FriYAY feels!

cozy weekend vibes

Friyayyy!

This has been a big week for the McClannons! On Wednesday, Whitney and I headed to the Social Security office to get our names officially changed! She got married a couple months before me, so she needed to get her name change going, too. I’m trying to make sure my  new name is ready for the new school year so kids are slightly less confused – but I’m sure they’ll be calling me Ms. Weaver for a while, anyway!

Today, I am going to try to go to the DMV for a new license…but if the lines are as bad as they are saying they are this summer, I may just have to wait on that. But the biggest news is that we went to the bank this week and got pre approved for a home loan! So we are starting the process to become home owners and hopefully soon our three little blonde monsters will have a fenced in back yard to call their own! Scary but very exciting. I’ll keep you posted!

Last night, Andrew and I went to the Dierks Bentley concert with Brothers Osborne and LANco! One of my really dear friends Dymphna got us tickets as our gift at my bridal shower, and it was such an awesome idea! We went to the pub to eat first, since that’s how I know Dymphna, so we got to see her and hang out before heading to the concert. It was so much fun and nice to do something fun after all the craziness of wedding planning and moving!

I made this Romano chicken with lemon garlic pasta for the first meal as a married couple in our apartment! (We keep saying, “this is the first time we’re doing xyz as a married couple!” Nerds.) The recipe was delicious and I will definitely be making it again! I followed it exactly but doubled the chicken part – I ended up with a ton of leftover parmesan cheese that I had to throw away because of the raw chicken, which is a tragedy. But other than that, it was delectable and easy to make, and Andrew loved it!

I also found this recipe and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies – we used this option to make two deep dish chocolate chip cookies with some of the dough, and made our first batch of homemade vanilla ice cream in our ice cream maker from my sister! It was so fun, and, you know…totally healthy? The cookies are the best recipe I have found! Sooooo tasty. We used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of cutting up dark chocolate chunks, and instead of rolling it into a log and slicing it, we just did it like a drop batter and used the spoon to scoop out cookies for the pan, but other than that, we kept the recipe the same! Oh – we did use a bourbon vanilla extract instead of regular vanilla extract. It just sounded like the right thing to do!

In other news, I have absolutely lived in these shorts from Express all summer long. Read the reviews and BELIEVE THEM. The best pair of shorts I have ever put on. They are on sale and out of a bunch of sizes, but I’m linking in case they re-stock! I also bought this one piece from aerie and CANNOT say enough wonderful flattering things about it. It looks so good and feels so comfortable, and has just the right amount of sass to not feel like a “mom” suit. I got it in the olive green color. I feel so confident in it which is a HUGE win for me. I ordered it in the long torso because I realized for the first time that that is even a thing and that I need a longer swimsuit to fit me right. GAME CHANGER. And it’s currently on sale!

Other than that, I haven’t been too focused on new products or makeup this summer since I had our wedding coming up and I have such finicky skin – but I did get on a new skincare routine from my dermatologist and it has completely changed my skin for the better. I feel so much better and have hardly worn any makeup this summer because I haven’t felt the need to! I have been using the Aveeno clear complexion foaming face wash in the morning, a sulfur prescription face wash at night that has been a life saver, and then the Ceravé a.m. moisturizer, well, in the a.m., and then the p.m. moisturizer at night, which I LOVE. I also have two other prescriptions of creams, but it has been nice after trying so many high end “miracle” products that didn’t work for me to just go back to the basics and have success with these gentle, tried and true products. One of my best friends Lindsey, who is a licensed esthetician, also got me this Sorella Apothecary Rosehip warming face mask and All Night Elixir, which have been so nice to incorporate in the mix and don’t irritate my skin or cause breakouts. She is just the absolute best, a treat and a half, and you can check her out at Donna Lane Day Spa in Pinehurst!

That’s it for me! Tonight, we are catching up with some friends from school before the year kicks off, and then I am keeping my weekend pretty open so I can work on wedding thank you notes, running errands, and just relaxing with Andrew and the doggies. Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Lemon. Butter. Cake.

Guys, I realize that just a few posts ago I was writing about shredding for the wedding, and I promise I still am – but you gotta live a little bit, am I right?! Andrew and I recently watched the Super Bowl at a friend’s house, and I brought this cake for dessert. It. Is. Perfection.

