Reflecting on Whole30

I decided to hop on the Whole30 bandwagon last fall after watching one of my best friends and an 1/8th of my instagram feed go through it in the preceding months. I’m all for eating healthily, and thankfully have fairly healthy habits to begin with (thanks mom!). This diet, however, cut out all that extra stuff that is so easy to go overboard on, and I knew more than anything, this would be an excellent exercise in extreme self-control (I L-O-V-E food and get more excited by it than almost anything else in life. I’m one of those annoying people who reads menus for hours before anxiously deciding on “the one” for the evening. And if the choice is good? People around me will notice me doing a completely involuntary happy dance. If it’s bad—well, I need to learn to shut up about order regret!).


I knew before even starting this that cooking for myself would be the easiest part (if I didn’t look in the cheese drawer); it would all come down to others offering me treats at work, pizza at my other late night job, dinner out with friends, halloween candy, birthday celebrations. . . Sure enough, that’s what was so hard. Not only the temptation, but even more so the social pressure and the borderline hurt/confused looks on people’s faces when you turned down their kind offers.

Spiralized Root Veggie Salad

Spiralized Root Veggie Salad

What I wasn’t ready for was the borderline ridicule I got from some people. Unless you’re a hermit, you really have to have a thick skin when you do Whole30. Very few people understood the diet and kept going back to me “not needing to diet” because I’m “already so skinny” (Slender, yes. Skinny, no!! Don’t get me started on that subject.). I couldn’t get through to some people that I was doing it for my health; it had 0% to do with weight. And because those who know me know I tend to eat healthier than the average person, they just blew it off as unnecessary. This is where it gets silly—but true—I was relieved that I have been suffering from eczema for the past 8 years so that I could show them my hands and explain that Whole30 is an elimination diet and that through completing it, I was hoping to find out the cause of my eczema flare ups. While that was certainly part of the reason for me doing this meal plan, I had to emphasize that factor because it was my saving grace. “Ohhh,” they would say, because in their heads, seeing a physical symptom gave them justification for me eating healthier. Right, because being healthy for health’s sake isn’t enough! :-P Okay, sorry for the tangent. :) Point is, do this for YOU and know clearly in your head why you’re doing and why it’s worth it. Also, side note, try your best to avoid having it fall over a holiday. . . (coughThanksgiving).

Loaded Burger + Grilled Squash

Loaded Burger + Grilled Squash

Since I brought up the eczema, I’ll address that. Turns out I could see signs of it healing within two days. It was completely gone in two weeks. And! I hadn’t noticed until I went back to “regular” eating that my usual red/burning eye thing that happens when I’m tired had completely stopped during those 30 days. I didn’t have to use eyedrops once! Subsequent post-Whole30 experiments have led me to believe that wheat and/or gluten is the culprit. My next step is narrowing it down to the specifics. I hate to be one of those people with a wheat allergy, but it looks like all that hype might be legit. ha. I DO think we have wayyyy too much of it in our diets (along with sugar) and it’s entirely possible our bodies are simply becoming overloaded. I don’t mind skipping out on most wheat products and only splurging when I feel up to a good itching session the next day.

Veggies + Guacamole

Veggies + Guacamole

A big part of Whole30 is trying to kick cravings. While my cravings never went away, they did change. I was able to occasionally give in to the cravings in a healthy way (some dried fruit became my after-lunch dessert at my desk and roasted nuts or a few plantain chips helped curb the salty cravings). I know some people think cravings are the worst thing for you, but as long as you treat them reasonably and don’t get carried away, I don’t have a huge problem with them. It felt surprisingly good to say no to a co-worker’s birthday cake at work and instead eat the berries I brought to contribute.

Alternative to Cake!

Alternative to Cake!

To others who are participating or considering doing Whole30, I’d stress the importance of making a firm game plan for what you eat after the 30 days. Without a conscious plan, you’ll likely cannonball back into your old eating habits. Once you have that first bite of cake, it’s so easy to eat with abandon! Though my habits definitely improved overall, I’d still like to get closer to eating “cleanly” all the time like I was with Whole30. It was fun and rewarding seeing how creative you can get with the limited “allowed” ingredients.


