The 100 Day Project

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This is a few weeks late but I wanted to share that I am currently involved in something called The 100 Day Project. Continue reading

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Women’s March – January 21, 2017.

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After marching and protesting at yesterday’s Women’s March on C-U Official, I feel more proud and empowered than ever before. I am incredibly proud of my local Champaign-Urbana community. Our march brought in 5,000 women, men and children and it was an extraordinary sight to witness and be a part of. I am proud of my brother, my friends, my co-workers and other family members who marched with me yesterday. I am proud of my Dad and Connie for marching in Palm Springs, CA while they were on vacation. I am proud of anyone and everyone who supported the march and who was with us in spirit but couldn’t be there in person (shout out to my Mom, Ben and my Little, Sarina). But most of all, I am proud to be a woman and to be surrounded with other women in my community, standing up for what is right and what we deserve.

I am still riding on the highs of yesterday, but I know that I need to find ways to keep this momentum going. I will do so by continuing to let my voice be heard. I will not back down, be quiet or be shamed for voicing what I know is right; that every human being deserves to be treated equally, no matter their sex, the color of their skin or where they come from. Even though I still have anger and passion inside of me, I will try my best to express my beliefs with kindness, respect and of course, a little humor (political puns, anyone?). I can only hope that those who disagree with me will do the same.

I want to thank the Champaign County Young Democrats for hosting a wonderful event at West Side Park yesterday. Thank you to the speakers who gave us so many strong and beautiful words to use as fuel to march and continue forward. Thank you to all of the volunteers for helping with the event and giving us words of encouragement and beautiful smiles as we marched. Thank you to the protesters that stood beside me and my friends as we were heckled by what might have been the one Trump supporter at the event. Thank you to everyone who came out and marched with us, both in Champaign-Urbana and around the world, and those who were there with us in spirit.

This is just the beginning.

 

Goodbye, 2016.

2016. What a year. I think many people can agree that 2016 was an over all bad year for the world.  Many iconic celebrities and public figures passed away this year.  The United States presidential election coverage was insane and was unlike any other election that we have ever experienced before.  And of course, the fact that Donald Trump will be our president in 2017…well let’s just say I’m not thrilled about it.

But I am not here to get political or depressed on my own blog. This is my safe space where I can write my thoughts and feelings on anything and everything I chose to, and I have a feeling that I am going to be needing to use this space more than ever in the coming year. But for now, I am going to reflect on the highlights of my 2016 year:

We saw Black Sabbath live in concert for their final tour. I got to treat Ben, my Dad and my brother to this experience as a belated Christmas present and they loved it.


Ben and I stayed in our first Airbnb as treat for our birthdays; a tree house in Schaumburg, Illinois! It was a wonderful day trip.


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I got a major haircut for my birthday. It was significant since I had been growing my hair out for the past 5 years. I debated on doing it for a long time and decided to go for it. I am still very happy that I did.

I went to Medieval Times twice this year!  Once on my birthday and another on my Dad’s birthday. I hadn’t been since my family went when I was 6 years old, and I have to say, it was still a lot of fun.

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I FINALLY SAW BEYONCE IN CONCERT!  And it was as awesome and amazing as I thought it would be. The only down side was that it POURED rain when we were there and we had to wait an extra hour for the show to begin. But I still think it was worth it.

Ben and I also saw The Lumineers perform in concert!  This is a band that has been with us since the beginning of our relationship. We have bonded over many of their songs so it was wonderful to see them live together.

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We also saw two of my very favorite comedians perform live this year. We saw Louis C.K. in June and Nick Offerman in November. I love these two men so much and we had a great time laughing at their new jokes.

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Ben and I also made it a point to visit Nashville, Tennessee over the 4th of July weekend. I had been wanting to see this city for a while, so being able to finally do it this year felt so good. I particularly loved visiting the Johnny Cash Museum and Jack White’s record company, Third Man Records. We had a great weekend there and we will definitely be visiting again soon!

Ben and I also celebrated our 5 year anniversary this year! We went on a weekend getaway to Michigan with my Mom, her bulldog, Toby and our two Great Danes, Charlotte and Quincy.  It was quite a trip, but luckily, all of the dogs behaved and got along well together! And our dogs did well with surviving their first road trip. I am hoping to do more trips with our dogs and with our families in the future.