It was light, fluffy, lemony, and dangerous. I used this recipe and was so glad it wasn’t completely from scratch because I love to bake but I also love to save time, measuring, and cleanup. PLUS I got to use my brand new KitchenAid mixer!

what a beauty!

My future mother-in-law got this for me this Christmas and I was so excited! I have wanted a KitchenAid mixer for so many years and just have never splurged on one for myself. It was always one of those things I figured I’d get when I got married, but I was so surprised and so happy when I opened this up! Such a great gift! When the new year started I was really focused on my resolutions and being healthy and going to the gym, plus a new semester started and life got really slammed, so when the Super Bowl came around, I was really glad to have a reason to bake something.

So back to the recipe! I literally followed the Crazy for Crust recipe exactly – the only thing I left out was the butter extract, because I couldn’t find any at the store, and certainly not because I wouldn’t have added it.

I mean, it’s called a butter cake. How could it be bad?

The ingredients were simple and the instructions were really easy to follow. My tips:  Make sure you grease your pan really well – I thought I did, but one small chunk came off the top of the cake when I dumped it upside down. Secondly, make sure to pour your cake in really evenly, because my cake was slightly lopsided when I got it on the cake stand (but it still tasted delicious!). Also, I used tooth picks to stab my cake for the sauce and everything still turned out amazing. I didn’t buy skewers because I thought we had some at home – luckily we did at least have tooth picks! The sauce floated on top of the cake for a while but eventually it all soaked in. Finally, I would suggest dusting with powdered sugar just before serving because overnight it all soaked in, and it makes such a pretty finishing touch!

i had to try it to make sure it wasn’t poisonous!

I know I’ll be using my KitchenAid mixer a ton in the upcoming months. A lot of my favorite people were born in March, and Andrew’s birthday is in April, so I’ll be trying to find more delectable recipes to whip up in-between my workouts and meal prep!

Shredding for the wedding // Meal Prep

post about my shoes, favorite leggings of all time

I recently did a poll on Instagram to see if there would be any interest in these posts, and the results were overwhelmingly a yes! I’ve mentioned before that originally when I decided to start this blog wayyyy back, it was going to be a mostly fitness-related blog. That quickly changed, but as I’m getting back into my fitness for 2018 and to walk down the aisle in July, I thought it would keep me accountable if I shared my progress out loud to the entire internet. And hopefully it will help someone else who’s looking for motivation, workouts, tips, or just wants to follow along!

Our wedding is July 22, so I have 6 months (AHHH!) until our big day. I know that it will be here before I know it. People have lots of opinions about this kind of stuff, but my number one priority is my health and the way I feel about myself. A million people can tell you that you look fine the way you are, but you have to feel it yourself or it won’t matter. I don’t think that someone should lose weight just to get married, but this is a great source of motivation for me personally because I want to feel and look my best on the most important day of my life. My weight has gone up and down my whole adult life, and right now it is up! I need to find a balance between the extremes. I have high blood pressure and need to lose weight just in general for my health, so this is not a crash diet or an unhealthy approach. Secondly, Andrew loves me exactly the way I am and my weight goals are not fueled by him in the slightest, other than having his support for whatever I want to do. This is not about him, this is about me. Thirdly, I 100% believe that whoever you are, wherever you are in your health, it is 100% between you and yourself, and you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. So you do you.

So let’s get started! I’ve been going to  the gym with my sister, doing workouts at my apartment gym, and I want to add yoga back in to my weekly routine as well (I’ve let it get away from me). I’m following my Weight Watchers plan and tracking my meals, but I’m also planning out my meals every week and prepping food with my sister to keep us both on track (I’ve mentioned about her fitness competitions here).   It has made my weeks so much easier. I know that diet is the huge majority of changing your body. I also know that if my food is already paid for and prepared, it’s harder to justify going out to eat or stopping for something at the drive-through. Meal prepping also makes it easy for me to just grab a lunch for the work day and not worry about what I’m going to eat. My sister and I have a membership to Costco, so we bought a lot of things in bulk and were able to freeze some for the next week.

