Departure Times

Departure Times | kaileenelise.com

“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.

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Love Letter

Love Letter | kaileenelise.com

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

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.

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Run Like Hell

Run Like Hell | kaileenelise.com

“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.

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2017 Goals: January Reviewed

Magic Afternoon Light | kaileenelise.com

“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.

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Being 30 & Becoming 31

Image - Becoming 31 | kaileenelise.com

“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!

5

Whole30 Round 2 – Recap + Recipes

Whole30 Round 2 - Recap + Recipes | kaileenelise.com

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.

2

Mostly I Choose Magic

Mostly I Choose Magic | kaileenelise.com - 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

8

Europe Trip – Highlights from Paris

View from the Arc de Triomphe | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn)

Now that we’ve been home in Austin for two weeks, our visit to Paris feels like forever ago. Even though we are back to our normal day-to-day, I can still feel the city’s energy as I look through these photos. It’s hard to explain why I love Paris so much — there are countless elements of beauty, magic, romance, and sparkle. Too many to describe. This is my happy place.

Here are some highlights from Paris:

After flying in from Vienna, we checked into our hotel and were welcomed with mini macarons. I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful way to get things started!

Once we unpacked, we headed straight to the Arc de Triomphe. We walked to the top and were greeted by the view in the photo above. From every angle, the city is gorgeous! We snapped a bunch of pictures of the skyline, then attempted to take a few of us together. Thankfully, a friendly stranger offered to take our picture when he noticed our terrible selfie attempts!

We headed back down as the sun began to set. My Mister captured the picture below as we were crossing the street. It’s the picture I have as my desktop right now — I cannot get over the way the clearing in the sky frames the Arc. Next, we headed to The Peninsula hotel for drinks at their rooftop bar, L’Oiseau Blanc. Our beverages were not cheap, but it was worth it for the view! I took this video of the Eiffel Tower sparkling just before it started rain.

Arc de Triomphe | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

Since my Mister had days filled with meetings and work, we did not have time for any other major tourist attractions. Instead, we explored some different neighborhoods and enjoyed a few of the many parks in Paris. The picture below is from Square Louis XIII park in the Marais district. We also went on a morning run through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was just a few blocks from our hotel.

 | Square Louis XIII Park | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

When we visited Paris last summer, my Mister and I added our lock to the Love Lock Bridge (Pont des Amoureux). We jotted down the approximate location in an Evernote and hoped we would travel back to Paris one day. We had no clue that we’d return so soon — and somehow we also managed to lose or delete the note! I was skeptical that we would be able to find our lock without any guidance. Plus, the city of Paris has started to board up the bridge panels to discourage locks altogether.

Love Lock Bridge | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

Somehow my Mister (who’s usually the “realist” in our relationship) was surprisingly confident! I was so doubtful and after a few minutes of looking, I gave up. He kept at it, certain that our lock had to be around here somewhere. I mean, look at all those locks!

I don’t know how I ended up with such a patient and persistent fiancé, but I am so very grateful for him. After what felt like an hour (which was probably more like 10 minutes), he found our lock… ta da!

Love Lock Bridge | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

I was so surprised and excited! We took a bunch of pictures of our lock, then headed back to our hotel so we could change before dinner. The whole time I kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe you found it!” and he seemed pretty pumped about it too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had one more romantic surprise up his sleeve. We walked right into Ladurée and stopped in for some macarons. Paris is my happy place.

Ladurée | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris | kaileenelise.com

We ate well in Paris… here are my restaurant recommendations:

  • Chez Gabrielle – we came here for our first meal in Paris. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays, so we were happy to find a good one that was open for business. The most memorable items from our meal were the desserts! We shared some amazing pain perdu (French toast) and truffles.
  • Le P’tit Bercy – we came here for lunch and it was my first time ordering mussels as my main course. Dessert was the main highlight again, with a unique take on tiramisu + oreos!
  • Oka – this is a relatively new restaurant that has received high praise on TripAdvisor. The premise is interesting, especially if you are an adventurous diner: they serve 7 courses with a surprise menu. It was fun to guess what we were eating next.
  • Firmin Le Barbier – this was our favorite restaurant from our trip to Paris last summer. We came back for another memorable meal, seated in a cozy corner of the restaurant. We savored every bite. Highly recommended!