I also made the challenging decision of trading in my beloved Tom Cruise PT Cruiser for a new-to-me Ford Escape. I had a lot of mixed emotions about buying a car on my own, but ultimately, it was the right decision and I love my “new” vehicle!

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Even though the election season did not end the way I wanted it to, I was able to vote for the first female United States presidential nominee. And I still think that is pretty fantastic.

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I also began writing articles and taking photographs for my local online magazine, Smile Politely.  This is not something that I had previously planned on doing as a part-time hobby, but I really enjoy it and I look forward to continuing to do more with Smile Politely in 2017. If you are interested in reading any of my past articles, you can do so here.

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And those are my favorite highlights and accomplishments of 2016! When I look back at these moments, 2016 doesn’t seem like a bad year at all. That being said, I am very much looking forward to starting fresh in 2017. I already have some exciting plans in the works and I can’t wait to see how much I can accomplish this next year.

2017, let’s do this thang.

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Our Trip to Nashville – Day 1

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We did it!  Ben and I finally took our first trip to Nashville, Tennessee.  After hearing about it so much this past year, we decided it was time for us to see what’s it all about ourselves.  We only had 48 hours to enjoy the city and experience as much as we could and I think we did a great job.  Nashville became a place that we both really enjoyed visiting and I am looking forward to discovering more of Nashville in the future.

Continue reading

CURRENT OBSESSIONS.

I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my current obsessions with whoever wants to read them.  Maybe then people will understand me more?  Or maybe I can just find a filter to talk about everything that is currently making me happy.
Anyway, here it goes…

Currently listening to: Lemonade by Beyonce

Let me pull a Kanye moment and state that Lemonade is the greatest Beyonce album OF ALL TIME (and yes, all caps necessary).  I have always been a fan of Queen Bey, but wow.  This album has blown me away.  If you haven’t seen the visual album that she debuted on HBO, please do yourself a massive favor and watch it, or at the very least, listen to it.  I love the whole album but my absolute favorite can’t get out of your head songs are “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “Sorry,””Daddy Lessons,” “All Night” and “Formation.”  I will be listening to it religiously for the next month straight because I am going to be seeing her perform in Chicago on May 27th!  And to that I say, “YASSS QUEEN.”

Currently watching: Season 6 of Game of Thrones

I have been a Game of Thrones fan for a while now, but this 6th season in particular is keeping my interest.  I think this season is more exciting for me personally because it is finally caught up with the books.  This makes it more fun to watch with Ben who has read all of the books and before this season, knew what was going to happen.  Now we both are not sure how it is going to play out (although we have many fan theories) and it is one of my favorite things to look forward to on Sunday nights.  I also have a Monday ritual of talking to a few of my coworkers who are also fans of the show, about the most recent episode and how it ties in with our predictions and theories.  If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet, I would recommend it!  If it’s not your thing, find another TV show that you like and care about and can talk to others with either online or in person.  It’s a great experience to be able to communicate with others something that you are all obsessing over equally.

Currently reading: The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna12353276_1530484570604400_320312348_n

Is there a book that you have read and as soon as you have read it, you want to tell everyone about it?  And it’s a book that can be relatable to literally everyone?  This book is that book for me.  I finished it quickly and immediately told Ben to read it.  He read about half of it and told me that we needed to buy this book.  I am frequently check out books from the library as a test drive before buying them now, but this is a book that I want to buy for myself, as well as everyone I know.  It’s a beautifully written and illustrated book by Elle Luna about finding your passion, whatever that may be.  It is a work of inspiration that will give the reader the determination to know what they should do versus what they must do in terms of finding their calling and how to get started.  I recommend that everyone should read this book, especially if you are in a rut or needing something to inspire you in the next phase of your life (hello, recent graduates).

