Reclaiming this space and the journey

Photo cred: Alex Krivec

Maybe it is being in my thirties or having two kids instead of one or the postpartum anxiety, but I’ve reached this feeling of having stalled out. That feeling where you’ve accomplished all of the really cool things in your life. That new experiences are a thing of the past. That you are to old to try something different, challenge yourself, and face down insecurities.

It is way to early in life for that!

So I am embarking on a journey to fully embrace what I started this blog for, hopefully gain a little of my swagger back (who am I kidding I never had swagger, I’d twist my ankle), and find not only peace but growth in this new season of life.

When I started the blog I was transitioning into motherhood and out of what I thought was going to be a long term career in travel. I started this blog as a way to stay accountable to my goal of keeping my eyes open to the world and  embracing exploration. We spend so much time online and shuffling from place to place we miss the adventure that lives in each day. I started this blog to eat, travel, and meet amazing people and build my own adventure.

I want to continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself. I want to finish life saying I really lived it and provide lots of amazing memories for my children. I want to try new things – things that scare me, that make me anxious, that force me to face down insecurities and unrealistic fears of failure.

I want to meet new people – yes me, a hardcore introvert with anxiety (legit I take meds for that) want to meet people. I want to connect with people following their passions and writing their own story of life. I want to be inspired by their creativity, joy, and ability to face down their own fears.

And of course I want to eat and travel to experience new flavors, see new places, and meet new people.

So, I’m reclaiming that challenge and I’m sharing the journey as a way to stay accountable, provide a journal for my kids to look back on, and, hopefully, inspire some of you to do take on a new challenge, explore a new place, or meet some new people.

Here we go!

 

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Lemon Muffins and Postpartum

What do lemon muffins have to do with postpartum? In this case a whole lot. Just like writing these words has everything to do with the journey forward.

You see, after finding out we were expecting our second child we knew we would be done building our family. My last pregnancy. An opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I also knew post-baby life would be different than the first go around, but I had no idea just how different. After the birth of our first child it wasn’t all rainbows and flowers, but it was nothing like the past several months.

The constant gnawing anxiety with no apparent source. Doubt and self-defeating thoughts that cloud the brain. Fake smiles and disinterest in everything that once fueled my life. At first, I chalked it up to having a second preemie and the stress of being in the NICU. Then it was the lack of sleep and returning to work full time. The constant juggling of home, work, an active five-year-old, and a not so active infant.

Taking a deep breath before going into work. Another as I arrived home. One as the rest of the family pulls into the garage . . . and on and on throughout everything that was small and mundane.

However, after months of reassuring myself that it would all pass I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore – and I don’t have to! Asking for help is never easy, but some things you just can’t do alone. So I’ve asked for help, I’m taking steps, and I’m speaking about it because I know I am not alone.

Lemon muffins

And these lemon muffins (and these words) are part of the first step to bringing a little sunshine into my life. Even though right now I must force myself to bake and write – two things that always just came naturally – I believe that with work and professional help I will get back to the lighthearted mom I know I am.

Were these muffins the answer? No, but they were a small step in the right direction. An opportunity to get back to a beloved activity and even better was seeing the smiles on my little ones faces when they got to have them for breakfast. So, for now we will enjoy our little clouds of lemony sunshine and hold each other tight.

I hope you enjoy these lemon muffins with your family and friends and find the sunshine you need in your life.

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April round-up: Healthy eats, pregnancy workouts, and furry friends

After March flew by this month has been slightly more focused from a personal perspective. I have tried to spend more time getting inspired, getting motivated to claim what I want in life and take the steps to get there, and connecting with my ever changing body.