I could go on for quite awhile about other aspects of this experiment, but that would take all night. The 30 days was such a good experience in taking a good look at my eating habits and pushing the boundaries of what is considered “normal” food; I learned you really can live without grains, cheese, and honey for a month. Of course I knew that, but it felt like an accomplishment to actually do it. I now eat way less grains and bread, though the California and Wisconsin blood in me simply can’t live without cheese! I’d recommend Whole30 to anyone looking to reassess their food habits and/or trim the excess out of their diets/bellies/lives. It is more expensive to eat cleanly, but considering you are literally fueling your body, it is simply an investment in your health. I’d rather pay for good food than a hospital stay, any day!

I’ll sign off with a bunch of cell phone pics that I snapped during the month as a way to document favorite combos and to inspire me on days I lacked motivation.

Seeing these pictures makes me want to eat it all again! Mmm. If you’re on the journey, good luck! It will very likely be worth it.


Filed under Nosh

Spice It Up for Your Love

After yet another brief (ha) hiatus, I’m happy to be back! Without further ado. . .

My family and friends aren’t big on gifts, so when it comes time for them, I’m the kind of gal who would much prefer to think creatively and put together a less expensive gift that comes from the heart. Going to the store and buying something is so risky (as far as the person liking it as well as it being a possible waste of money on your part). I’d much rather risk a “. . . Thankkkkks” from something I made than something I bought, because I think with the love that goes into it, the odds are better they will like it even if it’s a little quirky.

My boyfriend loves dousing his food with hot sauce, so I thought making him his own blend from scratch would be something he’d enjoy. My talented mother has made her own using this method several times, so I knew what kind of results to expect. It’s so simple. Ready?

Pick out whatever chilies you like at your local produce market. There’s a range of heat and flavors and the wonderful Google can help you narrow down your choices. You might want to consider color, as well. A mix of green and red will yield a brownish sauce, so I opted for all green. I wanted options for flavor, so I chose thai peppers, jalapeños, and serranos.

Chop off the tops and toss them into a blender with a healthy dose of salt. I did each variety in its own batch so I could custom blend after they fermented.

Chilies to Blender

I added two cloves of garlic for a little flavor boost.

garlic, blended, chilis

This next step is key to expediting the fermentation process. My mom is super into this immune-boosting process, so I’ve had some time to get used to the idea. It’s a weird concept at first, but it’s how people have been preserving and eating food for thousands of years. In fact, even Tabasco is aged three years before being cooked, blended, and bottled. Back to the next step, which is to add a small amount of starter to the pepper blend. There are quite a few options, like whey, liquid from kefir, or in my case sauerkraut brine. I added about 1 tablespoon to each batch.

sauerkraut juice fermentation

I labeled my jars to keep track of flavors for future sauces, and it was interesting to see how they fermented differently.

hot sauce ferment raw

I added loose plastic wrap and lightly put on the lids (maybe 1/4 turn) to allow any excess gasses to escape.  The below picture is how they looked after about seven days. It’s not very pretty, but all the stuff you see in stores is filtered and filled with coloring/preservatives to look appetizing to the masses.

fermented chili pepper, jalepenos

The jalapeños actually ended up being my favorite, flavor-wise. I used all of that mixture and then a little of the other two (which were somewhat bitter) for their heat. I blended it all to a fine consistency and added a small amount of homemade vinegar to lighten it up and add some tang.


This is the point where store-bought sauces would be cooked, but I chose not to do that to leave all the good bacteria in there. Your gut will thank you for it! Just make sure to store your sauce in the fridge; the cold temperature will slow the fermentation to a tiny crawl and it will keep for a long time.

diy hot sauce label

My final step was to bottle it up and add a silly label. Don’t judge my design skills; it was 3 a.m. and I had to get up three hours later. :) Obviously, I was hamming it up. I found this adorable bottle at Marshalls.

hot sauce bottle custom

See? Made with love. (And a little bit of orange nail polish.)

