Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gratitude


A lot of people are doing year in review posts- on their blogs, on Facebook, on Instagram. I don't really want to do that. This year has been full of ups and downs. But, what year isn't? 

Instead of reviewing, in pictures and detail, everything that has happened this year, I want to talk about what got me through the good and the bad: gratitude. 

I have learned that gratitude is my new favorite secret weapon. In good times and bad, gratitude will see me through. 

It's easy to express gratitude during the good times, and yet, how often do we stop what we are doing to do just that? 

It's not nearly as easy during bad times, but I have found that it makes all the difference. When it feels like the world is crashing down around you, turning to gratitude literally changes your heart. 

When I hit rock bottom financially, I found gratitude in the support of my parents, as well as in the necessary, life- changing lessons. 

When a good man came back into my life, I was grateful for God's plan. 

When I finished grad school, I found gratitude in the opportunity to start a new career path. 

When I made the move back to Wisconsin, I was grateful for the love and support from friends and family- those in Wisconsin and in Denver. 

When I was offered the job at Viterbo, I was grateful for a new beginning. 

When my heart was broken in July, I found gratitude in the journey, the memories, and the chance to redefine myself.  

When I decide to devote myself to being single, and when that decision left me lonely and confused and messy, I found gratitude in God's love for me and in the knowledge that I am enough. 

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I found gratitude for modern medicine, for the power of prayer, and for all the extra weekends that I was able to get back to Appleton to spend with her. 

Gratitude. It made 2014 one of the most defining years of my life thus far. My faith has grown exponentially, I'm happier than I've ever been, and I feel blessed beyond words. 

I hope you're able to look back on your year and find gratitude in all of the experiences. 

Here's to 2015. Happy New Year, friends and family! 


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Wishes

I interrupt my blogging silence to wish you all a very merry Christmas! Enjoy the moments with your families ❤️

Love this little brother of mine!

Christmas lights with my Dad 

The reason for the season. Joy to the world! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Single, happy, and empowered


Once upon a time, I promised to write about my journey in singledom. Well, now I am almost 4 months into it and I have pretty much not written about it at all. But that is about to change! I am going to start this off by saying something that I have said in the past, but now know that I never truly meant: I am totally capable of being happy and single.

Whoa.

I have said this many times in the past, when friends or family would tell me to take a break from dating. I would respond that I really hadn't dated anyone in over a year, and was fine with that. But that's because I was using "dated" in a very broad way. I have not truly been single since freshman year in high school. Seriously. I have not always been "in a relationship" or "dating" during that time, but there has always been someone occupying some portion of my mind, my time, and my heart.

I am really proud to say that right now, the only person occupying my mind, time and heart...is myself. That is truly revolutionary to me. I don't have anyone to text when I feel like flirting, I don't have someone I can call for a hook up (not that I've ever done that, obviously) and I definitely don't have anyone to plan dates with.

And guess what?

I am ok. More than ok. I am, for what is likely the very first time in my entire life, totally and completely happy with my own company. I cannot even begin to explain how empowering this is!

As I get older, I become more of an introvert. With that, I have learned to enjoy my "me time" more. But prior to this singledom pledge, even my "me time" would be entangled with another person-- via texting, or what not. Now, my "me time" is exactly that...it is time for me, without anyone else pulling my attention away.

The timing of this revelation has been great. With starting a new job, especially a live-in, nights & weekend on-call position like mine, I am focusing on finding good balance. If I were dating right now, my "nights off" would likely not be focused on re-energizing or spending time on myself. They would be date nights, and movie nights, and dinners in, and nights spent texting for hours. Makes me tired just thinking of it ;)

Another great part of learning to like being single: learning my standards. Now that I know I can be happy by myself, I won't feel nearly as tempted to lower my standards when I reenter the dating world. Over the last four years, I think I said yes to guys just because I was scared of being alone. Yes, I really did like some of the guys I dated, but there are also a handful that I think about now and wonder what in the devil I was thinking! It is empowering to know that I can go into now with high standards and high expectations...and the patience to wait for them to be met.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Comfort Zone


Here's the thing: of the last 12 years, I have been in a defined, committed relationship for nearly 10 years. I started my first long-term relationship at the ripe age of 14. That lasted 7 years. The next was just shy of a year. Then came my two "single" years. And I've spent the last two years in more "real" relationships. It's safe to say relationships are my comfort zone. 

I am most comfortable when I have another person to share my life with. Be that the daily struggles and accomplishments, the emotional and physical connections, or even the seemingly mundane traditions. I am a relationship person. It's who I am, it's all I know. 