We just make our plan and decide what needs to be cooked first and how we can start putting together some meals! We use a food scale to weigh things out, as well as a rice cooker to make our rice/quinoa much more quickly and easily! It takes about 3 hours from start to finish, but then you don’t have to cook again the entire week. Kind of nice and makes it easier during a busy week!

allllll the tupperware containers

weighing it out

our batches of broccoli and brussel sprouts for the week

Here are my meals:

Coffee:  I saw a meme this week that said something like “I love myself so I use cream in my coffee.” For a long time, I tried drinking mine black to save calories and fat or to drink it with almond milk, which just does not cut it for me. I have to start my day out with coffee and creamer. Just have to. So that’s my daily treat. I like french vanilla creamer, and I do buy sugar free – 1 point on Weight Watchers every morning. I use Truvia or a sugar-free, calorie-free caramel syrup to sweeten it a little.

Breakfast:  Either a protein shake or overnight oats. I LOVE overnight oats. So easy and so delicious! I make mine with 1/2 cup oats, a sliced banana, JIF powdered peanut butter (so much better for you), 1 scoop of protein powder, and cover it with cashew milk overnight. This is 7 points on Weight Watchers and fills me up totally until lunch. I wake up at 5 and don’t eat lunch at school until 12, so that’s saying something! If I do a protein shake, I make it in the morning and use it when I know I’ll be going out to eat for dinner or may eat more food that day for whatever reason. It’s only 3 points with 1 scoop of protein, 1 scoop of the same peanut butter powder, and cashew milk. I sometimes add frozen blueberries and cinnamon to the mix!

Lunch:  Baked flounder and tri-color quinoa with a tomato/spinach blend on top. This was kind of bland at first, so I started putting a little bit of hot sauce on top with garlic, and even a little parmesan cheese. So good after fixing up the flavor! The second week we prepped (this week), we are doing the same type of quinoa but as a cold Mediterranean side with turkey loin or tuna salad and asparagus (canned asparagus; WAY cheaper and already pre-cut).  These meals range from 5-8 Weight Watchers points.

Dinner:  Week 1 was either crock pot buffalo chicken tenders or turkey loin cooked in taco sauce and seasonings, jasmine rice, and either broccoli or brussel sprouts. This week we are doing Asian flavored beef bowls with broccoli or brussel sprouts and rice. So good. These meals range from 5-10 points on Weight Watchers.

Snacks: I love cheese, so I usually do a string cheese or a little snack pack cheese square. I like the Cabot Lite 50 calorie cheese snacks (2 points on Weight Watchers). Fruit/veggies are also great for snacks because on Weight Watchers they’re free points. Pickles, an apple, banana, grapes, etc. I also usually do a protein shake after a heavy workout. My sister and I love this kind in cake batter (and we have tried our share of protein powders!). Expensive, but not when you break it down and see how many servings you get – or if you compare the cost to all of the coffees or french fries you might be stopping for here and there! I also like to do 2 boiled eggs for a snack since they’re free now on Weight Watchers, too!

Honestly, I don’t usually get hungry between meals because I am eating a lot of food! It’s just good-for-me food vs. junk. I definitely believe in moderation, and one of my favorite things about Weight Watchers is that it accounts for that. You get a bank of extra points for the week that you can blow on whatever you want, because life happens. You can roll over 4 points a day to save up towards your cheat points, and fitness points get tracked by my Fitbit so I can add those in if I want, too! I plan for one big cheat meal a week and when events come up, like our wedding catering tasting last night, I try to be even smarter throughout the day and make sure I get in a workout that day. It’s not going to be perfect, but the point is that you don’t stop trying!

‘Tis the season

deck the halls

There are two kinds of people in this world:  People who get ready for Christmas well before Thanksgiving, and people who follow the “after Thanksgiving” rule. I am with the second group! I absolutely love Christmas time, but I also love Thanksgiving, and I like to keep things in their boxes!

I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s house in South Carolina, and we have a big, loud, crazy group! There are always about 12-15 of us, and now we have some young ones again in the family running around, which always makes everyone happy! We eat a ton of delicious traditional Thanksgiving food and we are champion snackers. This year, my family brought a huge cheese platter and it was a big delicious hit!

I got sick over the holiday and then my car broke down when I tried to come home, so I spent an extra day in Asheville than originally planned. Luckily, I’m starting to feel better and my car is fixed, and there is still a lot to be thankful for – a warm home, loving and kind family and friends, Andrew, food in my belly, and two sweet and crazy pups! But I had planned on decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, so that had to wait.

