I’m going to begin by saying that Valentine’s Day is not really my favorite. I’d much rather celebrate Galentine’s Day or a Treat Yo Self Day (can you tell I still marathon Parks & Rec on a regular basis?), but I suppose I can get behind the whole chocolate and dessert splurging that comes along with the day. Since I rarely celebrate it I decided this year I would go all out just for you guys to let you know that I consider YOU ALL my Valentines.. Yes I know, very cheesy, but I mean it. You’re all awesome so here’s a from-scratch, sweet treat for you.. fluffy cake-like brownies, airy whipped cream, and a sweet and tart raspberry sauce to top it all off. Make this dish for your sweetheart or just devour it all to yourself!
Ahhhhh, the Mojito! Hemingway’s gift to world, via Habana Cuba!
I just returned from Habana. While there, one of our scheduled visits was the El Floridita – one of Hemingway’s most popular haunts, and where he helped create and perfect what the world now calls the “daiquiri.”
But our visit was to try the mojitos, and I walked away having had the hands down BEST mojito that’s ever crossed my lips. NO LIE. This mojito was THE BOMB.
So, back stateside, and trying to rehab my liver, I offer to you a version of the El Floridita mojito sin alcohol (without alcohol, en español).
This week my Instagram and Pinterest feeds are full of things about the Super Bowl and recipes for game day, but while most are excited for the big game, I’m going to be totally honest with you.. I only get excited over the opportunity to snack and drink beer all day!
Whatever your motivation is on Sunday, a good dip recipe is always essential to the party. I love crab dip, but what I don’t love is the excess amounts of mayo, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese that most recipes have added to them. I came up with a lightened up version that cuts out a lot of that fat without sacrificing flavor. Creamy avocados, Greek yogurt, and light cream cheese are the base of this dip, while jalapeno, fresh herbs, and lemon juice lend some bold and zesty flavors to the mix. I recommend buying double ingredients so after your guests devour it all you can make another batch to enjoy all to yourself!
After the last “heavy” Daily Life.. it’s time to talk about some of the awesome things finally unfolding in my life, some 2017 goals, and how to tackle them more successfully than last year.
A few days after New Years, I filled up a piece of paper with all of the things I would like to accomplish in 2017 in no particular order. I circled 5 of them and wrote out a brief game plan on how I was going to make those goals happen in the next month. Some of these might be common goals for you too, so I hope that this helps motivate and inspire you to accomplishing yours as well!
First up was horseback riding. I know it sounds completely random, but I actually used to take lessons back when I was a kid. Of course I stopped at age 13 when I became too “punk-rock” for it all and thought smoking cigarettes and skipping school was a far “cooler” hobby. I missed it all the time and after spending a day at a stable while working a gig in Oregon, I realized it was time to quite literally get back in the saddle! This was an easy one to accomplish as all I had to do was research a few stables, find one nearby, call and set up my first lesson. My favorite boots are caked with mud and dust and my thighs and bum have never been more sore! Haha really.. this might be the best butt workout I’ve ever done!
While this may not be on a lot of people’s list, taking time for YOURSELF might be and that’s exactly what I’m doing. At least once a week commit to making time for yourself, a passion, or discovering that passion. You’ll be happier, more relaxed, and confident knowing you’re doing something just for YOU!
My next goal was to start working out and doing yoga on a daily basis again. This seemed like a daunting one at first, but after I started horseback riding I realized I needed some strong legs and lots of stretching so that I’m able to walk the next day! I’m motivated to work out more knowing that it benefits me in accomplishing my other goal. Finding ways to sync up goals like this will increase your success rate in accomplishing them, so look for those benefits any way you can! I don’t commit to a specific amount of time or reps, I just do what feels good for my body and this type of no-pressure approach works well for me. Others do better with a strict routine, so if you need that structure, commit yourself to 15 minutes every day, working up to lengthier workouts.
Another big one I circled that might be on your goal list too: Become debt-free! This is actually a goal I accomplished at the beginning of 2016, but of course a job change, divorce, cross-country move, another job change, and another move put me right back into debt! I had little savings and relied on my credit cards and help from family to float me through, putting me $3,475 in debt. In just a few months I’ve already paid half of that off and estimate that by the end of February I’ll not only be debt-free but ALSO have $1,000 saved.
I had to first get organized, swallow my pride and say, “I need help,” and make some big changes to get my finances back on track. I use the app Debts Break to keep track of my debts, estimate payoff dates, and it even shows me just how much money is going to principal and interest. It’s a huge motivator to plug the numbers in and realize you can save hundreds of dollars that otherwise would have just gone to interest. I also use the app Pennies to create budgets for things like gas, groceries, and extra spending money to keep me mindful of my spending habits and how much I have left. I make coffee at home, take my lunch to work almost every day, and try not to spend money on myself for things I can do at home, e.g., dye my own hair, do my own nails, workout, etc. I’m no expert so I can only offer up what works for me, but I recommend listening to podcasts, reading books, or finding information online from debt-free pros like Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard to keep you on track!
I’ll share more of the goals I’m working on currently as well as progress on the ones mentioned above with you all in the next Daily Life or perhaps a separate feature altogether if you found this post helpful.
What do you hope to accomplish this year? What steps have you already taken to make those goals happen? I’d love to chat with you more so leave your comments below!