Homemade hot sauce diy heartI was pressed for time, so I only fermented the peppers for a week before blending and bottling them. I plan on doing it again with other kinds of peppers and letting them ferment for a few weeks to yield a better flavor. S has already requested a spicier version using ghost peppers (ouch). More fun ahead!


Filed under Nosh

A Day in Santa Barbara

I’m baaaackkkk! Did you miss me? It has been ashamedly long since I’ve posted. I’ve wanted to post a few times since last, but once you fall off the wagon, it’s hard pulling yourself back up. I’ve missed the creative outlet, however, so that will help inspire some more content on here.

In the meantime, this is going to be a picture-heavy post (as far as blog posts go; nothing compared to facebook albums and, um, my entire iPhoto collection). Two weekends ago, my bf S and I took a day-trip to Santa Barbara. It was a nice little escape for the day. {The pictures are much more lovely if you click for gallery form!}

We mostly just ate, drank, and walked. If you’re ever in the neighborhood and need to grab a bite (or WANT to, hello), I’d definitely suggest The Shop Cafe for a great selection of fresh takes on brunch and lunch favorites. We grabbed a salad and sandwich there and ate at a picnic table on their patio. It had a great, laid-back vibe and was a perfect way to start our day in S.B. Oh, and make sure you try their iced chai latte!! SO good. Vanilla beans and everything.

I also highly recommend the Santa Barbara Courthouse. There is beauty in every detail, inside and out (and so many photo opportunities—would be an amazing engagement shoot location). The view from the clock tower is a can’t-miss! The courthouse is one of the best free attractions I’ve ever been to.

After some beach walking/pier sitting/leg dangling, we stopped by Apéro for some creative and delicious cocktails. One of S’ had pieces of honey comb in it; they tasted like freeze-dried caramel. Really fun! We also sampled one of their tapas plates (brie goo and apricot and fancy greens on artisan bread. . .mmm), which was also tasty.  It was a nice stop.

That was pretty much our day, with a little more walking and a little more eating and drinking. We concluded with him buying curtains, me buying a dress, and In N Out on our way south. We’re so lucky to live within a few hours of some great cities. I’m already itching to go again!

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Quinoa Oat “Cookies-Ish”

Last week , we had truly little in our fridge and pantry. “What can I POSSIBLY make to eat?!” was always my first thought every time I entered the kitchen. The options were extremely limited, but the upside was I became creative out of necessity. I was even a little impressed with some of the things I seemingly made appear out of thin air. haha.


This was our last day before shopping, and truly the only substantial things I could find were oats (homemade muesli, actually) in the freezer, leftover cooked quinoa, and  an egg from our chickens. After some Googling and additional deep-fridge excavating, I ended up making what only people on truly deprived diets would call “cookies” (“patties” doesn’t seem quite as appetizing). Knowing it had basically NOTHING bad for you made them a little more satisfying than they should be. I actually polished them all off by the end of the day. Without further ado, here’s what I made, adapted from this recipe:


Insanely Healthy Oatmeal Quinoa Cookies-Ish 

{Potentially Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar Free}

Makes approximately 9 “cookies”


2 cups uncooked oats (I used muesli, which is just oats with a little dried fruit and nuts mixed in)

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 egg

1 tsp – 1 tbsp maple syrup (to preference)

1.5 tsp – 1 tbsp cinnamon (I like a healthy dose of cinnamon!)

Sprinkling of sea salt

Optional: chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, vanilla extract, whatever you want!


Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix together all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until well-incorporated. (The mixture won’t be like a batter, but should still hold together when formed on a cookie sheet. )

With oats, quinoa, and egg as a  base, you can add whatever you desire for flavor. We were out of honey, so I added some maple syrup along with cinnamon for some sweetness and flavor. The little bit of fruit and nuts with the oats added a nice texture contrast, as well.


Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper, then use a heaping tablespoon to scoop the mixture onto the lined cookie sheet. Pat down and form 3 inch round patties with the spoon (you may find a second spoon helpful). I used all the mixture to make 3 rows of 3 patties, which fit quite nicely on one cookie sheet. (Okay, I admit. I used my scrumptious Trader Joe’s Cinnamon & Sugar Grinder over the top off all my formed “cookies” for some extra flavor and sugar crunch! It was a decision I don’t regret.)


Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. After the 20 minutes is up and they look just lightly browned, IMMEDIATELY remove the cookies carefully using a metal spatula. (I didn’t remove mine right away and when I came back 5 minutes later, they had stuck firmly to the paper. If this happens to you, stop your removal attempts ((unless you like eating paper)) and put the sheet back in the warm oven for 5 minutes. Try again once they’ve warmed back up.) The cookies will be delicate when hot but will cool nicely into firm and chewy, satisfying “cookies” you’ll have no mental issue devouring.

For “health food”, these aren’t bad. And, hey, why not spread a little peanut butter or Nutella between two for an awesome breakfast sandwichI don’t eat actual oatmeal, but I’ll eat oats in any cookie form!


Let me know if you find an amazing combo I must try. I might make these again next time groceries run low!  

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In Honor of Gwennie

Tomorrow would have been my loving, faithful little shih tzu’s 13th birthday. It was always easy to remember how old she was turning because she was born in 2000. While I always took comfort in the fact that little dogs live much longer than big dogs, we ended up having to put her down a few months shy of her 13th birthday. I know there are so many people going through immense heartache in losing family members, and I don’t want to take away from the very real loss of human relationships. It almost seems trivial to mourn the loss of a pet when others are saying goodbye to parents, siblings, children. . . But, as [I hope] any dog owner will testify to, there is absolutely a spot in each of our hearts reserved for our canine companions.

On her last trip – Fall 2012

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of friends, I got to anticipate Gwennie’s birth and excitedly met her the day she was born. After picking her out early on as “mine”, I continued to visit her and her siblings as they grew and finally took her home at 8 weeks. As a full-grown 10 pound dog, there was little she didn’t do alongside me and my family for the next 12 years. Sleeping on her choice of human beds, going shopping, flying to family vacations, getting matching dye-jobs with me (usually pink, though she would have preferred red), camping, roadtripping for a month across the country (including sneaking into a Lewis & Clark IMAX movie with the fam and barking at a bear), summer camp, church retreats, you name it. Queen Quinevere (as she was registered—apparently someone at the AKC can’t decipher between a ‘G’ and a ‘Q’), or Gwen for short, was part of the family in ways the big dogs could only dream of.
Some of my favorite pictures of Gwen

While it has been a sad transition getting used to dropping food on the floor and still seeing it there 5 minutes later, and not having her “growl” and bark asking to be picked up when I come home, I take comfort in knowing she had a pretty great life. Understanding dogs can’t live forever, I think this had the best possible outcome. We kept each other company and were there for each other until her end. I grew up with her and am blessed to have done so. I won’t soon forget her unusual “talking” to her precious beanie babies, or that famed look when we took away her scavenged root beer barrel. So many memories, so many smiles. There will be more dogs in my life, undoubtedly, but Gwennie will always have a special place in my heart. 


The last picture I took of Gwennie: one-take, with genuine emotion from both of us—me knowing what was to come, and her licking her lips after I gave her a gave her a tasty morsel of bread and milk

P.S. I did my nails today in honor of Gwennie; black and white, of course. She would’ve approved!




Filed under Beauty, Grab Bag

Essie Sleek Stick Nail Strips Review

One of my extremely photographic friends, who has a beauty supply hookup, recently gave me a set of Essie’s new Sleek Stick nail strips to try out. I’ve only used nail strips one other time and was eager to see if this experience would be more pleasant. Read on to find out!


I received the pretty design Over The Moon, which has slightly raised silver circles that go on the moons of your nails. 