This weekend my sister comes home from her clinical rotations (she’s been staying in Asheville with our mom), and we will deck the halls of our 2 bedroom apartment together! We won’t get a real tree, which is of course always best, but less convenient in a 2nd floor apartment. I love decorating for Christmas and baking yummy treats for the holidays! This year, I plan on making these pretzel rods, Christmas Crack, and the always classic Chex mix. A few things keeps it simple and then I can divide it out in little goodie bags or small mason jars that can be reused! I love to just burn a holiday scented candle, put on the Christmas tunes, and get to it! I can’t wait.

What are your holiday traditions? I always love to learn what other families and people do. One of my students said for Thanksgiving, they always have an annual party on Friday afternoon and everyone brings their Thanksgiving leftovers to share. What a cool idea!

Before we get super caught up in the next few weeks, I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys who read my blog regularly! Several of you have stopped and told me in person, left a comment here or there, or written me to let me know you’ve enjoyed a particular post. It means the world to me and I appreciate it more than you know! This has always just been a hobby and a happy place for me to be creative and hopefully spread some cheer. That’s what life is all about! So, thank you. Enjoy the holiday season and hold those you love close; we never know how much time we have. Focus on what’s important, treat yoself with some yummy holiday food without judgment, and enjoy each new day as it comes.

 

FriYAY feels!

FRIYAY!

Yesterday was our last school day of the week and I accidentally wore my Friyay shirt because I was that excited for the weekend. I didn’t even realize it until someone told me at school.

Is anyone else completely obsessed with the new Hearth & Hand with Magnolia collection? Target picked it up this week and I am   l  o  v  i  n  g   it. I’m dreaming of plaid placemats, chargers with ceramic plates, and allllll the holiday gift wrapping. So far I have exercised a smidgen of self control and have only bought a holiday scented candle. Here’s hoping!

On Tuesday, Andrew and I went on a hot date to celebrate our 2 year anniversary of meeting each other! My best friend Lindsay lives in Nashville and is kind of the epitome of cool. She works in the music industry and manages bands, so she put us on the list to see The War and Treaty and it was the most fun we have had in so long. Their show was EPIC and their talent and energy is amazing.

Last weekend, I got some serious half off deals from Old Navy and ordered a few things the rest of my new clothes until 2018. (I don’t know if you know this about me, but Old Navy texts me when they have deals because I am very important to them…) I also needed a new pair of jeans and have had the Madewell Roadtripper jeans on my list for months and months now. I finally pulled the trigger and I’ll keep it simple:  They. Are. Everything.

Ev. Ry.  Thing. Just read the reviews and when you’re ready to splurge, thank yourself in advance and click “Place Order.”

I’m working on a holiday gift guide to post next week (don’t quote me on that if it doesn’t happen). I’ve mentioned before that I love giving gifts, and Christmas has always just been such an exciting time for me. I try not to take it for granted or let it pass me by as I get older.

The last two days were super chilly and gray/drizzly in the Raleigh area, and last night I made my first chili of the season. I really loosely followed this recipe. So good! It was the perfect “Friday” fall night. Andrew and I stayed in, invited another teacher friend over for dinner, ate chili, watched a movie, and hung out with the dogs.

Last, but not least, Happy Veteran’s Day! We have today off from school, and while it’s always so nice to have a day off, it definitely does not go without notice. I’d think today was important anyway because we should always honor those who fight to protect our country, but my granddaddy fought in WWII and I miss him every single day. He was a true human treasure; he was the wisest man I’ve ever met and someone who was the backbone of my family. He never talked much about the war, understandably, but I know that anyone who serves our country in that way deserves huge respect and recognition.

Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Arizona trip recap

grand canyon at sunset

Finallyyy!!!

I have been wanting to get this post up for a couple of weeks now, but I needed the time to give it justice. I just saw my mom this past weekend, and we were still talking about how great our trip was. I have been lucky enough to have traveled to some amazing places in my life, but Arizona has easily made its way to my top five! The weather was amazing and the scenery was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before! Mom and I stayed in wonderful places, met some cool people, ate great food, hiked a ton, and got to relax and pamper ourselves, too. It was the perfect mix and I still can’t believe I got to see the Grand Canyon!

