random thoughts

Finding Healthy: It’s a long journey. You can’t be afraid to fall on your face

Have you ever looked up the definition for healthy?

Well, the first result is, “in good health.”

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In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a health coach. I’m not even NASM-certified yet (dragging my feet reaaaal hard on that one). But one thing I AM? A young woman who has found her footing in the wayward world of “What does it mean to live a healthy life?”

Thinking about food and working out has been on my brain since I stumbled upon an easy exercise regimen outlined in Seventeen magazine when I was, you guessed it, 17. Seven years later and I’ve done it all: the calorie counting, the workout calendar, the restriction, the binges, the insecurity, the meal planning. And now here I am, at 24, and I feel like I’ve got a good handle on things. I don’t yell at myself (well, hardly ever) over eating the wrong thing and I actually love my body. So what happened in those seven years?

Lots of mistakes.

A year of two daily supersize Diet Cokes from McDonald’s to curb my appetite. A bowl of broccoli the size of my head for dinner so that I could get ice cream with friends for dessert. Giving up all meat. No cream in my coffee. Sugar-free everything. No simple carbohydrates. SlimQuick and Green Tea pills. Every few months it was a new idea. And every time I tried something I just knew I was on my way to being healthy.

During that time I had no idea about healthy living blogs. And I know that if I had stumbled upon them when I was in my late teens I probably would have been confused. So many people have different eating styles, different fitness regimens, different rules/diets, different stories that have lead them to where they are today. How can all these different people be healthy?

I hope that when people read healthy living blogs, they know that everyone’s version of healthy is different. Even more than that, everyone discovers their version of healthy living in different ways. For some, there is an “a-ha” moment. Some people have fast metabolisms until college and then gain the Freshman 15 and have to learn healthier habits after their metabolisms slow with age. Some people battle extensive disordered eating and are forced to take a hard look at their habits when it becomes evident to the people around them that they need help. Others discover food allergies or sensitivities that allow them to eliminate certain things in order to feel better and lead more comfortable lives.

But not everyone has a moment that shifts their thinking on healthy living. I know I didn’t.

For me, it was and is a slowwwww process and then one day (one I can’t even pinpoint), I was just happy with my routine. It took seven years of reading, experimenting, getting to know my body, and making TONS of mistakes before I stumbled into the routine that works for me. My story is pretty boring, but I bet you it’s just as relateable to some of you as those “a-ha” moment stories are to others.

My success came from a slow, progressive shift in the way I thought about food and exercise– that’s what finally helped me settle into a healthy routine.

I can’t eat a cupcake became “Look how many different colored vegetables I can fit on my plate!” (And cupcakes/veggies stopped being mutually exclusive)

I need to run five miles a day became “How freaking incredible is it that my legs can run five whole miles? Let’s do it!”

Food became art, not anxiety, and fitness became a blessing, not a chore.

I started celebrating everything I’m able to do. I started lifting because I love the way it feels to work hard and add muscle onto my body. I can’t pinpoint it for sure, but I think it’s safe to say that when I started adding muscle to my body I started to love it unconditionally. I started respecting it for what it could do, not just what it looked like.

I slowly stopped focusing on what I couldn’t eat and started seeing what I could. Vegetables are beautiful, versatile, simple, homegrown, and delicious. So is pizza. I found that the more whole foods I added to my diet, the healthier I felt, without doing any kind of dieting or restriction. So even when I do eat too many slices of pizza, I don’t think twice about it because the next morning I know I’ve got a giant veggie omelette coming my way. Regretting food isn’t a mental and emotional experience anymore — it’s physical. My body will feel sick if I eat too many processed foods. That’s why most days you’ll find me in bed with semisweet chocolate chips, not Cadbury eggs (but of course you know M&Ms are one of my favorite foods — can’t give ’em up!)

My routine today includes tons of vegetables, running until my legs can’t take it anymore, a love affair with cheese, cheating on said cheese with chocolate, lifting heavy things, adding cream and sugar to my coffee, never skipping dessert, eating three meals a day plus protein-filled snacks, making my bread whole grain (but letting white pasta slide), sneaking spinach into everything, making sure my cabinet is stocked with chia seeds at all times, going to yoga, drinking almond milk, always having roasted sweet potatoes on hand, and never turning down an invitation for margaritas. Never.

It makes no sense. But it makes sense for me.

I don’t have answers for you. And you shouldn’t look for answers from anyone else. It’s all about trying things, making mistakes, and not being afraid to fall flat on your face a few times.

One day, with no warning, you’ll feel like you struck the balance too. The balance between eating well and exercising to boost your health.

