Soothe Yourself

Soothe Yourself |

“The life of a mother is the life of a child: you are two blossoms on a single branch.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)

I babysat a lot growing up. In high school I was one of the only older girls in a neighborhood full of young families. Any weekend I was free and wanted to work, I had a job. I loved playing with the little kids, but babies were my jam. I spent so many nights rocking sleeping babies and dreaming of what my life might be like someday.

When I imagined being a mama, I thought of soft blankets and board books, bouncing balls and towers of blocks. In my imagination, the diapers and messes, tantrums and late nights were someone else’s problem. In my imagination, I decorated the nursery and playroom while someone else handled the mounds of laundry. In my imagination, I cooked delicious, organic baby food. Someone else went to the grocery store and washed the dishes.

When I was pregnant, I did a lot to prepare for labor and delivery. I took classes, read books, and listened to podcasts. I went for long walks, did special stretches, and practiced breathing techniques. I hired a doula and wrote up a birth plan. I started each morning with positive mantras and went to bed each night visualizing a smooth birth.

I filled our freezer with home cooked meals, made postpartum baskets for the bathrooms, and stocked my closet with cozy clothes. I decorated the nursery to please myself… not my baby. It felt like a selfish indulgence, but this was a room I’d been dreaming about for years. I figured he’d eventually have opinions about these things. Best take advantage of being able to choose a theme of neutrals with pops of gold over a clashing mix of trains and trucks and PAW Patrol.

In college I earned my degree in Elementary Education. I loved organizing supplies, creating lessons and leading the classroom. I was good at breaking down big ideas in ways the little ones could understand. I didn’t have to teach to a test, interact with parents, or deal with school politics. Instead, I got to sparkle with the brilliance of a shiny, young student teacher.

Before becoming a mama, I had a secret thought about motherhood. I believed my babysitting experience and college degree were excellent preparation, advanced studies for the well-adjusted parent. I wiped poopy butts and snotty noses. I answered silly questions and commanded the attention of twenty kindergarteners. Deep inside, I was smugly confident I wouldn’t just be good at mothering, I would totally rock it.

These pieces of me float around my mind, each one trying to reconcile the other. All the things I thought I knew. All the things I imagined I’d become. All the stories from my past. All the dreams for my future. I never realized motherhood would bring about so much learning. I thought for sure I would be the one teaching my son, but now I see it’s the other way around. I’m clueless. I’m a beginner. There is so much I do not know.

When things are hard, I see myself trying everything to soothe my baby. I tell him he’s ok. I say it’s alright. I’m sorry your teeth hurt, that you bonked your little head, that the yogurt tastes too sour, that the grass itches your feet, that you are scared of that ball. I’m sorry I don’t know what to do, but I’m here and I’m trying.

As I bounce him and sing to him and try to soothe him, I find that I’m soothing myself. All those past versions of me line up and wait for a turn… for a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a bolstering up, a song to fall asleep to. And even though I am nearly 32, I realize that as I’m raising him, I’m raising myself.


Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective

Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective |

“Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their true value.”
(Rafael E. Pino)

We got off the elevator on the 45th floor and I immediately remembered coming here for drinks the last time we were in Tokyo. It had somehow slipped my mind when we were booking the trip. I remember feeling out of place. We were two youngish foreigners, indulging in overpriced drinks to catch the city views from the fancy Ritz-Carlton lounge. My cocktail was some tea infusion served with dry ice that bubbled like a witch’s cauldron. After our first round, we went straight to Havana Cafe, a dive bar that’s known on TripAdvisor for having the cheapest happy hour in Tokyo.

We weren’t married. We were child free. He went to a conference during the day. We explored the town at night. We went to the Tsukiji Fish Market, a crazy place called the Robot Restaurant, and the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar from Lost in Translation. We visited countless shrines and enjoyed many delicious meals out. We had no clue we’d be back in a few years with our eight-month-old who would learn how to crawl in our hotel room.

This visit to Tokyo has been different, but that’s true of most things these days. As a rule, life is more exhausting, more surprising, and more sweetly amazing with our baby. Bringing him to Japan has given me a fresh perspective on a few things I did not know before he came into our lives.

Going out to eat was a major focus of our first time in Tokyo.

The morning after we arrived, we waited in line for 30 minutes to have sushi for breakfast at Daiwa Sushi. It was a shock to the system, especially for my husband, but a true sign that we had arrived. On our second night we went to a fancy shabu-shabu restaurant where we cooked strips of raw Kobe beef in a traditional Japanese hot pot at our table.