I spent a ton of time researching what to do, where to hike, where to eat, etc. in Arizona and how to make the most out of just a few days there since I’d be missing school (and because $$$). It’s tricky to get to Sedona because you have to fly in through Phoenix and rent a car – it’s about a 2 hour drive. So over the summer, I had planned everything out and we got it all booked. Here’s a breakdown of our amazing trip! Get ready to tuck in for a long post and lots of pictures!

Day 1

After school, I met mom at my apartment and we headed to the airport. We were able to get a non-stop flight (it’s about 4.5 hours). We landed in Phoenix and got our rental car; we were both starving and I had been dreaming of an In-N-Out burger for weeks, so that was our first stop and Mom’s first experience with In-N-Out! I don’t know if we were that hungry or if it’s just because it’s that good, but I felt like it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten (of course we got everything animal style with 1,000 island dressing, grilled onions, and melted cheese!).  If you ever make it to the west coast, you HAVE to make this a priority.

We drove for what seemed like 18 hours (really about two and a half) and finally made it to our perfect little Airbnb, which was a guest house with a rooftop terrace overlooking Thunder Mountain! It was the perfect location and our host had thought of every little detail. We were so tired from traveling so we just went straight to bed!

Day 2

On our second day, we woke up early so we could have coffee on the terrace and watch the sun come up over Thunder Mountain. It was so beautiful! Afterwards, we got ready and headed out to our Pink Jeep tour! We chose the Red Rock Tour and had such an amazing tour guide. We got to stop off at a few places for pictures, and the tour lasted about two hours.

After our jeep tour, we spent a few hours hanging around in town in Sedona. We had lunch at Wildflower Bread Company, which has a patio with a great view of Snoopy Rock! We walked up and down Main Street and went into some shops to look for souvenirs.

Afterwards, we walked back to our car and drove to Cathedral rock. It was a really great hike and makes its way all the way down to Oak Creek if you take a side trail. We didn’t make it all the way down because it was getting late in the day and we had other items on our agenda! We drove to the Chapel of the Holy Cross and it was such an amazing and beautiful sight.

Finally, we rounded out our day by doing a quick hike of Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset. It was incredible to see all the rocks turning more and more red in the orange/red sunlight!

We showered and got ready for dinner! We ate at Elote, a place I had read rave reviews about. We had a delicious and fresh margarita on the patio while we waited, and they handed out little bowls of popcorn for people to munch on while they waited for a table! The food and atmosphere were both great.

We made it back home late, but took a few minutes to sit on the terrace and look at all the stars before bedtime! There is very little light pollution in Sedona, so the stars were incredible, even with a full moon!

Day 3

We woke up on our third day in Arizona and checked out of our Airbnb. We were so sad to have to check out because it was a perfect place to stay, but it was already booked for the following night! We ate breakfast at The Coffee Pot, a local favorite and a cool little diner with a gift shop attached (there is a rock formation called Coffee Pot behind the restaurant).

coffee at the coffee pot – see what i did there?!

We had a big day ahead of us with a lot of driving to do! At first, we had decided just to head to the Grand Canyon, but our Pink Jeep tour guide convinced us to drive to Page, AZ to see Horseshoe bend and Antelope Canyon. I am so glad we took his advice! It was a long day – four hours driving there and four hours back – but so worth it. We got to Page and stopped at Horseshoe Bend first. It’s where the Colorado River makes a horseshoe-shaped turn (hence the name!). Pictures of it are amazing, but I can’t explain how incredible and massive it was in real life. The colors are unreal. This was one of my favorite things about the entire trip.

We drove to Antelope Canyon which is supposed to be incredible, but there was such a wait to see it and we still needed to hit the Grand Canyon, so we had to pass on that. But we were so excited from Horseshoe Bend that it was okay! We had a little picnic in the car and headed back to stop along the way and see the Grand Canyon.

fancy whole foods rental car picnic

We had originally planned to do the South Rim entrance of the Canyon and do a couple of small trails I read about, but with our detour to Page, AZ we came in on the east entrance at Desert View. There weren’t any hiking trails, which was a little disappointing to me, but we did do a 25 mile scenic drive with overlooks along the way, and we got to see the Canyon as the sun was setting and with the huge orange harvest moon. Pictures do nothing to truly capture this; it was such an incredible sight! I can’t explain the feeling of being so small in such a vast world. It sounds nerdy, but it was just a really crazy feeling and experience.