But what if the quote above is true? What if my life hasn't even started, and has just been waiting for me to finally give up on this "comfort zone" I've been in? Who knows if that's the case. Luckily, the only way I know how to get through being out of my comfort zone is faith. And there's nothing better to lean on. Despite being so far out of my comfort zone, I am surprisingly at peace. Faith is good. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up

Whew. Another summer weekend come and gone, and it's officially August! My goodness, time is flying. 

I have officially been a Viterbo employee for one month. Athletes started moving in this weekend, RAs move in next weekend, and then after two weeks of RA training, move-in weekend will be upon us and the school year will be starting! It's nerve-racking and exhilarating at the same time. 

My mom came to visit me this weekend, and it was everything my heart and soul needed. I know that I am beyond blessed with the relationship I have with my mom. She is, without a doubt, my very best friend. So to have her be the first one to visit my new home in La Crosse, and for me to show her around town and her to help me make this on-campus apartment my home...oh, it meant so much! 

I didn't take any photos during the time we were together, but these are the fruits of our weekend labor! 


Pickles! My very first batch of refrigerator pickles. We bought the cukes at the farmers market. I can't wait to taste 'em when they're ready on Tuesday! 


These babies almost speak for themselves! My mom bought this amazing bouquet for me at the farmers market on Saturday morning. I can't get over how much happiness comes from a beautiful case of flowers in the house. 


It's a little hard to see anything else, but this shows some of the main "homey" pieces that have been added to my apartment. My mom and I picked up curtains and hardware (praise God for 3M hooks!) and hung curtains in the living room and bedrooms. Once she left, I found these cute teal lattern lights on sale at Target. They add a nice touch, but I'm not sure I love them.



My mom and Ginny found this great table for me at a garage sale-- a steal at $10!!! I knew I wanted to refinish and distress it, as I didn't love the dark green legs. I was originally planning to use white paint, but my mom suggested this great green (it's the same green as my wine cork table). I decided to give it a go on Sunday night, and I have to admit-- I'm kinda loving it! That may have been the quickest an easiest DIY furniture project ever. 

Did you all have a great weekend? Is your summer flying by too?! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Things I'm Loving Today


There are enough "t"s (side note: is there a correct way to make a letter plural?!) in this title that I think it works as a new Tuesday series. Yup. I was going to follow a few other bloggers who list three things they're loving each Tuesday, but I don't want to be limited like that. So, off with the limit on to the things I'm loving!

1. My mama comes to visit this weekend!!! There's really not much else to say; I feel like the triple exclamation points say it all. Basically, I'm ecstatic. 

2. Hootie and the Blowfish. When Hootie comes on my Pandora station, I can't help but smile. So, so good!

3. My first week of on-call duty is coming to close today! Phew. Ok, that's an exaggeration, because in reality, it's a ghost town on campus still so duty is easy peasy. But I'm still excited to be able to stay off campus past 7pm again ;) 

4. Riverside Park. If it weren't for the annoying gnats, I would be down there during all of my free time. Even with the gnats, I visit on a regular basis-- either for the Saturday morning farmers market or to lay on a blanket and read. 

5. READING! Seriously, I'm on an impressive roll right now. I mean, finishing a book every 48 hours kind of roll. Thank goodness for the well-stocked library system in La Crosse! I've basically scoured all of the "books to read in your 20s/30s" lists and judged the books by their covers to choose which ones I'll start with. I'm not ashamed. So far, I have read: Gifts From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (a 16th birthday present from my mom, taking on a whole new meaning at 26), The Late Bloomer's Revolution by Amy Cohen, Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close, and Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. My current "to-read" pile is pictured above.

6. Continuing with the library theme, free movies! I have Amazon Prime, but their selection can sometimes feel like it is lacking, so it's nice to have another resource. So far, I've watched Gatsby (the new one), The Butler, and 84 Charring Cross Road. Now if only people would start returning their copies of season 3 of Game of Thrones, so I could get my hands on that! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making it Official: My Single Pledge



This post is going to be a total deviation from my norm on this blog. But I want to use it as a place to record my experiences and feelings as I embark on a new personal journey. I mean, that's what this blog is for, right? I've had people send me messages after posting certain things, saying that it was exactly what they needed to hear, or that it somehow made a difference to them. It's never my intention to write something with that kind of meaning, but the fact that it happens means so much to me! And I think sharing this new journey of mine may touch people who read this. Then again, maybe it won't. But I know that it will be good for me. 

So, what's this new journey I'm talking about? I am officially taking the rest of 2014 off from dating. Yup. No dating for 6 months (backdated to when I became single again). I'm not saying I've had any offers or that I intend to in the next six months, only that I will not be intentionally seeking any dates. 

Why cut such an excruciatingly painful, time-consuming, frustrating experience out of my life? (Kidding about that description, by the way...mostly.) A few reasons are behind this:

1) I'm in a new job, in my dream field. I want to take the next six months, at least, to really soak up as much knowledge as I can. Universities are such complex organizations, and I want to learn everything I can about this environment. That, and I want to focus on being amazing in my position. 