In a tiny basement restaurant named Agaru, we sat at the counter and watched our chefs prepare ten Kaiseki dishes, each more refined and delicious than the last. We also discovered our love for the simple, but satisfying combo of draft beer and ramen at Kyushu Jangara in Harajuku. Of all the places we tried, our favorite was a smoky neighborhood yakatori bar called Ganchan where we shared 13 plates and 2 rounds of beer.

During that trip I took pictures of all our meals. I ate with both hands and actually tasted my food. I was unencumbered… and unable to appreciate the simplicity of dining without a small person on my lap, grasping for my attention and the food on my plate.

Coming into this trip, I set my expectations low when it came to eating out. I tried to be realistic, knowing our days (and nights) of being foodies are on hiatus… at least until our travel companion can feed himself.

We continued our “first meal in Japan must be sushi” tradition at Sushi Zanmai. The fresh fish and draft beer were as delicious as I remembered. Seated in a small restaurant amongst locals, a familiar feeling rushed over me. We were again outsiders in a foreign place, but this time as a family of three.

When my husband was away at his meetings I skipped lunch or had a small bite at the hotel’s lounge. The idea of getting to a place and eating alone while managing the baby in a foreign city is overwhelming to me. Perhaps I should’ve put on a brave face and given it a try, but instead I ate through our stash of “emergency” Larabars.

Dinner was much less glamorous during this visit to Tokyo. Most days, I put the babe down for his afternoon nap at 3:30 or 4pm, only to learn that he was down for the night! Jet lag is a whole new beast with a small baby who has yet to reliably sleep through the night and can’t tell you what time of day it is.

Since going out to dinner was off the table, we resorted to takeout most nights. The Tokyo Midtown shopping mall was in the same building as our hotel, so the hubs picked up pho and curry after work. We ate quietly, sharing stories from our days while the baby slept. Fortunately, the bathroom in our hotel room was big enough to roll the crib into. Every night we put the baby to bed in his makeshift nursery so we could hang out with the lights on for a few more hours.

On our final night in Tokyo we managed to keep the baby up late enough to grab dinner at 5pm. On our walk back, I realized it was the first time I’d seen the city lights from outside our hotel room.

Being out of place and out of routine is disorienting. It is one of the things that makes travel hard. It’s one of the things that makes travel so wonderful. In these past 8 months of baby-raising, I have learned to cozy up with discomfort. I have nestled into the unfamiliar.

That youngish woman in the hotel bar would have smiled and nodded if I told her about our life in a few years. She would be excited, perhaps a little envious about the prospect of marrying the man she loved and raising a little baby together. She might even mention that it looks like “future me” has my act together. I would assure her that we’re all just making this up as we go along.


When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby

When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby |

“Life doesn’t happen to us, but happens with us.”
(Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent)

As the plane prepared to land in Dallas, I looked over at my husband and said, “this has been our easiest flight yet.” We had only been in the air for 30 minutes. It seemed too good to be true and it was certainly too early to celebrate. I sent a silent thank you to the travel gods and braced myself for the rest of the trip.

Our baby has traveled a good amount in his short life. By the time he was 6 months old, we had been to 8 cities from California to Ohio. Still, it seemed crazy to take him to the other side of the world.

When we were on the fence about the trip to Japan, our friends and family shared their support. They warned, “it will only get harder as he gets more mobile.” They asked, “you want to have another kid, right? You should take advantage while you have just one.” They encouraged, “you have traveled a lot. You should go!”

While all of that may be true, I questioned if I was up for the task.

Before we had the baby, I worked from home and was able to join my husband when he traveled for work. We appreciated the unique opportunity to see the world without having to take PTO. When I was pregnant we went to Australia and we tried to imagine what it would be like to travel as a family of 3.

We took pride in packing light and only brought carry-on bags, even when we were gone for weeks at a time. We knew that would change. We made it a point to enjoy both fancy restaurants and dive bars. We knew that would change too. Yet, we dreamed of being the kind of parents who didn’t let a little baby stop us from traveling. If I’m honest, I think that’s why we went ahead and booked the tickets.

From home to the hotel, our total travel time was 22 hours… and the first 20 were a breeze.

Baby O snoozed during our layover, which gave me the chance to savor an iced coffee, play on Instagram, and update my Facebook status one more time.