Here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

Eats

I couldn't leave without a little baklava :)

I couldn’t leave without a little baklava 🙂

Step one to getting inspired always seems to revolve around food for me. Food and friendship, which naturally go hand-in-hand. That is why I was thrilled to meet up with a good friend at an old favorite I hadn’t been to in years. Gardens of Salonica in Minneapolis never fails to deliver. Over a shared sampler plate of melitzana, fava dip, salata, and patzaria and an entrée of makaronia kai souvlaki we caught up on life, laughed, and dreamed future travels.

Even though I’ve tried to slow the pace of life a little over the past month I do have days when all I have time for are small meals or snacks. I am also five months pregnant so noshing is sort of a must. Trying to keep it healthy I’ve been leaning on a few favorites: CoffeeBars, Nourish clusters, and dried pineapple from Nature Box (now available at Target!).

snacks

Getting Inspired

 Step two to getting and staying inspired is keeping up the activity level — even when I feel like sleeping all day. My growing belly and shifting center of gravity have made it time to make some slight adjustments to my workouts.

While still getting three-mile runs in I’ve had to slow my pace and remember not to push myself when Map my Run pops in to tell me I’ve taking more than 10 minutes to complete a mile.

Even though my abs don’t do quite what they use to I am still squeezing in ab work and weightlifting to maintain muscle tone and make delivery easier. A few places I’ve found some great tips on exercising while pregnant:

Parents Magazine  •  Girls Gone Strong

I’m always looking for different options to mix things up so if you know of any other sites please share!!!

Reads

While Minnesota can’t seem to decide what season we are in — is it spring or winter or maybe a day or two of summer – it is the perfect time to enjoy a good book. Since finishing my MBA in January I have tried to meet my goal of READING at least one book a month. So far, so good.

April’s book of choice was Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Amazing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by Dave Kerpen. I was hesitant to tackle this book because I had done a good job of staying away from business-oriented books since finishing grad school, but it is a passion so I jumped right in.

There are some great tidbits in Likeable Social Media and if you are new to marketing or tackling it from the small business perspective it would be worth a read. Actually, the overall message is something that all of us could be reminded of at a personal level when using social media – everyone on these platforms are humans and should be treated as such.

I have also picked up the audiobook habit again. I highly recommend checking your local library for audiobook app options to get your free fill. I’ve used One Click Digital for years through our local library and enjoyed some great books when I don’t have a tone of time to actually curl up with a good book. While working I’ve listened to two new books this month – Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

IMG_0368

Our biggest news of this past month, however, is the addition of a furry family member. Meet Clifford! Abandoned on an Indian reservation he ended up with mange and malnourished. He is doing great now and we look forward to having him grow with us.

Looking ahead

The home projects have begun– updates and photos to come next week!


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February Round-Up: Life stages, cookies, and inspiration

Two months down for 2016 already?! Doesn’t seem possible, especially since we are still in the doldrums of winter weather and birthdays weren’t rousing celebrations this year (no alcohol and constant fatigue tends to put a damper on partying).

Well, I guess it is time to admit that another month is gone. So, here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

Life stages

As a friend recently reminded me, seasons in life come and go. Unfortunately, right now this travel season of my life includes only domestic destinations. So I plan on making the most of even less than exotic travel plans. We are headed to Fort Myers Beach on our first real vacation in two years and I plan on finding some great food, a few local shops, and some relaxing fun. Recommendations welcome!

Cookies from France

cookies

Last year a friend who had recently traveled to Paris told me about these great cookies they had – Michel et Augustin Two Kooky Cookies. So, when I heard that the company reached a deal to have their cookies in Starbucks in the U.S. I was excited I would get to try them for myself.

I love a company with a backstory like theirs – work late nights while working day jobs to perfect their product and grow the company. I don’t normally stop for my coffee at Starbucks, but these cookies were calling my name. I opted for the dark chocolate with sea salt (bummed they only offer two varieties). They were good. I wouldn’t say they were anything special, but I am intrigued enough to want to try more of their cookies when the opportunity arises.