After our big day to Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon, we drove back to Sedona and checked in to our second hotel, Amara resort!  They had left some champagne and treats for my 30th birthday, which was a thoughtful touch! The hotel is gorgeous and tucked away off of the main street in downtown Sedona.

Day 4

This was our big spa day to pamper ourselves after all of our adventuring and hiking. Our poor feet definitely needed it! We had breakfast in the room from room service (Amara’s restaurant is SaltRock and it was all so delicious). Then, we walked to the spa to check in for our appointments! We both had relaxation massages and facials, which was so divine. The entire spa was so cute, relaxing, and the staff was very knowledgeable and friendly. We had hot tea and a sparkling pomegranate juice toast afterwards and hung out in the relaxation room for a while.

We spent the rest of our day by the infinity pool overlooking Snoopy rock formation, sipping margaritas (and water!!!), having lunch from the hotel, and reading/floating/lounging. It was the life! Then we went back to our hotel room, showered and got ready, and went down for the manager’s wine hour (Kimpton hotels do a complimentary wine hour every day from 5-6pm). We sat out on the hotel patio/lawn under the market lights and just chatted and enjoyed ourselves! We ended the night with a long, late dinner on the patio at the SaltRock kitchen restaurant with absolutely delectable food.

hotel pictures + pool overlooking snoopy rock formation

Day 5

Our last day in Sedona! I will forever miss this quiet little town. We woke up and had breakfast at the resort right next to ours. Their restaurant is called Cress at Oak Creek, and we sat at a table right by the water. It was honestly one of my favorite experiences of the trip! So beautiful, and different scenery than the red rocks and desert we had been seeing the entire trip. We had the best time at our breakfast, and the food was amazing, of course.

We checked out of our hotel and headed out for a last hike before driving back to Phoenix for the night. We hiked Baldwin trail to Templeton trail to Oak Creek! This is the creek we hadn’t made it to the day we did our Cathedral rock hike, so we were really glad to be able to feel like we completed that! It was a beautiful hike, perfect weather, and the creek was so peaceful. After our last hike, we ate at Open Range Grill and Tavern for a late lunch in downtown Sedona. We had a cactus cheese dip which was so delicious, and we each got a prickly pear margarita! The prickly pear cactus is everywhere in Sedona so we felt like we had to! They were just okay, haha – a little sweet for our liking.

After lunch, we drove back to Phoenix where we had to fly out from. We stayed at the Hotel Palomar (another Kimpton Hotel). They had another celebration package for me on our arrival – more champagne and a delicious peanut butter chocolate mousse cake! We packed up to be ready to leave the next day, ordered room service for dinner, showered, did face masks, and relaxed because we were so beat from our trip!

Sunday was basically just a travel day. We woke up, had coffee and breakfast, and drove to the airport to return our rental car and fly home! We had another non-stop flight, but this time we lost 3 hours going back home, so it was late by the time we got in and we had dinner with Andrew and then pretty much fell right to sleep! My only regret from the trip is that I didn’t follow my friend’s advice; she lived in AZ for a while and told me to hug a cactus for her – but that wouldn’t be safe, so I had to make a smart personal decision ?

flight home! (sorry guy)

Those are the most basic basics of our trip! I would love to make my way back to Arizona again, because there’s just so much to do there that 5 days barely even scratches the surface. But my mom and I packed in as much as we possibly could, and we had such a blast together. It was one of those “life”  moments that I’ve mentioned before where you just really feel alive and appreciate everything so much. I’m incredibly lucky that she gifted me with this trip for my 30th and couldn’t have asked for anything more!

Sur la table cooking class

It has been a few weeks now, but I wanted to finally post about my amazing birthday surprise from my sister! She put in so much work to plan a surprise cooking class for us at Sur la table at Southpoint Mall, and she secretly got two of my best friends in on it! It is one of my absolute favorite experiences, ever. I can’t describe the happiness and excitement I felt the entire evening. She put so much thought into every single detail, from balloons to decorations and champagne, to having my friends block off the night as well!