I worried the baby would tarnish my love for long haul flights. Before he came along, one of my favorite aspects of travel was getting places. We usually fly business class and I cherish the hours of uninterrupted luxury. It’s pretty amazing to have a glass of champagne or wine (or both!), disconnect from wifi and cell service, and wake up in a completely new place.

The thought of spending hours on a plane with a screaming baby was horrifying. I worried about everything, but mostly that I would get claustrophobic, overwhelmed, and unable to manage the situation if things went sideways.

Since our flight was during daytime back home, the baby only slept for 4 hours. When he was awake, he received a steady stream of attention from the crew. One flight attendant even asked if she could, “carry the baby.” I found myself handing him over to a complete stranger who spoke to him softly in Japanese and bounced him on her hip.

Time went by much quicker than I expected. Our seats went completely flat, so I was able to share mine with O by sitting him in the back (where you’d put your head when sleeping), turning around to face him, and using my stretched out legs as a baby barrier.

Food, drink and entertainment helped make the flight more enjoyable. The hubs and I snacked on vegetable curry, had a few drinks (wine for me & beer for him), and indulged in ice cream and chocolates. The baby was satisfied with several rounds of breastmilk and the occasional teething wafer.

We suspended our parental desires to limit screen time and embraced the inflight TVs. The baby is too young to care about what’s on, but Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a clear winner. I also downloaded this mini music box app and it’s been helpful in a pinch. I watched a few episodes of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce when he slept and the hubs prepped for his meetings.

All told, there were only a few times when the baby fussed. It was amazing and magical and so very lucky. We landed at 3:30pm local time, which felt like 12:30am for us. The baby was a trooper as we went through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, stopped by the ATM, and picked up our metro passes.

The Tokyo airport is outside the city, so we still had a 2 hour bus ride to the hotel. At first the babe cozied up and fell asleep, but then we hit rush hour. My sweet and quiet traveler turned into an exhausted, hysterical baby. I was wrecked myself and totally understood why he was melting down.

Our 22-hour journey was just about 2 hours too long, but we made it all the same. When we arrived, the hotel staff welcomed us and worked quickly to get us to our room. We were in bed by 8pm, up at 2am to unpack, back asleep at 3am and then up again at 5am… three bleary-eyed travelers, ready to take on our first day in Tokyo.


Departure Times

Departure Times |

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
(Anita Desai)

My husband and I went on our first international trip in 2013. It was a celebration of his graduation from business school, our recent engagement and cross-country move to Austin. I had never left the country and he’d only been on a few spring break trips.

We traveled to London, Paris, Rome, Cinque Terre, and Lucerne. We ate fancy dinners and toured museums. We wandered through parks and got lost a few times. We went on an epic hike along the cliffs of Cinque Terre and road a train through the Swiss Alps.

While we were in Paris, we had lunch at a small bistro with great TripAdvisor reviews. We arrived early and were the only people there besides the chef and server. It was a magic and memorable meals. The food was simple and delicious. The wine went down easy. The ambiance and service were comfortable. And we reveled in having the whole restaurant to ourselves.

At the end of the meal I asked my mister if we could come back next year. To the restaurant. To Paris. Or Europe. Or anywhere else on the map. This trip unlocked a new aspect of our relationship.

Removed from our everyday routine, we connected on a deeper level. We had to rely on each other in new ways. Even through delays, mishaps, and jet lag, we thrived.

So when I asked, it was with hopeful expectation. Even before our trip was over, I wanted to be back. But he was starting a new job and we had a wedding to plan. There were no signs that we’d have the time, money, or ability to travel again soon.

And yet. Life works in mysterious ways.

It ended up that my husband’s work took him across the world and since I worked from home, I was able to travel along. We visited more than 10 countries since our first big adventure. And we went back to our favorite restaurant in Paris every year for three years in a row.

In 2016 we took a break from our travels for a different kind of adventure. We welcomed our baby into the world last July. And just like that first big trip, our bond has grown deeper with each challenge and surprise.

We’ve taken a handful of trips to introduce our babe to family and friends who live in other states. but today we are leaving for two weeks in Japan. As we embark on his first big adventure I am filled with nervous anticipation. Door-to-door our journey will be nearly 24 hours! For a seven month old, that’s a lot to ask!

And yet. I have to believe.