2) On that note, life is about to get really busy for me. I supervise a student staff of 11, directly oversee buildings that house roughly 350 residents, and am indirectly involved with 9 more student staff and 350 residents. I also have 24-hour on-call  duty two nights per week and every other weekend. Add to that attending any programs my staff put on, events on campus, and still maintaining a life of my own and there just isn't room for dating. Esoecially not if I want the other areas of my life to receive their full share of attention. 

3) I've been hurt and disillusioned. I'm going to be completely honest, my ability to trust another person, let alone my own feelings, took a major beating recently. Jumping into anything too soon is a recipe for disaster. I want to take the time necessary to heal and rebuild my trust in myself.

4) And finally, I'm sick of dating and I just want to take a break. 

And with that, here's to the second half of 2014 being dateless...and totally ok with it! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Growing Through It


I saw this quote the other day and it seemed so fitting. You don't always notice it in the day-to-day, or when you go through something good. But when it's a bad experience? It's probably more obvious. 

I'm in an interesting position that includes both a good experience (new job, new city) and not so great experience (heartbreak). This is going to sound crazy, but I'm actually thankful for the heartbreak because it is forcing me to be conscious of how I am feeling and allowing me to learn and grow through it. 

So, what am I learning?

- A trip down to the river with a good book is guaranteed to boost my mood
- On good days, I'm happy to spend time alone 
- But on a bad day? I prefer to be around people, even if that just means going out to grab a bit to eat
- That little things can make even the worst day better: a call from my mom, a card from a PEO sister, an encouraging text from a friend telling me I'm doing so great 
- Being single allows me give myself fully to my new situation, something I don't think I would have done otherwise 
- I have, in fact, learned from the past
- I have a reserve of strength somewhere in me that I didn't even know was there

Do these make the emotions of a heartbreak easier? Not necessarily. But they give me confidence as a strong, independent, single woman. And that gives me a better, healthier attitude. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life Lately

The more we focus on the good things in our lives, the happier we will be. Life has been such a roller coaster these last few weeks, but this post will focus on the good things I have experienced.

I bought myself pretty flowers at the farmers market
 

I drove to the top of Granddad Bluff and took in the gorgeous view of La Crosse

I spent an evening watching the sun set on the Mississippi






This one is older, from the 4th of July, but I went legit fishing for the first time! And caught two small-mouth bass. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Curve Balls



Full disclosure: I have no idea where to start with this post, or where it is going to go. But I need to write. 

A few years ago, I wrote about how my life is like a baseball game. How I anticipate a fast ball, and get a curve ball. Well, history repeated itself in the craziest and most unexpected way. In December 2011, I was thrown a ball that should have been a sure thing. But it wasn't right. Last fall, the same ball came my way again, but with better conditions. This time, this time it would be it. This was my grand slam, I could feel it. Well, as can happen in baseball, what should have been a grand slam turned out to be a double. Imagine the disappointment. So close. But so far. 

But the game must continue. The world doesn't stop for a broken heart. Instead, it leads you closer to God. How sad is that reality? We grow closer to God when we are lost and broken and in pain. What about those times when we are giddy-ly happy, high on life--why don't we turn to God as often in those times? 

I'm making a promise to myself right now: when my heart heals and this season passes, I'm going to continue to need God as much as I do right now. I'm going to continue to pray to him daily. Hourly. Like I am right now to ask for strength. 

Coincidentally, God played a major role in this "grand slam turned double" until the last month. Daily thankful/grateful lists mentioned His plan, and our gratitude for it. It's interesting that when those lists stopped, the ball slowed down, missed its target of a grand slam over the fence and turned into a disappointing double. 

I could be mad at God for this. I could shake my fist in the air, tears streaming down my face, asking why. But I'm not. I've been through enough trials that my relationship with God is stronger than that. Thank goodness. No one needs to see that hot mess! Instead, I am leaning in to Him. I am leaning in for strength. For courage. For understanding. And I know that when this is over...as in, when my heart is whole again...my relationship with God will be that much stronger. And because of that, I am grateful for the curve ball. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Beautiful Photo


My first thought when I saw this photo was when will I learn to smile nicely for the camera?! My second thought: whoa. time to lay off the ice cream. ... what?! It shocked me to hear that in my mind. And even more shocking was saying it out loud to Brian. I knew immediately that I needed to confront these feelings. Luckily, this blog post was posted later that same day. Love the body you have today. This isn't a novel concept, and it isn't something that has ever been that difficult for me...until recently.

Growing up, the majority of my body image issues centered around my face. My complexion was never great-- I was always dealing with a weird combination of breakouts and dry, flaky skin. For the most part, I finally have this under control, thanks to a greater knowledge of how my food intake affects my hormones and how my hormones affect my skin. Oh, and coconut oil. Thank God for coconut oil.