The base color is a pretty, taupey mauve. I love the festive bling, and think it’s neutral and classic enough to be worn for a nice occasion {I saved these to wear to my boyfriend’s annual company dinner}.


Onto application. There are several shapes and sizes included, but I had a pretty hard time finding something for each nail. Some worked better than others, but none were perfect. The main problem was the cuticle shape and the width of the decal {being to narrow/not covering the whole nail or too wide/overlapping to skin}.


Next: the hunt to find the closest shape for each nail, and trying to apply them straight. I had to take them off and realign several times. It gets a tiny bit easier the more you do, but still hard as every shape is different.


Once you line up and firmly press down the strip to your nail, bend the excess over the nail tip to ensure the nail is fully covered.


Then you use the enclosed nail file to remove the extra part of the strip by filing straight down, perpendicular to the nail.



This part can be a bit jarring, but the end comes off fairly quickly.  The straighter up and down you hold the file, the smoother the end of the strip/your nail will be.


Here is my final result. There were still some slight ridges around the ends and the cuticle areas were far from perfect. From a distance, though, they looked great! I’m a texture person and loved feeling the 3D bumps.


The edges were slightly jaggedy and uneven, but much better than my previous nail strips.


These definitely had the wow factor that I wanted for the evening I wore them.


These strips claim to be “UV Cured”, so I had high hopes for long wear. I was worried about the ends snagging on things {hair, clothes, etc.} and peeling off, but thankfully that never happened! The longevity, however, was disappointing.  These below pictures were after one day of wear {I didn’t even do dishes!}.


Though they didn’t peel, they wore off completely at the tips. You can see in the photo above how poorly the thumb fit, too.


I took them off the next day because of the unsightly tips. I just peeled them off, which as I recall {don’t quote me!} is what the instructions said to do. Sadly, they were pretty destructive to my nails. Lots of peeling.


To summarize, I enjoyed the nail strips for the small time they lasted. The design {color + decoration} was great, but the difficulty in application and quick wear mean I will not be purchasing these in the future. I’m thankful to my friend for gifting me these to try {I would have been really disappointed if I paid $10 for these}. Maybe the rest of you will have better luck!


Filed under Beauty

Belated Thanksgiving 2012 Update

Now that we’re safely into the new year (ohhh, by almost two months!), I think it’s time I posted my thanksgiving decor. It was super low budget, but I accomplished the feel I was going for. Without further ado, our alfresco Thanksgiving dining experience:

First, I painted the stems of small pumpkins gold.


Then I cut the pumpkins on the bottom in order to hollow them out and create luminaries. This was my first time carving/decorating a pumpkin, and I was surprised at how tricky it is! You have to really put some muscle into it. Those seeds are a beast to get out.

pumpkin guts

I found a rather Tim Burton-esque looking face while I was working.


Our sweet white rabbit {who is no longer with us :( } loved getting some of the scraps, while Diesel our dog supervised.


For the table runner, I use a long sheet of craft paper and stamped two different sized circles all over it at random with gold acrylic paint.


The gold circles tied in with the gold stems of the pumpkins.

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I continued the “polka dot” theme by drilling circles in the pumpkins that would  allow the luminaries to glow.

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For place cards, I made a few batches of carmel corn {recipe here, though I added a ton of cinnamon, SO good!!} and filled individual, name-stamped paper bags with the crunchy goodness. Guests could munch throughout dinner, or during dessert if pumpkin pie didn’t float their boats {holla!}.

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You’ll notice nothing on my plate but carbs and veggies. :) None of that turkey nonsense for me.


Our table full of lovely neighborhood friends . . .



The pumpkins came alive as the sun went down.

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The food was placed around this buffet table my mom set up. I love the placement of the crates and pumpkins!

That wraps up our thanksgiving festivities. We all gathered around the fire-pit for dessert when it started to get chilly.  I say it very often, but I love where I live! So grateful we were able to enjoy our thanksgiving meal outdoors this year. 

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