I have to believe this baby, who traveled to Australia in utero, will surprise us and amaze us and rise to the occasion. And I have to believe that as his parents we will make this trip magical… like that lunch we shared in Paris. Unexpected. Wonderful. The three of us together out enjoying the world.


Love Letter

Love Letter |

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

Years ago when my husband and I first started dating, we liked to watch YouTube videos together. Most of our favorites were funny or inspiring and my husband always found the best ones to share with me.

I will never forget the first time we watched Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot video. We were in his first apartment out of college. A tidy, well-decorated bachelor pad with a cushy tan sofa and glass coffee table. He had a desk in the corner of his bedroom where he played hours of online poker after work.

We sat at the desk with me perched on his lap and listened to Sagan’s perspective-bending words. The world and all its existence feels so very big, but relative to the universe it is all very small. Watching the video together made me realize that we saw the world better looking at it side by side, hand in hand.

The other day I set out to write a love letter to anyone, anything, an idea, a concept, a moment, an item, a noun, a verb, a phrase. There are a million things to love and I’m too tired to pick just one.

I sat on the couch in black leggings and a top knot with my husband snoozing next to me and our baby napping upstairs. Out of the three of us, I am the most sleep deprived. Yet, I found myself awake, watching my two favorites sleep, and thinking about a love letter.

Should I write to coffee? It has always been special to me, but we’ve become even closer since I became a mother. Or should I write to chubby baby thighs? They are squishy and delightful in every way. Should I write a letter to my grandmother? To sunshine? To quiet stillness?

I ought to write a letter to my pillow. Or wine. Or a good book. Or a hot bath with epsom salts and essential oils. Or to the color gray. Or stripes. Or, even better, gray stripes.

Perhaps I should write to those evening dad’s-home-from-work kisses. Or delicious home cooked dinners and Saturday nights in. Or to gratitude, forgiveness, luck, and hard work. Or to being in the right place at the right time.

Or maybe I should write to the terrible things that we survive and learn from… like cancer treatments, surgery, hard decisions, and fateful coincidences.

There are too many things in this life to love and I am too tired to pick just one. Fresh air. Clean water. The Eiffel Tower, Amsterdam canals, or the bustling streets of Hong Kong. Neighborhood restaurants and friendly grocery store cashiers.

I could write a love letter to love letters. Exchanged between two young souls, or an aunt and her niece, or friends who met through their blogs. Or the post-it notes scribbled between a busy husband and wife, always signing off with an ‘xoxo’.

I should write a love letter to the universe, this tiny pale blue dot and everything within it. To having a life that’s full and busy and happy and tiring and to the people that make it all worthwhile.


Run Like Hell

Run Like Hell |

“Movement is the best form of medication. Anytime you move, it makes your brain sharper. It makes your mind sharper.”
(Conon McGregor)

There was a time when I took up running and I was always astonished by how much ground I could cover with my own two feet. Of course, many people have discovered this before me. Humanity has run, walked, and meandered all over… for all of time.

Yet, I was often surprised by how I could start in one place, go go go, and return to where I began. Running taught me to rely on myself, to trust my body, to listen to my intuition. Running was a mirror that revealed parts of me I never knew were there. Running became a time to let my thoughts tumble around in my mind. Sometimes the worst ones would shake out onto the pavement, leaving behind a therapeutic trail of sweat and bad ideas.

There were mornings when I hated running. My angry feet pounded the ground in a clear display of their disapproval. My lungs burned, my head ached, my feet bled. Each quarter mile was a struggle. But I had other experiences that made the hard runs worthwhile. Those magical mornings made me love running. My muscles were spring loaded and my lungs were balloons that lifted my whole body a few inches above the ground. I felt like I could go forever. On and on and on, my thoughts like tiny sparkling pebbles jingling beautifully in my mind.

I stopped running two years ago, a few months into my pregnancy. I dreamt of being one of those women who runs a half marathon at eight months pregnant, but that dream was better left on my pillow. As my belly grew, the physical discomforts of running outweighed the mental benefits. So I trusted my body, listened to my intuition, and started walking instead. I walked and walked and walked, my thoughts clattering around as I navigated our neighborhood. Walking became such an integral part of my pregnancy that on an especially hot summer afternoon, I walked 2 miles and gave birth exactly 12 hours later.

I dreamt of being one of those mamas who loads her baby into the jogging stroller and trains for her next big race. But I still have no desire to run, so I’m leaving that dream on my pillow for now. My baby and I walk and walk and walk through our neighborhood while my thoughts rattle around. Some of the worst ones still shake out like they did during my runs years ago. But I’ve noticed the best ideas bubble up to the surface more easily, maybe because I’m moving much slower these days.