Looking for my own Big Magic

big magicTwo months and already three books down in my #abookamonth self-challenge. The most recent book was exactly what I needed after finishing my MBA and feeling a little lost creatively and professionally. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is more like a conversation with a friend that kicks your butt into gear by being brutally honest with you. It is a quick read for anyone who needs a creative kick start.

 

 

A few dishes join the kitchen notebook

Finally being done with classes means I have more time to try the hundreds of recipes I’ve been sitting on. The #cook90 challenge is also keeping me accountable to my own goal of cooking more and spending a little “me time” in the kitchen. Over the past few weeks a couple dishes stuck out as favorites.

greek tacosThese Greek Tacos were delicious. I opted for extra toppings so it turned into more of a Greek taco salad, but I definitely see the meat in this recipe finding its way into other dishes.

These BBQ pork wraps were inspired by a meal we had wrapalmost a year ago at a small bar in a tiny Wisconsin town. A pleasant surprise the first time around and just as good for the home version. I used the pulled pork technique from this recipe and rolled it up in a large tortilla wrap with crispy onions, extra sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese – amazing!

 

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3 rooms get the perfect make-over for 2016

When I graduated college I thought I’d be making great pay in no time and my dreams of traveling the world would be coming true.

However, I graduated in 2007 and entered the workforce during the Great Recession and waffled on what career path I wanted to take. So let’s just say the big bucks aren’t rolling in at this point. But, I am doing something I love and all my career searching gave me some amazing experiences I wouldn’t trade for any pile of money.

I have been fortunate that I’ve kept traveling; even if not as frequently as I dreamed of. So that means after years of attempting to escape home I’m now working on building a little cocoon for myself and my family. A place that we can call home, but also feels like a world away. A place that recharges and relaxes us.

So, we have been chipping away at projects over the two years in our home and I have big plans for this year.

Organized chaos

This year’s goal is to get our closets organized. We’ve been inspired by all those empty hotel closets and drawers and the well-curated collections you see in magazines. You know, the ones that look more like an art collection than a wardrobe.

The Container Store and Target have been our go-to places for cute organization systems that fit with our décor or the décor we hope to start establishing in said room. It has to be functional, make it easy to find anything we are looking for and take good care of our clothes. We’ve made progress in the master bedroom, but now we have to tackle the little munchkin’s chaos.

A few of our favorites so far for organizing our chaos . . .

Organized chaos

  1. Lynk Vela Over-the-Door Shoe Shelves – Target.com $24.99
  2. Wide Underbed Drawer – Containerstore.com $24.99
  3. InterDesign 16 Loop Over-the-Door Scarf Holder – Target.com $7.99
  4. Platinum elfa Mesh Start-A-Stack – Containerstore.com $119.00

Family room

When we bought our current home we were really excited to finally have a space for lounging that is tucked away, out of sight when visitors stop by. When we moved in things sort of got cobbled together and I haven’t had much time to think about what I want the space to look like. My Pinterest board is a place to start, but this year I hope to really focus in on it and make it a really special place for our family.

That means a few construction projects for the hubby 🙂

Family room

  1. Hemnes Sofa Table – ikea.com $219.00
  2. Carson 5-Shelf Bookcase with doors – Target,com $129.99
  3. Threshold Turquoise Chunky Knit Throw – Target.com $24.99
  4. Stocksund Armchair, Nolhaga dark gray – ikea.com $349.00

Office

During my MBA, the office became tiny catch-all room. This year, the plan is to design an escape where we can go to be creative, get inspired, and get things done.

Office

 

  1. Bookcase Grey 5 Shelf – Target.com $149.99
  2. Happy Wood Panel – Target.com $19.99
  3. Threshold Parsons Desk with drawers – Target.com $169.99
  4. Gray Portland Twilight – Valspar
  5. Purple Lavender Bliss – Clark + Kensington
  6. Hudson Swoop Chair – Target.com $199.99

Any big projects planned for the year?