Of course, there were things about my body I struggled with as well. The stretch marks on my inner thighs are a big one. They kept me from wearing short shorts, and made me self-conscious in a swim suit. My stomach was, and still is, another "problem area" for me. Looking at photos, I can see the discomfort I feel in my own body-- arms strategically placed to cover any overhang that would show that my stomach is not perfectly flat, that I am not a board. In the photo above, I was too busy enjoying a game of apples to apples to remember to drape my arm across my lap to hide that overhang, and I saw it immediately when Brian showed me the photo.

The first step to loving the body you have today is to stop bashing yourself...and other people. If you put hate in, hate will come out. If you put love in, love will come out. I know this, and have generally been really good about it. I give so much credit to my mom for raising me to know that beauty isn't just what is on the outside, and I'm sure that is part of why my body image issues take only two paragraphs to summarize. And yet, at 26, when I should know better, when I thought I did know better, I bashed myself for not having a flat stomach in a photo.

Wanting to be in a better place financially has taken me away from crossfit for the last six months. Stressful life changes have brought me closer to ice cream in the last six months. Just kidding. My love of ice cream has brought me closer to ice cream in the last six months. Ok. Maybe a combination of both. Has my body changed in the last six months because of these things? Obviously. But who cares? Two more steps to loving the body you have today are to be awesome now, and reinvent beauty. I'm not in as great of shape as I was six months ago, but that shouldn't make me any less awesome or beautiful. I'm just as awesome when I can squat 135lb as I am when doing 3x10 squat ladders up to 50lb turns my legs into jello. Just as my mom taught me, beauty is what is on the inside of a person, and their body doesn't change that. Choose to surround yourself with people who are inspiring to you because of their inner beauty, not because of their body, and you will be inspired no matter where you are in your health and fitness journey.

When I look at this photo now, I am going to make a conscious effort to focus on the memory. Not my silly face. Not the way my stomach looks. I'm going to look at it and be reminded of an amazing weekend up north with Brian's family. Of a cottage filled with laughter and conversation. Of an apples to apples game that lasted nearly two hours. Of the amazing feeling I had when an ice cream flavor became an inside joke between Lauren and me. That's what makes me beautiful in the photo.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shop Love


 
a favorite Curly Girl design

There are few things I enjoy more than really unique, artsy, creative shops. I used to spend payday at Hey, Daisy! in downtown Appleton, always finding *something* that I needed. There were three usual suspects: a cute, flowy dress, funky jewelry, or a Curly Girl Designs piece.

I love, love, love Curly Girl Design. From the whimsical artwork to the joyous quotes, I just cannot get enough. I have given Curly Girl away as presents, but also have a few favorite pieces that have made their way onto a wall in every place I have lived in the last four years. Once I have an office again, I will also be ordering their calendar-- it is by far my favorite wall calendar! I am already planning the pieces I will purchase to decorate my eventual desk in my eventual office...

Another shop I am loving lately is Elle & Co. Now, I don't even OWN one of her Daybook Planners...YET, and I am still totally smitten. There's something about the simple, yet elegant, design that I can't get over. It doesn't hurt that the girl behind the shop, Lauren, is an absolute gem. As soon as I found her blog I knew I was in for a treat! Lately, I have especially enjoyed her series on "purple thumb" gardening. Girl after my own heart, I tell ya!

Are there any cute shops I need to explore and do some window shopping? Lord knows real shopping is out of the question right now, but I still like to look! And make sure you check out these shops-- you never know what you might find!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday's Letters



Dear Brian,
You refer to my moving in with you as being like an extended sleep over with your favorite person. Reason #373 why I like you in my life. Dear Life, Some day, I would like to not have to use the "rob Peter to pay Paul" method for making ends meet each month. Dear Denver Friends, There will be NO good byes. Only see you laters. And I promise, I will see you later! Dear Customer Service Professionals, At this point, I am 2 for 3 with with experiences on the phone. And the two good ones came after three VERY bad ones (one of which was a THIRD bad call). Don't take it personally, but I'm not recommending your companies to friends anymore. Dear God, There are some very exciting things coming up in the next few weeks. I can't wait to see what you have in store for me! Dear Self, Joshua 1:9. Always. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday's Letters

Not an accurate representation of our route, but I still think it's cute!

Dear Denver, It's been real. It's been fun. It's been real fun. But, it's time to move on. You will always have a place in my heart. Dear Trees, Even after the snow on Sunday & Monday, you are almost completed full of leaves. I love how green the city is in this season! Dear MyYogaPro, SO stoked that you went live this week. I can't wait to really dig in to your 16 different Yoga courses! Dear B, I can't wait for our cross-country road trip, and to share every day with you at the super-base! Dear Parents, Thanks for unending love & support. You are the best. Dear Self, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Midweek Love

Because, sometimes, you just need to be reminded that you're awesome and everything will be ok. 