I hope this post can relate to others who may be currently obsessing over the same things (ahem, Game of Thrones fans, please talk to me).  I might do more of these in the future, but for now these are my current obsessions and I don’t see them going away any time soon!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

 

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Some of you may have already heard about a little book called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  If you haven’t heard of it yet, get on the bandwagon!  It is an international best seller that has sold over two million copies since it was published in October of 2014.  To prove it’s popularity, it took me quite a while to get this book in my own hands.  I had requested this book at my local library back in April of 2015 and received it just in time for the new 2016 year.

Interestingly enough, my resolution for 2016 is to “simplify my life” and of course, the first step of this goal is to quite literally get rid of the clutter and tidy up!  For me personally, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.  I recently finished it, and thought I would share about some of what I liked, what I disliked, and what I have learned from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

First of all, I should state that I have never considered myself to be a neat or tidy person.  It’s just not a gene that I was born with, despite my Mother’s best efforts (thanks for trying, Mom!).  It takes a while for clutter to drive me crazy, and it’s usually when it is obviously a mess and needs to be cleaned in a desperate last minute attempt before guest arrive (hello, procrastination).

When I lived at home, it was much easier to know when I should tidy up because my parents would tell me and usually prevent me from doing what I wanted until it was done.  When I began living on my own, though, it became my complete responsibility (as did everything else, such as bills…ugh) and I gave myself much more time to get it done…almost too much time.

Since moving in with Ben, it has become even more of a struggle since there is twice the amount of stuff now.  He also does not happen to have the “cleaning gene.”  We are good at holding ourselves accountable for daily clutter (such as mail, dishes, laundry, etc.) but we still have a lot of things that we need to go through and get rid of, both individually and together, after close to a year of living together.  I thought this book would help me get the kick that I needed to accomplish this never ending task that I have been putting off for quite a while.

Luckily, I did find this book and Marie Kondo’s method of tidying to be helpful, though it is pretty extreme compared to other methods that I have heard before and tried to implement in my life.  The basic concept of her method of tidying is to go through each item individually and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”  If the answer is yes, you keep the item and find a place for it in your home.  If the answer is no or even maybe, you donate it or throw it away.  No more questions asked.  No debating it anymore.  Simple as that.  Based on this concept alone, I was able to get rid of a lot of things in my home (especially my closet) that were no longer giving me joy.  And I didn’t wait around to see if I could try selling these items first.  I just donated them or threw them away so I could get it over with.  And it felt great!

Marie Kondo also recommends to tackle and sort everything by category instead of by room, since multiple items that are in the same category tend to be found in separate rooms.  Her tidying order is clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items.  I agree that when I started with my clothes first and it helped me to get into the mode and get excited about getting rid of other items I no longer needed or felt any joy from.  She also goes into more detailed descriptions of how to begin sorting through these categories, what should be kept and what shouldn’t be, how long certain things (particularly papers) should be kept for, and how to begin sorting through everything and designating each item it’s own space in your home.  I found all of this to be very helpful and it made me want to buy the book so I don’t forget her good advice and helpful tips when I need them later.

One thing that I didn’t like was her almost obsessive need for tidying and making everything perfect.  Again, her concept will seem pretty extreme for anyone who is normally not neat, such as myself.  She has been tidying and organizing her things since she was very young and obviously was born to tidy up and share her wisdom with others.  I think the rest of us can be cut some slack and try to do our best.

The other thing that I didn’t really care for is that she suggests communicating with our possessions and let them know that we are appreciative of them.  I understand that you should be grateful for your possessions, but to verbally greet and thank them out loud every day was a bit much for me to take in.

Overall, this book has inspired me and has already helped me with my own struggles of getting rid of, sorting, and tidying my things.  I am looking forward to using the Marie Kondo method for the rest of our home and to simplify my way of living for 2016!

If you are interested in getting in on the tidying craze with me, please comment or message me so we can share the experience together!  If you have also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, let me know what you think.  I am interested in seeing what other people thought of it and if they agree with me.  If you haven’t read it yet but would like to, you can find it on Amazon here.

Happy tidying!

 

 

Anxious Anticipation.

I’m waiting with anxious anticipation for May 31, 2015.  This will be the day that I move from my one bedroom apartment into my three bedroom rental home!  And it won’t just be mine.  I will be living there with my long-term boyfriend, Benjamin, our two Great Dane dogs, Charlotte and Quincy, and our Siamese-mixed cat, Cricket.  I have been waiting for this day since March 20, 2015, the day that we signed our lease.