Emily had asked me to block off September 21st weeks earlier; I figured it was for a birthday surprise but had no idea what exactly it could be. I am a person who loves the idea of a surprise, but if I know one is coming, my mind goes crazy trying not to obsess over it, which makes me obsess over it even more! Am I alone in this?! So I was reallllly curious about what she had up her sleeve! I thought maybe a wine and design class, a concert, a festival or something…I never would have guessed a cooking class! We both love to cook, and I am such a fan of the gift of an experience you can share! It is so meaningful and something you can always keep as a special memory.

Emily drove us to Southpoint and tried to tell me my gift was dinner and shopping for a birthday outfit for that coming weekend celebrating with friends, and as bratty as it sounds my heart kind of sank – if you know me, trying on clothes is not necessarily my ideal time because I am so picky and hard on myself – but I tried to sound upbeat about the surprise. (Actually, no, I didn’t; I mean, I tried, but what came out was something like, “Oh, well…I mean, I’m not sure if I’m in that kind of a mood to try things on…and I told you I was planning on wearing Whitney’s floral dress…but we can see after dinner!” I felt like such a brat). Then we turned the corner, and there were Whitney and Kelly holding pink 3-0 balloons, wearing aprons, and yelling surprise! I was SO overwhelmed I just immediately started to cry (imagine that:  Me, crying). Like, couldn’t stop crying with joy pretty much the entire night! I just felt so special and loved, and it was one of those memories where you just remember feeling alive, like when you go to a great concert or a big life moment happens.

during the cooking class, chef-ing it up and having so much fun

We made the most delicious meal together, and our chef/instructor helped us through every step of the way. It was so much fun to see everything come together, and to have everything already pre-measured and planned out was an added bonus. Not to mention that all of the cooking equipment we were using was high quality and what kitchen dreams are made of! We sipped champagne while we cooked and I just felt like a lucky and happy gal the entire time. Our final meal was champagne butter shrimp, a surprise lobster tail that our chef made for us, zucchini fritters with a garlic-basil aioli, a red wine risotto, and a caramel pear torte cake – all from scratch! Our instructor also made me a surprise happy birthday plate with truffles for dessert.

the finished plate – amazingly delicious!

Like I said already, it was just one of the best nights, ever. When we were done, we all signed up for another cooking class during the holidays to spend some time together and re-create this fun evening! My sister gets maaaajor props for this gift, and I will always remember how special it was! Here’s how you can schedule your own cooking class. I would definitely recommend it for a gift, or as an experience to do together with a friend, group of girls, or even a double date!

with our instructor after our class!

Holly Springs Farmer’s Market

On Saturdays when my sister Emily and I are both in town, we like to wake up early-ish, make coffee, and go walk the lake trail by our apartments. Since the weather has been cooling down a little, it has been so nice to start off the day with a brisk walk!

A couple Saturdays ago, we were driving back home and passed by a tiny farmer’s market on the way. We didn’t have our wallets with us, but we pulled over and walked through, vowing to return the next week more prepared! There were so many local businesses represented by food, drink, produce, body products, etc. Last Saturday, we got up and went on our walk and then swung by the Holly Springs farmer’s market a second time. This time, I had cash and was ready to buy a few things (particularly some swanky dog treats I had seen the week before).

We got a delicious iced coffee from Five Star Coffee Roasters while we browsed the rest of the tents. I picked up a birthday gift for my friend Jordan from a tent full of bath bombs, soy candles, lip balms, soaps, lotions, and more! The lady who owns it also has an Etsy shop. I also picked up some fresh baked bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. (I got the extreme cinnamon swirl!). There was a tent from Paradox Farms, and if anyone knows how much I love goat cheese, you know I had to pick some up! I got the pumpkin goat cheese spread and it DID NOT disappoint.

I mentioned the swanky dog treats earlier – you know I love spoiling the dogs! This company, Good Grace’s Dog Treats, sells handmade specialty dog treats. I picked up a variety pack for Bruno, Oliver, and Nala to share. The flavors include sweet potato fries, P, B, and YAY, Eat your Carrots, Piggly Wigglies, and more! I love that the ingredients are listed on the back and that they put sticker pictures of their doggie customers on the front of the bags 🙂  I’ll have to send in a picture of my three hooligans! They go CRAZY for the treats.