Like everything else, it’s a journey. And just how most journeys are frustrating along the path, there’s nothing people can do or say to make your journey easier. You just have to keep pushing and one day you’ll “find healthy,” whatever that means to you.

(**I feel the need to add that I don’t mean to diminish anyone else’s journey with healthy living, especially the ones that are particularly painful. Everyone’s experiences are different, and I am just sharing my own).

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I Know I’m Not The Only One

We’ve all heard the song (which you should definitely play while you read this post):

And since the #1 romance I have in my life is food, I figured I’d share my take:

I know I’m not the only one…

Who Doesn’t Like To Share Food

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If I spend an hour making dinner after you’ve heated up your Ramen noodles, NO, you can’t have a bite. No, no, nope. Just, no.

Who studies menus online

I always look at menus before I go to a new restaurant so I don’t panic about all the choices once I’m there. Because heaven forbid I pick a dish that didn’t get rave Yelp reviews.

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Who wants to get just drunk enough to press “Purchase” on a $300 dutch oven from Sur La Table

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But…but…but…they’re just so beautiful. And think how many roux I can make with it.

Who completely understands food wrath

I think I’m the only one who has true empathy for Ross in the Friends episode when someone “accidentally” eats his sandwich. If someone ate my sandwich out of the work fridge, I would totally go Kanye West on them.

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Who has a deep-rooted desire to have serious knife skills

Because being able to cook isn’t enough. I want to prep like an Iron Chef.

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Who can’t eat salad in the winter

I can’t remember the last time I ordered a salad. I love veggies — but a cold entree? Not gonna happen in the months of December-March. It’s just not.

Here’s the way I see it: salads need a blanket in the middle of winter just as much as I do. Therefore the burrito was born.

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And it was good.

Who has a growing addiction to food porn

Are there programs for this? Between Pinterest, Instagram, and now Food Network news on Snapchat, getting basic daily tasks done has taken a backseat. Fine, I’ll say it: food is sexy.

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I know I’m not the only one. ……Right?

The Guest House: Say YES, Be PRESENT

This “being human” thing is tricky.

This past week a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (my alma mater) was murdered. He was last seen at 7pm heading to a friend’s apartment on one of the busiest streets on campus, only three blocks from my old apartment, and his body was found five days later ten miles outside the college town along a rural road.

Shock and tragedy are a part of life — but this really stopped me in my tracks for awhile when I heard. I can’t tell you how many times I ran around campus with my friends (and sometimes by myself) late at night walking, laughing…just being 19. Now people are being randomly targeted, assaulted, robbed, beaten, raped, and now murdered. All on a campus in a small town in the middle of nowhere in central Illinois, where thousands of students travel every year to have “the best four years of their lives.” The worst part about this particular crime  is that it was early evening, on a busy street on campus, on a Friday. This could have happened to ANYONE.

Whenever tragic things happen to someone, it always hits me hard,because it could easily happen to me. Or a friend. Or a family member. Life could change in a second, with no warning.

So how do you deal with the fact that, yes, terrible things happen in life?

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive and present in a world where it seems like so many bad things happen. Especially because the “bad” these days is usually really bad. But I always go back to this incredible quote about inviting it all in, the good and the bad, and somehow it makes me feel better. Knowing that bad things are going to happen to me reminds me that I am human, and that because I’m human, I’ll recover.

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I think everyone has their own way of coping with the realities of life: “life is short” “bad things happen to good people” and “you have to see the glass half full” all strike people in different ways. So it would be callous and insulting for me to insinuate that a positive outlook on life is easy. That’s way too cliche. But I have found ways to help me cope with the fear of tragedy and appreciate life for what it is:

  • Say YES. Unless you have a prior commitment, it doesn’t align with your values, or you’re sick, say yes to any and all invitations life throws at you. Coffee with an old friend? YES. A networking event where you’ll know no one and probably spend the first 15 minutes standing awkwardly with a drink in your hand? YES. A dinner date, even though your bank account is dwindling? YES. Building a snowman outside even though you’re 24 and haven’t bought a pair of snow pants since 1997? YES.

