CURRENTLY // NOVEMBER 2017

Whoops, I’m a few days late with the November roundup. Truth is, I’ve been in full-December mode since after Halloween. I love the coziness of Thanksgiving and Christmas, all twinkly lights and candles and food. The music is also top-notch.

INSPIRED BY //

My new workspace! Our smallest guest bedroom has always been the “office,” but it turned into wedding-supply dumping ground starting in September last year. I spent two hours this weekend cleaning, sorting, and setting up a new, clean, open desk for myself. I’m sitting here writing right now.

The piles of wedding decorations, gifts that don’t have homes yet, and other random crap that found its way into this room over the past year had totally overwhelmed me, to the point that I thought I’d never have a workspace again (#dramatic). But my freelance workload is picking up, and I needed a place where I could spread out, light a good-smelling candle, and get to work.

“Great things” art by Wild Fern Creative.
So, early Saturday morning, I turned on a good podcast, set a timer, and focused on the space for one hour. There’s still a pile of stuff that needs to be moved down to the basement, but that’s small potatoes compared to the clutter that was in here yesterday morning.

Here’s to hoping that this new work space will make early mornings even more productive (I’m going to store my snuggie on the back of my office chair for easy access).

WATCHING //

Grant and I saw the Broadway tour of “Waitress” at the Music Hall, and we both LOVED it. Well, I probably enjoyed it a tiny bit more, but he said that my excitement made him feel even more excited. When we left the theatre, I was still crying from the conclusion and curtain call, and Grant asked me what was up. I told him “I just love musicals!” 🤣 And I do, so much. Nothing gives me goosebumps faster than a story told through song. As many of my close friends can tell you: I start crying during Act I and usually don’t stop until we leave the theatre. Musical theatre feels like magic to me.

“Waitress” is a musical based on the movie of the same name about a woman who bakes pies to escape her less-than-perfect life. The songs were written by Sara Bareilles, and they are sweet, romantic, and hilarious.

(If you’re a fellow murderino, please take a deep dive into the murder of the movie’s director, Adrienne Shelly. Holy. Cow.)

GO SEE this show if it comes to your city. You won’t be disappointed. (And, if you can’t make it, the original cast recording is on Spotify.)

READING //

Did you guys know you can follow me on Goodreads? I post a review of every book I read, so you can always pop over to my profile if you need a recommendation.

Some that I loved recently: The Child (quick, creepy thriller), The Goldfinch (I finally read it years after the initial Pulitzer hooplah. VERY good, but I like The Secret History, by the same author, way more), and Sour Heart (interconnected short stories about Asian-American immigrant families. Fascinating and sad and funny).

I have a bunch of fun books to read from the library right now ⬆️, so I really have to prioritize my before-bed reading time!

LISTENING TO //

CHRISTMAS MUSIC 24/7!!!! I will always love the Celine Dion Christmas album. Fave song is Christmas Eve. My secret favorite songs (of any genre) are ones that I thought were SUPER romantic when I was a preteen. They’re still romantic now, thank goodness.

I also love the Leslie Odom Jr. Christmas album and Avalanche by Handsome and Gretel. “Avalanche” isn’t a Christmas song, really, but I discovered it on a Christmas Spotify playlist a few years ago, and G and I cut the cake to it at our wedding. So it’s extra-special to hear around Christmas now.

EATING AND DRINKING //

I’ve been experimenting more and more with vegan appetizers for Grant, and I found a new winner. This vegan, vegetable-based buffalo dip was amazing. Spicy and smooth and perfect with celery sticks. It’s similar to a hummus, but a little more decadent tasting from the raw cashews that are blended in.

I wrote a blog post for Ink’s website about healthy-ish holiday appetizers. You can read it here.

What are you looking forward to this holiday season? What was your favorite part of November? I want to know everything (because I am nosy as hell)!

Our Grand Canyon hike

Don’t hate me: I didn’t love the Grand Canyon.

Yes, it’s crazy-beautiful. But it’s also kind of a tourist trap.

What I did love was finishing such a challenging hike with my ❣️husband❣️. The smile on his face when we got back to the viewing ledge was very sweet and very memorable. And I loved the bottle of truly terrible “Grand Canyon” champagne that we shared at our post-hike lunch.

Hiking the Grand Canyon was the hardest physical challenge that I have ever accomplished. It’s so different than hiking a mountain.

When you hike a mountain, you get to look forward to the view from the summit. At the Grand Canyon, you have already seen the view. You’re hiking out of a big hole in the ground, only to get to the top and see the view you saw when you started. That was bizarre.