Life is all about the journey. We can get so wrapped up in the mundane that we forget to enjoy what is happening around us, and what is most important. 

The greatest lesson I've learned in the last few years is that I am worthy of every dream I have for myself, but that I still have to work to make those dreams come true. Both pieces of that are equally important: I am worthy. I will work for it. 

Once you believe that, and let go of all of the expectations other people have for you, and free yourself from the need for validation, life becomes a whole lot more enjoyable. And if you are going to be alive, don't you want to enjoy it? 





Tuesday, May 13, 2014

{Taking Stock} Part 3

Making : a mess while I start packing
Cooking : meals that use up food in my cupboards
Drinking : sub-part coffee from Starbucks
Reading : Barefoot, a novel that I started a while ago but then forgot about it
Wanting : ice cream from Little Man
Looking: at the unhappy trees from so much snow yesterday
Playing: too much Dice with Buddies
Wasting: the last few sips of coffee (still)
Sewing: pillows for my dad when I was home in March
Wishing: for summer nights around a campfire
Enjoying: the blogging community
Waiting: for money from selling my textbooks
Liking: extra hours at the hair salon as I train new hostesses
Wondering: if my golf clubs and cross country skis will fit in my car
Loving: my amazingly supportive parents (always)
Hoping: for a full-time job
Marveling: at mother nature's capriciousness
Needing: a little more sunshine
Smelling: coffee and fresh baked goods
Wearing: yoga pants and a fleece...in may
Following: God's plan
Noticing: patterns in life
Knowing: that May 29 will be here before I know
Thinking: happy, grateful thoughts
Feeling: content
Bookmarking: charcoal grills on craigslist
Opening: confirmation emails from prospective employers
Giggling: at goofy faces on skype dates



Part one, part two, inspiration

Monday, May 12, 2014

{Monday Inspiration} Mike Rowe's Job Advice

From Mike's Facebook Page

Well, lookie here! I am starting my own little series on this blog of mine.

Slowly, but surely, I'm determined to make this space of mine more organized. As I get ready to start the next chapter in my life, one that I am certain will be exciting and filled with all sorts of fun changes, I want to be able to document it all. I love looking back on blog posts and remembering moments in time. 

In order to make blogging more of a habit, I'm going to try to do different series so I always have something to write about. Starting today, Monday posts will share something that has been inspiring to me.

This week's inspiration comes from none other than Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame. A fan asked Mike for advice on finding the right career for himself. Mike's response is honest, realistic, and to the point. As I currently spend a few hours a day applying for jobs, I appreciate this perspective. I may not find a career in my field right away, the first job I get back in Wisconsin may not be "fulfilling" in the way I hope, but if we're being honest, what I really need right now is financial stability, not pure bliss in a career. 

My favorite excerpt from the response:
Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.
 Full story here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Leap of Faith

One of my favorite photos from Colorado; hiking at St. Mary's Glacier

"Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith." - Margaret Shepard

My faith has grown exponentially in the last eight months, there is no doubt about it. While I knew I would need to lean into my faith as I made the move from Wisconsin to Colorado, I had no idea the impact would be as great as it has been. As my faith has grown, I, too have grown. 

When I left for Denver on September 9, there was a small part of me that thought I would be making plans to move home by Christmas. But there was a much bigger part of me that hoped I would make my home in Denver. I can assure you, I never expected to end up on the path I am on.

At this time, in exactly three weeks, I will be laying my head down in bed next to the man I plan to spend my life with. In the house we will share for the foreseeable future. In Wisconsin. This was not my plan when I packed up my Corolla eight months ago and headed out West. 

So, what changed my mind? Faith. I prayed about this decision more than I talked about it. And in doing so, I am able to say that my faith is leading my journey. 

When you pack up all of your belongings, and leave everything that you know, you're taking a leap of faith. You're saying that you have confidence everything will work out, that your plan is unfolding just as it should. Even in this moment, when everything is unsure, you are confident. 

When you move to a city without your trusted companions, your friends and family who have always helped you through tough decisions, you're taking a leap of faith. You no longer have the option to spend hours dissecting a situation and analyzing all of the possible solutions. At least, not with your usual group of life-coaches and advisors. You're on your own. Whether you have said the words or not, you have told yourself and everyone in your life that you are capable of making big life choices...through faith.

Here I am, less than three weeks away from my second cross-country move in a nine-month period. I am packing up all of my belongings, leaving behind everything I have learned to know, moving onto an unknown chapter in my life. I am taking a leap of faith. I am trusting that everything will work out, that my plan is unfolding just as it should. And I am confident. I am confident because I made this decision for me. I made this decision through faith.