For many of you reading this who don’t actually know me, you might think this a little cheesy. And it is I guess. But I’ve learned that life is made up of the little moments that happen when you’re busy anticipating “the big things.”  Too many people are waiting to meet their future husband to be happy. Too many people are working 60+ hours a week trying to build up their 401k plan at 25 years old. And way too many people work at a job they don’t love in hopes that things will be better “in the future.” I used to think I just didn’t get it. But now I’m realizing that the way I’m living is what’s making me happy. Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned lately:

  • Be PRESENT. I am perfectly content where I am in this exact moment. I’m not looking to the future to justify a single aspect of my life. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my daily routine. I do exactly what I want to do every day. And do you know what? Life isn’t flying by the way it used to. Months used to be over in the blink of an eye, and my friends and I would commiserate over time flying with a glass of wine. Now?January dragged. It was a full month. I celebrated my birthday. I tried Hot Power Fusion yoga for the first time. I met some other bloggers in real life. I spent more money at more restaurants in Chicago than is even remotely fiscally responsible for someone my age. I met tons of new people. I started eating bacon again because damnit it smells good, and that’s it. I watched a basketball game with my dad. I went to a concert. I made enchiladas. Don’t get me wrong — I have goals, and specific benchmarks that I know I have to accomplish to reach those goals. But the goals are all my own. They haven’t been manipulated by someone else’s opinion, or by any insecurities about possibility. And because they are truly my goals, and the way I live my daily life supports m goals, I don’t feel any pressure or fear of the future. I know it’s all going to be okay, because the way I live on seemingly insignificant days will shape my life overall, and I know I’ll be happy.

So much for writer’s block, right? I just started typing and a novel came out.

THANK YOU everyone for being an outlet for me to share posts like this. I absolutely love sharing the light-hearted, food-obsessed side of me, but every once in awhile I guess it’s good to remind you I’m human as well.

Thinking Out Loud: to tan or not to tan

Better late than never! Let’s get those Thursday Thoughts out there.

First things first:

Can we please bring back the high-waisted workout leotards? Can you imagine? Crossfit boxes would be forever changed.

My new apartment downtown is closest to a Jewel so I’ve started going there recently in the burbs to get used to shopping at any store that isn’t Trader Joe’s. It was tough but I powered through somehow. I’ve been trying to focus on those damn veggies lately because I know that this time of year I pretty much just want to roast potatoes, cover them in cheese and call it a veggie. So a veggie-fied week it was.

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The loot included: sweet potatoes, white beans, coconut La Croix, bean sprouts, carrots, plain 2% greek yogurt, tuna, green beans, avocado, spaghetti squash, bananas, brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes. But of course there are some things only TJ can provide so I swung by there afterwards.

The usual suspects: Ezekiel bread, British muffins, white bean basil hummus, soy creamer, chicken, pb pretzels and liquid stevia.unnamed (9)

Plus some new friends: coconut cream (not sure how I’m going to use this), garlic simmering sauce and coconut oil cooking spray.

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And some of the best nuts I’ve ever had. If I ever overdraft on my checking account it will because I can’t control myself around da nuts (that’s what she said). But seriously – those thai lime & chili cashews are killer.

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On the workout front, I started back up at a Crossfit box downtown (okay technically it’s not Crossfit because there’s not Olympic lifts but I’m not sure what else to call it. I’m sure the Crossfit police are out there monitoring the internet for every misuse of the word Crossfit so I guess I’ll just call it bootcamp).

We arrived to a seriously fun tabata workout. We started off with a sprint warm-up which reminded me of my old basketball days when I would get suuuuper competitive with everyone around me and try to win every time we had to run suicides. The workout then consisted of 20/10 work/rest increments of power balls, v-ups, broad jumps, rows and man makers or burpees (your choice – I chose burpees. Not because I have a death wish but because I didn’t understand what man makers are and I didn’t want to look like a fool).

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Oh my gosh it was a BALL. The only downside: I’m STILL sore. I took a rest day Wednesday because I legitimately couldn’t think of a workout to do that wouldn’t make my body cry. That was one full-body workout. Oh, and broad jumps are my new favorite thing. If you need me I’ll be doing them in my kitchen.

I need your help. Thoughts and opinions, please. I have terrible, terrible skin. Acne on the face and eczema on the arms. Yep I’m just that blessed. With that being said it always hits its peak horrible-ness (I’m really going for a Pulitzer prize today, aren’t I?) this time of year and I’m just sick of it. I’m tired of wearing long sleeve shirts all winter. I’m tired of being embarrassed at the gym in tank tops. I’m sick of itching my arms constantly and wondering if I have any red patches on the back of my arms that I can’t see. I’m sick of lathering on six creams before bed. So, I’m seriously considering going to a tanning bed once a week or once every two weeks. I know, I know, CANCER BOX. But I also have spoken with a dozen people or so who say that, like anything in life, moderation is key. I even spoke to one woman who said her dermatologist recommended a tanning bed twice a month to help clear up her eczema. What are your thoughts of tanning beds to help skin problems like this? I would love to hear all opinions, but would appreciate personal experience and/or educated comments even more, thanks! I have no intention of becoming the next “Tan Mom” but I’d love to not hide my arms like an amish woman for the next five months.