Beyond that, descending and then climbing 1,000,000 stairs and long switchbacks for five hours is no joke. By the end, I had an incredibly sore knee and socks that were irreversibly stained with red dust.

But the next day? I was barely sore. My knee was a little tender, but my thighs and butt weren’t sore at all. Walking through the Phoenix airport, I was very thankful for every spin class I’ve taken and every squat I’ve done to a Black Eyed Peas song in zumba.

When I’m exercising during the week, I’m not thinking about these big, once-a-year hikes. I’m thinking about daily strength, heart health, and fitting into my jeans. But the stamina I had on this hike surprised me. Physically feeling the fruits of my exercise labor was a new experience for me. Yes, I feel daily workouts getting easier or notice that I can up the resistance on my spin bike, but to be able to speed through such a challenging hike was damn incredible.

And, I don’t think Grant would mind me saying, I totally kicked his butt. 😜

OUR HIKE IN PHOTOS:

We stayed the night before our hike at the historic El Tovar. It was beautiful (I was especially impressed by our cute bathroom), but very, very outdated. There’s a stellar view of the Canyon off the back deck of the hotel, and that was the main draw for us. Also, it was a five minute walk from our hotel room to the trailhead. Huge bonus. We ate in the lounge and in the fancy restaurant. The food was good (my steak at dinner was incredible), but the service was not.

I brewed coffee in our room and brought it outside to watch the sunset.

That’s our hotel in the middle-right of the photo! Very American Horror Story/Nancy Drew video game.

A sunset photo that does zero justice to the view.

After we watched the sunset, we had cocktails in the lobby and filled out a wedding journal that I purchased during our engagement but didn’t open until our honeymoon. Whoops. It was so fun and special to journal about how we met, how we got engaged, how we chose each other, and more. We took turns writing our “version” of the story and reading it to each other. Definitely the most cheesy “honeymoon” thing we did on the trip (we both cried in the lobby, ha!), but it was the BEST.

The next morning, we started hiking as the sun was rising, which meant we had a lot of shade.

😍😍😍

The path in the lower-right of the photo is a good example of the endless switchbacks that you hike to get in and out of the canyon.

The beautiful  creek at Indian Garden, where we stopped for a rest before hiking back out.

G posing with a souvenir knife that his grandparents gave his dad fifty years ago.

One of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen from this guy, right after we finished the hike.

We ate in the food court after. I had a corn dog (with mustard, ketchup, AND ranch, thank you), french fries, and French silk pie, and I could have eaten more.

Then I drove us the four hours to Phoenix, where we arrived precisely at rush hour on a Friday night. That part was not as perfect.


And, with this final honeymoon recap, I think this is the end of wedding content. I guess I’m just an old married lady now. 😎 Thanks for following along. It’s been very fun to write about. I’m so happy that I’ll have these posts to look back on when I’m actually an old married lady.

Where did you go on your honeymoon? 

Two-bean pumpkin chili (vegan!)

Thank god for soup season! I majorly prefer summer to winter, but there is nothing cozier than a bowl of soup and a glass of wine. Preferably by a crackling fireplace (or even the Netflix Fireplace channel, which is what I used for years in an apartment). I’ve even been bringing various soups for lunch instead of my typical salad, which is a welcome change in my freezing office building.

Since we’ve gone semi-vegan, I’ve been missing ground turkey, which was one of our staples, especially when it comes to soups and stews. (We love this, this, this, and this.) I never thought I even liked meat that much, but I had chicken-based soups twice in the last week, and I was literally drooling over them (thanks Mags and B!).

This chili is my favorite, forever and ever. It’s so perfect, and it’s the number one thing I bring to a friend in need when it’s chilly outside. But it needs the meat. Since I’ve eaten it so many times with turkey or beef, it tastes bland and weird if I just amp up the beans.

I hit the kitchen hard to find a good vegetarian chili substitute. There were a few fails (that we ate anyway), but this recipe here is for keeps! Even if we go back to eating meat one day, I think we’ll be making this recipe.

I’m entering this double-bean pumpkin chili in a chili cook-off at work tomorrow. I doubt it can hold a candle to the traditional meat chilis in the lineup, but I know it will make the vegetarians on my team happy. It’s flavorful and rich and a little spicy, but I highly recommend a dash or ten of Cholula before you dig in.

Canned pumpkin is the best trick to add richness to an all-veggie chili. It adds vitamins and fiber and a delicious creaminess. Cornbread would be great, but we honestly eat it most of the time with tortilla chip spoons.