Breakfast on-the-go seems to be all I have time for lately so for something quick, satisfying, and delicious I made this Chocolate Strawberry Breakfast Smoothie! Vanilla Greek yogurt, dark chocolate chips, and frozen strawberries blend together for a healthy and energizing smoothie that tastes like Neapolitan ice cream! Head to Dream A Little Bigger for the recipe!
I write this from the comfort of a warm bed after work was cancelled today. Iowa roads are a treacherous ice skating rink from freezing rain so here’s a hearty and comforting soup recipe to help warm you all up!
This particular one is a combination between a bacon cheddar soup and my spicy butternut squash soup. Big chunks of bacon, zesty onion, and a blend of aged white cheddar and smoked cheddar make for savory and filling dish that pairs perfectly with an ice cold beer.
After a lot of holiday decadence and indulging I was in the mood for something healthy (I know.. it’s a little shocking to me as well that I wanted something healthy), but with icy cold temperatures I still wanted a warm and filling meal. This Lemony Roasted Kale Salad with Acorn Squash and Crispy Chickpeas definitely did the trick and I think it may be my new favorite winter salad! Head to Dream A Little Bigger today for my recipe!
This isn’t so much of a Daily Life as it is just a very honest and intimate reflection on everything that occurred in my 2016. With every beginning of a new year I feel it’s important to look back at the good and bad times and the lessons we learned from them.
2016.. What The Hell Just Happened?
As ridiculous as it sounds, just the simple change of the date rolling from 2016 to 2017 has brought an immense amount of relief to me because last year was one of those years that left me pondering, “What the hell just happened?”
Toward the beginning of 2016 I was feeling extremely lost and knew something really great or really awful was on it’s way to shake things up. Of course.. it turned out to be the latter. I can use cute phrases like, “Life gave me a lot of lemons.” but I think a more accurate visual image would be one giant a-hole of a lemon driving a dump truck full of more lemons and dumping them at my feet while flipping me the bird. That was my year.
I began 2016 married, living in Oregon, and planning a long term future there. As much as I loved it, I was still feeling like something was a bit off and decided to take a solo trip to Iowa in February to spend time with family. While I was there my husband and I had a pretty serious conversation about our relationship, his dislike of Portland, the possibility of us returning to Iowa, or just him returning. We realized we were quickly heading down two very different paths and the talk of divorce began.
I left a stressful job and took on another only to find that it was not the answer or change I was looking for. It took me even further away from my passions and caused even more wear and tear on an already threadbare situation holding my marriage together. I eventually became so far removed from who I was that I barely recognized myself anymore. I was depressed and couldn’t figure out how to stop it, change it, or move on from it. Looking from the outside into my own life or anyone else in a similar situation, I would have just said, “Oh come on! Get over it and be happy already!” But when you’re in the depths of it you cannot even fathom just how you’re going to begin to pull yourself back up.
One particular night I found myself alone at the house, feeling disgusted with myself, exhausted, and depressed. I was too emotionally spent to have an appetite for a real meal and found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, drinking wine, and eating cheese and crackers while sharing the cheese with the cat.
Let’s let that pathetic image sink in: Sobbing, drinking, sitting on the floor, and sharing cheese with the cat. That’s when I had my wake up call to myself and promptly got up and went straight to my laptop to write an email. I cried the whole time I wrote it and then finally hit send.
When I realized what I had done I had a brief moment of thinking, ” Great, now you’re full blown crazy.” because I had actually sent the email to myself. At this point I don’t really care how “crazy” it was or still is because it’s what saved me..
Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.. Literally. You were just sitting on the kitchen floor drinking $6 wine and feeding cheese to the cat.
Wake the f*** up and realize your potential. You know exactly what you want out of the future, but it’s this in between stage you can’t get past. It’s time to start making every day count by taking a solid step towards furthering the business or businesses. The husband can wait. Friends can wait. This is your time to be selfish and take care of yourself. Ask for help (from the right people) when you need it and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable.
It’s not going to happen unless you can pull yourself (mentally) out of this sh***y situation. Yes.. you are in a confusing tumultuous relationship. You work a miserable call center job, your commute sucks, you’re broke. People have done far more with far less.. what’s your excuse?
Read this every day.. add to it.. do what you have to do. But do not forget that you are a strong, independent, smart, and creative woman that has the power to make real change and inspire others. Learn how to love yourself.. that’s the only person you can depend on anyway.”
I still read this and cry, wondering where that voice came from, because despite advice from friends, family, and the occasional self-help book or two, none of it got through to me like my own words did.
While my path and future are far from being figured out, everything feels right and is starting to become much more clear. I still struggle and find myself feeling pretty beat down at times, and finally just have that breakdown moment of saying, “OKAY! Enough! I can’t handle anymore!” but I still pick myself up and remember my own words to keep on going, succeeding, failing, trying, and starting over again and again.
I’m sad that my marriage ended, but I’m happy that we both now can pursue our own happiness and paths. I will forever miss Oregon, it’s beauty, and the lifelong friends I made there, but I know I can return to visit any time that I want. I’m grateful that I made the choice to move back to Iowa and I see my mom nearly every day instead of just once a year for a few days followed by a painful airport goodbye. It was the perfect year of balance between loss and gain, heartache and learning.
I’m very eager to see what this year has in store and despite all that I encountered, experienced, and overcame in 2016, I’m oddly grateful for it all because I’m forever altered as a person.