Just like the last time we were in Paris, the days passed by way too quickly. There’s still a lot on our list for future visits, including: the Louve, Versallies, crepes, and falafel in Marais. Oh, and we would love to see more of France one day!

After Paris we flew to Ediburgh for one last stop. I’ll share my highlights in the last post of this recap series next Tuesday.

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Whole30 Round 2 – Day 11

Whole30 Round 2 - Day 11 | kaileenelise.com

Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
(Hafiz)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food. I love it, I hate it, I feel like I deserve it. Completing the first round of Whole30 helped me embrace a more simple, less fussy approach. I ate real food, stopped counting calories, stopped weighing myself. (Here are my recaps from day 12 and day 26.)

Whole30 worked for me. More than any other diet, approach, or way of thinking about food has. Even as a collegiate athlete, I didn’t fuel my body like this. The results from my first round were nice too! My before and after pictures surprised me. (I really didn’t want to take before pics, but I’m glad I did).

With that said, my reintroduction was challenging. I added everything back into my diet all at once, while traveling through Europe for 3 weeks. My Mister and I had an incredible trip, and we ate and drank with abandon!

Intellectually, I wanted to enjoy every facet of the trip, especially the food! Emotionally, I felt like each unhealthy choice erased the progress I made in the past 30 days. It was a struggle to “just enjoy” the unique food, drink, and experiences at our fingertips. But, since my relationship with food is complicated and we went to a bunch of amazing restaurants, I ate it all anyways.

I haven’t uncovered the lesson in that experience yet. One thing I have come to realize is that it’s impossible to erase the past. Maybe the “fix” then is to focus on being fully present in this moment… rather than worrying about what was or will be. That thought is much bigger than food, but I think it applies.

When we arrived home, I was eager to start a new Whole30! This time I’m doing it for 6 weeks, which leads right up to the week before my wedding. Today is day #11 of my round 2.

I am feeling… much better! Cutting out grains, dairy, added sugar, and alcohol is a magical reset for me. The first few days were rough, especially because we went to a music festival this past weekend. I was ok without drinking alcohol, but my food options were limited. However, my anxiety about what it would be like turned out to be much worse than the actual experience. Once the music was playing, I was dancing and having fun like everyone else. With 10 days behind me, I am humming along and feeling good. It’s so nice!

I have been eating… simple breakfasts with blended coffees, followed by easy salads for lunch. For two nights, we devoured a spicy version of this Mexican Chicken Chili. And for other dinners, I have been pairing a protein with two veggies. I have a few favorite go-to “recipes” for cooking up the basics. My top three are: baked sweet potato, roasted butternut squash, and sautéed kale. I’m excited to cook up some slow cooker chicken curry for tonight and plan to serve it over spicy roasted cauliflower.

I have been loving… the kind and supportive Instagram community that I’ve fallen into. Seriously, the best! It’s so fun to get new ideas from others eating this way. I have also enjoyed connecting with some people who are curious or interested in Whole30.

I am thinking about… adding a few more things to the mix, like: giving up caffeine for awhile, working out more often, and increasing my water intake. I am also thinking about how I can integrate this way of eating with my normal life. What does that look like? How can I make choices I feel good about when I’m at restaurants, eating with friends, etc?

So, tell me, would you experiment with a Whole30? If you have tried it or are doing it now, let me know. I would love to connect about what has worked or not worked for you, and share some more of my experience with you!

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Europe Trip – Highlights from Vienna

Train from Munich to Vienna | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna | kaileenelise.com

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
(Henry Miller)

During our trip to Europe last summer, we traveled a lot by train. It was relaxing and easy, and also a lot more timely than air travel. Unfortunately, most of our destinations on this trip were an 8-hour train ride away. We flew everywhere, except for our train ride from Munich to Vienna. The journey was relaxing, scenic, and productive! I was happy to get some work done while also enjoying the picturesque countryside.