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I don’t know how much I talked about it last week but my mom’s knee surgery went well – she’s kicking butt (not literally, of course, with the new knee and all 😉 ). I have no doubt in my mind that her 25-pound weight loss helped immensely. It makes me so proud to see her taking control of her health. This is EXACTLY why I want to be a personal trainer. I spent years and years with my fingers crossed, hoping my parents would get on board with eating healthy and being active. Once you know how amazing that kind of lifestyle is, you just want to go up to everyone who’s not doing those things and just shake them, saying YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GREAT THIS FEELS! But you just can’t. The healthy living journey is something that people can only fully appreciate once they make the decision for themselves. There’s a little mental switch that needs to be flipped. So now that I’m seeing my parents fall in love with vegetables, cooking, and portion control, it makes my heart smile a little bit. Not to mention I want them to be around for a longgggg time, so this new lifestyle only helps. I can’t wait to be a certified personal trainer so I can help people who take that first step and decide they want a healthier lifestyle, and walk with them through their journey.

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I’m going ham on that frittata, folks. Sometimes I want to share recipes because I have a mini panic attack that I haven’t shared one for awhile and, what kind of blogger would I be without sharing a good recipe every now and then? But this one is truly one of the best things I’ve ever come up with in the kitchen. I’m so proud. It’s like my little frittata baby.

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I typed in Frittata Baby into google and all I got was a baby eating frittata.

I go into work for six hours without my phone and this is what I come out to. Friends, you are hysterical. Reading through a group text that you haven’t been a part of for half a day is basically the same as watching a 30-minute sitcom on TV, so thanks for that.

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It’s officially winter in Chicago. I broke out my blizzard parka yesterday and it was glorious. We also have legwarmers at lululemon now so I’m thinking it’s going to be a flashback to an 80s winter this year. It’s also the season of “I don’t need any more coffee in my body but damnit I really need to hold a cup of coffee to keep my fingers from falling off.”

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And finally,  a quick story. I temporarily joined a gym in the suburbs three years ago via Groupon. It was an amazing bootcamp-style workout that my friend and I took advantage of when we were home on winter vacation from college. I could tell from the beginning that the owner was salty about us “Groupon-users” but he was always pretty kind and helpful so I chose to ignore it. On our last day, however, I’ll never forget how he went into a rant to the whole class as we were jumping rope about how Groupon users were taking advantage and not serious about the program. IN FRONT OF US. It was so random and completely inappropriate. 1) YOU are the one who put up an offer on Groupon. If you don’t want people to use it, don’t do it. 2) Why would you EVER say that kind of stuff in front of the people who did nothing wrong except buy a Groupon? At least wait until we’re gone to trash talk us. My friend and I were absolutely mortified and I’ve resented that gym ever since. Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve been on his listserv ever since so I’ve been getting 3+ years of fitness advice, workouts and recipes sent to me for free. And I just had to express the poetic justice in that. I know it’s immature but every time an email from him comes through I just feel this evil grin come onto my face. Free stuff for an advantageous Groupon user? Don’t mind if I do.

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Question:

  • Tanning beds: GO!

TOL: there’s a mouse in my house + prenatal vitamins

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Running is finally getting easier!!! I can bust out 4-5 miles like it’s nothing. I mean it’s something but hey I don’t have to bring my rescue inhaler with me anymore #winning

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There’s a mouse in my house.

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I’ve seen it twice – and only screamed like there was a psycho killer in my house the first time. The second time I gave him the head nod and went about my business. Thank god I have cats (is that evil?)

It’s officially leggings as pants season!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Suck it, haters!

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I hate that expensive candles are the only ones that really smell. I spent $25 on a candle from Bath and Body works and it makes my whole house smell like a pumpkin patch within minutes. Being the fiscal conservative that I am I did NOT want to fork over that kind of cash again, so I went with a small autumn candle from Kohl’s. Well it’s been lit for five hours now and it’s just now starting to work its magic. I am not pleased. I guess another trip to The Works is in order sooner rather than later.

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Chocolate chips have become my new go-to dessert. They’re cheap, easy, and delicious, just how I like my men.

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Hopefully that GIF didn’t give you epilepsy. If so don’t bother suing I have no money. But I can ship you some chocolate chips overnight?

