequately? How’s your stress management? Is there too much on your plate? If you do feel like you’re exhausted for no reason and really need help, advocate for yourself and seek out a medical provider. You know your body the best, and what you may need is medical attention of some kind.

Finally, often times detoxes are just a marketing ploy for weight loss. Sure, you may lose weight by drinking nothing but mineral water for a few days or cutting out large food groups. (You will likely also lose joy and confidence in your eating.) I would argue that most of this is water weight, partly due to your body breaking down muscle to use for energy. Your body doesn’t know you’re doing a detox because a vacation is coming up, or you just got home from vacation and feel like you overdid it, or because you feel tired and hope it will restart your system. It just knows you’re starving.

I know if I had to drink all my food or abstain from large groups of food, I would become obsessed with what I couldn’t have. Food doesn’t deserve that much power. It would be socially isolating. I would definitely overeat all of the forbidden foods once I was given permission. That’s because I’m human and my body is smart. Yours is, too. The next time you start to think “I was bad/I’m tired/I’m unhealthy, now I have to detox” I hope you’ll remember that eating a certain food does not make you good or bad, and that you already have all the tools you need to take care of yourself.

First Week of School: Meals, Snacks, Movement

Hello and Happy Friday!

Classes resumed on Tuesday and I’m happy to see the week come to an end. Even though my class schedule is lighter in terms of hours at school, it’s hard to get back into the routine! Since I’m finally back into the swing of things I wanted to share some recent meals, snacks, and what I’ve been up to in the movement department. Please keep in mind that I never share what I eat or how I move as an example of what to do; I share to hopefully inspire joy and peace around both!

Dinners

When I first moved back, I was feeling pretty uninspired by food. My mom cooked most nights this summer and I often had leftovers for lunch, so I got out of the routine of planning/cooking dinner. By this week, I knew I had to get it together, or else I would blow all my money on takeout and/or have to make 5 trips to the grocery store during the week. So I made a loose meal plan.I still didn’t feel motivated to cook by a recipe, so I just went with things I could throw together easily. Of course I didn’t stick to it, but here it is.

I did make Sunday’s dinner as planned. I used a little butter and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning to cook the chicken. I roasted the potatoes and green beans in the oven at 400 for 40 minutes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. There were plenty of potatoes left over (not pictured-I ate all of those and then some!), so I had them for breakfast the next day with eggs and bacon. Yum!

On Monday, Chip made tacos and they were delicious. I didn’t get a good picture, but you can trust me.

On Tuesday, I decided Wednesday’s dinner sounded better, so I made that. Plus, I was dying to use some more basil from my plant! I made zucchini instead of the broccoli that I planned to make with this meal. I’ve had a lot of broccoli lately so I wanted something different.

To make the tomato sauce (which served 2), I sautéed about 1/2 TB butter and 1/2 tsp minced garlic. Then I added almost a whole can of tomato sauce, along with the chopped basil,  dried oregano, and some Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I had my pasta with the rest of the chicken from Sunday’s dinner, and Chip had his with some meatballs from the Target freezer section. We both approved and also shared a plate of zucchini and a few straggler green beans leftover from Sunday. To make the zucchini, I diced 2 of them and sautéed it with olive oil and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.

I was planning on making the tilapia meal on Wednesday, but then fish didn’t sound appealing at all, so I had pasta again. I went to Trader Joe’s last weekend and got their pesto. It’s the best. So I mixed that with some pasta, sautéed some broccoli and that was that. Oh, and I had a few meatballs I heated up in the microwave. I knew I wouldn’t be full with just the small amount of protein in the pasta. I’ll spare you the pictures- it was one of the ugliest meals I’ve had in a while.

Last night, I went to Gonza in Raleigh with a friend! I got the pastor tacos, which have pork, pineapple, and cilantro. That’s what I always get there-I feel pretty confident that nothing could top it.

Tacos twice in one week=a pretty good week on the food front.

For lunch, I’ve pretty much been eating sandwiches every day. I’m not tired of them yet and cold sandwiches sound perfect since it’s still pretty warm out.

Snacks

Usually when I have class, I pack a KIND bar and an apple. Kinda boring, but it gets the job done. When I’m at home, I like to make snack plates with pretzels, cheese, veggies-whatever sounds good.

I go through phases with chips & salsa, and currently we are ON. This salsa below… it’s the best. This picture is from lunch one day recently, but it’s great at any time of day.

Ice cream is another favorite. I walk Livi most nights and it’s still pretty hot out, so I love coming inside, showering off, and getting a mug of ice cream. I think mugs make everything cozier and more delicous.

Movement

I’ve been having fun with all the equipment in my apartment gym lately! It’s not big or fancy, but it has fun things like TRX and different weight machines. Some days I do that, or a yoga video, or just take my dog for a walk. Or nothing at all!

Yesterday I actually ran! I hadn’t run a step since my last post on running. I was finally feeling the itch, and I was #blessed with a 72 degree morning yesterday. It wasn’t too hot, and I didn’t have to get up and go early! Win-win. It definitely wasn’t easy, but it felt good to run again. I’m looking forward to more runs as the weather cools off. Fall running is the best kind of running.

That’s it for me today! If you’ve had an awesome meal or snack lately, please share! I could use some recipe ideas for next week 🙂