These ideas of mine, the worst and best, the bad and good, the ugly and beautiful, need a new place to go. Instead of hitting the pavement, I am sitting down at my computer, but I am still running like hell. As I let my thoughts spill onto paper, I am reminded that writing is also a good mirror. It can feel scary and hard and leave marks and bruises, but the words can also pour out magically and effortlessly and answer questions I didn’t even know to ask.

Maybe I will look back someday and say, there was this time when I took up writing. Because I am astonished by how much ground I can cover with my thoughts and words. Of course, maybe people have known this truth before me. Humanity has written, rambled, and shared stories all over… for all of time.


2017 Goals: January Reviewed

Magic Afternoon Light |

“As time ticked by and an impassioned idea still had not ignited me, I didn’t panic. Instead, I did what I have done so many times before. I turned my attention away from passion and toward curiosity.”
(Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic)

2016 was all about pregnancy and baby. I am dedicating this year to the pursuit of simple joys. In January, I did this by lighting candles, savoring my favorite tea, and watching The Bachelor.

One of my goals is to get rid of things I no longer want, use or need. This month I tackled my closet, packing up maternity clothes and donating/thredUP-ing a big pile of things I wouldn’t buy if I tried them on in a store. Dressing a postpartum body feels a lot like trying to hit a moving target and I’m still breastfeeding, so I’ve been learning what works as I go.

I started the year off strong with a mini Whole30 and a handful of workouts. When it comes to my physical body, the aim is to cultivate habits that make me feel nourished and to occasionally indulge with purpose. We traveled and I got sick this month, but that’s ok. I am learning to work on these things even when the conditions aren’t perfect.

Creatively, I am content. And excited. (AND HERE. BLOGGING AGAIN. WHAAAT!?) I joined The Year of Creativity (a 12-month, self-paced course on creativity) and have been thrilled with the experience so far. The focus of January was “Inspiration” and it was just what I needed to get started. I read Big Magic, snuck away to a coffee shop to write, and submitted my first essay for peer feedback. It was more creative work than I’ve done in over a year… and the surface is just getting scratched.

My mister and I set a goal of hiring a sitter once a month for date nights. We interviewed someone for semi-regular childcare, but I realized that maybe I’m not quite ready for that step. So, we have another recommended sitter coming by on Friday for a meet & greet. Here’s hoping we can achieve our date night goals in February.

Documenting the daily life of our little, growing family is another focus for 2017. Taking videos for our 1 Second Everyday project and snapping pictures of Baby O to text to family are things I’ve been good about doing. Digitally speaking, I have memory keeping on lock. But I haven’t ordered prints of our professional photos or done much in O’s baby book since he was a month old. When things have been on your to-do list for 6 months, it’s time to take action. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

My word of the year is SIMPLE and as I shared on Instagram,

Last year my husband & I bought a new car and moved into a new home, I quit my full time job and became a mother. My whole world & identity shifted through these changes… and as I continue to define who I am in this new existence, I am dedicating 2017 to the pursuit of simple joys. SIMPLE is gentle, but firm. SIMPLE is straightforward & uncomplicated. SIMPLE is intentional action. I know raising a little babe will bring plenty of messy, unsure, and crazy moments, but even in those times I hope to remember the power of taking a SIMPLE pause to breathe.

One of my goals for January was to think about creating a daily routine for me and Baby O. Now on February 1st, I think that’s one of my bigger accomplishments for the past month. We do not follow a strict schedule or do the same thing every day, but our days have settled, shifted, sunk into a very nice rhythm. We take walks, we play and read, we meet up with other mamas and babies, we enjoy mealtime and bath time, and we share lots of cuddles. Our days are simple, but full. January has been a wonderful start to 2017 and I’m looking forward to what this next month has in store.


Being 30 & Becoming 31

Image - Becoming 31 |

“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.”
(Max DePree)

Today is my 31st birthday! When I think about being 30, I can’t help but feel proud. Every age is significant, but last year covered a lot of ground, both physically through travel and emotionally through big, life-changing decisions.