A previous pastor at my church in Appleton once said, "I don't have answers. I have faith." Ever since I heard him say that, probably close to eight years ago now, I have held onto it as my own personal mantra for my faith, and my life. I don't have the answers for some of the questions in my mind. But I don't need them. I have faith.

Monday, April 28, 2014

{RECIPE} Mocha Chip Cookies


If there are two things you should absolutely know about me, they are that I love baking, and I love chocolate. Ok, there are more important things to know about me, but those are still pretty big ones.

I consider my kitchen my happy place. I love cooking, baking, and eating. Being in the kitchen relieves stress, and lets me release some creative energy.

However, I don't always have the ingredients a recipe calls for, and my penny-pinching ways don't always allow for a quick trip to the store for a dozen eggs and a bottle of honey. So, I search for alternatives. Sometimes they work, other times they don't. This recipe was one that did work...thank goodness.

The original recipe is from Against All Grain. I didn't have eggs or honey, and I had less than a cup's worth of ground coffee. Oh, and I only had one 72% dark chocolate bar from Trader Joe's. Thus, mocha chip cookies.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup palm shortening, ghee, or grass-fed butter (I used butter)
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (I just used an additional 2 TBish of coconut sugar)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (I made a flax gel... 1TB ground flax seed mixed with 3TB water. Let it sit for 10 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups blanched almond flour (I had almond meal)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (I don't ever measure my salt...I just did a few twists on my grinder!)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate pieces (I just chopped up my dark chocolate bar)
  • ¼ cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (Didn't have this. Also didn't miss them!)
    I also added: a sprinkle of cinnamon, a tsp of coffee grounds

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor, cream the butter, coconut sugar, flax gel, and vanilla for about 15 seconds until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and coffee grounds and mix again until well-combined, stopping to scrap the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks by hand.
  5. Place dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, flatten them a bit-- they aren't going to rise or spread much.
  6. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until they don't look under-baked...duh.
  7. Transfer cookies (still on parchment!) to a wire cooling rack. 
  8. Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Little Things

There are so many words of wisdom regarding "the little things" in life. The little thing become the big things. The little things matter most. You know what? I agree. Let's take a look at my weekend, as an example. 


Ice cream, immediately after lunch, when we didn't necessarily need more food. But I wanted to share my love and excitement for this business with Brian. It's the little things. 


The views of the mountains on our way to Breckenridge were unbelievable. An iPhone won't ever capture the true beauty, but it gives us the memory. It's the little things. 


Hospital stays are crappy. Being sick without an answer is scary. But having your favorite person by your side, and a shared favorite game to enjoy...that helps. It's the little things. 


A post-hospital/pre-airport meal feels bittersweet. We ordered almost exactly what we had during our first visit at this favorite Denver establishment. But this time, we sat outside and enjoyed the 80* weather and talked about how grateful we were to be eating something other than hospital food. It's the little things. 

We said our goodbyes, and spent a few hours in silence as Brian flew back to Wisconsin. But then we had our goodnight call. We planned a dream date. We "kissed" goodnight. We sent post-call zany photos to say our final good night thought. Just like we do, every. single. night. It's the little things. 

This weekend had a few ups and downs, but at the end of the day, all the little things were just right. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday's Letters


Dear Life, The next two weeks are going to be busy, but they'll fly. And then there are three amazing trips to look forward to to distract me from waiting to hear about where my future will bring me! Thank goodness. Dear B, Thank you for being an amazing boyfriend, valentine, and my biggest fan. Your support means the world to me. Dear Parents, Words will never express how grateful I am for all of the times you've been there for me. I am the luckiest daughter. Dear OPE, I'm coming for ya! Two weeks until my big day in Oshkosh! Dear February 26, I'm leavin' on a jet plane! Homeward-bound for the first time in just under 6 months! So excited. Dear Baby Schuler, I better get to meet you when I'm home!!  Dear Self, "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." e.e. cummings


Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday's Letters: Super Villain Edition

My first guest blogger! A man after my own heart, sharing in one of my favorite past-times. Without further ado, Brian's letters...


Dear Winter, I have always loved the magic and beauty of new snow, sipping hot beverages while hiding from your blustery winds, and how you make Wisconsinites tough, but I am so done with you—go away. Dear Stacey, try not to get Crystal sick this weekend while enjoying a weekend of not-so-Denveresque weather and running. Dear iphone, will I ever manage to successfully install a screen protector without bubbles, dust, or miss-alignment? Dear frozen pizzas and crappy beer, I’m okay if we don’t spend any time together for the foreseeable future. Dear Grandma, thank you again for the chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies—I hope your cold goes away soon! Dear car, I’m sorry about plowing you into that wall of chunky snow to get in the parking lot yesterday—I promise to wash you one of these days. Dear mailman, thanks for delivering both the mail and the keys I left in our office door yesterday--I would have never found them. Dear Lauren, I loved and am so proud of your story about standing up for another kid in your class and comparing it to the work I do. Dear February 28th, could you do me a favor and cut in line? Dear Crystal, each new day we share together makes me a better and happier person than the day before—I am so grateful. Dear me, remember--only so much can be shown to you, the rest is your choice.