 

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2016 kick-off and Food Life Project launch

2015 flew by, but it was one helluva year!

joy jar A few years ago I started keeping a JOY JAR so I could always remember the wonderful things that happen, even when life gets hectic. 2015 was a banner year:

  • Several career opportunities that kept everyone excited about what they are doing.
  • The first momma & daughter day consisting of Olivia’s first live play, pizza, a bookstore stop and lots of shopping. Many more days like this to come 🙂
  • Our little girl upgraded to a big girl bed . . . where did the time go!
  • Olivia’s 3rd birthday party was amazing with a bouncy house, delicious cake, and lots of family and friends.
  • The inaugural Sister’s Weekend took place in Chicago and our minds started dreaming of all the possibilities for years to come.
  • We explored the US a little with a trip to South Dakota – saw the “rock men”, LOTS of buffalo, and enjoyed our first family camping trip. Of course, having a potty training toddler only made it that much more interesting.
  • Went Skydiving!!!! Another thing knocked off the bucket list and possibly added to the hobby list.

Of course, the biggest event of 2015 took place in the last week. Our new niece, Naomi, joined the family!

2015 is going to be a tough year to top, but I think we can do it. To kick it off I’ve set a 365 project for myself — The Food Life Project — write daily and take at least one photo. The MBA journey will be coming to an end and new doors will be opening so it is time to get focused and live with intention. Make every second count. Tackle the projects I’ve been putting off these last two years. Explore the world and live inspired.

 

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Happy Holidays!!!

Have a holly jolly

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Exercise gave me more than great legs

I was recently contemplating the physical goals I want to tackle in 2016 – my first marathon since having a child, Intensity max, that hill that I didn’t make in 2015. I sometimes feel like I’ve digressed in my fitness, but I am still going at it which is what matters. Besides, even if I don’t run like I’m 18 anymore working out continues to teach me about myself and life.

running

Sacrifice form, sacrifice results

For nearly everything you do there is the right way and there is the short-cut. It might seem smarter to just take the easy route, but you won’t truly end up in the same place. You miss out on the lessons you didn’t realize would be a part of the journey and lose an opportunity to work muscles and skills you might not have otherwise.

Whether training for a marathon or working on a project at the office there are times I’m tempted to cut corners – skip that long run or pass off the grunt work – but I know that won’t get me nearly as far. If I don’t put the work in I know later I will feel it, either at mile 13 or when I didn’t learn that new technology that could have advanced my career.

What you can accomplish is a combination of mind, body, and heart

I started running when I was fifteen. Athletics weren’t really my thing. You were more likely to find me reading a book than lacing up tennis shoes.

Those first days included lots of breaks and more walking than running, but I kept pushing myself. Fifteen years later and I am still running. I am also pushing myself in other areas of my life because I know if I keep at it I can accomplish more than I ever imagined.

When I started grad school two years ago I doubted I would make it to the end. February marks the end of the program for me and I made it with my sanity (mostly) intact and several new friendships.

You can have too much of a good thing

When I began working out at fifteen I received nothing but praise. As the years progressed, exercise became a part of my daily routine and my go-to for stress release. This is exactly what everyone says you are supposed to do, but in college the good habit became an obsession.

I would spend three hours a day working out and when not working out I was thinking about it. Remembering how unbalanced my life became reminds me that I need balance and boundaries. It is good to spend some time alone and some with friends. I can’t work non-stop or have fun with no care in the world. It is okay to need a break from being a mom and sometimes to drop everything else in the world for a Teddy Bear tea party.

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November Round-up: Jerky, coffee, and lights

November is over?! It definitely doesn’t feel like this time of year around here. We are just getting snow and temps have been at a comfortable 35-50 degrees.