In terms of travel, 30 began with a trip to LA and Napa to celebrate the start of a new decade. It was our first trip to LA and we had a great time before heading up north to one of my favorite places on earth. My grandparents have lived in Napa (St. Helena, specifically) for years and back when I lived in San Francisco I would drive 75 miles every weekend to visit them. Their place in St. Helena is nothing short of magical and spending time with them makes me feel so loved. As a special treat, we sprung for a limo one day to go wine tasting, which was a highlight for everyone involved!

A few weeks after Napa, I traveled to Las Vegas for a best friend’s bachelorette party. Vegas isn’t for everyone, but I went to college in Sin City and happen to feel very at home amongst the glitz and gambling. I had a blast, and more importantly, my bestie got to spend a few days with all her favorite gals in celebration of her final days of singledom.

In May, my Mister and I spent all but one week out of town… visiting with friends & family and working in Annapolis, Philadelphia, New York, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Ohio. We stayed put in June, then went back to North Carolina for 4th of July weekend at my dad’s lake house. In August, one of my close friends came to visit us in Austin, then we went to celebrate my husband’s birthday in Pensacola, Florida with one of his oldest friends. I also went out to Arizona for Happy Living (a health & wellness company that my father and I started in 2014)… and got the chance to spend time with my other grandparents while I was out there.

From the beginning of September to the middle of October, we were all around and back again. My Mister’s parents came to visit and we showed them all our favorite Austin spots. A few days later we took off for our 3rd trip to Europe. This time we stayed in London, Paris, Munich, and Amsterdam. The whole trip was wonderful, but we especially loved our time in Amsterdam. When we got back to Austin, we had a few days to unpack and reset before going to our friends’ wedding in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Their big day was magical and such a wonderful reminder of what it means to create, build, and share a life with the person you love most in the world.

Things slowed down the tiniest bit when we got back from that trip. We spent our first weekend home at the Austin City Limits musical festival (our 2nd one) and early on that Sunday morning I took a pregnancy test because I was feeling a little weird. We were shocked and elated when the test was positive… and spent the rest of the day listening to music in the hot Texas sun, asking each other, “Is this really happening?”

In the midst of my early pregnancy, we had the opportunity to take a trip to Australia (for work) and Fiji (for play). We had a week in Sydney and a few less days in Melbourne. I was sick for most of the trip with a really bad head cold and nothing tasted good. Aside from those minor issues, we had a wonderful time Down Under, especially in the beach towns and in Melbourne. Fiji was a total dream. Our resort (the InterContinental) was perfection, the weather was wonderful, and the days we spent lying around doing nothing were very restorative.

A week after we got home from Fiji, we made our way to Ohio for the holidays, stopped in Arizona for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary party, and made it back to Austin to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends. The time we spent with family over the holidays was made even sweeter because we were able share the news about my pregnancy in person!

2015 came swiftly to a close and had me thinking about the changes ahead. Becoming a mama is something that I have wanted and dreamed about since I was a little girl. For as long as I can remember, my aspirations were to become an Olympic swimmer and a mother. All the jobs I had growing up revolved around children and I even got my degree in Elementary Education because I love kids so much. I always thought I’d be a young mom and when that didn’t happen, my career became the focus. When my Mister and I started dating 8 years ago, our relationship, jobs and travel adventures were the main priorities.

So 2016 started with a fresh perspective. We decided it was best for us if I ended my full time work with Happy Living to spend my time and energy on our growing family. We bought our first home, just outside downtown, and have been busy settling in. My Mister’s mom came to visit a few weeks ago and we just got back from our babymoon in Hawaii.

I am so happy to be on the other side of 30. I never really gave turning 31 much thought until a few weeks ago. Now that my birthday is here, I am thrilled to celebrate where I’ve been and the life I have today. Becoming 31 means a lot to me and my wish is to have a happy, healthy and brave year. It is sure to be filled with trials, adventures, new experiences, and challenges, but I have a feeling it’s going to be the best yet!


Whole30 Round 2 – Recap + Recipes

Whole30 Round 2 - Recap + Recipes |

Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.
(Peter F. Drucker)

Happy Tuesday, lovelies. How was your weekend? We stayed close to home and opted-out of the whole Halloween thing. Instead, we went for a long run on Saturday morning, visited our friends who just had a baby (so many tiny snuggles!), completed the first draft of our ceremony, and crossed a few more things off our wedding to-do list!