There are some serious words of wisdom floating around the internet this week. I’m feeling so inspired.


unnamed (5)unnamed (9)What I take out of these:

  • Life is all about perspective – change your perspective, change your world.
  • Be present – wherever you are, be all there. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching TV on a Wednesday night with your friends or at a dinner party – just BE there.
  • Take things at your own pace – there’s no rule book for anything. Quit trying to figure out what you “should” do.
  • Eat breakfast. Because there’s literally nothing better than breakfast.

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I have the best banana bread recipe that I would love to share with you but seriously how many more “amazing” banana bread recipes do we HLBs need? (but for real my recipe has millet and slivered almonds in it so that makes it different and unique and special right right right?!)

Reading all of your marathon recaps from this past weekend finally convinced me to take the plunge and train for Chicago next year! I loved reading all about the emotional rollercoaster that is marathon training and, call me crazy, but I want all of it. All the ice baths, all the post-run stretching, all the carb-loading and the early Friday nights. It’s gonna be a parrrrrrty!

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And last but not least, prenatal vitamins.

Have any of you taken these when you’re not pregnant? Yay or nay? Some women at work have touted it as a good supplement for my hair loss, brittle nails and general lack of energy lately. But then of course the internet says I’m going to die. So please give me your two cents.

vitaminsQuestions:

  • What’s your favorite dessert lately?
  • Ever heard of women taking prenatal vitamins without being pregnant?
  • Do you really think quality of life is a matter of perspective? 

random thoughts friday

Vacation dreaming

I love to travel. I have a lot of favorite cities depending on what kind of trip I’m looking for.  Feeling patriotic? DC all the way.  Beauty in nature? Sioux Falls, South Dakota. International adventure? Prague Prague Prague.

But the one city that I think has it all…is Austin, TX.

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I’ve been there twice in the past year and a half and it. has. everything. From paddleboarding to live music to breakfast tacos and everything in between, I’m head over heels in love with Austin. Now that the weather is getting colder and colder I can’t stop dreaming about frozen margaritas overlooking Lake Travis while the sun goes down.  It’s a cheap trip and definitely worth it if you just want a few days away to escape to a land where there’s music in the streets and food trucks abound.

Food for thought (literally)

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It makes me so sad that my beloved Mars company is up there. M&Ms, I’ll never give you up but man, I just don’t feel good about looking at this chart.  I hate thinking that very few corporations have so much control over what I eat. I’ll never be fortunate enough to go totally organic, but this kind of thing makes me step back and really think about what I’m buying. There’s a reason why no conglomerate can get their hands on apples, you know? Whole foods FTW.

Why I love to write

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There’s something special about writing. Until I started this blog, I had pretty much stopped writing for fun, an activity that took up much of my life before I left for college. I’ve always been a million times better at writing than I am at speaking. There’s just something about a pen and paper that helps me get out exactly what I mean, with no fillers or things that can be misconstrued.  I’ve also always valued the fact that I can write down how I’m feeling and look back on it in retrospect. It’s almost as if with everything I’ve ever written I can get a better picture of who I was at that time, when all that I have besides my written words are pictures, and those don’t say much. Most people who write aren’t writing for the sake of it, but because they have something to share that they just can’t muster up the words for.  Even food bloggers, who don’t seem like they have anything important to say, are usually sharing some parts of their personal life through their blogs. People like me who have spent years trying to figure out the “right” way to eat and have come out on the other side just want to share their love for food and fitness to the world. We have something to say.  And while some people can read blogs like mine and think “what’s the point?” others read it and can relate.

Thanksgiving is almost here!

Thanksgiving is on the way! It’s no surprise that this is my favorite holiday of the year. I’d imagine that for many food bloggers it’s the same. And it’s funny because it’s not the food itself that gets me so excited for this day. I’ve always been in love with the process of making food. The family all jammed into a small kitchen, each calling dibs on different stovetops and oven temps. I love having football on in the background while we prepare mashed potatoes or set the table. The rituals are what I look forward to the most. The idea that it’s not about giving/getting things (which can be stressful) but just about being together to eat at one beautifully filled table once a year–that’s why I love turkey day!  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is the recipe I made for the big meal last year.  If you’re struggling to think of something to bring to your celebration, definitely consider this (minus the mushrooms because that’s just gross).

 

Burned out

I’ve worked out once this week. Oh well. I’ve been burned out. My days this week have been spent looking like this:

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I also have a pretty bad cold and this weather makes my asthma go nuts so nothing about waking up each morning made me want to exercise. The funniest part is that even though I’ve barely worked out all week, the world is still spinning. Weird, right?

Luckily New Girl has kept me great company. Until this passes, it’s just me, my couch, and Schmidt.

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Happy Friday, everyone!