B's Super Villain Logo


Thursday, February 6, 2014

What's in a Name?

"Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly." -Rose Franken


Note: This post will make a lot more sense when tomorrow's Friday's Letters post is published! 

Back in November, when Brian and I were in the beginning stages of reconnecting, this conversation happened:


From that point forward, he was a super villain and I was a super hero, later to be adjusted to super villain boyfriend and super hero girlfriend.




Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Taking Stock, part 2



Sometimes, it's easier to make a list. 
Making : green smoothies for breakfast
Cooking : dinner for the week on Sunday nights with B (cooking dates via skype are awesome!)
Drinking : coffee from my french press
Reading : Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and loving it, despite its slow start
Wanting : yoga classes to be less expensive
Looking: forward to exciting trips coming up, starting with a visit from Stacey this weekend!
Playing: Spanish-learning games on my DuoLingo app
Wasting: the last few sips of coffee (still)
Sewing: my mom is doing enough of this for both of us
Wishing: for contentment in the present
Enjoying: this season of my life, and the growth that is coming because of the struggle
Waiting: anxiously for JB to have her baby
Liking: the way God's plan is playing out
Wondering: how my interviews will go at the end of February
Loving: my amazingly supportive parents
Hoping: for a job in my field
Marveling: at how different life is when you focus on gratitude and your blessings
Needing: a little more stability
Smelling: fresh coffee and lemon mint dish soap
Wearing: yoga pants and a comfy sweater
Following: my heart
Noticing: how time can go so quickly, and so slowly at the same time
Knowing: that it will all work out
Thinking: about the things I didn't get done this afternoon
Feeling: happy, loved, grateful, anxious
Bookmarking: recipes and jobs
Opening: tax information
Giggling: at inappropriate ecards with the tripod



(part 1 found here)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A New Leaf

"I'm turning over a new leaf."

We have all heard this phrase, and have probably even spoken it ourselves. Well, I'm here to say: I am turning over a new leaf. A couple leaves, actually. 

I have officially completed all course work for my masters degree. Baring an unexpected failure on my final project, I will have my official, completed transcripts in 6-8 weeks. New leaf #1: no more school! (For now)

For the last few weeks, I have had trouble finding the motivation necessary to get my butt to crossfit. And when I do go, I can't help but focus on what hurts. My back, my shoulder, my knees. Something is always nagging at me. I remember when I first started, and then even more when I learned how to really fuel my body for the work I was doing, it felt so good. There weren't injuries fighting their way to the surface, and I felt like a badass pretty much every single day. Today, none of that is true. 

So, new leaf #2: I'm taking a break from crossfit. I started a 30-day yoga challenge this week and rediscovered my love for yogurt (dairy free, duh), granola, and fruit. I've also had an itch to run a lot lately, so I'll probably give that a try. I know I'm going to miss lifting weights, so I am going to find a "globo-gym" to join to satisfy that need. But more than anything, I'm going to get my health and fitness routine back to where it started: a way to make me feel my absolute best. 

If I were to sum up what my adventure is Colorado has taught me up to this point, I would say: I've learned that there is absolutely no reason you should be anything but happy. 

It's amazing how much life can change when you live with that truth. Even the most stressful of times (like when you're locked out of your apartment for 8 hours, or when writing the final page of research feels like a novel) can be seen with a positive light. When you focus on what's making you happy (an amazing man who is locked out with you, or being less than 24 hours away from the end of grad school) you can't help but feel a little better. New leaf #3: release the stress, embrace the good. 

I am so excited to see what this next season of my life holds, and I am confident that big things will unfold at just the right time. Until then, it feels good to be back on the blog. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Laughter

"All that I'm after is a life full of laughter, as long as I'm laughing with you..." -Daughtry


Friday, January 17, 2014

The Best is Yet to Come

How is it already mid-January?! I feel like last night was New Year's Eve. I guess it's true what they say: time flies when you're having fun!

Here's the truth, everybody. I have had major writer's block for the better part of a month. Seriously. Writing a 5 page literature review last month was torture. Now I need to somehow add 8 sources and 3-5 more pages...in the next week. I'm telling ya, they really make you work for a graduate degree. But guess what else? By this time next week (well, let's be honest...it'll be about midnight next Friday) I will be turning in my FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT. For my masters degree. Then it's all done. Over. No more school. For now. Whoa.