Today I am finishing my Whole30 Round 2. That means, over the course of this summer/fall I have followed these rules for 30 days straight, twice:

  • Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial
  • Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking
  • Do not eat grains
  • Do not eat legumes
  • Do not eat dairy
  • Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites
  • Do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients
  • Do not step on the scale or take body measurements during the program

In some ways, my Whole30 Round 2 was more difficult than the first. There were several occasions, especially during the last two weeks, when I wanted to give up. The second round felt less “special” and more like everyday life. The newness wore off and sticking to the rules felt more rigorous. That said, I am incredibly happy that I did not give up.

My original inspiration for starting Whole30 was to slim down for my wedding, but I also wanted to investigate this way of eating for the long-term. In my dream scenario, I hoped to discover a set of rules that I could follow every day that would help make my body feel good without squandering my love for food. And that’s what I found!

Will I stick with this 100% everyday moving forward? No, not totally. But, I do want to remain primarily grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, legume-free, and processed-foods-free. I have naturally settled into a preference for eating paleo (here’s what that means).

Two rounds of Whole30 have helped me build an arsenal of delicious recipes. I no longer feel like a dinner with just veggies and meat is incomplete. Here are some favorites:

In terms of alcohol, I learned that I’m perfectly fine with going out and not drinking, even to a three-day music festival. I will go back to enjoying wine and cocktails here and there, but I doubt I’ll ever be much of a beer drinker. My Whole30 weekend mornings have been a lot more pleasant without that fuzzy feeling of an almost-hangover!

Now would be the time to establish a new daily routine, but that’s not going to happen… after my first Whole30, I dove into indulgence with a 3-week trip to Europe. It was an incredible adventure, but tough on my body after eating so clean for the previous month.

This time, I am facing another uncommon situation: there’s just 18 days until our wedding! The next few weeks are going to be a far cry from ordinary, but they will be wonderful. In the midst of all the celebrations, I hope to follow this advice to myself:

  • Plan ahead. When eating out, review the menu in advance and commit to your food selection before sitting down at the restaurant. When going out for drinks, hydrate with water and switch to club soda after a few.
  • Stay active. When you exercise, it helps you maintain the motivation to make healthy choices. Remember that practicing yoga always makes you feel strong and happy, and running makes you feel accomplished. You have the time to work out every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
  • Be kind. Part of this is doing what feels good. That will be staying “compliant” sometimes and “indulging” other times.  Either way, being kind means not judging yourself harshly. And on judging, watch your negativity. Wrap your gremlins and nasty thoughts with a warm blanket of love and kindness.

If you would like to learn more about my Whole30 journey, check out my recaps from round 1 day 12, round 1 day 26, and round 2 day 11. You can also follow me on Instagram where I’ve been posting a lot of food pics: @kaileenelise.

Are you thinking this might be something you want to try? I say, go for it! You can do anything for 30 days, especially if it makes you feel good. I highly recommend visiting the Whole30 website and reading It Starts With Food for more information.


Mostly I Choose Magic

Mostly I Choose Magic | - Image via Taylor Lord Photography

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you
because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
(Roald Dahl)

Hello, lovelies. I hope you are well and having a happy day! Things are busy around here. In 25 days, my Mister and I are getting married!! When we set the date more than one year ago, it felt distant and far off. But now our wedding day is around the corner.

In the past week, I have felt a roller coaster of emotions. This is a big, significant, life-event… with lots of tiny details. Now that we’re in the 30-day window, the wedding planning has become a lot more real. Decisions are no longer hypothetical and “this might be nice,” they are “we’re doing X and not doing Y.” My inner perfectionist has reared her shiny, sparkly head and begun to point out all the millions of things that I should have under control.

And yet, my Mister and I have been together for 6.5 years. We have been through so much. We have traveled the world and cozied up on the couch for so many nights. We know each other, love each other, and have chosen each other. This big party is just one way of sharing that love with our closest friends and family. And at some point, life return to our normal everyday, but as husband & wife.

So, I have been a little distracted, even though I have plans for this blog. I have a full list of posts to share, including an Autumn Playlist (which I’ve had on repeat) and my final recap of our Europe trip (highlights from Edinburgh).

One thing I have been thinking a lot about: the way you do anything is the way you do everything. I am trying to handle this big life event  —  the wedding to-do list, the writing of our vows, the proclamation of our love, and the party that follows — with kindness, respect, and gratitude. I can let my inner perfectionist whip me up into a frenzy (oh boy, has she ever!) or I can let this be magical. In reality, I can have a little of both, but mostly I choose magic.

Image via Taylor Lord Photograpy


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