The chili keeps for a week in the fridge and freezes well for a busy night.

The best dessert pairing? This chocolate-chip laden pumpkin banana bread, which can totally bake while the chili simmers.

TWO- BEAN PUMPKIN CHILI

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp sugar (I use coconut sugar, but brown sugar would work well, too)

1 tsp cinnamon (this small amount tastes warm and cozy, not like Pumpkin Spice, promise)

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bell peppers, any color

8 oz. mushrooms, chopped

2 10-oz. cans of Rotel

1 15-oz. fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2 15-oz. cans kidney beans

2 15-oz. cans black beans

1 ½ c pumpkin puree

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions until translucent.
  2. Add mushrooms and bell peppers, and saute until brown. Add salt and pepper to taste once the mushroom release their liquid.
  3. Add all seasonings and garlic, and saute for one minute, until really fragrant.
  4. Add all other ingredients, and stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for at least one hour, preferably two.
  6. Serve with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and lots of hot sauce.

#TreatMoment How I take a breath, recenter, and power through a busy week

Hi friends! Coming at you from the beginning of yet another busy day. This hustle lifestyle doesn’t seem like it’ll slow down anytime soon (40-hr workweek, freelance assignments, gym time, friends and family, holidays rapidly approaching), so I’m here today to share the ways I indulge without getting totally off-track.

Living healthfully is super important to me. I make every effort to exercise consistently, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. This means that I miss out on some stuff: pizza for lunch, cocktails while I make dinner, sleeping in, late-night texting conversations. BUT, it also means that, when I do treat myself, it feels like a special treat. Not just a normal Wednesday.

Being conscious of these treat moments is one of my secrets to staying positive when I am overscheduled to the max. Taking 15 minutes for a treat moment re-ups my motivation, so I’m ready to keep going.

Your treat moments will likely be different than mine. But these ideas can almost always make me feel better momentarily and reset my attitude. Which means I feel better in the long-run. Win-wine (I mean win-win. Genuine typo that I refuse to correct 😜 ).

TREAT MOMENTS:

  • Eat something indulgent. This one is tricky. It’s super-easy to set out to eat one indulgent thing and end up finding last year’s Christmas candy where you hid it from yourself in January. Been there.

    But, and here’s the secret, if you plan the one indulgence and think of it as one treat, not the beginning of a series of treats, it can totally work. For me, this may be a trip to Andy’s Frozen Custard (concrete with peanut butter and raspberries, thank you) or ordering the fried chicken sandwich for lunch.
    This tip does not work for me if I “treat myself” to the stale cookies I found in the pantry. It’s like my brain knows that the cookies were a consolation prize for the indulgence I really wanted. Eating those stale cookies is a way more consistent trigger for an emotional eating backslide than eating one perfect slice of cake.

    Since I don’t keep food like this around the house, I have to go out of my way to indulge, which makes this work even better: if I know that I want to get my HyVee Chinese food for dinner (don’t judge, it’s weirdly good while also being total junk), I eat clean-as-hell the rest of the day, and the next day, too. That doesn’t mean I starve myself, but it does mean that I stay away from grains and load up on the veggies.

    Purposeful indulgence is better than mindless gorging. This I know is true.
  • Rest your eyes. Really.

    Last Sunday, I was dead on my feet. I’d been out late the night before, had spent the day exercising and doing chores, and my eyes had the heavy, watery feeling they have before you fall asleep involuntarily in front of the T.V. I was about to go make myself coffee, but I did something different: I set a timer for 20 minutes, and I closed my eyes. Did anyone else’s parents do this? Mine did, and now I totally get why. I still had stuff to do, it was too late in the day to take a for-real nap, but I just needed to power down for a few minutes. I lay there under a cozy blanket, in the dark (since 4:30 is basically pitch-black now), and dozed.

    I didn’t feel like a brand new woman or anything when the timer went off, but I did feel like I could power through the rest of the afternoon without coffee. Huge victory.
  • Make time (even a little time!) for the thing you love. In a crazy busy week, the kind where I’m going,going,going from the time my feet hit the floor until bedtime, I try and find at least fifteen minutes each day to read. Sometimes this means taking an afternoon treadmill walk with my book (hey, two birds, one stone, ok?) or it can be while dinner roasts in the oven.
    I love reading and learning new things, and making time for that hobby helps me feel like a crazy week is more in my control.
  • Have a date night. This one is truly the hardest to pull off, for several reasons. When my weeks are busy, that means I have likely scheduled events and tasks within an inch of their lives, so rescheduling for date night feels next to impossible. BUT, with enough elbow grease, it can normally happen. Maybe the two hours of work I needed to do in the evening can happen with an early wake-up call and a desk lunch the next day.
    Downside of winter date nights is terrible lighting.