Our first lease together.

Our first lease together.

This has been something that Ben and I have hoped, dreamed, wished and wondered about for a long time.  We knew that we wanted to live together first before getting married (something we both also want to do someday), but we had agreed that I would live in my own apartment by myself for a year before we would move in together.  Well, not completely by myself.  Quincy has been my “roommate” this whole time and we’ve had a great time together.

Quincy's first day at my apartment.

Quincy’s first day at my apartment.

I am very thankful that I made the decision to live on my own this past year.  I have learned so much about myself, about other people, about being an “adult” (I still have to use quotation marks around that word), about being a puppy parent to two puppies at one time (it’s ruff), and so much more.  These experiences were needed for me to feel fully comfortable with myself and to be confident that when Ben and I move in together, I will be ready.  And now I am ready and I couldn’t be more sure that I am making another great decision that will teach me many more life lessons.

Our home.

Our home.

With just over one week away from the day that we can move in, I thought it would be fun to write down the things that I am looking forward to the most in our new home:

  1. A fenced-in back yard.  This was a requirement and the main reason we chose a house instead of another apartment.  I can’t wait for when we can just open the door and Charlotte and Quincy can run out and play together outside for as long as they please.
  2. No more carpet.  Our new home has hardwood floors and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Any mess that is made will be so much easier to take care of with hardwood floors.  Plus I love the way they look.
  3. Three bedrooms.  Ben and I were looking at both two and three bedroom homes when we were rental house hunting, but we ultimately decided on three so that we will have enough room to have our own space.  While the whole home will be ours and filled with both of our things, we will have plenty of space to have our own personal areas that feel like each of us individually.
  4. A normal-sized kitchen.  My current kitchen is so small, it feels more like a walk-in closet sometimes than a kitchen.  I have learned to work with it, but I am ready to have the extra counter and cabinet space.  One of the first things I want to do after we move in is make a delicious homemade meal in my new kitchen.
  5. Our own washer and dryer. Ben is already accustomed to this luxury, but I have had to make the choice to bring all of my laundry to my Mom’s house whenever I visit her (usually once a week) or pay $1.00 for each load in the sketchy apartment basement.   I am so excited for when we will be able to wash our clothes on our time, instead of having to share it with eleven other tenants and wait for it to be free.
  6. A garage.  For the extra storage place, for a place for Ben to work on his projects and his motorcycle, and for an extra place to park a car if we need to, especially in the winter.
  7. More outdoor space. I am very excited about having our own yard, trees, plants, and flower bed to work with now that we have a home.  I have many ideas for our outdoor space and I hope that we will be able to accomplish all of them.
  8. A nice, quite neighborhood.  Our neighborhood is in a great area with other people who are renting from the same rental company we are, as well as other families that have lived there for years.  I am excited to meet our neighbors and become more familiar with our new neighborhood.
  9. Close to my place of work.  So close in fact, that it’s only a 20 minute walk away!  I will also be getting a bike after we move in for my main mode of transportation this summer.
  10. Calling the same place home.  I am so ready to live with my best friend and I can’t wait to be together in the same home with our fur family.  It’s going to be a great year.
Adventure awaits us.

Adventure awaits us.

I will be posting all of the updates about our new home on this blog, so please stay tuned if you are interested in seeing where this journey will take us.  Thank you for reading.

Not So Ramen Noodles

Do you ever get cravings for specific foods that keep calling your name because they are SO GOOD?  You are not alone.  I myself get specific food cravings quite often and no, this not me announcing that I am pregnant, unless you mean with a food baby!

One specific food craving that always calls my name at least once a month is Pad Thai.  Oh man, do I love Pad Thai.  And lucky for me, there are a few restaurants in my area that have their Thai food down pad (yes, pun intended).  But unlucky for me, I can’t afford fulfilling my Thai food takeout cravings each month.

So what’s a poor, hungry girl to do?  I make my own, affordable version with a little inspiration from the one and only Martha Stewart.