Well, I guess it is time to admit that another month is gone. So, here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

November

Krave Jerky

As the second year of grad school has worn on, I’ve grown tired of the normal pack-n-go meals. I have plenty of ideas for tasty meals, but lack the time in the kitchen to prepare them. I still like to eat healhty, good tasting food though so I’ve gotten a little creative with options. New favorite is Krave Basil Citrus Jerky. Pair it with some fresh veggies and a pretzels and you’ve got a great meal on-the-go.

Dancing Goat Coffee Shop

I love my neighborhood Caribou because the people who work there and the patrons who you can always count on sitting in their specific seats make it special. But I love coffee and trying new places so occasionally we drive a little farther for our weekend cup of joe. This time we tried Dancing Goat Coffee Shop in the Dayton Bluff neighborhood of Saint Paul. The fresh beans and knowledgable baristas reminded me how much I want to take a tasting class to learn about the different beans, flavors, and aromas of quality coffee. Maybe next month!

Bentleyville

This was our second year attending America’s largets walk through free light display. The set-up was the same as last year, but it was still an amazing sight and it just puts you in the holiday mood. Just a few tips: use one of the shuttle buses rather than waiting in the line of cars trying to pay to park at the site, it is free because of donations from visitors so if you can give a little please do so, and there are lots of places to enjoy a pre or post walk meal but we highly recommend the Canal Park Brewery. 

Travelers Box

We have travelled a lot over seas and as much as we enjoy a few momentos, we hate coming home with lots of foreign currency that we might not ever use again. So I was excited to hear about these new, easy-to-use boxes in airports. You put your extra change in and get gift cards for international brands back. Brands such as Banana Republic, Barns & Noble, Groupon, PayPal and many more. Right now they are only available in Europe, but hopefully we will see them all over the world soon. 

Anything you think I should check out or try next month? Just drop me a note and maybe you will see it in the December round-up. 

 

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5 books for those not writing a novel this month

November is National Novel Writing month and while I’m full of ideas I barely have time to read a book, let alone write one! As I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel for grad school I can hear my bookcase calling my name. Over the past two years I have collected nearly 40 physical books (not all novels) that are waiting to be read and hundreds more on my wish list.

For me, books have been a means of escape from things going on in my life. An adventure to somewhere I have yet to visit. A window into something or someone I want to be and sometimes even a glimpse into my own inner spirit. Growing up I never physically traveled to faraway places, but each day I visited places that I dreamed of seeing one day. Even though I have been lucky enough to see many of the places I read about as a child, books continue to feed my wanderlust, curiosity, and knowledge.

So here are five books that are at the top of my list post-graduation . . .

big magicBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved Eat Pray Love (the book, not the movie) and she fascinates me as an author and a woman who is willing to put herself out there, flaws and all, and empower others. This book is all about embracing our own curiosity and facing down the things we fear. It just sounds right up my alley.

 

 

 

ghost storyGhost Story by Peter Straub

I am a sucker for a good scary story and this book has shown up on lists of best horror books time and again, and I haven’t read it yet!

 

 

 

 

 

tastyTasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid

A perfect mix of science, journalism, literature, and myths, this book is supposed to explain one of our most basic senses in a fascinating and engaging way. The study of taste is huge business right now and is only supposed to become even more important . . . I’m just getting a head start.

And if you like this type of stuff I highly recommend Gastropod podcast on SoundCloud.

 

 

500 things500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late: and the Very Best Places to Eat Them by Jane Stern and Michael Stern

This goes along with my desire to overcome fears (there are foods I am afraid to eat) and, of course, feeds my wanderlust. I have enjoyed many other projects from the James Beard Award-winning Sterns and I’m sure this will be no different. Besides, I really want to introduce Olivia to as many places and foods as possible while she is still young . . . especially if they might not be around for when she is older.

 

 

mfk fisherThe Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

I started this in undergrad and never got around to finishing it. I feel like finishing grad school is sort of the beginning of taking care of things I said I wanted to do in life and this book has been on that list for a LONG time!

 

 

 

 

What books are enjoying? I’m always looking to add to my list 🙂

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