    The second obstacle is ensuring that I’m not so stressed from the week that I am a total grouch during said date night. This one I am still working on.

    A date night can be theatre tickets you’ve been looking forward to for weeks, or even just wine and UNO on the couch. No T.V. though! If I want to stare at a screen without talking for hours at a time, I’ll go back to work 😂

    Even spending just 20 intentional date minutes together is better than nothing. Maybe taking the time to drink coffee together before the day really starts? (Note to self: this sounds lovely, and we should actually do that more often.) It’s easier to hustle through a packed day if you start with something to smile about!


I know I’m not the only one with a jam-packed schedule. My freelance deadline is your carpool to soccer practice or marathon training or having a way-cleaner house than I do. Pretty please share your treat moments in the comments!  I’m sure we all need all the ideas we can get.

MAKEUP CORNER//My highly emotional journey to finding a new favorite lipstick

You guys may know me for long rants on organization and easy recipes, but I haven’t talked a lot about my other love here: makeup 👄

Bite Beauty lip in Beetroot

I have loved makeup for as long as I can remember. For a long, long time, I was only allowed to wear neutral eyeshadow, clear (CLEAR!) mascara, and blush. As an adult, I totally get the why of these rules, but that doesn’t mean the preteen me liked it. I remember applying multiple layers of a champagne-colored eyeshadow from lashline to browbone, coating on that clear mascara, and heading off to a high school football game (I was probably 14).

Don’t worry, my makeup skills have improved over the years. But I am still just as obsessed. I’m not the woman that needs a full face to hit the gym or the grocery store, but you best believe I take a good hour to get glam before an event (or a random date night, if I’ve got the time).

Makeup has always been more than just fun for me, though. I’ve had acne since I was nine. I literally don’t remember what it’s like to have clear skin, and it’s possible that I’ll never have that experience. In the past five years or so, a bold lip or fake lashes (or both if you’re lucky 😍) have been a way to take control of my face. I don’t think that either of these accessories totally hide the acne — I know that they don’t — but manipulating my face in a way that I can totally control makes me feel confident about my looks in a new way.

If you have a big pimple, wear a really bold lip. #distraction
Bite Beauty lip in Hazelnut

Almost six months ago, Grant was diagnosed with new allergies to several really common cosmetic chemicals. Like really common. His dermatologist supplied us with a PDF of “safe” products, and you know what wasn’t on there? A single lipstick that I owned.

I am not proud to tell you that I cried. My poor husband was physically suffering, and I was crying over vanity. (In fact, I’m writing this in public and just had to take a bathroom break to pull myself together.) In the months leading up to this diagnosis, I’d been using Lipsense (I’m sure a FB friend or two of yours sells this permanent lipstick), including on our wedding day. It’s a two-step application, including a gloss. The SECOND ingredient of the gloss, which I had been wearing daily, is one of G’s new allergens. His poor lips had been splitting on a regular basis after being exposed to my stupid, vain lipgloss.

Wearing my beloved Lipsense: One coat of Fly Girl and two coats of Sheer Berry.

I also had to replace hair and body products, but nothing hit me quite as hard as my lipstick collection. I took the PDF of safe products to Ulta, and they didn’t carry a single thing that was safe for me to use.

I cried in an Ulta. I was a mess.

After a lot of tears and some journaling, I came to those realizations I outlined above. The why of my emotional reaction changed everything. Yes, lipstick is superficial, but it’s also really important to me. 

So, after all of that, my mom and I went to Sephora, where I found my NEW holy grail lipstick.

Bite Beauty lip in Fig

Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche. It’s creamy, moisturizing, long-wear if you blot it well enough, heavily pigmented, AND the colors are named after foods. PERFECT. The formula is made of edible oils, and the ingredients are a lot cleaner than the average lip color. AND, it’s safe for my boo, which is the real end-all, be-all qualification. (I wouldn’t call this formula kiss-proof, but it’s definitely quick-peck-proof, as long as you blot first.)

Wedding-ready in Bite Beauty lip in Gazpacho

Honorable mention: Bobby Brown Art Stick. Also really good, but not as wide of a color range, and not quite as creamy.

Hazelnut, Fig, Radish, Beetroot, Gazpacho, Jam, Cayenne, and Ginger, all by Bite Beauty.