In addition to the lack of love for my literature review, this blog has also been a bit neglected. There are a few reasons for the silence. First, I've been busy. Between the holidays, a very special weekend visit, school/research, and having to pick up extra hours at work, I have been really busy. Second, I'm trying to enjoy my days-- every minute of them, really soak up this season. I know that means I should be making time to write about it, but, truth be told, I haven't wanted to. I'm not really sure why. I think because I have enjoyed talking about it so much, and living it, that by the end of the day, I don't even have the words to express myself.

However, a lot has happened in the last month. And while I have a few ways to look back on it all (photos, messages, written memories), one of the things I love about this blog is having a running record of big events in my life.

A few of the things I want to remember about this time in my life:
- My faith is stronger than ever, and growing ever day.
- I have learned to truly love and trust myself.
- God brought an amazing man back into my life, and I have no intentions of letting him slip away again.
- The most amazing part of the holidays is being able to spend time with those you love.
- My brothers are incredible men, and I am so proud of both of them.
- I have the best, and most supportive, parents in the world.
- You're never too old to call your mom sobbing.
- When you meet new people, you can tell immediately when you've met a life-long friend.
- Work isn't always going to be fun, but it will always teach you something about yourself.
- I am a much happier person when I fuel my body right.
- Distance doesn't really separate good friends.
- You can always go home, but you can also make a home anywhere.

And that's all she wrote. For now. Maybe I'll find my voice again when school is over...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Rewarding Year

This was my 2011 New Years post:



In 2011, I expected 2013 to be the year I was rewarded for everything that came my way in 2011/2012. Looking back at 2013, I think I can agree with my 2011 assumption. While this year was not without struggles, it was a fantastic year.

Here are the key thoughts/lessons I want to take with me into 2014:

- Be well. 2013 was the year that I finally learned to be completely comfortable in my skin. I am healthier, stronger, and more fit than I have ever been in my life.
- Love yourself. Going along with the previous reminder, I want to make sure I do not beat myself up over mistakes, or dwell on things I cannot change. I am becoming the best version of me, and in order to do that, I need to love myself.
- Stay focused on the present. You can't go back to the past, and we haven't found a way to travel to the future. The only time we can live in is the present. Dwelling on past or future events takes away from the life you're currently living, and I want to enjoy every moment I am given.
- Be true to yourself. I'm expecting to have to make big decisions in 2014, and I want to make sure I am making those decisions with my best interests in mind. There will always be people with opinions on how you should live your life, but you need to remember that it is your to live, not theirs.
- Slow down and stay still. While I am still very much a girl on the go, this last year has given me more opportunities to slow down, appreciate my surroundings, reflect on my thoughts and feelings, and be completely present in any given moment.
- Worry less, pray more. In my 2012 new years post, I reflected on the incredibly growth I had in my faith. I have continued to grow in my faith, and to include more people in my faith journey. I see my faith as a true blessing, but know that I can still improve. There are still times I find myself sick with worry, filling my mind with "what if" scenarios. I need to be more intentional about taking a step back during those times and giving my worry up to God.
- Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Life isn't meant to be easy, it is meant to be rewarding. I have learned that if I set my sights on something, and I work hard enough for it, I can achieve what I want. There's not reason to have small dreams, and I won't let myself be limited by fear or doubt.

I spent my New Years Eve with my friend, Jaime, and her boyfriend, Steve. At midnight, Steve asked us what our three goals are for 2014. I am not one for resolutions, but goals I can get behind. My goals are to have a full-time job by July, to pay off my credit card, and to participate in at least three crossfit competitions. I love knowing that these goals are going to challenge me, but that if I stay focused, I can attain them.

I like that I laid out my expectations for the next two years in my 2011 post, but I don't want to continue that. While I have enjoyed using it to compare whether my predictions were accurate (they were) I want to stay focused on one year at a time now. These next few years are going to be full of amazing life changes, but I don't want to think about when they will happen, I just want to be happy in every passing moment and continue to take life as it comes. I finally feel like my story is unfolding naturally now that I have stopped trying to interfere, and it is my intention to continue living my life based on the feelings I have and the nudges I receive from God.

While it was not one of the goals I mentioned at midnight, another goal I have is to be more committed to this blog. I love looking back at posts, remembering how far I have come, and finding motivation in long-lost knowledge. School has consumed the majority of my free time for the last few months, but come February, I will be a graduate, and able to devote some of that free time to reflections on life and this amazing journey I am on.

With that, I want to thank you all for the roles you play in my life! I would not be the person I am today if not for the friends and family who have walked beside me this year. The love, support, and encouragement I have felt from you this year has been overwhelming, and I am forever thankful.

Sending you so much love,
Crystal