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Not So Ramen Noodles

Ingredients:

2 packages of ramen noodles (if the craving is REAL and you like leftovers)
2 packets of noodle flavoring (I used chicken,)
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 handful of peanuts
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small strips
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Sriracha to taste

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Directions:

1. Boil water, and add ramen noodles.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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2. After noodles are cooked, drain off most of the liquid, but not all.  Add flavoring, peanut butter, soy sauce, peanuts and mix well.

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3. Plate noodles and garnish with carrot, green onions, and Sriracha.

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This is a super easy and affordable meal that is ready to eat in minutes.  It is much more filling and flavorful than plain ol’ ramen noodles, and it satisfied my Pad Thai craving completely.

What are your food cravings?  How often do you need to answer when your food craving calls?  Do you satisfy your cravings by making the meals yourself or do you prefer to have someone else make it?  I’d love to know!

Get Fit Challenge

I love trying new things and challenging myself, even with things that I am not always good at or well versed in…like exercise!  I admit that I am not good at following a weekly workout routine.  The big issue for me is actually getting to the gym.  It is hard for me to get up and get going, especially without having a set schedule or routine to follow.

Since my goal this year is to try and be my best self, I am going to challenge myself this month to Buzzfeed’s 28-Day Get Fit Challenge.

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The goal of this challenge is to help get in the habit of working out for 30 minutes a day, for five times per week.  What I love about this challenge is that it is completely planned and set up for you to succeed.  Buzzfeed has even made a calendar to tell you what workout to do on what day.  Here is an example of the calendar from January 2015, when this challenge originally became public:

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I am going to use this exact calendar for the whole month of February.  The rest and active recovery periods are in yellow, running workouts are in orange, and bodyweight workouts are in red.  It is designed to become harder as each week goes by, as you can see on the calendar with three rest periods the first week, and only one rest period on the last week.

Buzzfeed also has details of what each workout entails.  Each workout is broken down into steps and shows you exactly how it is done with pictures and even gifs.  This is great for a beginner like me, so I can make sure that I am getting the most out of my workout.

I am very excited about this challenge and to see how it will help me get into a fitness routine and back into the gym.  I will be posting updates throughout the month on my Instagram, so please feel free to follow along with me!

What about you?  Do you have trouble with working out and sticking to a fitness routine, too?  Or do you have your own fitness routine that you swear by?  Will you try Buzzfeed’s 28-Day Get Fit Challenge with me?

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

I used to not be a big fan of spicy food, but since I started dating my boyfriend, Ben, I can’t get enough of it.  I now find myself adding hot sauce to almost everything I eat to give it that little extra kick.  One thing that Ben and I love to eat are buffalo wings.  But since we get cravings for them so often and they aren’t very good for us, I thought I should find a healthier option with the same amount of spice.

A great blog that I follow for healthy, low fat recipes is Skinny Taste, and here is where I found a recipe for buffalo cauliflower bites.  I have to admit that I was a little weary of using cauliflower at first, but I found that it is being used as a substitute for many fattening foods and is still delicious.

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup of water
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp garlic powder
3 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup of hot sauce (I recommend Frank’s)
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter

Ingredients for buffalo cauliflower bites.

Ingredients for buffalo cauliflower bites.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Spray a large non-stick baking sheet with oil.

Combine the water, flour, and garlic powder into a small bowl and stir until well combined.

Combine ingredients

First three ingredients combined and stirred well.

Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture and place on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Cauliflower pieces ready to go into the oven.

Cauliflower pieces ready to go into the oven.

While the cauliflower is baking, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.

Pour the hot sauce and butter mixture onto the baked cauliflower pieces.  Bake for an additional five minutes.

Finished buffalo cauliflower bites.

Finished buffalo cauliflower bites.

Our bites were pretty spicy since we like a lot of heat, so I would suggest adding the hot sauce in small increments if you’re not sure how hot you want them.  I would also suggest serving them with ranch or blue cheese dressing and some celery sticks to help break up the heat.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

We enjoyed these bites and weren’t even phased by the cauliflower.  They tasted great and I think they would be a healthy option for a Super Bowl party.  I hope that you will try them next time you are craving something hot and spicy, that is also healthy!