Here are some highlights from Vienna:

Park Hyatt Vienna | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna | kaileenelise.com

We are building up Hyatt points for our honeymoon, so we were excited to stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna. The hotel occupies a 100-year-old building in the historic First District that used to be a bank headquarters. Our room was spacious, impeccably decorated, and full of modern niceties like touch-pad lighting and bluetooth Bose speakers. My Mister thinks this hotel has ruined me for any future vacations!

We arrived on Thursday evening, had a full day of work on Friday, then a wonderful weekend before leaving on Monday for Paris. We got the full Vienna experience, including a night at the opera and three morning runs through the city!

Schonbrunn Palace Gardens  | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna | kaileenelise.com

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Schönbrunn Palace. Photography was discouraged, so while we have a few sneaky pics of the incredible rooms, they don’t do the place justice. If you go, I recommend investing in the audio guide. I wish I was more of a history buff because much of the content was over my head!

Neither of us had major aspirations to see an opera, but we thought, “when in Vienna, do as the Viennese do!” Tickets to the State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) were too expensive by the time we considered buying them, so we booked two seats at the Volksoper instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but halfway through the show we were both totally lost. Since we do not speak Italian or German, following along was quite difficult! I am embarrassed to admit that we ducked out at intermission and did not come back…

St. Stephen's Cathedral | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna | kaileenelise.com

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is a central landmark in the First District. After walking past it a few times, we went inside during Sunday morning services. The church is beautiful, with ornate details around every corner. Inside, there was a mix of tourists and parishioners — but everyone seemed to be in awe. Listening to the organs play and the choir sing, it was a magical way to start the day.

After St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we went to the State Hall Library (Prunksaal) at Hofburg Palace. It was neat to walk through the old imperial library, and my favorite part was the four globes by Vincenzo Coronelli. The tour inside Hofburg Palace and the Sisi Museum were a letdown compared to Schönbrunn Palace, but I am glad we went because it lead to one of my favorite (and unplanned) parts of Vienna!

Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna | kaileenelise.com

When we walked through the entrance to Hofburg Palace, we saw the ticket office for the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School. Then I remembered my grandma telling me that she, “didn’t get to see the horses” when she was in Vienna. We peeked into the ticket  booth to find out the 11am was show was about to start. We purchased two standing-room tickets and hoped for the best. To our delight, every part of the show was incredible! I would highly recommend it, and hope to go back with an actual seat one day.

Our three morning runs were another highlight. It was fun to experience the quiet stillness of Vienna, before everyone flooded the streets and started their days. We ran through the Naschmarket as it was opening on Monday morning, but I think we both wished we had been there during the day. It’s on the list for our next time in Vienna, for sure.

We had some great meals in Vienna, here are my restaurant recommendations:

  • Café Landtmann – if you were in Vienna for just a few hours and could only visit one cafe, I would recommend going here for weinersnitchel, apfelstrudel, and melange coffee. The full Vienna experience in one iconic location!
  • Freyenstein – this is a neat little restaurant. There is not a menu in the traditional sense. Instead, the chef prepares 7 courses comprised of many small plates. Each one was artfully prepared and full of surprising and delicious flavors.
  • Lola – on our “opera night” we went to Lola for tapas before the show. It was an early meal for Saturday night, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Our food and drinks were both wonderful, and so was the ambiance of the restaurant.
  • Glasweise – eating here was not part of our original plan, but we shuffled into this lovely restaurant across the street from the opera. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a few wine recommendations, and shared a tasting plate. Glasweise is an adorable restaurant with amazing customer service!

Vienna is a historical and magical place that made me feel small and young in comparison. It’s not somewhere I would want to move to tomorrow, but I could see myself visiting again in twenty years… I imagine things might be very similar to how they were this trip!

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