It was a really fun Saturday morning activity and I can’t wait to keep going back to see new vendors! I love supporting local businesses and if you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend it! We are lucky enough to have the NC State Farmer’s Market close by, but each little area also has their own smaller versions, and I think you can find some real treasures sprinkled among those! Lots of free samples, doggies walking around, and local goods to peruse.

Zucchini lasagna

A few weeks ago, I mentioned some recipes I was going to make to stay healthy and still feel like I was enjoying good food. I have made the pasta carbonara about 3 times since then; it’s THAT delicious and easy! But today’s focus is this decadent and d   e   l   e   c   t   a   b   l   e zucchini lasagna.

I used this recipe from Skinnytaste. I love her recipes and the fact that all the nutrition information is always listed. I mentioned I was doing Weight Watchers to be better about tracking what I eat, and one serving of this lasagna is 9 Weight Watchers points.

I will be completely honest and say that this is a little bit time-intensive since you have to slice the zucchini into lasagna “noodles.” I use my mandoline slicer, which has a 1/8 inch blade setting, but even with that, the noodles have to dry out between paper towels and then broil in the oven before putting together the lasagna in layers. The sauce is very easy to make and really delicious!

The whole recipe and process takes about 2 hours from start to finish, but then you have dinner for a week! Or, if you’re weird like me, you have breakfast leftovers for a week 🙂 It is truly worth it and so delicious. Andrew even loved it and asked for leftovers, too!

lasagna for breakfast 🙂

*The recipe calls for grilling the zucchini noodles to remove moisture, but I baked mine at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes before assembling the casserole to bake.

 

Recipes and Workouts

This week I’m focusing on some healthy recipes and butt-busting workouts. Originally, this blog was going to be mostly fitness and health related…but then things in my life changed drastically and my life just kind of took a different direction. I used to be a bit of a gym rat, which is hard to believe maybe – but I was! When I started practicing yoga a ton, I pretty much completely stopped going to the gym. I love lifting weights and doing all kinds of different training, so I’ve really missed that part of my life. I recently joined Weight Watchers, which has always worked well for me, and I always notice that when I’m eating better, my motivation to work out spikes, too. It all goes hand in hand – this is not new information. So I’m writing it in my planner and speaking it into existence! I really need to be more active again and be a little more proactive on my food planning.

Here are some recipes I’m using this week for my meals:

SpaghettiCarbonara_085_xl
Skinny-Green-Monster-Smoothie-550x751
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Skinnytaste-Zucchini-Lasagna-550x827

image sources linked below

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara – This recipe is SO easy. I made this a few weeks ago when I first re-joined Weight Watchers, and it was a huge hit with both me and Andrew. I had leftovers for lunch the next day, too! Sometimes whole wheat pasta isn’t my favorite, but it’s really great in this recipe and there are only a few ingredients.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole – My sister sent me this recipe and I am excited to try it! It looks pretty simple, and for someone like me who LOVES Mexican food, I think it will be a great substitute! I just won’t be able to have any chips and queso 🙁

Zucchini Lasagna – I made this a long time ago and LOVED it. It takes some time and is a little bit of a labor of love, but if you’re craving something cheesy and delicious, this can’t be beat! And it’s friendly to your waistline, which is a huge perk. I’m so excited to have a meal to really look forward to that feels like a cheat meal, but isn’t!

Green Monster Smoothie – I love this blog because the recipes are all really delicious. And if you’re following Weight Watchers, all of the points are already calculated for you which is a HUGE plus. I love to do this for breakfast, but it would work as a snack, too!

For my workouts this week, I have planned 2 gym workouts, 2 yoga practices, and 1 or 2 walk/jogs with the doggies at the lake. I will probably write up my own gym workouts because that’s something I enjoy doing, but I have followed this blog for a long time and she has all kinds of amazing workouts that are all so different. Great recipes, too! I also have a bunch of different types of workouts pinned on my Sweatin’ Pinterest Board. It’ll be good to get to check all of my workouts off my planner this week! Along with the 17,000+ steps I get at the pub each shift, I’ll be burning lots of calories to earn a real cheat meal. Life is nothing without delicious food sprinkled in.

Wish me luck!